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Rise in immigration makes us missionaries at home, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 22, 2017 / 11:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis said that the mass arrival of migrants and refugees may have its challenges, but also gives us the opportunity to be missionaries – even without leaving home.

“Contemporary migratory flows constitute a new missionary ‘frontier,’ a privileged opportunity to announce Jesus Christ and his Gospel without moving from our own environment,” the Pope said Sept. 22.

In personal encounters with refugees and migrants, especially those from different faiths, we can “concretely bear witness to the Christian faith,” finding a “fertile ground for the development of a genuine and enriching ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.”

Pope Francis spoke about immigration in an audience with national directors of pastoral care for migrants. They were participating in a meeting organized by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) in Rome Sept. 21-23.

The Pope also said that the arrival of Christian, and particularly Catholic, migrants is an opportunity for the Church in Europe to more fully realize its catholicity, its universality, which is part of the Creed we confess every Sunday at Mass.

“In recent years, many particular Churches in Europe have been enriched by the presence of Catholic migrants who have brought their devotions and their liturgical and apostolic enthusiasm,” he said.

Faced with the massive and complex migration flows of the last several years, and the crisis it has presented for current migration policies, the Church intends simply to remain faithful to her mission: “to love Jesus Christ, to adore and love him, particularly in the poorest and most abandoned,” the Pope said.

The Church’s love towards her brothers and sisters from other countries is a maternal love which “demands to be manifested concretely at all stages of the migratory experience, from departure to journey, from arrival to return…”

And the hope is that each local Church can contribute to this in its own way according to its own abilities. “Recognizing and serving the Lord in these members of his ‘journeying people’ is a responsibility that unites all particular Churches in the profusion of a constant, coordinated and effective effort,” he stated.

In his experience listening to the local Churches in Europe, the Pope said that he senses a “profound discomfort” about the arrival of so many migrants and refugees.

He said he believes this discomfort must be acknowledged, and that it can be understood in light of recent economic crises faced by some countries. It may also be “exacerbated” by the scope of migratory flows, the unpreparedness of host countries, and inadequate national and community policies, he said.

But it also points us to the difficulty still faced in a concrete application of the universality of human rights; for Christians, the logic that the human person should be at the center of all our decisions, as a unique and unrepeatable creation by God.

Francis continued, saying that he would not hide the concern he feels at signs of intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia found in different regions of Europe, which he believes to be motivated by fear and distrust of “the other, the stranger.”

He said he is also worried when Catholic communities turn migrants away under the justification of preserving the original culture and religious identity.

“The Church has spread to all continents through the ‘migration’ of missionaries who were convinced of the universality of the message of salvation of Jesus Christ, intended for men and women of all cultures,” he said.

“In the history of the Church there has been no lack of temptations of exclusivity and the raising of cultural barriers, but the Holy Spirit has always helped us to overcome them, guaranteeing a constant openness to the other, considered as a concrete possibility of growth and enrichment.”

 

US bishops: Newest health care proposal fails moral test

Washington D.C., Sep 22, 2017 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Leading U.S. bishops have applauded pro-life provisions in the newest GOP health care proposal, but said that substantial changes are needed in other areas to make the bill morally acceptable.

“Without significant improvement, this bill does not meet the moral criteria for health care reform outlined in our previous letters,” four committee chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to U.S. senators on Thursday.

They asked the senators “to think of the harm that will be caused to poor and vulnerable people.”

The four bishops who wrote the letter to the U.S. senators were Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the bishops’ pro-life activities committee; Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chair of the ad hoc religious liberty committee; Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the migration committee; and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., chair of the domestic justice and human development committee.

Senate Republicans introduced the Graham-Cassidy health care proposal last week as the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to repeal the current Affordable Care Act and replace it with another health care law.

Under the proposal, the old individual and employer health insurance mandates of the Affordable Care Act would be repealed, as well as the Medical Device Tax. Patients with pre-existing conditions would still be protected, the senators sponsoring the bill said.

States would receive more freedom and flexibility to innovate health care policies and lower costs, the senators claimed. The proposal would replace the expansion of Medicaid payments to the states with a “per capita cap” on the federal Medicaid payments based upon the population of the respective states.

However, these changes to Medicaid would “fundamentally restructure this vital program” and “result in deep funding cuts and lost coverage for millions of people,” the bishops wrote.

The bill would also replace other federal subsidies and grants to the states – like ACA premium tax credits and cost-sharing reduction subsidies – with block grants to states, the bill’s sponsors said. This would help reduce the inequality between the states that chose to partake in the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and those that did not. Just three states received “37 percent of Obamacare funds,” the senators claimed.

However, “while flexibility can be good at times, these block grants will result in billions of dollars in reductions for those in health care poverty,” the bishops wrote.

States facing budget deficits may be forced to cut more programs benefitting low-income citizens if they do not receive the additional aid from the federal government, the bishops said.

Pro-life provisions in the bill are laudable, they noted, especially those protecting against taxpayer funding of abortions in health care, and redirecting Medicaid dollars away from abortion providers like Planned Parenthood toward other health clinics that do not provide abortions.

“The legislation does correct a serious flaw in the Affordable Care Act by ensuring that no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it. This improvement is praiseworthy, and it is essential that any improved final bill retain these key provisions,” the letter said.

“We also applaud that Graham-Cassidy redirects funds from organizations that provide abortion,” the bishops said.

Looking ahead, the bishops told the senators to avoid being hasty in passing a comprehensive health care bill that could affect the coverage of millions of Americans.

“The Senate should only proceed with a full report concerning just how many people will be impacted,” the bishops said of the changes to Medicaid.

“Decisions about the health of our citizens – a concern fundamental to each of us – should not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms,” the bishops said. Members of Congress should pass a bill with bipartisan support, one “that addresses the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that now exist.”

 

In latest Mercy Friday outing, Pope visits patients at neuro-rehab center

Rome, Italy, Sep 22, 2017 / 10:52 am (CNA).- In a surprise visit on Friday, Pope Francis stopped by the Santa Lucia Foundation, a neuro-rehabilitation center in Rome.

He visited with patients of the center, who are receiving rehabilitation treatment for mobile and cognitive impairment, such as those suffering from strokes, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

The visit continues Pope Francis’ custom of “Mercy Friday” encounters. Originally planned once per month during the Church's Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, the Pope has continued these surprise visits, practicing spiritual and corporal works of mercy. He has met with refugees, children, women freed from sex trafficking, and the terminally ill, among others.

Pope Francis visited the facility shortly after 4 p.m., the Vatican said in a statement. He was greeted by the president and general manager of the association, as well as a group of staff members.

The Pope visited with children affected by neurological illnesses, joking with them and offering words of comfort to their parents. He also stopped by the wing where teenage and young adult tetraplegic and paraplegic patients are housed, as well as the gym where elderly patients go through rehabilitation exercises.

According to the Vatican, the Holy Father encouraged all those going through the neuro-rehabilitation process to maintain hope. He visited the building’s chapel before returning home.

 



'Zero tolerance' on child abuse must apply to laity too

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 09:38 am (CNA).- In his September 20 remarks to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Pope Francis stated the important point that “the Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the firmest measures to all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God.” That reaffirmation of the Church's commitment to child protection cannot be said too often or too strongly.

The Holy Father then went on to say something new and very significant: “The disciplinary measures that the particular Churches have adopted must apply to all those who work in the institutions of the Church... Therefore, the Church irrevocably and at all levels seeks to apply the principle of 'zero tolerance' against the sexual abuse of minors.”

This is an unambiguous call to action. The Church in the United States has been a world leader in child protection, and we have an opportunity now to lead again.

Since its adoption in 2002, the Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People has been the foundation for the Church's immensely successful efforts to provide a safe environment for children in our institutions and to ensure accountability for the implementation of those efforts. As successful as the Charter has been, however, it has always been missing a very significant piece -- on its face, it only applies to cases of misconduct by clergy and not by laypeople.

For example, the term “sexual abuse” is defined in the Charter by reference to a canon law provision that applies only to the clergy. The definition is ambiguous, and fails to provide sufficient guidance about what behaviors are proscribed. This leaves diocesan officials to rely on an ad hoc standard of their own creation or on potentially differing opinions of theologians, civil or canon lawyers, or review board members.  

This is not a good practice -- “sexual abuse” cannot mean one thing in one diocese and a different thing in another, one thing when it applies to clergy and another when it's a lay person.

The Charter's definition of “child pornography” suffers from the same problem. The only guidance in the Charter is a reference to a Vatican document that has an empty and unhelpful definition that is limited to conduct by clerics. An ambiguous standard for this heinous crime isn't acceptable, and it must apply to laity as well.  

In addition, although the Charter discusses procedures for handling cases involving the clergy, it says nothing about how to handle cases about lay persons. And most importantly, while the Charter clearly applies the “zero tolerance” policy of permanently removing an offending priest or deacon, there is no defined penalty for lay persons who have committed an offense.

This is a very significant gap. We must assure everyone that no person, lay or cleric, will be permitted to be with children if they have committed an offense. Failing to do so leaves an erroneous impression that sex abuse is uniquely a problem with the clergy, which ignores all the evidence of the incidence of sex abuse and unfairly stigmatizes our priests and deacons.  

This omission could have an impact on the credibility of our child protection programs. The annual audit requires information about background check and training of lay people and detailed information about clergy abuse cases, but no information is gathered about cases involving lay people. Including the laity explicitly under the Charter will ensure a greater level of accountability and trust.

One would expect that every diocese has already adopted policies that cover lay people as well as clergy. We certainly have in the Archdiocese of New York. But local policies don't send a strong enough message. The Charter is the public expression of the United States Church's full commitment to child protection. It is imperative that we make absolutely clear that the same rigorous standards apply to all who work with children, across our entire nation.

This is not hard to do. Clear and usable definitions of “sexual abuse” and “child pornography” can be developed that unambiguously cover laypeople. We can draw on the vast experience reflected in state and federal law, which define numerous sexual offenses with great detail and specificity. Uniform disciplinary procedures for handling lay cases do not have to be developed at the national level, since those will be shaped by local personnel policies and laws. Nor do we have to worry about inconsistency with canon law, since that only applies to clergy cases.

It can also be stated plainly that all allegations will be immediately reported to law enforcement and full cooperation will be given to the authorities. All dioceses probably already do this -- in the Archdiocese of New York we have strong protocols for cooperation with law enforcement. But again, a strong statement in the Charter will demonstrate our commitment across the nation.

Most important, after the Holy Father's mandate, it is vital that the “zero tolerance” policy clearly applies to the laity. There can be no room for doubt about that.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been working on a revision of the Charter, and it has not yet been finalized. The Holy Father's timely call to action now gives the Church a great opportunity to be proactive and ensure that our rigorous policies apply equally to all who work with our children.

 

Edward Mechmann, Esq., is the Director of Safe Environment for the Archdiocese of New York. His opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Archdiocese of New York.

 

Ending human trafficking requires everyone's efforts, archbishop says

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 12:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At a United Nations gathering in New York City, a Holy See official stressed the need for a multi-pronged approach in fighting human trafficking and aiding victims.

“The issue of trafficking in persons can only be fully addressed by promoting effective juridical instruments and concrete collaboration at multiple levels by all stakeholders,” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher told global leaders at a United Nations event on Tuesday.

Archbishop Gallagher is the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States. He spoke at a High Level Leaders Event hosted by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, entitled, “A Call to Action to End Forced Labor, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.”

The archbishop emphasized the importance of “multi-pronged strategies” to prevent more of these crimes and aid the affected victims, and he noted the special role of women and religious personnel in offering an avenue of trust.

“Experience has shown that many victims are wary of trusting law enforcement authorities, but that they confide their stories more easily to religious personnel, especially religious sisters, who can build their trust in the legal process and provide them safe haven and other forms of assistance.”

Ending this “modern slavery” has been a major priority for Pope Francis, said Archbishop Gallagher, and the Catholic Church is collaborating “with both the public and private sectors, including with government authorities.”

Grace Williams, executive director of Children of the Immaculate Heart in San Diego, agreed that women in the Church have an important role in working with trafficking victims.

William’s organization serves women who have been victims of human trafficking. Focusing on rehabilitation, Children of the Immaculate Heart offers opportunities for education, counseling, recreational therapy, and housing.

She explained that their program enables a greater level of trust for victims because the staff members are nearly all women.

“It provides them with a safe environment,” Williams told CNA. “It’s easier for them, in the beginning, to trust” and to open up about their experience.

Due to traumatic past experiences, one of the clients at the organization is unable to ride alone with a man in the car, said Williams, noting that the woman cannot use ridesharing services like Uber for this reason.

Having primarily women on staff is particularly important when it comes to professionals, such as case managers, therapists, and doctors, she said.

Sharing office space with Saint Anne Catholic Church in San Diego, Children of the Immaculate Heart also works closely with parish priests to provide spiritual counseling and advice.

In his address, Archbishop Gallagher said that the Church has played a major role in helping victims heal, but stressed that collaboration is needed on all fronts to “halt these heinous crimes,” he said.

“The global nature of the crimes of forced labor, modern slavery and human trafficking require from all of us a commensurate response of collaboration, fraternity and solidarity.”

Pope Francis has spoken out against human trafficking repeatedly during his papacy. Just a few months after becoming Pope, he called for a group of experts to meet at the Vatican in order to discuss ways to fight human trafficking.

In speeches and homilies, the Pope has referred to human trafficking as “a disgrace” and a “shameful wound... a wound unworthy in a civil society.”

“It is not possible to remain indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold like goods,” he said in a 2014 message.

“I think of the adoption of children for the extraction of their organs, of women deceived and forced to prostitute themselves, of workers exploited and denied their rights or a voice, and so on. This is human trafficking!”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Church collapses in Mexico quake during baptism, killing several

Puebla, Mexico, Sep 21, 2017 / 02:46 pm (ACI Prensa).- On Sept. 19, a family in Puebla, Mexico was attending the baptism of their daughter when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook the church, cracking the dome above them, which collapsed and fell on top of them.

At least 11 people were killed when the Church of Saint James the Apostle collapsed, including the baby Elideth Torres de Leon, there for her baptism, her sister, mother, godmother, and a local alderman named Jacinto Roldan Capistran.

Graciano Villanueva, Elideth's godfather, managed to escape from the wreckage, along with the church's pastor and sacristan.

Villanueva told the El Universal newspaper that he lost his wife in the earthquake, along with his daughter, his son-in-law and his two granddaughters. “I have nothing left of my family,” he said.

One of Villanueva’s relatives told reporters that the victims died while they were praying, and therefore “the only thing left to do is to resign oneself to the Lord's will.”

After the earthquake, the people of the town of Atzala worked all night to recover bodies lying beneath the ruins of the 17th century church.

On Wednesday morning they placed the bodies they managed to remove in coffins and wrote their names on them. Dozens of people came by to pray and to leave flowers.

The El Sol de Puebla newspaper reported that after the dome fell, three injured people were taken to a hospital and that two people remain unaccounted for.

Shortly after the earthquake, the Archdiocese of Puebla released a statement expressing their condolences to the families of those who died in the church.

“We profoundly lament the deaths that occurred due to the quake, especially the...people who died because of the collapse of the church in Atzala near Chietla; and the three in Jolopan,” the text states.

The Archdiocese of Puebla said in the statement released this Wednesday that there are 163 damaged churches in their jurisdiction, including the Church of Saint James the Apostle.

They also encouraged people to “stay calm, be attentive to directions from the authorities, be in solidarity with those asking us for help and not risk our lives and those of others unnecessarily.”

On Wednesday, the auxiliary bishops of Puebla, Rutilo Felipe Pozos Lorenzini and Tomás López Durán, celebrated a Funeral Mass in Aztala for those who died in Saint James the Apostle Church.

To date, the 7.1-magnitude earthquake has left more than 200 dead throughout the country, including 43 in Puebla state, which was one of the hardest hit.

 

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

 

Pope Francis: Fighting the mafia starts with cleaning up politics

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2017 / 01:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with Italy's Anti-Mafia Parliamentary Commission on Thursday, Pope Francis said that dismantling the mafia begins with a political commitment to social justice and economic reform.

Corruption “has a contagious and parasitic nature, because it does not nourish what good produces, but…it subtracts and robs,” Pope Francis said Sept. 21.

The meeting landed on the 27th anniversary of the death of Servant of God Rosario Livatino, who was a deputy prosecutor in an Italian court before being killed by mafia for his fight against corruption.

Called a “Martyr of Justice” by John Paul II, the Italian magistrate was commended by Pope Francis, who also praised two other judges – Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino – both killed in 1992.

The Pope's criticism of the mafia made global headlines when he publicly denounced organized crime in 2014. He said members of it were “excommunicated,” which was not a reflection of canon law per se but a call to conversion.

The fight against the mafia and organized crime is essential, the Pope said Thursday, particularly because “they steal the common good, taking away people's hope and dignity.”

However, the battle extends beyond the mafia to corrupt organizations which must also be reclaimed and transformed – and this needs commitment on an economic and political level, he said.

First, authentic politics is an important form of charity, which can work “to ensure a future of hope and to promote the dignity of each person.” And second, economic reform must be shifted to remove systems which magnify inequality and poverty.

The Pope warned that corrupt organizations can serve as an alternative social structure which roots itself in areas where justice and human rights are lacking. Corruption, he noted, "always finds a way to justify itself, presenting itself as the ‘normal’ condition, the solution for those who are ‘shrewd,’ the way to reach one's goals.”

Earlier this year, Pope Francis expressed concern that these criminal groups were using economic, social, and political weaknesses as a “fertile ground to achieve their deplorable projects.”

“The money of dirty affairs and mafia crimes is blood money and produces an unequal power,” he said.

He said that these criminal organizations, whose members often claim to live a devout Christian life while continuing to carry out heinous crimes, create a “social wound.”

He then challenged the international community to greater collaboration and determination to ensure justice and defense for the weakest in society. 

In abuse cases there should be no recourse to appeals, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2017 / 12:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- There should be no opportunity for appealing canonical cases of sexual abuse against minors when allegations have been proven by evidence, Pope Francis said in spontaneous comments Thursday.

In off-the-cuff remarks to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) Sept. 21, the Pope said that “if pedophilia, an abuse of minors, is proven it is enough to not receive appeals.”

“If there is the evidence, period: it is definitive.”

Pope Francis also explained that he would not consider direct appeals for clemency or reconsideration from priests who have been found guilty of allegations of sexual misconduct. “I have never signed one of these,” he said, “and I will never sign it.”

The Pope elaborated, saying that the Church must consider that a person that commits abuse “is sick, that they suffer from a disease.” He explained “today he is sorry, we forgive him, and then after two years he falls again.”

He also expressed regret for a case in which he chose to impose lenient sanctions against an Italian priest abuser, saying, “I learned in this.”

Speaking at the opening of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Francis set aside his prepared remarks, handing them out to be read, explaining that he preferred to talk in a more informal manner.

“I know it was not easy to begin this work,” he told commission members. “It was necessary to go against the current, because it is a reality, the conscience of the Church...came a bit late.”

Because awareness of the problem came late, “the means to solve the problem have come late,” he continued. “I am aware of this difficulty. But it is the reality, I tell you so: we arrived late.”

The practice of moving clergy who were suspected or accused of abuse to a different diocese may have contributed to a slowing of our consciences, he reflected. He said that the Lord has raised “prophetic” men in the Church who have worked to bring this issue to the surface.

One such person the Pope pointed to is Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the president of the PCPM, who frequently raised the issue of the problem of abuse to Pope Francis. The Pope said that Cardinal O’Malley spoke to him about the ministry of Jesus to children.

“Now what I think is that it should be the way to continue with our work,” Francis said. “I say 'ours' because it is not (only) a commission, because it is a commission within the Holy See with the Pope too.”

Speaking about the process for how the Holy See handles abuse cases, Pope Francis said that he believes “for the moment” the responsibility for the resolution of abuse cases should continue to reside with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as it has since 2001.

Some had speculated that the Pope was considering suggestions that the laicization of priests found to have committed abuse be reassigned to the Roman Rota and other tribunals of the Vatican.

“But in this moment the problem is real... it is grave that some have not taken notice of the problem,” he said, and for this reason the competency must remain with the CDF until the whole Church becomes aware.

There are many cases, at the moment, that do not move forward quickly, the Pope noted, but the newly-appointed secretary and prefect of the CDF, Bishop-designate Giacomo Morandi and Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, are working to add more people to work on the process of abuse cases, he said.

The Pope concluded by thanking the commission for their work, saying without them it would not have been possible to carry out the work already done, nor would it be possible to continue their future work within the Curia.

“That's what I wanted to tell you spontaneously,” he said, “then you have the most formal, educated speech there, but I think that this you have the right to know.”