Thursday, September 1, 2016
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, said in Toronto that Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, is a controversial document, but that it has not introduced any change to existing Catholic doctrine. The Canadian-born cardinal spoke during the closing address of the States Dinner at the 134th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. “Before concluding,” he said, digressing from his prepared remarks, “let me say a word about the papal document, Amoris Laetitia, that was born of the two recent Synods on the Family.” “In all honesty, I think that controversies around Amoris Laetitia are understandable, but, in all confidence, I believe they might even be fruitful in the end.” Titled Amoris Laetitia, or The Joy of Love, the April 8 document is the conclusion of a two-year synod process at the Vatican that gathered hundreds of bishops from around the world to discuss both the beauty and challenges of family life today. Both of the synods sparked controversy amid speculation over whether there would be a change in the Church’s practice that the divorced-and-civilly remarried may not receive Communion. In accordance with the words of Jesus that “anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery,” the Church says that those living in adultery – or any other unrepentant grave sin – may not receive Communion. In his 1981 exhortation Familiaris consortio, St. John Paul II wrote, “The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried.” In his new document, Francis stresses the importance of individual discernment over one-size-fits-all style rules. In chapter eight – a section that particularly sparked controversy – he suggested that in some cases, a person who is divorced-and-civilly-remarried may not be in a state of mortal sin, due to mitigating factors such as a lack of full knowledge and consent.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
The 2016 United States elections are a time of tension and reflection for many Americans. For Catholic bishops, it's not so different. “It's always a joy to be a bishop, it’s always a challenge to be a bishop,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York told CNA. “I think in an election year, the challenges might outweigh the joys.” He said bishops have the same duties and concerns as other Americans. “We're American citizens, we’re responsible, we’re loyal, we’re thoughtful. We study the issues, we try our best to be engaged in the process,” he said. “We're also pastors, so we try to remind our people of those basic biblical values, those classical Catholic values that have guided us through the ages, particularly as articulated by John Paul II: the dignity of the human person, the sacredness of human life, solidarity. “Those are three things that we keep hammering away on. And we trust that our people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit will make the right decision.” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore also reflected on the state of the country. “It’s always a grace and a challenge to be a bishop, and it’s an especially bracing challenge during an election year,” he told CNA. In such a time, he said, bishops need “to teach, and teach clearly … that which is most important.” All the moral issues that face the U.S. are important and deserving of respect, he maintained. “There are some that are truly life or death,” he said, referring to issues of human dignity and its “obliteration.” For Archbishop Lori, bishops must provide guidance: “We certainly have to lay out the issues clearly and in their proper order.”
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Pope Francis has lamented that children are being taught at school that gender can be a choice, adding that his predecessor, Benedict XVI has labeled current times "the epoch of sin against God the Creator." Francis weighed in with his view on gender and what he said was that of the emeritus pontiff while meeting privately last week with bishops from Poland during his pilgrimage there. The Vatican released a transcript Tuesday of those closed-door remarks. The pope said he wanted to conclude his remarks by reflecting on this: "We are living a moment of annihilation of man as image of God." Francis said: "Today, in schools they are teaching this to children -- to children! -- that everyone can choose their gender." Without specifying, he blamed this on textbooks supplied by "persons and institutions who donate money." The pope blamed what he called "ideological colonizing" backed by "very influential countries" which he didn't identify, adding "this is terrible." One such "colonization" he said -- "I'll say it clearly with its first and last name -- is gender." The "colonization" theme is one he has railed against before, including during an Asian pilgrimage in 2015. This time, though, he volunteered that he has discussed the gender issue with Benedict, who has lived at the Vatican since retiring in 2013. "Speaking with Pope Benedict, who is well, and has a clear mind, he was telling me: 'Holiness, this is the epoch of sin against God the Creator.' He's intelligent! God created man and woman, God created the world this way, this way, this way, and we are doing the opposite," Francis told the Polish bishops Wednesday shortly after his arrival in Krakow at the start of a five-day pilgrimage. Francis' ended by telling the Polish bishops he wanted them to reflect on this: "We must think about what Pope Benedict said -- 'It's the epoch of sin against God the Creator.'"
Friday, August 5, 2016
Although both major 2016 vice presidential nominees were raised Catholic and still profess to be Christians, their public policy records have drawn concern from some members of the faithful. The “free exercise” of religion “is not simply about what you do in Church on Sunday morning,” Deacon Keith Fournier of the Common Good Foundation told CNA. “It’s how you exercise that faith in every sector, whether it’s commerce, politics, participation – all of it.” Both major nominees for vice president are baptized Catholics. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine still identifies as a Catholic and was seen at Sunday Mass on July 24 after he was picked by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to be her running mate. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, meanwhile, was raised Catholic but identified in 1994 as a “born-again, evangelical Catholic.” He started attending an evangelical megachurch with his family in the 1990s. It is unclear which church Pence attends now. “I’m a pretty ordinary Christian,” freelance journalist Craig Fehrman reported him saying. Pence told the audience at the Republican National Convention that he was a “Christian, conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” Both Pence and Kaine have drawn controversy for their public policy positions. While Sen. Kaine has said he’s “personally opposed” to abortion, he has received a 100 percent rating in 2016 from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of the nation’s largest abortion provider, and a perfect rating in 2015 from NARAL Pro-Choice America. More recently, it was reported that he privately told Hillary Clinton that he would support overturning the Hyde Amendment, a 40 year-old policy that prevents federal dollars from directly funding most abortions.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Mercy is not an abstract concept but a lifestyle that invites Christians to make an examination of conscience and ask themselves if they place the spiritual and material needs of others before their own, Pope Francis said. A Christian who chooses to be merciful experiences true life and has "eyes to see, ears to listen, and hands to comfort," the pope said June 30 during a Year of Mercy audience in St. Peter's Square. "That which makes mercy alive is its constant dynamism to go out searching for the needy and the needs of those who are in spiritual or material hardship," he said. By being indifferent to the plight of the poor and suffering, the pope said, Christians turn into "hypocrites" and move toward a "spiritual lethargy that numbs the mind and makes life barren." "People who go through life, who walk in life without being aware of the needs of others, without seeing the many spiritual and material needs are people who do not live," he said. "They are people who do not serve others. And remember this well: One who does not live to serve, serves nothing in life." Instead, he continued, those who have experienced the mercy of God in their own lives do not remain insensitive to the needs of others. Far from theoretical issues, the works of mercy are a "concrete witness" that compel Christians to "roll up their sleeves in order to ease suffering." Pope Francis also called on the faithful to remain vigilant and to focus on Christ present, especially in those suffering due to a globalized "culture of well-being." "Look at Jesus; look at Jesus in the hungry, in the prisoner, in the sick, in the naked, in the person who does not have a job to support his family. Look at Jesus in these brothers and sisters of ours. Look at Jesus in those who are alone, sad, in those who make a mistake and need advice, in those who need to embark on the path with him in silence so they may feel accompanied," he said. "These are the works that Jesus asks of us. To look at Jesus in them, in these people. Why? Because Jesus also looks at me, looks at you, in that way." Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis recalled his visit to Armenia June 24-26, thanking the people of Armenia who, throughout their history, "have given witness to the Christian faith through martyrdom." While thanking Armenian Apostolic Catholics Karekin II for his hospitality, the pope stressed that in making the visit alongside the patriarch, he was reminding Catholics of the importance of strengthening bonds with other Christians as another way "of giving witness to the Gospel and being leaven for a more just and united society."
Thursday, July 28, 2016
In his first public address in almost a year, retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sincere gratefulness to Pope Francis, saying that his goodness "from the first moment of your election, in every moment of my life here, touches me deeply." "More than the beauty found in the Vatican Gardens, your goodness is the place where I live; I feel protected," Pope Benedict said June 28. Pope Benedict also conveyed his hope that Pope Francis would continue to "lead us all on this path of divine mercy that shows the path of Jesus, to Jesus and to God." Pope Francis led a Vatican celebration for the 65th anniversary of Pope Benedict's priestly ordination. The two were joined by the heads of Vatican offices and congregations and several guests, including a delegation from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Those gathered gave Pope Benedict a standing ovation as he made his way into the Clementine Hall and took his seat to the right of the pope's chair. A few minutes later, Pope Francis entered the hall and made a beeline for his predecessor, who respectfully removed his zucchetto before greeting him. Pope Francis has made no secret of his admiration for the retired pontiff, often comparing him to a "wise grandfather at home." During his return flight to Rome from Armenia June 26, Pope Francis praised Pope Benedict for "protecting me and having my back with his prayers." Recalling Pope Benedict's promise of obedience to his successor in the days leading up to the conclave, Pope Francis said he had heard that some people have been "sent away" by the retired pontiff after complaining "about this new pope." "If (the report) isn't true, it is well-founded, because this man is like that: a man of his word, a righteous man!" Pope Francis exclaimed. Speaking at the anniversary celebration, Pope Francis praised Pope Benedict's life of priestly service to the church and recalled his writings on Simon Peter's response to "Jesus' definitive call: 'Do you love me?'" "This is the hallmark dominating an entire life spent in priestly service and of the true theology that you have defined -- not by chance -- as 'the search for the beloved.' It is this that you have always given witness to and continue to give witness to today," he said. Even in retirement, he said, Pope Benedict continues to serve the church and "truly contributes with vigor and wisdom to its growth" from the "little 'Mater Ecclesiae' monastery in the Vatican." The monastery, Pope Francis continued, is the complete opposite of those "forgotten corners" society often assigns to those who have reached old age. Instead, like the Porziuncola where St. Francis spent his final days in prayer, the Mater Ecclesiae monastery "has become a 'Franciscan' place that emanates tranquility, peace, strength, faithfulness, maturity, faith, dedication and loyalty which does so much good for me and gives strength to me and to the whole church," Pope Francis said. Congratulating his predecessor, Pope Francis expressed his hope that Pope Benedict "would continue to feel the hand of the merciful God that sustains him" and that he may "experience and give witness to God's love." When Pope Francis finished speaking, Pope Benedict clasped his hands together and signaled his thanks to the pope. With a bit of effort, he rose to his feet and stretched out his arms to embrace Pope Francis. After short speeches by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, the retired pontiff slowly stood up once again to express his gratitude. Despite his frailty, Pope Benedict vividly recalled his ordination 65 years ago, remembering a Greek word a priest ordained with him wrote on the remembrance card of his first Mass: "Eucharistomen" ("We give you thanks"). "I am convinced that this word, in its many dimensions, has already said everything that can be said in this moment," the retired pope said. The word "eucharistomen," he added, can bring everyone closer toward that "new dimension" of thanksgiving given by Christ, who transformed the cross, sufferings and the evils of the world "into grace and blessing." "We want to insert ourselves in this grace of the Lord and thus truly receive the newness of life and help in the transubstantiation of the world. May it be a world not of death but of life, a world in which love has overcome death," he said.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
The superior general of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X said Pope Francis, rather than denouncing errors in Catholic doctrine, has "encouraged" them. "The Society of St. Pius X prays and does penance for the pope, that he might have the strength to proclaim Catholic faith and morals in their entirety," said a statement published June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, patron saints of the church of Rome. Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the society, issued the statement after a meeting June 25-28 of the group's leaders. The society has been in talks with the Vatican in a search for a way to reintegrate it and its members fully into the life of the Catholic Church. Bishop Fellay met personally with Pope Francis in April, which seemed to signal that progress was being made. Talks with the group began under St. John Paul II and continued throughout the papacy of now-retired Pope Benedict XVI. St. John Paul had excommunicated Bishop Fellay and other leaders of the society in 1988 when they were ordained without papal permission. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the society and the bishop who ordained them, also was excommunicated; he died in 1991. Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications in 2009. In the statement June 29, Bishop Fellay said that "in the great and painful confusion that currently reigns in the church, the proclamation of Catholic doctrine requires the denunciation of errors that have made their way into it and are unfortunately encouraged by a large number of pastors, including the pope himself." The statement did not specify the "errors" it was referring to or how the society believes Pope Francis is encouraging them. While the society "has a right" to full canonical recognition, he said, its primary aim is to teach the fullness of Catholic faith, "which shows the only route to follow in this age of darkness in which the cult of man replaces the worship of God, in society as in the church." "The 'restoration of all things in Christ' intended by St. Pius X, following St. Paul (cf. Eph. 1:10), cannot happen without the support of a pope who concretely favors the return to sacred tradition," the statement said. "While waiting for that blessed day, the Society of St. Pius X intends to redouble its efforts to establish and to spread, with the means that divine providence gives to it, the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ."
Monday, July 25, 2016
With his visit to World Youth Day only a few days away, Pope Francis asked young pilgrims to accompany his visit to Krakow, Poland, with prayers. Leaving for Poland July 27 "to meet up with these young men and women and celebrate with them and for them the Jubilee of Mercy, with the intercession of St. John Paul II, I ask you to accompany me with prayer," the pope said July 24 during his Angelus address. The pope thanked the volunteers, bishops, priests and men and women religious "who are working to welcome these young pilgrims." In a message for youths unable to make it to the event, he said, "A special word to the many youth of their same age who, unable to be present personally, will follow the event through the media: We are all united in prayer!" Prayer was the main theme of the pope's reflection prior to reciting the Angelus with thousands of visitors in St. Peter's Square. Recalling the day's Gospel reading, in which Jesus teaches his disciples the Lord's prayer, the pope said the word 'father' is the secret to Jesus' prayer. That word, the pope said, "is the key that he himself gives us so that we can also enter into this relationship of trusting dialogue with the father who has accompanied and sustained his life." Pope Francis explained that prayer is the primary "work tool in our hands" and that to insist on something with God is not meant to "convince him, but rather to strengthen our faith and our patience, that is, our capacity to fight beside God for the things that are truly important and necessary." "In prayer we are a pair: God and me, fighting together for what is important. Among these, there is one, the great important thing, which Jesus tells us today in the Gospel, but which we hardly ever consider, and it is the Holy Spirit: 'Grant to me the Holy Spirit!'" he said. In asking for the Holy Spirit, he concluded, Christians can live their lives with "wisdom, with love, doing the will of God," like Mary. "The Virgin Mary shows us this with her existence, wholly animated by the Spirit of God. She helps us to pray to the father united to Jesus, so as to live not in a worldly way, but in accordance with the Gospel, guided by the Holy Spirit," the pope said.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Tears and not words. Prayers and not greetings. During his trip to Poland for World Youth Day, Pope Francis will go to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp. He said he wants to go alone and say nothing. When Pope Francis speaks, he can delight fans and frustrate critics. He can wax poetic or be bluntly funny about human quirks. But in the face of great suffering and horror, his first and strongest inclinations are silence, a profoundly bowed head and hands clasped tightly in prayer. Pope Francis had asked that there be no speeches during his visit to Armenia's genocide memorial June 25. At times, even the prayer service there with the Armenian Apostolic patriarch seemed too wordy. An aide gently cupped his elbow when it was time to end the silent reflection and begin the service. The Vatican's schedule for the pope's visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau July 29 had him giving a speech at the international monument at Birkenau, just as St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI did. But on the flight back to Rome from Armenia, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told Pope Francis, "I heard that you want to live that moment more with silence than words." The pope responded by reminding reporters that in 2014 when he went to Redipuglia in northern Italy to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, "I went in silence," walking alone among the graves. "Then there was the Mass and I preached at Mass, but that was something else." Speaking about his planned visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, "I would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds -- only the few people necessary," he said. "Alone, enter, pray. And may the Lord give me the grace to cry." Father Lombardi confirmed June 30 that the official program had been changed and the pope would not give a speech at the death camp. But it is not that Pope Francis has nothing to say about the horror of the Shoah, the importance of remembering it and the need to continue fighting anti-Semitism. "The past must be a lesson to us for the present and the future," he said during a visit to Rome's synagogue. "The Shoah teaches us that maximum vigilance is always needed in order to intervene quickly in defense of human dignity and peace."
Monday, June 27, 2016
Here is a question that I have been pondering recently. Are the journalists of today trained to insert their own opinion into each story they write? Has the idea of journalistic integrity gone the way of murder being acceptable to society? A report asked Pope Francis the following question, "In the days following the shooting in Orlando, many have said that the Christian community had something to do with this hate toward these people. What do you think?" The beginning of his response follows. "I will repeat what I said on my first trip. I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. One can condemn, but not for theological reasons, but for reasons of political behavior...Certain manifestations are a bit too offensive for others, no? ... But these are things that have nothing to do with the problem. The problem is a person that has a condition, that has good will and who seeks God, who are we to judge? And we must accompany them well...this is what the catechism says, a clear catechism. Then there are traditions in some countries, in some cultures that have a different mentality on this problem. I think that the Church must not only ask forgiveness – like that “Marxist Cardinal” said (laughs) – must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended. But she must ask forgiveness to the poor too, to women who are exploited, to children who are exploited for labor. She must ask forgiveness for having blessed so many weapons. The Church must ask forgiveness for not behaving many times – when I say the Church, I mean Christians! The Church is holy, we are sinners!" Nothing has been redacted or rewritten. Now think about how this response has been presented. It appears we need to pray for truth from our journalists today. God give them wisdom and morals that allow them to do their job ethically.