Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2013 (CNA) -
A dismissed request that the International Criminal Court investigate U.S. clergy sex abuse as a crime against humanity misunderstands the nature of the Catholic Church, the Vatican’s U.S. lawyer has said.
“It’s no surprise, as the claims against Benedict are based on a fictitious theory of how the Catholic Church works,” said Jeffrey Lena, the Holy See's attorney in the U.S., told CNA June 17.
“It’s not a monarchical structure. The monarchical structure is a convenient fiction that plaintiffs use in order to tie local problems to the Holy See.”
The International Criminal Court said in a May 31 letter to the Center for Constitutional Rights that there is not presently a basis to proceed with a request for an investigation of former Pope Benedict XVI and other Vatican leaders for crimes against humanity, the Associated Press reports.
“The matters described in your communication do not appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the court,” a court official’s letter said.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, together with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, had brought the claims before the global court based in The Hague, Netherlands.
They contended that then-Pope Benedict had “direct and superior responsibility for the crimes against humanity of rape and other sexual violence committed around the world.”
The court only had jurisdiction from the year 2001 onwards. It is the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal. It has received more than 9,700 independent proposals for inquiries since 2002.
Before he was elected to the papacy in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI served as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That congregation only had limited responsibility over abuse cases until 2001, when it took responsibility for the cases from the Roman Rota.
On June 14 Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CNA the Holy See always thought the international court would reject the request, “given the unfounded accusation.”
Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has approved more than $9 million in grants to help alleviate poverty and injustice throughout the United States.
Ralph McCloud, director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, said in a June 17 statement that “Catholics should be proud of this opportunity to get involved in making a real difference in the lives of the people in their communities.”
The recent grants were approved by the bishops serving on the campaign subcommittee, during a June meeting in San Diego, Calif.
Of the allocations this year, more than $1.5 million will go to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development’s new National Strategic Grant Program, which focuses “on issues that are broader in scope regionally and that require a more intensive community response, especially from the Catholic community.”
Other activities that will be supported by the new grants include the “statewide launch of a clinic in California that provides alternatives to abortion,” along with programs to “strengthen fatherhood and families,” and “funding for parishes and other congregations in Florida to address criminal justice reform.”
McCloud explained that the grants “represent the Catholic Church and the bishops of the United States standing in solidarity with those determined not to give in to the despair caused by pervasive poverty in our country.”
He said that the organization “is just as committed as ever to standing by those who want to create a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.”
“As always, CCHD continues to support grassroots groups making real change, advancing justice and human dignity, providing hopeful alternatives to young people, supporting the rights of immigrants, and empowering entrepreneurs,” he said.
Fargo, N.D., Jun 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Monsignor John T. Folda, the bishop-elect of the Fargo diocese, looks forward to promoting the Catholic faith in eastern North Dakota following his episcopal consecration June 19.
“My challenge will really be how to implement the new evangelization here in the Diocese of Fargo, and to help the faith to flourish,” Msgr. Folda told CNA June 17.
“I hope I can...positively promote and share the faith with others,” he said, noting the example of his own long-time bishop, Fabian W. Bruskewitz of the Lincoln diocese.
On April 8, Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Folda Folda the eighth bishop of Fargo, succeeding Bishop Samuel J. Aquila, who was transferred to the Denver archdiocese in 2012.
He will be consecrated bishop on June 19 by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, at Fargo's Cathedral of Saint Mary.
Msgr. Folda had been ordained a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, and served as rector of Saint Gregory the Great Minor Seminary for 14 years prior to his appointment as bishop of Fargo.
“I just look forward to meeting the people of the diocese,” he said. “I've had an opportunity to meet quite a few of the priests already, and I want to get to know them better as soon as possible...they're the people I'll work with most closely, so that's a priority.”
“Visiting as many parishes as I can, and different institutions of the diocese, really just getting to know the Diocese of Fargo – that's going to be my first priority, and that's what I'm looking forward to.”
“I think that's always really enjoyable for a bishop, to first just travel around a little bit” and get to meet the people of his diocese, Msgr. Folda added.
Initially, he plans to learn about his new diocese, becoming familiar with its parishes, schools and institutions, as well as the priests, deacons, religious sisters, and seminarians in Fargo. “I'm kind of in my learning, my homework stage; I have to do my research and meet people.”
He did add that the new evangelization “is certainly on everyone's mind right now, and on mine,” and that it will be an emphasis of his episcopacy.
As a seminary rector for so many years, Msgr. Fold said that Catholic education and priestly vocations will be particular “areas of interest” to him, but that “those are just two of the facets of a very big project.”
His 14 years as rector of St. Gregory's has “ helped me to understand the priesthood better,” he reported. “I think I have a much better understanding of the needs not just of seminarians, but of priests themselves,” having seen many seminarians move towards priestly life.
“Certainly I think I have a better understanding of priestly vocations now, and that is something that any bishop has to be not just interested in, but directly involved with.”
“I think I'll be able to hit the ground running when it comes to the preparation of our future priests,” Msgr. Folda said, and in “inviting men to consider the priesthood.”
Msgr. Folda served as a priest under Bishop Bruskewitz for 20 years, and said that he admired his example of energy and joy in teaching the faith.
“It seemed like he never lost his spirit of enthusiasm for our faith … he certainly wasn't afraid to defend the faith or respond to challenges to the faith, but he always did so with great good humor and with a good spirit, a real positive spirit.”
“I hope I can imitate that in my own time as bishop, just to positively promote and share the faith with others.”
“I hope I can also have an opportunity to meet with young people and just spend some time with them, get to know them and be a part of their lives,” he added.
“They are the future of the Church...so really to work with them closely and to get to know them, what's on their minds, where their lives are headed – that's going to be very important for me.”
Msgr. Folda wants to emphasize “the presence of Christ among us,” both in the sacraments and in “the people in the Church.” His motto a Latin phrase from the Gospel of John meaning “And the word became flesh,” and it is meant to remind us “clearly of the dignity of every human being” since Christ took on “our human nature.”
“We need to look reverently on our brothers and sisters and appreciate their innate dignity, and realize they share this same humanity with Christ our Lord, and that I think hopefully imbues our relationships with a higher level of respect and mutual support,” he reflected.
He noted appreciatively that North Dakotans already have a culture of life, which he said he “can only hope to support” and to be involved with. Furthermore, those of his flock he has already met have “a real down to earth quality” with a “clear understanding of what's important, what matters.”
“That's similar to the people I've known in Nebraska as well, and so I feel a real affinity for the folks I've met up here.”
“I'm very happy to be here,” Msgr. Folda concluded. “I was very happy to be given this call to serve, and you can't help but be nervous about the challenges of such a large responsibility, but at the same time, I put my faith in God.”
“I trust his grace is always there. For whatever calling he gives, he gives the grace to carry it it out – I put my trust in that.”
Vatican City, Jun 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
This coming Sunday, almost 500 disadvantaged children will arrive at the Vatican on a special red train, where they will be greeted by Pope Francis as part of their “Journey of Beauty.”
The project focuses on children, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi explained, “because I think that therein lies the root from which we must build a generation of young persons who still have ... the beauty of creativity – that doesn't seem old at the start – who aren't already discouraged the way we are but who are ready to live more the future that awaits them.”
The “Children’s Train: A Journey of Beauty” was unveiled during a June 18 press conference at the Vatican’s press office by Cardinal Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and other organizers.
The children’s initiative was actually born out of a suggestion by a participant in the pontifical council’s event for creating dialogue between believing and non-believing adults, called the Courtyard of the Gentiles.
The Courtyard of the Children initiative first launched in December 2012, with the aim of giving young kids the chance to directly experience beauty through art and the world of images.
Patrizia Martinez, the coordinator of the Children’s Courtyard, said that it has been very well received by the kids, most of whom come from difficult circumstances.
“I am here to share the joy and enthusiasm of the children,” Martinez said.
In fact, this will be the first time that many of the kids have traveled on a train, let alone a red “Frecciarossa” bullet train.
The June 23 voyage to the Vatican will begin in Milan and stop in Bologna and Florence on the way to Rome.
In each city, disadvantaged children from the city who have been taking part in the Courtyard initiative will board the train, which is being made available by the Italian State Railway.
In total, 450 children of various nationalities and between the ages of six and 10-years-old will travel with their teachers, family members and volunteers to the Vatican.
Prior to the voyage, the children visited the cathedrals in their respective cities and discovered how it was built, learned about the artistic works within it and encountered its beauty.
The Courtyard has also been active at the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in Rome, where the staff worked to expose the young patients to glimpses of beauty and the strength of cooperation.
The Children’s Train will arrive in Rome on Sunday morning and will pause at Saint Peter’s station, one stop before the Vatican train station.
Since the train is electric and there are no overhead electrical lines inside the Vatican, the train will be pulled the remaining half of a mile by a diesel locomotive.
The children will be welcomed to Rome by a band from the Virgilio Institute and 50 other kids who have prepared works of art for them.
The pinnacle of the event will be a gathering in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, where the children will be treated to an hour of entertainment and music and be visited by Pope Francis.
The Vatican press office director, Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters June 18 that he expects the Pope will meet with the group after he recites the noontime Angelus in St. Peter’s Square.
Vatican City, Jun 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis tackled Jesus’ teaching that Christians must love their enemies by asking a series of provocative questions, such as, how can we love those who “bomb and kill so many people?”
As he began his June 18 homily, the Pope illustrated how difficult and wide-ranging Jesus’ teaching on loving one’s enemies can be by posing a series of questions to the congregation.
How can we love those who decide to “bomb and kill so many people?” How can we “love those who out of their for love money prevent the elderly from accessing the necessary medicine and leave them to die?”
And at the more general level, the Pope asked how Christians can love those who only pursue “their own best interests, power for themselves and do so much evil?”
“It seems hard to love your enemy,” he stated, but Jesus asks it of us.
It is a teaching that is “so hard, but so beautiful, because it makes us look like the Father, like our Father: it brings out the sun for everyone, good and bad. It makes us more like the Son, Jesus, who in his humiliation became poor to enrich us, with his poverty,” he preached.
The Holy Father’s homily for daily Mass at his residence was based on the Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and his charge to his disciples to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.”
Pope Francis told the congregation that there are two ways that Christians should love their enemies and they are both contained in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.
The first way is to look to the Father who “makes the sun rise on evil and good” and “rain fall on the just and unjust.” God “loves everyone.”
The pontiff added, Jesus “forgive his enemies” and “does everything to forgive them.” Taking revenge, on the other hand, is not Christian, he warned.
The second thing that Christians should do to love their enemies is to pray for them. “When we pray for what makes us suffer, it is as if the Lord comes with oil and prepares our hearts for peace,” he remarked.
“Pray! This is what Jesus advises us: ‘Pray for your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!’ Pray!
“And say to God: ‘Change their hearts. They have a heart of stone, but change it, give them a heart of flesh, so that they may feel relief and love.
Pope Francis then made his homily more personal by posing a question for the congregation to consider.
“Let me just ask this question and let each of us answer it in our own heart: ‘Do I pray for my enemies? Do I pray for those who do not love me?’
“If we say ‘yes,’ I will say, ‘Go on, pray more, you are on the right path!’ If the answer is ‘no,’ the Lord says: ‘Poor thing. You too are an enemy of others!’
“Pray that the Lord may change the hearts of those. We could say: ‘But this person really wronged me,’ or they have done bad things and this impoverishes people, impoverishes humanity. And following this line of thought we want to take revenge or that eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” the Pope preached.
He also pointed out that loving one’s enemies “impoverishes us,” because it makes us poor “like Jesus,” who, when he came to us, “lowered himself and became poor” for us.
And yet, Jesus’ impoverishment was not a “bad deal” but brought about the salvation of the world, pouring out “the grace that has justified us all, made us all rich,” he said.
Pope Francis closed his homily by urging those present to pray for their enemies, “those who do not wish us well: it would be nice if we offered the Mass for them: Jesus, Jesus' sacrifice, for them, for those who do not love us."
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Responding to a new law on assisted fertilization, the bishops of Argentina stressed that “not everything that is technically possible is ethically and legally acceptable.”
Argentine lawmakers recently voted overwhelmingly to approve legislation requiring all health care plans to offer a range of artificial fertility treatments to anyone at least 18 years of age.
In their statement, made public on June 15, the executive committee of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference recalled that every human being, including those conceived outside the body, has the same dignity and rights.
“The transmission of human life enjoys such dignity that it cannot be submitted to technical parameters,” the bishops explained. “Among the goods that are affected is the right of conceived children to an identity.”
“Moreover, the recently approved law on ‘comprehensive access to medically assisted reproduction’ raises concerns because of the legalization of new forms of manipulating human lives at the embryonic level,” they added.
Given the new law, they continued, it is necessary to implement an “express prohibition of any form of destruction of human embryos, or of their utilization for commercial, industrial or experimental purposes.”
The Argentine bishops observed that the country has long protected human life from conception, a policy that they called “wise.”
“This protection, far from being the expression of a religious viewpoint, is a manifestation of the respect that each human life deserves and that is at the foundation of the functioning of our system of human rights,” they said.
They also praised the European initiative “One of Us,” which seeks to defend human embryos from manipulation and destruction, and they recalled the words of Pope Francis, who said on May 12, “I invite you to keep everyone focused on the very important issue of respect for human life from the moment of conception.”
Vatican City, Jun 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Christians are called to be evangelists, seeking out the sheep who are lost rather than staying at home tending to the few who have never left, Pope Francis said at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
“It's the 99 who we're missing! We have to go out, we must go to them,” the Bishop of Rome said June 17 to the participants of the annual convention of the Diocese of Rome.
“The Lord wants pastors, not combers of sheep; pastors! And when a community is closed, always among the same people who talk, this community is not a community that gives life.”
Pope Francis opened his speech discussing grace, and its tremendous power to make saints out of sinners, through the freedom it brings. He called the power of grace “revolutionary,” and that it must have a revolutionary effect on the hearts of Christians.
“Only one thing is necessary to become saints: accept the grace that the Father gives us in Jesus Christ. Behold, this grace changes our heart. We continue to be sinners, because we are all weak, but even with this grace that makes us think that the Lord is good, that the Lord is merciful.”
The heart revolutionized by grace, he said, will be “full of tenderness for those bearing the wounds of life.” He turned to the many people in Rome who live without hope.
Everyone, the Bishop of Rome said, can think of those “who are immersed in deep sadness that they try to get out of, believing to have found happiness in alcohol, in drugs, in gambling, in the power of money, in sexuality without rules.” These people, he said, are living without hope.
“How can we go ahead and offer hope? Go down the street saying, 'I have hope'? No! With your testimony, with your smile, saying: 'I believe that I have a Father.'”
“The proclamation of the Gospel is this: with my words, with my testimony to say: 'I have a Father.'”
Yet, he emphasized, Christians should not proselytize, or to seek to convince others. “The Gospel is a like a seed,” he said, but the sowing must be done with both word and witness.
“The word alone is not enough, not enough. The word without the witness is air. Words are not enough.”
The proclamation of the Gospel, he said, is “destined primarily to the poor, to those who often lack the essentials for a decent life. The good news is first announced to them, that God loves them before all others and comes to visit them through the acts of charity that the disciples of Christ carry out in his name.”
“We have to go to the flesh of Jesus suffering,” Pope Francis said, “to the existential peripheries.”
To do this, he stressed, requires courage, but this courage is necessary to bring the Gospel to neighborhoods, workplaces, and “wherever people … develop relationships.”
Speaking to leaders in his diocese, which is approximately 82 percent Catholic, the pontiff made reference to the Gospel passage of the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to seek the one which is lost.
“But, brothers and sisters, we have one; it's the 99 who we're missing! We have to go out, we must go to them! In this culture – let's face it – we only have one. We are the minority.”
“And do we feel the fervor, the apostolic zeal to go out and find the other 99? This is a big responsibility and we must ask the Lord for the grace of generosity and the courage and the patience to go out, to go out and proclaim the Gospel.”
He noted the temptation to “stay home, with the one lamb. It's easier to comb its hair, caress it.”
“But the Lord wants pastors, not combers of sheep; pastors! And when a community is closed, always among the same people who talk, this community is not a community that gives life.”
“It's a sterile community, it is not fruitful. The fruitfulness of the Gospel is by the grace of Jesus Christ, yet through us, our preaching, our courage, and our patience.”
Pope Francis assured his listeners that evangelization is not easy, and that it will be opposed by the devil, but this spiritual battle is “the daily lot of Christians.”
The work of bringing Jesus' grace to others, he said, is a martyrdom. “Martyrdom is this: to fight the fight, every day, through witness … Of some, the Lord asks the martyrdom of life, but there is the martyrdom of every day, of every hour: the witness against the spirit of evil, who does not want us to be evangelists.”
He concluded by focusing on the love God has for each person, noting that the “cross forcefully reminds us that we are sinners, but above all that we are loved, that we are so dear to God's heart.”
“Every person needs to feel themselves loved the way they are because this is the only thing that makes life beautiful and worthy of being lived.”
In our time, when what is freely given seems to fade in our interpersonal relationships, we Christians proclaim a God who, to be our friend, asks nothing but to be accepted,” he said.
“Think of how many live in desperation because they have never met someone who has shown them attention, comforted them, made them feel precious and important.”
“We, the disciples of Christ, can we refuse to go to those places that no one wants to go out of fear of compromising ourselves or the judgment of others, and thus deny our brothers and sisters the announcement of God's mercy?” the Pope added.
“We have received this gratuity, this grace, freely. We must give it freely. Don't be afraid of grace. Don't be afraid to go out of yourselves, out of our Christian communities, to go and find the 99 who are not home.”
“Go out to dialogue with them, and tell them what we think. Go show them our love, which is God's love.”
Korat, Thailand, Jun 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new home for the elderly in Thailand will seek to restore respect for senior citizens and to fight the escalating problems of elderly abandonment and suicide in the country.
Bishop Joseph Chusak Sirisut of Nakhon Ratchasima told CNA that there is an absence of “social care centers for the elders in this whole region.”
Construction has begun on a new home for the elderly in Korat, its foundational stone laid under the patronage of Bishop Sirisut and Fr. Paul Cherdchai Lertjitlekha, provincial superior and president of the St. Camillus Foundation Thailand.
Fr. Lertjitlekha explained that the effort is not seeking to encourage children to “abandon their elders” to nursing homes.
Rather, he said, such homes are “a last resort” that can help to ensure that the elderly’s right to health care and pastoral care is fulfilled.
“The love and affection of the family can’t be substituted,” he stressed.
The new home is a pastoral response to the demographic situation in Thailand. A recent study from the Institute for Population and Social Research at Mahidol University showed Thailand as having the highest number of senior citizens in the Association of South East Asian Nations, creating concerns for its future economy.
At the same time, the report found that people are having fewer children, and this trend will aggravate the problem in coming years.
The Diocese of Nakhon Ratchasima has donated 7.2 acres for the new home for the elderly, which is expected to cost about 80 million Baht, close to 2.6 million U.S. dollars.
The diocese and the St. Camillus Foundation have each initially pooled 20 million Baht and hope to fundraise in order to complete the project in three years.
Fr. Giovanni Contarin, project coordinator for the St. Camillus Foundation Thailand, said that the home is being built with the aid of “support, prayers, collaboration and…Divine Providence.”
It will meet a great need in the country, he added, noting that “Thailand is very poor in giving palliative care to the patients.”
The northeastern Isan zone of Thailand, where the new home for the elderly is being constructed, is among the poorest regions of the country, Fr. Contarin explained. Composed of 20 provinces, the area has a large population of displaced and impoverished people. Young people seeking jobs are often lured into drugs, human trafficking and other crime.
Bishop Sirisut said that these “alarming facts” must be met with pastoral care. He described the project as “love in action and love in service,” adhering to the Gospel as encouraged by Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.
Respect for the life and dignity of senior citizens is “in peril” today, added Fr. Contarin, pointing to a report by Thailand’s Department of Mental Health which indicates that the suicide rates of those aged 70-74 have increased more than those of young people in their 20s.
The new home for the elderly is a “pastoral project” that aims to “provide assistance to people of all creeds, the poor and the rich, who are abandoned and left unattended, to suffer a lonely death,” he stressed.
While acknowledging that “the task is immense,” Fr. Contarin explained that the St. Camillus Foundation has worked for 400 years in a spirit of “faith, charity, service and transparency as a foundation.”
“This project will help us…to build inter-faith sharing and a foundation for dialogue and conversion of heart,” he said.
Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Despite passing the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy faces an uncertain future as President Obama's administration has suggested that he will veto it.
“(S)cience is on our side,” Representative Marsha Blackburn, (R- Tenn.) told MSNBC in an interview.
Blackburn joined other pro-life representatives, including Michelle Bachmann (R- Minn.) and Virginia Foxx (R- N.C.) in defending the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions 20 weeks into a pregnancy and later, based on science indicating that unborn children can feel pain by this point. Exceptions in cases of rape, incest or a risk to the mother’s life were included in the final House version of the legislation.
The House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 228-196 on June 18, following its passage by the House Judiciary Committee. The legislation will now advance to the Senate, where opponents have vowed to fight it.
The Obama Administration has said that should the legislation gain the approval of both the House and Senate, the president's “senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill.”
A statement of administration policy criticized the bill, saying that it “would unacceptably restrict women's health and reproductive rights and is an assault on a woman's right to choose.”
The statement alleged that the legislation “is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and shows contempt for women's health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients' health care decisions, and the Constitution.”
It is unclear how the Supreme Court would react to the pro-life legislation were it to be challenged as a violation of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Pro-life advocates pointed to polls showing that the majority of Americans support restricting late-term abortions.
“May we in humility confront this national sin and may we mourn what abortion reveals about the conscience of our nation,” said Rep. Foxx.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who introduced the legislation, argued in a June 13 statement that “(k)nowingly subjecting our innocent unborn children to dismemberment in the womb, particularly when they have developed to the point that they can feel excruciating pain every terrible moment leading up to their undeserved deaths, belies everything America was called to be.”
“This is not who we are,” he said.
Pro-life advocates have attempted to gain support for the bill's cause, using the hashtag #theyfeelpain on Twitter.
Despite the pledged opposition from the Senate and White House, supporters are confident that the American people are becoming more aware of the reality of abortion.
Last year, a similar piece of legislation that would have applied only to the District of Columbia failed to pass the House of Representatives.
“The tide of the American conscience will only continue to shift toward life and away from dismembering unborn babies in the womb,” said Rep. Franks in a June 18 tweet.