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Bishop McElroy: Attacks against Jesuit author expose homophobia, judgmentalism


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A U.S. bishop vigorously defended Jesuit Father James Martin when a prominent U.S. seminary canceled an invitation it had extended to the well-known author, who was to speak about Jesus at an October event, after fringe groups unhappy with the priest’s recent book about the church and the gay community mounted a series of attacks.

San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy wrote Sept. 18 that ““The concerted attack on Father Martin’s work has been driven by three impulses: homophobia, a distortion of fundamental Catholic moral theology, and a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his campaign against judgmentalism in the church,” (CNS file)

Theological College, a national seminary at The Catholic University of America in Washington, said the cancellation, first made public Sept. 15, came after it “experienced increasing negative feedback from various social media sites regarding the seminary’s invitation” to Father Martin. It did not name the groups associated with the attacks.

“This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is, not primarily for Father Martin’s sake, but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church,” said San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy in a vigorous defense published by America magazine Sept. 18.

“The concerted attack on Father Martin’s work has been driven by three impulses: homophobia, a distortion of fundamental Catholic moral theology, and a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his campaign against judgmentalism in the church,” wrote Bishop McElroy.

The cancellation of the speech was not the first, Father Martin noted, even though that speech and others he was to give were about Jesus and not the book.

In a Sept. 15 Facebook post, the priest wrote about the incident and said the attacks included “a storm of phone calls, emails and messages to Theological College, which included, I was told, people screaming at the receptionists who answered the phone. In the end, they felt that the expected protests and negative publicity would distract from Alumni Day.” 

Father Martin was to speak at an Oct. 4 symposium celebrating the 100th anniversary of the seminary’s founding.

“The organizers were all apologetic and in some cases more upset than I was. I know that they were under extreme pressure, and in some cases were overwhelmed by the rage that can be generated by social media: ill will based on misrepresentations, innuendos, homophobia and especially fear. Perfect love drives out fear, as 1 John says. But perfect fear also drives out love,” Father Martin wrote.

“Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity,” the book that has driven the controversy, grabbed the No. 1 spot on Amazon’s Roman Catholicism category Sept. 18. 

It has been endorsed by Bishop McElroy, U.S. Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., and has a long list of endorsements from other notable Catholics. However, it also was recently criticized by Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal.

Jesuit Father Matt Malone, editor of America magazine, where Father Martin is editor at large, defended the priest and the book, which has been approved by the Jesuits as being in line with church teaching, in a Sept. 16 statement.

“Some elements in the American church,” Father Malone said, “have taken it upon themselves to organize a campaign, not only against the contents of the book, but against Father Martin himself. In recent weeks, Father Martin has been subjected to repeated, calumnious attacks in social media and in print, involving invective that is as appalling as it is toxic. It is one thing to engage in spirited debate. It is another thing to seek to stymie such debate through fear, misinformation, or blunt censorship.”

Though Theological College, with the cancellation of the invitation made more than a year ago, was seeking to avoid controversy, it invited more attention. The news of the cancellation ended up appearing in the pages of major U.S. newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post over the weekend of Sept. 16 and 17.

John Garvey, Catholic university’s president, issued a statement saying the institution regretted any implication that the university supported the decision by the seminary, adding that “universities and their related entities should be places of free, civil exchange of ideas. Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea.”

Garvey said it was “problematic” that groups within the Catholic Church demonstrate an “inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity.”

In his Facebook post, Father Martin, a consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, said the only thing he asked of the organizations that canceled his talks is that they be honest about the reasons for the cancellations.

“Also, I want to say that none of these cancellations disturbs me,” he said. “I’ve not lost any sleep over them. … I want to say that Jesus is close to me in prayer. So I am at total peace.”

Thousands on social media, including high profile Catholics, voiced support for the Jesuit.

After the Theological College invitation was rescinded, Holy Trinity Church, in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood, asked Father Martin if he could instead visit their Jesuit parish around the same time.

“So I look forward to seeing you all in Washington,” he said.

Whether by coincidence or on purpose, on Sept. 18 hackers briefly took down the international Catholic daily LaCroix International after it ran the commentary “Catholic Cyber-Militias and the New Censorship” about the incident.

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Key West Catholic school struggles to reopen after hurricane


Catholic News Service

KEY WEST, Fla. — Robert Wright, principal of the Basilica School of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, reluctantly left town before Hurricane Irma made its historic landfall, knowing it wouldn’t be easy getting back to Florida’s southernmost tip later on.

Debris is seen Sept. 16 outside the Basilica School of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, Fla., in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy)

Wright drove the Overseas Highway north toward the Florida mainland, braving 50-mph winds, to join his wife and five children who had evacuated to a relative’s home in Lakeland in Central Florida. Wright’s wife, Jessica, is a sixth-generation Conch, or Key West native.

“I had at first decided to stay and ride it out, but my wife wasn’t happy about that, and we have five children,” said Wright, principal of the school since 2013. “So I drove overnight to Lakeland.”

Ironically, Irma’s path shifted somewhat more inland, knocking out power where Wright and 10 family members huddled in a duplex for several days.

Wright’s fears about returning were well-founded. County officials only began letting residents head back to the lower Keys and Key West early in the morning Sept. 17.

Some days before that, Wright finally found a way back to Key West through a friend who works with a humanitarian aviation agency in Lakeland called Aero Bridge, which was flying post-hurricane relief and supplies to Summerland Key, near Key West. (The main airport in Key West was open only to military and governmental traffic at the time.)

He learned about the flight the night of Sept. 13, and, leaving his family in Lakeland, he boarded the flight the next morning along with his 120-pound dog and a couple of cases of Gatorade.

“It was a humbling sight to fly over the Middle Keys around Marathon Key, seeing the devastation,” Wright told the Florida Catholic newspaper. “I got into Key West, and my first order of business was to find fuel for my car.”

Wright found gas at a marina where his family keeps a boat. He also procured some drinking water, then set out for the basilica’s school. He spent six hours doing a full damage assessment, and spoke to the insurance adjusters and Miami archdiocesan staff working on a cleanup plan.

He contracted with a local company to begin the cleanup process beginning Sept. 18. He set Sept. 25 as the target for a full school reopening.

Meanwhile, the school began operating a half-day of free day care for area youngsters whose families didn’t evacuate and needed a safe place for their children while they recover from the storm. An estimated 8,000 residents remained behind.

“My goal is to open up the school as soon as possible, and I think that is one of the first things a community needs to return to a sense of normalcy,” Wright said.

With some 300 students, most of whom evacuated with their families in advance of Hurricane Irma, the Basilica School of St. Mary Star has been educating Key West children since 1868. The school enrolls students from prekindergarten (age 3) through eighth grade and stands next to the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea, in the heart of Key West.

Key West was not ready for an immediate, rapid return of residents. As of Sept. 18, water service was being rationed, available only four hours each day. Cellphone service was only recently restored, electricity remained out and gasoline was in short supply.

Wright also was visiting members of his staff, faculty and student families who were busy cleaning up homes. His own house suffered some minor damage, and he asked his family to stay in Central Florida until conditions improve.

Meanwhile, he said, Key West has been transformed from a beautiful resort to a beautiful state of neighbor helping neighbor, as restaurants offer free food to locals and people pitch in to clean up the island.

“It’s really is neat to see people dig deep and start to serve others,” he said. “Amidst the chaos there is great charity at work. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself in a bad situation. But when you see the generosity and care of neighbors, it’’s a very pleasant feeling, and it takes your mind off the road ahead.”

It will be months, even years, before the island returns to what it once was, Wright said. Locals point out that 2005’s Hurricane Wilma actually brought Key West more catastrophic flooding than Irma, which will be remembered by locals for its Category 4 winds.

“I have families asking how long this will take and wondering should they enroll elsewhere,” Wright said. He believes the city of Key West in general will lose some students as their families relocate after suffering heavy damage to their homes.

Many faculty and staff of the basilica’s school, however, were waiting for the Key West airport to open to commercial flights to return. The school has its own water wells, which are now functioning again.

“It’s important to focus on the beauty of charity and progress that these moments bring out,” Wright said. “The charm of the island has shifted from palm trees and tiki huts to the beauty of people serving one another.”


Tracy is a correspondent for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Logistical problems slow help, damage assessment in Florida Keys

September 15th, 2017 Posted in National News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

MIAMI — Hurricane Irma’s destructive winds blew wreckage and disruption throughout Florida.

But Miami’s Catholic Charities chief was particularly anxious to access the devastation in Monroe County and the Florida Keys.

A destroyed marina is pictured Sept. 13 in an aerial photo in Florida’s Marathon Key. (CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters)

Speaking with the Florida Catholic newspaper Sept. 13, Deacon Richard Turcotte, the agency’s CEO, said the Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys was not yet fully open, making it impossible for to get a firsthand look at the devastation to Middle and Lower Keys.

The area reportedly sustained severe damage from Irma. Those high priority places include Marathon Key, Cudjoe Key, Big Pine Key and Key West, among others.

“It looks like (news reports show) there is absolutely nothing left in Marathon,” Deacon Turcotte said, noting that poor cellphone communication and transportation logistics were slowing the flow of information several days after the hurricane.

“I am trying to establish some communications: I plan to talk with some of the pastors there and do some distributions of water and food from parishes, and once we get the highway opened up, we can talk about those distributions to the Keys.”

In terms of Hurricane Irma’s impact on Miami-Dade and Broward counties, it appears that “there wasn’t the devastation that we saw in the Keys, so the greatest challenge will be getting services up and running there,” he said.

State officials confirmed a 13th death attributable to Hurricane Irma in Florida, with many of those fatalities in Monroe County. Irma will be remembered as one of the Atlantic’s strongest hurricanes on record, with peak winds of 185 mph, and Category 4 strength when it landed in the Florida Keys. Some sources are predicting that insured losses from Hurricane Irma could total $18 billion in the U.S.

In addition to Catholic parishes and schools throughout the Florida Keys, the region is home to a Catholic Charities-affiliated residential program, New Life Workforce Housing in Key West and other homelessness prevention programming for Monroe County.

Workforce Housing had 32-bed capacity and Catholic Charities was in the process of trying to build 37 new units in Key West, but Hurricane Irma’s impact will likely set the plans behind schedule, Deacon Turcotte noted.

He said his agency’s team has been working in three broad teams following the hurricane, with a goal of pulling together damage assessment to facilities, Charities programming status and prioritizing future response efforts, which are expected to be long term in focus.

“I have been taking all that information and then determining where the greatest damage is, and we can say it is Marathon Key so far,” Deacon Turcotte said.

“We are having daily conference calls with other state Charities agencies and Catholic Charities USA about available resources and stages of recovery,” he said, adding that the seven Catholic Charities agencies of Florida spoke by phone Sept. 13 with the president of Charities USA, Dominican Sister Donna Markham, who may later make a personal assessment tour of the area.

Deacon Turcotte said he examined a satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that indicates some good news that will have to be confirmed on the ground later: “From what we can tell of the satellite image of Key West, it looks like our structures are still standing but we don’t know about water damage, and it might be a few weeks to do damage assessments and even longer before we can bring the clients back in.”

As soon as authorities restore access to Key West, Catholic Charities staff planned to head down to the area for a quick look. “We don’t want to strain the infrastructure down there: a very quick in and out and then go back later with needed supplies.”

Right now, the Keys infrastructure, he said, cannot tolerate lots of volunteers and people of goodwill coming down to an area with minimal services, and with power outages, shortages of gasoline, foodstuffs and crippled infrastructure.

In general, before Hurricane Irma arrived, Catholic Charities programs across the archdiocese had evacuated residential clients in anticipation of the storm, including the relocation of some 52 unaccompanied minors living in Miami to a temporary situation in Houston.

Other residential clients at St. Luke’s Center for alcohol abuse and substance addiction and New Life Family Center in Miami also were temporarily relocated and many of those residents are returning as power is restored in the region.

Many Catholic Charities staff members have been working from home throughout the hurricane crisis until South Florida gets back to normal.

“In the future we may need to do outreach for long-term recovery, but right now it is too early to evaluate how to respond in Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas,” Deacon Turcotte said, noting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, will eventually publish data that will give some indications of who needs help and particularly was unable to get federal assistance.

And with each hurricane come lessons for emergency services providers including Catholic Charities. The area’s nonprofit sector has organized itself into regions and geographic sectors to share emergency resources.

Hurricane Irma proved unique, Deacon Turcotte noted, for having directly impacted almost every diocese in the state, including the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, which had the distinction of receiving many of the evacuees from other regions.

Hurricane Irma also was responsible for causing significant harm to populations in the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Editor’s Note: For more information or to make a to Hurricane Irma related donation, visit http://www.ccadm.org.


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Houston police sergeant, who died in storm, lived the beatitudes, Texas cardinal says


Catholic News Service

HOUSTON — The Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was filled with thousands gathered Sept. 13 to honor the life and pray for the soul of Sgt. Steve A. Perez, a veteran Houston police officer.

The casket of Houston Police Sgt. Steve Perez is escorted out of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston following his Sept. 13 funeral Mass. Perez died during Hurricane Harvey after driving into floodwaters while trying to get to work. (CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald)

Perez, an active parishioner of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in northwest Houston, died after driving into high water during Hurricane Harvey. The 35-year veteran officer was trying to find his way to work as Harvey’s record rainfall flooded hundreds of streets in the fourth largest city in the nation.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said Perez lived with an open, human heart receptive to the Lord, a heart that he gave to the whole church.

“In the recent weeks, the city of Houston and Texas have given an object lesson in the beatitudes to the whole world,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “Part of the reason for that has to do with people like Sgt. Steve who always lived those beatitudes.”

Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz of Galveston-Houston presided over the funeral Mass, joined by concelebrants Cardinal DiNardo and retired Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick attended, with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, to pay their respects to the fallen officer and his family.

Outside the co-cathedral, a large American flag waved high from two fully extended firefighter truck ladders as choral chant filled city streets.

The funeral Mass was broadcasted to allow as many people to observe and participate in the liturgy. Dozens of emotional mourners listened nearby, many bearing flags, pins and ribbons, sharing hugs and wiping tears. Groups of uniformed officers from Dallas to Detroit stood watch on horse, bike and foot. Even nearby construction workers paused to pray during parts of the Mass.

Father Anthony Udoh, parochial vicar at Perez’s St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church and homilist for the funeral Mass, said that Perez had seriously discerned the priesthood, but “decided to serve God and his people in a different uniform.

“We thank God for such selfless love and loyalty to service,” Father Udoh said.

“We pray today that our presence here and our prayers for your family, our love and concern may bring you some peace and consolation,” Father Udoh said to Perez’s family.

After Mass, the service moved to the street outside the co-cathedral, where Perez’s body was escorted by other officers and his son Maverick Perez.

After traditional salutes to law enforcement service, including a four helicopter flyby, a three-volley salute, a riderless horse and final radio call, the co-cathedral’s processional cross with Bishop Sheltz led the casket’s escorts forward to Perez’s hearse. Then, the co-cathedral’s bells tolled as his casket was placed in the hearse, where it would follow a motorcade of police vehicles to his final resting place at Houston National Cemetery.

Born in California, Perez, 60, attended Catholic schools in Central Texas before joining the Army in 1978. After serving in the Army, he became a member of the Houston Police Department in 1982

Perez was the 114th Houston Police officer to die in the line of duty.

Just two weeks after Perez died, two first responders were killed in a car accident as Hurricane Irma rocked Florida Sept. 10. Together, the storms have claimed at least 150 lives.

By James Ramos, staff writer for the Texas Catholic Herald.   

Information about contributing to storm relief efforts is available at the Texas Catholic Conference website, https://txcatholic.org/harvey. Catholic Charities USA also is accepting contributions at https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/CCUSADISASTER.



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The Chainsaw Carmelite: Texas principal knows the joys of serving and severing


Catholic News Service

She inspired many when she rolled up the sleeves of her habit to clean up after Hurricane Irma with a chainsaw.

Carmelite Sister Margaret Ann Laechelin, principal of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School in Miami, holds the chainsaw she used to help clean up debris following Hurricane Irma. (CNS photo/courtesy Sister Margaret Ann)

After the local police department posted a video Sept. 12 on Twitter of Carmelite Sister Margaret Ann Laechelin trimming branches off a fallen tree with a chainsaw, she became an instant hit and a symbol of sorts for the hurricane-ravaged Miami area.

“People are making a big deal about the chainsaw, but I’ve already given my life to God and that’s what brings true joy,” not the fame that came after the airing of the video, said Sister Laechelin in a Sept. 14 phone interview with Catholic News Service.

But the community at Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School, where she is the principal, has been enjoying the fame and the attention it has brought to the suburban Miami Catholic school of 300 students in West Kendall, she said.

“They say ‘Sister, you’re famous. Can I have your autograph?’” she said.

The community needs every bit of levity it can find as it recovers from the damage wrought by Hurricane Irma, which led to the school’s closing because a cooling tower needs to be fixed before students are allowed to return. Inspired by the Carmelite’s example of contributing to the cleanup, families from the school have shown up to help clean around the perimeter, she said.

Though it’s not open for classes, the school has been helping the surrounding community, giving out ice (from its icemaker) and providing a place for others to charge their phones and regroup, Sister Laechelin said.

“There’s such joy in giving,” she said.

And that’s what she was doing when she decided to clear the tree from the road when a police officer, armed with a phone, happened to drive by and filmed her. Though you wouldn’t know it from the video, she had never really used a chainsaw before, but when she was faced with finding a way to clear the tree, she remembered some important advice from her students.

“I had to go on YouTube” to figure it out, she said, “but growing up in Texas, I did a lot of yardwork and my dad taught me to figure things out.”

Though she lives in Florida, she is a member of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart in Los Angeles, who also have a community of four women religious in Florida. Via FaceTime, she has been talking to them, easing the concerns of her community in Los Angeles, she said.

“Sisters, we stick together,” she told CNS.

They weren’t surprised at all. she said, by seeing her wielding the chainsaw and said, “That’s Sister Margaret Ann, she never sits back and jumps right in.”

Her family in Texas, however, was in “awe” when they saw her on TV, she said, and told her “I always thought you’d be famous, but not because of a chainsaw.”

The best lesson she can impart on her students from the situation, she said, comes from the Gospel.

“I want them to know that if they see a need, to step in and to help people, to help others, because God didn’t create us to be selfish and to care only for our little world,” she said.

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U.S. bishops pray for ‘safety, care’ of all hit by two massive hurricanes


WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops’ Executive Committee Sept. 12 prayed for “the safety and care of human life” after two catastrophic hurricanes and urged Catholics around the country to offer their prayers as well as financial support and volunteer help as they can.

Residents look at a collapsed house Sept. 12 after Hurricane Irma passed the area in Vilano Beach, Florida. (CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters)

“The massive scale of the dual disasters and the effect it has on communities, families and individuals cannot be fully comprehended or adequately addressed in the immediate aftermath of the storms,” the statement said, noting that “lives and livelihoods” were “still at risk in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean.”

Beginning Sept. 6, Hurricane Irma left hardly any place in its path untouched. The strength and size of the massive storm, with 120-plus-mph winds stretching 70 miles from its core, leveled entire islands in the eastern Caribbean, brought unprecedented flooding on Cuba’s north coast, devastated the Florida Keys, snapped construction cranes in downtown Miami and targeted cities along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Irma dwindled to a tropical storm as it neared the Florida-Georgia line early Sept. 11 and was forecast to die out over southern states later in the week. Officials in Florida and across the Caribbean, meanwhile, started to dig out and evaluate the full scope of the disaster Irma left behind. The death toll stood at more than 30 in the Caribbean and at 12 in the United States, as of Sept. 12.

More than a week earlier, Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston and southern Texas Aug. 25-30. In a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches of rain. Flooding inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. The death toll from that storm stood at 70.

“At this time of initial recovery, we mourn the loss of life, homes and other property, and the harm to the natural environment, and we pray for all those affected and in need of assistance” in the wake of the two massive hurricanes, said the Executive Committee, which includes the officers of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We also pray for the safety of, and in thanksgiving for, the first responders who are risking their lives at this very moment in care for their neighbors, especially those who are elderly, sick, homeless, or otherwise already in need of special assistance,” the statement said.

The Executive Committee’s statement followed by three days a statement from the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, whose diocese was hit by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

He called for prayers for the victims of Harvey and for those affected by Irma.

“At a time like this, when our endurance is tested, we implore God to direct us to yet unknown reserves of strength and human compassion for those suffering so deeply. May our manifestations of love and solidarity be lasting signs in the midst of this crisis,” he said Sept. 9.

The Executive Committee said it shared “Pope Francis’ trust that the Catholic faithful here in the United States will respond to the needs presented by these disasters with a ‘ast outpouring of solidarity and mutual aid in the best traditions of the nation.’”

“We encourage the faithful to respond generously with prayers, financial support, and for those who have the opportunity, the volunteering of time and talents in support of those in need,” it said.

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New York firefighters march, pray as they recall events of 9/11


BROOKLYN, N.Y. —The ritual of remembrance continues.

Just as in previous years, Fire Department of New York Battalion 57 marched 2.5 miles from the World Trade Center, across the Brooklyn Bridge, ending at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn to remember the fallen heroes of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Members of New York City Fire Department Battalion 57, based in Brooklyn, march from the World Trade Center site in Manhattan to the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn for the commemoration of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They carried the flags of the Fire Department and attended Mass celebrated by Father Sean Suckiel. (CNS photo/Matthew O’Connor, The Tablet)

Father Sean Suckiel, vocations director for the Diocese of Brooklyn, celebrated the memorial Mass at the church, praying for those who lost their lives and blessing the first responders still on the job.

“That day we were shocked, we were wounded,” Father Suckiel recalled. “Evil that day has its moment of triumph. That was a day of horrific events that we must never forget.

“When truly challenged, we forget ourselves and we become men and women for others, men and women who are willing to give up their lives. In times of disaster, we are present for one another, we change, we become our best,” he said.

“Our hearts are always saddened by the events that took place on this day,” the priest continued. “But we must look back through a different point of view. Heroism is where we find Jesus. He shows us the way.”

Firefighter Keith McElwain remembered driving through the tunnel into Manhattan and “when we got out, the clouds of smoke were everywhere and most of us didn’t know the towers had fallen yet. But I knew my brothers were in there and I had to bring them home.

“As long as I can walk, I will be in this march,” he said. “It is a good feeling to see the younger guys joining in today, to see them carry the flags and help pass on the tradition. Today is just about having everyone together.”

Firefighter Thomas Palombo graduated from the fire academy in 2015. His father, Frank Palombo, a graduate of Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in Queens, was killed on 9/11.

“So many risked their lives to save thousands and it is an honor to know my father was a part of that,” Palombo said. “This is my fifth year marching and I love being a fireman. I cannot actually put it into words what today means to me and so many people. Carrying the flag means a lot because for me it is to remember my father and to bring him back to Brooklyn.”

Firefighter Billy Stark marched for the 14th consecutive year and doesn’t plan on stopping.

“Every year the march seems to get a little tougher, but we keep going,” he said.

Twenty-three members of Battalion 57, located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, lost their lives at the World Trade Center.

“Of our battalion, we only recovered a femur of one firefighter. That was it,” Stark said.

“There was a sense of guilt for a long time that you weren’t one of the guys who died, but to the man none of us cared if we lived or died. We had to find our friends. It’s nice to see so many families still come out today and it shows how much love is out there.”

— By Matthew O’Connor, who is on the staff of The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

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Sen. Feinstein questions Catholic judicial nominee: ‘Dogma lives loudly within you’ — Updated


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, spurred outrage about possible religious tests for judicial appointees when she questioned a Catholic judicial nominee Sept. 6 about what impact her faith would have on her interpretation of the law.

Reaction from Catholic leaders to the hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, nominee for a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. was swift, with a leading archbishop calling the Senate hearing “deeply disappointing.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, is seen in Washington Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

In the hearing, Feinstein not only referred to Barrett’s speeches in the committee hearing, but also to a 1998 article by Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, about the role of Catholic judges in death penalty cases.

The Marquette Law Review article, co-authored by John H. Garvey, who is now president of The Catholic University of America, concluded that although Catholic judges opposed to the death penalty could always simply recuse themselves under federal law, “litigants and the general public are entitled to impartial justice, which may be something a judge who is heedful of ecclesiastical pronouncements cannot dispense.”

Feinstein did not question Barrett about capital punishment cases, but rather the upholding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And, that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

Barrett addressed this issue early in the hearing, answering a question from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, by saying: “It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions, whether it derives from faith or personal conviction.”

Richard Garnett, also a University of Notre Dame law professor, said Feinstein’s line of questioning seemed to say “because you’re a Catholic, you can’t be believed.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, said the hearing was “deeply disappointing” since a number of senators failed to “simply consider the professional achievements of a nominee for the federal judiciary” and instead “challenged her fitness to serve due to her Catholic faith.”

In a Sept. 8 statement, the archbishop said the line of questioning Barrett received was “contrary to our Constitution and our best national traditions, which protect the free exercise of one’s faith and reject religious tests for public office, they are offensive to basic human rights.”

Garvey was among the first to respond in print to the hearing.

“I never thought I’d see the day when a coalition of left-wing groups attacked a Republican judicial nominee for opposing the death penalty,” he wrote in a Sept. 7 opinion article for the Washington Examiner.

“Catholic judges are not alone in facing such dilemmas. An observant Quaker would have the same problem. And I like to think that any federal judge would have had moral objections to enforcing the fugitive slave laws Congress passed before the Civil War.”

Garvey and others accused Feinstein of echoing talking points from The Alliance for Justice, a liberal advocacy group that has prepared reports on all of Trump’s judicial nominees.

The Alliance report on Barrett said she “has avoided definitive public statements on Roe v. Wade” but added, referring to the 1998 article as well as other “positions and philosophies,” that she held “the astonishing view that judges should place their religious beliefs ahead of the Constitution when carrying out their duties.”

“Barrett (and I) said no such thing,” Garvey wrote. “We said precisely the opposite.”

“I suspect what really troubled (the senators) is that, as a Catholic, her pro-life views might extend beyond criminal defendants to the unborn. If true, the focus on our law review article is all the more puzzling. After all, our point was that judges should respect the law, even laws they disagree with. And if they can’t enforce them, they should recuse themselves.”

The report also criticizes Barrett for signing a letter, produced by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, that criticized the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate as “morally obtuse.”

Eric Rassbach, the Becket Fund’s deputy general counsel, issued a statement in response: “It’s not something you could sue her over, but Sen. Feinstein would break her oath to defend the Constitution, including the part about no religious tests, if she were to vote against Barrett because of her Catholic religious beliefs.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D- Illinois, a Georgetown University graduate, added fuel to the fire when, after calling himself “the product of 19 years of Catholic education,” he brought up the use of the term “orthodox Catholic” in Barrett’s law review article. He asked Barrett to define the term and to say if she considered herself an “orthodox” Catholic.

Barrett explained that in the context of the article, the term was “a proxy” for Catholic believers, but she didn’t think it was a term in current use.

She added, “If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and am a faithful Catholic, I am. Although I would stress that my present church affiliation or my religious beliefs would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

Durbin responded, “I happen to think Pope Francis is a pretty good Catholic.”

“I agree with you,” Barrett responded, smiling.

Archbishop Lori said the questions to Barrett “sadly, harken back to a time in our country when anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order.”

He wondered if the senators’ questions were meant “as a warning shot” for future law students and attorneys not to discuss their faith in a public forum at a time when “we should be encouraging faithful, ethical attorneys to serve in public office, not discouraging them by subjecting them to inappropriate, unnecessary interrogation based on their religious beliefs.”

Meanwhile, Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, sent a letter to Feinstein Sept. 9 expressing “my confidence in her competence and character, and deep concern for your line of questioning.

He challenged Feinstein’s stated concern that “dogma lives loudly in (Professor Barrett)” when it pertains to “big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.” He wrote that “dogma lives loudly” in his heart as well as “in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation.” He said dogma guided the country’s founders, who believed citizens should practice “their faith freely and without apology.”

“Professor Barrett has made it clear that she would ‘follow unflinchingly’ all legal precedent and, in rare cases in which her conscience would not allow her to do so, she would recuse herself. I can assure that she is a person of integrity who acts in accord with the principles she articulates,” the letter said.

Christopher L. Eisgruber, president of Princeton University, also expressed concern with the line of questioning during Barrett’s hearing.

He wrote in a letter to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Sept. 8 that he was committed to free speech and that he felt that Barrett’s willingness to write “candidly and intelligently about difficult and sensitive ethical questions” makes her an even stronger candidate for the bench.

Archbishop Lori said the questions to Barrett “sadly, harken back to a time in our country when anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order.”

He wondered if the senators’ questions were meant “as a warning shot” for future law students and attorneys not to discuss their faith in a public forum at a time when “we should be encouraging faithful, ethical attorneys to serve in public office, not discouraging them by subjecting them to inappropriate, unnecessary interrogation based on their religious beliefs.”

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Former Trump aide says Catholic Church welcomes illegal immigrants for their money


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In an interview set to air Sept. 10 on the CBS TV program “60 Minutes,” former White House strategist Steve Bannon criticized the Catholic Church and U.S. bishops for their views on immigration, saying, “they need illegal aliens to fill the pews.”

Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon is seen at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Feb. 23. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

In the interview Bannon, a Catholic, told newsman Charlie Rose that the bishops have “an economic interest in illegal immigration.” He also criticized his former boss, President Donald Trump, for taking a step back hours after ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, when the president said on Twitter that he might revisit the decision in six months.

“Trust me, the guys in the far right, the guys on the conservative side are not happy with this,” Bannon said.

Catholic officials, including a representative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, disputed the claim.

CBS released advance clips of the interview Sept. 7.

The interview marks the first time since leaving the Trump administration that Bannon, who founded the website Breitbart News, has spoken out. Since leaving the administration, he has returned to Breitbart.

Citing the Gospel call to welcome the stranger and other church teachings, the U.S. bishops have urged for comprehensive immigration reform and for the protection of youth under the DACA program.

Bannon said the U.S bishops have been “terrible” about handling immigration because they can’t “come to grips with the problems in the church. They need illegal aliens. They need illegal aliens to fill the churches. That’s, it’s obvious on the face of it.”

Bannon said immigration issues are not part of church doctrine and the bishops need to understand that “this is about the sovereignty of a nation.”

“And in that regard,” he added, “they’re just another guy with an opinion.”


‘Preposterous’ and ‘insulting’

In a Sept. 7 statement responding to Bannon’s interview, James Rogers, chief communications officer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said it is “preposterous to claim that justice for immigrants isn’t central to Catholic teaching,” noting that the mandate comes directly from the words of Jesus, who spoke of feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger.

“Immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome,” he added, saying:”This isn’t Catholic partisanship. The Bible is clear: Welcoming immigrants is indispensable to our faith.”

Rogers also noted that caring for the “Dreamers,” or DACA recipients, is a response to commands in both the Old and New Testaments.

He said the bishops’ views on life issues, marriage, health and immigration reform are “rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than the convenient political trends of the day.”

Rogers stressed that for anyone to suggest that the bishops’ recent statements on immigrants are for “financial gain is outrageous and insulting.”

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan offered similar reaction in a Sept. 7 interview on the Jennifer Fulwiler Show, on The Catholic Channel, on SiriusXM satellite radio.

The cardinal said he had seen a transcript of the Bannon interview on “60 Minutes” and was “rather befuddled” by it.

He said Bannon’s comment that “the only reason the bishops care for immigrants is because we want to fill our churches and get more money” was insulting.

He also said he wanted to clarify Bannon’s remark that immigration issues are not part of church doctrine. 

“He might be right,” the cardinal said: “it comes from the Bible itself,” which he said is very clear about treating immigrants with dignity and respect.

Contributing to this report was Carol Zimmermann.



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It’s no ordinary week at flood-damaged Houston church


HOUSTON — The 22nd week in ordinary time of the church’s liturgical year has been no ordinary time for Father Martin Eke, a Missionary of St. Paul, or his parish, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Houston.

“Ever since the rain started … my life has never been busier,” Father Eke said Sept. 6. Read more »

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