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Synod working document seeks 'new paths' of evangelization in Amazon

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 8:33am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church must discover new ways to provide the Eucharist and pastoral support to the people of the Amazon, especially indigenous people threatened by forced displacement and exploitation, a new document said.

The Vatican released the preparatory document for the special Synod of Bishops on the Amazon June 8. The synod gathering in October 2019 will reflect on the theme "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology."

The connection between care for the environment and the pastoral care of the people who live in the region is highlighted throughout the document, because, it said, "protecting indigenous peoples and their lands represents a fundamental ethical imperative and a basic commitment to human rights."

"Moreover," it continued, "it is a moral imperative for the church, consistent with the approach to integral ecology called for by 'Laudato Si'."

The document ended with 30 questions about how the church should respond to specific challenges in the region such as injustice, violence and discrimination, particularly against the area's indigenous people. Responses to the questions will provide material for the synod's working document.

The questions also sought to identify solutions for a variety of pastoral challenges, particularly the region's shortage of priests, which means the "impossibility of celebrating the Eucharist frequently in all places."

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

The region has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

The document's preamble states that "new paths for evangelization must be designed for and with the people of God" who live in the Amazon, an area that is in "deep crisis" due to "prolonged human intervention in which a 'culture of waste' and an extractivist mentality prevail."

Using the method of "see, judge and act," the document began with a description of how the region's rich biodiversity, which provides food and resources for the indigenous population, "is being threatened by expansive economic interests."

Those threats include logging, contamination of rivers and lakes due to toxins, oil spills and mining, as well as drug trafficking.

The destruction of the land and pollution of the rivers have forced many people to move. The indigenous people who are forcibly dislocated, the document said, often are met with "an attitude of xenophobia and criminalization" that leads to their exploitation. Women are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked for "sexual and commercial exploitation," it said.

The preparatory document's section on promoting "pastoral and ecological conversion" highlighted the need to proclaim the Gospel and to "accompany and share the pain of the Amazonian people and to collaborate in healing their wounds."

"Today the cry of the Amazonia to the Creator is similar to the cry of God's people in Egypt," the document said. "It is a cry of slavery and abandonment, which clamors for freedom and God's care."

By focusing on the indigenous people and the care for their land, the church is "strengthened in its opposition to the globalization of indifference and to the unifying logic promoted by the media and by an economic model that often refuses to respect the Amazonian peoples or their territories," the document's third section said.

It also emphasized "relaunching the work of the church" in the Amazon region "in order to transform the church's precariously thin presence" through new ministries that respond "to the objectives of a church with an Amazonian face and a church with a native face."

This includes, it said, fostering "indigenous and local-born clergy" as well as ministerial roles for women in the church.

"Along these lines, it is necessary to identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role which women play today in the Amazonian church," the document said.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, told journalists June 8 that although the church has "a magisterium and a discipline that is already established" restricting priestly ordination to men only, the synod offers a space to freely discuss other ministerial roles for women.

"The emphasis on women -- that they should have a space in the church -- doesn't come from" the preparatory document, Cardinal Baldisseri said. "We can listen to the pope who said that there must be space for women in the church at all levels."

The document does not mention the possibility of allowing married "viri probati" -- men of proven virtue -- to become priests, a question that Pope Francis has expressed a willingness to study.

"We have to study whether 'viri probati' are a possibility. We then also need to determine which tasks they could take on, such as in remote communities, for example," the pope said in a March 2017 interview with German newspaper Die Zeit.

Cardinal Baldisseri told journalists that the synod preparatory document leaves room for discussion on finding solutions to the lack of priests in the area but does not center on "viri probati" as the only answer to the problem.

"I understand the interest but there are many ministries," the cardinal said. "It isn't that those that already exist are definite. The church can also have other ministries. Ministries is an ample word that ranges from the ministry of acolyte to the priesthood."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Church in Congo suspends sacraments during Ebola outbreak

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 12:55pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kenny Katombe, Reuters

By Jonathan Luxmoore

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in Congo said emergency measures will remain indefinitely in place in parishes at risk of Ebola, and urged effective action against the disease by the government of President Joseph Kabila.

"Although Masses are continuing, sacraments such as baptism and confirmation have had to be suspended," said Msgr. Jean-Marie Bomengola, secretary of the church's Social Communications Commission.

"Since we can't foresee how the disease will develop, we can't set out any timescale. But the crisis needs real containment measures, and we're counting on the government to provide them," he said.

Health care workers toiled to head off a feared epidemic in the Equateur province in northwest Congo, where at least 25 people have died of the almost-always fatal disease.

Msgr. Bomengola told Catholic News Service June 7 that at least 1,000 people had been vaccinated and that measures were in place to prevent "any personal contact" among Catholics.

"All precautions are being taken to ensure people don't come too close. It's a highly abnormal situation," he said.

"The church provides a key framework for communication and cooperation, and is at the very center of events, mobilizing preventive initiatives and providing transport and medical care," he added.

UNICEF said June 5 that nearly 300,000 people had been screened since the Ebola outbreak was confirmed May 8 by the World Health Organization.

Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, co-adjutor archbishop of Kinshasa who previously served in the Diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, where the outbreak occurred, decided to suspend administering sacraments to protect churchgoers from contracting the disease.

He said the ban would extend to anointing the sick, exchanging the sign of peace and other acts involving physical contact, adding that a June 3 ordination Mass also had been canceled.

The archbishop added that clergy would dispense Communion to hands rather than mouths and would ensure sacred objects were disinfected before and after every Mass.

The Ebola outbreak coincides with political tension in Congo over preparations for long-postponed December elections as well as violence by armed groups in several provinces.

Msgr. Bomengola told CNS Ebola had "made everything more difficult for the population," adding that there were fears the disease could spread down the Congo River from the trading hub of Mbandaka to Kinshasa, a city of 10 million.

"We're trying to instill a calm hope for better things, to maintain the faith and prevent despair," he said.

"But we also rely on the government to take every effective step to end insecurity and stop this disease. Despite all the anger and hostility around us, normal life has to continue."

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After raid, Ohio bishop says immigration system contributes to suffering

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 11:31am

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The bishop of Cleveland said a recent immigration raid at an Ohio gardening and landscape company "makes clear that our current immigration system contributes to the human suffering of migrants and the separation of families."

In a June 6 statement from the Diocese of Cleveland, Bishop Nelson J. Perez said he felt "a great sadness" for the families affected by the raid and whose lives have been disrupted.

According to news reports, about 200 agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, surrounded two locations of Corso's Flower and Garden Center and arrested more than 100 workers in north-central Ohio June 5. A Washington Post story June 6 said that "families of the arrested workers gathered at St. Paul Catholic Church in Norwalk, Ohio, seeking answers as to the whereabouts of their loved ones."

On Facebook, the immigrant advocacy group Hola Ohio posted photos June 6 of some of the children who had a parent or both parents taken in the raid and who had gathered at St. Paul. In the Facebook post, Veronica Dahlberg, the organization's executive director, said families were "distraught, crying, frightened, missing loved ones and at a loss for what to do." Via Twitter, she said some children remained in day care after the raid.

In the statement from the Cleveland Diocese, Bishop Perez said he offered "prayers, and ask the prayers of all people of goodwill, that the families affected will not be separated in the days and weeks to follow."

He said the bishops of the Catholic Church have a duty to point out the moral consequences of a broken system.

"The church is advocating for comprehensive and compassionate reform of our immigration system so that persons are able to obtain legal status in our country and enter the United States legally to work and support their families," he said. "Since this is a responsibility of our Congress, I would encourage you to speak with your legislators advocating for reform of our present system."

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Maryland parishioners urged to help one another in flood aftermath

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 1:28pm

By Christopher Gunty

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (CNS) -- In the immediate aftermath of the flood that washed through Main Street and other parts of historic Ellicott City May 27, St. Paul Church, perched on the hill above the floodwaters, was able to serve folks in little ways.

The church acted as a way station for those trying to get home, and coordinated transportation for some who could not get to their vehicles. Seven inches of rain fell in one afternoon on the town and nearby Catonsville.

The first couple of days, the parish had limited electricity and no running water, according to the pastor, Father Warren Tanghe. Over the next several days, it served as a base of operations for Baltimore Gas and Electric power crews.

Just six days after the flood, and on the day when some Main Street business owners and residents were allowed brief access to their properties, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori celebrated Mass June 2 for the vigil of the feast of Corpus Christi at St. Paul.

He told a story of how, early in his priesthood, he stopped to visit a woman who was dying. Though he expected to stay for only a short while, when she asked him to stay -- as she did not expect to live much longer -- he stayed with her until she passed away.

In prayer before the Blessed Sacrament the next day, he said, he could imagine the Lord telling him that as the Lord stays with his people, the young priest should do the same.

"It was this early lesson in my priesthood that prompted me to come here today as you cope with the aftermath of severe flooding, a severe hardship coming so soon after the last catastrophic flood in 2016," the archbishop said in his homily. "A number of you, I know, were able to view your flood-damaged properties today and you face difficult questions and decisions as you look to the future."

He acknowledged that a number of people from inside and outside the close-knit community are pitching in to help.

"I came today just to be with you, to pray with you, to offer you a word of love and encouragement, and in this difficult time, to remind you of the abiding presence of the Lord in our midst. For this is what the feast of Corpus Christi is all about -- the true eucharistic presence of Jesus body, blood, soul and divinity," Archbishop Lori said.

"A principal message of today's feast might be summed up this way: As Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist, so we need to be present to those in need," he added.

He said the presence of loved ones can be a comfort in times of tragedy, even if they cannot change the situation. "We also rely on the friendship and love of those who know us well, who know our strengths and weakness, who understand how we react to the curveballs that life inevitably hurls at us in one form or another.

"Jesus is present to us in the same way. Pope Francis often reminds us that the Lord knows us, loves us and cares about us," the archbishop said.

Reflecting on the day's readings about the Eucharist and Christ's sacrifice for us, Archbishop Lori called on the parishioners in Ellicott City similarly to sacrifice themselves for others.

"As we experience the depths of the Lord's love for us, do we not also hear the Lord saying to you and me: 'Love one another as I have loved you'?" he asked. "In reaching out to your friends and neighbors who are enduring this difficult plight, you give evidence that the Christ whom you receive lives in you, speaks with your voice and serves the needs of others with your hands."

The archbishop encouraged the people to allow the eucharistic presence of Jesus to make them more present to one another and give themselves to one another, even in the most trying of times.

"That is the key to rebuilding not merely our town but indeed our very lives," he said.

The archbishop also acknowledged the help of first responders and rescue workers and prayed for Eddison Hermond, a National Guardsman who died after being swept away by flood waters while aiding a shop owner.

After the Mass, Father Tanghe noted that rather than providing shelter and other immediate assistance now, the parish was focused on helping people deal with the grief they are feeling.

"It's not quite a despair," he said, "but a sense of defeat."

Two years ago, people readily said they would rebuild, with an almost fervent spirit. This time, that's not so much the case.

He said his homily the next day would begin and end with hope.

He said that in confession, sometimes he hears words of despair. "One has to acknowledge that. One can't explain why these things happen."

Father Tanghe said he thinks in many ways the impact from this flood will be more extensive than in 2016. He thinks the parish will be called on to help people who have been displaced find longer-term housing.

"People are asking whether they want to rebuild," the pastor said. A lot of that hinges on developing a solid plan to mitigate the potential for flooding in the future, he added.

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Gunty is associate publisher/editor of Catholic Review Media, the media arm of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Gossip destroys Holy Spirit's gift of peace, pope says

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 9:58am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Peace is a gift that can easily be destroyed through petty gossip and speaking ill of others, Pope Francis said.

People who receive and give the sign of peace "should be men and women of peace" and not ruin "the peace made by the Holy Spirit with your tongue," the pope said June 6 during his weekly general audience.

"Gossip is not a work of the Holy Spirit, it is not a work of the unity of the church. Gossip destroys the work of God. Please stop gossiping," the pope said.

Continuing his series of audience talks on confirmation, Pope Francis spoke about the gift of the Holy Spirit that Christians receive in the sacrament.

When a person is anointed with oil, that gift "enters us and bears fruit so that we can then give it to others," the pope explained. The gift is not meant to be tucked away and stored "as if the soul was a warehouse."

While it usually is the bishop, who is a successor of the apostles and guarantor of the unity of the church, that confers the sacrament of confirmation upon person, his role does not exclude the bishop from the Christian duty of charity and love.  

"Some may think that in the church there are masters -- the pope, the bishops, the priests -- and then the workers who are something else," he said. "No, the church is everyone. And we all have the responsibility of sanctifying one another, of caring for others. The church is 'us.' Everyone has their job in the church, but we are all the church."

During the sacrament of confirmation, he continued, the bishop tells the candidate, "Peace be with you," which is "a gesture that expresses the ecclesial communion with the bishop and with all the faithful."

However, that gift can be lost if Christians start saying mean things about each other once they leave Mass.

"Gossip is war," the pope said. "Poor Holy Spirit! (Imagine) the work he has with us with our habit of gossiping!"

Pope Francis urged the faithful to preach the Gospel with deeds and words "that edify and not with words of gossip that destroy."

Like the parable of the talents, he added, the Holy Spirit's gift is a seed that bears fruit when it is shared with others and not "when it is buried because of selfish fears."

"When we have the seed in hand, it isn't meant to be stored in a closet, it is meant to be sown. All life must be sown so that it bears fruit and multiply. We must give the gift of the Spirit back to the community," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Panel looks at how Catholic social teaching can address polarization

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 3:19pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Sister Teresa Maya grew up hearing her "abuela" say, "People understand each other by speaking to one another."

In her grandmother's wisdom, she said, lies a way to address the polarization that seems to affect every aspect of U.S. society today.

Fostering "encuentros," or encounters, on the personal level and people "really being interested in the other side of the story" would go a long way to encourage folks with different opinions to dialogue about all manner of issues with civility, she told an audience at Georgetown University June 4.

Sister Maya, a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word from San Antonio, is president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. She was one of four speakers at the public session of a June 4-6 invitation-only conference on "Though Many, One: Overcoming Polarization Through Catholic Social Thought."

Organizers said the conference was meant to be a starting point to bring about Pope Francis' vision of the church responding to human hurts and social challenges by living out the joy of the Gospel.

Joining Sister Maya on the panel were Helen Alvare, professor of law at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School in Arlington, Virginia; Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich; and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Moderator John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown, asked the audience to "check your impulses" at the door as far as trying to decide which panelists were "conservative" or "liberal."

He asked them to consider who among the speakers "has stood up for the dignity and lives of the unborn" and for women, the vulnerable, immigrants, the poor and families and "against violence in our communities."

"It's really a trick question. Every one of these people has stood up for" all those groups, said Carr.

He asked the speakers what they see as "the major cause or cost of polarization" in the country and how the principles of Catholic social thought could help everyone work for the common good.

"The fear of the other has poisoned our souls. ... We've allowed it to divide us," said Sister Maya, who noted that as an immigrant herself, from Mexico, she brings "a migrant's view to this conversation."

She grew up with a deep fascination of the American idea that all people are created equal, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are human rights that cannot be taken away. In entering religious life, she said, she was convinced Jesus held the clues to create a world where these truths would hold for all.

She still believes in this "narrative of human rights" but said it "is threatened because we live in a polarized society."

"We stay in our bubbles, with people we know," feeding our fears, when "we must realize we breathe the same air," she said. "Unless you can get to know the other, it can justify the most terrible thing. ' The antidote to fear is hope."

Archbishop Gomez said Pope Francis talks a lot about how his pontificate is "not only a change of era" but how this is "an era of change. Everything is changing."

The "simple and most obvious thing" contributing to polarization is "the internet," he said. It is making talking to each other more difficult. Secularization also a major factor, he said.

"We are used to a Christian culture," the archbishop said. "We assume that's the way it is, but the whole country is becoming more and more secular." He also took issue with the prevailing notion that faith and science are incompatible.

"This nation is saying, 'We trust science more than we trust faith,' like there's a contradiction between science and faith, and that's not real," the archbishop said.

Against this backdrop, it is "important to understand who we are, who God is, how we can relate to God," he continued. Catholics are called "to become missionary disciples, to go out of our comfort (zone) and be united as a people and bring the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ to our people. Everything is based on God's plan for humanity, for each one of us."

In addressing current social realities, he said, U.S. Catholics can learn from the church's approach in Latin America. He noted that Pope Francis, being Latin American, follows this "see-judge-act" method of discernment: Seeing what current social realities are, judging them in light of the church's social teaching, then acting to make those realities more just.

Cardinal Cupich also talked about fear as a major factor causing polarization, describing "merchants of fear" actively working in society today.

If you watch kids of different backgrounds playing together, you see "they are not afraid" of one another, the cardinal said. "We are taught to be afraid and we have to own that."

The cost of polarization, he said, "is the division we face in our nation. We are not just separated by ideas but into groups. That's the difference between partisanship and polarization. Partisans used to be able to get things done, to reach across the aisle. But we are polarized, we have our own sources of information."

Such division leads to lawmakers not getting anything done legislatively and people dehumanizing "the other" through rhetoric that is anti-immigrant and racist, he added.

"I think we often refuse to credit different 'gifts'" people bring to the discussion on issues, and so fail to learn from one another, said Alvare. Society being so materialistic also sharply divides people, which is coupled with the fact people are short on time and patience, she added.

"The shortage of time is very much related to economic life," Alvare added. "We don't have time to be patient with people" and listen to other views.

She described receiving violent hate mail in reaction to comments she has made on the human costs of the sexual revolution and how poor women especially are suffering the consequences of this revolution.

Alvare said sharp disagreement is good but people also need to have good facts and sources, and they must pay attention to "tone, tone, tone" when they talk to one another, she said.

"If you feel dizzy and out of whack" in this polarized society, she said, "Catholic social teaching insights would help account for what we're feeling and also (help us) find a way forward."

On moving forward, Sister Maya said that will not happen until the country has an honest conversation about "the unresolved issue of racism," which she said is "at the heart of U.S. polarization."

She also said these times call for "contemplative dialogue," and people need to learn tools to listen deeply for common ground, respect silence and employ an "economy of words." Sister Maya also said lessons on how to dialogue can be learned from how LCWR leaders before her and church officials in Rome, during the Vatican probe of the leadership organization eventually could find common ground and reach an understanding and respect for each side's views.

To move forward on the immigration issue, Archbishop Gomez said "what we all need to see" is that "immigrants are people -- men and women, children, boys and girls." Talk about the nation's legal principles is one thing, he said, "but we must "see these people are just like us" and are coming here "for a better life."

Carr asked if Pope Francis is bringing a new kind of leadership to applying Catholic social thought to today's realities or whether he is continuing the leadership of his predecessors.

Cardinal Cupich replied with a quote he said he has often heard that "captures the continuity": "John Paul II told us what to do, Benedict said why we should do it and Pope Francis says, 'Do it.' ' Pope Francis is ' really an activist pope wanting to make the church a field hospital."

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Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

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Pope prays for victims of Guatemala volcano disaster

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 12:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Luis Rolando Sanchez, CRS

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis sent condolences to Guatemala after a horrific volcanic eruption left more than 60 people dead.

In a June 5 telegram addressed to Archbishop Nicolas Thevenin, apostolic nuncio of Guatemala, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope was "profoundly grieved upon learning the sad news of the violent eruption of the 'Volcan de Fuego' ('Volcano of Fire')."

The June 3 eruption buried entire towns in a thick blanket of ash and debris, causing hundreds to flee the toxic fumes. Although the death toll was at 69 people June 5, authorities believed many more may still be buried under the volcanic rubble.

According to the Vatican newspaper, "L'Osservatore Romano," Guatemala's National Institute of Forensic Studies said only 17 victims had been identified as of June 5. Scientists will have to rely on DNA to identify victims disfigured by burning embers and hot lava.

Firefighters and volunteers were forced to use wooden planks to walk around after the soles of their shoes were melting because of the intense heat, CNN reported June 5.

Pope Francis offered "prayers for the eternal rest of the deceased and for all who suffer the consequences of that natural disaster."

Cardinal Parolin said Pope Francis hoped that families mourning the loss of their loved ones may be consoled and expressed "his spiritual closeness to the wounded and those who work tirelessly in helping the victims."

Meanwhile, Catholic agencies and parishes quickly responded after the eruption by providing shelter and emergency supplies.

"People here in Escuintla have lost everything, family members, homes, crops, their animals," Luis Rolando Sanchez, Catholic Relief Services' emergency coordinator for Latin America, said in a message to agency staff in Baltimore.

He said residents from the affected communities had "lined up all day" June 4 at shelters and collections centers for food and basic needs. "Many of them were missing family members," he said.

"More help will be needed in coming days, especially once we know the extent of the impact," Sanchez continued. "At one of the shelters, the number of people had doubled by Monday night (June 4) and the number of deaths is increasing. Affected communities face the drama of losing family.

"I talked to a woman with three daughters, one of them a newborn barely 27 days old. They, along with her three nieces, survived. Her sister and husband were buried in the eruption. There will be many orphans and widows," Sanchez said.

CRS continued to work with government and local responders as well as Caritas Guatemala, he added.

The agency is accepting donations for the emergency through an online site:

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Women at conference speak up about #MeToo movement, sexual revolution

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 3:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard

By Emma Vinton Restuccia

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Mary Rice Hasson, director of the Catholic Women's Forum and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said at a May 31 conference that "it's no secret that for many months the #MeToo movement has sparked widespread outrage over sexual harassment and a culture that condoned and excused it."

She made her remarks at the "#MeToo Moment: Second Thoughts on the Sexual Revolution" conference sponsored by the Catholic Women's Forum and the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. The event's co-sponsors were the Catholic Information Center, the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Archdiocese of Washington's Department of Life Issues.

The event brought together panels of experts from the fields of education, faith, law, medicine and the social sciences. Drawing on the papal encyclical "Humanae Vitae" and on past and current events, panelists offered their "second thoughts" on the consequences of the sexual revolution as manifested in #MeToo movement.

"Importantly for us here today, it has created space for us to consider some of those questions and whether these harms might share a common root in the sexual revolution," Hasson said. "We step into that space today to begin that larger conversation."

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the conference's keynote speaker, spoke about the shift in values caused by the sexual revolution. He noted the widespread acceptance of secularism, the diminishing of and dismissal of Catholic teaching, especially with regard to sexuality, and the re-evaluation of the effects of sexual activity.

"Up until this sexual revolution, this cultural revolution, the so-called moral revolution ... there was constant, consistent and accepted reference to morality, and such assurance of a moral reference," Cardinal Wuerl said. "We knew there was a moral compass in life. Today that's been greatly undermined, and it's a result of the sexual revolution."

The cardinal pointed out that "we live in this heavily secular world in which the reference point does not include a transcendent point," he said.

He also noted that "beginning in the '60s, beginning with the so-called sexual revolution, was this increasing acceptability of dissent from papal magisterium."

Cardinal Wuerl said that a "healing process" to counter this would include not just repeating the same language many people do not understand, but through engagement, encounter and accompaniment, drawing people back to the unchanged truths of the Catholic faith as passed on through the magisterium.

"You and I in all our efforts to address the second thoughts of the sexual revolution, need to keep one hand on that (Petrine) rock," Cardinal Wuerl concluded.

Mary Eberstadt, author and senior fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, examined the sociological, psychological and medical evidence of the revolution's fallout. She said her hope was that the conference would be "a flagship" of that examination.

She touched on various truths of the #MeToo movement "that expose the shifted cultural plates of the last half century, and the way in which this shift has changed our families, workplaces, romances and lack thereof, politics and culture."

These truths included how private acts have massive public effects seen in the loneliness epidemic, the harms of pornography and the preying of the strong on the weak. Quoting Russian author Leo Tolstoy, Eberstadt said, "'we cannot pretend we don't know these things.'"

The time has come, Eberstadt said, for "a deeper understanding of what a real pro-woman agenda might look like. The time for magical thinking about the revolution is over."  She said that a "wider rethinking begins with understanding things we now know, and the fact we can no longer pretend to un-know them."

At the conference, a panel of female doctors discussed evidence and concerns about the sexual revolution from the standpoint of women's health.

They were: Dr. Monique Chireau, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center; Dr. Marguerite Duane, executive director of Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science, known as FACTS, and adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University; and Dr. Suzanne Hollman, dean and program chair in clinical psychology and assistant professor at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences at Divine Mercy University.

The doctors spoke about the increases in sexually transmitted diseases and other health risks the pill promised to solve, the beauty and effectiveness of fertility-awareness-based methods, and the psychological and emotional trauma of the "hook-up" culture and abortion, especially on women.

"The pill really was the fuel for the sexual revolution," Duane said. She noted how the conference was taking place on World No Tobacco Day, observed every May 31. She said the estrogen-progesterone birth control combination -- just like tobacco -- is a group 1 carcinogen.

"I wonder if we'll have a No Pill Day soon," Duane mused.

Another panel spoke to how the exploitation of women through surrogacy, human trafficking, prostitution, and pornography is growing in our culture today because of the money behind the industries.

Jennifer Lahl of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, spoke on exploitation of women through the fertility industry of surrogacy, egg freezing, in vitro fertilization and more, which has "divorced sex from procreation."

"Children are made and not begotten," Lahl said. "We ought to think about limits to what we can and cannot do to our future progeny."

In her lecture about prostitution and human trafficking, Mary Leary of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America quoted a sex-trafficking survivor: "'Prostitution is #MeToo on steroids.'"

Leary said sex trafficking and prostitution is a $40 million industry in D.C. alone, and pointed out that in the exploitative elements of the sexual revolution, women are seen as one-dimensional objects -- commodities -- to be bought and sold in this "modern-day slavery."

"We're regressing to a time in our history where (it was) socially acceptable that people can be bought and sold in a public space," Leary said. "If you're an object, you don't have a dimension at all, and can be cast away without any concern."

Mary Anne Layden of the University of Pennsylvania warned of the culture of porn and the violent "sexual tsunami" coming out of this.

Helen Alvare of the Scalia Law School at George Mason University concluded the conference by speaking about the power of women's voices in this arena.

"It really did take some decades to have this many qualified women" who lived through the sexual revolution, Alvare said. "We could not have had such a conference 30 years ago." She said she hopes this conversation will begin "an honest dialogue based on well-sourced facts had by honest women."

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Vinton Restuccia writes for the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Update: High court rules in favor of baker in same-sex wedding cake case

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 1:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Wilking, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a 7-2 decision June 4, the Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker in a case that put anti-discrimination laws up against freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated the Constitution's protection of religious freedom in its ruling against the baker, who refused to make a wedding cake for the same-sex couple.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Kennedy noted the case had a limited scope, writing that the issue "must await further elaboration." Across the country, appeals in similar cases are pending, including another case at the Supreme Court from a florist who didn't want to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

The ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission stems from the case argued before the court last December from an incident in 2012 when Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, to make a cake for their wedding reception. Phillips refused, saying his religious beliefs would not allow him to create a cake honoring their marriage.

The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which decided the baker's action violated state law. The decision was upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals. The Colorado Supreme Court wouldn't take the case, letting the ruling stand. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

During oral arguments at the high court, many questions came up about what constituted speech, since the baker claimed he should have freedom of speech protection.

The ruling's opinion honed in on the argument of free speech and religious neutrality, saying the baker's refusal was based on "sincere religious beliefs and convictions" and when the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, the court said, "it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires."

The court opinion also noted the delicate balance at stake in this case, saying: "Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. For that reason, the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights. The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts. At the same time, the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression."

But delving further, the court deemed the specific cake in question was an artistic creation, not just a baked good. It said, "If a baker refused to sell any goods or any cakes for gay weddings, that would be a different matter," noting that the state would have a strong case that this would be a denial of goods and services going beyond protected rights of a baker.

Here, the court said the issue was the baker's argument that he "had to use his artistic skills to make an expressive statement, a wedding endorsement in his own voice and of his own creation."

The court opinion goes on to say that as Phillips' contention "has a significant First Amendment speech component and implicates his deep and sincere religious beliefs. In this context the baker likely found it difficult to find a line where the customers' rights to goods and services became a demand for him to exercise the right of his own personal expression for their message, a message he could not express in a way consistent with his religious beliefs."

Ginsburg, writing in her dissenting opinion, joined by Sotomayor, stressed there are aspects of the court's opinion she agreed with but she "strongly" disagreed with the idea that the same-sex couple "should lose this case" and she felt that neither the commissioners' statements about religion nor the commission's treatment of other bakers who refused to make cakes disapproving of same-sex marriage justified a ruling in favor of Phillips.

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with the Catholic Association, a group that emphasizes religious freedom, described the court's ruling as a "clear win for religious liberty and expression."

In other immediate reaction: Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Phillips, praised the court for showing that "government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society."

Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, stressed the narrowness of the court's opinion, emphasizing that it was based on "concerns unique to the case but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed a friend-of-the court brief in support of the baker, joined by the Colorado Catholic Conference, Catholic Bar Association, Catholic Medical Association, National Association of Catholic Nurses-USA and National Catholic Bioethics Center.

After oral arguments were presented late last year in this case, the chairmen of three USCCB committees issued a statement saying: "America has the ability to serve every person while making room for valid conscientious objection."

The committees' statement also said it hoped the court would continue to "preserve the ability of people to live out their faith in daily life, regardless of their occupation," noting that artists "deserve to have the freedom to express ideas -- or to decline to create certain messages -- in accordance with their deeply held beliefs."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolzim

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Pope: Seek Christ in 'abandoned tabernacles' of the poor, the lonely

Sun, 06/03/2018 - 3:22pm

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) -- As he did with his disciples at Passover, Jesus asks all Christians to prepare a place for him, not in "exclusive, selective places" but rather in uncomfortable places that are "untouched by love, untouched by hope," Pope Francis said.

"How many persons lack dignified housing or food to eat! All of us know people who are lonely, troubled and in need: they are abandoned tabernacles. We, who receive from Jesus our own room and board, are here to prepare a place and a meal for these, our brothers and sisters in need," the pope said in his homily during Mass June 3, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Pope Francis celebrated the feast day Mass not in Rome, as had been the tradition since 1979, but in the seaside town of Ostia, about 16 miles west. Ostia was where St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, died in 387 on a journey back to Africa after St. Augustine's conversion to Christianity.

During his pontificate, Blessed Paul VI celebrated the feast day in different neighborhoods in and around Rome, including in Ostia in 1968.

Pope Francis' evening Mass outside St. Monica Church was followed by a Corpus Christi procession through the streets of Ostia.

A local priest carried the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, surrounded by four men carrying tall poles holding a canopy. Thousands of men, women and children lined the streets, taking photos and reverently making the sign of the cross as the Blessed Sacrament passed them.

Due to his difficulty walking long distances, Pope Francis met the procession at the Church of Our Lady of Bonaria instead of participating in it.

Before the benediction, the pope stood before the Blessed Sacrament, head bowed in silent prayer, while the choir sang "Tantum Ergo," the medieval Eucharistic hymn composed by St. Thomas Aquinas.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the Gospel reading in which Jesus instructs his disciples to find a place to celebrate the Passover.

Although the disciples were supposed to prepare the place, the pope noted, they discover a large room that is "furnished and ready."

"Jesus prepares for us and asks us to be prepared," the pope said. "What does he prepare for us? A place and a meal. A place much more worthy than the 'large furnished room' of the Gospel."

That place here on earth, the pope said, is the church "where there is, and must be, room for everyone."

The Eucharist, he added, "is the beating heart of the church" and strengthens all men and women who partake in it.

When receiving Jesus' body and blood, Christians are not only given their "reservation" to the heavenly banquet, but also nourished with the "bread of heaven," which is "the only matter on earth that tastes of eternity," he said.

All men and women, he continued, have a hunger to be loved and are never fully satisfied, even when receiving "the most pleasing compliments, the finest gifts and the most advanced technologies."

Instead, by receiving Communion and worshipping Christ in the tabernacle, Christians "encounter Jesus" and feel his love.

"Dear brothers and sisters, let us choose this food of life! Let us make Mass our priority!" he exclaimed. "Let us rediscover Eucharistic adoration in our communities! Let us implore the grace to hunger for God, with an insatiable desire to receive what he has prepared for us."

Pope Francis said that by giving themselves in service to others, Christians live "eucharistically" and imitate Jesus who "became bread broken for our sake."

Like the disciples, who were instructed by Jesus to go out to the city to make preparations, Christians also are called to prepare for Jesus' coming "not by keeping our distance but by entering our cities" and tearing down "the walls of indifference and silent collusion."

"The Eucharist invites to let ourselves be carried along by the wave of Jesus, to not remain grounded on the beach in the hope that something may come along, but to cast into the deep, free, courageous and united," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Annual audit of church's abuse allegations shows cautious improvement

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 4:53pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz


WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The 15th annual report on the implementation of the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" shows a decrease in allegations of clergy sex abuse from the two previous years but also indicates the need for continued vigilance since charges were raised by more than 650 adults and 24 minors.

The overall decrease in allegations coupled with the fact that charges of abuse are still being made is something Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, which oversees the audits, finds troubling.

In introductory remarks to the report released June 1, he said: "While progress continues to be made, there are worrisome signs for the future revealed in this year's audit that cannot be ignored."

He said he was most concerned by signs of general complacency such as a shortage of resources available to fully implement programs, failure by some dioceses to complete background checks in a timely manner and, in some cases, poor record keeping.

Cesareo wrote that this "apparent complacency" could indicate that some in the church think "sexual abuse of minors by the clergy is now an historic event of the past."

This view would be untrue, as the current report indicates, he said, adding: "Any allegation involving a current minor should remind the bishops that they must re-dedicate themselves each day to maintaining a level of vigilance that will not permit complacency to set in or result in a less precise and thorough implementation of the charter."

The newly released report -- based on audits conducted between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017 - shows that 654 adults came forward with 695 allegations. Compared to 2015 and 2016, the number of allegations decreased significantly due to fewer bankruptcy proceedings and statute of limitations changes. The report also notes that 1,702 victim/survivors received ongoing support and that all dioceses and eparchies that received an allegation of sexual abuse during the 2017 audit year reported them to the appropriate civil authorities.

According to the charter, 24 new allegations were raised by came from minors. As of June 30, 2017, six were substantiated and the clergy were removed from ministry. These allegations came from three different dioceses and four of the six allegations were against the same priest. Eight allegations were unsubstantiated as of June 30, 2017. Three were categorized as "unable to be proven" and five investigations were still ongoing at the time of the audit.

The report acknowledges the church's ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults pointing out that in 2017, more than 2.5 million background checks were conducted on church clergy, employees and volunteers and more than 2.5 million adults and 4.1 million children have been trained on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report those signs.

Regarding compliance with the charter, two eparchies and one diocese did not participate in the audit this year and all 191 participating dioceses were found in compliance. Of the 63 dioceses/eparchies participating in the on-site audits, three eparchies were found noncompliant.

The report's introductory remarks stress the importance of the honesty of victims and survivors who have come forward.

"It is because of these brave individuals that victim assistance and child protection are now central components of the church," wrote Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the report's preface.

The cardinal stressed that implementing the charter is "not something that can be done by only one person. It takes the effort of multiple people in every diocese and in every parish to ensure that victims/survivors have opportunities for healing, and that the church is a safe place for children and vulnerable adults. "

It is also something that will remain a key part of the church in years ahead, as he said: "We must continually rededicate ourselves to keeping our promise to protect and pledge to heal."

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington, gathers data for the report, and StoneBridge Business Partners, based in Rochester, New York, conducts the annual audits.

The annual report has two parts. The first is the compliance report of StoneBridge, which carried out on-site audits of dioceses and eparchies and reviewed diocesan documentation. Under canon law, dioceses and eparchies cannot be required to participate in the audit, but it is strongly recommended that they do.

The second part of the report is the "2017 Survey of Allegations and Costs," conducted by CARA.

According to the 2017 report, dioceses, eparchies and religious institutes reported $263,809,273 in total costs related to child protection efforts as well as costs related to allegations that from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, which represents a 50 percent increase from the amount reported the previous year.

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Editor's Note: The link goes to the full report.

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Sports on Sundays OK, except when used to skip Mass, says Vatican

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 11:07am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Father Nate Wills

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A new Vatican document cautions against the dangers of highly competitive children's sports, political and economic pressures on athletes to win '"at all costs" and the unsportsmanlike or violent behavior of fans.

The document on sports also calls on every group or institution sponsoring sports programs to have expert-guided child protection policies in place and it urged bishops, parishes and lay Catholics to be proactive in helping "humanize" sports.

The document, "Giving the Best of Yourself," also condoned sports on Sundays as a means of bringing families and communities together in joy and celebration, but only as long as such events are not used as an excuse to miss Mass.

The document was released June 1 by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, and is the first Vatican document on sports, said Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the dicastery's prefect.

In a message to the cardinal, Pope Francis applauded the document and said, "Sport is a very rich source of values and virtues that help us to become better people."

"We need to deepen the close connection that exists between sport and life, which can enlighten one another," said the pope, who often fondly recalls how he and his family cheered on his favorite soccer team when he was a boy.

The 52-page document highlighted the church's positive view of the important values inherent to sport and blew the whistle on the growing threats in the sports world, including corruption, over-commercialization, manipulation and abuse.

The document -- meant for all Catholics and "people of goodwill" -- also was an invitation to the church to offer itself as a valuable resource, partner and leader in safeguarding the dignity of the human person and all of creation.

In fact, it made specific reference to the need to protect the environment when it comes to hosting sporting events and to respect animals involved in sports, ensuring "that they are treated in a morally appropriate way and not as mere objects."

It also mentioned briefly the growing and lucrative business of e-sports, that is, video game competitions and tournaments that award large cash prizes and draw huge numbers of spectators.

While not trying to touch on every problem or concern or pinpoint one sport in particular, the document listed what it saw as four serious challenges that are the result of an obsession with success and the huge economic and political pressures put on sports and athletes: the debasement of the body, doping, corruption and the negative behavior of spectators.

"Sports that inevitably cause serious harm to the human body cannot be ethically justified," it said. Given the greater understanding people now have about the harmful effects of some sports on the body, particularly brain damage, all of society must put the well-being and health of the person first.

People are not machines, it said, and parents, coaches and communities must avoid objectifying players, particularly with expectations they receive medals, scholarships, wealth or break records.

"Aberrations of this kind can be seen in highly competitive children's sports," it said, noting an increase in pushing kids to specialize -- often starting very early in life -- in one sport intensively year-round, which can result in overuse injuries or eating disorders, particularly in girls' and women's gymnastics.

"Parents have a responsibility of showing children that they are loved for who they are, not for their successes, appearance or physical abilities," it said.

Among the rights of life, dignity and freedom that must be protected in sports is protection against abuse, it said.

"Incidences of abuse of children whether physical, sexual or emotional by coaches, trainers or other adults are a direct affront" to minors, it said, so "institutions that sponsor sports programs for youth, including at the elite level, must develop policies with the help of experts that ensure the safety of all children."

The document called on the church to develop and promote an "apostolate for sports" that shows the church's commitment to the integral well-being and development of the human person in sports and to directly initiate sports-related activities at the local level.

It asked for appropriate pastoral plans for players and athletes -- including former professionals who sometimes experience depression and substance abuse when their career comes to an end -- as well as for parents and volunteers.

It called for "an educational strategy" to help coaches, teachers and managers seek the "best, most holistic" ways to humanize sports, and it urged seminaries to include formation in the pastoral care of sport as well as opportunities to practice sports, noting its potential as a way to evangelize.

Santiago Perez de Camino, head of the dicastery's Church and Sport Office, was asked about the impact of seeing religious and priests compete in major competitions, like U.S. Father Stephen Gadberry of Arkansas, who was appearing on the reality show, "American Ninja Warrior."

Father Gadberry and all men and women religious athletes offer "a very beautiful witness of how to join faith with sport," he said.

They also show a church that doesn't wait for people to come to them, he said, but one that goes directly onto the field to meet people where they are.

The document drew upon talks and teachings from Popes Pius X to Francis, as well as St. Thomas Aquinas, bishops' conferences and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It also cited contemporary experts, theologians and athletes, including David Meggyesy, former St. Louis Cardinals linebacker, who detailed the dehumanizing effects of pro-football in his book, "Out of Their League."

Lastly, the document emphasized how sports must always include fun. Competition is meant to fruitfully engage and draw the best out of people, it said, not to face "an enemy who must be annihilated."

Pope Francis, it said, invites people not only to play, but also to "challenge yourself in the game of life," striving for what is good with courage and enthusiasm.

"Don't settle for a mediocre 'tie,' give it your best, spend your life on what really matters and lasts forever," Pope Francis said.

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Archdiocese's joint reorganization plan provides $210 million to survivors

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 6:37pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit

By Maria Wiering

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has reached a consensual plan with a committee representing clergy sexual abuse survivors to resolve its bankruptcy, offering $210 million for restitution to claimants.

The settlement is the largest ever reached in a bankruptcy case related to clergy sex abuse.

"By means of this consensual plan, the archdiocese and its parishes bring definitive resolution to this matter in a way that avoids further litigation and expense, and that allows the local church to carry on with its mission of spreading and living the Gospel Jesus Christ," said Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda during an afternoon news conference announcing the agreement May 31 at the archdiocese's central offices in St. Paul.

Archbishop Hebda expressed gratitude for the survivors who have come forward.

"Without their courage and persistence, today could not be possible," he said. "I've been humbled by their willingness to share their stories with me. To those of you who have done so, I thank you for that gift.

"I recognize that the abuse stole so much from you -- your childhood, your innocence, your safety, your ability to trust, and in many cases, your faith. Relationships with family and friends, relationships in your parishes and communities were harmed. Lives were forever changed. The church let you down, and I'm very sorry."

At an earlier news conference May 31, St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who represented most of the abuse survivors, also announced the settlement, calling it "a story of trauma to triumph."

"This is some affirmation, as well as accountability," he said of the plan while standing with several sexual abuse survivors, their advocates and other attorneys, many of whom wiped away tears throughout the press conference. "This all represents hope, help, healing, and ' courage in the pursuit of truth."

Speaking at Anderson's news conference, Jamie Heutmaker, a survivor who is part of the Unsecured Creditors Committee, which represents survivors in the bankruptcy process, expressed his gratitude for people who have supported him in the nearly five decades since he was abused.

"Today is a great day for us and all survivors," he said. "There's still work to be done, but we've obviously done some really good work here, which I'm really proud of."

The consensual plan includes more than $50 million in increased funding from the archdiocese's previous plan of reorganization, which offered $156 million for restitution. The additional funds came from insurers, archdiocesan funds and parish contributions. The approximately $170 million contribution from insurers is the largest contribution from insurance carriers in the history of diocesan abuse settlements, according to Anderson.

Pending court approval, the plan's $210,290,724 settlement, minus administrative expenses including unpaid attorneys' fees, will be administered for survivor restitution through an independent trustee. As part of the plan, parishes will receive a channeling injunction which ends all litigation against them arising from this matter.

The funds will be available for distribution upon its approval by Judge Robert Kressel, who is overseeing the archdiocese's bankruptcy proceedings.

Archdiocesan leaders hope the bankruptcy can be completely resolved within a matter of months.

The consensual plan was the result of years of mediation between the archdiocese, insurers, parishes and representatives of survivors.

The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in January 2015 amid mounting claims of clergy sexual abuse going back decades against priests and others associated with the church in the archdiocese.

Archdiocesan leaders said reorganization would ensure abuse survivors would be equitably compensated while the archdiocese continued its mission. Mediation began immediately.

In May 2016, the archdiocese filed a plan of reorganization, initially offering $65 million for abuse survivor remuneration. Over the following months, that amount increased to $156 million, primarily through additional insurance company settlements.

As part of its bankruptcy, the archdiocese sold its three chancery buildings on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, as well as a fourth property it owned near Northfield. It later moved its offices to St. Paul's Dayton's Bluff neighborhood to rental property.

In August 2016, the Unsecured Creditors' Committee filed a separate plan for the archdiocese's reorganization, asserting that the assets of 187 parishes in the archdiocese's boundaries, three Catholic high schools and the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota should be merged with the archdiocese's assets in a plan for reorganization. Kressel later ruled that the other organizations' assets did not legally require consolidation. The UCC appealed the ruling twice, but it was upheld by the U.S. District Court in December 2016 and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2018.

While 11 other U.S. dioceses had filed for bankruptcy related to claims of clergy sexual abuse between 2004 and the archdiocese's filing, the archdiocese's reorganization was the first to include competing plans. In March 2017, both plans were sent to creditors, including abuse claimants, for a balloting vote. Abuse claimants voted overwhelmingly for the UCC plan, while other claimants voted overwhelmingly for the archdiocese's plan. The decision for plan approval ultimately rested with Kressel.

In December 2017, Kressel denied both plans and ordered the archdiocese and UCC to return to mediation with the goal of reaching a consensual plan.

In a memorandum explaining his decision, Kressel expressed concern about the eight abuse claimants who had died between then and when the archdiocese entered bankruptcy in January 2015, and about others who might die as the reorganization process "drags on."

The archdiocese, insurance carriers, parish representatives and UCC returned to mediation, ultimately arriving at the consensual plan May 30.

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Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Immigrant kids at border present and accounted for -- and number growing

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 4:58pm

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a "zero tolerance" policy for immigrants crossing illegally into the United States, resulting in children being separated from their families, the number of minors in U.S. custody has grown by nearly 2,000.

At the same time the federal government has only about 1,300 beds left before it has to tap into an existing network of 100 shelters in 14 states.

"The situation is dire," said Jill Marie Bussey, advocacy director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

Sessions announced the policy May 7. As of April 29, there were 8,886 migrant children in U.S. custody. By May 29, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department figures put the number at 10,773.

These numbers don't include the 1,475 children who had been placed with sponsors between October and December 2017 but cannot be accounted for by HHS. While the government made follow-up phone calls to the sponsors, not every sponsor could be contacted, or had returned a phone message.

There had been alarm expressed over the Memorial Day weekend that, with the imposition of the zero-tolerance policy, immigrant children arriving in the United States had been separated from their parents and promptly lost.

While that is not the case, HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said May 28, the Cabinet agency's follow-up calls are not considered required. The HHS refugee office historically has said it is not legally responsible for children once they had been placed.

Bussey begged to differ. "They don't perceive themselves to be responsible for those children any longer, but the truth is we all are," she told Catholic News Service during a May 30 telephone interview from Tucson, Arizona, where CLINIC was sponsoring a conference.

Effects of the imposition of zero tolerance are being felt not just in the U.S. desert, but at ports of call, according to Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, with dual offices in Nogales -- Arizona on the U.S. side of the border, Sonora state on the Mexico side.

"We have about 89 people at the port of entry Miguel, Sonora, waiting to be received by U.S. Customs. Most are from Guatemala. As of this morning, there were 89 people, and 57 of them were children," Father Carroll said May 30. "Some, the majority, are with their families; some are unaccompanied (minors)."

While Customs usually makes a near-immediate determination of the strength of asylum-seekers' cases, now "people are waiting," Father Carroll added. "The first people arrived on Friday (May 25). They've been waiting five days, going on six, to be received by U.S. Customs."

Sessions raised an uproar when he said, "If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law." He made the comments at the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies' spring conference May 7. "If you don't like that," he added, "then don't smuggle children over our border."

Father Carroll said some asylum-seekers near him have made the days-long trek by bus, some by car, others on foot. And what Sessions said has not seemed to filter down to them. "I haven't asked specifically, but most of them have little or no information" on the policy change, he said.

CLINIC's Bussey said there had been a federal policy in place called "family detention" "that's been carried out by administration after administration."

"Unfortunately," she continued, "what we're seeing is a zero-tolerance policy of every child is at risk of being separated from their parent or guardian. Over time we keep on hearing that separation is used as a tool for deterrence, but time after time we see children and their parents presenting themselves at the border because they're fleeing violence."

The mother of a 9-year-old child herself, Bussey said the government is ignoring the "push factors" that drive immigration. "If I'm the mother of 9-year-old and I live in the Golden Triangle (a region in northwest Mexico where the Sinaloa drug cartel has free rein), I know the gangs are going to kill my child. I'm going to take my child with me," she said.

"Seeking asylum is not illegal. What is illegal, what is not consistent or humane, is to turn them around," Bussey added. Instead, she said, federal immigration officials should "say that their lives would be in danger and to let them in."

Family separation is "not only needless and cruel, it threatens the mental and physical health of both the children and their caregivers," said a May 29 statement by American Psychological Association president Jessica Henderson Daniel.

"The longer that children and parents are separated, the greater the reported symptoms of anxiety and depression for the children. Negative outcomes for children include psychological distress, academic difficulties and disruptions in their development," Daniel said.

According to The Washington Post, the latest HHS figures already show an uptick in the amount of time minors are in federal custody without some kind of sponsor or foster-care agreement in place: now 57 days, up from 51 at the close of 2017.

Bussey also doubted Sessions' declaration that the government would criminally prosecute every illegal immigration case, whereas in the pass it had been a civil case.

"Our system is overloaded, period," she said. "Putting more people through a system that's overloaded is invariably trampling people's due process on a daily basis. I can't imagine putting more people through the process is going to make it any better."

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Vatican team investigating abuse cover-ups to return to Chile

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 10:52am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To promote healing after reports of sexual abuse and cover-ups, Pope Francis will send Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos back to Chile.  

Both will visit the Diocese of Osorno "with the aim of advancing the process of reparation and healing of abuse victims," the Vatican said in a statement May 31.

Abuse 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.

Archbishop Scicluna, who is president of a board of review handling abuse cases within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Father Bertomeu, an official of the doctrinal congregation, will depart "in the next few days," the Vatican said.

The Vatican also announced that "the pope will send the president of the Chilean bishops' conference a letter written personally by him and addressed to all the people of God, as he had promised the bishops."

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 pope sent Archbishop Scicluna and Father Bertomeu 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.

Their investigation resulted in a 2,300-page report that was given to the pope.

After reading their report, Pope Francis apologized for underestimating the seriousness of the sexual abuse crisis and acknowledged he made "serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information."

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 in an April 11 letter to the bishops of Chile.

He also summoned the bishops to Rome May 15-17, which resulted in most of the Chilean bishops offering their resignations to the pope.

In a document leaked by Chilean news channel Tele 13 before the meeting with the bishops, Pope Francis said he was concerned by reports regarding "the attitude with which some of you bishops have reacted in the face of present and past events."

The pope also said he was "perplexed and ashamed" after he received confirmation that undue pressure by church officials was placed on "those who carry out criminal proceedings" and that church officials had destroyed compromising documents.

Those actions, Pope Francis said, "give evidence to an absolute lack of respect for the canonical procedure and, even more so, are reprehensible practices that must be avoided in the future."

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Pope names apostolic visitor to Medjugorje

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 9:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named as apostolic visitor to Medjugorje the Polish archbishop he had initially sent to the town as his personal envoy to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople and of the thousands of pilgrims who flock to the site of the alleged Marian apparitions.

The pope appointed Archbishop Henryk Hoser, the retired archbishop of Warsaw-Praga, Poland, to be apostolic visitor to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, for an indefinite period, the Vatican announced May 31.

"The mission of the apostolic visitor has the aim of assuring a stable and continuous accompaniment of the parish community of Medjugorje and of the faithful who go there in pilgrimage, whose needs require special attention," the Vatican announcement said.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, told journalists that Archbishop Hoser "will reside in Medjugorje" and that his mission does not involve investigating the authenticity of the alleged apparitions.

Archbishop Hoser's mission "is strictly pastoral and not doctrinal," Burke said.

The Polish archbishop was appointed in February 2017 as the pope's special envoy to study the pastoral situation in Medjugorje.

At a news conference following his first visit, Archbishop Hoser said that although he has no authority or expertise to discuss the authenticity of the alleged apparitions, it was clear that "there is a special spiritual climate" in Medjugorje.

"The biggest miracle of Medjugorje are the confessions" of hundreds of people each day, Archbishop Hoser told reporters in April 2017

In 1981, six young people claimed that Mary had appeared to them. Some of the six say Mary still appears to them and gives them messages each day, while others say they see her only once a year now.

Diocesan commissions studied the alleged apparitions in 1982-1984 and again in 1984-1986, and the then-Yugoslavian bishops' conference studied them from 1987 to 1990. All three commissions concluded that they could not affirm that a supernatural event was occurring in the town.

In 2010, retired Pope Benedict XVI established a papal commission to study the alleged apparitions; the commission was chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, retired papal vicar of Rome.

The commission's report has not been made public, although some of its points were revealed after Pope Francis spoke about the commission's work.

Pope Francis acknowledged that pilgrims to the Marian site deserve spiritual care and support, but he also expressed doubts about claims of the continuing apparitions of Mary in Medjugorje.

During his flight to Rome from Fatima, Portugal, in May 2017, the pope told journalists that, regarding the Medjugorje commission's work, "three things need to be distinguished."

"About the first apparitions, when (the 'seers') were young, the report more or less says that the investigation needs to continue," the pope said, according to the English translation posted on the Vatican website.

"Concerning the alleged current apparitions, the report expresses doubts," he said. Furthermore, "personally, I am more 'mischievous.' I prefer Our Lady to be a mother, our mother, and not a telegraph operator who sends out a message every day at a certain time -- this is not the mother of Jesus."

Pope Francis said his "personal opinion" is that "these alleged apparitions have no great value."

The "real core" of the commission's report, he said, is "the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact" that thousands of pilgrims go to Medjugorje and are converted. "For this there is no magic wand; this spiritual-pastoral fact cannot be denied."

After the pope made his remarks, Servite Father Salvatore Perrella, a member of the commission, told Catholic News Service, "The commission did not make a definitive pronouncement." However, he said, in discussing the apparitions that supposedly began June 24, 1981, and continue today, the commission opted to distinguish between what occurred in the first 10 days and what has occurred in the following three decades.

"The commission held as credible the first apparitions," he said. "Afterward, things became a little more complicated."

The Medjugorje commission recommended that Pope Francis lift the ban on official diocesan and parish pilgrimages to Medjugorje and that he designate the town's parish Church of St. James as a pontifical shrine with Vatican oversight, the Servite said.

Such decisions would be "an intelligent pastoral choice," Father Perrella said, and they could be made whether or not the church officially recognizes the apparitions as "worthy of belief." Allowing pilgrimages and designating the church as a shrine would be a recognition of the prayer, devotion and conversion millions of people have experienced at Medjugorje.

At the same time, he said, it would ensure that "a pastor and not a travel agency" is in charge of what happens there.

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Hawaii parishioners displaced by lava ask for prayers

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 3:25pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Marco Garcia, Reuters

By Anna Weaver

HONOLULU (CNS) -- Paul and Rose Utes, members of Sacred Heart Parish in Pahoa, had to leave their home when lava from the Kilauea eruptions moved into their section of the Leilani Estates subdivision in Puna on the Big Island.

At the time they heard the mandatory evacuation order, the couple, who own Black Rock Cafe in Pahoa, were prepping to cater food for Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva's parish visit that first weekend in May.

While the Utes were at their house retrieving their belongings, a fissure opened up across the street, sending a lava fountain shooting into the air. They later returned to get some of their dogs that had run off after the fissure explosion and a few more things. But with the road to their home fairly inaccessible, they haven't been back recently.

"It's just frustrating not knowing what's going on around your house," Paul said May 23 in a telephone interview with the Hawaii Catholic Herald, Honolulu's diocesan newspaper.

Yet Paul said they haven't accepted much relief support beyond temporarily staying in a friend's home because they feel there are other people who need it more. Their business hasn't been much affected by the eruptions so far. And they have insurance, though they still have to pay the mortgage on a house they can't live in.

The Utes, who have lived in Leilani Estates since 1991, now need to find a long-term place to stay.

"I don't want these houses. I want my house," Paul recalled his wife saying sadly as they drove around looking at potential rental properties that would allow their six dogs.

"If everybody could just keep all the people affected in their prayers," Paul asked. "I know a lot of people that lost their houses and need help. And they're devastated. And I know quite a few people who didn't have insurance and lost their houses."

Sacred Heart parishioners Richard and Nancy Robbins also live in Leilani Estates, but are four or five streets north of the current lava activity.

"God has looked out after us," Richard said.

According to Hawaii County Civil Defense, 82 structures to date have been destroyed by lava in this latest outflow from Kilauea Volcano, erupting continuously since 1983. Lava so far has covered more than 2,223 acres.

While Hawaii County issued an evacuation order to subdivision residents, some residents like the Robbinses have gone back to living in their homes. They moved from Miami to Hawaii 19 years ago and love Leilani. Now they regularly drive around the subdivision checking on the homes of friends and neighbors.

"It's one thing hearing about it, one thing seeing pictures on TV," Richard said, but another to be there. "We got halfway down a street and we realized that (the rest of the) street didn't exist anymore."

Richard said fellow parishioners have been wonderful. One couple offered their deployed son's home as a temporary residence. The parish food bank asked if they needed food. A non-Catholic local friend has also offered their home further away on the island for Richard and Nancy if and when they might need to leave Leilani again.

"We aren't in any need, but it's nice to hear people ask you, even if you don't need it," Richard said.

"Leilani is a very, very tight community," he added. "I'm just hoping we can survive. I don't want to have to leave Hawaii."

At Sacred Heart Parish in Pahoa town, you might not know there's major volcanic activity going on just a few miles away if not for the busy parking lot full of news crews and aid workers, said Lindbergh Marzo, Sacred Heart's pastoral council president.

The parish, which is 3.5 miles from the eruption, has allowed media and relief workers to use the church's lot and office bathrooms. At one point the parish hall was a temporary crisis information center. Other parishes have been dropping off donations there as well.

St. Joseph Parish in Hilo filled a 15-person passenger van with food, water, blankets, pillows, clothing, gift cards and other items for Puna evacuees and dropped it off at Sacred Heart May 22. Parishioners also raised a $3,224 cash donation for a local relief fund.

Father Paul Li, vicar forane of the diocese's East Hawaii vicariate, said the parishes in the vicariate took up a second collection for volcano aid during Masses May 19 and 20, which was Pentecost Sunday.

Father Li's parish of St. Theresa in Mountain View, which is about 18 miles from Pahoa, and Holy Rosary Mission in Keaau collected $1,164 in their second collection and also delivered blankets, tarps, towels and other items to Sacred Heart for distribution to those displaced residents that need them.

"Some people are grateful for where they are and some people have a lot of anxiety," Marzo said of the people he knows displaced by the volcano activity.

Leilani Estates is a rural subdivision with large lots on a 22-mile grid. The smaller nearby Lanipuna Gardens also is affected. At least 24 fissures have opened up since May 3, spewing molten rock on what used to be a quiet subdivision, forming a lava lake, sending magma to the ocean and expelling poisonous sulfur dioxide gas.

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Editor's Note: The Honolulu Diocese's three social service agencies -- Office of Social Ministries, HOPE Services Hawaii and Catholic Charities Hawaii -- are helping those affected by the volcanic activity. For information on how to donate to the agencies go to or

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Weaver writes for the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu.

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Mass of support planned for Maryland town hit hard again by massive flood

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA

By Paul McMullen

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- For the second time in three years, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore will celebrate a Mass at St. Paul Church in the historic town of Ellicott City, where residents are again taking stock after another devastating flash flood.

Weekend worship for the feast of the Most Holy Trinity had concluded by the afternoon of May 27, when sustained, torrential rains turned Main Street below the church into a raging river that washed away automobiles, buildings and human life -- just as it had July 31, 2016.

Archbishop Lori will celebrate Mass June 2 at St. Paul, which was established in 1838, 66 years after the mill and railroad town was founded at was then a strategic location along the Patapsco River.

St. Paul is situated relatively safely above the Main Street thoroughfare, which once again produced reminders of the destructive power of nature, documented on social media as many prepared to observe Memorial Day.

A courthouse that dated to 1840 was among the structures destroyed in the historic town, which is part of the Baltimore metropolitan area and the county seat of Howard County.

Eddison Hermond, a National Guardsman from Severn, was enjoying lunch with friends when he went to the aid of a woman and was washed away, toward the Patapsco. Two days later, search and rescue teams located his body on the Baltimore County side of the river.

After the flash flood of 2016, St. Paul served as an emergency shelter. According to Father Warren Tanghe, pastor, the loss of water to all of its buildings and power in some of them precluded it from serving that function this time.

"Our facilities are not suitable for community service," Father Tanghe said May 28 in an interview with the Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan news outlet.

A day later, he reported that "all our buildings now have power and water, and our electronics are up."

St. Paul is being used as a staging area for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews that are restoring utilities.

The flood was felt at Resurrection-St. Paul School, north of old Ellicott City. According to Karen Murphy, principal, one of her teachers "lost" his residence on Main Street.

"I have eight other staff members and dozens of families who bailed out basements this weekend, but are grateful that's all they had to do," Murphy said. "Our theme this year has been 'Be Strong, Be Courageous.' ... That's appropriate for right now."

To the north of downtown Ellicott City, the Our Lady's Center Marian Shrine was closed Memorial Day for what a message on its website described as "some cleaning of debris," but noted that it "escaped damage" thanks to improvements made to its grounds after the 2016 flood.

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McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review, the news website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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