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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 52 min ago

Church needs fewer and better seminaries, says seminary prof

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- In the wake of recent reports concerning widespread sexual harassment and sexual abuse at seminaries, a seminary professor has suggestions for how the seminary process could improve.

Fr. Thomas Berg, a professor of moral theology and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York, suggested in an Oct. 18 Washington Post column six ways the formation process of seminarians could be changed to ensure that they would be properly formed both spiritually and emotionally.

Berg criticized the current seminary system for an “overemphasis on academics” that leaves seminarians lesser formed emotionally and personally. He warned that those kinds of deficits do not form priests who are ready to effectively serve their parishes, and could result in additional misbehavior.

“Where focus on personal psychological integration is lacking, space opens for disordered living of precisely the type that has made headlines in recent months,” he said. Seminaries in several U.S. cities announced investigations into misconduct this summer.

Next, Berg said that there needs to be increased trust and transparency betweens seminarians and formation teams. He said it “pained [him] to hear” that some seminarians had felt as though they could not discuss recent abuse stories. This censorship was “utterly wrongheaded.”

He said that seminarians should be able to “freely, frankly and confidently express to the formation team their concerns about the seminary community, their opinions about the formation process and any other honest apprehension or contribution they want to make in the spirit of honest dialogue.”

Additionally, he called for seminaries to have clear sexual harassment policies and protocols, and said that a person associated with the seminary, lay or otherwise, should be appointed to contact the diocese regarding sexual harassment or abuse.

Berg additionally called for a possible minimum age for seminarians, and said that “bishops need to slow down the rush to ordination.” He suggested that an age of 22 may be an appropriate time to begin seminary studies, which would allow the seminarian to acquire a college degree and work experience before entering.

While the current seminary process takes about seven years, Berg suggested that the process be extended by another year. An initial year of formation would consist of “detoxing from the culture and social media,” and would result in “growth in self-knowledge, prayer, and a secure masculine identity.” The final year prior to ordination could consist of “intensive fieldwork” in pastoral ministry.

Bishops may not appreciate this idea, he said, but he believes it is necessary, as the Church cannot be well served by priests who are ordained before they are actually ready for the position. This spiritual immaturity could result in mental health crises or other issues among clergy.

“When years later some of them falter, with addictions or other personal struggles, we all pay a heavy price,” he explained.

Berg also expressed concern at what he described as “priests who lack the skill set and drive to become mentors, role models and moral guides” being assigned to seminaries as formators.

“A doctorate in theology does not render a priest automatically suitable for such ministry,” he said. Bishops need to require that the formators themselves undergo ongoing professional formation to better serve the seminarians.

For his final points, Berg addressed the number and quality of seminaries in the United States. He said that steps should be taken to identify which seminaries are successful in the formation of priests, and those that are failing at this task. He suggested that bishops should form a panel of “seasoned seminary formators” who will visit each seminary to review their processes.

Seminaries that are “failing in their mission” should be reformed or closed.

Finally, Berg said that the current number of seminaries in the United States--70--is far too high and that number needs to be consolidated. A third of those seminaries, according to a recent report, have fewer than 50 seminarians, whereas 11 of them have more than 100 men in formation.

Instead of this glut of seminaries that are clearly not needed, Berg suggested making “15 or 20” regional seminaries, staffed by the best-of-the-best formators from seminaries around the country who would work in teams.

The current times require a “radical rethinking” of seminaries, one that must be started by the bishops, he said.

 

Having kids won’t doom your country, says #PostcardsForMacron creator

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 06:00

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2018 / 04:00 am (ACI Prensa).- The idea that high fertility rates are a barrier to economic success is a contemporary myth, Catholic University of America economics professor, mother of eight, and viral hashtag creator Dr. Catherine Pakulak told CNA.

Pakulak started the viral “#PostcardsForMacron” hashtag on Monday in response to French President Emanuel Macron’s comment at a Gates Foundation event.

Macron suggested that educated women would not choose to have a large number of children if they had a choice. While Pakulak thinks the comment was taken partly out of context, and tried to give Macron the benefit of the doubt, she still thought it was “so ridiculous.”

Pakulak’s academic research area focuses in part on the effects of fertility on economic development.

“High fertility is not the product of ignorance,” Pakulak told CNA. She said Macron’s comments represent an “underlying view” common in contemporary culture.

This attitude prevails both in Africa, and in other places such as the United States, she said. Women like herself who chose to have many children face a “pejorative attitude” from other people about their decisions to have lots of children.

“That's what I pop into, and say 'Hey, look, this is silly. Lots of women do choose this,’” she explained.

And while Pakulak said most college-educated women do not choose to have that many children, “there are some.”

“So that was my main impetus to pick that [line of Macron’s speech] out."

Pakulak was critical of Macron’s take that families with large number of children are holding Africa back developmentally. She described this mentality as “kind of a contemporary myth” that is not backed up with statistics.  

“There is no evidence that says countries cannot grow quickly, or steadily, with high levels of fertility,” she explained. “There are a lot of people, in response to this [...] out there kind of crunching the numbers on African fertility. And some have pointed out 'look, actually African fertility is not especially high relative to its income.'"

Across the continent, the average fertility rate does not climb to seven, eight, or nine, she said. In reality, the total fertility rate (TFR) throughout Africa is closer to the world’s median rate, “in the four range.”

"There simply is not mountains and mountains of evidence to say that if countries get their fertility rates down to the twos and the threes, all of the sudden you're going to just explode [economically]," she said.  

Nigeria, the country in Africa with the highest GDP, has the 12th-highest fertility rate in the world, with a TFR of 5.07. South Africa, which has the second-highest GDP on the continent, has a much lower fertility rate of 2.29.

Pakulak told CNA that she was unhappy that Macron compared forced child marriage, which is “not something Christians could get behind or agree with,” to having large families.

She theorized that Macron’s views were similar to those of the Gates Foundation, which considers population growth to be a barrier to economic growth.

She expressed concern that this viewpoint could be used to force contraception on African women, “regardless of whether they are asking for this.”

“And I think that’s false, because other countries have grown quickly with a TFR in the range that [African countries] are in.”

While most social conservatives do not oppose the availability of contraception, she said, “what they’re against is kind of an aggressive policy” that wastes time and money that could be spent on other developmental programs.

Additionally, Pakulak said that providing contraception to girls who were forced into marriage in their preteens “isn’t going to help” their situations. Instead, she suggested that more efforts be focused on opposing the cultural norms that approve of these situations.

She is also concerned that “an era of cheap and widely-available contraception,” in which it is easy for people to pick the size of their families, people are choosing to have fewer and fewer children.

Pakulak lamented declining fertility rates in other parts of the world, mentioning especially Europe.

While France is home to Europe’s highest TFR at 1.96, it is still below the population replacement-level rate of 2.1. This is cause for concern for Pakulak, who warned that the low birth rates would spell disaster for the continent’s extensive social programs.

She is also concerned that the anti-child mentality is a sign of bigger problems.

"People don't have kids to save their countries from demographic winter,” she said.

“They have kids because of a certain attitude towards meaning and the meaning of life and what it means to live a good human life."

 

Are you ready for the March for Life? Organizers announce 2019 theme

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The theme of the 2019 March for Life will be “Unique From Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini announced at an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

The theme was chosen as science is inherently pro-life, Mancini explained Oct. 18. Science has continued to “reaffirm the scientific fact, and the truth, that life begins at fertilization/conception.”

“Our DNA is present at the moment of fertilization, and no fingerprint, ever--past, present, future--is like yours. And that’s what it means to be unique from day one,” said Mancini.

She pointed out that “society often ignores or tries to block these facts,” and reminded the crowd that in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama refused to provide an answer when asked when he believed life began, saying it was “above his pay grade”

Mancini said that while remarks like these provide “cover” for someone who is in favor of abortion rights, “scientifically, it’s not factual.”

Fetal development, she said, is “astonishing.” She noted that the heart begins to beat just three weeks after fertilization, and that the fetus is capable of movement at eight weeks. At 13 weeks, the fetus has fingerprints, “just like our logo.”

Science, said Mancini, “should always be at the service of life, not the reverse.”  

"Science makes it clear that human life, our uniqueness as individuals, is true from the moment of conception or fertilization,” she said.

This meshes with the mission of the March for Life, she explained, which is to “protect the baby in its earliest stages.”

“So we exist, our very reason for being is to protect and defend life from the moment of fertilization."

Also announced on Thursday were that commentator Ben Shapiro and former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson will be speaking at the upcoming March for Life.

The 2019 March for Life will be held on January 19, in Washington DC. It has been held each year near the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade declared a legal right to abortion in 1973.

How a Panama City parish is helping after Hurricane Michael

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 18:00

Panama City, Fla., Oct 19, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- This is the story of a hurricane. Or, at least, the story of one Catholic parish trying to help, in the wake of one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. in decades.

Hurricane Michael made landfall in northwest Florida Oct. 10. The hurricane has claimed 50 lives in the U.S. and Central America, caused an estimated $8 billion in damage, and displaced thousands of people.

After Hurricane Michael overwhelmed local hospitals, St. John the Evangelist parish in Panama City has become a hub for medical services and emergency supplies.

Father Kevin McQuone, pastor of St. John Evangelist Catholic Church, told CNA that many of his parishioners’ homes are damaged and that some areas are still without power.

“Many people have lost part or all of their home. Many people [who] are displaced are looking for other places to live,” McQuone said. “A handful, I have been informed have moved on, they have lost their jobs because their business were destroyed so they have already found other jobs and moved permanently.”

St. John’s parish school has been heavily damaged, he said. The roof for the middle school building was ripped off and other school buildings have severe water damage. The priest said the school has set up a satellite campus at another parish.

He said two local hospitals in the Panama City have nearly shut down completely aside from their emergency rooms. The hurricane, he said, also destroyed a medical warehouse, which held all of the hospital’s sterile supplies.

The parish has stepped up to offer basic medical supplies and help, relying on Catholic Charities and volunteer medical professionals.

“Bringing in any sort of triage or medical clinic is welcome just to help the whole community to get the care that they need,” he said.

“We also have a mobile medical clinic that was here for part of the day yesterday and was here today as well,” he said. “Next week, we will have a group of 8-12 doctors from around the country who volunteer, and they will be here for a whole week.”

He said people have come in for basic medical help, like tetanus shots. While patients are there, they can also receive supplies – water, toiletries, and food.

The priest said a majority of the aid has been provided and organized by Catholic Charities. Noting that the Catholic population in Florida’s panhandle is only about five percent, he said the parish is helping an entire community, many of whom might have otherwise not visited a Catholic Church.

“Catholic Charities has been really great,” he said. “Immediately, we have been in connection with them. They have been sending people are way and helping us to be of service not just to our parishioners, but really to the whole community. By and large, the far majority of people that we have been serving here I’ve never met before.”

Father McQuone said that more volunteers are still needed in the area.

“Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” he said.

For people in distress, we are “doing all we can to serve the needs of their body and the need of their soul - by prayer and by sacrificial giving.”

Neutrality on assisted suicide is the wrong prescription, Catholic doctors say

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 16:50

New Orleans, La., Oct 19, 2018 / 02:50 pm (CNA).- The American Academy of Family Physicians has taken a neutral position on assisted suicide and will lobby the American Medical Association to do the same, drawing criticism from Catholics but praise from assisted suicide advocates.
 
Leaders of the physicians’ academy gathered for its Congress of Delegates, which met Oct. 8-10 in New Orleans, approved the resolution of “engaged neutrality,” MedPage Today reports.

The organization represents over 130,000 doctors across the U.S. and is the second-largest constituent body within the AMA.

The resolution passed by a two-thirds vote, which is required for votes that differ from AMA ethical policies, the physicians’ academy said.
 
The resolution called on the medical academy to reject use of the phrases “assisted suicide” or “physician-assisted suicide” in its formal communications and directed the academy’s delegation to the AMA to promote similar action in that association’s governing body.
 
Dr. Michael Munger, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said his group took a neutral position so it can advocate on the matter at future meetings of the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates. Munger said family physicians are “well-positioned to counsel patients on end-of-life care” and added “we are engaged in creating change in the best interest of our patients.”

The American Medical Association’s code of ethics rejects physician-assisted suicide as “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” Such a practice would be “difficult or impossible to control” and would “pose serious societal risks.”
 
“Instead of engaging in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life,” it adds.
 
Critical of the AAFP’s move was Dr. Barbara Golder, M.D., a board member of the Catholic Medical Association and editor-in-chief of its Linacre Quarterly, who said the move was “very, very disappointing” but should not necessarily be considered a full victory for backers of assisted suicide.
 
“Some people will want to look on this as a great achievement in terms of advancing physician-assisted suicide, and it certainly puts us on a slippery slope, but I think it’s also important to recognize that the AAFP did not endorse it,” Golder told CNA.
 
“That tells me that even within their own organization there’s a great deal of discussion and there’s got to be a fairly significant group of physicians within that group itself that understands the dangers of physician-assisted suicide and how it runs contrary to medicine as practiced.”
 
Backers of assisted suicide, such as the group formerly known as the Hemlock Society, welcomed the change and saw it as grounds for more.
 
“I believe many AMA constituent societies will follow suit, so it is only a matter of time before the AMA does as well,” said Dr. David Grube, national medical director of the pro-assisted suicide group Compassion and Choices and a former delegate within the physicians’ academy.
 
In response, Golder facetiously wondered whether Grube has a crystal ball to see the future.
 
“I don’t know that it’s ‘just a matter of time’,” she said. “Certainly, it’s a worrisome idea that medicine would shift from healing to killing. That’s a fundamental change the likes of which medicine has not encountered, at least in our lifetimes.
 
“When we find medicine going away from healing towards killing, we in the past have been very repulsed by it. Now suddenly we are not,” she added, warning that it is potentially a “tremendous slippery slope.”
 
For Golder, assisted suicide is against natural law and “the Catholic notion that life ought to be respected from conception to natural death.”
 
Golder said opponents of assisted suicide should consider joining medical groups and “being vocal.” She suggested doctors can leverage their patients, because they “have a voice in this as well.”
 
“The whole point of associations like this is to serve doctors and their patients,” she said. For Golder, assisted suicide disrupts the doctor-patient relationship because it means “as well as an agent of healing, the doctor can also be an agent of death.”
 
Advocacy and awareness-raising about good palliative care are also needed “so that physician-assisted suicide doesn’t look like an attractive alternative to people who are alone, in great pain, don’t have anybody to care for them,” added Golder.
 
Dr. Peter T. Morrow, M.D., president of the Catholic Medical Association, said the move ran contrary to “the medical communities’ historical and long-standing opposition against physician-assisted suicide.”
 
“It is in direct violation of the ‘do no harm’ Hippocratic Oath,” Morrow said in an Oct. 17 statement. “We at the CMA are dedicated to preserving life from conception to natural death and will continue to remain staunchly opposed to any form of assisted suicide. It goes against natural law.”
 
The Catholic Medical Association has over 2,300 healthcare professionals in 104 local guilds across the U.S. Several of its members had testified against doctor-assisted suicide at AMA’s last House of Delegates meeting in June.

The AMA has about 240,000 members in the U.S., with membership including medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, and medical students. Its 2018 interim meeting will be held in National Harbor, Maryland this November.
 
The group’s House of Delegates, meeting in Chicago in June, narrowly voted not to accept a report recommending that they continue their stance of opposing physician assisted suicide. About 56 percent of delegates voted for the report to undergo further review.
 
At the time, Morrow said that decision was “hugely disappointing.”
 
Golder told CNA that the AMA “has so far held the line, saying assisted suicide is not appropriate, and we congratulate them for that.”
 
The seven states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized assisted suicide.
 
Other AAFP resolutions included a failed vote in support of an elective abortion ban from 20 weeks into gestational age. The body passed resolutions opposing “fetal personhood” language. It recommended that medication abortion drug Mifeprex be removed from the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy. Such restrictions create an unnecessary burden on physicians who want to offer medication abortion, backers of the decision said.
 
The delegates passed a resolution calling on the academy to create educational materials about institutional racism and segregated care within the health care system as a cause of racial disparities in patient outcomes.

With city support, Baltimore parish will issue IDs to undocumented parishioners

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 13:06

Baltimore, Md., Oct 19, 2018 / 11:06 am (CNA).- A Baltimore Catholic parish announced that it will begin issuing parish identification cards, with the goal of making undocumented immigrants and members of other vulnerable populations in the city more comfortable reporting crimes and cooperating with the Baltimore Police Department.

“If this identification helps one person pick up the phone and call the police, it’s done what it’s supposed to do,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said during an Oct. 10 press conference announcing the parish initiative.

The cards will be issued by Baltimore’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, with the support of Archbishop William Lori and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Applicants will need to show a form of picture ID, even if it is expired; proof of address; and have their identity confirmed in a sworn statement by a third party.

Each ID card will include a picture of the holder, as well as the parish’s contact information and logo. The parish is waiting for permission from the police department to start issuing the IDs; the city’s interim police commissioner has begun introducing the card to officers and trains them to recognize it.

The parish worked directly with the mayor’s office and the police department to develop a uniform version of the ID.

“It's really a pastoral response," said Father Bruce Lewandowski of Sacred Heart parish, who was one of the main proponents of the program.

"A lot of immigrants and other people in vulnerable communities don't interact with the police because of mistrust, for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it's fear of racism, sometimes it's fear....that somehow the police are connected with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], and it’s ‘if I call the police then I'm setting myself up for detention and deportation’ for people who are undocumented."

The Baltimore Police department does not handle immigration directly, which is a federal matter. Rather, the goal of the parish ID program is to better relationships between the community and the police.  

"At our meetings with [interim police commissioner Gary Tuggle], as the commissioners did before him, he assured us that there is no immigration enforcement that is done by the Baltimore city police department, that's not their job,” Father Lewandowski stated.

“Their job is to keep Baltimore citizens safe and fight crime. So in order to help them do that, that's why we're promoting the [parish ID] program."

Interim Baltimore police commissioner Tuggle said he planned to introduce the card to his command staff Oct. 11, and would train the entire department to recognize the card within two weeks.

The parish ID cards will explicitly state that they are not government-issued forms of identification.

Each recipient of the card will go through a two-hour group orientation session of 30-40 people, Father Lewandowski said, to train them on “basic civics” so they understand what the card can and cannot be used for.

“We want people to be very clear about the use of the card,” he said. “"Basically what it means is: if I call 911...I can show them the parish ID that says I'm known in the community, this is my city, I belong here—that the mayor supports me, in a certain sense; that the archbishop supports me; that my parish [supports me].”

Father Lewandowski emphasized that the relationship between some city residents and the Baltimore Police Department is very tense, and the police department has had recent issues with stability; three police commissioners have come and gone in the past 3 years, and the current interim commissioner will not be seeking a permanent position.

To mitigate any potential changes in attitude toward the program when a new police commissioner arrives, Father Lewandowski said that Mayor Catherine Pugh has publicly committed to continue to support the parish ID program under the new police commissioner, whenever he or she begins work. Pugh will be up for re-election in 2020.

Maryland already allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver's license or identification card, as does D.C. and 11 other states. Among other requirements, the applicant must show proof of having paid Maryland income tax for two years.

In addition, Baltimore voted to create a program in 2016 that would issue city ID cards to residents, but the program has yet to be rolled out. Father Lewandowski said the makers of the parish ID decided they couldn't wait for the city to act.

He said the parish ID is a both/and solution that will likely supplement the municipal ID in the future, but the parish ID has the added advantage of not requiring applicants to provide personal information to the City of Baltimore.

The first person to call the church ask for a parish ID, Father Lewandowski said, was an 85-year-old parishioner at Sacred Heart, born and raised in Baltimore, who no longer drives, and thus had no current form of ID.

"So the ID really is for everybody," he said. "In our very difficult circumstances here [in Baltimore], this is a way to help people feel safe.”

A broader perspective

Baltimore is not the first city to pilot church-issued ID cards; several Dallas-area churches began issuing ID cards to undocumented immigrants in May. The Texas church IDs include a person’s name, address and home parish.

Texas is one of several states that does not allow illegal immigrants to obtain a state-issued ID, Texas law enforcement officers are permitted, but not required, to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they have detained or arrested, and are required to comply with federal guidelines to hold undocumented criminal suspects for possible deportation.

Dallas law enforcement are prohibited, however, from asking the immigration status of those who are witnesses, victims, or reporters of crimes except in special circumstances. Individuals with a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license are presumed to have lawful immigration status.

Though the Texas IDs, like the ones in Baltimore, lack legal recognition, police in the cities of Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch were reportedly told in May that they are allowed to accept the church cards as a form of identification.

CNA asked Dallas Police Department whether there were any documented cases of the church-issued ID being accepted in lieu of state-issued identification. The police department said that they did not have any such cases on record, and that only identifications allowed by law could be accepted.

A representative from the Farmers Branch Police Department told CNA that their police department could choose to recognize a non-government issued forms of ID in some cases, such as a school ID for minors, if a person simply needs to let the police know who they are. If a person is accused of a crime, however, government issued IDs are typically the only form that are acceptable.

 

 

How diapers impact the bottom line, and how an NYC law can help

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 21:00

New York City, N.Y., Oct 18, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The New York City council passed a law Wednesday that will require many centers serving women and children in the city to provide diapers and baby wipes free of charge. The bill had no opposing votes in the council.

The new law covers child care centers, domestic violence shelters, youth shelters, and homeless shelters that are contracted with the city to provide services. Each location must have clear signage or a written notice informing mothers that diapers and wipes are available to them for children three years old and younger.

The provision also includes family justice centers, which provide legal, counseling and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence, elder abuse and sex trafficking; and LYFE centers, an NYC Department of Education program that provides free early childhood education to children of student parents.

In an Oct. 16 committee report, the New York City council laid out the need for the new law, noting that an infant will use over 3,000 diapers in their first year of life at a cost of more than $500.

The report also noted that the Women, Infants, and Children assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cannot be used to purchase diapers, and that Medicaid will only reimburse diapers purchased for individuals older than 3 years.

Alison Weir, Chief of Policy at the National Diaper Bank Network, testified to the city council that the provision of free diapers to low-income families in Connecticut resulted in a decrease in the spread of disease and in decrease in rashes and other skin irritations among babies.

The New York Daily News reported that the sponsor of the bill estimates that the new provision will cost the city $1.1 million in fiscal year 2019, increasing to nearly $5 million in 2020 because of increasing demand. New York’s total budget for FY2019 is over $88 billion.
 
The law is set to take effect within four months of its passage. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services will provide the supply of diapers and wipes to the appropriate city entities, or to independent organizations contracting with the city.

The Connecticut Diaper Bank, which provides free diapers to women in that state, testified before the city council that: “Access to a reliable supply of clean diapers affects families in significant ways, like enabling parents to maintain employment, complete their education, and improve the health and well-being of their children.”

 

40 percent of U.S. children born to unmarried parents, rate increasing worldwide

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- New data shows that an increasing number of babies worldwide are born to unmarried parents.

The data was released in an annual report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA.)

About 40 percent of U.S. children born in 2016 had unmarried parents, the report shows. This is more than double the percent of U.S. children born with unmarried parents in 1980, and 10 percentage points higher than in 1990.

In the rest of the world, even more children are born to unmarried parents. In 2016, 60 percent of French babies were born with unmarried parents.

The UN data showed that across the areas studied--the United States, France, Spain, Sweden, the EU, Japan, and Russia, the unwed pregnancy rate has increased or remained relatively stable in recent years. France has had the highest percent of babies born to unmarried parents since 2010, eclipsing Sweden, the previous leader.

One exception to the trend is Russia, which has seen the percent of children born to an unwed mother drop from a high of 30 percent in 2004 to 22 percent in 2016. Russia’s abortion rate has also fallen during this time period.

In 2017, the organization Save the Children rated the Scandinavian countries Sweden, Norway, and Finland, as among the most accommodating for single mothers.

Japan’s unmarried parenthood rate is far lower than western nations. In 2015, 98 percent of Japanese babies were to married parents. Japan’s fertility rate also remains among the lowest in the world.

Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Robert Rector wrote a report in 2012 that described marriage as “America’s greatest weapon against child poverty.” Children living in a home with two married parents were 82 percent less likely to live in poverty than children who did not have married parents, said Rector. This number applied even when controlling for education level.

In 2009, the U.S. Census found that 37 percent of homes with children headed by a single parent were in poverty, compared to only 6.8 percent of homes with children and married parents.

 

Federal agents investigate abuse in Pennsylvania dioceses

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 17:40

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 18, 2018 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- The Department of Justice has served subpoenas to several dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, in what is believed to be a state-wide move by federal authorities to investigate sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

Chanceries across the Commonwealth were served with requests for documentation and files Oct. 18.

While Pennsylvania diocesan officials have not commented on the scope of the materials subpoenaed, a senior Church official told CNA the investigation concerns the federal crimes of transporting minors across state lines to abuse them, and the production or distribution of illegal pornography, including electronically.

The files requested of at least one diocese date back only to 2001, the official said.

There has been widespread speculation that a federal investigation might focus on charges related to institutional cover-ups or conspiracy, perhaps seeking to build a case under the federal RICO laws meant for dealing with organized crime. The official told CNA that, at present, the scope of the investigation does not seem to include conspiracy or other institutional charges.

“The files they are asking to be handed over, at least here, are in relation to the possible commission of particular crimes,” he said.

“As its been explained by the agents coming in, it’s those two crimes [transporting minors across state lines and illegal pornography] that are being looked at, maybe that’s got something to do with why they are only looking at files going back to ’01,” the official said.

“Maybe there is more to come, but it looks like they are beginning by looking for actual acts of abuse of minors and not yet on the institutional side of things – at least so far.”

So far, six of the eight the dioceses in the state have confirmed being served by federal agents, these are: Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg.

“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has received a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury, which requires the production of certain documents. The Archdiocese will cooperate with the United States Department of Justice in this matter,” Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, told CNA.

Bill Genello, director of communications in the Diocese of Scranton told CNA that “the Diocese of Scranton has received the subpoena and will completely cooperate.”

The federal investigation comes just over two months after the Aug. 14 publication of a Pennsylvania grand jury report investigating clerical sexual abuse. That report identified more than 300 priests accused of abusing 1,000 victims over a period of seventy years.  

The report resulted in charges being filed against only two priests. The federal statutes of limitations that apply to crimes crossing state borders could lead to further indictments.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that “the archdiocese knows nothing about a Department of Justice proceeding beyond the initial media reports.”

Washington’s recently retired archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, served as Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988-2006, and came under fire after the grand jury reported suggested that he had permitted at least one priest accused of sexual abuse to remain in ministry after an accusation had been made.

According to the Washington Post, the decision to open the investigation was made by federal prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia and was not a directive from Washington, D.C.

State-led investigations into clerical sexual abuse are currently underway in several states including Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Missouri. Other states, like New York, have announced they will soon begin taking similar action.

The news of a federal investigation in Pennsylvania raises the possibility that similar probes could also be launched in other states.

 

 

What kind of archbishop is needed in Washington?

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 17:45

Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Washington occupies one of the most prominent posts in the Church in America. But the assignment, usually accompanied by a cardinal’s hat, comes with a tricky job description.
 
Because of his proximity to the federal government, DC’s archbishop often sets the tone, or at least frames the debate, for how other bishops in the country react to political events. Washington’s archbishop often finds himself the first point of reference on very public pastoral questions, like admittance to Communion for pro-abortion politicians, and he is often asked to take a lead role in overtly political events like the annual March for Life.
 
Washington is also one of the more diverse dioceses in the country: pastorally, liturgically, and culturally. It takes a particular skill-set for a bishop to bring together a flock of almost 700,000, which includes the deeply enculturated African-American parishes in the southeast of the city, the affluent parishes of northern parts of the city, large communities of Latin American immigrants, thousands of university students, and the rural communities of southern Maryland.
 
In addition to ordinary parish life, groups and movements like Opus Dei, the Neocatechumenal Way, and Communion and Liberation are all present in the archdiocese, as are numerous adherents to the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy, the so-called “Traditional Latin Mass.” Encouraging, promoting, and supporting those movements, without seeming to favor or disfavor one or another, can be a challenge all its own.

Beyond that, there are six Catholic colleges or universities in the diocese, and a number of seminary programs, as well as a far higher than average number of religious houses.

The Archbishop of Washington also has the USCCB in his backyard, and he is expected to play a senior role in the USCCB’s deliberations, without being seen to undermine or overrule its work on the federal level. That’s a tricky balancing act.
 
Before the scandals of the past few months, one of the most common criticisms of Cardinal Wuerl was that he was something of an episcopal Rorschach test; he could appear to be different things to different people, and seemed often to avoid coming down clearly on one side or another of difficult theological debates.

But, by some estimates, the ability to be all things to all people is a necessary skill for an archbishop in Washington – the line between taking a decisive stand and a divisive one is often very thin, indeed.

In short, the Archbishop of Washington is usually expected to represent a balance- neither to keel very far to the left or to the right, because of the scope of the issues that tend to fall into his lap.  This means he usually faces criticism from the left and the right- and Wuerl, long before the scandals, faced both. But that balance is understood to be a critical part of the job.

Framing an authentically Catholic response to the issues of the day in a way that does not appear either openly partisan or impossibly vague requires a diplomatic skill set not necessarily found, or even needed, in every bishop.
 
If the pope were to name a successor to Wuerl who is perceived to be a committed “progressive” or “conservative, or who has a reputation for a narrow focus on one band of issues, the man might arrive to find a diocese already divided over his appointment.
 
While it would be myopic to assess Cardinal Wuerl’s tenure solely through the lens of the recent scandals, it is also impossible to deny that they have been the immediate cause of his departure, and that they will be the first priority of his replacement.
 
When he announced that he was asking the pope to accept his resignation, Wuerl said that the archdiocese needed to begin to move past the summer’s revelations. Last month, a spokesman for the cardinal told CNA that Wuerl believed “healing from the abuse crisis requires a new beginning and this includes new leadership for the Archdiocese of Washington.”
 
How “new” that “new leadership” is perceived to be could determine how fast healing happens, and how seriously the Vatican is seen to be responding to the situation.
 
Wuerl himself has given some indications of the kind of bishop he hopes will replace him; key among his criteria would seem to be someone unconnected with the current scandals.
 
In an interview with the New York Times published Friday, Wuerl said he was stepping aside “to allow for new leadership that doesn’t have this baggage,” and hoped that his replacement would be someone who became a bishop after the last abuse crises of the early 2000s.
 
Of course, being free from ties to the current scandal will require more than relative youth.
 
It was, arguably, Wuerl’s proximity to his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, that did as much as anything else to end his tenure. His insistence that he knew nothing of rumors of McCarrick’s alleged misdeeds, or of supposed Vatican attempts to make him keep a lower profile in retirement, left him appearing, at least to some, to be either evasive or negligently incurious, in what became a major crisis of credibility for the American hierarchy.
 
Other bishops, including some touted as possible successors to Wuerl, have similarly had to account for their reactions, or lack of action, when they were first made aware of allegations against McCarrick.

More broadly, McCarrick’s influence helped to elevate a generation of priests and bishops from the east coast dioceses which he led, many of whom have gone on to serve in important positions in the Church hierarchy, both in the United States and in Rome. Should someone seen to be in McCarrick’s line of succession or patronage be appointed to take over in Washington, the credibility gap he would have to cross could prove immediate and unbridgeable.
 
D.C. Catholics – including Cardinal Wuerl – are now hoping for a relatively young bishop, one utterly free from association with either McCarrick or the other scandals currently roiling the Church. He’ll need to be someone of proven governing ability and diplomatic savvy, but with a pastoral heart and an established record of leading like a shepherd and father rather than an administrator.
 
It is a tall order, but not an impossible one to fill.
 
Of course, as the outgoing archbishop and still a member of the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, Wuerl will have had an outsized say in the names submitted for papal consideration.
 
At the same time, Pope Francis has a reputation for picking unexpected candidates for important jobs, and for favoring personal recommendations from people he knows well, rather than relying on officially presented shortlists.
 
How closely Wuerl’s successor aligns with his own stated hopes could speak volumes about how deep Francis’s respect really is for the man he so publicly praised while accepting his resignation. It could also be a strong indication of how seriously Rome is taking a crisis still acutely felt in the American capital.

 

Florida Catholics rally after Hurricane Michael

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 16:30

Pensacola, Fla., Oct 17, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Thousands of people lost their homes as Hurricane Michael wrought havoc throughout the United States and Mexico last week. Now, the Catholic community in the Florida Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee is working to rebuild and to help those in need.

 

The hurricane has taken the lives of 46 people and caused an estimated $8 billion in damage. The Florida panhandle was one of the worst hit areas, with more than 20 people believed to have died in the storm.

 

Since Michael made landfall in the area Oct. 10, St. Dominic Catholic Church has served as a staging area for disaster relief in Panama City, Florida. Associate Pastor Luke Farabaugh, himself a native of the area, told the Pensacola News Journal that the church has “become an aid facility,” with “a lot of 18 wheelers” in the parking lot.

 

Despite the amount of supplies available, Farabaugh said that they are short of volunteers to distribute the materials. Pensacola Catholic High School’s football team have been volunteering together with administrators from the school, but many more people are needed.

 

About 50 volunteers are needed each day, said Bambi Provost. Provost is the director of fund development for Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida. She told the local media that the scene in the panhandle was “total devastation” and that “everything was destroyed.”

 

Cris Dosev is one of the people who came to St. Dominic’s to help out. Dosev, who is Catholic, came in third in the Republican congressional primary for Florida’s 1st District in August, but he was able to use the backs of his campaign signs to replace those that were destroyed in the storm.

 

Now, the new sign in front of St. Dominic’s Church is a repurposed Dosev for Congress sign. He also made signs indicating where people can pick up water and supplies, and there are signs with phone numbers people can call for assistance.

 

The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee has also been able to provide limited lodging for those who are coming to the area to volunteer.

 

Catholic Charities USA, which is a national organization, gave Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida $1 million on Sunday for disaster relief. Provost said “all of it” will be used for the cleanup effort, and that the money will be used to help everyone, regardless of religious belief.

 

On its website, Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida boasts that “We strive to serve as many people as possible,” and that last year, 89 percent of those who received assistance from the organization were not Catholic.

Catholic U. professor leads response to French President’s remark on large families

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 18:30

Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following a comment by President Emmanuel Macron, in which he expressed skepticism that any well-educated woman would decide to have many children, women with large families have been using the “#PostcardsForMacron” hashtag to send the French president pictures of their happy families.

Speaking about high fertility rates in Africa during a Gates Foundation “Goalkeepers” event held in New York City Sept. 25-26, Macron compared having a large family with forcing a girl to be married as a child.

Macron stated that when women are educated, they do not have many children.

“I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children,” said Macron.

“Please present me with the young girl who decided to leave school at 10 in order to be married at 12.’”

In response, many women took issue with the French president’s apparent disbelief that academically successful women would choose to be mothers of several children.

Dr. Catherine R. Pakaluk, a professor of social research and economics at the Catholic University of America, started the hashtag by sharing a photo of herself and six of her eight children.

Postcards for Macron #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/fmX1vzITpv

— Catherine R Pakaluk (@CRPakaluk) October 16, 2018 She followed up that tweet explaining that she holds both a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Harvard University and has, as she phrased it, “Eight children by choice.”

Her post garnered thousands of views, and other women followed her lead, including Beth Hockel, a “Stanford graduate, electrical engineer, mom of 11.”  

Stanford graduate, electrical engineer, mom of 11.  #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/Gl1Py63j7v

— Beth Hockel (@ehockel1) October 16, 2018 Catholic writer Elizabeth Foss shared a picture of her nine children, saying “Yes, they’re all mine. And so is my (University of Virginia) degree.”

Yes, they’re all mine. And so is my UVa degree. #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/dROzkKq1md

— elizabeth foss (@elizabethfoss) October 16, 2018 Men joined in as well, sharing pictures of their wives and their own mothers.

“Check out my educated and inspiring wife and mom of 7,” tweeted writer Josh Canning, along with a picture of his family.  

#DearEmmanuelMacron check out my educated and inspiring wife and mom of 7. #postcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/Ucp5eizIMa

— Josh Canning (@CatholicJosh) October 16, 2018 Several people pointed out that philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe was a mother of seven, and yet still taught at Oxford and Cambridge.

Dear @EmmanuelMacron This is the Oxford and Cambridge philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. She is widely considered one of the greatest 20th century philosophers. She had seven children. #PostcardsforMacron pic.twitter.com/slZZptPsGv

— Samuel Gregg (@DrSamuelGregg) October 16, 2018 While Macron made the remarks at the end of September, his comments on family size gained media traction on Monday, following a report in the Guardian newspaper.

Macron himself does not have any children, but his wife has three children from her first marriage.

The Macrons met when the future French president was 15 years old, his future wife Brigitte Trogneux was his teacher.

Saginaw bishop dies after battle with lung cancer

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 13:37

Saginaw, Mich., Oct 16, 2018 / 11:37 am (CNA).- Bishop Joseph Cistone died in his home Tuesday morning, the Diocese of Saginaw has reported.

Local officials told reporters they received a 911 call from the bishop’s home Tuesday morning, adding that first-responders found the bishop dead upon their arrival. The diocese said in a short statement that the bishop had died in his home during the night.

Cistone, 69, announced Feb. 1 that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, after undergoing tests for a persistent cough he’d experienced for months.

“The good news is that, since I have never been a smoker, it is a form of lung cancer which is treatable and potentially curable,” Cistone wrote in a February letter to his priests.

He announced at that time that he would undergo a treatment plan involving both chemotherapy and radiation. On Oct. 1 the diocese announced that the cancer had spread to other parts of Cistone's body, and that he had begun an aggressive course of chemotherapy.

Diocesan officials said that the bishop was scheduled to undergo a cancer-related medical procedure today.

Cistone was the sixth bishop of the Saginaw diocese, and was appointed there in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. Originally from Pennsylvania, Cistone was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1975, where he also served as auxiliary bishop from 2004-2009.

In March Cistone’s home was raided by police, along with the diocesan chancery and cathedral rectory. Saginaw County’s assistant prosecutor at the time criticized the diocese for failing to cooperate in police investigations.

Police said the raid was executing a search warrant believed to be related to allegations of sexual abuse made against two priests of the diocese. One of those priests, Fr. Robert DeLand, will face a criminal trial next year.

The diocese said Oct. 16 that information about Cistone’s funeral will be released as soon as is possible.

 

Thousands gather in L.A. archdiocese to celebrate St. Oscar Romero

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 19:00

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 15, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Thousands of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles gathered in the cathedral on Sunday to celebrate as Oscar Romero was canonized in Rome.

St. Oscar Romero was canonized by Pope Francis Oct. 14, together with six other new saints. That same day, an estimated 3,000 people gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles for a Mass and celebrations.

Romero, who was the archbishop of San Salvador in the late 1970s, had been a major voice in defense of human rights for the Salvadorian people, especially during the early stages of the country’s civil war.

Before the liturgy Sunday, Salvadorians performed traditional dancing, while clips of Romero’s recorded homilies and speeches could be heard over the loudspeakers.

The inside the Cathedral was decorated with images and photographs of the newly minted saint, including a picture of Romero during one of his famous radio broadcasts and an image of the 250,000 mourners who attended his funeral at San Salvador’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

The Mass was celebrated, in Spanish, by Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar. The homily was given by Deacon Ricardo Villacorta, a Salvadorian immigrant who left the country during its civil war.

Saint Oscar Romero was shot while celebrating Mass in March, 1980, during the country’s escalating civil war. Romero was an outspoken critic of political injustice in the country and of the violence affecting the lives of ordinary Salvadorians. 

In a homily the day before he was martyred, Romero admonished soldiers to follow God’s law over the orders of their superiors.

“This was a very brave act: He told soldiers they have to act from their morals, and not just follow directions from their superiors,” said Rich Villacorta, son of Deacon Villacorta and an archdiocesan employee, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Doris Benavides, associate director of media relations for the archdiocese, told CNA that a

majority of the attendees were Salvadorian. She said that after Mass many participants reflected about the difficult years of violence in their home country and spoke of their closeness to the new saint.

“Very touching,” she said. “I think it was one of the most joyous, happy Masses I’ve seen…even when they were reminiscing and talking about the past they were really happy, happy now that they have a saint that…many of them knew, many of them touched.”

The Archdiocese has a large community of Salvadorians, about 200,000 people, said Benavides, noting that some of these people sought refuge in United States during the civil war, had worked with Romero during his time of ministry, and had even received the sacraments from the new saint.

“These are people who were the poor,” she said. “At that time, even when the Church was going through many phases and difficult times [of the war], they felt the presence of their Archbishop.”

Benavides said that Catholic Charities of Los Angeles continued to welcome refugees from El Salvador, and several other countries experiencing political turmoil. She said that although their reasons for seeking asylum may be different, these people had access to legal, housing, and financial help through the help of the archdiocese.

“The war today is hunger, poverty, and organized crime. So people are running away from the country still. They are seeking asylum again, for other reasons.”

Washington archdiocese releases the names of 48 accused clergy

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 18:15

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Just days after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as Archbishop of Washington, the D.C. archdiocese has released the names of 28 former clergy of the archdiocese who had been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of minors dating back to 1948.

Three priests of religious orders who had previously served in archdiocesan parishes or schools were also included in the release.

The posting of the names on the archdiocesan website Oct. 15 marks the first significant act by Cardinal Wuerl as interim administrator of the archdiocese which he led until Friday, and is the culmination of an internal review of archdiocesan files first ordered by Wuerl in 2017.

“This list is a painful reminder of the grave sins committed by clergy, the pain inflicted on innocent young people, and the harm done to the Church’s faithful, for which we continue to seek forgiveness,” said Cardinal Wuerl. He also noted that there had not been a credible allegation of abuse of minors against a Washington priest in nearly twenty years.

“Our strong commitment to accompany survivors of abuse on their path toward healing is unwavering, but it is also important to note that to our knowledge there has not been an incident of abuse of a minor by a priest of the archdiocese in almost two decades. There is also no archdiocesan priest in active ministry who has ever been the subject of a credible allegation of abuse of a minor.”

A press release by the archdiocese underscored the existing safeguarding policies in place in Washington, which include an annual, independently audited report on its child protection work posted on the archdiocesan website and in the Catholic Standard newspaper.  

Kim Viti Fiorentino, Chancellor and General Counsel for the archdiocese, said that while survivors of abuse should remain the first concern of everyone, it was also important that Catholics in the capital’s archdiocese understood the efforts being made to ensure that “there is no safer place for a young person than in an Archdiocese of Washington parish or school.”

The Archdiocese of Washington adopted its first a written child protection policy in 1986, with a Case Review Board operating since 1993. Following the adoption of the Dallas Charter and USCCB Essential Norms, the archdiocese has also had a Child Protection Advisory Board with a majority of lay experts as members since 2002.

While the release of the names of credibly accused clergy comes at the end of a year-long process of review, it is final authorization by Cardinal Wuerl as archdiocesan administrator instead of archbishop makes for a conclusion few would have foreseen only months ago.

Ordinarily when a diocese is between bishops and under the care of an administrator the principle of nihil innovator  - nothing new - applies, though in this case Cardinal Wuerl was not so much innovating as bringing to a close work he had already begun.

 

This article has been udated to reflect a clarification by the Archdiocese of Washington made after publication.

Pittsburgh Diocese begins years-long parish consolidation process

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 18:13

Pittsburgh, Pa., Oct 15, 2018 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An interim Mass and confession schedule went into effect Oct. 15 in the Diocese of Pittsburgh as the six-county diocese moves to condense its parishes into groups, with the eventual goal of creating new multi-site parishes.

Bishop David Zubik announced in May that the 188 parishes of the Pittsburgh Diocese would be combined into 57 multi-parish groups. After parishioners from each former parish build relationships with each other, each group will become a new parish between 2020 and 2023. Parish groups have been assigned a designation of A, B, or C, with the goal of forming a new parish within two, three, or five years respectively.

A team of clergy, led by a pastor and including parochial vicars, parish chaplains, and deacons, will serve the needs of each parish group during the transition, with retired priests assisting as they are able. The number of Masses available each weekend will depend on the number of priests assigned to each group, since no one priest may celebrate more than three Masses per Sunday according to canon law.

Though Bishop Zubik has not yet specified which church buildings will remain open and which will close, the parish groupings include recommendations for the total number of buildings and priests the group should share. Each new parish could eventually consist of multiple church buildings, but the clergy leaders of each individual group will be ones to make that recommendation to the diocese.

The Pittsburgh Diocese last went through a major restructuring during 1989-98, when the diocese shrank from 310 parishes using 333 buildings to 218 parishes using 288 buildings, according to Trib Live.

The current consolidation plan is a response to declining Mass attendance overall and the financial struggles of some parishes. Materials provided by the diocese show Mass attendance down nearly 40 percent across the board since 2000.

In addition, the diocese had 338 parish priests in active ministry in 2000, compared with 211 in 2016 and 178 today. The diocese estimates that with priestly retirements and an average of four ordinations per year, the diocese will have just 112 priests by 2025.

The purpose of this restructuring, spokesman Father Nicholas Vaskov said in a statement, is “transitioning from maintenance into ministry and mission”: a shift from pouring resources into church buildings that may not be having success and putting those resources toward ministry and evangelization.

A five-year diocesan planning initiative called “On Mission for the Church Alive!” began in April 2015 with a year of prayer for the whole diocese. Since the second year of the program, over 300 parish consolidation meetings have been held and more than 30,000 religious, clergy and laity have participated and offered input.

The diocese used a list of 21 criteria developed after the meetings to create the parish groups. The criteria specified, among other things, that the parish groups should not exceed one priest per 2,400 Sunday Mass attendees, and that the groupings must allow enough space for new Sunday Mass attendees, and anticipate sustainable growth for the next 20 years. In addition, parishes in dire financial need would not be grouped with other struggling parishes, and nor would affluent parishes be grouped together, unless a sound alternative financial plan is put forward.

The current plan to consolidate was conceived prior to the Aug. 14 release of a grand jury report that uncovered sexual abuse allegations against 300 Pennsylvania priests - including 99 from Pittsburgh - dating back to 1947.

Bishop Zubik told CNA in May that he hopes that this consolidation of communities will be an effective tool for evangelization, generating excitement within the Church and strengthening resources to be used for outreach programs.

“By consolidating the resources of parishes in a grouping, what we’ll do is make sure every parish has all of the programs that it needs to be a parish so every parish will have a religious education program, every parish will have some association with a Catholic school, every parish will have an organized program for reaching out to the poor,” Bishop Zubik said.

 

Trump set to pick Catholic lawyer as next White House counsel

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 13:30

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump has reportedly chosen a Catholic lawyer, Pat Cipollone, to replace White House counsel Donald McGhan. In addition to his professional work, Cipollone serves on the board of directors for the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and co-founded the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2004.

According to a Washington Post report published Oct. 13, Cipollone has been informally advising President Trump’s personal lawyers on Robert Müller’s special counsel probe into alleged Russian interference in the last election since June.

While Cipollone’s name has been connected with the position since August, Axios first reported the president’s pick Oct. 13, citing four unnamed government sources familiar with the decision. A White House spokesperson would not confirm the appointment.

When asked to confirm the selection on Saturday, President Trump told reporters that “Pat’s a great guy. I don’t want to say [who has been selected], but he’s a great guy. He’s very talented and he’s a very good man, but I don’t want to say.”

Cipollone is currently a litigation partner at Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner LLP, a Washington-based law firm. He specializes in commercial litigation, antitrust and trade regulation, and healthcare fraud.

During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Cipollone served in the Department of Justice as a counsel to then Attorney-General William P. Barr. Prior to joining his current firm, he worked at the well-known D.C. law firm Kirkland and Ellis.

Following a security clearance review, Cipollone could begin his new job within a week, according to the Washington Post. As White House counsel, Cipollone would advise the president, the Executive Office of the President, and the White House staff on legal issues involving the executive branch.

Donald McGhan announced in August that he would leave the White House’s top legal post after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Cipollone attended Fordham University before earning his J.D. at the University of Chicago School of Law in 1991. Cipollone previously served on the Board of Visitors for the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America, serving as a counselor to the Dean of the law school. 

Fox News television host Laura Ingraham wrote in a 2007 book that conversations with Cipollone had led her to consider a conversion to the Catholic faith. She also wrote that Cipollone eventually became her godfather.

If his appointment is confirmed, Cipollone will join the list of Catholics in prominent U.S. legal positions. Following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court earlier this month, six of the nine current Supreme Court Justices are Catholic.

Bridgeport bishop says lifelong 'path of beauty' began with his parents

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 13:52

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2018 / 11:52 am (CNA).- “Other than faith,” Bishop Frank Caggiano reminisced, “the gifts of how I was raised and who I was raised by are the greatest gifts I have ever received in my life.”

“The most inspiring people in my life were my two parents, without a doubt,” Caggiano added. “Without a doubt.”

Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a delegate to the 2018 Synod of Bishops, discussing young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. He told CNA that his own youth was shaped by the lessons of his parents.

“My father was a longshoreman. My father unloaded ships. My father had a third-grade education. He did not speak English very well. And yet at a time when in the docks of Brooklyn it was common to steal, my father never came home with a blessed thing.”

“The two things my father spoke about always were integrity and respect,” the bishop said.

“A warrior, a courageous witness, ‘you got to stand by your guns, even if it costs you your life’- That was my father.”

While he praised his father, Caggiano, 59, minced no words about his mother: “My mother was a saint...Simple as that.”

He told CNA that while both parents taught him lessons he continues to carry, he brought especially his mother’s inspiration to Rome this month, where his short synod speech emphasized beauty.

“All of this animation in my mind about beauty began with my mother,” he said.

Beauty “was the engagement of the heart in faith. It was the piety. It was the gentility. It was-- the house itself-- you knew the seasons of the Church’s year in my house. It was the ritual. It was the traditions that we had. In my mind, all of that is wrapped up in beauty. The conveyance of meaning apart from that written word-- that’s beauty. And that was my mom.”

During his synod speech, Caggiano said bishops “must unlock the power of beauty, which touches and captures the heart, precisely by utilizing the many opportunities now afforded by digital communication and social media to accompany young people to experience beauty in service of the Gospel.”

He told CNA that beauty is an important way to evangelize contemporary young people who “wonder whether or not they are lovable or loved.”

“When you encounter beauty it reflects back who you are,” he said. “Beauty is the encounter with the insight that you are beautiful.”

“The most beautiful image of the Lord is the Lord crucified, because he looks back and says ‘in my physical ugliness and my suffering—that is what you are worth.’ That’s what we’re missing.”

Caggiano said that beauty-- in liturgy, art, music, poetry, and in new forms and mediums offered by digital technology-- captures hearts.

“Try to imagine the first time you fell in love. The two immediate responses to falling in love are ‘I want to know about this person,’ and ‘I want to spend time with this person.’”

“If we can have the moment of being captivated by Christ,” he said, “and then encounter the path of goodness and the path of truth- then you begin a lifelong journey.”

The bishop said that the ongoing Vatican synod cannot by itself prescribe the best ways to evangelize young people through beauty. His hope is that the synod will encourage dioceses and episcopal conferences to experiment with ways to evangelize with beauty.

The Diocese of Bridgeport, which Caggiano has led since 2013, has focused on finding ways to reach young people through “the power of image” on social media, along with an online catechetical institute that aims to marry intellectual formation with images and video, and by offering pilgrimages for young people.

"Pilgrimages for young adults are a powerful way to engage with beauty," the bishop told CNA. He said that the diocese has received grants allowing young people to go to the Holy Land and on other pilgrimages even if they are unable to pay for the trip.

Caggiano said that donors support those trips because they see the fruit. He shared the story of a young woman who accompanied him to the Holy Land, and despite beginning the trip uncertain about faith, began going to Mass daily, and had a powerful conversion to deeper faith.

“Pilgrimage is an act of beauty.”

Beauty, Caggiano said, must also characterize Catholic liturgy. He said that after a diocesan synod three years ago, a small commission begin revising sacramental norms and liturgical policies in the diocese, with careful attention to the importance of beauty. A new policy document is set to be released later this year.

“It will cause a great stir,” he said, because it will call attention to ways in which greater reverence is needed in the diocese.

He told CNA that “how we conduct ourselves at the liturgy can reveal” something about what priests and other ministers believe about the importance of worship.

To foster a greater spirit of reverence among priests, Caggiano is planning to launch next month the “Confraternity of St. John Vianney,” an association of priests, including himself, who will commit to celebrating Mass daily, regular public and private participation in adoration of the Eucharist, and regular sacramental confession.

He said plans for the group are still developing, and that he hopes it will grow “organically.”

“We are going to sit before the Lord and let him be our teacher.”

“There is a natural stance that flows from a spirituality that is embedded in the belief in the real presence,” he said, adding that he aims to help priests develop deeper Eucharistic spiritualities.

Caggiano said the synod of bishops has helped him to develop other pastoral ideas he has been considering. His goal, he said, is to help young people to better know Jesus Christ.

“An encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can be truth, beauty, or goodness.”

“It’s the middle path, the way of beauty, that I think is the most interesting. It’s the glue between the two. So what’s going to capture a young person’s imagination? That’s the question in my mind.”

“The path of beauty,” he concluded, “can be a path of awakening.”

 

'Repairing God's House': Maryland parishes hold days of adoration

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 09:00

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Two churches in Maryland have held days Eucharistic adoration with prayers for healing from the recent scandals that have plagued the Church. St. Andrew Apostle Church in Silver Spring, along with Sacred Heart Church in La Plata, hosted a 24-hour “Day of Prayer: Repair My House” October 4-5.

About six weeks before the event, the pastors of the two parishes were discussing how to respond to the recent sexual abuse crisis and it effects both on them as priests and on their parishioners. According to Fr. Dan Leary, pastor at St. Andrew’s, “we both kind of came to this conclusion: repair my Church, repair my Church.”

Following that conversation, a program of events were held in the parishes centered around prayer, fasting, and adoration.

Since the outbreak of the recent scandals over the summer, many bishops, including Pope Francis, have called for the Church to collectively practice penance and fasting.

In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the pope issued his Letter to the People of God in which he said it was “essential” that the whole Church acknowledge and respond to the wounds inflicted by the abuse crisis.

“May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled,” the Pope wrote. “A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth.”

Fr. Leary explained to CNA that many pastors have struggled in responding to the pain and confusion the recent scandals have caused their flocks.

“People are wounded, they don’t know who to turn to,” he told CNA.

“The answer is, of course, to turn to the Lord. The Church has the best medicines for spiritual injuries - in the sacraments and in the disciplines of prayer; these have power, real healing power.”

Leary told CNA that when the news of the scandals first broke, he held a listening session shortly afterwards with his parishioners, which he described as “very positive.” But, he said, many priests were asking themselves and each other how to move past simple listening.

“As shepherds, we have to lead, always lead, towards Christ. Many of us in the Washington archdiocese have had listening sessions, and that is such an important part - hearing the needs of the parish. But there comes a time where people want answers, not just listening, and what answer can we give?”

The answer, Leary said, lies in leading by example.

“There is so much power in prayer, and in acts of penance and reparation. These unify us with Christ in his love for the suffering Church. But we have to be the first ones, as priests, to show the way and to ask for our parishioners help, their prayers for us, so that we can serve them as they deserve to be served.”

Inspired by the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Leary and Fr. Lawrence Swink of Sacred Heart, hosted simultaneous days of prayer, reparation, and fasting at their two parishes on the saint’s feast day, Oct. 4.

The parishes, in the northern and southern halves of the Archdiocese of Washington, offered to serve as “poles of prayer” for the archdiocese. Parishioners and other Catholics were free to attend a Holy Hour at either parish throughout the event.

The day was focused on the Blessed Sacrament, Leary told CNA, because it is there Catholics  “will find the ultimate healing and the grace to respond to this time of pain and suffering in the Church.”

Each hour began with the Litany for Priests, composed by Cardinal Richard Cushing, to offer prayers for the ministry of priests.

Leary called the litany “very powerful” and believes it is particularly important to pray for priests during this time, and he said it has been a focus in his own parish since 2009.

He told CNA that these prayers have “borne tremendous fruit, especially the Litany for Priests,” and have been “so effective in helping people to understand the beauty, the dignity of the priesthood.”

Understanding the priesthood, Leary told CNA, is crucial for Catholics to gain a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Otherwise, it’s just a man sitting there listening to their sins,” he said.

“But if they see it as a priest, who sits in persona Christi, and then the Mass is an act of sacrifice in persona Christi, their faith will elevate.”

Leary hopes that other churches in the area will be inspired by the event and host their own versions. St. Andrew Apostle plans on hosting a 40-hour Eucharistic Adoration around the feast of St. Andrew, which is celebrated on November 30. This event will also include prayer intentions for priests.

U.S. bishops hope Wuerl’s resignation is a step toward healing

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 18:30

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several U.S. bishops responding to the official resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. expressed hope Friday that the decision would bring healing for survivors of clerical abuse.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Wuerl Oct. 12, while asking the cardinal to continue leading the Archdiocese of Washington on an interim basis until a permanent successor is appointed.

The Pope received a personal request from Wuerl to accept his resignation on Sept. 21, and officially accepted it during the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Cardinal Wuerl has been the subject of criticism since late June, when revelations about alleged sexual misconduct on the part of his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, raised questions about what Wuerl knew about McCarrick, and how he responded to that knowledge.

Though Wuerl has denied wrongdoing, he said in September that he would ask Francis to accept his resignation “so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.”

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh issued a statement expressing hope that the Cardinal’s resignation would bring healing to victims of abuse.

“For as long as I have known Cardinal Wuerl, he has advocated for those within the church [sic] and beyond who need the opportunity for a better life,” Bishop Zubik wrote. “I pray that the acceptance of his resignation today by Pope Francis will continue to bring about healing in the hearts and lives of victims of abuse and all those in the Church.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington thanked Wuerl for his nearly 52 years of service as a priest and offered prayers for the Archdiocese of Washington.

“I convey my prayerful support to His Eminence and to all the clergy, consecrated religious and lay faithful in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Burbidge wrote in a statement.

“At this time in the life of our Church, all bishops are called, as Cardinal Wuerl has done, to acknowledge any failure to protect God’s children, to express deepest apologies to victims of sexual abuse and to renew our commitment to assist them in their healing process in any way possible,” he added.

Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles was asked about Wuerl’s resignation at an Oct. 12 Vatican press conference.

“I know Cardinal Wuerl; I think he discerned something in good conscience...I'm sure he did what he felt was right for the good of the Church, and I'm sure that the Pope saw it from that perspective too,” Barron said. “So that is all I can really say at the moment.”

The Aug. 14 release of a grand jury report detailing decades of abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses put Wuerl’s record as Bishop of Pittsburgh, where he served from 1988 to 2006, under close scrutiny.

Some cases in the report raised concerns that Wuerl had allowed priests accused of abuse to remain in ministry after allegations had been made against them.

Wuerl, 77, originally submitted his resignation on Nov. 12, 2015, when he turned 75 years old, as required by canon law.

 

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