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Updated: 46 min 27 sec ago

Pope recognizes martyrdom of U.S. Christian Brother

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 9:28am

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Christian Brothers of the Midwest

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of De La Salle Christian Brother James Miller, who was born in Wisconsin and was shot to death in Guatemala in 1982.

The recognition of the martyrdom of Brother James, or Brother Santiago as he also was known, clears the way for his beatification; the date and location of the ceremony were not immediately announced.

Publishing news about a variety of sainthood causes Nov. 8, the Vatican said Pope Francis had recognized as "blessed" a 15th-century Augustinian brother, Michael Giedrojc.

The recognition amounted to the "equivalent beatification" of Brother Giedrojc, who was born in Lithuania and died in Krakow. With the pope recognizing that over the course of centuries the brother has been venerated by thousands of Catholics, the normal process leading to beatification is not needed.

Brother Miller, the U.S. martyr, was born Sept. 21, 1944, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He met the Christian Brothers at Pacelli High School there and, at the age of 15, entered the order's juniorate in Missouri. After the novitiate, he taught Spanish, English and religion at Cretin High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, for three years. He also was in charge of school maintenance and served as the football coach.

Some websites refer to him as "Brother Fix-it" and an icon featured on the website of the Christian Brothers of the Midwest shows him wearing overalls.

In 1969, he was sent to Nicaragua, where he taught and helped build schools. According to the De La Salle Brother's website, "His religious superiors ordered him to leave Nicaragua in July 1979 during the time of the Sandinista revolution. It was feared that since he worked for the Somoza government, he might be at risk."

Returning to the United States, he again taught at Cretin High School. But in January 1981, he was sent to Guatemala, where he taught at a secondary school in Huehuetenango and at a center that helped young indigenous people learn job and leadership skills.

While on a ladder making repairs to the building on the afternoon of Feb. 13, 1982, he was shot several times by three hooded men and died instantly. No one was ever arrested for his murder. Funeral services were held in Guatemala and in St. Paul before he was buried in Polonia, Wisconsin.

In other decrees published Nov. 8, Pope Francis recognized miracles attributed to the intercession of Edvige Carboni and Benedetta Bianchi Porro, meaning both Italian laywomen can be beatified. Carboni died in 1952; Porro died in 1964.

The pope also recognized the martyrdom of more victims of the Spanish civil war: Angel Cuartas Cristobal and eight of his classmates at the seminary in Oviedo, who were killed between 1934 and 1937; and Mariano Mullerat Soldevila, a physician, husband and father killed in 1936.

In 10 other causes for canonization, Pope Francis signed decrees recognizing that the candidates for sainthood lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way, which is the first step toward beatification. The decrees included the cause of Bishop Alfredo Maria Obviar of Lucena, Philippines, founder of the Missionary Catechists of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus. The bishop died in 1978.

 

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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.

People unwilling to be challenged by God's mercy will grumble, pope says

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 9:18am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The sin of grumbling and complaining is often triggered by a desire to avoid being challenged or upset by seeing Christ's unexpected mercy at work, Pope Francis said.

The way Christ gave witness was "something new for that era," the pope said, because it was thought that being with sinners "made you impure, like touching a leper."

That is why the "doctors of the law," scribes and Pharisees stayed far away from those who sinned and why they complained about Jesus' unusual ways, the pope said Nov. 8 in his homily during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

They would read but never understand what God meant by "I desire mercy, not sacrifice," the pope said. But Jesus gives concrete witness to this mercy by the way he interacts with people, ending old practices and taking risks.

The pope's homily looked at the day's Gospel reading of the parable of the lost sheep, according to St. Luke.

When sinners drew close to Jesus to listen to him, the Pharisees and scribes "began to complain, saying, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'"

The scribes didn't say, "Oh look! This man seems good because he is trying to convert sinners," the pope said. Instead they start making negative comments to undercut Jesus' witness.

Rather than engaging in dialogue or "trying to resolve a conflicted situation, they secretly grumble, always in whispers because they have no courage to speak frankly," he said.

This negative reaction to the way someone gives witness or to "a person that I don't like" exists on all levels: in families, between individuals, in parishes and dioceses, even in nations and politics, he said.

"This is terrible -- when a government is not honest, and it tries to smear its adversaries with complaining, whether it be defamation, calumny," the pope said. Dictatorships, for example, take control of media outlets and, through them, "begin to grumble, to belittle all those who are a danger to the government."

Jesus, however, reacts to complaining not by condemning the scribes but by using the very same method they always employed against him -- by asking a question, the pope said. In the Gospel story Jesus asks, "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the 99 in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?"

The Pharisees and doctors of the law, Pope Francis said, figure it makes more sense to let the one go in order to keep the larger number safe.

"This is why they don't go speak with sinners, they don't visit tax collectors, they don't go because (they think), 'Better not get tarnished by these people, it's a risk.'"

"They are incapable of forgiving, of being merciful, of receiving," the pope said. "They choose the opposite of Jesus," who does seek out the one sheep and when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy.

That is the other thing the doctors of the law don't understand -- the joy and celebration of the Gospel, the pope said.

Giving witness to God's mercy attracts many people and "makes the church grow," the pope said. But it also provokes or irritates others, who start to grumble, using their complaints like a shield "so that this witness does not harm me."

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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.

Catholic agencies closely monitor giving after clergy sex abuse shock

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 2:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mark Blinch, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Leaders and fundraisers at Catholic organizations are cautiously monitoring the level of donations and gifts as the end-of-the-year giving season approaches, hoping that the clergy sexual abuse scandal won't negatively affect their bottom line.

While most of the professionals contacted by Catholic News Service said it is too early yet to see what effect, if any, the abuse crisis may have on giving, some are taking steps to reassure donors that money contributed to vital ministries is not going for settlements to abuse victims or payments to attorneys.

The crisis is just one factor that concerns the leaders. There's also the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act. It's effect on giving remains a question mark. "People remain confused about it," said Franciscan Sister Georgette Lehmuth, president and CEO of the National Catholic Development Conference.

"The main thing is no one knows. It's way too early," Patrick Markey, executive director of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, told CNS.

Beyond that, some organizations have offered the expertise of their members to individual dioceses and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in areas of communications and finances as the bishops prepare to publicly address the abuse crisis during their fall general assembly Nov. 12-14 in Baltimore.

One effort to prevent a drop off in donations has been initiated by Catholic Charities USA. Dominican Sister Donna Markham, the organization's president and CEO, sent a letter to all donors Oct. 31 expressing concern about calls to withhold donations to any Catholic institution.

"This concerns me deeply," Sister Markham wrote. "I am very worried about the consequent impact this will have on many children and families living in poverty or on the edges of poverty right now."

The letter continues, explaining that Catholic Charities agencies annually serve 10 million people nationwide with emergency food, health care and other services. "Catholic Charities donations do not fund the bishops to the dioceses and cannot be used for that purpose," the letter said.

In an interview, Sister Markham said, "Anybody who is working in Catholic organizations right now is being hit by the fallout from the abuse crisis. We have been faced with some of our significant donors saying, 'No more money to Catholic Charities until the bishops straighten out this mess.'"

She said any impact will be known only after the holidays. "But people are calling us daily saying, 'Take me off your mailing list,'" she said.

"The issue here is that if anyone is really concerned or worried that somehow their donation will be misdirected and be used to fund the abuse situation, I think they need to be clear that we are not allowed to do that," Sister Markham added.

It's the devotion to mission that Sister Lehmuth holds up as key to helping the Catholic organizations weather any potential loss in donations.

She said her organization has urged development professionals at Catholic entities to "remind people how your money is being used."

"Don't wait until the end of the year," Sister Lehmuth said. "Keep reminding them what good your money is doing. And remind them of the good that the church is doing too."

Donations to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association have remained stable in recent years, but the organization is continuing to press how it is helping Christian communities in troubled areas of the world, according to Michael J. L. LaCivita, director of communications.

He said Catholic organizations are facing "a perfect storm" in the abuse crisis, the tax cut law and partisan political rancor in the U.S. that has caused people to carefully weigh where to send their money.

CNEWA has received letters from donors expressing anger about the bishops' failure to maintain moral authority over the church, LaCivita told CNS. He described the letters as "well thought out," offering carefully crafted words that express people's moral outrage.

"But the correspondence doesn't hold us responsible," LaCivita said, even though some writers have voiced concern that funds could be used for abuse legal settlements because bishops serve as the organization's trustees.

"People want answers and they want to have their anger heard," he added.

At The Catholic University of America, fundraising has continued to meet annual goals, said Scott Rembold, vice president for university advancement.

"We're not hearing a lot of people holding the university accountable for the crisis," Rembold told CNS, saying about 125 people had contacted the school since June when reports surfaced that Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick had allegedly abused seminarians years ago. Of those, about two dozen said they were not going to donate specifically because of the reports, he said.

The crisis has caused the university to put on hold a plan to build a residence for priests taking graduate level courses. Rembold said the project called for a new wing to be added to Hurley Hall with a kitchen and chapel.

Because bishops were involved in raising money for the effort, university officials and the bishops on the board of trustees jointly felt it was best to put the project aside and that it could be reviewed in the future, Rembold said.

In a different path, two organizations have reached out to the bishops offering expertise and action steps to address the anger and concerns that people have.

Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, or FADICA, convened a working group to address the abuse crisis. Alexia Kelly, the organization's president and CEO, told CNS that members generated "ideas and questions and recommendations and opportunities for action either together or independently."

"Our members really feel they have a responsibility as donors and philanthropists not to perpetuate practices or lack of practices that may enable or perpetuate abuse," she explained.

FADICA members will convene in February for the organization's annual meeting to discuss its recommendations to the USCCB.

Donors want to ensure, Kelly said, "that adequate safeguarding practices and policies are in place in all the ministries they support inside or outside of the church, and they would continue to explore ways they as philanthropists can support a comprehensive culture of safety in all levels of the church."

Meanwhile, at the Leadership Roundtable, lay Catholic professionals from various fields have stepped up to offer their expertise to assist the bishops as they addressed the sex abuse crisis.

The organization formed after the 2002 sex abuse crisis emerged with the goal of providing dioceses with lay experts who could help institute best practices in offices and ministries to ensure trust.

Kim Smolik, Leadership Roundtable's CEO, said the organization has received calls from more than 50 dioceses seeking assistance since the August release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that examined a 70-year period, beginning in 1947, in six Catholic dioceses. The report said that in that time span there were claims that 300 priests and other church workers had abused about 1,000 minors. It also claimed the church covered up abuse allegations and brushed aside victims.

Roundtable participants are stressing to dioceses that communication is key, Smolik explained, adding that donors are unlikely to withdraw their gifts, but that they want to know that the church is addressing the root causes of the current scandal.

"Laypeople are looking for the church to be responsive and repentant and say what has gone wrong. They are looking for a plan forward, looking for the plan to be implemented and they are looking to be communicated with all along the way," Smolik said.

"Laypeople want to be part of the solution."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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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.

People unable to give have become slaves to possessions, pope says

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 9:12am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Life is for loving, not amassing possessions, Pope Francis said.

In fact, the true meaning and purpose of wealth is to use it to lovingly serve others and promote human dignity, he said Nov. 7 during his weekly general audience.

The world is rich enough in resources to provide for the basic needs of everybody, the pope said. "And yet, many people live in scandalous poverty and resources -- used without discernment -- keep deteriorating. But there is just one world! There is one humanity."

"The riches of the world today are in the hands of a minority, of the few, and poverty -- indeed, extreme poverty, and suffering -- are for the many," he told those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The pope continued his series of talks on the Ten Commandments, focusing on the command, "You shall not steal," which reflects respect for other people's property.

However, he said, Christians should also read the commandment in the light of faith and the church's social doctrine, which emphasizes the understanding that the goods of creation are destined for the whole human race.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the "primordial" universal destination of goods does not detract from people's right to private property, he said. However, the need to promote the common good also requires understanding and properly using private property.

"No one is the absolute master over resources," he said, which reflects the "positive and wider meaning of the commandment, 'Do not steal.'"

Owners are really administrators or stewards of goods, which are not to be regarded "as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself," the pope said, citing the catechism.

Being in possession of material goods brings with it much responsibility, the pope said.

If hunger exists in the world, the pope said, it is because the needs of the economic market come first, for instance, when keeping prices up means demanding that food be destroyed or thrown away.

What is lacking, he said, is "a free and farsighted business sense that assures adequate production and fair planning, which ensures fair distribution."  

The pope underlined the importance of viewing possessions and wealth from the Christian perspective of gift and generosity, saying "what I truly possess is what I know how to give."

"If I know how to give, I am open, I am rich," not only in possessions but in generosity, knowing it is a duty to give so everyone can have a share, he said. "In fact, if I am unable to give something it is because that thing owns me, I am a slave, the thing has power over me."

The devil always enters people's lives "through the pockets" with money, the pope added. "First comes the love for money, the scramble to own, then comes vanity" and bragging about one's wealth, he said, "ending with pride, arrogance. This is how the devil operates in us."

Instead, ownership must be an opportunity to multiply those goods "with creativity and use them with generosity and that way grow in charity and freedom," he said.

While the world breathlessly seeks to have more and more, God -- rich in mercy -- redeemed the world by making himself poor, paying a priceless ransom on the cross, he said.

"What makes us rich are not goods, but is love," the pope said. "Life is not a time for owning things but for loving."

For Christians, the full sense of "Do not steal" means loving with what one owns, taking advantage of one's means as a way to love others as best one can, the pope said. "This way your life becomes good and ownership truly becomes a gift."

 

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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.

Daughter's murder becomes chance for restorative justice for her killer

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 3:02pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- What could have been another senseless murder in a society with too many of them already was transformed into restorative justice for the killer and healing for the victim's parents.

Kate Grosmaire and her husband, Andy, then in deacon formation, had been to Palm Sunday Mass at their parish in Pensacola, Florida, in 2010 and returned home to work in their garden. They heard the doorbell ring -- an unusual occurrence in their neighborhood, Kate recalled in a Nov. 5 presentation sponsored by the Catholic Mobilizing Network, which advocates for restorative justice and an end to the death penalty.

At the door was a victim's assistance coordinator and a county sheriff's deputy with the grim news: "Your daughter's been shot." Ann Grosmaire was just 19 years old. Kate said their first impulse was to get in touch with her boyfriend, Conor McBride, to tell him the news. Then came the gut punch: "Conor's the one who shot her."

What followed was a Holy Week unlike any the Grosmaires or their parish had ever experienced. Ann lay in a hospital in grave condition while her parents grieved. "It's a miracle she's alive," one doctor had told them. "We didn't see the miracle," Kate said, although in hindsight, noted Andy, now a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, "we got to say our goodbyes to her."

Unexpected moments of grace took place. "I saw a spontaneous rosary outside" the hospital, Deacon Grosmaire remembered. Realizing they needed cat litter, the Grosmaires told someone and by the time they returned home one night, 40 pounds of it had been put on their front porch. Another day, four clergy stopped by to visit, one after the other, none of them acting in concert with each other.

Most surprising of all: Everyone in jail gets to select four people who can visit them. Conor McBride put Kate Grosmaire's name on his list.

Kate, who was part of her parish's healing ministry, was preparing to tell McBride that she loved him and forgave him. "What do you want me to tell him for you?" she asked her husband. Deacon Grosmaire said he had "heard" Ann telling him, "Forgive him, forgive him" -- an instruction he was prepared to brush off like so many favors teenagers seek from their parents.

Later, though, Deacon Grosmaire saw a vision of Jesus next to Ann in the bed, which he interpreted as a sign that Ann was going to be with Jesus in heaven. He relented. "Tell him I love him, too," Deacon Grosmaire told his wife.

When the respirator keeping Ann alive was turned off -- on Good Friday, at 3 p.m. -- the next stage began.

The Grosmaires said the state's attorney explained to them that "we wouldn't have to do anything," Kate said, as the judge would offer a jury a choice of first- or second-degree murder. The attorney, Paul Campbell, said until the case reached the court, his office had "flexibility," including filing manslaughter charges that could net a five-year prison sentence.

Although Campbell offered that as a hypothetical outcome, the Grosmaires seized on the possibility, but didn't know how to articulate it until an Episcopalian minister pointed to restorative justice as a possibility. "You Catholics are all about restorative justice," he told them.

Restorative justice asks three basic questions, according to Caitlin Morneau, director of restorative justice for the Catholic Mobilizing Network: "What harm was done? Who was harmed? How can we as a community work to repair the harm as best as possible?"

It took a lot of doing, but the Grosmaires persuaded Campbell to conduct a restorative justice circle in which McBride, his parents, the Grosmaires, the state's attorney and the judge would all participate to come up with a sentence acceptable to all, another tenet of restorative justice. The Grosmaires insisted McBride not be brought to the circle in shackles, as was jail policy -- a request allowed by the jail.

It took time to prepare all the participants; it was 14 months after the shooting before the circle was convened. "It was the first time restorative justice was ever tried in Florida for a capital crime -- and maybe in the whole nation," Kate Grosmaire said.

It was then that the Grosmaires heard the circumstances behind the shooting.

Ann and McBride, himself only 20, had been arguing as of late. That morning was another fight. "It blew up into a breakup fight," Deacon Grosmaire said. "Conor said he couldn't go on like this, so he went back into the house to get his father's shotgun. He was going to shoot himself." Ann, who had gotten into her car, "followed him back into the house," he added. McBride turned and fired one shot through one of Ann's eyes. "He was immediately sorry for what he did and called the police."

Hearing the story was "the one time I physically hurt," Deacon Grosmaire told Catholic News Service after the talk at the St. John Paul II Shrine.

In the circle, Deacon Grosmaire said Michael McBride, Conor's father, made a revelation of his own: "It's my fault. I've been angry for five years (after a brother of Conor's had died), and I made Conor angry, too."

"Paul Campbell said he would never have thought about talking to the McBrides at all," said Kate Grosmaire, who, two years ago, put their family story into words in the book "Forgiving My Daughter's Killer: A True Story of Loss, Faith and Unexpected Grace."

What, the judge asked, would be a just sentence? Kate suggested five to 10 years in prison, plus 10 years of probation. Deacon Grosmaire suggested 10-15 years plus 10 of probation. The McBrides said, "We agree with them." "I don't know how they could," the deacon said, "because we couldn't agree with each other."

Campbell recommended, and the judge accepted, a prison term of 20 years and 10 years' probation, plus other conditions stipulated by the Grosmaires: taking anger management classes (McBride did so); talking about relationship violence (McBride made a public service announcement on the subject); and McBride committing to work on the issues closest to their daughter Ann's heart that she would have pursued had she lived.

"We didn't push for a lighter sentence," Kate Grosmaire said. "We wanted to push for a more meaningful sentence."

Deacon Grosmaire told CNS there is "both" the feeling of pain of having to relive Ann's murder with each talk and a feeling of release when talking about it. The couple underwent counseling; "more than 90 percent of couples divorce after a child dies," he said.

There is room for more restorative justice efforts, Deacon Grosmaire added. With Florida's tendency to put more prisons in its rural panhandle to create more jobs in the region, he said, "we've got more prisoners than Catholics" in the diocese, where Catholics number 65,211.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

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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.

National Review Board chairman seeks fix to address charter 'loophole'

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 2:06pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The National Review Board chairman called for changes to the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" to "make it a less ambiguous document" because despite nearly every diocese meeting its standards in third-party audits, some bishops are facing scrutiny about their handling of reports of wayward priests.

Francesco Cesareo, the board's chairman since 2013, told Catholic News Service Nov. 5 that board members have raised concerns for "a long time ... that the audit instrument may not be getting at information that we need to get."

He also expressed "frustration" that new questions have surfaced about how some bishops responded to clergy sex abuse, especially after pledging openness and transparency after the 2002 crisis exploded.

"This is much more of a crisis of a failure of leadership," he said.

"It is frustrating because on the one hand, you know that the church has put in place all of these policies and procedures, which have definitely made a difference. All of these allegations are historic. (There are) very few new ones," he said.

"What's frustrating is that there's been this collapse in leadership," Cesareo continued. "That's the real frustrating part. There hasn't been a recognition to the level of responsibility that needs to be taken on the part of leadership to address this in a way that minimizes this from possibly happening in the same way again."

Cesareo's concerns came in response to a report published Nov. 4 by The Boston Globe and The Philadelphia Inquirer newspapers that examined ways it said the U.S. bishops have failed to police themselves even since their 2002 gathering in Dallas about clergy sex abuse when they adopted the charter.

The all-lay National Review Board, established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, oversees compliance by dioceses with the charter. It has no role in oversight of bishops.

Under the charter, each diocese and eparchy undergo an annual audit to ensure compliance with it. Each audit report includes recommendations for corrective action where shortcomings are discovered.

Cesareo described a section of the charter that outlines the audit process as "ambiguous in some ways" because at times the auditing firm must make judgments "when things are not exactly clear." The charter also allows bishops to respond that they are "doing minimally what the audit requires" when questions are raised, he said.

"There's clearly a loophole," he said.

"It points out that they (bishops) need to come up with a new instrument that is going to get at information that we're currently not getting," he added. "We need to go back to the charter and revisit it again to make it a less ambiguous document so there's some clarity in terms of what must and must not be done in terms of compliance."

StoneBridge Business Partners is the current company conducting the audits of dioceses and eparchies. The auditing firm based in Rochester, New York, has been doing them since 2011 and is under contract to conduct audits through 2019. The USCCB is seeking applications from firms to conduct the audit for the next three-year cycle beginning in 2020.

Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, said he will outline the National Review Board's concerns during a report at the bishops' fall general assembly Nov. 12-14 in Baltimore.

Cesareo pointed to another ambiguity in the charter: the requirement for a diocesan review board to meet regularly.

"Well, what does that mean?" Cesareo asked. "In some dioceses that means only when there's an allegation. That may not be for several years. And if the review board is not meeting, then the bishop is not getting the information he needs."

Cesareo also would like to see the charter revised to include a requirement that all sex abuse allegations go before a diocesan review board.

"If the bishop himself or his gatekeeper can decide which allegations can go to the review board and which don't, that's another way that a bishop can protect a perpetrator priest," he said.

Cesareo recommended making the charter more "prescriptive to include bishops" and called for revising the statement on episcopal commitment "with something that has teeth in it."

The commitment statement, found at the end of the charter, includes a paragraph that obliges bishops and eparchs to "apply the requirements of the charter also to ourselves, respecting always church law as it applies to bishops."

It also commits a bishop or eparch who is accused of sexual abuse of a minor to inform the apostolic nuncio in Washington. Likewise, it calls for any bishop who becomes aware of sexual abuse of a minor by a fellow bishop to notify the nuncio.

Cesareo told CNS that the audit concerns have been discussed jointly in meetings among three members of the review board and the bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. He said it was too early for recommendations to be presented to the bishops at their Baltimore assembly.

The assembly is an opportunity for the bishops to begin restoring trust among the faithful by taking steps to demonstrate that they are serious about addressing sex abuse within the church, whether cases are decades old or new, Cesareo said.

"We do have to recognize that there are many bishops who understand that change has to take place," he said. "I think they will be a driving force not only next week in Baltimore but going forward."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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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 focuses on 'good politics' for 2019 World Peace Day message

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 10:02am

IMAGE: CNS/Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The world will not have peace without people having mutual trust and respecting each other's word, the Vatican said as it announced Pope Francis' 2019 World Peace Day message would focus on "good politics."

"Good politics is at the service of peace" will be the theme for the Jan. 1 commemoration and for the message Pope Francis will write for the occasion, said a Vatican communique published Nov. 6, the day midterm elections were being held in the United States to determine the political makeup of Congress for the next two years as well as a number of posts for state governors and city mayors.

The pope's full message for World Peace Day, traditionally released by the Vatican in mid-December, is sent, through Vatican diplomats, to the leaders of nations around the world.

The Vatican said Pope Francis' message will underline how political responsibility belongs to all citizens, especially those given the mandate "to protect and to govern."

"This mission consists in safeguarding law and in encouraging dialogue among stakeholders in society, between generations and among cultures," the Vatican said.

"There is no peace without mutual trust. And the first condition for trust is respecting one's word," it said.

Political involvement is one of the loftiest expressions of charity, it said, and it brings with it a concern for "the future of life and the planet, of the young and the least, in their thirst of fulfillment."

When people's rights are respected, then they will start to feel their own "duty to respect the rights of others," the Vatican note said.

The rights and responsibilities of each person help foster people's awareness of belonging to the same community with others and with God, it added.

"We are thus called to bring and proclaim peace as the good news of a future where every living being will be respected in its dignity and rights."

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Serving country, aiding soldiers second nature for Medal of Honor winner

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 12:23pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By Zoey Maraist

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- When describing life-altering decisions and brave moments of selflessness, former Army Staff Sgt. and Medal of Honor recipient Ronald Shurer speaks succinctly and matter-of-factly, as if his actions were the most natural thing in the world.

Why did he enlist after 9/11? It didn't seem right not to, he replied.

Why did he become a medic? To take care of the troops.

What was going through his mind during a mission gone wrong in Afghanistan? His first and only prayer was that his wife and infant son, Cameron, would be OK if he died. And for the next several hours, he focused on one thing at a time while caring for the soldiers being shot all around him. Service is second nature for him.

Shurer was born on the anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor -- Dec. 7, 1978, in Fairbanks, Alaska. His parents met in the Air Force, and his father continued to serve while Shurer was growing up. After graduating from Washington State University, Shurer applied to join the Marines but was rejected due to an old injury.

"Boy, that was a bad mistake. But they made up for it, right?" President Donald Trump noted during a ceremony Oct. 1 at the White House to award Shurer the Medal of Honor for actions he took while serving in 2008 in Afghanistan.

Shurer was studying economics in graduate school when terrorists hijacked four planes and killed thousands of Americans on 9/11. The attack on American soil, reminiscent of the Japanese assault he learned about as a child, inspired Shurer to reapply to the military. In 2002, he was accepted into the U.S. Army. He later became a Green Beret.

Why join the Special Forces? "It seemed liked another challenge, another way to push, to do a little bit more," he told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Arlington Diocese.

Shurer and his wife, Miranda, met online in 2004. They married a year and half after they began dating, weeks before he deployed to Afghanistan. It was during his second tour, in April 2008, that the harrowing battle occurred.

"It started just like every other mission," said Shurer. Their job that day was to capture or kill targets of Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, or HIG, a large faction of the anti-coalition militia that operated in the Shok Valley of eastern Afghanistan.

"Everybody (got) up really early; we'd usually go out with 100 Afghan commandos and our team, roughly about a dozen Americans. We got up on helicopters, flew 30, 45 minutes. The helicopters flew away and it was very cold, very quiet. We were in a little river valley just looking up at the mountains."

The lead team of their group was working its way up the mountain when they were attacked with guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Shurer moved from the rear to the front and began to treat the injured, returning fire when he could.

"I was 100 percent convinced I was going to die. It was six and a half hours of being shot at," he said. "It was just a series of moments ' trying to figure out which one of the wounded guys needs the most care. What's the best thing I could be doing right now?"

One bullet went through his team sergeant's arm and hit Shurer on the helmet.

"It felt like I got hit in the head with a baseball bat," he said. He was so covered in other's people's blood he wasn't sure if he was hurt. But his friend Dillon said he was all right and he continued providing life-saving medical care. When he returned to base later that night, he discovered a bullet had grazed his arm.

Many of the men were so injured they couldn't walk down the mountain. So Shurer and others wrapped nylon tubing under the arms of the wounded and lowered them down a cliff.

"All that time, bombs are still going off," he said. Eventually, all the men and the bodies of an Afghan interpreter whom Shurer knew as CK and an Afghan commander were loaded onto the helicopters. "We weren't leaving them," said Shurer.

About a month later, Shurer returned to the States. Today, he is a Secret Service special agent. "It seemed like a good way to continue to serve. I like the mission," he said.

In 2011, he and his wife had a second son, Tyler Edris, whose middle name is the real name of the Afghan interpreter who was killed in action. "(CK's) dream was to come to America and to join the Army," said Shurer. "It was important to (Miranda and I) that a little piece of him did make it over here."

Shurer said his Catholic faith plays an important role in his life and in his family's life, especially since he was diagnosed with lung cancer last March.

Since the diagnosis they have spent a lot of time with Father Robert C. Cilinski, pastor of the Church of Nativity in Burke, "just processing all this," he said. "He's an important part of our family."

Shurer is undergoing chemotherapy but is able to work on the operations side of guarding the president. "Now I make sure someone else is always protecting him," he said.

Being chosen as a Medal of Honor recipient came as a complete shock to the unassuming veteran. Shortly after the battle, he and several of his teammates were awarded the Silver Star, the third highest award for valor in combat.

At the White House ceremony for the Medal of Honor, Trump put the blue ribbon and golden star around his neck in front of his family, teammates and members of the armed services.

"Cameron, Tyler, we stand in awe of you father's courage," said Trump in his remarks. "He's the best dad and role model two boys could ever ask for."

As Shurer stood to applause, he looked stoically around the room, and then gave a quick smile and wink to the boys in the front row.

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Maraist is a staff writer at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.

 

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Peacemaking begins at home by saying 'no' to rivalry, pope says at Mass

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 10:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- World peace must begin in individuals' hearts and in their families by saying "no" to pride and rivalry, Pope Francis said.

"When we read news about wars -- think about the starvation of children in Yemen, which is a fruit of war -- 'it's far away, poor babies,' but why don't they have anything to eat?" the pope asked during his homily Nov. 5 during Mass in the chapel of his residence.

The Mass was celebrated just days after news media reported the death of 7-year-old Amal Hussain, a Yemeni girl, whose photo by Tyler Hicks in the New York Times in mid-October brought renewed attention to the devasting impact the war in Yemen is having on innocent civilians.

"The same war that we make in our homes, in our institutions" by engaging in rivalry and gossip grows exponentially and leads to real wars that kill people, the pope said at his morning Mass.

"So," he said, "peace must begin there: in the family, in the parish, in institutions, at the workplace by always seeking unanimity and agreement and not one's own interests."

In the day's Gospel story from St. Luke, Jesus tells a leading Pharisee that when he hosts a banquet he should not invite his friends and relatives, who will feel obliged to repay him, but invite the poor and needy; "Blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you."

Jesus' point, the pope said, is to avoid acting only out of one's self interest and choosing friends only based on the benefits they can bring.

Thinking only of how a relationship can be a benefit is a form of selfishness, he said, while Jesus preached the exact opposite: gratuity, which "broadens one's horizons because it is universal."

In fact, he said: "Jesus came to us not to collect things or form an army. No, no. He came to serve us, to give us everything freely."

In the day's first reading, the pope said, St. Paul advised the Philippians to be "of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart," because choosing one's friends based on what one can gain always divides a community.

"Rivalry and vainglory," or excessive pride, are the two things that always run counter to harmony and agreement in a family or community, the pope said.

In families and even in parishes, he said, gossip often is born of rivalry because people think the easiest way to grow in importance in the eyes of others is to "diminish someone else through gossip."

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Landscape for those with disabilities changed since bishops' statement

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 4:34pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the 40 years since the U.S. bishops approved their "Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons With Disabilities" in 1978, the landscape for persons with disabilities has changed both within the church and within society, and largely for the better.

"Some things have changed in the 40 years. If anything, disability is seen as part of a normal life. It's ordinary, not exceptional," said Jan Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, who has been part of the organization since its founding in 1982.

Disability, she noted, is "part of the living process. People are born with disabilities, or have an accident, and (there's) aging. With the design (accommodations) and the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) and all, people recognize that it's a part of life and not unusual."

That makes the bishops' statement "still as relevant and important as when it was issued in 1978," she said.

"Our role was to get it implemented around the country. Pastoral workers and families were pushing for it," Benton told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 31 telephone interview.

Persons with disabilities "have a life within the church and they were very important to the church," she added. "Way back then, the bishops were saying things that they're saying now, that everyone has gifts to bring to the church community. The community is lacking if people are missing. My favorite quote is, 'There can be no separate church for people with disabilities.'"

The ADA played an important role in furthering the bishops' statement, Benton said: "We influenced the ADA, but the ADA built a consciousness in people: 'Well, if I can go to a restaurant and go shopping, then I should be able to worship in my faith community.'"

Today, there is "even more emphasis on the giftedness that people bring to the table. ... Everybody needs the grace of the sacraments. There's even less of an emphasis on inclusion and a recognition of belonging," Benton told CNS. "You hear the word 'belonging' a lot in secular and Catholic circles," she added, because Catholics with disabilities belong "by virtue of their baptism. If you believe that, then you think differently in how you minister, how you set things up in the church."

Benton said, "There's more an emphasis on relationship than there is on programming. When people come to church, they want to be appreciated for who they are, and make friends."

One change is apparent even with the document itself. When first issued, it was titled "Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Handicapped Persons," and the word "handicapped" was used again in 1988 in a 10th-anniversary reflection by the bishops on the original text.

Benton said Loyola Press is now in the sixth year of presenting an award to parishes that have exemplary practices for those with disabilities, with past awards going to parishes in the Archdioceses of Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington and the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota.

However, a parish need not win an award to make all of its members feel included.

At the twice-yearly "Special Needs Mass" at Jesus the Divine Word Parish in Huntingtown, Maryland, in the Archdiocese of Washington, "we try to highlight the gifts of our special needs community. We invite them to be involved in whatever ministry they would like. They respond well," said Father John Dakes, the pastor. "We try to make sure they (liturgical ministers) are all from the special needs community."

The parish also has an "Everyone Belongs" ministry to foster inclusiveness in parish life, he added. Faith formation for those with special needs also is offered.

Father Dakes told CNS the effort has started slowly. "Families feel constrained by pressure or something to keep their kids at home. They don't want to cause distraction, they don't want to cause tension," he said. But it won't deter him because "anything worthwhile is worth continuing doing," the priest added. "I've been involved in this ministry in four parishes, three of which I've begun myself. In each it's taken off," including one that became its own nonprofit organization.

In Redford Township, Michigan, which hugs Detroit's northwest border, the former grade school at Our Lady of Loretto Church has become the home for the West Detroit Catholic Deaf community, which sponsors a weekly Mass with a deaf priest celebrating most Sundays.

Communication can be a problem, said Michelle Kulpa, community president. "We're both using different languages. Sign language is a foreign tongue, if you will, because most hearing folks don't really understand," she told CNS in a Nov. 1 telephone interview with the aid of an interpreter. "We don't really communicate too deeply unless we have access to an interpreter. If we have an interpreter, we can carry out some pretty nice communications.

"I can actually speak fairly well and sign, so I can communicate with people with my voice and read lips. I can't actually hear them speaking. So, I'm kind of like the liaison between the deaf world and the hearing world."

Kulpa said their usual priest, Oblate Father Michael Depcik, heads to a northeast suburb, Roseville, to celebrate a second Mass for deaf Catholics nearby. That Mass is live-streamed to allow those who cannot attend in person to still participate.

"My goal, if it's at all possible, is maybe suggest something for Pope Francis, to suggest for the cardinals that they go ahead and encourage the members so they watch the deaf Mass that we are providing. Then after they watch, they can get Communion," Kulpa said. "It makes things so much easier and meaningful."

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Follow Mark on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

 

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All Souls feast is time to remember, to hope, pope says

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 1:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- The Mass for the feast of All Souls is "realistic, concrete" in calling Catholics to remember the people and events of their past, to consider how they live today and to hope for eternal life with God and their loved ones who preceded them, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating an outdoor Mass Nov. 2, the feast of All Souls, in Rome's Laurentino cemetery, the pope said remembering "those who walked before us" is not only about the beloved dead, but also about remembering that each person has a history, a family and is part of something larger than themselves.

"Remembering is what strengthens a people because they feel rooted," they have an identity and history, he said. "Memory reminds us that we are not alone. We are part of a people."

With hundreds of people gathered at the windy cemetery where their loved ones are buried, Pope Francis pointed to the tombstones and the mausoleum behind the crowd, noting that they represent "the many people who have shared part of our journey."

"It is not easy to remember," the pope said. "Often we tire at the thought of looking back, of asking 'What happened in my life, my family, my people,' but today is a day for remembering."

Obviously, the feast day is more difficult for some people, including a weeping young couple the pope met before Mass when he visited the children's section of the cemetery and the "Garden of Angels," an adjoining section for the unborn; parents who have experienced a miscarriage can opt to have their children buried there rather than having a hospital dispose of the remains.

Pope Francis walked slowly between the small tombstones decorated with stuffed animals, pinwheels and balloons, and he left flowers on several of the graves.

But, the pope said in his homily, the feast day is also "a day of hope," and the day's second reading from the Book of Revelation "describes what awaits us: a new heaven and a new earth."

The image of the new, heavenly Jerusalem, he said, tells believers that "beauty awaits us."

Faith gives sure "hope that we will meet again, hope that we will arrive where there is that love that created us, where love awaits us, the love of the Father."

The feast of All Souls also includes a call to follow God's path in order to live eternally with him. That path, the pope said, is outlined in the Beatitudes in St. Matthew's Gospel.

"These beatitudes -- meekness, poverty in spirit, justice, mercy, pureness of heart -- are lights that accompany us so that we do not take the wrong path," the pope said.

"Let us ask the Lord today," he said, "to give us the grace to never lose or hide the memory" of loved ones, the grace to continue to hope and the grace "to understand what are the lights that can accompany us on the journey so that we do not err and so we can arrive where they await us with such love."

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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.

'Sand Nativity' scene to display in St. Peter's Square

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 12:25pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jesolo Tourism Office

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although sand castles and sculptures usually conjure up images of hot summers on the beach, the Vatican will unveil a massive Nativity scene made entirely of sand during the cold Roman winter.

According to the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, the Nativity scene displayed in St. Peter's Square will feature a 52-foot wide sand sculpture from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice.

The intricate sculpture, along with a 42-foot-tall red spruce tree donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, will be unveiled at the Vatican's annual tree lighting ceremony Dec. 7.

Bas-relief sand sculptures, like the one that will be featured in St. Peter's Square, are a tradition in Jesolo which, since 1998, has been the home of an annual sand sculpture festival.

At the helm of the sculpture project, dubbed the "Sand Nativity," is U.S. sculptor Rich Varano from New Smyrna Beach, Florida. According to the city's website for the Nativity scene, Varano is an accomplished sand sculptor with over 40 years' experience and has organized various international sand sculpture festivals, including the annual event in Jesolo.

Varano is joined by 11 artists from around the world, including Damon Farmer from Kentucky and Canadian artist David Ducharme, who are assisting in creating the massive "Sand Nativity" before its December unveiling.

Jesolo mayor Valerio Zogga presented sketch designs of the project in December 2017 to Archbishop Francesco Moraglia of Venice. The process of creating the sculptures involves compressing sand and water into blocks that are then sculpted to life-size figures.

Unlike the sand castles vacationers often see disintegrate by a single touch or the occasional passing wave, the compression allows for a more durable sculpture that is able to withstand light rain.

The "Sand Nativity" scene and tree will remain in St. Peter's Square until the feast of the Lord's Baptism Jan. 13, L'Osservatore Romano reported.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Detroit Archdiocese unveils 'Unleash the Gospel' missionary movement

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 3:35pm

IMAGE: CNS illustration/courtesy Detroit Catholic

By Mike Stechschulte

DETROIT (CNS) -- What began as a rallying cry for the Archdiocese of Detroit is slowly building into a full-fledged missionary movement called "Unleash the Gospel."

Inspired by Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron's 2017 pastoral letter on the missionary transformation of the archdiocese, the movement was being launched at parishes in southeast Michigan the weekend of Nov. 3-4.

It is serving to help the faithful continue in what diocesan leaders called a journey of transformation and spiritual renewal centered on Jesus and the life-changing message of the Gospel.

Hundreds of volunteers were to be dispatched to all 218 parishes. The volunteers were commissioned to encourage parishioners to take up the mission of renewal through a six-day challenge.

The challenge, which includes a digital component, asks Catholics to devote five minutes per day to learn and pray about what it means to be a church on mission filled with joyful, missionary disciples.

"We have heard the Holy Spirit speak clearly of God's missionary plan for our archdiocese. We are called to go back to the original mission of the church and to share the good news of the Gospel -- to unleash the Gospel -- throughout southeast Michigan and beyond," Archbishop Vigneron said in a statement.

"It is with a renewed spirit of hope and faith in the Lord Jesus that I invite the faithful throughout the archdiocese to embrace this mission and walk with us this path to the kingdom of God," he said.

At the core of the initiative, which follows the 2016 archdiocesan synod on evangelization, is the need to make the message of salvation readily accessible and available to a culture that often seems to have forgotten Jesus, said Father Stephen Pullis, archdiocesan director of evangelization, catechesis and schools.

"'Unleash the Gospel' really is a missionary movement of the Holy Spirit that seeks to invite people to consider how God might be active in our age," Father Pullis said. "It's not enough to simply say we believe in Christ. We need to equip evangelizers by inviting people to become joyful, missionary disciples and learning how to share that message with others."

In a sense, he explained, the movement is about returning to the church's roots of proclaiming the "kerygma," or the initial, basic message of salvation: that humans were created in God's image, man and woman betrayed God's friendship through sin, and Jesus Christ was sent to repair that relationship through his saving death and resurrection.

The initiative also was designed to teach people to live that basic message of salvation as being true -- which includes sharing that Gospel with others.

The archdiocese planned to do that through a multi-pronged effort that includes an overhaul of the way the church communicates and engages with the faithful, said Edmundo Reyes, director of communications.

"'Unleash the Gospel' is a movement," Reyes said. "Think about what a movement is. At its core, a movement is when something is wrong that needs to be right, and enough people know about it and are willing to do something about it."

In introducing the initiative and its digital components, 550 volunteers were to visit parishes. Reyes said it was crucial to meeting people on the "digital continent."

In addition, the archdiocese rolled out a new digital news service and website Oct. 29. Called Detroit Catholic, the service includes daily email, video, audio and social components.

It succeeds the archdiocese's newspaper, The Michigan Catholic.

In 2019, the archdiocese plans to launch a separate magazine and online evangelization and faith-formation platform centered on "Unleash the Gospel."

The archdiocese also planned to introduce a podcast in November and make resources available to parishes to help parishioners becoming bold Christian witnesses.

Matthew Hunt, a youth minister at St. Isidore Parish in Macomb, was to be among the volunteers visiting parishes. He said he is excited about the possibilities the initiative creates.

"Not everyone knows what Unleash the Gospel is, but if we do this right, it's going to be huge," Hunt told Detroit Catholic.

Susan Wit of St. Hubert Parish in Harrison Township said it is inspiring to see the Catholic Church taking a lead in using modern communication tools.

"It seems like we're always two steps behind because there's always something new that the young people are into that we don't know about yet," said Wit, another volunteer. "I think it's a good starting point to get people interested and aware. We're the jumper cables to get people excited about it."

Reyes said part of the weekend's challenge is helping people to see "Unleash the Gospel" not as a letter, which will unavoidably age with time, but as a Spirit-led transformation of the archdiocese.

"That's the difference between a pastoral letter and a movement: You read a pastoral letter, but you join a movement," he said. "A movement grows stronger the more people join. We need to go all in."

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Stechschulte is editor-in-chief of Detroit Catholic, the digital news service of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

 

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One man glad to be in court to see priest plead guilty to abuse

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 12:25pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Darrell Sapp, courtesy Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Father David Poulson of the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty Oct. 17 to felony counts in connection with sexual assaults against one boy and the attempted assault of another boy, Jim VanSickle was there to witness it.

VanSickle, 52, said Father Poulson assaulted him when he was a teenager.

"It was very rewarding for me in the sense that I was able to look at him (and) watch him plead guilty to sexual charges," VanSickle told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 31 telephone interview from Pittsburgh, where he now lives.

According to VanSickle, Father Poulson was one of just two priests -- out of 301 clerics and other church workers named in the August Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses -- to be subject to criminal charges for abuse committed within the state's statute of limitations.

VanSickle said his own abuse occurred 37 years ago.

This is why he wants reform of the state's statute of limitation when it comes to sexual abuse. Pennsylvania's eight Catholic dioceses, as well as the state Senate, have backed the creation of a victims' compensation fund for abuse claimants whose assaults took place before the statute of limitations.

VanSickle told CNS the fund may be of help to some victims who have financial problems or who don't want to endure a civil trial. But a fund, he said, "would not expose the information pertaining to each one of these predators, and that information could possibly bring light to other victims or abusers, so we would not want that being suppressed."

The other argument against a compensation fund, VanSickle added, is that 'It doesn't give us our day in court, and that's not about money."

VanSickle said he was 15 when Father Poulson abused him, adding the Pennsylvania statute of limitations prohibits both criminal charges from being filed or a civil suit being brought against Father Poulson.

Under state law, victims who were over age 18 at the time of the abuse have two years to file civil cases. Victims who were under the age of 18 when the abuse occurred have 12 years after their 18th birthday to file civil suits.

The Pennsylvania bishops have argued a statewide compensation program is better than lifting the statutes of limitation on claims, even for a one- or two-year period, to allow suits to be filed for current time-barred civil claims would "inevitably result in bankruptcy for dioceses."

"Bankruptcy would cripple the ability of a diocese to provide compensation and healing for survivors, while vastly reducing or eliminating social service programs that greatly benefit all Pennsylvanians by serving some of the most at-risk people in our communities," they said in a recent statement.

VanSickle said he supports a one-time, two-year window for survivors of past child sexual abuse who were previously blocked from seeking civil damages to seek redress in the courts.

Also backing the change is the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. Statutes of limitation, it argues on its website, "imposed arbitrary time limits which do not provide the time, distance and personal healing from sexual trauma that many survivors require before they are able to pursue justice and accountability from the individuals who harmed them, and in some cases, institutions that protected the perpetrators."

The crimes to which Father Poulson pleaded guilty in a county courthouse in Brookville, Pennsylvania, were corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children -- both of which are third-degree felonies under state law. Father Poulson took the boys, who were between the ages of 8 and 18, to a remote cabin -- on acreage co-owned by the priest and a Pennsylvania State Police sergeant -- between 2002 and 2010.

Father Poulson, who has been ordered by Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie to not present himself as a priest, is scheduled to be sentenced in mid-January. VanSickle said he plans to be in court then, too.

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People must choose: path toward holiness or nothing, pope says

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 10:53am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Saints are not just the well-known men, women and young people on the liturgical calendar, Pope Francis said on the feast of All Saints.

They include simple people "from next door, our relatives and acquaintances who now are part of that 'immense multitude'" in heaven, he said, which makes the Nov. 1 feast of All Saints "a family celebration."

"Saints are close to us, rather they are our truest brothers and sisters. They understand us, they love us, they know what is truly good for us, they help us and wait for us. They are happy and they want us to be happy with them in paradise," he said.

Before reciting the Angelus Nov. 1 with people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pope talked about God's call to holiness and happiness, which entails following the beatitudes. Thousands of people braved the uncertain weather to join him as scattered showers alternated with torrential downpours.

"The Gospel says, 'Blessed are the poor,' while the world says, 'Blessed are the rich.' The Gospel says, 'Blessed are the meek, while the world says, 'Blessed are the bullies.' The Gospel says, 'Blessed are the pure of heart,' while the world says, 'Blessed are the cunning and pleasure-seekers,'" the pope said.

But those who are the true victors in the end are the saints, not the world, and the saints "exhort us to choose their side, the side of God who is holy," he said.

"Let's ask ourselves which side are we on? Heaven or earth? Do we live for the Lord or for ourselves? For eternal happiness or for some immediate gratification?" he asked.

People need to ask themselves whether they really want to be holy or are they content being Christians who believe in God and respect others, "but without going overboard."

The pope said that the Lord, "who asks everything of us," offers in return true life and the happiness for which people were created.

"Therefore, either holiness or nothing!" he added.

From their place in heaven, the saints are "cheering for us so that we choose God, humility, meekness, mercy, being pure of heart, so that we develop a passion for heaven rather than the world," he said.

The saints also want people not just to listen to the Gospel, but to put it into practice by "walking the path of the beatitudes," which does not require doing "extraordinary things, but to follow every day this path that brings us to heaven, to family, back home."

After praying the Angelus, the pope greeted the many men and women who ran in the annual 10-kilometer Race of the Saints, praising the "beautiful initiative" celebrating the feast day.

 

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Custom of dressing up for Halloween 'devotional in spirit,' says bishop

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 1:28pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec

By

TULSA, Okla. (CNS) -- Halloween is an opportunity for Catholics "to express in every detail of our observance the beauty and depth of the feast of All Saints," said Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa.

It is important to maintain "the Catholic meaning and purpose of all holy days, especially those which have been adopted and adapted by the culture around us," he said in a recent memo posted on the diocesan website, https://dioceseoftulsa.org.

Also known as All Hallows' Eve, Halloween is the eve of All Saints' Day, Nov. 1, which is a holy day of obligation for Catholics. All Souls' Day is Nov. 2. The word "hallows" means "holy ones" or "saints," noted the bishop.

"The custom of dressing up for Halloween is devotional in spirit," he added. "By dressing up as the saints whom we most admire, we imagine ourselves following their example of Christian discipleship."

"This practice," he continued, "allows the lay faithful in festive celebration to become 'living icons' of the saints, who are themselves 'icons' or 'windows' offering real-life examples of the imitation of Christ. In dressing up as saints we make Christian discipleship our own in a special way, following the exhortation of St. Paul, 'Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ' (1 Cor 11:1)."

Even Halloween's appeal to the "frightful" has "a devotional meaning in the Catholic tradition," Bishop Konderla said. "Props such as skulls and scythes have historically recalled our mortality, reminding us to be holy because we are destined for judgment (Heb 9:27, Rev. 14:15). Visible symbols of death thus represent a reminder of the last things -- death, judgment, heaven and hell."

The "Gothic" aspect of the day is even a reminder of Christian teaching "about the resurrection of the dead," he said, but secular culture "often represents this in a distorted manner. ... Separated from Catholic teaching, grim or ghoulish or 'Gothic' costumes can furthermore be mistaken as a celebration or veneration of evil or of death itself, contradicting the full and authentic meaning of Halloween."

The bishop also advised Catholics to "intentionally avoid" Halloween images contrary to the faith that have become popular in the secular adaptation of the celebration.

"Turning to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we want to refrain from glamourizing or celebrating anything involving superstition, witches, witchcraft, sorcery, divinations, magic, and the occult. ... We want to be good models of Christian virtue for those we serve and make clear distinctions between that which is good and that which is evil," he said.

He urged all Catholics "to express in every detail of our observance the beauty and depth of the feast of All Saints" this Halloween.

"Let us make this year's celebration an act of true devotion to God, whose saints give us hope that we too may one day enter into the kingdom prepared for God's holy ones from the beginning of time," he added.

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Editor's Note: The full text of Bishop Konderla's memo can be found at https://bit.ly/2qkFU7b.

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Pakistan court sets aside death sentence for woman convicted of blasphemy

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 11:42am

IMAGE: CNS photo/SRahat Dar, EPA

By

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNS) -- Pakistan's Supreme Court has set aside the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Catholic convicted of blasphemy, and ordered her release from prison.

A three-member court bench announced the verdict Oct. 31. The apex court ruled that Bibi be released from death row immediately if she had no other case registered against her, reported ucanews.com.

Members of Tehreek-e-Labaik, an extremist group, initiated protests and blocked roads after the verdict.

Khadim Rizvi, leader of the group, recently warned the judges, the government and local as well as international nongovernmental organizations of "dire" consequences if Bibi was set free. He also threatened Bibi's lawyer.

"We will hold massive protests and not let the government function if it releases Asia Bibi to appease the United States," said Rizvi.

Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 on charges of making derogatory remarks about the prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim farm worker.

The Supreme Court reserved its judgment on the blasphemy case Oct. 8 and had barred media from covering the issue until the decision was announced by the court.

Samson Salamat, the Christian chairman of the interreligious Movement for Tolerance, issued a statement after the verdict.

"This is a highly tense and threatening situation for religious minorities, especially for Pakistani Christians, and there is fear of persecution of Christians and attacks on their churches and other properties," he said. He also called for a ban on "extremist groups who are involved in hate speech and use religion as a tool to promote violence in society."

Tenzin Dorjee, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, welcomed the verdict and said the case "illustrates the extent to which blasphemy laws can be exploited to target minority communities. These laws seek to protect entire religions rather than the individual, as should be the case under international human rights standards. It is deeply troubling that Bibi's case even reached this level, where she almost became the first person in Pakistan's history to be executed for the crime of blasphemy."

The commission also called on Pakistan to release the 40 individuals imprisoned on blasphemy charges and to repeal its blasphemy laws.

The USCIRF and Amnesty international noted that two other people who supported Bibi were killed. In January 2011, Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab, was assassinated by his own bodyguard, who shot him 27 times. In March 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian Cabinet minister at the time, was assassinated outside his mother's home in Islamabad.

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Editors: The original story can be found at https://www.ucanews.com/news/pakistan-acquits-asia-bibi-on-death-row/83759.

 

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Fidelity is for every vocation, not just marriage, pope says

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 10:40am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Sixth Commandment's mandate against adultery is a call to fidelity that applies not only to married couples, but to all Christians called to love others through their vocation, Pope Francis said.

Married men and women, priests and those in religious life are ultimately called to live out their vocation faithfully and follow the "path of love that goes from receiving care to the ability to offer care, from receiving life to the ability to give life," the pope said Oct. 31 during his weekly general audience.

"Every Christian vocation is spousal because it is the fruit of the bond of love in which we are all renewed, the bond of love with Christ," he said. "Starting from (Christ's) fidelity, his tenderness, his generosity, we look with faith at marriage and at every vocation, and we understand the full meaning of sexuality."

Among the pilgrims present at the audience were the members of the Together in Hope choir, an ecumenical choir comprised of Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Reformed, evangelical, and nonreligious people based in Minneapolis.

Accompanying the choir was Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Lutheran Bishop Ann Svennungsen, head of the Minneapolis Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who were greeted by Pope Francis after the audience.

During the audience, the pope continued his series of talks on the Ten Commandments, reflecting on the command, "Thou shall not commit adultery," which he said was a "call to love that is manifested in fidelity acceptance and mercy."

While the commandment refers to fidelity in marriage, the pope said it is not only addressed to spouses but is a "paternal word of God addressed to every man and woman."

Being mature is being able to "take upon oneself someone else's burden and to love without ambiguity," he said.

On the other hand, the pope said, adulterers and those who are unfaithful are "immature" people who interpret situations according to their own "well-being and satisfaction."

"In order to be married, it's not enough to celebrate the wedding! We need to make a journey from the 'I' to the 'we,' from thinking for yourself to thinking for two, from living by yourself to living with another person," the pope said. "It is a beautiful path; when we decentralize ourselves, then every act is spousal."

Priests and those who live chaste consecrated lives, he said, must also follow this path and live it "faithfully and joyfully as a spousal and fruitful relationship of motherhood and fatherhood."

"The church does not need aspirants to the role of priests, but rather men whose hearts have been touched by the Holy Spirit with an unreserved love for the bride of Christ," Pope Francis said. "In the priesthood, we love the people of God with all the paternity, tenderness and strength of a spouse and a father."

Pope Francis said that the call to not commit adultery is a reminder of the Christian duty to love as Christ loves and to respect one another.

"The human body is not an instrument of pleasure but the place of our call to love," the pope said. "And in authentic love, there is no room for lust and its superficiality. Men and women deserve more!"

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Gift of nun doll collection helps preserve legacy of women religious

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 12:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin

By Nichole Golden

ATLANTA (CNS) -- Margaret Alsup of Cumming always considered her nun dolls to be like friends.

So, when it came time to look for a permanent home for her beloved figurines in late 2017, she found a place that would help preserve the historical legacy of the women religious these replicas represent.

The 75 carefully and meticulously created nun dolls in Alsup's collection are now in the care of the Archdiocese of Atlanta's Office of Archives and Records, where they are in full display.

These dolls not only offer the archdiocese historical context to women religious, they've spurred the curiosity of visitors, said Angelique Richardson, director of the office of archives and records.

Richardson said it's been fun to see people's reactions when they come to the archives office and notice all the dolls together on a table looking across the room. Visitors try to find the orders of the nuns who taught them or the ones who are family friends.

Educated by the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, Alsup sewed the dolls' traditional habits by machine from authentic materials provided by Catholic sisters whose congregations are represented.

"There were people in my life that I think are kind of in them," she told the archivists who arrived to transport the dolls.

The collection, Alsup's second one of nun dolls, had been in attic storage for nine years, yet remains in excellent condition. She sold her first collection in the 1970s to fund a trip to Israel.

The dolls all have porcelain faces and range in height from 15 to 32 inches. They have rosaries and medals, and habits in a variety of fabrics. She started the second collection in the 1980s.

"They're very, very detailed," Richardson told The Georgia Bulletin, Atlanta's archdiocesan newspaper. "The habits are so well made."

Alsup also wanted the reality of each doll to be recognized, so she attached a handwritten card to each replica's religious order, the date of the congregation's founding and how the order has served the church.

It was a project that Alsup, now in her mid-80s, undertook during the span of many years.

"I just kept at it, you know, doing little things," she said.

Alsup first became interested in nun doll collecting after helping a stroke victim make clothes for dolls. After the woman died, her husband gave many of the porcelain dolls to Alsup out of gratitude.

Religious orders from around the country would send her something for the dolls in the mail, including discarded habits from which to fashion a smaller version.

"I always sent them a reward," she said smiling.

For a St. Frances Xavier Cabrini doll, a sister "tatted a little bonnet for me," she added.

She would order doll shoes and religious items, and authenticity was important.

"They all have real rosaries -- no fake stuff and real medals," said Alsup.

She first tried to locate a buyer for all the dolls, but not many people are still collecting today, she said. Alsup decided she wanted them to go to the archdiocese instead, so they would be appreciated.

Alsup also donated the reference books she used to research the various congregations, including "A Guide to the Catholic Sisterhoods in the United States," Richardson said.

The archives office now has a small display case set up in a lobby area of the archdiocesan chancery in Smyrna, as well as in the archives, with a few dolls on exhibition.

Every Sunday, the office of archives will feature a #SisterSunday image on its Facebook page -- www.facebook.com/archatlarchives -- one doll a week for 75 weeks.

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Golden is on the staff of The Georgia Bulletin, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

 

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Update: Synod's words on 'synodal' church puzzle some people

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 12:36pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- "Synodality," a key concept of Pope Francis' papacy, was used repeatedly in the final document of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocation discernment.

In simple terms, "synodality" means "walking together" with every member of the church, recognizing that the grace of baptism makes one part of the body of the church and, therefore, responsible for its life and mission.

"The church must really let herself be given shape by the Eucharist that she celebrates as the summit and source of her life," being like "the bread made from many stalks of wheat and broken for the life of the world," the synod document said.

"The fruit of this synod, the choice that the Spirit has inspired in us through listening and discernment, is to walk with young people going out to all to witness to the love of God," it said. "We can describe this process by speaking of synodality for mission, that is, missionary synodality."

Archbishop Hector Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, president of the Peruvian bishops' conference, told reporters Oct. 25 that especially with the involvement of young people at the synod, the bishops saw how synodality could be a way of life that "promotes everyone's participation."

"When I say everyone, I don't just mean the church as in the bishops, priests. No! It is also the laity and the faithful at all levels. And all of us bishops are called -- and this is part of that synodality -- to make collaboration grow," Archbishop Cabrejos said.

The International Theological Commission, a group of theologians appointed by the pope and working under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published a lengthy document in March on "Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church."

"The concept of synodality refers to the involvement and participation of the whole people of God in the life and mission of the church," the commission said.

In its Catholic understanding and usage, the commission wrote, synodality "promotes the baptismal dignity and co-responsibility of all, makes the most of the presence in the people of God of charisms dispensed by the Holy Spirit, recognizes the specific ministry of pastors in collegial and hierarchical communion with the bishop of Rome, and guarantees that synodal processes and events unfold in conformity with the deposit of faith and involve listening to the Holy Spirit for the renewal of the church's mission."

In other words, consulting and listening to all members of the church is essential for discerning a path forward, but those decisions cannot violate the truths of the Christian faith and must be verified by a priest, bishop or the pope, depending on whether the decision is local, diocesan or has a universal impact.

As members of the Synod of Bishops reviewed a draft of their final document and prepared amendments to it, some bishops told reporters they thought the emphasis on synodality was exaggerated, since very few synod participants mentioned the term during the assembly, which began Oct. 3.

Others cautioned that for people living in countries with a large percentage of Anglicans or Protestants, the term could lead to confusion, almost as if the synod was saying it wanted a church where decisions were made prayerfully, but democratically.

The synod's final document spoke of the value of listening to, praying with and grappling with the questions brought to the gathering by the synod observers under age 30.

In that experience, the final document said, "we recognize a fruit of the Spirit who continually renews the church and calls her to practice synodality as a way of being and acting, promoting the participation of all the baptized and of people of good will, each according to his or her age, state of life and vocation. In this synod, we have experienced that the collegiality which unites the bishops 'cum Petro et sub Petro' (with and under Peter, the pope) in their concern for the people of God is called to articulate and enrich itself through the practice of synodality at all levels."

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, speaking to reporters at the Vatican Oct. 26, admitted that the term was not discussed in depth at the synod, but "it is what we have been doing for a month."

While the Second Vatican Council's call for "collegiality" refers to the College of Bishops acting with and under the pope, he said, "synodality is much wider" and refers to all the baptized taking responsibility for the church and its mission, each according to his or her talents and role within the church.

"It is to walk together, to be together on the way of faith and that concerns everybody," Cardinal Schonborn said. But "it doesn't take away the difference of function and ministry and roles."

While Pope Francis began speaking of synodality in the first months of his papacy, which began in March 2013, his most extensive treatment of the topic came in October 2015 when he led a celebration of the 50th anniversary of St. Paul VI's establishment of the Synod of Bishops.

"The journey of synodality is the journey that God wants from his church in the third millennium," the pope had said at the celebration. "A synodal church is a listening church, aware that listening is more than hearing. It is a reciprocal listening in which each one has something to learn."

 

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