Front Royal, Va., Oct 12, 2012 (CNA) - After years of working as a pro-life news reporter, a Catholic journalist discovered that she had a vocation to be a contemplative nun and that God had been using her work to prepare her to answer the calling.
On Oct. 14, Kathleen Gilbert, former LifeSiteNews U.S. Bureau Chief, will begin her first year as a postulant for the Discalced Carmelites in Buffalo, N.Y.
Although she was raised in a Catholic household where religious life was always seen as “a very good thing,” Gilbert told CNA she never felt “pushed” in any particular direction and was “totally free to pursue whatever I wanted to become.”
Early on in her life, Gilbert said she wanted to be an apologist – someone who teaches the Catholic faith and defends it from misinterpretation – especially since she frequently “practiced” explaining Catholicism to her Presbyterian father.
With prayers and a strong faith formation from her family, Gilbert said she “entered adulthood knowing that the path I chose would be my own creative response to God, not just aimless self-determination.”
Gilbert wanted to study exorcism and demonology, but eventually became a journalist, giving up her post-graduate studies in theology to write full time for LifeSiteNews.com, a non-profit online news site dedicated to covering stories from the culture, life and family spheres.
But that shift in plans was possible only because of the spiritual nature of her work, which was “enough to satisfy my desire to do good and, especially, fight evil,” she said.
“It was an absolutely spiritual workplace. Our daily bread is prayer,” she said. “Being able to bring such single-mindedness towards God into one's daily work routine is a real privilege.”
As a journalist, Gilbert said she dealt with “darkness” and “occasional discouragement” because of the news she reported, but she still approached her work with a strong sense of optimism.
“I never really felt any reason to fear or despair,” she said. “Any darkness we encountered just became all the more reason to roll up our sleeves and get to work shining light on it.”
In Dec. 2011, after working as a journalist for three years, Gilbert began to seriously discern the possibility of a religious vocation.
She explained that she has always felt “a bit of that sense of detachment from the world,” as if she were an “onlooker” or “exile,” but simply attributed it to being “a member of the City of God.”
However, when that feeling “began to gnaw,” rather than just “tough it out” for any longer, Gilbert began to listen to the ‘still small voice’ and made her first visit to a Carmelite monastery during Christmastime of last year.
“Since I had never envisioned this future before, the suddenness of it helped me conclude that it wasn't just my own idea,” she said.
Gilbert knew that if she did have a religious vocation, she needed to look into the Carmelites, or as she calls them, the “Marines of the Church.”
She felt drawn to those who live with an “emphasis” on “total union with God in contemplative prayer.” In this way, she said, Carmelites strive to “devote our whole lives to being the contact point between Heaven and Earth, drawing down the graces that priests, missionaries, and families distribute to the world.”
And although she is giving up writing for a living, Gilbert believes that working in the news was a “brilliant way of getting to know what to pray for” in the convent. Gilbert will also take with her all the relationships she “cultivated in the pro-life world.”
Although she will no longer be working for the news agency, Gilbert hopes she can still help LifeSite as their “staff nun” who will be working “full-time in the higher echelons of power.”
Ultimately, Gilbert hopes that her work as a journalist will have “saved even one unborn child's life, or softened the heart to the dignity of the human person, or given another a little spark of hope that set it on a path to true freedom.”
“If I've done that,” she said, “well, I win.”
Vatican City, Oct 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI says there is no contradiction between a desire to uphold the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church and continuously working to update how those beliefs are understood and presented to the world.
“Christianity must not be considered as ‘something that has passed,’ nor must we live with our gaze always turned back, because Jesus Christ is yesterday today and forever,” the Pope said Oct. 12.
“Christianity,” he explained, “is marked by the presence of the eternal God, who entered into time and is present in all times, because all times are brought forth of His creative power, of his eternal ‘today.’”
Pope Benedict made his remarks at a lunch being hosted in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall for 14 of the 70 surviving participants of the Second Vatican Council.
The council was opened by Blessed Pope John XXIII on Oct. 10, 1962. In Italian, he described its chief task as one of “aggiornamento” or “bringing up to date” the role and understanding of the Catholic Church in the modern world.
Pope Benedict explained that for the past 50 years there has been criticism from several quarters that Pope John’s choice of word was “not entirely appropriate” because it could imply a possible break with the traditional teachings and practice of the Church.
Pope Benedict acknowledged that the “choice of words is something that can be discussed for hours without reconciling contrasting opinions,” but he said he remains convinced that “the intuition which Blessed John XXIII summarised in that word was and remains correct.”
“This constantly updated vitality, this ‘aggiornamento,’ does not mean breaking with tradition; rather, it is an expression of that tradition’s ongoing vitality,” the Pope said.
“Aggiornamento,” he asserted, does not mean “reducing the faith” or “debasing it to the fashion of the times” by “using the yardstick of what we like and what appeals to public opinion.”
“Quite the contrary, just as the Council Fathers did, we must mould the ‘today’ in which we live to the measure of Christianity.”
Also present at the lunch were those senior clerics who are currently participating in Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, which is being held at the Vatican October 7–28, as well as the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences who are in Rome for the opening of the Year of Faith.
As a young priest and academic, Pope Benedict XVI was present at the Second Vatican Council in an advisory capacity to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne.
The best way to remember and commemorate the council, he remarked, is to concentrate during the Year of Faith on its core message, “which is, in fact, nothing other than the message of faith in Christ, the one Saviour of the world, proclaimed to mankind in our time.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has written his first pastoral letter to his archdiocese, invoking the Catholic history of California and calling on Catholics to witness to the “New World of faith.”
“Los Angeles — like all of California and the Americas —is built on a Christian foundation. And today we are called to build on that missionary foundation to make a new evangelization of the Americas,” the archbishop said in his Oct. 2 letter, which was released Oct. 10, the eve of the Catholic Church’s Year of Faith.
“The world needs a new evangelization! The people of our city, our nation and our continent are waiting for the encounter with Jesus Christ who makes all things new,” he proclaimed.
Archbishop Gomez encouraged Catholics to embrace the Year of Faith as “a time of interior renewal and spiritual preparation for a new Christian witness to our city and our continent.” This renewal is for each individual and for the archdiocese in its parishes, schools, catechesis, religious education, and social ministries.
“We need to ask ourselves: Is our work leading men and women to Jesus Christ and his Church? Is the Christian faith spreading and is knowledge of the faith deepening through our programs and ministries?” Archbishop Gomez said.
The archbishop, who took office in March 2011, named five pastoral priorities: improving faith education, encouraging vocations to the priesthood and religious life, fostering Catholic identity and diversity, promoting a “culture of life” and strengthening marriage and the family.
He stressed the need for every Catholic to grow in his or her knowledge of the faith.
Every Catholic should learn how to pray better and how to read the Gospels with “more lively faith and deeper understanding,” he wrote, recommending the practice of lectio divina – meditating and praying using Scripture – to help Catholics encounter Jesus Christ. He emphasized that this education is rooted in the Eucharist.
Vocations to the priesthood and religious life are “born of a Catholic culture” and intensified prayer is a practical step to advance them, the archbishop explained.
In the realm of promoting a culture of life, the archbishop said the Church must “proclaim the Gospel of life” and protect “the rights of the person from conception to natural death.”
He explained the defense of marriage as an effort to restore a “family culture” in the face of “widespread cultural confusion.” This defense must include doing more to support mothers, fathers and families in Catholic parishes and ministries.
“Our Church must lead a cultural renewal so that our society will once more see that marriage is sacred and that the family is the true sanctuary of life and the heart of a civilization of love,” he said.
Archbishop Gomez encouraged lay people to sanctify their work and see their daily activities “as the place where you meet and walk with Jesus.”
“Through our witness, let us make this truly a City of the Angels — a city of love and truth, where all can know that God is near in his love, and where the horizons of every life are open to his promise of salvation,” he said.
The pastoral letter also announced some changes in the diocesan administration.
The archbishop intends to create an Office of the New Evangelization. He will expand the mission of the archdiocese’s Office of Justice and Peace to include “defending innocent life against the threats of abortion and euthanasia.”
The archbishop closed his letter by asking for the prayers of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Angels.
Archbishop Gomez is presently in Rome for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, which will run until Oct. 28.
Vatican City, Oct 12, 2012 (CNA) - Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addressed the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization at the Vatican on Oct. 11, speaking about how positive and negative aspects of life in the U.S. affect the prospects of the Catholic Church flourishing.
“Perhaps because of our youth, we have many reasons for hope and promise,” he said, comparing the Catholic Church in the U.S. to the ancient Christian presence in the Middle East and Europe.
He said the U.S. is “actually very religious,” citing high belief in God and the divinity of Jesus Christ. The country also benefits “immensely” from the immigration of devout Catholics from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
“They bring us wonderful people with a vibrant faith, strong families, who, upon arrival in America, search for welcoming parishes, where they are faithful to Sunday Mass and the sacraments,” he said.
The bishops’ synod is meeting at the Vatican over the next three weeks to consider how to evangelize the contemporary world, especially those who are baptized but have drifted away from the Church.
Cardinal Dolan told the synod that the Church in the U.S. is “vigorous” in its educational and charitable endeavors, which he said make American Catholics “ambassadors of evangelization.”
Catholic teaching in the U.S. is “well known, if at times misunderstood or attacked.” The cardinal said even those who disagree with the Church “grudgingly admire” the Church’s “tenacious preaching” on human life, peace, justice and charity, care for the suffering and defense of marriage and the family.
He also listed several challenges.
“Especially toxic to the new evangelization is the fad to reduce religion to a hobby, limited to Sunday morning, and not a normative, positive influence on everything we do, dream, and dare,” he told the bishops. “Religion is personal, yes; but it is hardly private.”
He noted “vocal” anti-religious segments of society in parts of the entertainment industry, the press, academia and government.
“Such forces view faith — especially, pardon my thin-skin, the Catholic religion — as opposed to everything they see as liberating, enlightening, and progressive in the world, a repressive voice to be resisted and maligned,” Cardinal Dolan said.
He said the New Evangelization must respond and present faith in Jesus as “alive in his Church” and as “the premier force in history for all that is good, true, and beautiful in humanity.”
The cardinal also spoke of a decline in the willingness to participate in institutions.
He said many Americans say they have no trouble believing but do not want to belong to a church. This view seems “crazy” to Catholics who see that “Jesus Christ and his Church are one.”
He also criticized some Americans’ “chilling reduction of liberty to libertarianism” that either rejects concern for the needs of others, or embraces the idea that people “have the unfettered right to do whatever we want.”
Citing Pope John Paul II, the cardinal said that freedom is “the ability to do what we ought.” In response to views that reject this idea, he said the New Evangelization must connect freedom to “responsibility and reason.”
Cardinal Dolan lamented the “bureaucratic and judicial invasion” against religious liberty in the U.S., where the Catholic Church is presently fighting a federal mandate that requires many Catholic institutions to provide employees with free coverage for morally objectionable drugs and procedures.
“Recent intrusions upon the integrity of the Church, even presuming to define the nature of the Church’s ministers and ministries, imperil our right to live our faith, in obedience to Jesus, as a light to the world,” he said.
The cardinal concluded by thanking the ancient Churches for “evangelizing us.”
“Now, we Americans are honored to be partners with them in the new evangelization.”
Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2012 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops criticized Vice President Joe Biden for an “inaccurate statement of fact” about the HHS mandate’s impact on religious institutions during last night’s vice presidential debate.
"With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear,” said Biden during the Oct. 11 debate in Danville, Ky.
“No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide,” he argued. “That is a fact.”
“This is not a fact,” responded the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in an Oct. 12 statement.
The bishops’ conference criticized Biden’s remarks on the federal contraception mandate, calling them “inaccurate.”
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan responded by saying, “Now I have to take issue with the Catholic Church and religious liberty. If they agree with you, then why would they (dioceses and other Catholic institutions) keep suing you? It’s a distinction without a difference.”
Issued under the authority of the Affordable Care Act, the controversial mandate requires employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
In recent months, more than 100 plaintiffs – including both Catholic and non-Catholic universities, charitable organizations and private businesses – have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate, arguing that it infringes upon their constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
Ryan raised the issue of the mandate during the debate while answering a question about the Catholic faith shared by both contenders. Ryan said that the mandate “troubles” him because it threatens religious freedom.
In responding to Biden’s claims, the bishops’ conference emphasized that the mandate includes only a narrow exemption for religious employers. The exemption applies only to non-profit organizations that exist primarily for the inculcation of religious values and both employ and serve primarily members of their own faith.
Therefore, the conference said, any religious charities, hospitals and social agencies that serve all people of any faith – including Georgetown Hospital and the other organizations named by Biden – are not covered by the exemption, which was finalized in February 2012.
The bishops’ conference also underscored that while the administration has proposed an additional “accommodation” for these non-exempt religious organizations, the proposal “does not even potentially relieve these organizations.”
The accommodation, which is still in its preliminary stages, offers a series of suggestions to relieve non-religious organizations from funding the controversial coverage if they object to it, while still including the coverage as part of the plans.
However, critics say the suggestions all amount to an accounting gimmick, because they would still require the objecting organizations to pay for the coverage indirectly, through necessarily increased premiums.
The bishops’ conference argued that under the proposed schemes religious organizations “will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients.”
“They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries,” it added.
The bishops’ conference said that it continues to ask the Obama administration “in the strongest possible terms” to take action that truly removes “the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 12, 2012 (CNA) -
Although Venezuala's Catholic bishops congratulated the country for holding peaceful elections Oct. 7, they said the results show two starkly competing views on how to build Venezuelan society.
“The existence of two visions for the country, revealed in results of the election, is a fact that should be taken into account with regards to the building of the country, so that we can live in harmony, solidarity and peace,” the bishops said in a statement Monday.
With 54 percent of the vote, incumbent leader Hugo Chavez, 58, defeated his 40-year-old opponent Henrique Capriles in the Oct. 5 election.
In the wake of the results, which disappointed both locals and many worldwide hoping for a regime change, the bishops said that dialogue and reconciliation are a permanent task that goes beyond the electoral contest.
“Each day is an opportunity to achieve mutual respect and understanding, which leads to the good of the community,” they said.
The civil conduct of all parties in the election and the acceptance of the official results should “definitively dispel the doubts about possible anti-constitutional plans and threats of destabilization.”
“No one should resort to these arguments without expertise and justifiable reasons,” the bishops added.
They invited supporters of both Chavez and Capriles to “reflect on the consequences and responsibilities that this brings with it, always keeping Venezuela in mind.”
“Respect for the constitution and our laws, the defense of the rights of persons, especially the poorest and those most in need, the promotion of the common good, a plan for the country characterized by inclusion, should be on the agenda of everyone,” the bishops said.
They called on “all Venezuelans to be builders of hope. These attitudes will lead us to overcome the social and political divisions.”
Vatican City, Oct 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict believes that the Catholic Church of 2012 possesses “a more sober and humble joy” compared to the optimism that marked the Second Vatican Council’s opening 50 years ago.
“Over these fifty years we have learned and experienced how original sin exists and is translated, ever and anew, into individual sins which can also become structures of sin,” the Pope said during a candlelit vigil gathered in St. Peter’s Square to mark the opening of the Year of Faith Oct. 11.
“We have seen how weeds are also always present in the field of the Lord,” he added. “We have seen how Peter’s net also brings in bad fish.”
“We have seen how human fragility is also present in the Church, how the ship of the Church is also sailing against a counter wind and is threatened by storms; and at times we have thought that the Lord is sleeping and has forgotten us.”
The night time procession and vigil was organized by the lay Catholic Action movement in coordination with the Diocese of Rome. Pope Benedict spoke from the window of his study in scenes deliberately reminiscent of the opening day of Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11 1962.
“On this day fifty years ago I was in the square looking up at this window where the Good Pope, Blessed John XXIII, appeared and addressed us with unforgettable words, words full of poetry and goodness, words from the heart,” he recalled.
As a young priest, the Pope had participated in the Second Vatican Council as an academic adviser to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne.
He also remembered how the happy and enthusiastic crowds of 1962 were certain that “a new springtime for the Church was in the offing.”
“Today too we are happy. We have joy in our hearts but, I would say, it is perhaps a more sober and humble joy,” Pope Benedict said.
Over the past half-century, he suggested, the Church has repeatedly witnessed “how the Lord does not forget us” but, instead, has brought forth new signs of life throughout the Church that “illuminate the world and give us a guarantee of God’s goodness.”
“In closing I make bold to echo the unforgettable words of Pope John: 'Go to your homes, give your children a kiss and say it is from the Pope.'”
Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s profession that he is personally opposed to abortion while supporting its legalization fails to acknowledge the life-taking reality of abortion, said critics including a prominent Notre Dame law professor.
“It is a matter of yes, or no, and there is no ‘personal’ as opposed to ‘public’ about it,” said Professor Gerard V. Bradley. “The question is intrinsically, and entirely, public.”
Bradley told CNA on Oct. 12 that an analysis of the positions expressed by Biden and other “pro-choice Catholics” suggests that they “simply do not believe what the Church believes, namely, that abortion is the unjustified killing of a human person.”
The connection between Catholicism and one’s stance on abortion was discussed at the Oct. 11 vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky.
The 2012 presidential campaign marks the first time that Catholic candidates have run for vice president in both major parties. Moderator Martha Raddatz asked the candidates about their Catholic faith and the role it has played in shaping their contrasting views on abortion.
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said that his pro-life stance is the result of faith, reason and science.
“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith,” he said. “Our faith informs us in everything we do.”
In contrast, Biden argued that his support for legalized abortion is compatible with his lifelong Catholic faith, which he said “defines” his identity.
“Life begins at conception, that’s the Church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life,” he said. “But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others,” Biden said.
Bradley said that this line of thought can be traced back to a small gathering of Catholic moral theologians in 1964 who met with the Kennedy family to discuss how one could “support liberalized abortion laws without overtly abandoning ‘Catholic teaching’ on the matter.”
The “personally opposed, but” view on abortion became well-known largely through Catholic politician Mario Cuomo, the former New York governor and presidential candidate who laid out his beliefs in a 1984 speech at Notre Dame, he said.
But Bradley said that “efforts such as those of Cuomo and the Kennedys and of Joseph Biden last night utterly fail.”
Their “central flaw,” he explained, is a failure to acknowledge “what it is that one is actually opposing.”
He observed that “if one judges - as everyone should and as the Church does - that the reason to oppose abortion is the reason to oppose killing any other innocent human person, then the ‘personally opposed, but’ position sounds ridiculous.”
“The reason is that such killing is objectively, and gravely, wrong, a great injustice,” he said, noting that no one says they “personally oppose” killing those with Lou Gehrig’s disease but think the state should refrain from passing laws against such killing.
When the question is examined clearly, Bradley said, “the issue before public authority when it comes to abortion is the equal protection of the laws against killing.”
“The question is not one’s ‘personal opposition’ to anything,” he explained. “The question is about public justice.”
Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor for the Catholic Association, told CNA that the vice president’s comments show a “remarkable disconnect.”
"Vice President Biden said that he accepts that life begins at conception, but that he wouldn't impose that belief on others,” she said. But the “very purpose of laws in a civil society are to impose limits and to protect the powerless.”
Ferguson compared the vice president’s position to saying that one is personally opposed to robbing someone at gunpoint but that “I won't impose my belief on others by supporting laws that protect people against robbery.”
“His position is in direct conflict with the teaching of the Church on the foundational issue of respect for life," she added.