Phoenix, Ariz., Jun 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Leah Campos Schandlbauer, a Catholic mother of four, hopes to represent Arizona in the U.S. Congress, after serving the country for over 10 years as an international agent in the CIA.
“The most accurate way of describing it is by my professional title – which was 'Operations Officer' in the National Clandestine Service,” Schandlbauer told CNA on June 13. “But we are otherwise known as 'spies.'”
In the “fiercely patriotic” state of Arizona, the aspiring Republican candidate for the newly-formed Ninth District says she gets plenty of positive feedback about her background with the foreign intelligence agency.
“They're really grateful for my service – which is humbling to me,” she said.
Schandlbauer left her CIA position six months ago, as her husband Alfred prepared for a one-year deployment in Afghanistan. The Catholic couple prayed extensively over Leah's decision to seek political office.
On August 28, she will contend for the Republican nomination, as one of seven choices in the party's primary election. The choice, she said, was heavily influenced by her time as an officer in Western Europe and Latin America, which left her concerned for her own country's future.
“A lot of the rhetoric that I heard coming out of Washington sounded a lot like what we were hearing from the likes of Hugo Chavez – really divisive, 'class warfare' type rhetoric.”
“In countries like Argentina and Venezuela, the government divides the people along the lines of class, race, and other categories,” she noted. “They kill the unity of the people. It's very manipulative of the government, for political gain, to control the discourse and pit people against each other.”
“I see that happening here now, and it is frightening.”
She also notes that the “cautionary tale” of Europe's cultural and financial crisis “is ours to learn from, or be the next victims.”
“I was there,” she recalled, “and I saw a lot of the false promises that come out of a statist, European-style 'social democracy.'”
A lifelong Catholic, Schandlbauer learned her faith partly from her mother, who teaches as a catechist. Leah's sister, Rachel Campos-Duffy, is a Catholic author and blogger.
The political hopeful's Catholic faith has shaped her own pro-life and pro-family positions, as well as her advocacy of free-market economics. Following the Catholic free-enterprise proponent Arthur Brooks, she sees property rights and personal initiative as safeguarding human happiness and dignity.
“As Christians, we celebrate the notion of freedom,” she said. “This election year is about us making a full-fledged defense of freedom. I think that is an obligation for us, as Christians.”
Schandlbauer is also a critic of President Obama's approach to religious groups, particularly the “horrible situation that Obama gave us with the HHS (contraception) mandate.” Religious freedom, she said, is in “crisis” because of the mandate.
But she believes the crisis may also be “a great opportunity.” As controversy grows over the contraception mandate, Schandlbauer sees “a lot of unity among Catholics in America on this issue.”
This show of public unity on the Church's part, she said, is “such a beautiful thing. And I hope it's a taste of what's to come.”
Alma, Mich., Jun 14, 2012 (CNA) - Physicians who are also Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma are criticizing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and its defenders for using an impoverished “language of politics” instead of “the language of faith” in the dialogue with the Catholic hierarchy.
“There is no basis for authentic dialogue between these two languages. The language of faith is rooted in Jesus Christ, His life and His mission, as well as the magisterial teaching of the Church,” said the physician-sisters’ statement, which was issued after a June 2 meeting on the contributions of religious women in the healing ministry of the Catholic Church.
“The language of politics arises from the social marketplace,” they said. “The Sisters who use political language in their responses to the magisterial Church reflect the poverty of their education and formation in the faith.”
In April 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the results of a four-year doctrinal assessment which determined that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious exhibited a “crisis” of belief and “serious doctrinal problems.” The audit also found that letters from conference officers suggested the presence of “corporate dissent” from Church teaching on issues like the ordination of men to the priesthood and homosexuality.
The conference is made up of leaders from 1,500 women’s religious congregations. Those sisters represent some 57,000 American women religious.
In response, the conference’s board members charged that the assessment was “based on unsubstantiated accusations” and used “a flawed process that lacked transparency.” They said the report “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.”
Critics of the Vatican assessment have found sympathy in major media outlets, some of which have depicted the action against the leadership conference as an attack on all religious sisters and nuns.
But the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma see things differently.
Sr. Jane Mary Firestone, RSM, an internist at Sacred Heart Clinic in Alma, Mich., who helped write her religious congregation’s statement, spoke about it with CNA. She said that there is no issue with people representing their perspective to the Church and stating where they see problems.
However, she said that critics of Vatican’s assessment are taking their action into “a political arena of demonstrations” and are “garnering support in a political sense.”
“That doesn’t feel very appropriate,” Sr. Firestone said June 13. In her view, the social marketplace uses “the language of majority rule” and does not necessarily have “a regard for authority.”
“They’ve taken this into the public political arena and it no longer stays in the dialogue of faith. Representation is always possible, dialogue is always possible, but it’s with the reverence towards the hierarchical Church.”
She said that the “language of faith” expresses belief in the Church and the authority of the Church. Catholics believe that when the bishops speak, they have “a different degree of authority” than when someone else does.
“In other words, the magisterial Church does direct for us the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as religious women,” she said.
Sr. Firestone said that while Catholics do not believe the bishops are canonized saints, they are “not just ‘a bunch of men.’”
Those who live as religious women should, “live in the dimension of faith all the time” and recognize when they fail to do so, she said.
Her comments echoed the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma’s broader statement. It said that a religious community’s charism is given to “enrich the Church” and the Catholic hierarchy must determine its authenticity. A woman religious participates in this charism and “cannot separate her work from the Church.”
The sisters praised “the generosity and service” of the religious women who preceded them and foresaw “great hope” for the future of religious life in the Church.
They said that this hope rests in remaining within “the deposit of faith and the hierarchical structure of the Church.”
“We cannot separate ourselves from sacred tradition or claim to advance beyond the Church.”
The sisters’ June 2 meeting also addressed statements from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, various news agencies and other organizations. The Sisters of Mercy said these have created “confusion, polarization, and false representations about the beliefs, activities, and priorities of a significant number of women religious in the United States.”
The Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma have about 100 members who work in hospitals and teach in seminaries and primary schools. The order, which was founded in 1973, runs clinics in Michigan, Minnesota and Germany.
Dublin, Ireland, Jun 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - At the request of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Marc Ouellet visited Ireland’s traditional penitential pilgrimage site of Lough Derg to seek God’s forgiveness for priests who sexually abused children in Ireland and everywhere in the Church.
“We have learned over the last decades how much harm and despair such abuse has caused to thousands of victims,” the cardinal said in his June 12 homily during Mass at St. Patrick’s Basilica at Lough Derg in County Donegal.
“In the name of the Church, I apologize once again to the victims, some of whom I have met here in Lough Derg,” he said. “I come here with the specific intention of seeking forgiveness, from God and from the victims, for the grave sin of sexual abuse of children by clerics.”
He said the Church “learned too late” that some of her leaders responded to the crimes of abuse in a way that was “often inadequate” in stopping the crimes.
Cardinal Ouellet is Pope Benedict’s legate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, which is running from June 10-17.
Before Mass, he held a two-hour meeting with survivors of institutional and clerical abuse from different parts of Ireland. He listened to each survivor discuss his or her abuse experience and its effects on their lives.
He said he was deeply moved by the meeting and would report on it to the Pope.
“The tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by Christians, especially when done so by members of the clergy, is a source of great shame and enormous scandal,” the cardinal said in his homily. “It is a sin against which Jesus himself lashed out.”
He drew on Pope Benedict’s March 2010 pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland, which discussed the difficulties abuse victims have in forgiving. The Pope expressed the “shame and remorse” of the Church and asked victims not to lose hope.
Cardinal Ouellet reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s commitment to creating a “safe environment” for children.
He also said that “true conversion” can only happen through restoring a “deep personal relationship with Christ.”
Intercessory prayers at the June 12 Mass included prayers for abuse victims, forgiveness for physical and sexual abuse, and for the inadequate response of Church leaders.
Bishop Liam MacDaid of Clogher welcomed Cardinal Ouellet and papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown to Lough Derg.
Bishop MacDaid told the cardinal “we join our hearts with yours in reaching out to all victims of abuse.”
“We will cooperate with you and with His Holiness in every way we can to prevent this happening again.”
Atlanta, Ga., Jun 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The growing perception of religion as a threat to a free society is leading to persecution of believers around the world, according to speakers at a recent meeting of the U.S. bishops.
“Religious liberty is in global crisis,” said Thomas F. Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University.
He explained that the crisis has “enormous consequences for the Church, the United States, the fate of democracy worldwide, the defeat of religion-based terrorism and the cause of international peace and justice.”
Farr spoke June 13 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as part of a two-hour discussion on both domestic and international religious freedom concerns.
His address came during the conference’s June 13-15 general assembly in Atlanta, Ga.
Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, noted that Christians around the world face threats ranging from Church bombing to discriminatory legal restrictions.
Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, president of Caritas Iraq, also spoke at the bishops’ gathering, discussing the plight of Christians in the Middle East.
He offered accounts of priests being kidnapped, tortured and held for ransom, as well as churches being attacked and worshipers being killed.
There has also been a “huge diaspora” of Christian communities in the region, he added.
“Some wonder if there is a big plot to empty Iraq, if not to empty all of the Middle East, of Christians,” he told the American bishops.
Bishop Warduni said that leaders in U.S. “bear a special responsibility” towards Christians in Iraq because the United States led the 2003 invasion that caused some of these problems between the religious groups.
“We ask you to do your best” to raise awareness and support for Iraqi Christians, he urged, explaining that the people in the region simply want to live peacefully with “no more war, no more death” and “no more explosions.”
Farr cautioned the U.S. bishops that a negative view of religion is leading to a continued erosion of religious freedom around the world, with disastrous consequences.
“Both history and modern scholarship demonstrate that a robust system of religious liberty in both law and culture is indispensable to individual human dignity and to the flourishing of civil society and nations,” he said.
He pointed to a Pew Research study indicating that 70 percent of the world’s population lives in a country where religious freedom is seriously restricted.
And the problem “is getting worse,” he said, citing studies indicating that “social hostilities” towards religious minorities are rising in many areas, including much of Europe.
Although this does not match the level of violent persecution seen elsewhere, “the root cause is quite similar,” Farr explained. In such countries, the free exercise of religion is not only seen as unnecessary, but is even viewed as a threat to democratic society.
While this view has commonly been held by tyrants and authoritarian regimes throughout the ages, the alarming development is that it is now being held by democratic majorities, he said.
Religion today is commonly treated as “merely an opinion” and possibly “dangerous,” he alerted the bishops, pointing to Europe, where an “aggressive secularist majority” refuses to allow religiously informed opinions to enter the public square.
This view is also growing in the United States, he cautioned, as religious freedom is increasingly being depicted as the mere right to worship privately.
Farr argued that American policy under both Republican and Democratic administrations is failing to alleviate infringements upon religious freedom around the world.
He observed that the current U.S. State Department has devoted “far more energy” to supporting gay agendas overseas than to addressing religious liberty concerns.
The American bishops can make a great contribution in “strengthening our understanding of the value of religious freedom,” Farr said, explaining that Church teaching on “the fundamental dignity and equality of every person in the eyes of God” is powerful for society.
The Church is “uniquely positioned” to help proclaim the importance of religious liberty and must work immediately to do so, he urged, because “the stakes are high.”
Vatican City, Jun 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican has confirmed that the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X is being offered the status of a personal prelature as part of a deal to heal the group’s 24-year rift with the Catholic Church.
“Clearly the ball is now in the court of the Society,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said on June 14.
Yesterday afternoon the Society’s superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, spent over two hours in talks with representatives of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led by Prefect Cardinal William J. Levada.
A June 14 communique from the Vatican Press Office confirmed that during those discussions “a draft document was submitted proposing a Personal Prelature as the most appropriate instrument for any future canonical recognition of the Society.”
A personal prelature is a Church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives. At present, the only personal prelature in the Church is Opus Dei.
The Society of St. Pius X was founded in 1970 by Frenchman Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in response to errors he believed had crept into the Church following the Second Vatican Council.
The Society has had a strained relationship with the Church since Archbishop Lefebvre ordained four bishops against the will of Pope John Paul II in 1988.
The Vatican communique explained that the primary purpose of yesterday’s meeting was “to present the Holy See’s evaluation of the text submitted in April by the Society of St. Pius X in response to the Doctrinal Preamble which the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith had presented to the Society on 14 September 2011.”
Although it has not been published publicly, the doctrinal preamble sets out key elements of Catholic teaching which the Society will have to agree with before re-uniting with the Church. That list almost certainly includes the documents of the Second Vatican Council 1962-65.
The response given to the preamble by Bishop Fellay in April contained some amendments to the Vatican’s original text. In the intervening weeks Vatican officials have been formulating their decision. This process has included personal input from Pope Benedict XVI.
The June 14 communique said that yesterday’s discussions also allowed the Vatican an opportunity to provide “explanations and clarifications” for its decision.
For his part, Bishop Fellay “illustrated the current situation of the Society of St. Pius X” and promised to give a response “within a reasonable lapse of time,” the statement said.
In a separate June 14 statement, the Society said that Bishop Fellay "spelled out the doctrinal difficulties posed by the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo Missae."
"The desire for additional clarifications could result in a new phase of discussions," the Society said.
If an agreement is reached, it seems unlikely that all of the Society would follow Bishop Fellay back into the Catholic Church.
Last month the other three Society bishops issued a letter warning that any deal with the Vatican would mean the Society would “cease to oppose the universal apostasy of our time.” They also dismissed Pope Benedict as a “subjectivist.”
Vatican negotiations with each of the Society’s bishops are now being handled “separately and singularly,” the communique said.
It concluded by expressing the hope that “this additional opportunity for reflection” would help bring about “full communion between the Society of St. Pius X and the Apostolic See.”
Updated June 14, 2012 at 12:01 p.m. MDT. Adds specific objections from Society in paragraphs 13 and 14.
Atlanta, Ga., Jun 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore argued that it is an “injustice” to imply that the Knights of Columbus’ support for defending religious freedom creates a sense of partisanship.
At a June 13 press conference at the U.S. bishops’ spring general meeting in Atlanta, the archbishop was questioned by Jerry Filteau of the National Catholic Reporter about funding for the bishops’ campaign to defend religious liberty.
Filteau said that he had heard “rumors” that much of the funding for the bishops’ effort is coming from the Knights of Columbus, whose head, Carl Anderson, is a former Reagan administration official.
He suggested that there may be “a partisanship aspect to the whole thing.”
“Oh my goodness, Jerry,” Archbishop Lori responded.
“Think of what the Knights of Columbus does for the Catholic Church and for many other humanitarian causes,” he said. “To try to say that is in some way partisan is, in my opinion, sort of an injustice.”
“It seems to me the Knights have been very generous to a whole variety of causes,” the archbishop observed.
He acknowledged that the organization has contributed to the bishops’ religious freedom efforts but added that “other groups have as well,” including Our Sunday Visitor, the Order of Malta and many others.
“So it is not just one group,” he said. “It is not in any way partisan, either in its spirit or in its funding.”
Archbishop Lori added that “the generosity that we’ve experienced has been heartening.”
Recent months have united Catholics from across the country in efforts to defend religious liberty from numerous threats, including a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
The mandate has drawn widespread criticism for violating religious liberty. The bishops have worked with individuals and groups of various faiths to speak out against the regulation and ask the Obama administration to respect the rights of those with religious objections.
Among the bishops’ efforts to protect religious liberty is the upcoming “Fortnight for Freedom” event in which Catholics and other believers are invited to engage in prayer, education and advocacy for a restoration of respect for fundamental religious rights.
“The question that we’re addressing is a question of religious liberty,” said Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City. “It’s not a question of birth control.”
“And the only reason we’re addressing it now is because it came up now,” he added in response to questions about it being an election year.
He explained to the media that the bishops did not choose to raise the subject now, but rather, the Obama administration did by issuing the mandate.
The bishops are “simply responding” to a single, “very focused point, and that is that the government cannot define religion for us,” he said. “It’s not about us mandating birth control or anything like that.”
Bishop Wester acknowledged that the topic “is certainly political,” but added that “that’s not something that we intend it to be.”
Instead, he said, the bishops and other Catholics are “very grateful” for the religious liberty they enjoy in America, and they realize the “need to be vigilant” and to “address these issues as they come up” in order to prevent “a slippery slope.”
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, also commented on the question of partisan intent.
“We are trying to speak about principles, but principles do have traction,” he said.
Whether the topic is religious freedom or the economy, the bishops must address issues as they arise and cannot wait for “a perfect, non-political time,” he said.
Bishop Blaire observed that “it is always a challenge to bring the Gospel into the real world” so that it connects with people’s “everyday experiences as individuals, as a society, as a government.”
However, it is the job of the bishops to “try to bring Catholic social teaching to bear on the real world,” he stated.
Unfortunately, when the bishops do this, Bishop Blaire said it often happens that some people create “an interpretation that maybe is not intended.”
Atlanta, Ga., Jun 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Church in the U.S. has made significant improvements in preventing and addressing clergy sexual abuse and should continue its work to increase transparency, trust and accountability, according to a new report.
Al Notzon III, chair of the National Review Board that has helped advise the U.S. bishops on clergy sex abuse, said that there has been “striking improvement” and “children are safer now” than they were several years ago. However, there is still work to do in order to “protect children and restore trust,” he said.
Notzon spoke to the U.S. bishops gathered at their spring meeting in Atlanta, Ga. on June 13.
He delivered a 10 year progress report on the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which was adopted by the bishops in Dallas in 2002 as part of their response to the sexual abuse scandal.
He also offered recommendations based on a recent study conducted by the independent research institution John Jay College of Criminal Justice, entitled "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010."
The Church has taken “serious steps towards understanding and reducing” sexual abuse of minors by priests, Notzon said.
He noted that there has been a steady decline in new cases of abuse and that all 195 U.S. dioceses and eparchies now have policies and procedures in place to prevent and handle abuse, as well as a Victim Assistance Coordinator to help in responding to allegations.
Dioceses across the country have instituted review boards comprised of both laity and clergy to advise on alleged abuse cases and are actively cooperating with legal authorities when such accusations arise, he said.
Additionally, confidentiality agreements have been abolished, except when requested by victims.
Efforts have also been made to offer pastoral assistance to victims, and written codes of conduct have been implemented for clergy and other adults who work around children, Notzon added.
Despite these significant improvements, dioceses must continue working to restore trust, he said, emphasizing that the work “is not finished and may never be.”
“We must never let our guard down,” he stated, cautioning against “complacency” or reduced vigilance.
He offered recommendations for the future based on the independently-conducted “causes and context” study, which he observed may be useful for other organizations, since child sexual abuse is a problem in the broader community and not just the Catholic Church.
Education is one important factor in working to improve the protection of young people in the U.S., said Notzon.
He encouraged dioceses to train “all segments of parish life,” including diocesan personnel, parents, children and school staff members.
Notzon also stressed the need for situational prevention. He encouraged bishops to measure, monitor and report on the effectiveness of safe environment programs in their dioceses, as well as to develop a system of clergy evaluations.
Bishops should maintain regular personal contact with priests and should work to address their need to develop fraternal bonds through small clergy faith groups, he said.
Notzon also recommended developing programs to help international priests adjust, because certain behaviors may be culturally acceptable in one country but not in another.
In addition to continuing work to respond promptly to allegations, relieve offenders, comply with civil law and reach out to victims, adopting these recommendations will help “ensure confidence and transparency,” Notzon said.