Springfield, Ill., Sep 10, 2013 (CNA) - Bishop Thomas J. Papropcki of Springfield, Ill., said that Catholics should be aware of an “unconscious hatred for the faith” as they seek to interact with the modern culture.
In an interview with the Washington Times, published Sept. 3, the bishop reflected that in past generations, “many of the values in our secular world mirrored the values of the religious world.”
“And I think what’s happening now is that relationship – that symbiosis between our culture and the church has been ruptured,” Bishop Paprocki said.
He noted that he and many others grew up at a time when secular culture was more friendly to religion, as shown in the production of biblical movies like “The Ten Commandments.”
Now, however, the culture is moving towards the “outright rejection” of Judeo-Christian values.
He pointed to an “anti-Catholic bigotry” in the culture, seen in a “Late Night with David Letterman” segment where the host joked about the sexual abuse of altar boys.
He said the joke showed a “profound ignorance” in identifying the Catholic Church and the priesthood with sex abuse.
“Certainly, we have had our unfortunate share of scandals and sin and the church is dealing with that,” the bishop said.
However, he added that the Catholic Church is now one of the most responsible institutions in dealing with sexual abuse, implementing rigorous abuse prevention measures, training requirements and safe environment programs.
Public figures like Letterman “continue to point their finger at the Catholic Church and say you have a problem with sexual abuse and people are ignoring where most sexual abuse is taking place. It’s occurring in families. It’s occurring in schools,” Bishop Paprocki said.
“This lets people too easily off the hook to say that, ‘oh, that’s a Catholic problem’ …. If people are really serious about sexual abuse, I think they need to be looking at some other places as well.”
He said comics like Letterman “think they are being funny” and think their jokes are “where our culture is.”
“I don’t know if it is overt hatred for the Church but it is probably an unconscious hatred for the faith,” he observed.
“It’s a pagan kind of culture,” he said, adding that Christians have to “mentally adjust.”
Bishop Paprocki warned that the situation of the Catholic Church in the U.S. is becoming more like that of the Church in Poland under Communism, where Christians lived in “a very hostile environment.”
The bishop has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s HHS mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance coverage for employees’ sterilizations and contraceptive drugs, including some that cause abortions.
In addition, he has voiced concerns over a 2011 decision by the Illinois state government to ban Catholic adoption and foster care agencies from receiving state funding on the grounds that they will not place children with same-sex and unmarried couples.
“We still have the First Amendment of our Constitution but that is being sorely tested,” Bishop Paprocki told the Washington Times.
He said that in response to controversies like the debate over “gay marriage,” Catholics should continue to have “a very articulate, reasoned approach.” They should not let others paint them as “bigots.”
The bishop explained that Catholics’ care and compassion for everyone is “ultimately about their salvation and eternal life.”
“To be compassionate and loving does not simply mean, ‘Oh, you can do whatever you want’,” he said. “That wasn’t Christ’s approach to us. He calls us out of our sinfulness. He died for us. He opens the gates of heaven for us.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A California sex abuse bill that has been described as discriminatory against the Catholic Church has passed the legislature and is advancing to the governor’s desk.
Last Friday, the bill passed the State Senate by a vote of 21-8 at the close of the legislative session, and opponents are now asking for a veto from California Governor Jerry Brown.
The legislation would lift the statute of limitations on child sex abuse lawsuits against private schools and private employers who failed to take action against sexual abuse by employees or volunteers. It would allow alleged victims younger than 31 to sue employers of abusers, extending present age limit for alleged victims presently set at 26 years-old.
The bill specifically exempts public schools and other government institutions from lawsuits. It also exempts the actual perpetrators of the abuse from civil action in some cases, while leaving their employers vulnerable.
Potentially the most damaging provision of the legislation creates a one-year window on the statute of limitations for sex abuse lawsuits against employers.
A similar legal window in 2003 resulted in almost 1,000 claims against the Catholic Church in California, with legal awards totaling to $1.2 billion. Some of these claims dated back to the 1950s.
Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the California Catholic Conference, told CNA June 11 that the Catholic Church in California can no longer rely on insurance policies and sales of property and other assets to meet the costs of any new lawsuits.
“If there were claims that were resurrected for a third time, you can find situations where dioceses might be forced to close schools. In the case of one of our dioceses, the Diocese of Stockton, they’re worried they might have to file for bankruptcy,” he said.
Other opponents of the bill include private institutions such as the YMCA, the YWCA, and the California Council of Non-Profit Organizations.
The Wall Street Journal criticized the bill as a “nonprofit shakedown” that targets the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, and the “political enemies” of the legislature, in which Democrats hold a supermajority of seats.
The California Catholic Conference said the bill forces private employers by “forcing them to deal with an unworkable legal and business climate where they face unlimited liability of unlimited duration.”
The bill creates conditions where “the passage of time makes it impossible to mount an effective defense,” the conference said in a June 12 alert.
Rome, Italy, Sep 10, 2013 (CNA) - Outgoing Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, chose to step down in advance of his anticipated replacement date after going undefended against accusations of corruption, according to a Vatican official.
“[Cardinal Bertone] told the Pope he wanted to leave his post at an Aug. 15 lunch in Castel Gandolfo,” an official in the secretariat of state who asked for anonymity told CNA on Sep. 2.
His retirement was expected no earlier than mid-September or even after the Oct. 1-3 meeting of the commission of eight cardinals Pope Francis has called on for counsel.
But on Aug. 15, Pope Francis, Cardinal Bertone and the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, had a discussion while dining at the same table.
Cardinal Bertone brought up that no one defended him months earlier against accusations of corruption made against him by Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, one of the newly-appointed members of the commission to oversee the Vatican administration.
The 30-year-old public relations professional tweeted the line “Bertone is corrupt” on her Twitter account.
Chaoqui’s Twitter account – which was closed as soon as the news of her tweets became public – was in fact full of accusations against the Vatican establishment lead by Cardinal Bertone.
According to the Italian vaticanista Sandro Magister, Chaoqui has also been one of the sources of information for “Dagospia,” an online Italian news portal that specializes in gossip.
When Chaoqui’s loose accusation against Cardinal Bertone became public knowledge, it met with no consequences.
“The Chaouqui storm will pass,” Pope Francis later said, according to a source at the St. Martha’s House residence where he is staying.
No one from inside the Vatican or from the Catholic media spoke up in defense of Cardinal Bertone. So, during the Aug. 15 lunch, the cardinal let it be known that he had taken note of this silence, and notified the Pope of his wishes to leave as soon as possible.
This is one of the reasons why, the source maintains, the Vatican press release that announces the appointment of Pietro Parolin as new Secretary of State also makes special mention of Cardinal Bertone’s service. It specifically and intentionally notes that Pope Francis “will publicly thank” Cardinal Bertone in the Oct. 15 meeting with the top officials of the Secretariat of State, when Archbishop Parolin will officially take his post.
In fact, Pope Francis’ decision to announce the confirmation of all of the Secretariat of State’s top officials at the same time as the Aug. 31 appointment of the new Secretary of State was “a slap in Bertone’s face,” affirms the Secretariat of State source.
He says that “the confirmation of Bertone’s deputy, his minister and vice minister for foreign affairs and his assessor” can be misinterpreted, because “in this way Bertone appears to be the only bad one in the State Secretariat.”
And, this situation led to an impromptu outburst from the cardinal.
A day after the announcement of his resignation, as he presided over a celebration in Syracuse, Sicily, Cardinal Bertone told journalists that “an honest balance of my work must consider that the secretary of state is the first Pope’s collaborator, a loyal executor of the work he is entrusted by the Pope.”
Bertone also added that with the other top officials, “we worked as a team. There were five of us working, and it was a very united group.”
Bertone also explained that “it can seem that the Secretary of State could decide and control everything, but it is not so. There were problems we could not properly face because they were as sealed in the management of certain people who did not network with the secretary of state.”
Rome, Italy, Sep 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Just two months after paying a visit to immigrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa, Pope Francis visited a group of refugees at a Jesuit-run center in Rome today.
He met at the Church of the Gesù with refugees seeking asylum in Rome, as well as volunteers who help provide them with food, health care, social support and legal aid.
At least 1,000 people gathered outside the Astalli Center, run by the Jesuit Refugee Service, to wait for Pope Francis, who arrived at 3:30 p.m. local time.
He met with Father Giovanni La Manna, president of the Astalli Center, as well as Cardinal Vicar of Rome Agostino Vallini and the Holy See’s press office director, Father Federico Lombardi.
“We are very pleased with this visit to the place where refugees live their every day life,” Fr. La Manna told Vatican Radio on Sept. 10.
“I believe that at this meeting personal experiences are the most important elements,” he explained, “and so everyone will have the opportunity to tell Pope Francis what they lived through upon their arrival to Rome.”
Fr. La Manna said he hoped the Pope’s visit would result in “a human and spiritual experience aimed at keeping alive the hope of more refugees of having a life of true peace and serenity.”
Along with other world efforts, he voiced a desire that this visit might “help restore peace in the countries of origin and, above all, keep alive the enthusiasm of being at the service of the poor and refugees.”
He stressed that the Pope’s visit to Lampedusa and his prayer vigil and fasting for Syria this past Saturday are not unrelated, but part of “a continuous process that aims to awaken the conscience of us all.”
The Astalli Center is the Italian branch of the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international network that assists refugees and forced migrants. It helped around 21,000 people in Rome in 2012.
The center offers facilities including an Italian language school, a health facility with special attention for victims of torture, legal counseling services and a soup kitchen.
Visiting refugees on the Island of Lampedusa in July, Pope Francis stated that “their condition cannot leave us indifferent.”
“We remember that when we heal the wounds of refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking, we are practicing the commandment of love that Jesus has left us,” he said.
The pontiff stated that love is practiced also “when we identify with the stranger, with those who are suffering, with all the innocent victims of violence and exploitation.”
Vatican City, Sep 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Poland's new Vatican ambassador Piotr Nowina-Konopka says that Pope Francis will not back down in helping resolve the Syrian conflict peacefully.
“The Pope is very focused on this issue with a sort of passion,” Nowina-Konopka said. “When he speaks about war in Syria, you see immediately that he will not give up.”
“The way he does it proves that he really believes that the Pope, the Church, Christians, Muslims must do something,” he told CNA Sept. 10.
Nowina-Konopka was appointed as the new ambassador of Poland, as well as the Order of Malta, to the Holy See on July 6.
He met the Pope privately for about 20 minutes on Sept. 9 to present his letters of credentials – a customary move that makes his new post official. The diplomat, who knew the previous two pontiffs, recalled Pope Francis' warmth and familiarity during their meeting.
“He is extremely direct and shortens the distance immediately,” he said. “I felt I had known him for a long time and I understood better the stories I heard of him personally phoning people up on a landline.”
The two touched on issues including the World Youth Day expected to take place in Krakow, Poland in 2016, relations between Poland and the Church, and about the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Their discussion comes amid the United States' threatened military strikes against the Syrian government, which the U.S. blames for the deaths of over 1,400 people, including hundreds of children, in an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack.
The conflict between the Syrian government and rebel forces has claimed over 100,000 lives since it began in March 2011. Many fear U.S. intervention would increase the violence and spark a wider conflict.
Nowina-Konopka, who served as director of the European Parliament's Liaison Office with the U.S. Congress, attended the Pope's massive four-hour vigil for Syria last Saturday in Saint Peter's Square.
“It was unimaginable to witness hundreds of thousands of people taking part in the several silence breaks and the community of diplomats was as touched as everyone else,” he said.
The ambassador also took part in the a meeting between the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, and 71 ambassadors on Sept. 5 to promote peace in Syria.
“It’s not very often that the Secretary of State calls for such a large meeting with all of the diplomats,” he observed. “He also offered a set of principals on paper to help solve the conflict in Syria.”
Nowina-Konopka said that “if the two parts in Syria start dialoguing, then this paper prepared by the Catholic Church may serve as a manual.”
The former adviser, interpreter and spokesperson for the second president of Poland, Lech Walesa, recalled the communist party in Poland and its opposition around 25 years ago.
“The Polish Church created services to allow both sides to sit and talk,” he said. “This situation of the Church as an arbitrator was successful and the talk with the Secretary of State reminded me of this.”
“I believe that everything is possible, especially with our Pope’s determination,” he added.
The 64-year-old explained that a normal term for an ambassador is four years long and believes he is “witnessing a very special period in the Church’s history.”
“I wouldn’t be shocked if this Pope prepared a series of events including a new Council,” he said.
“He will have an important meeting with his chief advisers, eight cardinals, in October and they will seek a renewal in his pastoral ways and in the Church.”
The important thing, he believes, is changing the language with how the Church communicates and speaks to people to make its mission understandable.
“My mission is to ensure the best communication between my government, Poland and the Holy See,” he reflected. “I look forward to a Church Spring and after a wonderful pontificate of John Paul II and then of Benedict, we will have a new chapter.”
The ambassador said that for now “the hot topic is Syria,” noting that Poland's government has clearly announced that it would not participate in any military intervention in Syria.
Vatican City, Sep 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Italian pastor has donated a used Renault 4 with 186,000 miles to Pope Francis, in response to the exhortation he made to priests and seminarians in July to live simply and humbly.
Father Renzo Roca, 69, who is pastor of St. Lucy Parish in Pescantina, wrote to the Holy Father offering to donate his car, according to news reports out of the Vatican.
The car was delivered to the Pontiff on Sept. 7 at St. Martha’s Residence, shortly before the beginning of the Vigil for Peace which the Holy Father led in St. Peter’s Square that evening.
“When I gave it to him, we got into the car, but I didn’t have to explain anything to the Pope because he told me that he also used a Renault 4 in Argentina and that it never left him stranded,” Father Roca said.
After receiving the car, the Pope rode together with Father Roca to meet with the group of faithful that traveled with him to Rome.
During the brief encounter, a young man gave the Pope a t-shirt and Father Roca explained that “normally we sell the shirts for five Euros to raise money for parish activities, but we gave it to him for free.”
However, the Pope said he would pay for it.
“He took out his wallet and gave us ten Euros and asked for change. Luckily I had five Euros in my pocket. Incredible,” Father Roca said.
He also joked that a Swiss guard standing nearby told him, “Now we are going to be a little worried because we’ll have to watch what Pope Francis does with that Renault 4.”
Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Unable to enter refugee camps run by the United Nations, many Syrians fleeing from violence in their home country have found basic necessities and ongoing support from Catholic Relief Services in nearby Lebanon.
“When they come, they have nothing,” said Joan Rosenhauer, who serves as Catholic Relief Services’ executive vice president for U.S. Operations.
“You can hardly imagine what it’s like as a parent to go through this with your children,” she told CNA in a Sept. 9 interview, reflecting that the immensity of the refugee crisis “really strikes you when you see all the women and children” in the camps.
According to the United Nations, more than two million Syrians have fled the country, which has been entangled in a violent civil war for more than two years. In addition, more than four million people are estimated to be internally displaced as a result of the fighting.
Ongoing discussions of possible Western military intervention in the country have brought the Syrian crisis to the headlines in recent weeks, after reports of chemical weapon use against civilians outside of Damascus.
However, Rosenhauer warned that the plight of the refugees “can often get lost in this whole debate” over foreign policy.
She explained that “when people come, they’re often fleeing shelling” from bombing operations in Syria, and they frequently “just grab their children and run” across the border into neighboring countries, including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
Many people “are there with nothing,” she explained. “Because they often leave without their identification, they often can’t even get into a U.N. system.”
Many of those who cannot enter a U.N. refugee camp end up at informal sites, such as the ones in Lebanon administered by Catholic Relief Services, in conjunction with Caritas Lebanon.
Rosenhauer has visited some of these camps, where the international Catholic agencies work to get basic necessities to those in need, who are about 70 percent women and children.
These informal refugee camps do not receive official government aid, she explained. Rather, they are able to exist because “people find a person who is generous enough to give them land in the Beqaa Valley, and they start collecting whatever they can.”
“We try to get them some basic things like a cooking pot, some basic food, some cleaning supplies, blankets, some tarps,” she said.
Basic medical care and counseling are also important for refugees.
“They’ve lived through being in the middle of warfare, and then being scooped up and having to cross mountains overnight,” facing psychological trauma and a disruption of their lives, Rosenhauer observed.
“In some of the camps we’re trying to create a place where children can basically get counseling and…work through the trauma,” she said, and “one of the next steps is making sure children who have been displaced have access to schooling.”
As the conflict continues, the refugees will continue to need support, Rosenhauer stressed.
“People originally left their homes thinking it’s a short-term thing, and now they’re realizing it’s not going to be, and they don’t even know what the new normal can be,” she said. “Everything is only going to be worse if there are not resources to keep people living in at least the most basic of situations.”
She added that this situation is important to keep in mind as discussion of potential U.S. involvement continue, “because what’s going to happen is it’s going to put more pressure on displaced people and more pressure on the surrounding countries to take in refugees.”
Rosenhauer encouraged prayer for those fleeing, as well as those who are still in Syria. She also stressed the importance of educating people “about the situation with the refugees and the enormity of this problem.”
Most of all, she said, it is important to ensure “when we’re talking about Syria that the humanitarian crisis doesn’t get lost.”