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Justice Alito warns of infringements to freedom of religion

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Catholic News Service

WYNNEWOOD, Pa. — The graduating class at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Philadelphia archdiocese received a special treat at the Concursus graduation ceremony held in the seminary chapel May 17.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. received an honorary doctorate of letters and delivered the formal address.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia applauds after awarding an honorary degree to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito May 17 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. (CNS /SarahWebb/CatholicPhilly.com)

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia applauds after awarding an honorary degree to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito May 17 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. (CNS /SarahWebb/CatholicPhilly.com)

The award to Alito was “in testimony to and recognition of his many outstanding contributions to society,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in his introduction, “especially in protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life, the full responsibilities of the human person and promoting true justice and lasting peace.”

In his address Alito spoke of the freedom of religion as enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and encroachments on that freedom today.

A southern New Jersey native, he is well versed in the history of religious toleration as it developed in Philadelphia, and the important role that religion played in the development of the Constitution, including the visits by the Founding Fathers to the city’s various churches, among them Old St. Mary’s, tracing back to the Revolution.

Part of freedom of religion is “no one is forced to act in violation of his own beliefs,” Alito said. “Most of my life Americans were instilled in this,” he added, urging his audience to “keep the flame burning.”

In an interview for the seminarians’ blog, “Seminarian Casual,” Alito said that “our most foresighted Founders understood that our country could not hold together unless religious freedom was protected.”

Which is why, he said, George Washington, shortly after his election as the nation’s first president “made a point of writing to minority religious groups, to the United Baptist churches in Virginia, the annual meeting of Quakers, the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, and to the nation’s tiny Catholic population.”

“Washington and other founders also saw a vital connection between religion and the character needed for republican self-government,” Alito added. “What the founders understood more than 200 years ago is just as true today.”

Regarding threats to religious freedom, the justice said, “There is cause for concern at the present time.”

He noted that in his dissent in the Obergefell decision in which the Supreme Court held that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, I anticipated that the decision would “be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”

“I added, ‘I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.’”

After Alito’s talk, Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior, rector of St. Charles Seminary, told CatholicPhilly.com, the archdiocesan news website, said the justice “was very inspiring.” “”He reminded us that of the rights imbedded in our Constitution, religious freedom is the most fundamental and it is not respected throughout the world today.”

Jim Godericci, who attended Concursus with his wife, Regina, who is a member of the seminary’s development committee of the seminary, found it encouraging that “there are still some people in the justice field who still have a God-fearing, God-respecting attitude.”

Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, who has seminarians at St. Charles and is himself a graduate, appreciated the topic of religious freedom, especially the local flavor and historical perspective.

“It’s extremely important; so many of our citizens have no clue of the history of these issues,” he said. “The contemporary feeling is not the same as at the roots.”

 

Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Eric Banecker contributed to this story.

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N.C. priest at Phila. seminary named auxiliary bishop for Atlanta

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Father Bernard E. Shlesinger III, a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, to be an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Bishop-designate Shlesinger, 56, is currently the director of spiritual formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

Father Bernard E. Shlesinger III, a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., speaks during a May 15 news conference after Pope Francis appointed him as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Bishop-designate Shlesinger, 56, is currently director of spiritual formation in the theology division at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. (CNS/Micael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

Father Bernard E. Shlesinger III, a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., speaks during a May 15 news conference after Pope Francis appointed him as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Bishop-designate Shlesinger, 56, is currently director of spiritual formation in the theology division at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. (CNS/Micael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

The appointment was announced in Washington May 15 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Shlesinger’s episcopal ordination will take place at Christ the King Cathedral in Atlanta, but the date has not yet been announced.

“I warmly welcome him to the Archdiocese of Atlanta and I look forward to working with him in service to this local church,” Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said in a statement about the newly named bishop.

As a Raleigh diocesan priest, Bishop-designate Shlesinger “comes to us from a diocese within the ecclesiastical province of Atlanta where he has longed enjoyed the endorsement of the bishops of our province and the well-deserved respect, admiration, and affection of the clergy, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Raleigh,” the archbishop said.

“Ned is a man of prayer, prudence, and apostolic zeal,” added Archbishop Gregory, who has headed the archdiocese since 2005. “He is eminently qualified to assume these new responsibilities as auxiliary bishop in Atlanta, and I welcome him with an enthusiastic and jubilant heart. I am certain that we all will come to know and love him and discover how truly fortunate we are to have been sent this man of faith and pastoral skill.”

Since 2013, Bishop-designate Shlesinger has been director of spiritual formation in the theology division of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Before that he served in many different capacities in the Diocese of Raleigh including as a pastor, a member of the priests’ council, and director of vocations and seminary formation, 2007-2013.

“We have been blessed to have him with us for the last four years as director of spiritual formation,” said the seminary’s rector, Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior. “We were expecting him to return home for a new assignment in the Diocese of Raleigh. (He) will surely be a shepherd after the heart of Jesus, and the church will be blessed by his generous service as a successor to the apostles.”

Father Shlesinger is a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, serving from 1983 to 1990, when he retired with the rank of captain. He flew the C-130E Hercules while stationed at Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Born Dec. 17, 1960, Bernard E. “Ned” Shlesinger was raised in Northern Virginia. He is the youngest of six children of Bernard E. Shlesinger Jr. and Rita Belmont Shlesinger.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in 1983. He went on to attend Theological College in Washington, where he studied pre-theology and philosophy. He attended Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning a bachelor of arts degree in sacred theology in 1995. That same year he then began studies for a licentiate of sacred theology Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also in Rome.

He was ordained a priest June 22, 1996.

The Archdiocese of Atlanta currently has one active auxiliary bishop, Bishop Luis R. Zarama. It encompasses just over 21,000 square miles across 69 counties in north and central Georgia and is home to 1.1 million Catholics, out of a total population of about 7 million.

 

Contributing to this story was Matthew Gambino in Philadelphia.

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Philadelphia archdiocese to sell its seminary property, move operations

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — The board of trustees of Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood has called for scrapping the planned consolidation of seminary operations on one 30-acre section of the campus and instead moving its operations off campus. Read more »

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Phila. seminary to sell Eakins paintings to support renovation costs

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood announced it was placing five portraits painted by Thomas Eakins for sale through Christie’s Private Sales in New York.

Other pieces of art have also been placed for sale with other auction firms.

Funds from the sale of the paintings, first discussed in October, will go toward the seminary’s consolidation and renovation expenses. Additional funding is expected to come through a capital campaign and the sale of approximately 40 acres of the 75-acre campus.

“The seminary has long been a steward of these works, but it is the right time to seize an opportunity to do what is best for the artwork and for the seminary itself,” said Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior, seminary rector.

“We will keep many of the paintings in our collection but the core mission of the seminary is to form men for service in the priesthood. We are not a museum. Our hope is that as a result of this decision the Eakins paintings can find a home where they can be well cared for and viewed widely by people from across the country. What we are doing is consistent with our overall efforts to re-energize the seminary and focus on its mission while building for the future.”

The Eakins paintings the seminary plans to sell include: “Archbishop James Frederick Wood” (1877); “Reverend James P. Turner” (1900); “The Right Reverend James F. Loughlin” and “Dr. Patrick Garvey” (1902); “James A. Flaherty” (1903).

Other than the Archbishop Wood and Flaherty portraits, the Eakins subjects were faculty members of St. Charles Seminary. Although the Philadelphia-born Eakins was not Catholic, during the first part of the 20th century he and a Catholic friend, Samuel Murray, would bicycle on Sundays to the seminary to attend vespers and enjoy conversation with the priests.

These visits, shortly after the death of Thomas Eakins’ father, were said to have brought him solace.

Eakins, who is widely considered by American art historians to be the most profound realist of his time, donated paintings to the priests, most of whom left them to the seminary.

Flaherty, the only layman depicted in the portraits, was a Philadelphia lawyer and founder of the Knights of Columbus in Philadelphia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania. He went on to become supreme knight and filled that post during perhaps its most dynamic period.

Under his watch in World War I, because of a shortage of Catholic chaplains, the Knights recruited and paid priests to serve as chaplains. After the war the Knights organized training programs for returning soldiers, which became the model for the federal G.I. Bill.

Flaherty’s portrait was commissioned by the Philadelphia Knights and displayed in their headquarters until it was ultimately donated by them to the seminary.

Archbishop Wood (1813-1883) became the fifth bishop of Philadelphia in 1860. When the diocese was elevated to an archdiocese 1875, he was its first archbishop.

In addition to the Eakins portraits, two other paintings have been placed for sale with other auction agencies.

How much the paintings will bring, only time will tell. They are considered lesser works of Eakins, and were mostly painted as gifts to friends. The Msgr. Loughlin portrait, which is full length, is probably the most valuable, according to Cate Kokolis, vice president of services and assessment at St. Charles who is most knowledgeable about the collection.

The Archbishop Wood portrait might have been the most valuable were it not for an ill-conceived attempt at restoration in 1930 that greatly diminished its value. This plays into Bishop Senior’s point, the paintings will be better preserved for future enjoyment if they are placed in an institution where they can receive the expert attention they deserve.

An older St. Charles Seminary history mentions at least 150 paintings on display at the seminary, mostly religious art, but none are deemed as commercially valuable as those that are now being marketed, although some others may be sold at a future date.

One interesting painting that remains is the “Crucifixion” painted by Francis Martin Drexel, displayed in the Eakins Room. He was the father of Anthony Drexel, who founded Drexel University, and the grandfather of St. Katharine Drexel. He switched from art to investment banking, which was much more lucrative.

But maybe not, considering that Eakins’ most famous work, “The Gross Clinic” (1875), was originally sold to Jefferson Medical College for $200 and resold by the now-university in 2006 for $68 million.

Eakins’ only religious work, a “Crucifixion” painted in 1880, could not attract a buyer because it was deemed “too graphic.” It was donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art by the Eakins family in 1929.

Because of the art sale and the other planned fundraising methods the seminary is poised for future growth to 200 seminarians in residence, as well as hundreds of nonresidential candidates for the permanent diaconate and full- and part-time students enrolled in the graduate theology school.

 

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