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Viewpoint: Pope Francis and the ‘economy of exclusion’

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Think about it. According to the United Nations, approximately 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty throughout the world. Clean water and sanitation, adequate nutritious food, a safe job with fair pay, an education, medical care, and a decent place to call home are unfulfilled dreams to these brothers and sisters of ours.

Every day they must somehow find a way to survive on less than $1.25. Even in the poorest countries it is almost impossible to live on this meager amount. In fact, many do not make it.

A girl in Mexico eats a meal provided by the Helping Hands Association and Caritas, the Catholic relief and development organization. Caritas Internationalis launches its campaign against hunger Dec. 10 with a worldwide prayer. Nearly 1 billion people — about one in every eight — experienced chronic hunger or undernourishment during 2010-2012, according to Caritas. (CNS photo/courtesy of Caritas Internationalis)

Everyday, approximately 21,000 fellow human beings die from hunger and hunger related diseases. And according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, some 300 million children go to bed hungry every night.

According to the Christian anti-poverty organization Bread for the World, more than 48 million Americans, including 15.9 million children, do not have enough nutritious food to eat. And more than one in five children live in poverty.

Yet, earlier this year Congress cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for poor Americans by $8 billion over a 10-year period. Reportedly, this will reduce food budgets for affected households by about $90 per month. That’s a big cut for low-income families.

In a recent meeting at the Vatican with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Pope Francis urged world leaders to commit to building a much more level playing field between the wealthy and the poor.

The pope encouraged world leaders to challenge “all forms of injustice” and resist the “economy of exclusion,” the “throwaway culture,” and the “culture of death,” which “sadly risk becoming passively accepted.”

Championing the cause for income equality, the pope called for “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state.”

But most politicians and wealthy people throughout much of the world, are strongly opposed to any “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state.”

In an article headlined “Inequality is holding back the recovery,” Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz, shared his deep concern regarding the growing divide between the top 1 percent and the rest of us.

He wrote, “Obama bailed out banks but didn’t invest enough in workers and students. … And George W. Bush’s steep tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 and his multitrillion-dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan emptied the piggy bank while exacerbating the great divide.”

Stiglitz wrote that Bush’s party’s “newfound commitment to fiscal discipline, in the form of insisting on low taxes for the rich while slashing services for the poor, is the height of hypocrisy.”

Shortly after his election, Pope Francis said to a gathering of some 5,000 journalists, “How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor.”

Yes, indeed. For if a more humble, more simple-living church, doesn’t stand firmly with the poor, than who will?

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

 

 

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New Jersey catechist on quest to visit 1,000 U.S. churches

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TRENTON, N.J. — When Robert Seaman’s fourth-grade religious education students challenged him to visit 500 churches, he responded, “Why not make it 1,000?”

The challenge began roughly two years ago, and the catechist, who also handles maintenance for St. Ann Parish in Lawrenceville, has already visited more than 700 churches across 19 states.

Religious educator Robert Seaman, center learns about Sacred Heart Parish in Riverton, N.J., in the Trenton Diocese, from Mary Neary, parish director of ministries, and Deacon Joe Donadieu. Seaman has taken on a challenge to visit 1,000 churches around the U.S. (CNS photo/Joe Moore, The Monitor)

Seaman is passionate about his work, and he is always thinking of new ways to engage his students. By participating in the 1,000-church challenge, Seaman has been able to show his students all different kinds of churches throughout the country that they might otherwise never have gotten the chance to see.

“I decided to make it my own pilgrimage to visit as many churches as I can and take pictures,” Seaman explained. He has assembled a bulletin board with the photos for his students to view.

While Seaman tries to tour the inside of each church he visits, he sometimes is unable to because the church is locked, or in some instances, spaces are being used for events like weddings or funerals.

When he can gain access, Seaman makes a point to always show respect. He won’t take pictures if there are people trying to pray, and sometimes he will wait until the church is empty. He also tries to visit during a special event or Mass, if possible.

“If there is someone around, once they find out what I’m doing, they open up and tell me all about their parish and their different cultural traditions,” he told The Monitor, newspaper of the Trenton Diocese. “They are so welcoming and love to talk about it.”

While Seaman is more than two-thirds of the way toward achieving his goal, he said that it now takes longer to reach churches he has not yet visited. He hopes to hit his final milestone sometime next year. He has already set his next goal, to visit at least one church from each state along the East Coast.

Seeking to involve his students in his journeys, Seaman created a project involving a “March Madness” of churches, in which groups of students narrow down groups of churches until the class as a whole choose the one they liked the best.

“It is great to see them talking and conversing” about the churches, he said. “It’s kind of interesting.”

Since starting this challenge, Seaman has come up with another project that he now assigns to his religious education students each year a challenge to them to design their dream houses of worship.

The students are encouraged to look through all of the pictures that he has taken and pick their favorite features from among the samples.

Some students focus on the different types of architecture and buildings themselves, which vary from simple, country churches to intricate stone cathedrals. Others focus on specific elements of the structures, like stained-glass windows, the arrangements of pews or altar designs.

The students then present their dream churches to the rest of the class, sharing why they selected them, what they might change and what the structures mean to them.

They are also handed a camera to take a single photo of some element of their own parish church that stands out to them.

“It’s interesting seeing what they choose and what they find to be the most important things. I develop them myself and then give them copies,” Seaman said.

Through what they photograph, Seaman can find out what they find most interesting. He keeps these elements in mind when he photographs churches he visits.

Their dream church presentations include naming the worship space, which many designate by their first names.

“I love that,” Seaman said, “because I’ve taught them that they’re all called to be saints and that many churches are named after saints.”

One of Seaman’s hopes for his students is that they will learn that the Catholic Church is more than just a building; it’s also the people in the building.

Seaman compared a church building to a family’s dining room table. While the table might look different in every home, it serves the same purpose and facilitates the same gatherings. Likewise, churches might vary in shape, size or design – but all carry the same meaning and purpose.

“Even though they all look different … the purpose is still the same,” he said. “You are still invited. You are still a family member, because you are a Catholic.”

— By Rebecca Sass and David Karas

 

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Key Maryland Election Issues 2014

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Public Policy Positions of the Catholic Church

The Church and the Public Square

The sacredness of life and the value of human dignity form the lens through which the Church views every public policy issue, whether it involves poverty, abortion, education, the family, immigration or any other topic. Whether we are Democrat or Republican, conservative, liberal or in between, our Catholic faith should be the first and most important influence on how we think about political issues. To help Catholics understand these issues, the Maryland Catholic Conference has provided below a brief summary of policies addressed by the Church in the Public Square.

2014 Elections

Much is at stake in the upcoming June 24 primary election in Maryland, in which candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, governor, and the Maryland General Assembly will be vying for your vote. All 188 seats in the General Assembly are up for election and more than 50 seats have been vacated by incumbents, providing an unprecedented opportunity to elect new candidates to the legislature.

During their upcoming terms, the men and women selected to represent your interests will decide many issues affecting the values the Church promotes in the public square, including the sanctity of life, the dignity of the human person, and the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society. Your vote, especially in the primary election when turnout often is low, can make a critical difference in who speaks for you in Congress and Annapolis. Make sure you know the issues, and where your candidates stand on matters that are important to your faith. As Pope Francis reminds us, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.”

Respect for Life

ABORTION. There is an urgent need to pass legislation in Maryland that protects unborn life, and that supports women facing crisis pregnancies. Maryland is home to one of the most permissive abortion laws in the country and has some of the highest abortion rates in the nation. Maryland is one of only four states and the District of Columbia that voluntarily fund elective abortions. Maryland has no parental consent law, no meaningful parental notification law, no informed consent law, no mandatory waiting period, no abortion reporting requirement, and no ban on late-term abortion.

STEM CELLS. The killing of human embryos in embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) – no matter how good the intention– is still the destruction of human life and
has not led to human cures. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have been treated with adult stem cells, which carry no ethical concerns. Yet Maryland largely ignores successful, ethical adult stem cell research and has spent more than $100 million on ESCR through the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund.

END-OF-LIFE. Forces in modern culture promoting physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia seek to devalue the lives of the sick, the elderly, and the disabled under the guise of “choice.” Such measures not only discriminate by implying
certain persons’ lives are not worth living, but
threaten the very
premise that every
life is a gift from
God, worthy of our protection.

Pope Francis has called on us to “challenge all forms of injustice,” including, “the throwaway culture and the culture of death that nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.” Patients who are elderly, terminally ill, or medically fragile deserve the comforting care of loved ones and medical treatment that alleviates pain and suffering – not a prescription to commit suicide.

Education & Family Life

EDUCATION. Catholic schools are an integral part of Maryland’s educational landscape. Pope Francis has stated that “Catholic schools, which always strive to join their work of education with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, are a most valuable resource for the evangelization of culture.” (Evangelii Gaudium) In addition to their commitment to moral formation and community service, Catholic schools also are a fiscally valuable resource for our state. Nearly 50,000 students attend Maryland’s Catholic schools, saving the state and its taxpayers approximately $700 million every year.

While Maryland provides some support to nonpublic school students through textbook and aging school construction programs, neighboring states routinely provide their private and parochial schools hundreds of millions of dollars more in support, including through business or individual tax credits which encourage investment in education. The U.S. bishops have reminded us that the “entire Catholic community should be encouraged to advocate for parental school choice and personal and corporate tax credits, which will help parents to fulfill their responsibility in educating their children.” (Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, 2005)

The family is important, and it is necessary for the survival of humanity. Without the family, the cultural survival of the human race would be at risk. The family, whether we like it or not, is the foundation.

Pope Francis, World Youth Day 2013

FAMILY LIFE. The Church upholds marriage as the union between one man and one woman and recognizes the family unit of mother, father and child as the foundation of society. The Church promotes government policies that advance stable families and their ability to provide adequate food, housing, and other basic necessities

for their children. Employment policies should provide adequate maternity leave and sufficient sick leave to allow parents to care for their own health or that of another family member.

Social Concerns

Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.

—    Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel),

—       Apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis

POVERTY. Although Maryland has one of the highest rates of per capita income in the country, 13.8 percent
of Maryland’s children were living in poverty according to the 2012 American Community Survey. In order to address the pressing needs of the vulnerable, the Church encourages public policies and budget priorities that support those who often struggle through no fault of their own to maintain the basic necessities of life.

HEALTH CARE. For decades the Catholic Church has been a leading voice for universal health care access, and for health care policies that include adequate conscience protections. A person’s right to health care is based on the principle that each life has value and each life is sacred. We must provide health care for some of our most vulnerable populations, including the working poor, immigrants, persons with disabilities and the homeless.

EMPLOYMENT. The Church promotes policies that support the dignity of work, a healthy work environment, and the ability of each individual to have access to employment. “As the state’s largest private social service provider, we witness in our Catholic ministries the painful reality of those who struggle to keep up with the basic costs of food, rent, utilities and transportation. This desperate cycle cannot end unless we as a society find a way to give all capable men and women the chance to work at a job through which they can live with true independence and dignity.” (The Dignity of Work, Maryland Bishops, 2014)

IMMIGRATION. The Catholic Church supports immigration policies that uphold the moral duty to recognize documented and undocumented immigrants as truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. Immigration policies must keep families unified and protect national borders. Recent attempts to locally implement the federal responsibility of immigration enforcement raise numerous concerns including possible safety issues for immigrants too afraid to contact police. As we pray during Mass, many of us may look and realize – new immigrants are our family.

From the Maryland Catholic Conference

www.mdcathcon.org/elections

 

 

 

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Dublin college drops auction of Mrs. Kennedy letters

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Catholic News Service

DUBLIN — A Catholic college will no longer auction letters sent by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy to an Irish priest.

Earlier in May Vincentian-run All Hallows College in Dublin announced that it was selling the correspondence between Kennedy and Vincentian Father Joseph Leonard, a priest who had befriended the former first lady when she visited Dublin in 1950.

The letters detailed Kennedy’s struggles with her Catholic faith after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963.

In a statement to the media May 21, college officials said that the letters were “being withdrawn from auction” at the direction of the college and the Vincentian Fathers.

The statement added: “Representatives of All Hallows College and the Vincentian Fathers are now exploring with members of Mrs. Kennedy’s family how best to preserve and curate this archive for the future.”

Kennedy wrote the letters between 1950 and 1964 to Father Leonard, whom she first met when she visited Dublin as a student in 1950. They began a correspondence that continued until his death in 1964. The letters revealed that Kennedy credited the priest with her return to Catholicism after a period when she had lapsed in the practice of her faith.

The existence of the letters was revealed in mid-May and generated massive media coverage. Kennedy died May 19, 1994, at age 64.

The letters had been expected to sell for as much as $1.3 million.

 

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The ‘Ten Commandments’ of conduct on the Internet

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These “commandments” for communication on the Internet are adapted from the principles proposed by Archbishop Eamon Martin, coadjutor archbishop of Amagh, Northern Ireland, in his May 20 statement on “The New Media and the Work of Evangelization.”

  1. Be positive and joyful; offer digital smiles.
  2. Do not be aggressive, preachy or judgmental.
  3. Do not lie.
  4. Fill the Internet with love.
  5. Turn the other cheek when criticized and, when possible, gently correct.
  6.  Pray online.
  7.  Build community by sharing a Gospel witness.
  8. Teach the young to use the Internet responsibly.
  9. Be a witness to human dignity; avoid sites that exploit and degrade others.
  10.    Be a missionary on the world wide web.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, cccoadjutor archbishop of Armagh, Northern Ireland, has proposed “Ten Commandments” for the Internet.. (CNS photo/courtesy of Irish Bishops’ Conference)

Following is Archbishop Martin’s full text on evangelizing in the new media that includes the unedited version of his 10 principles “to guide our presence in the digital highways.”

The New Media and the Work of Evangelization.”

By Archbishop Eamon Martin

Many people say that it was a four-minute speech which led to the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as pope. In his pre-conclave speech to the other cardinals, he used the popular image from the Book of Revelation of Jesus standing at the door and knocking. But in an unusual and inspired way he turned the image around: “Obviously, the text refers to his knocking from the outside in order to enter but I think about the times in which Jesus knocks from within so that we will let him come out. The self-referential church keeps Jesus Christ within herself and does not let him out.”

A church, which does not come out of herself to evangelize, he said, becomes self-referential and then gets sick.

We have become familiar over the past year with this consistent theme in the teaching of Pope Francis. In “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) he writes: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security… . If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life.”

It is in this context that I would like to introduce the challenges and opportunities for new media in evangelization. I am going to take it for granted that all of us here accept the necessity of people of faith to be involved in new media if we want to make the Gospel widely known in today’s world. The Catholic Church has always advocated the use of whatever media are available to it in bringing the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Fifty years ago, at the Second Vatican Council, one of the first decrees issued by the Council fathers, “Inter Mirifica,” was on the media of social communications. Its first paragraph reads:

“Among the wonderful technological discoveries which men of talent, especially in the present era, have made with God’s help, the Church welcomes and promotes with special interest those which have … uncovered new avenues of communicating… news, views and teachings of every sort. The most important of these inventions are media such as the press, movies, radio, television and the like. These can … reach and influence, not only individuals, but the very masses and the whole of human society.”

Note the welcoming and positive tone of the message for these “wonderful technological discoveries.” Mention of “press, movies, radio, TV” seems miles away from smartphones, tablets, Netflix, Skype, Twitter and Facebook!

Christians always made use of all forms of media to spread the good news – whether it be parchments and scrolls, high crosses, art, stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, the printing, television or radio. We must welcome the use of so-called “new media” in this task. Many parishes have websites, there are ‘sacred spaces’ on line, priests on Facebook, the pope on Twitter, i-Catholic, soul waves radio and many more. Last year Proposition 18 from the Synod on the New Evangelization stated, “Education in the wise and constructive use of social media is an important means to be utilized in the New Evangelization.”

By way of example, last week along with Cardinal Brady I led the Armagh diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. Our first morning Mass at the grotto was web-streamed across the world and within minutes we had requests for special intentions from home and beyond.

There are different ways of looking at the use of new media in evangelization – one is to see the new media as yet another tool to reach people with the message of the Gospel. By means of the various forms of new media, we can reach out to the peripheries and draw people in, so that they can hear the Word of God and understand it better. They may then be open to a face-to-face encounter with a church or parish group, or feel drawn to Mass and the sacraments.

Another way is to see the digital, online, or virtual world itself as a new space which is itself in need of evangelization. It is in this context that we notice references to a “digital continent to be won for Christ,” a “digital sea in which the barque of Christ must set sail,” a “virtual world ripe for mission.”

If the first of these is described as “evangelizing through” the Internet, the second might be termed “evangelizing on’ the Internet.

One of my favorite chapters in the New Testament is Acts 17, which speaks about Paul going into Athens, the bustling communications capital of the ancient world. Paul is greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. Verse 21 comments: All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.

I see the Internet as being like the “new Athens.” new marketplace or Areopagus, a “global village” to be won for Christ. Our challenge is to become witnesses for Christ in this strange new world, to enter into dialogue with the digital culture.

If only to be able to reach our young people and an increasing percentage of people of all ages, we need to be present in this new Areopagus. Our young people are spending huge proportions of their time in this virtual world, so much that for many it is becoming increasingly the place where they live their lives, and what we call the real world of face to face seems often dull uneventful to them, and their secondary existence. Never cease to be amazed at the ability of young people to text, Snapchat, Facebook with others all while talking to you.

The Internet has become like the nervous system of our culture, in which more and more people are expressing and exploring their identity, picking up and discarding their values and attitudes, expressing their feelings and prejudices, befriending and unfriending each other, measuring each other’s status and importance, relevance and appearance. If our young people and people are living in this gigantic network, then we, as people of faith need to be in there, dialoguing with the inhabitants of this world, with the men and women who dwell in the web.

When in the church we speak about new evangelization, we more often than not think of the so called “real world,” but billions of people live in the social networks. These have been described as among the biggest countries in the world – and they are countries with no barriers.

For example, 1.2 billion inhabit the world of Facebook. The majority of these people may never enter a church, but if we are to respond to the Gospel mandate given us by Christ to “go out to the whole world,” then we must nowadays include the digital world and proclaim the Good News there. Our challenge as evangelizers has always been to reach out and encounter people where they are at, and nowadays, more and more that means online.

In his message for the 48th World Communications Day, Pope Francis speaks about “Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter.”

The Internet, in particular, he says, “offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.”

Pope Francis recognizes the problems and drawbacks with authentic communication in the virtual world, for example – problems with achieving balance, fighting stereotypes, the ease with which people can isolate themselves or “barricade themselves” online “behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests.”

However, he is clear that as Christians we need to “walk the streets of the digital highways, to encounter like the Good Samaritan those who are lying on the side of the road and witness to them in tenderness and love.” Thanks to the Internet, he says, “Christian witness can reach the peripheries of human existence.”

I quote from the message: “The digital highway is … a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope. By means of the Internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

There is a temptation to see evangelization in the new media as simply bombarding people with religious messages. Pope Francis encourages us to go beyond this. He challenges us to think about how we can effectively encounter people and witness to them in, and using, new media. He asks: “Can we be available to them, hear their issues and problems, engage with their questions and doubts and their search for truth?”

In a beautiful passage he says: “May the image of the Good Samaritan who tended to the wounds of the injured man by pouring oil and wine over them be our inspiration. Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts.” He urges us: “Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world… in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ. [The church] needs to be a church at the side of others, capable of accompanying everyone along the way.”

I would therefore like to suggest a number of principles to guide our presence in the digital highways:

1. Be positive and joyful. Offer “digital smiles” and have a sense of humor. Remember that it is the “joy of the Gospel” that we are communicating, so, as Pope Francis says: no ‘funeral faces’ or ‘sourpusses.’

2. Strictly avoid aggression and “preachiness” online; try not to be judgmental or polemical – goodness knows, there is enough of this online already. Instead, try Pope Francis’ approach of “tenderness and balm.”

3. Never bear false witness on the Internet.

4. Remember “Ubi caritas et amor.” Fill the Internet with charity and love, always giving rather than taking. Continually seek to broaden and reframe discussions and seek to include a sense of charity and solidarity with the suffering in the world.

5. Have a broad back when criticisms and insults are made; when possible, gently correct.

6. Pray in the digital world. Establish sacred spaces, opportunities for stillness, reflection amd meditation online.

7. Establish connections, relationships and build communion. Church has always been about “gathering.” In this, it is worth considering an ecumenical presence for the Christian churches online. The Internet tends to be a place of ethical and intellectual relativism, and often of aggressive secularism. The scandal of disunity among Christians can be easily exploited and exaggerated. Therefore, we must seek to share resources so that we can have a powerful Gospel witness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people started noticing online: “See how these Christians love one another.”

8. Educate our young to keep themselves safe and to use the Internet responsibly.

9. Witness to human dignity at all times online. Seek, as Pope Benedict once said, to “give a soul to the Internet.” We are well aware of the pervasive prevalence of pornography on the Internet which can “pollute the spirit,” destroy and degrade human sexuality and relationships, reduce persons to objects for gratification, draw millions into the commodification and commercialization of sex, feed the monster that is human trafficking.

10. Be missionary, be aware that with the help of the Internet, a message has the potential to reach the ends of the earth in seconds. In this regard, let us foster and call forth charisms in younger committed people who understand the power and potential of the net to bear witness.

On 5 May Pope Francis tweeted: @Pontifex: What does “evangelize” mean? To give witness with joy and simplicity to what we are and what we believe in.

That is our challenge and our privilege as Christians. Freely we have received the joy of the Gospel; now let us freely give it.

· This address was delivered May 20, 2014, by Archbishop Eamon Martin, coadjutor archbishop of Armagh, at the Soul Waves Radio conference in Dublin. It’s posted online at the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference site, www.catholicbishops.ie.

 

 

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Student and school news

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St. Elizabeth seniors receive scholarships

WILMINGTON – Three seniors at St. Elizabeth High School recently learned they will receive additional funding for their college years.

Jack Harkins has been awarded full scholarship and grant funding to attend the University of Pennsylvania. He will study computer engineering beginning in September. He is a resident of Newark and a graduate of Our Lady of Fatima School. Read more »

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CYM crowns champions in softball, track and field

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Catholic Youth Ministry recently held championship events in softball and track and field. The results were provided by the CYM office.

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Head of Vatican office for religious says dialogue is best to improve relations with U.S. nuns’ group

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Anytime there are misunderstandings, errors or problems concerning religious orders, dialogue is the best way to deal with the situation, said the head of the Vatican office that oversees the world’s religious orders.

“At times there are things that either may not have been understood or are deviations, too, but which we haven’t talked about and we have to talk about again with trust,” said Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The cardinal’s remarks were in response to a question about the nature of the Vatican’s current rapport with religious sisters in light of recent “difficulties,” particularly in reference to the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which is undergoing a major reform ordered by the Vatican in 2012.

Cardinal Aviz and Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the International Union of Superiors General, were speaking at a news conference May 20 to highlight how religious sisters around the world were mobilizing to prevent human trafficking and exploitation during the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil June 12-July13.

A reporter asked the cardinal and Sister Sammut, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, whether the Vatican’s support of the sisters’ initiative was “a sign of coming together, perhaps a healing of the relationship.”

The cardinal said, “The Holy See has a very close relationship” with the vast numbers of religious congregations and orders around the world.

“There are positive aspects and less positive aspects just like in life,” he said. “There have been more sensitive moments in which, let’s say, we have had to clarify positions, but we see that there is complete collaboration, and the desire for dialogue and coming together is very great.”

“This great sensitivity,” Cardinal Aviz said, can also be seen in Pope Francis’ desire that “consecrated life recover all its strength for serving the church” and the world.

Whenever there are difficulties, “we have chosen the path of dialogue because it is the best thing there is,” and it has been producing results that are “always better,” he said.

Sister Sammut said that, as president of the superiors’ group she has “seen a lot of collaboration” with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

“What is important is that we can dialogue together and that we can walk together,” she said. “Like any other organization we can have differences. But what is important is that we are true to each other.”

She said it was important “that we can mention what we see as questions, as challenges to each other and that we can try to find solutions together.”

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, recently voiced “increasing concern” with positions being taken by the officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a Maryland-based umbrella group that claims about 1,500 leaders of U.S. women’s communities as members, representing about 80 percent of the country’s 57,000 women religious.

In an April 30 meeting with LCWR officials, Cardinal Muller rebuked the “concept of conscious evolution” in various LCWR publications and in “directional statements” of some member congregations. He also criticized the group’s plan to honor a Catholic theologian, St. Joseph Sister Elizabeth Johnson, whose work he said has been judged “seriously inadequate.”

In 2012, the Vatican announced a major reform of the LCWR to ensure its fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

The group’s leaders said the cardinal’s recent address to them was “constructive in its frankness and lack of ambiguity. It was not an easy discussion, but its openness and spirit of inquiry created a space for authentic dialogue and discernment.”

The group also said in the same written statement May 8 that they have “experienced a culture of encounter, marked by dialogue and discernment” in all of their visits to Vatican offices as part of the reform process.

However, the LCWR leadership also expressed disappointment about how they continue to be perceived by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“During the meeting, it became evident that despite maximum efforts through the years, communication has broken down and as a result, mistrust has developed,” the LCWR leaders said, adding that they did not “recognize ourselves” in the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment and that their attempts to “clarify misperceptions have led to deeper misunderstandings.”

 

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Phila. archbishop calls same-sex marriage ruling ‘a mistake’ with negative consequences – updated

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — The 1996 Pennsylvania law that recognizes marriage between one man and one woman is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled May 20, clearing the way for same-sex marriage in the state.

Reaction to the ruling in the Catholic community was swift and strong.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia in a statement called the decision by U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III to strike down Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act “a mistake with long-term, negative consequences.”

Gov. Tom Corbett said May 21 he would not appeal Jones’ ruling, saying a different outcome from a higher court was “extremely unlikely.” As a Catholic, he said in a statement, “the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered. I continue to maintain the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

A day earlier, a federal judge in Oregon repealed that state’s constitutional marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The Oregon Catholic Conference called it “a travesty of justice that marriage, as the foundation of society, received no defense in the U.S. District Court.”

Oregon officials prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a bid by the National Organization for Marriage to stay the ruling.

With Oregon, 18 states have legalized same-sex marriage. It also is legal in the District of Columbia. Other courts’ decisions have been stayed, pending appeals. That includes Idaho, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas and Michigan.

In Arkansas, the state Supreme Court May 16 stayed a May 9 state court judge’s ruling that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage. Several marriage licenses were issued in the intervening days.

In Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, federal judges have ruled that out-of-state marriages must be recognized in those states.

In Pennsylvania, Archbishop Chaput said state laws that defend traditional marriage “were enacted for sound reasons, namely to defend the rights of children and contribute to the well-being of the larger community.”

“Marriage is more than a private arrangement between two people,” he said. “It’s a public commitment of love and fidelity, and it’s ordered not just to companionship but to creating and rearing new life. This is why every child deserves a mother and a father in a loving marriage, and the child is the fruit of that love.

“All men and women are formed in the image of God and deserve our respect. But attempts to redefine the nature of marriage, no matter how well-intentioned,” he said, “damage a cornerstone of our human interaction and ultimately work against human dignity itself.”

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, said the judge’s ruling “speaks to the confusion and misunderstanding among many today about the fundamental building block of society: the family. Every child has a basic right to a mother and a father united in marriage as a family. Today’s decision does not change that.”

In its statement, the Catholic conference reiterated consistent Catholic teaching that all people are made in the image of God and that everyone has inherent dignity, adding that no one should face discrimination.

“But human experience, considerable social data, as well as our religious convictions, lead us to see clearly that children thrive best in a stable family grounded on the marital union of one man and one woman,” it said.

“Catholic opposition to same-sex marriage is not a statement about the worth of human beings who experience same-sex attraction, but a statement about the nature of marriage itself.”

The Catholic Church teaches that sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful.

In his 41-page opinion, Jones said Pennsylvania’s laws that prohibit same-sex marriage and do not recognize the marriages of same-sex couples in other states violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “and are therefore unconstitutional.”

In Oregon, Catholic leaders said they were grieved by U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane’s decision to repeal that’s state’s law upholding traditional marriage and by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s refusal to defend that law.

Her decision was “an extreme dereliction of her sworn duty to uphold the law” and represent “the interests and the people of Oregon,” said the Oregon Catholic Conference’s statement. “It is a sad day for democracy when one federally appointed judge can overturn, without any representation, the express will of the people of Oregon.”

“Despite the judge’s ruling, authentic marriage remains what it has always and only been according to God’s design: the loving union between one man and one woman for the mutual benefit of the two who have become one flesh and any children born of their union,” the conference said.

In other developments concerning same -sex marriage, the Michigan Catholic Conference May 14 filed a friend-of-the court brief with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to defend a 2004 voter-approved amendment to the Michigan constitution that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The state has appealed a lower court’s ruling that found the Michigan Marriage Amendment unconstitutional.

“The Catholic Church holds strongly to her teachings that those with same-sex attraction should be treated with respect and sensitivity, and that marriage can only be recognized as the union of one man and one woman,” said a statement from Paul A. Long, conference president and CEO.

“The legal briefs make clear that support for natural marriage does not impugn the dignity that must be afforded to all human persons, regardless of their orientation,” he said.

Also filing a brief in support of the appeal was the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined by the National Association of Evangelicals; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod.

In Indiana, a division of the University of Notre Dame’s undergraduate student government denied recognition of a proposed campus group called Students for Child-Oriented Policy, aimed at advancing the Catholic Church’s position on children and family and its support for traditional marriage.

In an April 30 letter to the prospective club president released online by supporters of the proposed club, Margaret Hnastusko, the university’s director of student activities for programming, said the mission of the proposed club “closely mirrored that of other undergraduate student clubs on campus.”

The letter did not specify what existing clubs have the same mission, but said recognition of a new campus club rests on a number of factors including “uniqueness to campus.”

 

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Destroying creation is destroying a gift of God, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Polluting or destroying the environment is like telling God one does not like what he created and proclaimed to be good, Pope Francis said.

The Bible says that after every stage of creation, God was pleased with what he had made, the pope said May 21 at his weekly general audience. “To destroy creation is to say to God, ‘I don’t like it.’”

Splinters of ice peel off from one of the sides of the Perito Moreno glacier during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months in early July near El Calafate, Argentina. Polluting or destroying the environment is like telling God one does not like what he created and proclaimed to be good, Pope Francis said at his May 21 general audience. (CNS file)

On the other hand, he said, safeguarding creation is safeguarding a gift of God. “This must be our attitude toward creation: safeguarding it. If not, if we destroy creation, creation will destroy us. Don’t forget that.”

Continuing a series of audience talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said the gift of knowledge helps people see creation with God’s eyes, recognizing its beauty and seeing it as a sign of God’s love for men and women, who are the crown of his creation.

“Creation is not a property that we can dominate at our pleasure nor does it belong to only a few,” he said. “Creation is a gift, a marvelous gift God has given us to care for and use for the benefit of all with great respect and gratitude.”

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord — are not simply human virtues or talents, the pope said. And knowledge is not just the human capacity “to understand the reality that surrounds us and discover the laws that regulate nature and the universe.”

Rather, he said, the gift of knowledge helps people understand, “through creation, the greatness of the love of God and his profound relationship with every creature.”

The gift of knowledge helps people recognize that all things that are beautiful, both things found in nature and things that are the result of human ingenuity, speak of God, he said. “The Spirit leads us to praise the Lord from the depths of our heart and to recognize, in all that we have and all that we are, a invaluable gift of God and a sign of his infinite love for us.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis led the recitation of the Hail Mary as a prayer for the victims of flooding in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Serbia. He asked the international community to assist the two Balkan nations, where more than three dozen people died and tens of thousands were left homeless in late May.

Pope Francis also told the estimated 50,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square that May 24 is the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, a Marian feast particularly dear to Catholics in mainland China. He asked people to pray that “Catholics in China may continue to believe, to hope and to love and, in every circumstance, to be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among their fellow citizens.”

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20140521_udienza-generale_en.html

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20140521_udienza-generale_sp.html

 

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