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Don't let quake shake your hope, pope tells earthquake survivors

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 9:35am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By

CAMERINO, Italy (CNS) -- Wearing a firefighter's helmet painted white and gold for the occasion, Pope Francis entered the earthquake-damaged cathedral in Camerino and prayed before a statue of Mary missing the top of its head.

The pope began his visit June 16 outside the historic city by visiting the temporary modular homes of dozens of families who lost everything when an earthquake struck the region in October 2016.

Pope Francis arrived in the town early in the morning, and the first couple he visited insisted he try a pastry.

"I had breakfast before I left," he explained. But the woman said she would be offended if he didn't try just one, so he did.

A few doors down, a young woman holding a small, squirming dog told him, "I can't believe you are really here."

The centerpiece of the pope's visit was the celebration of Mass in the small square outside the still-closed cathedral.

In his homily, Pope Francis focused on the question from Psalm 8: "What is man that you are mindful of him?"

"With what you have seen and suffered, with houses collapsed and buildings reduced to rubble," the pope said, it is a legitimate question for people to ask.

Faith and experience, though, make it clear that God always is mindful of his human creatures, "each one is of infinite value to him," the pope said. "We are small under the heavens and powerless when the earth trembles, but for God we are more precious than anything."

Visiting the families in temporary housing, Pope Francis kept urging them to keep hold of hope, and he did the same in his homily.

"Earthly hopes are fleeting, they have an expiration date," the pope said. But the Christian virtue of hope, a gift of the Holy Spirit "does not expire because it is based on God's faithfulness."

Such hope, he said, gives birth to "peace and joy inside, independently of what happens outside. It is a hope that has strong roots, one that no storm can uproot."

Pope Francis told the people he wanted to visit just to show his closeness.

At the same time, he said he knew that, after three years, media attention and the solidarity of other Italians has waned, promises of a speedy reconstruction seem to have been forgotten and frustration increases as residents watch more and more people move away permanently.

He prayed that the Lord would prompt people "to remember, repair and rebuild and to do so together, without ever forgetting those who suffer."

 

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Synod document raises possibility of married priests, roles for women

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 7:32am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church must find ways to reach indigenous Catholics deprived of the sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, and that may include ordaining married elders, said the working document for the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

"Affirming that celibacy is a gift for the church, in order to ensure the sacraments for the most remote areas of the region, we are asked to study the possibility of priestly ordination for elders -- preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by the community -- even though they have an established and stable family," said the document.

Published by the Vatican June 17, the document also said the church should consider "an official ministry that can be conferred upon women, taking into account the central role they play in the Amazonian church."

The document, drafted after input from bishops' conferences and local communities, acknowledged that in the church "the feminine presence in communities isn't always valued."

Those responding to a synod questionnaire asked that women's "gifts and talents" be recognized and that the church "guarantee women leadership as well as increasingly broad and relevant space in the field of formation: theology, catechesis, liturgy and schools of faith and politics," the 45-page document said.

The synod gathering in October 2019 will reflect on the theme "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology."

When he announced the synod in 2017, Pope Francis said it would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.

The Amazon rainforest includes territory spread across Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Guyana and French Guiana and is the largest rainforest in the world, covering more than 2.1 million square miles in South America.

While rich in biodiversity, natural resources and cultures, the Amazon rainforest has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

"This synod revolves around life: the life of the Amazonian territory and its people, the life of the church (and) the life of the planet," the document said.

Divided into three main parts, the synod document first laid out the importance of the Amazonian region as well as the environmental threats facing it and its indigenous populations.

"Currently, climate change and the increase in human intervention -- deforestation, fires and changes in the use of land -- are driving the Amazon to a point of no return with high rates of deforestation, forced population displacement and pollution, putting its ecosystems at risk and exerting pressure on local cultures," it said.

To respond to the needs and challenges facing the Amazon and its indigenous populations, it added, the church must have a "new sense of mission" that "opens new spaces" for finding ways to minister with and to the region's people.

"This is the moment to listen to the voice of the Amazon and to respond as a prophetic and Samaritan church," the working document said.

The document's second part highlighted the dangers facing the region and its people who are threatened by those "guided by an economic model linked to production, commercialization and consumption, where the maximizing of profit is prioritized over human and environmental needs."

Drug and arms trafficking, corruption, violence against women, forced migration and the exploitation of indigenous people and their territories, particularly those in "voluntary isolation," are among the other challenges that the church must confront.

Among the suggestions proposed in the working document's third part was the formation of indigenous laity so they can take on a greater role, especially in remote areas lacking the presence of priests and religious men and women.

However, those who are preparing for ordained ministry in the region must also receive adequate formation in the church's "philosophical-theological culture," although in a way adapted to Amazonian cultures.

The document also proposed "the reform of the structures of the seminaries to encourage the integration of candidates to the priesthood in the communities."

Liturgy also plays an important role in expressing the church's closeness to indigenous people in the Amazon, the document said.

Citing the Second Vatican Council document on the sacred liturgy and Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium," the document highlighted "the enculturation of the liturgy among the indigenous peoples," adding that cultural diversity poses no threat "to the unity of the church but rather expresses its genuine Catholicity by showing the 'the beauty of her varied face.'"

"The sacraments must be a source of life and healing that is accessible to all, especially to the poor," the document said. "We are asked to overcome the rigidity of a discipline that excludes and alienates" and instead offer "a pastoral sensitivity that accompanies and integrates."

In order to help communities that find it difficult to celebrate the Eucharist due to lack of priests, it added, the church is asked to "change the criteria for selecting and preparing authorized ministers to celebrate it" and to work toward a "ministry of presence" and not simply the itinerant visits of a priest passing through.

The synod working document said that the church is called to play "a prophetic role" in the Amazon, and its evangelizing mission in the region implies "a commitment to promote the rights of the indigenous people."

"The Spirit is in the voice of the poor; that is why the church must listen to them, they are a theological place," it said. "In listening to their pain, silence is necessary in order to hear the voice of the Spirit of God. The prophetic voice implies a new contemplative look capable of mercy and commitment."

The commitment to caring for the earth and defending the human rights of its inhabitants can be dangerous, the document said. "The number of martyrs in the Amazon is alarming."

The church must support those who risk their lives for others "and remember its martyrs, among whom are women leaders like Sister Dorothy Stang," a U.S.-born Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who defended the land rights of the poor and was assassinated in Brazil in 2005.

 

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Bishops' actions at spring meeting called a 'work in progress'

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 4:25pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The gathering of U.S. bishops June 11-13 in Baltimore was anything but business as usual.

"The spring meetings are usually more pastoral, and the November meeting has a heavier agenda," said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, who said this meeting had a "sense of urgency" and momentum to it, both in the smaller group gatherings and when the bishops were all together.

"We were here for specific task ... and by God's grace we will move forward," he said during a June 12 news conference.

The bishops typically meet twice a year as a body. The spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is usually in June at different locations each year, and sometimes it is a retreat. The fall meeting in recent years has always been in Baltimore. This year's spring meeting was switched somewhat last minute to the Baltimore location where the bishops were not the only ones in the hotel space but were adjacent to other conference gatherings.

The other time a spring bishops' meeting was almost entirely devoted to the church crisis was the 2002 meeting in Dallas, just months after the church was reeling from a clergy sexual abuse crisis that made headlines in The Boston Globe.

But where that meeting focused on misconduct by priests, this year's meeting looked at responding to the misconduct of some bishops and the failure of some bishops to properly address abuse.

Since their two general assemblies last year, the bishops have been confronted with an overwhelming need to prove to U.S. Catholics that abuse within their own ranks won't be tolerated. They were hit with allegations last summer that one of their own, former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, had committed abuses over decades. Then just a week before the spring meeting, details emerged from the Vatican-ordered investigation of retired Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, highlighting financial and sexual improprieties.

Names of both bishops came up during the assembly at different points, when the bishops spoke about protocols to put in place to make sure these incidents wouldn't happen again.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, opened the meeting June 11 by saying: "We begin the sacred work this week of purging the evil of sexual abuse from our church."

But just the week before, he had faced his own accusation, which he strongly denied, of having mishandled an accusation of sexual misconduct case against his former vicar general.

The bishops also had the weight of unfinished business upon them in this spring's gathering: policies and procedures in response to the abuse crisis that they had put aside at last year's fall general assembly at the Vatican's request. They also had a new, but related, item: their plan to implement Pope Francis' norms issued May 9 to help the church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable.

Although the bishops passed all the abuse measures before them, none of them said these actions would hit the reset button for the church. In closing remarks, Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged that the steps they had taken were a "work in progress."

They voted to implement the norms contained in the pope's "motu proprio" on responding to sexual abuse in the church and they also approved all of their own measures including a promise to hold themselves accountable to the commitments of their "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," including a zero-tolerance policy for abuse.

"We, the bishops of the U.S., have heard the anger expressed by so many within and outside the church over these failures," that document said, adding: "The anger is justified; it has humbled us, prompting us into self-examination, repentance and a desire to do better, much better. We will continue to listen."

In other votes, the bishops approved actions they can take when a retired bishop resigns or is removed "due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act." They also approved the implementation of an independent third-party system that would allow people to make confidential reports of abuse complaints against bishops through a toll-free number and online.

"It's right we give attention to this," Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, said at the closing news conference. He said the collateral damage from the church abuse scandal is how it is "costing people their faith."

He also stressed that the possibility of "proceeding with what we passed today" without laypeople would be impossible and "highly irresponsible."

Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, which oversaw the all of the abuse documents the bishops voted on, except for the third-party system, told reporters at the close of the meeting that bishops are already collaborating with the laity. We are not in a church where the laypeople are here, and the bishops are there, he said, gesturing a gap.

Although some bishops had voiced hope on the floor June 13 that there be mandatory lay participation in church abuse monitoring, Bishop Deeley said the bishops couldn't "go beyond what the Holy Father has given" in the norms he issued, but that doesn't mean laity are or will be excluded, he said.

That was precisely the point Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, hoped to bring home near the meeting's close when he emphasized the need to involve laypeople because "it's the Catholic thing to do."

He said when bishops go home from this meeting, they should be able to tell people they did everything they were able to do to respond to this crisis.

He told Catholic News Service during a break in the meeting June 13 that the church needs to get back to its origins and the Second Vatican Council's vision of lay collaboration with clergy, adding: "Perhaps God is utilizing this crisis in a way to get us back on track again."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Lay groups cautious about bishops' actions to boost accountability

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 1:07pm

IMAGE: CNS graphic/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

By

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Representatives of lay organizations expressed caution over the steps taken by U.S. bishops to boost accountability and transparency in dealing with clergy sexual abuse, saying future actions by the bishops will determine how successful the initiatives ultimately will be.

Full collaboration with laypeople will be the key to the success of the measures adopted by the bishops, they said in a series of statements following the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring general assembly in Baltimore June 11-13.

"Catholics are looking for robust actions and long-term solutions to the twin crises of abuse and leadership failures," Kim Smolik, CEO of the Leadership Roundtable, said in a June 13 statement.

"While the bishops took important initial steps, more remains to be done to address the root causes and create a new culture of leadership that values accountability, transparency and co-responsibility with clergy and laity," she said.

The Leadership Roundtable was founded in the wake of the 2002 abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston. It was officially formed in 2005 by lay, religious and ordained leaders to help the church address the abuse crisis and promote best practices and accountability in all areas. It has been working since then to help dioceses address leadership and governance issues.

The bishops approved four measures during their assembly including the operation of an independent third-party reporting system to accept abuse allegations and the implementation of Pope Francis' norms, "Vos Estis Lux Mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), to safeguard church members from abuse and boost accountability of church leaders.

Smolik said that while she had not seen the final directives, her organization was "pleased that multiple bishops intervened to specify the need for greater lay involvement."

The roundtable had sent recommendations to the USCCB prior to the assembly calling for national standards to support the measures under consideration and a study into what led to the mishandling of incidents of clergy abuse.

"New procedures are a start," Smolik's statement said, "but the pervasive culture that led to the crises is still in place. A new culture of leadership is necessary if we are to truly address the crises.

"It starts by acknowledging the leadership failures, looking at the root causes, providing new information in seminaries and other educational institutions, setting up governance structures with checks, balances, etc.," she said.

"Lay Catholics are lending their expertise and look forward to continued work with the clergy to create a new culture of co-responsible leadership," she added.

During a news conference at the close of the bishops' meeting, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, acknowledged that the "twin-headed scandal" of clergy abuse and mismanagement by bishops "is costing people their faith."

He said that laypeople inevitably would be involved in the new systems being implemented even if the adopted measures did not specifically call for their participation.

"Proceeding with what we legislated today for us, the possibility of doing that without qualified laypeople I would say is next to impossible. It is impossible and it would be highly irresponsible," Cardinal Tobin said.

Still, skepticism remained from Catholic-led organizations that have been highly critical of the bishops' handling of clergy abuse for years.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said June 13 that none of the measures adopted require all allegations of misconduct to be immediately forwarded to civil law enforcement authorities.

The plan governing the third-party reporting system will find reports funneled through a central receiving hub, which would then be responsible for sending allegations to the appropriate metropolitan, or archbishop, and to the papal nunciature in Washington. The metropolitans will be responsible for reporting any allegation to local law enforcement authorities as the first step toward investigating a claim.

SNAP said in its statement that "church officials have so far refused to mandate lay involvement, instead leaving it up to each metropolitan to decide, and have not yet said if every allegation received will be routed to police."

"Without these mandates, there is no guarantee that reports will be routed to police and investigations will be transparent and public. Instead, all reports can remain secret and insulated within the church's internal systems," SNAP said.

The organization called for each metropolitan to establish "a truly independent" lay review board with members to include least one clergy abuse survivor and two members chosen from investigators recommended by the appropriate state attorney general.

SNAP also wants any investigation of a bishop to be conducted "in a locale far from the area where the complaint originated." It said full transparency and accountability requires that the investigations and lay review board reports and findings must be publicly released with appropriate redactions to protect victims.

Terrence McKiernan, president and co-director of BishopAccountability.org, said June 13 that it was "encouraging that the bishops are grappling at last with sexual and managerial misconduct in their own ranks."

In a statement, he called for greater involvement by laypeople in all aspects of the new standards.

McKiernan also appealed for ways to assure greater accountability among bishops as well as independent auditing of the new procedures, which he described as having "obvious structural weaknesses" that will likely guarantee "that the system will not command the confidence it requires to succeed."

 

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Mitigate global warming, spare further injustice to poor, pope says

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 10:05am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Faced with a climate emergency, the world must act immediately to mitigate global warming and avoid committing "a brutal act of injustice" on the poor and future generations, Pope Francis told a group of energy and oil executives and global investors.

"Time is running out! Deliberations must go beyond mere exploration of what can be done and concentrate on what needs to be done from today onward," he said.

"We do not have the luxury of waiting for others to step forward or of prioritizing short-term economic benefits. The climate crisis requires our decisive action, here and now," he said June 14 at the Vatican.

The pope spoke to leaders taking part in a conference June 13-14 on "Energy Transition and Care for Our Common Home," sponsored by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business in the United States.

It was the second private meeting aimed at dialogue with invited executives of leading energy, petroleum and natural gas companies as well as leaders in investment firms. The Vatican did not release a list of participants.

The first meeting with energy executives was in June 2018 with participants that included Laurence Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock, an American multinational investment management corporation; Darren Woods, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil; and Vicki Hollub, president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum.

Pope Francis thanked participants for returning for the second meeting, saying it was "a positive sign of your continued commitment to working together in a spirit of solidarity to promote concrete steps for the care of our planet."

The dialogue was taking place during a "critical moment," he said, because "today's ecological crisis, especially climate change, threatens the very future of the human family, and this is no exaggeration."

"For too long, we have collectively failed to listen to the fruits of scientific analysis and 'doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain,'" he said, citing his encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home."

It would be grossly unfair for future generations to inherit "a greatly spoiled world," the pope said. "Pardon me if I want to underline this: They, our children, our grandchildren, should not have to pay, it is not right that they pay the cost of our irresponsibility."

All dialogue and action must be rooted in the best scientific research available today, he said, pointing particularly to last year's special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"That report clearly warns that effects on the climate will be catastrophic if we cross the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius" above pre-industrial levels, as outlined in the Paris Agreement goal, the pope said.

The report, which outlined detailed ways to limit global warming, warned that "only one decade or so remains in order to achieve this confinement of global warming," he added.

"Faced with a climate emergency," the pope said, "we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations. We must take responsible actions bearing in mind their impact in the short and in the long term."

Recognizing that "civilization requires energy," he said that it is also important that energy use not destroy civilization.

"A radical energy transition is needed to save our common home," he said, and the Catholic Church was "fully committed to playing her part."

"There is still hope and there remains time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, provided there is prompt and resolute action," he said.

 

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More than a few fans prayed for St. Louis Blues to win Stanley Cup

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 4:37pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Wilking, Reuters

By

ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- Before the St. Louis Blues beat the Boston Bruins in Game 7 on June 12 to win the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup for the first time in the team's 52-year history, Twitter was alive with hopes for a little divine intervention for such a victory -- maybe even from St. John Paul II.

Many a tweet recalled a Jan. 26, 1999, visit the pontiff paid to St. Louis and just how comfortable he looked holding a hockey stick given to him by young people gathered for a rally at the arena that is home to the St. Louis Blues, then called the Kiel Center.

At the end of the rally, which drew a crowd of 20,000, the pope also received a special jersey in the Blues' colors -- bearing the name "John Paul II'' and the number "1.''

When the Blues headed to the Stanley Cup Final, Catholics of the Archdiocese of St. Louis were praying hard for their team, said a May 23 editorial in the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper.

"Our city has caught Blues fever with fervor," it said. "Even Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, not a native of St. Louis but no stranger to hockey as a Minnesota native, exclaimed at the end of his May 22 State of the Archdiocese address to employees: 'Go Blues!'"

"Many people had given up on the Blues, who in January were the worst team in the NHL," the editorial noted. "It's a lesson in perseverance and never giving up. It's a lesson that we certainly could apply to our lives, and especially our faith. There's always hope. For Catholics, that hopes lies in Jesus. And, for #CatholicSTL, in the Blues, too."

The long-suffering team and its loyal fans finally got their magical moment in Game 7 with a 4-1 victory in Boston. And the celebration will continue with a parade to honor the champion team June 15 in St. Louis.

 

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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.

USCCB president, other bishops meet with survivors of clergy sexual abuse

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 1:44pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

By

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, chairman of the bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, and Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Virginia, met with three survivors of clergy sexual abuse late June 12.

The meeting took place as the U.S. bishops were gathered in Baltimore for their spring general assembly June 11-13 where they focused on implementing bishop accountability measures in response to the abuse crisis in the church.

In a statement released after the meeting, Cardinal DiNardo said he and his fellow bishops were "grateful for the opportunity to meet with a group of survivors. Their testimony reminds us of the unfathomable pain they have endured, and the need for vigilance in extinguishing the evil of sexual abuse from our church once and for all."

He said that, during their spring assembly, the bishops sought to "expand and intensify existing policies in order to care for victims and prevent future instances of these crimes, holding not only clergy accountable but also ourselves as bishops. Our work will not conclude until the number of sexual abuse cases is zero."

On the morning of June 13, Bishop Doherty tweeted about the how the bishops and some USCCB staff who met with the survivors "were reminded that this week's meeting is not an abstract exercise."

"Thanks to the hurting who speak to us. My experience is that God comes to these conversations invited or uninvited," he added.

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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.

Ignoring the poor falsifies the Gospel, pope says in message

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 10:16am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must not underestimate the importance of embracing and assisting the poor, oppressed and outcast, Pope Francis said.

Not only did Jesus entrust his disciples with the task of continuing his ministry on earth by giving hope to the poor, but "the credibility of our proclamation and the witness of Christians depends on it," the pope said in a message for the World Day of the Poor.

"Faced with countless throngs of the poor, Jesus was not afraid to identify with each of them" and tell his disciples "whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me," the pope said.

"If we refuse to make this identification, we falsify the Gospel and water down God's revelation," he said.

"If the disciples of the Lord Jesus wish to be genuine evangelizers, they must sow tangible seeds of hope," he said in the message, released by the Vatican June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of the poor.

The World Day of the Poor -- marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time -- will be celebrated Nov. 17 this year and, based on Psalm 9:19, will focus on "The hope of the poor shall not perish forever."

The commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it are meant to encourage Christians and people of goodwill "to cooperate effectively so that no one will feel deprived of closeness and solidarity," the pope said in the message.

Outlining some of the many old and "new forms of bondage that enslave" people in seriously unjust economic or social situations, the pope asked how people could continue to ignore or not be moved by the plight of these people.

The exploited, unemployed, refugees, orphans, minors brutally torn from their parents, people violated in prostitution or by narcotics, immigrants and the homeless all can end up becoming "part of a human garbage bin; they are treated as refuse, without the slightest sense of guilt on the part of those who are complicit in this scandal."

Judgment is everywhere, the pope said, with people casually deeming the poor to be "parasites on society," a threat or useless merely because they are poor.

"To make matters worse, they can see no end to the tunnel of extreme poverty," he added. Yet "we have come to the point of devising a hostile architecture aimed at ridding the streets of their presence, the last places left to them."

"We can build any number of walls and close our doors in the vain effort to feel secure in our wealth, at the expense of those left outside," the pope said, but, "it will not be that way forever."

The day of God's judgment will come and he "will destroy the barriers created between nations and replace the arrogance of the few with the solidarity of many."

"The marginalization painfully experienced by millions of persons cannot go on for long," he said, quoting Father Primo Mazzolari, a 20th century Italian priest dedicated to the poor and the oppressed: "The poor are a constant protest against our injustices; the poor are a powder keg. If it is set on fire, the world will explode."

Every Christian must respond, he said.

"The love that gives life to faith in Jesus makes it impossible for his disciples to remain enclosed in a stifling individualism or withdrawn into small circles of spiritual intimacy, with no influence on social life," the pope said.

By being close to the poor, he said, the church realizes she "is called to ensure that no one feels a stranger or outcast, for she includes everyone in a shared journey of salvation."

"The situation of the poor obliges us not to keep our distance from the body of the Lord, who suffers in them," Pope Francis said. "Instead, we are called to touch his flesh and to be personally committed in offering a service that is an authentic form of evangelization."

Offering real hope and compassion as well as sharing Christ's love with those in need, he said, Christians themselves are "strengthened and confirm the preaching of the Gospel."

The poor receive genuine hope when they experience warm, loving attention and the promotion of their genuine welfare, he said, not when they see "us gratified by giving them a few moments of our time, but from recognizing in our sacrifice an act of gratuitous love that seeks no reward."

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, told reporters the pope underlines the importance of matching one's concern for the poor with concrete and consistent efforts that bring them real hope.

Local churches, associations and institutions are again asked to create initiatives that foster moments of real encounter, friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.

The archbishop said the pope will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 17 with the poor and volunteers, and he will have lunch afterward with about 1,500 people in the Vatican audience hall. Other volunteer groups will offer free meals throughout Rome that day.

A mobile clinic will again be set up outside St. Peter's Square Nov. 11-17, with free general and specialist care, he said.

They will also offer a free concert Nov. 9 "with the poor and for the poor" that will feature the Oscar award- winning Italian composer, Nicola Piovani.

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The pope's message in English can be found online here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/poveri/documents/papa-francesco_20190613_messaggio-iii-giornatamondiale-poveri-2019.html

In Spanish: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/messages/poveri/documents/papa-francesco_20190613_messaggio-iii-giornatamondiale-poveri-2019.html

 

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Bishops approve third-party reporting system; to be in place by May 31

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 7:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A nationwide third-party system for receiving confidential reports of "certain complaints" against bishops took a step closer to being implemented during the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a series of three votes June 12, the bishops voted overwhelmingly to authorize the implementation of a system that would allow people to make reports through a toll-free telephone number as well as online.

The system, which would be operated by an outside vendor contracted by the USCCB, would be in place no later than May 31, 2020, under the proposal accepted by the bishops.

The plan met with widespread support during a 35-minute discussion on the second day of the spring assembly. The full body of bishops voted on three separate measures governing the implementation of the system.

Anthony Picarello, USCCB associate general secretary, presented the proposal to the assembly at the request of Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, conference president.

Picarello said the reporting system would fall in line with the requirements of Pope Francis' "motu proprio" "Vos estis lux mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), issued in May. Among its mandates, the document requires dioceses and eparchies worldwide to establish "one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports." It set June 1, 2020, as a deadline.

All reports would be funneled through a central receiving hub, which would then be responsible for sending allegations to the appropriate metropolitan, or archbishop, responsible for each diocese in a province and to the papal nunciature in Washington, Picarello explained. The U.S. has 32 metropolitans.

The metropolitans will be responsible for reporting any allegation to local law enforcement authorities as the first step toward investigating a claim.

In response to a question from a bishop, Picarello said reports of alleged abuse or complaints about how cases are handled by a bishop will continue to be taken by individual dioceses and eparchies.

Some dioceses already have reporting systems in place. The May 31 deadline was set to allow those systems and each metropolitan to align procedures to be able to accept the reports from the nationwide hotline, Picarello said.

Although the deadline for implementation is nearly one year away, Picarello added, the USCCB hopes the full system can be in place sooner.

"I can assure the Executive Committee along with the Administrative Committee, we want this thing done as quickly as possible," Cardinal DiNardo told the assembly. "But we want to make sure the metropolitans are in on this, and we can only go as fast as the metropolitans can go on this."

The first vote concerned putting a nationwide reporting system in place; it passed 205-16, with three abstentions.

In the second vote, the bishops agreed that the USCCB executive and administrative committees would develop a more detailed proposal regarding how the system would operate. It passed 200-21, with two abstentions.

Details and cost estimates would be reviewed in September by the bishops' Administrative Committee, which includes the officers and the chairmen of the various conference committees.

The same committee in November -- prior to the bishops' fall general assembly -- would then review scripts and other relevant details after the selection of a vendor. The Executive Committee would continue to oversee implementation of the program.

The final vote -- passing 220-4 with 1 abstention -- committed the bishops to having the reporting system operational by May 31.

The proposal also calls for the online segment to contain a link that could be posted on any diocesan or eparchial website as well as the USCCB website.

Bishop Robert D. Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, said publicizing the phone and online reporting system will be key. "The last thing we want is to be accused of not being transparent of a system we are setting up," he said.

Cardinal DiNardo said the reporting system as well as follow-up on how well it is working will be subject to review in three years, as called for under "Vos estis lux mundi."

Pope Francis' document is a new universal church law that safeguards members from abuse and holds its leaders accountable. It governs complaints against clergy or church leaders regarding the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons.

The Executive Committee presented a proposal for a third-party reporting system to receive complaints against bishops to the Administrative Committee in September. After being accepted, the plan was initially among a series of steps to respond to the ongoing sexual abuse crisis that was to be voted on during the USCCB's general assembly last fall.

However, those votes were postponed at the request of the Vatican until after Pope Francis convened a meeting of the presidents of bishops' conferences around the world to discuss a unified response to the crisis.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Bishops affirm diocese's effort for Michigan man's sainthood cause

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 5:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Irving Houle Association

By Mark Pattison

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops, after being consulted about the sainthood cause of a man who, except for service in World War II, spent his life in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, gave vocal assent June 12 for the Diocese of Marquette to continue to pursue the cause.

Hearing no nays in the voice vote, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston declared the vote on the cause of Irving Houle to be unanimous.

The current bishop of Marquette, John F. Doerfler, said he had talked to Houle's widow about her husband. And the former bishop of the diocese -- Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Oregon -- had met Houle as a clergyman in northernmost Michigan.

Archbishop Sample said Houle came into the rectory of a church where a confirmation ceremony had just concluded. "At first, I didn't know who he was," the archbishop recalled. But as the conversation continued, Archbishop Sample said he might have gotten a whiff of "the odor of sanctity ... I could definitely smell a rose."

Then, he added, "I was glancing at his hands," and at this point Archbishop Sample, while recalling the encounter to his fellow bishops, was rubbing his hands as if he were lathering them with soap. "Then I saw the bandages on his hands, and I knew who he was."

Houle was said to receive the stigmata 16 years before he died in 2009, but well before that "many extraordinary physical and spiritual healings" were attributed to him, according to a biography of Houle (pronounced "hool") posted on the website of the Irving "Francis" Houle Association for the Cause of Sainthood.

"When I first spoke to Irving's wife and asked about her husband, her first words to me, were, 'He was a wonderful husband and father,'" Bishop Doerfler said. "His pastor described him as 'the guy next door, and a holy man.' These brief descriptions highlight the importance and the relevance of the (sainthood) cause."

Bishop Doerfler added, "Do we not need such illustrations of how one can lead a life of holiness in daily life?"

Houle was born in Wilson, Michigan, in 1925. Thrown from a galloping horse at age 6, his injuries -- which included broken ribs and a punctured lung -- were reported by a local newspaper as "believed to be fatal." But with sisters at a Franciscan convent praying for him -- his aunt was one of the nuns -- and after seeing a "beautiful man in a white bathrobe" at the foot of his bed one night, young Irving no longer struggled to breathe.

Houle went to daily Mass as a teenager and "it was not uncommon for him to be moved to tears at the consecration," the biography said.

He married his wife, Gail, in 1948, and they had five children. They lived in Escanaba, the Upper Peninsula's third-largest city at 12,000, less than 20 miles from his childhood home. "His family knew him as a devoutly religious, loving, caring person who was fun to be around. Irving was known to be a teaser and a prankster," the biography said, adding, "He was also known to have his feelings hurt easily, and at times he had a temper."

At one job, Houle kept pictures of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart on his desk. "Once a comment was made about the religious pictures," the biography noted, and Houle replied, "If they go, I go." He was also known to go to church to pray the stations of the cross every day after work, no matter how late he worked.

Houle received the stigmata on Good Friday 1993. "He suffered the Passion every night between midnight and 3 a.m. for the rest of his earthly life. He understood that these particular hours of the day were times of great sins of the flesh," the biography said.

After retiring, Houle talked to "tens of thousands" of people, it added. "He was most happy to learn of people returning to confession after 20, 30 or 40 years, and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist."

At speaking engagements at churches or elsewhere, "there were many extraordinary physical and spiritual healings, and he always made it crystal clear that these things came from God," the biography said. "He would simply say, 'I don't heal anybody," and 'Jesus is the one who heals.'"

Archbishop Sample verified this account. "He always wanted to act in communion with the local church. He always wanted to work in communion with the local bishop," he said of Houle. "He never wanted to draw attention to himself," adding Houle was "an ordinary, humble man who obtained some true sanctity in his life."

Deacon Mike LeBeau of the Houle Association, in an email to Catholic News Service, said a Marquette diocesan priest gave Houle the nickname Francis "to protect Irving and his family from being exploited by people."

Houle's cause was forwarded by the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance at the request of Bishop Doerfler.

The bishops, meeting June 11-13 in Baltimore, have been consulted at a growing number of their general meetings about the lives of holy men and women being proposed for sainthood. The question posed for each one: "Does the body of bishops consider it advisable to continue to advance on the local level the cause for canonization of the Servant of God?"

Such a question needs to be answered in the affirmative by a majority of the bishops present and voting.

 

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Catholic Church should focus on getting 'nones' back, Bishop Barron says

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 1:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Although the U.S. bishops' spring assembly in Baltimore was mostly devoted to responding to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, the bishops also considered something described as the second-most important issue currently facing U.S. church leaders: How to get religiously unaffiliated, or "nones," particularly young people, back to the Catholic Church.

This is a top priority for our church, said Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, who is known for his website, "Word on Fire," and for hosting the documentary series "Catholicism."

In a June 11 presentation, the bishop said a group of experts who've examined why young people are leaving the faith in increasing numbers recently spoke with his committee about this and will share their findings during a lunch presentation at the bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore.

"How many are leaving? The short answer is: a lot," the bishop said, noting the sobering statistic he said many in the room probably were aware of -- that 50% of Catholics 30 years old and younger have left the church.

"Half the kids that we baptized and confirmed in the last 30 years are now ex-Catholics or unaffiliated," he said, and "one out of six millennials in the U.S. is now a former Catholic."

Another statistic that particularly affects him is this: "For every one person joining our church today, 6.45 are leaving" and most are leaving at young ages, primarily before age 23. The median age of those who leave is 13.

 "Where are they going?" he asked, and in response to his own question, he again gave a short answer: They're "becoming nones" although some, in much smaller percentages, join other mainstream religions or evangelical churches.

Bishop Barron said church leaders don't need to speculate about why people are leaving because there are plenty of studies and surveys that answer this. The No. 1 reason, he said, is that they simply no longer believe the church's teachings, primarily its doctrinal beliefs.

In his opinion, he said, this is "a bitter fruit of the dumbing-down of our faith" as it has been presented in catechesis and apologetics.

Other reasons he said young people are leaving have to do with relativism, science and the church's teachings on sexuality.

The bishop's hope, in this environment, is that the young, religiously unaffiliated can still be reached because as he put it, most have drifted away versus storming away from the faith. "We're not up against a fierce opponent at every turn," he said, adding: "Most are ambivalent to religion rather than hostile to it."

He also mentioned what he called the "Jordan Peterson phenomenon," which he prefaced by saying, "Please don't take this as a one-sided endorsement" of the Canadian psychology professor and author who is popular on social media.

"He speaks at a very high level about serious things and big ideas," Bishop Barron said, noting Peterson's current YouTube talks on the Bible. He said the fact that millions of young people, young men in particular, are watching this speaker talk about "our book, the Bible" is worth reflecting on and is a sign of hope.

Not everyone on Catholic social media agreed with this point. Some questioned how the bishop could present a speaker who has stirred controversy with his complaints against political correctness as a model, while others called him an example of someone who takes on the big questions.

The other examples Bishop Barron pointed to as signs of hope were Catholic campus missionary groups, like the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS, that are "getting traction with young people."

He also said the amount of engagement about social media in religion is a good thing, even those angry about religion. He said he was recently part of an "AMA" (Ask Me Anything) feature on Reddit, an internet news aggregator, where he said he was a Catholic bishop who loved to talk with atheists and ended up with more than 12,000 questions in under an hour.

In the discussion period after his Baltimore presentation, several bishops agreed with his analysis and one bishop asked for clarification and spelling of Reddit.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, said it was "wonderful that we're talking about this issue and I think we need to make it front and center at all of our gatherings." He said he hoped the discussion on the topic at the bishops' fall meeting also would examine cultural and sociological issues influencing young people to leave the church.

For example, he said the "paradigm of parish membership" does not work for millennials since many of them move so frequently, and this also applies to society in general where so many no longer join communities which leads to isolation and loneliness.

In response, Bishop Barron said young people who are leaving, can be reached, in a broader sense through social media.

"We have to go get them and we do have the means to do that through social media -- with all of its negativity."

He said the paradox is that social media can also lead to further isolation because people are connected only though their screens, but at this point in time, he said using it as "an evangelical tool is required now, given the fact that people aren't going to come to our institutions."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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Pope advances sainthood causes for U.S. priest, Spanish martyrs

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 10:15am

IMAGE: CNS/Archdiocese of Chicago

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause of Father Augustus Tolton, who was the first African American diocesan priest in the United States and founder of the first black Catholic parish in Chicago.

Signing decrees issued by the Congregation for Saints' Causes June 11, Pope Francis also formally recognized the martyrdom of three Catholic laywomen who were nurses for the Red Cross and were killed during the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War.

The decree for Father Tolton's cause recognizes that he lived a life of heroic virtue.

Father Tolton had been born into slavery in 1854 on a plantation near Brush Creek, Missouri. After his father left to try to join the Union Army during the Civil War, his mother fled with her three children by rowing them across the Mississippi River and settling in Quincy in the free state of Illinois.

There, he was encouraged to discern his vocation to the priesthood by the Franciscan priests who taught him at St. Francis College, now Quincy University. However, he was denied access to seminaries in the United States after repeated requests, so he pursued his education in Rome at what is now the Pontifical Urbanian University.

He was ordained for the Propaganda Fidei Congregation in 1886, expecting to become a missionary in Africa. Instead, he was sent to be a missionary in his own country and returned to Quincy, where he served for three years before going to the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1889.

Despite rampant racism and discrimination, he became one of the city's most popular pastors, attracting members of both white and black Catholic communities. He spearheaded the building of St. Monica Church for black Catholics and worked tirelessly for his congregation in Chicago, even to the point of exhaustion. On July 9, 1897, he died of heatstroke on a Chicago street at the age of 43.

He was known for persevering against all odds in pursuit of his calling and quietly devoted himself to his people, despite great difficulties and setbacks.

Pope Francis also formally recognized the martyrdom of Maria Pilar Gullon Yturriaga, Octavia Iglesias Blanco and Olga Perez-Monteserin Nunez, members of Catholic Action who volunteered to serve wounded soldiers on the Asturian front in northern Spain.

The women refused to leave the wounded unattended even though the area was about to come under the control of populist fighters. All the patients, the doctor and chaplain were killed, and the three nurses were assaulted, raped and shot on Oct. 28, 1936. Gullon, Iglesias and Perez-Monteserin were 25, 41 and 23 years old, respectively.

The pope also signed decrees attesting to the heroic virtues lived by six servants of God -- three men and three women. Among them were:

-- Mother Rosario Arroyo, a distant relative of the former Filipino President Gloria Arroyo, lived from 1884 to 1957 and founded the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of the Philippines.

-- Felice Tantardini, known as "God's blacksmith," was an Italian lay missionary for the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. Born in 1898, he spent 70 years serving in Myanmar, where he died in 1991 at the age of 93. He worked as a catechist and helped build churches, schools, parish houses, hospitals, seminaries, orphanages, convents and bridges.  

 

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Unity is first sign of true Christian witness, pope says

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 10:07am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church gives an authentic witness of God's love for all men and women only when it fosters the grace of unity and communion, Pope Francis said.

Unity is part of "the DNA of the Christian community," the pope said June 12 during his weekly general audience.

The gift of unity, he said, "allows us not to fear diversity, not to attach ourselves to things and gifts," but "to become martyrs, luminous witnesses of God who lives and works in history."

"We, too, need to rediscover the beauty of giving witness to the Risen Lord, going beyond self-referential attitudes, renouncing the desire to stifle God's gifts and not yielding to mediocrity," he said.

Despite the sweltering Roman heat, thousands of people filled St. Peter's Square for the audience, which began with Pope Francis circling the square in the popemobile, occasionally stopping to greet pilgrims and even comfort a crying child.

In his main talk, the pope continued his new series on the Acts of the Apostles, looking specifically at the apostles who, after the Resurrection, "prepare to receive God's power -- not passively but by consolidating communion between them."

Before ultimately taking his own life, Judas' separation from Christ and the apostles began with his attachment to money and losing sight of the importance of self-giving "until he allowed the virus of pride to infect his mind and heart, transforming him from a friend into an enemy."

Judas "stopped belonging to the heart to Jesus and placed himself outside of communion with him and his companions. He stopped being a disciple and placed himself above the master," the pope explained.

Nevertheless, unlike Judas who "preferred death to life" and created a "wound in the body of the community," the 11 apostles choose "life and blessing."

Pope Francis said that by discerning together to find a suitable replacement, the apostles gave "a sign that communion overcomes divisions, isolation and the mentality that absolutizes the private space."

"The Twelve manifest in the Acts of the Apostles the Lord's style," the pope said. "They are the accredited witnesses of Christ's work of salvation and do not manifest to the world their presumed perfection but rather, through the grace of unity, reveal another one who now lives in a new way in the midst of his people: our Lord Jesus."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Response to church abuse crisis looms large at bishops' spring meeting

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 7:25pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- At the start of the June 11-13 spring assembly of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore, it was clear the bishops had a task at hand: to respond to the sexual abuse crisis in the church.

Several speakers addressing the group discussed the challenge ahead and the need for the bishops to be both transparent and reliant upon lay leadership. The bishops also examined their plans to vote on procedures and policies in response to the abuse crisis, including some they had put aside during their fall general assembly in November at the Vatican's request.

The delay was addressed from the meeting's onset June 11 in a message from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican's nuncio to the United States.

He noted that there were "some expressions of 'dissent'" by some U.S. bishops at the previous assembly about postponing votes on items related to the reemergent clergy sexual abuse crisis, but he also stressed that "unity prevails over conflict."

"Working together provides us with the opportunity to speak and to listen," said the message from Archbishop Pierre, read by Msgr. Walter Erbi, charge d'affaires at the Vatican's nunciature in Washington. Archbishop Pierre was at the Vatican for a nuncio meeting.

He said that despite the desire among U.S. bishops in November to act quickly to address new crises on clergy sex abuse, the postponement of the votes on the issue allowed the U.S. church to participate more fully at the Vatican's February summit on the protection of minors.

"One of the reasons the Holy Father asked for a delay was that the whole church needed to walk together, to work in a synodal way," Archbishop Pierre said, "with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make the path forward clearer."

Moving forward was certainly a theme of the day, echoed by National Review Board chairman Francesco Cesareo, who called for a greater role for laity in investigating allegations of abuse or reaction to reports of abuse against bishops.

Cesareo also said National Review Board members recommend a thorough review of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and a revision in the audit process regarding diocesan implementation of the charter, which governs the church's response to clergy abuse allegations.

"A strengthened audit would provide a means for improving your dioceses' existing methods to protect and heal," Cesareo said. "Virtually all your dioceses, including those where problems came to light under the microscope of the media and attorney generals, have easily passed the audit for years since the bar currently is so low. Now is the time to raise the bar on compliance to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated."

Cesareo also recommended that the charter "should be revised immediately to explicitly include bishops and demand for greater accountability."

"You have a great opportunity," he said, "to lead by example and help show dioceses and episcopal conferences around the world not only how important it is for lay involvement to ensure greater accountability and transparency, but also how laity and the episcopacy can be co-responsible for the church's well-being."

Both the National Review Board and the National Advisory Council pressed the bishops to encourage Vatican officials to release documents regarding the investigation of misconduct by Theodore E. McCarrick, the former cardinal who was laicized earlier this year. The allegations against him were made public nearly a year ago on June 20, 2018.

The bishops were reminded June 11 of the agenda items related to the church crisis on which they will vote June 13.

The big item for discussion and vote is a plan to implement the document "Vos Estis Lux Mundi" ("You are the light of the world") issued by Pope Francis in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable.

The "motu proprio" was one of the measures that came out of the Vatican's February Vatican summit on clergy sexual abuse attended by the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences.

While many of the directives of the document regarding clergy already have been implemented in the United States with its 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," the action items before the bishops concern allegations of abuse or negligence on the part of bishops. Bishops were not explicitly included in the charter because authority over the bishops and their discipline rests with the pope himself.

The bishops will also vote on a document titled "Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments" in which the bishops promise to hold themselves accountable to the commitments of the charter, including a zero-tolerance policy for abuse, and that any codes of conduct in their respective dioceses regarding clergy apply to themselves as well.

Another related item is the "protocol regarding available nonpenal restrictions on bishops," which outlines what canonical options are available to bishops when a now-retired bishop resigned or is removed "due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act."

The bishops also discussed the upcoming election, the crisis at the border and the issue of young adults leaving the church.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, urged fellow bishops to raise their voice in favor of "more humane policies" for immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. In addition, Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, spoke about an upcoming presentation at the fall meeting on how to respond to the growing number of young people leaving the church.

In anticipation of the 2020 presidential election, the U.S. bishops' quadrennial document that provides guidance to voters on Catholic social teaching won't change, but it will be supplemented by a brief letter and four 90-second videos that reflect the teaching of Pope Francis, the bishops were told.

The bishops also are voting on other issues not related to the abuse crisis at the spring assembly. They are to decide whether to approve a revised national directory on formation and ministry for permanent deacons, if they should update texts for the ordination of clergy, and revise a passage to the U.S. Catechism for Adults about the death penalty.

A small group of no more than 10 protesters stood in largely silent protest June 11 outside the hotel where the meeting was taking place. One of the group's demands was that the bishops report abuse claims first to law enforcement.

"We don't think the church can police themselves," said Becky Ianni, director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests for the Washington area.

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Contributing to this report were Dennis Sadowski and Mark Pattison.

 

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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.

Cesareo repeats call for greater lay involvement as church tackles abuse

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 2:37pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- National Review Board chairman Francesco Cesareo offered the U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore a series of recommendations that he said will strengthen the church's response to the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The recommendations made June 11 during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring general assembly in Baltimore included a call for a greater role for laity in investigating allegations of abuse or reaction to reports of abuse against bishops.

Cesareo also said National Review Board members recommend a thorough review of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and a revision in the audit process regarding diocesan implementation of the charter, which governs the church's response to clergy abuse allegations.

Strong measures are necessary to show that while progress has been made since the charter's adoption in 2002, the bishops would demonstrate that they are serious in their response to clergy abuse in response to the mistrust and serious questions laypeople still harbor.

"My hope is that they will seriously consider the recommendations we made on the four action items come to recognize that the proposals that we've made are only going to strengthen their response," Cesareo told Catholic News Service after his address.

"It's not meant to undermine their authority but in reality strengthen their position in dealing with the questions around this issue as opposed to a challenge to their authority or position. That's not the intent. The intent is how can we together work on this issue to put you, as the leaders, in the best possible position to effectively and definitively deal with this," he said.

Cesareo stressed to the bishops the need to carry out what Pope Benedict XVI described as the laity's co-responsibility to help build the church.

He told CNS that co-responsibility means "together we can have a role to play for the well-being of the church."

Cesareo also admitted that he has used strong and firm language in delivering the review board's recommendations "to show the urgency of the situation and that we can't just keep pushing this down the road."

In his address to the assembly, Cesareo called on the bishops to improve the audit of dioceses to ensure their compliance with the charter so that it is "more thorough and independent." He said the audit is a means for the bishops to establish their credibility with laypeople.

A working group, composed of three members of the bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People and three lay members of the National Review Board, has been discussing a framework for improving the audit, he said. The focus has been on allowing the outside contractor that is hired by the USCCB to conduct the audit to be more independent and flexible in its work, he said.

Cesareo recommended that changes in the audit process occur as soon as possible so they can be implemented in the next audit cycle beginning in 2021.

"A strengthened audit would provide a means for improving your dioceses' existing methods to protect and heal," Cesareo said. "Virtually all your dioceses, including those where problems came to light under the microscope of the media and attorney generals, have easily passed the audit for years since the bar currently is so low. Now is the time to raise the bar on compliance to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated."

Cesareo also recommended that the charter "should be revised immediately to explicitly include bishops and demand for greater accountability."

While such a revision has been suggested to the bishops in the past, Cesareo said the time has come for a proposal to be addressed. Among the changes he recommended include the reporting of all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to diocesan review boards; the need for review boards to meet annually to assist with diocesan policy reviews; consideration of continual supervision and monitoring of offenders who have not been laicized; and the start of parish audits.

"Despite ongoing challenges, positive momentum has been evident in the church since the initial approval of the charter and the audit," Cesareo added. "Any delay in revising the charter or implementing an enhanced audit would not only put children at risk, but could signal a step backward in the church's efforts."

The review board chairman cited Pope Francis "motu proprio" regarding the bishops' plan to adopt new standards to govern their own accountability on handling abuse claims.

The document, titled "Vos estis lux mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), is a new universal law from the pope to safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable. It governs complaints against clergy or church leaders regarding the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons. The U.S. bishops will vote on directives for implementing this church law later during the spring assembly.

Cesareo said the article 13 of the document allows that the bishops of a province may include qualified persons, including laity, to be part of the investigation of a bishop who has had a claim filed against him.

"The NRB urges that this must be the case in the United States through the establishment of an ad hoc lay commission, either on the national or local level," he said.

He said such lay involvement would "restore the trust of the faithful in the bishops and even in the Holy See's own processes for holding bishops' accountable."

The pope's new juridical instrument calls for a "public, stable and easily accessible" reporting system for allegations; clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families; timeliness and thoroughness of investigations; whistleblower protection for those making allegations; and the use of "proven experts from among the laity"; and the oversight of the metropolitan (archbishop) for such investigations in his province. The U.S. Catholic Church has 32 metropolitans.

However, Cesareo said that the metropolitan archbishop "should not be the sole gatekeeper of allegations that come forward" because it could lead to "mishandling of an allegation."

"You have a great opportunity," he said, "to lead by example and help show dioceses and episcopal conferences around the world not only how important it is for lay involvement to ensure greater accountability and transparency, but also how laity and the episcopacy can be co-responsible for the church's well-being."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Proposed protocol outlines restrictions on bishops facing claim of abuse

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 12:58pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- If a credible accusation of sexual misconduct has been reported against a retired bishop, his successor may act to limit the retired bishop's scope of ministry, including the celebration of the sacraments and the right to be buried in the diocesan cathedral, according to a proposed document presented to the bishops the first day of their June 11-13 spring general assembly in Baltimore.

The "Protocol Regarding Available Non-Penal Restrictions on Bishops" was scheduled to be voted on when the bishops met last November. However, the Vatican requested they delay a vote until after the Vatican held a February meeting for presidents of bishops' conferences worldwide to discuss the abuse crisis.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Administrative Committee had decided last September that the development of a such a protocol would be helpful, said Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance. With the delay of any possible vote on the document last fall, bishops had more time to offer suggestions on the document.

"The authority to impose penalties on bishops who have committed offensive acts by commission or omission rests solely with the supreme pontiff," Bishop Deeley reminded his fellow bishops. But there are "existing instruments in canon law that are available to a diocesan bishop for imposing limitations."

The proposed document uses "bishop emeritus" to refer for any bishop who has retired for age or for a "grave cause," or who was removed from office by the pope.

"The diocesan bishop will inform the bishop emeritus that public notice will be given of the situation and of any measures accepted by or applied to the bishop emeritus," the proposed document says. "Prior to issuing such pubic notice, the diocesan bishops will inform the apostolic nuncio of his communications with the bishop emeritus, and will confer with the apostolic nuncio on the measures to be imposed."

Those restrictions can include "a statement to the effect that the bishop emeritus does not represent the diocese in any fashion or act on its behalf, and he is not to make public statements about alleged offenses, since these could result in further harm to victims or be detrimental to the faithful."

A diocesan bishop may forbid a retired bishop to preach, which is any clergyman's canonical right. "The diocesan bishop concerned may also request that the Apostolic See extend this prohibition more broadly or deny the exercise of the right entirely," the proposed document says.

Diocesan bishops also may strip a retired bishop of the right to confer the sacrament of confirmation or to hear confessions. "The bishop emeritus can be denied the delegation necessary to witness marriages," it adds. "The diocesan bishop may request of the bishop emeritus, in writing, that he refrain from the public celebration of other sacraments or rites of the church."

While the U.S bishops, in their "Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops," state that retired bishops have the right to sustenance and retirement benefits, "the diocesan bishop may adjust the benefits given to a bishop emeritus who falls under this protocol," the proposed document said. "For instance, the diocesan bishop may decide that no funding for travel or secretarial assistance needs to be provided."

As for the possibility of burial in the diocesan cathedral, "the diocesan bishop will prudently decide based on local circumstances whether the bishop emeritus will be buried in the cathedral church of if other arrangements should be made."

Much in the proposed protocol is dependent on the retired bishop agreeing to the requests and directives of his successor. Should he refuse, though, it adds, "the diocesan bishop can take measures within his competence, and strongly request further and swift intervention from the Apostolic See regarding matters outside his competence."

The proposed protocol is scheduled to be voted on June 13, with bishops able to submit amendments until the end of their June 12 session. To be approved, the document requires a yes vote by two-thirds of all members of the USCCB.

 

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Vatican bank reports decreased profits in 2018

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 11:11am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Institute for the Works of Religion, often referred to as the Vatican bank, made a profit of 17.5 million euros (about US$19.8 million) in 2018, just over half the profit reported in the previous year, according to its annual report.

The bank, which had made a profit of 31.9 million euros in 2017, said the decrease was due "to the strong turbulence of the markets throughout the year and the persistence of interest rates which are still very low."

The institute held assets worth 5 billion euros (US$5.6 billion) at year's end, which included deposits and investments from close to 15,000 clients -- mostly Catholic religious orders around the world, Vatican offices and employees, and Catholic clergy.

In a statement released by the Vatican June 11, the institute said it continued to provide financial services to the Catholic Church present in the whole world and Vatican City State.

According to the report, the bank's assets are worth 637 million euros (US$721 million), placing its tier 1 capital ratio -- which measures the bank's financial strength -- at 86.4 percent compared to 68.3 percent in 2017. The increased ratio, the bank said, "is a testament of its elevated solvency and its low-risk profile."

Additionally, the bank refined its screening process for financial investments to ensure that it is "consistent with Catholic ethics by selecting only companies that carry out activities that are in accordance with the social doctrine of the church."

The Vatican bank, the statement said, continues "to make investments aimed at fostering development in poorer countries while respecting choices that are consistent with establishing a sustainable future for future generations."

The IOR, which is the Italian acronym for the Institute for the Works of Religion, said that it also "contributed to the implementation of numerous charitable and social activities, both through donations of a financial nature and through reduced-rate or gratuitous leases for the use of its own real estate to entities for social purposes."

Before the report's release, the 2018 financial statements were audited by the firm Deloitte & Touche and were reviewed by the Commission of Cardinals overseeing the institute's work, the press release said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Christians are called to serve, not use others, pope says

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 11:03am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians who use others, rather than serve others, greatly harm the church, Pope Francis said.

Christ's instructions to his disciples to "cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and drive out demons" are the path to "a life of service" that all Christians are called to follow, the pope said June 11 in his homily during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"Christian life is for service," the pope said. "It is very sad to see Christians who, at the start of their conversion or their awareness of being Christians, serve, are open to serving, serve the people of God and then end up using the people of God. This does so much harm, so much harm to the people of God. The vocation is to 'serve,' not to 'use.'"

In his homily, the pope said that while Christ's instruction to give freely what has been given freely is for everyone, it is meant especially "for us shepherds of the church."

Members of the clergy who "do business with the grace of God," the pope warned, cause a lot damage to others and especially to themselves and their own spiritual lives when they attempt "to bribe the Lord."

"This relationship of gratuitousness with God is what will help us have it with others, both in our Christian witness and in Christian service and in the pastoral life of those who are shepherds of the people of God," he said.

Reflecting on the day's Gospel reading, in which Jesus entrusts the apostles with the mission of proclaiming that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" and to do so "without cost," the pope said that salvation "cannot be purchased; it is given freely."

The only thing God asks for, he added, is "that our heart be opened."

"When we say, 'Our Father' and pray, we open our hearts so that this gratuitousness may come. There is no relationship with God outside of gratuitousness," the pope said.

Christians who fast, do penance or a novena to obtain "something spiritual or a grace" must be aware that the purpose of self-denial or prayer "is not to pay for the grace, to acquire the grace" but a means "to widen your heart so that grace may come," he said.

"Grace is free," Pope Francis said. "May our life of holiness be this widening of the heart so that God's gratuitousness -- the graces of God that are there and that he wants to give freely -- may reach our hearts."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Former NBA referee makes spiritual call to be permanent deacon

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 2:48pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Philadelphia

By Lou Baldwin

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- If 30 years ago anyone told Steve Javie he would become a permanent deacon, he probably would have said, "No way."

Sure, he came from a solid Catholic family with Mass every Sunday, confession every two weeks need it or not, and his uncle Msgr. Anthony Jaworowski was one of the most respected priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, but all of that was ancient history as far as Javie was concerned.

Sports was really in his blood. His dad, Stan Javie, was an NFL football referee who worked four Super Bowls. Steve played baseball, football and basketball at La Salle College High School, outside of Philadelphia, and at Philadelphia's Temple University he continued with baseball, which was his first love.

After getting his degree in business administration, Javie signed on as a pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles' farm system, but his dreams of baseball stardom were cut short after one year because of an arm injury.

In college, he'd done some refereeing and umpiring to pick up a little money, which he then considered making his career. He first worked as baseball umpire but ultimately switched to basketball, which from an officiating standpoint has more action.

After five years officiating in the Continental Basketball Association, Javie was hired by the NBA in 1986, and he remained there for the rest of his 20-plus-year career. Now, although he is retired, he provides commentary on NBA officiating during telecasts of games on ESPN.

His job required a lot of travel and that was how he met his wife, Mary-ellen Kennedy, who worked at Philadelphia International Airport.

After one date, he suggested they go to Sunday Mass and brunch and on their way to the restaurant, he told Mary-ellen he didn't get much out of the service.

She looked at him and asked, "What did you put into it?"

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"There's a lot things you could do," she said. "Have you anyone you could pray for while you're sitting there?"

That got him thinking and it got him going back to Mass on a regular basis. The couple married in less than a year.

Javie went through a rough patch in 1999 when he was one of 15 referees to be accused of tax evasion, in his case over the value of frequent-flyer miles. His worries about that got him going to Mass every day and even though he was the only one to be acquitted on all charges, the daily Mass habit stuck.

For more than 10 years, he and his wife have belonged to St. Andrew Parish in Newtown, where Steve belongs to a "small" men's faith-sharing group with about 50-60 men in it, and he loves it.

When he retired from the NBA in 2011, he said he was looking for a way to give more time serving the Lord. "It was the Holy Spirit -- the word 'deacon' just popped into my head," he told CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. He went to his pastor, Msgr. Michael Picard, who advised him to go for it.

On June 8, Javie joined six other men who were ordained as deacons for the Philadelphia Archdiocese at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. He is looking forward to ministry, especially to men, telling them, "it's OK to go make money, but you also have to go to church and love Jesus."

One other thing. People associate basketball referees with that whistle they like to blow. Now-Deacon Javie still carries his whistle every day, mostly in memory a dear friend who did the same thing.

And because parish meetings can get pretty contentious at times, he might even need to use it.

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Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

 

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Gender ideology is opposed to faith, reason, Vatican office says

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 11:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic schools must help parents teach young people that biological sex and gender are naturally fixed at birth and part of God's plan for creation, said the Congregation for Catholic Education.

In a document published June 10, the congregation said the Catholic Church and those proposing a looser definition of gender can find common ground in "a laudable desire to combat all expressions of unjust discrimination," in educating children to respect all people "in their peculiarity and difference," in respecting the "equal dignity of men and women" and in promoting respect for "the values of femininity."

And while great care must be taken to respect and provide care for persons who "live situations of sexual indeterminacy," those who teach in the name of the Catholic Church must help young people understand that being created male and masculine or female and feminine is part of God's plan for them.

The document, "Male and Female He Created Them: Toward a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education," was signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the education congregation, and Archbishop Angelo Zani, congregation secretary.

The document recognized a distinction between "the ideology of gender," which it said tries to present its theories as "absolute and unquestionable," and the whole field of scientific research on gender, which attempts to understand the ways sexual difference is lived out in different cultures.

While claiming to promote individual freedom and respect for the rights of each person, the document said, those who see gender as a personal choice or discovery unconnected to biological sex are, in fact, promoting a vision of the human person that is "opposed to faith and right reason."

"The Christian vision of anthropology sees sexuality as a fundamental component of one's personhood," the document said. "It is one of its modes of being, of manifesting itself, communicating with others, and of feeling, expressing and living human love."

The document insisted that modern gender ideology and the idea that one chooses or discovers his or her gender go against nature by arguing that "the only thing that matters in personal relationships is the affection between the individuals involved, irrespective of sexual difference or procreation, which would be seen as irrelevant in the formation of families."

The theories, it said, deny "the reciprocity and complementarity of male-female relations" as well as "the procreative end of sexuality."

"This has led to calls for public recognition of the right to choose one's gender, and of a plurality of new types of unions, in direct contradiction of the model of marriage as being between one man and one woman, which is portrayed as a vestige of patriarchal societies," it said.

When the "physiological complementarity of male-female sexual difference" is removed, it said, procreation is no longer a natural process. Instead, recourse must be taken to in vitro fertilization or surrogacy with the risk of "the reduction of the baby to an object in the hands of science and technology."

The education congregation insisted that "Catholic educators need to be sufficiently prepared regarding the intricacies of the various questions that gender theory brings up and be fully informed about both current and proposed legislation in their respective jurisdictions, aided by persons who are qualified in this area, in a way that is balanced and dialogue-orientated."

 

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