Norfolk, Va., Oct 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The U.S. Navy captain who led the successful effort to rescue a cargo ship captain captured by Somali pirates says Catholic men can be heroes in everyday life through fatherhood and self-sacrifice.
“You don’t have to be a captain of a naval warship or the president of a company or anything else to be a hero,” Capt. Francis X. Castellano told the Knights of Columbus in an interview.
Castellano, 45, commanded the USS Bainbridge, a guided missile destroyer, in the successful effort to rescue cargo ship captain Richard Phillips from pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2009.
“Every day we can do something little by little, to go ahead and show heroic traits, and just be who we are, be Catholic men of faith.”
“I think all fathers are heroes to their families,” he continued. “Their children and their spouses look up to them. I think our call to heroism every day in our lives is to be continuing members of the community, to stand up for what we believe in, to be role models as parents, and role models in the community, helping the less fortunate and giving our time back.”
In April 2009, four pirates had attempted to hijack the cargo ship Maersk Alabama, but Phillips’ crew had retaken their vessel and captured one pirate. The remaining pirates took Phillips as a hostage and fled the ship on a lifeboat.
The Bainbridge pursued the pirates. After a tense standoff in which the pirates repeatedly threatened the cargo ship captain’s life, U.S. Navy forces killed the pirates and freed Phillips on Easter Sunday.
The story of the pirate attack is dramatized in the new movie “Captain Phillips,” with actor Tom Hanks starring in the title role. Castellano’s part is played by Yul Vazquez.
Castellano, a former altar boy who now serves as an usher, lector, and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, said his faith helped him in the crisis.
“Being a Catholic is important to me. In terms of the rescue mission for Capt. Richard Phillips, my Catholic faith and being a Knight of Columbus played a big role in what I believed in, that we wanted to bring Capt. Phillips back home safely to his family and protect the greater good.”
Castellano grew up at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Patchogue, N.Y., where his great uncle was a priest and pastor.
“My mother was the secretary at the parish, so growing up I spent a lot of time in the rectory, and being raised around the Catholic Church, and I think that has imbued me with positive values.”
His home parish is now St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Virginia Beach, Va.
He has been a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal charitable organization, for 27 years. He praised the organization’s “fraternity and its service” and its ability to provide a support network for its members.
Castellano has been married to his wife Lisa for 22 years, and they have two daughters.
“My wife has been very strong and supportive of the family as I progressed in my career,” he said. “I have been on a lot of sea duty, which means long periods away from home, and my wife has raised our daughters a lot of times on her own, and they are now wonderful young ladies.
“We try as much as we can to all have dinner together when I am home, and to discuss what we have done throughout our day so that way we can spend that time together.”
The Navy captain also shared his vision of fatherhood.
“Being a father is very important and comes with obligations to be a role model for your children, to go to church, show your faith, pray with your family, and be there in their times of need. You want the best for your children, and the best way to do that is to be a great example for them.”
Castellano said he does not consider himself a hero for his role in the rescue. Rather, he praised the Maersk Alabama sailors who were untrained for the situation yet still recaptured their ship. He also praised the Navy’s Special Forces.
“Those men are incredible. They are titans of our country, and we should be very, very proud that we have them on our side.”
He praised “the professionalism and the teamwork” of his crew and of everyone involved in the rescue operation.
“I am so proud of the team that was supporting me on board Bainbridge, that we could actually bring Capt. Richard Phillips home to his family.”
New York City, N.Y., Oct 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A convent and chapel in New York City were the site this weekend of a suspicious fire, in which two nuns and four firefighters were injured.
Sister M. William McGovern, provincial superior of the Daughters of Divine Charity community on Staten Island, explained in an Oct. 12 press release that the fires were “a true tragedy.”
“The historic portion of our home – with our chapel, sacristy, archives and provincial offices was destroyed – and is now a crime scene.”
Early in the morning of Oct. 12, firefighters responded to fires at St. Joseph Hill Convent and Chapel. According to multiple local news sources, Sister Regina Gegic and another older sister were staying in the building when the fire started, the former jumping from the second floor of the building to escape the flames.
Sister McGovern explained that Sister Gegic “is in intensive care at Staten Island University Hospital,” with injuries sustained from the fall. The other sister in the building at the time of the fire was not reported to have been harmed.
Other sisters in the order, including several visiting the United States for the 100th anniversary of the Daughters of Divine Charity’s presence in the United States, were staying in another building at the time, and were not harmed.
The fire is being investigated by the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force.
This is potentially the second attack on the St. Joseph Hill property in two months: in August, vandals caused $15,000 worth of damage to the property, including its school, just a week before the school year began.
Eight teenagers were caught on surveillance tapes breaking into the convent and school in the previous incident, later in the same week another three were charged with attempted break-in after smashing a window.
Following the fire, the sisters “ask for prayers, especially for our beloved Sister Regina,” and are grateful for the support of the community and fire and law enforcement officials as repairs and investigation into the fire’s causes continue.
Sister McGovern expressed that in spite of the damage and recent fire, the sisters will “return our original home to a state of beauty – when we can.”
“We will rebuild, we will restore our Convent and our place of worship.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed more decades-old sexual abuse charges against Catholic schools and other non-profit institutions, while exempting public schools where abuse took place.
Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson of Los Angeles, the president of the California Catholic Conference, said the bishops of the state are “grateful” that the bill was vetoed.
“It was unfair to the vast majority of victims and unfair to all private and non-profit organizations,” he said, adding that the bill “discriminated and treated victims unequally” in a way that was “impossible to morally or legally justify.”
The bill would have lifted 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 from 26 years old.
However, S.B. 131 specifically exempted public schools and other government institutions from lawsuits.
Critics argued that this was unfair to Catholic and private schools, and that it failed to protect the vast majority – more than 90 percent – of California children who attend public schools.
The Wall Street Journal had criticized the proposed bill as a “nonprofit shakedown” targeting the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, and the “political enemies” of the legislature, where Democrats hold a supermajority of seats.
The bill also would have provided a one-year window for victims older than the new age limit to sue alleged negligent employers. This could have resulted in many new lawsuits concerning allegations dismissed after 2003, when the statute of limitations was previously suspended.
That suspension 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 1930s.
Gov. Brown explained his veto decision in a three-page Oct. 12 message to members of the State Senate. He argued that the bill’s policy of making private institutions “subject to suit indefinitely” while exempting public institutions is “simply too open-ended and unfair.”
He explained that legal cases alleging abuse make “valid and profoundly important claims,” but the statute of limitations is part of a legal tradition of “fairness.”
“There comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits,” the governor said. “With the passage of time, evidence may be lost or disposed of, memories fade and witnesses move away or die.”
He also stressed that the bill's failure to address the different treatment of abuse victims in public and private institutions continues a “significant inequity” in the law.
The Catholic Church and a coalition of non-profits and other religious organizations and private schools had opposed the bill.
Bishop Wilkerson said he thought the way the bill “discriminated” against victims of abuse in public institutions played a “major role” in prompting the veto. He also voiced hope that the Catholic Church’s response to abuse in the last 10 years – through its actions to protect young people and report allegations to law enforcement – further helped contribute to the veto.
The bishop pointed to the “safe environment” training instituted as a means of helping to protect children and discover potential abuse. Church workers and volunteers also undergo background checks.
He said that the Church suspends anyone, clergy or lay, who is suspected of abuse.
Vatican City, Oct 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Updated on Oct. 15, 2013 at 5:44 p.m. Rome time: a Vatican source told CNA that Archbishop Parolin was absent from the ceremony due to appendicitis.
In a farewell ceremony held at the Vatican, former state secretary Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone stepped down from the position – which will soon be filled by his successor, Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin.
During the short Oct. 15 event, which was held in the library of the Secretariat of State, Pope Francis lauded Cardinal Bertone for his personal contribution to the organization and running of the Holy See.
“Thinking about his long service to the Church, the teaching as well as the ministry of diocesan bishops and also his work as Secretary of State,” he said, “I can see that the driving force is that of a priestly Salesian vocation that has affected him since childhood.”
This vocation, the Pope urged “has led him to fulfill all the duties, which he received with a deep love for the Church, great generosity and with that typical Salesian mix that united a sincere spirit of obedience to a great freedom of initiative and personal ingenuity.”
The now 78-year-old Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a canon lawyer and theologian, was appointed to the position by Benedict XVI in 2006, and continued to serve Pope Francis since his March 13 election until today.
His successor, Archbishop Parolin, had previously been serving as the Vatican's apostolic nuncio to Venezuela, and was named as the new secretary by Pope Francis on Aug. 31.
Although the archbishop was expected to take office today, he was not present at the ceremony.
Pope Francis stated that “Monsignor Parolin will take up his new post within the next few weeks,” the reason being that he is recovering from “a small surgery that he has had to undergo.”
On the subject, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi affirmed that the surgery “must not be anything serious, because in a few weeks he will be fine.”
Archbishop Parolin, who received his training at the Vatican's diplomatic school, has gained extensive experience in working with the Secretariat of State both in Rome and abroad, and is known for his particular skill in facing challenging diplomatic situations.
Despite the archbishop's temporary absence, the Holy Father noted that he has served the Secretary of State for many years with eagerness, skill and a great capacity for dialogue.
Rome, Italy, Oct 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily Mass homily, Pope Francis warned of the presence of idolatry in our lives, urging each person present to look to themselves in order to find the hidden idols which are present in our hearts.
“Even today, there are so many idols, and even today there are so many idolaters, so many who think they are wise,” urged the pontiff during his Oct. 15 daily Mass.
Pope Francis offered his reflections to those present in the St. Martha guesthouse of the Vatican, emphasizing the need to be aware of the trap of becoming an apostle of one’s own ideas, and forgetting the commandment to love without exceptions.
Echoing the words of St. Paul from the day’s first reading, the Pope condemned the sin of idolatry in those who “although they knew God,” did not “accord him glory as God or give him thanks,” preferring instead to worship “the creature rather than the creator.”
This sin, stressed the pontiff, “stifles the truth of the Faith.”
Highlighting how each person has the desire to worship due to the “imprint of God within us,” he stated that “when we do not worship God, we worship creatures. And this is the passage from faith to idolatry.”
“These people, idolaters, have no excuse,” urged the Pope, “because having known God, they have neither glorified nor worshipped Him as God.”
“And what is the way of idolatry? He says clearly: ‘they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.’ The selfishness of their own thoughts, the omnipotent thought, that which I think is true: I think the truth, I make the truth with my thought.”
Pope Francis went on to recall how those who criticized St. Paul during his life spoke of the people who prostrated in front of images of animals, stressing that simply because this practice is not common today does not mean that the sin of idolatry has disappeared.
Idolatry, noted the pontiff, has taken on new forms, and “even today there are so many idolaters, so many who think they are wise.”
“But even among us, among Christians, eh? I’m not speaking about them, I respect them, those who aren’t Christians. But among us – we’re speaking within the family.”
The Pope stressed that there are those who practice the faith that “think they’re wise, they know everything...They’ve become foolish and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God with an image: myself, my ideas, my comforts.”
Cautioning those in attendance at the Mass, the Holy Father stressed that all along the path of faith “there are idols, even a step forward,” emphasizing that “We all have within ourselves some hidden idol.”
“We can ask ourselves in the sight of God,” encouraged the pontiff, “what is my hidden idol? What takes the place of God?”
Pope Francis then recalled the words of Jesus to the Pharisees in the gospel, who were scandalized that he did not wash his hands before the meal, saying that if St. Paul refers to the idolaters as foolish, then Jesus says the same thing of the hypocrites.
Quoting the passage from Luke’s gospel reading of the day, the Holy Father urged that “Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil…But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
“Jesus counsels: don’t look at appearances, go by the truth,” said the Pope, “The plate is the plate, but what is important is what’s on the plate: the meal.”
“If you are vain, if you are a careerist, if you are ambitious, if you are a person that always puts himself forward or likes to advance yourself, because you think you are perfect, give a little bit of alms and that will heal your hypocrisy.”
“This is the way of the Lord,” he concluded, “it is to worship God, to love God above all things and to love your neighbor.”
“It’s so simple, but so difficult! This can only be done with grace. Let us ask for this grace.”
London, England, Oct 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The introduction of a new Ordinariate Use liturgy for groups of former Anglicans is uniting some of their old traditions to the fullness of the Catholic Church.
The Vatican office responsible for adapting parts of the Anglican liturgy for use in the Catholic Church “has had the task of the scribe, trained for the kingdom of heaven, the householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old,” said Monsignor Andrew Burnham.
The monsignor serves as assistant to the ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
“We have had to examine just what it is in the Anglican liturgical books that can and should be brought fully into the life of the Catholic Church,” he explained during Mass on Oct. 10.
Established in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI, the ordinariate allows for entire communities to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practices, such as the Book of Common Prayer.
Personal ordinariates – which have also been created in the U.S., Canada and Australia – function similar to a diocese, but generally with a larger geographical area.
The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham covers England and Wales. It has adopted Blessed John Henry Newman as its patron, and celebrated an Oct. 10 Mass in honor of him.
The Mass, celebrated at Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory in London, was the first liturgy to officially integrate traditional Anglican prayers into the Roman Rite. The new Use was developed in Rome over the past several years by a special working party, which included the homilist, Msgr. Burnham.
He explained that the Ordinariate Use will not necessarily be used by all Ordinariate priests for all Masses.
The blend of traditional Anglican and Latin Rite prayers that comprise the liturgy, however, “is part of who we are, our Anglican DNA,” and will join other Anglican traditions such as Choral Evensong in becoming “part of the treasure-store of the whole Universal Church.”
He noted that while the new Ordinariate Use is a sign of the ordinariate’s break from the Church of England, it is also a means of discovering what Pope Benedict has called “a hermeneutic of continuity.”
The new Mass joins together the “linguistic brilliance, and feel for translation” of the Book of Common Prayer with “the ancient Canon of the Mass,” the form of the Mass prayed since the early days of the Church that “continues to be prayed throughout the Universal Church.”
“There’s continuity for you,” Msgr. Burnham stressed.
Vatican City, Oct 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See's new anti-money laundering law signals that the Vatican is clearly taking the path to full financial transparency, according to the director of the state's Financial Information Authority.
René Bruelhart told CNA Oct. 9 that “with the new AML/CFT Act the Holy See and the Vatican City State introduced a comprehensive system in accordance with the international standards to fight money-laundering and financing of terrorism.”
“It is a further step to strengthen its system to actively combat any potential misuse of financial activities within the Vatican City State.”
The act was confirmed as law Oct. 8, but had already come into effect Aug. 8 via a decree of Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of Vatican City's government.
Known as Law XVIII, the act regards financial transparency, supervision, and information, clarifying and consolidating the functions, powers and responsibilities of the Financial Information Authority.
It is part of the implementation of an Aug. 8 motu proprio from Pope Francis which strengthened the Financial Information Authority.
Law XVIII also charges the Financial Information Authority with “prudential supervision” functions. A lack of prudential supervision had criticized by Moneyval auditors in a July report.
Prudential supervision allows the Financial Information Authority to evaluate if an investment by a Holy See institution is prudent, or if it risks leading the institution to insolvency.
Law XVIII is another Vatican step to improve its own anti-money laundering legislation. It follows upon an earlier Vatican anti-money laundering law, issued at the end of 2010 and which came into effect in March 2011.
Following an on-site visit of the evaluators of Moneyval – the Council of Europe committee that evaluates member states' adherence to the anti-money laundering standards – the Holy See improved and perfected its anti-money laundering law with a 2012 decree.
The decree was met favorably by the Moneyval committee, which issued a generally positive report on Vatican City in July 2012.
The Moneyval report underlined that the Holy See has “come a long way in a very short period of time.” It gave a positive evaluation on nine out of 16 “key and core” anti-money laundering recommendations.
Like all member states, Vatican City must now issue a progress report at the next Moneyval plenary assembly, to be held on Dec. 9-13. The progress report focuses on the improvements of Vatican legislation regarding the committee's “key and core” recommendations.
It comes as part of a long-term strategy to meet international standards, and several improvements to the anti-money laundering law witness to Vatican City's strong commitment to financial transparency.
In December 2012, the anti-money laundering law was subjected to two modifications in order to improve international cooperation.
The modifications gave the Financial Information Authority the possibility to sign memoranda of understanding with peer authorities without oversight from the Vatican's secretariat of state.
Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The 2013-2014 Supreme Court term, which began Oct. 7, will address several prominent issues in the public square, including freedom of speech for pro-life demonstrations, prayer in legislative settings, and religious freedom.
Limits on pro-life protests outside of abortion clinics are being challenged in the upcoming case “McCullen v. Coakley.” The petitioners argue that a Massachusetts law limiting sidewalk counseling for women entering abortion clinics violates the First Amendment.
They claim that limiting the enforcement of a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinics to pro-life counselors and other non-employees is an example of a selective exclusion law targeting a specific viewpoint in a public space.
The ruling will affect the interpretation of First Amendment rights for protestors, and could implicitly reveal the court's interpretation of the importance of abortion, its view of the procedure as “health care,” and the value of individuals' freedom of speech in public spaces.
If the “buffer zone” is ruled to be unconstitutional, it would likely expand pro-life counselors' ability to offer sidewalk counseling services in front of abortion clinics.
Another case of note coming to the Supreme Court will be November's “Town of Greece v. Galloway,” which will address the constitutionality of prayer in legislative settings. The case challenges the town of Greece, N.Y.'s 14-year-long practice of beginning town meetings with prayers from a variety of traditions and faiths. The town places no limits on who can say the public prayers, nor what the prayers contain.
The town argues that the practice of prayer in the government, and more specifically in legislative areas, is a practice present in all levels of government, and one that has been exercised throughout the nation's history.
However, petitioners argue that the prayer sessions, though they are not regulated or limited to certain faiths, violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and coerce participation in religious prayer.
The court's decision is expected to clarify whether religious petitions in legislative settings constitute “an establishment of religion,” or if they are a licit means of religious expression in a public arena.
Other notable cases the Supreme Court will address are “Fisher v. University of Texas,” which will revisit the question of affirmative action in colleges; “McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission,” regarding the constitutionality of individual political campaign contributions; “National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning,” which will address the president’s ability to appoint government officials when the Senate is not in session; and “Medtronic Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corp,” a patent law case.
Court observers have speculated that one or more cases dealing with the federal contraception mandate may also be heard in the near future.
The controversial mandate requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraceptive, sterilizing and abortion-causing products and procedures, even if doing so violates their conscience or religious beliefs.
Several cases regarding the mandate have been filed with the Supreme Court, all concerning the ability of owners of private companies to run their organizations in accordance with their deeply-held religious convictions.
In each case – “Autocam v. Sebelius,” “Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius,” and “Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores,” the government has argued that the right to freely exercise religion does not apply to the owners of for-profit companies. The owners have largely argued that participating in for-profit business should not mean separating their religious beliefs from their public action.
If the cases are taken, the decision will determine whether or not companies must obey the mandate at the expense of their religious convictions, and it could set a precedent for establishing the range of freedom of religion in the public square.