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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: 1 hour 38 min ago

New climate commission could advance human dignity, US bishops tell Congress

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 7:01pm

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2017 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The United States should create a commission to combat the harms of climate change and promote human dignity as a whole, the U.S. bishops said in a letter to Congress.

“The Church calls for courageous actions and strategies aimed at promoting an integral ecology that considers together the protection of nature, the need for equitable economic development and the promotion of human dignity, especially that of the poor,” the chairmen of two bishops’ conference committees said in a Sept. 15 letter to Congress.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops backed the Climate Solutions Commission Act of 2017, which would establish a bipartisan National Climate Solutions Commission. The bill, H.R. 2326, was introduced by U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.

“This bill has the potential to inspire positive and concrete solutions towards protecting our common home,” said the bishops’ letter.

The joint letter was signed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., chair of the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

They characterized the legislation as “an important bipartisan step for protecting the environment and mitigating the harmful effects of climate change.”

Bishops Dewane and Cantu stressed the Catholic Church’s consistent emphasis on “the importance of pursuing environmental solutions that are beneficial to all people.”

They cited Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si,” which stressed the urgent need for policies to reduce carbon dioxide and other polluting gases. During his September 2015 visit to the U.S., the Pope encouraged the U.S. Congress to work to “avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

 

 

 

Trump administration announces changes to travel ban

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:42pm

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2017 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Just weeks before the Supreme Court was to hear a challenge to the Trump administration’s travel ban, the administration announced new restrictions to the ban on Sunday.

“Following an extensive review by the Department of Homeland Security, we are taking action today to protect the safety and security of the American people by establishing a minimum security baseline for entry into the United States,” President Donald Trump stated on Sunday.

“Our government's first duty is to its people, to our citizens – to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values,” Trump stated.
 
On Sunday evening, the Trump administration announced it was continuing the travel ban indefinitely just before it was set to expire, expanding the number of countries of restricted travel to eight, as part of “enhanced national security measures.” It also set new security standards for other countries to help the U.S. vet visa applicants and immigrants.

In March, President Donald Trump had signed an executive order “on Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” It was a revision from his January executive
order on immigration.

In the revised order, foreign nationals from six countries would be temporarily barred from travelling to the U.S. except in special cases. The countries were Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and the Sudan.

Then before the travel ban was set to expire on Sunday evening, the administration increased the number of restricted countries to eight, dropping the Sudan and adding North Korea, Chad, and Venezuela. The policy will be continued indefinitely, and the new countries experiencing “certain travel limitations and restrictions” will be added to the list on Oct. 18.

The administration also announced that it would, “for the first time in history,” set up minimum standards for other countries to comply with, for vetting of visa applicants and immigrants looking to travel to the U.S.

President Trump said the revised policy would improve U.S. national security and establish “a minimum security baseline for entry into the United States.”

“We cannot afford to continue the failed policies of the past, which present an unacceptable danger to our country,” Trump stated. “My highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and in issuing this new travel order, I am fulfilling that sacred
obligation.”

The March executive order on immigration had directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to investigate whether “additional information would be needed from each foreign country” to issue
visas and admit immigrants.

Then in July, the administration said it came up with new minimum standards for other countries, with regard to the vetting of visa applicants and other immigrants. The standards related to the issuing of electronic passports, “sharing criminal data” and helping identify
potential security threats to the U.S. looking to enter.

The administration gave countries 50 days “to work with the United States to make improvements” to their existing standards.

According to the administration, the eight countries remaining on the restricted travel list “remain currently inadequate in their identity-management protocols and information-sharing practices or present sufficient risk factors that travel restrictions are required.”

The countries can be removed from the list once they comply. Iraq, however, did not comply with the standards but Trump “determined” that “entry restrictions are not warranted.”

Iraq was originally on a list of countries with restricted travel in the President’s first executive order on immigration in January, but was not listed in the revised executive order in March, reportedly because of a deal with the U.S. to accept Iraqi nationals living in the U.S. who had been given a final order of removal from an immigration judge, in exchange for being removed from the list.

A challenge to the constitutionality of the previous order was scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on Oct. 10 in oral arguments. However, the court canceled those arguments after
Sunday’s revisions were announced.

Bishop Joe Vasquez, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration and refugee services committee, had voiced serious concerns before about the travel and refugee bans. The immigration executive order had also shut down refugee admissions for 120 days and set a cap on refugee admissions for FY 2017 at 50,000, less than half of the 110,000 set as a goal by the previous administration.


Bishop Vasquez said he was “deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban,” saying it “still leaves many innocent lives at risk.”

“The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal,” he said. Yet the current refugee resettlement process is secure, with “the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States.”

Lawyers and advocates for Muslim immigrants said on Monday that the administration’s new travel ban still constitutes a “Muslim ban” since most of the eight countries’ populations are Muslim-majority, and that Trump had on the campaign trail proposed a ban on Muslims seeking to the enter the U.S.

There are also reports that the administration will consider lowering its cap on refugees even more in the next fiscal year, to below 50,000. The new quota is expected to be announced by the
end of September.

How do we heal racial tensions? Start by admitting errors, US bishop says

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:12pm

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2017 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- To address the longstanding racial divide within the United States – and within the Catholic Church in the country – Catholics should learn more about the history of that divide, and honestly engage with that history, and with others attempting to tackle similar issues themselves.

“Don’t whitewash the misdeeds and silence of our history,” said Bishop Edward Braxton, of Belleville, Ill. in a Sept. 21 lecture at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Bishop Braxton urged participants to teach children the history of the Catholic Church – including parts of the history which are painful or shameful – “not to belittle those people, not to harshly judge them as bad people, but to understand but they are all people of our own era and history and if they have blind spots so do we.”

The bishop's talk was one of two held at the university on the theme of the racial divide in the United States and the Church. The first talk, which focused more on how to address the racial divide, was part of a “teach in” sponsored by the university’s National Catholic School of Social Service, and a second talk, part of the campus Theology on Tap program, discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and how Catholics can respond to racism.

Bishop Braxton, originally from Chicago, is the bishop of Belleville, Ill., outside of his hometown, and one of nine African-American bishops in the United States.

The bishop’s talks discussed what he described as the “flaw at the foundation” of racial relations in America – particularly within the American Church – and how it lead to many of the tensions seen today in American politics.

Bishop Braxton pointed to the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, which in 1857 ruled that African-Americans could not be citizens. That opinion was penned by Chief Justice Robert Taney – a Catholic.

The bishop also noted that some American bishops in the years leading up to the Civil War actively opposed abolition efforts. Furthermore, early American bishops and religious organizations, such as Bishop John Carroll and the Jesuits, owned slaves themselves

These actions, the bishop said, beg the question “Is there a flaw at the foundation?” of racial relations. He added that many Catholic churches and religious orders remained segregated after slavery’s end.

This history has impacted both the African-American Catholic community and the Church’s efforts to evangelize within the broader African-American community, he said. On top of that, the Church’s previous efforts to address the racial divide, such as the 1979 pastoral letter “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” have yet to be fully implemented.

Knowing this “painful, shameful history,” Bishop Braxton said, is necessary for the Church to help the country heal its racial divides in the future. “We can’t rewrite history. We must acknowledge it and never repeat it,” he told the crowds.  

Pointing to the shortfalls and blind spots of those who came before is not judgment, he said, nor does admitting flaws pose a threat to the universal teachings of the Church. “We don’t know what we would have done in the 1840s or ’50s or ’60s,” Bishop Braxton reminded listeners, and even saints “have blind spots.” Instead, acknowledging the full truth and history can help us to appreciate the fullness of the task ahead of us and make us more attentive to the moral blind spots and shortfalls of our own age.

With the need for a comprehensive education on race in mind, Bishop Braxton urged Catholic schools – seminaries in particular – to educate children and future priests on American and Catholic history regarding race, and urged all Catholics to learn more about African-Americans who have open causes for canonization.

While education is a key component in mending the racial divide, so too is engaging and listening to others involved in similar efforts, Bishop Braxton said. He urged Catholics at both talks to “Listen. Learn. Think. Pray. Act.” and shared his own experiences dialoguing with members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Before discussing the movement itself, Bishop Braxton noted that he does not believe that “Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter are necessarily incompatible.”

However, he continued the “point of Black Lives Matter is that some in the African American community face existential threats that cannot be ignored.”

Pointing to those concerns in particular – such as the increased likelihood for African Americans to face violence during routine police interactions, while other offenders like Dylan Roof can be apprehended without being shot – does not negate that other issues of human dignity exist, he said. “In this instance, while all lives matter, their lives are in peril.”

He also explained that while there are Catholics within the Black Lives Matter movement, and that not all members hold the same views, many within the movement are cautious when dealing with the Church because of some of its history.  

Some members perceive the Church as being opposed to addressing the racial issues the movement sees as a problem, he said. In addition, Bishop Braxton explained that many – though not all – members of the movement have fundamental differences with the Church on matters of sexuality, marriage and abortion.

Bishop Braxton challenged the movement to address the issue of abortion in particular, affirming the life of the unborn child, and noting that the “alarmingly” high number of abortions within the African-American community brings “an abrupt end to the nascent black lives in their mothers’ wombs. Those lives also matter.”

By listening and learning from the members of Black Lives Matter within his community, Bishop Braxton said that he was also able to explain the richness of the Church’s social teaching and its applicability to issues of race, poverty and discrimination. “I also pointed out that Catholic beliefs on marriage, the meaning of human sexuality and the dignity of human life from conception to natural death are not mere cultural norms or social issues,” he added. “These beliefs represent what the Church holds to be fundamental moral principles, natural law, biblical revelation and the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Overall, conversations like this have been fruitful and can provide a way for engagement in addressing the racial divide, Bishop Braxton offered. “They did not lead to agreement on every point, but they lead to a focus on the need to be open to hear those with whom we disagree with an open mind and an open heart.”  

 

 

Catholic group continues Blessed Stanley Rother's work in Guatemala

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:28pm

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 25, 2017 / 10:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Father John Goggin was serving as a missionary priest in Guatemala on July 28, 1981, when he was woken up early with the news that Father Stanley Rother, from the parish just up the road, had been killed in the night by a government-backed death squad.

While another priest went to be with Fr. Rother’s people, it became Fr. Goggin’s job to drive an hour to the Sololá-Chimaltenango diocesan office to alert the people there. He also had to tell the news to the American embassy and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Fr. Goggin said he knew Father Stanley for many years, having been missionary priests in the same region of Guatemala.  

Fr. Stanley was a priest from the small town of Okarche, Oklahoma, and spent 13 years of his priesthood as a beloved missionary in Santiago, Atitlan in Guatemala before he was killed. Pope Francis declared him a martyr last year, paving the way for his beatification.

His sacrifice is something that continues to inspire and challenge Fr. Goggin as a priest, which is why he made the nearly 2,000-mile journey to Oklahoma City to be present for his beatification on September 23.

“I certainly wanted to be here, I never thought I would know a person who would be (on the path to canonization),” he said. “Being able to come to Fr. Stan’s beatification is just wonderful to me.”

“In all the prayers as a priest--it’s the whole idea of trying to give yourself, doing what the Lord asks, what the people ask, and you find that in Fr. Stan,” he added.

Fr. Stanley was also known for not wanting to abandon his people, even though he knew his life was at risk. After Fr. Stanley died, Fr. Goggin said he still did not want the people to feel abandoned.

That’s why he was grateful when the opportunity came to work with Unbound, a non-profit founded by lay Catholics who had also spend time serving as missionaries in Latin America.

The group works as a sponsorship program, pairing children and elderly people with sponsors in other countries, who provide monthly financial aid and moral support in order to help them achieve their own dreams and goals. Sponsors communicate with their partners through letters and e-mail, and also have the opportunity to visit the communities through awareness trips sponsored by Unbound.

Unbound currently serves in 19 countries, including countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

“When the opportunity came to become part of Unbound...I felt it was the direct result of a gift from Fr. Stanley Rother,” Fr. Goggin said, “because we were trying to fill a little bit of his shoes.”

One of the founders of Unbound had known Fr. Stanley while serving as a missionary in Guatemala, and was inspired by his spirit of solidarity with his people, which he kept in the ethic of Unbound.

Fr. Stanley had once flunked Latin studies, but he had mastered the local indigenous dialect of Tzutuhil and had become a beloved member of his community in Santiago Atitlan. He would share meals with them, visit them in their homes, and lived a simple life just like his people.

“We come from the same roots,” said Andrew Kling, director of community outreach and media relations for Unbound.

“Walking with, rather than speaking for the community, is part of our ethic. Rather than passing out stuff, we walk with the families. We have social workers who ask them: what are your dreams, what are your goals, how can we help you get there with a little bit of help every month. We don’t just parachute in western aid workers, we’re developing an ear and listening to the community,” he said.

Chico Chavajay is a Guatemalan who works as the coordinator of Unbound's largest project, based in the region around Lake Atitlan where Fr. Stanley worked.

Chavajay grew up speaking the same native language that Fr. Stanley learned to speak. While he was only one year old when Fr. Stanley died, Chavajay told CNA that the impact of Fr. Stanley is still strongly felt by everyone in the region.

“Everyone knows him, if you just mention his name, people respond, because he rescued people and people knew they were rescued by him,” Chavajay said.

And it doesn’t matter if someone is Catholic or not. “Padre A’plas is Padre A’plas,” Chavajay noted, using Fr. Rother’s other name.

“Stanley” was such a foreign name that the people of Guatemala took to calling the priest Fr. Francisco, after his baptismal name of Francis, which in Tzutuhil translates to A’plas.

“There’s lots of connections of spirituality of Fr. Stanley and the spirit of Unbound,” Chavajay added. “Our program prioritizes education and health, just like Fr. Stanley.”

Fr. Stanley had helped to establish the first hospital in the area, which was free and open to anyone, Chavajay said. That hospital saved his sister’s life when he was just 8 years old.

Chavajay noted that Unbound has also, in a way, adopted the signature phrase of Fr. Stanley: “The shepherd cannot abandon his sheep at the first sign of danger.”

This was something Fr. Stanley wrote in a letter home, explaining why he would not abandon his missionary post, even as the threats of the Guatemalan civil war escalated.

“We have the same belief that we’re not going to abandon the people that we serve,” he said.

The connection that Chavajay feels to Fr. Stanley is strong, particularly because they spoke the same language, he said.

“I feel that I have a real blood connection with the community in Santiago and Padre A’plas because our language is the same,” he said.

Furthermore, his younger brother also became a priest and served at the same parish where Fr. Stanley had been a priest.

An increase in vocations is something that the whole region has seen since Fr. Stanley’s death, Fr. Goggin added. Five or six priests have come from Fr. Stanley’s own parish, and several more have come from the local diocese.

“My own feeling is that Fr. Stan is making some of this happen,” Fr. Goggin said.

On the morning of Fr. Stanley’s beatification, Unbound sponsored a walking pilgrimage from their hotel to the beatification Mass, with Fr. Goggin, Chavajay, and Kling in attendance. Fr. Goggin also got to take part in the procession of Fr. Stanley’s relics up to the altar at the beatification Mass.

They each said it was a privilege to be at the Mass to honor someone who had and continues to have such a strong impact on their mission.

“His same spirit really permeates what we do,” Kling said, “and we hope an event like this could really highlight the importance of walking in solidarity with people.

“You don’t have to be a martyr to change the world. Fr. Stanley’s example shows that love is a choice, and that if you make that choice you can change the world. Love requires sacrifice, it requires vulnerability, it requires dedication, and sometimes it requires everything. But the fact that 36 years later it lives on in such a profound way is a powerful testament,” he added.

“My hope is that we will have many more people (who loved) like him, because if you look at the news today, we desperately need it.”  

The Unbound website is at www.unbound.org.

In Maine, abortions could become more dangerous for women

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:21pm

Portland, Maine, Sep 25, 2017 / 10:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A lawsuit seeking to challenge a Maine law allowing only doctors to perform abortions has drawn criticism from pro-life advocates who warned it could endanger women’s health and safety.

“I’m gravely concerned about the health and safety of the mother,” Suzanne Lafreniere, director of public policy for Diocese of Portland, told CNA.

Lafreniere predicted that allowing non-doctors to perform abortions will worsen medical complications in communities that lack immediate help from a local hospital or doctor who knows the procedure well.

Maine law currently allows abortions to be performed only by physicians. About three-quarters of U.S. states have similar laws, though two other states in the region, Vermont and New Hampshire, do not.

The plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit are the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, four nurses, and abortion provider Maine Family Planning. The defendants named in the lawsuit are Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and several district attorneys. Mills’ spokesman said her office had not been served with the suit and had no comment on the case’s merits.

The outcome of the suit could open the possibility for advanced-practice nurses, physician assistants, or nurse midwives to perform abortions.

Lafreniere described the lawsuit as “a desperate attempt to increase abortions in the state of Maine.”

She said that the number of surgical abortions has been declining in Maine, and that the abortion lobby is doing “everything it can to increase its business, to be perfectly honest.”

Dr. Raegan McDonald-Moseley, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood, contended that the current abortion requirements are “outdated,” don’t keep women safe, and aren’t grounded in research, the Associated Press reports.

However, Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life, said that requiring only doctors to perform abortions “establishes a high standard of safety for patient care.” Allowing non-doctors to perform abortions would “further isolate abortions from other gynecological care,” he told CNA.

According to Forsythe, the number of doctors who provide abortion services has continued to shrink. “Doctors don’t want to get into the business,” he said. “The abortion industry and population controllers have been desperately looking to increase the number of abortionists.”

He suggested this phenomenon is another example of the incorrect assumptions of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide. The court wrongly assumed “that doctors from the Mayo Clinic and from medical schools across the country would be eager to be abortionists.”

Lafreniere said the effort could spread to other states.

“They have announced that this is a test case, and if they win in Maine they will continue to proliferate these types of lawsuits in other states where the law requires a doctor to perform abortions,” she said.

Forsythe agreed, describing the lawsuit as “a direct and tragic result” of a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down health and safety regulations for Texas abortion clinics.

“The Supreme Court created substantial confusion in the Texas decision, by issuing a vague and ambiguous opinion that states and courts have had difficulty understanding and applying,” he said. “The court created substantial confusion as to the legal standard for abortion laws for legislators and judges.”

 

 

Love of neighbor must begin with love of God, Pope Francis says

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:12am

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2017 / 09:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Monday Pope Francis spoke to benefactors of the Vatican Swiss Guard about love of neighbor, which he said must first be steeped in love of Christ and drawn from prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments.

“Love to one's neighbor corresponds to the mandate and the example of Christ if it is based on a true love of God. It is thus possible for the Christian, through his dedication, to make others feel the tenderness of the heavenly Father,” the Pope said Sept. 25.

“To give love to brothers, it is necessary to draw it from the furnace of divine charity, through prayer, listening to the Word of God, and nurturing the Holy Eucharist. With these spiritual references, it is possible to operate in the logic of gratuity and service.”

Pope Francis met Monday morning with 50 members of the Foundation of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, an organization which offers financial, material and technical support to the Vatican’s small military force.

He thanked them for their work in support of the young Swiss men who devote some years of their lives to “serving the Church and the Holy See.”

“This is an opportune occasion for me to reiterate that their discreet, professional and generous presence is so appreciated and useful for the good performance of Vatican activities.”

The business of the foundation expresses community spirit and solidarity, the Pope said, a typical feature of the Catholic presence in society and an attitude which is rooted in the appeal of the Gospel to love one’s neighbor.

“Therefore, through your work, you are concrete witnesses of evangelical ideals and, in the Swiss social fabric, you are an example of fraternity and sharing,” he said.

Concluding, Francis wished them joy as they continue their “fruitful commitment,” and bestowed the apostolic blessing.

He also prayed for protection for them and their families through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas of Flüe, the patron of Switzerland, whose feast the Swiss celebrate on Sept. 25.

St. Nicholas of Flüe was born in 1417 near the Lake of Lucerne in Switzerland. He married at the age of 30 and had 10 children. In addition to his duties as a husband and a father, Nicholas donated his talents and time selflessly to the community and always strove to give an excellent moral example to all.

The saint was also able to devote much of his private life to developing a strong relationship with the Lord.  He had a strict regime of fasting and he spent a great deal of time in contemplative prayer.

Around the year 1467, when he was 50 years old, Nicholas felt called to retire from the world and become a hermit. His wife and children gave their approval, and he left home to live in a hermitage a few miles away.

While living as a hermit, Nicholas quickly gained a wide reputation for his personal sanctity, and many people sought him out to request his prayers and spiritual advice.

Nicholas lived the quiet life of a hermit for 13 years. However in 1481, a dispute arose between the delegates of the Swiss confederates at Stans and a civil war seemed imminent. The people called on Nicholas to settle the dispute, so he drafted several proposals which everyone eventually agreed upon.

Nicholas' work prevented civil war and solidified the country of Switzerland. But, as a true hermit, he then returned to his hermitage after settling the dispute.

He died six years later on March 21, 1487 surrounded by his wife and children. The Church celebrates his feast day on March 21, though in Switzerland and Germany it is celebrated on Sept. 25.

Inclusion, dialogue highlighted in new Vatican guidelines for educators

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:36am

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2017 / 10:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has issued new guidelines for Catholic educators, developed to help them respond to the modern challenges of a globalized society, placing a heavy emphasis on inclusion, the need to dialogue and the importance of “humanizing” education so the person is at the center.

The guidelines were published Sept. 22 in a short document entitled “Educating to Fraternal Humanism: Building a Civilization of Love 50 years after Populorum Progressio.”

Populorum Progressio is an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1967 on “the development of peoples” in wake of the Second Vatican Council.

Vatican officials said the guidelines represent a fresh perspective on what Christian education means in today's globalized world, with a special emphasis on dialogue, inclusion and creating a “humanizing” approach to education.

It was published by the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, which was established by Pope Francis in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's declaration on Christian education.

One of three declarations of Vatican II, Gravissimum educationis recognized the Church's role in education, ordered toward man's salvation, and stated fundamental principles of Christian education.

The conciliar document, issued Oct. 28, 1965, stated that Catholic schools are meant “to help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through baptism as they develop their own personalities, and finally to order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life and man is illumined by faith.”

Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, president of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, told journalists that Populorum Progressio “marked a decisive watershed in the history of social issues, offering a new model of ethics that was able to embrace, with a wider gaze, all continents in the perspective of ever-increasing global interdependence.”

The document, which forms the basis for the guidelines, “underlines how urgent and necessary it is to humanize education, favoring a culture of encounter and dialogue,” he said.

And the first step in “humanizing” education, he said, is by “globalizing hope guided by the message of salvation and love from Christian revelation.”

“The solidarity and brotherhood that arise from this personal and social transformation,” he said, “will be the basis of an inclusive process capable of influencing lifestyles and economic and environmental paradigms.”

Alongside Cardinal Versaldi at the press conference were the congregation's secretary, Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, and the Secretary General of the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, Msgr. Guy-Réal Thivierge.

In comments to journalists, Archbishop Zani said there are three key points to the guidelinest, the first of which is “to humanize education.”

“This is very important because the Pope said at the end of the global congress in 2015 said no to proselytism, yes to humanization. So education is above all making it so the person is fully themselves.”

To do this, the person must use all the instruments available to them, but without forgetting “the dimension of transcendence” that the incarnation of Christ offers.

“For us this dimension of humanization is essential not only in an ideological or theoretical sense, but in concrete practice,” Zani said, explaining that it must be “translated into paths that go beyond the technicalities and 'proceduralisms' that often suffocate institutions.”

A second key aspect of the text is its emphasis on “the culture of dialogue,” which Archbishop Zani said involves “the need to pass from the throwaway culture to to the culture of dialogue.”

To this end, the text outlines the thought of French philosopher Paul Ricueur, who develops the concept of dialogue, “asking that this dialogue isn't done on a superficial level, but on the level of the depth of the person who in order to dialogue, must enter into themselves and...put themselves into contact with the identity of the other.”

Zani then pointed to a third element of the guidelines he said is part of the core message, which is “the disposition of inclusion,” which Pope Francis himself speaks of often.

Inclusion means to encounter, rather than to exclude, Zani said, noting that “many times our institutions are exclusive more than inclusive,” and “the knowledge itself that we communicate in our institutions, is often a selective knowledge.”

“So this culture of inclusion would like to propose a knowledge that is rather understood as a good that isn't positional, which guarantees a social position, but a relational good, which helps every person to further develop their relationships with other people,” he said.

Zani also outlined several projects the foundation is currently involved with, including research for a new models of education, a survey for youth ahead of the upcoming Synod of Bishops and a permanent observatory tasked with studying international changes and challenges to an integral education.

In comments to CNA, Cardinal Versaldi said the term “fraternal humanism” in the title of the guidelines means “to educate man, humanity, on how to be true men.”

“You cannot avoid relationships with others, which are relationships in the logic of love,” he said, and emphasized the importance of mutual sharing and enrichment, “because we aren't all from the same place, there are inequalities, there are exclusions.”

 The cardinal said that the guidelines emphasize  “the duty on the part of everyone to see how to give their contribution to change a situation of inequality or of being discarded.” This, he said, is because “in a globalized world, where there inequality, a problem arises for everyone, not only for those who are discarded.”

Because of this, not only do people need to have the foresight to see and remedy situations of injustice, but institutions and governments must as well, Versaldi said. “Otherwise the world won't be cured of its evils.”

What Catholic educational institutions can offer, he said, is the proper formation of youth in particular, so they can themselves become examples of “fraternal humanism” that others will follow.

Versaldi said the congregation won't be asking educational institutions to change their curriculum per se, but rather, ask that educators themselves be formed in the contents of the guidelines and update their own approach based on the perspective the text offers.

“You can't simply repeat the past, even from the point of view of content and curriculum, but you need to also be able to adapt to the new situations, always maintaining in a strong way the meaning of the Christian message, which doesn't change through time,” he said.

According to the cardinal, there are currently more than 216,000 Catholic schools throughout the world with a student population of over 60 million from all faiths and ethnicities.

Africa boasts more than 24 million Catholic school students, and is followed by Asia, which has 13 million. The Americas have a Catholic school population of 12 million, followed by Europe with 8.6 million and Oceania with 1.2 million.

Cardinal Versaldi said that “despite falling in some western countries, in recent years there has been a steady increase in registrations on a global level.”

In addition to the number of Catholic schools and students, there are roughly 1,800 Catholic universities and 500 ecclesial faculties globally.

 

Pope and Peruvian president discuss Venezuela, upcoming papal visit

Sun, 09/24/2017 - 8:54pm

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2017 / 06:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski Friday to discuss the country’s fight against poverty, the crisis in Venezuela and the Pope's upcoming visit, among other topics.

President Kuczynski, described the meeting to journalists at a Sept. 23 news briefing, saying “what we spoke about is what is happening in Peru, how little by little we are eliminating poverty in Peru (and) what is happening in the Peruvian government.”

“We also spoke, naturally, about the visit of the Holy Father to Peru,” he said, drawing attention to the trip Pope Francis will make to Peru and Chile in January 2018.

The president said preparations for the visit are going well, and that “almost everything is ready.” Authorities are still deciding where the Pope’s final Mass on the last day of the visit will be held, but “everything else in the trip is already organized.”

The visit, announced in June, will take the Pope to Chile from January 15 to 18 and Peru from January 18 to 21, 2018. It will mark Francis’ fourth official tour of Latin America since his election, after Brazil in 2013; Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador in 2015 and his recent visit to Colombia earlier this month.

In Chile the Pope will visit the capital of Santiago, and the cities of Temuco and Iquique. In Peru, he will visit the capital city of Lima, as well as Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

In his comments to journalists, President Kuczynski described his conversation with the Pope as “very friendly.” The Pope offered several “proverbs” known in the Spanish language, he said, adding that “he is a man very knowledgeable in literature.”

He and Francis also discussed the situation of former presidents of Peru, some of whom are currently in prison. The latest ex-president to be put behind bars is Ollanta Humal, who was jailed in July amid a corruption scandal that continues to unfold in the country.

Corruption was also naturally a part of the discussion, specifically “how the fight against corruption is going,” Kuczynski said.

He explained that in his meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin that followed his conversation with the Pope, Peruvian leaders, after consulting with other governments, are planning to make a proposal to establish an “Inter-American Court against corruption” during the 2018 Summit of the Americas, set to take place in Lima.

The president also touched on Peru’s complicated past, in many was still shrouded by the violence of the guerrilla group “the Shining Path,” largely active in the 1980-90s, and the need for reconciliation.

“In Latin America, in all countries, we need reconciliation, and the visit of the Pope without doubt will immensely help this,” Kuczynski said, noting that Peru itself “has been successful enough in reconciliation after the period of terrorism and hyperinflation that we had.”

Another topic that has somewhat overshadowed the Church in Peru for the past two years is the scandal surrounding Luis Fernando Figari, a consecrated layman who founded the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a society of apostolic life, in 1971 in Peru. It was granted pontifical recognition in 1997, and is one of the most well-known communities in Peru.

It came into the international spotlight when in 2015 accusations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse were raised against Figari, which were proved to be true. Figari, who had been transferred to Rome, was then barred from any contact with the community as the result of an investigation carried out by Peruvian civil authorities.

Although the case is likely to come up at some point during the Pope’s visit, President Kuczynski said the issue was not raised in his discussion with the Pope, as it is being handled “through other channels.”

The president said his discussion with Cardinal Parolin also touched on the crisis in Venezuela, with both agreeing that “humanitarian aid must be allowed into Venezuela because there are many people who are sick, there are no medicines.”

“The current government, for reasons of pride, is opposed to this,” he said. Another mutual interest, then, is “to look for a dialogue so that there is a transitional system of government.”

“We are all worried, we want to help,” he said. “We think that a country that has the largest petroleum reserves in the world deserves a better destiny for their inhabitants.”


Miguel Perez, Rome correspondent for CNA’s Spanish-language sister agency ACI Prensa, contributed to this article.

UN resolution to investigate ISIS crimes praised as step toward recognizing genocide

Sun, 09/24/2017 - 6:56pm

New York City, N.Y., Sep 24, 2017 / 04:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on Thursday to help investigate ISIS crimes in Iraq, one human rights group hailed the development as a step towards U.N. recognition of genocide.

 

“It is incredibly encouraging to see the Security Council take such a significant step towards ensuring justice for the countless victims and their families,” Kelsey Zorsi, the U.N. Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom International, stated in response.

 

The resolution came as the 72nd Regular Session of the U.N. General Assembly is meeting in New York City from Sept. 12-25. It passed by unanimous vote in the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.

 

The resolution establishes an investigative team, led by a Special Adviser, to help the government of Iraq gather and preserve evidence of crimes committed by ISIS against religious minorities there.

 

The human rights group ADF International hailed it as a significant development in possibly bringing ISIS criminals to justice, as well as aiding the victims of those crimes.

 

“We hope that the passage of this resolution reminds Christians in the Middle East that they have not been forgotten, that there is hope, that we will continue fighting for them, and that accountability is on its way,” Zorsi said.

 

The investigative team must work with the Iraqi government, but also with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), ADF International said.

 

For instance, aid and advocacy groups like the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians were critical in preparing a report documenting ISIS atrocities committed against ethnic and religious minorities, which led then Secretary of State John Kerry to declare ISIS actions a genocide.

 

Also, they said, “the Special Adviser should have a firm background in international law to ensure the right categories are being used for the atrocities committed.”

 

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., called the resolution “a landmark” and “a major first step towards addressing the death, suffering, and injury of the victims of crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq – crimes that include genocide.”

 

“These victims have been Yazidis, Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, and many, many more,” she said.

 

ADF International pointed out that the Security Council “for the first time” did not discount the possibility of using the term “genocide” to describe the atrocities committed by ISIS. Human rights advocates have argued that ISIS crimes constitute a genocide according to the U.N.’s definition.

 

According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, the intent to commit genocide means the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”  Genocide can be committed through killing, torture, forced sterilization, moving the children of one group elsewhere, or “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

 

In 2014, ISIS militants conquered large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in an attempt to establish a caliphate based upon an extremist interpretation of Islam.

 

As they took over cities and towns in Syria and in Northern Iraq, ISIS killed and displaced many religious and ethnic minorities in the region, including Christians, Yezidis, Shia and Sunni Muslims, Turkmen, and Shabak. There were countless reports of murders, torture, the kidnapping and enslavement of Yezidi and Christian women and girls, evidence of mass graves, and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands.

 

Pope Francis used the term “genocide” to describe what was occurring in 2015. In February of 2016, the European Parliament declared that ISIS was indeed committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in the region.

 

In March of 2016, the U.S. Congress issued a genocide resolution, and on March 17 Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “in my judgment, Daesh [ISIS] is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.

 

“Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions – in what it says, what it believes, and what it does,” he said, charging that the group “is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.”

 

The U.N. Security Council has not yet made a genocide declaration, however. Advocacy groups are hoping that will soon change.

Paraguay's government rejects gender ideology

Sun, 09/24/2017 - 4:42pm

Asunción, Paraguay, Sep 24, 2017 / 02:42 pm (ACI Prensa).- Paraguay Secretary of Education, Enrique Riera told reporters that the country's constitution recognizes “the traditional family” consisting of “dad, mom, and children,” and stated that the government would remove from schools all material promoting false gender ideology, introduced by the previous administration. At a September 18 press conference, Riera lamented the “confusion” and criticism the government received after posts on social media stated that the country's schools were teaching that gender is a social construct, that man and woman are not born as such, among other concepts related gender ideology. The Secretary blamed this content on an agreement signed between the administration of former president Fernando Lugo, and a homosexual group called “We are Gay.” The Lugo administration signed an agreement between We are Gay and the Directorate of Ongoing Education. That agreement generated some educational materials, and they remained in use and available on the government’s website, Riera said. The Secretary explained that his office “ordered them to be taken down and revised because there is a phrase which created the whole problem,” which is “where it literally says that gender is a social construct.” “I want to tell you that the Ministry of Education is basing itself on Article 52 of the National Constitution, on the traditional family, on traditional values, with dad, mom and children: It's also my personal position and we naturally respect different options, but we're not going to inculcate them in our public schools,” he assured. Article 52 of the Paraguayan Constitution establishes that “the union in matrimony of man and woman is one of the fundamental components in the formation of the family.” Riera indicated that he informed the President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes “where this confusion came from. We all saw WhatsApp, there was some very severe criticism from some quarters.”

Cardinal Burke: Church divisions show urgent need for clarity

Sun, 09/24/2017 - 2:38pm

Sydney, Australia, Sep 24, 2017 / 12:38 pm (CNA).- Amid the ongoing debate surrounding “Amoris Laetitia,” dubia author Cardinal Raymond Burke said in a new interview that he’s wrongly depicted as the “enemy” of Pope Francis, but he stressed that current division in the Church demands an answer to requests for clarity.

“The urgency of a response to the dubia derives from the harm done to souls by the confusion and error, which result, as long as the fundamental questions raised are not answered in accord with the constant teaching and practice of the Church,” Cardinal Burke said.

“The urgency weighs very heavily on my heart,” he said. In his experience, the cardinal said he's seen “a great deal of confusion, also people feeling that the Church is not a secure point of reference.”

“Some are feeling even a certain bewilderment...they are looking for a much stronger presentation of the Church’s doctrine.”

Cardinal Burke was one of four signatories of a letter submitted to Pope Francis last September outlining five dubia, or doubts, about the interpretation of his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”

That letter had been submitted to the Pope privately, but released to the public two months later, prompting a firestorm of media commentary and debate.

However, the cardinal also addressed the purported “conflict” between him and Pope Francis, stressing that the media portrayal of he and the Pope is inaccurate, and frequently “overdone.”

“It’s all a caricature. They depict Pope Francis as a wonderful, open person and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they depict me as just the opposite,” he said, explaining that this is done “to advance their own agenda.”

However, Pope Francis “is actually not in favor of their agenda. They use this kind of technique to make it seem like he is and that’s fundamentally dishonest,” Cardinal Burke said.

Neither is there an intention to build up resistance against the Pope, he continued, explaining that the image of him being the “enemy” who is trying to undermine the Pope “isn't the case at all.”

Cardinal Burke made his comments in a recent interview with Australian journalist Jordan Grantham, published Sept. 21 in Diocese of Parramatta’s online publicaton, “Catholic Outlook.”

The cardinal noted that as faithful Catholics, those who have expressed doubt or concern over the confusion surrounding “Amoris Laetitia” love the Pope “with complete obedience to the office of Peter.”

Yet at the same time, he said, “they don’t accept these questionable interpretations...of ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ interpretations, which in fact contradict what the Church has always taught and practiced.”

Without clarity on these issues, “people are in a very difficult state,” he said, explaining that this is demonstrated by the fact that bishops conferences have issued conflicting guidelines on how to interpret “Amoris Laetitia.”

In addition to Cardinal Burke, other signatories to the dubia letter were Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop Emeritus of Bologna; and Joachim Meisner, Archbishop Emeritus of Cologne.

Cardinals Meisner and Caffarra passed away within two months of each other over the summer, leaving Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller to carry forward the ongoing debate over the dubia.

Cardinal Burke’s latest interview was not related to the release of a letter signed by 62 Catholic clergy and scholars, the most notable being superior general Bishop Bernard Fellay of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X. That letter presented itself as a “filial correction” to Pope Francis for reputed errors and heresies.

Among other things, the letter argues that the Pope has either directly or indirectly perpetrated seven heresies, most of which surround comments he has made about Martin Luther and ambiguities in “Amoris Laetitia,” specifically related to the question of the reception of Holy Communnion by divorced-and-remarried Catholics who cannot get an annulment.

The letter also objects to the Pope’s silence in the face of the “dubia” submitted to the Pope by the four cardinals.

Like the four cardinals’ original dubia letter, the 25-page letter of “filial correction” was also sent to the Pope privately, but the signatories decided to publish it after having received no response from the Pope.

Neither Cardinal Burke nor Cardinal Brandmüller signed the document. According to a Tweet sent out by the traditionalist blog “Rorate Caeli,” which has provided favorable coverage of the document’s release, cardinals were not asked to sign. The letter was “step one only.”

In his interview, Cardinal Burke said that many lay people argue over “Amoris Laetita,” and “many priests are suffering in particular because the faithful come to them, expecting certain things that are not possible because they’ve received one of the these erroneous interpretations of ‘Amoris Laetitia’.”

As a result, these people no longer understand Church teaching, the cardinal said. And in the Church, “we have only one guide, the Magisterium, the teaching of the Church, but we now seem to be divided into so-called political camps.”

The at times volatile “attacks” from parties who disagree is “a very mundane way of approaching things, it has no place in the Church,” Cardinal Burke continued. “But that’s where we’re at right now.”

The only way for the conversation to move forward on these matters, he said, “is to make the point of reference the doctrine of the Church. That’s what unifies us.”

Cardinal Burke also cleared up what he said are several misconceptions about him that are often promoted by the media, namely that he is “only interested in doctrine and law,” and that he is “out of touch with the times and living in the Middle Ages.”

“I am very pastoral and in fact, I don’t see any contradiction between being pastoral and being faithful in announcing the Church’s teaching and following the Church’s law,” he said.

The cardinal insisted that he is also “very conscious of the everyday culture in which we live, and I try to address it, but in a way that is full of compassion in the sense of addressing the Church’s teaching to the cultural situation and trying to lead the culture to a certain transformation.”

Referring to those who at times paint a picture of the Pope as a great revolutionary changing the tide of the Church in modern times, the cardinal said being the Successor of Peter “has nothing to do with revolutions.” Rather, it involves “maintaining the Church in unity with her long and constant tradition.”

Many people also claim the Pope is somehow going against the Church’s centuries-long tradition, he said. “And that isn’t possible either, because the Roman Pontiff is that principle of unity, unity which is not only present now, but unity with those who have gone before over the centuries.

“In fact, the two are one. When we are unified with the saints and especially with the great teachers of the faith along the centuries, then we also find unity with one another.”

Offering a word to all those currently worried about the state of the Church, Cardinal Burke stressed the need to remain confident in the fact that it is Jesus Christ whom they encounter in the Church, and who comes to meet us.

“Therefore, no matter what confusion or even divisions enter into the Church, we should never give up hope,” he said.

“We should cling all the more faithfully to what the Church has always taught and practiced. And that way we will really save our own souls, with the help of God’s grace, which, of course, we must always be about.”

Vatican responds to allegations that ex-auditor was ousted

Sun, 09/24/2017 - 12:25pm

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2017 / 10:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has issued a response to allegations made by former auditor general Libero Milone, who, three months after mysteriously stepping down in the middle of a five-year mandate, has said he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work.

The Vatican’s Sept. 24 statement voiced “surprise and regret” at the allegations. It said that by speaking out, Milone “failed in the agreement to keep confidential the reasons for his resignation from office,” the Vatican said, noting that according to the statutes of his department, Milone's task had been to “analyze the budgets and accounts” of the Holy See and its related administrations specifically.

“Unfortunately the office directed by Milone exceeded its powers and illegally commissioned an external firm to carry out investigative activities on the private lives of representatives of the Holy See,” the statement said.

“In addition to constituting a crime,” the act “irreparably crippled the trust placed in Mr. Milone, who, placed in front of his responsibilities, freely agreed to resign.”

Milone gave an interview to several media outlets Sept. 23, saying “I think the Pope is a great person, and he began with the best intentions.”

“But I’m afraid he was blocked by the old guard that’s still wholly there, which felt threatened when it understood that I could relate to the Pope and to Parolin what I had seen in the accounts. This is the logic,” he said.

According to his version of events, Milone, 69, said that in June he was falsely accused with “staged” allegations of a misuse of funds when he hired an outside firm to check security on computers in his office, and then “intimidated” into resigning from his position.

Milone said he wanted “to do good for the Church, to reform it like I was asked, but they wouldn’t let me.”
 
Speaking from his lawyer’s office, the former auditor made his comments to reporters from four different Italian and English language media outlets, including Italian paper Corriere della Sera, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters news agency and Italian TV channel SkyTg24.

He left his post in June without an explanation just two years into a five year mandate after being hired as the Vatican’s first Auditor General in a move to introduce more financial transparency in the Vatican City State.

Prior to coming to the Vatican, Milone had been chairman and CEO of the Deloitte global accounting firm in Italy, and had also worked for the United Nations and car enterprise Fiat.

At the time of his resignation, the Vatican said the act was done by “mutual agreement.” However, in his comments to media, Milone said this was not the case, but that he was intimidated into resigning when faced with threats of prosecution.

The Vatican statement in response to Milone’s comments made assurances that the investigations carried out were done “with every scruple and respect for the person.”

In his comments to media, Milone said he chose to speak out because in the past three months rumors have come out that are “offensive for my reputation and my professionalism.”

“I could no longer afford a small powerful group to expose my person for their shady games,” he said, explaining that he had always had a good relationship with the Pope, but for a year and a half prior to his resignation, he had been isolated and alienated from the Pope and other Vatican personnel.

Although he declined to give details due to non-disclosure agreements, Milone voiced his belief that he had been targeted after launching an investigation into a possible conflict of interest involving an Italian cardinal.

Describing his version of the chain of events that leading up to his resignation, Milone said he was called to the office of Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, the Vatican’s deputy Secretary of State, on June 19 and told that the Pope had lost faith in him and had requested his resignation.

When he asked why, Milone said he was given a series of explanations, “some of which seemed incredible.” When he asked to see the Pope, Milone said he was sent to Domenico Giani, head of the Gendarmeria, the Vatican’s police force, where he was interrogated for several hours.

After relocating to Milone’s office, the auditor said Giani yelled at him and demanded to have access to his computer and certain documents. Eventually Giani produced two receipts for payments he had made to the outside contractor that had checked security on the computers in his office.

The former auditor said one of the receipts was “a fake,” and voiced his belief that they had been fabricated as a result of a security check he had done after discovering unauthorized access to his computer and that spyware had been planted on his secretary’s computer in 2015.

After more questioning, Milone said he finally decided to sign a letter of resignation in order to “protect my family and my reputation.”

Milone said that when he offered to draft the letter, he was informed that one had already been written up, and was handed a letter dated for one month before his actual resignation took place, raising suspicious that the entire affair had been “staged.”

He also suggested that it might not be a coincidence that his own exit happened to coincide with the abuse charges recently raised against Cardinal George Pell, the architect of the Pope’s financial reform, the allegations of which started to come out around the same time that his efforts for reform were becoming increasingly controversial within the Vatican.

However, in comments to Reuters, Giani said there was “overwhelming evidence” against the former auditor, though he did not offer details.

Also in comments to Reuters, Archbishop Becciu said Milone had gone against “all the rules and was spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me.” If he had not agreed to resign,” Becciu added, “we would have prosecuted him.”

Milone said he sent a letter to Pope Francis through a “secure channel” in July saying he was framed and “amazed” that his departure took place at the same time as that of Cardinal Pell, but has not received a response.

Pope Francis: God is calling you to work in his kingdom

Sun, 09/24/2017 - 10:03am

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2017 / 08:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- No one is “unemployed” when it comes to spreading the message of the Gospel, Pope Francis has said, because each one of us is called to take up the task and to do our own part in God’s plan of salvation.

“The message is this: in the Kingdom of God no one is unemployed, everyone is called to do their part,” the Pope said Sunday Sept. 24.

“And for everyone there will be the compensation of divine justice – not human (justice), fortunately! – which is the salvation that Jesus Christ acquired for us with his death and resurrection.”

This salvation is “not merited, but given,” Francis said, explaining that this is why Jesus in the Gospel says “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

He spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address, focusing on the day’s Gospel from Matthew which focuses on the parable of the landowner who hires men to work in his vineyard at all hours of the day, and in the end pays them all equally.  

Jesus tells his disciples this parable to communicate two different aspects of the Kingdom of God, Pope Francis said. The first is that “God wants to call everyone to work in his kingdom,” and the second is that “in the end he wants to give everyone the same reward, which is salvation, eternal life.”

When the end of the day comes and everyone is paid the same amount, no matter how many hours they worked, those who labored all day understandably complained, the Pope said, because they received the same amount as those who worked less.

However, the landowner reminds them that “they received what was agreed,” and if he wants to be generous, those who came earlier “should not be envious.”

The Pope said that in reality, “this ‘injustice’ of the landowner is used to provoke, in whomever listens to the parable, a jump in level, because Jesus does not want to speak about the problem of work and a just salary, but the Kingdom of God.”

In telling the parable, Jesus wants to open our hearts “to the logic of the Father, who is free and generous,” Francis said. This means to let ourselves be “amazed and fascinated” by the ways and thoughts of God, which, he noted, “are not our ways and thoughts.”

Rather, the thoughts of mankind are often marked by selfishness and personal gain, and frequently our “narrow and winding” paths are not comparable to those of the Lord, which are “broad and straight.”

“The Lord uses mercy, forgives widely and is full of generosity and goodness that pours onto each one of us, and opens to all the boundless territories of his love and grace, which alone can give the human heart the fullness of joy,” he said.

Jesus, Francis said, makes us contemplate the specific gaze of the landowner, which is “the gaze with which he sees each one of his laborers waiting for work” and is the gaze with which he calls us “to go into his vineyard.”

His gaze is also one that calls, invites one to get up and start walking, the Pope said, because the Lord wants the fullness of life for each person, one that is committed and “saved from emptiness and inertia.”

“God does not want to exclude anyone and he wants everyone to reach their fullness,” he said, adding that “this is love, the love of our Father.”

He closed his address asking that the Virgin Mary help us to welcome “the logic of love” into our lives, “which frees us from the presumption of earning the reward of God and from negative judgments of others.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis noted that Fr. Stanley Francis Rother was beatified Saturday in Oklahoma City.

Considered a martyr, Fr. Rother was killed in hatred of the faith “for his work of evangelization and of human promotion in favor of the most poor in Guatemala,” the Pope said.

He then prayed that Fr. Rother’s “heroic example” would help us to be “courageous witnesses of the Gospel, committing ourselves to promoting the dignity of the human being.”

Michigan lawsuit could imperil religious adoption agencies

Sun, 09/24/2017 - 5:02am

Lansing, Mich., Sep 24, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Faith-based adoption agencies won't be able to adhere to their religious mission in Michigan if a lawsuit challenging state law succeeds, critics say.

“This suit challenging Michigan's law is mean-spirited, divisive and intolerant,” the Michigan Catholic Conference said Sept. 20.

“It is counter-productive toward efforts to assist vulnerable persons and to promote a variety of opportunities for differing families. It is imperative for the state law to be defended from yet another egregious attack on religious faith in public life.”

The conference defended the law as necessary “to promote diversity in child placement and to maintain a private/public partnership that would stabilize the adoption and foster care space for years to come.”

The federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday, is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. It charges that the state law allows groups to use a religious test in carrying out public services like foster child or adoption placement. It contends this is unconstitutional and violates both the equal protection and establishment clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

The 2015 law, which was passed with the backing of the Michigan Catholic Conference, prevents state-funded adoption and foster agencies from being forced to place children in violation of their beliefs. The law protects them from civil action and from threats to their public funding. When the law was passed, about 25 percent of Michigan’s adoption and foster agencies were faith-based.

These agencies have worked in the state for decades and have helped place thousands of vulnerable children, the Michigan Catholic Conference said.

David M. Maluchnik, a spokesperson for the Michigan Catholic conference, told the Wall Street Journal that the law aimed to protect “the right of these agencies to operate in accordance with their religious mission.”

“We play a primary role in providing homes for loving families looking to adopt or foster a child,” he said.

The law requires agencies that decline to place children with same-sex couples to refer the couples to other providers.

ACLU attorney Jay Kaplan contended that the law allows agencies to discriminate and puts a child in a situation between “finding a permanent loving home or staying in the system.”

Kristy Dumont, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she and her civilly recognized spouse Dana Dumont had wanted to adopt in Ingham County but were turned down by Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services.

Maluchnik said that there are many Michigan agencies that would place a child with the couple. He questioned why the plaintiffs sued rather than go to another agency.

Before the law was passed, Bethany Christian Services warned that future policies could force faith-based agencies to “choose between their desire to help children and families and their fidelity to their religious principles,” the Michigan-based MLive Media Group reported in 2015.

SSPX bishop signs letter claiming Pope Francis enables error

Sat, 09/23/2017 - 10:50pm

Rome, Italy, Sep 23, 2017 / 08:50 pm (CNA).- A letter presenting itself as a filial correction of Pope Francis for reputed errors and heresies has been signed by over 60 Catholic clergy and scholars, including most prominently Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the breakaway traditionalist Society of St. Pius X group.

The letter to the Pope, dated July 16, says it concerns “the propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ and by other words, deeds and omissions of Your Holiness.” It claims the publication of the exhortation and other acts of the Pope has given “scandal concerning faith and morals” to the Church and to the world,

“While professing their obedience to his legitimate commands and teachings, they maintain that Francis has upheld and propagated heretical opinions by various direct or indirect means,” a press release accompanying the letter said of the signers. It added that the signers do not believe the Pope has propagated these opinions as dogmatic Church teachings and make no judgment about the Pope’s culpability.

The letter was delivered to Pope Francis on Aug. 11, the press release said.

Bishop Fellay reportedly learned of the document only after its delivery. The district superior of the Society of Pius X, Father Robert Brucciani, is also a signatory. The society’s leader in 1988 ordained four bishops without papal permission in 1988 and all five prelates were excommunicated. Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in 2009 and there have been continuing talks seeking to reconcile the society with the Church.

The letter to Pope Francis cites differences among the Catholic bishops and cardinals concerning the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried. It objects to the Pope’s silence in the face of the “dubia” submitted to the Pope by four cardinals seeking clarification of “Amoris Laetitia,” in September 2016.

It charges that the Pope’s actions have allowed Holy Communion to be received sacrilegiously by divorced people now living as husband and wife with someone not their spouse.

The letter claims the Pope has voiced “unprecedented sympathy” for Martin Luther and suggested there is an affinity between Luther’s ideas and the ideas of “Amoris Laetitia.” It also blames theological modernism for provoking a crisis within the Church.

Other signers include Dr. Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, past president of the Institution of Religious Works and an ethics professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, as well Msgr. Antonio Livi, dean emeritus of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Some U.S.-based signers include Dr. Philip Blosser, a philosophy professor at the Detroit archdiocese’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Christopher Ferrara, president of the American Catholic Lawyers’ Association and a columnist in the hardline traditionalist Catholic newspaper The Remnant; and Dr. John Rao, a history professor at St. John’s University in New York City who directs the Roman Forum.

My cousin the martyr: meet Blessed Stanley Rother's large family

Sat, 09/23/2017 - 6:58pm

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 23, 2017 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- They came from Illinois and they came from Wisconsin. They came from Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

They came from Minnesota--three or four buses worth. At least 16 cars made the drive down from Nebraska.

The many, many, first, second and third cousins of Father Stanley Rother descended on Oklahoma City like the Boomers of old descended on the Oklahoma plains when there was free land for the claiming. But this time, they came to watch one of their own become “Blessed” in the eyes of the Church.

Fr. Stanley was born in 1935, and grew up with his parents and four siblings in the rural farming town of Okarche, Okla. He became a priest in 1963 and was martyred in 1981 in Guatemala at the age of 46, after serving as a missionary there for 13 years.

He was beatified on Sept. 23 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. His two surviving siblings, Sister Marita and Tom Rother, as well as hundreds of extended relatives, were in attendance at the Mass, along with 14,000 of the faithful.

Doris Horne was in charge of mobilizing the Nebraska contingent. Many Rother relations are from the small town of Humphrey, Nebraska, while others have settled in the Columbus, Ohio area.

“There are 140 of us from my Grandmother Smith-Fuchs side here, from six states,” she told CNA as she sat amongst many of them at the Cox Convention Center before the beatification Mass for Fr. Stanley Rother, her second cousin.

Horne’s parents were first cousins to Fr. Stanley’s parents. Although she never met Fr. Stanley, Horne said she remembered his parents coming to visit. She was also able to make a pilgrimage to his mission in Guatemala on the 25th anniversary of his death.

“Everyone down there loved him, and the churches were packed” for the occassion, she recalled. “He was so loved down there.”

“I don’t know how to put it into words, but it’s an honor. We pray to him all the time, and I’m just honored to be part of the family,” she said.

Cousins have always been an important part of life for Fr. Stanley Rother, who came from a German Catholic family. The first wedding he ever celebrated was that of his cousin Kay Rother and her husband.

These days, Kay volunteers a lot at Holy Trinity parish in Okarche, Okla., where Fr. Stanley went to church and school. She said it’s probably a good thing Fr. Stanley wasn’t alive to witness all of his beatification happenings.

“With all this going on, he would not want it,” she said with a mixture of humor and bemusement, gesturing to the small crowd of journalists and distant relatives descending on the otherwise quiet parish grounds the day before the beatification Mass.

Stanley was a humble, quiet person and would have loathed being the center of attention, Kay explained.

“He wouldn’t like all the hubub,” she said. “He was very quiet and humble, and he didn’t brag on what he did.”

Besides being a cousin and the celebrant of her wedding, Fr. Stanley is dear to Kay for another important reason: she credits his intercession for saving the life of her daughter, Amber.

Several years ago, when Amber was just in her early twenties, she had a brain aneurysm rupture. The first hospital said there was nothing to be done except to take her upstairs and harvest her organs. Another hospital said if Amber lived, she’d spend her life in a vegetative state.

That’s when Kay’s husband called on Stan.

“My husband said don’t worry about it, I’m going to the cemetery. So he went to the cemetery and said ‘okay Stan, time for you to work.’ And three days later she opened her eyes, and today you’d never know it,” Kay said. Amber is healthy, and happily married, with one child.

Fr. Stan is a big reason she’s spent the past 30 years volunteering at the parish. Even in the midst of the beatification chaos, Kay was trying to fix the air conditioning in the church that had stopped working “today of all days.”

“I just felt like I owed it to him. It’s the least I can do,” Kay said, doing her best to hold back the tears.

When Fr. Stanley was killed in 1981, his heart remained interned at the altar in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His body was flown back to Okarche, where it was buried in Holy Trinity’s cemetery until just a few months ago, when his remains were moved to a temporary resting place in the archdiocese, pending the completion of a shrine in his honor.

But his headstone still marks the original plot in the Holy Trinity Cemetery. “Padre A’plas”, it reads, the name for Father Francis in the native Guatemalan language of Tzutuhil, which he had learned to speak fluently.

Lee Rother and his family visited the cemetery the Friday before the beatification Mass, to honor Fr. Stanley, as well as the other Rother relatives buried there. As he walked through the grounds, Lee recalled fond memories of the people whose gravestones he passed. He must have known at least half of the people buried there.

Lee himself has settled in Minnesota, along with many of the other Rother relatives. He told CNA that he has given talks on Fr. Stanley, his third cousin, and is inspired by his faith.

“How he lived, how he served God and his people--he had a tremendous, deep faith in him,” he said.

This was something Fr. Stanley passed on to the Guatemalans he served.

“That parish flourished after he died, because he gave them a faith that they could lean on in the midst of their oppression,” he said, his excitement about his cousin palpale.

“It’s a tremendous thrill, it’s so exhilarating to have a relative who’s being beatified by the Catholic Church,” he said. “The best thing that’s ever happened to the Rother family.”

Kathy Rother is a cousin of Father Stanley’s who knew him growing up. Her family lived just a few miles down the road, and she went to school with Stanley and his siblings.

Kathy fondly remembered Stanley as a kind, brotherly figure, someone who once stopped the bullies on the bus from picking on her.

“The big boys would like to pick on the little kids because they were bored. They’d pull their hair or take your lunchbox,” Kathy said.

“I remember one time I was the butt of the jokes... and I remember looking around for one of my older brothers to rescue me, and they didn’t, but there was Stan sitting there and he patted the empty seat next to him, and I sat there and they left me alone, the boys just backed off,” she said.

“it wasn’t like Stan was a sissy, he was very self-contained, he knew what was right, and it wasn’t right to be picking on little kids,” she said. “He was very much looked up to.”

Kathy still remembers getting the news of her cousin’s untimely death. “That cut me to the heart”, she remembered, her eyes tearing up. But then, look what came of it, she added, smiling.

And he’s still there for her, though this time its through his prayers in heaven, rather than rescuing her from bus bullies.

“Many times I’ve called on Stan (in prayer),” Kathy said. “And he comes through.”

Faithful martyr and missionary Father Stanley Rother beatified in Oklahoma

Sat, 09/23/2017 - 4:16pm

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 23, 2017 / 02:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma priest martyred in Guatemala, was beatified Saturday during a Mass in Oklahoma City attended by over 20,000 people. Pope Francis named him blessed in a letter that cited his “deeply rooted faith,” his “profound union with God,” and his “arduous duty to spread the word of God in missionary lands, faithfully living his priestly and missionary service until his martyrdom.” His feast day is set for the anniversary of his death, July 28, 1981, which the papal letter described as “the day of his heavenly birth.” Blessed Stanley Rother served indigenous people of his Guatemala parish at a time of civil war. He returned to his home state of Oklahoma after a death threat, then returned knowing the dangers. Before his last Christmas, the priest wrote to a parish in Oklahoma about the dangers in Guatemala: “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger,” he said. Armed men broke into his rectory, intending to abduct him. He resisted and struggled, but did not call for help, so others at the mission would not be endangered. He was shot twice and killed. At a time of great social and political turbulence, the priest lived as a disciple of Christ, “doing good and spreading peace and reconciliation among the people,” Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect for the Congregation of Saints, said in his homily. “Unfortunately, this immediate recompense on this earth was persecution and a bloody death, in accord with the Words of Jesus: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit,” said the cardinal, citing the words of the Gospel. Celebrating the Mass with Cardinal Amato were Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley, dozens of bishops, scores of priests and thousands of laity, including some from Guatemala. The Mass took place at Oklahoma City’s Cox Convention Center. Family of Fr. Rother were also in attendance. Sister Maria Rother read the first reading, from the Book of Sirach. Though Blessed Stanley faced difficulties in his seminary studies, he showed great dedication to the manual labor he was familiar with from his youth on his family farm near Okarche, Okla. After volunteering for the Guatemala mission Santiago Atitlan, the priest learned Spanish. He even the local language of the Tz’utujil Mayan Indians so well that he could use it in his preaching. He would spend 13 years of his life there, diligent in visiting newlyweds and baptizing and catechizing their children. He was vigorous in both religious and social formation, drawing on his experience to work the fields and repair broken trucks while also building a farmer’s co-op, a school, a hospital and the area’s first Catholic radio station. Blessed Stanley even took action after a major earthquake in 1976. “With courage he climbed the ravines in order to help the very poor, pulling the wounded out of the ruins and carrying them to safety on his shoulders,” Cardinal Amato said. Cardinal Amato recounted the civil conflict in Guatemala. From 1971 to 1981, there were numerous killings of journalists, farmers, catechists and priests, all accused falsely of communism. “This was a real and true time of bloody persecution of the Church,” the cardinal said. “Fr. Rother, aware of the imminent danger to his life, prepared himself for martyrdom, asking the Lord for the strength to face it without fear.” “He continued, however, to preach the gospel of love and non-violence.” Both the priest’s mission and the aid he gave to the victims of violence were seen as subversive, explained the cardinal, who added: “a good shepherd cannot abandon his flock.” “In the face of kidnappings and violence Fr. Rother felt helpless because he did not succeed in changing the situation of reconciliation and forgiveness,” Cardinal Amato continued. “He often cried in silence to a Carmelite nun who asked what to do if he were killed.” “Fr. Rother responded: ‘Raise the standard of Christ Risen’.” Others spoke about Blessed Stanley. Oklahoma City Archbishop emeritus Eusebius Beltran voiced gratitude to God for the beatification of the first native-born priest and martyr of the United States. “His death was a tragedy for Oklahoma and for Guatemala. However, through his death, his saintly life has become known well beyond the boundaries of Guatemala and Oklahoma and the faith of all those who are now familiar with his life is greatly strengthened, and the Church continues to flourish,” Archbishop Beltran said. Archbishop Coakley said that the priest “chose to remain with his people” and “gave his life  in solidarity.” “Pray that Church will experience a new Pentecost and abundant vocations, aided by the intercession of Bl. Stanley Rother,” he said. The Mass was multi-lingual, incorporating Spanish, Comanche and the Mayan language of the indigenous people Fr. Rother served. The offertory was dedicated to the Guatemalan parishes where Blessed Stanley Rother served, in order to help meet their needs and sustain the faith there. The Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma is managing donations through the webpage http://stanleyrother.org/mass

Vatican at UN: Nukes won't save us – let's seek a better path

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:02pm

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nuclear weapons are a force for instability and any claims they promote peace are chasing illusions, the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States told leading diplomats seeking a nuclear test ban treaty.

“While having no illusions about the challenges involved in achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, the challenges posed by the status quo ante of growing tensions, continuing proliferation, and new modernization programs are far more daunting,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said.

“Nuclear arms offer a false sense of security. The uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence has time and time again proved a tragic illusion. Nuclear weapons cannot create a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of annihilation.”

The U.K.-born archbishop's words came in remarks to the 10th Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, held at the United Nations in New York City. The Holy See signed the treaty in 1996.

“The rising tensions over North Korea’s growing nuclear program are of special urgency,” he said. “The international community must respond by seeking to revive negotiations. The threat or use of military force have no place in countering proliferation, and the threat or use of nuclear weapons in countering nuclear proliferation are deplorable.”

“We must put behind us the nuclear threats, fear, military superiority, ideology, and unilateralism that drive proliferation and modernization efforts and are so reminiscent of the logic of the Cold War,” he said.

Putting the treaty into force is even more urgent considering contemporary threats to peace, he said, citing continued nuclear proliferation and some nuclear states’ major new modernization programs.

Archbishop Gallagher said political analysis that relies on nuclear weapons is misleading. The supposed peace based on a balance of power and “threats and counter-threats, and ultimately fear” is “unstable and false.” He called for the replacement of “a logic of fear and mistrust” with “an ethic of responsibility” that would foster multilateral dialogue and consistent cooperation between all members of the international community.

The archbishop said the Holy See is troubled by “the continued lack of progress” in making sure the treaty enters into force. The two decades since the treaty’s launch have been a lost two decades in achieving “our common goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The Holy See welcomes the opportunity to join other states that have ratified the treaty in appealing to remaining states whose ratification is necessary, he added.

“In ratifying this treaty, these States have an opportunity to demonstrate wisdom, courageous leadership, and a commitment to peace and the common good of all,” he said.

The comprehensive test ban is “a critical component to broader nuclear disarmament efforts.”

He cited Pope Francis' Sept. 25, 2015 speech urging the U.N. General Assembly “to work for a world free of nuclear weapons” and for a full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that aims for “a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

“An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as ‘nations united by fear and distrust,” the Pope said.

Pope Francis has also written to Elayne Whyte Gómez, president of the U.N. conference seeking a nuclear weapons ban, urging the international community to go beyond nuclear deterrence and adopt “forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security.”

On Thursday, the Holy See was among the first to sign and ratify a new treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons. Archbishop Gallagher signed on behalf of the Holy See and Vatican City at the U.N. in New York, Vatican Radio reports. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Weapons has over 40 signatories and it will take effect 90 days after at least 50 nations formally ratify it.

That treaty bars the development, production, testing, acquisition, possession or stockpiling of nuclear weapons or other nuclear devices. It also bars the use or threat of use of these weapons. Most nuclear powers did not take part in the negotiations.

Denver event hopes to change how society views homeless people

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 8:00pm

Denver, Colo., Sep 22, 2017 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- When volunteers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development counted the number of homeless people in Colorado one night last year, they found more than 10,000.

Christ in the City, a Denver-based outreach program, hopes to positively impact some of those people – not just with food or shelter, but with friendship.

The organization sees one of its primary goals as getting to know homeless people on the streets.

Young adult missionaries walk the streets of Denver in teams of three. They seek to encounter the homeless people who are often ignored. Over time, as they have conversations and meet regularly with the people on the streets, friendships develop.

“The people society usually ignores are called by name, treated with authentic love, and are reminded of their innate dignity. Their posture becomes more upright, their eyes begin to shine, and their hearts are softened as missionaries treat them with the tender care Christ modeled,” the organization said in describing its mission.

Currently, Christ in the City has 24 missionaries, ages 18-27. The organization operates in Denver, but has had requests to expand in the Archdioceses of Lincoln, Neb., and Philadelphia, Penn.

Also critical to the group’s approach is formation of the missionaries and efforts to help change the way society views the poor.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, Christ in the City will host “A Night of Encounter,” an event that will offer a glimpse into what it’s like to serve the homeless not only in their material needs, but through friendship.  

Hosted by Holy Name Parish in Englewood, Colo., the event will include an outdoor cocktail hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m.

Missionaries will sit with guests, who will have the opportunity to hear their stories of encountering homeless people on the streets of Denver.

Tickets for “A Night of Encounter” can be purchased at: http://christinthecity.co/annualcelebration/

Villanova 'culture warrior' professor accepts Douthat debate invitation

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 6:55pm

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- New York Times columnist Ross Douthat invited Villanova theologian Massimo Faggioli to a debate, and Faggioli has said that he would be open to the idea.

“I am really looking forward to meeting him in person, as soon as is possible. I don’t know if this event is going to happen, in what form. I am totally open to it,” Dr. Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University, told CNA of Ross Douthat’s invitation to a debate.

Douthat, a Catholic, is an author and op-ed columnist at the New York Times, writing on religion, politics, morality, and culture. Faggioli is a theology professor, church historian, and Catholic commentator at Villanova University. Douthat and Faggioli have both been referred to as “culture warriors,” one a conservative, the other a liberal.

In a Sept. 20 column, “Expect the Inquisition,” Douthat noted two recent examples of priests or theologians losing academic positions or speaking engagements because of online campaigns opposing them.

Instead of “conflicting inquisitions, liberal and conservative,” Douthat proposed more “serious argument” and “respectful debate” amongst academics, theologians, and bishops.

In particular, Douthat invited Faggioli – with whom he has previously engaged in online debates, most notably in October of 2015 during the Synod on the Family – to a debate. “I myself am only a train ride away from Professor Faggioli’s Villanova and would happily allow him to educate me on my theological deficiencies on a platform of his choosing,” he said.

Faggioli told CNA on Thursday that he would be open to such a debate.

Faggioli noted that he would not want a debate that would resemble a “boxing match,” but rather “just two individuals there to present a much bigger debate.”

“I think it’s much bigger than Ross and Massimo. But it’s certainly a step forward from two years ago, when there was a much harsher exchange,” he said. Faggioli said he would be open to meet “at Villanova, or at Commonweal, or wherever that can happen.”

“We have to find a way to meet and talk,” Faggioli said, “but there’s a lot of noise that is really part of the environment. And that is still violent. That’s the problem. And we have to find a way to neutralize those violent voices who have no interest of exchange of ideas.”

“What’s a bit disturbing,” he added, is that “if you read the comments that their readers post on their column or their messages against me following Douthat’s article yesterday, that is scary, honestly,” he said.

In an interview with CNA, Faggioli questioned Douthat’s ability to comment on theological and ecclesial issues. “It is striking that he’s commenting with this cavalier attitude on important issues with a fundamental lack of knowledge, I would say.”

“And about what’s going on in Francis’ pontificate, it seems to me that he has a very sketchy idea with very little knowledge of the real people appointed by Francis, what they have published, what they have said, their curriculum, who they are,” Faggioli said.

Although Douthat’s recent column was “a bit less arrogant, a bit less aggressive, looking for a dialogue with people like me with whom he has disagreed for a couple of years now,” he said, “there’s the same lack of knowledge and of curiosity for what this Pope is doing.”

“He doesn’t know, he doesn’t read what the other people are doing. And it’s deeply, deeply unfair and false to make a caricature of them as the bolshevik of Pope Francis,” he said.

Douthat and Faggioli have recently clashed over response to “Building a Bridge,” a book by Fr. James Martin, SJ, addressing LGBT issues in the Church.  Fr. Martin was recently disinvited to address seminarians at Theological College, a seminary in Washington, DC, after outcry and protests from online groups Faggioli has called “cyber-militias.”

In a September 18 essay published by La Croix, Faggioli criticized the “campaign of hatred and personal attacks” against Fr. Martin, and said that “this sort of vitriol is profoundly changing the communion of the Catholic Church.”

“It signals a new kind of censorship that uses verbal violence to intimidate individual Catholics, as well as institutions within the Church,” he said.

In his September 20 column, Douthat responded that “Professor Faggioli’s sudden concern about online campaigns was interesting to me, because it was just a short while ago that the professor was himself busy organizing an online campaign against myself.”

Douthat was referring to an October 2015 letter to the New York Times, written by Faggioli and more than 50 other academics, objecting to a column by Douthat. Among the signatories was Nicholas P. Cafardi, a civil and canon lawyer who served as chairman of “Catholics for Obama,” and characterized President Barack Obama as “pro-life” in 2012.

In the criticized column “The Plot to Change Catholicism,” Douthat speculated that the Pope sided with the proposal of Cardinal Walter Kasper that the divorced and remarried be allowed to receive communion, without first receiving a declaration that their first marriages were invalid. Pope Francis picked synod delegates who would be sympathetic to such a position, Douthat said.

In subsequent comments on Twitter, Douthat criticized supporters of the so-called “Kasper proposal” at the synod. “If you take a view the church has consistently rejected, you don't get to whine when the ‘h’ word comes up,” Douthat said, adding, “Own your heresy.”

The response letter questioned Douthat’s credibility. “Aside from the fact that Mr. Douthat has no professional qualifications for writing on the subject, the problem with his article and other recent statements is his view of Catholicism as unapologetically subject to a politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is,” the letter stated.

In response to that letter, Bishop Robert Barron defended Douthat, writing at the Word on Fire website: “If a doctorate in theology were a bottom-line prerequisite, we would declare the following people unqualified to express an opinion on matters religious: Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis, William F. Buckley, W.H. Auden, or to bring things more up to date, Fr. James Martin, George Weigel, and E.J. Dionne. In point of fact, it is often the case that those outside of the official academy often have the freshest and most insightful perspectives, precisely because they aren’t sequestered in the echo-chamber of politically correct faculty lounge discourse.”

While no debate has been scheduled, CNA has learned that details for the possibility of a debate are being explored, and may soon be announced.  

Faggioli told CNA, “As long as it’s not a debate like Muhammad Ali versus George Foreman; I don’t want this to become a personal thing. But I’ll be happy to meet with him and discuss with him.”

Douthat also affirmed his openness to a debate. “I meant what I wrote,” he told CNA. “I’m happy to debate him when our schedules, as fathers of young children, will allow for it.”

Douthat told CNA that serious conversation about issues is important for Catholics. In his September 20 column, he wrote, “There is no way forward save through controversy. Postpone the inquisitions; schedule arguments instead.”

If Douthat and Faggioli meet for a debate, controversy may well point a way forward.

 

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