Pope Francis: Christ liberates us from overwhelming evil

4 days 18 hours ago

Vatican City, May 15, 2019 / 04:08 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that Jesus gave humanity a precious gift on the cross -- liberation from evil.

“The Christian knows how overwhelming the power of evil is, and at the same time he experiences how much Jesus, who never succumbed to its flattery, is on our side and comes to our aid,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square May 15.

The pope connected the last line of the Our Father prayer, “Deliver us from evil,” to Christ’s crucifixion.

“Deliver us from evil” covers a wide range of human experiences, he explained: “the mourning of man, innocent suffering, slavery, the exploitation of others, the cry of innocent children.”

In the Passion “Jesus fully experienced the piercing of evil. Not only death, but death on the cross. Not only loneliness, but also contempt, humiliation,” Pope Francis said.

“Thus the prayer of Jesus leaves us the most precious of inheritances: the presence of the Son of God who has freed us from evil, struggling to convert it,” he said.

Pope Francis explained that invoking God when faced with evil is “an essential characteristic of Christian prayer.”

“Jesus teaches his friends to put the invocation of the Father before everything, even and especially at times when the evil one makes his threatening presence felt,” he said.

“There is evil in our life, its presence is indisputable,” Francis said. “History books are the desolate catalog of how much our existence in this world has often been a failed venture.”

“There is a mysterious evil, which surely is not the work of God,” he explained. “At times it seems to take over: on some days its presence seems even sharper than that of God's mercy.”

However, Pope Francis said, forgiveness flows from Christ on the cross, which liberates us from evil.

“In the hour of the final fight … He offers a word of peace: ‘Father, forgive them because they do not know what they do,’” he said.

“‘Deliver us from evil.’ With this expression, one who prays not only asks not to be abandoned in the time of temptation, but also begs to be liberated from evil,” he said.

“If there were not the last verses of the ‘Our Father’ how could sinners, the persecuted, the desperate, the dying pray?” Pope Francis asked.

“The ‘Our Father’ resembles a symphony that asks to be fulfilled in each of us,” he said.

As Pope Francis entered the general audience on the popemobile this week, he greeted eight migrant children from Syria, Nigeria, and Congo, who arrived in Italy on a humanitarian vessel from Libya April 29.

Pope Francis names Bishop Baldacchino to lead Las Cruces diocese

4 days 18 hours ago

Vatican City, May 15, 2019 / 04:03 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday appointed Bishop Peter Baldacchino to head the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico – making him the first diocesan bishop associated with the Neocatechumenal Way to serve in a mainland U.S. diocese.

Baldacchino, 58, has been an auxiliary bishop of Miami, Florida, since 2014. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark in 1996.

As a seminarian in Newark, Baldacchino studied at the Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University but lived at the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary.

Baldacchino’s formation was in part guided by the Neocatechumenal Way, a post-baptismal itinerary of Christian formation first approved by Pope Paul VI and supported by each of the subsequent popes.

Seminarians who discern their vocation while involved with the Neocatechumenal Way are encouraged to place special emphasis on the universal missionary character of the priesthood and offer themselves, at the discretion of their local bishop, in service to the New Evangelization anywhere in the world.

Baldacchino is the first graduate of a Redemptoris Mater seminary to serve as a diocesan bishop in a mainland U.S. diocese.

He was born on the European island country of Malta, to a family of four children. His family joined the Neocatechumenal Way while he was a child, but he was not initially drawn to the priesthood.

After studying science and chemistry at the University of Malta, he began working as a technical manager at a bottling plant. At age 28 he attended the 1989 World Youth Day in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, after which he became more involved in the Neocatechumenal Way.

Through the movement he was sent on mission, during which he started to feel called to the priesthood, eventually being matched with the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Newark. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark on May 25, 1996.

Baldacchino served for over a decade as a missionary in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, and speaks Maltese, English, Italian, Creole, and Spanish.

The Diocese of Las Cruces was established in 1982. According to 2015 estimates, it has more than 236,600 Catholics, accounting for just over 42% of the area's population.

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

4 days 18 hours ago
Reading 1 Acts 12:24—13:5a
The word of God continued to spread and grow.

After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission,
they returned to Jerusalem,
taking with them John, who is called Mark.

Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers:
Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,
"Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them."
Then, completing their fasting and prayer,
they laid hands on them and sent them off.

So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit,
went down to Seleucia
and from there sailed to Cyprus.
When they arrived in Salamis,
they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6 and 8 R.(4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
or:
R. Alleluia.
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
or:
R. Alleluia.
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
or:
R. Alleluia.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Alleluia Jn 8:12 R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Jn 12:44-50 Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me believes not only in me
but also in the one who sent me,
and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.
I came into the world as light,
so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.
And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them,
I do not condemn him,
for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.
Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words
has something to judge him: the word that I spoke,
it will condemn him on the last day,
because I did not speak on my own,
but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”
For the readings of the Optional Memorial of Saint Isidore, please go here.
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 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.

It's time to fight for holiness, Bishop Barron tells 2019 Catholic grads

4 days 19 hours ago

Santa Paula, Calif., May 15, 2019 / 03:22 am (CNA).- Contemporary America is “mission territory,” and young Catholics must step up to respond to the twin crises of Church corruption and increasing religious disaffiliation, Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles said in a recent speech.

Speaking to young graduates, Barron cited a “time to fight” by becoming saints and sanctifying the world.

“Don’t wait for other reformers to arise; this is your moment to meet this crucial moral challenge. And no pusillanimous people need apply,” he said at the May 11 commencement for Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., where the college’s graduating class numbered 83.

Barron, citing Pope Francis, said that corruption is not far behind when the Church fails to go outward and instead turns in on itself.

For Barron, the Thomas Aquinas College campus reminded him of Chicago’s Mundelein Seminary because of its “distinctive blend of natural and man-made beauty.” He compared it to “something of a Catholic heaven on earth.” It is a campus he said offers liturgy, prayer, fellowship, and “deep communion with the saints and geniuses of the Catholic tradition.”

“Just as the students at Mundelein were not meant to stay on the grounds of the seminary, so you are not meant to stay at this lovely place,” he added. “Rather, you are meant to go forth, carrying what you have received and cultivated here, in order to sanctify our suffering world.”

In his remarks, Barron named two challenges that call forth “heroic moral excellence,” namely corruption in the Church and “the massive attrition of our own Catholic people, especially the young.”

“Wicked priests and clueless religious superiors are, sadly, nothing particularly new in the life of God’s people,” he said.

“Undermining the work of the Church in practically every way, the clerical sex abuse catastrophe has been the devil’s masterpiece,” the bishop continued, acknowledging that many Catholics face the temptation to leave the Church.

“But it is my conviction that this is not the time to leave; this is the time to fight,” said Barron.

He encouraged the new graduates to fight by entering the priesthood or religious life as well as to “fight by your very holiness of life, becoming the saint that God wants you to become.”

The young should fight by “calling for real reform” and “insisting that the guilty be held accountable.” He encouraged graduates to do a daily Holy Hour to purify the Church, to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, to take part in the sacrifice of the Mass, and to evangelize. They should sanctify their family, their workplace, public life, and the realms of politics, sports and entertainment, he said.

Another great crisis, according to Barron, is the rise of the religiously unaffiliated. The religiously unaffiliated in early 1970s America made up only 3%, doubling to 6% by the early 90s. At present, they make up nearly 25% of Americans. About 40% of Americans under 30 describe themselves as non-affiliated.

For every one person who becomes Catholic, six leave the faith.

“Any way one looks at these statistics, one must conclude that we are hemorrhaging young people from religion in general and Catholicism in particular,” the bishop said.

Disbelief in the teachings of Christianity is the principal reason for people leaving the faith. They find Christianity “intellectually untenable,” Barron said.

However, he suggested that Thomas Aquinas College graduates are “specially qualified for the arduous task of engaging the army of skeptics who have wandered from the Church.” The graduates’ contemplation of great intellectuals is good in itself, but at this moment it should give rise to “active evangelization and compelling apologetics.”

Barron drew on St. Thomas Aquinas’ reflections on the virtue of magnanimity, “the quality of having a great soul,” and the vice of pusillanimity, faintheartedness or fear of attempting moral excellence.

“It seems to me that the entire purpose of the programs here at Thomas Aquinas College is to produce magnanimous people, young women and men of great souls, capable of high moral achievement, willing and able to undertake arduous tasks for which they will rightly merit great honor,” he said. “Thomas Aquinas College has no interest in giving rise to pusillanimous graduates, men and women with small souls, who would shrink from the difficult moral challenge of the present time.”

He told the graduates they faced “arduous tasks” and “choppy seas,” but he encouraged them that they had been prepared.

“Your four years here have given you great souls. Let them be unleashed!” his commencement address concluded. “God bless you all!”

'I was deeply moved and saddened'- How Polish bishops react to documentary on clerical abuse

4 days 22 hours ago

Warsaw, Poland, May 15, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Catholics bishops in Poland are responding to a new documentary that addresses clerical sexual abuse in the country.

The documentary presents allegations that abusive priests were shifted between parishes, and shows people confronting elderly priests alleged to have abused them as children,

The film, “Tell No One,” was posted to YouTube by filmmaking brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, has nearly 14 million views and counting.

“Today I was deeply moved and saddened when watching Mr. Sekielski's film, and I would like to thank him for this film,” Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, President of the Polish bishops' conference, wrote May 13.

“For the most part, the message of the film corresponds to my experience gained during the many conversations I have held with the victims.”

Archbishop Wojciech Polak of Gniezno, Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth of the Polish bishops' conference, echoed Gadecki’s sentiments.

“The enormous suffering of people who have been hurt triggers pain and shame,” he said.  

“At this moment, I also have before my eyes the drama of the victims whom I have met personally. I thank all those who have the courage to speak about their suffering.”

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland, at a rally Sunday promised harsher punishment for child abusers, floating the idea of 30-year prison sentences in reaction to the film.

Polish law currently provides for a 12-year sentence for abuse of a child under 15.

“On behalf of the entire bishops’ conference, I would like all the victims to accept my sincere apologies; I realize that nothing can compensate them for the harms they have suffered,” Gadecki said.

Gadecki and Polak both referenced their belief that Pope Francis’ recent motu proprio, “Vos estis lux mundi,” is necessary as part of the solution.

The motu proprio, among other provisions, establishes obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, requires that every diocese has a mechanism for reporting abuse, and puts the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations against suffragan bishops.

“I am convinced that this film, too, will result in an even more stringent compliance with the guidelines for the protection of children and young people in the Church, in the implementation by all bishops of prevention principles in each diocese, and in compliance with the Motu proprio that Pope Francis promulgated [May 7],” Gadecki said.

 

Alabama outlaws abortion, setting up Supreme Court Roe v. Wade challenge

5 days 1 hour ago

Montgomery, Ala., May 14, 2019 / 08:57 pm (CNA).- Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law Wednesday a bill that will outlaw nearly all abortion in the state. The bill, which was passed by the Alabama Senate Tuesday night, is intended to be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional state measures prohibiting abortion.

The Human Life Protection Act (HB314) will make attempting or performing an abortion a felony offense. Doctors who perform abortion could be charged with a Class A felony and could face between 10 years and life in prison.

The penalty applies only to doctors, not to mothers, who, according to the bill’s sponsors, will not face criminal penalties for undergoing abortions.

The state Senate engaged in fierce debate last week, which ultimately erupted in a shouting match on the Senate floor,  over whether an exemption for cases of rape or incest should be included in the bill. A vote scheduled for May 10 was delayed after exemption was removed from the Senate’s bill following a voice vote May 9.

The measure does include a provision that would allow abortions “in cases where abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child's mother.”

The bill defines a serious health risk as a condition requiring an abortion “to avert [the mother’s] death or to avert serious risk of substantial physical impairment of a major bodily function.”

Opponents pledged months ago to challenge the legislation in court. This is exactly what the bill’s sponsors expected. Supporters say court challenges could lead to a reversal  the Roe v. Wade decision.

Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham said in April that the legislation reflects “the strong commitment that the people of Alabama have to life.”

In an April 3 statement, the bishop praised the lawmakers’ efforts.

“I strongly support these bills and stand behind the efforts of these legislators to promote life and to, hopefully in the near future, eliminate this evil we know as abortion from within the boundaries of the State of Alabama; and, eventually, to make the killing of unborn children in our country something that is no longer viewed as anything but the horrendous and inhumane killing of the most innocent among us that it is,” he said.

Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), sponsor of the House bill, said the bill passed Thursday is designed to “confront a decision that was made by the courts in 1973 that said the baby in a womb is not a person,” Collins added. "This bill addresses that one issue. Is that baby in the womb a person? I believe our law says it is.”

“It is meant to actually use some of the same language that is addressed in Roe vs. Wade. So, hopefully it just completely takes it all the way to the Supreme Court eventually to overturn.”

 

This story has been updated.

 

After alumni organize advocacy, Georgetown Visitation will recognize alumnae same-sex legal unions

5 days 5 hours ago

Washington D.C., May 14, 2019 / 05:16 pm (CNA).- A Catholic girls’ high school has announced that its alumni magazine will publish notices of the same-sex legal unions of former students. The decision comes after a school alumnae group organized to advocate for a change to school policy.
 
Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, DC, is run by the Salesian Sisters of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. The school announced its policy change in an emailed letter sent May 3 to school students, families, and alumnae.

Sister Mary Berchmans VHM, superior of the monastery responsible for the school, and the school’s former president, signed the email.

The letter was not signed by Dan Kerns, Head of School, nor by any other member of the Board of Directors. Kerns is due to retire from the school in July.  

Berchmans’ email said a decision to recognize the same-sex legal unions of alumnae had been reached by “school and Monastery leadership after much prayerful consideration and thoughtful dialogue.”

Part of that dialogue appears to have taken place with a small group of pro-LGBT alumnae and activists.

Before the decision was made, alumnae calling themselves the Georgetown Visitation Alumnae for Equity established a private Facebook group in which they discussed efforts to encourage the school to recognize same-sex unions of alumnae.

In the Facebook group, one former student posted the text of an email she sent to Kerns and Berchmans, in which she described herself as a “proudly gay alumna” and complained that the school had declined to publish in its magazine the notice of a same-sex union filed by another alumna.

“I understand that recently a fellow alumna submitted a wedding announcement and was denied publication. It is my further understanding that the administration’s rationale for the lack of inclusion is that you [the school] ‘have an obligation as a Catholic school to take no public position that is in conflict with the sated teachings of the Church at this moment.’”

The former student noted that notice of her own “marriage and same sex partnering” was included in the alumnae notes section of the magaizine in the early 2000s.

“When you talk about the teachings of the church, I want you to remember all of the teachings of the church. I want you to remember to Live Jesus,” the former Visitation student told Berchmans and Kerns.

A spokesperson for the school told CNA on May 15 that "Live Jesus" is an articulation of the Salesian spirituality and part of the daily life of the school community.

"This phrase is part of our Salesian charism and a deeply engrained part of who we are as a community of faith," the spokesperson said.

The alumna later posted to the Facebook group the text of a reply from Berchmans, who said that the school was working “towards a solution.”

In her May email to the school community, Berchmans used similar language to the former student's letter, writing that she had been “reflect[ing] upon what it means to Live Jesus in relationship with our LGBTQ alumnae.”

“The Church is clear in its teaching on same-sex marriages,” Berchmans wrote. “But, it is equally clear in its teaching that we are all children of God, that we each have dignity and are worthy of respect and love.”

The religious sister also wrote that she had been praying over what she called the “contradiction” between the Church’s perennial teachings on human sexuality and the Gospel imperative to love.

Noting that “the Church, in its humanity, makes mistakes,” Berchmans said that she was compelled to make a “choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love.”

“Beginning with the fall issue of our alumnae magazine, we will publish news of our alumnae’s same-sex unions, along with all updates our alums choose to share with their classmates.”

There are divergent accounts of how the school’s decision has been received among the Visitation community.

A member of the Facebook group posted earlier this month that “Sr. Mary Berchmans is struggling from the amount of negative pushback from members of the Visitation community” after Berchmans announced the decision. The same member noted that Berchmans might be required to “defend” her decision to the school’s board of directors, and called for letters of support to be sent to her and the school.

The Washington Post reported May 13 that a Visitation spokesperson called responses to Berman’s email “overwhelmingly and heartwarmingly positive.”

The Post also reported that school officials had said there were “few complaints about the policy shift from students, parents and the school’s alumnae.”

Before the Washington Post’s story was published, a participant in the Georgetown Visitation Alumnae for Equity Facebook group posted that a Post reporter was working on the story, was a friend of another group member, and urged members of the group to contact him.


---
One Visitation alumna told CNA that she only learned of the school’s decision when her daughter, a current Visitation student, received the email from Berchmans.

“It was a remarkable way to find out,” she said. “You don’t expect your child to be coming home and telling you about these things when they are supposed to be at a school forming them in the faith.”

The mother told CNA that many other parents objected to the decision but were concerned about confronting school administrators and faculty, noting that school officials seem to have already tacitly approved of retaining a teacher at the school who is widely known to be in a same-sex legal union.

A second parent with daughters at the school told CNA that within the school community there is pressure to conform and support “so-called LGBTQ values.” She said many parents feel pressure to support the same-sex union of one teacher, even if they feel it is inapproproate in the context of the school’s commitment to Catholic teaching.

“All the parents felt like we had to support this teachers ‘marriage,’ and we didn’t really know how to deal with it,” one parent said.

“You worry about soft discrimination against the children,” another mother said. “A’s become B’s very quickly, and you do not want to have a reputation as one of the ‘angry parents.’”

One parent also noted that the school holds an annual “diversity day” for which the students are assigned specific personas to assume, including homosexuality.

On May 15, the spokesperson for Visitation said that the school administration was "deeply troubled" by the concerns expressed by parents to CNA.

"It is offensive to us, it is not who were are at all." The spokes person told CNA that the school had an "open door policy" on the issue and "welcomed conversation."

"We have responded personally to every single individual who brought forth a concern."

The spokesperson also clarified that on "diversity day" students were encouraged to complete anonymously a survey about various aspects of their own identity and background.

The responses are redistributed to the students at random and they are asked as a body to stand up according to their randomly assigned answers to illustrate the diversity of the school community.

"Its a way of helping people understand how diverse our community is without anyone having to come forward and expose a vulnerable part of themselves," the spokesperson explained.

"No one at any time is asked to embody a persona of being homosexual."

The same parents were also quick to insist that much of the school’s religious education and other programs are faithful to Catholic teaching.

“My daughter was taught the Theology of the Body, sound pro-life teaching, exactly what you would want in a Catholic school,” one mother said. “I think there is a minority among the faculty and staff that have gradually taken over parts of the school community and are just really committed to a very politically progressive agenda.”

---

The Washington Post also reported May 13 that the Archdiocese of Washington said it had not been informed or consulted before Visitation’s decision was made and the email was sent.

While the school is not directly affiliated with the archdiocese, the archdiocese is responsible for ensuring independent Catholic schools maintain their Catholic identity, and is charged with providing advice and guidance on matters related to Church teaching.

An email circulated by school spokesperson Caroline Handorf to the school community May 13 said that representatives from the archdiocese had been informed of the decision.

“We have been in touch with several contacts in the Archdiocese, including Bishop Michael Fisher, to ensure that we are aligned as we move forward and they are assured of our continued commitment to our Catholic identity and to the teachings of the Church,” Handorf wrote.

An archdiocesan spokesman told CNA May 14 that the archdiocese “was not made aware of the discussion on Catholic identity or the recent decision of the school to communicate the change for their alumni publication until after the letter announcing the decision was distributed to the wider Georgetown Visitation community.”

The archdiocesan spokesman also told CNA that Bishop Fisher had not been contacted prior to the email’s circulation.

On May 15, Handorf told CNA that "I can't speak for the archdiocese, but I can say we have been in touch with them and our goal is to work with them as we move forward and remain committed to our Catholic identity." 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are “objectively disordered” and constitute a trial for those who experience them.

People who experience same-sex attraction must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, the Church says, and “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Successive popes have condemned the move towards civil recognition of same-sex unions by the state and expressed their concern that the concept undermines the natural law of the family and marriage, which is between a man and a woman.

Pope Francis has spoken about a state of “critical confusion at the moment” regarding marriage and gender in the world, observing that the word “marriage” can never be used to describe same-sex unions.

Speaking about the essential nature of marriage as between a man and a woman, Francis said in 2017 that “we cannot change it.”

“This is the nature of things,” the pope said, while observing that “we do not joke around with truth.”

Georgetown Visitation was founded in 1799, and is the oldest Catholic high school for girls in the United States. Tuition is $30,100. Approximately 500 students are enrolled in the school.

This story was updated May 15 following responses recieved from a spokesperson for Georgetown Visitation.

New Jersey extends statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims

5 days 5 hours ago

Newark, N.J., May 14, 2019 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law this week a bill relaxing the state’s statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims.

The law will allow increased time for civil action and will permit victims to seek compensation from institutions as well as individuals.

The Archdiocese of Newark objected to certain portions of the bill, but stressed that overall, the Catholic Church is in favor of its crucial goal of bringing justice and healing for victims.

“While we disagreed on specific elements of this legislation, the Catholic community, the legislature, and the Governor sincerely agree on one key position - the need to restore justice for the victims of sexual abuse in New Jersey,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

Currently, the statute of limitations in New Jersey restricts sex abuse lawsuits to when the victim is 20 years old or two years after they first realize that they were harmed by abuse. In December, the new legislation will allow child victims of sexual assault to file civil lawsuits until they turn 55 or until seven years from the time they become aware of the injury, whichever comes later.

For those who have been previously barred from seeking damages, the law will also offer a two-year window to pursue legal action.

During a debate on the legislation in February, the state’s Catholic conference argued that only individual offenders, not institutions, should face civil action for past sexual abuse.

According to the Associated Press, Patrick Brannigan, executive director for the Catholic Conference of New Jersey, said the Church will fully comply with the government, noting that it “sincerely regrets that some in the Church failed to protect children.” However, he had requested the law’s start date be delayed.

Governor Murphy recognized the financial concern for organizations but highlighted the responsibility to the victims of sexual abuse.

“Survivors of sexual abuse deserve opportunities to seek redress against their abusers,” he said, according to North Jersey. “ This legislation allows survivors who have faced tremendous trauma the ability to pursue justice through the court system.”

In February, all the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey released lists of clergy who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors dating back to 1940.

On the list is disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who headed New Jersey’s Diocese of Metuchen from 1981 until 1986 and the Archdiocese of Newark from 1986 until 2000. He retired as Archbishop of Washington.

McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 after being credibly accused of abusing two minor boys. He was found guilty by the Holy See and was removed from the clerical state in February.

As part of efforts to foster the healing of victims and as an alternative to lawsuits, the five Catholic dioceses of New Jersey have set up their own compensation fund. The Catholic Conference said the compensation fund offers a quicker alternative to the litigation process with a lower level of proof than is required by the court.

According to North Jersey, Senator Joseph Vitale, the primary sponsor of the new law, expressed concern about the trustworthiness of institutions. He also said it is important that the names of abusers are released to the public.

“With a compensation fund, there's no discovery. You are offered a sum of money for your injury and therapy. But the public doesn't know what happened or who the pedophiles are, and that's critical to know so we can protect children,” Vitale said.

In the statement on Monday, the Archdiocese of Newark reiterated its current efforts to help promote the healing of sex abuse vicitms, as well as steps taken to prevent future abuse.

“The Catholic community is confident that the Independent Victims Compensation Program established by the five dioceses in New Jersey is a significant step towards restoring justice for those who, as minors, were abused by ministers of the Church,” the archdiocese said.

“Further, we are committed to the comprehensive healing of those harmed and we will continue our policies aimed at protecting children from abuse.”

California bishops announce compensation program for abuse victims

5 days 5 hours ago

Los Angeles, Calif., May 14, 2019 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- Bishops in California announced May 14 a new program to compensate victims of clerical sexual abuse, through which any person sexually abused as a minor by a diocesan priest can apply for compensation— no matter when the abuse occurred.

“We have been providing pastoral care and financial support for victim-survivors here in the Archdiocese for many years. We will continue to do so,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said in a letter accompanying the announcement.  

“But we also understand that some victim-survivors are reluctant to come to the Church for assistance. Our hope with this new program is to give these people a chance to seek redress and healing through an independent program.”

The new program applies to six of California’s 12 Catholic dioceses— Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange, and Fresno. These six dioceses represent 80% of California’s Catholics, the announcement asserts.

The protocol for the program is still in draft form, so victims are not yet able to file claims, but a website dedicated to the program will be launched soon, spokesperson Amy Weiss told CNA.

Survivors can elect to enter this program as an alternative to pursuing their claims against the Church in court, the announcement notes. Victims will have to submit a claim form along with any supporting evidence.

Victims need not have a lawyer and there is no fee to participate; settlements for fully completed claims are to be paid within 90 days.

“Those harmed many years ago and barred from filing lawsuits because of civil statutes of limitations will be eligible to make claims under this new program,” the announcement says.

“Also, because this program has no proof-of-citizenship requirement, undocumented immigrants who may have been abused are also eligible to make claims.”

The program applies only to diocesan priests. Claims against members of religious orders active in California, or against deacons or laypeople, are not eligible. Victims who have previously entered into a settlement agreement resolving the claim of sexual abuse against a diocesan priest are also not eligible.

The bishops began been working with mediators Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros in November 2018 to develop the program. Feinberg and Biros will have full control over the amount of compensation each victim gets and the diocese will not be able to appeal their decision.

Feinberg is an attorney and mediator who led the Sept. 11 victims' fund and was involved in overseeing a compensation program in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting in 2012. He and Biros recently led the creation of abuse victims compensation programs in New Jersey, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. They also administer the Archdiocese of New York’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which began in Oct. 2016.

Former California governor Gray Davis, and Maria Contreras-Sweet, former administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, are among the members of the independent oversight board overseeing the fund.

California’s diocese have paid out nearly $1.5 billion in settlements to survivors of sexual abuse in the past two decades alone, the announcement says. Safeguards diocese have implemented to protect children have included training on abuse prevention and reporting, and stricter background checks and reporting requirements.

“As a result, new cases of sexual misconduct by priests involving minors are rare today in the Catholic Church in California. Nonetheless, the Bishops undertake this program in their continued efforts to provide avenues for victim-survivors of abuse to receive assistance to continue their healing,” the announcement concludes.

 

Correction: This story erroneously stated that California has 13 Catholic dioceses. It has 12.

Colombia food bank calls for ‘heroes’ to serve those in need

5 days 5 hours ago

Bogotá, Colombia, May 14, 2019 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- A major food bank in Bogota, Colombia, is calling for local people and organizations to partner with them as they serve hundreds of thousands of at-risk people in the area.

“It's important for the people to be well fed, and have a culture of good habits, [and to] accompany the poorest so their children can go to school, and for the older adults to be placed in jobs,” said Fr. Daniel Saldarriaga, executive director of the Archdiocesan Food Bank of Bogota, Colombia.

The Bogota Food Bank is a completely self-sustaining foundation that began in 2001 with the goal of responding to Pope John Paul II's call in the Apostolic Letter “Novo Millenio Ineunte.”

The bank has a group of 126 collaborators that serve as “a bridge” that joins them to the most needy, and allows them to reach more than 313,000 people in at-risk conditions in Bogota.

This food bank is currently serving more than 61,000 children, 22,000 young people, 24,000 adults, 10,000 elderly and 47,000 families.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, Saldarriaga said there is a need for more community involvement to continue meeting the needs of those served by the food bank, including children and the elderly, the sick, and those with disabilities.

The food bank has launched a new campaign, asking individuals and organizations to donate food, toiletries, personal hygiene products, as well as other items and services which are allocated and distributed to the NGOs registered with the bank.

To receive this support, the NGOs must demonstrate that they work with a vulnerable population to provide food or other material assistance.

Saldarriaga said the campaign is inviting people to “be heroes” by alleviating the suffering of their neighbors.

For example, the priest said, a hero is someone who “instead of throwing away products they were unable to sell, delivers them to be sent to organizations where they can improve living conditions and vulnerable situations.

“In our country, we only manage to utilize two-thirds of what we produce, harvest or market, the rest is wasted. That's why in Colombia we are contributing to the number of people suffering from hunger,” he said. 

In addition to providing food for the poor, the Bogota food bank is working to create a culture of sound and healthy nutrition and fight the culture of begging.

“It's not right that we're making beggars. We need to alleviate hunger and fight poverty. Otherwise, we'll go on doing works that seem very interesting, but don't have the positive effect of our truly bringing dignity to the quality of life of the people that most need it,” Saldarriaga stressed.

The priest also emphasized the importance of working with young people. They must have opportunities that allow them to “have the dream of preparing themselves for the workplace and engaging in the economy,” he said.

Sale of consecrated hosts violates Etsy's policies, website confirms

5 days 9 hours ago

Washington D.C., May 14, 2019 / 12:28 pm (CNA).- An Etsy representative has clarified that the sale of consecrated hosts for the purpose of desecration is a violation of the e-commerce website’s terms.

A petition asking Etsy to confirm that it does not allow the sale of consecrated hosts gained thousands of signatures overnight, following a listing claiming to offer hosts to abuse.

On May 7, the Etsy account “Pentagora” claimed to be selling “Real Catholic Hosts, consecrated by a priest.” The hosts were advertised “to abuse for classic black fairs or black magic purposes.” The listing claimed to be selling a package of nine hosts that had been consecrated in Germany.

In the following days, the listing drew attention on Twitter, with critics arguing that it violated Etsy’s policies. The popular online marketplace only allows for the sale of items that are handmade, vintage, or craft supplies. Stolen items are explicitly prohibited, as are items that “support or glorify hatred toward people or otherwise demean people based upon: race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation.”

A few days later, the listing for the consecrated hosts was marked as “Sold Out.” It was subsequently deleted.

On May 13, a Change.org petition was started, calling on Etsy to clarify that the sale of consecrated hosts is a violation of the platform’s policies.

“Catholics believe that Consecrated Hosts are truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is the most precious thing in our religion,” the petition said.

“It is given freely, and so the only reason anyone could ever have to sell it would by definition be illicit. To sell them ‘for abuse’ is hateful against the Catholic Church, and should be prohibited by Etsy.”

The petition recognized that Etsy does not screen individual listings, but said that “to prevent this happening again, we ask that Etsy add ‘Consecrated Hosts’ to their already strict list of prohibited items.”

By the following day, the petition had gained more than 7,500 signatures. Jess Kallberg, policy manager for Etsy, responded to the petition May 14, confirming that “the reselling of consecrated hosts is a violation of our policies.”

Etsy removed the “sold out” listing promptly upon being notified of it, she said.

Kallberg reiterated Etsy’s commitment to creating a welcoming environment, including for religious users.

She noted that listings are not pre-approved before appearing on the site.

“We rely on each seller to ensure the items they list adhere to our policies, and our specialized teams take action when we see items that violate these policies,” she said. “We strongly encourage anyone who sees an item that violates our policies to submit a flag by clicking the ‘Report this item to Etsy’ link at the bottom of the listing.”

State abortion battles continue in Rhode Island, Michigan, Alabama

5 days 10 hours ago

Providence, R.I., May 14, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Several states are considering new abortion measures, as the nation-wide trend of legislatures passing new laws to restrict or entrench access to abortion continues.

On May 14, Michigan lawmakers are set to vote on a bill to prohibit an abortion technique called “dilation and extraction.”

This technique is used during the second trimester of a pregnancy. Last year, over 1,700 abortions in Michigan were carried out using dilation and extraction.

Should it pass, the bill is unlikely to be signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who supports abortion rights. Other states who have attempted to ban this abortion method have seen their laws overturned by the courts.

In Rhode Island, legislators are attempting to pass a bill expanding and confirming access to abortion. The measure, similar to laws already passed in New York and Vermont, would codify near-unrestricted access to abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

Unlike in New York and Vermont, where such measures passed virtually unopposed, Rhode Island has also seem concerted efforts to introduce restrictions on abortion past the point of fetal viability.

“I cannot support post-viability abortions that are based on undefined ‘health’ reasons and would permit very late term, up to date of birth, abortions. It simply goes too far,” said state Sen. Stephen Archambault (D).

Archambault described himself as someone who is both pro-choice and in favor of “reasonable restrictions” on abortion once the pregnancy has reached viability.

“Simply put, viability means when a fetus is so close to fully formed that it is likely to be able to survive outside the womb — if born. Reasonable restrictions are permissible under Roe v. Wade as currently interpreted by the US Supreme Court,” he added.

Archambault intends on introducing an amended piece of legislation that will include these safeguards.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, said on Twitter Tuesday that he is “Still counting on the Sen. Judiciary Committee to reject the radical pro-abortion bill being considered today.”

“It’s undeniable that it goes way beyond Roe v Wade. The vast majority in R.I. oppose late term abortions, the termination of viable children,” he added. “Pro lifers-stay strong!”

In Alabama, the state Senate is expected to vote during the evening of May 14 on the Human Life Protection Act. The bill would make abortion at any time during a pregnancy a felony crime, except in narrowly defined cases where the woman’s health would be at risk.

The measure arrived in the senate after passing a vote in the house by a margin of 74-3. Some politicians have said they are hesitant to support the bill, as there is no exception for abortion in cases of rape or incest.

State Rep. Terri Collins (R), the bill’s sponsor, said of the measure that it “says that baby in the womb is a person.”

Unlike other state bills, which ban abortion at a certain point of a pregnancy--such as the detection of a heartbeat or at the 20-week mark of a pregnancy-- the Alabama bill would outlaw abortion entirely. Doctors who perform abortion would be charged with a Class A felony and could face between 10 years and life in prison.

As a result of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, abortion is considered to be a constitutional right through the point of fetal viability; about the 22nd week of a pregnacy. Laws that restrict abortion prior to this point are generally found to be unconstituional.

Supporters of the Human Life Protection Act hope that any subsequent legal challenge to the law could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which could revisit the Roe decision.

The Supreme Court has been reluctant in years past to consider laws that would influence abortion policy in the United States, but there are several pending cases that could be considered in the upcoming future.

In addition to the aforementioned laws banning dilation and extraction abortions, an Indiana law that banned abortion based off of sex, race, or disability has also been overturned by lower courts, and laws in four states have banned abortion prior to the 20th week of pregnancy.

 It is unclear as of now if the court will consider any of these cases.

Meanwhile in Georgia, state lawmakers say they are unconcerned about the effects of a planned “boycott” of the state by the entertainment industry. Georgia, which recently outlawed abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, was threatened with boycotts from actors and producers. So far, only three production companies have announced they will not be filming in Georgia.

None of the three had previously filmed in the state.

Woman who served Brazil’s poorest to be canonized

5 days 15 hours ago

Vatican City, May 14, 2019 / 06:53 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday gave his approval for eight sainthood causes to proceed, including that of Blessed Dulce Lopes Pontes, a 20th-century religious sister who served Brazil’s poor.

With the pope’s approval of a second miracle attributed to her intercession, Bl. Dulce can be canonized, according to the May 14 announcement. Pope Francis approved the next steps in the causes after meeting with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Sr. Dulce was born as Maria Rita to an upper middle-class family in Salvador, Brazil in 1914. Her mother died when she was six years old. At the age of 13, an aunt took Maria Rita to see the poor area of the city, which left a strong impression on her, and from that time she began to care for the poor and beggars in her own neighborhood.

After graduating from high school at age 18, her father allowed her to join the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. For her religious name she took “Dulce,” the name of her mother.

Not long after joining the missionary sisters, Dulce became determined to shelter the many ill people she encountered on the streets of Salvador. She would house them in abandoned buildings and bring them food and medical care.

Eventually she and her more than 70 patients were kicked out of the building. Left with nowhere to take them, she asked her mother superior for help, and was given the convent’s chicken yard to turn into an improvised hotel.

As part of the agreement, Sr. Dulce was asked to care for the chickens, which she did by butchering them and feeding them to her patients.

This eventually became the site of the Santo Antonio Hospital, which continues to serve Brazil’s poor and disabled.

Bl. Dulce founded the Sao Francisco’s Worker’s Union, the first Christian worker’s movement in the Brazilian state of Bahia, which she later transformed into the Worker’s Center of Bahia.

She also founded the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce (Obras Sociais Irma Dulce) in 1959, which continues to be one of the most well-known and well-respected charitable organizations in Brazil.

In 1988, Sr. Dulce was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the President of Brazil, Jose Sarney.

She died in 1992, at the age of 77, after battling lung problems for 30 years. She met Pope John Paul II twice during her life, the second in 1990 while hospitalized. She was beatified May 22, 2011.

Pope Francis also gave his approval May 14 for the canonization of Rome-native Bl. Giuseppina Vannini, foundress of the Daughters of San Camillo (1859-1911) and for the beatification of Venerable Lucia dell’Immacolata, a sister of the Institute of the Servants of Charity (1909-1962).

Called by some “the saint of simplicity,” as a child Sr. Lucia dell’Immacolata was noted for her piety and charity. From a young age she worked in a spinning mill and factory to help her family.

After meeting the foundress of the Servants of Charity, St. Maria Crocifissa di Rosa, she joined the institute, where she devoted herself to the humble tasks of doing the shopping for the convent, accompanying the other sisters on errands, or serving the priests who stayed in the mother house for retreats.

She died from an illness in 1954 in Brescia, Italy, at the age of 45.

Those whom the pope has declared ‘Venerable’ are: Italian Giovanni Battista Pinardi, auxiliary bishop of Turin (1880-1962); Italian Carlo Salerio, a priest of the Institute of the Foreign Missions of Paris and founder of the Institute of the Sisters of Reparation (1827-1870); Spaniard Domenico Lazaro Castro, a priest of the Society of Mary (1877-1935); Brazilian Salvatore da Casca, professed of the Order of Friars Minor (1911-1971); and Italian Eufrasia Iaconis, foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception (1867-1916).

Maronite patriarch emeritus dies at age 98

5 days 18 hours ago

Beirut, Lebanon, May 14, 2019 / 04:25 am (CNA).- Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, who served as the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch from 1986 to 2011, died Sunday just days short of his 99th birthday.

The cardinal died May 12 at a hospital in Beirut.

“I address my warm condolences to you, as well as to his family and to all the faithful of the Patriarchal Church of Antioch of the Maronites, whom he governed for many years with as much gentleness as determination,” Pope Francis wrote in a May 14 telegram to Sfeir’s successor, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai.

Sfeir was born May 15, 1920 in Rayfoun, Lebanon, about 10 miles east of Sarba. He attended Saint-Maron Seminary from 1937-39, and St. Joseph’s University in Beirut from 1940-50. He was ordained a priest in 1950, serving in his home parish and as secretary of the Diocese of Damas, and then as secretary to the patriarchate. He also taught literature and Arabic philosophy and translation at the College of the Marist Fathers in Jounieh.

He was selected as patriarchal vicar general in 1961, and his episcopal consecration was the same year. In 1986 he was selected as Patriarch of Antioch, and he was made a cardinal in 1994. As patriarch he oversaw the publication of a revised Maronite missal, and was responsible for the Maronite community during final years of the Lebanese Civil War.

Sfeir resigned as patriarch in 2011, at the age of 90.

In his telegram, Pope Francis called Sfeir “a free and courageous man,” saying he was “a decisive craftsman of gathering, peace and reconciliation. Ardent defender of the sovereignty and independence of his country, he will remain a great figure in the history of Lebanon.”

“I ask the Father of all mercy to welcome to his home of peace and light this wise and committed pastor who showed the love of God to the people who had been entrusted to him.”

Deacon Drake: From Pentecostal preacher to Catholic priest

5 days 18 hours ago

Steubenville, Ohio, May 14, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Deacon Drake McCalister is many things that most men about to become Catholic priests are not.

McCallister is 50 years old; the average age of men being ordained as Catholic priests in the U.S. this year is 33.

He is a husband and a father of five; most men about to become priests will promise never to marry, and will never have biological children.

He is a former Pentecostal preacher and Catholic convert; 89% of men about to be ordained were baptized Catholics as infants, according to data from CARA, a research center at Georgetown University.

“Why do you need to be a priest?” McCalister said he is asked many times, sometimes even from leaders in the Church.

“I don’t,” McCalister told CNA. “My only desire is to be obedient to Jesus Christ, period.” And McCalister believes that Jesus has called him to the priesthood.

It’s not the first time the Lord has asked him to do something radical, he said.

McCalister’s long and winding vocation story begins in his early 20s, when he, as a young Pentecostal, asked the Lord in prayer what he should do with his life. After high school, McCalister had started working; the idea of college just hadn’t appealed to him. But after a few years, he knew it was time to seek God’s plan.

“I was always ministry-minded,” he said. “I walked into a prayer meeting asking God: ‘What do you want me to do?’ And as clear as the Lord has ever told me anything in my life, it was there during that prayer session that the Lord made it clear: ‘Get equipped for full-time ministry and give me the rest of your life.’”  

“So I literally walked out of that room with a singular purpose,” McCalister said. He knew the call was from God, he added, because he found himself suddenly excited to go to college to get a theology degree - something that had never been part of his own plans.

Had McCalister been Catholic at the time, he told CNA, he would have become a priest - he was young, unmarried and childless at the time. But since he was not Catholic, “I went on with life and got married and had some kids,” he said.

After getting a theology degree, McCalister began a 13-year stint of Pentecostal ministry, becoming a youth minister, then a music minister and director, then an associate pastor, and finally the senior pastor of a church. He started his ministry in California, but moved to Seattle after about 4 years, where the rest of his Pentecostal ministry took place.

It was there, starting in 1999, that he first felt drawn to the Catholic Church - through the radio.

“It began through EWTN radio, that was my main source to the Catholic Church, I didn’t really know any Catholics,” McCalister said. He listened to an hour of Catholic Answers Live, and was drawn in —  not by what was being said, but how it was being said.

“I disagreed with all the theology,” McCalister recalled. “But they were charitable, evangelistic, they were Christ-centered, they knew their Bible, and they were Catholic. And I’d never encountered a Catholic that had all those (qualities).”

“I tuned back in the next day, not because I was interested in their content, but to find out if they were just the only two excited Catholics on the face of the planet or what,” he added.

He kept listening, and the more he listened, the more he felt drawn to the Catholic Church. He started doing his own research, reading Church documents, Church fathers, and writings from the popes and the Saints.

“I was less interested in what people had to say about Catholicism than what Catholicism said about itself in official documents and Church history,” he said.

After talking with his wife, and five years of study, the McCallisters decided to come into the Catholic Church with their children.

He calls himself an “Inter mirifica” convert - the title of a Vatican IIdecree on the importance of media and social communications in evangelization. He also credits Mother Angelica in his conversion, for starting EWTN.

“We need to use the media to advance the Gospel and the mission. I’m here because of that, because I didn’t meet one real live Catholic in person through my whole five years of study,” he said.  

Even though he and his wife were intellectually won over to the Catholic Church for some time, McCalister said, actually becoming a Catholic felt like a giant hurdle for a previously-Protestant family.

“There was a week, probably about 6 months before we resigned (to join the Catholic Church), where I was literally sick to my stomach and begging God: ‘Don’t make me become Catholic, I’ve never refused you anything, Lord, I’ve said yes to everything, but don’t make me become Catholic!’” he said.

The identity shift was a big one, he said.

“When you’re Protestant you’re defined by what you’re not, and that’s not Catholic,” he said. “It’s not just an apologetic data point, it really requires a reforming of the mind and the outlook in a unique way.”

Another big hurdle was the issue of authority, McCalister said.

“It really comes down to: ‘Ok, who has the authority?’” he said. In the Catholic Church, the Magisterium - the bishops and the pope - are understood to teach with authority in a way that is not found in Pentecostal theology.

“What that requires is surrender,” McCalister said. “I take myself off the throne as the final arbiter of faith and morals and I surrender to the Church as the final arbiter of faith and morals.”

In 2004, after much prayer and study, the McCalister family joined the Catholic Church.

Shortly thereafter, McCallister and his family moved to Steubenville, Ohio. McCalister earned a graduate degree in theology and catechetics from Franciscan University, where he now works as the coordinator of catechetical practicum in university’s catechetics department.

It wasn’t until 2010 that McCalister considered becoming a clergy member, when his diocese began its first diaconate program for permanent deacons.

“I want to be serving the people of my parish, so when the diaconate presented itself, I presented myself for the diaconate,” he said. “I thought - this is great, I can do this as a married man.”

But the Holy Spirit “kept prompting me that I needed to ask the question if I qualified for the dispensation of the celibacy requirement” for the priesthood, McCalister said.

A dispensation from the obligation of celibacy, or being unmarried, can be granted to men seeking the priesthood in limited circumstances, such as when someone who was formerly an Anglican or Episcopalian minister becomes Catholic and wants to become a Catholic priest. Such petitions are considered on a case-by-case basis, McCalister said.

When his bishop said that a dispensation could be possible in his case, McCalister started to consider the priesthood more seriously.

He told the director of his diaconate program, who responded: “Why do you need to become a priest?”

“I said that my only desire is to be obedient to Jesus Christ, period,” McCalister said. “That’s why I left everything from my denominational background to enter the Catholic Church, it was my love for Jesus Christ, and the Lord is opening this door and putting this on my heart. I don’t need to be a priest as if this is fulfilling some kind of desire I had, my desire is simply to be obedient.”

There were some natural pauses in the process, McCalister said - a transition of bishops, waiting for permission from Rome, further prayer and discernment. It took about 10 years in total to prepare for his upcoming priestly ordination - scheduled now for June 21.

When asked if the sex abuse scandals of the Catholic Church, including those of the past year, had affected his willingness to join either the Catholic Church or its priesthood, McCalister said that his background as a Pentecostal pastor had prepared him well.

“In my previous ministry, we had some unbelievably difficult years, of submitting to the Lord and church infighting and church split,” he said.

“Once you’ve been on the inside, you realize that if people are present, sin is present,” he said. “The Catholics don’t have the corner on sin. Nobody does.”

McCalister said he believes his unique background and vocation story will serve him well as a priest, in different ways than if he were coming into the priesthood as a “cradle Catholic.”

“There’s things that a cradle Catholic and our young men that enter the priesthood are able to bring that I’ll never be able to bring because I have a different background,” he said.

“There’s a way that I see life and ministry and the Church that is just different, because I had to wrestle with different things to get into the Church.”

One way that he differs from some others is “my desire for evangelism and to reach the people on the fringes. That was very much a part of the denominational soup that I was raised in. We were all about reaching the lost, and how we can articulate the Gospel in a way to draw people,” he said.

The Catholic Church has had a strong emphasis on evangelization in the years after the Second Vatican Council, he said, but some Catholics may not have had as much first-hand experience with it.

“Some people who grew up in the Church are still learning how to use words like evangelism without feeling like they’re being Protestant,” he said.

As for being married, he’s not sure what impact that will have on his ministry, other than that he plans on drawing from family life in his homilies. It is an unusual thing for Latin Catholic priests to be married, he said, though he noted that other ritual Churches in the Catholic Church do allow for married clergy.

“I’m not an activist,” he added. “Namely, I’m not here to advocate for the end of celibacy in the priesthood, anyone looking for me to jump on that bandwagon needs to look elsewhere. I’m here to serve Christ and lead people to Jesus.”

When asked what he’s most excited for in his priesthood, McCalister said: “Can I say everything?” “Mass and mission," he added. “Life in the spirit and engagement in the mission, those are the two things that I’m most excited about.”

Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle

5 days 18 hours ago
Reading 1 Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers and sisters
(there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons
in the one place).
He said, "My brothers and sisters,
the Scripture had to be fulfilled
which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand
through the mouth of David, concerning Judas,
who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
Judas was numbered among us
and was allotted a share in this ministry.
For it is written in the Book of Psalms:

Let his encampment become desolate,
and may no one dwell in it.

and:
May another take his office.

Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men
who accompanied us the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,
beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us,
become with us a witness to his resurrection."
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas,
who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
Then they prayed,
"You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen
to take the place in this apostolic ministry
from which Judas turned away to go to his own place."
Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 R.(8) The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
both now and forever.
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
From the rising to the setting of the sun
is the name of the LORD to be praised.
High above all nations is the LORD;
above the heavens is his glory.
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Who is like the LORD, our God, who is enthroned on high
and looks upon the heavens and the earth below?
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor
To seat them with princes,
with the princes of his own people.
R. The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Alleluia See Jn 15:16 R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Jn 15:9-17 Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.

"I have told you this so that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one's life for one's friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you:  love one another."
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 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.

South African bishops: New president must tackle corruption, poverty

5 days 22 hours ago

Johannesburg, South Africa, May 14, 2019 / 12:07 am (CNA).- In the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s successful reelection bid last week, South Africa’s Catholic bishops are applauding the country’s efforts to hold a free and fair election, but have also issued stern expectations for the new government.

“We congratulate the Independent Electoral Commission and all political parties for creating a conducive environment for [a] free and fair election,” the bishops wrote in a May 13 statement signed by Bishop Sithembele Sipuka.

“Now that the election is over, we expect the President of our nation to dispense with the politics of expediency and show firm hand in dealing with those implicated in corruption and state capture,” the bishops wrote.

Ramaphosa, a member of the African National Congress (ANC) party which has held power in South Africa since the end of apartheid, first took office in February 2018.

His party won approximately 58% of the vote May 11 and retained parliamentary power in eight of the nine South African provinces.

According to Reuters, the ANC’s margin of victory was the smallest since the party began, which Ramaphosa attributed to voters expressing their frustration with corruption in the party. Voter turnout was about 65%.

“The dwindling in the voter turn-out as well as the incidents of protests during the election are a stern warning to all the political parties that, twenty five years into Constitutional Democracy, there is a need to renegotiate the social contract between the ruling elite and those living in the margins of the economy,” the bishops asserted.

South Africa is experiencing high unemployment, poverty and corruption under the ANC’s rule. The ANC is the party of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of the country, elected in 1994 when the country became a constitutional democracy for the first time.

“In the previous 25 years, the Constitutional Democracy and its embedded social contract have failed to create tangible dividends, especially to the poor, in terms of acceptable levels of access to quality education, quality health care, job opportunities, and decent housing,” the bishops said.

Therefore, they continued, the “mending of the social contract” over the next five years will involve “tackling the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.”

Ramaphosa took over leadership of the ANC in 2017 after former president Jacob Zuma resigned in disgrace, following numerous corruption scandals. This week Ramaphosa vowed to tackle corruption in the party.

The bishops called for the new government to “put the country first” and address the nation’s economic issues in order to put the citizens of the country back to work.

By some estimates, 27 percent of South Africans do not have jobs, Reuters reports.

“In particular, we call on the ruling party to develop a national strategic plan, with measurable targets that can be subject to accountability, to address youth unemployment, which is a ticking time bomb and has at some level contributed the disenchantment and voter apathy among the youth,” the bishops noted.

The bishops issued concrete expectations for the new president. These include: keeping those suspected of corruption out of the cabinet and the Parliament, reducing the size of the cabinet, introducing measures to more effectively prosecute those involved in corruption and state capture, and introducing measures to address “irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the government departments and municipalities.”

To promote peace, Ghana's chief Muslim cleric goes to Mass

6 days 3 hours ago

Accra, Ghana, May 13, 2019 / 06:48 pm (CNA).- As part of his efforts to increase interreligious peace, Ghana’s chief imam attended Easter Mass ahead of his 100th birthday celebration.

Sheikh Osman Sharubutu recently captured the public eye after pictures went viral of his attendance at Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church in Accra.

According to GhanaWeb, parish priest Father Andrew Campbell welcomed the Muslim leader, and Christians from the community later visited the imam’s house. The country’s vice president, Mahamudu Bawumia, applauded the efforts of peace in the country.

“At the time the world is experiencing religious intolerance,...Ghana is enjoying a great collaboration between the two main religions in our country,” Bawumia told GhanaWeb.

“As we heard, two days ago, the national imam paid a remarkable visit to the Catholic church in Accra and a day after this historic visit, a group of Christians also paid a visit to the Chief Imam at his home,” the vice president said.

According to the BBC, some Muslims have criticized the leader’s actions, saying his participation in Christian prayer was shameful. Sharubutu said he was not there for worship but to advance peace and promote a different perspective on Islam.

“The chief imam is changing the narrative about Islam from a religion of wickedness, a religion of conflict, a religion of hate for others, to a religion whose mission is rooted in the virtues of love, peace and forgiveness,” Aremeyao Shaibu, the imam’s spokesperson, told the BBC.

Sharubutu, who was appointed chief imam in 1993, has been an active promoter of peace in sermons and deeds. According to the BBC, he is also one of the 13 religious leaders in the country’s National Peace Council.

Late last year, a protestant pastor predicted that the Muslim leader would pass away in 2019. The prophecy was received with outrage from some Muslims, and the pastor’s church was vandalized. Sharubutu reprimanded those attackers, encouraging them to instead forgive the pastor.

In 2016, violence almost broke out after a Tafo chief leader in Kumasi was slapped by Muslims angered over land disputes. The action is considered a cause for war, but Sharubutu spoke to the Tafo chief and calmed the situation.

Interfaith dialogue and peace have also been a major focus of the pontificate of Pope Francis. When the pope was in Bulgaria last Monday, he encouraged a group of faith leaders to view peace as a gift and action.

“Peace requires and demands that we adopt dialogue as our path, mutual understanding as our code of conduct, and reciprocal understanding as our method and standard,” Pope Francis said in Sofia May 6.

“Peace is both a gift and a task; it must be implored and worked for, received as a blessing and constantly sought as we strive daily to build a culture in which peace is respected as a fundamental right,” he added.