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Updated: 7 min 27 sec ago

Encore: Listen to those in need, pope says in World Day of Poor message

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 11:02am

IMAGE: CNS/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- How is it that God in heaven can hear the cries of the poor, but so many people watching or standing nearby either cannot or just do not care, Pope Francis asked.

People must make "a serious examination of conscience to understand whether we are really capable of listening to the poor," the pope said in a message for the World Day of the Poor.

The recently established commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it are meant to give Christians a chance to follow Christ's example and concretely share a moment of love, hope and respect together with those in need in one's community, the pope said in the message dated June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of the poor. The Vatican released the message to the public June 14.

The World Day of the Poor -- to be marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time -- will be celebrated Nov. 18 this year and will focus on a verse from Psalm 34, "This poor one cried out and the Lord heard."

"We can ask ourselves, how is it this cry, which reaches all the way to God, is unable to penetrate our ears and leaves us indifferent and impassive?" the pope asked in his message.

To become aware of people's suffering and know how best to respond with love, people must learn to be silent and listen, the pope said.

"If we speak too much ourselves, we will be unable to hear them," he said.

That is often what happens when otherwise important and needed initiatives are carried out more as a way to please oneself "than to really acknowledge the cry of the poor," he said.

"We are so entrapped in a culture which forces us to look in the mirror" and unduly "pamper ourselves," he said. Such people come to believe their act of altruism is enough without having to feel any empathy or the need to sacrifice or "endanger" themselves directly.

Nobody seeks poverty or its many forms, which include marginalization, persecution and injustice, the pope said.

Poverty "is caused by selfishness, pride, greed and injustice. These are evils as old as humanity, but also sins in which the innocents are caught up, leading to consequences on the social level, which are dramatic," he said.

"God's answer to the poor is always an intervention of salvation in order to heal the wounds of body and soul, restore justice and assist in beginning anew to live life with dignity. God's answer is also an appeal in order that those who believe in him can do the same," he added.

The World Day of the Poor is meant to be a small contribution that the whole church can make so the poor may know their cries have not gone unheard, the pope said in his message.

"It is like a drop of water in the desert of poverty; and yet it can be a sign of sharing for those who are in need, that they might experience the active presence of a brother or a sister," he said.

This encounter is a call for personal involvement, not delegation to others, he said. And it is not cold, distant giving, but an act that requires "loving attentiveness" just like God offers everyone.

So many people in need are seeking the meaning of their existence and a response to their questions about "why they have fallen so far and how they can escape! They are waiting from someone to come up and say, 'Take heart; rise, he is calling you,'" the pope said.

Unfortunately, people are often repelled by, not drawn to the poor, he said. The cries of the poor are often met with rebuke and they are told, "to shut up and put up."

There is a real "phobia of the poor," who are seen not only as destitute, but also as carriers of "insecurity and instability," to be rejected and kept afar.

But this tendency to create a distance means people distance themselves from Jesus himself, "who does not reject the poor, but calls them to him and consoles them," he said.

Even though members of the Catholic Church who offer their care and assistance are motivated by their faith and the desire to share the Good News with others, he said bishops, priests, religious and lay Catholics should recognize that "in the immense world of poverty, our capacity for action is limited, weak and insufficient."

The church should cooperate with others so joint efforts can reach their objectives more effectively, he said.

The church should give freely with an attitude of humility, "without seeking the limelight," he said.

"In serving the poor, the last thing we need is a battle for first place," he said. The poor don't need heroes, but a love which knows how to remain hidden from worldly recognition, he said.

"The true protagonists are the Lord and the poor," and those who serve are mere instruments "in God's hands in order to make manifest his presence and salvation."

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, told reporters the pope hopes the day will remind everyone in the church to turn their gaze to the poor, truly listen to their needs and respond directly with love in a way that aims to restore their dignity.

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

The archbishop said the pope will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 18 with the poor and volunteers, and he will have lunch afterward with about 3,000 people in the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall. Other volunteer groups and schools were also set to offer free meals in an atmosphere of "celebration and sharing," he added.

Medical tents and mobile clinics will again be set up in the square adjoining St. Peter's Square Nov. 12-18, with extended evening hours until midnight for some services, he said. Anyone in need can find general and specialist care, including cardiology, dermatology, gynecology and ophthalmology.


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Update: Catholic groups urge humane treatment of migrants headed to border

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 6:28pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As a group from Central America heads to the border between the U.S. and Mexico, the Trump administration is said to be getting ready to send troops to meet them and Catholic groups are asking that the migrants be treated humanely.

"As Catholic agencies assisting poor and vulnerable migrants in the United States and around the world, we are deeply saddened by the violence, injustice, and deteriorating economic conditions forcing many people to flee their homes in Central America," said an Oct. 29 joint statement from the chairman of the U.S. bishops' migration committee and the president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services and of Catholic Charities USA.

"While nations have the right to protect their borders, this right comes with responsibilities: Governments must enforce laws proportionately, treat all people humanely and provide due process," said the three Catholic leaders, committee chairman Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, Sean Callahan of CRS and Dominican Sister Donna Markham of Catholic Charities.

The mobilization of migrants is believed to have formed sometime in mid-October and comprised of mostly Honduran migrants seeking refuge from violence and poverty at home. It seems that, spontaneously, others from nearby countries have joined their ranks as the group travels north, likely seeking to ask for asylum in the United States.

"We urge the administration to manage refugee arrivals humanely and in a manner that respects their dignity and rights under U.S. and international law," said an Oct. 26 statement by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

"These people simply want to live with their families free of fear. According to international law, they have a right to seek asylum where they feel safe," said the Washington-based Franciscan Action Network in an Oct. 24 news release expressing solidarity with the group.

LCWR and the Franciscan network both denounced statements that insinuated the group of migrants is made up of people wanting to harm the population of the United States, including some made by President Donald Trump.

In its statement, LCWR said it was "deeply troubled" by the president's "continued denigration of those fleeing untenable situations in their home countries."

"These are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who have been forced from their homes by unimaginable violence and insecurity; runaway corruption; and droughts and floods linked to climate change," the organization of leaders of women religious said in its statement. "These are women and girls fleeing intolerable situations of domestic violence. These are young men and women who have no access to quality education and no hope of economic opportunity.

"These are courageous people who have rejected cultures of corruption and exploitation," they continued. They are traveling the same road trod by our forbearers who fled tyranny and violence in search of the American dream. They are people of hope and promise who only want the opportunity to contribute their toil and talent to this nation."

The group said women religious have accompanied such groups in the past and would continue to do so and welcome them.

The Franciscan Action Network also defended the group of migrants and called on the general public to "separate fact from fiction."

"As a nation of immigrants, we should welcome those who are escaping violence and persecution with open arms. Those in the migrant caravan are not gang members or terrorists, in fact many have family members in the United States who are citizens," the network said in its statement. "These people simply want to live with their families free of fear. According to international law, they have a right to seek asylum where they feel safe."

Bishop Vasquez, Callahan and Sister Markham also said in their joint statement that they "affirm that seeking asylum is not a crime" and urged "all governments to abide by international law and existing domestic laws that protect those seeking safe haven and ensure that all those who are returned to their home country are protected and repatriated safely."

The three said they "strongly advocate for continued U.S. investments to address the underlying causes of violence and lack of opportunity in Central America. Our presence throughout the Americas has convinced us that migration is a regional issue that requires a comprehensive, regional solution."

"An enforcement-only approach does not address nor solve the larger root causes that cause people to flee their countries in search of protection," they said, adding: "As Christians, we must answer the call to act with compassion towards those in need and to work together to find humane solutions that honor the rule of law and respect the dignity of human life."

The Hope Border Institute of El Paso, Texas, published information Oct. 26 about the group being referred to as a "caravan," which it says numbers between 3,000 and 7,000 people and, of those, about 2,000 are youth and children.

The mobilization is said to have grown largely because migrants see safety in numbers and some of them rushed to join because of fears of being assaulted when traveling in smaller groups on the journey north.

Many Catholic grass-roots groups have joined other humanitarian organizations in providing food and shelter for the migrants along the way.

In its information, the Hope Border Institute says the group may arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border "sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or possibly sooner" and faith-based and other human rights groups are preparing to help.

News reports say the Trump administration is preparing legal action before that happens, hoping to block the group from entering, including issuing an executive order that will deny entry for those seeking asylum.

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Trappist Father Keating, leading figure in centering prayer, dies at 95

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 4:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Contemplative Outreach


SPENCER, Mass. (CNS) -- A funeral Mass will be celebrated Nov. 3 at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer for Trappist Father Thomas Keating, a leading figure in the centering prayer movement that got its start in the 1970s. He died Oct. 25 at the abbey.

He had been abbot there for two decades in the 1960s and 1970s. Father Keating was 95 and, according to his nephew, Peter Jones, had been in poor health for a number of years.

Pledging to God to become a priest if he survived a serious illness he had in childhood, Joseph Parker Kirlin Keating, the son and grandson of maritime lawyers, entered the Cistercians' Monastery Our Lady of the Valley in Valley Falls, Rhode Island, in 1944 and was ordained a priest in 1949. He took the name Thomas due to his admiration of St. Thomas Aquinas.

After the Rhode Island monastery burned down in 1950, the monks moved to the Spencer monastery. Father Keating stayed there until he was invited to help establish a new monastery in Snowmass, Colorado. He stayed until 1961, when he was elected abbot at St. Joseph's.

He turned to centering prayer -- a technique of praying silently to God without words -- based on the encouragement issued by St. Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council to rediscover the contemplative tradition. Father Keating returned to Snowmass and helped found Contemplative Outreach for centering prayer practitioners in 1984, serving as its president 1985-99.

The irony for the Trappist is that, to promote centering prayer, he left the confines of the monastery to speak at conferences worldwide.

"People are feeling a deeper desire for prayer and the structure to support it," he said in Omaha in 1990.

"Human nature has a dimension that requires silence," Father Keating added. "The tendency had been to put people interested in the contemplative life in a convent or monastery to protect them from us -- or us from them," he joked at a conference in Omaha. "Vatican II released a lot of desire and willingness to engage in contemplative prayer and it both deserves and needs to be ministered to."

In a homily at a 2000 Mass for the installation of Trappist Father Basil Pennington, another centering prayer proponent, at a monastery in Georgia, Father Keating reflected on the faith and suffering of Mary and Joseph. He said God's "relentless movement" shattered the vision Mary and Joseph had for their lives, but called such movement "the path of transformation ... the goal of the Christian life."

Father Keating also was a prolific author. The Contemplative Outreach website has a page listing 28 books -- what it said constituted "most of" his published works. His titles included "Awakenings" and "Manifesting God," and he co-wrote "Finding Grace at the Center: The Beginning of Centering Prayer."

Several of his books made the Catholic best-seller lists, including "Journey to the Center," "Invitation to Love," "Open Mind, Open Heart." The latter was translated into Spanish, and "Invitacian a Amar" was a Spanish-language Catholic best-seller in 2005.

In a Catholic News Service review of Father Keating's 1994 book "Intimacy With God," the reviewer, Margaret O'Connell, advised readers to "drop everything" and buy the book "regardless of the effort or the effect on your budget."

Father Keating was profiled in the 1996 PBS series "Searching for God in America," and was the subject of a 2013 documentary made by his nephew called "Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence."

It was from reading the priest's "Open Mind, Open Heart" that a California man, Mike Kelley, decided he wanted to share centering prayer with the inmates at Folsom Prison. Paul, one of the "lifers" at Folsom, recalled the day Kelley came to talk to the men about centering prayer as "an answer to one of our prayers." Hundreds of Folsom inmates took centering prayer classes from him.

By the time Father Keating came to California in 2000 to visit five prisons that taught centering prayer techniques, there were a dozen prisons in the program. Centering prayer is uniquely suited to effect a spiritual awakening among inmates, he said at the time. "It's a simple way of connecting with the divine indwelling," he noted. "It teaches them that no matter where they are, God is with them."

He described in 2001 how one gets started in centering prayer. "The great battle in the early stages of contemplative prayer is with thoughts," he wrote. "It is unrealistic to aim at having no thoughts.

"When we speak of developing interior silence, we are speaking of a relative degree of silence. By interior silence, we refer primarily to a state in which we do not become attached to the thoughts as they go by."

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Pope apologizes to young people who have felt ignored by the church

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 10:17am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Speaking on behalf of all adult Catholics, Pope Francis formally closed the Synod of Bishops by asking young people for forgiveness.

"Forgive us if often we have not listened to you; if, instead of opening our hearts, we have filled your ears. As Christ's church, we want to listen to you with love" because young people's lives are precious in God's eyes and "in our eyes, too," the pope said in his homily Oct. 28.

The Mass, celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica, closed a month-long synod on young people, faith and vocational discernment. The pope thanked the 300 synod members, experts, observers and ecumenical delegates for working in communion, with frankness and with the desire to serve God's people.

"May the Lord bless our steps, so that we can listen to young people, be their neighbors and bear witness before them to Jesus, the joy of our lives," he said in his homily.

Living the faith and sharing it with the world, especially with young people, entails going out to those in need, listening, being close to them and bearing witness to Jesus' liberating message of salvation, Pope Francis said.

The pope used the day's Gospel reading (Mk 10:46-52) and its account of Jesus helping Bartimaeus as a model of how all Christians need to live out and share the faith.

Bartimaeus was blind, homeless and fatherless, and he begged for Jesus' mercy as soon as he heard he was near, the pope said. Many rebuked the man, "telling him to be silent."

"For such disciples, a person in need was a nuisance along the way, unexpected and unplanned," the pope said. Even though they followed Jesus, these disciples wanted things to go their way and preferred talking over listening to others, he said.

"This is a risk constantly to guard against. Yet, for Jesus, the cry of those pleading for help is not a nuisance but a challenge," the pope said.

Jesus goes to Bartimaeus and lets him speak, taking the time to listen, Pope Francis said. "This is the first step in helping the journey of faith: listening. It is the apostolate of the ear: listening before speaking."

The next step in the journey of faith, the pope said, is to be a neighbor and do what is needed, without delegating the duty to someone else.

Jesus asks Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you?" showing the Lord acts "not according to my own preconceived ideas, but for you, in your particular situation. That is how God operates. He gets personally involved with preferential love for every person."

Being present and close to people's lives "is the secret to communicating the heart of the faith, and not a secondary aspect," the pope said.

"When faith is concerned purely with doctrinal formulae, it risks speaking only to the head without touching the heart," he said. "And when it is concerned with activity alone, it risks turning into mere moralizing and social work."

Being a neighbor, the pope said, means bringing the newness of God into other people's lives, fighting the "temptation of easy answers and fast fixes" and of wanting to "wash our hands" of problems and responsibility.

"We want to imitate Jesus and, like him, to dirty our hands," just as "the Lord has dirtied his hands for each one of us," he said. "Let us look at the cross, start from there and remember that God became my neighbor in sin and death."

When "we too become neighbors, we become bringers of new life. Not teachers of everyone, not specialists in the sacred, but witnesses of the love that saves," Pope Francis said.

The third step in the journey of faith, he said, is to bear witness, particularly to those who are seeking life and salvation, but who "often find only empty promises and few people who really care."

"It is not Christian to expect that our brothers and sisters who are seekers should have to knock on our doors; we ought to go out to them, bringing not ourselves but Jesus" and encouraging each person by proclaiming that "God is asking you to let yourself be loved by him," he said.

"How often," the pope lamented, "instead of this liberating message of salvation, have we brought ourselves, our own 'recipes' and 'labels' into the church!"

"How often do people feel the weight of our institutions more than the friendly presence of Jesus! In these cases, we act more like an NGO, a state-controlled agency, and not the community of the saved who dwell in the joy of the Lord."

Just as Jesus journeyed in his ministry with others, "we too have walked alongside one another" during the synod on young people, the pope said, formally closing the synod assembly, which began Oct. 3.

Before praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pope said the synod did more than produce a final document, it displayed a method of listening to the voices of the people of God and discerning responses in the light of Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

While the document was important and useful, he said, the methods employed during the synod and its preparations showed "a way of being and working together, young and old, listening and discerning, so as to reach pastoral choices that respond to reality."

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Synod document: Listen to, support, guide, include young people

Sat, 10/27/2018 - 3:50pm

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church and all its members must get better at listening to young people, taking their questions seriously, recognizing them as full members of the church, patiently walking with them and offering guidance as they discern the best way to live their faith, the Synod of Bishops said.

While the synod's final document spoke of friendship, affection, sexuality and "sexual inclinations," those issues were not the center of concern in the lengthy final document, which was released Oct. 27.

The synod, which began Oct. 3 and was to conclude with a Mass Oct. 28, brought together 267 voting members -- cardinals, bishops, 18 priests and two religious brothers -- and 72 experts and observers, including three dozen men and women under 30 to discuss "young people, the faith and vocational discernment."

For the vote on the final document, 249 bishops and priests participated; two-thirds approval or 166 votes, were required to keep a paragraph in the document. The version they voted on had 167 numbered paragraphs.

The focus of the final document was on improving ways to support young Catholics' baptismal call to holiness, to welcome the contributions they make to the church and help them in their process of growing in faith and in deciding the state of life that would best correspond to what God wants from them.

The emphasis on the church listening to young people also led to an emphasis on the church listening to all people -- including women -- renewing communities and structures for a "synodal church" where all members listen to, support and challenge one another and share responsibility for the church's one mission of spreading the Gospel.

"Listening is an encounter in freedom, which requires humility, patience, willingness to understand and a commitment to working out responses in a new way," the document said. "Listening transforms the heart of those who live it, above all when they take on an inner attitude of harmony and docility to the Spirit of Christ."

The bishops said they heard from many young people a need for "courageous cultural conversion and a change in daily pastoral practice" to promote the equality of women in society and in the church.

"An area of particular importance in this regard is the presence of women in church bodies at all levels, including in leadership roles, and the participation of women in church decision-making processes while respecting the role of the ordained ministry," the document said. "This is a duty of justice."

However, the final document was amended before passage to remove one specific suggestion on where to begin promoting greater equality in the church. The draft document had called for "avoiding the disparity" at the synod between the men's Union of Superiors General, which has 10 voting members at the synod, and the women's International Union of Superiors General, which had three non-voting observers at the assembly.

The document acknowledged how, in some countries, young people are moving away from the church or question its teachings, especially on sexuality.

The church's response, the synod said, must be a commitment of time and patience as it helps young people "grasp the relationship between their adherence to faith in Jesus Christ and the way they live their affectivity and interpersonal relationships."

Church teaching that all people are called to chastity and to refraining from sexual relations outside the bond of marriage between a man and a woman must be presented clearly, but not with a judgmental attitude, it added.

The document mentioned young people's questions about homosexuality, sexual orientation and differences between men and women and called for "a more in-depth anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration" on the church's position on those issues. The final document used the term "sexual inclination" rather than "sexual orientation" as the draft document had.

"The synod reaffirms that God loves every person and so does the church, renewing its commitment against all sexually-based discrimination and violence," the final document said. "It also reaffirms the decisive anthropological relevance of the difference and reciprocity between man and woman and considers it reductive to define the identity of persons solely on the basis of their 'sexual orientation.'"

The paragraph, listed under "Sexuality: A Clear, Liberating, Authentic Word," passed by the required two-thirds, but received the fewest favorable votes -- 178 -- while 65 bishops voted against it.

Members of the synod also praised young Catholics who are involved in their parishes or communities, who dedicate themselves enthusiastically to service projects, who offer their time and talent to the celebration of parish liturgies and who are willing to do even more. However, the document said, too often young volunteers are met by priests and other adults who doubt their commitment or preparation or are simply unwilling to share responsibility with them.

While young people can feel overlooked or ignored, the synod members said such attitudes are detrimental to the church and to its missionary mandate. The final document said young people challenge the church to be better and their questions force older church members to find clearer ways to express church teaching or to respond to new situations with the wisdom of faith.

"Their criticism, too, is needed because not infrequently we hear through them the voice of the Lord asking us for a conversion of heart and a renewal of structures," the synod members said.

The clerical sex abuse scandal and financial scandals in the Catholic Church are leading many people, not only young people, away from the faith, the synod acknowledged.

Apparently responding to some bishops who felt the draft document's section on abuse gave too much prominence to the topic's importance in the United States, Ireland, Australia and Chile, the final document treated it in three paragraphs rather than the earlier five.

However, the final document, like the draft, said, "The Synod expresses gratitude to those who have had the courage to denounce the evil they have suffered: they help the church become aware of what has happened and of the need to react decisively" to ensure abuse does not continue to occur.

Behind the crime of abuse, it said, there lies a "spiritual void" and a form of exercising power that led some priests to believe their ordination gave them "power" over others rather than called them to serving others.

On "vocation," synod members emphasized how the basic, common Christian vocation is the call to holiness, which can and should be lived out in every state of life: young or old, single or married or in the priesthood or religious life.

"Vocation is neither a script a human being is called to recite, nor a spontaneous theatrical moment leaving no traces," the document said. God calls each person into a relationship with him, respects the person's freedom and yet has a plan for each person's life; discovering that plan requires prayer and self-examination.

The final document urged particular attention to marriage preparation programs as "a kind of 'initiation' for the sacrament of matrimony" and to careful selection of candidates for the priesthood and to seminary programs to ensure that future priests are men who can recognize the gifts of others, relate well to women and men of all ages and are devoted to serving the poor.

Young people who are poor or experience discrimination -- especially migrants, victims of religious persecution and those struggling to find employment -- received special attention at the synod and in the final document.

In fact, the synod said, "the world of young people is also deeply marked by the experience of vulnerability, disability, illness and pain" and Catholic communities have not always done everything possible to welcome and assist them.

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Canonists: Laity have a rightful place in church in addressing abuse

Fri, 10/26/2018 - 5:30pm

IMAGE: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Canon law gives Catholic laypeople the right to make an impact in addressing the clerical sex abuse crisis which has re-emerged anew in the church, said a number of canon lawyers interviewed by Catholic News Service.

Much depends, though, on the degree to which a local bishop is willing to consider the voices and expertise of the laity in this or other matters, they added.

And what canon law in itself may not explicitly provide, a "motu proprio" (on his own initiative) issued in by Pope Francis in 2016 just may.

"In the 1990s, there was a big role to promote the role of women in the church, and the bishops took that up as well," said Mercy Sister Sharon Euart, a former associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who is now executive coordinator of the Resource Center for Religious Institutes in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland.

"What we tried to do," Sister Euart said, "was to say let's look at what women can do that doesn't require ordination in the church. And you found there was a lot -- an awful lot -- of service that can be provided. Move forward 25 years and I think right now the call for laity is loud and it's clear -- but it's not focused on exactly what it is different groups are asking."

Susan Mulheron, chancellor for of canonical affairs for Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was among the canonists interviewed by CNS who cited "Book II" of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, titled "The People of God," and specifically the first part, "The Christian Faithful," as giving some rights to the laity.

Mulheron pointed to Canon 208, which says: "There exists among all the Christian faithful a true equality regarding dignity and action by which they all cooperate in the building up of the body of Christ according to each one's own condition and function."

"We cooperate in the work of the church" as laity, Mulheron said, and that can be read to include applying one's gifts and talents to address the abuse crisis.

Benedictine Sister Nancy Bauer, who teaches courses in canon law and in lay ministry at The Catholic University of America in Washington, cited Canon 212, a three-paragraph canon which presumes that "the Christian faithful" are "conscious of their own responsibility" and are "free to make known to the pastors of the church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires."

It also says: "According to the knowledge, competence and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors" -- bishops -- "their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful."

"I think that is actually happening. They (laity) may know this is actually happening," Sister Bauer said. "Writing letters, speaking to the press. When one person has a right, it often gives rise to an obligation on the part of someone else. If a layperson has the right to make her opinion known, it gives rise to an obligation of a sacred pastor, a bishop, to listen.

"'Listen.' It's the first word in the Rule of Benedict, which is pretty important to me," she added. "What are we listening for? We like to call it the will of God. I think it's more the desire of God."

Canon 228.2 says, "Laypersons who excel in necessary knowledge, prudence and integrity are qualified to assist the pastors of the church as experts and advisers, even in councils according to the norm of law."

Zabrina Decker, president of the Canon Law Society of America and chancellor of the tribunal for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said this canon does not apply to just any Catholic. "You have to have an expert, a medical doctor, just as you would get a civil lawyer. You have to get someone who knows what they're talking about," she said. "In this particular issue, this is a broad brush they can paint across a lot of different committees, a lot of particular involvement."

Canon 229 that follows also is relevant, according to Decker. It says the laity are "bound by the obligation and possess the right to acquire knowledge of Christian doctrine appropriate to the capacity and condition of each."

"A lot of laypersons in the church don't know their rights and obligations that belong to them," Decker said. "If someone is qualified, if someone has the background, then they themselves have not only the right but that obligation to assist, to announce that message, to defend that message, to use that theological knowledge to be able to serve the church in concert with the magisterium," or teaching authority of the church.

Mulheron also cited the final 13 canons in the Code of Canon Law, which deal with "the removal or transfer of pastors."

"When the ministry of a pastor becomes harmful or ineffective, the diocesan bishop can remove him from a parish. You can see right there the recognition of that," Mulheron told CNS. "There's no specific canon that provides this for bishops, but we do see some in the 2016 'motu proprio' 'As a Loving Mother.' It basically provided this process for bishops" to be transferred. A "motu proprio" becomes part of canon law once issued, she said.

In the document, written as an apostolic letter, Pope Francis affirms that the church, "like a loving mother, loves all her children, but treats and protects with special affection the smallest and most helpless." This care is to be carried out "in particular through her pastors, including diocesan bishops and eparchs."

Canon law already provides the possibility of the removal from ecclesiastical office "for grave causes," but Pope Francis, in the "motu proprio," specifies these "grave causes" include a bishop's negligence in exercising his role, especially in relation to cases of "sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults."

"Who's the bishop's authority? The pope. On a practical level, it's a little more difficult for a bishop to be removed from office," Mulheron said. "We've seen it happen in Memphis (Tennessee) just this week," as Bishop Martin D. Holley, 63, was removed from governance of the diocese Oct. 25, barely two years after he was installed there as bishop.

Sister Bauer cautioned that the laity's voice is "always a consultative voice. The code doesn't provide for laypersons really to make decisions that belong to bishops right now." Nor can they depose a bishop. "They can complain to the pope," she said, "but they do not have the power or authority to remove a bishop."

Since the Pennsylvania grand jury report that faulted bishops for transferring abusive priests to other parishes without any warning to the new parishes, the sentiment has been expressed that the U.S. bishops are in no position to police themselves.

"I get that," Decker said, but "we can never forget that the church is a community. We are a community. We are here to call each other to responsibility, we are here to demand some sort of responsibility, but we are all part of that faith family. But actually scripturally, we are all called to account. The laity of the church can do that canonically. It's up to the magisterium to be able to bring laypeople into this conversation."

"The influence the laity can have is enormous with some of the issues raised recently in the church," Sister Euart said. "I don't see it as primarily saying yes or no to something, but having to influence, move the decision in a way that is for the good of the whole church."

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Follow Mark Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison


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Bishops sign document calling for action against climate change

Fri, 10/26/2018 - 12:57pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Six bishops representing episcopal conferences on five continents issued a joint statement calling on the international community to take immediate action against climate change.

Addressing world leaders who will be attending the COP24 Summit in Katowice, Poland, in December, the bishops urged them to take concrete steps "in order to tackle and overcome the devastating effects of the climate crisis."

"We must be prepared to make rapid and radical changes and resist the temptation to look for solutions to our current situation in short-term technological fixes without addressing the root causes and the long-term consequences," the bishops said in the statement.

The statement was signed at the Vatican Oct. 26 by: Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences; Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, president of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union; Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi of Lubango, Angola, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar; and Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan of David, Panama, president of the Latin American bishops' council's economic committee.

The document was also signed by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genova, Italy, president of the Council of Bishops' Conferences of Europe; and Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, president of the Latin American bishops' council, also known as CELAM.

Cardinal Gracias told journalists that on the issue of climate change, the church cannot rest until "the Paris agreement is fulfilled, adhered to and followed up."

"People who are affected most are the weakest," he said. "There is no doubt that this is something that is urgent, important, and it is our responsibility to throw our full weight on it."

Archbishop Hollerich said that a contributing factor to the crisis was the flow of money into industries that contribute to climate change, especially fossil fuels.

"If you do not look to the sources of money and where the money flows we have a very nice way of speaking, but things will not really happen," the archbishop said. "And things have to happen because everything is interconnected as Pope Francis says in Laudato Si' and we are responsible for the people in Europe but also the people of other continents."

He also recalled watching a television program that showed how the European landscape would change due to rising sea levels and how new technologies and structures could prevent it from happening.

"It made me furious. Yes, we can do it but other continents, other countries cannot," he told reporters. "We are co-responsible for this earth, there is only one. We have to act now and I think the urgency of this call is very important."

Joseph Sapati Moeono-Kolio, a Samoan observer at the Synod of Bishops and a member of Caritas Internationalis, said the bishops' declaration was "a huge symbolic step, it's a symbol of hope for many of us."

The future of young people, especially those living in Asia and Oceania, are threatened by climate change, which has resulted in many young men and women migrating, he explained.

"As you know, young people bear the brunt of a lot of bad decisions and we want to end it here," he said.

The effects of climate change, he continued, have resulted in more frequent and increasingly powerful cyclones that have struck his native Samoa. When those storms come, he said, villagers often run to the strongest building nearby: the local church.

"I think that's a very good image of what we're trying to do here, the importance of this document, the church now should be a haven of safety, especially for young people," he said.

Sapati told journalists that the issue of climate change is "more than just science, politics and ideology" and frequent debates have "bogged down" any genuine action.

"I'd like to remind you that there is a human face to climate change, you're looking at it," he said. "But I am not the only one; there are many of us vulnerable people back home and it's one of those issues where, eventually, we'll all become the face of climate change if we don't do anything soon."

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Mexican parishes pitch in to help Central American caravan heading north

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 11:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Agren

By David Agren

HUIXTLA, Mexico (CNS) -- Members of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in this southern Mexican city rose early Oct. 24 to feed but a fraction of the Central American migrants traveling in a caravan, which is trying to traverse Mexico and reach the United States border.

"Tortas! Take one. The road ahead is long," Rafael Gomez yelled from the bed of a white pickup to the passing migrants as they streamed out of town in the predawn hours. They had slept in the streets in what resembled an impromptu refugee camp.

"God bless you," the grateful recipients responded as they took the ham sandwiches and head for Mapastepec 40 miles ahead.

The caravan left Honduras Oct. 13 and has swelled to at least 4,500 participants, according to the Mexican government.

Nearly 1,700 people already have requested asylum in the country, but most of the migrants interviewed told Catholic News Service they want to arrive in the U.S., where an uncertain welcome awaits.

Catholics working with migrants describe the caravan as the response to a desperate situation in Central America's northern triangle -- Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador -- as poverty, violence and drought push people to risk the treacherous road through Mexico. Political unrest and the persecution of anti-government protesters in Nicaragua have sent even more people fleeing with some joining in the caravan.

The problem, however, is especially acute in Honduras as prices rise, salaries stagnate and gangs prey on populations. Many Hondurans report being charged "war taxes," or extortion, to live in their own homes.

"This is an indignant reality caused by the current situation in our country," the Honduras bishops' conference said in an Oct. 20 statement on the caravan.

"It's forcing a determined group to leave behind what little they have, risking themselves without any certainty on the migrant route toward the United States, with the desire of reaching the promised 'American dream,' which would allow them to resolve their economic problems, improve their living conditions and, in many cases, preserve their physical safety," the bishops said.

They bitterly noted, however, the country has come to depend on remittances as Hondurans in the U.S. supported family members back home.

"We have preferred to be happy with remittances as a solution to our internal problems. What's new about this caravan is the massive way thousands of people, the majority young, are going with the hope obtaining sufficient resources to transform Honduras," the bishops said.

The origins of the caravan remain murky, but the migrants marching through Mexico said they either saw news reports, social media postings or heard rumors about it. Many thought it was a way to find safety in numbers as they headed north. Criminal gangs and crooked cops in Mexico often prey on small groups of migrants.

The caravan has captured widespread international attention. It also has caused controversy in the U.S. as President Donald Trump has tweeted his displeasure. Trump has threatened to cut foreign aid to Central American countries in retaliation and adamantly stated the migrants will not enter the U.S.

Governments in Guatemala and Mexico have tried to impede the caravan.

Mexico closed its end of the bridge at its border with Guatemala, prompting migrants to swim and raft across the Suchiate River, which separates the two nations.

Mexico also sent two planeloads of Federal Police officers to its southern border, but the caravan pushed past them.

"Their hands are tied," Huixtla Mayor Jose Luis Laparra Calderon said of the Federal Police. He pointed to the presence of foreign journalists and human rights groups for preventing the Federal Police from taking a heavy-handed response.

Caravan participants act unfazed in the face of Trump's threats and expressed hope that he has a change of heart or a higher power intervenes. Almost all shared fears of being returned.

"We don't want to return to Honduras after all of this effort to get here. We only want to live a better life," said Elias Ruiz, 21, a construction worker who fled San Pedro Sula after being unable to support his wife and infant son.

Ruiz hit the road after having to pay tattooed gangsters the war tax. Work also was spotty and he couldn't make ends meet.

"If you don't pay them, they'll kill you," he said of the gangs. "They say, 'We'll make an example of you.' The example is they kill you."

Upon decamping Huixtla, the caravan slowly snaked along the coastal plain of Chiapas state under scorching temperatures. People walked until they were tired, then hitchhiked, hopping aboard pickups, dump trucks and tractor trailers. People even pushed strollers with infants and carried toddlers on their shoulders.

Chiapas is Mexico's poorest state, but people along the route shared bottles of water, bunches of bananas and surplus clothing and cushions with the passing throngs.

Parishes in the Diocese of Tapachula have collect supplies for the caravan and fed its hungry participants, with the parish in Huixtla distributing 3,000 tamales and other provisions. Karime Alejandro Garcia, 19, and Dana de los Santos, 17, brought bags of clothes collected at St. Bartholomew Parish to the highway as the caravan passed the town of Villa Comaltitlan.

"Every barrio was collaborating as it could, some collected clothes, others water, food," Alejandro said. "Little by little we're working to have something we could give our brothers."

"As a diocese, we're trying to accompany, as the Holy Father says, care for and protect migrants," Father Cesar Canaveral, diocesan migrant ministry director, said. "Unfortunately, we don't have a government that is responding to the needs of this caravan."


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Bishops, young people walk to St. Peter's on pilgrimage of faith

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 10:05am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following the Francigena Way, an ancient pilgrims' path, a group of about 300 synod participants and young people from Rome parishes headed to St. Peter's Basilica to pray at the apostle's tomb.

The wayfaring cardinals, bishops, priests and young people were stocked with small backpacks, shod with comfortable sneakers or hiking boots, and readied with hats and water bottles to walk 3.7 miles (6 km) from an urban nature preserve to Christianity's largest church.

Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, the pilgrimage was held Oct. 25 as part of the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment.

The walk gave participants opportunities to stop for prayer and for photos, but even more, according to the pilgrimage booklet, it offered a way to experience the itinerant condition of the church, which is the people of God journeying on their way to heavenly Jerusalem.

The Synod of Bishops, too, it said, "is a sign of a journey that the community of believers wants to accomplish as a response to God's call" to listen to his Word more closely, to renew one's heart and profess the faith in a more "committed and responsible" way.

Pope Francis met the group of pilgrims after they streamed into St. Peter's Basilica and he led them in a profession of the faith above the tomb of the apostle, who with his life and martyrdom, gave witness to the faith.

The pope then remained for the Mass celebrated by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the council for new evangelization, gave the homily and described how St. Peter's life and vocation started with the great trust he put in Jesus' word and the miracles that trust would reap.

However, Peter was never quite ready to give up everything for the Lord -- who was always patient and loved him all the same, the archbishop said.

It took 30 more years, he said, before the apostle was ready to do more than just follow Christ by giving up everything, including his own life, for God.

"Here Peter fulfills his vocation. It takes 30 years. It doesn't matter. God is patient with us," the archbishop said. "He has to find an open heart."


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Pope removes bishop from governance of Memphis, names administrator

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 1:12pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Cat


WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has removed Bishop Martin D. Holley of Memphis, Tennessee, from the pastoral governance of the diocese and has named as apostolic administrator Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky.

Bishop Holley, 63, a former auxiliary bishop of Washington, was installed Oct. 19, 2016, as the fifth bishop of Memphis. He succeeded Bishop J. Terry Steib when he retired.

"I humbly accept the appointment of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to serve as the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Memphis, while remaining archbishop of Louisville," Archbishop Kurtz said in an Oct. 24 statement confirming his appointment.

"I am eager to work with the priests, curia and faithful of the Diocese of Memphis to promote stability, peace and healing until Pope Francis appoints a new bishop. I have admired the church in Memphis for many years, particularly from my time as bishop of Knoxville," he said.

"I ask for prayers for Bishop Martin Holley as he departs from this local church and for the entire church of Memphis. Let us pray for one another during this time of transition," he added.

Archbishop Kurtz told Catholic News Service in an email message that he had just arrived in Memphis the morning of Oct. 24.

No statement has yet been released by the Memphis Diocese as to what led to Pope Francis' decision to remove Bishop Holley from the pastoral governance of the diocese.

Some months after he was installed as bishop there, Bishop Holley came under heavy criticism from clergy and parishioners for his decision to reassign two-thirds of the diocese's 60 active priests, except for five who were slated for retirement.

"No set policy existed at the time Bishop Holley arrived, on how long a parish assignment would last," then-diocesan spokesman Vince Higgins told CNS in June.

"The amount of time a priest spends (in an assignment) depends on the location and influence of the parish," Higgins added. "Associate pastors are moved more frequently, and Bishop Holley has decided to appoint pastors for six-year terms, with a possible renewal of the term for six more years."

Asked about priests' and parishioners' criticism that the changes were not communicated well across the diocese, Higgins stated that "Bishop Holley is always attentive to the needs of the 40 parishes which make up the Diocese of Memphis."

The bishop also was criticized for bringing in a Canadian priest to be his vicar general, Msgr. Clement J. Machado, rather than choosing a vicar general from among the priests of the diocese. Local clergy raised questions about whether proper church procedures had been followed for Msgr. Machado's transfer to the diocese. The priest resigned from the post some weeks later and returned to Canada.

The complaints about Bishop Holley prompted the Vatican -- through the nunciature in the U.S. -- to assign two U.S. archbishops to make an apostolic visitation this summer to the diocese, Archbishops Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta and Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Citing two unnamed sources in the diocese, The Commercial Appeal daily newspaper reported that Archbishops Gregory and Hebda visited the diocese June 18-20 for a fact-finding trip. They reportedly talked to between 40 and 50 clergy and a number of laypeople.

No one from the Memphis Diocese or the prelates' respective archdioceses would comment on the visitation when CNS asked for confirmation it had taken place.

Before his appointment as bishop of Memphis, Bishop Holley was an auxiliary bishop of the Washington Archdiocese for 12 years. There he served as vicar general and was a member of the archdiocesan college of consultors, priest's council, seminarian review board, administrative board. He was chairman of the college of deans, which oversees the 14 deaneries in the archdiocese.

Bishop Holley was born in Pensacola, Florida. He attended Theological College in Washington and completed his seminary studies at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida. He was ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee in 1987.

In Florida, then-Father Holley served as a parochial vicar and later administrator of St. Mary Parish in Fort Walton Beach. He also served at St. Paul and Little Flower parishes in Pensacola. He served as spiritual director of the Serra Club of West Florida, which promotes vocations to the priesthood, and for many years was a member of the Joint Conference of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.

His ordination as a bishop to serve the Washington Archdiocese took place in 2004 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. He chose "His Mercy Endures" as his episcopal motto, after having developed a great devotion to St. Faustina and her message of Divine Mercy during his years as a priest.

He has served on a number of committees for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, including the committees on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Pro-Life Activities; and National Collections. He has also served on committees for communications and cultural diversity and subcommittees on Africa, African-American Catholics, Hispanic affairs and migration.

There are 42 parishes and three missions in the Memphis Diocese, which covers 10,682 square miles. Catholics number over 65,000, or 4.5 percent of the area's total population.

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Contributing to this story was Robert Glover in Lexington, Kentucky.

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Judge orders arrest of longtime suspect in St. Romero's 1980 killing

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 1:06pm


By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Days after the Catholic Church declared Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero a saint, a judge in El Salvador issued a capture order for a former military captain suspected of killing the religious leader in 1980 as he celebrated Mass.

Judge Rigoberto Chicas issued the order Oct. 23 for national and international authorities to apprehend Alvaro Rafael Saravia, who has for years been a suspect in the killing. He remains at large and is believed to be in hiding. It's not the first time such an order has been issued against Saravia.

He was arrested in 1987 in Miami and has faced a variety of legal proceedings in El Salvador for years that proved fruitless in any meaningful prosecution because of an amnesty law that prevented prosecution of human rights violations by the military tied to the country's 1980-1992 civil war.

However, the 1993 law was thrown out by the country's highest court in 2016 and the case involving the killing of the archbishop was reopened the following year.

On the day before his assassination in San Salvador on March 24, 1980, St. Romero had demanded that the soldiers stop killing innocent civilians and had advocated for an end to the violence engulfing the Central American country. The conflict went on to last another 12 years, claiming more than 70,000 civilian lives, including the archbishop's.

In issuing the arrest order, Chicas said authorities have sufficient evidence to charge Saravia for participation in the crime. A United Nation's Truth Commission accused another Salvadoran military strongman, Major Roberto D'Aubuisson, a right-wing leader suspected of organizing the country's notorious death squads, of being the architect of the archbishop's assassination. D'Aubuisson died of cancer in 1992 and was never charged.

The arrest order comes nine days after the archbishop was declared a saint in a ceremony at the Vatican on Oct. 14. Maria Luisa de Martinez, D'Aubuisson's sister and a founder of the Archbishop Romero Foundation, attended the canonization.


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Pope calls for stronger preparation for sacrament of marriage

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 10:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Every heart longs for unconditional love and fidelity, Pope Francis said.

"Christ reveals authentic love," the pope said Oct. 24 during his weekly general audience. "He is the faithful friend who welcomes us even when we make mistakes and he always wants what is best for us, even when we don't deserve it," he said.

"Indeed, no human relationship is authentic without fidelity and loyalty," he told thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

Continuing his series of talks on the Ten Commandments, the pope reflected on Christ's explanation of the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shall not commit adultery."

"What God has joined together, no human being must separate" and whoever divorces their spouse to marry another, commits adultery, Jesus said according to St. Mark's Gospel.

There are many forms of adultery, the pope said in his audience talk, and fidelity actually reflects "a way of being" and living in the world.

"You work with devotion, you speak with sincerity, you stay faithful to the truth in your thoughts and deeds," he said.

Men and women whose lives are "woven with fidelity" are "faithful and trustworthy in every circumstance," he said.

But "our human nature is not enough" for bringing about this beautiful way of life, he said. "It is necessary for God's fidelity to come into our lives and 'infect' us."

"The Sixth Commandment calls us to turn our gaze to Christ, who with his fidelity can take away our adulterous heart and give us a faithful heart," the pope said.

The pope reiterated his call for stronger and more effective catechesis in preparation for marriage. This new catechumenate is necessary, he said, because "you can't play around with love," especially when it comes to making a vow that lasts a lifetime.

A marriage preparation program that involve just a few meetings is not preparation, "it is fake," he said. It is the full responsibility of the parish priest and bishop to make sure the proper amount of time and discernment have been spent preparing for something that is a true sacrament, not a just formality.

The pope said that "every human being needs to be loved unconditionally" and those who do not experience this will seek to fill the void with "surrogates," accepting "compromises and mediocrity" that hardly qualify as love, and mistaking "puppy love" and immature relationships as the true "light" of one's life.

Men and women seeking marriage must go beyond physical attraction and discover through a mature and lengthy discernment "the quality of their relationship."

They must discern with certainty whether "the hand of God" is leading and accompanying them on their journey, he added.

A couple cannot promise to be faithful "for better, for worse" and to love and honor each other every day of their lives "only on the basis of good intentions or on the hope that things 'work out.' They need to base it on the solid terrain of God's faithful love."


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Catholic officials say Hurricane Michael sets new bar for disaster relief

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 3:43pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Terray Sylvester, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- Yirca Salazar, a quality assurance specialist for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, was just a toddler when 1992's Category-5 Hurricane Andrew left a trail of destruction south of Miami.

But Salazar doesn't remember much about that historic storm, whose wind strength is being compared to this year's Hurricane Michael and its cataclysmic impact on parts of the Florida Panhandle.

But Salazar said she will remember the destruction Michael has wrought.

"This was my first time to volunteer in providing disaster relief firsthand and for me was a great experience to be that face, and to be those hands that work with the community and actually being able to say to people, 'We have food and we have diapers and we have water,'" Salazar told the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

She was part of a four-person team from Catholic Charities of Miami to do a four-day, fact-finding and needs assessment during the week of Oct. 15 in three or four rural and coastal areas of the Florida Panhandle.

Hurricane Michael's Oct. 10 landfall brought near Category-5 strength winds when it came ashore at Mexico Beach, near Panama City on the Florida Gulf Coast. Two weeks after the storm came ashore, Michael's death toll has risen to 29 in Florida alone and a total of 39 across the Southern United States. Much of the impacted region remains without power and clean water.

While housed at a Catholic retreat center in nearby Tallahassee, the Miami team focused on needs assessments and establishing a new distribution center in the town of Quincy, where some 99 percent of the residents of the rural area are Hispanic farmworkers, including seasonal workers and those in the country without legal documents.

They also toured the towns of Port St. Joe and hard-hit Mexico Beach near Panama City, considered the storm's epicenter.

"We drove by to see what the impact was in Mexico Beach and it is really sad to see so many homes destroyed -- it will take a long time for them to recover," Salazar said. "In Quincy, there are a lot of migrant workers and a lot of their crops are damaged so they are not working. We saw very large families of six, eight and 11 people."

She noted the Miami team may return at a future date and that other Catholic Charities teams are helping to staff the volunteer distribution sites, generally staged at about four Catholic churches.

Some of the distributions sites are so busy that drive-by food and supplies distribution are the best way to manage the demands.

A ground-zero distribution site at St. Dominic Church in Panama City has been accommodating some 4,000 to 5,000 persons a day coming for food and cleaning supplies, including about 3,000 people a day who request a hot meal, according to Matthew Knee, executive director of Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida.

Knee said it requires some 75 volunteers a day to run the St. Dominic site during the week and about double that on the weekends. He estimated that an estimated 10 church properties experienced severe damage, with three or four churches rendered unusable.

"We have redefined what severe damage is now. If the church still has four walls and part of a roof, they are doing pretty well. A few have been taken down to their foundations, including Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Mexico Beach, which was really taken down to the foundation," said Knee.

He said he grew up in Florida and that until now, 2004's Hurricane Ivan was the regional benchmark for destructive storms in the Panhandle. But Michael's wind and storm surge may have reset the bar, he noted.

"People here are saying Hurricane Ivan did not compare to Michael: This one the damage is so widespread and totally different. Many are saying Hurricane Michael hands down makes Ivan look like an afternoon thunderstorm and will be the new baseline," said Knee, who underscored the need for a continuing volunteer effort to run basic goods distribution sites for the foreseeable future.

"We are still doing our immediate needs assistance out of multiple churches," he said. "The community has really pulled together, but our concern is that this will get pushed out of the way by the next big storm or next big news story. Please do not forget us. This will be a long process."

Devika Austin, a Catholic Charities staffer from Miami, said she spoke with clergy at St. Thomas the Apostle, a rural inland parish in Quincy, some 80 miles north of Mexico Beach, where power outages and wind damages are spelling trouble for the tomato-growing business and its workforce there.

"This is their time to start working their crops and with the storm they don't know if people will stay and try to work the situation or if they end up leaving," Austin said. "There is no water in areas and no natural gas. We saw some were cooking outdoors."

Austin helped establish a new distribution of donations in Quincy, and another team from other Florida dioceses were expected to continue staffing the site this week.

Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities of Miami, noted that many of his staff and others around the region had not experienced firsthand the busy hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 and were now getting their firsthand experience on hurricane disaster relief in the Panhandle.

After the prolonged period of emergency assistance and donated supplies distribution ends in the Panhandle, there will be a time for addressing lingering effects of trauma and mental illness caused by a storm of this magnitude.

"I run into staff and (Charities) board members who have very vivid memories of (1992's) Hurricane Andrew and it goes to show the post-traumatic stress that these things can cause," said Routsis-Arroyo, who noted that some $2 million of Red Cross grants were given regionally to assist with mental health counseling following last year's Hurricane Irma in Florida. He further credited Catholic Charities USA for recently designating $1 million in donated funds for Hurricane Michael victims.

"I thought what appeared to be a slow hurricane season in 2018 has turned into a monster. This has been the most active season on record in the Pacific Ocean, and certainly ours here in the Atlantic has been active," he added. "The surviving grace here is that it is now later in October, and we won't have the suffocating heat of August and September."

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Editor's Note: More information about recovery and volunteer efforts can be found online at

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Pope calls for new alliance between young, old to change the world

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 11:32am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the launch of a new book, Pope Francis is calling for a new alliance -- between young and old -- to change the world.

In an effort to counteract today's "culture of waste" that too easily marginalizes or ignores the young and the elderly, the book by Loyola Press creates a model of storytelling, dialogue, connection and reflection to help inspire these two groups to come together and rediscover older people's lost "treasure of their wisdom."

Packed with large full-color photographs of the elder contributors, the coffee-table-style book, titled, "Sharing the Wisdom of Time," was released Oct. 23 at a book launch in Rome, with the pope scheduled to attend.

The 175-page book fleshes out what Pope Francis said he feels "the Lord wants me to say: that there should be an alliance between the young and old people."

This alliance entails elders sharing their past experiences, advice, insights and dreams with younger people who are hungry for guidance and support as they prepare for their future, the pope said in the book's preface.

Older people need to be "memory keepers," forming a choir of praise and prayers supporting the people around them, he wrote, especially younger people, showing them the secrets to not just survival, but finding meaning and living life to the full, he said.

The pope calls on young people "to listen to and bond with their elders," and the book offers a starter course, of sorts, offering scores of stories and wisdom from older people from 30 countries and from every walk of life: retired lawyers and engineers, farmers, garbage pickers, activists, refugees and a spiritual elder of the Lakota People in the United States. They speak of their experiences with racism, forgiveness, imperfection, conversion, beauty and joy despite the setbacks.

The stories are spread over five thematic chapters: work, struggle, love, death and hope, and each chapter begins with the pope reflecting on each theme. People's stories are interspersed with the pope's own reflections on an individual's story, showing a model of how to mine its message for nuggets of advice that may mirror or be applied to one's own life.

The book also includes a few stories by younger people sharing, "What I learned from an elder" and how an older person acted like an anchor, offering hope, support or inspiration in their lives.

The book invites readers to find opportunities to dialogue with elders and to visit for ideas and suggestions on how to spearhead intergenerational conversations, events and projects at home, in their communities and their parishes.

Some of the words of wisdom by the pope in the book:

-- "Failure is the source of much wisdom," he said. "No complaining allowed! It does not help. It does more harm than good."

-- "Our life is not given to us as an already scripted opera libretto," where all the scenes are predetermined and fixed. "Failures cannot stop us if we feel the fire in our heart" to move forward and learn from mistakes.

-- "The success of life is not glory but patience. Sometimes you need a lot of it."

-- "Our God wants to join us in our history," he said. Just being content with survival and "not wanting to make history is a parasitic attitude."

-- Speaking about refugees who have faced insecurity with discernment and courage to leave their homes, they "will not let themselves be overcome by difficulties." They refuse to accept defeat, "there is no wisdom in just giving up."

-- One person cannot solve all the problems in the world, but she or he can oppose it with being good, kind and caring to oneself and others. "You can fight with the smile and with the readiness to be kind to others."

-- "Learn the wisdom of getting help. You experience the solidarity that allows your heart to dream" and pull one out of despair.

-- "Failure is not the last word. Failure always has a door that opens; woe to you if you turn it into a wall. You will never be able to get free."

-- "Sometimes we turn our little misadventures into epic dramas," but people need to put things into their proper perspective and maybe have a good sense of humor. "Love is creative and it will not be overcome by the disasters and pitfalls of life."

-- "We can look at death and feel rich, because God lavishly 'wastes' his grace poured out on us."

-- "If God did not forgive sins, the world would have ceased existing a long time ago."

-- It is easy to judge others who have sinned, but "what I see are people who have lived," he said. "Hope can be read in wrinkles."

-- On life being like a tapestry, "there is good and bad, death and life. If I look at my life, I like to think that the Lord would say with a smile, 'Look what I did with all your mistakes,'" giving the tangled threads new shape and meaning.

-- "Hypocrites will be scandalized by the miracles God works with our mistakes." Reversing a situation from sin to grace "is one of the most wonderful ways God acts in our lives."

-- "Complaining rusts out the soul," so do not pine over lost opportunities and temporal glory, remember the true final destination is to be with God.

-- "Faith is not paying a toll to go to heaven." God wants people to go forward with his love and "give us back to ourselves. God does not want anything 'from' us; he wants everything 'for' us."

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The book can be purchased online in English at:

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Nuns on the Bus 21-state tour stirs support for 'responsible programs'

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 3:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski

By Dennis Sadowski

CLEVELAND (CNS) -- Franciscan Sister Janice Cebula isn't one to turn down a chance to learn and be inspired.

So when Network, the Catholic social justice lobby, decided to take its Nuns on the Bus campaign on the road again beginning Oct. 8 to call attention to the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act and its impact on social services and local communities, she readily agreed to join one leg of the trip.

Sister Cebula, president of the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton, Iowa, told a rally at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry in Cleveland Oct. 20 that she has not been disappointed since joining the Tax Justice Truth Tour five days earlier in Omaha, Nebraska.

"You meet a lot of people who understand that we are all sisters and brothers," she said to applause from about 100 people. "And they act like it. We saw a lot of on-the-ground, really innovative programs that are integrative in addressing the whole person."

But she said she feared some programs and families may be endangered by possible future cuts in federal spending in response to the tax law.

Beginning in Santa Monica, California, the tour was to wind through 21 states before ending near President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, Nov. 2.

Sister Simon Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and executive director of Network, said the Palm Beach locale was chosen to demonstrate to the president and Congress that the tax cut law will add up to $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit in the next decade, and that planned cuts in federal spending on nonmilitary programs will harm the lives of low- and moderate-income people.

Sister Cebula told Catholic News Service she was particularly impressed after hearing from five women who are part of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry's Chopping for Change program. The women are nearing release from prison and under the program they are learning culinary and management skills at the Comeback Cafe at the Virgil E. Brown Center, headquarters of the Cuyahoga County government.

Chopping for Change is a partnership with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry. It is designed to train women with marketable skills for Northeast Ohio's burgeoning local food scene.

"Meeting these women here just confirmed why I'm on the bus," Sister Cebula said.

Tomika Daniel, 41, one of the women, manages the cafe and told CNS that she expects she will be able to find work when she is released from prison in June.

"With the support I'm getting, I don't have to walk with my head down," she said.

The two-year-old program has welcomed 89 women; 40 have been released from prison and gained employment. Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry reported no recidivism among the women.

Andrew Genszler, president and CEO of the Lutheran agency, said it, like other nonprofits, depends on public money to operate programs that make a difference in people's lives. "We spend government money wisely. We spend government money efficiently and cutting government spending threatens the lives of people in need," he told the rally.

"We don't care if government is big. We don't care if government is small. We care that government works. And when it doesn't work, it's up to us as people of faith to remind the people in office of the implications of the decisions they make for people like us," Genszler said.

The bus tour was meant to call attention to the potential negative impact of the tax law on social programs, explained Sister Campbell, who planned to complete the entire 54-stop tour. She called for "reasonable revenue for responsible programs."

"The message is that this tax legislation gives away money to those at the top who don't need it. And now Congress is planning to take away services from everybody else," she said.

Congressional supporters of the tax law said that it would be a boon for business and generate new revenues for the federal government over the course of the next decade.

Maria Smith, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Cleveland, joined the rally, holding a sign with Network's signature call. She expressed concern for what she called the country's misplaced priorities toward increased military spending and decreased spending on vital human needs.

"I support a tax policy that supports social justice that makes us responsible for taking care of on another, that we are responsible social justice based-tax policy," Smith said.

During a stop at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Tucson, Arizona, Oct. 11, a crowd of 200 people greeted the bus. Each person was invited to sign a pledge card to contact local elected officials about their concern about the fallout of the tax cut bill and then to sign the bus in the parish parking lot.

"Then, it's no longer just about the Nuns on the Bus. It's everybody," Sister Campbell told those gathered.

Salvatorian Father William Remmel welcomed the 10 sisters on the bus, stoking the crowd when he said "systems need to be held accountable and that the tax reform law "isn't just bad politics, it's bad theology."

Earlier in the day, the nuns stopped at the office of Rep. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, who was in a tight race for a U.S. Senate seat. McSally supported the 2017 tax cut law and Sister Campbell said that in a meeting with a legislative aide it became clear that the congresswoman would not be changing her position in the future.

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Contributing to this story was Michael Brown, managing editor of Catholic Outlook, newspaper of the Diocese of Tucson.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.


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U.S. cardinal: Abuse crisis discussed at synod, will top bishops' agenda

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 2:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the clerical sexual abuse crisis did not dominate discussions at the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said it was discussed, and everyone in the room clearly believed the crisis has to be dealt with.

Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke to Catholic News Service Oct. 22 as the synod was winding down and preparations for the U.S. bishops' November general meeting moved into high gear.

The agenda for the November meeting will include multiple items for dealing with the abuse crisis and, particularly, the issue of bishops' behavior and accountability, Cardinal DiNardo said.

One suggestion the bishops will examine, he said, is to draw up "a code of conduct for bishops," similar to those that most dioceses have for priests and for lay employees. Another would be to establish a "third-party reporting system" that would allow someone with an abuse complaint against a bishop to report him to someone not connected with his diocese or the bishops' conference.

"All of these involve issues that we are going to have to discern," the cardinal said. "We want to do something that will help intensify our commitment to change."

For any real change to take place, he said, the bishops must collaborate with each other and with lay experts.

Cardinal DiNardo said the bishops would begin their meeting Nov. 12 with some introductory business, but then would go directly into a day of prayer and fasting focused on the abuse crisis.

Many of the items that the bishops were due to consider at the November meeting, he said, will be postponed to devote more time to considering concrete steps to take in response to the abuse crisis. However, he said, they will vote on the proposed statement, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism."

Cardinal DiNardo is a veteran of the Synod of Bishops. The gathering Oct. 3-28 on young people, the faith and vocational discernment was his third synod.

"One of the best parts of this synod is obvious: the young people," he said. The 34 synod observers under the age of 30 "are lively, they applaud sometimes. They take a great interest in the speakers. They have been a very, very important part of the language groups," where synod members, observers and experts make recommendations for the gathering's final document.

The young adults are serious about the church "listening to them, the church being attentive to them," he said. "They also are not opposed to the church's teaching necessarily at all. They want to be heard and listened to, but they also want to draw on the vast beauty and tradition of the church and do some listening of their own."

In his speech to the synod, Cardinal DiNardo asked that the final synod document include a reference to how following Jesus includes a willingness to embrace his life-giving cross.

Young people are not afraid of a challenge, the cardinal said. "They may not always 'get' things of the church, but they know who Jesus is and Jesus is not mediocre; he doesn't want you and me to be mediocre. He wants us to follow him to the cross and only then to glory."

Cardinal DiNardo said he was struck at the synod by the variety of young people and especially the variety of their experiences, including experiences of being persecuted for their Christian faith or the challenges of being part of a Christian minority.

"Young people are much more serious than I think we give them credit for," he said. And, hearing a young person's story of faith probably is the most effective way to evangelize other young people.

As for the Catholic Church's outreach to young people struggling with church teaching on sexuality or who are homosexual, Cardinal DiNardo said it is not a marginal issue in the lives of young people and it was not a marginal issue at the synod.

"A lot of us wanted to mention it and say, 'Yes, it's a real issue; we have to accompany people,'" he said, "but we can't forget the words of the Lord, 'Follow me,' and that requires sometimes for all of us a conversion of hearts."


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Synod members 'share the journey' with migrants, refugees

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 10:24am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honduran Bishop Jose Antonio Canales of Danli said that, given what is going on in his country and throughout Central America, he had to walk in the "Share the Journey" campaign of Caritas Internationalis.

The 1.5-mile walk Caritas organized Oct. 21 from Rome's Trastevere neighborhood to the Vatican "is nothing when compared to what migrants are experiencing," said the bishop, who was in Rome for the Synod of Bishops while thousands of his fellow citizens were in a caravan heading toward Mexico and the United States to flee violence and poverty.

Joseph Moeono-Kolio from Samoa, one of the young adult observers at the synod, also joined the walk because "migrants and refugees are being forced from their homes. They don't want to leave, but they have to, and once they arrive, they aren't welcome."

Nicole Perez from the Philippines, another young synod observer, said that when she was a small child, her mother went to Japan to work. "She returned when I was 10. The feeling of parting from your loved ones, it hurts. We should make migrants and refugees feel they are not alone in that journey."

Caritas Internationalis launched the "Share the Journey" campaign in September 2017 to encourage every Catholic everywhere in the world to get to know at least one migrant or refugee and listen to his or her story. The campaign also is supporting solidarity walks around the world.

Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of Caritas, led the walk in Rome. Before leading a prayer and setting off toward the Vatican, he told reporters that in many places "there is fear" of migrants and refugees "because there is no personal encounter. It's natural to be afraid of what we don't know."

Although the journey to the Vatican was brief, he prayed that "every step we take this morning would be an act of solidarity with the millions of people on the move who do not know where their journey will end."

The group reached the Vatican in time to recite the Angelus prayer with Pope Francis, who greeted them after his midday address.

"I encourage this initiative of 'sharing the journey,' which is being promoted in many cities and can transform our relationship with migrants," the pope said.

Later, his Pontifex Twitter account shared the message: "Join Caritas and walk 1 million kilometers together with migrants and refugees. We are all on the Road to Emmaus being called to see the face of Christ."

Canadian Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec, said he joined the walk because migration "is one of the main challenges facing the world and the church."

"There is so much resistance in so many countries," he said.

Before setting off for the Vatican, Dominican Sister Helen Alford, vice dean of Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas, told Catholic News Service: "We can solve the migration crisis. We have the means."

The first step, she said, is for Catholics to pressure their governments to sign the U.N. "Global Compacts" for refugees and for "safe, orderly and regular migration." An international conference for the adoption of the compacts will be held in Morocco in December.

Adopting and implementing the compacts, Sister Alford said, will make migration "legal, transparent and manageable," saving lives and disrupting the "business" of human traffickers and smugglers.

Then, she said, "we need to promote the formation of migrants, so they can be part of the solution." The University of St. Thomas, more commonly known as the Angelicum, will be starting such a program soon for migrants in Rome, she said.


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Update: Response to sexual abuse crisis tops agenda for USCCB fall meeting

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 6:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The firestorm surrounding the clergy sex abuse crisis and the way some bishops handled allegations of abuse against priests will be an important part of the agenda of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly.

The bishops have had to deal with seemingly endless revelations of allegations of abusive clergy since June, most of which referred to long-past incidents. New reports from media outlets also were expected as the Nov. 12-14 assembly in Baltimore approaches.

Bishops nationwide also are facing new challenges as several state attorneys general have opened investigations into the handling of abuse allegations. The investigations follow the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August that linked more than 300 priests and church workers to abuse claims and identified more than 1,000 victims over a 70-year period dating from 1947.

The USCCB has not directly addressed the investigations and has not offered any indication that it will advise bishops on how to respond.

Beyond the discussions of clergy sexual abuse and any further actions, the bishops were expected to vote on a new pastoral letter on racism, though the agenda for the meeting has not been finalized.

Security, always tight during the twice-a-year assemblies, is expected to be stricter than usual to prevent access to the Marriott Waterfront Hotel meeting site by protesters upset with the way the bishops have handled reports of abuse by clergy.

In preparing for the fall assembly, the bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 outlined actions to address the abuse crisis, including approving the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops.

Committee members instructed the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults.

The Administrative Committee also initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or "negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases."

The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority of the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops when they meet for their fall and spring general assemblies.

A USCCB spokesman said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, conference president, was unavailable to discuss specific plans for the assembly because he and other conference leaders were in Rome attending the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment. The synod was to conclude Oct. 28.

Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, also declined to discuss the issue, saying in an Oct. 16 email to Catholic News Service that board members were continuing to draft recommendations that would be delivered to the bishops during the assembly.

In August, Cesareo told Catholic News Service that the bishops "have to put their trust in lay leadership and allow that lay leadership to develop the processes and oversight when these kinds of allegations occur, particularly holding bishops accountable."

The all-lay National Review Board, established by the bishops in 2002, oversees compliance by dioceses with the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." It has no role in oversight of bishops.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Communications, told Catholic News Service Oct. 19 that the bishops must "continue to press forward" in explaining how well the charter "is working and continues to work."

"It important that we as a conference have made incredible strides in protecting children to the point that one of the safest places for children to participate is the Catholic community in the United States," he said.

"But that message is not getting out there. Many people still believe that the abuse of children and the cover-up by church authorities is an ongoing issue and that the bishops haven't done enough to address the issue. That's contrary to the evidence in contrast to the number of reported abuses since 2002," Bishop Coyne said.

"We have to continually say the charter is working and doing its job."

Bishop Coyne also told CNS he would recommend that dioceses voluntarily open their clergy personnel files -- including those of bishops -- to investigators.

"We all do it and it's done," he said.

Meanwhile, work on the pastoral letter addressing racism was nearing its conclusion.

Bishop Sheldon J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the bishop's Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, has shepherded the final stages of work on the document since May when he stepped in for Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, who resigned to undergo treatment for acute leukemia.

The proposed statement, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," says that "despite many promising strides made in our country, the ugly cancer of racism still infects our nation."

"Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love," the proposed pastoral letter says.

The document examines the history of racism in the U.S. While acknowledging many other groups in the county have endured racism and discrimination in the past, it focuses on three groups: African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

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Synod groups on sexuality: Church welcomes all, calls all to conversion

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 8:56am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- No one is excluded from the love of God or from being welcomed into the Catholic Church, but God's love and the church's welcome also come with a call to conversion, said the English-language groups at the Synod of Bishops.

Young people need to know "the church's beautiful, yet challenging, vision, teaching and anthropology of the body, sexuality, love and life, marriage and chastity," said the English-A group.

"At the same time, we restate the church's opposition to discrimination against any person or group, and her insistence that God loves every young person, and so does the church," the group said in its report.

The reports, published by the Vatican Oct. 20, were the result of reflections in the small groups -- divided by language -- on the final chapter of the synod working document, which dealt with "pastoral and missionary conversion."

Most of the 14 working groups called for further local and national dialogue with young people on what they need from the Catholic Church and what they can offer the church. Most also called for a greater involvement of women in the life of the church, including in the training of priests, and many acknowledged how the sexual abuse scandal undermines the church's credibility.

None of the synod groups in any language used the term "LGBT," but many of them did refer to a need to help young people who struggle with church teaching on sexuality or, more explicitly, those who experience "same-sex attraction."

The English-B group said that it "discussed the issue of Catholics who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria," which refers to believing one's biological sex does not correspond to his or her true identity.

The group asked that the synod's final document include "a separate section for this issue and that the main objective of this be the pastoral accompaniment of these people which follows the lines of the relevant section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church." The catechism teaches that homosexual activity is sinful, but that homosexual people must be respected and welcomed.

The English-D group said it, too, "spent a good deal of time reflecting on the motif of the church's stance of welcome and inclusivity. We fully and enthusiastically acknowledge that the church of Jesus Christ reaches out in love to absolutely everyone."

"No one, on account of gender, lifestyle or sexual orientation, should ever be made to feel unloved, uncared for," the group said. "However, as St. Thomas Aquinas specifies, love means 'willing the good of the other.' And this is why authentic love by no means excludes the call to conversion, to change of life."

The group also echoed a sentiment shared by other groups that through the synod, the speeches and the contributions of the young adults present "it became eminently clear that young people crave holiness of life and desire practical training that will help them walk the path of sanctity."

The English-C group, like many others, noted that while the synod can provide general suggestions for listening to young people and involving them in the life of the church, individual parishes and dioceses will need to find specific ways to put those suggestions into practice.

"We suggest that episcopal conferences be strongly invited to take up the results of the synod and engage in a similar process of reflection in their own milieus, even including non-bishops in the deliberations, as this synod has done," the group said.

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Smith dinner's tone lighthearted, but abuse crisis not ignored in remarks

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 3:57pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Beth Griffin

NEW YORK (CNS) -- In the current toxic environment where political rivals describe each other as "evil" and "enemies," it is imperative to remember that in America, "our political opponents are not evil, they are just our opponents," according to Ambassador Nikki R. Haley.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was the keynote speaker at the 73rd annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Oct. 18 at the New York Hilton.

Haley distinguished the heated rhetoric from the "true evil" she has witnessed in South Sudan, Syria and North Korea since she arrived at the United Nations in 2016.

The Al Smith dinner honors the memory of the former governor of New York, who was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for president of the United States. Proceeds from the $3,000-a-plate event help needy children in the greater New York area. The foundation distributed $3.4 million in grants after last year's dinner.

The event drew 700 guests to the traditionally festive gathering of political, religious and philanthropic New Yorkers. Among those sharing the three-tiered dais were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Chuck Schumer, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Jeff Glor, anchor of the "CBS Evening News."

Comedian Jim Gaffigan was the dinner's master of ceremonies. He poked fun at the presumed wealth of the guests, whom he described as a "distinguished diverse group of rich, super-rich and Michael Bloomberg."

Bloomberg, the billionaire former three-term mayor of New York, also was seated on the dais. Gaffigan said wearing a white bow tie and tails and looking at the sea of diners in formal attire made him feel "like I'm in an ugly episode of Downton Abbey."

He introduced Haley as "the next president of the United States," in a nod to widespread speculation that the Oct. 9 announcement she will leave her U.N. post at the end of the year signifies her intention to run for the presidency. Haley, the Republican former governor of South Carolina, has denied that she will challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.

She made light of the unexpected news of her departure. Haley said she asked Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the event's host, if there was anything she could do to boost attendance at the dinner. "He said, "Why don't you resign as U.S. ambassador?'" she said.

Haley joked that as a member of Trump's Cabinet, "it's a thrill to be out to dinner without being harassed."

She said Trump, who spoke at the 2016 dinner with then-opponent Hillary Clinton, offered her advice about her speech. "He said if I get stuck for laughs, just brag about his accomplishments. It really killed at the U.N."

Haley said she learned a lot during her tenure at the U.N. Despite the serious disagreements and differences among the 193 member nations, "at one point, every single one of them was paying Paul Manafort," she laughed.

Haley said her parents emigrated from India "legally, but I keep them at an undisclosed location, just in case." She said when Trump heard she was an Indian American, "he asked if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren."

Despite the lighthearted tone of the event, the clergy sex abuse scandal and its fallout hung in the air and were addressed head-on by the speakers. In his invocation, Cardinal Dolan, the dinner's host, asked God's mercy "on a church we have also blushed at" for its response to the issue.

Haley said sexual abuse is not limited to the Catholic family and the church "recognizes its deep responsibility to address this moral failing."

"It would be tragic to allow the abuse scandal to blind anyone to the amazing good works the Catholic church does every single day," Haley said. "In the last two years, I have been to some very dark places where human suffering is on a level hard for most Americans to imagine."

She described a South American border area where church organizations are the sole providers of food and a refugee camp in central Africa where the church is on the forefront of those seeking change.

"Just about everywhere I've been, I've come across the Catholic Church doing incredible work that lifts up millions of desperate people. It is serving God's will," she said.

Gaffigan said 1928, the year Al Smith ran for president, "was a tough year to be a Catholic," as was 2018. Introducing himself, Gaffigan said, to applause, "Unlike many Catholics in America who were raised Catholic, I am still Catholic and I still go to church every Sunday. Mostly, I'm afraid to tell my wife I don't want to go."

Gaffigan and his wife are both from large Catholic families. "She is one of nine and they do everything together," he said. A movie outing at Christmas included 30 people. "That's not a group, it's a flash mob. People thought we were from a church. To put in in perspective, Jesus only walked around with 12."

The comedian said he and his wife "have recreated the chaos of our childhoods" by raising a young family of five in Manhattan. He said the real reason he accepted Cardinal Dolan's invitation to emcee the dinner was the optimistic hope that the cardinal would "write some recommendations" for his children.

During the dinner, Lowell C. McAdam, chairman and former chief executive officer of Verizon Communications, received the Happy Warrior Award. The distinction recalls the nickname given to Al Smith by Franklin D. Roosevelt at the 1924 Democratic Convention. The award recognizes someone who epitomizes Gov. Smith's character, grace and leadership by making a positive impact on others.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn offered the benediction.

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