Rome, Italy, Jul 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The vicar general of the Legion of Christ is stepping down from his post. Instead, Fr. Luis Garza will now run the organization in North America.
“America and Canada are countries that I have always admired and I am humbled to serve as territorial director of the united territory,” said Fr. Garza in a statement issued to media July 15.
Only last month Fr. Garza told CNA that he had no intention of stepping down from his post as vicar general – essentially second-in-command of the Legion. Instead, he hinted that there may be a general turnover of the organization’s leadership after their next General Chapter meeting.
Today’s news comes as the Vatican is reviewing both the purpose and constitution of the Legion. That process is being headed up by the Italian cleric, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis.
The cardinal was appointed as "papal delegate" last year after a Vatican investigation condemned the late founder of the congregation, Fr. Marcial Maciel, as a being guilty of “serious and objectively immoral behavior” as well as “real crimes.”
Fr. Maciel had sexually abused seminarians over many years and fathered several children with different women. He died in 2008, aged 87. The Vatican report summed up his life as “devoid of scruples and of genuine religious feeling.”
“We are working together to face the challenges for our communities and our apostolates around the world, and with particular intensity in the United States and Canada,” said Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, the general director of the Legion.
“We must lay more solid foundations on which to build and re-launch our service to the Church in those countries.”
And so the Legion’s activities in North America that were previously split into two territories – New York and Atlanta – will now merge into one with Fr. Garza at the helm.
“In the consultation, various candidates were considered for the new position. Although both of the current territorial directors have done an extraordinary job, there was broad consensus in favor of Fr. Luis Garza,” said Fr. Corcuera.
Fr. Garza is originally from Monterrey in Mexico. He joined the Legion of Christ in 1978 and was ordained a priest in 1985. He has been vicar general of the Legion since 1992. His critics have suggested he must have been aware of Fr. Maciel’s misdeeds, a charge Fr. Garza has always denied.
He will take up his new post on August 1.
Baton Rouge, La., Jul 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics in Louisiana are mourning the death of Dominican priest and pastor Father Edward Everitt, who was found robbed and murdered on July 11.
“Fr. Ed was a man of great energy, both preaching and caring for others,” the Southern Dominican Province said in a statement released after his death. The province said the late priest will be “profoundly missed by his blood family, his Dominican family and all whom he has served as a Dominican and priest over his many years of ministry.”
Baton Rouge Bishop Robert W. Muench said in a letter to the faithful that the death of Fr. Everitt “leaves a deeply-felt void” in the Catholic community.
“Together we pray to the Author of all life to provide Father Ed with the peace of eternal life,” Bishop Muench said. “May our grief be seen in that perspective as we thank God for his valued life and priestly ministry.”
A Florida handyman confessed to shooting and killing Fr. Everitt at a beachfront house in Mississippi, according to the Associated Press. Police say Jeremy Wayne Manieri, 31, stole the priest's money and car to take his ex-wife and children to Disney World.
In the past, Manieri had reportedly worked on the house which Fr. Everitt and other Dominicans would frequent for weekend retreats.
“I think they were trying to help him out and he did some work there,” said Fr. Cayet Mangiaracina, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Pompeii church in Louisiana, in an interview with the Associated Press.
The parochial vicar said the Dominicans may not have known about Manieri's extensive criminal background.
Police think that Manieri may have used Everitt's own gun, which he reportedly carried for self-defense, to kill him.
Fr. Everitt was the pastor of Holy Ghost and Our Lady of Pompeii Churches in Louisiana. He joined the Dominicans in 1961 and was ordained a priest in 1968.
Services will be held at Holy Ghost Catholic Church on July 16.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 15, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - The Archbishop of Madrid gave King Juan Carlos of Spain the first official World Youth Day 2011 backpack during a meeting on July 12.
Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela gave the gift to the Spanish King on Tuesday while discussing the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI for the global youth event, taking place Aug. 16-21 in Madrid.
The red backpacks emblazoned with the WYD logo will be given to each young person attending the event. It contains a number of keepsakes and souvenirs, including a t-shirt, a cap, a cover for laptops and a mouse pad, as well as a rosary, a cross and a medal.
After exchanging greetings, King Juan Carlos and Cardinal Rouco met for forty minutes in the King’s office.
Rome, Italy, Jul 15, 2011 (CNA) -
“If I return now, they will throw me in jail and kill me.” These are the frank words that mark an encounter with Father Peter Nguyen Khai, a 41-year-old Vietnamese priest living in Rome.
His crime? Not hiding his Catholic faith.
“My parents taught me how to pray daily and keep the faith in our home, but we never went to church,” says Fr. Khai who grew up in the predominantly Catholic village of Phuc Nhac in the Ninh Binh province of northern Vietnam.
“I learned that the government did not allow the parishioners to gather for worship at the church. Attending Holy Mass, therefore, was a special treat for me.”
It is a situation that many Vietnamese Catholics simply had to learn to live with. For Fr. Khai, though, any thoughts of quietly co-existing with the regime evaporated following one particular boyhood experience.
“One day, I saw a mentally ill woman who used to wander around the village. She came to the church in tears, banging on its front door with her skinny hands and crying out with great anguish: ‘The church is still here, but where is Father?’”
“Father” was a local pastor, Fr. Matthew Hau, who a few years before had been arrested, tortured and killed by the local communist authorities. A vicious persecution of all the Catholics in the village then ensued – the Khai family included.
“After learning the story of Fr. Matthew Hau and his heroic acts to the end of his life in order to protect the faith of his people, especially the accounts of his arrest, torture and senseless murder, I suddenly had a strong desire to become a priest—a “Father” like him,” says Fr. Khai.
And so began 12 years of clandestine formation with just one aim – to become a Catholic priest.
Initially he sought out the only surviving Redemptorist priest in northern Vietnam, a member of his extended family, Fr. Joseph Bich. Under the pretense of being the old man’s caretaker, Fr. Khai studied at Fr. Bich’s home in Hanoi.
“Unfortunately, the police in Hanoi suspected my real reason. They summoned me repeatedly to the local precinct for interrogation and put all kinds of pressure on Fr. Joseph Bich.”
And so, Fr. Khai set off for the relative safety of Saigon in the south of the country. It was here after years of secret studying, that Fr. Khai says, “I was secretly ordained to the priesthood in a small room on the night of September 25, 2001.”
Thus began a decade of priestly ministry to the Catholic population in both north and south Vietnam, often playing a game of cat-and-mouse with the communist authorities.
However in 2010, “after a few years of leading the faithful,” says Fr. Khai “in highly publicized quests for justice and truth against the oppression of the communist government,” his superiors decided to send him to Rome.
Unable to leave the country legally, he made a dangerous trek across the Vietnamese border into Laos and on to Thailand.
“After many perilous days during which I had more than once confronted the fear of death, I arrived in Bangkok,” the Thai capital.
“Throughout these escape episodes I knew that St. Joseph was protecting me in a special way. His own story of leading Mary and the baby Jesus to safety remained my constant hope and inspiration,” says Fr. Khai.
In Rome, his campaign for the Catholics of Vietnam continues. He shares photos of peaceful protest and prayer being suppressed by riot police, images of tear gas being used and women being beaten. He even shows prints of babies who, he claims, were forcibly aborted by the authorities. Fr. Khai says he carried out proper burials on each one.
He says the past few months spent “at the heart of the Church” has only deepened his “love and devotion to the causes of my Catholic brothers and sisters back home who still struggle and suffer every day for their faith in a ruthless regime.”
That suffering, he says, is “systematic” and “cunning” and comes in many guises from interference in episcopal appointments down to everyday discrimination in politics, the law and freedom of worship.
“The government uses all forces at their disposal, including the state media, the political apparatus, the laws and the public education system to stop the growth of the Catholic Church at all costs.”
“Catholics in every part of Vietnam are considered second-class citizens, deserving discrimination in legal treatment” he concludes.
His key message is that he not only wants the outside world to protest but also to pray for Vietnam, a country he believes is ripe for the message of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
“Vietnamese society as a whole is thirsty for truth and justice and their result which is peace. They are tired of living under a regime full of lies, corruption and unjust treatment.”
“When the Catholic leadership is strong in promoting these fundamental values, they earn the respect and loyalty of the poor, the educated and the young people who are seeking.”
Fort Myers, Fla., Jul 15, 2011 (CNA) - Learning that you can truly make a difference in the world is an eye-opening experience for anyone. For middle school-aged youths this can be a life-changing revelation.
Dana Hurson of Blessed Pope John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers said she realized that her hard work cleaning up yards and painting a house in south Fort Myers during the “Just 5 Days Retreat” had a significant impact on the homeowners.
“I saw the look in their faces; I saw them cry with joy for what we did. That really made me so proud,” said the 12-year-old.
By the end of the retreat, students left with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation in their lives, realizing that even through a small act of kindness and conversation they, too, can make a difference in the world.
“This was such a wonderful experience, I can’t wait to go out and volunteer again,” Dana said. “The joy we received from helping others is more than I ever dreamed possible.”
Middle school students gathered in mid-June at Bishop Verot High School for the “Just 5 Days Retreat” to gain new experiences and possibly have their lives changed.
Sponsored by the Center for Ministry Development along with the Youth Outreach of the Diocese of Venice, the retreat introduces the young people to the concept of doing service projects with the goal of hopefully seeing the face of God in others.
Each day was centered on prayer, which included learning Bible verses and songs. The goal was to learn about how a core part of Catholic teaching calls for all to do good for others. The reward for doing good, as the young students learned firsthand, is to grow closer to God and have a greater appreciation for the gifts each one has and the dignity of every human person.
Quinn Farrell of Blessed Pope John XXIII Parish said that the interaction he had with adults with developmental disabilities at the Freida B. Smith “Special Populations” Center in Cape Coral really impacted him on a personal and spiritual level.
“I began to relate to the people with disabilities as I never thought I could,” Quinn, who will be going to Bishop Verot High School in the fall, admitted. “All of us learned that not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and realized that talking and being there makes a real difference. We saw the face of God in everyone we met. It was very powerful.”
Ann Marie Eckert of the Center for Ministry Development helped facilitate the retreat that included service hours, prayer, reflection and frank discussions.
“This is unique for middle school students who are often too old for child’s game and too young for more serious discussions,” Eckert said. “We try to find the right balance to keep their attention and motivate them to get involved and realize they can make a difference.”
Each day the group gathered together for breakfast and prepared for their workdays. Divided into three groups, the students went out to different locations.
One project included a housing rehab project in south Fort Myers near San Jose Mission. There the young people cleaned out the overgrowth of weeds and trash around several houses and then painted the exterior of one house and the interior of another. In their short time, they cleared out more than 100 bags of trash and yard waste.
The Freida B. Smith “Special Populations” Center is a facility that offers a variety of programs for adults and children with developmental disabilities. The mission of Special Populations is to promote independence through exposure, education and experience in a safe, caring environment. The students spent time interacting and tutoring the adult clients, including teaching them to dance, clean their garden and porch areas, and painted two benches.
Sara Sansone, program director of Special Populations, said students on the retreat had impressed her and the adult clients.
“You came here not knowing what to expect and you took the time to get to know people and did not treat them any differently, so now you are leaving here with many new friends and a new perspective on people with disabilities,” she said.
Gabriella Miller, who is a student at St. Francis Xavier School in Fort Myers, said she had fun getting to know the adults and was interested in returning to volunteer again. “I really have a better understanding,” she said.
A group of teens from Jacksonville worked at the Community Cooperative Ministries Inc. soup kitchen in Fort Myers, preparing and serving food to more than 100 people each day.
Throughout the week the teens were brought back to Bishop Verot High School each evening to share their daily experiences and to learn about the benefits of service.
An underlying theme of the week was to learn about the communion of saints and to realize each saint has a different story to tell. The students also learned that there are people living amongst us that have many of the traits of a saint whether they are a person with developmental disabilities, a homeless mother, a volunteer or a middle school student.
By the end of the week, exhausted from hard work and excited about their new experiences, the middle school students were changed.
“This is really having an impact on them,” said Jim Jenkins, youth director at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers. “I am impressed with how they have matured and learned to appreciate their world in just a few short days.”
Printed with permission from the Florida Catholic.
New York City, N.Y., Jul 15, 2011 (CNA) - As Rep. Michele Bachmann faces scrutiny for ties with a Lutheran church that believes the Pope is the anti-Christ, Catholic League president Bill Donohue said the congresswoman herself isn't anti-Catholic.
Although it is “regrettable that there are still strains of anti-Catholicism in some Protestant circles,” Donohue said, “we find no evidence of any bigotry on the part of Rep. Michele Bachmann.”
Rep. Bachmann made headlines this week when The Atlantic linked the presidential candidate with the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota.
The church community belongs to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod – founded in 1850 with around 400,000 members today – which tightly adheres to the teachings of 16th century Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther.
The synod's “Doctrinal Statement on the Antichrist” claims that the Bible has “revealed” that the “Roman Papacy” is the anti-Christ.
According to the magazine, Rep. Bachmann was a longtime member of the church and formally requested a release of her membership over the last year.
Although Donohue expressed regret over the church's doctrinal statement, he said that Rep. Bachmann has “condemned anti-Catholicism” and shown no signs discrimination against Catholics in her political career.
He also referenced President Obama's run in with controversy during his 2008 campaign over his affiliation with Rev. Jeremiah Wright – a Chicago pastor known for making extremist statements.
“Just as President Barack Obama is not responsible for the views of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rep. Bachmann must be judged on the basis of her own record,” Donohue said.
The Catholic League president added, however, that the recent news presents an opportunity for dialogue with the presidential candidate on the issue.
It is “not inappropriate,” he said, “to ask some pointed questions of Rep. Bachmann and her religion’s tenets.”
St. Louis, Mo., Jul 15, 2011 (CNA) - The financial management system of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas supports a Catholic dissenting group and links to a California association of clinics which refers to abortion providers.
St. Louis-based Mercy Investment Services invests and manages the endowment of the Sisters of Mercy and eligible co-sponsored ministries. It was established to provide “socially responsible investment advisory and money management services,” its website reports.
The “Socially Responsible Investing” non-profit subsection of its website lists Call to Action as a supported organization. It describes the group as a Catholic organization “working for justice and equality in the Catholic church and society.”
The organization is known for opposing Catholic teaching on the ordination of women. It also supports homosexual political causes and opposes the U.S. bishops on various issues.
The organization’s 2010 annual report showed total support revenue of over $1 million. Its 2009 tax forms name Sr. Helen Marie Burns, RSM, as one of its directors.
Sr. Burns is also on Mercy Investment Services’ board of advisers.
Amanda LePoire, project manager with Mercy Investment Services, responded to a CNA inquiry in a July 12 e-mail. She described Mercy Investment Services’ mission of responding to “critical needs” and promoting “systemic change.”
“Through proxy voting, shareholder advocacy, corporate dialogues and community investing, Mercy Investment Services addresses issues including healthy persons and communities, human rights, and a sustainable Earth,” she said.
Asked to respond to specific questions about Call to Action, she said that the mission description is “the best comment we can provide.”
Mercy Investment Services’ supported organizations also include the California Primary Care Association, which represents more than 800 not-for-profit community clinics and health care centers for low-income, uninsured and underserved populations.
The association’s home page includes a “Find a Clinic” referral system for website visitors. Among the referred clinics are 76 Planned Parenthood affiliates and at least three other abortion providers in the Women’s Health Specialists network. Other referred clinics dispense emergency contraception and birth control.
LePoire also declined to respond to specific questions about Mercy Investment Services’ involvement with the association.
The portfolio screening section of Mercy Investement Services’ website says it does not invest in companies whose activities involve the “manufacture of primary abortifacient drugs or devices or operation of health facilities that provide abortion services.” It has also established revenue thresholds so that companies with “minimal involvement” may not be excluded.
Sean South, associate director of communications at the California Primary Care Association, told CNA July 8 that Mercy Investment Services provided $300,000 to the association’s emergency loan fund in 2010. The fund supplies financial needs to clinics when the California legislature cannot agree to pass a budget.
In 2010, the state of California owed clinics over $100 million. Many were at risk of closing, which could have deprived as many as 4.7 million clients of health care.
South did not believe abortion providers had received emergency grants from the fund.
He explained July 11 that the CPCA’s website provides referrals to the abortion providers because “they’re providers of health care services to women.”
“The vast majority of what they do is not related to those services,” he said, referring to abortions.
Catholic Healthcare West is a more significant contributor to the fund, having provided $5 million per year since its launch. South said the organization has been “very helpful” in securing other supporters.
Catholic Healthcare West told CNA it supports the fund in keeping with its “commitment to the health care needs of the poor.”
It also said it “does not administer, review or approve the loan applications.”
Meriden, Conn., Jul 15, 2011 (CNA) - Compassion and understanding go a long way when it comes to helping people who have had abortions.
David C. Reardon, known as an expert in the after-effects of abortion, told more than 150 people at Holy Angels Parish center in Meriden Conn. that advocates for life must reach out with love to women and men who are suffering after an abortion.
Dr. Reardon was the keynote speaker at the seventh annual St. Gerard’s Center for Life Mothers’ Banquet. He is the director of the Elliot Institute, based in Springfield, Ill., which describes its mission as postabortion research, education and advocacy.
Dr. Reardon, who has a doctorate in biomedical ethics from Pacific Western University, has written books and articles about the mental health effects associated with abortion.
He said that in one survey, 78 percent of women say they "would rather have their baby if they had loved ones who were supportive." He cited another survey saying that 68 percent of women are pushed toward abortion by other people. He called the pressure "social abortion."
After having an abortion, he said, women hear such comments as "that life didn’t matter; your grief isn’t real," he said, which makes them experience what he called "forbidden grief." For such a woman, he added, advocates for life should "wear compassion on our sleeve [and] not throw stones at her for having had an abortion."
After having an abortion, women who want to begin to heal feel trapped, he said, and afraid of condemnation.
Men also can suffer negative effects, he said, which can manifest themselves as self-destructive behavior, failed relationships, addictions to cover past pain, depression and suicide.
"We want to give them a hug and cry with them," he said. "We need to recognize that shame is a dangerous weapon. It closes doors on people who need help. Messages of hope counteract messages of despair."
Advocates for life should deal with the minds, hearts and hope of men and women dealing with the pain of abortion, he said.
Dr. Theresa Krankowski, director of St. Gerard’s Center for Life in Hartford, introduced a few of the mothers whose babies were saved through the intervention of the people at St. Gerard’s.
Dr. Krankowski said that the work at St. Gerard’s now is aided by a new ultrasound machine, which is operated by volunteer nurses. The machine was acquired through funds from the Knights of Columbus.
She said that St. Gerard’s has served 3,000 mothers and their children in the seven years of the center’s existence. In addition, she said, "400 babies were saved who otherwise would’ve died from abortion."
She outlined other programs as well. Dr. Krankowski noted, "We’re committed to the truth. We have 116 women in our chastity program. Every week, those girls are there for the message [that] your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit." St. Gerard’s also provides post-abortion healing and baptism preparation programs, she said.
"We are committed to helping mothers with all they need," said Dr. Krankowski. "This is the message of true love."
Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.
Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2011 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops’ “Faithful Citizenship” document on Catholics’ voting responsibilities should be revised to remove “loopholes” that allow Catholics to vote for pro-abortion politicians, two political commentators have said.
“Why should a Catholic voter feel the weighty obligation to oppose ‘intrinsically evil acts’ when the bishops themselves provide three different loopholes to put that concern aside?” asked Catholic Advocate president Deal Hudson and Catholic Advocate vice president Matt Smith in a July 14 statement.
Without changes, they warned, the document will provide Catholic voters “another carte blanche to cast their vote for any pro-abortion candidate they want.”
The two writers focused on sections 34 to 37 from the 2008 version of “Faithful Citizenship,” which is revised every four years.
One passage said a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s “unacceptable position” may decide to vote for that candidate for “other morally grave reasons.” This voting is permissible only for “truly grave moral reasons” and not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences.
This passage was “confusing” in light of a previous statement that a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position “in favor of an intrinsic evil” if he or she intends to support that position. The document then says that a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference to “other important moral issues” concerning human life and dignity.
Hudson and Smith said this passage means a Catholic could vote for a pro-abortion candidate as long as he or she did not intend to support his pro-abortion position.
“The practical consequence of this statement is clear: Catholics can vote for any pro-abortion politician they want -- all they have to do is have the right intention,” they contended.
The two also said the document allows a Catholic voter to vote for pro-abortion politicians so long as they do not advance that “morally flawed position” but would “pursue other authentic goods.”
No substantial edits are planned for the 2008 version of Faithful Citizenship, which Hudson and Smith said is a problem that needs to be remedied. The document can be clarified by the U.S. bishops at their November 2011 meeting in Baltimore.
The passages capable of “overbroad implementation” were used by groups like Catholics United and Catholic Democrats, who “cherry-picked” the passage about voting for a candidate “for other morally grave reasons.
Hudson was an advisor to the George W. Bush presidential campaign on Catholic outreach, while Smith also served on the Bush campaign and in the Bush administration. Their Catholic Advocate organization encourages Catholic participation in politics to support policies that are “consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Individual bishops have said that voting for a pro-abortion candidate is never justified when the opponent is pro-life, the two noted.
Texas Bishops Kevin Vann of Fort Worth and Kevin Farrell of Dallas have said that there are no truly grave moral reasons that “could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 15, 2011 (CNA) - A senior canon lawyer has told CNA he is alarmed by Irish government plans to imprison priests for keeping the seal of confession in sexual abuse cases.
“It will end up with priests being put in jail,” said Father Paul Hayward, editor of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland’s journal Abstracts.
“We have to get greater clarity as to what exactly is being proposed but, certainly, no priest who values their priesthood would ever break the seal of confession. This could make martyrs of a lot of Irish priests.”
Fr. Hayward’s comments come on July 15, one day after Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny promised to introduce a new law that would jail priests for up to five years if they failed to tell the authorities about crimes of sexual abuse disclosed during confessions.
“The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar,” Kenny told journalists July 14.
Such a proposition runs contrary to the internal law of the Catholic Church known as Canon Law. It says of confession that “the sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason,” with the punishment for such a breach being “a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.”
Earlier this week a judicial inquiry into how the Diocese of Cloyne in County Cork mishandled alleged incidents of abuse, found nine cases between 1996 and 2005 which “very clearly” should have been reported to the authorities but were not. The inquiry – led by Judge Yvonne Murphy – said this was the “greatest failure” of the diocese.
The Cloyne Report also suggested that the diocese’s apparent disregard for the Irish Church’s 1996 guidelines on sexual abuse was aided by the decision by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops to brand the document as merely “study guidelines.” The effect of this, said the report, was “to strengthen the position of those who dissented from the official stated Irish Church policy.”
Last night Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, met with the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, to discuss the issue. Gilmore described the 1996 decision as “absolutely unacceptable” and “inappropriate” and is now demanding an explanation from the Vatican.
“I want to know why this state, with which we have diplomatic relations, issued a communication, the effect of which was that very serious matter of the abuse of children in this country was not reported to the authorities,” he told reporters after the meeting July 14.
In response, Archbishop Leanza said he would deliver a copy of the Cloyne Report to the Vatican and said he too was “distressed … by the failures in assuring the protection of children within the Church despite all the good work that has been done.”
The Foreign Minister did not set a deadline for the Vatican to respond.