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Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Kenyan bishop who hosts 200,000 South Sudan refugees pleads for peace (Vatican News)

The South Sudanese Civil War began in 2013. South Sudan’s government and a leading rebel group signed a peace agreement in September 2018. In April 2019, Pope Francis kissed the feet of the nation’s leaders as he appealed for peace in the strife-torn nation.

Pope Francis recalls the words of Our Lady of Fátima (Vatican Press Office)

Following his May 15 general audience, Pope Francis recalled the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and ask for pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary and repent of their sins.” The Pope added, “Let us listen to this recommendation, asking Mary for her maternal protection, the gift of conversion, the spirit of penance and peace for all the world.”

Police search files of Dallas diocese (AP)

Police searched the offices of the Dallas, Texas diocese on May 15, seeking information about the handling of sex-abuse complaints. A police spokesman said that they had obtained a search warrant after earlier requests for information had been “thwarted” by the diocese.

Pope Francis Names the Most Reverend Peter Baldacchino as Bishop of Las Cruces

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named the Most Reverend Peter Baldacchino as the new Bishop of Las Cruces. The appointment was publicized in Washington, DC, on May 15, 2019 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Baldacchino, 58, was born on December 5, 1960 in Sliema, Malta. He attended the University of Malta, where he earned a diploma in science and chemistry. He attended Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Kearny, N.J., from 1990-1996 and also earned a bachelor of Arts and a Master of Divinity degree from Seton Hall University.

He was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark on May 25, 1996. On Feb. 20, 2014, he was named auxiliary Bishop of Miami, and Titular Bishop of Vatarba, and was ordained to the episcopacy, March 19, 2014.

Up until now, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Bishop Emeritus of Tucson, had been the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Las Cruces after being appointed by Pope Francis on September 28, 2018.  

The Diocese of Las Cruces is comprised of 44,483 square miles and has a total population of 558,454 of which 139,322 or 25 percent, are Catholic.  

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Bishop Peter Baldacchino, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Diocese of Las Cruces

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Rush to judge others and gossip: and the devil laughs

By Bishop Arthur Serratelli

On January 18, 2019, a video of Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann went viral. He was at the Lincoln Memorial standing face to face with a Native American man during the March to Life in Washington, D.C. On the basis of that picture, a frenzy of condemnations from reporters, commentators and politicians were heaped upon this student, accusing him of prejudice and hatred. Misinformation and lies spread like wild fire. Finally, when the facts were uncovered, the high school student was exonerated of any wrong-doing, even though much wrong had been done to him and his family. It was a rush to judgment. 

On January 29, 2019, American actor and singer Jussie Smollett reported that two masked men attacked him at 2 AM near his apartment in Chicago. He claimed that the attack was racist and homophobic. After Smollett’s initial report, friends and fans, celebrities and politicians expressed outrage at this hate crime. Twitter and Instagram fueled the frenzy of self-righteous indignation. However, in just three weeks, it was discovered that the whole event had been orchestrated by Smollett. Yet, before the facts were fully known, there was the rush to judgment and much chatter.

Gifted with reason, we are wired to make judgments. Discerning the good from the bad, the beautiful from the ugly, the right from the wrong, and virtue from vice: this is an essential part of our being human. However, every judgment must be founded on truth, not rumor; on fact, not fiction; on substance, not appearance. And every judgment must always be tempered with compassion. Albeit from opposite directions, the Sandmann and Smollett incidents show how quick we are to believe or disbelieve, to accuse or defend and how easily we pick a side and draw a line in the sand. And, all the while, truth grows ever more fragile.

Today’s rush to judgment gathers speed along the newly constructed digital highway. We get information instantaneously and, because we want solutions just as fast, we are quick to judge. As a result of this incessant communication about other people’s lives, we live on the edge between truth and falsehood. What years ago was whispered between a few people now goes viral and can never be retrieved. As a result, in this environment, deliberately passing on stories that destroy other people’s good names is nothing less than cyber bullying.

There is no area of modern society that is exempt from someone passing on false information, half-truths or blatant, deliberate lies. In a society of fast-paced information sharing, gossip has become so commonplace that people justify it as a way to right wrongs, correct others and unseat those whom they deem unfit for their chosen work. However, unlike the surgeon’s scalpel that removes the cancer, gossip is the arrow that destroys the other. 

As a statement sometimes attributed to Mark Twain says, “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots.” In a similar vein, Jonathan Swift once wrote, “if a lie be believ’d only for an hour, it has done its work, and there is no further occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it; so that, when men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late…the tale has had its effect” (Jonathan Swift, The Examiner, Number 15, November, 1710).  For this reason, people of good faith should be slow to judge others. And never should they gossip. People who constantly judge or criticize others truly lack compassion.

Sadly, making negative judgments on others on the basis of appearances and then spreading those judgments to others is found among those who consider themselves Church-going people. It is especially found among those who set themselves as crusaders for a just cause and, then by their lack of charity, become unjust themselves. The fondness to judge and criticize others may well be a way of not facing one’s own sins. "It is often easier or more convenient to see and condemn the faults and sins of others than it is to see our own” (Pope Francis, Angelus, March 3, 2019).

In speech after speech, Pope Francis has been courageously warning us of the evil of gossip. “Gossip is a weapon and it threatens the human community every day; it sows envy, jealousy and power struggles… We might welcome someone and speak well of him the first day but little by little that worm eats away at our minds until our gossip banishes him from good opinion. That person in a community who gossips against his or her neighbor is, in a sense, killing him.” (Pope Francis, Homily, Domus Sanctae Marthae, September 2, 2013).  

Few things can match the harmful effects of gossip, whether it be slander or detraction. Defamation inflicts grave harm on the individual and destroys the community. It is against charity and, since God is love, it is against God himself. Charles Spurgeon, one of the most popular Baptist preachers of the 19th century, summed up the evil of talking about other people by saying, “the tale-bearer carries the devil in his tongue, and the tale-hearer carries the devil in his ear.” Gossip makes the devil laugh!

Sacramental confession and the certainty of forgiveness

By Bishop Arthur Serratelli

A few years ago, Paul Croituru and his young son went out treasure hunting near their native village in Romania. To their surprise, they discovered ancient Greek currency dating back 2,350 years to the time of King Philip II. The 300 silver coins turned out to be counterfeit. The father and son now hold the distinction of having discovered the oldest counterfeit money known thus far.

Counterfeit money has been around as long as money has been around. In fact, some have named the production of counterfeit money “the world's second oldest profession.” During war time, nations often resort to counterfeit money to inflict harm on their enemies. During the Revolutionary War, Great Britain attempted to devalue the continental dollar by flooding the market with shovers (fake dollars). During World War II, the Nazis made prisoners in their camps forge British pounds and American dollars to destabilize their enemies’ economies and destroy them.

Satan constantly attempts to entice individuals into counterfeit religion where the forged currency is believing in God while denying sin. The devil would have everyone forget that sin is a reality. In this way, he can render ineffective in us the work of Christ who came to take away our sins. Failure. Weakness. Mistakes. Psychological pressures. Social customs. All these labels the devil uses to disguise sin. But, sin itself remains a fact.

Science always prides itself on beginning every research project with a fact. True religion, likewise, begins with the fact of sin in the world, original sin and personal sin. “The ancient masters of religion…began with the fact of sin. Whether or not man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders…have begun…to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved” (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy). And so can the personal sins of hatred, envy, lust, pride, gluttony and greed likewise be proven.

Even a casual glance at Sacred Scriptures shows that sin taints even God’s greatest heroes and heroines. Adam and Eve lead the procession of sinners. Drunken Noah, untruthful Abraham, adulterous David and Bathsheba, disloyal Peter, and murderous Paul follow. Sin really is not that original. It is the monotonous repetition of the tragedy of Eden: choosing self over God. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8).

In the Sacrament of Penance, the Church offers us the gift of a personal encounter with our merciful Lord who forgives our sins. However, many people, and sometimes even faithful Catholics, say that they do not need to go to a priest for confession to have their sins forgiven. Why confess to a priest who is a sinner himself? God will forgive sins without the ministry of priests. Certainly, God can forgive sins when we turn to him and repent. But, he has chosen to offer us his forgiveness through the ministry of the Church. And, for a reason.

Sin is not just between the individual and God. Every sin that we commit offends God and affects others. Every sin harms Christ’s Body, the Church. The act of confession before a priest recognizes the true nature of sin as an offense against God and others. And so, it is through the Church’s priests that God chooses not simply to forgive our sins but to reconcile us to the Church. (cf. Pope Francis, General Audience, November 20, 2013).

So important is confession that some of the holiest priests of the Church have spent hours in the confessional as missionaries of God’s mercy. St. Philip Neri, a busy parish priest in Rome, spent every morning hearing confessions before continuing his work with youth in the afternoon. So famous was St. Jean Vianney in hearing confessions that a new train station had to be built in his town of Ars so that people from all of France could go there to confess to this holy priest. Most recently, St. Padre Pio heard confessions for not less than 18 hours a day. There were always long lines awaiting him.  

During his public ministry, Jesus forgave sins (cf. Mk 2:5; Lk 7:48; Jn 8:1-11). And, then after the Resurrection, he entrusted this ministry of forgiveness to his priests. On Easter Sunday night, “Jesus said to them ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained’” (Jn 20:21-23). In confession, the priest, weak and sinful himself, acts in the name of Jesus and with his authority.  

In going to confession, we approach the priest, one by one, not as group, not as family. We humbly place before him all our own sins. To receive absolution and be forgiven, it is necessary not simply to confess all mortal sins, but also to have a firm purpose of amendment of sinning no more. As difficult as this might be at times, how great the grace! For, when the priest absolves us, we have, as Jesus promised, the certainty that our sins are forgiven. 

U.S. Bishops’ Chairmen Join Coalition Voicing Religious Freedom Concerns with the Equality Act (H.R. 5)

WASHINGTON—Four chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have cosigned a coalition letter highlighting key religious freedom concerns with the Equality Act (H.R. 5 / S. 788). The Act would add the new terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the definition of “sex” in federal civil rights laws and have wide-reaching consequences for both employment and delivery of service standards in religiously-affiliated schools, shelters, foster care and adoption agencies, potentially houses of worship, and other facilities and ministries.
 
“[T]he Equality Act would devastate the core ministries of a wide range of religious groups, especially those ministries that serve the most vulnerable,” the signees cautioned. Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education; and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, joined representatives of numerous denominations, schools, and charities of faith in their letter to members of Congress.
 
Among other concerns, the signers pointed out that “[t]he Equality Act amends Title VI of the Civil Rights Act so that any recipient of any federal funds, even a small amount for a subsidiary service” would be affected and that “[b]y way of example, this includes thousands of Catholic, Jewish and other parochial schools with students who participate in the National School Lunch Program, which helps poor children whose families have selected these specific religious schools.”
 
They concluded that the Act “regulates a huge new swath of religious activity and facilities as ‘public accommodations’ and transforms the conditions by which hundreds of thousands of faith-based entities partner with the federal government to serve the common good. It accomplishes these goals while bringing the daunting power of the federal government to bear against religious people and groups with non-conforming views about marriage, sexuality, and gender.”
 
The letter to Congress is available online at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/2019-Coalition-Letter-to-Congress-Equality-Act.pdf.
 
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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Michael C. Barber, Committee on Catholic Education, Bishop James D. Conley, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; U.S. Congress, Equality Act (H.R. 5 / S. 788), LGBT, civil rights laws, religious liberty
 
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MEDIA CONTACT:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Issues Statement on Pope Francis’s Motu Proprio Ordering Worldwide Response to the Evil of Sexual Abuse - Q&A Included

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement regarding the release of Pope Francis’s Motu Proprio earlier today. The Motu Proprio, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), is a worldwide order to the Church from the Pope, in response to the evil of sexual abuse. The new law comes after a meeting in Rome that brought together all episcopal conference presidents from across the globe to discuss the Church sex abuse crisis.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Today, Pope Francis ordered a worldwide response to the evil of sexual abuse. It calls for the establishment of easily accessible reporting systems, clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families, timeliness and thoroughness of investigations, whistleblower protection for those making allegations, and active involvement of the laity. It also leaves latitude for national bishops’ conferences, such as the USCCB, to specify still more to account for their local circumstances. We receive the Motu Proprio Vos estis lux mundi (‘You are the light of the world’) as a blessing that will empower the Church everywhere to bring predators to justice, no matter what rank they hold in the Church. It also permits the Church the time and opportunity to bring spiritual healing.

The Holy Father said a ‘continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church.’ Pope Francis was clear that this responsibility ‘falls, above all, on the successors of the Apostles.’ As part of this responsibility, bishops also will be held accountable under the authority of this Motu Proprio, which covers sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons, sexual acts compelled through the abuse of authority, and any coverup of such crimes.

In publishing this new law, which is applicable to the Church throughout the world, Pope Francis has made clear that protection and healing must reach all of God’s children. Following on the meeting just two months ago of all episcopal conference presidents, the Motu Proprio shows Pope Francis expects swift and comprehensive progress. For the Church in the United States, the task before us now is to establish whatever is necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the Motu Proprio. Our committees have already begun the work of preparing implementation measures for deliberation at the USCCB Plenary Assembly in June.

I am grateful for the opportunity to build upon the excellent foundation of the USCCB’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, and the Statement of Episcopal Commitment, all of which date back to 2002. The existing framework in the United States including victim outreach, zero tolerance, reporting allegations to civil authorities, and lay expertise on review boards, among other measures - positions us readily to bring the Holy Father’s instructions to action. By embracing the painful experience of survivors and working on these new protections, let us pray we continue to grow into a stronger Church.”

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Keywords: Pope Francis, Motu Proprio, Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world), Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, clergy sex abuse, worldwide response, successors of the Apostles, minors, vulnerable persons, USCCB Plenary Assembly, Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, Statement of Episcopal Commitment

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Media Contact:

Judy Keane

202-541-3200

Questions & Answers Regarding Pope Francis’s Motu Proprio

Vos estis lux mundi

 

What does the new Motu Proprio do?

The new Motu Proprio Vos estis lux mundi is a significant move forward for the universal Church, one that echoes many of the practices established in the U.S. Bishops’ Essential Norms and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that have been in force in the United States since 2002. For example, it affirms the existing:

    Commitment to provide for the spiritual and emotional well-being of victims/ survivors and their families;
    Duty to comply with all applicable civil laws with respect to the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities;
    Right of any person to report such crimes;
    Guarantee of a prompt and objective investigation;
    Assurance of lay involvement

The Motu Proprio also continues to focus on victims by significantly building upon existing local practices, for example by expanding:

The scope of cases to include:

    The sexual abuse of a new classification of “vulnerable persons,”
    The use of violence or other abuse of power to perform or submit to sexual acts,
    Any cover up of such conduct by other;
    Those who are to be reported for such cases, namely, cardinals, bishops, other clerics, religious superiors, and other members of institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life;
    Reporting obligations to include mandatory, internal reporting;
    Safeguards against retaliation or discrimination by mandating “whistle-blower” protections

When do these norms take effect?

    They will take effect on June 1, 2019;
    They will be reviewed by the Holy See after three years and adjusted as needed;
    Every diocese and eparchy (either individually or collectively) is to have a publicly accessible means for people to report cases covered under the Motu Proprio by June 1, 2020. In the United States, while this has already been accomplished for cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons, reporting mechanisms will have to be modified to serve the broader categories of the Motu Proprio.

What about cases of sexual misconduct that do not fall under this Motu Proprio?

    These are generally already covered by existing diocesan or eparchial codes of conduct. With the help of lay and legal experts, bishops are working on ways to ensure that coverage and enhance awareness and reporting mechanisms for such cases. 

How are transparency and confidentiality promoted in this new Motu Proprio?

    The Motu Proprio increases transparency by establishing clear procedures that must be followed, reaffirming the obligation to report to civil authorities, providing for lay involvement in internal investigations, protecting from possible conflicts of interest, and ensuring that those who report complaints to the Church are also free to report the same information to others and are protected from retaliation. At the same time, because the Motu Proprio involves the investigation of a complaint, it carefully balances the rights of those involved. Confidentiality is needed for the effectiveness of the investigation. It protects victims and witnesses, as well as the presumption of innocence and the seal of the confessional. 

Does this new Motu Proprio interfere or hinder civil law, such as mandatory reporting requirements and civil investigations?

    In no way. The Motu Proprio establishes the canonical (Church law) procedures that are to be followed. Included in these procedures, however, is the obligation to comply with all applicable civil laws.

Zero tolerance is not mentioned. Is that no longer the policy of the Catholic Church?

    In the United States, zero tolerance has been the policy since 2002, which comes from the Charter and the Essential Norms. The Motu Proprio does not undo this policy. Other episcopal conferences around the world have or will be developing policies appropriate to their legal and cultural situations. The good news here is that what was first thought of as an “American problem” or a “Western problem” is now on everyone’s radar.

Why does the Motu Proprio focus on the role of the Metropolitan?

    The Motu Proprio uses the Metropolitan because it is a position in the Church that is grounded in tradition and the teaching of Vatican II and is governed by existing canon law.
    This also allows investigations to be carried out on the local level, where the Metropolitan will have more direct access to information, documents, and lay experts to help investigate, and can collaborate with civil authorities. The Metropolitan, being local, can also take measures to preserve and secure evidence.
    Recent investigations of misconduct by a bishop, such as in West Virginia, have successfully followed this practice.

What does this mean for the proposals the U.S. bishops considered last November?

    The work of our committees that has already taken place will be examined and adapted to work within the framework of the new Motu Proprio and will be the basis for deliberation over its implementation at the USCCB Plenary Assembly in June.

Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

DOMESTIC JUSTICE CHAIRMAN ISSUES STATEMENT FOLLOWING SHOOTING AT STEM SCHOOL HIGHLANDS RANCH IN COLORADO

WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued the following statement in response to yesterday’s tragic shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch near Denver, Colorado.

The full statement follows:

“Yesterday, tragically just seven miles from Columbine High School, a shooting took place at the STEM School Highlands Ranch. There are reports of multiple critical injuries including at present, one fatality. This shooting comes just after the community marked the 20th anniversary of the tragic shooting at Columbine. This shooting reminds us yet again that something is fundamentally broken in our society when places of learning can become scenes of violence and disregard for human life. As Americans we must deeply examine why these horrific occurrences of gun violence continue to take place in our communities. Action is needed to attempt to reduce the frequency of these heinous acts. I call on Catholics around the country to pray for the dead, injured and for the loved ones left behind and for healing in the community.
May Jesus who came that we might all have life in abundance, bring consolation and healing at this time of great sadness.”
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Keywords: United States Conference of catholic Bishops, USCCB, STEM School Highlands Ranch, Bishop Frank Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Columbine
 
Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

Mr. Richard Coll Named as Director of the Office of Domestic Social Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON— Mr. Richard Coll has been appointed as Director of the Office of Domestic Social Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), based in Washington, D.C.
The appointment will take effect on June 17, 2019. Monsignor Brian Bransfield, USCCB General Secretary, made the appointment.
Mr. Coll has been employed by the USCCB since 2011, first as a Foreign Policy Advisor for the Office of International Justice and Peace, and most recently as the Director for the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions. A graduate of Harvard College and Law School, Mr. Coll came to the Conference after a distinguished career in law in both Washington D.C., and New York, where he worked in banking and international economic policy.                                                                                                                                “Mr. Coll brings the kind of knowledge and managerial acumen necessary for a position of such breadth,” said Msgr. Bransfield. “In addition to his love for the Church and his extensive knowledge of the Church’s teaching, he will play a key role in advancing the Church’s mission in the world."
He is fluent in Spanish and French and brings added expertise in various policy areas, as well as his many years of experience with the Conference. He is a parishioner at Holy Trinity Church in Washington, D.C., and a member of its Parish Pastoral Council.  
To lean more about the Office of Domestic Social Development please visit: http://www.usccb.org/about/domestic-social-development/

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Mr. Richard Coll, Office of Domestic Social Development, Msgr. Brian Bransfield
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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200