cross background

Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Vatican at UN: Nukes won't save us – let's seek a better path

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nuclear weapons are a force for instability and any claims they promote peace are chasing illusions, the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States told leading diplomats seeking a nuclear test ban treaty.

“While having no illusions about the challenges involved in achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, the challenges posed by the status quo ante of growing tensions, continuing proliferation, and new modernization programs are far more daunting,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said.

“Nuclear arms offer a false sense of security. The uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence has time and time again proved a tragic illusion. Nuclear weapons cannot create a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of annihilation.”

The U.K.-born archbishop's words came in remarks to the 10th Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, held at the United Nations in New York City. The Holy See signed the treaty in 1996.

“The rising tensions over North Korea’s growing nuclear program are of special urgency,” he said. “The international community must respond by seeking to revive negotiations. The threat or use of military force have no place in countering proliferation, and the threat or use of nuclear weapons in countering nuclear proliferation are deplorable.”

“We must put behind us the nuclear threats, fear, military superiority, ideology, and unilateralism that drive proliferation and modernization efforts and are so reminiscent of the logic of the Cold War,” he said.

Putting the treaty into force is even more urgent considering contemporary threats to peace, he said, citing continued nuclear proliferation and some nuclear states’ major new modernization programs.

Archbishop Gallagher said political analysis that relies on nuclear weapons is misleading. The supposed peace based on a balance of power and “threats and counter-threats, and ultimately fear” is “unstable and false.” He called for the replacement of “a logic of fear and mistrust” with “an ethic of responsibility” that would foster multilateral dialogue and consistent cooperation between all members of the international community.

The archbishop said the Holy See is troubled by “the continued lack of progress” in making sure the treaty enters into force. The two decades since the treaty’s launch have been a lost two decades in achieving “our common goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The Holy See welcomes the opportunity to join other states that have ratified the treaty in appealing to remaining states whose ratification is necessary, he added.

“In ratifying this treaty, these States have an opportunity to demonstrate wisdom, courageous leadership, and a commitment to peace and the common good of all,” he said.

The comprehensive test ban is “a critical component to broader nuclear disarmament efforts.”

He cited Pope Francis' Sept. 25, 2015 speech urging the U.N. General Assembly “to work for a world free of nuclear weapons” and for a full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that aims for “a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

“An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as ‘nations united by fear and distrust,” the Pope said.

Pope Francis has also written to Elayne Whyte Gómez, president of the U.N. conference seeking a nuclear weapons ban, urging the international community to go beyond nuclear deterrence and adopt “forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security.”

On Thursday, the Holy See was among the first to sign and ratify a new treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons. Archbishop Gallagher signed on behalf of the Holy See and Vatican City at the U.N. in New York, Vatican Radio reports. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Weapons has over 40 signatories and it will take effect 90 days after at least 50 nations formally ratify it.

That treaty bars the development, production, testing, acquisition, possession or stockpiling of nuclear weapons or other nuclear devices. It also bars the use or threat of use of these weapons. Most nuclear powers did not take part in the negotiations.

Denver event hopes to change how society views homeless people

Denver, Colo., Sep 22, 2017 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- When volunteers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development counted the number of homeless people in Colorado one night last year, they found more than 10,000.

Christ in the City, a Denver-based outreach program, hopes to positively impact some of those people – not just with food or shelter, but with friendship.

The organization sees one of its primary goals as getting to know homeless people on the streets.

Young adult missionaries walk the streets of Denver in teams of three. They seek to encounter the homeless people who are often ignored. Over time, as they have conversations and meet regularly with the people on the streets, friendships develop.

“The people society usually ignores are called by name, treated with authentic love, and are reminded of their innate dignity. Their posture becomes more upright, their eyes begin to shine, and their hearts are softened as missionaries treat them with the tender care Christ modeled,” the organization said in describing its mission.

Currently, Christ in the City has 24 missionaries, ages 18-27. The organization operates in Denver, but has had requests to expand in the Archdioceses of Lincoln, Neb., and Philadelphia, Penn.

Also critical to the group’s approach is formation of the missionaries and efforts to help change the way society views the poor.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, Christ in the City will host “A Night of Encounter,” an event that will offer a glimpse into what it’s like to serve the homeless not only in their material needs, but through friendship.  

Hosted by Holy Name Parish in Englewood, Colo., the event will include an outdoor cocktail hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m.

Missionaries will sit with guests, who will have the opportunity to hear their stories of encountering homeless people on the streets of Denver.

Tickets for “A Night of Encounter” can be purchased at: http://christinthecity.co/annualcelebration/

Villanova 'culture warrior' professor accepts Douthat debate invitation

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- New York Times columnist Ross Douthat invited Villanova theologian Massimo Faggioli to a debate, and Faggioli has said that he would be open to the idea.

“I am really looking forward to meeting him in person, as soon as is possible. I don’t know if this event is going to happen, in what form. I am totally open to it,” Dr. Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University, told CNA of Ross Douthat’s invitation to a debate.

Douthat, a Catholic, is an author and op-ed columnist at the New York Times, writing on religion, politics, morality, and culture. Faggioli is a theology professor, church historian, and Catholic commentator at Villanova University. Douthat and Faggioli have both been referred to as “culture warriors,” one a conservative, the other a liberal.

In a Sept. 20 column, “Expect the Inquisition,” Douthat noted two recent examples of priests or theologians losing academic positions or speaking engagements because of online campaigns opposing them.

Instead of “conflicting inquisitions, liberal and conservative,” Douthat proposed more “serious argument” and “respectful debate” amongst academics, theologians, and bishops.

In particular, Douthat invited Faggioli – with whom he has previously engaged in online debates, most notably in October of 2015 during the Synod on the Family – to a debate. “I myself am only a train ride away from Professor Faggioli’s Villanova and would happily allow him to educate me on my theological deficiencies on a platform of his choosing,” he said.

Faggioli told CNA on Thursday that he would be open to such a debate.

Faggioli noted that he would not want a debate that would resemble a “boxing match,” but rather “just two individuals there to present a much bigger debate.”

“I think it’s much bigger than Ross and Massimo. But it’s certainly a step forward from two years ago, when there was a much harsher exchange,” he said. Faggioli said he would be open to meet “at Villanova, or at Commonweal, or wherever that can happen.”

“We have to find a way to meet and talk,” Faggioli said, “but there’s a lot of noise that is really part of the environment. And that is still violent. That’s the problem. And we have to find a way to neutralize those violent voices who have no interest of exchange of ideas.”

“What’s a bit disturbing,” he added, is that “if you read the comments that their readers post on their column or their messages against me following Douthat’s article yesterday, that is scary, honestly,” he said.

In an interview with CNA, Faggioli questioned Douthat’s ability to comment on theological and ecclesial issues. “It is striking that he’s commenting with this cavalier attitude on important issues with a fundamental lack of knowledge, I would say.”

“And about what’s going on in Francis’ pontificate, it seems to me that he has a very sketchy idea with very little knowledge of the real people appointed by Francis, what they have published, what they have said, their curriculum, who they are,” Faggioli said.

Although Douthat’s recent column was “a bit less arrogant, a bit less aggressive, looking for a dialogue with people like me with whom he has disagreed for a couple of years now,” he said, “there’s the same lack of knowledge and of curiosity for what this Pope is doing.”

“He doesn’t know, he doesn’t read what the other people are doing. And it’s deeply, deeply unfair and false to make a caricature of them as the bolshevik of Pope Francis,” he said.

Douthat and Faggioli have recently clashed over response to “Building a Bridge,” a book by Fr. James Martin, SJ, addressing LGBT issues in the Church.  Fr. Martin was recently disinvited to address seminarians at Theological College, a seminary in Washington, DC, after outcry and protests from online groups Faggioli has called “cyber-militias.”

In a September 18 essay published by La Croix, Faggioli criticized the “campaign of hatred and personal attacks” against Fr. Martin, and said that “this sort of vitriol is profoundly changing the communion of the Catholic Church.”

“It signals a new kind of censorship that uses verbal violence to intimidate individual Catholics, as well as institutions within the Church,” he said.

In his September 20 column, Douthat responded that “Professor Faggioli’s sudden concern about online campaigns was interesting to me, because it was just a short while ago that the professor was himself busy organizing an online campaign against myself.”

Douthat was referring to an October 2015 letter to the New York Times, written by Faggioli and more than 50 other academics, objecting to a column by Douthat. Among the signatories was Nicholas P. Cafardi, a civil and canon lawyer who served as chairman of “Catholics for Obama,” and characterized President Barack Obama as “pro-life” in 2012.

In the criticized column “The Plot to Change Catholicism,” Douthat speculated that the Pope sided with the proposal of Cardinal Walter Kasper that the divorced and remarried be allowed to receive communion, without first receiving a declaration that their first marriages were invalid. Pope Francis picked synod delegates who would be sympathetic to such a position, Douthat said.

In subsequent comments on Twitter, Douthat criticized supporters of the so-called “Kasper proposal” at the synod. “If you take a view the church has consistently rejected, you don't get to whine when the ‘h’ word comes up,” Douthat said, adding, “Own your heresy.”

The response letter questioned Douthat’s credibility. “Aside from the fact that Mr. Douthat has no professional qualifications for writing on the subject, the problem with his article and other recent statements is his view of Catholicism as unapologetically subject to a politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is,” the letter stated.

In response to that letter, Bishop Robert Barron defended Douthat, writing at the Word on Fire website: “If a doctorate in theology were a bottom-line prerequisite, we would declare the following people unqualified to express an opinion on matters religious: Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis, William F. Buckley, W.H. Auden, or to bring things more up to date, Fr. James Martin, George Weigel, and E.J. Dionne. In point of fact, it is often the case that those outside of the official academy often have the freshest and most insightful perspectives, precisely because they aren’t sequestered in the echo-chamber of politically correct faculty lounge discourse.”

While no debate has been scheduled, CNA has learned that details for the possibility of a debate are being explored, and may soon be announced.  

Faggioli told CNA, “As long as it’s not a debate like Muhammad Ali versus George Foreman; I don’t want this to become a personal thing. But I’ll be happy to meet with him and discuss with him.”

Douthat also affirmed his openness to a debate. “I meant what I wrote,” he told CNA. “I’m happy to debate him when our schedules, as fathers of young children, will allow for it.”

Douthat told CNA that serious conversation about issues is important for Catholics. In his September 20 column, he wrote, “There is no way forward save through controversy. Postpone the inquisitions; schedule arguments instead.”

If Douthat and Faggioli meet for a debate, controversy may well point a way forward.

 

Why Catholic News Agency? Our mission

Denver, Colo., Sep 22, 2017 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- Five days after he was elected Pope, John Paul II met with journalists from around the world. The Pope was a scholar, a man of letters, and an actor. He understood the power of words and images, and he understood the power of media.

In his own country, Poland, John Paul had seen the state-run Communist media obscure the truth to create confusion and cement power. He had also seen the underground media – the resistance – risk lives and freedom to tell the truth. John Paul II knew that words and images could sow the lies of Satan, or bring the freedom that comes from living in truth.

When he met with them, he told journalists that they should use the freedom of the press “to grasp the truth,” and to help readers, listeners, and viewers “to live in justice and brotherhood, to discover the ultimate meaning of life, to open them up to the mystery of God.”

The Pope told reporters that they should try “to grasp the authentic, deep and spiritual motivations of the Church's thought and action,” and “to elevate…the spirit and the heart of men of good will, at the same time as the faith of Christians.”

The mission of Catholic media is to seek the truth, and to share it, especially in light of eternal and enduring truths. We use words to reveal the Word himself, Jesus Christ. St. Paul says that encountering that Word transforms us, by “the renewal of our minds.”

Less than a month ago, I began working as editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency, an apostolate dedicated to discovering the truth, and reporting it. Our team of writers, producers, and editors is committed to using our craft for the sake of the Gospel, to revealing the truth, and to helping Catholics understand the events of the world through the lens of faith, guided by enduring truths of the Gospel. We want to help Catholics see, judge, and act in the world as it really is.

The public square in the United States has become chaotic. Our political culture is often vindictive and small-minded, preferring power politics to the common good. Media often incites conflict, rather than reporting facts. Public discourse has becoming a shouting match. It has become difficult to know what is true.

Our mission is to point to the truth. We want to inform, to educate, and to inspire. We want to point to what is good, so that it can be supported and replicated. We want to point to what is evil, so that Catholics can respond. We want to point to the Church’s work in the world, and we want to explain the factors that influence the Church’s life and ministry. We want to point to the ways that God is moving in the world.

We want to help Catholics to know the truth, to believe it, and to practice it.

In our age, media and news reporting are changing quickly. At CNA, we want to report the news in ways that reach Catholics, wherever they are. Our wire service provides news stories and analysis to diocesan newspapers, to our partners the National Catholic Register and EWTN News Nightly, to our sister news agencies in other languages throughout the world, and to other news and media apostolates. Our website provides up-to-the-minute news about the Church and the world. On social media – Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – we’re learning new ways to report the news. We’ll continue to provide news wherever people look for it, and we’ll look for new ways to share the truth.

Our mission is, most of all, a mission of charity. We do our work because we love the Lord, and because we love our readers. We want to give you, our readers, the information, perspectives, and contexts that help you to live as Catholics in our times. As we continue our mission, we hope you’ll continue to pray for us, and share with us your ideas and perspectives. We hope that as we continue our work, we will be united with you in the search for truth.

 

Rise in immigration makes us missionaries at home, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 22, 2017 / 11:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis said that the mass arrival of migrants and refugees may have its challenges, but also gives us the opportunity to be missionaries – even without leaving home.

“Contemporary migratory flows constitute a new missionary ‘frontier,’ a privileged opportunity to announce Jesus Christ and his Gospel without moving from our own environment,” the Pope said Sept. 22.

In personal encounters with refugees and migrants, especially those from different faiths, we can “concretely bear witness to the Christian faith,” finding a “fertile ground for the development of a genuine and enriching ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.”

Pope Francis spoke about immigration in an audience with national directors of pastoral care for migrants. They were participating in a meeting organized by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) in Rome Sept. 21-23.

The Pope also said that the arrival of Christian, and particularly Catholic, migrants is an opportunity for the Church in Europe to more fully realize its catholicity, its universality, which is part of the Creed we confess every Sunday at Mass.

“In recent years, many particular Churches in Europe have been enriched by the presence of Catholic migrants who have brought their devotions and their liturgical and apostolic enthusiasm,” he said.

Faced with the massive and complex migration flows of the last several years, and the crisis it has presented for current migration policies, the Church intends simply to remain faithful to her mission: “to love Jesus Christ, to adore and love him, particularly in the poorest and most abandoned,” the Pope said.

The Church’s love towards her brothers and sisters from other countries is a maternal love which “demands to be manifested concretely at all stages of the migratory experience, from departure to journey, from arrival to return…”

And the hope is that each local Church can contribute to this in its own way according to its own abilities. “Recognizing and serving the Lord in these members of his ‘journeying people’ is a responsibility that unites all particular Churches in the profusion of a constant, coordinated and effective effort,” he stated.

In his experience listening to the local Churches in Europe, the Pope said that he senses a “profound discomfort” about the arrival of so many migrants and refugees.

He said he believes this discomfort must be acknowledged, and that it can be understood in light of recent economic crises faced by some countries. It may also be “exacerbated” by the scope of migratory flows, the unpreparedness of host countries, and inadequate national and community policies, he said.

But it also points us to the difficulty still faced in a concrete application of the universality of human rights; for Christians, the logic that the human person should be at the center of all our decisions, as a unique and unrepeatable creation by God.

Francis continued, saying that he would not hide the concern he feels at signs of intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia found in different regions of Europe, which he believes to be motivated by fear and distrust of “the other, the stranger.”

He said he is also worried when Catholic communities turn migrants away under the justification of preserving the original culture and religious identity.

“The Church has spread to all continents through the ‘migration’ of missionaries who were convinced of the universality of the message of salvation of Jesus Christ, intended for men and women of all cultures,” he said.

“In the history of the Church there has been no lack of temptations of exclusivity and the raising of cultural barriers, but the Holy Spirit has always helped us to overcome them, guaranteeing a constant openness to the other, considered as a concrete possibility of growth and enrichment.”

 

Rise in immigration makes us missionaries at home, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 22, 2017 / 11:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis said that the mass arrival of migrants and refugees may have its challenges, but also gives us the opportunity to be missionaries – even without leaving home.

“Contemporary migratory flows constitute a new missionary ‘frontier,’ a privileged opportunity to announce Jesus Christ and his Gospel without moving from our own environment,” the Pope said Sept. 22.

In personal encounters with refugees and migrants, especially those from different faiths, we can “concretely bear witness to the Christian faith,” finding a “fertile ground for the development of a genuine and enriching ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.”

Pope Francis spoke about immigration in an audience with national directors of pastoral care for migrants. They were participating in a meeting organized by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) in Rome Sept. 21-23.

The Pope also said that the arrival of Christian, and particularly Catholic, migrants is an opportunity for the Church in Europe to more fully realize its catholicity, its universality, which is part of the Creed we confess every Sunday at Mass.

“In recent years, many particular Churches in Europe have been enriched by the presence of Catholic migrants who have brought their devotions and their liturgical and apostolic enthusiasm,” he said.

Faced with the massive and complex migration flows of the last several years, and the crisis it has presented for current migration policies, the Church intends simply to remain faithful to her mission: “to love Jesus Christ, to adore and love him, particularly in the poorest and most abandoned,” the Pope said.

The Church’s love towards her brothers and sisters from other countries is a maternal love which “demands to be manifested concretely at all stages of the migratory experience, from departure to journey, from arrival to return…”

And the hope is that each local Church can contribute to this in its own way according to its own abilities. “Recognizing and serving the Lord in these members of his ‘journeying people’ is a responsibility that unites all particular Churches in the profusion of a constant, coordinated and effective effort,” he stated.

In his experience listening to the local Churches in Europe, the Pope said that he senses a “profound discomfort” about the arrival of so many migrants and refugees.

He said he believes this discomfort must be acknowledged, and that it can be understood in light of recent economic crises faced by some countries. It may also be “exacerbated” by the scope of migratory flows, the unpreparedness of host countries, and inadequate national and community policies, he said.

But it also points us to the difficulty still faced in a concrete application of the universality of human rights; for Christians, the logic that the human person should be at the center of all our decisions, as a unique and unrepeatable creation by God.

Francis continued, saying that he would not hide the concern he feels at signs of intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia found in different regions of Europe, which he believes to be motivated by fear and distrust of “the other, the stranger.”

He said he is also worried when Catholic communities turn migrants away under the justification of preserving the original culture and religious identity.

“The Church has spread to all continents through the ‘migration’ of missionaries who were convinced of the universality of the message of salvation of Jesus Christ, intended for men and women of all cultures,” he said.

“In the history of the Church there has been no lack of temptations of exclusivity and the raising of cultural barriers, but the Holy Spirit has always helped us to overcome them, guaranteeing a constant openness to the other, considered as a concrete possibility of growth and enrichment.”

 

US bishops: Newest health care proposal fails moral test

Washington D.C., Sep 22, 2017 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Leading U.S. bishops have applauded pro-life provisions in the newest GOP health care proposal, but said that substantial changes are needed in other areas to make the bill morally acceptable.

“Without significant improvement, this bill does not meet the moral criteria for health care reform outlined in our previous letters,” four committee chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to U.S. senators on Thursday.

They asked the senators “to think of the harm that will be caused to poor and vulnerable people.”

The four bishops who wrote the letter to the U.S. senators were Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the bishops’ pro-life activities committee; Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chair of the ad hoc religious liberty committee; Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the migration committee; and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., chair of the domestic justice and human development committee.

Senate Republicans introduced the Graham-Cassidy health care proposal last week as the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to repeal the current Affordable Care Act and replace it with another health care law.

Under the proposal, the old individual and employer health insurance mandates of the Affordable Care Act would be repealed, as well as the Medical Device Tax. Patients with pre-existing conditions would still be protected, the senators sponsoring the bill said.

States would receive more freedom and flexibility to innovate health care policies and lower costs, the senators claimed. The proposal would replace the expansion of Medicaid payments to the states with a “per capita cap” on the federal Medicaid payments based upon the population of the respective states.

However, these changes to Medicaid would “fundamentally restructure this vital program” and “result in deep funding cuts and lost coverage for millions of people,” the bishops wrote.

The bill would also replace other federal subsidies and grants to the states – like ACA premium tax credits and cost-sharing reduction subsidies – with block grants to states, the bill’s sponsors said. This would help reduce the inequality between the states that chose to partake in the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and those that did not. Just three states received “37 percent of Obamacare funds,” the senators claimed.

However, “while flexibility can be good at times, these block grants will result in billions of dollars in reductions for those in health care poverty,” the bishops wrote.

States facing budget deficits may be forced to cut more programs benefitting low-income citizens if they do not receive the additional aid from the federal government, the bishops said.

Pro-life provisions in the bill are laudable, they noted, especially those protecting against taxpayer funding of abortions in health care, and redirecting Medicaid dollars away from abortion providers like Planned Parenthood toward other health clinics that do not provide abortions.

“The legislation does correct a serious flaw in the Affordable Care Act by ensuring that no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it. This improvement is praiseworthy, and it is essential that any improved final bill retain these key provisions,” the letter said.

“We also applaud that Graham-Cassidy redirects funds from organizations that provide abortion,” the bishops said.

Looking ahead, the bishops told the senators to avoid being hasty in passing a comprehensive health care bill that could affect the coverage of millions of Americans.

“The Senate should only proceed with a full report concerning just how many people will be impacted,” the bishops said of the changes to Medicaid.

“Decisions about the health of our citizens – a concern fundamental to each of us – should not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms,” the bishops said. Members of Congress should pass a bill with bipartisan support, one “that addresses the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that now exist.”

 

In latest Mercy Friday outing, Pope visits patients at neuro-rehab center

Rome, Italy, Sep 22, 2017 / 10:52 am (CNA).- In a surprise visit on Friday, Pope Francis stopped by the Santa Lucia Foundation, a neuro-rehabilitation center in Rome.

He visited with patients of the center, who are receiving rehabilitation treatment for mobile and cognitive impairment, such as those suffering from strokes, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

The visit continues Pope Francis’ custom of “Mercy Friday” encounters. Originally planned once per month during the Church's Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, the Pope has continued these surprise visits, practicing spiritual and corporal works of mercy. He has met with refugees, children, women freed from sex trafficking, and the terminally ill, among others.

Pope Francis visited the facility shortly after 4 p.m., the Vatican said in a statement. He was greeted by the president and general manager of the association, as well as a group of staff members.

The Pope visited with children affected by neurological illnesses, joking with them and offering words of comfort to their parents. He also stopped by the wing where teenage and young adult tetraplegic and paraplegic patients are housed, as well as the gym where elderly patients go through rehabilitation exercises.

According to the Vatican, the Holy Father encouraged all those going through the neuro-rehabilitation process to maintain hope. He visited the building’s chapel before returning home.

 



'Zero tolerance' on child abuse must apply to laity too

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 09:38 am (CNA).- In his September 20 remarks to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Pope Francis stated the important point that “the Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the firmest measures to all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God.” That reaffirmation of the Church's commitment to child protection cannot be said too often or too strongly.

The Holy Father then went on to say something new and very significant: “The disciplinary measures that the particular Churches have adopted must apply to all those who work in the institutions of the Church... Therefore, the Church irrevocably and at all levels seeks to apply the principle of 'zero tolerance' against the sexual abuse of minors.”

This is an unambiguous call to action. The Church in the United States has been a world leader in child protection, and we have an opportunity now to lead again.

Since its adoption in 2002, the Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People has been the foundation for the Church's immensely successful efforts to provide a safe environment for children in our institutions and to ensure accountability for the implementation of those efforts. As successful as the Charter has been, however, it has always been missing a very significant piece -- on its face, it only applies to cases of misconduct by clergy and not by laypeople.

For example, the term “sexual abuse” is defined in the Charter by reference to a canon law provision that applies only to the clergy. The definition is ambiguous, and fails to provide sufficient guidance about what behaviors are proscribed. This leaves diocesan officials to rely on an ad hoc standard of their own creation or on potentially differing opinions of theologians, civil or canon lawyers, or review board members.  

This is not a good practice -- “sexual abuse” cannot mean one thing in one diocese and a different thing in another, one thing when it applies to clergy and another when it's a lay person.

The Charter's definition of “child pornography” suffers from the same problem. The only guidance in the Charter is a reference to a Vatican document that has an empty and unhelpful definition that is limited to conduct by clerics. An ambiguous standard for this heinous crime isn't acceptable, and it must apply to laity as well.  

In addition, although the Charter discusses procedures for handling cases involving the clergy, it says nothing about how to handle cases about lay persons. And most importantly, while the Charter clearly applies the “zero tolerance” policy of permanently removing an offending priest or deacon, there is no defined penalty for lay persons who have committed an offense.

This is a very significant gap. We must assure everyone that no person, lay or cleric, will be permitted to be with children if they have committed an offense. Failing to do so leaves an erroneous impression that sex abuse is uniquely a problem with the clergy, which ignores all the evidence of the incidence of sex abuse and unfairly stigmatizes our priests and deacons.  

This omission could have an impact on the credibility of our child protection programs. The annual audit requires information about background check and training of lay people and detailed information about clergy abuse cases, but no information is gathered about cases involving lay people. Including the laity explicitly under the Charter will ensure a greater level of accountability and trust.

One would expect that every diocese has already adopted policies that cover lay people as well as clergy. We certainly have in the Archdiocese of New York. But local policies don't send a strong enough message. The Charter is the public expression of the United States Church's full commitment to child protection. It is imperative that we make absolutely clear that the same rigorous standards apply to all who work with children, across our entire nation.

This is not hard to do. Clear and usable definitions of “sexual abuse” and “child pornography” can be developed that unambiguously cover laypeople. We can draw on the vast experience reflected in state and federal law, which define numerous sexual offenses with great detail and specificity. Uniform disciplinary procedures for handling lay cases do not have to be developed at the national level, since those will be shaped by local personnel policies and laws. Nor do we have to worry about inconsistency with canon law, since that only applies to clergy cases.

It can also be stated plainly that all allegations will be immediately reported to law enforcement and full cooperation will be given to the authorities. All dioceses probably already do this -- in the Archdiocese of New York we have strong protocols for cooperation with law enforcement. But again, a strong statement in the Charter will demonstrate our commitment across the nation.

Most important, after the Holy Father's mandate, it is vital that the “zero tolerance” policy clearly applies to the laity. There can be no room for doubt about that.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been working on a revision of the Charter, and it has not yet been finalized. The Holy Father's timely call to action now gives the Church a great opportunity to be proactive and ensure that our rigorous policies apply equally to all who work with our children.

 

Edward Mechmann, Esq., is the Director of Safe Environment for the Archdiocese of New York. His opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Archdiocese of New York.

 

Pope to EU Churches: Combat intolerance against migrants

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged Churches in Europe to step up efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia against migrants and refugees.

The pope’s words came in a meeting with national migration directors under the auspices of the Council of European Bishops Conferences or CCEE. He said he was saddened to see that Catholic communities in Europe were also defensive and unwelcoming towards migrants, justifying their attitudes on grounds of conserving their cultural and religious identity.

Listen: 

Pope Francis said we must recognize and understand this sense of unease, in light of the economic crisis which has left deep wounds in society. Furthermore, he said, governments and communities have been ill prepared to cope with large influxes of migrants, highlighting the limits of the European unification process.

Churches become more 'catholic'

But from an ecclesiological perspective, the pope said, the arrival of so many Christian brothers and sisters offers the Church in Europe an opportunity to become ever more ‘catholic’. He noted how many migrants and refugees have already enriched parishes in their host countries.

Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue

From a missionary perspective, he said, ministering to migrants offers new frontiers to announce the Gospel and to witness to our Christian faith, while showing profound respect for other faith traditions. These encounters are fertile ground for developing sincere ecumenical and interreligious relations, he said.

Welcome, protect, promote, integrate

Pope Francis also noted that in his message for next year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he speaks in detail about the need to welcome, protect, promote and integrate all people on the move.  On the basis of these four verbs, he said, the Vatican office for migrants and refugees has published a 20 point action plan for local Churches seeking to promote best practices.

Constructive dialogue with governments

This action plan, he added, should be shared with all  European bishops conferences, helping to promote constructive dialogue with governments ahead of the Global Compact for Migration, due to be draw up and approved at a United Nations conference in 2018.

(from Vatican Radio)