Jefferson City, Mo., May 16, 2019 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- The Missouri Senate has passed a bill that would ban most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy. Legislators responsible for the bill have said that, unlike recent measures in other states, the bill is specifically designed to pass scrutiny under legal appeal.
After passing a senate vote on May 16, the measure now moves to the state House of Representatives.
House Bill 126 includes a ban on all abortions past eight weeks of pregnancy except in cases of a medical emergency. Doctors who perform abortions after that point could face a 15 year jail sentence, but women who recieve abortions would not be punished.
"I think we've crafted a bill that will win in the courts," state Senator Andrew Koenig, one of the bill's sponsors, told CNA after the senate vote on Friday.
According to Koenig, the bill’s provisions are justified by a 98.5% chance of an unborn child surviving to term after eight weeks, compared to a 24% chance of a natural miscarriage at five weeks and under.
"We believe that the state of Missouri has an interest in protecting that viable pregnancy [after eight weeks]," the senator said.
State Representative Nick Schroer, the bill's sponsor in the House, told CNA in February that he worked with fellow lawyers to craft the bill so that it would stand up to judicial scrutiny.
"We looked at a bunch of case law and worked with attorneys on this," Schroer said.
Schroer said that should a district court rule against the bill’s eight-week ban coming into force, the law would still include a further ban at 14 weeks. Schroer said roughly two-thirds of abortions in Missouri take place before 10 weeks.
The bill invokes the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and argues that most abortions performed at 14 weeks gestation invovle in utero dismemberment, which the bill terms "cruel and unusual punishment."
While the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals has not previously struck down a 14 week ban, Koenig noted, even if it were to do so the bills contains additional bans at 18 and 20 weeks, when doctors are required to certify that the unborn child can feel pain.
"We call it the 'heartbeat bill,' but it actually operates a lot differently than any other heartbeat bill that's passed," Koenig explained.
Several states, including most recently Georgia, have passed so-called “heartbeat bills” which would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia currently have “heartbeat” laws waiting to come into force, while courts have struck down similar restrictions in North Dakota and Iowa.
The Missouri bill's sponsors say they knew that to avoid falling to similar legal challenges, they had to draft a bill not already covered by court precedent.
"We need to give the courts something that doesn't have precedent behind it, but accomplishes the same goals," Koenig said.
“Ultimately I think other states can take our language and start really limiting abortion, because I think our law will, for the most part, get upheld."
The Missouri vote came hours after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a near-total ban on almost in that state. Unlike the Missouri bill, the Alabama law is intended to generate a court battle and challenge the 1073 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
"[Our law] is not a piece of legislation that is designed for a challenge," Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr told the Associated Press.
"This is the type of legislation that is designed to withstand a challenge and to actually save lives in our state."
The Missouri bill also provides for a 70% tax credit for donations Missourians make to pregnancy resource centers on or after January 1, 2021 to foster a "culture of life" in the state, Koenig said.
If passed, the law would also prohibit "selective" abortions following a medical diagnosis or disability such as Down syndrome, or on the basis of the race or sex of a baby.
"For me as a Catholic, for me being pro-life, this is common sense to me," Schroer said.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that since peaking at more than 20,000 per year in the 1980s, in 2017 the annual number of abortions in Missouri had dropped to fewer than 7,000.
The bill would also require any abortion providers operating in the state to have at least $3 million in insurance to cover women in case of botched abortion procedures.
"I think that's actually a huge provision we added in the Senate," Koenig said. "I think ultimately we'll be able to eliminate abortion in Missouri because of this bill, but I think also because Planned Parenthood would just say it's not worth doing business in the state of Missouri.”
Missouri has only one Planned Parenthood clinic authorized to perform abortions in the state, located in St. Louis.
A Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, MO has been blocked from performing abortions since October 2018, after the facility failed to adhere to state rules and license expired. No abortions have been performed there since.
Jefferson City, Mo., May 16, 2019 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- The Missouri Senate has passed a bill that would ban most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy. Legislators responsible for the bill have said that, unlike recent measures in other states, the bill is specifically designed to pass scrutiny under legal appeal.
Washington D.C., May 16, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- Fertility rates in the United States have fallen to an all-time low, according to provisional figures released by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics.
According to an early statistical release from the NCHS in May, the total fertility rate, or average number of children born per woman, stands at 1.7, the lowest ever and well below the demographic replacement bar of 2.1.
In 2018, less than 3.8 million children born in the country. Since a peak in 2007, birth rates have fallen in all but one of the last 11 years. The results also show a continued trend of lower fertility among younger women over the last decade.
The data comes amid warnings from experts about the economic and social consequences of the continued decline. At the same time, the same experts say that the complicated causes of ever-lower fertility mean there are no clear or easy ways of reversing the trend.
Causes and effects
While the statistics underline a stark trend, experts emphasize that there is no single root cause behind the general decline.
In the past, women in their 20s have had the highest birth rate. But since 1968, the average age of a first-time mother has increased by more than five years, from 21.4 to 26.8.
Last year, childbirth rates among women aged 20-24 dropped 4%, and 3% among women aged 25-29. In 2018, women aged 30-34 had a higher birthrate than those aged 25-29 – marking the first time women in their early thirties were the leading age demographic for the number of children born.
Johnathan V. Last, author of the book “What to Expect When No One is Expecting,” points to a complex of social factors which, he says, contribute to the numbers of women having fewer children later in life.
“Many of the reasons people are having children later are good and reasonable. Look at the drop in fertility among 20-24 year-olds: that’s in large part down to the number of people now attending college, and people just don’t tend to get married and start families while they are in college,” Last told CNA.
Last also pointed out that while the broader trends all point in a single direction, individual section of society had outsized influence. “What we are seeing is record fertility lows coming off of what is essentially a drop among a single cohort, which is Hispanic-Americans.”
“If you look at the data, among white and African-Americans the fertility rates are broadly constant in their decline. What we are seeing is that Hispanics are arriving in the US with higher fertility rates that are dropping much faster than many expected, even within a generation or two.”
Dr. Catherine Pakaluk, Assistant Professor of Social Research and Economic thought at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that changes in the use of contraception could also be a factor.
Since 2002, use of the contraceptive pill has declined in favor of implanted contraceptive devices. In 2002, 19% of women aged 15-44 reported using the pill, while only 1.3% used IUDs. By 2017, pill usage had dropped to less than 14%, and 8.6% of women were using IUDs.
This, Pakaluk said, could be contributing to the sharp drop in unplanned pregnancies.
“These long-acting contraceptives tend to be much more immune to behavioral screw-ups. Even with the pill people are prone to contracepting badly and have a higher error rate leading to accidental but not necessarily unwelcome births, and these are disappearing.”
“It’s not a negligible percent, I don’t think it is the whole story but I do think it could be enough to be dragging us down to the historic lows we are seeing.”
Pakaluk said that while it is difficult to study, a shift in the way women approach pregnancy and contraceptives means that birth rates are increasingly subject to the expectations and experiences of generations raised in smaller families.
“One thing that should give us pause, and which I am really interested in examining more closely, is the effect of being around babies on adolescent wellbeing and mental health,” Pakaluk said.
“If you live in a society in which the typical family has three or four children, the older children will be experiencing a young child into their teenage years. But if you move to an average of 1.5-2, no teenagers on average will live with babies – think what that means for their own likely fertility choices.”
Experts have long warned about the wider societal and economic problems associated with declining birth rates, especially below the population replacement rate.
Last told CNA that the wider aspirations of society and politics to sustain and grow social welfare programmes depends on a demographic model opposite to current trends.
“The things we take for granted, let alone the things we aspire to do, in welfare, healthcare and so on, just do not work when you have an inversion of the population growth” Last told CNA.
Pakaluk agreed that there is widespread consensus on the economic and social problems associated with the long-term trend of lower fertility.
“We see immediately that it is not socially optimal from any rational social planning perspective because you know you cannot support the generous social programs that we like to think are good for society,” Pakaluk said. “Things like a decent social security system, MediCare, MedicAid, you just cannot sustain them in the long run with a total fertility rate of 1.7.”
But if the wider problems associated with dropping fertility rates are well known, both Pakaluk and Last highlight widespread dissatisfaction at the personal level.
“While the wider societal problems are well known,” Pakaluk said, “what is fascinating is that is seems that it isn’t individually optimal either.”
“What we do know, which is not often raised in media coverage, is that over the last several decades every survey in a Western country that asks women to describe their ideal family size – every single one everywhere – gives you a number about one child more than women end up having.”
Last told CNA that these numbers need to be considered as a factor in the state of our society.
“What we are seeing is the constant ‘fertility gap’ between people’s stated desire to have more than two kids and the reality that they tend to have less,” Last said. “For a whole host of reasons, people aren’t meeting their own expectations, and that has wider societal impact.”
Pakaluk said that the connection between parenthood and individual happiness is well known but rarely considered in relation to the fertility gap.
“We do know that children are a tremendous source of satisfaction for both men and women and if you take the net effect of [available data] on happiness and wellbeing - even in very controlled studies - we know that children contribute a tremendous amount of happiness.”
“I would certainly say that we need to look at [how] we have the lowest birthrates on record and the highest rates of addiction and depression on record. I’m not ready to say that is causal, but I think we need to think about it,” Pakaluk said.
“We are living in a fascinating paradox. In the post-feminist age of women’s right and control of reproduction they are not getting what it is that they say they want.”
No easy answers
If the causes of long-term demographic decline are difficult to untangle, so too are efforts to reverse or mitigate the effects of the trend.
Last noted that the standard response to address the economic problems associated with declining fertility is to rely on immigration to supply the demographic difference. But, he cautioned, this offers an imperfect fix.
“Immigration offers a short-term solution to the problem of funding entitlement programs for governments, but it doesn’t solve the long-term problem,” Last told CNA.
“In a healthy model you want to see a kind of pyramid shape, with the largest cohort among the youngest people tapering up to the oldest. Relying on adult immigration creates a bulge around the middle, which doesn’t address the underlying problem or future effects of low fertility and an ageing population.”
Last said that various policy solutions had been tried in different parts of the world, but without significant effects.
“Governments in all different parts of the world have experimented with policies to try to get people to have more children, but there isn’t any example which demonstrates real success – even in Singapore where the government basically offered $20,000 for people to have a kid, that only goes so far,” Last said.
“The bottom line is that having a child is a heavy lift, and no policy is going to make up someone’s mind to do it.”
Pakaluk agreed, pointing out that most models and policies made assumptions about individual behavior which simply could not account for the full human condition.
“Economists like to model fertility choices as the product of a highly rational process,” she said. “But in reality, no economist will ever tell you that even their idealized agents are acting subconsciously.”
“My read is that if you talk to women in their early 20s, you will get a response that sound very conscious and deliberate. But the choices that ‘make sense’ to people seem to be highly informed by something in the [cultural] water,” said Pakaluk.
According to Last, there is a level or irreducible complexity to changes in the fertility rate, intended or otherwise.
“The causes of lower fertility are incredibly complicated, and there is no obvious or simple mechanism for moving those numbers in the other direction,” he said. “It isn’t a matter of simply pushing button A and pulling lever X, it’s everything.”
“Of course,” Last noted, “ consistently the single greatest tracker of higher fertility is church attendance: across all faith communities, people who regularly show up for religious services have more kids.”
“I think a big part of this is looking at your life as part of a linear continuum, understanding your place between what has come before and what will come after helps condition you to understanding the greater good of starting a family and having children,” said Last.
“If your worldview is primarily formed around personal fulfillment and self-actualization, where is the incentive to have a family? You might have one child for the experience, but not two or three or four.”
Lourdes, France, May 16, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Over 12,000 soldiers from over 40 countries are set to arrive in Lourdes, France on Friday as part of the 61st Annual International Military Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage goes throughout the weekend before concluding on Sunday.
The International Military Pilgrimage, known as the PMI [Pèlerinage Militaire International] first began in 1958, the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparition at Lourdes. The theme of this year’s pilgrimage is Cherche la Paix et poursuis-la, “seek peace and pursue it.”
The pilgrimage programme includes Masses in a variety of languages, sporting programs for military members, and a candlelit Marian procession. Pilgrims will also visit the baths near the Lourdes Grotto.
Throughout the weekend, military bands parade through the streets of Lourdes, and the soldiers from different nations are encouraged to interact and get to know one another.
A total of 220 pilgrims, including 51 battle-wounded soldiers and veterans, and 72 “warrior pilgrims,” are part of the U.S. delegation, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese for the Military Services. This is the sixth year the Knights of Columbus has conducted the “Warriors to Lourdes” program.
Fr. Jeff Laible, a chaplain of the U.S. Air Force, has joined the Knights of Columbus pilgrimage for five of those years. This year, he is serving as the group’s spiritual director.
“The pilgrimage really is an opportunity for our wounded warriors to receive healing, and healing really comes in a lot of ways,” Laible said.
The chaplain said the pilgrimage gives him the chance to share in the “experience the peace and the grace of healing that comes here at Lourdes” alongside the servicemen and women.
“It’s a special place for me. Like the warriors who come here, I myself have served on deployment. So I’ve experienced the grace and peace of healing--not only myself personally, but working with our wounded warriors over the course of the past four years, and certainly this year as well.”
Bishop Joseph L. Coffey, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, is also part of this year’s Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage.
Coffey told CNA that while has been to Lourdes twice before, they were quick trips and not an extended pilgrimage. He said he is looking forward to “really, truly living the pilgrim experience here.”
Part of the pilgrim experience includes healing in different ways.
While Lourdes is famous for its numerous miraculous physical cures, Coffey explained to CNA that even more important is the spiritual health of the pilgrims, especially military pilgrims, many of whom have experienced mental or moral wounds during their time in service.
“Of course, some of [the pilgrims] have been injured, wounded, and this is a great place to seek healing--not only physical healing, which is what always people probably think of first, but what's so much more important is the spiritual healing,” said Coffey.
“Because we all get old and sick and die some day, whereas our souls will live forever. So we want to be making sure that we have any good spiritual healing that we might need."
The still newly-consecrated Coffey - he was made a bishop in March - describes himself as a “baby bishop.” Shortly after Coffey’s appointment was announced, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, asked him to go to Lourdes in his place. Coffey said he was overjoyed to start his episcopal ministry with such a trip.
“I was absolutely thrilled and honored that he would ask me to do that.”
As a Navy chaplain on active duty for the past 18 and a half years, Coffey told CNA that he had hoped to attend this pilgrimage in past years, but had been unable to do so as he had been stationed overseas. He thinks that the PMI is an opportunity to seek the graces necessary to serve the military flock.
“This is really a wonderful way for me to begin this new period of my life, this new way of serving the Lord as a bishop,” said Coffey. “I couldn't ask for better timing, to be able to come here just as I'm getting started as a bishop, to give me strength and courage to be a good bishop."
Vatican City, May 16, 2019 / 11:23 am (CNA).- A Vatican court has decided not to initiate canonical charges against a former Vatican official, after an investigation into allegations he made sexual advances toward a woman in the confessional several years ago.
Fr. Hermann Geissler, 53, is a member of Familia spiritualis Opus (FSO), informally known as “Das Werk.”
Geissler's community announced today that five judges of the Vatican’s supreme tribunal decided May 15 that Geissler would not be tried for “a delict of solicitation to a sin against the sixth commandment in the context of confession.”
A preliminary investigation into the matter, as specified by canon 1717 of the Code of Canon Law, was carried out by the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
Most likely to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Pope Francis requested the Signatura undertake the process instead of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the Vatican office usually charged with reviewing allegations of this kind.
Geissler, who maintained his innocence throughout the process, stepped down from his position within the CDF Jan. 29, where he had been an official since 1993. From 2009 he had been the head of the congregation’s teaching office.
A statement released Jan. 29 said that Geissler “affirms that the accusation made against him is untrue, and asks that the canonical process already initiated continue. He also reserves the right for possible civil legal action.”
Geissler, an Austrian, is also a prominent scholar of Bl. Cardinal Henry Newman.
The accusations against him became public at the end of September, when a (now-former) member of “Das Werk,” Doris Wagner, claimed in a lengthy piece in the German newspaper DIE ZIET that she had been sexually harassed in the confessional by a member of the religious community she then belonged to, identified in the article as “Hermann G.”
Wagner again spoke of the accusations last November, saying at a conference in Rome that she had received unwanted sexual advances and been “groomed” for sex by “a priest working to this day as capo ufficio at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith,” according to La Croix International.
The solicitation of a sin against the sixth commandment within the context of confession is considered in the Church law to be a “grave delict,” or offense, for which a priest can be dismissed from the clerical state.
Madrid, Spain, May 16, 2019 / 09:58 am (CNA).- On May 18 in Madrid, Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri, a laywoman, will become the first numerary of Opus Dei to be beatified. A chemist, university teacher, and close associate of St. Josemaría Escrivá, she was known for her strong character, big heart, and cheerfulness.
According to Beatriz Gaytan, a historian who knew Ortiz: “Whenever I think of her, despite the time that has elapsed, what I hear is her laugh. Guadalupe had a permanent smile. She was welcoming, affable, straightforward.”
Opus Dei was made a personal prelature by St. John Paul II in 1982. It was founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá in 1928 and teaches that everyone is called to personal holiness in and through their ordinary lives.
There are various ways of being associated with the prelature. A numerary is someone who makes him or herself fully available to the work of the prelature.
Ortiz was born in Madrid Dec. 12, 1916, whence she was named “Guadalupe.”
She had a reputation for being a bold and courageous child. At age 10, because of her father’s military service, her family moved to Tetouan, North Africa. They returned to Spain six years later and Ortiz completed her high school studies, enrolling in university to study chemistry. She was one of five women in a class of 70.
Known to be a serious, though friendly, student, Ortiz put her studies on hold during the Spanish Civil War, which broke out in 1936. During the war, her father, a colonel in the army, was arrested for treason and condemned to death by shooting by a people's trial.
Though he was given the opportunity of a pardon, Manuel Ortiz de Landazuri renounced it for the sake of his men, who had all been shot dead. Ortiz was just 20 years old when she, a brother, and her mother said their final goodbyes to Manuel in the hours before his death. She forgave those who condemned and killed her father.
For a period during the war, Ortiz and her mother and brothers moved to another part of Spain. When the civil war ended in 1939, they returned to Madrid, where Ortiz taught in two schools.
It was several years later that Ortiz had a powerful experience of God’s grace while at Mass. When she met a family friend shortly after, she said she wanted to meet a priest. That friend put her in contact with Fr. Josemaría Escrivá, who had founded Opus Dei about 15 years before.
Ortiz met Escrivá Jan. 25, 1944. She later said, “I had the very clear idea that God was speaking to me through that priest.” From that point she felt a calling to serve Christ through her life and work, and several months later, at the age of 27, she became a numerary of Opus Dei.
During the following years, still the beginning of Opus Dei, she managed the administration of Opus Dei student residences in Madrid, continuing to study chemistry in her spare time.
She made friends easily, especially with the university students, who appreciated her humor, patience, and affection.
In 1950, Escrivá asked her to bring Opus Dei to Mexico. While there, she enrolled in a doctoral program in chemical sciences. At the university residences in Mexico, Ortiz and her associates emphasized concern for the poor and service to the Church and society.
Among the initiatives they spearheaded was a mobile medical clinic which went home-to-home in the poorest neighborhoods providing free care and medicine. She also promoted education among poor, indigenous Mexicans.
Six years later she was asked to assist Escrivá in Rome in the central government of Opus Dei, but not long after arriving she began to suffer conditions of a heart condition which meant she had to return to Spain. Despite the symptoms of the condition, including tiredness from walking and climbing stairs, she never complained.
In Madrid she continued her academic work, eventually completing and defending her doctorate in July 1965, at the age of 48.
She was the recipient of the Juan de la Cierva prize for her research work and was a chemistry teacher at an institute and at the Women’s School for Industrial Studies, of which she became deputy head, for 10 years. She also set up the Center of Studies and Research of Domestic Sciences.
Ortiz was known to make frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament to speak with Christ; she was also devoted to friends and students and those with whom she lived.
In 1975, doctors decided to operate on her heart. The operation, at the university clinic in Navarra, was successful, but several days afterward she suffered sudden respiratory failure.
In describing the moments before her death, Ortiz’s brother said, “this was Guadalupe’s great ‘secret:’ to always accept as good whatever happened to her. Around her, in those last hours of mortal anguish, all were lost in admiration: that same unforgettable smile.”
She died on July 16, 1975, the feast of Our Lady Mount Carmel, in Pamplona.
Ortiz will be beatified by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints, in Madrid May 18. For those who cannot attend in person, Opus Dei has created a mobile app called “Beatification Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri,” which allows people to learn about her life and beatification in an interactive way.
The Vatican confirmed the miraculous healing, through Ortiz’s intercession, of an elderly Spanish man with a small cancerous tumor next to his eye. This miracle paved the way for her beatification.
A widower, Antonio Jesus Sedano Madrid, 76, contracted basal cell carcinoma in 2002. The cancer diagnosis gave Sedano a lot of anxiety. Before the surgery could take place, he found a prayer card for private devotion to Servant of God Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri.
He began to feel a personal and spiritual closeness to her and prayed for her intercession for his healing. His friends and three children began to do the same.
Sedano was particularly nervous before the operation to remove the tumor, and one night made a fervent request to Ortiz to intercede for his total cure, without the need for surgery. The following morning, when he awoke, the tumor was gone, without leaving a mark.
Doctors examined Sedano and could find no natural cause to explain the tumor’s total and sudden healing. He remained cancer free for the rest of his life, living 14 more years until his death in 2014, at the age of 88, from heart disease.
Vatican City, May 16, 2019 / 08:20 am (CNA).- On the 300th anniversary of St. John Baptist de la Salle’s death, Pope Francis urged the Lasallian Brothers to continue their educational mission with the zeal of their founder.
“Dear spiritual children of St. John Baptist de La Salle, I urge you to deepen and imitate his passion for the least of these and the rejected,” Pope Francis told the Brothers May 16 in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
The pope called the brothers to bring a “culture of resurrection” into the schools where they serve, especially in contexts where the “culture of death” prevails.
“Teaching cannot be just a job, but a mission,” Pope Francis said as he described St. John Baptist de La Salle’s founding impetus.
St. John Baptist de La Salle, a 17th century French priest, established a lay community to offer a Christian education to the children of the poor that later grew into a new form of consecrated life, the “religious brotherhood,” in which “lay religious” take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience without ordination.
Pope Francis praised La Salle’s bold reforms of teaching methods, calling him a “a pioneer in the field of education.”
La Salle was one of the first pedagogues to emphasize classroom teaching in the vernacular rather than Latin. He also divided pupils into learning groups for more effective work, set up Sunday schools for adults, and rehabilitative programs for juvenile delinquents and prisoners, Francis explained.
“He dreamed of a school open to all, so he did not hesitate to face extreme educational needs, introducing a method of rehabilitation through school and work,” the pope said.
Three centuries later, more than 4,000 Christian Brothers continue La Salle’s mission educational mission with a “preferential option for the poor” in 79 countries in conjunction with the Lasallian Sisters, Signum Fidei Fraternity, and Guandalupana Sisters de La Salle.
“Do not get tired of looking for those who are in the modern tombs of loss, degradation, discomfort and poverty, to offer new life hope,” Pope Francis said.
In addition to La Salle himself, 14 Christian Brothers have been canonized and 150 beatified. St. John Baptist La Salle is the patron saint of teachers.
“The impetus for the educational mission, which made your founder a teacher and witness for so many of his contemporaries, and his teaching, can still today feed your projects and your action,” the pope said.
set sail and arrived at Perga in Pamphylia.
But John left them and returned to Jerusalem.
They continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia.
On the sabbath they entered into the synagogue and took their seats.
After the reading of the law and the prophets,
the synagogue officials sent word to them,
"My brothers, if one of you has a word of exhortation
for the people, please speak."
So Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said,
"Fellow children of Israel and you others who are God-fearing, listen.
The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors
and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt.
With uplifted arm he led them out,
and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert.
When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan,
he gave them their land as an inheritance
at the end of about four hundred and fifty years.
After these things he provided judges up to Samuel the prophet.
Then they asked for a king.
God gave them Saul, son of Kish,
a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
Then he removed him and raised up David as their king;
of him he testified,
I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will carry out my every wish.
From this man's descendants God, according to his promise,
has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel;
and as John was completing his course, he would say,
'What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.'"
Responsorial Psalm Ps 89:2-3, 21-22, 25 and 27 R.(2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
The favors of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, "My kindness is established forever";
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
"I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
That my hand may be always with him,
and that my arm may make him strong."
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
"My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him,
and through my name shall his horn be exalted.
He shall say of me, 'You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.'"
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Alleluia See Rv 1:5ab R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ, you are the faithful witness,
the firstborn of the dead,
you have loved us and freed us from our sins by your Blood.
R. Alleluia, alleluia
Gospel Jn 13:16-20 When Jesus had washed the disciples' feet, he said to them:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
I am not speaking of all of you.
I know those whom I have chosen.
But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.
From now on I am telling you before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send
receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright Â© 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain Â© 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Detroit, Mich., May 16, 2019 / 03:05 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Detroit has announced that it will no longer hold required sporting events on Sundays, in an effort to refocus the day on prayer, family and rest.
In a reflection on his 2016 pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, Archbishop Allen Vigneron issued a pastoral note on Wednesday, emphasizing the importance of “the Lord’s Day.”
He said Sunday is ultimately a time for faith, family, and rest, announcing that Catholic grade and high schools in the archdiocese will cease sports practices and games on this day.
“Sunday [is] a day set apart for the Lord, for family and for works of mercy,” he said. “In our time, Sunday has slowly lost its pride of place. In the Archdiocese of Detroit, we are committed to setting aside this day as much as possible for God-centered pursuits.”
“In shifting away from the hustle of required sporting activities on Sunday, we will reclaim this holy day and create more time for families to choose activities that prioritize time spent with each other and our Lord,” he added.
The change in the archdiocesan sporting policy comes in response to a local synod in 2016, which included lay Catholics, religious, and clergy members. The archbishop’s pastoral letter soon followed, calling Catholics to embrace greater conversion and efforts of evangelization.
In his recent pastoral note, Archbishop Vigneron emphasized the importance of Sunday as a day of holy rest. He said it is a weekly celebration of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring on the disciples and Christ's resurrection, making it a mini-Easter and mini-Pentecost.
“First and foremost, Sunday is the day of the Resurrection of Jesus to new life. It is the day that definitively marked Jesus’ victory over sin and death, and it is the day that represents that in Jesus we too share in this same victory through our baptism,” he said.
“Finally, Sunday is the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out in power upon the disciples of Jesus. In fact, John Paul II called Sunday a ‘weekly Pentecost,’” he added.
He said the holiness of Sunday should, first, be exercised by participation in Mass. Beyond that, he said, it is appropriate for families to pursue other faith-based activities together, as well as “technology-free family time.”
“Eucharistic adoration, personal prayer, reciting the Rosary, time for catechesis and Bible studies, faith sharing groups and the like all are ways families and individuals honor the Lord’s Day beyond Sunday Mass,” he said.
The archbishop also noted the importance of rest, saying that society has a “cult of busyness,” which has created false identities. He warned that an overemphasis on work can accentuate what Pope Francis calls a “throwaway culture.”
“When work becomes the most important thing in our lives, we value ourselves and others by what they can contribute rather than by who they are,” he said.
“Instead our worth comes from what God has done for us: We are made in his image and likeness, and Christ has died for us. When we choose to make Sunday a day of rest, we choose to renounce these false cultures and live as part of Christ’s band of disciples.”
The new regulations will take place in the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. In upcoming months, the archdiocese will be issuing additional resources for families to embrace the Lord’s Day.
“Ultimately, by removing the requirement of sporting activities, we leave more time for families to choose activities that prioritize time spent with each other and our Lord,” the archdiocese said.
Several other local schools have held Sunday as a holy day of rest, including Calvinist schools and the Michigan High School Athletic Association. The Frankel Jewish Academy also does not host games from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.
Archbishop Vigneron said this time of “missionary conversion” requires radical opposition to the culture. He said setting aside Sunday as a Holy Day will be part of doing this and will be a source of additional graces.
“Living Sunday more radically and intentionally as God’s people will help us do this. It will help us to root our lives in prayer and the sacraments. It will create the space for us to demonstrate unusually gracious hospitality and to include those on the margins. And it will remind us of God’s presence even in difficult and stressful times, so that we can be Jesus’ band of joyful missionary disciples in Southeast Michigan,” he said.
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, May 16, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Just one day after six Catholics were murdered by gunmen in Burkina Faso, four more Catholics were shot and killed in the northwest African country.
On Monday, unknown gunmen interrupted a religious procession in a village near Kongoussi, a northwest city of the Bam Province. After releasing the children, the assailants killed four adult worshipers and burned a Marian statue, according to reports.
“We will not be bogged down by the religious attacks,” said Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo, archbishop of Ougadougou, CNN reported.
The previous day, a group of gunmen attacked a Catholic church in Dablo, located in a nearby province. They shot and killed five men, including a priest, during Mass.
An estimated 20 to 30 men were believed to be involved with Sunday’s attack. They burned down the church, and also set fire to a health center and a few nearby shops, according to state media.
In recent years, Burkina Faso has seen an increase in terrorist activity from jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda affiliates. Human Rights Watch recently reported that the violence has displaced tens of thousands of villagers this year alone.
Last December, the government declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces as a result of these ongoing attacks, Reuters reports.
Five teachers were murdered in an attack last Friday. In April, four Catholics were killed in a separate church attack, and five parishioners and a pastor were shot down in a Protestant church.
Following Sunday’s attack, Pope Francis offered his prayers for the victims and communities of Burkina Faso.
“The Holy Father learned with sorrow the news of the attack on the church in Dablo, in #BurkinaFaso. He prays for the victims, for their families and for the whole Christian community of the country,” papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti wrote on Twitter May 13.
Toronto, Canada, May 15, 2019 / 06:30 pm (CNA).- Ontario’s highest court has ruled that doctors who object to procedures such as abortion and assisted suicide must refer patients to another, willing doctor.
In a unanimous decision issued Wednesday, the Court of Appeal upheld a 2016 policy set forth by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) requiring doctors in the province to provide an “effective referral” if they object to treatment such as abortion, contraception, transgender surgery, or assisted suicide.
"While the solution is not a perfect one for some physicians, such as the individual appellants, it is not a perfect one for their patients either. They will lose the personal support of their physicians at a time when they are most vulnerable," the opinion reads.
Though the lower court found in Jan. 2018 that forcing doctors to refer for those procedures violated their religious freedom under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it also determined that those violations were necessary in order to give patients access to those services.
Dr. Ryan Wilson, President of Canadian Physicians for Life, told reporters in a conference call that the group has yet to decide whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, but said an appeal "is not off the table," The Canadian Press reports.
Canadian Physicians for Life was one of several groups, along with 5 individual doctors, who challenged the CPSO’s rules in court. Collectively the groups said they would be willing to provide patients with a general phone number or website for the provincial government’s coordinating service for assisted suicide, but they argued that to go beyond that would violate their faith, The Globe and Mail reports.
The groups also argued in the appeal that the original decision was unreasonable, because it gave more weight to an assumed problem with healthcare than to a real infringement of doctor’s rights, The Canadian Press says.
“This is a disappointing decision and puts our doctors – doctors who entered the field of medicine to provide quality, compassionate, and patient-centered care – in an impossible position,” Wilson said last year.
“They don’t believe ending a patient’s life is medicine, and they don’t believe they can offer hope and healing in one room while assisting in killing a patient in another.”
“Ultimately it is patient care that suffers, as our doctors will retire early, relocate, or change fields. For many, their religious and conscience rights are being violated and they won’t be able to practice medicine in Ontario. This is a significant loss for the entire health care system in the province and will have a direct impact on patient care,” he said.
Ramona Coelho, a Catholic family doctor in London, Ontario, told The Globe and Mail she is still hopeful a solution can be found that would allow her to avoid formally referring assisted suicide patients, despite the ruling.
“I feel like this decision is going to exclude from mainstream medicine most people of faith,” Coelho told The Globe and Mail.
Canada legalized assisted suicide in 2016. Only people who are over the age of 18, have been deemed to be “mentally competent,” and have been diagnosed with a terminal physical illness by two doctors or two nurse practitioners are eligible.
At the federal level in Canada, some members of parliament are attempting to pass a law that would protect the conscience rights of doctors.
Conservative MP David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Saskatchewan) introduced bill C-418 in October as a private member’s bill, seeking to protect medical practitioners unwilling to euthanize their patients or provide referrals for medically induced deaths.
That legislation would make it illegal to “intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the purpose of compelling them to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying.”
Last year, assisted suicide accounted for 1.12 percent of all deaths in Canada.
The Archdiocese of Toronto has not yet commented on the ruling, but Cardinal Thomas Collins has pushed for conscience protections for doctors repeatedly in recent years.
“Physicians across our country who have devoted their lives to healing patients will soon be asked to do the exact opposite. They will not be asked to ease their suffering by providing them with treatment and loving care, but by putting them to death,” Collins in 2016.
“Once we make people’s worthiness to live dependent on how well they function, our society has crossed the boundary into dangerous territory in which people are treated as objects that can be discarded as useless.”
Denver, Colo., May 15, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A funny, selfless, and kind kid who loved tinkering with his car, goofing around with his friends, and above all, serving others, whether at Knights of Columbus pancake breakfasts or in robotics class - this was the Kendrick Castillo that friends and family gathered to remember at a celebration of his life on May 15 at Cherry Hills Community Church.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit,” Fr. Javier Nieva, pastor of St. Mary’s in Littleton, Colo., said at the ecumenical celebration. The quote, from Jesus, is in the Gospel of John.
“We celebrate fruits today,” Nieva said. “Not death (but the) fruits of his life.”
Kendrick laid down his life for others not only “in the moment of dying, but in his love for his family, his passion for service, his love for the truth” and helping others, Nieva said.
Kendrick Castillo, 18, gave his life to protect his friends when he jumped into the line of fire to stop a school shooter on May 7, according to witnesses. Castillo was the only casualty in the shooting at STEM high school in Highlands Ranch, Colo.; eight other students were injured in the incident.
On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in May, friends and family packed Cherry Hills Community Church to remember a funny and kind friend, parishioner and son who was always smiling and helping others. On display at the church were some things representative of Kendrick’s hobbies and passions: a kayak, a red blazer he wore while ushering at Notre Dame parish, robotics and engineering paraphernalia.
Former teachers and friends from school took to the stage one by one to share a favorite memory of Kendrick, to extol his virtues and thank his parents.
Joseph Nguyen, a family friend of the Castillos and a member of the Catholic charitable group the Knights of Columbus, presented Kendrick’s parents, John and Maria Castillo, with a plaque that honored Kendrick as a full member of the Knights.
“Kendrick is forever a brother within the Knights of Columbus,” Nguyen said, presenting a plaque that came from members throughout the country and the world.
“His service with the Knights, in everything he did, there was a smile on his face,” Nguyen said, noting that Kendrick and his father John had logged a combined 2,600 hours of community service with the Knights.
“I remember Kendrick for the just young man he was, the one who imitated Christ’s self-sacrificing love so that others might live and be safe,” he said. “Kendrick loved people, he loved his Church, and he loved his God.”
Charlene Molis, the principal of Notre Dame Catholic School, which Kendrick attended from pre-K to 8th grade, remembered a loving child who “is certainly proof that one person can make a difference.”
Molis said she saw Kendrick’s caring nature on the very first day of preschool, when he noticed a little boy crying across the room.
“The little boy was missing his mom,” Molis said. “Kendrick walked over, put his arm around him and told him it was going to be ok.”
She remembered a student who “respected everyone and always did his best.” She remembered that he liked to get dressed up for school plays as a cowboy or a pilgrim, but when it came to all-school Masses, he donned a three-piece suit.
She remembered his ability to figure out “anything technology related,” and how by the time he was a 6th grader, he became a sort of pseudo IT technician for his teachers, helping them with computer issues. She remembered his bright smile, quick wit, and willingness to collaborate with his teachers in playing jokes on his fellow classmates.
Most of all, she remembered how he served others.
“He seemed to be happiest serving others, and he did this humbly,” she said, whether it was working in the background to put on the school talent show, making and serving pancakes for the Knights of Columbus, DJing school dances, leading the computer club, or serving on the student council.
“He was the first to arrive and last to leave at school and church functions,” she said.
“He was the epitome of a young Christian man, and an inspiration to everyone who was lucky enough to know him,” Molis said. “We love you, Kendrick. We are all better people for having known him.”
Jordan Monk, Kendrick’s best friend, said they first met as freshmen in an engines class in high school. When it became clear that Kendrick knew the most about engines in the class, Monk jumped at the chance to become his lab partner.
“Our friendship started purely out of survival instincts,” Monk said. “I wanted an A in that class, and found the best way to do so.”
But after just one class period, “I like many others knew there was something special about Kendrick. I’d figured we’d get along just fine as lab partners, but I had no idea he’d have such a profound impact on my life.”
The two bonded over lab projects and mishaps, and soon became best friends.
“Teachers had a love-hate relationship with us,” Monk said. “They loved us because of the joy and laughter that we brought to class, but that joy and laughter was apparently distracting for some students.”
When they weren’t in school, Monk spent hours with Kendrick in his backyard, where they would tinker on mini-bikes or golf carts, and on their cars once they got their licenses.
“We changed brakes and oil...and detailed our cars almost religiously,” Monk said. “Whenever I was able to drag (Kendrick) to our school dances, we always had the two cleanest rides.”
Monk recalled a favorite memory with Kendrick, when they dressed up as the main characters from the movie Wayne’s World, and drove around with their car tops down, fake mullets flowing in the wind, and Queen blasting on the radio.
“The only sound you could hear over Bohemian Rhapsody was our laughter,” Monk recalled. He said he and Kendrick often were up to things that could be considered weird, but they didn’t care, “because we had the time of our lives doing it.”
At the end of the celebration, Kendrick’s father, John, addressed the crowd. He thanked the school and church communities and first responders for their care and support, and said he has “felt the love of thousands” in the days since his son’s death.
“If we had to describe him a certain way, first it would be love, the love for anybody he met,” John said. “I mean anybody. He was compassionate. If you were walking down the street and fell, he’d walk over to make sure you’re ok.”
“There’s risk in love,” he added. “There’s risk in being hurt, in rejection. Kendrick knew all of these things and he never wavered. He knew right from wrong, and we all do.”
John remembered Kendrick as a son who valued relationships over physical things, who cherished hunting trips with his dad and grandpa and loved going to animated movies with his mom.
“We all really really love Kendrick, and to carry on his life’s message, we need to be more like him,” John said, whether that’s helping someone who is struggling or including someone who is lonely.
“I always knew he was a gift and a hero, he was filled up with the good stuff” of life, he noted, like faith and love.
He encouraged those present to “walk your faith like Kendrick did,” recalling how his son would take off his hat and bless his food before eating at Taco Bell without caring what people might think.
“It’s not difficult,” he said. “We just have to love.”
Kendrick’s funeral and burial will be at the end of this week. The details are kept private at the request of the family.
Philadelphia, Pa., May 15, 2019 / 02:29 pm (CNA).- A Pennsylvania mother of teenage daughters is demanding an apology from state representative Brian Sims, who shouted down and tried to dox the teens while they were quietly praying outside of a Planned Parenthood in late April.
Sims has been under fire recently after he livestreamed a video posted to Twitter May 2 in which he appears to harass and confront a woman who was praying the rosary quietly by herself outside of a Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood.
Ashley Garecht, the mother demanding an apology from Sims, said he treated her daughters similarly, shouting them down, calling them racists, and offering to donate $100 to Planned Parenthood if someone could reveal the girls’ identities and personal information online, a practice known as doxing, which is illegal in most jurisdictions.
“The three girls deserve your genuine, explicit apology. I believe you know that your actions toward them were inherently wrong. You accosted them and said that they should be ashamed of threatening and attacking young girls trying to enter the clinic,” Garecht said in an open letter to Sims, published in Philadelphia newspaper The Inquirer.
“You and I both know that the girls were peacefully standing at the far corner of the property line, praying in a barely audible voice. They were not threatening, and they certainly weren’t attacking anyone or preventing access to the building,” she added.
Garecht said she had brought her two daughters, along with one of their friends, to pray quietly at the Planned Parenthood. One of the girls is 13 years old, while the other two are 15. When Sims reportedly began shouting at the girls and pointing a camera at them, Garecht said she tried to intervene and asked Sims that he engage only with her, as the adult in the situation.
“...you looked over my shoulder and continued to scold the girls that they were white racists who shouldn’t dare tell women what to do with their bodies,” she wrote.
The friend that Garecht brought with her daughters isn’t white, Garecht noted.
“...our purpose there was to pray that women of all races would choose life for their babies because we believe that all human life is sacred and we know that our society is better off with more children of every color walking among us,” she said in the letter.
“These girls aren’t racist, Mr. Sims. You devalue the term and cheapen it by using it so egregiously and inappropriately.”
She called his attempts to dox her girls especially “dangerous”, and said that she and her family now live “in constant heightened alert” because of his actions.
Despite Sims’ harassment, Garecht said her daughters and their friend “were not intimidated by you. After we left, they saw you berating the kind young gentleman who respectfully removed his hat to speak with you. All three girls told me we should go back and stand with him. They didn’t want him to have to endure your bullying alone.”
Garecht said that as an elected official, Sims should support the girls’ “First Amendment right to express their faith through speech.”
“Those rights aren’t theories or hypotheticals. They are specifically enumerated guarantees. It’s your job to protect and uphold those rights for all citizens, including beautifully courageous and kind teenage girls,” she said.
On May 7, Sims said in a post to Twitter that he acknowledged his aggressive behavior toward the woman in his May 2 video.
“I will fiercely protect a woman’s right to make the best choices for her health & her body, unimpeded. I also know that two wrongs don’t make a right, especially on the front lines of a civil rights battle. I can do better, and I will do better, for the women of Pennsylvania,” he said.
Sims has since set his Twitter account to private.
On May 10, a “Pro-Life Rally Against Bullying” drew 1,000 people outside of that same Planned Parenthood where Sims had allegedly harassed numerous people. Pro-life speakers at the event called for Sims’ resignation. Leaders from local and national pro-life groups attended the rally, including the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Family Council, 40 Days for Life, Students for Life, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, Sidewalk Servants and the Susan B. Anthony List.
Garecht said in her letter that she believes Sims owes a specific apology to her teenage daughters.
“Mr. Sims, you said you wanted to do better for the women of Pennsylvania. I take you at your word, and I forgive you,” she wrote.
“I’m now asking you to do the right thing by being accountable for your actions and making a genuine, explicit apology to my daughters and their friend. They don’t need anything from you, but they certainly deserve it.”
Munich, Germany, May 15, 2019 / 02:15 pm (CNA).- At least one bishop has offered his support for a week-long “Church strike” organized by German Catholic women, during which participants organize their own prayer services rather than attending Mass.
Calling itself "Mary 2.0" the initiative issued an open letter to Pope Francis, which called for the ordination of women, and claimed "men of the Church only tolerate one woman in their midst: Mary."
"We want to take Mary off her pedestal and into our midst, as a sister facing our direction," the letter said.
The website features paintings of Mary and other women with their mouths taped over.
The campaign has met with considerable criticism from German Catholics, some of when even launched of a "Maria 1.0" website, which says that the Mother of God "does not require any updates and should not be instrumentalized.”
But several Church representatives have gone public in support of "Mary 2.0."
The official news portal of the Catholic Church in Germany provided broad coverage of the call for a strike, taking place May 11-18. It also reported that Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück supports the campaign.
Bode, who leads the Commission on Women in the German bishops' conference, told press agency EPD that while he regrets the strikes will not attend Mass, he believes it important to acknowledge the impatience of "many women in the Catholic Church" and their feelings of "deep hurt" for not being adequately appreciated for their contribution.
Bode said that while he does not believe women will be ordained priests in the near future, the Church could soon ordain them as deacons.
Participants in the "Church strike" are refusing to step into a church from the week of May 11 to 18 and will not attend Mass. Instead, services such as a "Liturgy of the Word" are held throughout the week. According to the campaign's Facebook page, these services have garnered between 18 and 155 registered attendees.
Referencing the abuse crisis as a reason for the urgent need for change, the group’s letter to Pope Francis makes a range of demands, from the abolition of "mandatory celibacy" to an "updating" of the Church's teaching on sexual morality and the ordination of women to "all ministries" – including the orders of deacon, priest and bishop.
In an interview published on the official website of the Archdiocese of Paderborn, vicar general Fr. Alfons Hardt praised the organizers of the campaign as women who are "concerned about the sustainability of their church."
Hardt said "this is a motivation that I value highly," even though the campaign might also create division.
Whether women can be ordained to the priesthood is an open question, Hardt asserted, saying, "on the one hand we have a definitive decision by Pope John Paul II on the question of the ordination of women and on the other hand we still do not have a final answer. At least in Germany this question is discussed very openly, especially among theologians. It is clear that there is a need for a global ecclesial consensus for this which currently is not the case."
Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all taught that the sacrament of ordination is reserved to men by divine institution, and that, while the role of female “deacons” in the early Church can be studied, such study does not imply that women can be ordained sacramentally.
Despite its demands and – initially - very small numbers, "Mary 2.0" has not only received support from several German prelates but also sustained coverage in Germany, where many Catholics are turning their back on a church in crisis in the wake of the abuse scandals and other controversies, with a recent prognosis predicting the number of Catholics in the country will halve by 2060, and Church attendance in constant decline, hovering at the 10 percent mark on average according to most recent official figure.
In March, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising announced that the church in Germany would embark on a "binding synodal process" to tackle what he described as the three key issues arising from the clerical abuse crisis: priestly celibacy, the Church's teaching on sexual morality, and a reduction of clerical power.
More recently, another German bishop, Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen, voiced similar expectations for the "Pan-Amazonian Synod" in October.
Overbeck, who also leads the influential Catholic Latin America relief organization Adveniat, predicted that "nothing will be as it was before" after that synod.
Speaking to journalists on May 2, he said that the role of women in the Church would be reconsidered at the meeting, and so would sexual morality, the role of the priesthood and the overall hierarchical structure of the Church. The synod will take place from October 6 to 27.
This story was originally published by CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
New York City, N.Y., May 15, 2019 / 01:54 pm (CNA).- A man accused of attempting to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York last month carrying containers of gasoline and a lighter has been deemed unfit to stand trial due to his mental health.
Police arrested Marc Lamparello in April after he attempted to enter the cathedral. The 37-year-old is a New Jersey resident and Ph.D. student at City University of New York.
A court-appointed psychiatrist has now found him mentally unfit to stand trial, according to his lawyer Chris DiLorenzo, who also said May 14 that Lamparello suffers from schizophrenia and was off his medication on the day of the alleged arson attempt.
Assistant District Attorney David Stuart said his office would review the results and determine how to proceed with the case, the New York Post reports.
Manhattan prosecutors had that day indicted Lamparello on attempted arson and reckless endangerment charges. The suspect will remain in Bellevue Hospital Center’s prison ward pending a court hearing June 7, the North Jersey Record reports.
Lamparello’s apparent arson attempt took place two days after a major fire destroyed the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The cause of that fire has not yet been determined, but police suspect it was an accident.
Lamparello was also an adjunct professor of philosophy at Lehman College in the Bronx and also taught at Seton Hall University. He published a 400-plus page book on philosophy in 2016.
A friend of Lamparello’s family described them to the New York Post as “a good religious family” and as “strict Catholics.”
Lamparello was apprehended by cathedral security around 8 p.m. April 17 and taken into police custody by officers with the NYPD Critical Response Command. He attempted to start a fire using a lighter, police said, and he had a car nearby to escape the scene.
According to the NYPD, Lamparello had four gallons of gasoline, two cans of lighter fluid, and two lighters with him when he attempted to enter the cathedral. He was prevented from entering by cathedral security, but was able to spill some of the gasoline on the floor as he was leaving.
NYPD said that Lamparello’s story was “not consistent” and suspicious, though they have not yet determined any sort of motive. He claimed he cut through the cathedral as a shortcut, as his van had run out of gas. The minivan had in fact not run out of gas, which led to police taking him into custody.
He was charged initially with resisting arrest, defiant trespassing and interfering with the administration of law.
The attempted entry was the second time that week the man was arrested at a Catholic cathedral. Earlier in the week, Lamparello was arrested for refusing to leave the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.
Lamparello has been arrested previously for criminal trespass and public drunkenness.
NYPD have confirmed that Lamparello had recently purchased a one-way airplane ticket to Rome, scheduled to depart the next evening, and had already cancelled class. He had also booked a hotel room not far from St. Peter’s Basilica.
Sacramento, Calif., May 15, 2019 / 10:47 am (CNA).- The appropriations committee of California’s state senate will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would require priests to violate the seal of confession if they became aware of allegations of child abuse or neglect while celebrating the sacrament of penance. Critics say the bill would deny Constitutional religious liberty protections, and that there is no evidence it would actually prevent child abuse.
The bill, California SB 360, requires clergy members to report to law enforcement knowledge or suspicion of child abuse or neglect, “including when the clergy member acquires the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a penitential communication.”
Clergy in California are already required to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse in most circumstances, though penitential conversations like sacramental confession are exempted, as are other kinds of privileged conversations, among them those covered by attorney-client privilege.
The bill’s sponsor, California state Senator Jerry Hill (D-Calif. 13), has claimed that “the clergy-penitent privilege has been abused on a large scale, resulting in the unreported and systemic abuse of thousands of children across multiple denominations and faiths.”
The senator has claimed that such abuse has been revealed through “recent investigations by 14 attorneys general, the federal government, and other countries.” Hill’s office declined to respond to requests from CNA for clarity or specific instances of the abuse cited.
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said in a May 15 column that Hill’s claim is “simply not true. Hearings on the bill have not presented a single case — in California or anywhere else — where this kind of crime could have been prevented if a priest had disclosed information he had heard in confession.”
“SB 360 claims to solve a crisis that does not exist,” Gomez said.
While priests are forbidden from disclosing the contents of sacramental confessions under any circumstances, and face excommunication for doing so, few believe Hill’s bill would prevent child abuse.
California Catholic Conference executive director Andy Rivas told Angelus News May 15 that “there is no evidence that forcing priests to disclose what is learned in the confessional would prevent a single case of child abuse.”
If penitents report being abused, several priests told CNA, they are generally asked to discuss the matter with the priest-confessor immediately after confession has ended. When such conversations take place after confession, clergy members in California are already required by law to report them.
The bill is not the first time Hill has taken issue with internal Church practices. In 2015, he signed a letter urging San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to end an archdiocesan requirement that Catholic school teachers live in accord with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.
The letter said the requirement had “a divisive tone, which stands in stark contrast to the values that define the Bay Area and its history.”
The right to confidential religious communications has been recognized in Western legal traditions for centuries. The sacrament of confession is understood within Catholic teaching to be a revelation to God of sins, and confession is kept absolutely confidential in order to ensure that no penitent is discouraged from making use of the sacrament.
California’s bill would be a striking reversal of long-standing legal precedent preceding even the foundation of the United States. The state would be the first to explicitly revoke religious confidentiality while keeping protection for other kinds of confidential conversations in place.
Gomez’ May 15 column noted directly that the proposed measure “only targets Catholic priests.”
While the bill’s sponsor insists that’s not true, the bill was introduced shortly after the release a Pennsylvania grand jury reporting detailing decades of clerical sexual abuse allegations, and after the scandal that began June 20, 218, when credible allegations of abuse against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick were made public.
Gomez also said this week that “from a public policy standpoint, if the goal is to prevent child sexual abuse, it does not make sense to single out Catholic priests and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, which is the formal name for confession.”
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California’s largest, has faced two allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the last ten years. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, there are seven allegations of clerical sexual abuse made each year, across the United States.
Although all educators in California, as in most states, are mandated reporters, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 10% of public school students in the U.S. will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee before graduating from high school. 6,220,413 students were enrolled in California public schools in 2017-2018, according to the state’s department of education. If California does not significantly deviate from national statistics, 622,041 of those students are likely to experience sexual misconduct by public school employees before graduation.
Hill, himself a licensed teacher, has not weighed in publicly on another California bill that would remove the civil statute of limitations for lawsuits involving sexual abuse claims against employees of public schools and other California institutions.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, along with five other California dioceses, established May 14 an independently managed compensation program, which would provide compensatory payment to those alleging to be victims of priestly sexual abuse, regardless of what that abuse is alleged to have happened.
Gomez, for his part, has called Catholics to oppose the confession bill, which he called “a mortal threat to the religious freedom of every Catholic.”
“The privacy of that intimate conversation — our ability to speak with total honesty from our lips to God’s ear — is absolutely vital to our relationship with God,” Gomez wrote.
At the same time, the archbishop encouraged Catholics to pray for the healing of abuse victims and their families.
“Let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us bring healing to every victim-survivor of abuse and help us build a society where every child is loved, protected, and safe.”
Dallas, Texas, May 15, 2019 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Police are conducting a search of Church premises in the Diocese of Dallas. Officers executed a warrant on the chancery offices at 7:30 am local time.
Investigators from the Dallas child exploitation unit arrived at the chancery Wednesday morning to search for information and evidence in relation to five current or former clergy of the diocese.
According to a search warrant affidavit, the investigation is focused on Fr. Edmundo Paredes, Fr. Richard Thomas Brown, Fr. Alejandro Buitrago, Fr. William Joseph Hughes, Jr., and Fr. Jeremy Myers.
Local media have also reported that searches are being carried out at a warehouse storage facility and the parish of St. Cecilia in Oak Cliff.
All five men were included in a list of names of clergy “credibly” accused of sexual abuse released by the dioceses of Texas in January. The Diocese of Dallas released the name of 31 accused clerics, including 24 incardinated in the diocese and seven priests either from other dioceses or religious orders who had worked in Dallas.
Local media have reported that police increased their investigations into clerical sexual abuse in the diocese following the January release of names.
Fr. Paredes is the former pastor of St. Cecilia’s. After serving in the parish for 27 years, he was suspended from ministry in June 2017, under suspicion of having stolen between $60,000 - $80,000 from the parish. In February of 2018, Paredes was accused of sexually abusing three teenage boys over the course of his time at the parish.
Paredes fled the diocese and his whereabouts are currently unknown, though Burns has previously said the diocese believes he returned to the Philippines, from where he originally came.
Both Meyers and Buitrago were removed from ministry in 2018.
On Wednesday morning, a diocesan spokesperson told local media that the diocese was “surprised” by the early morning search, but that chancery staff were "cooperating" with investigators.
"We've been talking with and working with police throughout the process," said Annette Gonzales Taylor. "We're obviously surprised by it this morning."
The Diocese of Dallas is home to more than 1.2 million Catholics. Bishop Burns has served in the diocese since his appointment in December 2016.
Prior to his arrival, Dallas was led by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who now serves as the head of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in the Vatican.
This story is developing
Vatican City, May 15, 2019 / 05:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis greeted an international group dedicated to Jewish-Catholic dialogue Wednesday, calling dialogue “the way better to understand one another.”
“I offer you my encouragement, for dialogue is the way … to work together in building a climate not only of tolerance but also of respect between religions,” the pope said May 15 in St. Peter’s Square while greeting the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, which is holding its 24th meeting.
“From the promulgation of Nostra aetate until now, Jewish-Catholic dialogue has borne good fruit” Francis maintained.
He said that “we share a rich spiritual patrimony that can and must be ever more esteemed and appreciated as we grow in mutual understanding, fraternity and shared commitment on behalf of others.”
The pope urged the committee to discuss “timely issues such as our approach to refugees and how best to help them, the fight against the troubling regrowth of anti-Semitism, and concern for the persecution of Christians in various parts of the world.”
“Our strength is the gentle strength of encounter, not of the extremism emerging in certain quarters today, which leads only to conflict,” he reflected. “One never errs in seeking dialogue.”
Francis quoted from Proverbs: “deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil, but those who counsel peace have joy”, and concluded: “I pray that your gathering may be an encounter in peace and for peace. May the blessing of the Most High be with you, grant you the tenacity of gentleness and the courage of patience. Shalom!”