Browsing News Entries
USCCB President Condemns Threat of Widespread Enforcement Actions and New Rule Drastically Limiting Asylum
Posted on 07/16/2019 05:26 AM (USCCB News Releases)
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made the following statement in response to the climate of fear created by the Department of Homeland Security’s announced immigration enforcement actions and the Administration’s new Interim Final Rule to drastically limit asylum, which was published today:
“Enforcement actions like those anticipated this week by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency separate families, cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities. I condemn such an approach, which has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the country. I recently wrote the President asking him to reconsider this action.
A stated intent of these actions is to deter Central Americans fleeing for their lives from seeking refuge in the United States. This is both misguided and untenable. It is contrary to American and Christian values to attempt to prevent people from migrating here when they are fleeing to save their lives and to find safety for their families.
And, in addition to this climate of fear, we have seen the Administration today take further unacceptable action to undermine the ability of individuals and families to seek protection in the United States. The Administration’s new rule on asylum eligibility presents a similar enforcement-only immigration approach. The rule adds further barriers to asylum-seekers’ ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection. Further, while still reviewing the rule, initial analysis raises serious questions about its legality.
I urge the President to reconsider these actions, the new rule, and its enforcement-only approach. I ask that persons fleeing for their lives be permitted to seek refuge in the U.S. and all those facing removal proceedings be afforded due process. All who are at or within our borders should be treated with compassion and dignity. Beyond that, a just solution to this humanitarian crisis should focus on addressing the root causes that compel families to flee and enacting a humane reform of our immigration system.
Pope Francis, in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2019, reminds us that ‘the presence of migrants and refugees – and of vulnerable people in general – is an invitation to recover some of those essential dimensions of our Christian existence and our humanity that risk being overlooked in a prosperous society.’”
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President Trump, Pope Francis, ICE, DHS, Justice for Immigrants, Enforcement, immigration,
Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, applauds the convening of the Second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom
Posted on 07/15/2019 07:07 AM (USCCB News Releases)
WASHINGTON— This week marks the Second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by the U.S. Department of State with 1,000 religious and civil society leaders and foreign ministers from 115 countries. The Ministerial reaffirms international commitments to promote religious freedom and develop durable, positive ways to combat religious persecution and unjust discrimination.
The Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, USA and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued the following statement:
“Our faith reminds us that religious freedom is the cornerstone of a just society which is increasingly under threat. 77% of world’s population, 5.5 billion, live in 83 countries with high or very high restrictions on the practice of religion. We are witnessing entire communities around the world pay with their lives to exercise freedom of conscience and faith. I am pleased to participate in this Ministerial, and support our government’s efforts to promote freedom of conscience and religion for all.”
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Second Ministerial, Religious Freedom, U.S. Department of State, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Military Services, Committee on International Justice and Peace
Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Awarded Grants to Promote Catholic Biblical Literacy and Interpretation
Posted on 07/10/2019 05:45 AM (USCCB News Releases)
WASHINGTON--This spring, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) awarded grants in the amount of $68,266.50 for five projects that support the goals of the CCD to promote Catholic biblical literacy and Catholic biblical interpretation.
The CCD works with the Catholic Biblical Association (CBA) to offer these grants, accepting applications only from the CBA, including the organization itself, its designees, and its full and associate members. In fidelity to Dei Verbum, the CBA's purpose is to promote scholarly study in Scripture and related fields by meetings of the association, publications, and support to those engaged in such studies.
Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux and Member of the CCD-CBA Liaison Committee, commented, "We are pleased to have received so many strong proposals from the members of the Catholic Biblical Association. These projects will advance biblical scholarship and support biblical literacy in parishes and classrooms."
Funding for these grants comes from the royalties received from the publication of the New American Bible and its derivative works which the CCD develops, publishes, promotes, and distributes.
The five projects sponsored by the CCD are as follows:
• $20,766.50 to Michael G. Azar for residency in Jerusalem to study the Bible in Eastern Christian-Jewish Relations.
• $15,000 to Jeffrey L. Cooley, David Vanderhooft, and Michael Simone, SJ, to support a conference on “The Spirit of Scholarship: Biblical and Mesopotamian Studies in the Roman Catholic Academy.”
• $25,000 to Andrew Glicksman to develop a manuscript on the relationship between Wisdom and Spirit in the biblical and patristic tradition.
• $5,000 to Christopher Seeman for a series of videos addressing the representation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic exegesis, homiletics, and catechesis.
• $2,500 to Kelley Coblentz Bautch for participation in the Qumran residency to study the presentation of Salome Alexandra in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, CCD, Catholic Biblical Association, CBA, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, CCD-CBA Liaison Committee, Dei Verbum, New American Bible, biblical scholarship, pastoral programs, biblical literacy, biblical interpretation, grants
Posted on 07/8/2019 08:00 AM (CNA Columns: Guest Columnist)
Last weekend, like most weekends this summer, I stood in front of teens at a Steubenville Youth Conference talking about heaven and hell. Also last weekend, like most weekends, fewer teens came than I’d hoped to see.
Don’t worry; I’m not taking it personally. At the conferences, the workshop is offered at the same time as a workshop about dating. Ninety-five percent of the teens opt for the dating talk. The other five percent opt for mine. Which makes sense. Discussions about relationships naturally capture young people’s attention more than discussions about eternity. Nevertheless, last weekend, out of curiosity, I began my talk by asking my five percent why they came to my workshop and not the dating one. One young lady raised her hand. “I want to make sure I go to heaven,” she said.
Jokingly, I responded, “So, you think everyone at the dating talk wants to go to hell?”
The teens laughed, and I moved on with the talk. But I’ve been thinking about her response ever since. It’s unusual. Not because she wants to go to heaven; I think everyone at the conference wants the same. Rather, it’s unusual that she’s thinking about heaven at all.
Last year, a study by the Barna Group found that the percentage of Gen Z (those born between 1999 and 2015) that identifies as “atheist” is twice that of the U.S. adult population. The same study found that teens who do believe in God tend to disagree with their faiths’ teachings about sexuality. And even among those who practice faithfully, religion often takes a back seat to other priorities: school, sports, and, yes, relationships.
I’ve worked with young Catholics for over 20 years, and what I’m seeing now bears that out. Too many teens live in a world without consequences or self-reflection. Many treat God like an extracurricular activity, and religion like a shirt they put on just for Sundays.
Moreover, many teens I encounter—maybe even most—have been formed by the culture, not the Church. Twenty years ago, things that kids coming to our conferences would have thought were crazy, are now normative. I regularly meet young people who are engaged in their parish, attend youth group, attend eucharistic adoration, but who also have no issue with pre-marital sex, gay marriage, or transgenderism. They’ve become so inculcated by the culture that it doesn’t occur to them to question these behaviors.
This presents a huge problem, not just for the Church, but also for young people. They were made for heaven. But you don’t get to heaven by treating the spiritual life as just one of many competing demands on your time. You also don’t get to heaven by living a life contrary to the Gospel.
Franciscan University, the school I serve as president, is doing everything we can to change this youth culture. This includes sponsoring 23 Steubenville Youth Conferences, in 18 cities across North America, this summer. Over 60,000 teens will attend.
At these conferences, in every talk—even the dating talk—we help teens go deeper, to think outside their circumstances, outside their worldview, and start thinking with the Church. We want them to know that each one of them has an eternal soul, and the fate of that soul hangs in the balance.
As I tell them, the Evil One is real, and he wants nothing more than to pull them away from the life for which they were made—eternal life with God. That’s why they have to learn to be more reflective, not just about themselves and Church teaching, but about the music they listen to, the shows they watch, and how they spend their time. It’s all feeding their soul, and they will only make it to heaven if they feed themselves right.
We do the same for our students at Franciscan. As a Catholic university, we have a responsibility to form not just students’ minds, but also their souls. Our deepest desire for our students is to see them become saints.
That’s why, at Franciscan University, we teach our students what it means to be made in the image of God. We teach them the dignity and beauty of being made as a man or a woman. We root them in the unchanging teachings of the Church and call them to a relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We also feed them with the sacraments and nurture devotion to the Blessed Mother and the saints. This is the food their souls need, and it is our sacred duty to give it to them.
We can’t do this alone. Parents are the primary educators of their children, and if teens today are going to shift their focus away from the world and toward God, we need parents’ help. We need parents to stand firm against the culture that puts sports before God. We need parents to teach their children that actions have consequences, both in this life and the next; that doing one activity or job well, with integrity, matters more than doing many different activities; and that honoring commitments is more important than chasing after the next best thing. Most of all, we need parents to walk with their children on the journey that is the spiritual life, praying with them, sacrificing with them, and serving with them.
It’s not too late to reverse course. Not for young people. Not for any of us. But if we’re not thinking about where we’re going, we’re going to end up in a very different place from where we want to be.
Posted on 07/8/2019 05:46 AM (USCCB News Releases)
WASHINGTON—In June, the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) distributed $28 million in financial assistance to 360 U.S. religious communities to help underwrite the care of aging members. The funding is made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious collection, an annual, parish-based appeal benefiting some 30,000 senior religious and their communities.
The latest appeal was held in most U.S. Catholic parishes in December 2018 and raised $27.7 million.
Known as Direct Care Assistance, the funding disbursed represents the bulk of financial assistance distributed by the NRRO. Religious communities combine these funds with their own income and savings to help meet expenses such as prescription medications and nursing care. Over the years, this support has helped many religious communities to stabilize their retirement outlooks.
However, many others continue to struggle with rising retirement costs and the growing number of elder members needing care. In response, the NRRO’s Management Committee increased the amount disbursed for Direct Care Assistance in 2019 from $25 million to $28 million, with the additional funding realized through investments and careful financial management.
“We are exceedingly grateful to concerned Catholics across the United States,” said Presentation Sister Stephanie Still, the NRRO’s executive director. “Their ongoing generosity to the Retirement Fund for Religious allows us to help communities who need immediate assistance in caring for aging members.”
Catholic bishops of the United States launched the Retirement Fund for Religious in 1988 to address the profound lack of retirement funding among the nation’s religious communities. Traditionally, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests—known collectively as women and men religious—served for very low wages that did not include retirement benefits. Today, hundreds of religious communities lack adequate retirement savings.
The NRRO coordinates the annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection and distributes the proceeds to eligible religious communities. It also offers educational programming, services and resources that enable religious communities to evaluate and prepare for long-term retirement needs. The NRRO is sponsored by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, Leadership Conference of Women Religious and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Visit https://retiredreligious.org/ to learn more.
Keywords: National Religious Retirement Office, NRRO, retirement, eldercare, U.S. bishops, Sister Stephanie Still, USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Collection
U.S. Bishops’ Chairmen of Migration and Domestic Justice Express Opposition to Proposed Rule that Would Lead to Family Separation and Housing Instability
Posted on 07/3/2019 08:31 AM (USCCB News Releases)
WASHINGTON— Today, bishops from two committees at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) expressed their opposition to a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would lead to separation or housing instability for many families. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, FL, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, offered the following statements.
“The proposed rule would have terrible consequences for thousands of mixed-status families,” said Bishop Vásquez. “It would force these families to make a heartbreaking choice - endure family separation so that eligible members can continue to receive critical housing assistance or stay together and forfeit any such assistance. This choice between unity and stability is one no family should have to make. We urge HUD to withdraw this deeply concerning proposed rule.”
“The right to decent, safe, and affordable housing is rooted in the fundamental dignity of every person,” said Bishop Dewane. “By proposing this rule, HUD acknowledges the need for more housing assistance so that people in need won’t have to endure long waits for programs that are overwhelmed by demand. More must be done to address housing needs in this country, but it must not be done at the expense of mixed-status families.”
You can see the full comments that USCCB submitted in conjunction with Catholic Charities USA, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., and the Catholic Health Association on the proposed rulemaking by clicking here.
Keywords: USCCB, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee on Migration, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Diocese of Venice
Posted on 05/14/2019 08:00 AM (CNA Columns: Bishops' Corner)
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!
Posted on 05/11/2019 08:00 AM (CNA Columns: Bishops' Corner)
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.
Posted on 04/17/2019 08:00 AM (CNA Columns: Bishops' Corner)
In February 1915, only six months after the beginning of World War I, Lancet, a British medical journal, used for the first time the expression “shell shock.” This newly coined expression was used to describe the feeling of helplessness that soldiers felt after exposure to constant bombardment. The term was new, but not the reality. After every war, soldiers return from combat, suffering “shell shock.”
Watching their comrades mowed down by enemy fire or left maimed and strewn on the battlefield, combatants become immune to feelings of connectedness and concern. Today, this phenomenon is becoming an epidemic. We are constantly being bombarded by bad news. The catastrophic and inhumane events that interrupt our everyday life are causing many people to escape from the brutality by becoming shell shocked.
Terrorist attacks in Belgium, Syria, Africa, and in England; daily violence on the streets of Chicago, New York, Paterson; the massacre of our children in their schools and of believers in their churches, synagogues and mosques; the interminable disputes and rancor over immigration; allegations of racism and sexism; the incessant reporting of scandals, present and past! Moment by moment these evils confront us. So fast does news travel that one story stumbles over the other with images of the dead, the wounded, the homeless imprinted on our minds. These problems do not admit of simple solutions. And, since we are more aware of them today than in the past and yet less able to find solutions, many, left numb and disillusioned, drift into apathy.
In addition, newspapers, blogs and TV commentaries flash before us cause after cause, such as global poverty and climate change. “Every cause seems urgent, but nobody has the time, the energy, or the information necessary to make an impact. Knowing all the ways in which the world is flawed in a very real, raw, up-close kind of way without the ability to make any sort of important change is perhaps the most unwelcome symptom of the digital age” (Jamie Varon, “Generation apathy: How internet outrage is making us all numb and hopeless,” August 20, 2015).
Some Christians have drunk the hemlock of apathy. They are becoming more and more indifferent to evil in the world and, sadly, more and more detached from religion. Unconnected. Not invested. Religion may be good; but, when it comes to God, they have hung up a “Do Not Disturb Sign.” For them, weddings, funerals, First Communions, Confirmations, if even celebrated, are mostly social occasions.
Apathy within the Church is far more devastating than outside the Church. The Church is the sign and sacrament of salvation for the world. It is an instrument in God’s hands. But if the instrument is dull and listless, it hinders God’s activity. When people become apathetic, something more is needed than telling them to be kind and compassionate. Such preaching falls on deaf ears and hardened hearts. What is needed today is the bold proclamation of the kerygma, that is, the love of God given us in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God is not apathetic. He is intensely passionate about his relationship with us and his world. He is the lover who pursues his beloved. He never gives up on us, despite our sins. He woos us back to himself (cf. Hosea 2:11). He did not turn his back on the evil of our world, but sent his Son to be our Redeemer.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). In the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s love is a fact. In Jesus, God has begun the work of forgiving sins and recreating the world. And, he gifts us with the Holy Spirit so that, together with him, we make all things new. We are not helpless. We are not alone. Apathy makes people murmur a half-silent “No” to the world in which we live. But, faith in Jesus Crucified and Risen makes us shout a resounding “Yes” to God’s work of the New Creation. Faith is the antidote to apathy.
Posted on 04/16/2019 08:00 AM (CNA Columns: Guest Columnist)
How many Catholics will fill the pews on Easter Sunday 2019? Will this year see a noticeable decline in parishioners dressed in their Easter finest? Will the past year’s “Summer of Shame” – the publication of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the (now-defrocked) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick scandal, the Vatican’s tepid, tone-deaf response to abuse here and elsewhere in the world – take its toll on the Catholic Church in America this Easter?
Some Catholics have already left the Church. Quite publicly. Others have not yet taken that step; they’re simply shaken and disaffected. This is not one of those stories. I remain convinced that the Catholic Church is where I should be.
Of course, I was angry when the findings of the Pennsylvania grand jury on clerical sexual abuse of children became public last August. How could men entrusted with the care of souls egregiously harm innocent children? News of Theodore McCarrick’s most unholy life also disgusted me, especially the news that more than a few people knew that this high-ranking American prelate had preyed on people and said nothing. All in all, I felt betrayed and humiliated.
I have found some consolation since those first months of shock, confusion and revulsion. Peter Steinfels’ excellent analysis of the grand jury report in Commonweal Magazine helped. He showed that almost all the abuse cited took place decades before the U.S. Catholic bishops’ 2002 steps to protect minors. These reforms have made Catholic churches and schools among the safest places for children in the United States. Then, this past February, Pope Francis finally defrocked McCarrick and hosted a world summit on clergy abuse.
There is still much more to do to restore the priesthood and episcopate. Some members of the hierarchy here and in the Vatican appear genuinely concerned and are working to rid the rot that has seeped into the Church. Is it only window-dressing? Only time will tell.
What are average Catholics to do in the meantime?
This Lent, I found my answer in Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God!”
It is easy to walk away when things get difficult. Pointing to the failings of others on your way out may even offer a gratifying sense of self-righteousness. Instead of leaving the Church, however, I am choosing to be still. The Catholic Church is where I belong, despite the failings of many of her faithful, including yours truly.
Living as a faithful Catholic is not convenient or comfortable or popular today. It never has been. Ask the first pope, Saint Peter, who was crucified upside down. Or other martyrs to the faith of our past or present. Say the 21 Coptic Christians kidnapped and beheaded in Libya in 2015.
Yes, U.S. Catholics today face a crisis – our summer and winter and spring of shame, the failure of some priests and prelates, not to mention the Church and Her faithful’s place in an increasingly hostile secular culture. While today’s crisis pales in comparison to crises other Christians have faced over the millennia, it has led many to bouts of despondency. I am surely no exception.
But when I am “still” – when I trust that God has put the Church in charge of my spiritual well-being and try to follow Her teachings – I can handle whatever contradictions and confusions that the all-too-human leaders of the Church send my way. Or the challenges everyday life bring. Loss, suffering, humiliations or just plain exhaustion can’t keep me down for long. Instead of letting the scandal of sexual infidelity by a handful of priests and bishops dissolve this trust, I have resolved to be still and live more faithfully.
What does that look like? It means embracing all that the Church teaches, turning to Her sacraments, and doing so joyfully. It means being a light for others. As Saint Augustine said, “The measure of love is to love without measure.”
No, now is not the time to leave. Now is the time to stand confidently in defense of the Church’s eternal teachings. Now, today, this moment is the time to show it is possible to live consistent with Catholic teaching and desire the good of all around me.
So, as Easter season draws near with its promise of immense joy, I will be still, unwavering in my fidelity to a church that calls me to be a faithful, joyous messenger of love and hope. “Be still and know that I am God!”