You are here

Feed aggregator

God's grace comes in unexpected, surprising ways, pope says

Top Stories - Mon, 07/09/2018 - 10:12am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God does not conform to people's expectations, and he often presents himself and his graces in surprising ways, Pope Francis said.

"God does not conform himself to preconceptions. We have to make an effort to open our hearts and minds to accept the divine reality that presents itself to us," the pope said before praying the Angelus to those gathered in St. Peter's Square July 8.

For example, the pope said, the people of Nazareth could not understand how Jesus, a simple carpenter with no formal education, could perform miracles and outdo even the scribes with his teachings.

Being so familiar with Jesus' family and modest roots, the residents go from being in awe to being incredulous at what the Lord had to say, Pope Francis said.

"Instead of opening themselves up to reality, they are scandalized," he said, because in their minds, God would never lower himself to speak through such an ordinary man.

"It's the scandal of the incarnation," which still exists today, he said, when people have preconceived notions about God, which keep them from recognizing him.

"It's about having faith; the lack of faith is an obstacle to God's grace. Many baptized live as if Christ didn't exist -- they repeat the gestures and signs of faith, but these do not correspond to a real bond to the person of Jesus and his Gospel," he said.

"The Lord invites us to adopt an approach of humble listening and waiting meekly because God's grace often presents itself to us in surprising ways that do not match our expectations," he added.

St. Teresa of Kolkata is a good example of this, he said. She was a petite, poor nun who -- with prayer and good works -- did miraculous, great things and "revolutionized the charitable work of the church."

"She is an example for our day," the pope said, asking that people open themselves up to God's grace, truth, mission and mercy, "which is meant for everyone, without anyone excluded."

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Work requirements to qualify for government aid: How well does it work?

Top Stories - Fri, 07/06/2018 - 1:23pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Ever since the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 -- longhand for "welfare reform" -- became law, the federal government has imposed work requirements for adults receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families money.

Generally, the recipient of such money has to work at a job, be actively seeking a job or take part in a job training program -- and be able to document it -- to receive the cash assistance. Those who don't are at risk of having their funds cut off for months. For repeat offenders, it could be years.

In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that encouraged federal agencies to find ways to expand work requirements as a condition of receiving benefits.

That encouragement has spread to states, as some have tied work requirements to expansion of federal Medicaid benefits to those not just below the federal poverty line, but barely scraping above it.

Congress also has picked up on the hint, as the House version of the farm bill which passed in June imposed more restrictive work requirements for those receiving federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, once known as food stamps, with some critics warning that 2 million Americans -- many of them children -- would be in danger of being cut off from aid.

Does imposing work requirements work?

Andy Schneider, a research professor at the Center for Children and Families in Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, suggested that when it comes to Medicaid coverage, the question is not germane.

"To get to the chase here, it's not about encouraging people to work. It's not about providing work supports like transportation or child care. That's not what Medicaid does," Schneider told Catholic News Service.

To date, 32 states have expanded their Medicaid coverage to all adults under 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Virginia, which approved Medicaid expansion and imposed work requirements in May, will be the 33rd. Of those, Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas and Wyoming have gotten approval from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to impose work requirements, according to Schneider; Alabama and Mississippi have their requests pending at HHS.

Schneider said he was part of an amicus brief in a federal suit testing whether HHS' approval of new work requirements for Kentucky, which had expanded Medicaid protection years ago, is legal. But the case was rejected June 29 by a federal judge. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, has threatened to rescind the expansion if it is not tied to work requirements.

"Requiring people to work is not what Medicaid as a health insurance program does. It's not the purpose. It was not designed to do it. It doesn't provide and funds for work support," he said. And trying to do so, Schneider added, is like trying to put "mashed potatoes into a Popsicle mold."

LaDonna Pavetti, vice president of family income support policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has been tracking government assistance to families since before the 1996 welfare overhaul.

Some states do better at supporting families, she said. "No program is perfect," but California's is "pretty comprehensive," Pavetti added. The state has "a pretty robust cash employment program. More people who need it (get it). They address the diversity of needs ... for people who really need it," including community college education, she said. Minnesota doesn't have the community college component, but much else of what California offers.

At the other end of the spectrum, "in Georgia, you basically have to be able to show up for 40 hours a week before you ever get on" the benefit rolls, Pavetti said, with only 5 percent of those eligible receiving TANF benefits. "Indiana, a few years, ago made a policy change and so there it's just plummeted."

Before the imposition of work requirements, according to Pavetti, 68 percent of those eligible nationwide received benefits. "Now it's 23 (percent). ... In some states, it's four. In some states, it's just disappeared."

Why? "It's a mix of things," Pavetti replied. "The requirements are onerous and people find it difficult to meet. The programs people are required to participate them are not great."

At the start of the 1996 welfare overhaul, "if you look what happened, there was an increase in employment, but five years out, they all go away," she said. That span coincided with an expansion and contraction of the economy, but the subsequent economic boom didn't trickle down far enough to affect needy families until now, which in Pavetti's calculations is roughly equivalent to 1996.

"You didn't see much of an increase in earnings or income. They lost cash assistance, so they canceled each other out," Pavetti added.

"The people who say this is a success story use four years of data, and then we have 17 years of data after that. They still spread this story that work requirements are the best thing since sliced bread," she said. "I always wonder what we've done wrong in telling this story."

The House version of the farm bill is already making some people nervous.

"I think the fear is that folks might lose some of these benefits with that new proposal which includes that new provision that would require folks to work 20 hours a week or lose their benefits," said Jose Chapa, a legislative campaign coordinator for Justice for Farmworkers, part of Rural Migrant Ministry in New York state.

"There are people who are not maybe able to find work. That's a big fear in the community," Chapa told CNS. "If you are not able to find those 20 hours of work a week, and you do have children that depend on meals, are they going to be affected by it? It seems that with this restructuring, some families would be affected by that change."

A June 26 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 42 percent of those non-elderly adults receiving Medicaid benefits were already working full time, and another 18 percent were working part time. Fourteen percent said illness or disability kept them from working, 12 percent said they were caregivers and 6 percent said they were going to school. Of the remaining 7 percent, retirement or the inability to find work were among the top reasons for not working.

Politifact rated as "mostly false" a Jan. 22 Heartland Institute claim that work requirements have been "proven to help impoverished families move from dependency to self-sufficiency."

"Work requirements might help in some instances, but the data also show that they leave some families worse off," it concluded. "The most inclusive, long-term research shows that requiring work in order to get government benefits reduces the use of benefits and increases employment. It does not, however, reliably produce enough income gains to lift people out of poverty or free them from reliance on other government assistance."

But what happened to those who didn't meet the work requirements and got kicked off federal assistance?

They were "living in whatever ways they could," Pavetti said. "Some of it was doubling up with relatives. Some of it was whatever odd jobs they could get. Some of it was selling plasma. Some of it was living on their food stamps. ... Some kids got put in foster care."

She added, "It doesn't take much -- losing your job or your car breaking down -- to start the spiral."

- - -

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Nigerian bishops link government inaction on violence to religion

Top Stories - Fri, 07/06/2018 - 12:28pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/via Reuters TV

By Peter Ajayi Dada

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- Nigeria's Catholic bishops criticized the president's lack of action against ethnic Fulani herdsmen who attack farmers and linked his inaction to his religion.

"It can no longer be regarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country, including the president himself," the bishops said.

"If the president cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens," the bishops' conference said in a July 2 statement signed in the capital, Abuja, by its president, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City, and general secretary, Bishop Camillus Umoh of Ikot Ekpene.

President Muhammadu Buhari "should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard that our country has become," they said.

Buhari, a Muslim and a former military ruler, won office in a democratic transfer of power in 2015 and plans to seek a second term in elections scheduled for February.

Communal violence is widely attributed to a decades-old cycle of conflict between predominantly Christian farmers and Muslim semi-nomadic herders, partly due to competition for arable land.

More than 200 people were killed in late June in violence in central Nigeria's Plateau state. There has been a spike in communal violence in Africa's most populous country, with hundreds of people being killed since the start of the year.

In the wake of more deaths in an upsurge in communal violence in Nigeria, the country's bishops said the government has lost the people's trust.

"Words are no longer enough for the president and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project," the bishops said.

The country "is likely to witness another mass burial of innocent Nigerians as a result of the serial murderous activities of a group who clearly seems to be above the law of the country and who, by their actions and words, have insisted that human lives are worth less than the lives of cattle," they said.

Nineteen people, including two priests, were buried in May in Ayati. Father Joseph Gor, Father Felix Tyolaha and 17 parishioners were killed during the celebration of Mass at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ayar Mbalom, in Benue state.

"This shameful inversion of values portrays our country as barbaric and our society as brutish," the bishops said.

They called on the police to make swift arrests of perpetrators of the Plateau state attacks, noting that law enforcement happens fast when herders are killed.

In a letter to Buhari, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, retired archbishop of Lagos, said that every life is precious, irrespective of ethnic, regional or religious affiliation, and that citizens look to government to protect them.

"But, here in Nigeria, the blood of the innocent flows like water, despite Nigerians' desire and demand that government secure their lives and property," he said.

"Where were you, Mr. President, while innocent lives were being wasted in Plateau state? Where were your service chiefs when babies were being ripped out of their mothers' wombs by men who claimed to do so because of their cows?" he asked.

"I am not afraid to risk my life for the sake of this country, for the sake of future generations. I have no party affiliation," the cardinal said.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

'Sterile hypocrisy' behind mistreatment of migrants, pope says

Top Stories - Fri, 07/06/2018 - 11:15am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hearts that are closed to welcoming migrants and refugees are similar to those of the Pharisees, who often would preach sacrifice and following God's law without exercising mercy to those in need, Pope Francis said.

Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees' "insidious murmuring" is "a finger pointed at the sterile hypocrisy of those who do not want to 'dirty their hands,' like the priest or the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan," the pope said in his homily July 6 during a Mass commemorating the fifth anniversary of his visit to the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.

"This is a temptation powerfully present in our own day. It takes the form of closing our hearts to those who have the right -- just as we do -- to security and dignified living conditions. It builds walls, real or virtual, rather than bridges," he said.

According to the Vatican, an estimated 200 migrants, refugees and rescue volunteers attended the Mass, which was celebrated at the altar of St. Peter's Basilica. Pope Francis greeted each person present after the Mass ended.

In his homily, the pope recalled his visit to Lampedusa and repeated "that timeless appeal to human responsibility, 'Where is your brother? His blood cries out to me.'"

Sadly, he said, "the response to this appeal, even if at times generous, has not been enough, and we continue to grieve thousands of deaths."

The pope said that Jesus' invitation to those "who labor" to find rest in him is a promise of freedom for all who are oppressed. However, "he needs us to fulfill his promise."

"He needs our eyes to see the needs of our brothers and sisters. He needs our hands to offer them help. He needs our voice to protest the injustices committed thanks to the silence, often complicit, of so many," he said.

Solidarity and mercy, the pope continued, are the only components of a reasonable response to the migration crisis that is "less concerned with calculations than with the need for an equitable distribution of responsibilities, an honest and sincere assessment of the alternatives and a prudent management."

Speaking in Spanish to representatives of rescue teams stationed in the Mediterranean Sea, Pope Francis thanked them "for embodying in our day the parable of the good Samaritan, who stopped to save the life of the poor man beaten by bandits."

He also encouraged those who have been rescued to be "witnesses of hope in a world increasingly concerned about the present, with little vision for the future and averse to sharing."

"With respect for the culture and laws of the country that receives you, may you work out together the path of integration," Pope Francis said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Legal experts say court pick unlikely to lead directly to overturn of Roe

Top Stories - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 2:44pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By Steve Larkin

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- During his 30 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy was usually in the middle of the court on life issues.

While he voted with the majority in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed the central holding of Roe v. Wade, he was in the minority in Hill v. Colorado, which limited the ability of pro-life activists to distribute pamphlets and engage in sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics. He also was in the minority in a decision striking down a state ban on partial-birth abortion.

Although many in the conservative movement have been hoping that, after Republican presidents appoint enough justices, Roe v. Wade will be overturned, it seems unlikely that President Donald Trump's pick to replace Kennedy will lead directly to an overturn.

"What will probably happen is that the Supreme Court would be more open to the states regulating and restricting abortion. An outright reversal of Roe is less likely," said Michael Moreland, a professor of law and religion and director of the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University.

"In a limited number of cases they'll make a sweeping decision -- Roe, Obergefell -- but the courts tend to take these things in multiple steps. They might not go all the way," he said.

Moreland added that the court overturning Roe and finding a right to life in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment is extremely unlikely. That clause says that no one shall be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law."

"Even (former Justice Antonin) Scalia thought the Constitution left the abortion issue to the states," he told Catholic News Service.

A Pew Research poll conducted in January found that 69 percent of Americans did not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

"One way in which Kennedy was an originalist was he didn't consider assisted suicide to be a constitutional right," said Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of theology and law at Boston College.

Kennedy was on the Supreme Court when it heard its first right-to-die case in 1990. He was part of a 5-4 majority that upheld the lower court's decision that the parents of someone in a vegetative state could not direct the hospital to remove the feeding tube without adequate proof that their daughter would make the same decision.

He also was on the court for a unanimous ruling in Washington v. Glucksberg in 1997 that assisted suicide is not protected by the due process clause.

In 2006, he was part of a majority in Gonzalez v. Oregon, in which the court found that the Controlled Substances Act could not be enforced against doctors who, following the Oregon state law, prescribed medicine that would allow patients to end their life.

Kennedy also voted in favor of several restrictions on the use of the death penalty while on the court.

In Atkins v. Virginia, he was part of a majority that ruled the use of the death penalty unconstitutional if the offender has an intellectual disability; in Roper v. Simmons he wrote the majority opinion, which states that executing minors constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and in Kennedy v. Louisiana he wrote for the court that imposing the death penalty for child rape where the child did not die also constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

"Maybe those limits on the death penalty will go and maybe they won't," Kaveny said.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Trump has chance to reshape high court in choosing successor to Kennedy

Top Stories - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 12:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Larry Downing and University of Notre Dame handout via Reuters

By Steve Larkin

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump has the chance to reshape the Supreme Court by filling the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement.

Replacing Kennedy, who is Catholic and has been on the court since 1988, with anyone on his list of potential nominees will probably turn the court to the right on social issues and leave it about where it is on economic issues, according to legal experts who spoke to Catholic News Service.

Six judges' names that have appeared on many of the reported shortlists include two Catholics: Brett Kavanaugh, of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Amy Coney Barrett, of the 7th Circuit; and Amul Thapar, Joan Larsen and Raymond Kethledge, all of the 6th Circuit; and Thomas Hardiman, of the 3rd Circuit.

Trump said he will announce his nominee July 9.

"Kennedy was a justice who occupied the middle of the court, and he was sometimes unpredictable, but he was strongly committed to freedom of speech, federalism and gay rights," said Michael Moreland, a professor of law and religion and director of the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University, a Catholic university in Pennsylvania.

"His involvement in decisions related to gay rights is certainly the thing he's most famous for," he added.

Boris Heersink, an assistant professor of political science at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York, also said that Kennedy probably sees his rulings on LGBT issues as the main part of his legacy.

Heersink said that Kennedy's main motivation for stepping down from the court was an 81-year-old man's wish to retire. He also said that since same-sex marriage seems to be settled law, and the idea of overturning Obergefell v. Hodges has not been a big part of conservative discourse recently, Kennedy probably felt that his legacy there would be secure under a Republican president.

"He's sort of in the middle, but closer to the conservative justices than the liberal justices. He might prefer a Republican pick his successor," Heersink said. Stepping down under a Republican president would probably lead to his replacement by someone closer to his views on economic issues and First Amendment jurisprudence.

"He wasn't always predictable, but Kennedy very often voted as an originalist," said Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of theology and law at Boston College. She defined originalism as a theory of constitutional interpretation which says that jurisprudence is "bound to, in some way, what the Framers thought about the Constitution."

On abortion, "Justice Kennedy was very much in the middle of the court," Moreland said.

While many social conservatives are hoping Trump's pick will be an opponent of Roe v. Wade and lead a movement on the court to overturn that decision, Moreland said that was unlikely. Instead, he said, the thinks the court "would be more open to the states regulating and restricting abortion."

Kennedy also was often in the middle of the court on end-of-life issues.

While he voted against removing feeding tubes and assisted suicide in some decisions, he also was part of a majority in Gonzalez v. Oregon, in which the court found that the Controlled Substances Act could not be enforced against doctors who, following the Oregon state law, prescribed medicine that would allow patients to end their life.

Kennedy also voted in favor of several restrictions on the use of the death penalty while on the court, which prevent its use against minors and people with intellectual disabilities.

Heersink said that replacing Kennedy with any of the people on Trump's list would probably not affect the court's decisions on economic issues.

"There might not be that much of a difference. Perhaps the decisions will be written in a bit more conservative way," he said. "In all the recent decisions, Kennedy was on the conservative side."

"Kennedy moved the court in a strongly pro-free speech direction," said Moreland.

In some of the more famous cases decided while Kennedy was on the court, such as the recent Janus v. AFSCME and Citizens United v. FEC, Kennedy's bent in favor of free speech and his economic conservativism came together -- in Janus, to decide that requiring public sector workers who are not part of a union to pay "fair share" dues violated their rights to free speech, and in Citizens United, finding that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prevents restrictions on independent expenditures by corporations, labor unions, and other associations.

Moreland believes that any of the people on Trump's list would be successfully nominated. "I don't see how the Democrats could stop the nomination," he said. "Everyone on the list has an excellent reputation."

Heersink also mentioned that anyone Trump might nominate would know what they have to say in a Senate hearing in order to be confirmed.

"If you want to have a chance at the Supreme Court you have to say, 'I don't have pre-existing ideas about what I'd do in a hypothetical case,'" he said.

He also mentioned that Trump's nominee would probably not have a record of extensive writings or decisions about abortion, since such a record might make it difficult for them to make their way through the nomination process.

"If you think you might have a shot at the Supreme Court in the future and want to preserve it, you have to behave in a certain way as soon as you get out of law school. Maybe even while you're still in law school," Kaveny said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has said that she will oppose any nominee who shows "hostility" to Roe.

"Roe v. Wade is a constitutional right that is well established, and no less an authority than Chief Justice (John) Roberts said that repeatedly at his confirmation hearing," she said in an interview with CNN.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is the other Republican in the Senate who supports keeping abortion legal, and her vote also could end up being necessary for the nominee's success.

Moreland said that political pressure on Democrats in red states could lead them to vote for Trump's nominee.

Three Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2018 in states that cast their electoral votes for Trump -- Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- voted to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017, and they might vote for Trump's nominee for similar reasons.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican issues new document on vocation of consecrated virgins

Top Stories - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 12:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joel Breidenbach

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has released a document that establishes norms and principles for women who dedicate their lives as consecrated virgins and their place in the life of the church.

Presenting the new document at the Vatican press office July 4, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said it is the "first document of the Holy See that delves into the character and discipline of this way of life."

"The instruction on the 'Ordo virginum' ('Order of Virgins') intends to respond to the requests that numerous bishops and consecrated virgins in these years have presented to the congregation for consecrated life regarding the vocation and witness of the order of virgins, its presence in the universal church and, particularly, its formation and vocational discernment," Cardinal Braz de Aviz said.

Consecrated by her local bishop, a member of the order of virgins makes a promise of perpetual virginity, prayer and service to the church while living independently in society.

The publishing of the document, "Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago" ("The Image of the Church as Bride") comes two years ahead of the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the renewed "Ritual for the Consecration of Virgins,'' an ancient rite in the church that fell into disuse in the years before the Second Vatican Council.

Divided into three parts, the document's first section highlights the biblical origins and characteristics of the order of virgins, in which women "with spousal love are dedicated to the Lord Jesus in virginity."

"Since this form of consecrated life was reintroduced in the church, there has been a real revival of the 'Ordo virginum,' whose vitality is evident in the rich variety of personal charisms placed at the service of the church's development and of the renewal of society in the spirit of the Gospel," the document stated.

Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the congregation, told journalists that through prayer penance and works of mercy, women in the order of virgins "take the Gospel as the fundamental rule of life."

"The unique element of the 'Ordo virginum,' which distinguishes itself from the Institutes of Consecrated Life, is that the charism of virginity is harmonized with the charism of each consecrated woman, making room for a great variety of responses to vocations, in a creative freedom that demands a sense of responsibility and the exercise of a serious spiritual discernment," Archbishop Rodriguez said.

The document's second section, he added, deals with the pastoral duties of bishops in fostering and nurturing the vocation of consecrated virgins as well as their role within the diocese.

While rooted in their diocese, consecrated virgins are not confined to it and instead "are opened to the horizons of the universal mission of the church" in other dioceses, bishops' conferences and the universal church," Archbishop Carballo said.

Finally, the third section of "Ecclesia Sponsae Imago" details the discernment and formation of women who choose the life of consecrated virgins.

Bishops, the archbishop said, must ensure that their dioceses have the available resources to help women discern their calling that "deepens the understanding of the ecclesial value of this consecration."

"Reproposing this way of life in the church may seem as an anachronism, but it is an act of trust in the action of the spirit, who is leading many women to accept and interpret this vocation in the light of the path fulfilled by the church over the centuries and according to the needs of the current historical context. It is a true path of sanctification that is fascinating and demanding," Archbishop Carballo said.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

More of this, please: Reflection on the national convocation

Top Stories - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 5:47pm

By David Cloutier

Cloutier, a professor of moral theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, provided the following reflection to Catholic News Service on last July's "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America." More than 3,200 Catholic leaders gathered for four days in Orlando, Florida.

Just about a year ago, the U.S. bishops held an enormous convocation in Orlando. I was invited to be on a panel discussing the environment and "Laudato Si'," but I was not quite prepared for what I encountered.

As I stepped off the public bus from the airport, I saw the enormous convention center in which the convocation was being held. This was no tiny theology gathering, I realized!

What was it? For me, what I discovered there was the enormous and enormously diverse energy that the laity are bringing to the church. Among the most striking things were the huge number of exhibitors. They not only filled a large space in the main center, but a whole other set ranged along the walls of the gigantic dining space elsewhere in the center.

Hundreds of groups, all putting energies into so many different (Catholic) things. I had a spontaneous lunch with a guy who had started Creatio, more or less a Catholic outing club, with planned hiking trips and the like, but intertwined with Catholic beliefs and practices. You might call this a "Catholic start-up" and there were so many of them, almost all being run by idealistic young people trying to find new ways to live out their faith and help others do so, too.

While the large-group sessions were also effective, I found some of the breakout sessions particularly vibrant. The fact is, it is all too rare to have the various ecclesial stakeholders in a room together, really talking and listening to one another. The speakers in all the sessions were a mix of clergy and laity, with different interested bishops facilitating. We were instructed to keep presentations brief -- they were a jumping-off point for discussion and shared wisdom. Each session I attended certainly lived up to that.

The 90 minutes on "Laudato Si'" were filled with laity ask tough questions about how to get better implementation of the encyclical. But possibly the most impressive session I attended was a full house on ministry to the LGBT community. Everyone knew the parameters of the discussions. So I was unprepared for the enormous honesty about the struggles involved in so many people's lives -- the bishops facilitating, the panelists and most remarkably the audience. People shared stories with a candor and honesty that I simply have never seen in any other church venue on this topic.

To do so in a room of 250 people with plenty of clergy and bishops -- well, I just left thinking, we need more of this, much more! And it was all conducted with genuine respect and sensitivity -- completely the opposite of the uncivil twitter battles that too often are seen to dominate the discourse of national Catholicism on difficult topics.

We need to have all the people of God gathered together, in joy, in mission, and in a face-to-face setting that both leads us to more charity and energizes us for more work on behalf of the Gospel. We don't need to go to a national gathering in Orlando to do it, either. But we do need to gather as a people, in sustained and deeper ways.

One example in which I recently participated was the "Though Many, One" conference on overcoming polarization in society, sponsored by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown. Over three days spent together -- talks, meals, socializing and Mass every day -- a group of 75 Catholics, clergy and lay, bishops and women religious, practitioners and academics talked through our divisions. The gathering was intentionally ideologically diverse, and enabled productive conversations to happen in the future because we met and talked and prayed and ate together face-to-face.

But this sharing need not even require big-university programming. The point is to get committed people, people who are clearly committed to working in the church at all levels, and have them meet one another as members of the same Body.

One wonders if mini-convocations could be had for groups of dioceses, where we could cross over our usual communication groups in the local church, and experience some of that same energy. In the same way, lay and clerical and professional leaders could gather -- preferably for more than just an afternoon or an evening -- to pray, learn, and connect.

It might not have the initial visual impact I had stepping off the bus in Orlando and seeing that convention center. But it would continue to spread the energy for mission that I discovered inside that center -- and that spiritual energy is what the convocation was really about.

- - -

Cloutier also is editor of the group academic blog, catholicmoraltheology.com.

 

 

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: In Chicago, three auxiliary bishops named; two auxiliaries retire

Top Stories - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 3:21pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Chicago Archdiocese

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named three new auxiliary bishops for the Chicago archdiocese, Fathers Ronald A. Hicks, Robert G. Casey and Mark Bartosic, and he has accepted the resignations of Auxiliary Bishops George J. Rassas and Francis J. Kane of Chicago.

Bishops Rassas and Kane are 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope.

Bishop-designate Hicks serves as vicar general of the Chicago Archdiocese. Bishop-designate Casey is currently pastor of St. Bede the Venerable Church in Chicago. Bishop-designate Bartosic is currently pastor of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Chicago and director/chaplain of Kolbe House near Cook County Jail.

The changes were announced in Washington July 3 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The ordination of the bishop-designates will take place at Holy Name Cathedral Sept. 17.

"We are blessed to have had the service of Bishops Rassas and Kane for so many years. They have made significant contributions both as priests and as episcopal vicars, and I express my gratitude for their ministry," said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago in a July 3 statement.

He also noted that the bishop-designates were seminary classmates and "share a fluency and interest in Hispanic language and culture so vital in serving our parishioners. Each of them has distinguished himself through dedication, service and a lifelong witness to the Gospel. We welcome their ideas and energy as we renew the church."

Bishop-designates Bartosic and Casey will serve as episcopal vicars once successors are named at their present parish assignments. Bishop-designate Hicks will remain in his role as vicar general of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Bishop-designate Bartosic was born in Neenah, Wisconsin, in 1961 and was raised in Ohio. He received a bachelor's degree in theater from Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio, and a master of divinity degree and a licentiate in sacred theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois.

Like the other bishop-designates, he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago by Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin in 1994. He served as associate pastor and then pastor at several Chicago parishes. Since 2016, he has served as pastor of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chicago and director of the Kolbe House Jail Ministry.

Bishop-designate Casey, born in 1967, was raised in a suburb of Chicago. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Niles College of Loyola University Chicago and a master of divinity degree from the University of St. Mary of the Lake.

He was first assigned as associate pastor to St. Ita Parish in Chicago. Four years later, he was named associate director, and then director of Casa Jesus, a house of discernment for Hispanic priesthood candidates.

In 2003, he was named pastor of Our Lady of Tepeyac Parish in Chicago. Five years later, he co-founded Taller de Jose, a sponsored ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph that offers accompaniment to people in need. It is described on its website as ministry to "connect people to services and services to people."

In recent years, he has served as pastor at two other Chicago parishes. He currently serves on the placement board of the Archdiocese of Chicago, assisting with assigning priests to parishes. He also has been part of the Priest Steering Committee for the Chicago archdiocesan program "Renew My Church."

Bishop-designate Hicks, born in 1967, also was raised in a Chicago suburb. He received his bachelor's degree in philosophy from Niles College of Loyola University Chicago. Like the other bishop-designates, he received his master of divinity degree and his ministry doctorate from the University of St. Mary of the Lake.

He worked as an associate pastor at two Chicago parishes and was the dean of formation at St. Joseph College Seminary in Chicago.

In 2005, with permission from Cardinal Francis E. George, he moved to El Salvador to begin his five-year term as regional director of Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos in Central America -- a ministry dedicated to caring for more than 3,400 orphaned and abandoned children in Latin America and the Caribbean.

When he returned to the Chicago Archdiocese, he served as the dean of formation at Mundelein Seminary while assisting with weekend Masses at St. Jerome Parish in Chicago. He was appointed vicar general by Cardinal Cupich in 2015. Since then, he has celebrated Mass in a different archdiocesan parish each weekend.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Bishops end border visit calling for urgent reunification of children

Top Stories - Mon, 07/02/2018 - 10:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

SAN JUAN, Texas (CNS) -- In less than 48 hours, a group of Catholic bishops saw the faces of triumph and relief from migrants who had been recently released by immigration authorities, but ended their two-day journey to the border with a more "somber" experience, visiting detained migrant children living temporarily within the walls of a converted Walmart.

During a news conference after the second and last day of their visit July 2, they stressed the "urgent" need to do something to help the migrant children.

"The children who are separated from their parents need to be reunited. That's already begun and it's certainly not finished and there may be complications, but it must be done and it's urgent," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, celebrated Mass in Spanish with about 250 children at the facility on what once was the loading dock of the superstore.

"It was, as you can imagine, very challenging to see the children by themselves," Archbishop Gomez said during the news conference. "Obviously, when there are children at Mass, they are with their parents and families ' but it was special to be with them and give them some hope."

He said he spoke to them about the importance of helping one another.

The visit to the facility known as Casa Padre capped their brief journey to the border communities of McAllen-Brownsville near the southern border. Casa Padre gained notoriety earlier this year because it houses children separated from their families, as well as unaccompanied minors in a setting with murals and quotes of U.S. presidents, including one of President Donald Trump saying, "Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war."

The facility is run by Southwest Key Programs, a nonprofit that operates it under a federal contract. Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, along with Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Rockville Centre, New York. also were part of the delegation July 1 and 2, led by Cardinal DiNardo.

The building houses about 1,200 boys ages 10-17, said Bishop Bambera, and though the care they receive seems to be appropriate -- it's clean, they have access to medical care, and schooling and recreational facilities -- it was clear that "there was a sadness" manifested by the boys, he said in a July 2 interview with Catholic News Service.

"We can provide the material environment to care for a person and it's provided there, but that doesn't nurture life. That takes the human interaction with the family or a caregiver," he said.

Though many of the boys held there are considered "unaccompanied minors," some were separated from a family member they were traveling with, said Bishop Bambera. And when you see them, "those boys bear clearly the burden of that" separation, he said.

Bishop Bambera said the boys listened intently during Mass and seemed to have a particular devotion and piety, one not seen in children that age. During Mass, "I saw a few boys wiping tears," he said.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, head of the local Brownsville Diocese, accompanied the delegation, which included a visit on the first day to a humanitarian center operated by Catholic Charities. He said there's a need to address the "push factors" driving immigration from Central America, a place where migrants are fleeing a variety of social ills, including violence and economic instability.

The U.S. border bishops have frequent communication with their counterparts in Mexico and Central America on variety of topics, he said during the news conference, but the problems driving immigration to the U.S. are complex.

He said he has spoken with parents in Central America about the danger of the journey but recalled a conversation with mothers in places such as Honduras and Guatemala who have told him: "My son will be killed here, they will shoot him and he's 16. What am I supposed to do?"

"These are extremely complex and difficult situations," he said. "This is a hemispheric problem, not just a problem on the border here."

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope names new leader for Australia's largest archdiocese

Top Stories - Mon, 07/02/2018 - 4:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy ACBC

By

MELBOURNE, Australia (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli as the ninth leader of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

The announcement came late June 29 in Melbourne.

Archbishop Comensoli, 54, the bishop of Broken Bay, Australia, since 2014, succeeds Archbishop Denis Hart, 77, who is past the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation.

The new archbishop said in a statement that he accepted the call "to be a new missionary among God's people of the Archdiocese of Melbourne" while acknowledging "the great responsibility entrusted to me, along with the frailties I carry."

The appointment comes as the Australian Catholic Church contends with the fallout from criminal charges against two high-ranking leaders within the church in regarding cases of clerical sexual abuse.

Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, is the most senior church official to face criminal charges in connection with child sexual abuse. He took a leave of absence from his position in the summer of 2017 to face charges of sexual abuse of minors from the 1970s, when he was a priest, and the 1990s, when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

Although Cardinal Pell has consistently denied the charges, in early May an Australian magistrate ordered him to stand trial, saying she believed there was enough evidence presented in connection with about half the original charges to warrant a full trial.

On May 23, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide announced that he was stepping aside from his duties after being convicted of covering up allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

Archbishop Comensoli said the people of Melbourne had been in his prayers.

"I am deeply aware of the painful witness you bear because of the crimes committed in the church against the most innocent, our children and the vulnerable. I share the bewilderment and anger you feel at the failure of church leaders to believe victims and to respond to them with justice and compassion," Archbishop Comensoli said in a statement released by the Diocese of Broken Bay.

He said it "is our solemn shared duty to right the grievous wrongs of the past and ensure that the future is very different."

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, president of the Australia Catholic Bishops' Conference, welcomed the appointment, saying the new archbishop "has a good mind, an engaging personality and the strong pastoral sense needed in our largest diocese at complex time like this."

"He's a man who can listen and a man who can speak not only to Catholic people, but to the wider community as well," Archbishop Coleridge said.

The new archbishop was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Wollongong in 1992. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney in 2011 and served as the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese for eight months in 2014 until the appointment of a new archbishop.

Archbishop Comensoli was to be installed during a Mass Aug. 1 in St. Patrick Cathedral in Melbourne.

The Archdiocese of Melbourne is the largest in Australia, with 1.1 million Catholics.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Humble companions: Catholic-Anglican document sees healing in difference

Top Stories - Mon, 07/02/2018 - 1:25pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A new document driven by a fresh approach taken by the official Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue commission reflects a major development in ecumenism where difference is not cause for suspicion or reproach, but is used as an enriching opportunity for mutual listening, learning and conversion.

This notable change is seen in the first agreed statement from the newest and third phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, known as ARCIC III. The statement, "Walking Together on the Way: Learning to Be the Church -- Local, Regional, Universal," was released to the public July 2 after seven years of joint meetings and consultations.

In their introduction, the Catholic co-chairman, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England, and the Anglican co-chairman, Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, the archbishop of Canterbury's representative in Rome, wrote that the document sought to develop the issues of authority and ecclesial communion "in a new way."

Understanding how the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion structure authority and exercise authority in communion on the local, regional and global levels are key for understanding how each body discerns its teaching and practices on critical issues in ethics and moral theology.

It is also key for understanding and addressing questions, debates or divisions experienced internally within the churches. Which means the document also seeks to inform, enrich and help not just the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion on an ecumenical level, but also in dealing with their own internal debates and tensions.

This first agreed statement from ARCIC III "represents a significant methodological and substantive step-forward for Anglican-Roman Catholic formal ecumenism," and it is also "in service of ecclesial reform within both Anglican tradition and Catholic tradition," Paul Murray, professor of theology at Durham University in the United Kingdom and Catholic member of ARCIC, told Catholic News Service.

The commission members representing the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion focus on their "respective felt difficulties within their own ecclesial cultures, processes, structures and associated ecclesiologies, and ask how these difficulties might be helped by a process of receptive learning from relative strengths in the theology and practice of the other communion," he said July 2.

This "receptive learning" lies at the heart of what has been called "receptive ecumenism," that is, a method in which the churches stop asking what the other needs to learn from them and begin asking what they need to learn from the other. It is more about self-examination, inner conversion and discerning what the Lord is calling for rather than convincing or judging one's partner in dialogue.

This method has its roots in how St. John Paul II saw dialogue as not simply an exchange of ideas or a removal of obstacles, but an "exchange of gifts."

"This implies more than ceasing to judge the other tradition as mistaken or problematic but discerning what is graced" and can be "gratefully received," the document said in its introduction.

The document marks the start of a new phase that emerged after the official Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue experienced a six-year hiatus.

Since ARCIC II finished its work in 2005, the Anglican Communion began experiencing strong internal tensions over the ordination of women as priests and bishops, the blessing of gay unions and the ordination of openly gay clergy. Differing positions on those moral issues also created a sense that Anglicans and Roman Catholics were growing farther apart rather than approaching unity.

As such, now-retired Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams, the now-former archbishop of Canterbury, England, and head of the Church of England, had identified two critical areas for ecumenical exploration in their 2006 common declaration: "the emerging ecclesiological and ethical factors making that journey more difficult and arduous."

The two leaders authorized the new phase of the dialogue at their meeting at the Vatican in November 2009, just one month after Pope Benedict announced his decision to erect personal ordinariates for allowing former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of their distinctive Anglican heritage, including a certain amount of governing by consensus.

Rather than put the brakes on dialogue, it gave both sides a chance to get a different look at the heart of lingering questions about authority and how decisions on moral issues are made. The two leaders asked ARCIC, which held the first of the new round of meetings in 2011, to focus on the church as communion, local, regional and universal, and how, in communion, the local, regional and universal church come to discern "right ethical teaching."

At 34,000 words, the resulting document represents a detailed exploration of what structures, channels or practices exist that seek to give all the baptized -- lay, religious, clergy, bishops -- a voice or a role in how decisions are made.

While the commission has left the question of "the discernment of right ethical teaching" for its next document, "this exploration of the nature of communion has become vital in the light of current debates within the churches," the document said.

Communion is essentially about having the right balance among the different members of the body of Christ. That would mean no excessive demand for autonomy by the local members -- such as parishes and dioceses -- and no excessive demand for centralization by the "trans-local" -- such as national bishops' conferences, regional federations, the Roman Curia or the papacy.

In his five years as pope, Pope Francis has already shown several major ways he is seeking to eradicate "clericalism" and expand ways the voice of "the people of God" gets heard at the top, for example, with presynod questionnaires and encounters; he is also shifting more weight from the Roman Curia to episcopal conferences by returning oversight of liturgical translations to them and citing their documents in his teachings.

Current issues -- not detailed in the document but in the forefront of debate in the Catholic Church -- that depend on the right use of authority and legitimate diversity include policies on Communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics and guidelines for the interpretation of "Amoris Laetitia," Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the family.

In a Catholic commentary published on the website of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity along with the document, Father Ormond Rush, an Australian theologian, highlighted a number of ways the document could contribute to "Catholic self-understanding and practice."

"There are many parallels between the receptive learning possibilities for the Roman Catholic Church proposed by" the latest ARCIC document "and Pope Francis's vision for renewal and reform according to the Second Vatican Council. In other words, the Anglican tradition has much to offer in making the Council a reality."

A number of elements in the Anglican tradition -- with its added emphasis on the mission of the laity, the power of the regional and the benefits of debate as something to be welcomed, not feared -- "can assist the Roman Catholic Church to be more faithful to the vision of the Second Vatican Council," he wrote.

Murray told CNS, "In the longer term this is the way that will take us to full communion because what will happen is that the differences between Anglicans and Catholics will ultimately cease to be communion-dividing differences but will be an ecumenically-enriching differences and communion-building differences. It is a growth to full communion by living in and through diversity."

- - -

Contributing to this story was Simon Caldwell in Manchester, England.

- - -

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz


- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

At Texas center, bishops join in a warm welcome for recent arrivals

Top Stories - Mon, 07/02/2018 - 12:10pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

MCALLEN, Texas (CNS) -- Some had been on the road for weeks, others for days, and some entered looking haggard and sunburned with little more than the clothes they were wearing, some holding the hands of their children as a group of Catholic bishops joined a chorus of hands applauding in welcome.

Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, who is executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, asked the bishops visiting the center during the arrival of the recent immigrants July 1 if they could help serve food to the children, whose eyes lit up when they saw fruit or soup and the smiling faces of volunteers replenishing their dishes and asking questions.

"Does the soup taste good?" Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville asked in Spanish, as some children shyly nodded toward the prelate.

Nearby, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston carried a tray with bowls of soup into the room filled with children's voices. Cardinal DiNardo was leading the delegation of bishops toward the border communities in the Brownsville-McAllen area close to the southern border with Mexico July 1 and 2.

The visit to what's known as the respite center run by Catholic Charities in downtown McAllen quickly took the prelates into the heart of the human drama of migration and its human toll.

A woman traveling with a 3-year-old said that along the way she'd heard children were being taken away from parents and she prayed that it wouldn't happen to her because returning to her home country of Guatemala was not an option -- either way she risked losing her child. 

But immigration authorities were kind and humane when she checked in, she said, and allowed her and her child to go free after filling out paperwork and a short detention. Then the welcome she received at the respite center, she said, was a sign to her that "God is so great and never abandons us."

The center is a first stop for immigrants like her, fortunate enough to have a place to go to, such as the one in McAllen, after being released by immigration authorities. It, too, was a first stop for the bishops looking to understand the situation of family separation and other immigration issues along the border.

Cardinal DiNardo, along with Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, took the opportunity to speak with as many as they could in the room, addressing topics such as why they left home or simply asking the migrants where they were headed and how they were doing.

A 12-year-old girl sitting with her father nearby asked Bishop Brennan about snow because she had never seen it. He asked where they were headed and the father responded: "Philadelphia."

"Vas a ver la nieve," he told her in Spanish, telling her she would see snow.

Then they asked him about New York.

"Do you know the Yankees? And the Mets?" Bishop Brennan asked. And the father answered "yes" with excitement.

The girl's father, who traveled from Honduras mostly by foot, later said he was grateful for the great kindness the bishops had shown, how they had treated him and his daughter as human beings and it made him feel that his load had finally lightened after a long and hard journey.

Bishop Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what's ahead. They didn't speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by "the most basic instinct to protect your family."

Though the room held a lot of smiles and optimism, there was a silence about the journey that had gotten them there but whose details many of the sojourners were not yet ready to share, said Bishop Brennan. He found the experiencing "very moving," he said, and it made him think of those he knows in New York "who've come on the other side of that journey." 

"This gives me a deeper understanding of the experience that many of our folks went through to get the point where I've come to know and love them on Long Island," he said.

Volunteers, which included many young adults, zigzagged through the room during the visit, handing out clothes, playing with the children, showing those who had recently arrived the shower, giving out water and heating a home-cooked meal for them.

"In this room is the core of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of life," said Bishop Bambera.

William Canny, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. bishops' conference, who also accompanied the bishops on their visit, said the welcome was "a phenomenal act of charity by the church, to receive these people released by the government and helping them go onward to family and friends."

"This is what we call welcoming, this is the act of welcoming that we all like to see," he said, especially knowing about the incredibly difficult journey they had just made.

"It's the moment when our American, our human values come forward and it was nice to watch, people were extremely grateful," he said.

It was uplifting to see a group of people who've had a lot of bad things happen to them, "get a dose of good," he said.

"It's a moment when they're feeling a small sense of safety. They're also realizing that they've left people behind," Canny said.

But few will forget that warm welcome, the cheers, the applause, the food and smiles, and the bishops who happened to be there that day to feed them and to ask them how they were doing. Along with others, they shared their migration journey that day in exactly the fashion Pope Francis has called for, Canny said, referring to a campaign by the Vatican that calls on Catholics and others of goodwill to build bridges of understanding and hospitality with migrants and refugees.

"It was heartening to see people of all ages come, the volunteerism, young and more experienced people, reaching out and sharing the journey as the Holy Father has asked us to do," Canny said, recalling the images of the visit. "People stepping forward, welcoming, glasses of water, sandwiches, shampoo ... and listening to their stories."

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Near immigration's ground zero, bishops begin border trip with Mass

Top Stories - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 5:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

MCALLEN, Texas (CNS) -- The bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States have for weeks expressed outrage and condemned the government's recent practice of separating children from a parent or a family member if they're caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without legal documentation.

On July 1, led by the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a delegation of prelates from around the country physically stepped into the ground zero of the immigration debate when they arrived in the Brownsville-McAllen area near the southern border to meet with those affected by the policy.

"This is a sign that the bishops of the United States are concerned about the situation and the circumstances affecting people, not just those who live in Brownsville but all along the border," said the local bishop, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville during a July 1 interview with Catholic News Service. "This is a moment to completely understand the reality of the situation, to meet, speak with people who are living this reality. It's a message for the church."

Bishop Flores welcomed the delegation led by the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, during a morning Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, also were present during the Mass. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who is vice president of the USCCB, is expected to join the delegation.

Referring to the Sunday Gospel readings from the Book of Mark, in which Jesus heals the daughter of the Biblical Jairus, Bishop Flores, who delivered the homily, said that what the bishops were doing near the border was similar. Jesus was attentive to the woman who touched him and wanted to be healed. Jesus was capable of stopping for a moment and listening to her and tending to her so he could heal her. The story provides the people of God an example of what God wants, he said.

"He is an example for us because of his capacity to tend to this person in his presence and allowing that woman to change his path," Bishop Flores said. "What kind of people does the Lord want? He wants a people capable of looking at the reality in front of them and adapting to that reality. He didn't say, 'I don't have time for you today.' He didn't say, 'You're not in the plan, you're not in the calendar.'"

To be compassionate, one has to have his or her eyes open just as Jesus shows us in the Gospel, he said, and the bishops were visiting the border to listen and to see the reality in that area in a similar manner.

"The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us," he said, switching between English and Spanish. "That's what the Lord taught us: to listen and then respond to the plan, the Christian plan, and to give hope to the poorest and neediest, to tell them that the Christian people have not forgotten them."

Christ's example, he said, was to respect the dignity of each person, "each one, and to hear their cry to tend to them. That is the purpose of the church."

"We as a church have to hear where the reality is, we have to be the ones to say, 'There's a human face and that human face always points us to Christ.' If we don't say it, who will?" Bishop Flores asked.

He said he was glad the bishops would be able to witness the generosity of the people of the Rio Grande Valley, who with few resources always respond generously to those who have needed them over the years.

"Let's ask the Lord to allow us to see with open eyes to respond with compassionate hearts," he said. "We can be a country of laws without being a nation that lacks compassion."

The start of the two-day visit began a day after mass protests around the U.S. demanded a stop to the separation of families. The prelates' visit will be focused on family separation and they plan to visit a center for migrants run by Catholic Charities and also to meet with authorities near the border.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Near immigration's ground zero, bishops begin border trip with Mass

Top Stories - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 5:15pm

By Rhina Guidos

MCALLEN, Texas (CNS) -- The bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States have for weeks expressed outrage and condemned the government's recent practice of separating children from a parent or a family member if they're caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without legal documentation.

On July 1, led by the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a delegation of prelates from around the country physically stepped into the ground zero of the immigration debate when they arrived in the Brownsville-McAllen area near the southern border to meet with those affected by the policy.

"This is a sign that the bishops of the United States are concerned about the situation and the circumstances affecting people, not just those who live in Brownsville but all along the border," said the local bishop, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville during a July 1 interview with Catholic News Service. "This is a moment to completely understand the reality of the situation, to meet, speak with people who are living this reality. It's a message for the church."

Bishop Flores welcomed the delegation led by the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, during a morning Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, also were present during the Mass. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who is vice president of the USCCB, is expected to join the delegation.

Referring to the Sunday Gospel readings from the Book of Mark, in which Jesus heals the daughter of the Biblical Jairus, Bishop Flores, who delivered the homily, said that what the bishops were doing near the border was similar. Jesus was attentive to the woman who touched him and wanted to be healed. Jesus was capable of stopping for a moment and listening to her and tending to her so he could heal her. The story provides the people of God an example of what God wants, he said.

"He is an example for us because of his capacity to tend to this person in his presence and allowing that woman to change his path," Bishop Flores said. "What kind of people does the Lord want? He wants a people capable of looking at the reality in front of them and adapting to that reality. He didn't say, 'I don't have time for you today.' He didn't say, 'You're not in the plan, you're not in the calendar.'"

To be compassionate, one has to have his or her eyes open just as Jesus shows us in the Gospel, he said, and the bishops were visiting the border to listen and to see the reality in that area in a similar manner.

"The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us," he said, switching between English and Spanish. "That's what the Lord taught us: to listen and then respond to the plan, the Christian plan, and to give hope to the poorest and neediest, to tell them that the Christian people have not forgotten them."

Christ's example, he said, was to respect the dignity of each person, "each one, and to hear their cry to tend to them. That is the purpose of the church."

"We as a church have to hear where the reality is, we have to be the ones to say, 'There's a human face and that human face always points us to Christ.' If we don't say it, who will?" Bishop Flores asked.

He said he was glad the bishops would be able to witness the generosity of the people of the Rio Grande Valley, who with few resources always respond generously to those who have needed them over the years.

"Let's ask the Lord to allow us to see with open eyes to respond with compassionate hearts," he said. "We can be a country of laws without being a nation that lacks compassion."

The start of the two-day visit began a day after mass protests around the U.S. demanded a stop to the separation of families. The prelates' visit will be focused on family separation and they plan to visit a center for migrants run by Catholic Charities and also to meet with authorities near the border.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Another busy year ends for Supreme Court with all eyes on next term

Top Stories - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 5:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- "That's a wrap" could have been said late morning June 27 at the U.S. Supreme Court after the court issued its last two decisions of the term.

Except that it was not a wrap by a long shot.

Just a few hours after the court released its final decisions, longtime Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, which immediately got wheels of speculation spinning about his potential replacement and what that would mean for the future balance of the court.

Almost immediately, President Donald Trump said he would move quickly to fill the spot, saying he already has a list of candidates in hand.

And the day after this announcement, the court released another handful of cases on the docket for its next term that begins Oct. 1.

But before all attention shifts to the next session, there is still plenty to review from the court's term that just ended -- a busy nine months with more than 75 cases argued, and decided on, by the court.

Big cases this year involved the president's travel ban, a same-sex wedding cake, gerrymandering, sports betting, cellphone tracking, union dues and pro-life pregnancy centers.

Catholic Church leaders weighed in on many of these cases, submitting friend-of-the-court briefs and issuing statements after the decisions were announced. Catholic newspaper editorials addressed sports betting and Catholic advocates spoke up on the court's actions on the death penalty.

The court, near the end of this term, announced its 5-4 decision upholding Trump's travel ban preventing people entering the U.S. from some Muslim-majority countries.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Legal Immigration Network expressed disappointment with the ruling and also had filed a combined friend-of-the court brief with harsh criticism of the president's order, saying it showed "blatant religious discrimination" and was a major threat to religious liberty.

In the case of the same-sex wedding cake, the U.S. bishops sided with the court's 7-2 decision in favor of the Colorado baker who cited religious beliefs in declining to make the wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The narrow ruling said the baker's religious freedom had been violated by the state's Civil Rights Commission, but it did not determine if a small business can invoke federal free-speech and religious-exercise rights to deny services to same-sex couples.

The Catholic bishops also sided with the court's 5-4 ruling that a California law requiring pregnancy centers to tell patients about the availability of state-funded abortion services violated the First Amendment. They disagreed with the court's 5-4 decision in the case about union dues where the court overruled its previous decision allowing state agencies to require their union-represented employees to pay fees to the union for collective bargaining costs even if they are not union members.

One case that might have seemed under the radar for Catholic leaders was the 6-3 ruling that cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting, striking down a 1992 federal law, but editorials in at least two Catholic archdiocesan newspapers warned about some potential dangers of this decision.

Catholic New York, archdiocesan newspaper of New York, and The Catholic Spirit, archdiocesan newspaper of St. Paul and Minneapolis, both pointed out how the ruling could bring about an increased addition to gambling.

In a death penalty case, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of a Texas death-row inmate, ordering a federal appellate court to reconsider his requests for funding to investigate his claims of mental illness and substance abuse. This decision, along with the statements made when the court announced it would not take up the case of an Arizona death-row inmate challenging the state's capital punishment law, shows the court is taking notice of flaws in the death penalty, said Karen Clifton, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network.

In its next session, the court already has agreed to three death penalty cases.

In other abortion decisions, the justices threw out a lower court's ruling that allowed a 17-year-old last year to obtain an abortion while she was in a detention center after an illegal border crossing. The court also said it would not hear a case against an Arkansas abortion law, thus letting the state's restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs stand.

As the court catches its breath from the end of the busy term and awaits the transition period of its replacement for Kennedy, many of the justices will at least be able to get away from Washington with temporary teaching posts.

The scotusblog, a blog about the Supreme Court, reports that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be a guest lecturer in Rome for the summer law program of Loyola University Chicago and Justice Neil Gorsuch will teach two courses in national security law for the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University's summer session in Padua, Italy. Justice Stephen Breyer is scheduled to give a talk at the Aspen Institute in Colorado in July.

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

First VIDEO posted June 29, 2018

Top Stories - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 10:52am

By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- - -

Editor's Note: The link https://bit.ly/2JpeCYo goes to the full report.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope at pallium Mass: Jesus wants disciples unafraid to aid others

Top Stories - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 9:31am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God wants his disciples to bring his mercy and love to everyone, everywhere on earth, which means it may cost them their "good name," comfort and their life, Pope Francis said on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Following Christ requires "that we open our hearts to the Father and to all those with whom he has wished to identify," particularly the downtrodden, the lost and the wounded, "in the sure knowledge that he will never abandon his people," he said during a Mass in St. Peter's Square June 29.

"Jesus wants to liberate his disciples, his church, from empty forms of triumphalism: forms empty of love, empty of service, empty of compassion, empty of people," he said.

The Mass was celebrated the day after Pope Francis created 14 new cardinals from 11 different nations.

Both new and old cardinals as well as 30 archbishops appointed over the course of the past year were invited to be in Rome to concelebrate the feast day Mass with Pope Francis. The archbishops came from 18 countries, the majority coming from Latin America and others from Africa, Asia and Europe.

As has become standard practice, Pope Francis did not confer the pallium on new archbishops during the liturgy, but rather, blessed the palliums after they had been brought up from the crypt above the tomb of St. Peter. As each archbishop approached him by the altar, the pope handed each one a small wooden box tied with a thin gold ribbon. The actual imposition of the woolen band was to take place in the archbishop's archdiocese in the presence of his faithful and bishops from neighboring dioceses.

The pallium is a woolen band that symbolizes an archbishop's unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him.

Addressing the cardinals and archbishops during his homily, the pope spoke about what Peter teaches them about the life and risks of being Christ's disciple.

It was Peter who recognized Jesus as "the Christ, the son of the living God," and it was Peter whom Jesus turned to, saying "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church."

But, when Jesus showed his disciples he must go to Jerusalem, be killed and be risen, it was Peter who protested.

Jesus "kept bringing the father's love and mercy to the very end. This merciful love demands that we, too, go forth to every corner of life, to reach out to everyone, even though this may cost us our 'good name,' our comforts, our status ... even martyrdom."

Peter reacts to this mandate of martyrdom by saying, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you," which makes him become "a stumbling stone in the Messiah's path," the pope said.

"Thinking that he is defending God's rights, Peter, without realizing it, becomes the Lord's enemy; Jesus calls him 'Satan.'" he said.

"Like Peter, we as a church will always be tempted to hear those 'whisperings' of the evil one, which will become a stumbling stone for the mission," the pope said.

Sharing in Christ's mission, which is to anoint the people, the sick, the wounded, the lost and the repentant sinner, so that they may feel "a beloved part of God's family," means sharing Christ's cross, which is his glory.

"When we turn our back on the cross, even though we may attain the heights of glory, we will be fooling ourselves, since it will not be God's glory, but the snare of the enemy," he said.

Do not be Christians who keep "a prudent distance from the Lord's wounds," because Jesus touches human misery and "he asks us to join him in touching the suffering flesh of others," the pope told those assembled.

It is failure to be immersed in "real human dramas" and in contact with people's concrete concerns that prevents people from "knowing the revolutionary power of God's tender love," he said.

As is customary, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople attended the Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul -- the patron saints of the Vatican and the city of Rome.

Before the Mass, Orthodox Archbishop Job of Telmessos, head of the delegation, joined the pope in prayer at the tomb of St. Peter inside St. Peter's Basilica. The two also stopped before a bronze statue of St. Peter, which was adorned with a jeweled tiara, ring and red cope.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

RFK's faith three-dimensional in books, but two-dimensional on screen

Top Stories - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 5:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Kennedy King Memorial Initiative

By Mark Pattison

NEW YORK (CNS) -- By all accounts, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, shot down June 5, 1968, as he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, was the most devout Catholic among his siblings.

A former altar boy who sometimes spoke of joining the priesthood, Kennedy's faith, drawn inward after the 1963 assassination of his older brother the president -- and somehow not diminished by a growing belief in existentialism -- informed his political views and his compassion for the poor.

All good elements for a TV or film biography, right? So far, apparently not.

In the 44 years since the somber TV docudrama "The Missiles of October" created a sensation with actors, and not impressionists, using the famous family's idiosyncratic accent to bring the Kennedys to dramatic life, it's been mostly campaign rallies and White House corridors for Robert, the former attorney general and U.S. senator from New York.

Here's a moment in the blink-and-you'll-miss-it category: In the 1985 TV miniseries "Robert Kennedy and His Times," based on Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s 1978 biography, Kennedy's mother, Rose (Beatrice Straight), on a windswept beach at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, tells Robert (Brad Davis) after the assassination of President Kennedy, "It's up to you now to lead us forward."

She's clutching a rosary. That's it for Catholicism.

The new Netflix documentary series, "Bobby Kennedy for President," has a brief clip of the senator at an outdoor Mass for striking immigrant farm workers in California -- and nothing else.

Kennedy, who was just 42 when he was assassinated in Los Angeles, came of age long before Washington politicians proclaimed their adherence to any particular faith. And Protestant opposition in 1960 to John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic president was a very large and well-organized force.

So the younger Kennedy likely would have considered it unseemly to announce in speeches, as House Speaker Paul Ryan has done from time to time, that any of his political philosophy was rooted in Catholic social doctrine.

As for TV and film dramatizations, they are necessarily stuffed with political pageantry and a cast of oversize characters that includes Sen. Joseph McCarthy, President Lyndon Johnson, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Rich opportunities for colorful speeches and hammy character actors don't leave room for quiet moments of reflection and Catholic discussion.

But the next go-round of biopics (and with Kennedy family lore, there's invariably a next go-round) may finally give fuller dimensions to Robert Kennedy's life. Recent biographies have dived into his faith, and as they're adapted into dramas, the Catholic elements should be folded into those as well.

One problematic element in the writing of these profiles is the divide that has grown ever deeper, in the years since Kennedy's death, between social (as opposed to economic) liberalism and Catholic teaching. Since Kennedy was and is a towering figure for the left, authors celebrating him seem uncomfortable portraying Kennedy as straightforwardly pious.

Here are samplings from a couple of new biographies:

-- Larry Tye, "Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon" (Random House, 2016).

Tye writes that, following JFK's assassination, "religion helped, too, but on his terms, not the church's. He kept a missal beside him in the car and thumbed through to prayers he found consoling. Instead of attending Mass mainly on Sundays and days of obligation, as had been his adult routine, he was in the pew nearly every day. His faith helped him internalize the assassination in a way that, over time, freed his spirit."

Tye's best religious anecdote, related by former Kennedy aide John Seigenthaler, centered on a 1964 discussion Bobby and wife Ethel had with Holy Cross Father John Cavanaugh, a former president of the University of Notre Dame, about whether President Kennedy was in heaven or purgatory, since he wasn't able to confess his sins before he died.

Ethel wanted an assurance that John was in heaven, but Cavanaugh, Tye writes, "equivocated." Finally, Bobby spoke up: "I don't think that's how God gets his kicks."

-- Chris Matthews, "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit" (Simon & Schuster, 2017).

The colorful MSNBC host, also the product of a bumptious Catholic upbringing, concludes that Bobby was not only the most religious of the Kennedy children, but also the "least assimilated."

Growing up, Bobby "couldn't help but reveal himself if circumstances evoked it," Matthews writes. He once fired off an angry letter to Boston's archbishop, Cardinal Richard Cushing, complaining about a priest, believed to be anti-Semitic, who had interpreted too strictly the doctrine that outside the church there is no salvation.

Matthews includes the wry comment made by Jacqueline Kennedy during the 1960 campaign, and reprinted many times since then: "I think it's so unfair of people to be against Jack because he's a Catholic. He's such a poor Catholic. Now, if it were Bobby, I could understand it."

Bobby also left St. Paul's, a Protestant New Hampshire boarding school, after just two months because both he and his mother disliked its exclusive use of the King James Bible.

As for Catholic social teachings, Matthews writes that Bobby, long before he began his presidential campaign, "drew upon an old reservoir ... illuminated by Dorothy Day and Michael Harrington."

- - -

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

A tale of two farm bills: House, Senate versions to be hashed out

Top Stories - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 5:05pm

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With House passage of a new five-year farm bill in the rearview mirror and passage of a Senate version looming straight ahead, it's going to take a House-Senate conference committee to reconcile what is turning out to be considerably different versions of the farm bill.

"We're in an interesting period," said James Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life.

The Senate version, which received a 20-1 vote in committee to send to the floor, where debate started June 28, "is very bipartisan," Ennis told Catholic News Service. "The Senate version in its current state looks a lot like the 2014 farm bill."

It's the House version that has Ennis and other rural advocates concerned. It passed June 21 by just two votes, 213-211, and it took several minutes to break the deadlock while supporters rounded up two more members to vote for it. All those voting yes were Republicans; 20 Republicans voted no, as did every Democrat voting.

The Agriculture Nutrition Act, as the House bill is known, removes money from conservation programs found in previous farm bills, which are reauthorized generally twice each decade. The Conservation Stewardship Program was cut entirely. Access to capital for business training services also was slashed, Ennis said.

Anna Johnson, an Iowa-based senior policy analyst for the Center for Rural Affairs, is concerned with trends in rural life that see farms getting bigger, with fewer people to work on them. That leads to smaller town and the problems that come with it.

"There's a bunch of factors at play," Johnson said. "Obviously, the folks leave a rural town, businesses close, places of worship close, schools close, communities dwindle. Part of our mission is to support the thriving and vibrant rural communities."

But she spied something in the House version of the farm bill that would add a new threat to rural life.

"It's how policy works sometimes," she told CNS June 28. "You bury things in the language and it's hard to see, but what it's going to do is open up a lot of loopholes in the farm payment structure and go against the farm safety net," Johnson said. "It's going to allow farms to reorganize into different structures and attract more subsidy payments."

In so doing, she added, "it helps drive farm consolidation, which drives up land prices and rent prices." Agribusiness concerns, Johnson said, will more easily be able exploit the loophole and grab a larger chunk of federal farm subsidy money.

"Government failing with impunity: that's the farm bill," said Dee Davis, executive director of the Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, Kentucky. He criticized Congress for "having the chance to do something decent, but always getting right up to the line with it."

Davis asked, "What do we know?" before answering his own question: "What we do know is that one out of four kids lives in rural poverty. All the posing and all the preening by these congressmen is not going to help if it takes away food from poor people."

He added, "Rural communities have been suffering. We have the food stamp program and its important impact in rural communities, not just in what it does for low-income families but what it does to support local economies. If they pull that away, and don't replace it with anything for balance, then rural communities will suffer even more."

The House version of the farm bill imposes stricter work requirements for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, once known as food stamps. Some have predicted 2 million people would lose SNAP benefits were the House bill to become law, but the number of those affected in rural communities is not known.

"My feeling is they've got a job, they should do it," Davis said of Congress.

More than 300 priests, women religious and lay leaders issued a letter June 21 to Congress to preserve SNAP. "As Catholics, you know that our church's social teaching calls us to serve the common good, and that the government has an important role to play in supporting our vulnerable neighbors," said the letter, released by Faith in Public Life. "There is nothing pro-life about making it harder for parents to put food on the table for their children."

- - -

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pages

The Catholic Voice

The Archdiocese of Omaha • Catholic Voice
402-558-6611 • Fax 402 558-6614 •
E-mail Us

Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved.
This information may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

Comment Here