Wichita, Kan., Mar 20, 2010 (CNA) - Msgr. Thomas McGread, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas who formed Christian stewards in his many years of ministry, often said the textbook of stewardship is the Word of God. The Diocese of Wichita has developed a series called “The Spirituality of Stewardship” to help parishes form the next generation of stewards.
“This formation series is an attempt to help people understand that the heart of stewardship is the truth that God is love and God’s love is life itself,” Fr. Lanzrath said. “This year, 2010, is the 25th anniversary since the Diocese of Wichita embraced stewardship in 1985. We have a second generation now, if you will, and the formation has to precede the service,” he added.
When Bishop Michael O. Jackels became bishop of the diocese in 2005, Father Lanzrath said, he knew the diocese was a stewardship diocese but was surprised when the parishes he visited had various understandings of what stewardship is.
“So he came back to the diocesan stewardship council and asked us in 2007 to come up with a clear, concise, easily-remembered, teachable definition of stewardship in 25 words or less,” Fr. Lanzrath said.
The council worked for a number of months and crafted a sentence inspired by the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter on the subject: “Stewardship is the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.”
Father Lanzrath said with a common understanding of what stewardship is, he hopes his office will be able to use that as the base foundation for stewardship being lived in the parishes.
“Some people mistakenly think that stewardship is about the treasure or it’s some kind of development or fundraising,” he said. “But, as a spiritual way of life, once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus Christ then stewardship is not an option – and that’s the opening sentence of the bishop’s pastoral letter. That once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, then stewardship is not an option because we’re living our faith and sharing the gifts that God has given us and we’re doing it with the intention of love of God and love of neighbor.”
There’s a big difference, though, between giving for love of neighbor and giving out of obligation. Father Lanzrath hopes that message gets to everyone in the diocese.
“The stewardship council of each parish will be formed using this new formation series and then, it is hoped, that the stewardship council will facilitate this formation of all parish leaders.”
Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical was “Deus Caritas Est,” God is Love, Fr. Lanzrath said, and 1 John 4:16 states: “God is love and who ever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him.”
God’s life is love itself and God invites us to share in the life of God, Fr. Lanzrath added.
“And if we lose sight that our destination is the kingdom of God then we become lost,” he said. “In a special way during Lent, the focus of many of the readings are that we are on a journey and that journey is God’s kingdom. And if in fact we become lost on the way, we risk our eternal salvation.”
So stewardship is the response with a heart of gratitude to recognize and receive God’s gifts and share those gifts, Fr. Lanzrath said. “And again…why am I doing this? Because somebody tells me? No, I’m doing this out of love, a love of God and a love of neighbor.”
Printed with permission from The Catholic Advance, newspaper for the Diocese of Wichita.
Mosul, Iraq, Mar 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Christian man was killed in Mosul, Iraq on Wednesday, reports the Christian Post. Sabah Gurgis, 55, a shopkeeper who sells eye glasses was shot from the back by gunmen in an unmarked car using a pistol silencer. Gurgis was near the school of Shamoon Al-Safa while he was on his way to work.
“Unknown armed men driving an unmarked car killed Sabah Gurgis while he was on his way to work this morning,” Police Major Khalid Mahmud told Agence France-Presse shortly after the shooting. “One of the men opened fire on him before escaping.”
Gurgis, who was married and the father of at least one child, is a member of the minority Chaldean Catholic community. His death follows a recent string of violence against Christians and occurs just weeks after hundreds of Iraqi Christians protested the government's alleged inaction to these incidents.
The Christian Post also cited a United Nations report, stating that more than 680 Christian families, or over 4,000 people, fled Mosul between February 20 and 27.
Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - While the U.S. Bishops are encouraging the faithful to call their representatives and ask them to oppose Senate legislation because of federal funding for abortion, the group Catholics United and other left-leaning groups are running interference, allowing lawmakers to justify ignoring the guidance of the bishops on the critical moral and political issues contained in the bill.
In a recent email sent to supporters, Chris Korzen, the head of Catholics United, urges Catholics to “ keep the pressure up,” saying, “(h)ealth care reform is coming down to the wire, and abortion is the last sticking point.”
“The bishops' staff claim that the Senate bill expands federal financing of abortion,” Korzen writes. “That’s simply not true. Independent news outlets and policy experts have confirmed that the Senate health care bill explicitly prohibits federal financing of abortion. Despite this, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are still opposing reform.”
“The bishops need to hear the truth about what health care reform will - and will not - do. Join us in calling the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago,” Korzen adds. “Let him know that Catholics in the pews want the bishops to get their facts straight and support health care reform.”
The Catholics United head then gives the number to Cardinal George's archdiocesan office and says that “(h)opefully if Cardinal George hears from enough of us, the bishops will get better information about what’s in the bill and drop their opposition to reform.”
Colleen Dolan, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA on Friday that although they “have received some calls,” they “receive all types of calls everyday.”
“There is no way to determine if they are part of a campaign,” she added.
Korzen's group has also led a TV campaign across 8 congressional districts featuring ads that claim to “set the record straight” about the “false allegations” surrounding Senate bill abortion funding. In an Friday email to CNA, Korzen said that the ad campaign has a budget of “six figures,” but he would not disclose specifics of who is funding the campaign. “Money comes from same sources as all our ad campaigns: private donors, foundations who share catholic values,” he said.
In contrast to this, the U.S. bishops launched an effort on March 15 to ask Catholics to “take action” and call their congressional leaders to inform them of the deficiencies of the bill. The Conference also posted resource materials on their website explaining the flaws in the health care bill on Thursday.
“As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable,” a statement announcing the March 15 effort begins.
“Health care reform should provide access to affordable and quality health care for all, and not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country,” the statement adds. “Genuine health care reform is being blocked by those who insist on reversing widely supported policies against federal funding of abortion and plans which include abortion, not by those working simply to preserve these longstanding protections.”
“The U.S. Senate rejected this policy and passed health care reform that requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions through a separate payment solely to pay for abortion. And the affordability credits for very low income families purchasing private plans in a Health Insurance Exchange are inadequate and would leave families financially vulnerable.”
“Outside the abortion context, neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers,” the statement underscores.
New Orleans, La., Mar 20, 2010 (CNA) - Still more Catholic prelates have voiced opposition to the Senate version of the health care bill as the bishops of Louisiana tell their flocks that they “strongly support” the U.S. bishops’ conference’s position on the legislation. Claims that the bill will not provide funding for abortions are “mistaken” and “inaccurate” they say.
“It is our belief that the Senate bill fails to maintain longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion and does not include adequate conscience protections. Therefore, the bishops of Louisiana are disappointed in both the inaccurate interpretations of some within the church, as well as the confusion that this has caused,” the state’s bishops said on Thursday.
“Our focus continues to be to advocate for health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all, while being both accessible and affordable. Please pray for those who represent us in Congress that they will re-examine the health care bill.”
Archbishop of New Orleans Gregory M. Aymond and his auxiliary Shelton J. Fabre were among the signatories to the letter. The other prelates were Bishops Sam G. Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux, Michael Jarrell of Lafayette, Robert W. Muench of Baton Rouge, Ronald P. Herzog of Alexandria, Glen John Provost of Lake Charles and Michael G. Duca of Shreveport.
Boston, Mass., Mar 20, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, yesterday criticized organizations such as the Catholic Health Association and Network for supporting a health care bill that will halt decades of government neutrality on the issue of abortion.
"Health care is such an important issue for the United States. It’s very disturbing to see that there seems to be a rush to push through legislation without carefully weighing all of the consequences," wrote Cardinal O'Malley on his blog.
"I think it’s unfortunate that some Catholic groups have not paid close enough attention to what the bishops are saying regarding the present legislation. It would undermine the Hyde Amendment and put us at the mercy of regulations that could very easily be altered."
"As many studies have shown," the Cardinal explained, “the vast majority of Americans favored the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal money from being used to pay for abortions. The only thing we are asking is that this be enshrined in the new legislation."
"In our enthusiasm for universal health care, we cannot underestimate the importance of having a strong and firm backing for the principles of the Hyde Amendment incorporated into this legislation. The administration should take more time to craft legislation that will create a consensus in the country rather than trying to force through this legislation by using procedural gimmicks," Cardinal O'Malley concluded.
U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, has said he will vote against the Senate bill because he thought most of the U.S. House bill's provisions enacting “significant reform” have been stripped, WBUR.org reports.
Congressman Lynch has been attacked in television ads paid for by "Catholics United," a pro-Obama lobbying organization.
Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops’ conference has better policy expertise on the health care bill than any other Catholic organization, Richard Doerflinger has said. He warned about “reassuring” claims that prevent “honest and candid debate” on abortion provisions that Congressmen have a moral responsibility to change.
Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said that the present Senate version of health care reform frees up “billions” of dollars for abortion. It also creates a “stunning” problem by forcing health plans that cover abortions to collect a separate monthly payment from enrollees to pay for others’ abortions.
“This actually bans conscientious exemptions. It makes the situation worse than it is now,” he continued.
His remarks came at a Friday press conference with several pro-life leaders. Multiple questions centered upon Catholic groups which support the legislation despite the well-known opposition of the USCCB.
CNA asked him about a letter endorsing the Senate bill which was wrongly reported to represent 59,000 religious sisters.
Doerflinger said many of the signatories, organized by the group NETWORK, were religious superiors who later clarified they didn’t necessarily speak for all the sisters in their orders.
“59,000 is the total number of nuns in the US. There’s already another major organization, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which represents many orders, that has put out a statement defending what the bishops are doing on this bill.”
In long run, he continued, Catholics have to have “a lot of discussions in the Church about how to stand together on these things, rather than trying to neutralize each other. Especially when one organization in particular has the role of speaking for the moral voice of the Church in these matters.”
That organization, the USCCB, also has “policy expertise” about the acceptability of legislation to the Church’s convictions in matters of life and justice. The Conference has focused on explaining the flaws of the Senate bill, documenting its case in order to show it is “not just an interest group that has an opinion.”
“We’ve actually researched the facts. We know how bad it is. That’s something that no other Catholic organization really can do with the depth that we’ve done.”
While Doerflinger did not mention Catholics United by name, the pro-Obama group has charged that the USCCB is opposing the Senate bill legislation despite “overwhelming evidence” allegedly refuting its “mistaken belief” that the bill expands public financing of abortion.
Catholics United is also running advertisements that pressure Congressmen to vote for the Senate bill. Its campaign in a West Virginia district was criticized by the local diocese for “misleading” and “confusing” Catholics.
At the Friday conference one questioner pressed Doerflinger about whether the Catholic bishops have capably informed Congress and other Catholic groups about the effects of the Senate bill.
“It’s not a matter of not communicating, it’s that there are things about the bill that people don’t believe or don’t want to believe. Unless they’ve been immersed in this policy work on abortion, they don’t necessarily understand that the rules on abortion are different than almost any other thing."
Supporters of the legislation “sincerely and with some reason believe that it’s going to help a lot of people,” in Doerflinger’s view, and have not let themselves focus on the abortion aspects.
“The USCCB’s focus is not to dismiss other concerns, but to say ‘you cannot do this kind of evil on this kind of level’.”
In a prior question at the conference a reporter from CNSNews.com asked whether a member of Congress can morally vote for health care reform if the Senate bill’s abortion provisions are not changed.
The USCCB official said it depends on the exact action of the Congressman. If he reviews the legislation, sees “all the ramifications” and concludes it will greatly expand funding for taking an innocent human life, that person should “morally see it as his or her responsibility to demand change.”
“It’s wrong for public figures to deliberately and knowingly promote and provide funding for that kind of taking of life.”
In response to a question from Julia Duin of the Washington Times, Doerflinger acknowledged that there have been “confusion” and “victims of confusion” in the debate.
He noted that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius had reassured some supporters that regulations were in place and that the Obama administration did not want to fund abortion.
That sounds “really lovely” to someone without a policy background, but is “totally irrelevant” because federal statute trumps federal regulation, Doerflinger commented. Abortion has a court mandate “unless Congress stops it specifically.”
“The Hyde Amendment doesn’t cover this bill, so it is irrelevant. But you have to have a certain amount of background and training and experience in this to know that.
“Some people are just believing statements on their face that look reassuring, but are actually being used to prevent honest and candid debate.”
Though Catholics must deal with “frayed nerves” and divisions on policy, in Doerflinger’s view divisions on moral teaching weren’t at the root of most of the differences in the present debate.
Tom McClusky, the senior vice president of the Family Research Council (FRC), who also addressed the press conference, was less conciliatory.
He charged that some advocates of the Senate health care bill were repeating 2008 election tactics to attract support from undecided Christians.
“All they needed to do was plant the seeds of doubt and not worry about the facts so much, and attack those who disagree with them.
“Richard himself has been a victim of some of those attacks, and the USCCB certainly has been.”
Vatican City, Mar 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The healing power of Jesus Christ’s self-sacrificing love can free even those in “the darkest and most hopeless situations,” wrote Pope Benedict in a Pastoral Letter to the Church in Ireland. The “intense” letter voiced sorrow to abuse victims while urging reparation for sins.
In a pastoral letter released on Saturday, the Holy Father urged victims to find solace and communion with the Church through a relationship with Jesus Christ, who was also "a victim of injustice and sin." He exhorted abuse victims to look to the wounds of the Savior’s unjust suffering.
Calling for all of the faithful of Ireland to turn to the Gospel for renewal, the Holy Father explained again that the cases of abuse "deeply disturbed" him. He proposed measures for guidance on the path of healing, renewal and reparation.
"I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them," he wrote to Irish Catholics.
To the victims of abuse and their families, he said "you have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured.
"Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated."
Relating that it is "understandable" that they may find it difficult to forgive or reconcile with the Church, he added "In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel."
"I ask you not to lose hope,” he continued. “It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering."
Noting that it might be difficult for some of the victims to even set foot in a church, he explained that the power of evil is broken and mankind is “reborn to life and hope” in Christ’s own wounds, “transformed by his redemptive sufferings.”
"Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God’s children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said."
Recalling the long history of Irish Catholicism, he remarked that the factors which contributed to abuse “have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.”
"I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ’s infinite love for each one of you.”
"I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace."
Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that the Irish Catholic community must now face the task of addressing the abuse crisis with "courage and determination," though its resolution will not be swift.
"Perseverance and prayer are needed, with great trust in the healing power of God’s grace," he indicated.
The Church in Ireland must "acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenseless children."
"Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future."
Addressing abusive priests and religious in Ireland he wrote: "you betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals."
Calling for accountability, repentance and atonement, he told them "God's justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing."
"Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God's mercy," he exhorted.
Addressing the bishops of Ireland, he condemned "grave errors of judgment” and “failures of leadership.”
Along with making a full implementation of canon law in cases of child abuse, he ordered the episcopacy to “continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence."
It is "imperative" that child safety norms be revised and updated to ensure their application "fully and impartially in conformity with canon law."
"Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have concentrated our lives."
He asked the bishops to deepen their pastoral concern for their flock and to offer encouragement to priests to "stir up the flame of their love for Christ and their commitment to the service of their brothers and sisters."
Pope Benedict invited current priests and religious to "cooperate closely with those in authority" and "reaffirm your faith in Christ, your love of his Church and your confidence in the Gospel's promise of redemption, forgiveness and interior renewal."
"In this way," he added, "you will demonstrate for all to see that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more."
The Holy Father called upon all the faithful to persevere along the path “marked out by the Gospel."
Providing some proposals for healing, reconciliation and renewal, the Holy Father invited all the faithful to offer their Friday penances until Easter of 2011 for the "outpouring of God's mercy and the Holy Spirit's gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country."
He asked the Irish faithful to offer up their fasting, prayer, Scripture reading and works of mercy for "the grace of healing and renewal” for the Church in Ireland, with particular attention to Eucharistic Adoration.
"Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful."
"I am confident that this program will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God’s own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free," he wrote.
He also proposed the plan for the organization of an Apostolic Visitation to "assist the local Church on her path of renewal."
The pontiff urged a nationwide Mission to be held for all bishops, priests and religious to "rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ."
The Holy Father commended the priests of Ireland to the intercession of Saint John Mary Vianney, praying that the Irish priesthood be revitalized.
In closing, he included a prayer of his own composition for the Irish Church’s guidance, comfort, reconciliation and renewal.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See, presented the Holy Father's Pastoral Letter to the press on Saturday morning at the Vatican. He called the wording of the document "very strong" and "intense."
Cardinal Sean Brady, at Mass in the Cathedral of Armagh, welcomed the letter, calling Saturday "a very historic day for the Catholics of Ireland."
Vatican City, Mar 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A third plenary meeting in as many years will take place in the Vatican next week between representatives of the Catholic Church in China and superiors from the Roman Curia. Like last year, formation will again be the topic of discussions.
The Holy See has announced the March 22-24 plenary meeting between Chinese and Vatican representatives.
Representatives first visited in March of 2008 to speak about the May 2007 Letter from the Holy Father to Chinese Catholics.
During three days of meetings, the commission discussed the reception of the Pope's Letter. It examined the theological principles proposed therein and their function within the Chinese Catholic community.
In spring of 2009, the second plenary meeting studied permanent formation for the priesthood and the human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation of seminarians and consecrated religious.
The third meeting will further examine formation "so that in China, as in the rest of the world, the work of priests and consecrated people helps the Church to incarnate the Gospel and give witness to it," reads the Vatican statement.
This topic will also be examined in light of the challenges that the "evolution of social and cultural conditions" present.
The communiqué announcing the event relates that the commission was instituted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 to study “questions of greatest importance regarding the life of the Catholic Church in China." Commission members include superiors of Vatican dicasteries and representatives of the Chinese episcopate and religious congregations.
Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2010 (CNA) - In a final, urgent plea to prevent the passage of the current form of the Senate health care bill, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Saturday evening sent a letter to Congressmen asking them to vote “no.”
“For decades,” the letter says, “the United States Catholic bishops have supported universal health care. The Catholic Church teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential for human life and dignity.”
“Our community of faith,” the bishops continue, “provides health care to millions, purchases health care for tens of thousands and addresses the failings of our health care system in our parishes, emergency rooms and shelters. This is why we as bishops continue to insist that health care reform which truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all is a moral imperative and an urgent national priority.”
Nevertheless, they add, “we are convinced that the Senate legislation now presented to the House of Representatives on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis sadly fails this test and ought to be opposed.”
The letter is signed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chairman of the Committee of Pro-life Activities; Bishop William F. Murphy, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop John C. Wester, Chairman of the Committee on Migration.
“Why do we take this position, when we have a long record of support for health care reform?” the USCCB letter asks, answering that the fundamental objections can be summarized in two points.
First, the bishops argue that health care reform “must protect life and conscience, not threaten them." The Senate bill "extends abortion coverage, allows federal funds to pay for elective abortions (for example, through a new appropriation for services at Community Health Centers that bypasses the Hyde amendment), and denies adequate conscience protection to individuals and institutions."
"Simply put," the letter to Representatives continues, "health care reform ought to continue to apply both parts of the Hyde amendment, no more and no less."
The bishops also argue that, despite claims to the contrary, "the status quo prohibits the federal government from funding or facilitating plans that include elective abortion. The Senate bill clearly violates this prohibition by providing subsidies to purchase such plans."
"While the Senate provides for one plan without abortion coverage in each exchange, those who select another plan in an exchange to better meet the special needs of their families will be required to pay a separate mandatory abortion fee into a fund exclusively for abortions. This new federal requirement is a far more direct imposition on the consciences of those who do not wish to pay for the destruction of unborn human life than anything currently in federal law."
Thus the bishops insist that "it is not those who require that the Hyde Amendment be fully applied who are obstructing reform, since this is the law of the land and the will of the American people."
"Rather, those who insist on expanding federal participation in abortion, require people to pay for other people’s abortions, and refuse to incorporate essential conscience protections (both within and beyond the abortion context) are threatening genuine reform. With conscience protection as with abortion funding, our goal is simply to preserve the status quo," the letter argues.
The second point of objection, the USCCB says, is that "universal coverage should be truly universal. People should never be denied coverage because they can’t afford it, because of where they live or work, or because of where they come from and when they got here."
"The Senate bill would not only continue current law that denies legal immigrants access to Medicaid for five years, but also prohibit undocumented immigrants from buying insurance for their families in the exchanges using their own money. These provisions could leave immigrants and their families worse off, and also hurt the public health of our nation," the USCCB explains.
The bishops regret that the House leadership is “ignoring the pleas of pro-life members for essential changes in the legislation.”
“Apparently they will not even try to address the serious problems on abortion funding, conscience protection and fair treatment of immigrants."
"We are bishops, not politicians, policy experts or legislative tacticians. We are also pastors, teachers, and citizens. At this point of decision, we cannot compromise on basic moral principles. We can only urge -- and hope and pray -- that the House of Representatives will still find the will and the means to adopt health care reform that protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all.
“The legislation the House adopted, while not perfect, came closer to meeting these criteria. The Senate legislation simply does not meet them," the bishops say.
"With deep regret, but clear in our moral judgment, we are compelled to continue to urge House members to oppose the Senate bill unless these fundamental flaws are remedied. At this critical moment, we urge Representatives to take the steps necessary to ensure that health care reform respects the life and dignity of all, from conception to natural death," the letter concludes.