Denver, Colo., Sep 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a talk given in the Archdiocese of Denver, Dr. Scott Hahn of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology detailed his new book “Consuming the Word,” while highlighting the importance of the Year of Faith.
The Franciscan University professor said he had already been working on the book’s release as a follow up to bestsellers, “The Lamb’s Supper” and “Letter and Spirit” before then-Pope Benedict XVI announced the Year of Faith for the Church.
“It was already in the works,” Hahn told CNA Sept. 4, “it was a happy and holy coincidence though.”
The conclusion to Year of Faith, Hahn explained during his talk, will mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, an event that did not “revolutionize” the faith, but rather “renewed it.”
“When you look at Vatican II and you look at Vatican I, it’s the same faith,” he said. “Some people pretend that it’s as though (the Second Vatican Council) revolutionized the Church; all it really did was to renew the teaching that has always been true and powerful.”
The most striking “renewal” was the “notion of evangelizing” which was mentioned more than 200 times in Vatican II documents, as contrasted with just once in the documents of Vatican I.
“The Holy Spirit must have known what the need would be at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the new millennium,” Hahn said.
Delving deeper into the topic of his new book, which presents the New Testament as “a sacrament before it was a document,” he reminded the audience that when Pope John Paul II announced the New Evangelization, he said it needed to be “based on the Eucharist.”
“The New Testament was a sacrament long before it was a document, according to the document,” he said. “This makes reading the New Testament far more exciting: to read it ‘Eucharisticly’ and to experience the Eucharist in terms of Sacred Scripture.”
For this reason, Catholics have a duty to evangelize because “we are the ones who get the Good News more truly and more fully.”
Before the books of the New Testament were ever recorded and compiled, Hahn explained, the disciples were first given the Eucharist, and commanded to “do this in memory of me.”
Before the Apostles and the Early Christians were ever reading the books of Scripture which would be called the New Testament, they were walking around living the New Testament in their worship and celebration of the Eucharist, he added.
Hahn ended by reminding the audience that the Scriptures are profoundly liturgical in nature, and that within the liturgy of the Mass, we celebrate and actualize what the Scriptures proclaim.
The Bible, Hahn said, is most at home in the Mass, and Catholics must remember this and proclaim it boldly.
London, England, Sep 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic clergy in England and Wales say more people are going to confession, and many credit both Pope Francis' election and Benedict XVI's 2010 papal visit for inspiring the trend.
“This summer there has been a marked difference in demand compared to last summer...We don’t usually offer confessions in August but have done this year,” one priest said in response to a telephone survey conducted by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales' Home Mission Desk.
The informal survey of 22 Catholic cathedrals in England and Wales sought reports from cathedral deans, priests-in-residence or designated staff members.
One respondent said there is “definitely” an increase in lapsed Catholics seeking to return to religious practice under Pope Francis.
Another credited a “papal bounce” and the “great sense of hope and enthusiasm” prompted by Francis’ election. He cited the Pope’s easy manner of engagement with people, saying this has “a huge impact.”
The same respondent suggested the increase also reflects the influence of Benedict XVI, whose visit to the U.K. had “such a profound effect.”
Pope Francis drew praise for his “approachable manner,” for having a “good connection” to those not in the Church and for “talking their language.”
About 65 percent of respondents to the survey said confessions had increased either because of the impact of Pope Benedict’s September 2010 visit or the election of Pope Francis. Thirty percent attributed the increase to the effects of both Popes.
Another 15 percent said Pope Benedict’s visit was a driving factor, while ten percent said the increase was due to the election of Pope Francis. Ten percent did not comment on the increase or said they weren’t sure what caused it. Another 35 percent reported no increase, but said the number of confessions was steady.
One respondent said their cathedral's Holy Week Reconciliation Service drew 25 percent more people, many of whom had lapsed from regular religious practice.
“They hadn’t been to confession for a number of years and suddenly they felt the urge to come,” the respondent said.
Besides the influence of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, respondents also credited other factors in the increase in confession, such as priests speaking and preaching more about confession, self-examination among the penitents, and changing the time confession was offered.
Respondents did not neglect to point out that God also works in moving people to confess their sins. One participant also reflected on confession's effects on those who have not gone in years.
“I think very often those who have been away from the sacrament for a long time are very often surprised and delighted to find it such a positive and affirming experience,” the respondent said.
“People just recently, who were expecting to struggle, or be met by an indifferent response from the priest, were struck how their experience was completely different. It is one of the many positive signs concerning the sacrament.”
Study participants said that many returning Catholics did not know what to say and some feared not knowing the prayers.
The survey found increased attendance at some weekday and Sunday Masses. Some people have become interested in becoming Catholic after Catholic friends and family brought them to church.
Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, who heads the England and Wales bishops’ Department for Evangelization and Catechesis, has called on every parish to reach out to the countries’ four million baptized Catholics who rarely or never attend Mass, the bishops’ conference reports.
“While the lapsation of baptized is not new within the Catholic community, the worry and anxiety experienced by parents, siblings and grandparents of non-churchgoing baptized, is deep and heartfelt,” Bishop Conry said Sept. 2. “We all hold in our hearts at least one person in our family who seems disconnected from the life of the Church.”
He encouraged practicing Catholics to use materials available at their parish church to help them reach out to non-practicing Catholics. He invited lapsed Catholics to come back to church and not be “afraid to embarrass themselves by doing the wrong thing.”
“I would say to them, don’t worry, come in and see. Sit at the back and do what the rest do. You might be pleasantly surprised.”
The Catholic Church in England and Wales observes Home Mission Sunday this Sept. 15, a day of prayer and celebration for the work of evangelization.
Bishop Conry told the Daily Telegraph that “significant numbers” of young people are going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He said this is “a good sign” that means they are connected with church even if they are sometimes not regular Sunday massgoers.
He said confession has moved away from having a “mechanistic shopping list” approach of listing one's sins and more a way to improve one’s relationship with God.
Sacramento, Calif., Sep 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - California Gov. Jerry Brown should veto an abuse lawsuit bill that is “flagrantly discriminatory” and “targeted at the Catholic Church,” says Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
“Going after the Catholic schools today for cases of abuse that took place decades ago, while exempting the public schools – at a time when there is a serious problem with the sexual molestation of minors in the public schools – is irrational, discriminatory and grossly unjust,” the Catholic League president said in a Sept. 10 letter to Gov. Brown.
His comments come in response to S.B. 131, a bill now headed to the governor’s desk that would lift the statute of limitations on abuse lawsuits only for private institutions, but not for public schools.
Donohue said the bill is “indefensible” because under its provisions “no one who was abused in public schools before 2009 can sue the teacher, the school, or the school district, but if someone was abused in a Catholic school when JFK was president, he can sue the teacher (if he is alive), the school, and the diocese.”
Last Friday, the state senate passed the bill by a vote of 21-8. Gov. Brown has until Oct. 13 to sign the bill into law or veto it.
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.
However, 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.
“Does anyone doubt that a bill that applied only to the public schools, exempting all private ones, would be roundly condemned? So should this bill,” said Donohue.
He rejected claims that contemporary Catholic institutions are “rife with sexual abuse,” citing data from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice saying that most clergy sex abuse took place between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s.
Donohue said that about 90 percent of California children attend public schools, where thousands of cases of sexual abuse are alleged each year. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing says action is taken in about 800 of these cases.
Donohue pointed to an “outrageous” recent sexual abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, where several teachers enticed their young students to play extremely lewd sex games.
The scandal resulted in the dismissal of 100 teachers across the public school district. An audit found that the district failed to report teachers accused of sex abuse and faulted California public school districts’ poor communication in informing other districts about employees accused of misconduct.
Donohue also contended that attorneys were the “big winners” in abuse lawsuits filed against Catholic institutions in the past decade, taking hundreds of millions in fees.
Nearly 1,000 claims – some dating back to the 1950s – have been filed against the Catholic Church in California since a 2003 exemption to the statute of limitations, with legal awards totaling to $1.2 billion.
Donahue charged that if the latest bill is enacted, dioceses will be forced to take money from parishes and schools, “hurting innocent Catholics, many of whom are not wealthy, so they can pay for claims so old that no one can reasonably disprove them.”
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.
A new round of lawsuits could force dioceses to close schools, he said. Lawsuits could force the Diocese of Stockton to declare bankruptcy.
Other private institutions such as the YMCA, the YWCA, and the California Council of Non-Profit Organizations have also opposed the bill.
The Wall Street Journal has 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 Catholic Church has implemented “stiff penalties” for abuse offenders and mandates suspected abuse reporting, Donahue said. Catholic schools now require abuse prevention training, while most public school districts do not.
He compared the bill to allowing the National Guard to police a low-crime neighborhood, while ignoring other communities.
“Catholics in California are wondering what in the world is going on when lawmakers are giving the public schools a pass when those same schools are the source of most of the problems,” he said.
Santiago, Chile, Sep 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
By a vote of 59-27, the Chilean House of Representatives has approved a law establishing March 25 as the Day of the Unborn Child and of Adoption.
Although the proposal was granted initial approval on May 14, the congressional Human Rights committee then introduced a modification to instead call it the “Day for Pregnant Women and Adoption.” The request was declared inadmissible by the president of the House of Representatives.
Senator Jaime Orpis of the Independent Democratic Union party sponsored the measure to set aside March 25 as the day to honor the unborn and adoption in Chile. Orpis said the idea was to protect human life from the moment of conception.
Representative Jorge Sabag of the Christian Democratic Party said the law “is nothing more than the consequence of article 19 of the Constitution of the Republic, which guarantees the right to life for all persons and that the law shall protect the life of the unborn.”
The law points to other countries that also remember the unborn on March 25 in order to highlight the value of life, to condemn attacks against defenseless human beings and to promote the reversal of laws that enshrine abortion.
“To protect the life of the unborn is to recognize the right to life of every human being, even against the will of their own progenitors. n this way, no one can dispose of the life of another,” the law states.
Rome, Italy, Sep 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A German bishop has voiced his support of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, who made headlines recently for being accused of leading a luxurious lifestyle.
“There are forces at work that I cannot see, so everything is a bit puzzling for me,” Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer said on Sept. 11 during a conference for new bishops in Rome.
“I know him personally and I consider him a modest man,” the Bishop of Regensburg, Germany, told CNA at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum Institute.
Bishop Voderholzer said the flurry of media reports that the Bishop of Limburg had built a luxurious new home amounts to nothing more than a “big circus.”
German news magazine Der Spiegel wrote in June 2013 that the design of the structure resembled “a monstrous luxury complex” and was built “according to the wishes of Franz-Peter Tebartz van Els.”
However, it was his predecessor that ordered the home to be built, not Bishop Tebartz-van Elst.
“It is a very complicated story and I have heard that the house has been opened now and everyone that sees the house asks themselves why a big circus and theater has been made out of this,” Bishop Voderholzer said.
“There seems to be other reasons that I cannot see quite clearly,” he added. “He has my full support and he has my full solidarity.”
A second accusation against Bishop Tebartz-van Elst involves him flying first class when returning from a trip to India. But the diocese had paid for the bishop to fly business class and due to miles accumulated by his Vicar General, he was upgraded to first class.
It is believed the fairly-young bishop is cleaning house after former leader Bishop Franz Kamphaus caused controversies with Rome.
The former bishop of Limburg continued to allow for years church centers to provide counseling to women wanting to have an abortion, despite a papal order for the practice to cease.
Abortion is technically illegal in Germany, but women face no penalties if they have previously received a counseling certificate from a state approved center.
Bishop Tebartz has been among the names considered as a possible candidate to succeed the current Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner. However, critics say the recent media attacks could now hinder his possibilities to succeed the cardinal.
Vatican City, Sep 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis told thousands gathered for his weekly general audience that the Church is like our mother, who gives life to and nurtures the faithful.
“Today I wish to continue our catechesis on the Church by reflecting on an image used by the early Fathers and the Second Vatican Council: the Church as our Mother,” he said. “By reflecting on the human experience of maternity, we understand that the Church is like our own mothers.”
During his Sept. 11 audience, Pope Francis stressed in his first point that as our mother, “the Church gives us the gift of life.”
He emphasized the importance of remembering the day when one was baptized, because that is they day one enters the Church, telling those gathered, once home, to “go and look well what is the date of your baptism,” and to “have it in your heart and celebrate it.”
The pontiff specified also that although faith is a personal act, it also comes to us through others, through our “families and communities who teach us how to believe.”
Pope Francis then reflected that “the Church nourishes us, helps us to grow, teaches us the path to follow, and accompanies us in life.”
He highlighted that the Church is close to her children “especially in our illnesses and sufferings, through the Sacraments and the Word of God.”
Pope Francis also told the pilgrims that a Christian should not live in isolation, saying “A Christian is not an island!”
“We do not become Christians in the laboratory, we do not become Christians alone, and with our own strength, but faith is a gift, it is a gift of God that is given to us in the Church and through the Church.”
The layperson's role “is not something external and formal,” he said, it “is not filing a card that they give us.”
“It is an act of inner life,” he said, stating that Christians do not belong to the Church in the same was as to “a company, to a party or any other organization.”
He then commissioned those present to take an active part in evangelization, telling them that “it is also our mission to go forth and share in the maternity of the Church by bringing others to a life of faith.”
“And so we ask ourselves, do we love the Church as our Mother, who helps us to grow as Christians? And how do we go beyond ourselves in order to bring Christ to others?”
“As faithful children, let us bring the light of Christ to the ends of the earth.”
Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the twelfth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. bishops have released special Mass intercessions to pray for victims of terrorism, for military service members, and for an “end to all hatred.”
“For all victims of violence and terrorism around the world, and for their families, that they may find comfort and peace, we pray to the Lord,” reads the new prayer on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Another prayer asks that the Church “may continue to provide care and healing for all, especially those affected by the attacks on September 11, 2001.”
A third prays that national leaders “may work together to address the problems that provide fertile ground for the growth of terrorism,” while another prays for both an end to hatred and for “the ability to forgive.”
The new prayers come 12 years after al-Qaida terrorists attacked the U.S., hijacking passenger airplanes and flying them into each of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth plane went down in a Pennsylvania field after passengers attempted to regain control. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks.
Several Catholic bishops commemorated the Sept. 11 anniversary with thoughts and prayers on social media.
Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, Tenn., used Twitter to highlight the 9/11 anniversary as a time to remember the families harmed by the attacks and to pray for “those in the military and in harm’s way.”
In Alaska, Bishop Edward J. Burns of Juneau cited Bl. John Paul II’s words that “Evil, terror, suffering and death will not have the last word.”
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, N.C., said on Twitter that the anniversary is a time when “we firmly renew our prayers for God's protection and peace throughout our world.”
“Let us spend a few moments in prayer for those who died and those whose lives have been affected by the events on 9/11 twelve years ago,” added Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas. He invited Catholics to join in the prayer of Pope Benedict XVI offered at the site of the World Trade Center during his 2008 visit to New York City.
“Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here may not have been lost in vain,” the prayer said, asking for God’s guidance and consolation.
U.S. President Barack Obama marked the event with a Sept. 11 address at a memorial observance at the Pentagon.
He remembered those who had died and cited Psalm 71’s words that God will “revive me” and “comfort me again.”
“Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away,” President Obama said. “Together we pause and we pray and we give humble thanks – as families and as a nation – for the strength and the grace that from the depths of our despair has brought us up again, has revived us again, has given us strength to keep on.”
The U.S. bishops’ conference pointed Catholics to a special resource section on its website that includes reflections and remembrances from those impacted by the terrorist attacks, as well as clergy who ministered to victims and their families.
Also on the website is the bishops’ 2011 statement marking the tenth anniversary of the tragedy.
“We reverently recall those who were most directly affected by this tragedy – those who died, were injured or lost loved ones,” said the head of the bishops’ conference, then-Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, in the statement.
“In a special way we recall the selfless first responders – firefighters, police, chaplains, emergency workers, and other brave persons – who risked, and many times lost, their lives in their courageous efforts to save others,” he reflected.
“In remembering the fateful events of September 11, 2001, may we resolve to put aside our differences and join together in the task of renewing our nation and world.”
Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Lasting peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East requires respect for human rights, including a vigorous freedom of religion, said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired Archbishop of Washington, D.C.
“The whole question of peace, the whole question of religious liberty, is so important,” the cardinal said on Sept. 9.
“If you don't have human rights, if you don't have freedom of religion, then you have a path to war and strife and instability,” he added.
Cardinal McCarrick delivered the opening address at a Washington, D.C., conference entitled “Religious Freedom and Human Rights: Path to Peace in the Holy Land -- That All May Be Free.”
The conference was held at the Catholic University of America and co-sponsored by the university, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services.
The cardinal spoke after recently returning from an early September trip to Jordan and the Syrian border. During his time as archbishop of Washington, Cardinal McCarrick has worked on religious freedom issues around the world, and since his retirement, he has been a counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
In his talk, he explained that any long-term peace solution in the Middle East would require four parts: human rights, religious freedom, an agreement on the Holy Land and creating a “path to peace.”
There is a widespread agreement about some human rights, such as “the right to leave your country in order to find opportunities for yourself and your children,” the cardinal observed.
However, there is also a “right to stay where you were born,” he said. “People forget that. That's a human right, too.”
In addition, Cardinal McCarrick highlighted the need for a robust freedom of religion.
“We're not just talking about having a church or doing what it is you want to do in a church,” he said, “but to live your faith, to proclaim your own message, to proclaim who you are.”
Pointing to examples of religious freedom restrictions and dwindling numbers of Christians in many parts of the Middle East, the cardinal observed that Pakistan’s strictly interpreted blasphemy laws may already be creating martyrs.
Addressing tensions between Israel and Palestine, Cardinal McCarrick criticized both violence by Palestinian actors and settlement expansion by the Israelis.
He said that while a new wave of violent uprising by the Palestinians would present “one of the greatest blows to peace and freedom in the Holy Land,” the expansion of Israeli settlements into occupied territories also “provokes violence” and is “dangerous.”
The cardinal added that along with most other faith leaders, he believes a two-state solution to be the best resolution to the continued tensions.
“What we don't know is how many people will lose their lives before this happens,” he lamented.