Archive of April 3, 2010

Nebraska chaplain serves Catholics in uniform

Lincoln, Neb., Apr 3, 2010 (CNA) - Father Robert Barnhill from the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska recently returned from two months of active duty as chaplain during this past Advent and Christmas season to military troops stationed overseas. As Lieutenant Colonel Barnhill in the United States Air National Guard, he serves deployed military troops as often as he is able.

“I have volunteered three times in seven years to be overseas during the Advent/Christmas Season,” said Father Barnhill, who is pastor at St. John Parish in Cambridge and St. Germanus Parish in Arapahoe.

He has been a chaplain for the Air National Guard of Nebraska since 1995, when he asked Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln to allow him to become a military chaplain in addition to his regular duties as a diocesan priest.

“The chaplaincy was my response to a sense of patriotism, and my interest in the ministry needs of young military families,” he said, noting that there is an ongoing shortage of Catholic priests in all branches of the U.S. military.

At the time Father Barnhill became a military chaplain, he was director of the Diocesan Family Life Office. For the last seven years that he has been a parish priest, his brother priests step in to substitute for him when he is deployed. His deployments have been fairly short durations – 45 to 60 days at a time – limiting the hardship on his parishes.

“My first duty is to the diocesan priesthood,” he said.

He stays in touch with his parish families while he is deployed by using e-mail. At times, he was even able to handle administrative matters for the parishes through e-mail. He also strove to write a personal letter to each parish family while he was serving a medical base in Southeast Asia during this last tour.

Father Barnhill’s parish families have been very supportive of his military service.

“The parish members have learned to care for many matters in my absence,” he said. “I was grateful for their prayers for me and our service men and women overseas, especially those in harm’s way.”

Parishioners also sent the occasional care package.

“Mail took approximately three weeks to arrive, so I had Christmas cards and gift packages arriving overseas well into January,” Father Barnhill said.

The packages contained snack foods, toiletries and religious articles for distribution to the military personnel he served.

While Advent and Christmas together are a difficult time for any parish to spare a priest, it’s also a difficult time for military personnel, who feel the separation from their families and friends more acutely during the holidays.

During Father Barnhill’s 10 weeks of service to the troops this winter, he celebrated daily or weekend Masses and provided other sacramental needs, along with a second Catholic priest who was assigned to the same base, and chaplains of other faith traditions.

He served multiple branches of the military, including the Air Guard personnel where he was stationed, Army personnel recovering in the medical clinic there and Navy personnel whose planes were stationed on the same base.

Chaplains are frequently called upon to offer invocations at ceremonies. This last tour also brought the opportunity for Father Barnhill to give individualized Catholic instruction to four servicepersons. Each is completing his or her instruction at their home bases.

On this assignment, Father Barnhill helped tend to some of the most difficult parts of military service.

“Our airbase had the sad duty to lead Patriot Details,” he explained, “Prayer services for fallen warriors in Afghanistan whose bodies were being transported back to the USA for burial.”

In addition to that, Father Barnhill counseled personnel who came to the chaplain’s office for confidential assistance with work-related stress, marital problems or other difficulties.

Sometimes a person who walked in would ask specifically for a Catholic priest. More often than not, the chaplains served the personnel regardless of any difference in religious affiliation.

“Some personnel see the chaplain as a morale officer. Some see us as their pastor to care for their spiritual needs,” Father Barnhill explained.

He continued, “Sadly, a good number of the young adult military members have no religious affiliation. They see the chaplain as a staff officer for the base commander.”

Those who recognized him as a Catholic priest or got to know him personally would address him as “Father,” but most of the others would simply address him as “sir” in keeping with his rank as a military officer.

Even among military chaplains, there are some who consider themselves to be officers first and chaplains second.

As Father Barnhill said, however, “The debate is always won by the priest who knows his calling prior to his military commission.”

He encourages all faithful Catholics to remember service men and women in their prayers.

Printed with permission from the Southern Nebraska Register, newspaper for the Diocese of Lincoln.

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New story trying to implicate Pope Benedict is 'misleading,' says the Vatican

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Vatican Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, has issued a statement regarding a story released on Holy Saturday by the Associated Press as “breaking news,” implying that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, failed to act promptly in the case of Rev. Michael Teta of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona.

The Associated Press wrote that documents it reviewed show “members of a church tribunal found that the Rev. Michael Teta of Tucson (sic), Ariz., had molested children and deemed his behavior — including allegations that he abused boys in a confessional — almost ‘satanic.’ The tribunal referred his case to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope in 2005. But it took 12 years from the time Ratzinger assumed control of the case in a signed letter until Teta was formally removed from ministry, a step only the Vatican can take.”

“As abuse cases with the pontiff's fingerprints mushroom, Teta's case and that of another Arizona priest cast further doubt on the church's insistence that the future pope played no role in shielding pedophiles,” the AP reported, without confirming the information with the Vatican press office.

In his response to the AP and a similar story published in the Arizona Daily Star, Fr. Lombardi said that “much of the reporting has been misleading;” and explained that “the Diocese of Tucson contacted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the case, because it regarded the canonical crime of solicitation in the confessional.”

In fact, at that time, it was the Congregation for the Clergy, not Doctrine of the Faith, which was responsible for handling sex abuse cases involving priests, unless a sacramental violation – like soliciting during Confession – was involved.

It was only in 2001, in the wake of the sex abuse scandal in the U.S., that Pope John Paul II, upon the request of then Cardinal Ratzinger, transferred all cases of abusive priests to the CDF in order to speed up the process.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took an active interest in the case throughout the 1990s, in order to guarantee that the Church trial underway in the Diocese of Tucson was properly completed. The trial was completed in 1997. The cleric in question was found guilty and laicized,” Fr. Lombardi stated.

“The evidence clearly and certainly shows this. The Bishop of Tucson, Bishop Kicanas had already stated as much in response to local press inquiries and published letters from the CDF confirm this.”

Fr. Lombardi went on to note that Fr. Teta, however, presented an appeal. “His appeal reached the Congregation Tribunal during a period in which the revision of the canonical norms previously in force had already started. The appeals were therefore pending until the entry into force of new legislation in 2001, which resulted in all cases of ‘serious crimes’ being placed under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a faster and more secure treatment.”

The Vatican Press Office Director observes that “beginning in 2001, all pending appeals have been handled promptly, and the Teta appeal was one of the first to be handled. This took time, because there was a particularly large volume of documentation.  In any case, the decision of the trial court was confirmed in toto (in full,) and Teta was defrocked in 2004.”

Fr. Lombardi concluded: “It must not be forgotten that even when appeals are pending and the sentence is suspended, precautionary measures are imposed by the bishop on the accused. Indeed, Teta had been suspended from the exercise of priestly ministry in 1990." 

The original AP breaking news story did not mention the fact that Fr. Teta was suspended in 1990. The same AP story also missed the fact that it was Tucson Bishop Manuel D. Moreno who failed to notify police about allegations against Teta and another Tucson abusive priest, Robert Trupia until 2000, when the U.S. bishops adopted mandatory reporting policies.

Today the Associated Press released another story implying that Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was involved in mishandling the case of an abusive priest.

The second AP story is based on a 2006 deposition that Cardinal Levada gave as the former Archbishop of Portland, Ore., in a case of sex abuse allegations against a priest he restored to duty.

The case involving Father Joseph Baccellieri and others was settled in 2007 for more than $50 million.

As Archbishop of Portland, Levada removed Baccellieri in 1992 after complaints involving teenage boys, but allowed him to return after intense therapy on a limited basis under close supervision in 1994.

Levada also set conditions for Baccellieri, including continuous counseling and therapy, regular reporting by his therapist to the Archdiocese of Portland, close monitoring, limitations on ministry activities and residence outside a parish setting or under the supervision of other priests.

In the deposition, Levada told attorneys, “If I thought Father Baccellieri would be a risk to any child, I would never have reassigned him.”

Nevertheless, one of the trial attorneys, Erin Olson, decided on Friday to release the deposition to AP because she was “angry” by the fact that Cardinal Levada posted a statement on the Vatican website defending Pope Benedict from the accusations made by the New York Times. 

Levada’s crime, according to the AP story, was not to inform parishioners at the parish where Baccellieri was reassigned as an assistant. “There was nothing in records e-mailed by the archdiocese to The Associated Press on Friday showing there was any explicit prohibition on contact between Baccellieri and parishioners,” the story said.

In the same deposition quoted by AP, Cardinal William Levada insisted he had given complete information to the pastor of the parish about the history of Baccellieri.

Cardinal Levada was Archbishop of Portland from 1986 to 1995.

In a 2004 press release, the archdiocese noted there were no further complaints about Baccellieri before his retirement.

During the 2006 deposition, Cardinal Levada said “I think it was prudent to act the way I did … I stand on that judgment I made.”

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Pope at Easter vigil: Jesus shows that cure for death does exist

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI presided this Saturday evening the Easter Vigil at the Vatican Basilica, and during the homily he highlighted the human desire for longevity and even eternity, noting that in the Risen Christ, “this cure for death, this true medicine of immortality, does exist.”

The full homily of Pope Benedict XVI at the Easter Vigil Mass follows:


An ancient Jewish legend from the apocryphal book "The life of Adam and Eve" recounts that, in his final illness, Adam sent his son Seth together with Eve into the region of Paradise to fetch the oil of mercy, so that he could be anointed with it and healed. The two of them went in search of the tree of life, and after much praying and weeping on their part, the Archangel Michael appeared to them, and told them they would not obtain the oil of the tree of mercy and that Adam would have to die. Subsequently, Christian readers added a word of consolation to the Archangel’s message, to the effect that after 5,500 years the loving King, Christ, would come, the Son of God who would anoint all those who believe in him with the oil of his mercy. "The oil of mercy from eternity to eternity will be given to those who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit. Then the Son of God, Christ, abounding in love, will descend into the depths of the earth and will lead your father into Paradise, to the tree of mercy." This legend lays bare the whole of humanity’s anguish at the destiny of illness, pain and death that has been imposed upon us. Man’s resistance to death becomes evident: somewhere – people have constantly thought – there must be some cure for death. Sooner or later it should be possible to find the remedy not only for this or that illness, but for our ultimate destiny – for death itself. Surely the medicine of immortality must exist. Today too, the search for a source of healing continues. Modern medical science strives, if not exactly to exclude death, at least to eliminate as many as possible of its causes, to postpone it further and further, to prolong life more and more. But let us reflect for a moment: what would it really be like if we were to succeed, perhaps not in excluding death totally, but in postponing it indefinitely, in reaching an age of several hundred years? Would that be a good thing? Humanity would become extraordinarily old, there would be no more room for youth. Capacity for innovation would die, and endless life would be no paradise, if anything a condemnation. The true cure for death must be different. It cannot lead simply to an indefinite prolongation of this current life. It would have to transform our lives from within. It would need to create a new life within us, truly fit for eternity: it would need to transform us in such a way as not to come to an end with death, but only then to begin in fullness. What is new and exciting in the Christian message, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, was and is that we are told: yes indeed, this cure for death, this true medicine of immortality, does exist. It has been found. It is within our reach. In baptism, this medicine is given to us. A new life begins in us, a life that matures in faith and is not extinguished by the death of the old life, but is only then fully revealed.

To this some, perhaps many, will respond: I certainly hear the message, but I lack faith. And even those who want to believe will ask: but is it really so? How are we to picture it to ourselves? How does this transformation of the old life come about, so as to give birth to the new life that knows no death? Once again, an ancient Jewish text can help us form an idea of the mysterious process that begins in us at baptism. There it is recounted how the patriarch Enoch was taken up to the throne of God. But he was filled with fear in the presence of the glorious angelic powers, and in his human weakness he could not contemplate the face of God. "Then God said to Michael," to quote from the book of Enoch, "‘Take Enoch and remove his earthly clothing. Anoint him with sweet oil and vest him in the robes of glory!’ And Michael took off my garments, anointed me with sweet oil, and this oil was more than a radiant light … its splendour was like the rays of the sun. When I looked at myself, I saw that I was like one of the glorious beings" (Ph. Rech, Inbild des Kosmos, II 524).

Precisely this – being reclothed in the new garment of God – is what happens in baptism, so the Christian faith tells us. To be sure, this changing of garments is something that continues for the whole of life. What happens in baptism is the beginning of a process that embraces the whole of our life – it makes us fit for eternity, in such a way that, robed in the garment of light of Jesus Christ, we can appear before the face of God and live with him for ever.

In the rite of baptism there are two elements in which this event is expressed and made visible in a way that demands commitment for the rest of our lives. There is first of all the rite of renunciation and the promises. In the early Church, the one to be baptized turned towards the west, the symbol of darkness, sunset, death and hence the dominion of sin. The one to be baptized turned in that direction and pronounced a threefold "no": to the devil, to his pomp and to sin. The strange word "pomp", that is to say the devil’s glamour, referred to the splendour of the ancient cult of the gods and of the ancient theatre, in which it was considered entertaining to watch people being torn limb from limb by wild beasts. What was being renounced was a type of culture that ensnared man in the adoration of power, in the world of greed, in lies, in cruelty. It was an act of liberation from the imposition of a form of life that was presented as pleasure and yet hastened the destruction of all that was best in man. This renunciation – albeit in less dramatic form – remains an essential part of baptism today. We remove the "old garments", which we cannot wear in God’s presence. Or better put: we begin to remove them. This renunciation is actually a promise in which we hold out our hand to Christ, so that he may guide us and reclothe us. What these "garments" are that we take off, what the promise is that we make, becomes clear when we see in the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Galatians what Paul calls "works of the flesh" – a term that refers precisely to the old garments that we remove. Paul designates them thus: "fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like" (Gal 5:19ff.). These are the garments that we remove: the garments of death.

Then, in the practice of the early Church, the one to be baptized turned towards the east – the symbol of light, the symbol of the newly rising sun of history, the symbol of Christ. The candidate for baptism determines the new direction of his life: faith in the Trinitarian God to whom he entrusts himself. Thus it is God who clothes us in the garment of light, the garment of life. Paul calls these new "garments" "fruits of the spirit", and he describes them as follows: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22).

In the early Church, the candidate for baptism was then truly stripped of his garments. He descended into the baptismal font and was immersed three times – a symbol of death that expresses all the radicality of this removal and change of garments. His former death-bound life the candidate consigns to death with Christ, and he lets himself be drawn up by and with Christ into the new life that transforms him for eternity. Then, emerging from the waters of baptism the neophytes were clothed in the white garment, the garment of God’s light, and they received the lighted candle as a sign of the new life in the light that God himself had lit within them. They knew that they had received the medicine of immortality, which was fully realized at the moment of receiving holy communion. In this sacrament we receive the body of the risen Lord and we ourselves are drawn into this body, firmly held by the One who has conquered death and who carries us through death.

In the course of the centuries, the symbols were simplified, but the essential content of baptism has remained the same. It is no mere cleansing, still less is it a somewhat complicated initiation into a new association. It is death and resurrection, rebirth to new life.

Indeed, the cure for death does exist. Christ is the tree of life, once more within our reach. If we remain close to him, then we have life. Hence, during this night of resurrection, with all our hearts we shall sing the alleluia, the song of joy that has no need of words. Hence, Paul can say to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!" (Phil 4:4). Joy cannot be commanded. It can only be given. The risen Lord gives us joy: true life. We are already held for ever in the love of the One to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given (cf. Mt 28:18). In this way, confident of being heard, we make our own the Church’s Prayer over the Gifts from the liturgy of this night: Accept the prayers and offerings of your people. With your help may this Easter mystery of our redemption bring to perfection the saving work you have begun in us. Amen.

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