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Michigan bishops call judge’s ruling on same-sex marriage ban ‘regrettable’


LANSING, Mich. — A U.S. District Court judge’s March 21 ruling that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional does not change the fact “marriage is and can only ever be a unique relationship solely between one man and one woman,” said the state’s Catholic bishops.

“Nature itself, not society, religion or government, created marriage. Nature, the very essence of humanity as understood through historical experience and reason, is the arbiter of marriage, and we uphold this truth for the sake of the common good,” they said in a statement released by the Michigan Catholic Conference in Lansing.

“The biological realities of male and female and the complementarity they each bring to marriage uniquely allows for the procreation of children,” they said.

The Catholic conference is the public policy arm of the state’s bishops.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a Detroit-area couple who are raising three children together, filed suit in 2012 to challenge the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The law also prohibits same-sex couples from jointly adopting children; only heterosexual married couples are allowed to do so.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit overturned the same-sex marriage ban, which voters passed overwhelmingly in 2004, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution because it deprives same-sex couples the same rights guaranteed to heterosexual couples. He also said barring same-sex couples from adopting children was unconstitutional.

“Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage,” Friedman wrote in his 31-page ruling. “Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law.”

Friedman did not stay his ruling, and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a request for an emergency stay with a federal appeals court March 21 to prevent same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses immediately.

Late March 22 the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati granted the stay until at least March 26. Before the appeals court acted, however, several hundred same-sex couples went to county clerks’ offices around Michigan to get married.

With Friedman’s ruling, Michigan becomes the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage.

An AP story said that DeBoer and Rowse were not among the couples who went immediately to get a marriage license. The couple will get married, DeBoer told AP, “when we know our marriage is forever binding.”

In their statement, Michigan’s Catholic bishops said the judge’s decision “to redefine the institution of marriage by declaring Michigan’s Marriage Amendment unconstitutional strikes at the very essence of family, community and human nature.”

“In effect, this decision advances a misunderstanding of marriage, and mistakenly proposes that marriage is an emotional arrangement that can simply be redefined to accommodate the dictates of culture and the wants of adults,” they said. “Judge Friedman’s ruling that also finds unconstitutional the state’s adoption law is equally of grave concern.”

“Every child has the right to both a mother and a father and, indeed, every child does have lineage to both,” the bishops said. “We recognize not every child has the opportunity to grow in this environment, and we pray for those single mothers and fathers who labor each day to care for their children at times amid great challenges and difficulties. They deserve our constant support and encouragement.”

The bishops declared, “Persons with same-sex attraction should not be judged, but rather accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

“We rejoice with those brothers and sisters in Christ living with same-sex attraction who have found great freedom through Jesus’ call to chastity communicated through the church,” they said, adding that those struggling to live “in harmony” with church teaching on sexuality continue to pray and seek the Lord “with the help and guidance of the church.”

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

They also said they would work through the Michigan Catholic Conference and with other supporters of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage to appeal Friedman’s “most regrettable ruling.”

Signing the statement were Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron; Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing; Bishop Paul J. Bradley of Kalamazoo; Bishop Joseph R. Cistone of Saginaw; Bishop John F. Doerfler of Marquette; Bishop David J. Walkowiak of Grand Rapids; and Msgr. Francis J. Murphy, diocesan administrator of Gaylord.


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National shrine a ‘fitting tribute’ to John Paul II, says U.S. bishops’ president


WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops’ March 19 designation of a center in Washington as the St. John Paul II National Shrine reflects U.S. Catholics’ love for the late pope, said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky.

As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he signed the decree declaring the designation for the site of the former John Paul II Cultural Center.

Beginning April 27, the day Pope Francis will canonize Blessed John Paul II, a Washington center named for the late pope will be known as the St. John Paul II National Shrine. The U.S. bishops March 19 designated the facility as a national shrine in his name “to reflect the love of Catholics in America for John Paul II,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., who as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops signed the decree. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

It takes effect April 27, the day Pope Francis will canonize Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII.

Liturgical celebrations, a reception and a gathering of young people will mark the occasion.

“This national shrine is truly America’s fitting tribute and remembrance of his legacy,” Archbishop Kurtz said in a statement.

The center, which first opened in 2001 as a cultural center, named for the pope, with a research component, museum and gallery, sits on 12 acres in Washington’s northeast quadrant just steps from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America.

The Knights of Columbus took ownership of the facility in 2011, with plans to create a shrine dedicated to the pope and his contributions to the church and society. It is currently known as the Blessed John Paul II Shrine.

“Pope John Paul II shaped an entire generation of Catholics, and the shrine serves to remind people throughout this country of his saintly life, and of his call to holiness for each of us,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement. “This shrine gives us the opportunity and privilege of continuing Pope John Paul II’s mission of the new evangelization for future generations of Catholics and we gladly accept it.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington in 2011 blessed the Knights’ initiative and declared the site an archdiocesan shrine.

In a statement about the national shrine designation for the facility, Cardinal Wuerl noted that Blessed John Paul had visited Washington in 1979. Three years earlier, as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future pope paid a visit to the nation’s capital.

“Pope John Paul … was an important force for good in America, so we are particularly honored to have this saint’s national shrine here and to be one of the first places of worship in the world to bear his name,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “In its three years as a local shrine, it has also become a place of pilgrimage and prayer, attracting people from far beyond this city.”

A centerpiece of the shrine will be a relic consisting of a vial of Blessed John Paul II’s blood. The Knights received it from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, longtime personal secretary to the late pontiff.

According to a news release from the Knights, the shrine’s lower level will feature a 16,000-square-foot permanent exhibition on the pope’s life and teaching slated to open later this year. The main floor will be converted into a church, and the current chapel will serve as a reliquary chapel. Both will feature floor-to-ceiling mosaics.

The shrine’s executive director, Patrick Kelly, said the shrine will be the premier U.S. site dedicated to the soon-to-be saint.

“We are grateful that the U.S. bishops have elevated our status to a national shrine and we look forward to welcoming pilgrims to this place of prayer,” he said in a statement. “It is dedicated to a great saint who bore courageous witness to the love of God and the dignity of the human person.”


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N.J. priest laicized by Vatican


NEWARK, N.J. — Vatican officials laicized a New Jersey priest who violated a 2007 court memorandum of understanding that prohibited unsupervised contact with minors.

Michael Fugee, 53, is no longer a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, said James Goodness, archdiocesan communications director.

“There is no connection with the archdiocese any longer,” Goodness told Catholic News Service March 18.

The notification releasing Fugee from the priesthood arrived in February, he said.

The Vatican action came three months after prosecutors said they would not pursue charges against Fugee stemming from the violation of the memorandum if he sought laicization.

Fugee was ordained to the priesthood for the archdiocese in 1994.

He resigned from active ministry May 2, 2013, after reports surfaced that he was with minors in an apparent violation of the memorandum prohibiting such contact. He was arrested May 20 of that year for violating the conditions laid out in the agreement, which also was approved by the archdiocese.

Prosecutors said investigators found Fugee had violated the order by attending youth retreats and hearing minors’ confessions on seven separate occasions between April 2010 and December 2012.

Newark Archbishop John J. Myers said after the arrest that he was unaware that Fugee was working with youngsters.

The archbishop allowed Fugee to return to active ministry in 2009 despite his past. The former priest subsequently was appointed as co-director of the archdiocese’s Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests in October 2012. He also celebrated Mass at parishes around the diocese, filling in for priests on vacation or who were ill.

When photos surfaced showing Fugee on several retreats with teenagers, the archdiocese said he was working under supervision, but acknowledged the then-priest had not asked permission to be part of the retreats.

The memorandum of understanding was developed after a criminal trial in 2003 in Bergen County Superior Court in which Fugee was convicted by a jury of sexual assault by sexual contact. Fugee’s attorney appealed the conviction and an appellate court upheld the appeal on grounds that the superior court judge in the case improperly instructed the jury.

The reversal also meant that Fugee did not have to register as a sex offender.

Rather than take the case to trial a second time, prosecutors allowed Fugee to enter a pretrial intervention program for first offenders. Prosecutors also sought the memorandum, which required Fugee to undergo counseling for sex offenders and to have no unsupervised contact with children as long as he was a priest.

Mark Crawford, New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told CNS the removal of Fugee from the priesthood was long overdue.

“I’m very disappointed it took this long. According to the (U.S. bishops’) charter (governing the actions of dioceses in abuse cases), it should have happened years ago,” Crawford said.

He added that he was satisfied that under the agreement between Fugee and prosecutors the former priest will continue to be supervised by mental health workers.

“There are professionals involved. We trust that he will be monitored. We are pleased that that is the case,” he said.


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Frustrations over immigration reform bring pressure for fixes


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — As frustration grows over the lack of progress on immigration reform and protests about the high number of deportations become more widespread and dramatic, President Barack Obama March 13 and 14 told activists he would consider ways to ease the effects of strict enforcement.

An activist leads a chant as people prepare to enter U.S. Customs during a protest at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, March 16. Frustration is growing over the lack of progress on immigration reform and protests about the high number of deportations have become more widespread. (CNS photo/ Sandy Huffaker, Reuters)

The announcement came as immigrants facing deportation have been waging hunger strikes in detention centers and religious leaders, immigrants and other activists have been participating in advocacy campaigns involving fasting, prayer and public actions. Meanwhile, the House passed two bills aimed at reining in the kind of administrative steps Obama might take.

In a meeting at the White House with congressional Hispanic leaders March 13, Obama said he would ask Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to “do an inventory” of current practices related to deportation and “see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law,” said a readout on the session from the White House.

A day later, Obama, Johnson and other key administration officials met with representatives of more than a dozen organizations working for comprehensive immigration reform. The president reiterated his concern for the pain faced by families affected by deportation, but said a permanent solution to the problems of the immigration system must come through “meaningful comprehensive legislation,” according to the White House.

Some participants in the meeting told reporters or issued statements saying that while they encouraged administrative actions to ease the effects of deportation, they also agree it’s up to Congress to fix the whole system.

The Associated Press said Frank Sharry, director of America’s Voice, said he encouraged the president to “go bold, go big, go now.”

“The president has the ability to step into the vacuum created by the House Republican inaction to protect millions of people who are low priority, use his executive authority in an expansive way,” he said.

Two years ago, Obama created the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which provides a way for young adults who came to the United States as minors to avoid deportation and get permission to work, as long as they attend school and meet other requirements. While more than half a million people have been approved for DACA, the administration also has been deporting people at record rates; about 2 million have been deported since Obama took office.

Without specifying what policies might be affected, Obama had previously said that if he continues to be unable to get legislation passed in Congress, he would seek remedies through administrative actions.

The day after the meeting with the Hispanic Caucus leaders, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, warned that anything Obama does to bypass Congress when it comes to deportations could irreparably damage the chances of passing comprehensive immigration reform.

The AP quoted Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck as saying, “There’s no doubt we have an immigration system that is failing families and our economy, but until it is reformed through the democratic process, the president is obligated to enforce the laws we have. Failing to do so would damage, perhaps beyond repair, our ability to build the trust necessary to enact real immigration reform.”

Earlier in the week, a group of Catholic bishops and evangelical leaders made the rounds of congressional offices, including Boehner’s, to push for immigration reform. In a press release about the sessions, the leaders said the broad consensus among Catholics and evangelicals in support of immigration reform illustrates the importance of the issue.

Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, said that as pastors, the group that visited Capitol Hill knows “there is an urgency to this issue, as families are being separated daily. As a moral matter, Congress and the nation can no longer stand by as immigrant communities and families are being ripped apart.”

In the House the same week, two bills passed seeking to limit the president’s power to enact programs such as DACA. Neither the Faithful Execution of the Law Act (H.R. 3973) or the ENFORCE the Law Act (H.R. 4138) stands a chance of coming to a vote in the Senate, but both passed the House by more than 50-vote margins.

“ENFORCE” stands for the “Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments” of the law.


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Congress invites Pope Francis to address a joint session


WASHINGTON — A bipartisan invitation to Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress if he comes to the U.S. in 2015 recognizes “the importance of the qualities” the pontiff embodies that resonate with people around the globe, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

The U.S. Capitol and its reflecting pool. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Those qualities include “a desire for peace, care for the poor, and an ability to bring people together to address the needs of the suffering and marginalized,” the cardinal said in a statement March 13, the first anniversary of the pope’s election.

“These are values that our broken world is so in need of at this moment in history. I am grateful to Congress for acknowledging the universal appeal of Pope Francis’ message with this invitation,” he added.

Earlier in the day House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a formal, open invitation to the pontiff to address a joint meeting of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate as a visiting head of state.

It “would honor our nation in keeping with the best traditions of our democratic institutions,” Boehner said in a statement. “It would also offer an excellent opportunity for the American people as well as the nations of the world to hear his message in full.”

There has been speculation that Pope Francis will come to the U.S. in September 2015 to attend the last day of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, but there has been no official confirmation the pope will be there. Past popes have attended the final day of the gathering.

Boehner, who is Catholic, issued the formal invitation to the pope as the constitutional officer of Congress. News reports said he sent it to the Vatican.

If he were to agree to address American lawmakers Congress, Pope Francis would be the first pontiff to ever address from the U.S. Capitol, according to Boehner aides.

Boehner said that in the last year, the pope’s actions and words, especially about human dignity, freedom and social justice, “have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views in the United States and throughout a rapidly changing world.”

On March 7 in Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput led a news conference with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to announce they planned to lead a delegation March 24-26 to meet with Vatican officials to plan the 2015 international family gathering. They also will have an audience with Pope Francis.

The three leaders vowed to personally convince the pontiff to make his first pastoral visit in North America to the city for the conclusion of what will be the eighth World Meeting of Families.


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Archbishop Nienstedt resumes public ministry


ST. PAUL, Minn. — Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis has returned to public ministry following a thorough investigation by police of an allegation that he had inappropriately touched a male minor in 2009.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office announced the evening of March 11 that it has declined to file charges against the archbishop.

He voluntarily stepped aside from all public ministry in December while St. Paul Police investigated an allegation that he inappropriately touched a male minor on the buttocks in 2009 during a group photo session after a confirmation ceremony. The allegation was brought to the police Dec. 16, 2013.

In a Dec. 17 letter to the faithful, Archbishop Nienstedt called the allegation “absolutely and entirely false.”

“I am thankful to the St. Paul Police for their thorough investigation, as well as to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office for their professional work regarding this matter,” Archbishop Nienstedt said. “I look forward to returning to public ministry during this Lenten season, especially during Holy Week and the great feast of Easter.”

At the same time, he said, “I remain committed to the ongoing work needed to provide safe environments for all children and youth.”

“I continue to offer my prayers for all victims, their families and their communities, as well as to all who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse. I once again offer my apology to all who have been affected by these terrible offenses,” he added.

In a memo accompanying the announcement from the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, Richard Dusterhoft, the office’s criminal division director, said the case was reviewed by an assistant county attorney “with many years of experience prosecuting child sex abuse cases,” who agreed that there should be no charges in the case.

The archdiocese said it continues to urge anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse in church ministry, or anyone who knows a victim of such abuse, to call the police or other civil authorities. They also are invited to call the archdiocese’s director of advocacy and victim assistance.


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U.S. bishops say Pope Francis has ‘added new life’ to the papacy in his first year


WASHINGTON — In his first year as the 265th successor of Peter, Pope Francis “has brought to light new dimensions of the Petrine ministry and added new life to the office he holds,” the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee said March 11.

Pope Francis, in white, attends a weeklong Lenten retreat with senior members of the Roman Curia in Ariccia, Italy, March 9. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

He has done this in many ways, the committee said, including by consistently calling on Catholics “to look again at the fundamental values of the Gospel” and encouraging “us to be a church of the poor and for the poor, reaching out to the marginalized and being present to those on the periphery of society.”

The Administrative Committee is the highest ranking body of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when the bishops are not in their plenary session. During a March 11-12 meeting in Washington, the committee issued the statement to congratulate the pope on his first anniversary.

Pope Francis “has set an example by choosing a personal simplicity of life, by washing the feet of prisoners, and by taking into his hands and kissing the badly disfigured,” the committee said. “His Holiness has also set in motion a process that will lead to the reshaping of the Roman Curia in a way that will enhance the effectiveness of his ministry and better serve the needs of the church in our present day.”

The Administrative Committee also noted the impact that Pope Francis’ leadership and simple lifestyle have had on the world.

“His constant outreach to the alienated, his emphasis on mercy and his sheer humanity have served as an inspiration not only to Catholics but also to other Christians and people of good will around the globe,” the statement said.

“On this first anniversary of his election, the Administrative Committee invites the prayers of all the faithful that Christ our Lord will bless Pope Francis and grant him many years of fruitful ministry as bishop of Rome, as the servant of the servants of God,” it added.


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Philadelphia delegation to visit Vatican officials on World Meeting of Families


Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — A powerhouse team of religious, civic and business leaders will travel to Rome to plan for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput led a news conference with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on March 7 at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center to announce they will lead a delegation March 24-26 to meet with Vatican officials to plan the international event. They also will have an audience with Pope Francis.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter look on as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett address the media during a March 7 news conference in Philadelphia. Nutter was announcing that they are leading a delegation to the Vatican later in the month to meet with officials about plans for the World Meeting of Families in 2015, taking place in Phialdelphia. (CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com)

Throughout the news conference, speakers told of their confidence that the pope will visit Philadelphia in September 2015 and vowed to personally convince him to make his first pastoral visit in North America to the city for the conclusion of the eighth World Meeting of Families.

“I plan to extend to the holy father a warm, vigorous and hopefully very persuasive invitation to visit our state next year,” said Corbett, who added Nutter and other members of the delegation also would “sell” the pope and Vatican officials on making a papal visit.

“It’s only in Philadelphia that folks talk about trying to seal the deal with the pope,” Nutter quipped.

Pope Francis has not confirmed he will attend the last day of the meeting, which past popes have done.

Archbishop Chaput announced members of the leadership team planning the World Meeting of Families event, and they include some of the heaviest hitters in Philadelphia’s civic and business spheres.

Robert J. Ciaruffoli, president of the big Philadelphia accounting firm Parente Beard, was named president of the 2015 World Meeting of Families organization, which is a separate group and not a Philadelphia archdiocesan office.

Named as co-chairs of the group were Brian L. Roberts, CEO of cable TV giant Comcast Corp.; David L. Cohen, a top executive with Comcast; Joseph Neubauer, chairman of food services firm Aramark; Daniel J. Hilferty, CEO of Independence Blue Cross; and James Maguire of the Maguire Foundation and leading philanthropist for Catholic causes in the region.

Corbett said he expected perhaps 1 million visitors if Pope Francis celebrates the public Mass on Sept. 27, 2015, the concluding day of the event. The most recent such meeting in Milan, Italy, in 2012 drew 1 million to that city.

Corbett also estimated the economic impact of the visit is “in the range of $100 million.”

Although Comcast’s Roberts and Cohen will not attend the meeting at the Vatican later in March, the other members and Archbishop Chaput, Corbett and Nutter will begin meetings March 25 with Vatican officials to plan logistics for the Philadelphia event.

Representatives of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which sponsors the World Meeting of Families every three years in a different city and of which Archbishop Chaput is a recently named member, will meet with the delegation March 25. Later in the day a news conference in Rome will include the archbishop and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the council.

The following day, the delegation will have an audience with Pope Francis, who was clearly on the members’ minds at the Philadelphia news conference.

Corbett invited people to pray that the pope would visit Philadelphia, while Nutter addressed the logistical and security challenges of handling the expected 1 million visitors or more.

“There’s not a doubt we can do this,” Nutter said. “We do big events in the city of Philadelphia.”

Whether 1 million or 2 million people attend, “we want people to come. We will do whatever we have to do to make this a very successful and great event here in Philadelphia. You can take that to the bank,” he said.

As excited as the interested Catholics in the audience were about the prospect of the pope attending the event next year, Archbishop Chaput kept the focus on family life.

The World Meeting of Families “has the power to transform in deeply positive ways not just the spirit of Catholic life in our region but our entire community,” he said.

The meeting will run Sept. 22-27, 2015, and include three days of family gatherings, speeches and break-out sessions in a yet-to-be-announced space that would accommodate 20,000 people, the archbishop said.

Programs would include discussion of economic, psychological and spiritual issues facing families, among others, he said, though he added it was too early yet for specifics.

“We will talk about problems families have today, but we want to be very positive about the family,” Archbishop Chaput said. “We hope to have all kinds of ways of helping families avail themselves of grace and holiness.”

He said that the World Meeting of Families will need to raise significantly more than the $5 million already raised, but anything left over from the conclusion of the meeting will be given to the poor.

“I hope we can give make a gift to Pope Francis (for the poor),” the archbishop said. “That’s a great focus of his and I think he’d be very pleased with that.”


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Q&A: Cardinal O’Malley calls pope’s impact on church ‘amazing”


Catholic News Service

BOSTON — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley spoke to The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, March 4 about the impact Pope Francis has had on the Catholic Church and the world since his March 13, 2013, election. The interview was conducted at his residence at the Cathedral the Holy Cross in Boston.

Q: How would you characterize the first year of Pope Francis’ pontificate?

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley gestures during a March 4 interview at his residence, the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Cardinal O’Malley said with his “refreshing style” and accessibility, Pope Francis’ impact on the world is “amazing.” (CNS photo/Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)

A: For many people it has been a year of surprises. The Holy Father has such a refreshing style and a desire to be close to people and accessible. He is even accessible in the way he expresses himself. He has made quite an impact on the world. I don’t remember any other pope whose daily homily was followed so assiduously by so many around the globe. Before, we used to think that the Holy Father’s travel and linguistic abilities were the way he communicated, but this man communicates without leaving home and without saying anything except in Italian. It is amazing.

Q: You recently saw Pope Benedict at the Feb. 22 consistory. A year ago, the whole world was wondering what it would be like to have two living popes. What were your thoughts at the time, and what do think now?

A: It is the same as having a bishop emeritus in the diocese. It is a delicate position; the retired bishop cannot interfere, but he can be supportive and helpful. Obviously, I think that is what we are experiencing with Pope Benedict, who has publicly said that his task is going to be to pray for the church and he is leading a very contemplative existence. And yet, he is still alive and it is wonderful when he participates in some of these more public events; just as in any diocese when the former bishop is invited back to be present for the chrism Mass or some other diocesan celebration.

Q: Some are describing this papacy as a kind of break with the past, rather than continuity with a different style. How would you describe this papacy compared to the previous papacies?

A: In my lifetime every papacy has been very different from the one that went before. As a child, it was Pius XII and he was an aristocrat, very ascetic. He sort of exuded holiness and there was a great reverence and awe about his person. But he ate alone; he was very isolated. Suddenly there comes John XXIII who was entirely different. He had a great sense of humor, he was always joking, was very close to people, came from peasant stock. Even physically, he looked so different. And then we had Paul VI who was in many ways a more modern pope. He began to travel. And then of course John Paul II whose papacy had such a profound influence on the situation in the world, changed the Iron Curtain. The Holy Father became present personally to millions and millions of Catholics. So each pope has been very, very different.

Obviously this is the first pope from Latin America. His whole pastoral experience has been much different from that of European bishops and he certainly brings a freshness and excitement to the task. But, when you look at the history of the church, we have had popes who have been so different one from another and even as I say, in modern history. Each one brings his own gifts and we have been so blessed by the presence of popes who have been holy men, very wise men, very pastoral men, and whose leadership has been a very positive thing in the life of the church. This has not always been the case in our 2000 year history, but certainly in modern history we been blessed by the popes that we have had.

Q: At last year’s consistory right before the conclave, then-Cardinal Bergoglio spoke about his views on the current state of the Catholic Church. Those themes have characterized his first year as Pope Francis. One of them was how the church needs to come out of herself and go to the peripheries, geographical and existential. Why is this emphasis important today?

A: There is always a danger of the church retreating to the sacristy and abdicating our responsibility to do precisely what Jesus tells us to do, make disciples of all nations, to leave behind the 99 and go in search of the one lost sheep. The Lord in the Gospels is always reaching out to people on the periphery; the lame, the blind, the halt, the tax collector, the prostitute, the foreigner and the Lord brings them center stage. So, the Holy Father is simply reminding us that this is what the Gospel is about, that these people on the periphery become the protagonists of Jesus’s ministry and they need to be the object of our love and our pastoral care.

Q: Another topic the pope spoke about was the danger of spiritual worldliness in the Catholic Church that may require a push for reform. How do you see that playing out now?

A: Well, the Holy Father is concerned about careerism in the church and he is constantly reminding people that the Holy Father is not a monarch surrounded by a court, but is a bishop of the community of faith and that is the perspective that he wants to communicate and for people to embrace. His decision to live at the Domus Sanctae Marthae is certainly not because the apartments in the apostolic palace are so luxurious, but because he does not want to be isolated. He wants to be part of the community and be connected to people. For him, the culture of encounter is what the church needs to be about and he is certainly modeling that for us in so many ways.

Q: Regarding that reform, you were appointed to the Holy Father’s “G-8” Council of Cardinals last April and recently returned from Rome, where you attended the third meeting of the council. Why do you think reforming the Roman Curia is such an important issue?

A: The Roman Curia is not a very large organization, but it is the only organization that the Holy Father has to help him perform his ministry. Obviously, he wants the Curia to be at the service of the universal church and to do that there needs to be greater efficiency, transparency, collaboration among the different departments, or dicasteries as they are called, and a greater focus on collegiality, involvement with bishops around the world and the local churches. I think the Holy Father feels a very strong mandate because prior to the conclave it is something the cardinals spoke about so much.

Of course, it all took place within the context of Vatileaks and all the other problems that have surfaced about the Vatican bank. These situations should never exist and the Holy Father is striving to make a Curia that will be more pastoral and will be at the service of the entire church and be able to communicate that vision and enthusiasm for the joy of the Gospel that he is always preaching about. He is also concerned about the spiritual welfare of the people in the Curia. He wants them to feel that they are there not just for a job, but they are part of a mission and that mission comes from Christ. To be able to carry it out we need to attend to our own interior life so that we have a sense of vocation and that we are being led by God’s grace to seek God’s will and to embrace it joyfully and generously in our lives.

Q: Beyond the ongoing work to reform “Pastor Bonus” (Blessed John Paul’s 1988 apostolic constitution on the structure and responsibilities of the Curia), so far two main outcomes from the group have been announced: a commission to work on child abuse prevention worldwide and the creation of a new economy secretariat to oversee Vatican finances. Can you comment on their importance?

A: The focus of the commission will be child protection. In other words, to make sure that all of the practices of the church are geared towards creating safe environments and having in place practices that will help; not just how to respond in cases of abuse, but how to avoid it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, particularly when it is something as tragic as child abuse. The Holy Father is very committed to a policy of no tolerance and is anxious to have this commission formed to be able to work with the bishops’ conferences who have been asked to develop clear guidelines and policies around this whole area of child protection. We are very edified by how many people have already volunteered to be a part of this.

Q: The other development was the creation of this new Economy Secretariat headed by Cardinal Pell….

A: I think it is very, very important. There were two commissions working very hard. The former commission of Benedict XVI that was looking at the bank and now the commission the Holy Father has had looking at the overall financial picture of the Vatican. It is a question of stewardship, of trying to make sure the church’s resources, which are limited, are used for the mission of the church, for the works of mercy, the care of the poor, for works of evangelization. We want to avoid any waste and to make sure that there is great transparency so that people have trust that when they make a donation to the church will be used for the purposes for which it has been entrusted to the church.

Cardinal Pell is an extraordinary individual; he is a man of great, great energy and vision and determination. He has been involved in many of these issues in the Holy See for a long time so he has an understanding of the challenges. It was very generous of him to be willing to sacrifice his own ministry in the Archdiocese of Sydney to come to Rome and dedicate himself to this very important work. I told the Holy Father that the job was very difficult; it requires a rugby player.

Q: One of the perceptions about this papacy is that the pope is going to change church teaching. What is your reaction to that?

A: I like the phrase that someone said, that he is not changing the lyrics but only the melody. Sometimes the church’s message was perhaps too harshly presented to people and out of context. He is trying to show us the whole context of the demands of discipleship. The whole context is in the context of God’s love and mercy and desire to accompany us and to forgive us when we fall and to help us overcome our weaknesses and to have a sense of connectedness to the Lord and to one another.

Q: But there is a widespread opinion that changes are going to take place not only on style but on substance, for instance, on the current norms for divorced and remarried Catholics. Would you comment on that perception?

A: Obviously, when it comes to the church’s teaching on the permanence of marriage, there is no way to change that. Now, the Holy Father and many people would obviously like to see a possibility for people to reconnect with the sacraments. Many of the cardinals were insistent that we must look for better ways to do annulments in a way that can be done with greater expediency. But this is certainly something that will be talked about and discussed at the upcoming synods. Regardless of whatever happens, the church’s teaching on the permanence of marriage is not something that can ever be changed.

Q: The pope has made some high profile statements on homosexuality and pro-life issues that people are seeing as a change in direction. What is your perspective on what the pope has said and on how it is being interpreted across the Catholic Church and society at large?

A: The church’s teachings, particularly when they are demanding on people’s lives, often are rejected out of hand. I think, as I said before, the Holy Father is trying to give us the context in which we live those teachings. That context is one of living God’s love and his mercy and to be instruments of mercy in the world, helping people find the strength to live a life of discipleship that cannot be lived alone but in community. The Holy Father talks about the art of accompaniment and the culture of encounter and in our culture, which is so individualistic, the demands of the Gospel of course become impossible. When a person becomes truly part of a community of faith and begins to experience the joy of the Gospel the Holy Father is always speaking about, they experience God’s love in their life; then what before seemed impossible and unreasonable suddenly becomes feasible and begins to make sense.

Q: The Holy Father’s first trip outside the Vatican was to the Italian island of Lampedusa where he spoke about the plight of immigrants. Do you think that his emphasis on immigration will have an impact on the U.S. immigration debate?

A: I hope so. The Holy Father talked about the globalization of indifference and we cannot be indifferent to human suffering. We cannot pretend that people are not trying to get into Europe and into the United States; they are trying to escape some horrific economic or political situations to be able to have a better life for their children. I remember when I was bishop in Florida, there were boats arriving, rafts really, and small boats arriving from Cuba and Haiti to Florida and after the Red Mass we were having breakfast with the governor, who was Jeb Bush at the time, and I said to him, “You know Mr. Bush, if the O’Malleys and the Bushes were in Haiti now, they’d be building a boat.”

The other thing is that, as I always say, Europe would love to have our problems. The immigrants who come here, their children will be Americans. Despite the xenophobia and some of the problems we have, we are a nation of immigrants and people do assimilate into this country and they have brought such energy and such a work ethic and family values and other wonderful things that have redounded to the strength and glory of this country. To pretend that somehow immigration is bad for us is nonsense.

Q: The pope has spoken of the church as a field hospital. What do you think is the role of the church as society becomes more secularized?

A: I see it, particularly in the United States, as moving away from being a cultural Catholicism, a tribal Catholicism where if you were Italian, Polish or Irish, you automatically received all the sacraments and went to church and so forth. And now it is becoming much more intentional, depending much more on the individual. This will mean a new kind of evangelization that will be much more focused on meeting each individual and personally inviting them and mentoring them in the life of faith. We can no longer depend on cultural background to be enough. Where that is as a starting point, that’s wonderful, but the personal conversion to the Lord and the experience of his love and grace in our lives and a sense of community is all very important. Obviously a priest cannot do this on his own. The new evangelization is going to depend very much on an army of lay people feeling responsible for their church and for them to be messengers of the good news to their families, their neighbors and the community at large.

Q: The past year has been full of very important moments. What do you anticipate moving forward?

A: It is hard to forecast but obviously the enthusiasm that the Holy Father’s simplicity, joy and accessibility has created, not just in our own Catholic community, but in the larger society, is something that I think has been helpful to the world. Even the situation in Syria where the Holy Father called for prayer and a solution was found. It was a very moving thing; we are reminded that when we all come together in faith and hope and put our trust in the Lord and when we invoke his guidance and blessing on our endeavors that wonderful things can happen.

Enrique is the editor of The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston archdiocese.


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Chicago’s cardinal to begin new round of chemotherapy


CHICAGO — Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George is preparing to undergo a new round of chemotherapy to address “current signs of activity of cancer cells surrounding his right kidney,” according to a March 7 announcement by the Chicago archdiocese.

The cardinal has met with his medical team, which recommended the course of treatment based on the results of several recent tests.

U.S. Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago (CNS file)

Cardinal George, 77, was diagnosed with urothelial cancer in August 2012 and underwent chemotherapy at that time. The cancer, dormant for well over a year, is still confined to the area of his right kidney.

“After extensive testing, scans, biopsies and diagnosis, it was agreed that the best course of action is for the cardinal to enter into a regimen of chemotherapy, with drugs more aggressive than those used in the first round but for a more limited duration initially,” the archdiocese said.

Cardinal George intends to maintain his administrative and public schedule during this current round of chemotherapy, although it may occasionally be reduced because of lowered immunity.

In a column titled “Lent: Taking stock of our lives,” in the Catholic New World, the archdiocesan newspaper, the cardinal addressed his health and the cancer treatment ahead.

“If I may speak personally, this Lent finds me once again in poor health. My cancer, which was dormant for well over a year, is still confined to the area of the right kidney, but it is beginning to show signs of new activity,” he said. “After many tests, scans, biopsies and other inconveniences, the settled judgment is that the best course of action is to enter into a regimen of chemotherapy, with drugs more aggressive than those that were used in the first round of chemo.”

Cardinal George said he will receive the treatments over the next two months and his doctors will evaluate his reaction to the chemo.

“I was able to maintain my administrative schedule well during that first round, although my public schedule was sometimes curtailed because of lowered immunity,” he wrote in the column. “As I prepare for this next round of chemo, I ask for your prayers, which have always sustained me, and for your understanding if I cannot always fulfill the schedule already set for the next several months.”

He said he is not currently experience any symptoms of his cancer, but acknowledged “this is a difficult form of the disease.”

“It will most probably eventually be the cause of my death,” he explained. “Chemo is designed to shrink the tumor, prevent symptoms and prolong life.”

In 2006, surgeons at Loyola University Medical Center removed his bladder, prostate gland and sections of his ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, to rid his body of cancer found there.

The cardinal has often said that one of his goals is to live to see retirement since all of the other Chicago bishops died in office. His predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, died in 1996 at age 68 of pancreatic cancer.

A five-month bout with polio when Cardinal George was 13 damaged both of his legs, forcing him to use a brace on his right leg. He walks with a pronounced limp.

He served as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2007 to 2010.

Appointed to head the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1997, he was made a cardinal in 1998. Before that, he was archbishop of Portland, Ore., and bishop of Yakima, Wash.

A member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Cardinal George was ordained a priest Dec. 21, 1963. He was his order’s vicar general in Rome from 1974 to 1986.


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