You are here

Feed aggregator

Pope issues sanctions against former West Virginia bishop

Top Stories - 4 hours 16 min ago

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tim Bishop, Catholic Spirit)

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston announced July 19 sanctions from the Vatican -- including taking away the faculties of celebrating Mass -- against a former West Virginia bishop who stepped down last year under a cloud of allegations of sexual and financial misconduct.

In a posting on its website, https://dwc.org, the diocese said that retired Bishop Michael J. Bransfield can no longer reside in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, nor participate "anywhere in any public celebration of the liturgy" and has an obligation to make amends for "some of the harm he caused."

The brief statement said the disciplinary measures were made based on the findings of an investigation but did not release details.

"The Holy See expresses its sincere concern for the clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston," the statement said.

The statement, released under the letterhead of the Apostolic Nunciature of the United States of America, references a "preliminary investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults and of financial improprieties" by Bishop Bransfield.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Agencies 'appalled' by reports U.S. could end refugee admissions

Top Stories - 6 hours 17 min ago

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giorgos Moutafis, Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- News that officials in the Trump administration are considering "zeroing out" the number of refugees accepted by the United States brought an immediate outcry from Catholic and other faith-based agencies urging the government to reconsider such a move.

"The last couple of years have been historically low in terms of refugee resettlement here in the U.S.," said Bill Canny, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services. "Of the millions of refugees around the world, only about 1% will be resettled, that number will decrease and leave more people vulnerable if these actions come to fruition."

"I would implore the decision-makers to reconsider these devastating cuts," Canny said July 19 in remarks to Catholic News Service. "Our military relies on the work of interpreters while in the field and those interpreters are putting their lives and their families lives on the line. To not open our arms to them when they have done so for us, would go against who we are as a nation."

Setting caps on the number of refugees to be accepted from five global regions is done at the beginning of each fiscal year by the president, in consultation with Congress.

A U.S. State Department report said that in fiscal year 2019, the top 10 countries of origin for refugees admitted into the U.S. to be resettled were: Congo, Myanmar, Ukraine, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Burundi and Colombia.

In a news release issued late July 18, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service said that as the Trump administration prepares to announce the new ceiling for refugee arrivals in fiscal year 2020, reports emerged that "the White House is seriously considering effectively shuttering the U.S. refugee resettlement program by setting the refugee ceiling at zero."

"It is horrifying to think that, by the stroke of a pen, the president can make a decision that will destroy a legacy of welcome that has been centuries in the making," said Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of LIRS, which with MRS is one of a handful of voluntary agencies currently charged with refugee resettlement in the U.S.

"LIRS has been doing this work for 80 years. We have seen firsthand the life-changing impact of this crucial program," LIRS added. She herself is a former refugee, having come to the U.S. with her family from Sri Lanka when she was 9 months old.

"Setting the U.S. refugee ceiling at zero would be an egregious assault on fundamental American values. And quite frankly, the humanitarian implications of this decision would be enough to nullify our global reputation as leaders of the free world," Vignarajah said. "(President Donald Trump) simply cannot afford to move forward with this proposal -- not if he seeks ongoing support from people of faith all across the United States."

Since Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980, the U.S. had admitted on average 95,000 refugees annually. In recent years, the U.S. has accepted between 50,000 to 75,000 refugees per year.

Before admission to the U.S., each refugee undergoes an extensive interviewing, screening and security clearance process.

The number of refugees allowed into the country was capped at 45,000 after Trump became president in 2017 and was scaled back to 30,000 refugees for fiscal year 2019.

Refugee Council USA, a coalition of organizations committed to refugee resettlement and protection that includes MRS and Vignarajah, said July 18 it was "appalled" by the proposal to "zero out" the refugee number.

"The administration has all but confirmed that our country will reach the 30,000 refugee admission goal for FY2019," Canny, of MRS, said in a statement released by the council, which he chairs. "We have been relieved by that important sign of the program getting back on track after a couple of extremely difficult years. In light of that hopeful sign, reports of further reducing the refugee goal to zero make no sense at all."

He added: "There continue to be refugees who need the protection that resettlement provides, including refugees who are fleeing religious persecution. Faith based communities and volunteers across the U.S. have the desire, capacity and resources to return to at least our historically normal level of welcoming refugees."

- - -

Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Dialogue with indigenous: Understanding that 'we are simple stewards'

Top Stories - 10 hours 38 min ago

IMAGE: CNS Photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- By convening a special synod on the Amazon at the Vatican in October, Pope Francis will be giving greater exposure to the church's deep concern for the people and the ecosystem on which they depend.

Like other synods with Pope Francis, the assembly is about listening and understanding the actual reality on the ground in order to find new paths for evangelization, meet people's pastoral needs, be a voice for the voiceless and promote greater respect and protection for all life, according to its working document released last month.

But this working document triggered fears in a few that it was somehow a call to changing church doctrine and to heresy -- an accusation made recently by German Cardinals Walter Brandmuller, retired president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, and Gerhard Muller, who served as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012 to 2017.

The document "lacks theological reflection" and creates "great confusion" if it puts as the focus, not Jesus, but "human ideas to save the world," Cardinal Muller said July 11 in an interview with La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, an Italian Catholic online news site. He also critiqued the document in a more detailed 3,000-word essay published online July 16.

While the Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica, published an article about the synod by Peruvian Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, July 18, it was not a direct rebuttal of the German cardinal's doctrinal or theological concerns.

Emphasizing the importance of dialogue, Cardinal Barreto wrote the church believes that, "apart from any attitudes of suspicion," examining the "richness" in the Amazon region -- including its unique cultures, practices and spiritualities -- would help provide "a better understanding of a reality crying out" for attention.

One theologian from the Amazon region in Brazil said examining other cultures and what people believe and do is not a threat to the Catholic faith or doctrine, particularly when their practices help sustain and protect the so-called "lungs of the earth," as the Amazon rainforest produces about 20 percent of the earth's oxygen.

Jesuit Father Adelson Araujo dos Santos told Catholic News Service that being open to what indigenous cultures and spiritualities can teach about caring for "our common home" has "nothing to do with a return to paganism, nor does it deny the centrality of Christ and of humanity in the history of salvation."

"On the contrary, it helps us grow in our understanding that we are simple stewards of the gifts and resources that are not ours, but are works of God," he said in an email response to questions July 19.

Father dos Santos, a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Spirituality in Rome and at its center for teaching formators to the priesthood and religious life, also served as Jesuit regional superior of the Brazil-Amazon region.

"In their indispensable mission as evangelizers, Christians must be able to embrace, dialogue and respect these other religions and cultures, being enriched by them without losing their own identity," he said.

When St. John Paul II met with indigenous communities in Guatemala in 1983, he told them, "The work of evangelization does not destroy, but it is incarnated in your values," helping to grow that seed that was already sown "by the Word of God, who, before he became flesh in order to save all and to sum up all in himself, was already in the world."

Recognizing and preparing these seeds already sown has a kindred spirit in Ignatian spirituality that seeks to find God in all things.

St. Ignatius' spiritual exercises encourage contemplating the Incarnation as God's compassion and concern for "the situation of the human being," Father dos Santos said.

"God's compassionate eye does not see only what is bad in the world, it sees the possibility for transformation, growth toward the good," he said.

"From this perspective, all beliefs and cultures can be seen as having been touched by God in the Incarnation of his Son," he added.

While sacred Scripture and tradition make up the one sacred deposit of the Word of God, theology also teaches that the deepest most foundational layer that upholds the Christian identity lies not in texts or concepts, but "in the religious experience," Father dos Santos said.

"The great theologian, Pope Benedict XVI, said '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.'"

The triune God created humanity in his likeness, so that every person is "one, the same, but open to others and the world, including nature," Father dos Santos said.

That is why anything that "fractures this identity" or hinders a harmonious relationship with others, "hurts us profoundly."

Concerns about the environment and people's relationship with it are not calls to deny God or idolize nature, but rather are rooted in "the biblical prophesies warning against any disobedience to God's plan for the world he created," he said.

"This is the reason why dialogue with the religious views of the world's indigenous peoples, with their care and respect for other living things, help us restore, in our Christian faith and spirituality ... our identity as beings in relation with God, with others and with the world -- the place where we encounter Jesus Christ, the Lord of all creation and history," Father dos Santos said.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Catholics put focus on immigrant children with rally, civil disobedience

Top Stories - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 4:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A few hundred Catholic activists, including dozens of women religious, gathered outside at the foot of the U.S. Capitol July 18 urging politicians to stop its "inhumane treatment" of immigrant children at the border and reminding people of faith to take a stronger stand against current U.S. border policies.

The rally, on a sweltering Washington morning, included times of prayer, a few songs and several speeches. At one point, someone in the crowd started chanting, "Where are the bishops?" which was echoed by many participants, but later in the program, speakers read excerpts from messages that had been sent to the group from several U.S. bishops, thanking them for participating and urging them to continue to speak up about the border crisis.

A message from Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said in part: "We stand in a moment when our government has weaponized fear -- the fear being sown within our nation as a whole that refugees and immigrants, who have been America's historic lifeblood, have now become the enemy; and the even more reprehensible fear being unleashed upon the hearts and souls of immigrant mothers and fathers that they will be separated from their children purely as an act of intimidation."

Many of the speakers at the "Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children," organized by the groups Faith in Public Life and Faith in Action, were primarily women religious who stressed the need to end the current practice of placing children in detention centers at the border and emphasized that the need to start a new wave of protest against these policies should be viewed as a pro-life stance.

Sister Carol Zinn, a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, told the group: "Catholic sisters have a long history with immigrant communities. We have seen the pain, suffering, fear and trauma firsthand. In recent months, as the humanitarian crisis has escalated, we have joined the tens of thousands who are outraged at the horrific situation at our southern border."

She pointed out that women religious have been ministering to those in need and donated money to support those seeking safety, freedom, security and a better life for their families. "We are here today because of our faith. The Gospel commands, and the values of our homeland demand, that we act," she added.

The message of urgency was essentially speaking to the choir because these activists, who showed their support with rounds of "Amens!" were clearly not new to this issue and many attended the rally particularly for its finale: when the arrests of 70 people for civil disobedience took place at the adjacent Russell Senate Office Building.

A young mother from El Salvador held her baby as she addressed the crowd in Spanish. In remarks, which were translated, she thanked the group for their efforts to help immigrants and said she is seeking sanctuary, but she is afraid she will be separated from her baby.

As groups of tourists walked by and men and women in business attire headed toward Capitol Hill, they couldn't help but see the signs held aloft with messages such as "Franciscans for Justice," "Let Children Be with their Parents" and "Catholics for Families: Together and Free" as well as placards with images of children who have died in U.S. custody at the border.

Mercy Sister Patricia Murphy, a 90-year-old from Chicago, who came to the event to take part in the civil disobedience, told Catholic News Service right before the rally that she "couldn't not be here."

The sister wore a purple shirt identifying her as a Sister of Mercy, a pin that said: "You are my Neighbor" and carried a placard with the face of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, an 8-year-old from Guatemala who died from illness while in U.S. immigration custody after crossing the border with his father.

Sister Patricia said this would be her sixth arrest and she hoped the action would move others to do more. For the past 12 years, she has kept vigil, praying and protesting outside an immigrant detention center in Chicago every Friday morning.

Prior to the civil disobedience arrests at the Russell Senate Office Building, participants continued to hold signs with their message and speak out in protest. After warnings from police that they would be arrested if they stayed in the building's rotunda, those who chose to stay recited the Hail Mary as they waited to be handcuffed and escorted out by police.

Moments before the arrests, Sister Donna Korba, a Sister of the Servants of Mary in Scranton, Pennsylvania, said her participation at the day's gathering stemmed from her life of activism including recently volunteering at the U.S.-Mexico border with other sisters last December and the 12 years she spent in Guatemala.

"There are no easy answers, but we need to look at root causes of immigration," she said, recalling that when she asked one father from Guatemala why he would make the arduous journey to the United States he told her: "Because my children are hungry."

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Faith is no trick up this magician's sleeve

Top Stories - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 12:28pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Giancarlo Bernini

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For Giancarlo Bernini, a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, things are not always as they appear and that's a good thing because it is how he plans to make a living.

The magician, who has done shows for colleges, corporate events and Catholic parishes and church-sponsored gatherings, recently got some nationwide exposure for his trade when he was featured on the season premiere of "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" on the CW network.

In the show, aspiring magicians try to impress the renowned magician duo Penn and Teller (Penn Jillette and Raymond Joseph Teller) with a trick, and if the two are unable to duplicate it, the guest magician wins a trip to Las Vegas to perform as an opening act in their show.

Bernini, who performed a time-travel trick on the television show, didn't completely hoodwink the pros, but the experience hardly made his imaginative spirit disappear. He said being on the show was a big moment in his life, along with watching the episode with family and friends. And a big highlight of the episode was that it also featured his longtime idol: David Copperfield.

In the show's opening, taped months before graduation, Bernini said he was a college student studying religious studies and he didn't see a conflict between his faith and magic "because illusions are all about discerning what's true and what's good."

He said the trick he chose for the show focused on time travel "the way that faith and reason kind of go together."

During college, he was doing a show or two a month and some magic on the street, and now he is devoting a lot of time to get more shows, which he admits might not seem the most stable career choice. But he said his parents have been supportive and are on board with him.

Bernini's first public magic act -- beyond performing for family members and friends -- was at a cancer clinic for children when he was 11. Years later he performed at a juvenile detention center as part of a Catholic retreat. He has since done a number of fundraisers and shows for young kids and adults.

"Little kids already believe in magic and want to be entertained," he said, "but adults are already skeptics, so it is fun to see the routines transforming them."

The magic bug bit him when he was in fifth grade and he dad showed him a card trick in his grandparents' backyard and more importantly, showed him how to do it.

"I showed it to everyone I know," Bernini told Catholic News Service in late May.

From the start, his motivation was to share something with others. He also loved the element of surprise and catching people off guard when they don't know what was going to happen. This effect doesn't happen magically though; it takes a lot of practice.

"For me, the most thrilling thing is seeing people experience something they haven't felt since they were kids," he said, which he describes as joy and wonder and something he feels has a big faith connection.

"Magic, like all forms of entertainment, are adventures to share the Gospel," he added.

Bernini also thinks that it doesn't matter what he did as a career, even if he were a doctor or a lawyer, he would view it as a ministry. "My magic shows are a ministry and to be good, I have to be the best I can," he said.

- - -

Editor's Note: For more information on Bernini, visit www.berninimagic.com.

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Synod emphasizes church's mission to defend the vulnerable, cardinal says

Top Stories - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:02am

IMAGE: CNS Photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The objective of the upcoming Synod of Bishops for the Amazon is to highlight the need for religious, political and social leaders to come together and defend the dignity of indigenous men, women and children and an ecosystem that is crucial to the environment, said Peruvian Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo.

In an essay published July 18 by La Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit journal, Cardinal Barreto said the synod as well as the church's mission in the Amazon are "expressions of a significant accompaniment to the daily life of the peoples and communities who live there."

"According to the social doctrine of the church, the mission of every Christian includes a prophetic commitment to justice, peace, the dignity of every human being without distinction, and to the integrity of creation in response to a predominant model of society that leads to exclusion and inequality and causes what Pope Francis has called a real 'culture of waste' and a 'globalization of indifference,'" the cardinal said.

The synod gathering in October will reflect on the theme "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology." The Vatican released the preparatory document for the synod June 8.

The Peruvian cardinal, who also serves as vice president of the Pan-Amazonian Church Network, known by its Spanish acronym as REPAM, did not directly address recent criticisms or concerns about doctrinal matters and theological questions regarding the synod's working document, but instead focused on the dangerous impact climate change will have on the region and its inhabitants.

The Amazon, he said, is a living system that "reflects great social diversity, since it is inhabited by about 2.8 million indigenous people who belong to 390 peoples, 137 of which are isolated or without external contacts; 240 languages are spoken there, belonging to 49 different linguistic families. Its inhabitants number around 33 million."

Cardinal Barreto said the synod for the Amazon is a continuation of the church's mission of "following the Gospel command" to go out to the world and accompany the poor, especially in "an increasingly devastated and threatened territory."

"In this sense, as an ecclesial event, the synod can be an important sign of the effective response, promoting justice and the defense of the dignity of the people most affected," he said. "In general, we believe that everyone -- society, governments and the church -- must pay attention to these voices in order to assume more consistently our respective differentiated and potentially complementary responsibilities."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Justice Stevens changed death penalty views during three decades on court

Top Stories - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 3:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who served on the court for nearly 35 years, died July 16 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at age 99 after suffering complications from a stroke the previous day.

The justice, who retired in 2010, remained active after retirement, even writing his autobiography, "The Making of a Justice: My First 94 Years," which was just released in April. Last year, he wrote an op-ed published in The New York Times calling for action to end gun violence.

"He brought to our bench an inimitable blend of kindness, humility, wisdom and independence. His unrelenting commitment to justice has left us a better nation," Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement.

Stevens was often portrayed as the leader of the court's liberal side, but he didn't stand by that description, telling The New York Times in 2007: "I don't think of myself as a liberal at all. I think as part of my general politics, I'm pretty darn conservative."

The justice, a Chicago-born Protestant who served as a naval intelligence officer during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star for his work with a codebreaking team, stood firm on many issues and changed his opinion on others during his time on the high court. Most notably, he changed his views on the death penalty from initially supporting it to renouncing it completely.

He was known as a defender of strict separation of church and state and was against official prayer in schools and vouchers for religious school tuition. He also defended legal abortion, gay rights, and the rights of crime suspects and immigrants in the country without legal documentation facing deportation.

Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, who is a longtime opponent of capital punishment, posted a thread of tweets July 16 after the announcement of Stevens' death outlining his opinion on the death penalty over the years.

She said he voted with the court's majority in a 1976 case that reinstated the death penalty nationwide after a four-year moratorium and after his retirement he said this was the only vote he regretted.

In a 2008 death penalty case, he wrote that he had come to believe the death penalty was unconstitutional. Prior to that, in 2002, he wrote the decision in Atkins v. Virginia, which ended the death penalty for people with intellectual disabilities, and in 2005, he voted to do away with the death penalty for juvenile offenders.

He also spoke publicly against the death penalty in a number of interviews, calling it a "wasteful enterprise" in 2016 and something the U.S. should do away with under all circumstances in 2010.

In a 2014 interview on the "PBS NewsHour," he said he thought the court had made a grave mistake in formulating rules that "slant the opportunity for justice in favor of the prosecutor" in death penalty cases, especially when "the cost is so high if you make a mistake."

"If you make a mistake in a capital case, there's no way to take care of it later on. The risk of an incorrect execution in any case, to me, is really intolerable. The system should not permit that possibility to exist," he said.

Similarly, in 2005, he also told the American Bar Association that recent evidence that "a substantial number of death sentences have been imposed erroneously" was "profoundly significant because it indicates that there must be serious flaws in our administration of criminal justice."

In an abortion case in 1989, he was the only justice to say that a Missouri statute declaring that life begins at conception violated previous court decisions on abortion and was an "unequivocal endorsement of a religious tenet" that "serves no identifiable secular purpose."

In 1992, he voted to uphold the right to an abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which also established the "undue burden" standard for abortion restrictions.

Justice Elena Kagan filled Stevens' seat on the court.

He is survived by two daughters, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending, the Supreme Court said in a statement announcing his death. He is expected to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Being curator of meteorites allows Jesuit to 'find God' in all things

Top Stories - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 1:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By James Ramos

HOUSTON (CNS) -- At the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo near Rome, Jesuit Brother Robert Macke finds his work as the curator of meteorites for the Vatican Observatory -- formally founded in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII -- allows him to, as the Jesuit saying goes, "find God in all things."

"The universe is a big place, and all of it belongs to God's creation, so all of it is a source of wonder and inspiration," he said. "The motto of the Vatican Observatory is 'Deum Creatorem Venite Adoremus' ('Come, Let Us Adore God the Creator'). In studying the universe and all that it contains, we can better appreciate the God who created it. For us, doing science is a form of worship."

Signs of the Apollo missions are found throughout the Vatican Observatory, he said an interview with the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, from the observatory.

Brother Macke cares for a moon rock from Apollo 17, a goodwill gift from United States to the Vatican. A display case also holds a piece of the "Moon Tree," a sycamore at the Lunar and Planetary Lab in Tucson, Arizona, that was grown from seeds that flew on the Apollo 14 mission.

The Vatican Observatory guestbook has a signature of Frank Borman, dated Feb. 15, 1969, less than two months after he, James Lovell and William Anders became the first three men to orbit the Moon on the Apollo 8 mission, Brother Macke said.

Borman also gave the Observatory a signed print of the famous "Earthrise" photograph, which now hangs on an Observatory wall next to a signed photograph of Eugene Cernan from Apollo 17 that is addressed to St. Paul VI.

In one of the observatory domes, Brother Macke said a photograph shows St. Paul VI watching the Apollo 11 landing from that exact location.

Working with his Vatican Observatory colleagues, including observatory director and fellow Jesuit, Brother Guy Consolmagno, among dozens of other clergy and laity, Brother Macke said "every day is different ... which keeps the work fresh and exciting."

Today, Brother Macke finds the Apollo missions "very inspiring."

"My office is littered with models of the Apollo spacecraft, unmanned space probes, and space telescopes," he said. "My research has even included work with Apollo moon rocks, which has involved several trips to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center."

He said the Apollo missions reflect a time of unity, a sense that's missing in today's society.

"The Apollo missions ... should serve as a source of inspiration for us all," he said. "Going to the moon was thought to be impossible, but with the whole nation working together toward this goal we could accomplish it. Today we live in a society that is polarized and contradictory. This will get us nowhere. We need to work together. By working together, we can accomplish the impossible."

He pointed out how the Apollo missions were accomplished by human beings and "not by robots."

"The astronauts and the army of support personnel were people who brought their humanity with them," he said. "From the very start, this included religious faith. The crew of Apollo 8, in orbit around the Moon on Christmas of 1968, read to the people of Earth from the Book of Genesis."

While he was born in Fort Worth, Texas, after the Apollo missions, Brother Macke said he's still inspired by others such as the Viking missions to Mars, or the Voyager expeditions to the outer planets.

"My father, who was trained as a geologist but spent his career in the Air Force, would bring us photos from these missions," he said. "He filled our home library with countless books about space and related sciences. I dreamed of visiting these planets myself."

Brother Macke said that since all creation is from God, "it is good, and therefore worthy of study."

"The science that I do is the same science that everybody else does. I collaborate with scientists of all faiths (and no faith) and together we produce good science," he said. "However, for me the context within which I do my science is very much informed by my faith. Science, for me, is an extension of the awe and wonder that I experience when I contemplate God's grandeur and his immeasurable love manifested in the universe that he gave us."

Brother Macke said he loves his work for the Vatican Observatory.

"I find inspiration all around me, from the meteorites that I study to the photographs of deep space hanging on the wall," he said. "I am also very inspired by my fellow astronomers of the Vatican Observatory, all of whom are priests or vowed religious, and all of whom are very accomplished scientists."

"Some days I am in the laboratory performing research. Some days I am talking to school groups about the Vatican Observatory," he said. His days bring him to conferences sharing his research with other collaborators and scientists, creating content for the Observatory's several social media outlets, as well as academic research and paper writing.

"And occasionally, a day might be marked by a papal audience," he said.

- - -

Ramos is a staff writer and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

50 years on, moon landing still generates a wistful sense of wonderment

Top Stories - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 3:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong gingerly stepped onto the surface of the moon July 20, 1969, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno had no idea that some day he would become the director of the Vatican Observatory.

Sixteen at the time, he had followed the space program since Alan Shepard's 15-minute suborbital flight eight years earlier. But becoming a scientist was not foremost in the mind of the teenage Consolmagno as he watched the grainy black-and-white televised images of Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin going about their tasks on the surface of another world.

Still, the events unfolding that Sunday evening 50 years ago left an impact on Brother Consolmagno, an avid reader of science fiction who especially enjoyed stories about what it might be like to travel into space.

"That put the connection in my mind that the things we fantasize about can actually happen. So dreams carry with them an important sort of reality," he told Catholic News Service as the golden anniversary of the first moon landing approached.

"In the long run, it made me recognize the importance of our aspirations, the importance of our dreams, but also it really ties into the Jesuit idea that I really hadn't understood yet of looking for God in your deepest desires."

Years later, Brother Consolmagno would pursue studies in astronomy and then enter religious life. Today he heads one of the most prestigious astronomical institutions in the world while living his vocation and continues to marvel at the possibility of traveling to other planets. He sees God's handiwork in it all.

"I can feel God in any of that work," he said. "To me, you feel God in the joy of the moment. That the universe is logical and the fact that there is also beauty and understanding, it is a source of joy."

The accomplishments achieved through scientific endeavors such as the moon landings can provide a glimpse into the way things work and what it means to be human, both key components of God's creation, said Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, professor of theology at Villanova University.

"It tells us about us and our capacity to invent, to discover that which has never been seen, that which has never been walked upon," she said. "It tells us about the human person and the openness to this creation that God has given us the freedom to explore."

Discovery also can serve -- if humanity allows -- to help people realize the universe is so much larger than the planet human beings currently inhabit, Sister Delio explained.

"It's obviously very, very hard for us to get our heads around the fact that we are on a planet that's moving through space, that space is filled with all sort of material life and perhaps intelligent life that we have yet to discover. But the landing on the moon shows we can discover new things when we thought never before this could be done," she told CNS.

"That's what these discoveries are pointing to: a humble stance in this incredibly vast cosmos."

Astronaut Nicole Stott, 56, has had two opportunities to experience a small corner of that cosmos during a pair of space missions -- the first in 2009 when she spent three months aboard the International Space Station and the second in 2011 on a 13-day space shuttle mission.

Among Stott's most awe-inspiring moments was seeing the thin layer of Earth's atmosphere as she circled the globe every 90 minutes. "That little thin blue line is like Earth's spacesuit, and we need to protect it," she told CNS from Florida.

Stott, who is Catholic, retired from flying as an astronaut in May 2015. She admitted that watching the first moon landing as a 6-year-old while eating a grilled cheese sandwich didn't necessarily inspire her career choice to become an engineer and eventually work for NASA.

"And I remember going outside and looking at the moon afterward," she said. "I have colleagues who told me from that moment (of the landing) on that they knew they wanted to be an astronaut. I didn't have that sense."

But her parents encouraged the family to explore varied interests and -- because her father was a licensed pilot -- nurture a love of flying.

It was while working at NASA that Stott and her husband reconnected with their Catholic faith. Today, she sees no conflict between that faith and the pursuit of science to better understand God's universe.

She said during her 27 years with NASA -- 15 as an astronaut -- she worked with astronauts and NASA employees who were inspired by their faith to explore space.

"The thing that was surprising to me in general was that there seems to be this perception that astronauts would be agnostic or atheist," Stott said. "I was so happy to find that it's more the other way, that there are more people of faith associated with the (space) program. It was a pleasant surprise to find how deeply faithful they were."

The first moon landing itself was not without its religious connections. In preparation for the historic Apollo 11 flight, messages from religious leaders were among the artifacts collected to be flown on the lunar lander, reported National Catholic News Service, the predecessor of CNS. They remain there to this day for posterity.

The messages include one personally penned by St. Paul VI alongside the printed text of Psalm 8: "For the glory of the name of God, who gives men such power, we pray and wish well for this wondrous endeavor."

The pope was particularly enamored with the flight. As Aldrin and Armstrong collected rocks and set up experiments while the third member of the crew, Michael Collins, orbited overhead, St. Paul went to the observatory at papal summer home at Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome. He looked through a telescope at the moon, eyeing the Sea of Tranquility where the first landing occurred.

Three months later, St. Paul welcomed the astronauts to the Vatican during a private 20-minute meeting.

Such wonder about what it's like on other worlds and the many natural mysteries God has planted for humans to encounter also tugs at Father James Kurzynski, an amateur astronomer who is pastor of St. Olaf Parish in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

"Part of the human heart is to explore and discover," he said, "so why wouldn't we want to explore?"

Father Kurzynski, 45, is too young to remember the Apollo missions. "My connection was more as a Space Shuttle kid," he said. But he held a deep fascination with the heavens and over the years he has read about the history of spaceflight. That's how he encountered Aldrin's description of the stark lunar landscape as a scene of "magnificent desolation."

"There's something to that that really spoke to me spiritually. In our spiritual life, especially in Ignatian spirituality, we talk about desolation," Father Kurzynski said. "How can we see beauty amid desolation?

"Even though at one level one can see walking on the moon as (asking), 'Why go there? There's no trees, there's no atmosphere. It's just desolate.' I would love to see an earthrise. There's something amid that desolation that can heighten that beauty," he said.

"Finding this odd sense of beauty that seems to contradict the desolation is true in the spiritual life, that there are some very desolate moments in our life," he continued. "Then there's an earthrise, something that changes our disposition of heart and allows us to view this desolation differently from the standpoint of profound beauty as opposed to lifelessness."

So when Father Kurzynski shares with friends or parishioners a telescopic view of the moon, the planets or a deep sky object, he feels he is sharing insight into the beauty God has spread across the universe.

That leads Father Kurzynski to the question why humanity has not been to the moon in nearly 50 years.

"When we go back, how will it be received and what kind of missions will go forth in light of the technical changes we've had?" he wondered. "My hope is when we go back to the moon, I'm hoping that citizen science programs will not only increase the interest in the moon landing, but also increase future citizen contribution to the moon landing."

Such involvement might yet again get people excited about space exploration and, by extension, think about the place of humanity in God's creation, said Duilia de Mello, vice provost and professor of physics at The Catholic University of America.

"We today are losing a little bit of touch. We need that kind of experience (of the celebration of discovery) to get perspective and see the planet from above and see how small we are in the universe, and at the same time see how special we are," de Mello told CNS.

While de Mello was just 5 during the first moon landing and has no memories of the event, as a young teenager she started reading about interplanetary space probes that the popular media widely covered in the 1970s. That exposure moved her to become an astronomer and she now studies the structure of galaxies and works with the Space Telescope Science Institute.

She urged scientists, educators and even the Catholic Church to renew a sense of curiosity in students -- as she experienced -- so they can better connect science in daily life.

It just may be inspire some of those students to help achieve humanity's first landing someplace other than the moon.

- - -

Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican Museums loan Leonardo da Vinci work for special anniversary

Top Stories - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 2:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/A. Bracchetti, Governatorato S.C.V. via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci with a painting by the artist that will draw crowds but also pay solemn tribute to the larger-than-life Italian Renaissance painter, architect and inventor.

"Saint Jerome Praying in the Wilderness" -- an unfinished painting on wood on loan from the Vatican Museums -- will be on special exhibit July 15-Oct. 6.

According to the museum, the painting is displayed "in a gallery by itself, starkly illuminated within an otherwise darkened space to heighten the picture's contemplative dimension, which Leonardo intended. The solemn, chapel-like setting will be an evocative nod to the funerals of great Italian artists, which typically featured one of the artist's works as part of the funerary display."

The work depicts St. Jerome during the later part of his life which he spent as a hermit in the desert. Unlike other artists' renditions of St. Jerome, in his study or writing at a desk, this image of the biblical scholar and church father is of an old, gaunt, nearly toothless man, draped in cloths and kneeling in a cave, holding a rock in one hand while beside the silhouette of a lion, his companion in the desert, according to legend.

St. Jerome, who lived from 347 to 420, is known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin and his commentaries on the Gospels.

New York Times art critic Holland Cotter said those who get the chance to see the painting at the Met will instantly recognize that it is "a work in progress: fined-tuned here, slapped down there."

"Incompleteness is part of its power. And powerful this picture is, as dramatically rich as a three-act opera, with a full-throttle aria of scorching anguish at its center," he wrote. He said the saint and the lion in the work are untamed but that the "real focus is Jerome's agonized face," which he said portrays "inflamed spiritual grief."

The saint's gaze is to the side corner in the direction of a sketched crucifix. Behind him, on the upper left, is a faded landscape that upon a closer look is said to reveal da Vinci's fingerprints.

Max Hollein, the museum's director, said the Met is "thrilled to honor Leonardo da Vinci's legacy by displaying this rare and exceptional painting, as it provides an intimate glimpse into the mind of a towering figure of Western art."

He also noted the St. Jerome painting was one of "possibly six paintings whose authorship by Leonardo has never been questioned."

The artist, famous for the "Mona Lisa" and "The Last Supper" paintings, began working on this piece in Milan in 1483 and is said to have kept the painting with him until he died in France in 1519.

Although da Vinci painted a number of religious works, his own faith is subject of speculation.

A Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the artist notes that: "Either through prudence or through scorn of abstract ideas, Leonardo seems to have avoided declaring himself on this subject," but that as an artist, "he accommodated himself perfectly to the Christian tradition."

The Vatican Museums' description of the St. Jerome painting says there is no information about who commissioned the work. "Still in the sketch state, it is one of the most enigmatic works of the great Tuscan painter, sculptor, architect, engineer and philosopher," it adds.

The museum's description said the earliest mention of this painting appeared in the beginning of the 19th century when the Swiss painter Angelica Kaufmann acquired it. Pieces of the panel had been cut in two, the lower half was covering a box and the upper half covered a stool in a shoemaker's shop. A close look at the current exhibition reveals these repair lines.

Throughout the year marking da Vinci's May 2, 1519, death, museums around the world are hosting special exhibits and programs and travel groups are offering special tours to the places where da Vinci lived.

The simple one-piece work in New York adds to the yearlong celebration without a lot of fanfare but clearly with something to say. An overview of the exhibit on the museum's website said the "unfinished painting provides viewers with an extraordinary glimpse into Leonardo's creative process" and "will pay homage to one of the most renowned geniuses of all time."

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican City State set to end sale of single-use plastics

Top Stories - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 12:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After current supplies run out, Vatican City State will no longer be selling any single-use plastic items on its tiny territory.

While the European Union pledged in May to ban single-use plastic starting in 2021, the Vatican had already begun limiting its use and soon "it will no longer be sold," said Rafael Ignacio Tornini, head of the department handling Vatican City State's gardens and waste collection.

"We have been making an effort to sort as much (plastic) as possible, and the state has limited all sales of single-use plastic," he told the Italian news agency ANSA July 16.

After all previously stocked items are gone, no more single-use plastic will be sold, he said.

Single-use plastic include bags, water bottles, cutlery, straws and balloons. The top five single-use plastic items polluting European shores are cigarette butts, bottles and caps, food packaging, cotton swab sticks and wet wipes, according to research in 2016 by the European Commission.

The Vatican has long been working to get green, most notably with the installation of a solar power system on the roof of the Paul VI audience hall in 2008.

After starting a recycling program in 2008, Tornini said 55 percent of its municipal solid waste is now being properly sorted and recycled through a private contractor in Italy. Their goal, he said, is to reach EU standards of recycling 70-75 percent of regular waste.

With less than a thousand residents, but thousands of employees and countless visitors, Vatican City produces 1,000 tons of refuse a year.

Individuals are expected to place recyclable items in the correct bins or curbside dumpsters, while the department handles door-to-door pickup of organic waste and cooking oil, he said.

After food waste collection began five months ago, he said, the amount of total unrecycled waste has dropped by 12 to 13 percent each month.

In an effort to better recycle what tourists leave behind, Tornini said, "we have been able to collect about 22 lbs. (10 kg) of plastic a day" from containers under the colonnade of St. Peter's Square.

He said they have had great success in recycling up to 98 percent of waste brought to its "eco-station" that handles "special" waste like batteries, tires, expired pharmaceuticals and other hazardous refuse.

Despite all the recycling programs and equipment put into place, what was really needed, Tornini said, was a change in mentality.

He said, "We took to heart the Holy Father's guidelines in 'Laudato Si'.' Our common home needs safeguarding, and if it doesn't start with us ...."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Administration to apply 'third country' rule for asylum-seekers

Top Stories - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 12:08pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Trump administration announced the U.S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security are adopting an interim "third country rule" requiring immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to first apply for refugee status in another country.

News that the rule was taking effect July 16 brought quick condemnation by Catholic and other immigrant advocates, including the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

He called the new rule "drastically" limiting asylum "unacceptable," especially because it comes on the heels of the "misguided and untenable" actions by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to carrying out deportation orders for some immigrants.

"It is contrary to American and Christian values to attempt to prevent people from migrating here when they are fleeing to save their lives and to find safety for their families," Cardinal DiNardo said in a July 16 statement.

ICE enforcement actions are creating fear in immigrant communities and now added to "to this climate of fear" is the administration's "further unacceptable action to undermine the ability of individuals and families to seek protection in the United States."

"The rule adds further barriers to asylum-seekers' ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection," the cardinal continued. "Further, while still reviewing the rule, initial analysis raises serious questions about its legality."

He urged President Donald Trump "to reconsider these actions, the new rule and its enforcement-only approach."

"I ask that persons fleeing for their lives be permitted to seek refuge in the U.S. and all those facing removal proceedings be afforded due process. All who are at or within our borders should be treated with compassion and dignity," Cardinal DiNardo added.

Other reaction to the third-country asylum rule included a statement from including Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

"Yesterday, Catholics around the world attending Mass heard the 'Parable of the Good Samaritan' and a message of love for one's neighbor proclaimed in the Gospel," Kerr said July 15. "Today, our nation awoke to the news of the president of the United States seeking to shut off access to safety and refuge for Central American families facing horrific violence, repression and poverty in their home countries."

"This is not the act of a good Samaritan -- instead it is an effort that does not honor the inherent dignity of those seeking asylum in our country," Kerr said.

The rule will not only have "a profound impact on Central Americans facing poverty and gang violence" but also will affect people from many other countries fleeing religious persecution and other forms of abuse," he said.

"Asylum is an internationally recognized life-saving process that is firmly embedded in U.S. law and history," said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. "Attempting to subvert this process is a betrayal of American history and our legal system. Asylum-seekers need our protection, not another door slammed in their faces."

Gallagher's comments were included in a joint news release of reaction from several faith groups issues late July 15 by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

"As Pope Francis said last week in his return to the immigrant-receiving island of Lampedusa, we are called to be, as Scripture asks, 'those angels, ascending and descending, taking under our wings the little ones, the lame, the sick, those excluded.' Our call to care for others doesn't get much plainer than that," Gallagher added.

Kathryn Johnson, policy advocacy coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee, said that at a time of "multiple refugee crises across the world, the United States should be expanding U.S. protection for refugees, asylum-seekers and others seeking safety and taking in more of the world's persecuted people."

"Instead, she added, "this administration is shamefully putting more refugees' lives in danger through this and other attacks on our asylum system."

The new rule, being published in the Federal Register, says that "an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien's country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum."

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

When Islamic State came, Iraqi monks had just finished hiding manuscripts

Top Stories - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 12:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dalia Khamissy

By Doreen Abi Raad

BEIRUT (CNS) -- The first time a band of Islamic State militants "visited" the monks, they presented the monks with a kind of suggestion, in a nonthreatening manner: "Why don't you become a Muslim?"

Already, the four monks at the ancient Syriac Catholic Mar Behnam Monastery in Khidr, Iraq, had felt they were under siege. Ten days earlier, on June 10, 2014, five carloads of militants roared through the peaceful road leading to Mar Behnam, announcing through megaphones that the Islamic State was in control. Not long before that, the Iraqi army had withdrawn from a checkpoint near the monastery, located southeast of Mosul.

"Visits" from the terrorists the next few weeks intensified: banging on the monastery doors and accusations of the monks being infidels.

"Quite frankly, we were more than frightened," said Syriac Catholic Father Youssef Sakat, who had served as Mar Behnam's superior.

The monks kept up with their regular daily routine of prayer and Mass in the monastery, which dates back to the fourth century. They prayed for protection through the intercession of St. Behnam, a martyr, with faith that "we were in a blessed place," mindful that generations of Syriac Catholic Christians had also faced persecution, and still the faith had endured, Father Sakat told Catholic News Service.

The monastery "was built by local people, stone by stone," he said of Mar Behnam. "I'm sure they put their hearts into their work. I feel it was made with love."

Under Father Sakat's direction since 2012, Mar Behnam had flourished, welcoming up to 250 visitors on weekends -- even from around the world -- for retreats and lodging with the goal of helping people to better understand the monastic life. The monks would engage the children in lively faith-based activities.

"We wanted to show them that Mar Behnam is their home, too," Father Sakat said.

A Muslim friend the monks trusted was keeping them abreast of the worsening situation, but even he was becoming fearful.

"I'm sorry, Father, I can't come to the monastery anymore," he told the priest. "Even I'm being watched. It's becoming very dangerous. They want to kill you."

All the while, Father Sakat was deeply concerned about how to safeguard the chalices and other sacramentals and the monastery's extensive collection of religious manuscripts from inevitable destruction by the militants.

The 630 manuscripts, dating from the 12th to 18th centuries, were written in a range of languages, including Syriac, Greek, French and Latin.

Twice, Father Sakat tried to leave by car, with the intention of taking manuscripts to Qaraqosh, nine miles away. Each time, the militants at the Islamic State checkpoint near Mar Behnam told the priest that he was not allowed to take anything from the monastery.

"It doesn't belong to you," they said. On his third attempt, he was ordered to return to the monastery: "If we see you outside, we will kill you."

On their own, the monks could not come up with a solution, Father Sakat said.

He recalled that on July 19, late in the afternoon, "I felt in my heart: I have to hide them now." He chose a long, narrow closet under a stairwell that was used to store cleaning supplies.

"It was the Lord who directed us," Father Sakat said.

Beginning at 8 p.m., the monks worked together, carefully placing the sacramentals and manuscripts into nine steel barrels used for storing grain. With cinderblocks from a monastery renovation project, they built a false wall in the closet, hiding the barrels behind it. With a cement mixture, they painted all the walls to give them the same appearance. Cleaning supplies were put back in place in the closet. The monks even left the closet door ajar, so as not to rouse suspicions of any Islamist intruder.

They finished their work at 3 a.m.

At 1:30 p.m., four Islamic State militants barged through the Mar Behnam door with a sheikh. The monks were given three choices: either become Muslim, pay the jizya tax or leave.

"We prefer to leave," Father Sakat told the Islamists. They were allowed 15 minutes to vacate. Father Sakat was ordered to turn over all the keys to the monastery and vehicles.

Banished from his beloved monastery, as he walked out the door, "I looked back and told Mar (St.) Behnam, 'I did what I had to do. Now I entrust them under your intercession, by the power of God. Keep them safe. They are under your protection,'" Father Sakat recounted of his plea to safeguard the sacramentals and manuscripts.

The monks were ordered into one of the militants' vehicles. Two miles from the monastery, the militants left the monks on the road, warning: "Whoever looks back, we will shoot him."

The monks walked several hours to Qaraqosh. Their reprieve from terrorism was not for long. Soon that city and other Christian villages in the Ninevah Plain also fell to Islamic State.

In June 2015, the Syriac Catholic patriarch called Father Sakat to Lebanon for his new mission, helping Iraqi Christian refugees who had come to Lebanon from Kurdistan, in northern Iraq.

Now the priest heads the Syriac Catholic Holy Family center in an area of Beirut where many Iraqi Christians settled, with the hope of being resettled in Western countries. Initially, there were 1,200 Syriac Catholic families, totaling 6,700 people. Many are now scattered all over the world; 600 families remain in Lebanon, waiting.

In March 2015, the Islamic State blew up part of Mar Behnam, and the monastery remained under the militants' control until the area was liberated in October 2017.

When Father Sakat visited the monastery that December, he said he was shocked at the destruction.

Graffiti covered the walls. The pillars of the altar were incinerated. One by one, all religious phrases, crosses and symbols inscribed into the monastery's stones were drilled out and defaced, including the names of priests inscribed on tombs. Religious statues were smashed, a statue of Mary beheaded.

"It's like they want to erase all the history of Christianity," Father Sakat said.

Father Sakat stood with anticipation as the wall concealing the manuscripts was chiseled away with a jackhammer, to reveal, intact, the nine steel barrels containing the sacramentals and manuscripts.

The manuscripts were individually packed, this time into car trunks to transport them to the Queen of Peace Syriac Catholic Church in Irbil for safekeeping.

Restoration of the monastery is currently in progress, but "it needs some time," Father Sakat said.

"I'm waiting for the Lord's will, to go back (to Mar Behnam)," he added.

- - -

Coverage of international religious freedom issues by Catholic News Service is supported in part by Aid to the Church in Need-USA (www.acnusa.org).

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Faith leaders decry ICE deportations, say action causes anxiety, fear

Top Stories - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 1:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/ICE, Charles Reed via Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Many Catholic and other faith leaders noted that the Gospel reading for July 14 -- the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was to carry out deportation orders for some immigrants -- was the parable of the good Samaritan from the Gospel of St. Luke.

The story admonishes people to put aside their differences and "help those who are in need of help," such as the immigrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, faith leaders said.

Among leaders criticizing the ICE actions was Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, who said July 13 that her organization strongly opposed "the reported plans of ICE raids this weekend."

"The threats of deportation and family separation are causing anxiety and fear within the vulnerable communities our agencies serve, endangering immigrant rights and safety. Most significant is the lasting psychological damage family separation inflicts upon children," she said. "Such cruel behavior will impact children for the rest of their lives."

"Our Catholic Charities agencies stand committed to providing legal and humanitarian assistance for our immigrant brothers and sisters," she said. "We support the pursuit of legal immigration but recognize that all immigrants, regardless of status, must be treated with basic human dignity and respect."

Sister Markham urged Congress and the Trump administration "to enact comprehensive immigration reform and address the root causes of migration rather than pursue enforcement raids on America's immigrant community."

In Texas, Brownsville Bishop Daniel E. Flores called echoed the same concerns, saying: "The threat of mass deportation raids is psychologically cruel to families and children. The actual separation of parents from their children without even a chance for a court appearance is simply reprehensible. Laws ought to treat families and children differently than drug lords."

News reports estimated that about 2,000 people were going to be arrested for deportation. ICE actions were taking place in at least nine cities: New York, Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and Miami. Some news reports reported that ICE actions also would take place in New Orleans.

Mayors in those cities announced they would not allow their law enforcement agencies to cooperate with ICE agents. Thousands across the country protested the agency's actions.

In New York, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan July 13 decried a general negative attitude toward refugees and immigrants that he said he sees among many in this country, a nation of immigrants. His remarks were not issued in direct response to the announced ICE deportations but came after he celebrated Mass that day in the chapel at the St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Shrine in New York City.

The saint, also called Mother Cabrini, is the patroness of immigrants and refugees. An Italian American, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a religious community that was a major support to the Italian immigrants to the United States.

"I was moved as I recalled her work among Italian immigrants in the United States in the 19th and early 20th century," Cardinal Dolan wrote in a blog post. "This work inspires me today as the church continues to welcome immigrants from so many different countries, particularly in these troublingly uncertain times."

"It saddens me to admit that many, some even in the church, opposed Mother Cabrini's work. It troubles me that today in too many places hate and malice are directed against immigrants and refugees -- in both words and actions," he added.

"As a pastor, I pray that understanding, respect and love might grow in dealing with newcomers to our land. I am proud of the welcoming that our parishes, schools, charitable, and health care ministries have and do provide," Cardinal Dolan said.

In a July 14 interview on Fox News Channel, Matt Albence, acting ICE director, said "using the term 'raid does everybody a disservice. We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge."

"We are merely executing those lawfully issued judges' orders," he said.

Albence said he could not give details of what the agency was calling "Operation Perspective," but said individuals ICE was targeting came "to this country illegally, had the opportunity to make an asylum claim before an immigration judge, and most of them chose not avail themselves of that opportunity and didn't even show up for their first hearing."

Albence added that in February, ICE gave these individuals an opportunity to turn themselves and arrange "processes for leaving the country." Just 3%, he said, "actually responded, the rest ignored (the request)."

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the weekend action aligned with ICE's priority to remove criminals from the U.S.

"We've got compassionate, loyal ICE agents who are just doing their job," Mr. Cuccinelli said in a morning interview July 14 with CNN's Jake Tapper. "It shows you how far we've fallen in that it's become news that they would actually go deport people who have removal orders."

In other faith-based reaction, Katie Adams, domestic policy advocate for the United Church of Christ and co-chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, said July 12 that having "these raids" take place on a Sunday, "the Christian holy day," is "further proof that these actions are morally bankrupt."

"These raids come from a place of fear, suspicion, and hate; living in that kind of hate is antithetical to the Gospel that teaches love for humanity. Families are sacred, both those we are born with and those we find," Adams said.

The National Council of Churches, also in a July 12 statement, urged the Trump administration to call off the ICE actions, which it labeled as "unconscionable and immoral."

"This is a moment in which God is calling the church to do all it can to stand with those who have sought refuge within our borders and to resist these measures and show compassion toward persons threatened with deportation," the council said.

Back in June, when the Trump administration indicated it planned enforcement operation in major cities to remove thousands of migrant families with deportation orders, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' migration committee criticized the decision, saying broad enforcement actions "instigate panic in our communities and will not serve as an effective deterrent to irregular migration."

"We recognize the right of nations to control their borders in a just and proportionate manner," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, in a June 22 statement. ICE deportations were later postponed.

"We should focus on the root causes in Central America that have compelled so many to leave their homes in search of safety and reform our immigration system with a view toward justice and the common good," he said, adding the U.S. bishops were ready to work with the administration and Congress to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.

"During this unsettling time, we offer our prayers and support to our brothers and sisters," Bishop Vasquez said, "regardless of their immigration status, and recognizing their inherent dignity as children of God."

- - -

Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Love of God, love of neighbor are tied together, pope says

Top Stories - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 10:06am

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Mercado, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Praying that Catholics would understand and act on "the inseparable bond" between love of God and love of neighbor, Pope Francis again appealed for a solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

"We pray that the Lord will inspire and enlighten the parties in conflict so that as soon as possible they arrive at an agreement that puts an end to the suffering of the people for the good of the country and the entire region," the pope said July 14 after reciting the Angelus prayer.

In early June, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that the number of Venezuelans who had fled the violence, extreme poverty and lack of medicines in their country had reached 4 million since 2015.

In his main Angelus talk, commenting on the Sunday Gospel reading of the story of the good Samaritan, Pope Francis said it teaches that "compassion is the benchmark" of Christianity.

Jesus' story about the Samaritan stopping to help a man who had been robbed and beaten after a priest and Levite just walked by, "makes us understand that we, without our criteria, are not the ones who decide who is our neighbor and who isn't," the pope said.

Rather, he said, it is the person in need who identifies the neighbor, finding it in the person who has compassion and stops to help.

"Being able to have compassion; this is the key," the pope said. "If you stand before a person in need and don't feel compassion, if your heart is not moved, that means something is wrong. Be attentive."

"If you are walking down the street and see a homeless person lying there and you pass without looking at him or you think, 'That's the wine. He's a drunk,' ask yourself if your heart has not become rigid, if your heart has not become ice," the pope said.

Jesus' command to be like the good Samaritan, he said, "indicates that mercy toward a human being in need is the true face of love. And that is how you become true disciples of Jesus and show others the Father's face."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

All hymns, all the time: 'Great Catholic Music' makes streaming debut

Top Stories - Fri, 07/12/2019 - 4:11pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Chris Cugini, Living Bread Radio

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholics hear hymns in church, but hardly ever on the radio. Now they can augment their weekly diet of hymnody through a new audio web streaming service called Great Catholic Music.

The service launched March 1, just before Lent, and plays a mix of pre-and post-Vatican II hymns and liturgical music all day, every day. "The response so far has been absolutely amazing," said program director Michael Roberts in an interview with Catholic News Service July 11. "The first night that we launched we received an email from someone in Santa Barbara, California, saying, 'Thank you so much.'"

Great Catholic Music is a project of the Living Bread Radio Network, a group of Catholic radio stations in northeast Ohio. But those stations don't play music. Why not?

"I think a lot of it has to do with licensing. It's not cheap to play music on the radio," said Roberts, who worked at a small oldies-format station for seven years which spent $1,000 a month on licensing. "People are just kind of scared to dip their toe in the water of music," he added. "It's easier for a lot of people not to do music" and rely on talk shows, although with Great Catholic Music, "we felt there was a market for it -- and there really is."

Roberts said Great Catholic Music is based in the same building as a Catholic bookstore in Canton, Ohio, where the owner also sells liturgical music CDs. "She has kept a lot of the demos and a lot of the CDs that she's sold over the years. We literally took the time to download them and dubbed in to our hard drive," Roberts told CNS.

Anybody who remembers listening to hit-music formats regardless of genre will recall how the most popular songs of that moment seemed to be played every couple of hours. Great Catholic Music plays favorites, too, but not nearly that obsessively.

What constitutes "heavy rotation" is 100 or so "songs we've been singing for decades: 'You Are Mine,' 'Blest Are They,' Michael Joncas stuff, the St. Louis Jesuits. We Googled 'top Catholic songs,' and we found several lists compiled by several organizations," Roberts said, adding, "Some of them I may have taken liberties on as the program director."

He added he was planning to go to the National Association of Pastoral Musicians convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, and talk with representatives of what he called "the big three" in liturgical music publishing -- GIA, OCP and WLP, whose hymnals and worship aids are in the vast majority of U.S. parishes -- to add to the current repertoire.

"I hope the publishers come to us and say, 'Here's a demo. Add this song to the rotation, add that song,'" he said, adding the possibility exists for "a show that is just for up-and-coming artists."

Even though Great Catholic Radio is loaded with music, it's not 100 percent music.

"Part of this is to inspire. It's not just music, we want to inspire people," Roberts said, adding the website, www.greatcatholicradio.com, also takes breaks for psalms, Scripture readings and prayers.

"We have some quotes of St. John Paul II, and Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Mother Teresa," he said. "We also have clergy from all over northeast Ohio; by the way, this is where Living Bread Radio and Great Catholic Music come together. We have a clergy member who does a reflection. We take that and put it into rotation for Great Catholic Music. You're hearing a daily reflection of the Mass readings for the day. It's another way to inspire."

Roberts said, "It's a quick break. It's like a commercial interruption, but it's not a commercial."

This early on, adjustments are bound to be made to the mix. Roberts said he's received requests for both more chant and less chant. He fielded a complaint from one listener on Good Friday that the music was "too dirge-y." And trying to salt in Lenten and Advent hymns when there's not a lot to begin with can be tricky, he noted.

Roberts did declare, though, that Christmas music would not be heard on Great Catholic Radio until Christmas Eve, but it would continue to be heard through the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Chile removes statute of limitations on sex abuse cases

Top Stories - Fri, 07/12/2019 - 11:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Chilean Presidency via Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As the Catholic Church in Chile continues to deal with the fallout of clerical sexual abuse and its cover-up, the Chilean government passed a law removing the statute of limitations on sex abuse crimes against children.

The new law, which passed the Chilean Congress July 6, ensures that there will be no time limit in prosecuting cases "regarding the kidnapping or abduction of a minor, as well as the torture, unlawful coercion or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and all that occurs during an act of rape, carnal access to a minor, statutory rape or other sexual offenses."

The law also allows victims to take civil action against people or institutions that aided in covering up sex abuse crimes.

"From now on, time will no longer be an accomplice of the abusers, nor an ally of impunity," said Chilean President Sebastian Pinero as he signed the legislation July 11. "From now on, the responsibility of those who abuse our children will be irrevocable, just as the pain they caused our children is irrevocable."

The legislation comes as investigators continue to look into cases involving the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults in the Catholic Church. Reuters news agency reported Chilean government officials said they were currently investigating more than 150 cases of sexual abuse or cover-up in the church.

Among those currently being investigated for possible cover-up are senior members of the clergy, including the last two archbishops of Santiago: Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa and Ricardo Ezzati.

In March, Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Ezzati's resignation and named Bishop Celestino Aos Braco of Copiapo as apostolic administrator of the archdiocese.

Although the new law is not retroactive, advocates say it is a major step forward and expressed hope that lawmakers can revise the law in the future for survivors who have been unable to seek justice due to prior limitations.

In an interview with Chilean radio station Diario UChile July 7, Jose Andres Murillo, one of several survivors of abuse by ex-priest Fernando Karadima, said making the law retroactive would be good for survivors and prevent abusers from committing further crimes.

Nevertheless, he said, "it is important to recognize that we're creating legislation and actually catching up with what the International Convention on the Rights of the Child requires of us, and in that sense, I think it's good news."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Not the usual suspects: Cardinal wants parish teams of risk-takers

Top Stories - Fri, 07/12/2019 - 11:21am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- The papal vicar for Rome has asked every pastor in the diocese to form a "pastoral team" of about a dozen "courageous explorers" to help launch a new neighborhood missionary outreach.

"Don't go looking for those who have shown they are prudent, measured and detail-oriented," Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the papal vicar, wrote in a letter to pastors July 11.

Instead, he said, the team should be made up of "people who draw outside the lines, people whom the Holy Spirit has made passionate about imperfection."

The diocese's 2019-2020 pastoral year is focused on "listening to the cry of the city" and responding with stronger parish communities, a greater focus on Sunday Mass, visiting the poor and lonely, providing concrete assistance to those in need and reaching out to young people and families.

Cardinal De Donatis suggested the priests look for 12 people to serve on the pastoral team. The number is not a requirement, he said, but should send a message to Catholics that the parish is looking "for a small group from which everything set out."

"We do not need competent and qualified professionals as much as Christians who apparently are like everyone else but, in reality, are able to dream, to infect others with their dreams and want to experience something new," the cardinal wrote.

"Perhaps," he told the pastors, "these are people you have tried to contain a bit up until now -- frankly, they can be destabilizing -- but no more; you must draw them near, listen to them, value them and let them act so they can disturb the drowsy tranquility of others."

And, he said, it is possible they will make mistakes, but that is better than having a parish that never tries anything new.

The pastoral team's first responsibility, he said, is to go out into the neighborhood that comprises the parish territory, talk to people, observe and then "map the characteristics" in light of the area's history and the lifestyle of residents. The description should include the presence of schools, workplaces, places where people gather, pockets of greater poverty, areas of "social violence" and the presence of organized crime.

The team must meet often with the pastor and with catechists, leaders of parish groups and youth and young adult ministers to listen to their observations and brainstorm together about how to help all parishioners live their faith more openly and share it with others in the neighborhood, he said.

Cardinal De Donatis said he hope the result would be that "our diocesan church would end up more attentive to others, more aware of people's deepest questions, more convinced of the Good News that it is called to proclaim and more sensitive to God's inspiration."

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Lay role matters in renewing church wounded by abuse, speaker says

Top Stories - Thu, 07/11/2019 - 5:12pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gina Christian, catholicphilly.com

By Gina Christian

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The laity can lead the way in renewing a church wounded by the decades-long sexual abuse scandal, according to Meghan Cokeley, director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Office for the New Evangelization.

Prayer, redemptive suffering, forgiveness and a deeper understanding of the laity's calling can radically revive the church, said Cokeley, who has been touring Philadelphia-area parishes to deliver a talk titled "What Can We Do? The Role of Laity in a Time of Crisis."

Combining Scripture, catechesis and historical examples, the presentation offers "a message of hope" as well as several specific action points to counter feelings of despair and apathy in church life.

During a recent session at St. Hilary of Poitiers Parish in Rydal, Pennsylvania, Cokeley cited the devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in April as "a sign God gave us for these times," one that showed a church "scarred, but still standing."

She noted that as the 850-year-old structure burned, lay bystanders "instinctively ran into the street, rosaries in their hands, praying on their knees and singing hymns" despite grim predictions that the cathedral would be destroyed.

Cokeley pointed out that while the crowd prayed, firefighters formed a human chain to save many of the cathedral's relics and to enable the brigade's chaplain, Father Jean-Marc Fournier, to remove the Blessed Sacrament.

"They say the faith is dead in France. It's not," said Cokeley. "Our prayer matters."

That same passion, she said, is present in "sensus fidei fidelis" ("sense of the faith of the believer"); this cannot be separated from "sensus fidei fidelium," the sense of the faith on the part of all the faithful. "Sensus fidei" can help the church to navigate troubled waters, especially when leaders forsake the helm, she added.

Often confused with public opinion in the pews, the "sensus fidei" was defined in 2014 by the Vatican's International Theological Commission as a "supernatural instinct" for "the truth of the Gospel," which enables active, properly formed Catholics to recognize "authentic Christian doctrine and practice" while rejecting falsehood.

Cokeley noted that a dramatic example of the "sensus fidei" can be found in the laity's rejection of Arianism, a widespread fourth-century heresy that claimed Jesus had been created by God.

Blessed John Henry Newman -- whom Pope Francis has greenlighted for canonization in October -- wrote that the laity upheld true church teaching as the heresy prevailed for some 60 years. In contrast, Cardinal Newman observed, "the body of bishops failed in their confession of the faith," succumbing to confusion and infighting.

Cokeley also said that by knowing the true purpose of church organizational structure, laity can more fully embrace their rightful place in the body of Christ.

"There's a tendency to dismiss the hierarchy due to its failures, or to treat the laity as passive bystanders," she said. "Both are pitfalls."

Cokeley used an image of Guercino's "St. Peter Weeping Before the Virgin," in which the first pope repents to Mary for denying Christ, to illustrate two key dimensions of the church.

Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the writings of St. John Paul II, Cokeley explained that the hierarchical aspect of the church, represented by Peter and therefore called "Petrine," is designed to ensure the holiness of all its members.

The Marian dimension, named for Mary's surpassing sanctity and representing the church's holiness, "precedes the Petrine," the catechism states.

Cokeley said that during the clerical abuse crisis, this order "got flipped, and bishops protected themselves at the expense of the laity."

Intentional, heartfelt forgiveness and redemptive suffering can powerfully redress such wrongs, allowing grace to flow into the lives of both failed leaders and wounded believers, she said.

"When we unite our sufferings with those of Christ -- this is where the power is," she said. "There's a sense that it doesn't do anything, but the saying 'offer it up' is true."

Cokeley acknowledged that while there is a time and a place for activism, the cross shows the true path to transformation.

"The crucifixion of Jesus Christ altered the course of human history," said Cokeley. "And what was Christ doing on the cross? He wasn't signing petitions, he wasn't writing a book, he wasn't enacting policies, although those can be good. He was praying, suffering and obeying the Father."

The rosary is a particularly effective form of prayer, said Cokeley, adding that Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the Fatima visionaries, stressed its unique power to resolve difficulties both great and small.

Displaying an image of Meynier's "Christ Asleep in His Boat," in which Jesus sleeps calmly amid raging waters, Cokeley urged attendees to "curl up next to Jesus" in the storm of scandal.

"The reason Jesus is asleep is because he knows who his Father is, and he is anchored in his Father," she said. "His Father's got this."

For that reason, Cokeley said, lay Catholics should recommit themselves to greater involvement in parish life and to evangelization -- even if such action seems counterintuitive, given the clerical abuse scandal and the secularized culture.

"God uses the works of the devil for his own purposes," she said.

Cokeley concluded her talk by encouraging listeners to view "fidelity as a mission," one that had long-term impact.

"Someday 300 years from now, they're going to read stories about the laypeople who went to church anyway, who prayed for their priests anyway, who kept on evangelizing," she said. "They're going to read stories about how God preserved the church through us."

- - -

Editor's Note: Meghan Cokeley's presentation can be viewed online at https://youtu.be/R6GMWmXw2-0.

- - -

Christian is the senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Appeals court to uphold ACA; health care a basic human right, says CHA

Top Stories - Thu, 07/11/2019 - 4:55pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By Elizabeth Bachmann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit considers the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Catholic Health Association voiced its support for the act, declaring access to health care a basic human right.

CHA is a national organization comprised of 600 hospitals and 1,600 other health care facilities that provide compassionate, nonprofit care to Americans.

In a statement released July 9, CHA emphasized that the ACA brings health care to 20 million Americans, 12 million of whom are low income individuals. "In addition to being harmful to patients' health, the lack of coverage adds unnecessary expense to our nation's health care system and deprives patients with an equitable opportunity for a healthy, productive life."

In its statement, CHA highlights that patients without health insurance are four times more likely to be hospitalized for preventable maladies, making them more difficult and more expensive to treat.

Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, CHA's president and CEO, said the "effort to eliminate access to affordable health care coverage for millions of Americans is unconscionable."

Despite that, the Affordable Care Act is currently under fire for the second time. Back in 2012, an opponent filed a lawsuit arguing that the individual mandate, which requires most individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty, was unconstitutional. The case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled the mandate constitutional.

Then, in 2017, Congress passed a tax law which did not repeal the mandate, but reduced it to "zero dollars." People are still required by law to purchase state subsidized health insurance, but there is no penalty for ignoring the law.

On Dec. 14, 2018, a Texas federal court ruled that the individual mandate is no longer constitutional, and that, as a result the entire ACA cannot function. The court ruled that the individual mandate is not "severable" from the rest of the ACA. The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the Republican state attorneys general and governors in at least 18 states.

Now the matter is before the 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans. A three-judge panel heard oral arguments July 9 in the case, Texas v. United States.

CHA filed a brief as amicus curiae, or a friend of the court, along with four other national hospital organizations. Altogether, the brief represents 5,000 hospitals and health care facilities across America. In the brief, they argue that the ACA is, in fact, separable from the individual mandate, as evidenced by the fact that the system has existed since 2017 with a "zero dollar" penalty.

Not only that, but the brief outlines all of the programs attached to ACA that will shut down if the 5th Circuit finds the law unconstitutional. These include in-home care for the elderly, programs combating the opioid crisis and other programs that tackle substance abuse issues.

They argue that repealing the ACA completely will leave millions without insurance, harming not only patients, but also hospitals.

"Without coverage, Americans suffer," they wrote. "Those without insurance coverage forgo basic medical care, making them more difficult to treat when they do seek care. This not only hurts patients; it has severe consequences for the hospitals that care for them. Hospitals will bear a greater uncompensated-care burden, which will force them to reallocate limited resources and compromise their ability to provide needed services."

CHA ultimately urged the 5th Circuit to reverse the Texas ruling.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pages

The Catholic Voice

The Archdiocese of Omaha • Catholic Voice
402-558-6611 • Fax 402 558-6614 •
E-mail Us

Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved.
This information may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

Comment Here