Sunday, July 31, 2016
Ines San Martin Crux July 31, 2016 ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE - Pope Francis on Sunday defended his avoidance of the term “Islamic violence” by suggesting the potential for violence lies in every religion, including Catholicism. “I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence, because every day, when I read the newspaper, I see violence,” Francis said, when asked about why he never speaks of Islamic terrorism or fundamentalism when condemning attacks such as the murder of a French priest last week, who had his throat slit by an Islamic terrorist as he was celebrating Mass. The pope said that when he reads the newspaper, he reads about an Italian who kills his fiancé or his mother in law. “They are baptized Catholics. They are violent Catholics,” Francis said, adding that if he speaks of “Islamic violence,” then he has to speak of “Catholic violence” too. The pope made his remarks in a wide-ranging news conference with journalists travelling with him back to Rome after a five-day visit to Poland in which Francis presided over World Youth Day, a gathering of Catholic youth from all around the world in Krakow, Poland. The pope said that in every religion there are violent people, “a small group of fundamentalists,” including in Catholicism. “When fundamentalism goes as far as murdering … you can murder with your tongue and also with the knife,” he said. “I believe that it’s not fair to identify Islam with violence. It’s not fair and it’s not true,” he continued, adding that he’s had a long conversation with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the Cairo-based Islamic university often described as the Vatican of the Sunni world. “I know how they think. They look for peace, encounter,” he said. Francis added that in the case of European youth, many have been left “with no ideals, no work, that end in the hands of drugs and alcohol, and then go over there [didn’t specify] and enlist.” He did acknowledge that ISIS is an “Islamic state that presents itself as violent.” “It’s a fundamentalist group that calls itself ISIS, but it can’t be said, it’s not true, and it’s not fair, that Islam is terrorist,” Francis said. Although clarifying that he didn’t know if he should say it because “it’s dangerous,” the pope then admitted that terrorism grows when “there’s no other option.” “As long as the god of money is at the center of the global economy and not the human person, man and woman, this is the first terrorism,” he said, defining it as a “terrorism at the bases,” against the whole of humanity.
Associated Press July 31, 2016 PARIS (AP) - Reporters on the scene said that between 100 and 200 Muslims gathered at the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, only a few kilometers (miles) from Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, where the 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel was killed by two teenage attackers on Tuesday. “We’re very touched,” Archbishop Dominique Lebrun told broadcaster BFMTV. “It’s an important gesture of fraternity . They’ve told us, and I think they’re sincere, that it’s not Islam which killed Jacques Hamel.” Outside the church, a group of Muslims were applauded when they unfurled a banner: “Love for all. Hate for none.” Similar interfaith gatherings were repeated elsewhere in France, as well as in neighboring Italy. At Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral, Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Mosque of Paris, said repeatedly that Muslims want to live in peace. “The situation is serious,” he told BFMTV. “Time has come to come together so as not to be divided.” In Italy, the secretary general of the country’s Islamic Confederation, Abdullah Cozzolino, spoke from the altar in the Treasure of St. Gennaro chapel next to Naples’ Duomo cathedral. He said there was a “need of dialogue, more affirmation of shared values of peace, of solidarity, of love, out of respect for our one God, merciful and compassionate.” Three imams also attended Mass at the St. Maria Church in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, donning their traditional dress as they entered the sanctuary and sat down in the front row. Mohammed ben Mohammed, a member of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, said that he called on faithful in his sermon Friday “to report anyone who may be intent to damage society. I am sure that there are those among the faithful who are ready to speak up.” “Mosques are not a place in which fanatics become radicalized. Mosques do the opposite of terrorism: They diffuse peace and dialogue,” he added. Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni thanked Italian Muslims for their participation, saying they “are showing their communities the way of courage against fundamentalism.” Like in France, Italy is increasing its supervision of mosques. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told the Senate this week that authorities were scrutinizing mosque financing and working with the Islamic community to ensure that imams study in Italy, preach in Italian and are aware of Italy’s legal structure.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Associated Press July 30, 2016 SAINT-ETIENNE-DU-ROUVRAY, France - Muslims and Catholics joined in Friday prayers at the mosque in the Normandy town where an elderly priest was slain this week, with one imam chastising the extremists as non-Muslims who are “not part of civilization.” Muslims came from other parts of France for the service shared with Christians. The killing Tuesday of 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel as he celebrated morning Mass sent shockwaves around France and deeply touched many among the nation’s 5 million Muslims. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, as well as the July 14 truck attack in Nice, where 84 people were killed by a man who plowed his truck down a seaside promenade. The head of the main Muslim umbrella group, Anouar Kbibech, who attended Friday’s gathering, reiterated a call for Muslims to visit churches on Sunday to show solidarity with Christians as they pray. But one imam made a rare direct strike at the killers who claimed to act in the name of Allah. “You have the wrong civilization, because you are not a part of civilization. You have the wrong humanity, because you are not a part of humanity,” said Abdelatif Hmitou. “You have the wrong idea about us (Muslims), and we won’t forgive you for this.” “How,” he asked, addressing the extremists, “did the idea reach your mind that we might loathe those who helped us … to pray to Allah in this town? How could you think that, Mr. killer? Mr. criminal?” He was referring to the help by the Sainte Thérèse church, which is adjacent to the mosque in the northwestern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. The church sold the plot to Muslims for a symbolic sum so they could build a house of worship. The two 19-year-old attackers were killed Tuesday by police as they left St. Etienne church, where they had held two nuns and an elderly couple hostage as they slit the priest’s throat. A third nun escaped and gave the alert. That church has now been sealed shut. Another 19-year-old was handed preliminary charges on Friday for “criminal terrorist association” after investigators found a video at his home showing one of the slain teens - Abdel Malik Nabil Petitjean - warning of a “violent action” to come, a judicial official said. The discovery was made a day before the church attack when the man was arrested. While investigators are seeking information on the July 26 church attack, they were also making arrests in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 victims. An Algerian and a Pakistani transferred recently to France from Austria were also handed preliminary charges Friday of “criminal terrorist association,” the official said. Investigators were reaching across France to unravel the church attack plot. A Syrian refugee was detained on Thursday in the Allier region of central France because a photocopy of his passport was found at the home of one of the attackers killed by police, Adel Kermiche, the official said. Also being held was a cousin of Kermiche’s accomplice, Petitjean, on suspicion he was aware of the attack plan based on information culled from social networks, the judicial official said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. A 16-year-old arrested just after the attack remained in custody. How Kermiche, from northwest Normandy, concocted the attack plot with Petitjean, from Aix-les-Bain in the Alps of eastern France, remained unclear. What is known is that Petitjean arrived in Kermiche’s town just three days earlier, apparently staying at his home, according to the judicial official. Kermiche wore a tracking bracelet after arrests with false ID’s trying to go to Syria but had four hours a day of freedom. Petitjean had no criminal record. Petitjean’s identity was made public Thursday based on DNA tests. Anti-terrorist officials came close twice before the attack to identifying him as a threat. Four days before the attack, an alert with a photo of him went out to French police with a note he may be planning an attack - but the photo had no name. He was spotted in Turkey in June, but French authorities were alerted too late and he quickly returned to France. Outside the mosque a sign read: “Mosque in mourning.” Fr. Pierre Belhache, in charge of relations with the Muslim community, affirmed to the Muslim and Christian faithful that “we won’t let anyone divide us. It is so rich to have these differences but still be together.”
Friday, July 29, 2016
Christa Pongratz-Lippitt Global Pulse July 29, 2016 Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn OP has acknowledged the existence of a fierce and organized opposition to Pope France, carried out in certain. Catholics circles. And he’s warned that it is fomenting considerable polarization within the Church. “We are currently witnessing intensive inner-church debates – not so much in Austria, but internationally – as there is quite evidently very strong, significant opposition to Pope Francis,” the 71-year-old cardinal told the Austrian daily Der Standard last week before heading to Krakow for World Youth Day festivities with the pope. Schönborn, who is Archbishop of Vienna and Europe’s second-most senior cardinal still in office, said this opposition to the pope was “very active and very loud”. He said a clear majority of Catholics approved of Francis and of what he was doing, but he acknowledged that there were also many others who were very worried. The cardinal said had spoken to the pope in mid-July specifically about this opposition and was greatly impressed by Francis’ reaction. “We must try to win over this inner-church opposition lovingly,” he said the pope told him. Cardinal Schönborn – who has emerged as one of Francis’ strongest allies and the designated theological interpreter of the pope’s apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia – said the intensive debates currently going on inside Church were a good thing. He said Catholics had become too accustomed to seeing the Church divided into a conservative faction and a liberal faction. “We’ve somehow simply accepted that,” he said. But he insisted that the Gospel Message was neither conservative nor liberal; rather it should be defined as “challenging”. Asked whether this difficult situation in which the Church currently found itself was not putting a brake on the pope’s wishes for reform, Cardinal Schönborn pointed out that a great deal had already been achieved. He noted that Francis had set specific processes in motion and the ball was rolling. One example, he said, was what the pope had done for two years with the Synod of Bishops and its deliberations on the family. The cardinal said this new process has led to healthy discussion on a great deal of issues. “Things are not changed at the endpoint but along the way,” he reflected. “At the Extraordinary Synod Assembly in 2014, for example, what the bishops had to say was still incredibly abstract. But a year later they were suddenly talking about reality,” the cardinal pointed out. “Bishops spoke about their own family situation. And, lo and behold, they no longer simply theorized abstractly,” he said. “In a way,” Cardinal Schönborn said, “the journey is the destination.”
Ed Condon Catholic Herald July 27, 2016 Fr Jacques Hamel died a martyr’s death. Of this there can be no question. The 85-year-old priest was at the altar offering the sacrifice of Mass, the moment in which the Church makes present the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood for the salvation of the world, and his blood was literally mingled with that of Christ. The savagery of the attack has left the secular world, and many in the Church, stunned. While there is a natural human revulsion to such crazed brutality, the Church was founded on such acts of bloody witness to the faith. As Damian Thompson rightly pointed out for the Herald yesterday, what appears as an almost unimaginable horror in France is, tragically, a reality of daily Christian life for those living in Iraq and many other places in the Middle East. I say tragically; any loss of human life is surely a tragedy, but what the Church has proclaimed, from the moment of its foundation, is that the martyr’s crown is glorious. The willingness to receive death for the faith, rather than to deal it out, it the counter-intuitive core of the Christian witness of radical love, and what sets it apart from the pagan religions against which it was first proclaimed. One of the earliest legends concerning the conversion of St George is that, as a soldier in the Imperial Court, he converted after witnessing a Christian accept a sentence of death rather than recant their faith. This, he is supposed to have observed, is true courage to shame any soldier. When Oscar Romero was beatified last year, many thought his cause was long overdue. Here was a man who had been killed in the very act of saying Mass, surely this was a martyr’s death. Others were more sceptical, not of the late Archbishop’s courage or holiness, but of his prudence by continuing to appear in public despite knowing the great risk of being killed for having spoken out against the violent oppression of the people; the question was asked: was his murder was really in odium fidei, or if it was more personally directed? Wherever you happen to be on that question, there is no such doubt in the case of Fr Hamel: he was killed simply and solely because he was a priest, in a church, offering Mass. The emerging accounts of the murders having preached their rationale from the altar immediately before or after martyring the priest only underscores the immediacy of their hatred for the faith. These men were not dispossessed youths, acting out against social exclusion or economic disadvantage; they were violent adherents to a violent theology. They killed in the name of their god and Fr Hamel died in the very act of invoking the sacrifice of life. Haras Rafiq, the managing director of the Quilliam Foundation, has described the attack as a turning point in so-called radical Islam’s war against what they see as the Christian West. “What these two people today have done is … shifted the tactical attack to the attack on Rome … an attack on Christianity.” ISIS have previously made clear that their greatest objective is the conquest of Rome, and the overthrow of the Holy See, as the global heart of the Christian faith. While I am sure that the Vatican proper, and the person of Pope Francis, will now be under closer security than ever before, the Church is a global soft target. There are thousands of Fr Hamels across the world, and an even greater number of those faithful who joined him for what became his viaticum Mass. They cannot all be protected against such attacks. If the target is the Christian faith, than every Church, every priest, nun, man, woman or child in the pews is of equal value. One thinks of the horror that could easily be visited upon the hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims currently on their way to World Youth Day in Poland. In the immediate hours after the attack in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, I was asked by someone if it made a difference that, so far as we know, Fr Hamel was not offered the chance to renounce his faith to save his life. My short answer was “of course not.” But it is worth making the point that, through baptism, we each of us have accepted the faith, a faith the holds out two promises to us: heaven and the cross. Martyrdom has, for many Christians, become a mythic concept. In fact, it is an immediate and essential part of the faith and of the Church’s mission to spread it. To be killed for being a Christian is to be a martyr, a possibility we are each called to accept. When St John Paul II was canonised, many people remarked that it was strange to think we had lived at the same time as a saint. The Church today is living in a time of saints, and of martyrs, and I suspect we shall see rather more of both in the coming weeks and years. But the truth of the matter is, the Church has always been living in a time of saints and martyrs, but their witness is now much closer to home. It is to be hoped we can all, in and out of the Church, profit from their intercession.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Sarah MacDonald National Catholic Reporter July 28, 2016 Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said recent comments by Cardinal Raymond Burke on Islam's desire to govern the world are unhelpful at a time when Europe reels in the aftermath of a spate of terror attacks. The archbishop decried the murder of elderly French priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, in Normandy as "something that no religion would stand over," adding that the atrocity in the small parish church of Saint Etienne du Rouvray has been "horrifying to everyone" and that people have been "absolutely stunned by the brutality" of it. Speaking from Poland where he is attending World Youth Day, Martin stressed that education is the basis for real tolerance as well as knowledge and respect for other religions. RTE, the Irish state broadcaster, asked Martin about the potential for such attacks to create divisions among Christians and Muslims, to which the archbishop answered that the only way to combat evil is "by bringing a similar force of goodness into our society." He added that in the long term, people have to be convinced that "goodness will always win in a combat with evil." In a recent interview on his new book, Burke said that Islam seeks to govern the world and that the only way to save Western civilization is to return it to its Christian roots. "I don't think that helps at all," Martin rebuked. "Does Islam want to rule the world? There may be some people of the Islamic faith who do, but Islam itself has another side within it -- a caring and a tolerant side," he added. Interreligious tensions, he suggested, are caused by inequalities, people feeling excluded, and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, which he warned would be used to justify violence the longer it was allowed to continue. "Long term solutions will come from education," he said. Burke's new book is titled Hope For The World: To Unite All Things In Christ. Burke's book takes the form of an extended interview with Guillaume d'Alançon. In the course of the interview, the cardinal, who is patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta, states, "Islam is a religion that, according to its own interpretation, must also become the State. The Koran, and the authentic interpretations of it given by various experts in Koranic law, is destined to govern the world. "In reality, there is no place for other religions, even though they may be tolerated, as long as Islam has not succeeded in establishing its sovereignty over the nations and over the world." A spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, which represents over 1,000 Irish clerics, warned that the cardinal's comments "will be interpreted as dangerously provocative in the light of the gruesome death of 84-year-old Fr. Jacques Hamel." Writing in the Irish Times, Fr. Brendan Hoban warned that placing the Christian faith and tradition in direct competition with Islam is not just sending all the wrong messages, "it's fueling a version of Islam at odds with the fundamentals of that faith and creating a 'Them and Us' divide that places at risk public representatives of Christian Churches, like Fr. Hamel." Separately, one of Pope Francis' closest advisors, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who is president of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, the body representing Catholic bishops across Europe, said on Wednesday that the intention of the act of terror was to stir up hatred between religions. "We will resist and will not let ourselves be led into an atmosphere of hatred and violence. The answer cannot be an intensification of hatred and conflict," the German prelate said.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Joshua J. McElwee National Catholic Reporter July 27, 2016 ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE TO POLAND Pope Francis has responded to the brutal killing of a French priest by two terrorists aligned with the so-called Islamic State by declaring that the world is in a state of war. In brief remarks to journalists aboard the papal plane Wednesday afternoon, the pontiff said that while many speak of a situation of "insecurity" around the world "the true word is war." "For some time we can say that the world has been at war, piece by piece," said Francis, speaking in solemn tones about the slaying Tuesday of an 85-year-old parish priest during a celebration of the Mass in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France. Comparing the current situation to World Wars I and II, the pope said: "It is perhaps not as organic, but it is organized and it is war." "This holy priest who died in the moment of offering the prayer for the whole church is one but how many Christians, how many innocents, how many children?" the pontiff asked. "Let's not be afraid to say this truth," said Francis. "The world is at war." Francis was speaking Wednesday about the death of Fr. Jacques Hamel, who was killed by two attackers wielding knives Tuesday. The attackers held three other worshippers hostage before being killed by French security forces. The Islamic State group has called the attackers "agents." French authorities said one had attempted to reach Syria last year but was arrested in Germany and was returned to France, where he was place under surveillance. The pontiff clarified at the end of his remarks on the plane that he was not speaking of a religious war. "There is war of interests, there is war for money, there is war for natural resources, there is war for domination of peoples," said the pope. "These are the wars." "Someone could think that I was speaking of a war of religion," he continued. "No. All religions want peace." The pope also praised the response of French President Francois Hollande to the attack, saying the leader had acted "like a brother" in his response.
Charles C. Camosy Crux July 27, 2016 Seeing the effects on children of families separated by the border, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, is adamant that mass deportation policies represent “formal cooperation with an instrinsic evil - not unlike driving someone to an abortion clinic.” In the case particularly of Central American mothers and children, and deportations into some parts of Mexico, “we are dealing with placing them in proximate danger of death,” he tells Crux. Both the Republican deportation proposal and the Democrats’ abortion policies mean that “in diverse ways each [party] promotes a power structure that leaves the vulnerable and defenseless aside.” But in an election cycle in which many American Catholics are turned off the political process by the choice of candidates, Flores believes they still need to participate and vote - even if only in state or local races. Catholicism, he says, “is always realistic about the political dynamic in history. We neither expect it to usher in the eschaton, nor do we consider it useless. We try to work with it, participate in it, promote its progress, and oppose proposals that harm the human good.” At its best, “politics is an imperfect expression of imperfect human beings trying to organize a society more justly.” As a bishop whose diocese covers the four counties of the Rio Grande, Flores speaks from the experience of one of the poorest and most bilingual areas of the United States, where “people live connected lives” and “there is great generosity.” “I attribute that to a long process of inculturation of the Gospel,” he says. But his people are frustrated that neither party’s candidate appears to speak to their concerns and values. Seeing Catholic voters paralyzed by this year’s choice of presidential candidates, Flores has some strong spiritual advice: discern, meditate, read the Sermon on the Mount, say the Rosary, and see the face of the crucified Christ “in the consequences of our decisions.” You have a unique pastoral responsibility as Bishop of Brownsville, Texas. Can you tell us a bit about it? The four counties of the Rio Grande Valley are home to about 1.5 million people. Everything from the metroplex that is what we call the Upper Valley, to small farming communities, citrus growers, and fast-sprouting colonias. A young demographic: the average age is 26. This part of the country has been part of the US since 1848, but has never lost its family and cultural and religious connections to Mexico. This is probably the most naturally bilingual culture in the US. People are proud to be Americans, and we have a high rate of young people who serve in the armed forces; yet there is a deep and abiding love for Mexico. Families in the Rio Grande Valley do not see any competition for loyalty there. When we say we love Mexico, it does not mean we love the US less; it means we have big hearts. Economically, there are growing opportunities here, but it is still one of the poorest regions in the US. Religiosity is still a big part of family life. I greatly enjoy the major feast days among the people in the parishes. People give generously of themselves for parish festivals, to feed the poor, to visit the prisons. The great majority of Central American mothers and children that have arrived in the US over the last few years pass through McAllen in this diocese. The response from the poor here to help these mothers and children has been and continues to be amazing. It is true what they say: Often the poor are more generous than the rich when it comes to assisting someone in trouble. But really, the whole Rio Grande Valley came together, rich and poor, cities and towns, believers and non-believers, law-enforcement and regular folks, to do something to help these moms, dads and kids fleeing violent conditions we can hardly imagine. I mention this because it is paradigmatic for what I consider the single greatest blessing here. People live connected lives, there is great generosity. I attribute that to a long process of inculturation of the Gospel. But there are powerful threats too. Violence in northern Mexico affects us; youth are vulnerable to the attractions of gangs. It’s about power and money proposed as the way to happiness - pretty much what the Church means by “the glamour of evil.” When economics are hard, parents work more, spend less time with their kids, thus making them more vulnerable to looking for connections and a sense of security in belonging to something other than family and Church. All the worse when children are separated from their parents and siblings because of immigration law. Young people can get discouraged. I always say a young person decides by 14 if he or she thinks life is a cruel game or a beautiful gift. If they think it’s a game, a culture falls apart; if they realize it’s a gift, great beauty is possible in human life. A life of drugs and violence happens after a young person gets cynical and decides it’s a game. The Church is the bulwark defending the truth that life is a gift to be protected and cultivated. We are in the middle of an absolutely insane election cycle. I’m assuming many of the assumptions and lenses offered by the talking heads on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC are not shared by the people to whom you minister. What can we learn from their approach? Media outlets tend to frame the discussions around winners and losers, conservative and liberal, who has power and who wants it. The people in my diocese, as in most places around the country, are first concerned about being able to raise a family and provide for their children. I learn a lot from parents doing their best to provide a safe and happy home. There are many struggles; I see a lot of heroism. Parents worry that their kids might become disconnected, or choose a wrong path due to cynicism. Young people are worried about being trapped in an economic system over which they have no control, or about not being able to pursue an education because of economic or immigration law restraints. There is concern about violence, not just here, but in Mexico. And not just because it affects our society in some abstract way, or because it threatens them, but because it affects our neighbors. In my diocese there is a strong neighborly concern for the good of the community. Republicans and Democrats often work together on the local level for improving education, trying to keep kids in school and connected, and for attending to the needs of the poor. As I already mentioned there is great generosity here. There is also a sense that the social fabric is tearing. People know instinctively that the best way to address that is to help each other by acts of kindness and practical assistance. The thing I most commonly hear from folks I talk to here in the Rio Grande Valley runs like this: “Why is it that one party is blind to the dignity of the unborn child, and one party is blind to the dignity of the immigrant? Why does one party exalt choice above even life, and the other exalt economic power above even the good of family life?” Such questions indicate that many see through the rhetoric of both parties, and are aware that in diverse ways each promotes a power structure that leaves the vulnerable and defenseless aside. I tell local Catholics who have influence in the Democratic Party to be a strong voice on behalf of the dignity and right to life of the unborn child within the party. Defending the unborn child is the single most decisive social justice issue of our time. The “higher-ups” in the party need to hear their voice. I tell local Catholics who have influence in the Republican Party to be a voice of a comprehensive immigration reform that is family-friendly and that establishes a rule of law that can tell the difference between a criminal immigrant and an immigrant fleeing criminals. The “higher-ups” in the party need to hear their voice. I could testify to the power structures of both major parties that there is more diversity within their party ranks than they are willing to acknowledge. A lot of pro-life Democrats here. A lot of pro-immigration reform Republicans here. The media may frame things in terms of right and left, or winners and losers, but they could learn something from the regular folks who see things in terms of hopes for children, helping people in trouble, trying not to forget the little ones, the elderly, the sick and the dying, the unemployed and the poor. I’ve heard some Catholics say that, yes, Donald Trump has a position on immigration that is at odds with the teaching of the Church, but that is based on a prudential judgement and not one of the “Five Non-Negotiables.” What is your response to this kind of argument? Prudence judges circumstances in light of principles that are rightly ranked in terms of gravity. Keeping that in mind, circumstances are different this year. It is not possible now to take the issue of immigration policy only as a matter of having diverse positions on a badly needed reform of the system. One could argue that in prior elections there was a dispute between the parties about whether a reform was needed, and about what principles would guide a possible reform. This year, there is a proposal on the table to proceed with mass deportations of undocumented men, women and children. One cannot in conscience countenance a program of mass deportation. It is a brutal proposal. In some instances, particularly dealing with the Central American mothers and children, and deportations into some parts of Mexico, we are dealing with placing them in proximate danger of death. I consider supporting the sending of an adult or child back to a place where he or she is marked for death, where there is lawlessness and societal collapse, to be formal cooperation with an intrinsic evil. Not unlike driving someone to an abortion clinic. So, even as a Catholic finds the radical pro-abortion platform of the other party beyond reprehensible, there is no comfort for the conscience of a Catholic on the side of a radical program of mass deportation. Both positions are assaults on the dignity of life, and in the case of mass deportations, can be linked to no. 24 of Faithful Citizenship (FC), “treating the poor as disposable.” Overall, I think we have to look at nos. 35-38 of FC very carefully. We should all read it and think about its implications between now and Election Day. I think it is worth citing number 36 in particular: “When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.” It seems that if a Catholic votes for either major candidate, he or she must do so with a conviction that the evil the candidate supports can be successfully opposed, and that other aspects of their policy proposals are sufficiently good to warrant voting for them. Thus if a Catholic votes for a pro-abortion candidate or for a pro-mass deportation candidate, for what FC calls “morally grave reasons,” because the candidate is deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods there should be conscientious commitment by the voter to oppose strenuously the pro-abortion agenda or the pro mass-deportation agenda respectively And there are other factors that FC rightly asks us to think about, including a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. And note, that I have not even addressed the issues of targeting innocents (who may be relatives of evil-doers) in military actions, or indiscriminate use of drones in warfare. Nor have I mentioned a great many important issues raised in FC and which we must take into account. Another kind of response from Catholics is to refuse to participate. I’ve heard calls to “fast from voting.” The philosopher Alisdair MacIntyre insisted back in 2004 that when we are given two bad options we must choose neither. What do you think of this approach? Yes, well, FC no. 36 does recognize that possibility. MacIntyre had in mind a broad awareness that the two political parties are in different ways locked into positions that contravene the common good. It may be that a Catholic in conscience judges that both major candidates are likely to be successful in enacting intrinsically evil policies. Here, the voter makes a judgment that the effect of voting for such a candidate offends divine justice- even if one commits to opposing the evils a candidate supports- to such an extent that it stains their conscience before God. I know a number of ordinary folks who are actively contemplating the option of not voting in the presidential race. Others are thinking about supporting a third-party or write-in candidate. I could understand such a position, but hasten to add that we are still bound in some way to participate in the political process, in this case by voting in Congressional races, and state and local races for candidates who do in fact support the protection of unborn life, who will work for economic and racial justice, justice for immigrants, and care for the poor and marginalized. Hence, the decision not to support one of the main presidential candidates is not a decision to abstain from the political process altogether, but rather a decision to register a voice that says the two major presidential options are unacceptable, while at the same time voting with a well-formed conscience in other races. No doubt many Catholics will in fact vote in the presidential election. I pray they do so with great seriousness, and with a clear mind about what in the candidate’s positions is worthy of support, and what in his or her positions must be actively opposed should they be elected. When MacIntyre says “Why should we reject both? Not primarily because they give us wrong answers, but because they answer the wrong questions,” I have great sympathy for his perspective. The fact is that for a Catholic the current positioning dynamic that governs the party system is precisely not adequate because it does not flow from a considered reflection on what is indeed good about, in and for human life. In that sense, both political parties too often give answers to the wrong questions. A Catholic feels this keenly when faced with a shrill rhetoric that emanates from both corners of the ring. Still, Catholicism is always realistic about the political dynamic in history. We neither expect it to usher in the eschaton, nor do we consider it useless. We try to work with it, participate in it, promote its progress, and oppose proposals that harm the human good. At its best, politics is an imperfect expression of imperfect human beings trying to organize a society more justly. The historical danger has ever been that the political dynamic becomes primarily a cynical battle about power and control. This is poison in a democratic republic. Finally, as we try to make our way through this quagmire of an election, do you have any spiritual practices or prayers to recommend? In addition to reviewing the major principles of Catholic Social Teaching, and Faithful Citizenship, I would recommend meditating the Sermon on the Mount slowly and frequently, between here and Election Day. And I would recommend praying the Rosary for the well-being of the nation, that the vulnerable be protected, and that good may come from the overall judgment of the electorate. And I would recommend meditating on the Passion of the Lord, recognizing that he became flesh and endured the Cross to remind us that whatsoever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to him. That teaching follows us into the election booth whether we realize it or not; it is better that we realize it, and vote a conscience that sees his face in the consequences of our decisions.
Andrea Tornielli Vatican Insider July 27, 2016 The savage barbarity which drove a young fanatic to slay a priest at the altar, invoking the name of Allah, is shocking and unnerving: this is the first time a priest has died inside a European church. What has happened and is still happening in other countries - from Turkey to Iraq, Syria, Central Africa and the Philippines – is now happening on our turf. The slaughter took place a peaceful little French village, against a kind and defenceless elderly man who had done nothing but preach peace and love all his life. It is important to remember, however, that Islamic fundamentalists are not the only ones who have the monopoly on murdering priests and bishops: the Salvadoran bishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, for example, who is now a Blessed, was assassinated at the altar by Christian Death Squad members in 1980. ISIS’s terrorists, the latest in a series of strange creatures which the West played its part in creating by supplying arms to anti-Assad rebels, want to bring their jihad right to the heart of our cities. They want to inject fear into our day-to-day lives. They want to turn our lives upside down, as they have done in other countries, where attacks have become an almost daily occurrence, with tens of thousands of innocent victims no longer making headlines. Daesh, the self-proclaimed Islamic state has declared that its one goal is to unite Sunni Muslims around it. In order to achieve this, it has to bring its “holy war” and its “clash of civilisations” to our towns and cities. It has to make us as westerners and Christians, as descendants of the “crusaders”, “feel at war”. It has to make us forget about the fact that the vast majority of victims of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism are Muslims. In the face of all of this, we cannot simply look the other way. But we would be playing the terrorists’ game if we think that the right response to this is another “holy war” that can contrasts theirs. Adopting attitudes typical of a “holy war”, as some sectors of the European Catholic world do, not only means giving into the Caliphate, giving the fundamentalist assassins exactly what they want and seek. It also and above all means forgetting all that is truest about the experience of the Christian faith. The Christian faith that is lived in a genuine way not a faith that has been genetically modified to create an identitarian ideology or a cultural-political movement. There is in fact a way of talking about what happened in France, of speaking about Christian persecution which is not Christian in any way even though those who engage in it feel themselves in some way to be militants of western Catholicism. The only authentically Christian words are those which remind us at the moment of how the reality of martyrdom belongs to the life of the Church right from the start. An experience that has always been there. “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” Jesus said. As Pope Francis recalled the day before his visit to Armenia last month, Christian martyrs are ordinary people, men, women, children. Their innocent sacrifice, the blood they shed , has always been a seed for new Christians as Tertullian said and has brought fruits of reconciliation, forgiveness and love. The approach of faith points out the only real answer to the latest brutal and bloody attacks that burst our bubble of indifference. As testified some time ago by an elderly Coptic Christian woman who cannot read nor write and has never left her humble clay hut on the banks of the River Nile. She refused to curse those who killed her son on the Libyan coast. Instead of cursing them she prayed for their salvation. This seemingly “weak” response does not only reflect one of the peaks of human civilisation. In it, one discerns first and foremost the sign of the Christian God’s “almighty weakness”, who lowered and humiliated himself in order to share human suffering.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Josephine McKenna Religion News Service July 26, 2016 France was convulsed by another horrific attack on Tuesday morning as armed men burst into a Catholic church near Rouen and slit the throat of a priest who was celebrating Mass. The slain priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, 84, was one of four people taken hostage by the attackers, who authorities said had claimed to be from Daesh, the Arabic term for the Islamic State group. One of the other hostages was reportedly in critical condition and both assailants were reportedly killed by security forces. French President Francois Hollande said ISIS was behind the attack in northern France, and Prime Minister Manuel Valls called it “a barbaric attack on a church.” “The whole of France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together," he added. Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, who was in Krakow, Poland, with World Youth Day pilgrims when the attacked occurred, confirmed the priest’s death. He said he would return to his archdiocese, Catholic News Service reported. "I cry out to God, with all men of good will. And I invite all non-believers to unite with this cry. The Catholic Church can take up no weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among people of good will," the archbishop said in a statement from Krakow. He said that while he would leave Poland, hundreds of young people from his diocese would remain. "I ask them not to give in to violence," but instead "become apostles of the civilization of love." The attack took place at the parish church in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in Normandy. It was the latest in a string of deadly terrorist attacks in Europe in the past couple of weeks, including the Bastille Day attack in the French city of Nice and killings in several places in Germany. The imam of the mosque in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray said he was “appalled by the death of my friend,” according to the French newspaper, Le Figaro. “He gave his life for others,” the imam, Mohammed Karabila, was quoted as saying. “We are shocked here at the mosque.” At the Vatican, Pope Francis' spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi issued a statement saying the pontiff has been informed "and participates in the pain and horror of this absurd violence, with the most radical condemnation of all forms of hatred and prayer for those affected." "We are particularly affected because this horrific violence took place in a church, a sacred place where the love of God is proclaimed, with the barbaric killing of a priest and the involvement of the faithful," the statement read. The conservative Guinean prelate, Cardinal Robert Sarah, said he was praying for the victims and for France and asked in a tweet: "How many more dead before European governments understand the situation in which the West finds itself? How many more decapitated heads?" Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich expressed his sorrow in a tweet: “The Archdiocese of Chicago stands with the people of #Rouen, France; we offer our prayers for healing and peace in this time of great sorrow.” Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference in the U.K. and Wales, joined Muslim leaders in a joint statement condemning the attack. “We are deeply saddened and shocked by the brutal murder. To commit murder at a place where people gather in peace to worship adds another layer of depravity to the violence that we have witnessed over the past weeks. “We pray for the courage to respond to all evil with truth, justice, and reconciliation.” The Italian Bishops’ Conference said the attack had provoked “upset and concern” but urged people not to give in to “closure or revenge,” while an Italian regional political leader, Roberto Maroni, described the murdered priest as a “martyr of faith” and urged the pope to proclaim him a saint as soon as possible. The Islamic State group issued a statement saying the church attack was carried out by two 'soldiers' from the group, which has claimed responsibility for inspiring a number of brutal terror attacks in France and elsewhere in Europe. If ISIS were behind the attack, it would signal a new phase in the battle against the terrorist group since they have not targeted Christian sites in Europe. The Vatican has long been on a state of high alert for threats against Francis, who leaves Rome Wednesday for a five-day trip to a Catholic youth festival in Poland. And Christians in the Middle East have increasingly been subject to vicious attacks by Islamic radicals. At the Vatican, Lombardi issued a statement in the pontiff's name saying that Francis is "particularly shocked because this horrible violence took place in a church, in which God’s love is announced, with the barbarous killing of a priest and the involvement of the faithful." Hamel, the elderly priest who was killed, was an auxiliary priest was filling in for the regular parish priest, who had just left on vacation, The New York Times reported. He was ordained in 1958 and had celebrated his golden jubilee in 2008, according to the diocesan website. The titular parish priest, Fr. Auguste Moanda-Phuati, told the French broadcaster RTL that Hamel had refused to retire at age 75, as the church allows, because of the shortage of Catholic clergy in France. “He was a courageous priest at his age. He still felt strong,” said Moanda-Phuati, who, according to French press reports, is Congolese. On social media, there was an oupouring of support with the hashtag #JeSuisCatholique and #JeSuisPrete ( I am Catholic, I am priest) in several languages.
Friday, July 22, 2016
Lorraine Cabbalero Christian Daily July 22, 2016 A group of Catholics from southern India has slammed the Church's "silence" on the kidnapping and assault of a Dalit bishop by three priests from an upper-caste group. On July 16, the South Indian Dalit Catholic Association (SIDCA) released a statement condemning the Catholic church's silence on Bishop Prasad Gallela's abduction. The minister was kidnapped and assaulted by three priests from the Cudappa Diocese on Apr. 25, UCA News reports. When the suspects took Bishop Gallela and his driver at a village called Nagasanepalle, they reportedly beat him before blindfolding and tying him up. The kidnappers then took them to an undisclosed place and demanded around US$75,000 in ransom. In addition, the kidnappers stole Gallela's bag, which contained some cash, three ATM cards, a silver chain with a cross, and an iPhone. SIDCA's statement comes a month after Dalit activist Jesuit Father A.X.J. Bosco sent an open letter to the Catholic bishops' conference's president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis of Trivandrum. In the letter, the Jesuit priest highlighted the Catholic church's "significant silence" on the crimes committed by the three priests. Meanwhile, police arrested 14 individuals in connection with Bishop Gallela's kidnapping and assault. The detained includes three of his own priests, with Fr. Raja Reddy as the main culprit because of his alleged beef with the bishop regarding a requested position that was not granted to him, Crux Now details. According to Crux's sources, Reddy requested to be appointed as "procurator" in the diocese, a position which would have given him authority to do things in the bishop's name. However, his request was denied. Gallela also indicated to Crux that the kidnapping had something to do with an "administrative issue," but declined to elaborate. The Hindu newspaper noted that the suspects had attempted to kidnap the Dalit bishop four times from Apr. 6 to 15, but failed to do so before the Apr. 25 incident.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Brian Roewe National Catholic Reporter July 21, 2016 The Vatican envoy to the United States quashed an investigation into alleged homosexual activity on the part of Archbishop John Nienstedt and ordered a piece of evidence destroyed, according to an 11-page memo unsealed Wednesday afternoon. In the memo, Fr. Dan Griffith, then-Delegate for Safe Environment for the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese, stated that in April 2014 Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., ordered two auxiliary bishops to have a St. Paul law firm quickly wrap its investigation and later that month instructed them to destroy a letter they had sent Vigano pushing back on his request. The memo, dated July 7, 2014, was a part of numerous legal documents disclosed Wednesday following the conclusion of a criminal investigation into the archdiocese by Ramsey County prosecutors. The six criminal charges brought last summer were dropped after the archdiocese agreed to add an admission of wrongdoing to the civil settlement it reached with the county in December. No charges were brought against individuals, with Ramsey County Prosecutor John Choi saying there was insufficient evidence to do so against any one person. The documents, though, give perhaps the clearest view to date into the until-now largely concealed investigation of Nienstedt, which explored allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with other adult males, including seminarians. In previous months, local media had obtained and reported on several of the allegations. Griffith, who served as Delegate for Safe Environment from August 2013 through July 2014, was the liaison between the archdiocese and the law firm, Greene Espel, conducting the investigation. Together, his dual roles gave him a front-row seat to how the investigation emerged, unfolded and was ultimately abruptly wrapped. According to the memo, at a midpoint in the investigation in April 2014 Vigano, during a meeting with Auxiliary Bishops Lee Piché and Andrew Cozzens, ordered it quickly shut down and its scope tightened and inhibited. At one point, he also allegedly demanded that the two bishops destroy a piece of evidence -- a letter they had sent him earlier that month expressing disagreement with his decision. Calls for action, refutations of allegations At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, attorney Jeff Anderson said the documents show the presence of a cover-up and urged Pope Francis to take "definitive action" against the officials involved, including Nienstedt and the auxiliary bishops by putting them in jail and removing them from the clerical state. "So Pope Francis, if your words mean anything, just do it. You have the power, the evidence is before you. Do it," Anderson said. Vatican Spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi told NCR Thursday that the Vatican is not commenting, as "we are speaking of a complex situation in which there is not sufficient information." Vigano, 75, submitted his resignation in January after holding the diplomatic position since 2011; it was accepted in April. He is replaced by Monsignor Christophe Pierre, the former papal ambassador to Mexico. It was Vigano who was discovered to have arranged the meeting between the pope and Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who drew headlines for her brief time in jail after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Letters of the now-retired ambassador were part of the 2012 "Vatileaks" scandal. The Twin Cities archdiocese has not yet addressed the details of the report, saying only in a statement that the documents show "no basis" for bringing criminal charges against any leader. At a press conference earlier Wednesday, St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda said he had met with Francis two weeks ago, but that the criminal case against the archdiocese "wasn't one of our topics." Hebda, who spoke before the documents' release, added the pope "certainly knows of the situation in the archdiocese." Nienstedt, who resigned as head of the archdiocese in June 2015, said in a statement that "the allegations were and still are absolutely and entirely false." He said he has yet to see a final report of the investigation and reiterated "I am a heterosexual man who has been celibate my entire life. I have never solicited sex, improperly touched anyone and have not used my authority to cover up, or even try to cover up, any allegation of sexual abuse." Nienstedt also expressed sorrow for abuse survivors, their families and the Twin Cities Catholic community, and specifically apologized for the handling of allegations against former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, whose sexual abuse of three minors in 2010 sparked the criminal charges and civil petition against the archdiocese as well as the larger abuse scandal that has rocked the area for nearly four years. “As the Archbishop, I should have asked more questions, I should have demanded more answers, and I should have insisted those within the Archdiocesan administration at the time share more information with each other. I am sorry,” he said. Nienstedt said he felt relief by the release of the information, "that the public now knows the extent of the allegations and can hear my response." He said he viewed the accusations as "a personal attack against me due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with Catholic Church teaching," specifically same-sex marriage -- reiterating a position he has stated in the past. Nienstedt played a leading role in the statewide push in 2012 to define marriage in Minnesota as between one man and one woman, a measure that ultimately lost, with the state months later legalizing same-sex marriage. The archbishop said his opposition to same-sex marriage and admitting openly homosexual men into the priesthood has been met with "hundreds of threatening, insulting, and sometimes frightening letters, emails, and phone calls, some anonymous." He said the men making the accusations in the documents "are known to me, and to each other," and that they disagree with the church's teaching on homosexuality. The Twin Cities archdiocese has repeatedly declined comment on the status of the Greene Espel investigation. In a brief statement Wednesday, Griffith said, "The memo speaks for itself. I stand by it." He also expressed confidence in the new archdiocesan leadership regarding safe environments for children and welcomed the opportunity to work with them. The investigation begins In his memo, part of exhibit six in the affidavit of Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Thomas Ring, Griffith states that in fall 2013 allegations of misconduct by Nienstedt began emerging through priests and persons who knew him from his time in Detroit, where he was born and ordained a priest. The allegations describe unwanted touching, sexual solicitation, frequenting a gay bar/strip club in Windsor, Ontario, (across the river from Detroit) called the "Happy Tap," and leading an overall "promiscuous gay lifestyle." In addition, there were concerns with the social relationship between Nienstedt and former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, whose sexual abuse of three minors in 2010 sparked the criminal charges and civil petition against the archdiocese as well as the larger abuse scandal that has rocked the area for nearly four years. Griffith said that earlier in 2013 he confirmed with past Twin Cities Archbishop Harry Flynn that the prelate had conveyed concerns regarding Nienstedt's behavior and had expressed them to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then prefect for the Congregation for Bishops (2005-2010). In November 2013, several chancery officials met and determined an investigation should begin to review the allegations. By January 2014, Nienstedt agreed to the investigation, authorizing it in a letter and appointing Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché to head it. After considering numerous options, the archdiocese hired Greene Espel in February, telling them "their sole objective was to discover, as best they could, the truth or falsity of these allegations." The preliminary investigation obtained 10 affidavits (an 11th would arrive later) detailing "misconduct by Archbishop Nienstedt across both time and geography." The sworn statements, deemed by the lawyers as credible and often against self-interest, provided evidence of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, reprisals for rejections of unwanted advances and excessive drinking. At an April 10, 2014, meeting, the Greene Espel team presented evidence to Griffith, Piché, Cozzens, Fr. Charles Lachowitzer and Brian Wenger, the archdiocese's outside counsel. Griffith reports in the memo that all believed the evidence "compelling" and were unanimous in the belief Nienstedt should resign. Two days later, Piché and Cozzens flew to Washington, D.C., to meet with apostolic nuncio Vigano. Joining them was Nienstedt, whom the two auxiliaries invited. "The hope was to reach a pastoral resolution for the good of the Archdiocese, given the compelling evidence gathered thus far," Griffith wrote. But no resolution would come. ‘The turning point’ The meeting and a subsequent phone call between Piché and Vigano proved "the turning point," Griffith wrote. The priest said he understood that Nienstedt had a conversation with Vigano following the auxiliary bishops, during which "he may have convinced the Nuncio that the allegations against him were all false" and part of a conspiracy -- Nienstedt has said since that the rumors stem from people upset with his decision as a Detroit auxiliary bishop to end a Dignity Mass that was popular with area gay Catholics. According to Griffith, he said he understood Vigano believed the allegations as not serious and ordered them "to have the lawyers quickly interview Archbishop Nienstedt and wrap up the investigation," despite Greene Espel having "at least 24 more leads to pursue" -- one alleging Nienstedt had sexual relations with a Swiss Guardsman in Rome. The auxiliary bishops expressed in a letter their disagreement with the decision, stating it "would rightly be seen as a cover-up." They suggested another bishop outside the archdiocese be appointed to oversee the investigation's completion. Griffith said he supported both decisions. At a post-Easter 2014 meeting, Piché told one of the Greene Espel lawyers they were "to narrow the focus of their investigation to the question of whether a crime or a grave delict had been committed by Archbishop Nienstedt and that their interview of the Archbishop should likewise focus on these questions," according to Griffith, who was present at the meeting. Any further pursuit of leads along this new focus would require Vigano's permission, Piché said, which he said would likely be denied. Additional inquiry into two potential sexual harassment cases -- one presenting "potential liability for the Archdiocese as well as the Archbishop" -- unearthed in the already-gathered evidence would also be allowed, though not as a main focus. Both Griffith and the Greene Espel lawyer, David Wallace-Jackson, told Piché the narrowing of the investigation was not keeping with the original mandate, with Griffith saying it indicated "a different and more permissive standard" applying to the archbishop than to priests alleged with misconduct. At the same meeting, Griffith describes Piché grabbing "a correspondence" from Wallace-Jackson, saying he could not read it or have a copy. In a follow-up, Piché told Griffith that the lawyers could not have a copy. Griffith then recalled Piché stating that Vigano had asked him and Cozzens to take back their April letter "and destroy it." Griffith appeared shocked at the directive from nuncio: "I would like to pause for a moment and visit the gravity of what you conveyed to Mr. Wallace-Jackson and me in your office at the chancery. The destruction of evidence is a crime under federal law and state law and the fact that this request was made of you by a papal representative to the United States is most distressing." Griffith said he hoped Piché and Cozzens "did not comply with this shocking request/directive," advising them to report the episode to an appropriate Vatican authority. From an inquiry to a ‘cover-up’ On July 3, 2014, Greene Espel withdrew from the investigation, a day after receiving a letter from Piché that apparently limited their final report "to present only factual findings." In the memo, Griffith stood behind the work of the lawyers and advised that the archdiocese reengage them to complete the investigation, which had interviewed Nienstedt twice and was near its final report or if not, make public their withdrawal immediately; a report from Commonweal in July 1, 2014, made public the investigation. "The decisions made subsequent to your April visit to the Apostolic Nuncio to comply with his request to narrow the scope of the investigation, to quickly bring the matter to a close despite at least 24 leads, and now to further inhibit the work of our lawyers in this so called independent investigation have made the Archdiocese complicit in a white-wash and a cover-up. I believe there still exists a principle of Catholic moral theology that one's conscience is not bound by something immoral or unjust. There is still the possibility to allow Greene Espel to complete this investigation consistent with the January 31st letter and in furtherance of both truth and justice," Griffith wrote. If Greene Espel was not brought back into the investigation, which had cost approximately $400,000 at that point, Griffith advised the archdiocese to send the affidavits and their work to the Congregation for Bishops, and that it "should prepare for the eventuality" that some or all of the affidavits will be made public at some point. On July 29, 2014, Piché announced Greene Espel had concluded its work and that the firm's work "does not comprise" the entirety of the investigation, which was continuing under the auxiliary bishop's direction. The ambiguity of the report's status continued through Nienstedt's and Piché's resignations in June 2015 and into earlier this year, when Nienstedt abruptly left a Battle Creek, Mich., parish, where he was assisting a friend, when people learned of his presence in the area. In his memo, Griffith said the investigation placed the archdiocese "on the verge of an unprecedented moment in the history of the Church in the United States," in that at its beginning it demonstrated the insistence of an archbishop being held to the same standard of justice as his priests. Instead, he said, "What has unfolded in the face of compelling evidence amounts to a good old-fashioned cover-up to preserve power and avoid scandal and accountability." Griffith bemoaned "an ugly clericalism on full display in this present matter," and that the Catholic faithful deserve better and will demand so. "Truth was my sole goal as well in my role as liaison. The truth will indeed come out and when it does, the Archdiocese will have to answer for it and the decisions made in regard to this investigation," Griffith wrote.
Monday, July 18, 2016
Robert Mickens National Catholic Reporter July 18, 2016 Pope Francis says he does not like to "cut off heads"; that is, fire people. And when it comes to facing opposition from the Church's "ultra-conservatives", he says he refuses to engage in conflict. But it looks like he could be running out of patience with Cardinal Robert Sarah. And he may now be regretting the peace-making gesture he made in November 2014 (more on that in a moment) when he appointed the African prelate as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. The pope called the 71-year-old cardinal into his office on July 9 and took him to task for the divisive and controversial remarks on the liturgy that the prefect had made just few days earlier in London. At a conference attended mainly by enthusiasts of the Tridentine Mass -- before it was reformed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) -- Sarah said the pope had asked him to form a commission to study the possibility of carrying out a "reform of the reform." The Guinea native also appealed to all priests around the world to return to the pre-Vatican II custom of celebrating Mass versus orientem (facing East), or what is often called "priest with his back to the people". He suggested they implement this on the first Sunday of Advent (next November 27). But a statement from the Holy See Press Office on July 11, though written in the classic diplomatic style of the Roman Curia, made it clear that Pope Francis -- like most of the world's bishops -- is opposed to making ad orientem worship normative. And, even more importantly, it indicated that he does not support any such "reform of the [post-Vatican II liturgical] reform", despite Cardinal Sarah's claim. There is no other way one can read the Vatican communiqué except that the pope corrected the cardinal -- and distanced himself from his views -- in a very clear and public way. And, in doing so, he has a sent a strong message to the tiny minority of Catholics who continue to push for incorporating parts of the (unreformed) Tridentine Rite into the (reformed) post-Vatican II liturgy. It's not going to happen. This is a liturgical hot potato that the 79-year-old Francis had sought to avoid. In fact, he appointed Cardinal Sarah to his current job precisely in order to keep the peace with the neo-Tridentinists -- a small, but well-organized, well-funded and extremely vocal group that gained prominence disproportionate to its numbers under Benedict XVI. It has been lukewarm (to say the least!) towards the current pope. After Pope Francis moved the previous CDW prefect, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, back to a diocese in Spain, the top post at the worship office remained vacant for nearly three months -- an unprecedented amount of time in that office's history. Several Vatican sources said the pope had intended to make Archbishop Piero Marini, currently president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharist Congresses, the new prefect. The now-74-year-old Italian had been the master of papal ceremonies from 1987-2007. But more importantly, he worked closely with those who helped Paul VI draw up and implement the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms, even serving from 1985-1987 as the CDW undersecretary. But a group of so-called "Ratzingerians" in the Curia (those more attached to the retired pope's style and vision of the church rather than to his successor's) warned Francis that Marini's appointment would "cause a war." Some say that the former pope himself advised against it. They feared the archbishop would work to counter some of the controversial and retrograde liturgical changes that Benedict XVI had instituted throughout the church, especially his normalization of the Tridentine Rite through the 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. The group then suggested Cardinal Sarah for the post. When John Paul II brought the African prelate to the Vatican in 2001 he was known as pious and doctrinally conservative, but did not seem to be an ideologue thanks to his twenty-two years as Archbishop of Conakry (Guinea). He spent his first nine years in Rome as the No. 2 official at Propaganda Fide (Congregation for the Evangelization of People). Then Benedict XVI named him president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum in October 2010 and gave him the red hat one month later. During his time in that office, which was meant to monitor and coordinate Catholic charitable organizations, he emerged more clearly as a cultural warrior who insisted that church social agencies and their employees manifest their Catholic identity clearly and unequivocally. Cardinal Sarah quickly made a mark as one of the shrillest voices against "gender ideology," same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception and other so-called attacks on the family. During the two autumn Synod sessions on the family (2014 and 2015), and even between those sessions, he was among the most visibly active bishops to warn Pope Francis -- through books, letters and interviews -- not to soften the church's stance on divorce and remarriage. People continue to scratch their heads in total confusion as to why Francis gave him such a high-profile post in a pontificate in which Sarah seems so out of step. Some believe it was meant to neutralize the cardinal by putting him in charge of an area of church life (the liturgy) that the pope simply takes for granted and about which he is contemplating no further developments. Others fear he miscalculated the depth of the cardinal's commitment to the neo-Tridentinists and the "reform of the reform" movement. Up until he caused the stir with his recent talk in London, the pope remained remarkably tolerant with him. But that lecture may have been the final straw. Because this was not the first time since his appointment as CDW prefect that the cardinal has said controversial things that seem so incongruent with the tone and style Francis has tried to set for his pontificate and the entire church. The Roman Curia's highest-ranking African official regularly finds time to travel the world as a speaker, often spouting his traditionalist views. At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington last May, the Vatican's liturgical chief said there were "insidious signs of war" against religious freedom in the United States. He went as far as to say the dismantling of "the church's teachings on marriage, sexuality and the human person" through the legalization of such things as same-sex marriage was just as horrible as the "merciless beheadings, futile bombings of churches, torching of orphanages and ruthless expulsions of entire families" that take place in other countries. If that were not bad enough, Cardinal Sarah has also shown unwillingness to comply with even some of the simplest tasks related to his day job. In December 2014 the pope instructed him in a formal letter to prepare a document officially changing the rubrics in the Roman Missal for the Holy Thursday feet-washing ritual. This was to allow women to participate in this ceremony. Months went by. The cardinal and the Congregation for Divine Worship did nothing. Finally, the pope stepped in and demanded that the congregation produce a decree to make the necessary changes to the rubrics. It was not published until January 2016 -- over a year after Francis had made his original request. Questions over Cardinal Sarah's loyalty to the current pope seemed to have been put to rest in October 2014 when -- it is believed at the insistence of the Cardinal Secretary of State -- he abruptly backed out of a scheduled speaking engagement in Rome with an international group of Tridentine Mass enthusiasts. On that same day Cardinal George Pell was also a last-minute "no show" for a liturgy he was due to lead, though an aide delivered his homily. The date was October 24. One month later Cardinal Sarah was appointed head of the Congregation for Divine Worship. But a papal appointment that was originally designed to keep peace between factions in the Curia and calm the traditionalist pockets of the Church is now being questioned anew. Francis has put the cardinal on warning. But if the Congregation for Divine Worship prefect pulls another fast one, don't be surprised if the pope pulls out his axe.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
John L. Allen, Jr. Crux July 17, 2016 Anyone with eyes can see that there’s alarm and opposition to Pope Francis out there, but trying to get a handle on how widespread or serious it may be often proves surprisingly difficult. Certainly, signs of blowback are not hard to find. Last month, a Fox News commentator openly called on Francis to resign, saying it’s time to put an end to his “ill-advised and arrogant papacy.” This week, pro-life and pro-family activists released a video, featuring an auxiliary bishop from Kazakhstan, pleading with Francis to “end the confusion” they believe his statements have created on matters such as marriage, divorce, Communion, and sex education. On the other hand, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., in a recent Crux interview said that in his experience there’s tremendous enthusiasm for the pontiff’s pastorally oriented approach, and that those “threatened” or “unhappy” amount to “very few.” What’s the reality? To the extent polling sheds any light, it would seem to be largely on Wuerl’s side of the argument. A WIN/Gallup global survey of people in 64 countries in March, for example, found that Francis had an 85 percent approval rating among Catholics, with just 6 percent saying their impression is unfavorable. If we project those numbers for all the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, that would be 1.02 billion giving the pope a thumbs-up and just 72 million opposed. Naturally, 72 million is still a big number - if those folks constituted their own country, it would be the 20th largest in the world, right behind Germany - but measured against the total Catholic population, it’s tiny. Moreover, at any given time, you could probably get 6 percent of Catholics to disagree with almost anything - whether the earth revolves around the sun, for instance, or that 2 plus 2 really equals 4. As a historical matter, every pope has faced resistance, including from their own bishops. That was true of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, just as it was true of St. Peter himself. Today there are more than 5,000 Catholic bishops in the world, and the idea that they’re always going to be in lockstep on everything is a delusional fantasy. If all that’s the case, then what accounts for the sense one often gets, either from press coverage or social media, that there’s something novel or remarkable about the opposition to Francis? Perhaps three factors help explain it. Francis’ style In a variety of ways, Pope Francis has encouraged a let-it-all-hang-out style in the Church, up to and including its bishops, which probably means people are more willing to be outspoken about their gripes and concerns. Explicitly, Francis asked prelates taking part in his two Synods of Bishops on the family to “speak boldly,” and he also told laity during World Youth Day in Brazil to “make a mess.” He’s insisted repeatedly that Catholicism has nothing to fear from robust and open discussion. Implicitly, Francis himself is hardly a model of restraint. He gives interviews, engages in free-wheeling news conferences, and takes part in off-the-cuff Q&A sessions in which he speaks his mind freely. Given that, many Catholics, including some bishops, may have concluded that if the pope has no problem shooting from the hip, why should I? In other words, perhaps what’s new isn’t the fact of criticism, but that people feel less inhibited about expressing it. The Media Universe For those plugged into Vatican discussions in the St. John XXIII or Blessed Paul VI era, the idea that some conservative prelates might be disenchanted with the broad direction under a pope perceived as more progressive, and might give voice to that discontent, is hardly a revelation. There’s an old joke told about Italian Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, for instance, who was a leader of the conservative wing at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65.) It goes like this: Ottaviani is across town in Rome and hails a cab, saying, “Take me to the council.” The cabbie, looking back and seeing who it is, proceeds to drive him to Trent. What’s new in the early 21st century is that things previously said around water coolers or over dinner tables are now shot out through a cannon, either in the form of social media or comments to reporters, that become instant sensations through the media echo chamber. For instance, after Pope Francis recently said during an in-flight news conference that Christians may owe gays an apology, Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa took to his Twitter account to offer this reaction: “Thank God I live in Africa, where we base our faith on the Scriptures & Church Teaching, & not every papal interview!” Because Napier was perceived as part of the traditionalist bloc during the Synods of Bishops, that tweet initially was seen as a swipe at the pope. In all honesty, it could just as easily have been a blast at media coverage of papal utterances. In any event, the Napier tweet and the reaction it generated illustrates that things bishops (and other Catholic movers and shakers) used to say sotto voce are now amplified, because it’s much easier to turn anything into a cause célèbre. Polarization At least in the West, we live in a far more polarized world today, in which the split between left and right colors the way a broad swath of the population sees pretty much everything. In the 1980s, the “culture wars” were just coming on the scene (the phrase wasn’t even popularized by James Davison Hunter until 1991.) Thus when self-identified Catholic liberals criticized John Paul II, it was easier for them to say things like, “The pope’s got a blind spot on women, but his record on inter-faith dialogue and social justice is impressive.” Similarly, conservatives upset about one thing or another could always say, “Sure, we don’t like Assisi, or what he says on the death penalty, but this is also the pope who’s leading the crusade against Communism and decrying a Culture of Death.” Today, conservatives who object to a given aspect of Francis’ papacy often seem to feel compelled to reject it all, dismissing anything that appears more favorable to their outlook as window-dressing or hypocrisy, while many liberals who support the pontiff - not all do, as some think he’s a disappointment on women, or gays, or sex abuse, or whatever - style any criticism whatsoever as “hating the pope.” What’s the bottom line on opposition to Pope Francis, three and a half years in? Here’s one shot at framing it. In reality, it’s probably no greater than other popes have faced, and there’s little evidence it’s getting in the way of him pursuing his agenda. However, it may seem louder and nastier than before - which is probably only in part a referendum on Francis, and at least as much on the culture.
Phyllis Zagano National Catholic Reporter July 13, 2016 The next schism isn't down the road somewhere. It is already here. The proponents are lined up in a serious face-off, their team shirts emblazoned "Pre-Vatican II" and "Post-Vatican II." The "Pre" folks are the all Latin, all the time minority, solemnly preferring Bach during liturgy. The "Post" people comprise the rest of us, dutifully singing St. Louis Jesuits' songs and even (gasp!) exchanging handshakes at the kiss of peace. The fissure is getting worse, as more and more younger people come along yearning for the good old days (before they were born) when everything was orderly, everything had its place, and the rules were followed. Meanwhile, older church professionals who adjusted to vernacular liturgies and who incorporate mercy into their understandings of justice are retiring daily. They are being replaced, where they are replaced, by people whose theological education is complemented by self-appointed Internet theo-bloggers whose opinions grow from the conviction that anything that happened since 1965 is anathema. That is probably why Fr. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest and CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation took on the so-called Catholic blogosphere several weeks ago, as he delivered the keynote address at the Brooklyn, N.Y., diocesan World Communications Day events. Rosica reported that many people say to him that "we 'Catholics' have turned the internet into a cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol, all in the name of defending the faith!" It is true. The internet, as Rosica said in Brooklyn, "can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders, and space." Rosica, whose attorneys sent a "cease and desist" letter to a Canadian blogger who attacked him with a combination of character assassination and misinformation, charitably reported that "Often times the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of the faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners!" I agree. Because they never did or at least no longer do find space in legitimate media, the self-appointed pontiffs build internet and other social media followings for their unfiltered personal attacks on anyone who strays beyond the boundaries of the church of their imaginings. In unedited postings, they freely criticize anyone -- from the pope on -- who carries and/or lives the Gospel in the "wrong" way. I hope my own experience with these type persons is atypical. While Rosica's attorneys demanded his attacker stop assassinating the priest's character, my own university actually banned a nasty blogger from campus and any online activities some years ago, when he tried to disrupt one of my online seminars. The idea was to keep him away from me. Aside from denigrating my scholarship and defending his personal version of the faith, my attacker also brags about carrying a gun. That is where the schism is now. It is no longer butchers and bakers having street fights over Real Presence, or any other theological issue. It is shoot-from-the-hip typists whose access to bandwidth lets them threaten your livelihood and, implicitly at least, your life. What they say is true because they say it, no matter their lack of credentials or, possibly, sanity. The slow and steady recovery of church life during the papacy of Francis is marred by these true schismatics, who denigrate the pope and everything he says and does, and who long for the good old days. These bleating word processors have influenced, are influencing, and will influence otherwise kind people, who think verbal brickbats and worse will bring the church "around." Around to what?
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Junno Arocho Esteves National Catholic Reporter July 11, 2016 Pope Francis named two experienced journalists -- including its first female vice director -- to lead the Vatican press office. Greg Burke, a native of St. Louis, succeeds Italian Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, who retires after 10 years as head of the Vatican press office, the Vatican announced Monday. Spanish journalist Paloma Garcia Ovejero fills in Burke's spot as vice director, making her the first female to hold that position. Burke served as special communications adviser in the Vatican's Secretariat of State starting in 2012 before he was named by Francis as the vice director of the press office last December. A graduate of Columbia University's school of journalism, Burke spent 24 of his past 28 years based in Rome as a journalist -- with the National Catholic Register, Time magazine and the Fox News network. The middle child of six, Burke grew up in St. Louis Hills and went to Jesuit-run St. Louis University High School. He is a numerary member of Opus Dei. Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat of Communications, paid tribute to Lombardi's 10 years of service at the press office. Speaking to journalists Monday, Vigano praised Lombardi's professional work and his "ecclesial vision" of the church. Born in northern Italy near Turin in 1942, Lombardi was named program director of Vatican Radio in 1990 and general director of the Vatican television center, CTV, in 2001. During the reorganization of Vatican offices under Pope Benedict XVI, Lombardi was appointed general director of the radio in 2005 and head of the Vatican press office in 2006, while continuing to lead CTV. Before his retirement in 2013, Benedict named Msgr. Vigano the new director of CTV. Lombardi retired as head of Vatican Radio in February this year when the Secretariat for Communications took over the general administration of the radio. Garcia Ovejero, who studied journalism in Spain and earned a masters degree in management strategies and communications at New York University, worked as the Italy and Vatican correspondent for Spanish radio broadcaster Cadena COPE. "For me it's an honor, it's a service and it's another way of serving the church. But it is the same church and, in some way, the same type of work: to proclaim the Good News and to transmit faithfully and with dignity the pope's message," Garcia Ovejero told Catholic News Service. The Spanish journalist downplayed her role as the first female vice director of the press office, saying that the first women who served the church "were the ones who found the empty tomb and proclaimed the Resurrection to the apostles." "I am in no way the first woman. The first woman above all in the church, in the Vatican and in the press office is the Virgin Mary," she told CNS. Garcia Ovejero said she hoped her role will be to serve and fulfill "the will of God, the will of the pope and, in every possible way, the will of the journalists." The Vatican announced that Garcia Ovejero, a native of Madrid, and Burke will begin their respective roles Aug. 1.
Michael Sean Winters National Catholic Reporter July 12, 2016 A group of 45 "scholars, prelates and clergy" have sent an appeal to the world's cardinals, asking them to implore Pope Francis to correct what they deem to be "erroneous propositions" in Amoris Laetitia, according to this report from the National Catholic Register's Edward Pentin. Pentin reports: 'We are not accusing the Pope of heresy,' said Joseph Shaw, a signatory of the appeal who is also acting as spokesman for the authors, 'but we consider that numerous propositions in Amoris Laetitia can be construed as heretical upon a natural reading of the text. Additional statements would fall under other established theological censures, such as scandalous, erroneous in faith, and ambiguous, among others.' Phew! I am so glad this group doesn't think the pope is a heretic, at least not necessarily, and provided he agrees to withdraw the propositions in question. And, at least only parts of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation are "scandalous, erroneous in faith, and ambiguous" not the whole thing. It would be nice to see the entire text, not merely what Mr. Pentin chooses to share with us. For instance, do these scholars and prelates and clergy acknowledge that Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation followed quite closely the consensus document produced by the synod, a document in which each and every paragraph received a two-thirds majority vote? According to Pentin, the appeal asks the cardinals "to approach the Holy Father with a request that he repudiate the errors listed in the document in a definitive and final manner, and to authoritatively state that Amoris Laetitia does not require any of them to be believed or considered as possibly true." I am guessing that, since the pope wrote the document just this year, he thinks the items at issue are "possibly true." Why then would he retract them? Do the scholars and prelates and clergy who penned this appeal think he should lie? Isn't lying an intrinsic evil? If they are inviting the pope to commit a sin, isn't that itself the sin of scandal? These people will not even publish their names. One of the organizers told Pentin they chose to remain anonymous because they "fear reprisals, or they are concerned about repercussions on their religious community, or if they have an academic career and a family, they fear they might lose their jobs." This is rich. The people losing their jobs in Catholic establishments these days are not those who have memorized the "Theology of the Body" talks by St. Pope John Paul II. That Pentin did not challenge the assertion is remarkable. Just last week, when asked about why he has not removed those cardinals who so obviously oppose him, the pope said he does not metaphorically cut off heads or, put differently, he recognizes that even those who oppose him, but who have served the Church all their lives, have something to contribute and should not be sacked merely for a lack of personal loyalty to himself. Me? I wish he was a little more willing to sharpen the blade of the proverbial axe. I am sympathetic with any Catholic who has trouble with things a pope says or does, especially when what the pope says or does appears to be a change. If they feel moved in conscience to publish a public letter voicing their disquiet, they have every right to do so. If they prefer to send a private communication, that is fine too. But, what is despicable is when you "ring and run away," as a conservative friend put it last night, declining to sign your name, and then dashing over to Edward Pentin to publicize your complaint. That is mere cowardice. If I were a cardinal, and we can all be glad I am not, and I received an unsigned missive like this, having read about it the day before in the press, it would be placed immediately in the circular file. Why would Pentin even report on this? After all, he is a reporter and reporters are called upon to ferret out the news and provide some initial analysis, but I am not sure why this qualifies as news. In a worldwide Church of more than 1 billion souls, the fact that there are 45 malcontents is not exactly stunning. I would note, as well, that Mr. Pentin does not really work too hard getting a quote from anyone who is inclined to defend the Holy Father. There is not a single comment from anyone who thinks the appeal was a bad idea. He notes a divergence of opinion between Cardinal Christophe Schonborn and Cardinal Raymond Burke, but not as to the appeal. Of course, Pentin works at the pleasure of the leadership of EWTN, which owns the Register. The key question: Does the EWTN/Register leadership, which constantly tells its viewers and readers that they are the purveyors of "authentic" Catholic news, whose on air commentators frequently complain about the distortions they perceive in the secular media, do that leadership approve of Pentin's relentlessly biased articles attacking the pope, or not? Is this opposition to Francis an expression of "authentic" Catholic faith? During the 1952 presidential election, the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, pastor at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York and known for his "power of positive thinking" preaching, declared that Adlai Stevenson was unfit to be president of the United States. The witty Stevenson, when asked about the remark, replied, "Speaking as a Christian, I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling." This unsigned appeal, broadcast by Pentin, is appalling.