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School choice about fairness, not handouts, advocates say

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Hundreds of Catholic school students, parents and other supporters joined a school choice rally Sept. 25 at a Chicago building that houses Illinois state government offices.

The rally was aimed at demonstrating the need for more families to be able to enroll their children in the schools they choose, whether they are Catholic schools, other private schools, charter schools or other public schools.

Students from Chicago's St. Ignatius College Prep cheer during a school choice rally outside an Illinois state building in Chicago Sept. 25. The Archdiocese of Chicago's Office of Catholic Schools co-sponsored the School Choice rally with other organizations to raise educate people about school choice and possible ways the Illinois General Assembly could support it. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Students from Chicago’s St. Ignatius College Prep cheer during a school choice rally outside an Illinois state building in Chicago Sept. 25. The Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools co-sponsored the School Choice rally with other organizations to raise educate people about school choice and possible ways the Illinois General Assembly could support it. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

In most cases, speakers said, the main barriers to school choice are economic.

“Parents are the primary educators of their children and deserve the right to choose their children’s education,” said Patrick Landry, principal of Maternity BVM School in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Twenty years ago, there were four Catholic elementary schools in Humboldt Park. Maternity BVM is the last one, Landry said, and it intends to remain open.

“Our school is a beacon of hope and love for our students,” Landry said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Ninety-nine percent of the school’s 231 students are Latino, and 95 percent qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, he said. The average family income is $22,000 a year, and families are spending 10 to 20 percent of their income on tuition.

“They are making an investment in their children, because they want a life for their children that is better than theirs,” Landry said.

School choice advocates want the state to find a way to direct more money to nonpublic schools, whether by offering vouchers that would allow students to take a portion of the money their public school districts would have spent on educating them and applying it to the schools of their choice, or by allowing tax credits for private school tuition or for individuals and businesses that donate to scholarship funds.

Illinois does offer a tax credit for kindergarten through 12th grade educational expenses; the maximum credit is $500 for families that spend $2,500 or more on tuition or other costs.

But that’s a fraction of what parents pay for Catholic education.

The yearly tuition at Leo Catholic High School is $7,500, one of the lowest high school tuition rates in the Chicago Archdiocese, said Philip Mesina, principal of the all-male school. But it’s still too much for most of the families who send their sons there; after financial aid and scholarships, the average Leo family pays $4,000 a year.

“It’s a sacrifice every day for them,” he said. “They want their children to get a good education. They’re not looking for a handout. They’re looking for what’s fair.”

Students in the sophomore world religions class came to the school choice rally after learning that their parents pay property taxes to support public schools and pay tuition for them to go to Leo.

Khalid Manney, 15, said he chose to go to Leo after he met some people from the school at an elementary school basketball game and they invited him to shadow a student at the school for a day. He found a clean building with a warm, welcoming spirit, Manney said.

“It was my choice, but my parents agreed with me,” he said. He’s now a three-sport athlete — cross-country, basketball and track — and finished his freshman year with a 4.0 grade point average.

Leo was among more than a score of Catholic elementary and high schools represented at the rally.

Another group came from Pope John Paul II School. Parent and volunteer Maria Vega said the issue of school funding is very near to her heart and her wallet. She has one child in eighth grade at Pope John Paul II, where yearly tuition is $3,800 for one child, and one at St. Ignatius College Prep, where tuition is $16,500. As at nearly all Catholic schools, some financial aid is available.

“This is very important to us,” she said. “We wanted to give our children a better education.”

She doesn’t think the public schools in her Brighton Park neighborhood offer the same quality education as the Catholic schools her children attend, and she said she would fear for their safety in public schools.

In addition to a better education, she said, her children have learned values and morals that they will carry with them their whole lives, and involvement in Pope John Paul II School has drawn her whole family into deeper involvement in their Catholic faith.

Trey Cobb, youth director of EdChoice Illinois, challenged the young people in attendance to work for school choice. Cobb, a 17-year-old junior at DePaul University, noted that he cannot yet vote, but he can make his voice heard.

“There is no progress without struggle,” he said. “We need to go back to our schools, go back to our neighborhoods, and tell everyone what we were doing today.”

— By Michelle Martin

State final rematch on volleyball schedule this week

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Here are the girls’ game this week. Read more »

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Sals look for revenge for only 2013 football setback

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Here are the boys’ game for the week. Read more »

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Spanish bishop, who was Opus Dei leader, beatified

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MADRID — A Spanish bishop who worked as an engineer before becoming first prelate of the Opus Dei movement has been beatified in his native Madrid.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said Bishop Alvaro del Portillo was known for his “prudence and rectitude in evaluating events and people, his justice in respecting the good name and freedom of others, his fortitude in facing up to physical or moral difficulties, and the temperance shown in his sobriety and interior and exterior mortification.”

The prelature of Opus Dei announced that Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the successor to Opus Dei founder St. Jose Maria Escriva, will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid. He is pictured in an undated photo.(CNS photo/courtesy of Opus Dei Information Office)

The prelature of Opus Dei announced that Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the successor to Opus Dei founder St. Jose Maria Escriva, will be beatified Sept. 27 in Madrid. He is pictured in an undated photo.(CNS photo/courtesy of Opus Dei Information Office)

“He was not a talkative person, his engineer’s training gave him habits of intellectual rigor, conciseness and precision, enabling him to go straight to the essence of problems and solve them,” Cardinal Amato said at the Sept. 27 beatification Mass, held outdoors.

Blessed Alvaro, who died in 1994, succeeded St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer as head of the personal prelature of Opus Dei. Beatification is a step toward sainthood.

Cardinal Amato told about 150,000 people from 80 countries that Blessed Alvaro had “a notable serenity and considerateness, a habit of smiling, understanding, speaking well about others and reflecting deeply before judging.”

“His humility was not harsh, showy or ill-tempered, but affectionate and cheerful — his joy was based on his conviction that he himself was worth very little,” Cardinal Amato said.

Born March 11, 1914, Blessed Alvaro studied and taught at Madrid University’s school of engineering, later working briefly for the Spanish government’s Bureau of Highways and Bridges.

He joined Opus Dei in 1935 and became one of its first three priests in June 1944. He had a doctorate in engineering but earned a second doctorate in philosophy and history, and a third in canon law from Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

As secretary-general of Opus Dei, he served as an expert, or peritus, at the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council and consultant for several post-conciliar commissions, before succeeding the late St. Josemaria as Opus Dei president.

Blessed Alvaro was appointed first prelate of the movement in 1982 and was consecrated a bishop in 1991 by St. John Paul II.

Blessed Alvaro’s canonization cause was launched in December 2002. In July 2013, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing his intercession in the cure of a Chilean newborn, Jose Ignacio Ureta Wilson, who inexplicably revived after a cardiac arrest lasting more than 30 minutes.

In a Sept. 27 letter, Pope Francis said Blessed Alvaro had been a “faithful collaborator” of St. Josemaria, adding that his first meeting with the Opus Dei founder had “definitively marked the course of his life.”

He said the bishop’s life and work were a reminder that “our poverty as human beings is not the result of despair, but of confident abandonment in God.”

 

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English Catholic bishop resigns

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HOVE, England — An English Catholic bishop has resigned after admitting that he has been “unfaithful to his promises as a Catholic priest.”

Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, chairman of the Department of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said in a statement that he would step down immediately.

“I would like to reassure you that my actions were not illegal and did not involve minors,” Bishop Conry said in a statement read out in parishes of his diocese at Masses Sept. 27 and 28.

“I want to apologize first of all to the individuals hurt by my actions and then to all of those inside and outside the diocese who will be shocked, hurt and saddened to hear this,” he said.

“I am sorry for the shame that I have brought on the diocese and the church and I ask for your prayers and forgiveness,” the bishop added.

The day after the statement was released, the Mail on Sunday, a London-based newspaper, carried an article that alleged that Bishop Conry was having an affair with a married mother of two, who was pictured leaving his home and shopping with him, but who was not identified.

The article revealed extracts from love letters between the 43-year-old woman and the bishop, leaked to the newspaper by the woman’s husband.

The woman’s estranged husband hired a private detective to track his wife, who accompanied Bishop Conry on outings to the ballet, the British Museum and a Matisse exhibition. He is threatening to sue church leaders, claiming they knew about the affair.

The bishop told the newspaper, however, that he was resigning in connection with an affair he had with another woman six years ago.

Bishop Conry told the Daily Mail in an interview published Sept. 29 that he felt liberated by the announcement.

“It has been difficult keeping the secret,” he said. “In some respects I feel very calm. It is liberating. It is a relief.”

He continued: “I have been careful not to make sexual morality a priority (in homilies). I don’t think it got in the way of my job, I don’t think people will say I have been a bad bishop. But I can’t defend myself. I did wrong.”

Bishop Conry, 63, a former director of the Catholic Media Office, was ordained bishop by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor in 2001.

 

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Clean-cut “Equalizer” is a murderer just the same

September 29th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Vigilante figures can be compelling in part because it’s natural to root against evildoers. And it’s much easier to be drawn in when a likable actor portrays the putative hero.

But no matter how intriguing and righteous an avenging character appears to be — and no matter how heinous the behavior he combats — cheering for violence is fundamentally perverse.

Denzel Washington stars in a scene from the movie "The Equalizer." The Catholic News Service classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. ) CNS/Sony Pictures

Denzel Washington stars in a scene from the movie “The Equalizer.” The Catholic News Service classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. )
CNS/Sony Pictures

Based on the late-1980s television series starring Edward Woodward, “The Equalizer” (Columbia) cannot make a morally convincing case for committing brutal acts under the guise of justice. This action thriller is less exploitative than many others of its kind, yet there’s no shortage of objectionable elements — most prominently, an array of gruesome killings.

Denzel Washington plays Robert McCall, a quiet, affable man who lives alone in a spare Boston apartment. He’s a neat freak — meticulous to the extent he must surely suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder — an exponent of consuming an all-natural diet, and an insomniac. He reads a lot, wears crisp button-down shirts and practical sneakers, and rides the bus to his job at a home improvement chain store.

Quick to dispense advice, both practical and philosophical, McCall is a natural teacher. (His favorite mantra is “Body. Mind. Spirit.”) He’s also inclined to extend a helping hand, as when he supports his colleague Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) in his quest to lose weight so he can become a security guard.

Unable to sleep, McCall goes to a local diner every night where he reads classic novels and drinks tea, and where he befriends Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a young prostitute working for Russian mobsters.

When she’s severely beaten by her handlers, McCall takes up her cause and demonstrates his aptitude for violence by killing five thugs. Teddy (Marton Csokas), a soulless fixer, is sent from Russia to investigate and McCall responds by going after their entire criminal network, which relies on corrupt police officers.

There’s little mystery surrounding McCall’s former life. He’s a retired intelligence operative, trained to kill and extremely proficient at it. Before she died, he promised his wife he’d stop, but Teri’s plight awakens the vengeful assassin in him.

Washington reunites with director Antoine Fuqua, who steered his Oscar-winning performance as a venal LAPD officer in “Training Day”. Fuqua puts a fairly artful sheen on the action but it’s just window dressing. The movie’s first act has a quiet, melancholy air. When the sleeping warrior wakes, however, it becomes a calculated frenzy of death. McCall dispatches bad guys with grotesque efficiency, using whatever tools are at hand.

No prizes are in the offing for Washington this time around, although he has the calm, middle-aged man of action down pat; he’s easy to watch, even when doing loathsome things. It’s a relatively nuanced, detailed portrait, but there’s nothing to exculpate McCall. He expresses some remorse after his initial outburst, whispering, “I’m sorry” — presumably to his late wife. He also claims he offers his victims the chance to do the right thing.

Yet his primary excuse for his vigilantism is, in effect, that he must do what he was trained to do. Call it the robot defense. A utilitarian, the-ends-justify-the-means explanation is heard when his ex-spymaster, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), assures McCall he must “make the wrong choices to get to the right place.”

When his final victim asks him what he will gain from killing him, McCall replies, “Peace.” Not only is his definition of peace idiosyncratic, it’s impossible to endorse.

The film contains excessive gory violence, including stabbings, gunplay, a near decapitation, torture and a strangling; numerous graphic images; frequent rough, crude and crass language; and some profanity, sexual banter and race baiting. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Greed, culture of disposal fuel ‘hidden euthanasia’ of elderly, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis warned against the abandonment and neglect of the elderly, calling it a “hidden euthanasia” rooted in today’s “poisonous” culture of disposal and an economic system of greed.

In the presence of his predecessor, Pope Francis also thanked retired Pope Benedict XVI for staying to live at the Vatican and being like “a wise grandfather at home.”

“A people who don’t take care of their grandparents and don’t treat them well is a people with no future. Why no future? Because they lose the memory (of the past) and they sever their own roots,” he said.

Pope Francis greets emeritus Pope Benedict XVI during an encounter for the elderly in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 28.

Pope Francis greets emeritus Pope Benedict XVI during an encounter for the elderly in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 28.

The pope’s comments came during a special encounter and Mass for older people in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 28. Some 40,000 grandparents, retired men and women, and their families attended “The Blessing for a Long Life” event, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Pope Francis specifically invited Pope Benedict to attend the event, making it the third time since his retirement in 2013 that the German pontiff has made a rare appearance in public with his successor.

Carrying a cane and looking strong, the 87-year-old pope arrived about one hour into the event, which featured music and testimonies from families. About 10 minutes later, while the famed Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli sang “Con te partiro” (“I’ll Go With You”), Pope Francis made his entrance with a small group of families. He immediately went to greet and embrace Pope Benedict, who only stayed for the next hour, leaving before the start of Mass.

Addressing him as “Your Holiness,” Pope Francis thanked the retired pontiff for his presence, telling the crowd, “I really like having him living here in the Vatican, because it’s like having a wise grandfather at home.”

The wisdom and love of older people are instrumental for building the future, and they can even cheer up grumpy teenagers, the pope said.

“It’s very good for you to go visit an older person. Look at our kids. Sometimes we see them being listless and sad; (if) they go visit an older person, they become happy,” he said.

“Older people, grandparents have an ability to understand very difficult situations, a great talent. And when they pray about these situations, their prayers are strong and powerful.”

But there are many who instead prey on their fragilities, and the pope warned against the “inhuman” violence being waged against the elderly and children in areas of conflict.

Harm can also be waged quietly, he said, through many forms of neglect and abandonment, which “are a real and true hidden euthanasia.”

People need to fight against “this poisonous throwaway culture,” which targets children, young people and the elderly, on “the pretext of keeping the economic system ‘balanced,’ where the focus is not on the human being but on the god of money.”

While residential care facilities are important for those who don’t have a family who can care for them, it’s important these institutes be “truly like homes, not prisons,” the pope said, and that their placement there is in the best interest of the older person, “not someone else.”

These retirement homes should be like “sanctuaries” that breathe life into a community whose members are drawn to visit and look after the residents like they would an older sibling, he said.

The pope also thanked an older couple from Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, for their presence and urged people to continue to pray and offer concrete aid to those forced to flee from such “violent persecution.”

Married for 51 years with 10 children and 12 grandchildren, Mubarak and Aneesa Hano said they were chased out of their Iraqi town by Islamic State militants.

“The cities are empty, homes destroyed, families scattered, the elderly abandoned, young people desperate, grandchildren cry and lives are destroyed from the terror of the shouts of war,” Hano said.

He said he hoped the world would finally learn that “war truly is insanity.”

Hano told the pope that, for 2,000 years, the bells tolled in their parish churches until the militants invaded the northern Iraqi plain and replaced the crosses on top of their places of worship with black flags. Because the bells no longer ring in these abandoned villages, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica tolled instead at the end of Hano’s testimony.

Pope Francis then concelebrated Mass with 100 elderly priests from around the world.

 

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Cases yet to be accepted may be Supreme Court’s most-watched this term

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Not much more than a year after the Supreme Court ruled that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, the court could again this term weigh in on state laws related to such marriages.

When the court opens its 2014 term Oct. 6, the docket will include cases dealing with taxation, apportionment of river water, employment law and a handful of lower court rulings dealing with First Amendment rights. However, at a Georgetown University Law Center briefing about the term Sept. 23, analysts spent the biggest chunk of time discussing cases the court might take, as opposed to those already on the calendar.

A same-sex couple from England holds their British marriage certificate March 29. In the U.S., the Supreme Court in its new term will consider whether to add to its docket one or more of a half-dozen lower court rulings overturning prohibitions on same-sex marriage. (CNS photo/Will Oliver, EPA)

A same-sex couple from England holds their British marriage certificate March 29. In the U.S., the Supreme Court in its new term will consider whether to add to its docket one or more of a half-dozen lower court rulings overturning prohibitions on same-sex marriage. (CNS photo/Will Oliver, EPA)

The docket so far is dominated by dryer matters or issues that will likely be settled in ways that won’t affect much more than the individuals involved in those specific situations.

But the cases that will catch the attention of the general public probably are those that were still pending: the half-dozen or so appeals of lower court rulings on state same-sex marriage laws. The justices were to consider several of those at their Sept. 29 conference, along with hundreds of other appeals.

The court also this term probably will be asked to review rulings on health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act; some state laws intended to restrict access to abortion-inducing drugs and others legislating medical standards for abortion clinics.

 

Religious rights case

Before those might come along, however, the first religious rights case is scheduled for Oct. 7.

The justices will hear oral arguments that day about whether Arkansas inmate Gregory Holt, also known as Abdul Maalik, should be allowed to grow a short beard, in accord with his Muslim beliefs. The state prison policy bans all beards as security risk, although 40 other state prison systems and the federal prisons permit short beards under some circumstances.

Holt, who requested a half-inch beard, argues that the policy conflicts with the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a 2000 federal law that extends to prisoners some of the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA, as the latter bill is known, was the key to the court’s ruling in June that the federal government may not require closely held for-profit companies to provide contraceptives in employee health insurance if the owners say it would violate their religious beliefs.

In that ruling, the court accepted the argument of the owners of the Hobby Lobby crafts stores that the federal government failed to meet its goal of providing contraceptive coverage in a way that was the least restrictive of the owners’ religious rights as delineated by RFRA. In the Arkansas case, Holt makes a similar argument — that the prison system seeks to control inmates’ behavior without attempting to ensure policies allow for religious practices.

Among the religious and civil rights organizations that filed “amicus” or friend-of-the-court briefs encouraging the justices to find for Holt, one joint brief is by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Muslim, Jewish, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Seventh-Day Adventist and United Church of Christ organizations. It discusses the benefits of religious practice among inmates.

Prisoners who are involved in religious activities not only are more stable emotionally, they are healthier and tend to have stronger connections to the outside world, were among the arguments that brief raised.

Free speech

Also on the court’s docket, though not on the calendars for October through December, is a free speech case brought by the Good News Community Church of Gilbert, Arizona. The church posts signs around town inviting people to Sunday services. Under Gilbert’s sign code, the church’s signs must be removed within hours, while other types of signs, including political ads, are allowed to remain for months.

The church argues that the sign code is content-based, in violation of the First Amendment. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013 held that the code is not content-based, but “tailored to serve significant governmental interests.”

Among the arguments raised on the church’s side is that the prohibition on content-based discrimination does not require evidence that the discrimination is intentional or targeted at a specific type of speech.

Same-sex marriage bans

Looming large over the court’s term will be how the justices dispose of the many lower court rulings that have overturned same-sex marriage bans or laws prohibiting states from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.

In June 2013, the court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and overturned California’s Proposition 8, a voter-approved initiative barring same-sex marriage.

Since then seven federal court rulings rejecting several states’ laws have made it to the high court.

At the Georgetown briefing, professor Irv Gornstein, executive director of the Georgetown Law Supreme Court Institute, predicted the court would accept at least two of the pending appeals. Three are from Virginia and one each from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin.

He said that would enable the justices to address two separate streams of legal challenges, states must recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions even if they are not legal in their own state, and laws prohibiting such marriages. Gornstein said the justices might have hoped it would take longer after the 2013 rulings before the next round of same-sex marriage cases reached them, but legal challenges have proceeded so fast they can’t wait.

Although a general rule of thumb is that the court rarely accepts challenges of significance across jurisdictions unless there are disagreements in how federal circuit courts rule, Gornstein and fellow panelists said they doubt that will apply in this situation.

“Given how much is at stake,” Gornstein said, “so many couples, so many states,” it’s not realistic of the court to delay.

He said accepting two cases also will reflect the importance of the issue and help avoid continuing confusion over what is constitutional.

 

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Pope dismisses Paraguayan bishop for ‘serious pastoral reasons’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — After a Vatican investigation, Pope Francis removed a Paraguayan bishop from his post as head of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este because of “serious pastoral reasons.”

But the bishop shot back later the same day, charging in an open letter that he was the victim of an ideological campaign by Paraguayan bishops in league with Vatican officials.

Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano, 69, was told to step down as head of the diocese effective Sept. 25. Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela Rios of Villarrica del Espitiru Santo will temporarily administer the diocese.

A Vatican statement said the “onerous decision” to dismiss Bishop Livieres was made after a “careful examination” of the findings of a Vatican investigation conducted by the congregations for Bishops and for Clergy. An apostolic visitation to the diocese in July was led by Spanish Cardinal Santos Abril Castello, archpriest of Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The order for Bishop Livieres, a member of Opus Dei, to step down was based on “serious pastoral reasons” and motivated by “the greater good of the unity of the church in Ciudad del Este” and among Paraguay’s bishops, the Vatican statement said.

In the exercise of his ministry protecting unity among bishops and the faithful, Pope Francis “asks the clergy and all the people of God” in the diocese to accept the decision “with a spirit of obedience, docility and a neutral attitude,” it said.

The pope also “invites the entire church in Paraguay, guided by its pastors, to a serious process of reconciliation and to overcome all divisiveness and discord so that the face of the one church” not be deprived of “the joy of the Gospel.”

While the Vatican did not list specific reasons for the bishop’s dismissal, it came just a few months after the Vatican had ordered him to stop ordaining priests amid ongoing allegations of sexual abuse committed by a high-ranking diocesan official.

Just days before Cardinal Abril went to the diocese to conduct the canonical visit, Bishop Livieres removed Msgr. Carlos Urrutigoity from his post of vicar general of the diocese “on the grounds of needing him to take on other tasks,” according to a comment July 30 by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

Prior to moving to Paraguay in 2005, Msgr. Urrutigoity, an Argentine priest, held posts in Argentina and Winona, Minnesota. He was accepted into the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1997.

A 2002 federal lawsuit claims that while in Scranton, living at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, Msgr. Urrutigoity slept in a bed with a student to whom he “directed inappropriate sexual contact.”

The suit did not say whether the plaintiff was a minor at the time of the alleged incident. The case was reportedly settled in 2005 for a sum of $400,000.

After the suit was filed, then-Scranton Bishop James C. Timlin sent Msgr. Urrutigoity to Canada for psychological evaluation.

A statement posted on the Scranton diocesan website in March said Msgr. Urrutigoity “was identified as posing a serious threat to young people.” Diocesan leaders “expressed grave doubts about this cleric’s suitability for priestly ministry and cautioned the bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, to not allow Father Urrutigoity to incardinate into his diocese.”

In a Sept. 25 letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Bishop Livieres did not mention Msgr. Urrutigoity. He claimed instead that the Vatican’s action was punishment for violating “ideological uniformity” among Paraguayan bishops. The bishop’s 1,400-word letter, which was posted on the diocese’s official website the same day, said he had raised the ire of other church leaders in the country specifically by opening a diocesan seminary to make up for the failings of the national seminary.

“The true problem of the church in Paraguay is the crisis of faith and moral life perpetuated by bad formation of clergy and the negligence of pastors,” he wrote.

Bishop Livieres also complained that he had never been shown Cardinal Abril’s report nor permitted to speak with Pope Francis during his meetings at the Vatican earlier in the week.

“As an obedient son of the church I accept, nevertheless, this decision, even though I consider it unfounded and arbitrary, and one for which the pope will have to account before God, though not to me,” the bishop wrote.

In July, a spokesman for the Ciudad del Este Diocese referred Catholic News Service to a statement that called the accusations against Msgr. Urrutigoity a “harsh campaign of libel and slander” coming from the United States.

That statement suggests the accusations against Msgr. Urrutigoity were a political tool to discredit Bishop Livieres because the diocesan seminary, which opened in 2012, sought a “more radical application of the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council.”

The statement said the formation of the seminary surprised and angered Paraguayan church leaders, who then tried to dismantle it.

“A separate chapter in this history of opposition to our bishop and the new seminary is undoubtedly the attack on Father Carlos Urrutigoity,” the statement said. “His case was used as a workhorse to question the pastoral achievements in the diocese.”

The statement said all allegations of inappropriate conduct were false.

 

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Is anybody out there? Vatican astronomer wouldn’t be surprised, if there is

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Catholic News Service

Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, the new president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, has no doubt that life exists elsewhere in the universe and that when humanity discovers it, the news will come as no big surprise.

This giant spiral disk of stars, dust and gas known as M101 is seen in a composite view captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy is 170,000 light-years across, or nearly twice the diameter of the Milky Way galaxy, and is estimated to contain at least 1 trillion stars. About 100 billion of them could be similar to the Sun in terms of temperature and lifetime, according to the HubbleSite Web site. This image is a composite of 51 individual Hubble exposures, in addition to ground-based photos. (CNS photo/NASA)

This giant spiral disk of stars, dust and gas known as M101 is seen in a composite view captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy is 170,000 light-years across, or nearly twice the diameter of the Milky Way galaxy, and is estimated to contain at least 1 trillion stars. About 100 billion of them could be similar to the Sun in terms of temperature and lifetime, according to the HubbleSite Web site. This image is a composite of 51 individual Hubble exposures, in addition to ground-based photos. (CNS photo/NASA)

He suggested that the likely discovery, whether next month or a millennium from now, will be received much the way that news of planets orbiting far off stars has filtered in since the 1990s.

“The general public is going to be, ‘Oh, I knew that. I knew it was going to be there,’” Brother Consolmagno told Catholic News Service prior to a presentation at a NASA/Library of Congress symposium on preparing for the discovery of life in the universe Sept. 18-19.

A planetary scientist who has studied meteorites and asteroids as an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory since 1993, Brother Consolmagno said he hopes the questions about life on other planets will focus more on how humanity sees itself.

“When we say human, human as compared to what?” he asked.

While the discovery of life elsewhere will not prove nor disprove the existence of God, Brother Consolmagno expects that it will open the door to ponder what form salvation history may take in other intelligent societies.

The longtime Vatican astronomer addresses the same question and a series of others that cross the threshold between science and religion in a new book, “Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? … and Other Strange Questions From the Inbox at the Vatican Observatory,” set to be published in October. Co-written by Jesuit Father Paul Mueller, another Vatican Observatory astronomer, the book uses a series of easy-to-read conversations between the two in an effort to explain how the church supports science and provide insight into how religion works.

Not all is as black and white as people imagine, and there’s no conflict between science and religion, Brother Consolmagno said.

“Eventually you learn that the kinds of questions you ask as a scientist and the kinds of answers you get as a scientist are only the kinds of questions that lead to more questions. They’re all very contingent. Now I understand how this works, but that opens up a new mystery that I hadn’t seen before and now I can explore that mystery,” he explained.

“The bigger questions, the religious questions, they’re handled by science. The religious questions give you the framework that gives you the motivation to ask the science questions, gives you the confidence the science is going to work and explains to you why I get this excitement at holding a rock from outer space.”

The book addresses questions about the Big Bang theory on the origins of the universe and the creation story in the Book of Genesis; the circumstances surrounding the star of Bethlehem; the end of the world; and the church’s inquisition of Galileo Galilei as he wrote about a sun-centered solar system.

“They’re profound questions and they’re real questions, but the questions aren’t always what you think the words are saying,” Brother Consolmagno said. “You have to dig underneath and say, ‘When people are worried about what was the star of Bethlehem, they really want to know how much does God act in the universe? Did God make that star? Does God arrange things? Does God use divine coincidences?’”

Brother Consolmagno, who had an asteroid named for him in 2000 — 4597 Consolmagno — has long been a promoter of better understanding across what is often portrayed as the science-religion divide. He said there is no conflict between his faith life and his scientific life.

“I don’t think people understand nearly well enough about being a scientist and about being a religious person, a member of a religious order or just a devout Catholic,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s supposed to be fun. If it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong. God makes himself known through joy.

“C.S. Lewis wrote about that in his book ‘Surprised by Joy.’ I get joy when I see a new insight into how the universe works in my very tiny field of science. I get joy along with a sense of contentment and peace in a church in prayer. I get joy when I work with the poor, when I work with students, when I work with the elderly.”

In his presentation Sept. 19 bearing the same title as his new book, Brother Consolmagno suggested the idea of discovering extraterrestrial life may be so appealing to humanity, with all its pain, injustice and disease, that there is hope that “any race advanced enough to cross the stars to visit us must also be advanced enough to show us how to overcome all those human ills. They look to the aliens to be saviors of mankind.”

Other symposium participants from around the world involved in searching for life on other planets addressed topics such as how society should cope with the discovery, astrobiology and theology, the moral status of non-human organisms and moving beyond preconceptions of what life is.

An avid reader of science fiction, Brother Consolmagno will receive the Carl Sagan Medal from the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in November. The award is being given for his work in communicating planetary science to the general public.

He also is planning the Vatican Observatory Foundation’s first Faith and Astronomy Workshop for clergy, religious and laypeople working in parish education. Set for Jan. 19-23 in Tucson, Arizona, the workshop will give 25 participants the chance to participate in hand-on astronomical projects, join lectures and view deep sky objects at night. The application deadline is Sept. 30. Apply at www.vofoundation.org.

A video of Brother Consolmagno discussing the possibility of discovering extraterrestrial life is online at youtu.be/7ARjTJZVw_o.

 

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