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Archbishop Gomez: American missionaries are the overlooked US founders

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 14:06

Washington D.C., Oct 3, 2017 / 12:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During the annual Red Mass marking a new term of the U.S. Supreme Court, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said that early American missionaries should be honored among the founding fathers of the United States.

“These missionaries – together with the colonists and the statesmen who came later – they laid the spiritual and intellectual groundwork for a nation that remains unique in human history,” Gomez told lawyers and judges during his homily at the 65th Red Mass.  

“A nation conceived under God and committed to promoting human dignity, freedom and the flourishing of a diversity of peoples, races, ideas and beliefs.”

The Red Mass is celebrated on the Sunday before the first Monday in October, which marks the beginning of the Supreme Court’s annual term. The liturgy is held at St. Matthew the Apostle Church in Washington D.C., and is meant to invoke God’s blessing on elected officials and members of the justice system.

Reflecting on the 5 million Catholics speaking 40 different languages in the L.A. Archdiocese, Gomez discussed current immigration issues and touched on the spiritual foundations laid by Franciscan missionaries.

He gave the example of the recently canonized St. Junipero Serra, whom he called a champion for indigenous people. The Franciscan saint had written a “bill of rights” to protect the natives when the colonial government refused to acknowledge their full dignity, he said.  

“Remembering St. Junípero and the first missionaries changes how we remember our national story. It reminds us that America’s first beginnings were not political. America’s first beginnings were spiritual.”

The archbishop reflected on the birth of the Church at Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit gave the “mission of gathering all the peoples of the earth into one family of God.”

“In God’s eyes, there are no foreigners, there are no strangers! All of us are family. When God looks at us, he sees beyond the color of our skin, or the countries where we come from, or the language that we speak. God sees only his children – sons and daughters made in his image.”

“The American dream is still a work in progress,” Gomez said, noting that “we have come a long way” from “the original sins of slavery and the cruel mistreatment of native peoples.”

“But we have not come nearly far enough,” he said. “America is still a beacon of hope for peoples of every nation, who look to this country for refuge, for freedom and equality under God.” he added.  

The archbishop explained that God gives the power of forgiveness, calling it “the greatest power that men and women possess under heaven. If only we could understand that! Because when we forgive, we are imitating Jesus Christ.”

Gomez said that forgiveness fosters “what we need in America today – a new spirit of compassion and cooperation, a new sense of our common humanity.”

“We need to treat ‘others’ as our brothers and our sisters. Even those who oppose or disagree with us. The mercy and love that we desire – this is the mercy and love that we must show to our neighbors,” he said.


Christian leaders invoke Martin Luther King Jr against violence, racism

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 19:07

Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2017 / 05:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After recent violent protests and the deadliest mass shooting recorded in U.S. history on Sunday, Christian leaders invoked Martin Luther King, Jr. as they condemned racism and violence.

“As a society, we need to stop making excuses and commit ourselves to a movement for nonviolence that involves every one of us,” Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, stated Monday.

The gathering of Christian leaders took place Oct. 2 at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, was present, along with Bishop Murry; Edwin Bass, a leader of the Church of God in Christ, and Eugene Rivers III, founder of the W.J. Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies and a Pentecostal minister.

The leaders called attention to King’s example of non-violent protest against social injustices, particularly on the 60th anniversary of his essay “Nonviolence and Social Justice.” They called for 2018 to be declared the year of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In his 1957 essay, King wrote that “when oppressed people rise up against oppression there is no stopping point short of full freedom.”

“In struggling for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not allow themselves to become bitter or indulge in hate campaigns,” he added. “Along the way of life, someone must have the sense enough and the morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.”

Yet, Anderson noted at Monday’s gathering, “things did not immediately get better in 1957,” as bombings of churches and beatings and killings of African-American protesters of racism ravaged the country.

“Reverend King held the high ground,” Anderson said, believing that “in a democracy, there can be no place for political violence.”

The gathering was also held less than two months after a white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally occurred in Charlottesville, Va. to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. A coalition of various groups and religious leaders formed a counter-protest. On Saturday, Aug. 12, James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, drove a car into the counter-protest, killing 32 year-old Heather Heyer.

On August 23, the U.S. bishops formed an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and named Bishop Murry as the chair.

Also since that time, other alt-right rallies have been formed, as well as counter-protests, with some of the protesters resorting to violence.

In St. Louis on the weekend of Sept. 15-17, demonstrators protested the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith.

Most of the protesters were reportedly non-violent, although a minority escalated the protests at night into violence against police offers and vandalism of buildings, including the mayor’s house. Officers were reportedly heard chanting “Whose streets? Our streets.” Over 100 people were arrested.

The Knights of Columbus and the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies sent a letter to religious leaders around the country dated Aug. 30, asking them to advocate for non-violence “to help lead our country away from the precipice of violence and toward a future of honest and open civil discourse and respect for the dignity of each person.”

Signers of the letter included Carl Anderson; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Murry; and Rivers.

The letter’s purpose, Anderson said, was to spur “important conversations that will help us find civility in our public discourse and unity as Americans working together for the common good.”

Hours before the Monday press conference, a lone gunman killed at least 58 people at a country music concert in Las Vegas, Nev. before killing himself, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history. Stephen Paddock, 64, was armed with machine guns and shot down into the Route 91 Harvest Festival from a high-rise hotel suite.

Religious leaders present at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial decried the act of violence and prayed for the victims and all harmed by the shooting.

“As always in these situations, one finds it hard to say things that don’t sound like clichés,” Bishop Murry said.

“We have too much violence in our society, and everything we say is beginning to seem tired and repetitive,” he said. And although all must commit to non-violence, he said, “something deeper” is needed.

“That commitment requires true conversion. Each of us needs to restore the love that comes with true friendship,” he said. “A society should be a community. And unless we recover the sense that we are all in this together, because we are one family, I fear we will not be able to stop the violence trends we are facing.”

Leaders also spoke about the need to address systemic racism in U.S. society. Bishop Murry thanked the Knights of Columbus for their efforts in this initiative, saying they “have been a consistent voice for racial equality since they were created.”

Anderson noted that there has been “renewed racism by groups like the Ku Klux Klan” lately.

“Today as then, we stand united in the principle that all are created equal, and we reiterate the words of Pope Francis last month, calling for the rejection of violence, all violence, in political life,” he said.

“We believe the way of non-violence is as relevant today as ever.”

US bishops join in prayer after Las Vegas shooting

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 11:59

Las Vegas, Nev., Oct 2, 2017 / 09:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, the U.S. Bishops’ Conference voiced grief over a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, which has been called the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

“My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the Church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an Oct. 2 statement.

Calling for prayer and care for those suffering, DiNardo offered a traditional Catholic prayer for the dead and asked protection from God for those who are suffering.

“In the end, the only response is to do good – for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light,” the cardinal counseled.

DiNardo’s statements follow an Oct. 1 shooting during a concert at the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. While details are still emerging, at least 50 people have died, and the Las Vegas Police Department reports that around 500 people have been hospitalized due to the shooting.

The sold-out concert was on the Las Vegas Strip, and thousands came to see acts including as Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean.

The shooter has been identified as 64-year-old Las Vegas local Stephen Paddock. According to the Associate Press, Paddock shot and killed himself in his hotel room as police tried to enter the room. Police are still investigating whether Paddock acted alone or with the help of accomplices.


Why bother with beauty? A book for right-brained Catholics

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 18:42

Fort Wayne, Ind., Oct 1, 2017 / 04:42 pm (CNA).- Just a few weeks after Catholic artist Cory Heimann got married, a close friend of his, who had been planning on travelling to Africa to film a documentary, passed away.

That friend had a simple but inspiring mission statement: “Present Christ as irresistible to the yearning heart.”

“Ever since that day, I've taken that mission as my own,” Heimann told CNA in e-mail comments. “And if Christ is irresistible, all we have to do is show it. I think that's our job as artists, whether subtle or overt.”  

That mission statement has driven Heimann’s work with his design studio, Likable Art, as well as the work behind his new book, “Created: Bridging the Gap Between Your Art and Your Creator,” which explores the art and inspiration of more than 40 Catholic artists and creators of all kinds.

“When I see great work I want to know how the heck did they do that? How did they take their ideas and share it with me in a way that moves me to my core?” Heimann said in a video about the project.

So he decided to ask them – if you could share anything with your fellow artists and creators, what would be your first five words to them?

Heimann chose to start with five words, because the first five words of the Bible are also about creation: “In the beginning, God created.” (Genesis 1:1).

“I realized that's why it's so innate in us to create – because we're sharing in the first thing that God shared that He did,” he said.

For the book, Heimann sought out his heroes – Catholic artists, architects, chefs, musicians, calligraphers, and everyone in between. He talked both to artists who are doing specifically Catholic work, and artists who are Catholic but working in the secular world.  

“We have everything from podcasters to painters, from Bishop Barron to a kindergarten teacher,” he said.

That’s because, as Catholic author and philosophy professor Peter Kreeft explains on his page: “We're artists because God is.”

“Which goes to show that in some way we are all artists, we just have to recognize it,” Heimann added.

This idea was also proposed by Pope John Paul II in his 1999 letter to artists, in which he wrote: “Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.”

There has been a recent re-emphasis on the importance of beauty and quality art in the Church, including the creation of a collaborative group called Catholic Creatives, the brainchild of brothers Marcellino and Anthony D’Ambrosio. Many of the artists and creators in the book, including Heimann, are part of the group.

Good art is important in the Church, Heimann said, because it is the first thing that can attract and invite modern man into a deeper conversation.

He said that Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles explains on his page that using beauty to draw someone to the Church is like taking a kid to a baseball game to inspire him to play baseball, rather than just telling him all the rules.

“You take him to a game, let him smell the smells and watch the players, and he will desire and ask how to play the game. Good art does that for the Church, it draws us in to ask for the truth. We don't abandon the truth, but we do lead with beauty,” Heimann said.

He added that he hopes the book will inspire people to continue creating, and will help them see how the act of creating could lead them closer to God, and ultimately answer the question, “Why bother with beauty?”

“I think this book will (show) those that wrestle with being too artsy for their Catholic friends and too Catholic for their artsy friends that they have a place in the Church, and that their passions and desires are needed. I hope that it will help people to not turn inwardly in their creating but instead turn toward the ultimate creator.”  

The 9x9-inch book features a full-sized color photo or work of art from each collaborator, as well as their first five words and a brief reflection on how their art leads them to God. The book’s beauty also has the potential to draw in people who might not consider God as part of their creative process, Heimann noted.

“We never intended it, but I think this turned out to be one of the best evangelization books for the right-brained,” he said. “The average person reads two books a year, but this book doesn't fall into that problem. It's a book where you flip through a bit, you read a page, then another and all of a sudden you've read the whole book.”

The project has already seen impressive success – within two days of launching the book’s kickstarter fundraising page, the project had already surpassed its goal of $7,000, with more than $10,000 pledged by a total of 218 backers.

Religious leaders are fed up with discrimination against churches in disaster aid

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 18:02

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Federal disaster relief policy denies repair and reconstruction assistance to houses of worship – and that needs to change, the U.S. bishops and other religious leaders have said.

“Firefighters don’t refuse to put out a fire because the fire is at a synagogue. The police don’t refuse to investigate a break-in because burglars targeted a church. And FEMA should not refuse houses of worship the same aid that it offers other non-profits,” Catholic and Jewish leaders wrote in USA Today.

“If a house of worship meets all the criteria for aid, it should be eligible to receive that aid on par with everyone else. Regardless of how FEMA treats us, however, we will still be present in our communities,” they continued. “We will feed the hungry, care for the orphan and elder, shelter the homeless, and welcome the immigrant.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami joined Rabbi Barry Gelman of United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston and Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Boca Raton Synagogue in writing the Sept. 27 opinion piece objecting to the policy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

They advocated the passage of the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in 2013 by a vote of 354-72. The Senate failed to support it, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a backgrounder on the legislation.

Under FEMA policy and the Stafford Act, nonprofits that are open to the public such as museums, libraries, community centers, and homeless shelters are eligible for federal aid for structural repairs if they are damaged in disasters. However, churches, synagogues, and mosques are not.

Proposed legislation to change this policy has the backing of Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

After a natural disaster, houses of worship are denied federal disaster relief funds despite their often “irreplaceable role in the recovery of a community,” the two bishops said in Sept. 27 letters to the House and Senate.

“Discrimination that treats houses of worship as ineligible for federal assistance in the wake of a natural disaster, beyond being a legal violation, hurts the very communities most affected by the indiscriminate force of nature,” they said.

The proposed legislation “recognizes the right of religious institutions to receive public financial aid in the context of a broad program administered on the basis of religion-neutral criteria.”

In USA Today, the Catholic and Jewish leaders pointed to the newly famous chainsaw-wielding nun, Sister Margaret Ann, who helped cleared debris in Florida after Hurricane Irma. They also noted the work that staff and congregants of the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston did in rescuing people from their homes and bringing them to safe shelter.

“Sister Margaret and the congregants of UOS are emblematic of the role that houses of worship and religious communities play in helping our communities clean up after natural disasters,” the Catholic and Jewish leaders said. “We don’t wait for the local or federal government to step in. We just start helping those in need.”

“But when we are in need ourselves after a disaster, the federal government tells us we cannot receive aid because we’re religious,” they added.

United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston was flooded by the hurricane and is mostly unusable for the Jewish High Holidays.

FEMA policy has excluded houses of worship from eligibility “simply because these institutions are religious,” charged the religious leaders. Noting that Congress does not require such a policy, they said the ban on funding is “simply FEMA’s misguided and unfair internal policy.”

Some churches damaged in Hurricane Katrina of 2005 or Hurricane George in 1998 faced major hurdles in rebuilding due to lack of FEMA funds.

Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski added: “by refusing aid to the very entities so engaged in helping others, FEMA’s policy by extension also hurts the broader community.”

Backers of the legislation include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, several Orthodox and Conservative Jewish groups, the Council of Churches of the City of New York, the National Association of Evangelicals, and Becket Law.

The Catholic bishops’ backgrounder said that the June 2017, U.S. Supreme Court decision Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer held that it is unconstitutional to discriminate against churches in a generally available government grant program.

The backgrounder cited precedents such as disaster relief grants to churches damaged in the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City federal building, grants under the Department of Homeland Security Nonprofit Security Grant Program, and grants to repair and maintain historically significant buildings like Boston’s Old North Church and the California Missions.

Here's how the Church in Baltimore is taking concrete steps to fight racism

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 06:43

Baltimore, Md., Sep 30, 2017 / 04:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As racial tensions continue across the United States, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore announced a statewide task force to combat racism and promote unity within local communities.

“The dreadful spectacle of violence and racism displayed in Charlottesville by various white supremacist groups is a shocking reminder of how much work still needs to be done to eradicate the sin of racism in our country, our state, and local communities,” stated Archbishop Lori in a Sept. 27 press release.

“This effort will require the courage to take an honest look at our past, the humility to repent of the ways we have actively caused pain or turned a deaf ear to those who suffer from the evil of racism, and a firm faith in the power of God’s love as we begin the path of reconciliation,” Lori continued.

Last month, a planned “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., to protest the city’s removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee drew white supremacists including neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members. A counter-protest, including a diverse coalition of religious leaders and members of the Antifa and Black Lives Matter movements, was formed. On Aug. 12, a man drove a car into the counter-protest, injuring 19 and killing one.

The Charlottesville violence came after months of heightened racial tensions, with several fatal shootings of black men by police officers, as well as riots across the country.

The new task force is co-chaired by Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Denis Madden of Baltimore and Auxiliary Bishop Roy Campbell of Washington. It includes Maryland legislators, historians, and scholars, as well as leaders from local African-American and Latino communities.

The group held its first meeting on Monday.

The task force is similar to other Church initiatives launched recently to address racism. Last year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops created the Task Force on Peace and Unity in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death and the ensuing riots in Maryland.

Last month, the bishops’ conference announced an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism for the specific purpose of listening to “the needs of individuals who have suffered under the sin of racism,” and to “find solutions to this epidemic of hate that has plagued our nation for far too long,” according to Bishop George Murry of Ohio, who serves as chairman.

While these efforts are a beginning, Lori believes that there is still a long road ahead in terms of healing racial tensions and creating peaceful communities within the country.

“We know that we are far from where we need to be in fostering a truly loving, diverse community where all are welcomed and embraced, regardless of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or their country of origin,” the archbishop said.

“We ask for the prayers of Maryland’s Catholic community and all people of goodwill as we turn to this work with renewed zeal and urgency. May St. Peter Claver inspire and bless our coming together as we journey ever closer toward building the kingdom of God.”

Puerto Rican bishops offer message of hope after hurricanes

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 18:58

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sep 29, 2017 / 04:58 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Puerto Rican bishops’ conference issued a message of hope to Puerto Ricans after Hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed much of the U.S. territory this summer.

In the letter, published on Sept. 27, the bishops of Puerto Rico said that the destruction “fills us with pain and suffering, especially when we see so many tears, and so much anguish in the faces of our people.”

On Sept. 6, Hurricane Irma passed through northern Puerto Rico, though it did not directly impact the whole island. However, on Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria directly hit the island as a Category 4 storm, leaving at least 16 dead. The hurricanes have left much of the island without water and electricity, and have led to widespread shortages of gasoline and food.

Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, told local media that these storms are “Puerto Rico's biggest terms of damage to infrastructure.”

Reuters reported that the storms had left an estimated $30 billion in material losses.

The Puerto Rican bishops praised the faithful for maintaining “...order and respect for neighbors, the law and the property of others.”

They added that the two massive hurricanes show the urgency of the need to address climate change.

“We understand that we cannot act as before and continue like this,” they said.

The bishops noted that the only way for the island to “be reborn” is by clinging to the “love of Christ.”

“From his cross and his pain, our hope is reborn,” they wrote.

The bishops’ conference also recommended that the Puerto Rican people adopt three attitudes: “to rebuild, rediscover, and have a reunion with Jesus.”

The bishops stressed that as people rebuild houses, churches or roads, they also need to repair “the damage that does not allow us to grow as a people and to progress as a nation.”

“Let us overcome the barriers, selfishness and divisions that may exist between us, and unite to rebuild our homeland, which shines with the beautiful, noble and Christian values that live in our hearts, and spring from our identity,” they said.

“Jesus comes to meet us, calms the storm and give us confidence. He invites us to walk towards Him, takes us by the hand and will not let us sink, so that we can say: 'Everywhere we are pressed, but not crushed.'”

The bishops promised to provide financial aid to the most affected dioceses and offered prayers for the victims of the storm. They also thanked local authorities and rescuers for their work.

“In these days, where basic resources are scarce, especially light and water, let us enter into personal and community prayer with the Lord,” they said, and urged everyone to continue their “gestures of solidarity with those brothers and sisters in need.”

The full press release in Spanish can be found here.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

A deeper look at the 'filial correction' of Pope Francis

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 18:26

Washington D.C., Sep 29, 2017 / 04:26 pm (CNA).- After Catholic scholars issued what they termed a “filial correction” of Pope Francis, what exactly were their charges and how should a Catholic receive the letter?

The filial correction “represents the concerns of some among the Catholic faithful at what are being perceived more broadly speaking as the Pope’s intended teachings, but which may not accurately represent the Pope’s actual teachings,” Dr. Jacob Wood, a theology professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, told CNA.

The letter “is the manifestation of the opinion and concerns of those theologians who have signed it,” Wood explained. It is “not an authoritative statement of the meaning of the documents that it discusses,” he added.

More than 60 Catholic clergy and scholars originally sent a letter to Pope Francis on August 11 as a “filial correction” for “heretical positions” that the Pope has “effectively upheld.”

The 25-page “Correctio filialis de haeresibus propagates” by the clergy and scholars, who now number over 100, says that through “Amoris Laetitia” and in “other words, deeds and omissions of Your Holiness,” there has been a “propagation of heresies” that must be addressed concerning “marriage, the moral life, and the reception of the sacraments.”

They noted that Pope Francis has not answered the “dubia,” or questions regarding ambiguous or unclear sections of Amoris Laetitia, which were expressed privately to him in a letter from four cardinals in September 2016, and made public in November 2016.

The four cardinals were Cardinal Raymond Burke; Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; and the recently-deceased Cardinals Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop Emeritus of Bologna and Joachim Meisner, Archbishop Emeritus of Cologne.

The “correction,” released to the public this week, charges that bishops are teaching that divorced and remarried couples can sacrilegiously receive Holy Communion, because of the Pope’s actions, and his apparent decision not to publicly respond to the “dubia.”

“They are accusing Pope Francis of being responsible for people denying basic Catholic doctrine about what constitutes a mortal sin,” Wood said.

Many of the authors have worked “a lifetime in theological study,” he said, and while the scholars’ charge that Pope Francis is at least leading to the propagation of heresy “is significant,” it also “causes a great deal of controversy in the Church, and not a little bit of scandal.”

“The fact that people would feel the need to say this,” he added, “does not mean that they are perfectly justified in doing so, or that they’ve gone about it in all the right ways.”

The filial correction differs from the “dubia” in two key aspects, Wood said.

First, the “dubia” were authored by cardinals who, “in canon law,” do “enjoy a special relationship to the Pope. They’re closer to the Pope, as regards the structure of the Church,” Wood said.

Cardinals “have a greater responsibility to address their concerns directly to the Pope,” he said.

Also, the “dubia” pose “respectful questions for the Holy Father,” Wood said, giving him “the chance to answer them as he sees fit.” Meanwhile, the letter of filial correction “assumes that we have heretical propositions,” he said, which is a matter subject to dispute.

The letter clearly accuses Pope Francis of aiding the spread of heresy, Wood said, but the authors make no specific charges of heresy against the Pope himself.

“The sin of heresy,” he said, “is committed when a member of the Catholic faithful knowingly and willingly denies a doctrine of the Christian faith.”

However, he said, the authors admit that “they are not in a position to judge” whether Pope Francis “is a formal heretic.”

Furthermore, the authors add that they cannot charge the Pope “with the canonical crime of heresy” because they lack “the ecclesiastical jurisdiction” to do so.

Rather, they claim to correct the Pope “on inaction in condemning seven propositions [of heresy],” Wood said, and thus “the title of the filial correction is in some ways misleading.”

In the letter, explained Wood, “the Pope is merely being accused by these theologians of inaction in condemning heresy that they don’t have the authority to claim that he actually committed.”

The letter poses “the danger of scandal,” he said, because the authors are “attributing heretical propositions to the Pope, when those heretical propositions are not demonstrated as coming directly from the Pope’s writings.”

Catholics should remember that the scholars are not members of the Church Magisterium, he said, and Catholics need not agree with their “correctio.”


From the editor: Why are the comment boxes gone?

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 18:22

Denver, Colo., Sep 29, 2017 / 04:22 pm (CNA).- Some readers have noticed that the comment boxes on Catholic News Agency stories have disappeared from our website this week. We made this decision for two reasons.

The first reason is that most of the online discussions about our stories take place on social media, and our comment boxes were becoming less commonly used. It seemed like a good idea to focus the discussion in the place where most of the conversation was already taking place.

The second reason is a bit more abstract.  

It is probably obvious to everyone that America is becoming more divided, and more reactive. The rules of public conversation are changing. Discussions have given way to arguments. Disagreements have given way to bickering.  Differences seem to require feuding. “Cyber-bullying,” not long ago the purview of children, seems to have become a kind of cultural expectation, and deeply personal attacks seem to have become an ordinary part of our political and cultural dialogue.

It is probably naïve to imagine this hasn’t always been the case. The glorified days of yesteryear are always creations of our imaginations. But technology changes the way we relate to one another, and the intervention of some technology has made it easier to amplify our vitriol. It has become easier to isolate ourselves in like-minded groups, and to avoid and villainize anyone who doesn’t think like us.

Regrettably, this phenomenon has made its way into conversations among believers, who are united in the body of Christ.

Pope St. John Paul II taught that a culture of life is one in which human beings are united together in an authentic communion of love. He taught that sin replaces “relationships of communion with attitudes of distrust, indifference, hostility and even murderous hatred.”

The grace of Jesus Christ overcomes those attitudes, and enables us to live freely, in a civilization of love. In Christ, said John Paul, man is able to “rebuild lost fellowship and rediscover his true identity.”

I hope that Catholics will read our stories and consider them seriously. I also hope that after doing so, they’ll engage with the people around them, “rebuilding lost fellowship.” I hope our news coverage might foster real conversations in families, with coworkers, and among friends. I hope that our stories might be an occasion for discussion among people who disagree, and that such discussions might inculcate trust, respect, and charity.

The community discussing our news coverage online is a true and good community. But it is a beginning, not an end. I hope that reading our coverage might also be an occasion to put down the phone, or turn off the screen, turn to another person, and say, “I’ve just read something interesting.”


Christian leaders pray for Hugh Hefner, pornography’s victims

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 12:01

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 29, 2017 / 10:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christian leaders in the fight against pornography have called the death of Hugh Hefner “tragic,” while reminding Catholics to take seriously the impact of Hefner’s legacy on American culture.  

“Nobody should ever take joy in anybody’s passing,” Alan Sears, founder of Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA Sept. 28. “There have been thousands of people praying for Hugh Hefner’s conversion for years, and the saddest part to me of his passing, is that we see no evidence of conversion on his part.”

“Apparently up to the end, he took joy in this exploitation of women, of sexuality and all the other things that the secular media is lauding him for,” said Sears, who under President Ronald Reagan served on the staff of the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography, known as the Meese Commission.

Hefner died on Wednesday, at the age of 91 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. His son Cooper Hefner, chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, said his father lived “an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights, and sexual freedom.”

“He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history,” the younger Hefner said.

Hugh Hefner was raised Methodist. He launched the magazine in December 1953 after writing for Esquire. His first issue, whose centerfold was an old nude photo of rising film star Marilyn Monroe, sold 50,000 copies. In 1963 he was arrested on obscenity charges but the jury failed to reach a verdict and charges were dropped.

Hefner advocated a “Playboy philosophy,” attempting to give an air of sophistication and savvy to his life.

His magazine carried fiction from Ray Bradbury, Ian Fleming, Joseph Heller, Jack Kerouac, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates and Ursula K. Le Guin. It interviewed leading figures in music, culture and politics. It was best-known, however, for its nude photos of women.

Hefner would gather Playboy centerfolds and other models to live at his Playboy Mansion, where he hosted sordid parties. His critics said he kept women who lived there under strict rules, pushed drugs on them, required sex acts, and manipulated their lives, according to Nathan J. Robinson, editor of the magazine Current Affairs.

Political and social change were among Hefner’s goals. The Playboy Foundation funded work against obscenity laws and anti-abortion laws, while also funding sex research at the Kinsey Institute and even the dissenting group Catholics for Choice. Future Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, co-signed a thank-you letter published in the August 1973 issue of Playboy in response to one donation, Vice Magazine reports.

Sears reflected on the missed opportunities of Hefner’s life. If Hefner had had a public conversion, “he could have a great influence for the good,” he said.

“Who knows what the influence would be on some young man who admired one of these pornographers, if the pornographer came forward and repented of the harm that he had done to women and children, to families, to marriages?” said Sears.

He cited the influence of abortionist Bernard Nathanson, who had performed thousands of abortions before his conversion, then became a pro-life spokesman and saved countless lives.

For Patrick Trueman, president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Hefner left “a sad legacy.”

“We shouldn’t be celebrating. We should be mourning his death. He lived the life of a predator and sexual exploiter,” he said, contending that Hefner has fewer admirers than he did 10 or 20 years ago because the harms of pornography are better recognized.

Four states have passed resolutions proclaiming pornography to be a public health crisis.

“Reams of research show that Internet pornography is linked to neurological harms, sexual dysfunctions, and increases in rates of sexual violence,” Trueman continued. “Hugh Hefner was not a champion of free speech. He was a pioneer in the sexual objectification and use of women.”

Playboy Magazine presented women’s sexuality in a subordinate role and as universally accessible to men.

Sears said that everyone researching the effects of pornography in the 1980s recognized Playboy as “the gateway to lower people’s inhibitions” that increased acceptability of more extreme pornography.

He pointed to Hefner’s portrayal of legally adult women in “very young” situations, dressed in school uniforms and pigtails or using lollipops, portraying them as children.

Playboy marketed its trademark across many products and venues, including several clubs around the world staffed by waitresses dressed as bunnies.

The women who worked for Playboy both promoted, and suffered from, “the idea that your intimate self is a commercial product for sale,” according to Sears.

While the Playboy centerfold opportunity had a reputation as a glamorous career-launcher, Sears said the women whom his commission interviewed had the opposite impression.

“They were at vulnerable points in their life, they were naïve, they thought this would be a great thing. In many cases, this led to great personal trauma in their own life,” he said.

“Boyfriends thought that because the women had posed in Playboy, by the mere fact that they had posed, were now sexually free to do any act,” he said, noting that some Playboys models reported being sexually abused.

Trueman said Playboy itself was a victim of the tendency of pornography to extremism.

While the magazine introduced a person to pornography, people’s brains would then demand more hardcore and deviant material.

“Over time that made Playboy passé, because the internet could supply the hardest and most deviant material,” Trueman said. “Just as Playboy was undone by its portrayal of sexual images, an individual’s life becomes undone by consuming pornography.”

Playboy Magazine sales peaked in the November 1972 issue, when close to 7.2 million copies were sold. By 2015, the magazine was selling less than one million copies per issue, CNBC reported. The magazine was still sold in over 20 countries, and Playboy Enterprises claimed over $1 billion in sales annually of trademarked assets in 2017, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian says.

Sears characterized Hefner as a “destroyer.”

“He was a destroyer of innocence, of youth, of the unborn. He was a destroyer of respect for the rule of law. I think he even did great damage to lots of families and lots of marriages,” he said. “In terms of innocence: his whole drive was to make pornography acceptable and approved.”

According to Sears, efforts to counter Playboy’s influence could include the wise use of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Churches, ministries and social leaders need to provide good models, including good models of healthy sexuality, as they work to uphold marriage, the dignity of women and the human person.

He said the enforcement of seldom-enforced anti-obscenity laws are another possibility.

Trueman’s National Center on Sexual Exploitation has convinced most major chains in the hotel industry to stop carrying pornography in their rooms and has convinced Google to stop selling advertising to the pornography industry.

“We have various other initiatives that help people to understand that pornography is sexual exploitation,” he said, comparing the anti-pornography efforts to the campaign against smoking.

“Smoking stinks, and it isn’t good for you. Pornography stinks, and it isn’t good for you,” he said.


Knights of Columbus aid natural disaster victims in Puerto Rico and Mexico

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 08:00

New Haven, Conn., Sep 29, 2017 / 06:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- To provide relief after a spate of recent natural disasters, the Knights of Columbus have raised over $2.8 million worth of aid to be distributed to the Caribbean and Mexico, and to the southeastern states of the United States.  

“Charity has always been the defining characteristic of the Knights of Columbus, and people – both those in distress and those who want to help – have placed a great deal of trust in us,” the Knights’ CEO Carl Anderson said in a Sept. 26 statement.

“The outpouring of generosity to our appeal by our members and others has been greatly appreciated.”

The relief appeal began after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas on August 25. That storm, followed by two more devastating hurricanes – Irma and Maria – as well as recent Mexican earthquakes have resulted in hundreds of deaths, left many without homes, and caused serious strains on the economies of impacted areas.

The Knights have sent emergency donations to Puerto Rico and Mexico, and volunteered to move debris and help stranded neighbors in the U.S. Members of the non-profit fraternity have also distributed over $720,000 worth of food, water, and other supplies.

According to World Vision, Hurricane Harvey has damaged or destroyed 135,000 homes, and has killed at least 82. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has estimated rebuilding costs to be between $150-180 billion.

A few weeks after Harvey made landfall in Texas in late August, Hurricane Irma hit Florida on Sept. 10. Irma has killed dozens in the Caribbean and Florida, and caused up to $100 billion in damages.

On Sept.19, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck the central regions of Mexico, killing more than 300 people and injuring over 6,000. This followed a bigger earthquake off the Mexican coast near Chiapas, 12 days earlier, which killed at least 98 people, damaged more than 40,000 homes, and created tsunami-sized waves.

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 hurricane. At least 16 people have died, and the 155 mile per hour winds left the entire island without power and damaged many of the island’s structures, but Reuters reports that exact assessment of the hurricane’s destruction has yet to be completed.

The Knights of Columbus are continuing to receive disaster relief funds, and online donations can be made at:

During his General Audience last Wednesday, Pope Francis expressed “closeness to the whole Mexican population” and offered his prayers for the earthquakes’ victims, invoking the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

A week later, he asked for Christians “to remember in prayer the victims and those affected by the hurricane, which in these days has battered the Caribbean, in a particular way Puerto Rico.”

Questions and Answers on the 'filial correction'

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 05:19

Steubenville, Ohio, Sep 29, 2017 / 03:19 am (CNA).- Dr. Jacob Wood, an assistant professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, offers answers on some frequently-asked-questions about the ‘Filial Correction on the Spread of Heresies” a letter sent to Pope Francis by a group of bishops, priests, and scholars, who released the letter this past weekend.  

What is fraternal correction?

Fraternal correction is an act of charity (CCC 1829), in which we call a brother or sister in Christ, who has fallen into serious sin, back to the way of the Gospel. Fraternal correction is explained by Jesus in the Gospel (Mt 18:15-17).

Why is this called a “filial” and not a “fraternal” correction?

Christ established a hierarchy in his Church (CCC 877), and the signatories on the letter are not on equal footing with the pope in that hierarchy. Out of respect for the pope’s authority, they appeal to the pope as his spiritual sons and daughters, not as spiritual brothers and sisters.

Why is this correction being issued?

Some of the signatories issued a filial appeal to Pope Francis last year, asking him to clarify the Church’s teaching with regard to marriage, sin, and grace. When they did not receive a response, they prepared this correction. The correction was originally sent to Pope Francis privately in July.

Why is this correction being made public now?

When the signatories received no response from Pope Francis to their appeal or their correction, they were concerned about the possibility of scandal, and so they made it public.

Was it right to make the correction public?

Not necessarily, no.

In Donum Veritatis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stipulates that theologians who wish to critique the timeliness, form, or substance of non-infallible magisterial documents should address their concerns to the “responsible authority” rather than the “mass media” (DV 30). The responsible authority for the Church’s teaching on faith and morals is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The responsible authority for the interpretation of canon law is the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

Moreover, the principal concern of a filial or fraternal correction should be the amendment of the one who is thought to have sinned. But the publication of the document (as opposed to its private submission) was not undertaken primarily with a view towards correcting a supposed sin of Pope Francis. Rather, the cited reason for the publication of the correction is the avoidance of scandal to others, not the correction of Pope Francis himself.

Furthermore, although the correction seeks to avoid scandal, the correction itself has served as a cause of scandal. It insinuates that the pope is a heretic, it thereby weakens people’s trust in the pastors of the Church, and it provides the mass media with the opportunity to paint a false picture of the Church, in which those who believe the Church’s teaching about marriage, sin, and grace are seen as somehow opposed to the pope.

What authority does the correction have?

The correction is a private act on the part of the individual signatories, which they have undertaken in their capacity as baptized members of the Church (Can. 212, §3). The correction therefore has no magisterial authority in the Church.

Are Catholics required to follow the correction?

No. Since the correction lacks magisterial authority, Catholics are not required to agree with it or to follow it.

What is heresy?

“Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same…” (CCC 2089).

Does this mean that the pope is a heretic?

No. Despite the document’s title, the signatories acknowledge in the document that they lack the authority to judge whether the pope has committed the sin of heresy or the canonical crime of heresy. The difference between the sin and the crime of heresy, and an answer to the question about whether the pope can be a heretic, are discussed here.

If the signatories cannot convict the pope of heresy, what sin do the signatories claim that the pope has committed?

The signatories claim that the pope has failed to stop the spread of heresy, rather than that he has committed the sin of heresy himself.

What heresy do the signatories claim that the pope has failed to stop?

The signatories claim that the pope has failed to stop the spread of seven heresies. Most of these concern the Church’s teaching on mortal sin. The Church’s teaching is that we cannot with full knowledge and deliberate consent choose to perform grave evil without cutting ourselves off from God’s grace (CCC 1857), and that we cannot live in a state in life which is contrary to God’s law without cutting ourselves off from the Sacrament of the Eucharist (CCC 1650).

Are those heresies contained in Amoris Laetitia?

None of the passages of Amoris Laetitia cited by the correction explicitly denies that a person who knowingly and willingly commits grave evil cuts himself or herself off from God’s grace.

Amoris Laetitia does explore the possibility that a person who commits grave evil may in some cases not have full knowledge or deliberate consent when doing so, but precisely insofar as they lack full knowledge and/or deliberate consent, such a person is not necessarily committing mortal sin.

Amoris Laetitia also explores the process of healing the gravely sinful elements of a state in life which is contrary to God’s law, without necessarily abandoning that state in life altogether. Amoris Laetitia only speculates as to what may be possible in this context, and its teaching is not clear. The Church teaches that in ambiguous cases such as this one, “everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way.” (CCC 2478) That means interpreting ambiguous statements in continuity with the faith and practice of the Church, not in terms of a rupture with that faith and practice.

How can we gain clarity about the teaching of the Church on divorce and remarriage?

With magisterial authority, St. John Paul II declared that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a “sure norm for teaching the faith” (Fidei Depositum 3). We may therefore look to the teaching of the Catechism on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony (1601-1666), sin (1846-1879), and grace (1950-2029). Four Cardinals of the Catholic Church have also submitted five “dubia” to Pope Francis. A “dubium” is a question about faith and/or morals to which the faithful would like a magisterial answer, and “dubia” is the plural of “dubium.” Should Pope Francis answer the dubia, it would give us further guidance as to his intended teaching.

What should Catholics do now?

Catholics should pray for the pope, for the signatories of the correction, and for the Church. Jesus Christ himself promised to send his Holy Spirit so as to lead the Church into all truth (Jn 16:13), and to defend the Church from error (Mt 16:18). Jesus is always faithful to his promises.


Dr. Jacob Wood is assistant professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. His opinions are his own.

Baptist theologian: Fr. Martin's ideas 'require a total redefinition of doctrine'

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 19:47

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2017 / 05:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Baptist theologian, Dr. Albert Mohler, has claimed that Fr. James Martin’s teaching on sexuality is “an entire re-orientation of the Catholic faith.”

Mohler’s comments refer to Martin’s suggestion that Catholics should refer to same sex attraction or an LGBT identity as “differently ordered” rather than the Catechism’s use of “intrinsically disordered.” Mohler says the suggestion fundamentally changes Catholic teaching on sexuality, and on creation itself.

In comments to CNA, Martin rebuffed Mohler's comments, calling them “obtuse,” and stating that those who identify as LGBT, or those who are not educated in philosophy or theology, could easily perceive the Church’s language to be “cruel.”

“So my point is simply that we have to be sensitive to the language we use. We can't pretend that language like that isn't harmful,” Martin told CNA.

Martin has drawn criticism after the publication of his most recent book, Building A Bridge, which addresses the Church’s engagement with those who identify as LGBT. Most notably, he has been critiqued for the book’s avoidance of Catholic teaching on celibacy and chastity, and for the book’s lack of engagement with Catholics who identify as LGBT, but observe the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. In August, Martin announced on Facebook that he intends to respond to these critiques in a revised edition of the book.

Martin’s comments came in response to a podcast by Mohler, who is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

On the Sept. 19 edition of his podcast, “The Briefing,” Mohler points to a passage in Martin’s book, which suggests replacing the theological term “disordered” with the phrase “differently ordered.”

“If you say that LGBT sexual orientation is merely differently ordered, you have actually not only changed the catechism in this specific case of the Roman Catholic Church, you have changed the Catholic Church’s understanding of the doctrines of creation, of humanity, of sin, of redemption, of the church. It is an entire re-orientation of the Catholic faith,” Mohler said.

Mohler explained his comments in an interview with CNA, saying that to an evangelical Protestant, language like Martin’s is “pointing to a fundamental change that’s happening in the Catholic Church.”

He expressed concern that given Martin’s statements, his role at the Vatican could imply a change in Catholic Church doctrine. In April, Martin, the editor-at-large of America Magazine, was appointed to serve as a Consultor to the Secretariat for Communications in the Vatican.

“Acceptance of the LGBT revolution by Christians, or any belief system based upon a claim to revelation, will require a total redefinition of doctrine,” Mohler said. He stated that, in his view, such a change of language “isn’t just about sex, it’s about our understanding of Creation.”

Mohler elaborated, saying that the phrase ‘intrinsically disordered’ explains that same-sex attractions are a result of mankind’s fall, whereas the phrase ‘differently ordered,’ means that those attractions are “a part of the goodness of creation.”

“That’s just not changing the position on homosexuality, now you’re redefining the Garden of Eden.”

Martin called Mohler’s understanding of his book “absurd,” and questioned Mohler’s conclusions. He continued, saying that Mohler’s reaction is part of why it’s difficult to even discuss persons who identify as LGBT in Christian churches. “To link a new way of understanding their sexuality with the destruction of the faith is not only absurd, it's a sign of how LGBT people are still seen primarily, and in this case totally, as sinful,” he said.

Martin accused such an approach of echoing the “scribes and Pharisees, who cared more about words than about people,” rather than Jesus. “The Catholic faith, in the end, is not about a single phrase in the Catechism; it is about an encounter with the Risen One,” he said.

The phrase in question derives from paragraph 2357 of the Catechism of Catholic Church, which states that “ tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered’...They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The Catechism elaborates, explaining that those “who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” should be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”  


Trump administration drops refugee cap to 45,000

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 11:55

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2017 / 09:55 am (CNA).- The Trump administration announced on Wednesday it plans to resettle a maximum of 45,000 refugees in 2018, fewer than in 2017 and far fewer than the U.S. accepted in 2016.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had proposed earlier this month that 75,000 refugees – which was still a reduction of over 25 percent from the previous administration – be the goal for refugee admission next year.

“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’ executive committee stated Sept. 12.

Following reports that the administration was planning to reduce the refugee intake even more in the 2018 fiscal year, the State Department confirmed the number would be smaller on Wednesday.

In President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration signed in March 2017, he ordered a four-month shutdown of refugee resettlement while the program was reviewed. That review period ends Oct. 24. Trump also capped the number of refugees that the U.S. would accept in FY 2017 at 50,000, far below the goal of 110,000 originally set by the Obama administration.

Then on Wednesday, the State Department announced that in its upcoming consultations with Congress it would propose capping refugee admissions at 45,000, including 19,000 from Africa and 17,000 from the Near East and South Asia.

A U.S. government official told reporters on Wednesday that, regarding the new refugee resettlement numbers, “the security and safety of the American people is our chief concern,” and that refugee resettlement is “only one part of the United States response to the crisis of forced displacement around the world.”

The announcement comes as the number of forcibly displaced persons is at its highest recorded level – over 65 million worldwide, according to the U.N. The number of refugees is also at its highest recorded level at over 22 million.

Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of Catholic aid groups that serve those in need on the ground in countries around the world, began an international “Share the Journey” campaign on Wednesday, inviting Catholics to hear the stories of migrants and refugees, welcome them into their communities, and advocate for policies that would support migrants seeking a better life.

Groups that resettle refugees have said that the resettlement program is secure and that the U.S. maintains stringent vetting of refugees for any potential security threats.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked that the administration set a goal of resettling 75,000 refugees, saying that to limit the number to “50,000 or below” would be “simply inhumane, particularly when our great nation has the resources and ability to do more.”

“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 executive committee of the U.S. bishops’ conference stated on Sept. 12.

David Robinson, executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service USA stated on Wednesday that the planned number of 45,000 is “shamefully low” and “a retreat from global leadership.”

“Our faith calls us to be compassionate, and this unprecedented policy is in direct opposition to the belief that we should welcome the stranger, especially the victims of war, terror and oppression,” he said.

The State Department did not notify resettlement groups of the planned 45,000 number, a government official confirmed on Wednesday, saying that “they’re well aware of the executive order’s number of 50,000 and that I think this is probably in the range that they expected.”

Also, the administration does not intend to “slow-roll” the admission so as to resettle only a portion of the goal, an official said. The U.S. could “get into the ballpark of this number” despite the vetting requirements and the need to address a backlog of asylum requests.


In a grandmother’s dress, the hidden story of a Ukrainian priest’s martyrdom

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 08:26

Denver, Colo., Sep 28, 2017 / 06:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dr. George Isajiw, the grandson of a slain Ukrainian priest, always knew that his grandfather was martyred by the Soviet secret police, amidst the chaos of World War II.

“Of course everybody...considered him a martyr, considered him a saint, in the family,” Isajiw told CNA on Sept. 9.

On June 26, 1941, 67-year-old Father Nicolas Konrad and a 34-year-old parish cantor, Volodymyr Pryjma, had set out on a sick call.

They knew the risks. Nikita Khrushchev, then Stalin’s envoy to Ukraine, had given the order to shoot priests amidst a retreat of Soviet forces across Ukraine.

The two men had taken the sacraments to a parishioner and were returning home to their church in the western Ukrainian village of Stradch. They were detained by two agents of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police. Then they were taken out into the woods and shot.

Both men were among the Greek-Catholic martyrs beatified by Pope John Paul II in June 2001. Pryjma left behind three children, while Father Konrad, a married priest in the Eastern Catholic tradition, left behind four grown children and a widow, Antonina. 

Isajiw knew those details of his family story. But what Father Konrad’s grandson didn’t know was a secret that his grandmother had kept close.

When the beatification of Fr. Konrad was announced in 2000, Isajiw’s sister remembered something special about her grandmother’s dress.

“We examined it carefully, looked in the pockets, and there’s the bullet holes,” said Isajiw, a physician in private practice in Lansdowne, Pa.

Dr. Isajiw is a past president of the Catholic Medical Association. He displayed the dress this month, at a booth at the association’s educational conference in Denver.

“That’s his cassock. The cassock he was wearing when he was killed,” he continued. “My grandmother took that cassock. She cut out the front panel and the back panel, because the bullet hole is in the front and the exit wound is in the back.”

His grandmother had repurposed the cassock into a dress and covered the bullet holes with pockets.

“She made a dress out of it for herself, so when she put her hands in her pockets she could feel the bullet holes,” said the doctor.

After the war, his grandmother had lived with a Catholic family in Bavaria before emigrating to join her surviving family in Pennsylvania, where she lived until her death in 1955.

She had worn the dress the rest of her days.

“We took it with us to the beatification,” said Isajiw.

In 1941, both Fr. Konrad and Antonina had decided not to leave Ukraine, even though family members could secure them emigration papers to Germany. Fr. Konrad had been an academic all his life. His assignment in Stradtch would be his first parish role.

Half of the residents were illiterate. Antonina began teaching the children to read and write.

A Soviet military installation was about a mile from the village church.

On June 22, 1941, Blessed Nicholas was leading a procession for the Feast of Corpus Christi when the military base came under attack from the invading Germans.

“He took everyone back into the church and gave his famous sermon: ‘Be not afraid,’ Little knowing that four days later he’d be dead,” the priest’s grandson recounted.

Isajiw summarized one account of the homily:

“He said all our lives are changed. The war is started. Who knows what will happen? But we’re not going to change. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing, taking care of ourselves, taking care of our families, not panicking and not changing our lifestyle, trusting in God.”

Isajiw, who never met his grandfather, said it felt very special to be the grandson of a martyr.

“I feel closer to him now, after studying all this,” he said. “His heroic virtue was he already knew priests were being targeted, and he still went with the sacraments.”

Blessed Nicholas Konrad is known as a patron of students and his active canonization cause is promoted by many at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. There are pilgrimages to the site of his execution, and the priests at Stradtch hold retreats. He is often petitioned by those seeking relief from addiction to drugs, alcohol or smoking.

And thanks to Antonina, his cassock is well-preserved, now a holy relic of his martyrdom.

With clock ticking on DACA, Republican senators offer path to citizenship

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 02:42

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2017 / 12:42 am (CNA).- With the future uncertain for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors, three Republican Senators say they have a proposal to allow for permanent residency and potential citizenship.

“We are willing to talk with anyone providing certainty to these children, let politics get checked at the door, let’s provide something on a bipartisan basis to these children and young adults in this country,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), according to CBS News.

He and Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have proposed an alternative for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also called DACA. The program was implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012 to defer deportations for those who came to the U.S. as minors and met certain criteria. President Obama implemented it via executive order, rather than legislation.

The Trump administration has rescinded the program, but left open a six-month legal window to adjudicate the renewal process for DACA recipients.

The three senators’ proposed replacement is called the Succeed Act, which stands for “Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers Employment Education and Defending our nation.”

They described it as a “fair and compassionate,” merit-based solution to undocumented U.S. residents who qualify.

“If you work hard, follow the law and pay your taxes, you can stay here permanently,” Sen. Tillis said.

The legislation would grant conditional status to a recipient who maintains gainful employment, pursues higher education or serves in the U.S. military. Those eligible must have arrived in the U.S. before reaching 16 years old and must hold a high school diploma or equivalent. They must also pass an extensive criminal background check, submit biometric data to the Department of Homeland Security, and must be able to pay off any existing federal tax liabilities.

Tillis said the process would prevent “chain migration,” which gives priority to family members.

The legislation would provide a second round of five-year protected status for participants who secure five years of gainful employment, earn a degree or serve in the military. Participants in the program could then apply for a green card.

“We have millions of great young people that can add a great deal to our country,” Sen. Hatch said. “We need a permanent solution to this problem not just kicking it down the road.”

Sen. Lankford said immigration is an “unresolved issue that continues to get harder every single year.” He said he did not see the Succeed Act as “a stand-alone bill” and endorsed stronger border security and other policies.

The bill would be an alternative to the DREAM Act, re-introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (R-Ill.). That legislation would implement much of the Obama-era executive order and grant permanent legal status to over one million young people who arrived in the U.S. before they turned 18 and have lived in the U.S. for four years, provided they meet certain criteria, which include enrolling in college, joining the military, or finding jobs.

The proposed legislation’s name derives from the acronym Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. It was first proposed in the year 2001.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ executive committee on Sept. 12 urged the Catholic faithful to advocate for the passage of the DREAM Act or similar legislation “as a prompt, humane, and durable solution to this problem of greatest urgency.” The bishops said Congress had failed to address the situation for many years.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles backed the DREAM Act in a July 21 statement, saying it would “permanently lift the threat of deportation that right now hangs over the heads of more than one million young people who were brought to this country illegally or are living in the homes of undocumented parents.”


How the US Church is 'sharing the journey' with immigrants

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 17:56

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2017 / 03:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic leaders in the U.S. are hoping that the newly announced “Share the Journey” campaign will foster a welcoming attitude towards migrants and refugees.

“It’s an important time to remind ourselves that welcoming the stranger, being a good neighbor, doing whatever we can for the least among us, that this is our duty as Christians, to accept, not reject,” Bill Canny, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA. 

The international Catholic aid confederation Caritas Internationalis initiated the “Share the Journey” campaign on Sept. 27. In Pope Francis’ weekly general audience on Wednesday morning, he spoke of the virtue of hope, exhorting the audience to share in the journey of migrants and others. “We are not afraid to share the trip! We are not afraid! We are not afraid to share hope!” he said. 

Caritas launched the campaign as the number of forcibly displaced persons is at its highest level recorded, at more than 65 million worldwide. In 2016, there were more than 22 million refugees leaving one country for another.

Thus, the “Share the Journey” initiative invites Catholics to “encounter” the migrant and refugee, by hearing their stories. It aims to help put the Gospel into practice, fulfilling the words of Christ, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”

In the U.S., the bishops’ conference as well as Caritas organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA are all promoting the campaign as a way for the faithful to pray for migrants and refugees and make concrete acts to help them. The website for the U.S. campaign is

The initiative will actually be a “sustained effort” over about 18 months, Jean Beil of Catholic Charities USA told CNA. The week of Oct. 7-13 has already been designated as a “week of prayer and action” for migrants and refugees.

Local Catholic Charities affiliates have been “very enthusiastic” at the outset, she said. 

The ultimate goal of the initiative is two-fold. First, Caritas and its members hope to “awaken in countries that are usually ‘sending countries’ where migrants are leaving, the idea that everyone should have a right to make a livelihood in their own land, to live in peace and security.”

However, beyond that, she said, the initiative emphasizes “that everyone has a right, if they need to migrate, to try to move to somewhere where they can provide for their family the peace and security that they need in order to live with dignity and respect” and “to keep their family together to live with dignity.”

Among the actions that can be taken by Catholics under the initiative are prayer, welcoming newly-arrived migrants and refugees into the local parish and community, and assisting local Catholic Charities and Caritas organizations in serving immigrants. 

“The Holy Father hopes to unite all of us across the world as one family of God, to support our brothers and sisters who have fled their homes seeking a safe and decent life for their families,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said in a statement on Wednesday. 

“Share the Journey” will also challenge American Catholics to overcome prejudices and polarization, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami stated in an op-ed on Aug. 30. 

“The stridency and polarization of politics in America today can be discouraging. 24 hour cable ‘news’ cycles have made ‘politics’ another form of entertainment as ‘real’ as professional wrestling,” Archbishop Wenski wrote. 

“‘Share the journey’ invites us to see through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye,” he wrote. 

Dioceses have already begun putting the campaign into practice. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has announced “DACA renewal workshops” which will help immigrants who would have benefitted from the program.

DACA, the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” was a program begun by the Obama administration to stay the deportation of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 by their parents, who had lived in the U.S. for more than five years, were of a certain age, and who had no criminal record. 

The Trump administration recently announced the phasing-out of the DACA program, affecting around 800,000 immigrants who would have benefitted from the program. 

In light of this development, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is hosting workshops at parishes in the diocese to help immigrants benefitting from DACA apply for an extension of their stay in the U.S. by the Oct. 5 deadline. 

“Here in the United States, millions of immigrants have been living in the shadows because of a broken immigration system,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We will begin the ‘Share the Journey’ campaign in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by offering a series of workshops to help process extensions for those who qualify for DACA renewal.” 

Catholics can also advocate for policies that help migrants under the initiative, Canny said. They can ask their representatives in Congress to “at least maintain and expand international humanitarian assistance” to help resettle displaced persons back home and cut down on the number of refugees.  

The initiative also comes as the Trump administration is reportedly planning to lower the number of refugees the U.S. accepts even further. 

Originally, the Obama administration set a goal of 110,000 refugees that the U.S. would accept in the 2017 fiscal year, but President Donald Trump, in his executive order on immigration, ordered a four-month shutdown of the refugee resettlement program to investigate its security. He capped the total number of refugees at 50,000 for FY 2017.

Now, Axios reports that, according to sources within the Trump administration, the number could be lowered to 40,000 or 45,000 in FY 2018. The U.S. bishops’ conference has called on the administration to accept 75,000 refugees in the upcoming fiscal year. 

Canny hoped that, amidst increasing polarization and hostility towards immigrants, the “Share the Journey” campaign would hopefully “check these tendencies” and “contribute to the national debate that’s been shaped by politics, a national debate on immigration and welcoming refugees.”

A note from CNA's Executive Director on the 'filial correction'

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 14:10

Denver, Colo., Sep 27, 2017 / 12:10 pm (CNA).- A statement from Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of Catholic News Agency and ACI Prensa:

I was surprised to see that my name has been added to the list of signatories on the so-called Correctio Filialis De Haeresibus Propagatis.

I never signed this letter, nor do I intend to ever sign it. As a journalist, I was surprised at how easily the name of a person could be added to the list without any verification.


New boys' choir CD explores rich music of Mary

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 08:03

Boston, Mass., Sep 27, 2017 / 06:03 am (CNA).- Boys’ choirs have been a tradition in the Catholic Church since the Middle Ages, when men and women did not sing together in public, and boys’ higher-pitched voices were needed to round out the sound of sacred music used at Mass.

Today, the United States is home to just one Catholic boys’ choir school – St. Paul’s choir school in Cambridge, Mass. The school is open to boys in 4th-8th grade, who must audition to earn a spot in the renowned and rigorous program.

Having celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2013, and having produced their first CD, “Christmas in Harvard Square” in 2014, the school has enjoyed a recent uptick in interest and awareness of both their program and music.

Given the success of their first CD, the group decided to produce another CD entitled “Ave Maria,” with a wide variety of sacred music centered on the theme of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was released on Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of Mary.

“(We) wanted to do something that would be 'in season' all year round, so something that honors Our Lady seemed like the perfect choice,” choirmaster John Robinson told CNA in e-mail comments.

“There is such an amazing richness of music that honors Our Lady,” he said. “Because Mary is so central to everything we believe, we felt that music that honors her can also show certain devotional aspects of other themes as well, so the recording has a wide range of subject matter.”

The 18 tracks selected for the CD cover a range of lesser-known as well as more popular pieces of sacred music, from Gregorian chant written in the 7th century to works written as recently as the 19th and 20th centuries.

The boys in the choir school have a small window of time to capitalize on their young voices - the younger boys in 4th and 5th grade go through a practice phase before joining the older choristers, usually around 6th grade.

Each piece in “Ave Maria” is meant to highlight the pitch range of the boys in the choir school, and each selection has its own story to tell in the context of both music and Church history.

“It's always great to get behind each piece and learn about its context, especially some of the great stories in Church Music, like the creation of the Papae Marcellus Mass by Palestrina,” he said. “This piece was written to prove that polyphony (music in many parts) can still have clear words, and the piece actually influenced the direction of the Council of Trent.”  

The Council of Trent was called by the Catholic Church to examine possible adjustments of Church practices in light of the Protestant Reformation. One adjustment considered by the council was that all sacred music be clear and readily understandable, and not obscured by complex musical techniques. Palestrina’s Mass helped prove that polyphonic sacred music could be both beautiful and clearly understood.

Robinson said he has been encouraged by an increased awareness of boys’ choral music and sacred music, and he added that he hoped that the CD would appeal to a wide audience and foster a greater appreciation for Church music.

“We want everyone to hear this recording. Of course there are those who already love and know this kind of music, and it's certainly great that they should listen to it, and hear that this tradition is alive and well,” he said. “It's also really important that people who really haven't had access to hearing this unique traditional sound should be able to hear it, and to realise that they can hear it every day of the week at St. Paul's as well.”

The rich history of sacred music and its beautiful sound is something that has the power to unite people both to those who came before them, and to God himself, Robinson added.

“Traditional Sacred music is like a collection of beautiful prayers that we can pull out and join ourselves to. Whenever we sing this music at Mass there's a real sense of togetherness with those who have gone before. There's also a great sense of beauty, and appreciation of the gift of beauty. There's a feeling of learning from those great composers, so honed in their Art, and of being part of something much bigger than us,” he said.

“It's great to lose ourselves in the wonderful sounds that have been prayed in Church for hundreds and in some cases well over a thousand years. I hope that this shared heritage can be something that unites everyone, and points to Him who gave it to us.”

“Ave Maria” was released by AimHigher Recordings through their international distribution collaboration with Sony Classical. In addition to Robinson, some of the other people behind the album include multiple Grammy Award-winning Producer Christopher Alder, and Brad Michel, also a Grammy Award-winner.


Why witchcraft can never be used to accomplish good

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 05:12

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2017 / 03:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Shortly after Donald Trump assumed the office of President of the United States, witches across the country began large-scale efforts to cast binding spells on him.

Amanda Yates Garcia, a self-identified witch known as the “Oracle of Los Angeles,” told Tucker Carlson of FOX News last week that the binding spells are not intended to harm Trump, but rather are intended to prevent him from causing any harm to others.

“Binding spells are a symbolic action used to harness the powers of the imagination and achieve a tangible result, eventually,” she said.

“I desire that Trump stop harming people that I care about and instituting policies that also harming me or people that I care about. My ultimate aim is that we protect the people that we love from having harm done to them,” she added.

But can witchcraft ever be used to accomplish something good?

Catholic theologian Dr. Anthony Lilles told CNA that even though the end result of witchcraft, magic or a spell may be some perceived good, these means are always an evil and are always below the dignity of the human person.

“Whether or not they’ve made a right judgment in the evil they want to prevent is one thing, but in Catholic moral tradition, we believe that you should never do evil that good might come from it,” he said.  

“The way the logic of magic works, you attempt to control elements either above human nature or below human nature, and in your effort to manipulate or control these things, you always end up controlled by them. Whatever you give your heart to, that’s what has control over you,” Lilles said.

“As Christians we give our heart to God, and because he is completely above us, he is able to lift us up. When you give your heart to anything else, you always lower yourself, and so it’s very bad for the person who practices magic, because it always diminishes their own dignity,” he added.

Another problem with magic and spells is that they operate on the level of imagination, rather than in the world of reality and truth, Lilles said.

“Reason orients us to discern things according to the truth, to respond to situations such as they really truly are,” Lilles said.

With magic, “it’s trying to stand with your human dignity on something a little bit more whimsical, something that can’t support it. A fantasy can’t support the dignity and greatness of what it means to be a human being, only God can be that foundation. Only the truth is firm enough ground for the greatness of who each one of us is as a human being.”

For these reasons, witchcraft, magic and superstition have always been condemned practices in the Judeo-Christian tradition, which teaches that human beings must rely humbly and completely on the will of God, Lilles said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church categorizes witchcraft and magic particularly as offenses against the First Commandment, which is: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.”

Witchcraft, magic and divination always stem from a desire to control and manipulate reality and situations in our lives, rather than humbly making our requests known to an all-powerful and all-loving God, Lilles said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, in paragraph 2115, that while God may choose to reveal future events to human being through the prophets or the saints, a right Christian attitude is “putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it.”

The Catechism also notes that all forms of divination, magic and sorcery are to be rejected.

Anything “by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons.” (CCC 2117)

Witchcraft can be attractive because of its grasp at power and control, especially in a culture that has forgotten God, Lilles noted.

“In a culture that no longer knows God, that has forgotten to pray, that doesn’t have confidence in humility before the creator and redeemer of the world, there will be a spiritual vacuum, and nature abhors vacuums,” he said.

“So turning to the occult, turning to magic, turning to all kinds of practices that are beneath our dignity is something that we will see people more and more inclined to do as they attempt to fill that vacuum, a vacuum that only God can fulfill in a satisfactory way.”

But that shouldn’t overly worry Christians with a proper understanding of magic and divination. Lilles said that Christians should not dismiss the practices of magic or divination as fantasy or as having no power, but at the same time, they can rest in knowing that their God is more powerful than any of these practices.

“The access to the very heart of God, which is ours by faith, far exceeds any magical power that someone might have,” he said.

“The creator of heaven and earth has implicated himself in our lives and in our own personal plights, and he is able to accomplish so much more than any power or force or element in this world below. All we have to do is make a humble cry and he is there, and that’s the truth we stand by.”  

Father Vincent Lampert, an exorcist for the archdiocese of Indianapolis, told the National Catholic Register in February that the best antidote to magic and spells for Catholics is frequenting the sacraments.

“You can’t stop someone from placing a curse, but as a Christian, if you are you praying to God and going to him, the curse will have no power,” Father Lampert said.

Dr. Lilles echoed his sentiments.

“We don’t need to grasp at control or try to manipulate things, whether by magic or other means. What we need today is trust in God, and if we trust in him, everything is going to be ok. That’s why prayer is so important. Prayer is the school of trusting God.”