Browsing News Entries

Ten thousand pilgrims pack National Shrine for Mass for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2020 / 10:15 pm (CNA).- An estimated 10,000 pilgrims traveled from both near and far to attend Mass at the opening of the National Prayer Vigil for Life celebrated on Thursday, Jan. 23 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

The pilgrims joined 46 deacons, 303 priests, 39 bishops, and three cardinals participating in the Mass, held the evening before the annual March for Life. The principal celebrant and homilist was Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the US bishops’ pro-life committee, together with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. 

In his homily, Archbishop Naumann said he was cheered at the sight of so many you pilgrims for life, a powerful witness against an abortion culture which he compared to an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone,’ in which “beautiful is ugly and hideous is gorgeous.” 

The archbishop also spoke of his ad limina visit with Pope Francis. During his recent trip to Rome, said Naumann, he mentioned the controversy that erupted at the USCCB Fall General Assembly over whether or not abortion was the “preeminent” social issue of our time. Naumann said that the pope appeared confused at why this would be controversial, and re-affirmed that abortion is the most important social issue.

“The Pope is with you. He is praying for you. He supports you,” said Naumann. “My friends, the successor of Peter has our backs.”

Each of the pilgrims had their own reasons and motivations for why they found themselves in the Basilica on Thursday evening. CNA spoke to a few of them to find out their stories. 

Jenna Perrey and Grace Fender are two first-time marchers. They traveled on a bus together for 22 hours with the Diocese of Jefferson City (MO).

“We hope to see all the crowds and see all the wonderful supporters of life,” Perrey told CNA. The Diocese of Jefferson City sent six busses to Washington for the March. 

Fender told CNA she was looking forward to the experience of her first March, and to see everyone “marching together for the same cause.”

“Life’s good,” added, smiling. 

As in past years, attendees of the Vigil Mass and the March for Life are able to receive a plenary indulgence, provided they fulfill the other requirements of an indulgence of confession, total detachment from sin, and prayer for the Pope’s intention. This year, permission was granted relatively later than usual, but it was authorized on January 9 by Cardinal Marcus Piacenza of the Apostolic Penitentiary.  

Other marchers told CNA they returned to Washington after being inspired by past marches. 

“I went last year, and I felt like I actually made an impact,” Emma Galles, an 18-year-old pilgrim attending her second March for Life told CNA. Galles flew in from Iowa. 

“You could see how many people were with you. It lets you know that you’re not alone in this fight and that you’re getting somewhere,” she said.

Galles told CNA that she is pro-life, because “Without the right to life, all other rights are pointless. That’s the number one right that every person should have.” 

Carlos Rueda, a senior at Jesuit High School in Tampa, FL, flew up with some of his classmates to attend the March for Life. Rueda is the communications officer of his school’s pro-life club, and has attended the March for Life each year of high school. He told CNA that he is “passionate” about his involvement with the club. 

Rueda said the March was “inspiring,” which is why he keeps coming back.

“You see so many people with the same goal in mind, even [from] different backgrounds,” said Rueda. 

He said that in Tampa, he often faced pushback for his pro-life beliefs, but took solace in being surrounded by people who agreed with him in DC, “joining together, fighting for the same idea.” 

Jayla Johnson, 15, and Tanina Sentementas, 16, had similar sentiments. The two traveled from Connecticut to Washington with their school, St. Paul Catholic High School. 

Despite going to Catholic schools her entire life, Johnson said she was never taught about the reality of abortion until she was in the eighth grade. 

“It really made me realize that it’s wrong, and I should stand up against it,” said Johnson.  

Sentementas said that her group bonded during the eight-hour bus journey, and relished the chance to be with her peers and to better interact with them.

She told CNA that she is pro-life because she wants to “hav(e) a voice for children who don’t have them.” 

One of the 39 bishops present, Bishop Richard Umbers, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia, had by far the longest journey to Washington. Umbers attended the March for Life last year with a group of Australian students en route to World Youth Day in Panama. 

The experience made such an impression that he returned in 2020, again with a group of students. He told CNA that the coming decriminalization of abortion in the Australian state of New South Wales in October last year inspired him to come back to help jump start the pro-life movement in his country.

“The Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 that was passed in the State of New South Wales on the 2nd of October is our own Roe v Wade,” Umbers told CNA. 

“I’m bringing people to Washington with a view to promoting something similar in Sydney.”

Australia does not have any sort of annual March for Life demonstration. Umbers hopes to change that.  

“At the Vigil Mass this evening, packed with youth and clergy, mention was made of its humble beginnings. A generation later it’s huge,” he said.

“In Sydney we have already amassed in our thousands outside Parliament. I believe that the Pro-Life cause, which is the preeminent issue of our day, deserves our very best efforts.”

Chaput looks back: 'I’m proud of the things that we have done together'

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 23, 2020 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- Four months after submitting his mandatory letter of resignation to Pope Francis, Archbishop Charles Chaput officially stood down as leader of the Philadelphia archdiocese on Thursday.  

With his successor, Bishop Nelson Perez, set to be installed on Feb.18, Chaput enters retirement after 32 years as a bishop -- much of it spent on the national stage, and widely recognized as a spiritual and intellectual leader in the Church in the United States.

Chaput reflected on his vocation as bishop to CNA on Thursday, citing St. Augustine as the model of service he has sought to emulate in his ministry.

“Augustine lived simply, never abandoned his people, and never avoided difficult decisions or issues,” Chaput told CNA.

“That didn't always make him popular. But he served his people sacrificially, as a good father, in a spirit of love. That's the gold standard for a bishop's ministry.”

During his episcopal ministry, and especially as Archbishop of Philadelphia, Chaput faced criticism from secular outlets and within the Church for taking “conservative” stands on leading debates in the Church, including statements discouraging Catholic politicians who support abortion from presenting themselves for Communion and opposing efforts to redefine marriage.

His stances led to him being branded as a “culture warrior” and “political.” Yet, he explained to CNA on Thursday, his pubic stances were required of him as a responsible Catholic leader in the public square.

“Was Augustine ‘political’ for writing City of God? Or for criticizing Roman state corruption and bad officials? Of course not,” Chaput said.

“Politics is a subset of Christian discipleship, and sometimes bishops need to speak and act with conviction in the public square in an unpopular way. That's always been the case.”

“Politics is important, but it's not what the Gospel is about,” he said.

The terms “conservative” and “liberal” when applied to bishops only serves as a way of dividing Catholics within the Church, he said.

“The conservative vs. pastoral narrative is just another tactic to divide the Church against herself. And people who think they're getting a clear sense of Catholic thought and teaching from reading the New York Times are simply feeding their confusion, not healing it.​”

Chaput has served as Archbishop of Philadelphia for more than eight years, overseeing almost 1.3 million Catholics and more than 200 parishes.

Before that, he served for 14 years as Archbishop of Denver, helping start evangelization initiatives like the Augustine Institute, founding the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, as well launching the Centro San Juan Diego to serve the local Hispanic community.

Born in Kansas in 1944, Chaput entered the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in 1965 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1970. He eventually rose to the rank of chief executive and provincial minister of the Capuchin Province of Mid-America.

In 1988, he was ordained bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, and in 1997, he was appointed by Pope St. John Paul II as the archbishop of Denver. Chaput became the second Native American to be ordained bishop in the U.S., and the first as archbishop, as he is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe.

In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Chaput as Archbishop of Philadelphia. His episcopal motto is “As Christ Loved the Church” (Ephesians 5:25).

Chaput also served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 2003 to 2006, and has served on the board of EWTN since 1996. He was appointed the Apostolic Visitor to the Legion of Christ for Canada and the United States in 2009-10.

When appointed to Philadelphia, the archdiocese was reeling from financial problems in the fallout of the sexual abuse crisis, facing an operating deficit of at least $6 million in 2012-13, leaving Chaput with a series of difficult and controversial decisions.

The archdiocese considered closing dozens of its elementary and high schools and partnered with the Faith in the Future foundation for 17 high schools and four special education schools. Chaput also sold off the archbishop’s residence and the summer home for retired priests, as well as other archdiocesan properties.

“Complacency is the enemy of faith. To whatever degree complacency and pride once had a home in our local Church, events in the coming year will burn them out,” Chaput wrote in a pastoral letter during Advent of 2011.

“The process will be painful. But going through it is the only way to renew the witness of the Church; to clear away the debris of human failure from the beauty of God’s word and to restore the joy and zeal of our Catholic discipleship.”

At a Jan. 23 press conference announcing the appointment, Chaput’s successor Archbishop-elect Perez paid tribute to him, saying that he “made calls that, today, have placed the archdiocese in a way better place.”

“Watching him from afar, I saw him make tough decisions. Many times, like a father has to do in a family,” Perez said.

Asked by CNA what he is most proud of in his 32 years as a diocesan bishop, Chaput responded “I don’t think that way.”

“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I’ve accomplished. I’m just grateful to have been the archbishop for eight-and-a-half years,” he said.

He did, however, thank his staff and auxiliary bishops for assisting him with tough decisions, particularly the archdiocese’s pressing financial and sexual abuse problems when he arrived.

He also mentioned the decision to sell the property of St. Charles Borromeo seminary and relocating it to nearby Neumann University. Chaput called that “an extraordinary accomplishment.”

“I’m proud of the things that we have done together,” he said.

Chaput said on Thursday that he will eventually resume responsibilities as archbishop emeritus, including giving talks and retreats, but will spend the next three months on a quieter schedule without regular commitments.

“I am going to continue to be a part of the life of the archdiocese,” he said.

“It’s also important for me to understand that he [Perez] is my archbishop, and I owe him my respect and my obedience, and I do that gladly because I think he’s going to accomplish great things for us, but also with us because the Church is all of us working together,” Chaput said.

“The history of the Church is not the history of bishops, it’s the history of all of us together working for the glory of God.”

Federal money to go to Texas women's health program without abortion providers

Austin, Texas, Jan 23, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- A Texas women’s health program that bars funding for health care providers that perform abortions has been approved for federal funding by the Trump administration, making it the first program to receive federal Medicaid funding while excluding abortion providers.

The Department of Health and Human Services approved the Medicaid waiver for the Healthy Texas Women program, which helps provide health care and family planning services to tens of thousands of women, the Dallas Morning News reports. The waiver is an administrative procedure that allows federal money for states that experiment in new ways to provide health care to the poor and disabled.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott welcomed the waiver, saying, “The Lone Star State is once again in partnership with the federal government to provide meaningful family planning and health services while fostering a culture of life.”

“This collaboration is a symbol of our commitment to championing the lives of Texas women. I am grateful to President Trump and his administration for approving this waiver, and for his commitment to protecting the unborn while providing much-needed health resources to Texas women,” Abbott said Jan. 22.

The Healthy Texas Women program was launched in 2007 under the name the Women’s Health Program. It served about 173,000 low-income women in 2018. The waiver, approved through December 2024, will fund services for over 200,000 clients a year, the governor’s office said. Federal funds will total about $350 million over five years, while the state will contribute about $100 million over that time.

The Obama administration refused to renew federal funding for the program because Texas would not fund abortion providers or affiliates. The funds did not go to abortions.

Before Planned Parenthood was dropped from funding, the organization served about 40 percent of the women in the program, providing birth control, cancer screenings, and other services. The funds did not go to abortions.

As the largest abortion provider in the U.S., however, any funding of Planned Parenthood has drawn critical attention from foes of abortion.

The Trump administration’s action drew praise from pro-life groups.

"Texas is a state that values life, and we are proud to see President Trump stand with us on this issue. Texas is proving it is possible to both care for women and protect life," Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, commented Jan. 23.

“President Trump has repeatedly kept his promise to stop taxpayer funding of the big abortion industry including Planned Parenthood. Abortion is not health care,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “When Texas lawmakers exercised their right to fund women’s health care without underwriting abortion businesses, they were punished by the Obama administration and smeared by abortion activists and their media allies.”

Dannenfelser said that Planned Parenthood’s latest annual report shows “massive increases in both abortions and taxpayer funding at the same time they have seen steep declines in their number of patients, cancer screening and prevention services, breast exams, pap tests, and even contraceptive services.”

“Restoring Texas’s decision regarding use of federal funds is an acknowledgement that the Lone Star State was right all along,” said Dannenfelser, calling on President Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar “to immediately free all states to act on the will of their citizens to support women’s health care without encouraging abortion.”

Planned Parenthood Texas Votes said the waiver upends “longstanding federal policy.”

“Reproductive health care has been under constant attack for more than a decade in Texas and extreme politicians in the state have only been emboldened by support from the Trump administration,” the group said.

The Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning group, said in 2017 that fewer women were being served than before Planned Parenthood was removed from the program. Enrollment dropped by 24% and 39% fewer of those enrolled accessed health centers.

In 2016, the state contracted with the evangelical Heidi Group to help provide services. The group failed to fulfill its promise to serve 50,000 women and the state ended its contract in 2018, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Aiming for pastoral presence in Philadelphia, Perez says he learned from Chaput

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 23, 2020 / 01:35 pm (CNA).- The next Archbishop of Philadelphia said Thursday that he is glad for a homecoming to his native archdiocese, that he is inspired by the example of his predecessor, and that he aims to make pastoral presence the hallmark of his spiritual leadership.

Archbishop-elect Nelson Perez of Philadelphia said at a press conference Jan. 23 he is inspired by the “steadfastness” and “profound faith” of Archbishop Charles Chaput, his predecessor.

“I watched it from afar, learned from him—just watching him—how steadfast he was, and with profound faith, that while things were tough that God would make a way,” Perez said of Chaput who served as Philadelphia’s archbishop since 2011, “that somehow, someway, all things happen for the good of those who love God, as St. Paul said.”

“And he did that many times even in the midst of criticism,” he added, “but he was steadfast in his love for you and his love for the Church.”

On Thursday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput—submitted, according to Church practice, on his 75th birthday in September—and selected one of Philadelphia’ former priests, Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland, as Chaput’s replacement.

Archbishop-elect Perez’s installation Mass will be Feb. 18 at Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Perez served as Cleveland’s bishop since 2017, after serving five years as auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, New York.

When he is installed as archbishop, Perez will oversee almost 1.3 million Catholics and 214 parishes in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia archdiocese will likely face parish and school closures in the months to come. Perez acknowledged he will need to make decisions about those matters soon.

When asked by CNA on Thursday about his pastoral ministry, Perez began with one word: “presence.”

“I’m certainly not going to sit behind a desk. The role of the bishop is to be out and about,” he said, noting that in Cleveland he estimated he spent around 60% of his time visiting parishes and meeting with young people.

Outgoing Archbishop Chaput was often characterized in the press as a “culture warrior” who took “conservative” positions on controversial issues. The New York Times on Thursday suggested Chaput’s successor would embody a different vision for the Church in Philadelphia.

Perez balked at any notion that he and Chaput are at odds as bishops.

“We both definitely walk with the Church,” he told CNA.

During Thursday’s press conference announcing the appointment, Chaput heaped praise on the former Philadelphia priest. Perez, 58 years old, was born in Miami and raised in New Jersey but attended seminary at Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He was ordained a priest of the archdiocese in 1989 and served for more than 20 years before moving to Rockville Centre in 2012.

Chaput told the press that he described his ideal successor last year to the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

“I asked for a successor who would care for and guide our people, speak the truth with conviction and charity, and live a faithful witness to Jesus Christ,” Chaput recalled.

“He [Perez] was enthusiastically supported and very well loved by the people he served as pastor. And for good reason,” Chaput said.

“He’s a good man, a man of deep Catholic faith, with the skills, character, and warmth that will make him an exceptional leader here in Philadelphia. He is exactly the man with exactly the abilities our Church needs.”

Perez admitted he is grateful to come back to the place of his ordination.

“Once a Philadelphia priest, always a Philadelphia priest,” he said on Thursday. “You carry it kind of inside you.”

Regarding his predecessor, “I am concerned of the shoes I have to fill,” Perez said. He noted that even after he left Philadelphia, he and Chaput would text and email each other, and that the archbishop had been a “mentor and brother bishop” to him.
 
When he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre in 2012, Perez said he visited Chaput at his residence. The archbishop disappeared into another room and came back to Perez with a pectoral cross.

“He put it around my neck and he said ‘you are now my brother bishop,’” Perez reflected on Thursday. “And ever since then, he’s been such a great support.”

At Thursday’s press conference, Perez wore the pectoral cross Chaput gave him.

Chaput had to make tough decisions for the good of the archdiocese and the Church, Perez said, “many times like a father has to do in a family.”

“He made calls that today, have placed the archdiocese in a way better place,” he said. “In particular we need to thank God and praise God for this man.”

As the son of Cuban immigrants, Perez has had a longtime focus on Hispanic ministry, leading Hispanic ministry efforts in Philadelphia, Rockville Centre, and on the national stage, as the former chair of the U.S. bishops’ sub-Committee for Hispanic Affairs.

Perez also helped lead the V Encuentro process for the USCCB, a national gathering of more than 3,000 Hispanic Catholic leaders that outlined evangelization priorities for the U.S. Church.

The most pressing issue for the Hispanic Church in the U.S., he told CNA, is reaching second- and third-generation immigrants who are culturally but not linguistically Hispanic. Studies have shown a decline in religious practice with each succeeding generation of immigrant Catholic families.

“We have to create a pastoral style that is Hispanic in culture and nature, but in the English language,” he told CNA.

 

School choice law rooted in anti-Catholicism, Supreme Court hears

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court considered arguments on Wednesday on whether a state bar on public funding for religious groups is discriminatory, or protects them from state interference. At issue during the arguments was the anti-Catholic bigotry which informed the Montana law’s passage

Oral arguments were heard Jan. 22 on the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which involves the 1972 Montana state constitution’s prohibition on public funding of religious institutions.

At issue is a clause in Montana’s 1972 state constitution that goes back to its original constitution of 1889—forbidding public funding “for any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”

In 2015, the Montana state legislature approved a scholarship program for low-income students where tax credits could be claimed for donations to a scholarship fund. The fund would help students attend private schools, including religious schools.

The state’s revenue department blocked the program, saying the state’s constitution barred public funding of schools of a “church, sect, or denomination” and ruling that the scholarships could only be used for secular schools.

In response, several parents sued the state to use the scholarships for religious schools and a Montana trial court ruled in their favor. The state supreme court reversed that decision in 2018, and struck down the program altogether. The case will be decided by the Supreme Court this term.

Opponents of the law say it violates the “Free Exercise” clause of the U.S. Constitution, unlawfully shutting religious groups out of neutral public benefits. They also say the original 1889 clause was passed during a time of anti-Catholic bigotry, to bar Catholic schools from funding that the largely Protestant public school system benefitted from. 

During oral arguments on Wednesday, multiple exchanges focused on the Montana law’s roots in the anti-religious bigotry of the 1800s, and whether its inclusion in Montana’s 1972 constitution was a continuation of that bigotry.

“I mean, I think that in the 1880s, there was undoubtedly grotesque religious bigotry against -- against Catholics,” said Adam Unikowsky, arguing on behalf of the Montana Department of Revenue.

“That was the clear motivation for this,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh replied.

“In the 1972 Constitution, which is where this provision was enacted, I don't think there's any evidence whatsoever of any anti-religious bigotry,” Unikowsky said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor had earlier noted a “long history” of people opposing public funding of religious groups. She implied that Montana in 1972 no longer exercised the anti-Catholic bigotry of the 1800s but still chose to bar public funding of religion in line with the U.S. Constitution’s “Establishment Clause.”

Justice Samuel Alito asked how it wasn’t merely coincidental that laws such as Montana’s occurred in a time of anti-Catholic bigotry.

“I'm not going to get into an argument with you about what happened in 1972, but do you really want to argue that the reason why a lot of this popped up beginning, coincidentally, in the 1840s, at the time of the Irish potato famine, that had nothing to do with discrimination based on religion?” Alito asked.

The brief of the parents before the Supreme Court argued that three separate clauses of the U.S. Constitution—“[t]he Free Exercise, Establishment, and Equal Protection Clauses—all provide that government should be neutral, not hostile, toward religion.

“Prohibiting all religious options in otherwise generally available student-aid programs rejects that neutrality and shows inherent hostility toward religion,” the brief states.

On Wednesday, two leading U.S. bishops said the Espinoza case could decide the legitimacy of anti-religious discrimination in the U.S., and continue historic anti-Catholic bigotry.

Amendments such as Montana’s “were the product of nativism,” read a joint statement of Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, and Bishop Michael Barber, S.J. of Oakland, California, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ education committee.

“They were never meant to ensure government neutrality towards religion, but were expressions of hostility toward the Catholic Church. We hope that the Supreme Court will take this opportunity to bring an end to this shameful legacy,” the bishops said.

After Wednesday’s oral arguments, Eric Baxter, senior counsel at Becket, tweeted that “the justices seemed to agree that excluding students just because they are religious is a clear violation of the Free Exercise Clause.”

Montana’s clause is one of 37 “Blaine Amendments” passed by states in the late 19th century. They are named for James Blaine, a former Speaker of the House (1869-1875), Senator (1876-1881) and Secretary of State (1889-1892) from Maine who pushed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution barring funding of “sectarian” causes and organizations.

At that time, opponents of the law say, Blaine’s effort mainly targeted Catholic schools and institutions. His amendment failed at the federal level but many states including Montana inserted similar language in their constitutions.  

In a 2017 case, the Supreme Court in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer ruled that Missouri’s Blaine Amendment could not block a church-owned playground from applying for state renovation grants, simply on account of its religious status.

However, a concurring opinion from Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch warned that the Court’s language implied a very narrow ruling on “playground resurfacing” cases, and not on general cases of religious groups accessing public funds.

On Wednesday, Justice Elena Kagan distinguished between the Court’s Trinity Lutheran case—regarding access to a “completely secular public benefit” like playground resurfacing grants—and Montana’s case where the scholarship program could be considered by the state to “subsidize religious activity.” 

Justice Stephen Breyer asked if government could provide police protection for all schools but not religious schools, to which Unikowsky answered that it would be unconstitutional to do so, under the Trinity Lutheran decision. However, he said, there was a difference between government “distinguishing among religions”—such as allowing access to benefits for Catholic schools but not Jewish schools—and simply removing itself “out of religion altogether.”

In 1972, religious leaders were some of the supporters of the “no-aid” clause, Unikowsky said, because they warned about “using government leverage to influence religious education.”

Kavanaugh replied that “a religious school that doesn't want to be part of a neutral program doesn't have to be.”

Cleveland's Bishop Nelson Perez to lead Philadelphia archdiocese

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 23, 2020 / 04:25 am (CNA).- Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland was appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia Thursday, returning to the local Church of his priestly ordination.

He succeeds Archbishop Charles Chaput, 75, who had led the Philadelphia archdiocese since 2011. Ordained a priest of the Capuchin Franciscans in 1970, Archbishop Chaput served as Bishop of Rapid City and Archbishop of Denver before his transfer to Philadelphia.

"Bishop Perez is a man who already knows and loves the Church in Philadelphia, and is already known and loved by our priests and people. I cannot think of a better successor to lead this Archdiocese," Chaput wrote online following the announcement.

Bishop Perez, 58, was born in Miami to Cuban parents, and grew up in New Jersey. He is the first Hispanic bishop to lead the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

"I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for this appointment and his confidence in me," Perez said Jan. 23.

"It is with great joy tinged with a sense of sadness that I accept the appointment -- joy that I will be returning to serve the archdiocese in which I was ordained to the priesthood, where I served as the pastor of two parishes and where I held several leadership positions within the archdiocese, and sadness that I will be leaving an area and the incredible people in Northeast Ohio I have come to love deeply,” he said.

After pastoral and Hispanic ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Perez was named in 2012 an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, and was consecrated a bishop that July.

As auxiliary bishop he was episcopal vicar of Long Island’s eastern vicariate and oversaw the Hispanic apostolates of the diocese.

In 2017 he was appointed Bishop of Cleveland.

When a 'heartbeat bill' was signed into law in Ohio last year, he said it represented “a major step forward in efforts to protect the sanctity of life.”

“Pope Francis reminds us that all life has inestimable value – even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor – are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect,” he said. “Always remembering that God is the creator and we are not, I encourage everyone to pray that the world grows in its respect for life, from conception to natural death, and to build awareness to reaffirm the Gospel teaching about the gift of life.”

Perez was part of the delegation that presented the conclusion of the National V Encuentro of Hispanic and Latino Ministry to Pope Francis in September 2019.

Bishop Perez, who chairs the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, told CNA at the time that some of the fruit of Encuentro has been the “emerging leadership, in so many ways, of the next generation of leaders and pastoral lay leaders in the church in the United States,” which he called “really promising and very hopeful.”

“The V Encuentro is really in so many ways the implementation of the joy of the Gospel. So the whole process, the spirit, the mysticism of the spirituality revolves all around the joy of the Gospel,” Bishop Perez said.

Noting that deportations have taken place in the Cleveland diocese, Bishop Perez said one of the blessings of the V Encuentro was that “it comes at a time of that uncertainty and fear and became, in so many ways, a soothing balm where people would come together and support each other, accompany each other and strengthen each other in a very tumultuous time.”

After a June 2018 immigration raid in the diocese, the bishop said the event “makes clear that our current immigration system contributes to the human suffering of migrants and the separation of families.”

While recognizing “the role of our government in enforcing current immigration law,” Bishop Perez also voiced “great sadness for the families whose lives have been disrupted following the large-scale immigration action.”

“The Church is advocating for comprehensive and compassionate reform of our immigration system so that persons are able to obtain legal status in our country and enter the United States legally to work and support their families. Since this is a responsibility of our Congress, I would encourage you to speak with your legislators advocating for reform of our present system.”

Perez will be installed as the Archbishop of Philadelphia on Feb. 18.

Minnesota abuse survivors to speak at 'restorative justice' conference

St. Paul, Minn., Jan 22, 2020 / 09:05 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is set to open a conference for survivors of clerical sexual abuse on Thursday, with the goal of bringing healing and “restorative justice” to survivors.

The archdiocese, in conjunction with the Office of the Ramsey County Attorney, is set to open the first annual Restorative Justice and Reconciliation Conference Jan. 23.

The conference will include presentations from key figures in the archdiocese, including Archbishop Bernard Hebda, alongside the Minnesota director of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, who will discuss how the Church has responded to cases of sexual abuse in the past five years, according to diocesan outreach coordinator Paula Kaempffer.

Kaempffer, herself a survivor of clergy abuse, told CNA that as of Wednesday organizers expect at least 82 attendees, and the conference is open to the public.

In addition to the presentations, there is set to be a 5-person panel of the survivors of sexual abuse, who will take questions from the audience.

Kaempffer, as emcee of the conference, told CNA that she plans to ask the panelists first: "What has been the effect of clergy sexual abuse on your life?" and secondly "What steps have you taken to heal from this trauma?"

Gina Barthel, a hospice nurse and victim-survivor of clerical sexual abuse, is set to be one of the panelists.

“I hope that anyone in the Church who has felt the great sorrow and pain and impact of clergy abuse would be encouraged to attend this event, so they can see where the Church is, at least in our archdiocese today, and see how much we've grown and changed and are promoting a culture that is victim-friendly, and also that is really working hard to prevent further clergy abuse," Barthel told CNA in an interview Wednesday.

Barthel said she has seen marked improvement in the archdiocese’ response to abuse cases since she first came forward with her story of abuse in 2007.

"Initially, when I came forward back in 2007, the archdiocese at that time did a horrible job. And it caused me greater pain than healing, and was very, very frustrating,” Barthel told CNA.

“And so the beauty is, now, that same office is staffed with people who are very competent, intelligent, caring, and really working to help bring victims to healing, which is very beautiful."

Barthel said that the archdiocesan safe environment office, in contrast to 2007, is today very victim-survivor focused. She said when she originally came forward, it seemed that the office was focused on protecting the Church, rather than helping survivors.

With the current administration, she said, she never gets the feeling that they're trying unfairly to protect or defend the Church, nor give “lip service” to survivors. 

"It's often the case that the victims are the ones that end up suffering more if they come forward. And with the current administration in our archdiocese, I think that's just not the case,” Barthel said.

“They want you to come forward, they want you to share your story, and they're going to walk with you through that journey. And that's really powerful as a victim, because we don't always experience that. And that's just very beautiful."

Barthel said one of the first people she called to tell about her story of abuse was the mother superior of the religious community she was a part of at the time.

"Her immediate response, the first words off of her lips were 'I believe you,'" Barthel recalled.

"And for a victim, I think that's very healing and affirming. Let the victim of any type of abuse know that you believe them. Make sure, especially for clergy, I think it's important for clergy to recognize that they're not therapists. And to make sure that they help direct the person to get professional therapeutic help as well."

Barthel has previously told CNA about the help offered her by Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who first met with Barthel in 2014 after she contacted him telling him she was a victim of clerical abuse and asking to meet with him.

Barthel said the main thing that Bishop Cozzens did right was that he listened.

"I think what he did right was first, he listened. He believed me, he listened,” she said.

“And he has been very patient in walking with my journey back to living a life of faith, and that's been really helpful because I've never felt pressured.”

She also said the most comforting thing Cozzens often would say to her is “Jesus understands.”

“And so when I'm struggling— and living the life of faith sometimes is difficult for me— his response will be 'Jesus understands.' And that's always been very freeing for me, actually, and healing," she said.

Barthel said she hopes to be able to give advice and support to fellow victim-survivors at the conference, especially if they have not yet managed to tell the Church or law enforcement about their abuse.

"The very first thing that I tell people is that I believe them," Barthel advised.

"Because it's not my place to try and find out if they're telling the truth or not. So the very first thing I do is to tell them that I believe them, and to reassure them that they're not alone.”

She said she will then encourage the person to go to the police, offering to go with them if they don't feel comfortable. She said she will also offer to reach out to the Archdiocesan Victim Advocate Office, again offering to go with them.

“In addition to that, I encourage them to find a therapist, and if they need that we have resources in our diocese for finding therapists that work with victims," she said.

Despite the improvements in the Church’s response in Minnesota that Barthel has witnessed, she remains critical of the response in many areas of the Church to sexual abuse of adults by clergy— which is what happened to her.

Barthel was abused by a now-laicized priest as an adult, in the context of a spiritual direction relationship. Her abuser, Jim Montanaro— who admitted to abusing other adult women— is now working as a photographer in Massachusetts.

"Where I think the Church in our archdiocese and across the world is failing is how we deal with victims who are adults who have been abused,” Barthel said.

“With a child, it's always very clear-cut that it's illegal, and it's immoral, and it's wrong. With an adult, in not every state is it illegal for a priest to have sexual relations with an adult."

His former religious order, the Oblates of the Blessed Virgin Mary, have declined to name Montanaro as a sexual abuser. Barthel worries that he remains a risk to women.

“It seems that his religious community that he was a part of has a moral obligation, an ethical obligation, to make that public for the good of society, not just for the good of the Church, but for the good of society.”

By the time Barthel had mustered the courage to go to the police with her abuse story, she missed the statute of limitations by less than a month.

"In my case, the only way that it was able to be made public was by my voice, and that doesn't seem right to me...If there's no criminal charges, then the person's name will never be made public, unless the Church does the right thing and makes it public,” she said.
Barthel emphasized the importance of victim-survivors supporting each other.

"Walking with a victim of abuse, any type of abuse, is not for the faint of heart. There's lots of challenges that go along with that, and having good boundaries for someone who's been abused is very important," she advised.

In addition to the speakers, the Restorative Justice and Reconciliation Conference is also set to include “healing circles,” in which participants sit at round tables and speak, one at a time, on a prompt offered by a moderator.

Often times, Barthel said, the leader will ask a single question, such as "What has been the effect of clergy sexual abuse on your life?" and each participant will answer without interruption or discussion.

Barthel said the wide range of participants, all in different stages of healing, make the experience of healing circles, for her, “actually very powerful and very beautiful.”

"We're all together in our pain, but we can be together in our healing as well," she commented.

Barthel said beyond the networks of friends and supporters who have helped her along her journey of healing, a huge part of her recovery— in her words, 90%— has been accomplished through time spent in Adoration.

"The large majority of my healing, especially the deep spiritual healing that I needed...the deepest healing has just come from sitting with Jesus in adoration, in the silence, and having conversations with Him, just in my heart, heart-to-heart with Him,” she said.

“Mostly just sitting in the silence and letting the power of the Eucharist and His presence in the Eucharist heal and transform my wounded heart."

 

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 Sm 18:6-9; 19:1-7

When David and Saul approached
(on David’s return after slaying the Philistine),
women came out from each of the cities of Israel to meet King Saul,
singing and dancing, with tambourines, joyful songs, and sistrums.
The women played and sang:

“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”

Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought:
“They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me.
All that remains for him is the kingship.”
And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.

Saul discussed his intention of killing David
with his son Jonathan and with all his servants.
But Saul’s son Jonathan, who was very fond of David, told him:
“My father Saul is trying to kill you.
Therefore, please be on your guard tomorrow morning;
get out of sight and remain in hiding.
I, however, will go out and stand beside my father
in the countryside where you are, and will speak to him about you.
If I learn anything, I will let you know.”

Jonathan then spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him:
“Let not your majesty sin against his servant David,
for he has committed no offense against you,
but has helped you very much by his deeds.
When he took his life in his hands and slew the Philistine,
and the LORD brought about a great victory
for all Israel through him,
you were glad to see it.
Why, then, should you become guilty of shedding innocent blood
by killing David without cause?”
Saul heeded Jonathan’s plea and swore,
“As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed.”
So Jonathan summoned David and repeated the whole conversation to him.
Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and David served him as before.

Responsorial Psalm 56:2-3, 9-10a, 10b-11, 12-13

R.    (5b)  In God I trust; I shall not fear.
Have mercy on me, O God, for men trample upon me;
all the day they press their attack against me.
My adversaries trample upon me all the day;
yes, many fight against me.
R.    In God I trust; I shall not fear.
My wanderings you have counted;
my tears are stored in your flask;
are they not recorded in your book?
Then do my enemies turn back,
when I call upon you.
R.    In God I trust; I shall not fear.
Now I know that God is with me.
In God, in whose promise I glory,
in God I trust without fear;
what can flesh do against me?
R.    In God I trust; I shall not fear.
I am bound, O God, by vows to you;
your thank offerings I will fulfill.
For you have rescued me from death,
my feet, too, from stumbling;
that I may walk before God in the light of the living.
R.    In God I trust; I shall not fear.

Alleluia 2 Tm 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.
A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.
Hearing what he was doing,
a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem,
from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan,
and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd,
so that they would not crush him.
He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases
were pressing upon him to touch him.
And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him
and shout, “You are the Son of God.”
He warned them sternly not to make him known.

 

 

For the readings of the Optional Memorial of Saint Vincent, please go here.

For the readings of the Optional Memorial of Saint Marianne Cope, please go here.

- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Survey finds significant 'pro-choice' support for abortion regulations

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Americans favor returning abortion restrictions to the states, favor a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and are favorable to voting for politicians who would restrict abortion. This is according to a survey that finds unexpected support for these policies among those who self-identify as pro-choice.

The results come from a January 2020 Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the U.S.

The survey weighs American opinion as observers speculate the U.S. Supreme Court will revisit the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and other precedents mandating legal abortion nationwide.

“Most Americans want the court to reinterpret Roe either by stopping legalized abortion or by returning the issue to the states,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said Jan. 22.

According to the survey, 55% of Americans back a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 45% of pro-choice respondents backed such a ban, as did 69% of self-identified pro-life respondents.

41% of respondents who identified as pro-choice said they are more likely to vote for candidates who support abortion restrictions. More than 90% of those who identified as pro-life said the same.

Anderson said the support for abortion restrictions among pro-choice Americans “shows how misleading it is to conflate the term ‘pro-choice’ with support for radically pro-abortion position that calls for unrestricted abortion.”

About 65% of respondents said they are more likely to vote for candidates who would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy, at most. Broken down by party affiliation, 88% of Republicans, 62% of unaffiliated voters, and 44% of Democrats said this.

At the same time, the survey indicated that 55% of Americans self-identify as pro-choice, while 40% identify as pro-life.

The survey indicated Americans would be favorable to changes in the abortion status quo if the Supreme Court revisits Roe v. Wade: 46% of respondents said the Supreme Court should allow states to determine abortion restrictions. Another 16% wanted the high court to make abortion illegal, while 33% said the court should allow unrestricted legal abortion at any time in pregnancy.

When considering voter dedication to their views of abortion and legal protections for unborn children, “intensity is stronger on the pro-life side,” the Knights of Columbus summary of the survey said. About 45% of self-identified pro-life respondents said abortion is a “major factor” in their vote for president, compared to 35% of self-identified pro-choice respondents.

Asked if laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child, 80% of respondents said they could.

An “overwhelming majority” of respondents, 75% vs. 21%, opposed taxpayer funding of abortion overseas. About 60% oppose taxpayer funding of abortion in the U.S. Another 52% of Americans back requiring ultrasounds for women before they have abortions.

The Marist Poll survey of 1,237 adults was conducted Jan. 7 to Jan. 12. It claims a statistical significance of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. Among the 1,070 registered voters who responded, the survey claims statistical significance of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

President Donald Trump to attend March for Life on Friday 

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 04:53 pm (CNA).- U.S. President Donald Trump will address the national March for Life in person on Friday, making him the first president in the event’s 47-year history to do so, organizers announced.

“See you on Friday...Big Crowd!” the president said Wednesday in a retweet of a video from last year’s march, posted by the national March for Life account.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said in a statement that the organizers of the Washington, D.C., event are “deeply honored” to welcome Trump to the march.

“He will be the first president in history to attend and we are so excited for him to experience in person how passionate our marchers are about life and protecting the unborn,” she said.

She also praised the efforts Trump and his administration have made in increasing legal protections for the unborn.

“From the appointment of pro-life judges and federal workers, to cutting taxpayer funding for abortions here and abroad, to calling for an end to late-term abortions, President Trump and his Administration have been consistent champions for life and their support for the March for Life has been unwavering,” Mancini said. “We are grateful for all these pro-life accomplishments and look forward to gaining more victories for life in the future.”

Many of Trump’s pro-life policies - such as the restoration and expansion of the Mexico City Policy, which bars U.S. aid to foreign organizations that perform or promote abortions as a means of family planning - have been praised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, while his crackdowns on immigration have frequently drawn criticism from the bishops.

Other political speakers at the March for Life this year will include First Lady of Louisiana Donna Hutto Edwards, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), state senator Katrina Jackson (D-LA), and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).

While Trump will be the first U.S. president to address the March in person, President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush also delivered messages to the March for Life remotely via telephone in previous years.

In his 2004 message, Bush thanked the marchers for their “devotion to such a noble cause” and encouraged them to “continue with civility and respect to remind our fellow citizens that all life is sacred and worthy of protection,” the New York Times reported.

In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence became the highest-ranking politician to address the March for Life in person. He encouraged attendees to let the pro-life movement be known “for love, not anger...let it be known for compassion, not confrontation.”

In 2018, U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan spoke at the March for Life while President Trump addressed attendees of the march via a videocast from the White House Rose Garden.

Last year, Trump also addressed the March via a pre-recorded message, which was introduced in person by Vice President Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence.

“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child we see the beauty of the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation, we know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting,” the president said last year. “I will always protect the first right in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life.”