Archive of May 30, 2013

Archbishop Myers stresses child safety efforts in Newark

Newark, N.J., May 30, 2013 (CNA) - Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark has reaffirmed the archdiocese’s commitment to protecting children following the resignation of a priest who violated a legal agreement to avoid minors.

“We are not perfect. But people who suggest we have not taken seriously the oversight of our clergy and do not put the security and safety of our families and parishioners, especially our children, at the forefront of our ministry are just plain wrong,” Archbishop Myers said.

“This is among the most sacred responsibilities that I share with the other honorable, dedicated clergy within our archdiocese,” he wrote in a May 24 column for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

The archbishop said the archdiocese must identify any flaws in its abuse protocols “and fix them.” He pledged a “thoughtful and effective response,” including the appointment of a new vicar general and a review and strengthening of the archdiocese's internal protocols to safeguard children.

His comments come in response to the case of Father Michael Fugee, who in 2001 admitted to police that he groped a teenage boy’s crotch while wrestling in the presence of the boy’s family members. He was convicted of aggravated sexual contact in 2003 but the conviction was reversed on appeal in 2006 on the grounds the jury was not instructed properly.

A 2007 agreement between the priest, prosecutors and the Archdiocese of Newark’s vicar general allowed the priest to remain in ministry provided he was not around children unsupervised and did not engage in youth ministry or hear their confessions.

However, in April 2013 evidence became public showing that the priest has since attended youth retreats and pilgrimages and heard confessions from minors, though without the knowledge of the Archdiocese of Newark’s chancery.

On May 2, Fr. Fugee submitted his resignation to Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, who accepted it the same day. The priest was arrested May 20 for violating his agreement. He could face up to 18 months in prison.

Fr. Fugee was serving as director of the archdiocese’s Office of the Propagation of the Faith. In November 2012 he was appointed co-director of the archdiocese’s Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests.

The archdiocese had defended his appointment in February 2013, saying it had not received any complaints from the prosecutor’s office since the priest’s return from active ministry.

Archbishop Myers said May 24 that when he first learned of Fr. Fugee’s alleged violations of the legal agreement, he ordered an outside law firm to conduct a “full and thorough” investigation.

“I said I not only wanted to know if there was any wrongdoing, but that if there was wrongdoing and it rose to the point that authorities should be notified, I wanted them notified as well,” the archbishop said.

He said the investigation found “certain operational vulnerabilities” in the archdiocese and that the “strong protocols” in place “were not always observed.”

Archbishop Myers said that the resignation of archdiocese’s vicar general, Monsignor John E. Doran, will allow for more effective changes. He announced that monitoring functions will be transferred to the archdiocese’s judicial vicar.

The archbishop said the archdiocese has “an exemplary record” in addressing abuse allegation against its clergy.

“During my tenure I have personally removed 19 priests for substantiated allegations,” he said.

He pointed to abuse prevention programs in the diocese and safety training for Catholic school students. He said priests and deacons have been reminded that they need written permission to minister in other dioceses.

“All of these measures are geared toward safeguarding the members of our parishes and community. You can be sure we will continue to expand our efforts,” he said.

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Religious orders to release records of abusive LA priests

Los Angeles, Calif., May 30, 2013 (CNA) - Catholic religious orders will soon release confidential files about priests accused of sex abuse who were assigned to work in Los Angeles, fulfilling part of a settlement agreement with victims.

The files involve orders including the Salesians, Vincentians and Marianists and will begin to be released as early as June. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias set a September deadline for the public release of the documents.

Victims’ attorney Raymond Boucher told the judge that most orders came forward “with a positive attitude,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “We want to get this behind us,” Boucher said, adding that the first records release could happen in three weeks.

The files are distinct from those of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which released 12,000 pages of abuse-related documents several months ago.

On Jan. 31, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez announced that with the release of personnel files of priests accused decades ago of sexual abuse, his predecessor, the retired Cardinal Mahony, and his one-time vicar for clergy, Bishop Thomas Curry, would no longer have official duties in the archdiocese.

The files showed that in the late 1980s, Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry, who was then vicar of clergy, corresponded often about dealing with priests who had sexually abused minors. The Los Angeles Times said the memos show a campaign to hide sex abuse cases from police.

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading...We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church,” Archbishop Gomez said at the time.

The decision to remove Cardinal Mahoney of his official duties has been roundly welcomed from local Catholics as well as the Church throughout America. In a February interview with CNA, Los Angeles-based author and historian Charles Colombe hailed the archbishop's move as “the best possible thing he could have done.”

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Church in northern Arabia longs for 'place to worship'

Washington D.C., May 30, 2013 (CNA) - As he oversees the missionary territory of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, apostolic vicar Camillo Ballin outlined Catholics' need for religious toleration as well as a physical home for ministry.

A native of Italy, Bishop Ballin set out to study Arabic and Islam in order “to discover another world” after his ordination as a priest of the Comboni Missionaries.

In a May 29 interview with CNA, he noted that his travels have taken him to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, and eventually to his 2005 appointment as apostolic vicar of Kuwait.  

His vicariate – otherwise known as an ecclesiastical jurisdiction within the Church where a hierarchy is not yet fully organized – was expanded in 2011 to include the whole of the Northern Arabian Peninsula, which oversees Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The area has supported a Christian population since before the advent of Islam, a fact that many Christians in the area look to for inspiration, Bishop Ballin said. As an example, he pointed to church within the vicariate that is dedicated to St. Arethas and the 400 martyrs that were persecuted and killed over a century before Islam came to the area.

Today, ministry within the vicariate focuses upon the spiritual sustenance of 2.5 million Christians in the area, Bishop Ballin said.

A major concern for the vicariate, he noted, is promoting religious freedom for Christians in the area. Most of the Catholic faithful in the area are guest workers from countries such as India and the Philippines.

“We don’t ask for particular laws for the Christians,” the bishop said. He explained the concept of religious freedom in the Arabian Peninsula, noting that the Church in the area does not seek to entice Muslims within the country to abandon their faith. “We ask just to have places for worship,” and opportunities for the spiritual formation of migrant workers in the area, he said.

While the countries “are tolerating the presence of Christians,” the bishop noted that his ministry also requires that he “respect the laws of the country and not forget that the religion of the country is Islam.”

Another challenge the vicariate faces is the diversity of the guest workers within the area. “All our faithful are from many countries and many rites,” he said, adding that in Bahrain alone, weekly masses are said in 5 different Catholic rites and a dozen languages.

The bishop said that though creating a unified Catholic community among parishioners from such different backgrounds is challenging, it is a priority for the vicariate.

Thus, the vicariate holds many events to help bring Catholics together as a unified community, such as an annual unity conference held in Kuwait that draws together over 400 faithful to discuss topics related to the faith.

While the vicariate faces these challenges, it has also received support from some countries within the area that have developed a relatively strong respect for the freedom of religion.

“Bahrain is not only tolerating but encouraging” Christianity, said Bishop Ballin, commenting that the country has granted the vicariate land for a new Cathedral, and supports a small population of local Christians in addition to Catholic guest workers.

A new proposed cathedral – for which $25 million dollars will need to be raised for by 2016 – is planned for the vicariate’s new Episcopal seat in Bahrain, and will be dedicated to Our Lady Of Arabia.

According to the bishop, there is a strong Marian devotion among Catholics in the area, particularly to Our Lady Of Arabia, who is Patroness of the Gulf.

The new cathedral complex will feature a main Cathedral that can fit up to 2000 faithful, a residence for the bishop, multipurpose halls, underground parking and residential halls for clergy and religious. The vicarate’s lease on its current cathedral in Kuwait expires in 2016.

The Episcopal seat was moved from Kuwait to Bahrain in 2011 because of the country’s central location among the northern Gulf States, as well as King Bin Isa Al Khalifa’s “magnanimous” support and openness towards Christians in the country, said Bishop Ballin.

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Vatican explains availability of Pope's daily homilies

Vatican City, May 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican is not publishing the full text of the Pope’s daily homilies because it wants to avoid giving them a level of authority that is not intended.

“We must insist on the fact that, in all of the Pope’s activities, the difference between different situations and celebrations, as well as the different levels of authority of his words, must be understood and respected,” Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi said May 30.

He explained that while the full text of Pope Francis’ public events is made available, the daily homilies are only summarized because of “the character of the situation, and the spontaneity and familiarity of the Pope’s remarks.”

Pope Francis, he added, wants to retain the familiar atmosphere that characterizes the daily Mass, which is typically attended by a small number of the faithful. “For that reason,” Fr. Lombardi said, the Pope has specifically requested that the live video and audio not be broadcast.

Another contributing factor to the decision is the fact that the pontiff is not a native Italian speaker, the press director said.

The demand from the public for the full version of the Pope’s daily homilies in the chapel of Saint Martha’s House has been high.

So, in order to respect both the circumstances and the requests from the public, the Vatican decided to have its news outlets attend and summarize the essentials of the homily.

After “careful consideration,” Fr. Lombardi said in his May 30 statement, “it seems the best way to make the richness of the Pope’s homilies accessible to a wide audience, without altering the nature of his remarks, is to publish a detailed summary, rich in direct quotations that reflect the genuine flavor of the Pope’s expressions.”

“L’Osservatore Romano undertakes this responsibility every day. Vatican Radio, on account of the nature of the medium, offers a shorter synthesis, including some of the original sound, while CTV offers a video clip corresponding to one of the audio inserts published by Vatican Radio,” he explained.

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Spiritual generosity is form of solidarity, Pope states

Rome, Italy, May 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis says that even though solidarity is an idea “frowned down upon by the world,” people need to practice it by spiritually feeding others.

“A keyword that we need not fear is ‘solidarity,’ that is, knowing how to make available to God what we have, our humble capacity, because only in the gift of sharing our lives will we be fruitful,” he said during his homily May 30 at Rome’s Basilica of Saint John Lateran.

“The solution of Jesus goes in another direction, a direction that surprises the disciples – ‘you give them something to eat,’” he stated.

The Pope based his homily on this year’s Gospel reading from Luke 9, which tells how Jesus multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5,000 people in the wilderness.

“Jesus speaks in silence in the mystery of the Eucharist and each time reminds us that following him means to come out of ourselves and not make our life our possession, but a gift to him and to others,” he told the congregation.

“This evening we are the crowd of the Gospel, we also strive to follow Jesus to listen to him, to enter into communion with him in the Eucharist, to accompany him and find why he accompanies us,” said Pope Francis.

The feast of Corpus Christi, which celebrates the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ, is celebrated on May 30 in Rome, but some countries have moved the feast to the following Sunday.

Pope Francis, who is the Bishop of Rome, celebrated the Mass in St. John Lateran because it is the cathedral of the diocese.

He underscored in his reflection that the Eucharist is “real food that sustains our life even at times when the going gets tough and when the obstacles slow down our steps.”

“Let us ask ourselves, ‘how do I follow Jesus?’” he said.

The Mass reading recalls how the 12 disciples asked Jesus to send the people away to find lodging and food, since they were in a deserted place and only had five loaves of bread and two fish.

“In the Gospel we have just heard, there is an expression of Jesus that always strikes me, ‘you give them something to eat,’” Pope Francis remarked, referring to how Jesus responded to his disciples.

“From this sentence, I let myself be guided by three words, discipleship, fellowship and sharing,” he explained.

The pontiff noted “the invitation that Jesus makes to his disciples to feed the multitude themselves is based on two elements.”

“First, the crowd who followed Jesus, is in an open space, away from inhabited areas, while evening comes,” he pointed out.

Jesus’ response is also rooted in “the concern of the disciples who ask Jesus to send the crowd away to go into neighboring countries to find food and lodging,” he said.

According to the Pope, “everyone thinks about himself” and dismisses others.

“How many times do we, Christians, have this temptation!” he exclaimed.

“We do not care for the needs of others, dismissing them with a pitiful ‘God help you,’” he said.

But Jesus, on the other hand, was not discouraged and asked the disciples to seat people in groups of 50 people, the Pope underlined.

He labeled the moment when Jesus raised his eyes to heaven, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave it to the disciples to distribute as “a moment of deep communion.”

“The crowd, quenched by the word of the Lord, is now nourished by the bread of his life and they were all satisfied,” he stated.

“The Lord in the Eucharist makes us follow his path, that of service, of sharing, of giving, and what little we have, what little we are, becomes wealth if shared, because the power of God, which is that of love, comes down upon our poverty to transform it,” the Pope preached.

After the evening Mass, Pope Francis will lead a procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Rome to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, a distance of about one mile.

Parishes, confraternities and other groups of faithful will take part in the procession, which was revived during the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II.

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Columnist examines pitfalls of arguing against 'gay marriage'

Denver, Colo., May 30, 2013 (CNA) - In a new column on Catholic Womanhood, writer Jennifer Uebbing explains that a common problem in arguing against a redefinition of marriage is implicitly accepting the idea that such as redefinition is possible.

“Marriage is not a human invention or a cultural construct, but rather, the revealed truth of something written into our very beings,” she writes.

Entering into the argument “for” or “against” the redefinition of marriage, she says, generally ignores the question of “What is the point of marriage?”

If we fail to define that, it is fairly easy to understand why many “good-hearted and well-intentioned” people have thrown their support behind something that has been presented as fight for the “equality” and “dignity” of all people.

Marriage, Uebbing explains, is not a way to “publically celebrate your commitment” or a way to achieve “lifelong happiness.”

“While marriage is filled with tremendous opportunities for happiness, it does not exist specifically to deliver mutual feelings of goodwill to the spouses,” she says.

Instead, the point of marriage is the “profoundly counter-cultural view” of seeking the good of “the other” in the form of the spouse and any children who may come from the union, whether they are biological, adopted or “spiritual.”

Therefore, a redefinition of marriage is impossible, she explains, because “unlike a cultural trend or technological advance, (it) isn’t subject to innovation or alteration as the tides of change sweep through a culture.”

“Marriage is, at its core, a vocation, a call to unite one man and one woman in the untiring pursuit of the good of the other, for the love and service of the children it produces.”

Laws, therefore, cannot define marriage because “they did not create it” in the first place.

“Marriage is not a human invention or a cultural construct, but rather, the revealed truth of something written into our very beings,” Uebbing clarifies.

As men and women, marriage exists as a “reveled truth of something written into our very beings” – that is, it is a reflection of the physical, biological, psychological and spiritual complementarity of the two sexes.

Therefore, she stresses, although two individuals of the same sex can enter into a relationship  – even a legally binding one  – that relationship is not a marriage because it goes against the very nature of the institution. No matter how great the “force of will” or “manipulation of law,” a union between two members of the same sex is not marriage.

To read Uebbing’s full column, visit Catholic Womanhood.

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Man prayed over by Pope says he suffered from demons

Rome, Italy, May 30, 2013 (CNA) - A 43-year-old Mexican man whom Pope Francis prayed over in St. Peter’s Square on Pentecost Sunday said that he had suffered from demonic possession for more than a decade.

Father Gabriele Amorth, the famous exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, told CNA on May 22 that Angel had received a “prayer of deliverance” from the Pope, who laid hands on him and prayed after Mass on May 19.

In an interview published by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the man, identified as Angel, recalled that his problems began one day in 1999 as he returned from Mexico City to his hometown in Michoacan by bus.

“I felt an energy enter the bus. I did not see it with my eyes but I felt it,” he said. “I noticed that it approached me and stood in front of me. And suddenly, I felt like a knife stabbed me in the chest and then, little by little, I had the sensation that it was opening my ribs.”

Initially, Angel thought it was a heart attack, but he did not die. However his health worsened, because he vomited everything he ate.

“I felt punctures all over my body, as if it were full of needles,” he said. “Even the sheets hurt me. I started losing the ability to walk.”

Soon, he said that he began falling into trances, uttering blasphemies and speaking in unknown languages, with doctors who attended him unable to explain what was wrong.

Angel’s health became so poor that he received last rites on four different occasions. The anointing brought an improvement to his health, so he started praying with a particular devotion to the Divine Mercy.

In 2004, he attended a lecture in the Mexican city of Morelia by a Ukrainian priest who explained his case.

“I told him what was happening to me, how bad I felt. He touched a relic of Padre Pio to my chest and I saw a special light that surrounded me,” he recalled.

“I felt a great peace. But at the same time, I noticed something that began to scratch inside me. That something knocked me down and started to manifest itself. I couldn’t do anything, that presence was stronger than me and it overpowered me.”

That day, Angel said, it was clear that he was possessed, and this knowledge made him feel fearful and “very dirty.”

“My family reacted at first with disbelief and, in fact, between my siblings there are some who are still skeptics and who believe that what I have is the result of a psychological imbalance,” he stated.

Initially, a priest in Mexico City performed four or five exorcisms on Angel. During one of them, the priest “asked the demon how he had entered into me and it said it was because of a curse that someone put on me.”

Angel’s health continued to deteriorate despite several exorcisms. He became unable to work and had to close his advertising company. He was forced to sell his house in order to support his wife and two children.

However, he recently had a dream in which he saw Pope Francis “dressed in red and praying with an incense burner in his hand and surrounded by bishops and cardinals.”

He said that he initially didn’t give it much thought, but when he woke up, he turned on the television and saw “a Mass with the Pope dressed in red and with incense burning in his hand, surrounded by bishops and cardinals.”

“And a thought came to my mind: Do I have to go to Rome?” he said.

Although Angel was hesitant to travel because he was so sick, he eventually decided to make the trip to Rome with a priest that he knew.

He had been reading the book “The Last Exorcist,” by Fr. Amorth, “which states that both Benedict XVI and John Paul II had performed exorcisms and prayers of delivery over the possessed.”

Fr. Amorth witnessed the Pope’s prayer over Angel and said the next day, “there is no doubt that he is possessed.”

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Religious differences compatible with freedom, Jewish leader says

Washington D.C., May 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - True religious liberty does not require religious individuals to minimize differences in the tenets of their faith, said Jewish Rabbi Meir Soloveichik.

Instead, he maintained, religious freedom demands that people of faith live “both as stranger and neighbor” within society.

“We do not need to deny our differences to achieve a covenant,” he emphasized.

Quoting Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, chief Rabbi of Great Britain, he explained that “utopias have no room for differences, and difference is what makes us human.”

Rabbi Soloveichik is a professor at Yeshiva College in New York, known for his writings on the relationship between Judaism, Christianity and society.

He presented the opening address at the National Religious Freedom Conference in Washington, D.C., on May 30. The gathering, which drew a diverse group of religious freedom advocates, was sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program.

The rabbi explained that “America is the first country in a long time founded around an idea,” and that religious freedom “is the philosophical lynchpin of what lies at the heart of American ideals.”

This theory is evident throughout American history, he said.

To illustrate his point, Rabbi Soloveichik recounted the story of Jonas Phillips, a Jewish merchant living in the early United States. He explained that shortly after the formation of the country, Jews wishing to serve in the Pennsylvania legislature were required to swear an oath upon a Christian Bible, a blasphemous act for the Jewish people.

Phillips, who had fought in the Revolutionary War alongside other Jews and Christians, found that this requirement was in opposition to the founding principles of the country, Soloveichik explained. The merchant sent a letter to George Washington protesting this practice and affirming that “all religious societies are on an equal footing.”

To the founders, Rabbi Soloveichik said, being an American meant both respecting the distinction between religious groups and standing for religious freedom for all members of American society.

This perspective acknowledges that “deep religious differences” can’t be dissolved, he noted. However, it also maintains that “religious certainty is not an obstacle” to a free society but instead allows society to be more honest.

And because true religious freedom does not minimize the philosophical differences separating different faiths, he explained, it also enables those faiths to find true common ground.

The rabbi observed that the refusal to minimize religious difference also allows room for individual belief, an important part of any political society.

A “just society,” he emphasized, will accept these differences and respect a person’s freedom to abide by his or her religious beliefs, treating the individual “as equal, without sacrificing religious faith” for social uniformity.

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