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Archbishop Chaput: Fr. Martin deserves respectful criticism, not trash-talking

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 22:02

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 21, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Some of the verbal attacks on Father James Martin, S.J. have been “inexcusably ugly,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has said in response to reactions to the controversial priest.

“Fr. Martin is a man of intellect and skill whose work I often admire. Like all of us as fellow Christians, he deserves to be treated with fraternal good will,” the archbishop said.

“It’s one thing to criticize respectfully an author’s ideas and their implications. It’s quite another to engage in ad hominem trashing.”

Writing in a Sept. 21 essay on the First Things website, the archbishop said that everyone who claims to be Christian has “the duty to speak the truth with love.”

“Culture warriors come in all shapes and shades of opinion,” the Archbishop of Philadelphia said. “The bitterness directed at the person of Fr. Martin is not just unwarranted and unjust; it’s a destructive counter-witness to the Gospel.”

Fr. Martin, media personality and editor-at-large of the Society of Jesus’ America Magazine, serves as a consultor to the Secretariat for Communication at the Vatican.

He has been the focus of controversy since the publication of his 2017 book “Building a Bridge,” which outlined how he thought the Catholic Church and the LGBT community should relate to each other. His book received the endorsements of several senior Catholic Church leaders, but also criticism from leaders like Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Some critics have faulted his book for avoiding discussion of the Church’s teaching on sexuality and for its lack of engagement with Catholics who identify as LGBT and accept Church teaching on chastity and other issues.  Others have expressed concern that his public lectures about the book have repudiated Catholic teaching.

Several Catholic organizations had canceled speaking invitations they had extended to the priest. His most recent canceled appearance was at the Theological College, a seminary affiliated with the Catholic University of America. The seminary cited “increasing negative feedback from various social media sites.”

Archbishop Chaput reflected on reaction to that controversy, saying professor and Catholic commentator Massimo Faggioli was right to worry about the vitriol that is “profoundly changing the Church,” Faggioli wrote in an essay in La Croix’s online international edition.

The professor had noted the archbishop’s own rebuke of groups like the Lepanto Institute and Church Militant ahead of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

However, Archbishop Chaput questioned Faggioli’s claim that these “conservative cyber-militias” were fostered by a generation of bishops appointed under Popes John Paul II and Benedict, who in Faggioli’s words re-shaped “the U.S. episcopate in the image of the ‘culture warrior’.”

The archbishop, himself an appointee of Pope John Paul II, emphasized the Christian duty to speak truth with love.

He also added that Fr. Martin is not above criticism.

“The perceived ambiguities in some of Fr. Martin’s views on sexuality have created much of the apprehension and criticism surrounding his book. There’s nothing vindictive in respectfully but firmly challenging those inadequacies. Doing less would violate both justice and charity.”

“Clear judgment, tempered by mercy but faithful to Scripture and constant Church teaching, is an obligation of Catholic discipleship – especially on moral issues, and especially in Catholic scholarship,” he added.

The archbishop compared contemporary contentiousness to the widespread unrest ahead of the Protestant Reformation.

“The details of our moral and ecclesial disputes are very different from those of five centuries ago – none of the Reformers, Protestant or Catholic, could have imagined what they would loose or where it would lead – but the gravity of our arguments is just as real, and the results will be just as far-reaching.”

“If we’ve learned anything over the past five hundred years, we might at least stop demonizing each other,” he said. “On matters of substance, bad-mouthing the other guy only makes things worse.”

How the JPII Institute helped alumni 'become more fully and radically human'

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 18:27

Washington D.C., Sep 21, 2017 / 04:27 pm (CNA).- Alumni of the early years of the Washington, D.C. “session” of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family say it gave them a strong formation for the New Evangelization.

“What struck me as I read about the institute and its goal: it was to go deeper into understanding the teachings of the Church,” said Dr. John Brehany, director of institutional relations for the National Catholic Bioethics Center and an alumnus of the institute’s D.C. campus.

The institute aimed to see Church teaching “as life-giving,” he told CNA, and “to understand it, not to apologize for it, and to bring it to more effective dialogue.”

After the 1980 Synod on the Family, the publication of Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio “on the role of the Christian family in the modern world,” and the series of weekly audiences he gave on the human person, marriage, and the family – now known as “Theology of the Body” – the Pope established the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Pope St. John Paul II planned to announce the formation of the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family on May 13, 1981, but he was shot in St. Peter’s Square on that day and the announcement was delayed for over a year.

The Washington, D.C. campus of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family was started in 1988, offering a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.).

Today, the campus offers degrees of a Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.), Doctorates of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.), and specializations in Marriage and Family and Person, Marriage, and Family (Ph.D.).

The original mission of the institute, as some of the early alumni saw it, was to bring the rich teachings of the Church on marriage, the family, and the human person into an engagement with the modern world, but never from an uncharitable or apologetic standpoint.

Pope St. John Paul II “would often say the future of the world and of the Church passes through the family,” said Fr. John Riccardo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and popular Catholic speaker, who attended the D.C. campus from 1999-2001.

“And so the mission of the institute was to respond to what John Paul II called the crisis of modernity, actually, which was the degradation and the polarization of the dignity of the human person,” he told CNA.

This crisis was occurring both in Communist Russia but also in the West with “rampant materialism.”

Pope St. John Paul II’s establishment of the Rome institute came after “a rolling wave, it seemed, of dissent” from Church teaching in the 1960s, especially in the wake of Bl. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, Brehany said.

In that period of time before the institute was founded, there had been much apology for and regret over Church teaching, he said. The institute “was a confident, very constructive approach to understanding and sharing the teachings of the Church on marriage and the family.”

Dr. Mark Latkovic, a professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, was in the original graduating class of the D.C. campus.

As the campus was founded in 1988, only several years after the founding of the Pontifical Institute in Rome, it attracted world-class theologians – something that did not go unnoticed by prospective students.

Some of the early faculty and lecturers included renowned scholars like William May, a moral theologian who had renounced his original dissent from Humanae Vitae; Scripture scholar Fr. Francis Martin; philosophy professor Ralph McInerny; then-president of the Rome Institute and future-Cardinal Carlo Caffara; and theologian Fr. Benedict Ashley, OP.

“The faculty who were there in those first years were top-notch,” Brehany recalled, adding that the rigorous curriculum gave him a solid foundation for when he later pursued his Ph.D. in health care ethics at St. Louis University.

“I think it was the highest-quality education I received anywhere,” he said.

In 1988, Latkovic had just received his Master’s degree at Catholic University and was preparing to study for his Ph.D. there when he received mail from the new John Paul II Institute, which was about to begin enrolling students.

“The faculty they had assembled was probably the best faculty you could ever have in one place in the world. There’s no way I could have gotten this faculty if I went to Oxford, or I went to Notre Dame,” he said.  

Latkovic felt called to attend the institute and took a “leap of faith,” joining the first graduating class. He studied under Fr. Ashley for two years as a graduate assistant, earning his S.T.L. in 1990. The Knights of Columbus covered his tuition.

“I never met a man like him before,” Latkovic said of his teacher, the late Fr. Ashley, “conversing with modern science inside-out. And so we were constantly in the classroom engaging current theories in science, sociology. He was literally an encyclopedia, an encyclopedia of knowledge.”

Brehany agreed that Fr. Ashley was a transformative teacher. “He did a lot of work in essentially understanding what was going on in modern science, acknowledging a lot of the data, but interpreting that data in light of a sound philosophy and faith,” he said.

When Fr. Riccardo attended the institute several years later, May and Fr. Martin were still on the faculty, along with Dr. Kenneth Schmitz, Jill Atkinson, and David Schindler, Sr.

They were “people that really transformed my mind,” he said. “They really solidified everything in my life that I understood in a way that I think I’d never understood before, why God’s plan for happiness, for the human person, just makes sense.”

Although the faculty were all faithful to Church teaching and to the mission of the institute, there was a positive diversity of opinions among them, the alumni said, which contributed to rich discussions and debates.

“We were exposed to so many different viewpoints,” Latkovic said, of Dominicans and Jesuits, of New Natural Law theorists and traditional Thomists. “There was just great dialogue and conversations across different disciplines.”

The original curriculum of the institute was quite theology-heavy, alumni said, and yet from the standpoint of Catholic theology and anthropology, they engaged with many current theories and arguments in the sciences.

“The institute was always very theological, and always very scientific in its approach to these disciplines,” Latkovic said. “There was very much a broad spirit, an openness to so many currents of thought,” he said, “and I don’t see how the institute could have been anything less, because John Paul II himself was a Thomist and a phenomenologist.”

“There were a number of disciplines that surrounded the topic of marriage and family, but it was all oriented to engaging the world,” Brehany said.

Fr. Riccardo said that in his time at the institute, the curriculum dealt with the practical issues that prepared him for a life of ministry.

“The Scripture is never abstract. And moral theology, quite frankly, is not abstract,” he said. “I would not describe what we got there, by any stretch of the imagination, as abstract. It was one of those things where I couldn’t wait to first apply this to my own life, and then to run to tell others.”

Fr. Ashley in particular led his students to engage with many different scientific texts.

“We were reading sociology,” Latkovic said, “we were reading modern scientists, we were reading different people, Christian, non-Christian, Protestant,” but always “through the lens of the Catholic tradition, St. John Paul II’s theology, and so on.”

That experience helped Latkovic develop a course on technology while teaching at seminary, something he probably would not have done without his prior education from Fr. Ashley, he said.

“He had a deep interest in science, and a variety of fields in science,” Brehany said. “He was very much rooted in the world of many practical issues.”

It was all in the spirit of “engaging modernity, engaging the culture,” Latkovic said, which he has carried with him into his teaching at Sacred Heart seminary today, “trying to see the good fruits, the good things that are out there.”

The institute prepared its first students to evangelize the society they lived in, yet many of the social problems in the years after Familiaris Consortio and the foundation of the institute are still present today.

“I think that the John Paul II Institute as founded, it seems to me that the vision and goals are even more relevant today than when they came into being,” Brehany said.

The original mission of the institute is still needed, he said, “a confidence that the teachings of the Church are true and well-founded, a constructive approach to appreciating them more, and taking that understanding out, taking that faith out in a very constructive manner, and doing it with excellence.”

“The whole legacy of the program is giving us the tools, the way of thinking properly” to face current-day problems, Latkovic said. “I don’t see John Paul II’s thought being limited to one particular era.”

“We’ve had troubled families, we’ve had to administer pastoral care to families for centuries. Not much has changed there. But I see John Paul II’s thought as part of the perennial philosophy,” he said.

Alumni of the institute now teaching bioethics and moral theology, or ministering to married couples or living in religious life, have counted the deep theological curriculum, the professors, and their engagement with contemporary issues as formation for their respective vocations.

“I did feel prepared intellectually to engage with anybody,” Brehany said, but “the spirit was to do it constructively” without apologizing for the Church’s teachings.

Fr. Riccardo draws upon his time at the institute in his priestly ministry.

“I can still remember a day really studying and praying with John Paul’s words,” he recalled. “I literally felt like my spine got strong, as I was just praying with truth, and understanding what it is the Scriptures are revealing and what God’s plan is,” he said. “I just felt like the Lord started to heal me in all sorts of areas of my life”

That has carried over into his ministry to others. “I’ve just seen example after example after example of marriages that have been healed, simply because of what I got there [at the institute] and what I’ve been able to pass on.”

Mother M. Maximilia Um, F.S.G.M., provincial superior of the Franciscans of the Martyr St. George, earned a Masters in Theological Studies (M.T.S.) at the institute from 2003-05. The institute taught her about the human person and relationships, which she says helps her in her vocation as a mother superior.

It also helped her foster a contemplative outlook on life, she said. She recalled the words of her professor David L. Schindler as he spoke to the new class on why they were at the institute.

They were there to “become more fully and radically human,” she said.

 

Bishop Conley: martyred Oklahoma priest showed courage that comes from prayer

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 18:50

Lincoln, Neb., Sep 20, 2017 / 04:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Oklahoma priest martyred in Guatemala will be beatified on Saturday, and his life has much to teach us, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln has said.

“To trust God can be risky and even dangerous at times,” Bishop Conley said in a Sept. 22 column for the Southern Nebraska Register.

“It requires courage. To be courageous requires that we know the Lord. To know him requires that we pray. Not all of us are called to martyrdom, as Father Stanley Rother was. But each one of us is called to trust the Lord, and to know him, love him, and serve him bravely.”

The priest’s life “gives me pause to reflect on my own courage, or lack thereof, in following the Lord,” the Nebraska bishop said. “Fr. Rother was so confident in what the Lord wanted of him. He was unwavering in courage. He walked into danger, even when others warned him against it. At the heart of his courage and confidence was his intimacy with the Lord in prayer.”

Father Rother’s beatification Mass will be said Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. Before his last Christmas, the priest wrote home about the dangers in Guatemala: “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.”

Fr. Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, was from the town of Okarche, Okla. A few years after ordination, he became a missionary to Guatemala, where he would spend 13 years of his life. The dioceses of Oklahoma City and Tulsa had established a mission in Santiago Atitlan, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous people, largely Tz’utujil Mayan Indians.

Drawing on life growing up on his family’s farm, the mission priest would work the fields and repair broken trucks. He built a farmer’s co-op, a school, a hospital, and the area’s first Catholic radio station.

The dangers of Guatemala’s civil war approached the village in 1980, and Fr. Rother supported his friends and parishioners even as many were abducted and killed – “disappeared” in the local phrasing. In January 1981, his name was found on a hit list. He returned to Oklahoma for a few months, but after receiving his bishop’s permission he went back.

On the morning of July 28, 1981, armed men broke into Fr. Rother’s rectory. They were from the non-indigenous ethnic group called the Landinos, who had been in conflict with Guatemala’s indigenous people and rural poor since the 1960s.

The men intended to disappear him, but he resisted. He struggled but did not call for help, so others at the mission would not be endangered. Fr. Rother was shot dead and the attackers fled.

Pope Francis officially recognized his death as a martyrdom in December 2016.

For Bishop Conley, Fr. Rother’s life and death provokes many questions. The priest did not have to be in Guatemala and could have stayed in Oklahoma.

“How many of us would choose to follow the Lord to a near certain martyrdom? Or, if we heard that a friend believed God was calling him to serve in a dangerous mission in a violent country, how many of us might try to stop him?” he asked.

“It would be natural to do so, and reasonable. And yet Fr. Rother knew what the Lord called him to do, and he proceeded faithfully and fearlessly. His bishop, and his family, and his friends, had courage too: the courage to trust that the Holy Spirit was leading him, even when following the Lord into the violence of Guatemala was dangerous.”

“None of us should relish danger for its own sake. None of us should be reckless without purpose,” Bishop Conley said. “But the Christian life is about following the will of the Lord, without counting the cost. And to do that, we need to know and hear the Lord’s voice, and we need to understand the movements of the Holy Spirit.”

Bishop Conley will attend Fr. Rother’s beatification Mass with dozens of bishops, scores of priests, and thousands of other Catholics.

“We will remember the holiness of Fr. Rother, and thank the Lord for the gift of his selflessness,” the bishop said. “We will pray that we might have the same courage that he did, and the same love for our mission, and for the Lord.”

“May Fr. Rother pray for us, as we turn to the Lord, seeking the courage to do his will.”

For the first time in 30 years, Sistine Choir to perform in US

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2017 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Sistine Chapel Choir will perform the U.S. for the first time in three decades, and will sing compositions that one expert says are an important heritage of the American church.

Italian priest Father Massimo Palombella directs the Sistine choir, which will be singing works by Renaissance composers such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Antonio Allegri and Tomás Luis de Victoria.

“As in Rome, this style of Renaissance polyphony would be adopted by the Churches of the New World as the standard style of music, especially for the Mass,” Dr. Grayson Wagstaff, dean of the Latin American Music Center at the Catholic University of America, explained to CNA.

On Sept. 20, a free concert will be hosted at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. next to Catholic University of America.

After attending Italy's prestigious conservatory and spending years as a theology and music teacher, Fr. Palombella became the director at the Pontifical Music Chapel, and began conducting the choir in 2010.

Dr. Wagstaff applauded the Salesian priest's efforts to use the Vatican's historic repertory and rejuvenate this style of music into the daily life of the Papal Chapels.

Fr. Palombella will be performing sounds iconic of the Mexico City Cathedral and the many works of the Spanish composers which had made their way to the “new world.”

“These works by Spanish composers would be the core of music transmitted, taught and copied in manuscripts in Mexico,” Dr. Wagstaff said. “Young boys from Mexico (then 'New Spain') would be selected to receive training in music and become boy choristers for the cathedrals.”

He added that this music is very significant to the “Church's artistic patrimony,” and now has the ability inspire “parishes to focus on quality music and learning about the Church’s legacy of art,” especially from Latin America.

Fr. Palombella studied philosophy and theology at the Salesian Pontifical Unversity, and trained under organ players Luigi Molfino and Bishop Valentino Miserachs Grau. He also attended the Conservatory of Turin.

Ordained a priest to the Salesian order in 1995, he began teaching dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Salesian University and the Language of Music at Sapienza University of Rome. He then succeeded Father Giuseppe Liberto as director of the Sistine Chapel Choir.

In his remarks to CNA, Dr. Wagstaff noted the importance that the upcoming concert has to the university.

“For us, this is a celebration of CUA's role as one of the great centers in the world for teaching and preserving this musical legacy of Catholic tradition as well as our wonderful tradition of musicology and research on the history of music in Rome.”

US Senate committee advances bill to aid Christians in Iraq

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 12:02

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2017 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Senate committee on Tuesday voted to advance a bill that seeks to ensure U.S. aid reaches Christian genocide victims in Iraq.

“The vote from this morning is an important step toward providing relief for those victims of the genocide committed by ISIS,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), one of the sponsors of H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017, stated.

Christians in Iraq who were forcibly displaced from their homes by the expansion of Islamic State in 2014, and many of who have been living in Iraqi Kurdistan, have been dependent on the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil and aid groups like the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need for basic needs like rent, heating, and food.

Although Mosul and surrounding towns on the Nineveh Plain have been liberated from Islamic State control by coalition forces, some families have not yet been able to return to their homes since they may not have the resources or security to repair their homes and resume their normal lives.

The U.S. has declared that Islamic State committed genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and Shi’a Muslims in Iraq and Syria but, despite being genocide victims, Christians in Iraq have also reported that they have not been receiving official U.S. aid. The aid from NGOs is “not enough,” Smith has said; the Christians need to have access to official U.S. humanitarian aid.

“We’re not asking for new money,” Smith said at a June press conference before his bill passed the U.S. House. “We’re asking to make sure the money that’s in the pot is provided to those who have been left out and left behind for about three years.”

Christians could have much greater access to the aid if it was allowed to go through churches and church organizations, who are able to reach Christian populations, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), another sponsor of the bill, said at the press conference.

“The State Department would not allow any U.S. dollars to flow to church organizations. And this legislation allows for that,” she said.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Sept. 19 to advance the bill out of the committee, moving it closer to a floor vote. Smith praised Tuesday’s vote, saying the bill provides much-needed support to the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil, which has hosted Christian victims of Islamic State for several years.

“Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda has been sustaining more than 95,000 Christians who escaped ISIS – almost one third of Christians remaining in Iraq,” Smith said.

“It is incomprehensible that the U.S. has not done more to help,” he said, noting that the bill should be passed soon, as “lives are depending upon it.”

And time is running out to ensure that Christians get the assistance they need. Since the Christian families have been away from home for three years and their children are going without education for another year, the Knights of Columbus said they received reports that families could leave Iraq for good by the fall if they do not have a viable way of returning home.

What it's like to gather relics of Fr. Stanley Rother

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 05:23

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 20, 2017 / 03:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Fr. Stanley Rother, a missionary priest from Okarche, Oklahoma, was killed by rebels in Guatemala, his body was transferred back to the United States to be buried by his family.

But his heart remained in Guatemala.

Literally.

The native Guatemalans loved their pastor so much that they enshrined his heart at the mission parish in Santiago Atitlan.

On Sept. 23, that heart will go from being a disembodied remain to a first-class relic, a sacred artifact of someone who has been beatified by the Catholic Church.

The keeping and venerating of relics is perhaps one of the more bizarre Catholic practices, but it’s a scripturally-backed practice of the Church since its beginning.

There are three classes of relics recognized by the Church. First-class relics are bodily remains of a saint, such as bones or flesh or hair. Second-class relics are belongings of the saint, such as clothes or other personal items. Third-class relics are items that have been touched to a first- or second-class relic of that saint.

When Archbishop Paul Coakley was installed as head of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese in 2011, he inherited the task of the cause of canonization for Fr. Stanley Rother. As part of this undertaking, he also inherited the task of his gathering relics, a process that officially commenced once it was clear that the martyred priest’s beatification was imminent.

The second-class relics were easy. Over the years, the archdiocese had collected a handful of personal items of Fr. Stanley, donated by friends and family, including some of his clothes, and a pipe that he smoked. Once he is beatified, these things become second-class relics.

But when it came to exhuming the body to collect first-class relics, Archbishop Coakley admits he was a little lost.

“We had to do a lot of research,” the archbishop told CNA. “This happens so rarely, we didn’t know how to go about preparing for this.”

First, he obtained permission and rights to Fr. Stanley Rother’s remains from the priest’s two surviving siblings.

Then, according to Vatican protocol, he gathered the proscribed team of witnesses and medical experts who would help with the canonical exhumation and examination of Fr. Stanley’s body.

The medical team consisted of a pathologist and an orthopedic surgeon, both local Catholics. They helped examine and describe the remains, and compile a report sent to the Holy See. Among other things, the Church looks for signs of incorruptibility, when a body does not decompose. The condition has been found among some saints, although by itself, it is not enough to prove sanctity.

“They had expertise that would be helpful in describing what would be found when his tomb was opened, because we didn’t know what we could find,” Archbishop Coakley said.

Both the exhumation and examination are done “with great dignity and reverence, and there is a process by which we exhumed his body from the family plot at the parish cemetery in Okarche,” the archbishop added.

“And in that process we took one of his ribs, and that’s what we used for preparing first class relics,” he said.

His body was then transferred to a temporary resting place in Resurrection Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery next to the pastoral center in Oklahoma City, while his rib was sent to Rome.

“There is an Augustinian monastery of St. Lucia in Rome, and they are custodians of relics and have experience in preparing relics, so we sent our relic of Fr. Rother to them,” Archbishop Coakley said.

The sisters there will divide the rib into many tiny fragments, which will be encased in reliquaries, available to bishops who wish to obtain relics of Fr. Rother for public veneration. First-class relics are no longer distributed to lay persons, in order to protect the relics from negligence or abuse.

Meanwhile, the task of preparing the third-class relics (sometimes referred to as “touched relics”) of Fr. Stanley fell to the Carmelite Monastery of Rochester, New York, a congregation of 11 discalced, cloistered Carmelite nuns.

Mother Therese, the prioress of the convent, told CNA that while the sisters had done smaller “touched relic” projects for Carmelite saints, this was the first major relic project the convent has undertaken.

“A sister from Oklahoma City mentioned to me that the archdiocese was looking for someone to put together relic cards for Fr. Stanley’s beatification,” she said. “I said, ‘Well we’ve not done this on a huge scale but we are familiar with this process’...so that’s how it came about, a simple question from one of our Carmelite nuns.”

Often, third-class relics distributed at beatifications come in the form of a little piece of cloth embedded in a holy card.

“When the body was exhumed, the bones were wrapped in a very large and special cloth,” Mother Therese said.

This cloth was signed and dated by Archbishop Coakley during the exhumation in May and then sent to the nuns, who are punching small holes in the holy cards of Fr. Stanley and affixing the pieces of cloth – which will become relics once Fr. Stanley is beatified – to the cards.

The holy cards also have a picture of Fr. Stanley on the front, and a prayer for his canonization on the back – some in English and some in Spanish. The sisters have already made 10,000 and are expecting to make several thousand more.

“It’s a very great privilege for us,” Mother Therese said. “It has brought us very close to Fr. Stanley...we feel that he will intercede for us and that he will bless our community and the Church in the U.S. as well, because he’s the first American-born martyr.”

Archbishop Coakley said working on Father Stanley’s cause has been an honor, especially as someone who graduated from the same seminary as Fr. Stanley (though years later) and has been interested in his story for quite some time.

“I took that as a great privilege to be coming into the Oklahoma City Archdiocese at such a time,” he said.

“I...entrusted my ministry to him and prayed for his assistance and intercession as I undertook this ministry, I’ve felt a very near kinship with him since I was a seminarian and a priest and as the archbishop now.”

 

 

 

Catholic health care growth a benefit, not a threat, ethicist says

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 02:03

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A research paper that depicts the growth of Catholic health care as a threat to reproductive health ignores the attraction of Catholic hospitals and downplays the ethical concerns about procedures like abortion and sterilization, one commentator has said.

The number of hospitals that are Catholic-sponsored or Catholic-affiliated has increased 22 percent from 2001 to 2016, including through mergers or changes of ownership. This growth is the focus of a September 2017 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, “Medically Necessary but Forbidden: Reproductive Health Care in Catholic-owned Hospitals.”

“The ‘problem’ that the authors of this study are examining results from the fact that Catholic hospitals and Catholic healthcare systems have been remarkably successful in America's competitive market,” Edward Furton, an ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA Sept. 18.

“Catholic hospitals tend to be better managed, are governed by a sense of social duty, perform greater amounts of charitable care, and have strong ethical safeguards in place to protect their patients.”

Furton attributed the growth of Catholic healthcare to patients’ appreciation for these features.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is an  influential domestic policy think tank based in Cambridge, Mass. Its working paper estimated that the expansion of Catholic hospitals reduces by 30 percent the annual rates per-bed of inpatient abortions. The rates of tubal ligations or sterilizations drop 31 percent.

Elaine Hill, a co-author of the working paper, is a professor of health economics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She said access to procedures is part of how to “reduce unwanted pregnancy.”

“Policies addressing the ways in which ownership of hospitals might impede access could be very beneficial to the population of women affected,” she told STAT, a health, medicine and scientific research publication from Boston Globe Media.

Furton, however, said the working paper was written by “a group of economists, not healthcare workers.” He questioned the paper’s use of the phrase “medically necessary but forbidden.”

“Neither abortion nor permanent sterilization can be properly described as a medical necessity. They are typically chosen for reasons other than maintaining health,” he said.

“Often times, studies such as this are designed to highlight supposed impediments to health care access within Catholic institutions. In other words, they suffer from an inherent bias,” he added. “In this case, the authors assume that all Americans want unlimited access to abortion and sterilization. That is obviously not true.”

He also defended the presence of Catholic ethics in health care.

“Many people see the reduction in abortion and sterilization as positive goods. The authors assume that denying access to these ‘services’ represents a moral failing of some sort, but not many people would agree,” he said.

“Abortion is obviously of great concern to most people, and few among the general public are fooled by the claim that the lack of sterilization procedures in Catholic hospitals is going to affect contraceptive use among American women,” said Furton. “Contraception is widely available and the refusal to offer permanent sterilizations in Catholic hospitals is not going to change that fact.”

The study estimated that there are about 9,500 fewer tubal ligations each year because Catholic hospitals do not perform them. It charged that this represents “a substantial cost to women, who must subsequently rely on other, more inconvenient suboptimal forms of contraception.”  It claimed that black and Hispanic women were disproportionately affected by these restrictions.

The same working paper found that Catholic hospitals showed no statistically significant increase in complications from miscarriages or sterilization procedures.

Data used in the study came from the states of Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, California, New York, and Washington.

The study said that Catholic ethics are not always followed or it would have found a 100 percent reduction in abortions and sterilizations.

Furton said it is regrettable that not all Catholic hospitals follow Church teaching. However, he suggested that some of the procedures cited in the paper’s data could reflect actions that would not violate Catholic ethics.

“For example, some of what the authors of this paper would call abortions are in fact actions in which the child is unavoidably lost while the medical team is performing a procedure that has some hope of saving either the child, the mother, or both. These should not be classified as abortions. They are justifiable under the principle of double effect.”

Some opponents of the expansion of Catholic hospitals that operate according to Catholic teaching include the American Civil Liberties Union and the group the MergerWatch project. They co-authored a 2013 report that claimed the growth of Catholic hospitals was a “miscarriage of medicine.”

St. Louis archbishop leads prayer for peace after violent protests

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 18:55

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 19, 2017 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of St. Louis led an interfaith group of religious leaders in prayer for peace and justice on Tuesday, after protests over the weekend turned violent.

“It is in this humble spirit of peace that we gather together as one human family this afternoon to both pray and reflect. Each one of us brings a heavy heart, but also a faith-filled heart,” Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis said at the Ecumenical Prayer Service for Peace in downtown St. Louis.

Archbishop Carlson led the prayer service after several days of protests took place in the city over the acquittal of a former police officer in a 2011 shooting.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson on Friday acquitted former officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder charges, stemming from a 2011 shooting of 24 year-old Anthony Lamar Smith after a car chase.

According to a court document reported by the Washington Post, the district attorney charged that Stockley was heard threatening to kill Smith during the car chase, and, once he drove into Smith’s car, got out and shot five times into the car, killing him.

“This Court, in conscience, cannot say that the State has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, or that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense,” Judge Wilson said, reported by CNN.

After Friday’s ruling, Archbishop Carlson called for prayer and forgiveness, and exhorted members of the community not to react with violence.

“We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us,” he said. “Violence does not lead to peace and justice – they are opposing forces and cannot coexist. I implore each of you to choose peace!”

Protests of the ruling began on Friday evening, and also occurred on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Protests on Saturday and Sunday reportedly began peacefully, but turned violent after dark when buildings were damaged and police officers were assaulted. Reports claimed that a small contingent of the protesters were violent.

The city’s police department reported making 123 arrests on Sunday, after orders to disperse were ignored by some individuals who blocked street intersections.

At Tuesday’s interfaith prayer service, Archbishop Carlson thanked those in attendance for showing a “sign of your commitment to peace,” and thanked other religious leaders present for their “leadership” and “moral witness.”

According to St. Paul, “we are one in the Lord,” the archbishop said, exhorting the audience to remember their “truest identity as children of God, capable of bringing God’s peace to every corner where division and violence would seek the upper hand.”

He said that “peace is not an unrealistic dream that would blind us to the sin and brokenness of humanity,” but rather that peace and justice go together.

“One cannot cry for peace and ignore justice, and vice versa,” he said. “We do not demand justice without peace in our hearts.”

Other religious leaders from Christian denominations, as well as a Jewish rabbi and an imam, cited long-standing issues in the city of “endemic racism,” poverty, gun violence, and inequality of education, as well as the history of slavery in the area in the 1800s.

Fr. Ronald Mercier, SJ, Provincial superior of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province, also cited the need to address the roots of injustice.

To “seek only an end to violence without addressing its roots” would be “dangerous,” he said. “The fruit of injustice is violence.”

“For too many people,” he said, “justice is an unfulfilled reality.” He noted that “the sin of racism” present in the area “deprives all of us of an inability to feel at home.”

“Yes, we need to pray today for the gift of peace,” he said, “a peace that God wants to give us.”

 

How Christians can accompany those with same-sex attraction

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 18:09

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2017 / 04:09 pm (CNA).- Have compassion and empathy: especially for those dealing with struggles which are different than yours.

This is the message Dan Mattson hopes all believers will take from his book, which encourages a new sense of compassion for those who have same-sex attractions.

“I’d encourage them to have compassion and empathy,” Mattson said of his message to believers. “Maybe they can’t empathize, but they can have compassion.”

In his book, “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” Mattson discusses his objection to the use of the term “gay” – as well as the term “straight” – in reference to human sexuality.

The Church’s traditional view of sexuality – which does not define persons by their attractions – presents a fuller vision of human identity and life, he said. Taken alongside other teachings on suffering and chastity more broadly, this vision for sexuality leads to true happiness for all persons, including those who experience same-sex attractions.

His writings have gained the support of Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, who wrote the foreword for the book and mentioned his support for the book in a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.  

Mattson encouraged those who experience same-sex attractions, along with their family and friends, to have faith in the Church and the Gospel. “Have confidence that the Church is the place for all of (your) loved ones, on any teaching on these issues of such contention these days,” he said. “It’s the source where we’re going to find freedom and true joy. We really have to believe that chastity is the Good News.”

He also encouraged people with loved ones experiencing these attractions “to journey along with them, accompany them in love.” He advised family to “listen to their story” before talking about morality. “Trust that God, in the fullness of time, is going to bring this person back, but equip yourself with good ways to talk about the Church’s teaching as Good News and trust that God will give the opportunity and give you that chance to help bring them home.”

Mattson explained that he wrote the book as a way of making sense of his own experiences with same-sex attraction, and questions he had when he was younger. “Hopefully it will help some other people who love God and want to follow him,” he offered.

He said that, in his experience, the modern way of talking about sexuality in which people are considered as either “gay” or “straight” misses the context the Church provides, which looks at a person as a whole. The same element of Church teaching which deals with sexuality also says “that we all have challenges to growth,” Mattson explained. “Well, this is a challenge to growth for me, but the Catechism tells me what to do and the Church is there to guide me, just like everyone else.”

One of the challenges to growth that Mattson hopes his experience can illuminate is the challenge of loneliness – “a fundamental question that anyone with same-sex attraction has to ask.”

He explained that readers of all backgrounds have offered that they found his testimony to the experience of loneliness fruitful and enlightening, and said that the struggles of loneliness faced by those with same-sex attraction can help others who may be single or widowed or divorced facing the same battle.

“I have found that I write quite a bit about friendship and how good, healthy friendships have helped me, but also I’ve come to realize that loneliness can be a gift we can enter into,” he said.

 

In talk at Facebook, Bishop Barron tackles how to debate religion

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 17:53

Menlo Park, Calif., Sep 19, 2017 / 03:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- People need to learn how to argue better on the internet, especially about religion, Catholic media personality and Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said in remarks at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters.

“Seek with great patience to understand your opponent’s position,” he advised, adding that it can be “very tempting just to fire back 'why you’re wrong.'”

Instead of going after what’s wrong, he said, one should seek also highlight what your opponent has right. This is an “extraordinarily helpful” way to get past impasses.

Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire website and media content reach millions of people each year over the internet. The bishop spoke to Facebook employees at the company's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters on the topic “How to have a religious argument.” The event was live-streamed to around 2,500 viewers.

“If we don't know how to argue about religion, then we’re going to fight about religion,” he said.

For Bishop Barron, argument is something positive and “a way to peace.”

If one goes on social media, he said, “you'll see a lot of energy around religious issues. There will be a lot of words exchanged, often angry ones, but very little argument.”

Bishop Barron praised the intellectual tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas and his time's treatment of disputed questions. A professor would gather in a public place and entertain objections and questions.

“What's off the table? Nothing as far as I can tell,” the bishop summarized. He cited the way St. Thomas Aquinas made the case for disbelief in God before presenting the arguments for rational belief in God.

“If you can say 'I wonder whether there's a God,' that means all these questions are fine and fair,” Bishop Barron continued. “I like the willingness to engage any question.”

Aquinas always phrases the objections “in a very pithy, and very persuasive way.” In the bishop's view, he formulates arguments against God's existence even better than modern atheists and sets them up in the most convincing manner, before providing his responses to these arguments.

Further, St. Thomas Aquinas cites great Muslim and Jewish scholars as well as pagan authorities like Aristotle and Cicero, always with great respect.

Bishop Barron said that authentic faith is not opposed to reason. It does not accept simply anything on the basis of no evidence.

He compared faith to the process of coming to know another human person. While one can begin to come to know someone by reason, or through a Google search or a background check, when a relationship deepens, other questions arise.

“When she reveals her heart, the question becomes: Do I believe her or not? Do I trust her or not?” he said.

“The claim, at least of the great biblical religions, is that God has not become a great distant object that we examine philosophically,” the bishop said. “Rather, the claims is that God has spoken, that God has decided to reveal his heart to his people.”

Bishop Barron addressed several other mindsets that he said forestall intelligent argument about religion.

The mentality of “mere toleration” keeps religion to oneself and treats it as a hobby. However, religion makes truth claims, like claims that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

“Truth claims, if they really are truth claims, cannot be privatized,” he said. A truth claim always has a universal scope, a universal intent.”

“The privatization of religion is precisely what makes real argument about religion impossible.”

While science has created great knowledge that should be embraced, there is the mindset of “scientism” which reduces all knowledge to scientific form.  

“It results in a deep compromise of our humanity, it seems to me,” he said, contending that religious truths are more akin to those of literature, poetry and philosophy. The scientistic mindset would have to argue that Shakespeare’s plays or Plato’s philosophical dialogues do not convey deep truths about life, death, faith and God.

Scientism also mistakes its subject when attempting to consider God. “The one thing God is not is an item within the universe,” Bishop Barron said.

The bishop also faulted a mindset that is “voluntarist,” which believes that the faculty of the will has precedence over the intellect. In a religious context, this holds that God could make two plus two equal five. This gives rise to a view of God as arbitrary and even oppressive.

In response, some people believe humanity’s will trumps the intellect and determines truth through power. According to Bishop Barron, they see God as incompatible with human freedom and, in the words of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, see freedom as the inherent liberty to determine the meaning of one’s own concept of existence, the universe, and human life itself.

Addressing the Facebook employees about their work, he said that their company’s social media network shows an “extraordinary spiritual power” in connecting all the world.

“I think that it’s a spiritual thing that you’re bringing everybody together,” he said.

Faith, science, beauty: what doctors can learn from Catholic art

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 05:04

Denver, Colo., Sep 19, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The intersection of art, medicine, and faith in the Catholic tradition has a lot to teach today, especially if you’re a doctor.

“Catholic art has a long history of demonstrating the beauty of the human person, beauty both in its health as well as its disease,” Dr. Thomas Heyne, M.D. told CNA. “Catholic artists have been very effective observers and demonstrators of that dual beauty.”

“In looking closely at artwork, we’re able to have a window into what disease looked like many centuries ago as well as how our patients still look today.”

Heyne, who works in the pediatrics department of Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke at a breakout session “Did Michelangelo have Gout?” at the Catholic Medical Association’s annual educational conference, held in Denver earlier this month.

Reviewing historic artwork helps doctors review the presentations of forgotten or rare diseases, he said. It helps improve their observational skills, and remember how patients behaved when lacking simple treatments like pain-relieving ibuprofen.

Citing several studies on medical training, he said that medical examination of art can help make doctors better through honing their observation skills, tolerance for ambiguity, mindfulness, communication skills, and empathy.

Heyne also contended that teaching medicine through art also advances a deeper appreciation for Catholicism’s role in both art and medicine.

“You’re taking a bunch of secular people and making them look at Catholic art half the time,” he said. “To me, this is a pretty helpful thing for the new evangelization.”

His presentation drew on many studies and arguments from doctors and art scholars, including his own research.

Among his examples of diagnosing health conditions in art was Giovanni Lanfranco’s work from about 1625: “St. Luke healing the Dropsical Child.” It shows St. Luke taking the pulse of a child with a distended belly, as a woman looks on. A book of the ancient medical writer Hippocrates rests on a nearby table with an icon of a woman saint.

Heyne suggested that the child’s symptoms as painted by Lanfranco could be the earliest known depiction of congenital heart disease.

At the same time, any interpreter must take into account the interplay between realism and stylistic convention. Despite the child’s stomach, the child appears to have a healthy musculature. Lanfranco tended to paint all children beautifully, Heyne explained.

Even the standard iconography of saints can show Catholic awareness of medical problems. St. Roch, a patron saint of plague victims, is often shown with the tell-tale bulba of plague.

In Istanbul’s Chora Church, a fourteenth century mosaic depicts Christ healing a multitude. One person depicted has crutches, another is blind, another appears to have rickets.

The work also shows a sitting man with a bulge nearly the size of a basketball in his groin area. According to the doctor, this is likely a massive inguinal or scrotal hernia.

“This artist put a giant scrotum on the top of a church. This is pre-Puritan,” said Heyne, interpreting the art as saying, “Jesus came to save everyone.”

“I think this is remarkable: ‘No shame: come out and you will be healed’,” he said. “I think it is a remarkable testament to what the human body was back then.”

The mosaic could be the first depiction of a hernia.

The art history of European Christianity shows diseases now associated only with the developing world.

Other artworks show signs of longstanding diseases like leprosy, while others trace the arrival of diseases new to Christian Europe. A 1496 sketch from Albrecht Dürer shows a man with syphilis, just four years after the disease is believed to have spread to Europe from the New World.

Some figures in famous paintings show signs of finger deformities suggesting rheumatoid arthritis, like the hands of the nude women in Peter Paul Rubens’ 1639 painting The Three Graces.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa portrait shows the famous subject in great detail. The 25-year-old woman appears to show an accumulation of cholesterol under the skin in the hollow of her left eye. Her hand shows a fatty tissue tumor. She is known to have died at age 37.

Heyne took these conditions together and asked whether Mona Lisa died of a cardiovascular event.

As for master artist Michelangelo, his training in anatomy helped give deeper artistic significance to his work. For instance, his statue Night from 1531, depicting a bare-breasted woman personifying Night, and perhaps death, appears to show signs of a breast tumor.

Heyne did criticize some interpretations of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. While some suggested the bulging of some figures’ eyes was intended to represent disease, he said it rather simply represented astonishment at the arrival of the apocalypse.

Review of art also helps doctors understand how patients with particular diseases or health conditions were viewed throughout history.

There is the example of the seventeenth-century Spanish painter Diego Velazquez, who painted at least ten portraits of people with dwarfism. These show their “dignity and beauty,” and don’t depict them as “court buffoons,” Heyne said, suggesting this is another role for Christianity in art.

Archbishop calls for peace amid protests over St Louis verdict

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 18:29

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2017 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of St. Louis called for prayer and peace after a judge acquitted a former St. Louis police officer in the shooting of a man in 2011.

“If we want peace and justice, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness,” Archbishop Robert Carlson said Sept. 15. “While acknowledging the hurt and anger, we must not fuel the fires of hatred and division.”

On Friday, St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted former officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder charges in the shooting of 24 year-old Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. Stockley, a white officer with the St. Louis Police Department, fatally shot Smith after a car chase.

The case received special attention in the wake of another high profile case in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, where police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18 year-old Michael Brown. Riots occurred in the area, pointing to longstanding racial tensions and alleging a history of police abuse.

Over the weekend, demonstrations in protest of Friday’s ruling took place in the city’s downtown area. Marchers called for reforms to the justice system and called attention to racism. The mayor’s house was reportedly damaged in the protests.

Demonstrations on Saturday began peacefully but turned violent after dark, the St. Louis Police Department reported on its Facebook page on Saturday night. Nine officers had been injured by late Saturday night, and tear gas was deployed after officers had been pelted with bricks and other objects, the department said.

On Sunday, the police reported making arrests after protesters blocked street intersections and orders to disperse were ignored; the department reported over 100 arrests made, according to the Washington Post. The Guardian reported that a group of police officers in riot gear chanted “Whose street? Our street” on the side of a street on Sunday. On Monday morning, the demonstrations were peaceful and no arrests were made, the department said.

Archbishop Carlson said that prayer and solidarity are the answers to the verdict, not violence and discord. “We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us,” he said.

“Violence does not lead to peace and justice – they are opposing forces and cannot coexist. I implore each of you to choose peace! Reject the false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence,” he said.

An interreligious prayer service for peace has been planned for 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Kiener Plaza, led by Archbishop Carlson and other religious leaders.

“We must work together for a better, stronger, safer community, one founded upon respect for each other, and one in which we see our neighbor as another self,” the archbishop said.

Take in more refugees, not fewer, bishops urge White House

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 18:07

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2017 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration is reportedly planning to further reduce the number of refugees the U.S. will accept in the coming fiscal year, drawing concern from the U.S. bishops and others.

“We’re strongly urging the administration, the President, to set a Presidential determination of at least 75,000 [refugees],” Matt Wilch of the Office of Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told CNA of reported changes to the number of refugees the U.S. plans to accept in the 2018 fiscal year.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Trump administration is planning to further reduce the number of refugee admissions for the 2018 fiscal year, “according to current and former government officials familiar with the discussions.”

For the 2017 fiscal year, the Obama administration had planned to take in 110,000 refugees after accepting 85,000 in 2016, including more than 12,000 Syrian refugees.

However, in a March executive order, President Donald Trump ordered a four-month halt to U.S. refugee admissions so that the resettlement program could be reviewed for its security. He set a cap on refugee admissions for the fiscal year at 50,000, well short of the 110,000 originally planned.

In addition, Trump barred most travel from six countries for 90 days – Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Sudan.

Now the administration may be reducing its refugee quota even further, to below 50,000.

The Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a written statement Tuesday that they were “troubled and deeply concerned” at reports that the administration was considering the reduction, which they called “inhumane.”

“We implore the administration to show mercy and compassion for those seeking refuge, and to advance the American value of freedom through providing safe harbor to those fleeing tyranny and religious persecution,” the bishops said.

The conference proposed a goal of 75,000 refugees instead. “We think it’s really time to get back to the serious business of saving lives, and we urge the administration to have the total this coming year be 75,000,” Wilch told CNA Thursday.

In 2016, then-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Dr. Robert George said the refugee resettlement program was secure, and that the U.S. should ultimately look to increase the number of Syrian refugees it resettles to 100,000.

A reduction in refugee admissions would come at a time when the number of displaced persons across the globe is at an all-time high, the group Human Rights First said.

“While ten percent of the world’s 21 million refugees are estimated to need resettlement, only about one percent have access to resettlement,” they said.

Furthermore, several countries neighboring Syria like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, are hosting the bulk of refugees fleeing the six year-long conflict there, the largest refugee crisis in the world, HRF said.

If the U.S. and other countries decide to accept fewer refugees, it could contribute to the destabilization of Syria’s neighbors who are already at or nearing capacity for hosting refugees.

“The United States’ refugee admissions program is not a zero-sum game; we are more than capable of providing safety to those fleeing violence and persecution around the world,” Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First stated.

How do we fund sacred art in the Church? This priest has an idea

Sat, 09/16/2017 - 18:03

Wilmington, N.C., Sep 16, 2017 / 04:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The John Paul II Foundation for the Sacred Arts is rethinking how the Catholic Church should fund well-crafted art. But why is good art in the Church important in the first place?

“When a piece of art, a beautiful church, a flower or a sunset not only strikes the eye but pierces the soul and fills one with a sense of wonder, that is transcendent beauty – it goes beyond mere aesthetic enjoyment to hint at the truth and goodness of being itself,” Father Michael Burbeck told CNA.

Fr. Burbeck serves as founder and director of the foundation, which was launched in March of this year. He explained that his own encounter with Europe's beautiful architecture and sacred art brought him to convert to Catholicism and ultimately start the organization.

However, beautiful art requires money – and Fr. Burbeck's project aims to equip artists to create quality, Christ-inspired, original works.

“Works of transcendent beauty have the potential to awaken the soul to the wonder of God, and so are evangelical in their own right,” he said. “This is what we mean by transcendent beauty: the beauty that flows from the goodness and truth of being itself.”

On the group's website, Fr. Burbeck recalled on how beauty awakened this wonder of God, and enabled him to fall in love with the Church and with Jesus Christ.

Being able to stand before the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral created by Christopher Wren or Michelangelo's Madonna and Child and along with numerous images of the crucified Christ, the soon to be priest was motivated to give his life to the Church.  

“Because of beauty, I found the Catholic Church, fell in love with her, and was convinced of the truth of her teachings.”

When he met artist Cameron Smith, Father Burbeck said that the two discussed a “crowd-sourced, entrepreneurial model” which relied on the beauty of an artist's work to motivate donations.

“Either a work is 'popular' enough to be funded or it is not,” he said, explaining that the foundation's board of directors will choose which artists to give grants to based on if the “artist is capable of and intent on producing a work in keeping with our mission.”

He said their mission is Catholic art which spreads the Gospel through beauty, but cautioned against the modern trend to reduce “beauty” to a particular time period or type, such as Renaissance or Contemporary.

Fr. Burbeck also noted the problem with reducing art to self-expression, wherein an artist's attempt at honesty will often display a faulty idea of reality – one where his or her existence is “marked by brokenness and a lack of meaning.”

But as significant as these tendencies are in society today, the priest said the foundation is actually trying to combat two other problems: how art is treated in the church – namely, the dearth of original art – and the lack of funds to support faithful artists who create original works capable of moving viewers.

Unoriginal pieces of art, or catalog style as Fr. Burbeck described it, are not necessarily offensive but may be a poorly produced copy or a “mimic of existing works that may be competently executed but which fails to touch the soul.”

“That is why we partner with artists financially and promote works that are squarely in the great tradition, not copies, but drawing from the same inexhaustible well of beauty,” he said.

Fr. Burbeck foresees fundraising as a potential hurdle, but he also expressed an appreciation for the enthusiasm already taking place.

“Thankfully, there has been a great deal of excitement about the idea, it seems to fill an important niche, and we trust that the Holy Spirit is at work.”

Fr James Martin disinvited from speaking engagement over protests

Sat, 09/16/2017 - 12:53

Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2017 / 10:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. James Martin, S.J., an editor at America magazine, has been disinvited from speaking at the Theological College, a seminary affiliated with the Catholic University of America, following pressure from online-based groups. 

Fr. Martin was invited to speak Oct. 4 on the theme of encountering Christ. However, the Theological College said that “since the publication of his book, Building a Bridge, Theological College has experienced increasing negative feedback from various social media sites regarding the seminary’s invitation.”   

Fr. Martin’s most recent book has drawn criticism since its publication for its avoidance of discussing the Church’s teaching on celibacy and for its lack of engagement with Catholics who identify as LGBT who welcome Church teaching on continence and other issues. In August, Fr. Martin announced on Facebook that he is currently writing a revised issue of the book, which he says will address the feedback and critiques he has received. 

In addition to writing books and speaking, Fr. Martin has also been appointed to serve as Consultor to the Secretariat for Communication, and serves as editor -at-large of America Magazine. 

The Theological College explained that after receiving social media feedback on his writing, the school decided to withdraw its invitation, both in the “best interest of all parties” and “in the interest of avoiding distraction and controversy as Theological College celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding” at an alumni event focused on remembrance.

“In no way does this decision signal approval or agreement with the comments or accusations that the various social media sites have made over the recent weeks,” the school stated. 

In response to the decision by the seminary under its auspices, Catholic University of America president John Garvey stated his regret and concern at the situation. While the Catholic University retains some authority in some spheres over the Theological College, the seminary remains autonomous in any decisions related to priestly formation at the seminary, as well as over events which take place on seminary property.

In its statement, the university noted that the Theological College’s decision “does not reflect the University’s  policy on inviting speakers to campus,” nor the counsel the university gave to the seminary. The university also noted that it invited Fr. Martin to speak last year on campus. 

Garvey stated that the pressure placed upon the Theological College for Martin’s speech mirrors similar pressures placed upon other colleges for inviting more conservative speakers to their campuses.

“Universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas. Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea,” Garvey said. “It is problematic that individuals and groups within our Church demonstrate this same inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity.” 

What are the Vatican’s next steps in the child porn case?

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 18:49

Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2017 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- What happens when Vatican City State diplomats commit crimes? The recent recall of a Vatican diplomat from the U.S. Nunciature in Washington, following suspicions of child pornography possession brings together both the workings of the criminal justice system at the Vatican and international diplomatic law.

“We are not yet at the conclusion of the criminal investigation, but I think it wise that he’s been recalled now,” said Dr. Kurt Martens, a Professor of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America.

According to a Sept. 15 communique issued by the Vatican, the U.S. State Department notified the Vatican Secretariat of State on Aug. 21 of a possible “violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps stationed in Washington, D.C.

The priest was recalled to the Vatican, where he remains. The diplomatic process of collaboration on the case – which remains under investigation – was initiated, and findings from the U.S. State Department were shared with the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice, who also opened an investigation within the city-state of the Vatican. The identity or nationality of the diplomat has not been released.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of State has asked that the Vatican lift the diplomatic immunity of the priest, but the U.S. request was denied.

The denial of the request is a standard response and element of international relations law.  

“Diplomatic immunity is not the same as immunity from prosecution,”  Martens said.  “It means immunity from prosecution under the host country’s laws. It means that the priest would still be prosecuted in the Vatican City State.”

The response would likely be the same if a U.S. diplomat was accused of committing a crime overseas, Martens explained. Generally, when a diplomat commits a crime abroad, “they are recalled and tried at home.”

The practice has its basis in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Martens said, so that diplomats in a country are able to do their work without fear of interference from the host country’s laws or lawsuits from the host country. The need for the practice has been highlighted by various accusations of spying or other wrongdoing between two countries with strained relationships. “Diplomatic immunity is something that’s needed for diplomats to be able to serve.”


However, the standard diplomatic protections can be removed by the diplomat’s home country, in special circumstances and at the country’s discretion. Generally these cases do not involve functions essential to the diplomat’s mission.“There have been some cases where diplomats have been charged with manslaughter, where the diplomatic immunity was waived by the sending country and then the receiving country could prosecute,” he gave as an example.

A diplomat can also be unilaterally expelled from a host country.

However, in all of these special cases, the subject of diplomatic immunity and its revocation remains a closely guarded tool of international relations.  “It’s not something you play with.”

If the diplomatic immunity remains in place for the Vatican diplomat under investigation, the case would go to the justice systems of the Vatican City State. “It means there could be two processes: a canonical one before the CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith], and a civil one in the Vatican City State courts,” Martens explained.

Under canonical law, the possession of child pornography is a crime, and in 2010, Pope Benedict added the offense to the list of serious crimes that go directly to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the authority in the Catholic Church responsible for investigating and prosecuting serious crimes. Conviction of a serious crime, also called a “grave delict” can result in dismissal from the clerical state.

Child pornography is also a crime under the civil law of the Vatican City State, and carries a range of punishments, including prison time.

The closest precedent to this kind of case, Martens said. is the prosecution of Polish Archbishop Józef Wesolowski, a former papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic. In 2013, following allegations of sexual misconduct, a canonical trial began under the CDF, which found him guilty of sexual abuse and dismissed him from the clerical state. Two years later, he was indicted under civil law for child pornography possession. He died, however, before the criminal trial began.

The Vatican contains a small number of prison cells within the headquarters of the gendarmerie, the Vatican police and security force. Through arrangements made under the Lateran Treaty, criminals convicted of civil offenses by the Vatican City State are sent to Italian prisons. Provisions under the same treaty allow the Vatican to hand over prosecution of civil cases to Italian authorities as well. This arrangement was invoked during the prosecution of the attempted assassination of St. Pope John Paul II by Turkish citizen, Mehmet Ali A?ca. The Vatican covers the costs of the legal proceedings as well as any prison time.

Regardless of who ends up prosecuting the unnamed official, Martens said that as more details emerge from the investigation, the Church will follow standard international procedures and prosecute any credible offenses. “They don’t let people get away with this.”

Faith helped couple choose baby over chemotherapy treatment

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 13:39

Detroit, Mich., Sep 15, 2017 / 11:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Michigan mother with a lethal form of brain cancer who declined treatment in order to save her unborn child has died, a few days after her sixth child was born.

Carrie DeKlyen, 37, was a mother of five in April when she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive, malignant cancer that typically affects the spine and brain, and is usually lethal.

While she had surgery to remove the tumor, DeKlyen was about to begin a clinical trial treatment when she discovered she was pregnant.

She decided to decline chemotherapy in order to save her unborn daughter, who was born last week and was fittingly named Life Lynn DeKlyen.

Carrie’s husband Nick DeKlyen said the couple’s Christian faith carried them through the difficult decision.

"Me and my wife, we are people of faith," Nick told the Detroit Free Press. "We love the Lord with everything in us. We talked about it, prayed about it.”

"I asked her, 'What are you thinking?' She said, 'All the treatments, I'm not doing any of them.' We went back to the surgeon. He said 'If you choose to do this, you will not live another 10 months. I promise, you will die.'

Nick said that ultimately, it was Carrie’s decision, and she was at peace choosing to save her baby instead of prolonging her own life.

"We’re pro-life," Nick said. "Under no circumstance do we believe you should take a child’s life. She sacrificed her life for the child."

Carrie’s choice to give up her own life for that of her baby has garnered worldwide attention.

While Carrie underwent four brain surgeries to try to treat her tumor, she slipped into a coma in July from which she never regained complete consciousness, though family reported that she would sometimes respond to a hand squeeze or other attempts to communicate.

By September, Carrie had stopped responding to pain. Baby Life was delivered by caesarean section Sept. 6, at 24 weeks and 5 days. The following day, Carrie's feeding and breathing tubes were removed, and she died Sept. 9.

Nick told the Associated Press that some of his last words to his wife were, “I’ll see you in Heaven.”

During a celebration of her life, held Sept. 12 at Resurrection Life Church in her hometown of Wyoming, Michigan, Carrie was remembered as someone who left behind “a legacy of love,” Michigan Live reported.

She was a kind and selfless wife, mother, daughter and neighbor, who sang in the church choir and volunteered in her community, according to numerous friends.

"Carrie, a mom, a soul mate, a daughter, a sister, a friend. Heaven's gain," Pat Binish, the community's pastor, said at the celebration.

Binish added that many had asked on social media why Carrie had to suffer and die.

"Are you ready for the answer? I don't know. Our job as humans is to pray. God's job is to heal, end of story. We don't understand the bigger plan. We don't have the understanding. One day, we will."

The Cure 4 Carrie Facebook page, which the family once used to post updates about Carrie’s health, is now being used to update family and friends on Life Lynn, who struggled at first but is now in stable condition in the neonatal intensive care unit at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

“Life Lynn is defying all odds,” said a Sept. 15 post. “Heart rate is green oxygen is blue. Good job baby girl!”

Pro-life groups to Senate Dems: Don't eliminate Hyde Amendment

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 18:59

Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2017 / 04:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a Democratic senator boasted on Wednesday that his party’s Medicare bill would repeal the Hyde Amendment, pro-life groups are pushing back, stressing that the longstanding policy has saved lives.

“This month marks the 41st anniversary of the Hyde Amendment and in that time it has been found that over 2 million lives have been saved,” said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs at the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

“The senator might think we'd be better off without those people,” McClusky said, “however I know 2 million lives who would disagree and are thankful they aren't targeted by Sen. Blumenthal.”

On Wednesday, senators from both parties released dueling health care bills. Senate Republicans, led by Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), introduced their proposal which would, among other things, repeal the Affordable Care Act and feature block grants to states to pay for health care coverage.

Senate Democrats, led by 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2017, a single-payer proposal which would expand eligibility for Medicare to all Americans.

During the press conference introducing the act, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the bill would protect women’s “reproductive rights” and would do away with the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing federal policy prohibiting tax dollars from paying for elective abortions.

“I want to single out two groups of people. Number one, the women of America. They have been denied health care for too long because of restrictions like the Hyde Amendment,” Blumenthal said.

“Consider the Hyde Amendment history if we pass Medicare for All, and all those other restrictions on reproductive rights,” he said.

The Hyde Amendment was introduced in 1976 by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). It is not a law, but rather has been passed as a rider to budget legislation every year.

As a policy that has been supported by members of both parties, it prohibits federal tax dollars from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, reported on the Hyde Amendment on its 40th anniversary in 2016, and estimated that it had saved over 2 million lives by reducing the overall number of abortions.

Using data from 20 different studies, the institute concluded that the policy resulted in at least 2 million more pregnancies carried to term – 60,000 per year – than there would have been if Medicaid dollars had subsidized abortions.

However, during the 2016 election, Democrats called for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment in their party’s platform.

“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion – regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” the platform stated.

“We will continue to oppose – and seek to overturn – federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

Meanwhile, the Republican senators introducing their health care proposal on Wednesday claimed that it contains pro-life provisions, like stripping the leading abortion provider Planned Parenthood of any Medicaid reimbursements and ensuring that federal subsidies or tax credits don’t pay for abortion coverage in the insurance market.

The Susan B. Anthony List, meanwhile, reserved its official judgment on the bill until it had reviewed the language.

“SBA List will need time to review the language carefully to ensure that it will roll back taxpayer funding of abortion under Obamacare and re-direct abortion giant Planned Parenthood’s tax funding to community health centers,” the group said in a written statement.

 

Bishop urges prayer for victims of Washington school shooting

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 17:45

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2017 / 03:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane has urged Christians to pray for the victims of a Sept. 13 high school shooting, in which one student was killed and three others were hospitalized.

“I would like to ask that you join me in prayers for all those impacted by the shooting at Freeman High School this morning,” he said in a Sept. 13 statement.

The high school, which has just over 300 students, is located near Rockford, Washington, about 30 minutes from Spokane.

Just as classes were starting Wednesday morning, a student opened fire outside of a biology classroom, authorities said. One student – identified by local media as freshman Sam Strahan – was killed in the shooting, reportedly as he tried to stop the gunman.

Authorities said the sole suspect is in custody. They did not release the suspect’s name, although numerous eye witnesses identified the gunman as sophomore Caleb Sharpe, the Spokesman Review reports.

“We thank the many first responders who quickly arrived to protect students, take the suspect into custody, and transport victims,” Bishop Daly said.

School officials locked doors and closed blinds, following emergency protocols. Half an hour later, they evacuated students to the football field.

Three teenage girls – Emma Nees, Jordyn Goldsmith and Gracie Jensen – were sent to the emergency room at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where hospital officials said they are in stable condition.

“This senseless act of violence has shaken our community,” Bishop Daly said. “My sincere prayers are with all Freeman High School parents, students, faculty, and staff.”

The Freeman School District announced that school would be canceled on Thursday.

 

US bishops urge care of refugees as Supreme Court allows Trump travel ban

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 16:58

Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2017 / 02:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed part of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to stand temporarily, the U.S. bishops' conference sympathized with the refugees affected by the ban.

“We were disappointed that those who were already assured and really all cleared and ready to come as refugees were not allowed to come during this period,” Matt Wilch of the Office of Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told CNA.

The application of the travel ban that was upheld by the court Sept. 12 would affect refugees who had received a “formal assurance” of resettlement from an agency in the U.S., probably numbering more than 20,000, Wilch said. These refugees would be currently unable to travel to the U.S. on that condition.

That application of the travel restrictions in Trump’s executive order on immigration had been halted from going into effect in a recent decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In his March executive order “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”, Trump had restricted travel to the U.S. from six countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, and Syria. Foreign nationals from those countries could not enter the U.S. for 90 days unless they had a special visa.

In Hawaii’s challenge to the travel ban, the Hawaii district court issued a temporary injunction against enforcing the ban on refugees and immigrants with family members living in the U.S., including aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, grandchildren, and brothers and sisters-in-law.

The district court also issued a temporary injunction against enforcement of the travel ban on refugees who already had a “formal assurance” of placement in the U.S. from a resettlement agency.

The Ninth Circuit court upheld that decision recently, saying that the travel ban could not be applied to refugees and immigrants in those cases.

On Tuesday, however, the Supreme Court overruled the Ninth Circuit on the latter application of the travel ban, to refugees who have a formal assurance from a resettlement agency that they could enter the U.S.

Thus, that application of the ban is essentially allowed to stand as the court will consider Hawaii’s challenge to the travel ban, with oral arguments in the case scheduled for Oct. 10.

Wilch said Tuesday’s ruling is “an interim kind of decision about who would be allowed in while the larger case was pending, so it’s not a final say on the issue.”

However, the court did not touch the Ninth Circuit’s prohibition on the travel ban applying to those with family members in the U.S. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was pleased to hear that news, Wilch said.

And the conference will be paying close attention to the overall case of the travel ban at the Supreme Court, he said.

“As Catholics, as Christians, as Americans, welcoming refugees is in our DNA, and so we’re deeply concerned and watching it [the case] very closely,” Wilch said.

“And we’re hopeful that the Supreme Court will come down with the decision that is consistent with American values, in terms of welcoming refugees.”

Iraq was originally on Trump’s list of six countries from which travel was restricted. It was later reported that, as a condition of Iraq’s removal from the list, the U.S. would deport Iraqi nationals who had previous criminal records and had been given a final order of removal from a federal immigration judge. Many of the Iraqis, detained by ICE this summer, had resided in the U.S. for decades and were Chaldean Christians.

In the March executive order, Trump also ordered a four-month shut-down of the U.S. refugee resettlement program and a review of the program’s security. He capped refugee admissions at 50,000 for the 2017 fiscal year, well short of the planned number of 110,000.

Reports are circulating that Trump will further reduce the planned number of refugee admissions for the 2018 fiscal year. The U.S. bishops' conference responded in a statement that they were “deeply concerned” by the news, and that they proposed an increase to 75,000 admissions for that year.

“We think it’s really time to get back to the serious business of saving lives, and we urge the administration to have the total this coming year be 75,000,” Wilch told CNA on Thursday.

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