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Let clarity and compassion define sexual identity debates, bishops say

Washington D.C., Dec 15, 2017 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a time of cultural conflict and mistaken ideas about sexual identity, religious leaders have put forth their preferred approach.

Several leading Catholic bishops and other religious leaders have backed the Dec. 15 letter “Created Male and Female” published on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The letter stressed two themes: male and female are God-given differences that must be publicly acknowledged, and those who are confused about their own identity deserve authentic support.

“We hope this letter communicates to the public our shared understanding of the goodness of the creation of humanity as male or female and underscores our commitment to service of this truth with both clarity and compassion,” said Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, chair of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

The letter said it is important to acknowledge the reality of sexual identity.

“We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity,” it said.

Other signers of the letter include leaders in various Christian denominations and Churches, including Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and Baptist. Another signer is Imam Faizal Khan, a founder of the Islamic Society of the Washington Area.

“The movement today to enforce the false idea – that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa – is deeply troubling,” the letter continued. “It compels people to either go against reason – that is, to agree with something that is not true – or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.”

The religious leaders’ letter affirmed that all human beings are created by God and have a God-given dignity.

“We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw – it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good,” they said, citing the Book of Genesis on the creation of humankind: “male and female he created them.”

The desire to be identified as the opposite sex is “a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth,” continued the letter. Their concerns deserve a response of “compassion, mercy and honesty.”

“As religious leaders, we express our commitment to urge the members of our communities to also respond to those wrestling with this challenge with patience and love,” they advised.

The letter also voiced concern about how children are affected by current trends in sexual identity.

“Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can ‘change’ their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults,” said the letter. “Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of ‘first, do no harm’.”

Voicing a desire for the health and happiness of all men, women and children, the religious leaders called for policies that “uphold the truth of a person's sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all.”

In addition to Bishop Conley, Catholic signers of the letter include Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, who chairs the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

The U.S. bishops’ conference said the latest letter follows three previous letters: a Dec. 6, 2010 letter “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment”; “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together,” from Jan. 12, 2012; and “The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness,” dated April 23, 2015.

Apostolic nuncio to US speaks with EWTN News Nightly

Washington D.C., Dec 15, 2017 / 02:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).-

 

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the US, spoke with EWTN News Nightly's Lauren Ashburn on Wednesday, discussing Pope Francis, his background, and his reception within the Church.

He mentioned the recently published work Jorge Mario Bergoglio: Una biographia intellettuale (Jorge Mario Bergoglio: An Intellectual Biography) by Massimo Borghesi, which discusses the influence on Pope Francis of Fr. Gaston Fessard, among others,.

Fr. Fessard was a French philosopher of the 20th century who has been called “a penetrating critic of Marxism.” He was central to the revival of Hegelian thought on history in France, and sought to be in dialogue with Hegel, considering his widespread influence in modern philosophy. Fr. Fessard was also active in the French Resistance and a critic of the collaborationist Vichy government.

Please read excerpts from the first half of Archbishop Pierre's conversation with Ashburn, edited for clarity and length. The first half aired Dec. 14, and the second will air Dec. 15 on EWTN News Nightly.

 

Lauren: Archbishop Christophe Pierre, thank you so much for joining us this evening.

Archbishop Pierre: Thank you for the invitation.

Lauren: Archbishop, in the fast-moving four and a half years Pope Francis has been Pope, much has been written about him – his “option” for the poor, his evident pastoral approach, the reform of the Vatican. Now we seem to be witnessing a new phase of his interest: the intellectual and cultural roots that drive him. What are they?

Archbishop Pierre: Well, your observation is very interesting, you know, because we have to recognize that the coming of this Pope has created wonder, and a lot of questions. And if you allow me, I would say, during my one year and a half presence in this country, I’ve noticed this sense of wonder. Especially from the people themselves. They are happy to see this Pope. They feel that he is near them. They feel that he understands their problems. And I think this is one of the characteristics of the Pope. But may I say, many of us, a lot of people say, ‘Who is he? Where is he coming from?’ I would say there are two directions. One direction is coming from South America. This is his background. I’ve been living in four countries, and working in countries in South America.

(Lauren: Including Mexico) Including Mexico. And I arrived in Mexico at the time of the famous Aparecida conference of the Latin American bishops of the last century. This conference is very important to understand Pope Francis, because he was one of the main actors, because he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. But he was one of the main actors. So this is one aspect. The second one is intellectual background. And precisely a couple of weeks ago, an Italian author, Massimo Borghesi, published a book.

Lauren: That would be this book. (Laughter)

Archbishop Pierre: Ah, you read it.

Lauren: It’s in Italian, however, so you are going to have to tell me what it says. Let me talk to you about this book. It claims that behind this simplicity lies a “deep and original thinking,” based largely on French philosophers and theologians. That comes as a surprise to the Argentinian and populist stereotype of Francis. You are a Frenchman, who has spent years serving many different countries worldwide. What is this “deep and original thinking”?

Archbishop Pierre: Well first and foremost this Pope has been educated in our own time. The book tells us that maybe the first important author having contributed to his formation is the Jesuit Gaston Fessard. Maybe Gaston Fessard is not well known in the United States. I happened, when I was pursuing my master’s in theology in the French Catholic Institute of Paris, to make a credit on Gaston Fessard. [sic] So I was very happy when I read this book; I said, ‘My God!’

Lauren: You both are following after Gaston Fessard.

But there is unease among bishops over his approach. How can that be that be rectified?

Archbishop Pierre: I have read the Pope is not very precise. The Pope is not, eh, not a great intellectual, he is more pastoral than dogmatic. I would say these things are stereotypes. And maybe also prejudice. So I think there is a great -- we especially with the bishops -- we have a great responsibility, to try to understand our Pope. And to understand him in all aspects of his personality before making a judgment. And I think this is precisely what we should try to do. And not to remain with a superficial judgement of who he is or what he is supposed to be according to our own judgement. And by the way, he is also the Pope.

 

Lauren: Archbishop Christophe Pierre, thank you for joining us.

Archbishop Pierre: Thank you.

 

Catholic Church in Australia commits to ensuring justice for sex abuse victims

Canberra, Australia, Dec 15, 2017 / 02:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a wide-ranging report released Friday, Australia’s royal commission found serious failings in the protection of children from abuse in the Catholic Church and other major institutions.

The commission recommended Dec. 15 that priests should be legally obligated to disclose details of sexual abuse revealed in the confessional and that priestly celibacy should be made optional.

The Vatican responded by saying the report should be “studied seriously”, reiterating its commitment to hearing and accompanying victims of child sex abuse in the pursuit of healing and justice.

Church officials in Australia apologized for the suffering caused and pledged their commitment to ensuring justice, while also noting the impossibility of violating the secrecy of sacramental confession.

The report was the result of an investigation in which the commission reviewed thousands of accounts of child abuse from figures in major institutions. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established in 2013 to investigate the handling of child sex abuse allegations by religious groups, schools, government organizations, and sporting associations.

Of the institutions examined, the most accusations were brought against the Catholic Church, in which more than 4,000 cases of child abuse reportedly occurred, making up 61.8 percent of all reported child abuse cases from religious entities.

In a previously released portion of the report, the commission found that seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia serving between 1950 and 2009 have been accused of child sex crimes.

"Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions. We will never know the true number," the report said.

"It is not a case of a few 'rotten apples'. Society's major institutions have seriously failed."

Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, president of the Australian bishops' conference, said the report reveals a “shameful past, in which a prevailing culture of secrecy and self-protection led to unnecessary suffering for many victims and their families.”

He also reiterated his “unconditional apology for this suffering and a commitment to ensuring justice for those affected.”

Sister Ruth Durick OSU, president of Catholic Religious Australia, added that religious orders across Australia are will continue their recent work of reforming orders to better protect children.

“We acknowledge with gratitude the courage of all those survivors who have come forward to the Royal Commission,” Sr. Ruth said. “We will be taking very seriously the Royal Commission's report and have commissioned an initial assessment of its findings by the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.”

As part of the report, the commission made numerous recommendations, such as changes to Australia’s criminal justice system and various recommendations for the Catholic Church, “many of which will have a significant impact on the way the Catholic Church operates in Australia,” the bishops said in their statement.

However, among some of the controversial recommendations are that priests should be legally obligated to disclose details of sexual abuse revealed in the confessional, and that they should face criminal charges if they refuse to do so.

In a statement in August, Hart stressed the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of confession while also ensuring that children are protected.

“Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest,” Hart said in an Aug. 14 statement.

Confession “is a fundamental part of the freedom of religion, and it is recognized in the Law of Australia and many other countries,” he said. “It must remain so here in Australia…(but) outside of this, all offenses against children must be reported to the authorities, and we are absolutely committed to doing so.”

Additionally, the report recommended that the Catholic Church make celibacy an optional requirement of the priesthood, rather than a mandatory one, because while celibacy is not a cause of child abuse, the commission considered it a contributing factor when combined with other risk factors, according to the BBC.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney told the Guardian that changing the celibacy requirement is not the solution to the abuse crisis.

“We know very well that institutions who have celibate clergy and institutions that don’t have celibate clergy both face these problems. We know very well that this happens in families that are certainly not observing celibacy,” he said.

The Holy See also responded to the report, saying in a statement on Friday that it “deserves to be studied seriously.”

“The Holy See remains committed to being close to the Catholic Church in Australia – lay faithful, religious, and clergy alike – as they listen to and accompany victims and survivors in an effort to bring about healing and justice,” the Vatican statement said.

“In his recent meeting with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Pope Francis said the Church is called to be a place of compassion, especially for those who have suffered, and reaffirmed that the Church is committed to safe environments for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”

At the end of the statement from the Australian bishop’s conference, the Church leaders restated their commitment to making amends for past abuse, and called on state governments to aid them in this task.

“Both leaders said the Church will continue to push for the introduction of a national redress scheme for the survivors of child sexual abuse in which the Church will participate.”

Philip Freier, the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, apologized for “the shameful way we sometimes actively worked against and discouraged those who came to us and reported abuse.”

Hartford auxiliary bishop resigns at age 72

Hartford, Conn., Dec 15, 2017 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See announced Friday that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Christie Macaluso from his position in the Archdiocese of Hartford at the age of 72.

Macaluso will continue to live at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, a Hartford suburb, “and will remain active in episcopal ministry to the extent that his health and circumstances permit,” the archdiocese stated.

Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford expressed his goodwill for Macaluso and acknowledged his contribution to the archdiocese over the years.

“From my first days as Archbishop of Hartford, Bishop Macaluso has been of invaluable assistance thanks to his knowledge and experience of this local Church over many years,” Archbishop Blair stated Dec. 15.

“In the name of all the clergy, religious and laity of the Archdiocese I wish him all the best and God’s blessing in days to come,” he continued.

Macaluso was born in Hartford June 12, 1945 to Albert and Helen Macaluso. He attended St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in theology. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford May 22, 1971.

Having also studied music and various languages, Macaluso additionally holds a master’s degree in psychology from New York University and a master’s degree in philosophy from Trinity College.

Macaluso has served in the Archdiocese of Hartford in both parochial and administrative positions. He was  assistant pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Hartford and St. Joseph Parish in New Britain. In 1980, he was made dean of St. Thomas Seminary College, where he also served as a faculty member and was later appointed as president and rector. Macaluso also served as rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph from 1991-1997.

St. John Paul II named Macaluso a monsignor in 1995 and he was additionally made episcopal vicar of Hartford.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Hartford and consecrated a bishop in 1997. During his appointment as auxiliary bishop he also served as the vicar general of the archdiocese, and moderator of the curia.

Pope Francis: Music opens our hearts to the true meaning of Christmas

Vatican City, Dec 15, 2017 / 10:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Music and art are especially suited to helping us more deeply comprehend the true meaning of the mystery of Christmas, said Pope Francis in remarks on Friday.

“Art is an impressive means of opening the doors of the mind and heart to the true meaning of Christmas. The creativity and genius of artists, with their work, music and singing are able to reach the innermost depths of the conscience,” the Pope said Dec. 15.

“Art enters precisely into the depths of the conscience.”

“Christmas,” he continued, “is a feast that is heart-felt, participatory and capable of warming the coldest of hearts, of removing barriers of indifference towards our neighbors and encouraging openness towards others and a free gift (of self).”

“This is why today we need to spread the message of peace and fraternity proper to Christmas; we need to represent this event by expressing the authentic sentiments that animate it.”

Pope Francis spoke to those involved in the organization and performance of the 25th edition of the Vatican’s annual charity concert: “Christmas at the Vatican,” which will take place Dec. 16.

This year the concert supports two children’s projects: The Pontifical Foundation “Scholas Occurrentes” and a program to free children enslaved in the coltan mines of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It includes performances by Italian and international musicians and vocalists, including a children’s choir from Rome.

Scottish singer Annie Lennox and American singer-songwriter Patti Smith will also perform, as well as Suor Cristina, the young Ursuline Sister of the Holy Family who captivated millions when she won the 2014 edition of The Voice Italy.

Upon entering the Clementine Hall, the Pope was greeted by the sounds of a Christmas carol sung by various singers, including the children of the Italian “Small Choir of Piazza Vittorio” and members of the Art Voice Academy and Hallelujah Gospel Singers.

Pope Francis thanked all those who will take part, including performers and audience members, for showing concern for those in need of help and solidarity.

He said that he hopes the Christmas concert can be an opportunity to sow tenderness in the world, a word that is, he said, “much forgotten today.”

“Sow the tenderness, the peace and the welcome which spring from the cave of Bethlehem,” he said.

 

Other ways to volunteer this Advent across Metro Detroit

Metro Detroit — For those with the itch to give back, but aren’t quite sure how to do it, Catholic social service agencies across Metro Detroit have a need for volunteers in a multitude of capacities. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, for instance, which operates 10 thrift stores across southeast Michigan, has a…

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At Pontiac homeless shelter, volunteers ‘see the face of God’

Pontiac — Heaven is not won simply by “being a good person,” Pope Francis reminded the world last month during the first-ever World Day of the Poor. “To do no wrong is not enough,” the pope said Nov. 19, addressing 7,000 people gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica. “God is not an inspector looking for unstamped…

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Candlelight dinner raises more than $10K for Monroe County communities

  Temperance — About 225 women — plus helpers — worked to raise $10,000 for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Temperance on Nov. 30. Every year since about 2006, women of the parish declare a night out for women only and bring potluck food…

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St. Joseph set the stage for Christmas

This time of year, there are many special television programs, movies, and stories about Christmas — and particularly, about how some obstacle had to be overcome or some change of heart effected so that Christmas might truly be understood and celebrated. We have the song about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, who makes it possible for…

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A merry sendoff for seminary’s music director

Detroit — For Ronald Prowse, it was a touching sendoff for a “dream opportunity.” For the singers of the Sacred Heart Seminary Choir and Sacred Heart Seminary Concert Chorale, it was a chance to say “thank you.” Sacred Heart Major Seminary hosted its annual Christmas concert Dec. 1, marking the start of Advent and the…

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