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Catholics get chance to celebrate, think about Mary with new feast day

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 2:55pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Detroit

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Catholic Church doesn't often add new celebrations to its pretty full liturgical calendar, but this year's new feast day, Mary, Mother of the Church on May 21, has Catholics gearing up to mark the day or at least think a little more about Mary.

The new feast day, which will be celebrated annually the day after Pentecost, was announced in a March 3 decree by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The decree said the pope approved the celebration because he thought it might "encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety."

That line struck Father Chuck Barthel, pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish in St. Louis, when he first read it and he has continued to go back to it as he considers the feast with particular significance for his parish.

Gaining a renewed and deeper understanding of Mary's nurturing and caring side is something he said the church, especially in today's climate, could certainly use.

His parish is one of a handful of churches in the U.S., along with a Benedictine Abbey in Richmond, Virginia, named Mary, Mother of the Church. For this year's celebration of the new feast day, the St. Louis church is not planning anything big, but plans to celebrate on the actual day -- when he said parishioners can "enjoy each other's company" -- not during Pentecost weekend when there is already a lot going on.

The pastor said he hopes to give parishioners a prayer card for the occasion and the parish will host a hospitality event after the morning liturgy and will have evening prayer that night followed by dessert.

The parish -- where Father Barthel was initially assigned more than 28 years ago as an associate pastor and now has returned less than a year ago -- was founded in 1971 and initially was staffed by Redemptorist priests. The parish, which opened so soon after the Second Vatican Council, took its name from the title given to Mary by Blessed Paul VI in 1964.

Gloria Falcao Dodd, director of academic programs for the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton, Ohio, wrote a paper about this Marian title in 2006. Her research shows that a bishop in the 1100s called Mary, Mother of the Church and Pope Leo XIII's encyclical on the rosary said that Mary at Pentecost was "in very truth, the mother of the church, the teacher and queen of the apostles."

And in 1981, the title "Mother of the Church" was given another boost when St. John Paul II had a mosaic commissioned for the outside wall of his papal apartment called "Mater Ecclesiae" ("Mother of the Church") in gratitude for his recovery after being shot in St. Peter's Square. Then, and other times, the pope spoke of Mary as a mediator, or someone who intercedes for us, said Falcao Dodd.

That idea of Mary interceding for the church, as a mother does for her children, is important for Catholics to consider, especially as this new feast falls so soon after Mother's Day, said Falcao Dodd. She also said it is key to understand its placement right after Pentecost, noting that at the time of the original Pentecost, Mary "did what a mother would do -- she prayed with and for her children in the upper room." And at Jesus' crucifixion, when he publicly announced to the disciple John, "behold your mother" about Mary. John, symbolizes all of us, the church, Falcao Dodd said.

Auxiliary Bishop Gerard W. Battersby of Detroit said Mary's presence at the foot of the cross and with the early church at Pentecost, is an example of what it means to be a disciple.

He said this image of a mother with her children "on this pilgrim journey" is important for the church today, especially as the pope is calling Catholics to a new evangelization and to unleash the Gospel message. "It's important for us to understand the church is Marian; this is not just a pleasant sentiment added on," he said, stressing that Mary is a guide for the church today.

"I think this is a time of special grace," the bishop told Catholic News Service May 2, noting that Mary's job has always been to point to Jesus.

The Detroit Archdiocese is celebrating the new feast day with a May 21 Mass at Old St. Mary's Catholic Church in Detroit concelebrated by Bishop Battersby, Bishop Donald F. Hanchon, another Detroit auxiliary bishop, and several archdiocesan priests. After Mass, there will be a May Crowning and procession through the streets with a statue of Mary carried by Catholic school students.

In some parts of the world this feast day isn't new. The church calendars of Poland, Argentina, St. Peter's Basilica and some religious orders have already set aside the Monday after Pentecost as the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.

When Father Barthel thinks about another day to honor Mary, he said he is reminded of the hospital ministry he did as a seminarian when a patient who was Episcopalian asked him if it was OK if she prayed to the Blessed Mother.

She said her reason for doing this, which the priest has never forgotten years later, was: "Sometimes you just need a woman to talk to."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Oregon midwife feels called to support mothers, welcome babies

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 3:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Katie Scott, Catholic Sentinel

By Katie Scott

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- It's 2 a.m. and a new life is about to enter the world.

Carissa St. Onge Carneiro swoops her long hair into a ponytail and pours herself a mug of coffee for the road. During the dark drive across Portland, she says a Hail Mary, asking for grace and wisdom, and prays to the guardian angels for the baby still in the womb.

Soon she'll be at the side of a laboring mother, drawing on modern medical training blended with the collective knowledge of those who have gone before her.

A few -- or many -- hours later, she'll be back in the car, leaving behind a baby enveloped in love.

St. Onge Carneiro, 40, has attended hundreds of births, but it never ceases to be "crazy and spiritual," she said in her Portland office. "A new human is emerging from another human body. It's a miracle."

Midwifery, the art or act of assisting with childbirth, has captivated St. Onge Carneiro since she was a teenager after the lifelong Catholic met her first midwife, her then-boyfriend's mom, at 16.

"I was intrigued by her lifestyle," St. Onge Carneiro recalled.

She read numerous books on women's health and studied to be a doula, someone who offers nonmedical support to a mother before, during and after childbirth.

The changes in a woman's body during pregnancy "fascinated me, and I was in awe of how conception can even happen," said St. Onge Carneiro, who by 17 had decided to one day become a certified nurse midwife.

The two most common types of midwives in the U.S. are certified nurse midwives and certified professional midwives. The former are advanced-practice registered nurses who have completed a minimum of a master's degree in nursing rooted in a rigorous academic program and hands-on training.

Certified professional midwives receive extensive training through apprenticeships. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 8.3 percent of U.S. births are attended by midwives.

"Midwifery has been a calling for women since the beginning of time," said St. Onge Carneiro, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton, west of Portland. "I wanted to see what existed outside my little box."

Following graduation from the University of Portland's School of Nursing, St. Onge Carneiro considered the Peace Corps and imagined helping women in Africa. But after registering with Catholic Volunteer Network, which links volunteers to service opportunities, she received a phone call from closer to home.

"Girl, we need you here; come to Texas," St. Onge Carneiro recalled Sister Angela Murdaugh telling her in a thick Southern accent.

St. Onge Carneiro did as the sister asked and joined the Franciscan Sisters of Mary as a lay worker at Holy Family Birth Center on the Texas-Mexico border. She worked as a maternity nurse for women crossing into the U.S. seeking a better life.

"We lived communally, and only the four or five birth suites had air conditioning," St. Onge Carneiro said. "It was hard, hot and sweaty, with home visits to trailers in the middle of fields."

Her time at Holy Family shaped her spirituality around midwifery. There always was someone praying during a birth, she said, recalling one nun in particular, Sister Damien Francois, known as the "prayer warrior."

"She'd always have a rosary in hand, praying for everyone there," St. Onge Carneiro said.

St. Onge Carneiro's time on the border solidified her belief that midwifery "should be available to all women, especially those who are disenfranchised," she said.

Back in Oregon, St. Onge Carneiro married her college beau, Augusto Carneiro, and they quickly started a family. She gave birth to her three children at home, with a midwife in attendance, and worked as a nurse in a variety of birth settings, including hospitals and homes.

Once her children were in school, St. Onge Carneiro fulfilled her longtime dream. Completing homework side by side with her kids, she earned her master's degree in nursing through the Kentucky-based Frontier Nursing University. Frontier is one of the first midwifery programs in the country. Its mission includes educating people who will care for the underserved and those in rural communities.

For the past 11 years, St. Onge Carneiro has worked at Portland's A Gentle Beginning, which includes midwifery care for home births. Although most clients are middle or upper-middle class, St. Onge Carneiro planned to soon begin serving a more diverse population when she begins filling in for midwives at Providence Women's Clinic at Providence Portland Medical Center.

She dreams of one day being part of an out-of-hospital birth center that builds community and serves the poor and those in need from all backgrounds.

St. Onge Carneiro described birth as the great equalizer.

"Whether in a house, in a hut or in a hospital, babies are born all over the planet," she said. "These little loved beings are born into such diverse spaces and circumstances."

St. Onge Carneiro acknowledges that the late nights and unpredictable hours of a midwife can be hard on families, as well as take a toll physically. "It's a profession of deep connection with other women and their families, and you can easily get pulled from your own," she said.

But St. Onge Carneiro said she's lucky to be healthy and have a strong support system, and she sets boundaries in order to be fully present to her husband and children: Camila, 15, Adriano, 13, and Giovani, 11.

It often seems that nothing fazes midwives, and that's likely because they are with people at their most vulnerable, at raw and painful times and at the most poignant moments of their lives, St. Onge Carneiro said.

"My children will say to me, 'Why are you not getting mad about this? Why are you so calm all the time?' I think it's because I've seen so many types of births and so many ways of being human."

And that has helped her relinquish judgement and practice patience and acceptance.

St. Onge Carneiro follows the example of the highly skilled and fiercely faithful sisters she worked alongside in Texas.

"I feel that the Holy Spirit helps us to say the things we need to say and do what we need to do," she said. "If I trust that God is going to take care of me, I'm going to be gifted with what I need."

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Scott is special projects reporter at the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

The devil is a big loser, but he still manages to trick people, pope says

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 10:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The devil is "a loser," but he still tricks people into giving him power, Pope Francis said.

The devil "seduces us; he knows how to appeal to our vanity and curiosity and we buy it all," the pope said May 8 during his homily at Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives.

The day's Gospel passage from St. John ends with Jesus telling his disciples "the ruler of this world has been condemned."

The phrase refers to the devil, Pope Francis said. With the resurrection of Jesus, the devil has been defeated, but he still pretends to have power and still tries to influence people.

"He has this ability to seduce," the pope said. "That makes it hard to understand that he is a loser because he presents himself with great power, promises you many things, brings you gifts -- beautiful, all wrapped up," he said. "He knows how to seduce us with the package without letting us see what's inside. He knows how to present his proposals to appeal to our vanity, our curiosity."

Unfortunately, he said, too often "we like being seduced."

The devil is "the great liar, the father of lies," the pope said, "and we fools believe him."

"We must be aware of the devil," he said, and Jesus taught his disciples that the only way to do that was to watch, pray and fast.

And, Pope Francis said, it's especially important that Christians don't think they can approach the devil, see what he's like and then just walk away unscathed.

As one of the fathers of the church wrote, the devil is like an angry, rabid dog that is chained up, he said.

People know when they are playing with fire, the pope said. They know when they are approaching that angry dog. "Please, don't," he said, before imagining a dialogue in which someone cries about having been bitten, but it turns out the dog was chained up and he had approached it, basically provoking the injury.

One who is afraid of the devil's influence can always turn to Mary, he said. "When children are afraid they go to their mother. 'Mom, mom, I'm afraid.' When they have bad dreams, they go to mom. Go to the Blessed Mother; she protects us."

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Ken Burns: Christophers 'generous' to give him Life Achievement Award

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 4:10pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Tim Llewellyn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Documentarian Ken Burns, with a string of television successes that range back into the 1980s, said the Christophers were "generous" in giving him their Life Achievement Award this year.

"It's pretty fantastic," Burns told Catholic News Service in a May 4 telephone interview from New York. Burns will be receiving his award in person May 17 at the annual Christopher Awards dinner in the Big Apple.

Burns has been behind so many well-received documentaries over the past 30 years, many of them of epic lengths, that it can be hard to keep them all straight.

There was "The War" about World War II, "The Civil War" and, most recently, "The Vietnam War." But there was also "Baseball," "Jazz," "The Dust Bowl," "Prohibition," "The West," "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies," "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," "The Statue of Liberty" and "Brooklyn Bridge" in his canon -- 31 in all, for which Burns has served as producer since 1981.

If TV shows are like children, then Burns loves them all equally. But one of his first, 1984's "The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God," holds a special place in his heart. The documentary about the Christian sect "I suppose, is tiny and not as loud, not a 'child' to follow your metaphor, obviously," Burns said. "It isn't 'The Civil War' or 'The Vietnam War,' but I don't love it any less."

Nor is Burns, who turns 65 in July, packing it in any time soon. "I am fully booked out to 2030 in the projects we are planning to do. Will one or two change? Maybe. Will two or three be added? Sure," he said. "They're in various stages of filming, fundraising, editing, finishing, promoting. There are five or six or seven films going on. I am busier now in my mid-60s than I ever have in my life."

It is hardly a solitary work for Burns.

"For me and I believe for many of my colleagues, these are hugely collaborative efforts without many other people contributing their blood, sweat and tears. When the film is finished it becomes 'your' property. But it needs your attention, like the next children that needs your rearing. It goes off to college, it's bound to come back with a duffel bag full of laundry."

After 30-plus documentaries already in the archives and more in the planning stages, Burns keeps it from becoming a rote exercise. "It's not about destination, it's about the journey," he told CNS. "In some ways you can say that I've made the same film over and over again. It's asking a deceptively simple question about who we are as Americans. ... also asking a question that is central to all of us, but 'who am I?' Not just me, but each one."

Burns said he had it in his mind at age 12 to be a filmmaker, at 18 to be a documentarian and by 22 to focus on American history. And he's never strayed from that path. However, he noted, he's been in talks with HBO for a dramatization of his 2004 documentary "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson," the first black U.S. boxing champion.

Deal or no deal, "I'm keeping my day job, that's for sure. I don't think drama is some lower rung on the career ladder. In some ways, TV has helped to touch in an extraordinary way fiction films," he said.

Still, "I can't be anything other than myself, I'm very happy to say, mostly because I work with very good people," Burns added. "And (working with) PBS, which has permitted me to work without commercial interruption. With every film, it's the director's cut. and if you don't like it, there's no one else to blame."

Burns said, "The laws of storytelling apply to everybody. Steven Spielberg can make stuff up; I can't. He and I have talked about this. There is an uncanny parallel if you see that documentaries have been essayistic ... but when they graduate into storytelling, a good story is a good story is a good story, no difference between a documentary and a film."

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Theologians call for regular consultation of laity in church decisions

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 10:27am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church needs to seek the input, commitment and talents of all of its members if it is to be truly catholic and to evangelize effectively, said a new document from the International Theological Commission.

Pope Francis has called for the church to be "synodal," which does not just mean holding regular meetings of the world Synod of Bishops, but constantly finding ways to live and work in the world with a greater sense of the value of the prayers, experience and advice of everyone in the church -- including laypeople, the document said.

"Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church" was published in early May with the approval of Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the authorization of Pope Francis.

The International Theological Commission is a board of theologians, appointed by the pope, who advise the doctrinal congregation.

The new document explored Pope Francis' frequent calls for the church to be "synodal" or characterized by "walking together" as the pilgrim people of God.

The theologians said a synodal attitude and way of being church flowed naturally from the Second Vatican Council's description of the church as a communion and its emphasis on the responsibility of all Catholics for the church's life and mission, although each person has been given different gifts and roles by the Holy Spirit.

The document explored ways the church already exercises synodality, including through parish councils, diocesan presbyteral councils, national bishops' conferences, regional councils of bishops, the synods of bishops of the Eastern Catholic churches, the world Synod of Bishops and ecumenical councils, like Vatican II.

While synodality is based on the baptismal gifts and responsibilities of each Catholic, the document said, it is not a call for some form of a Catholic parliament. The pope and the bishops, assisted by their priests, still retain their decision-making authority.

But "the participation of the lay faithful is essential," the document said. "They are the vast majority of the people of God and there is much to learn from their participation in the various expressions of the life and mission of the ecclesial community, in popular piety and in pastoral work as whole, as well as from their specific competence in the various spheres of cultural and social life."

Any process of church discernment, the theologians wrote, should begin with a consultation of the laity and for that to be effective, laymen and laywomen must be given more opportunities for education in the faith and more spaces in the church where they can learn to express themselves.

Greater effectiveness also requires overcoming "a clerical mentality that risks keeping them at the margins of church life," the document said.

Calling for "conversion for a renewed synodality," the document emphasized the need for all church members to be better educated in "the spirituality of communion and the practice of listening, dialogue and communal discernment."

Without a conversion of hearts and minds, it said, the existing structures of synodality will be "simple masks without heart or a face."

Because the Holy Spirit works within all the baptized, it said, "the renewal of the synodal life of the church requires activating processes of consultation with the whole People of God," including laymen and laywomen.

Synodality, it said, promotes the baptismal dignity and call of all Catholics, values the presence of different gifts given by the Holy Spirit and recognizes the specific ministry entrusted to pastors and bishops in communion with the pope for the preservation of the faith and the renewal of the church.

"The authority of the pastors is a specific gift of the Spirit of Christ, the head, for the edification of the entire body, not a function delegated by and representative of the people," the theologians wrote.

The synodal nature of the church is not something activated only on special occasions, the document said. "It must be expressed in the church's ordinary way of living and working," which always begins with prayer and listening to God's word, then trying to discern together where and how the Holy Spirit is calling the community to act.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Pope asks German bishops to try to find unanimity on Communion question

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 10:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Thomas Frey, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis asked the bishops of Germany to continue working together to find broader consensus on guidelines for allowing a Protestant married to a Catholic to receive the Eucharist.

"Pope Francis appreciates the ecumenical commitment of the German bishops and asks them to find, in a spirit of ecclesial communion, a result as unanimously as possible," the German bishops were told, according to a Vatican statement.

The pope had invited six German bishops and the general secretary of the bishops' conference to Rome for a May 3 meeting with top officials from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

In February, the Vatican statement said, "more than three-quarters of the members" of the German bishops' conference approved a "pastoral handbook titled, 'Walking with Christ -- In the Footsteps of Unity: Mixed Marriages and Common Participation in the Eucharist.'"

However, the Vatican said, "a not insignificant number" of bishops, including seven who head dioceses, could not give their assent to the document. "These seven turned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts."

Pope Francis invited leaders of the bishops' conference and some of the bishops opposed to the guidelines to come to the Vatican for a discussion with officials from the three offices.

"Various points of view were discussed; for example, how the question relates to the faith and to pastoral care, its relevance for the universal church and its juridical dimension," the Vatican statement said, without providing further details.

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, one of the seven German bishops who objected to the conference guidelines, participated in the meeting at the Vatican May 3. In his letter to the Vatican, which prompted the meeting, he had asked whether the guidelines were not simply pastoral, but went to the heart of Catholic faith and practice, and whether the German guidelines could have a wider impact on the question of eucharistic hospitality in countries around the world.

The text of the German guidelines has not been made public, but it is widely assumed to foresee situations in which a Lutheran married to a Roman Catholic and regularly attending Mass with the Catholic spouse could receive the Eucharist and not only on special occasions like the baptism or first Communion of their child.

The council for Christian unity's 1993 "Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism" said, the Catholic Church "recognizes that in certain circumstances, by way of exception, and under certain conditions, access to these sacraments may be permitted, or even commended, for Christians of other churches and ecclesial communities."

At the urging of the council, many bishops' conferences around the world have published pastoral guidelines that list the occasions on which such eucharistic sharing would be acceptable.

Visiting a Lutheran parish in Rome in November 2015, a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic asked Pope Francis why she could not receive Communion when she went to Mass with her husband.

The pope responded that he could not issue a general rule on shared Communion, but the couple should pray, study and then act according to their consciences.

For the Catholic Church, he said, "it is true that sharing (the Eucharist) is saying that there are no differences between us, that we have the same doctrine," which the official Catholic-Lutheran dialogue has yet to prove. "But I ask myself, 'Don't we have the same baptism?' And if we have the same baptism, then we must walk together."

"Always refer to your baptism -- one faith, one baptism, one Lord, as St. Paul tells us -- and take the consequences from that," the pope told the woman. "Speak with the Lord and move forward. I won't say anything more."

At the end of the evening, the Lutheran community gave Pope Francis an Advent wreath and Pope Francis gave the community a gold chalice, similar to the chalices he gives when visiting Catholic dioceses and parishes.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Trump signs order to give faith groups stronger voice in government

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 3:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In front of a small crowd of cabinet members and religious leaders at the White House Rose Garden May 3, President Donald Trump announced, and then signed, an executive order giving faith-based groups a stronger voice in the federal government.

"It's a great day," he said after signing the order and passing out pens to religious leaders who surrounded him outside on the spring morning for the National Day of Prayer event.

No details about the order were given at the ceremony, but religious leaders were reminded of the work they do in caring for those in need and were assured by the president that their religious freedom would continue to be protected by the federal government.

A White House document posted online after the order was signed said its purpose was to ensure that faith-based and community organizations "have strong advocates" in the White House and the federal government.

It said the "White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative" would provide recommendations on programs and policies where faith-based and community organizations could partner with the government to "deliver more effective solutions to poverty."

It also pointed out that the new office would enable the Trump administration to know of failures, within the executive branch, of complying with religious liberty protections and would ensure that faith-based organizations have "equal access to government funding and equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs."

The initiative will be led by the newly created position of adviser to the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative and will be supported by community and faith leaders outside of the federal government. It will have designated liaisons from executive departments and federal agencies.

A faith-based office is not new to the White House. Previous administrations, including those of Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, had similar offices.

The May 3 ceremony to announce this office began with a series of prayers, led first by Vice President Mike Pence, who also told the crowd that he and the president frequently have people telling them: "We're praying for you."

He said the Bible "tells us to persevere in prayer" and noted that the American people do this every day and would do this in a particular way during the National Day of Prayer when many would "bow a head or bend a knee" to pray for the nation.

Pence told the crowd that "believers of every background have a champion in President Trump," and he reminded them of Trump's executive order signed a year ago, also in a Rose Garden ceremony, which he said assured people of faith that "no one would be penalized for their religious beliefs."

The new executive order takes that a step further, he added.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, one of several faith leaders to deliver a prayer from a podium on the White House lawn, prayed that people would have the grace to stay close to God and one another. He also prayed for government leaders and for believers to have the strength and courage to stand up for their faith.

Trump said prayer has "forged the identity of this nation" and has also sustained it.

He told the group that the new office was a necessary step because in solving many of today's problems and challenges, "faith is more powerful than government and nothing is more powerful than God."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Texas archbishop honored for commitment to serve poor, vulnerable

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 1:12pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Extension

By Jessica Able

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) -- Daisy Baez walks along the rows of barns on the backside of Churchill Downs before day breaks on a Wednesday two weeks before the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, the world's most famous horse race.

On the first Saturday of May, all eyes will be on the prized thoroughbreds who will vie for the blanket of roses at the end of the mile-and-a-quarter race.

But beforehand, hundreds of men and women are walking, grooming, exercising and riding the majestic animals.

Baez, 24, floats through the barns with a buoyant step despite the 40-degree temperature. She greets the primarily Latino workers in their native Spanish. She lingers in the barns, asking the workers how their children are doing and inquires about one woman's spouse while checking to see if she's feeling better after an illness.

Baez is a part-time chaplain at Christ Chapel, an interdenominational church that sits on the backside of race track. A Dominican Republic native and a graduate student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Baez has served at the chapel for two years. She started as a volunteer before being hired as associate chaplain in 2017.

Her unyielding faith in God, she said, propels her from day to day with confidence.

"When I first started, I didn't feel capable. I thought someone else could do it better, but the Lord made it possible," she told The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville. "I was a little scared. This work is not simple; it's important."

On Monday nights, the chapel hosts a nondenominational prayer service in English and Spanish. Afterward, volunteers offer a meal and fellowship. Baez leads a women's Bible study on Wednesday nights.

Among attendees is Soreyda Contreras, who said she feels "at peace" when she's at Christ Chapel.

"I have a good time and feel good when I'm studying the Bible," said Contreras, who works in the same barn as her husband, Jorge.

Baez recently expanded her ministry to include a youth group. About 10 or 11 teens meet with volunteers while Baez leads the women's study.

"The older kids have so many questions. They are so thirsty and are looking for answers," she said. "I'm impressed to see how God is working in their lives."

She said she considers her ministry to those who labor on the backside a privilege and hopes she provides some sort of spiritual care to those she serves.

"One of the challenges of this ministry is that these people are in transition all of the time," Baez noted.

"Sometimes I look back and think, 'Did I give them the Gospel? Was I faithful to my main responsibility?' It gives a sense of urgency to the ministry," she said.

On average, 600 to 700 people work on the backside. During derby season, that number grows to about 1,000. More and more women, Baez said, can be found caring for the sleek animals.

Baez is one of a trio of chaplains at Christ Chapel. The team includes Dan Hatfield and Joseph Del Rosario. All three are fluent in English and Spanish.

In all, about 30 churches of many faiths regularly volunteer time and resources to the ministry. Among Catholic parishes involved are Epiphany, Our Lady of Lourdes, and St. Edward in Louisville and St. Gregory in Samuels, Kentucky.

Christy Martin, a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, has volunteered regularly since 2014. Her work with workers' children "energizes" her soul, she said.

Since Baez began working at the chapel, Martin said, the ministry has swelled.

"It has flourished. Daisy is young and very energetic -- physically and spiritually," she said. "Daisy shines with the light of the Lord and it is quite evident by the way she shepherds families."

Muffy Sinclair, a parishioner of Epiphany Church and longtime volunteer, said the ministry to women and children provides a foundation on which the kids can base their lives, she said.

"In an age of uncertainty about the future for immigrants, this ministry is a comforting and loving space for them, where they can build a relationship with Jesus Christ," Sinclair said.

Epiphany became involved with the backside in 2004. The Epiphany Backside Ministry serves five to six meals per month and stocks paper products for meals and food for a pantry.

Volunteers also collect and purchase clothing, linens, toiletries and socks for the clothing closet. And, at Christmastime, the parish ministry team donates presents to the children.

Christ Chapel is sponsored by the Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy, which serves race tracks in Kentucky and southern Ohio.

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Able is a staff writer for The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Kentucky chaplain brings God's love to the horse racing track

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 1:12pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jessica Able, The Record

By Jessica Able

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) -- Daisy Baez walks along the rows of barns on the backside of Churchill Downs before day breaks on a Wednesday two weeks before the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, the world's most famous horse race.

On the first Saturday of May, all eyes will be on the prized thoroughbreds who will vie for the blanket of roses at the end of the mile-and-a-quarter race.

But beforehand, hundreds of men and women are walking, grooming, exercising and riding the majestic animals.

Baez, 24, floats through the barns with a buoyant step despite the 40-degree temperature. She greets the primarily Latino workers in their native Spanish. She lingers in the barns, asking the workers how their children are doing and inquires about one woman's spouse while checking to see if she's feeling better after an illness.

Baez is a part-time chaplain at Christ Chapel, an interdenominational church that sits on the backside of race track. A Dominican Republic native and a graduate student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Baez has served at the chapel for two years. She started as a volunteer before being hired as associate chaplain in 2017.

Her unyielding faith in God, she said, propels her from day to day with confidence.

"When I first started I didn't feel capable. I thought someone else could do it better, but the Lord made it possible," she told The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville. "I was a little scared. This work is not simple; it's important."

On Monday nights, the chapel hosts a nondenominational prayer service in English and Spanish. Afterward, volunteers offer a meal and fellowship. Baez leads a women's Bible study on Wednesday nights.

Among attendees is Soreyda Contreras, who said she feels "at peace" when she's at Christ Chapel.

"I have a good time and feel good when I'm studying the Bible," said Contreras, who works in the same barn as her husband, Jorge.

Baez recently expanded her ministry to include a youth group. About 10 or 11 teens meet with volunteers while Baez leads the women's study.

"The older kids have so many questions. They are so thirsty and are looking for answers," she said. "I'm impressed to see how God is working in their lives."

She said she considers her ministry to those who labor on the backside a privilege and hopes she provides some sort of spiritual care to those she serves.

"One of the challenges of this ministry is that these people are in transition all of the time," Baez noted.

"Sometimes I look back and think, 'Did I give them the Gospel? Was I faithful to my main responsibility?' It gives a sense of urgency to the ministry," she said.

On average, 600 to 700 people work on the backside. During derby season, that number grows to about 1,000. More and more women, Baez said, can be found caring for the sleek animals.

Baez is one of a trio of chaplains at Christ Chapel. The team includes Dan Hatfield and Joseph Del Rosario. All three are fluent in English and Spanish.

In all, about 30 churches of many faiths regularly volunteer time and resources to the ministry. Among Catholic parishes involved are Epiphany, Our Lady of Lourdes, and St. Edward in Louisville and St. Gregory in Samuels, Kentucky.

Christy Martin, a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, has volunteered regularly since 2014. Her work with workers' children "energizes" her soul, she said.

Since Baez began working at the chapel, Martin said, the ministry has swelled.

"It has flourished. Daisy is young and very energetic -- physically and spiritually," she said. "Daisy shines with the light of the Lord and it is quite evident by the way she shepherds families."

Muffy Sinclair, a parishioner of Epiphany Church and long-time volunteer, said the ministry to women and children provides a foundation on which the kids can base their lives, she said.

"In an age of uncertainty about the future for immigrants, this ministry is a comforting and loving space for them, where they can build a relationship with Jesus Christ," Sinclair said.

Epiphany became involved with the backside in 2004. The Epiphany Backside Ministry serves five to six meals per month and stocks paper products for meals and food for a pantry.

Volunteers also collect and purchase clothing, linens, toiletries and socks for the clothing closet. And, at Christmastime the parish ministry team donates presents to the children.

Christ Chapel is sponsored by the Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy, which serves race tracks in Kentucky and southern Ohio.

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Able is a staff writer for The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Survivors hope pope will act against 'epidemic' of abuse in the church

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 1:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) -- Three Chilean abuse survivors who met with Pope Francis said his apology to them must be accompanied by concrete actions, not only against those who commit sexual abuse, but against those who cover it up.

"I have never seen someone be so contrite about what he was telling me," Juan Carlos Cruz told journalists May 2. "I also felt that he was hurting, which for me was very solemn. I don't know what word to use because it's not often the pope really says sorry to you and apologizes to you. He said, 'I was part of the problem, I caused this and I'm sorry.'"

Jose Andres Murillo, another of the Chilean survivors, said, "All of us had different experiences with the pope, and even if we saw the forgiveness the pope asked, we're waiting for actions."

"We always said that we're not here to do public relations but for actions," Murillo said. "That's what I'm waiting for."

Pope Francis had invited Cruz, Murillo and James Hamilton to stay at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where he lives, and to meet with him individually April 27-29. They met him again as a group April 30.

The Chilean survivors have alleged that Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno -- then a priest -- had witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. In 2011, the Vatican sentenced Father Karadima to a life of prayer and penance after finding him guilty of sexually abusing boys.

Briefing journalists on their meeting with the pope, the survivors read a prepared statement saying they recognized and appreciated "this gesture and the enormous hospitality of these days."

"For almost 10 years we have been treated as enemies because we fight against sexual abuse and cover up in the church," the statement said. "In these days we met the friendly face of the church, completely different from the one we had seen before."

All three sharply criticized the Chilean bishops for their role in "misinforming the pope" on the reality of sexual abuse.

When asked whether they also received an apology from the bishops of Chile, Cruz said, "Pope Francis asked forgiveness for himself and on behalf of the universal church. The bishops of Chile don't know how to ask for forgiveness."

Hamilton said that the former archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, was told in 2005 by the diocesan promotor of justice that the accusations against Karadima were credible.

However, Hamilton continued, no action was taken until 2009, when all three survivors gave a statement regarding Karadima's abuse during Hamilton's marriage annulment process, which was then sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"Cardinal Errazuriz was covering up Karadima's crimes," Hamilton said. In the eyes of a court and the victims, "he is a real criminal, a man who was covering up the vile acts of Karadima."

Cruz said he told the pope how he was demonized by both Cardinal Errazuriz and his successor, Cardinal Riccardo Ezzati, in a leaked email between the two prelates.

"I told him how these two men lacked respect toward a person, which was known because they did the same to Jimmy (Hamilton) and Jose (Murillo). They called me a 'serpent,' they called me everything. I told the Holy Father and he said he was hurt," Cruz said.

In a letter released April 11, Pope Francis said he had been mistaken in his assessment of the situation in Chile, and he begged the forgiveness of the survivors and others he offended. He invited the three survivors to Rome and called all of the Chilean bishops to the Vatican for a meeting, which numerous media have reported will be May 14-17.

At a news conference after meeting with priests of the Archdiocese of Santiago April 19, Cardinal Ezzati denied he had misinformed the pope on the abuse crisis, and he said those who have "committed a very serious offense" must "recognize it, repent and repair the wrong they have done."

The cardinal also called for Bishop Barros to step aside "for the good of the people of God and the church."

Even before Bishop Barros' appointment, church leaders had expressed their reservations about him and other bishops associated with Father Karadima.

The Associated Press Jan. 11 published what it said was a letter from Pope Francis to members of the permanent committee of the Chilean bishops' conference just three weeks after Bishop Barros' appointment to Osorno was announced in 2015. The Vatican would not comment on the letter.

In it, Pope Francis thanked the committee members for expressing their "concern" over the appointment as well as for their "prudent and constructive" suggestions made to him in February 2014.

According to the letter, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, the nuncio to Chile, asked Bishop Barros to resign as military ordinary, the position he held then, and take a sabbatical. The nuncio, the letter said, told Bishop Barros that two other bishops connected to Father Karadima would be asked to do the same. "The nuncio's comment complicated and blocked any eventual path to offering a year's sabbatical," the pope wrote without further clarification.

Speaking with journalists on his flight to Rome from Lima, Peru, in January, Pope Francis said he was convinced of Bishop Barros' innocence and refused to accept his resignation when it was offered.

"(Bishop Barros) came to Rome, and I said, 'No. That's not how it works. Because that would be an admission of guilt. In all cases, if there are guilty parties, an investigation has to be made.' So, I refused his resignation," the pope said.

The pope's appointment of Bishop Barros as head of the Diocese of Osorno in January 2015 sparked several protests -- most notably at the bishop's installation Mass.

Pope Francis said once protests began after the appointment, Bishop Barros offered his resignation a second time.

"I said, 'No, you go (to Osorno),'" the pope said. "The Barros investigation continued, but no evidence emerged. That is all I wanted to say. I cannot convict him, because I have no evidence; but I am also convinced that he is innocent."

A short time after returning from his visit to Chile and Peru, the Vatican announced Pope Francis' decision to send Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, a respected expert in clerical sexual abuse, to Chile to investigate. The Vatican said the archbishop's mission was prompted by "recently received information."

The Vatican never specified what that information was, but the Associated Press reported Feb. 5 that nearly three years earlier the pope was given a letter from Cruz graphically describing the abuse he suffered and alleging that then-Father Barros was in the room as it happened.

Cruz told reporters May 2 that although he didn't ask Pope Francis about the letter, his nearly three-hour conversation with the pope led him to believe "that the pope truly was misinformed."

The pope "wanted evidence and proof, and he asked forgiveness because there was proof," Cruz said. "It was clear that the pope was very misinformed. I don't think the pope lied, I truly believe he was misinformed. I told him with my voice what I wrote in the letter. I think he has a very clear view of the situation now."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

World's best high jumper has low-profile meeting with pope

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 12:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite holding the world record in the high jump, Javier Sotomayor kept his feet on the ground and didn't try to clear the waist-high wooden barricade between him and Pope Francis.

The now-retired 50-year old Cuban track-and-fielder was part of a small athletic delegation from Cuba greeting the pope at the end of his May 2 general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The delegation included Luis Enrique Zayas, gold medalist at the World Under-20 Championships in the high jump in 2016, and coach Barbaro Diaz Castro.

Sotomayor is the only person to ever have cleared 8 feet in the high jump with his world record jump of 8 feet 1/2 inch (2.45 meters) set in 1993. Considered the best high jumper of all time, he has set many records and won numerous records throughout his nearly 20-year career. He took the gold medal in the 1992 Olympics and silver in 2000 before retiring the next year. Cuba boycotted the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympic Games.

The delegation from Cuba was visiting the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture for a meeting that also included Fabrizio Donato, captain of Italy's national track team, and Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca, undersecretary of the culture council and member of the Vatican's own amateur co-ed track club, "Athletica Vaticana."

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Copyright © 2018 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: Pope names two Vatican officials as apostolic nuncios

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 2:58pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters

By Katie Scott

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis named two longtime Vatican officials as apostolic nuncios and elevated both to the rank of archbishop.

The Vatican announced Feb. 26 that the pope named Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, general secretary of the Secretariat for the Economy, as nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia.

The pope also named the Vatican's head of protocol, Msgr. Jose Bettencourt -- a priest of the Archdiocese of Ottawa -- as an apostolic nuncio. Two days later, the Vatican announced that he was appointed as nuncio to Armenia.

Archbishop-designate Xuereb, who was born in Gozo, Malta, Oct. 14, 1958, worked in the general affairs section of the Vatican Secretariat of State in 1995 before moving to the Prefecture of the Papal Household in 2000.

He had served as assistant personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI and continued as Pope Francis' secretary when the new pope was elected in March 2013.

Before naming him to the Secretariat for the Economy in March 2014, Pope Francis appointed the Maltese prelate as his personal delegate to the commissions reviewing the activity and mission of the Institute for the Works of Religion -- commonly called the Vatican bank -- and the commission that was studying the economic and administrative structures of the Holy See.

Archbishop-designate Bettencourt has served in the Vatican's Secretariat of State since 2002.

Born in 1962 in Velas, Azores, Portugal, as a child he moved to Ottawa, where he attended both elementary and secondary school. He graduated from the University of Ottawa before pursuing theological studies at Dominican College and St. Paul University, where he studied for the priesthood. He was ordained for the Archdiocese of Ottawa in 1993.

As the Holy See's head of protocol, Archbishop-designate Bettencourt oversees the details of tradition and decorum in the Vatican's diplomatic relations with other states, from welcoming visiting heads of state at the airport to dealings with diplomats and ambassadors accredited to the Vatican.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Oregon summer camp communicates God's love through nature, friendships

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 2:58pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Upward Bound

By Katie Scott

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- On the North Santiam River east of Salem, Oregon, campers reel in wriggly fish, rally courage for talent-show skits and belt out tunes in evening singalongs.

It's the classic hodgepodge of activities that countless children enjoy each summer. But for participants of Upward Bound, a Christian-based camp for people with physical and cognitive disabilities, the days not only bring laughs, exhaustion and friendships, they also help campers experience God's love.

"We keep our philosophy simple," Laura Pierce, Upward Bound executive director, told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. "It is our mission to communicate God's love through providing quality care and experiencing the wonders of nature together."

The 40-year-old camp is not affiliated with any denomination and welcomes everyone. Many Catholics help, including students from Portland's Jesuit and Central Catholic high schools who volunteer each summer. Annually serving around 700 campers, ages 12 and older, Upward Bound draws participants from across the country.

"I see it as a pro-life organization, where people are being served who are often rejected by society," said Aaron Thompson, Upward Bound board chairman and a parishioner of St. Juan Diego Parish in Portland.

Individuals with disabilities often are without a religious affiliation, according to Pierce. Reasons can include a lack of church-based programs that meet their needs and congregations' discomfort with the mannerisms, movements or noises people with disabilities sometimes make.

"We are blessed to have an opportunity to make an impact on campers but also families, who are often isolated from a community of believers," Pierce said. "We help give them hope and support to keep on keeping on."

Kelsey Rea, coordinator of the Archdiocese of Portland's Office for People with Disabilities, agrees. Although there are several adapted Masses for the special needs community in the archdiocese, the camp is "a great way for families to connect and network in a faith environment," she said.

Amid swimming, paddle boating, dances and other traditional camp activities -- adapted as needed -- staff and volunteers share Bible stories and invite prayers each night. Staff teach campers the basics of prayer, but "they seem to know intuitively how to pray," Pierce said. "One will stand up and say, 'Yay, God! Thank you for the food.' Another will pray for 10 minutes." Each camper can connect with the divine in his or her own way, she said.

Nature can be a powerful, tangible way to know Jesus, Thompson said.

"Outside of the Eucharist and the liturgy, creation is the closest we get to God, in my mind," he said. "Even in the liturgy God can be abstract for some individuals with disabilities. But nature speaks to everyone; anyone can find joy in jumping into cool water, listening to birds singing."

Pierce said along with feeling God's love, campers learn to realize the gifts they've been given and to share them while cultivating friendships.

"It's a chance for them to be with others who will listen, friends who will just be silly with them," she said.

Camps typically run five days in June, July and August. Some have a 5 to 1 staff ratio, while daylong sessions are available for medically fragile campers who need one-on-one assistance. The menu is catered to campers' dietary needs, and there is a 24-hour on-site nurse.

Holiday-themed camps are offered throughout the year, and respite-care camps -- providing caregivers a day to recharge -- are held on an as-needed basis.

Pierce helped found the camp in 1979, and her husband serves as chaplain as well as "pretty much does whatever is needed," she said.

People keep coming back to Upward Bound; there's a 99 percent return rate.

Among those who continue to return is Diana Mikolajczak, 61, a member of St. Philip Benizi Parish in Creswell, Oregon, who has attended every summer for the past 18 years.

The only thing she talks about more than camp is her birthday, said her sister, Donna Silva. "The campers are treated as family," Silva said.

Pierce recalled another camper, who started coming at age 16. The boy has cerebral palsy and communicates by using one finger to type.

Before Upward Bound, the boy's mother told Pierce, every day during the summer he'd sit by his front window and watch the neighborhood kids walking past on their way to play ball. "He wanted them to ask if he'd like to go along, even if he couldn't play, or ask him to come over for milk and cookies," Pierce said.

Upward Bound is about "being connected, being part of a community where people like this boy can come to," she said. "It's about never feeling like you are a window-sitter."

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Editor's Note: More information about Upward Bound is online at www.upwardboundcamp.org.

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Scott is special projects reporter at the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Clergy abuse survivors grateful after private meetings with pope

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 10:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After private meetings with Pope Francis, three survivors of clergy sexual abuse from Chile said they felt they had been heard and were hopeful for changes in the way the Catholic Church handles accusations of abuse.

"I spoke for more than two and a half hours alone with Pope Francis. He listened to me with great respect, affection and closeness, like a father. We talked about many subjects. Today, I have more hope in the future of our church. Even though the task is enormous," Juan Carlos Cruz tweeted April 29 after meeting with the pope.

Pope Francis had invited Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo to stay at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where he lives, and to meet with him individually April 27-29. The three were to meet with the pope again as a group April 30.

Although the three survivors tweeted after their private meetings, Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said Pope Francis "expressly wished" that no official statements would be released by the Vatican regarding his discussions with the survivors.

"His priority is to listen to the victims, ask their forgiveness and respect the confidentiality of these talks," Burke said in a statement April 27. "In this climate of trust and reparation for suffering, the desire of Pope Francis is to allow his guests to speak as long as necessary, in a way that there is no set timetable or pre-established content."

In a tweet sent after his April 27 meeting, Murillo said he spoke with Pope Francis for two hours and that "in a respectful and frank way, I expressed the importance of understanding abuse as an abuse of power, of the need to assume responsibility, of care and not just forgiveness."

Hamilton sent two tweets April 28 shortly after his meeting with the pope, saying that it lasted a "little over two hours" and that it was "sincere, welcoming and enormously constructive."

I am "very happy and satisfied," he said.

The Chilean survivors have alleged that Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno -- then a priest -- had witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. In 2011, Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

Although he initially defended his 2015 appointment of Bishop Barros as head of the Diocese of Osorno, Pope Francis apologized after receiving a 2,300-page report from a trusted investigator he sent to Chile to listen to people with information about the bishop.

The investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, is president of a board of review within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; the board handles appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse or other serious crimes. The archbishop also had 10 years of experience as the Vatican's chief prosecutor of clerical sex abuse cases at the doctrinal congregation.

After a "careful reading" of the testimonies, "I believe I can affirm that all the testimonies collected speak in a brutal way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and, I confess, it has caused me pain and shame," the pope said April 11 in a letter to the bishops of Chile.

The pope also said he was convening a meeting in Rome with the Chilean bishops to discuss the findings of the investigations and his own conclusions "without prejudices nor preconceived ideas, with the single objective of making the truth shine in our lives."

The three survivors, who have been outspoken about the church's handling of abuse cases, welcomed Pope Francis' letter and accepted his invitation to meet so he could ask "forgiveness of all those I have offended."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Wrestling champion Bruno Sammartino laid to rest

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 1:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/John Franko

By Peter Ajayi Dada

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- Nigeria's bishops condemned repeated killings of innocent Nigerians by suspected ethnic militias in northeastern Nigeria and said President Muhammadu Buhari should resign if he could not keep the country safe.

Asking, "when will this barbarism end?" the bishops condemned the murder of two priests and their parishioners during the celebration of Mass, at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ayer Mbalom, April 24. Attackers also burned about 50 houses, nearly destroying the small community.

It was the latest in a string of violent incidents involving nomadic herdsmen and farmers, violence linked to grazing rights and dwindling fertile land. Benue state, where the incident occurred, has seen nearly 50 such attacks in the last three years.

The bishops issued their statement from Rome, where they were making a regularly scheduled visit to the Vatican, and said they received the news of the " gruesome, grisly and dastardly murder" with "deep shock, sorrow and utter horror."

"These innocent souls met their untimely death in the hands of a wicked and inhuman gang of the rampaging and murderous terrorists, who have turned the vast lands of the middle belt and other parts of Nigeria into a massive graveyard," the bishops said.

They said the unrestrained mayhem had become a metaphor for the untimely deaths that had now become the fate of many of Nigerian citizens.

"That our two priests, Father Joseph Gor and Father Felix Tyolaha, along with their parishioners were waylaid in the course of the celebration of the holy Mass early in the morning suggests very clearly that their murder was carefully planned," the bishops said. Nineteen people were killed in the attack.

They said recent events showed Nigerians no longer could trust Buhari. They mentioned the repeated calls from them and many other Nigerians, asking the president to take drastic and urgent steps to reverse the violence.

"It is clear to the nation that he has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of the Nigerian citizens," the bishops said.

"Whether this failure is due to his inability to perform or lack of political will, it is time for him to choose the part of honor and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse," they said.

Often, the violence is characterized as a revenge attack, but the bishops asked, "Whom have these priests attacked?"

They cited a Jan. 3 tweet from Father Gor, in which he referred to the Fulani herdsman, a primarily nomadic group. The bishops quoted: "We are living in fear. The Fulanis are still around here in Mbalom. They refuse to go. They still go grazing around. No weapons to defend ourselves."

The priests could have fled, the bishops said, but, true to their vocation, they remained to continue to serve their people right unto death.

"We are sad. We are angry. We feel totally exposed and most vulnerable. Faced with these dark clouds of fear and anxiety, our people are daily being told by some to defend themselves," the bishops said, noting that most people had no weapons to defend themselves.

"How can the federal government stand back while its security agencies deliberately turn a blind eye to the cries and wails of helpless and
(unarmed) citizens who remain sitting ducks in their homes, farms, highway and now, even in their sacred places of worship?"

The bishops recalled that during a Feb. 8 courtesy visit to Buhari, they expressed alarm about security in the nation.

"Since then, the bloodletting and the destruction of homes as well as farmlands have increased in intensity and brutality," they said. "Now our churches have been desecrated and our people murdered on their altars."

They said they had consistently advised their people to remain peaceful and law-abiding, but they felt "violated and betrayed in a nation that we have all continued to sacrifice and pray for."

"We are at a loss as to what excuse again we can continue to give about why things are the way they are in our nation, where a nation's landscape is littered with the bodies of its own citizens," they said.

"We are sad and fear that the clock is ticking. The bomb must be defused quickly before it explodes," they said.

"Nigeria can return to normal times if we put our heads together with sincerity," they said, offering prayers for the victims and for peace in the country.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 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.

Nigerian bishops say Buhari should resign if he can't stop violence

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 1:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters

By Peter Ajayi Dada

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- Nigeria's bishops condemned repeated killings of innocent Nigerians by suspected ethnic militias in northeastern Nigeria and said President Muhammadu Buhari should resign if he could not keep the country safe.

Asking, "when will this barbarism end?" the bishops condemned the murder of two priests and their parishioners during the celebration of Mass, at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ayer Mbalom, April 24. Attackers also burned about 50 houses, nearly destroying the small community.

It was the latest in a string of violent incidents involving nomadic herdsmen and farmers, violence linked to grazing rights and dwindling fertile land. Benue state, where the incident occurred, has seen nearly 50 such attacks in the last three years.

The bishops issued their statement from Rome, where they were making a regularly scheduled visit to the Vatican, and said they received the news of the " gruesome, grisly and dastardly murder" with "deep shock, sorrow and utter horror."

"These innocent souls met their untimely death in the hands of a wicked and inhuman gang of the rampaging and murderous terrorists, who have turned the vast lands of the middle belt and other parts of Nigeria into a massive graveyard," the bishops said.

They said the unrestrained mayhem had become a metaphor for the untimely deaths that had now become the fate of many of Nigerian citizens.

"That our two priests, Father Joseph Gor and Father Felix Tyolaha, along with their parishioners were waylaid in the course of the celebration of the holy Mass early in the morning suggests very clearly that their murder was carefully planned," the bishops said. Nineteen people were killed in the attack.

They said recent events showed Nigerians no longer could trust Buhari. They mentioned the repeated calls from them and many other Nigerians, asking the president to take drastic and urgent steps to reverse the violence.

"It is clear to the nation that he has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of the Nigerian citizens," the bishops said.

"Whether this failure is due to his inability to perform or lack of political will, it is time for him to choose the part of honor and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse," they said.

Often, the violence is characterized as a revenge attack, but the bishops asked, "Whom have these priests attacked?"

They cited a Jan. 3 tweet from Father Gor, in which he referred to the Fulani herdsman, a primarily nomadic group. The bishops quoted: "We are living in fear. The Fulanis are still around here in Mbalom. They refuse to go. They still go grazing around. No weapons to defend ourselves."

The priests could have fled, the bishops said, but, true to their vocation, they remained to continue to serve their people right unto death.

"We are sad. We are angry. We feel totally exposed and most vulnerable. Faced with these dark clouds of fear and anxiety, our people are daily being told by some to defend themselves," the bishops said, noting that most people had no weapons to defend themselves.

"How can the federal government stand back while its security agencies deliberately turn a blind eye to the cries and wails of helpless and
(unarmed) citizens who remain sitting ducks in their homes, farms, highway and now, even in their sacred places of worship?"

The bishops recalled that during a Feb. 8 courtesy visit to Buhari, they expressed alarm about security in the nation.

"Since then, the bloodletting and the destruction of homes as well as farmlands have increased in intensity and brutality," they said. "Now our churches have been desecrated and our people murdered on their altars."

They said they had consistently advised their people to remain peaceful and law-abiding, but they felt "violated and betrayed in a nation that we have all continued to sacrifice and pray for."

"We are at a loss as to what excuse again we can continue to give about why things are the way they are in our nation, where a nation's landscape is littered with the bodies of its own citizens," they said.

"We are sad and fear that the clock is ticking. The bomb must be defused quickly before it explodes," they said.

"Nigeria can return to normal times if we put our heads together with sincerity," they said, offering prayers for the victims and for peace in the country.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 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.

As a nation, let's find 'the courage to stand up' and protect our children

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 3:00pm

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Restorative justice should be advocated as a key element in criminal justice reform, according to participants at an April 25 conference in Washington sponsored by the Catholic Mobilizing Network, which champions restorative justice as well as an end to the death penalty.

Just looking at the numbers, recidivism rates for adults are between 65 and 70 percent, according to Tim Wolfe, a sociology and criminal justice professor at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

"Depending on the nature of the restorative justice program, this can be cut in half, and can be even lower," Wolfe said.

He quoted Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, who runs Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles for former gang members. Father Boyle had said, "A job may keep a kid from going back to prison, but a heal -- he'll never go back to prison again." Wolfe said the priest was alluding to the pain many in prison or facing jail time have felt since childhood due to abuse and a lack of love. They committed crimes to try and erase that pain or to feel a sense of belonging.

"This is smart money," Wolfe said during the conference, held at The Catholic University of America, Washington, one of the conference's sponsors. "These are effective programs."

Vicki Schieber, whose daughter was murdered by a serial rapist 20 years ago, said that her initial instinct upon hearing of her daughter's slaying, despite a family steeped in the Catholic faith, was, "I wanna kill him." Eventually, she and her husband determined that capital punishment for the criminal was "not what she would have wanted," and sought to spare his life once the man was charged.

While the Schiebers were not permitted to meet their daughter's murderer, they received a letter eight years after the crime in which he wrote, "I am so sorry that I did this to your family." The Schiebers also corresponded with his mother, who wrote about ignoring her children's pleas for them to leave her abusive husband: "Daddy's being mean." The woman, who died last year, said she should have listened to her children. "I am," she wrote the Schiebers, "the one who murdered your daughter."

"The church's teaching on restorative justice is the best-kept secret of the best-kept secret," which many identify as Catholic social teaching, said Msgr. Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College in Kansas City, Missouri, and a Catholic television and radio program host.

He lamented that the 1994 Get Tough on Crime Act banned the use of federal Pell grants to inmates to advance their education. Donnelly College established its own education-in-prison curriculum in which 420 inmates have taken courses, and 23 have earned degrees. Only four prisoner-students have returned to jail after having committed new crimes after their release.

"It's a drop in the bucket. It's one program in one place. But it works," Msgr. Swetland said.

Kathryn Getek Soltis, an assistant professor of Christian ethics at Villanova University in Philadelphia and director of the school's Center for Peace and Justice Education, voiced her hope that one day justice itself will be defined as restorative justice.

Soltis said society should own up to its "complicity in allowing people who have committed offenses to be people we are allowed to hate."

Not providing education, work or living wages "are crimes, too," Soltis said, "but we just don't have any words for it." Instead, "we cause the system to demonize people that we don't want to consider part of 'us' ... and we've created an economic system to keep this going."

Jesuit Father George Williams, a Catholic chaplain at San Quentin since 2011, said: "Ninety-five percent of the people I work with in prison are addicts today or in there because of drugs."

He agreed with Soltis' point about the economics of incarceration. "There are very few, less than 5 percent," who can't ever be let out of prison, he said. Moreover, Father Williams added, "prison doesn't have to be a hellish experience," although the environment behind bars "depends on what level of cruelty we're willing to tolerate."

Congressional efforts on criminal justice reform, say members of both parties, "depend on a bipartisan consensus," even if one can't be achieved at the moment, said Michael O'Rourke, a policy adviser for the U.S. bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

Sentencing reform is one key aspect of bills awaiting action, O'Rourke said, although restorative justice doesn't seem to be included in them.

More action is in the states, he added, as the majority of people in prisons are there for state and not federal offenses. The cost of housing prisoners and the increasing costs of tending to an aging prisoner population are causing lawmakers to tweak state policy.

- - -

Follow Pattison on Twitter:@MeMarkPattison 


- - -

Copyright © 2018 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.

Restorative justice seen as a critical piece of criminal justice reform

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 3:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Restorative justice should be advocated as a key element in criminal justice reform, according to participants at an April 25 conference in Washington sponsored by the Catholic Mobilizing Network, which champions restorative justice as well as an end to the death penalty.

Just looking at the numbers, recidivism rates for adults are between 65 and 70 percent, according to Tim Wolfe, a sociology and criminal justice professor at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

"Depending on the nature of the restorative justice program, this can be cut in half, and can be even lower," Wolfe said.

He quoted Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, who runs Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles for former gang members. Father Boyle had said, "A job may keep a kid from going back to prison, but a heal -- he'll never go back to prison again." Wolfe said the priest was alluding to the pain many in prison or facing jail time have felt since childhood due to abuse and a lack of love. They committed crimes to try and erase that pain or to feel a sense of belonging.

"This is smart money," Wolfe said during the conference, held at The Catholic University of America, Washington, one of the conference's sponsors. "These are effective programs."

Vicki Schieber, whose daughter was murdered by a serial rapist 20 years ago, said that her initial instinct upon hearing of her daughter's slaying, despite a family steeped in the Catholic faith, was, "I wanna kill him." Eventually, she and her husband determined that capital punishment for the criminal was "not what she would have wanted," and sought to spare his life once the man was charged.

While the Schiebers were not permitted to meet their daughter's murderer, they received a letter eight years after the crime in which he wrote, "I am so sorry that I did this to your family." The Schiebers also corresponded with his mother, who wrote about ignoring her children's pleas for them to leave her abusive husband: "Daddy's being mean." The woman, who died last year, said she should have listened to her children. "I am," she wrote the Schiebers, "the one who murdered your daughter."

"The church's teaching on restorative justice is the best-kept secret of the best-kept secret," which many identify as Catholic social teaching, said Msgr. Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College in Kansas City, Missouri, and a Catholic television and radio program host.

He lamented that the 1994 Get Tough on Crime Act banned the use of federal Pell grants to inmates to advance their education. Donnelly College established its own education-in-prison curriculum in which 420 inmates have taken courses, and 23 have earned degrees. Only four prisoner-students have returned to jail after having committed new crimes after their release.

"It's a drop in the bucket. It's one program in one place. But it works," Msgr. Swetland said.

Kathryn Getek Soltis, an assistant professor of Christian ethics at Villanova University in Philadelphia and director of the school's Center for Peace and Justice Education, voiced her hope that one day justice itself will be defined as restorative justice.

Soltis said society should own up to its "complicity in allowing people who have committed offenses to be people we are allowed to hate."

Not providing education, work or living wages "are crimes, too," Soltis said, "but we just don't have any words for it." Instead, "we cause the system to demonize people that we don't want to consider part of 'us' ... and we've created an economic system to keep this going."

Jesuit Father George Williams, a Catholic chaplain at San Quentin since 2011, said: "Ninety-five percent of the people I work with in prison are addicts today or in there because of drugs."

He agreed with Soltis' point about the economics of incarceration. "There are very few, less than 5 percent," who can't ever be let out of prison, he said. Moreover, Father Williams added, "prison doesn't have to be a hellish experience," although the environment behind bars "depends on what level of cruelty we're willing to tolerate."

Congressional efforts on criminal justice reform, say members of both parties, "depend on a bipartisan consensus," even if one can't be achieved at the moment, said Michael O'Rourke, a policy adviser for the U.S. bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

Sentencing reform is one key aspect of bills awaiting action, O'Rourke said, although restorative justice doesn't seem to be included in them.

More action is in the states, he added, as the majority of people in prisons are there for state and not federal offenses. The cost of housing prisoners and the increasing costs of tending to an aging prisoner population are causing lawmakers to tweak state policy.

- - -

Follow Pattison on Twitter:@MeMarkPattison 


- - -

Copyright © 2018 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.

U.S. Supreme Court shows some support to Trump's travel ban

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 4:03pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the last case before the U.S. Supreme Court this session, it seemed the majority of justices might uphold President Donald Trump's travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries.

Comments made during the hourlong oral arguments April 25 in Trump v. Hawaii emphasized national security reasons for Trump's action.

The challengers to the ban -- Hawaii, several individuals and a Muslim group -- have argued that Trump's policy was motivated by his antagonism toward Muslims and it violates federal immigration law and the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on the government favoring one religion over another.

Trump's campaign pledges, including one where he called for a "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," were raised in court, but Solicitor General Noel Francisco said these comments should not influence the justices because they were made before Trump was president.

Francisco stressed that Trump's basis for the travel ban was a result of concerns about national security and not personal beliefs.

"No matter what standard you apply, this proclamation is constitutional," he added.

Justice Samuel Alito said the travel ban didn't look "like a Muslim ban" as some have labeled it, saying it "only applies to about 8 percent of the world's Muslims."

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked: "Where does the president get the authority to do more than Congress has already decided is adequate" in national security measures. Francisco's response, in short, was that the country's immigration laws provide the executive branch broad authority to decide who can enter the country.

Trump has said the travel ban is necessary to protect the United States from terrorism by Islamic militants. Its current version is indefinite and applies to travelers from five countries with predominantly Muslim populations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also blocks travelers from non-Muslim countries: North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.

Trump's first travel ban, issued right after he took office, was blocked by several U.S. courts. A few months later, a second version of the ban was similarly blocked by several lower courts but the Supreme Court voted last December to allow the policy to take effect until it heard oral arguments about it.

Catholic Church leaders have expressed their objection to the travel ban.

An amicus brief filed March 30 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Legal Immigration Network said the ban singles out "populations of six overwhelmingly Muslim nations for sweeping immigration restrictions" that do not exist elsewhere in the world.

The brief said the president's order showed "blatant religious discrimination," which is "repugnant to the Catholic faith, core American values, and the United States Constitution." It also said the Supreme Court should relegate the order "to the dustbin of history, so it will do no further harm."

The Catholic groups noted that Trump's action poses a major threat to religious liberty and also fails the basic test of religious neutrality. If it stands, they said, it will prevent countless refugees from escaping persecution and starting a new life in this country with the help of church resettlement agencies.

Before, during and after the oral arguments, about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court on the rainy spring morning holding up signs saying: "Refugees Welcome" and "No Muslim Ban" The fairly small crowd should not belie the interest in this case, which received friend of the court briefs from Mormon history and legal scholars, a group of U.S art museums, and Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who criticized Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Anticipating the interest in the case, the court announced in mid-April that it would make the audio of the oral argument available shortly after the court session was over instead of at the end of the week when audios are normally released.

A ruling in this case is expected in late June.

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 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.

Survivor hopes papal meeting will bring end to 'culture of abuse'

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 12:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A survivor of clergy sexual abuse in Chile said he hopes his meeting with Pope Francis will be an opportunity to make a difference and bring an end to a culture within the Catholic Church that disparages victims and makes them feel guilty for coming forward.

"I hope that it is not just about me. I hope I can convey the pain of thousands of people who are still suffering, and that this is the beginning of the end of this culture of abuse and this culture of cover-up among bishops," Juan Carlos Cruz said in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service April 25.

In a statement released by the Vatican April 25, Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo will meet individually with Pope Francis and will stay at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where the pope lives. The pope's individual meetings with the men will take place April 27-29 and then he will meet them as a group April 30.

"The pope thanks them for accepting his invitation," Burke said. "During these days of personal and brotherly encounter, the pope wants to ask their forgiveness, share his pain and shame for what they have suffered and, above all, listen to all suggestions that can be made to avoid the repetition of such reprehensible acts."

The Chilean survivors have alleged that Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno -- then a priest -- had witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. In 2011, Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

During his visit to Chile in January, the pope sparked controversy when he pledged his support for Bishop Barros and said: "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny."

He later apologized to the victims and admitted that his choice of words wounded many.

A short time later, the Vatican announced Pope Francis was sending Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and an aide, Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, to Chile to listen to people with information about Bishop Barros.

Not all of the 64 witnesses spoke about Father Karadima and Bishop Barros; several of them gave testimony about abuse alleged to have occurred at a Marist Brothers' school.

Burke said the pope called for prayers for the church in Chile and hoped the meetings would be "a crucial step to repair and forever avoid the abuses of conscience, power and especially sexual (abuse) in the heart of the church."

Cruz told CNS that there is still much to be done in the fight against clergy sexual abuse, because the attempts at reform have failed to address a pervasive culture that treats historical abuses as "something that happened that's already in recovery" when in reality it is "an open wound that keeps getting deeper."

"I think we need to attack the problem head-on, directly, and deal with that," he said.

While there are good people on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Cruz said it was "pretty shameful" that the commission has accomplished little in helping survivors.

Cruz said he intends to tell Pope Francis "all these things directly."

"He wants to hear the truth, he has an open heart and he's a good man and I'm excited in a good way to be able to speak about these things frankly and with respect with him," Cruz told CNS.

After receiving more than 2,300 pages of documentation from Archbishop Scicluna, Pope Francis acknowledged he had made "serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information."

In a letter to the bishops of Chile released by the Vatican April 11, Pope Francis asked "forgiveness of all those I have offended," and said he hoped to "be able to do it personally in the coming weeks."

The pope said he was convening a meeting in Rome with the Chilean bishops to discuss the findings of the investigations and his own conclusions "without prejudices nor preconceived ideas, with the single objective of making the truth shine in our lives."

Following the release of Pope Francis' letter, Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, president of the bishops' conference and head of the military ordinariate, said the bishops of Chile would travel to the Vatican in the third week of May.

Regarding the pope's meeting with the Chilean bishops, Cruz told CNS he hopes Pope Francis will hold accountable bishops who covered up abuse, rather than punish them "with a cushy job in the Vatican." They should be replaced with good people because "the people in Chile have been pretty scandalized" by the behavior of several members of the church hierarchy.

"I hope too that this -- what's happening in Chile -- sends a (message) to the universal church that this behavior will not be tolerated anymore," Cruz said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 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.

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