Springfield, Ill., Oct 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Illinois diocese is launching a volunteer legal services program for the poor in need of legal counsel for civil matters, its bishop announced.
“I have seen first-hand how civil legal aid can be a lifeline that enables families to save their home from foreclosure or eviction, recover back wages from an employer, secure disability benefits or provide protection in domestic violence situations,” said Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., to the State Journal-Register, a local newspaper.
“This program goes to the heart of preserving human dignity and empowering people to gain control of their lives again.”
The new program, called Caritas Legal Services, will link a panel of volunteer lawyers with persons in need across the diocese to provide free assistance for civil matters to those who cannot afford it.
The launch of the program was announced at the diocese's annual Red Mass for the members of its Catholic Lawyers Guild on Oct. 14 in Springfield, Ill. The new program is backed with the support of a number of Catholic and non-Catholic attorneys, as well as $1.5 million in seed money donated to the diocese.
Bishop Paprocki, who is a lawyer himself, explained that the new program will not “dump a bunch of cases” on each lawyer who volunteers, but will limit the volunteer workload to around two cases per year.
The bishop added that he expected the program to be self-supporting through the investment of donations in its Lex Cordis – or “law of the heart” – Endowment.
The program will not provide services to criminal cases, instead “giving a voice to the voiceless and empowering the powerless,” who need legal help in navigating custody, disability, adoption, immigration, rent, eviction, domestic violence and other civil laws.
The bishop explained to the State Journal-Register that the diocese is creating this program because it “is fundamentally unfair and unjust to deprive the poor of the legal protection for their lives that wealthy persons enjoy.”
The program will work alongside other legal services to help the poor in the area gain access to free legal aid. Bishop Paprocki stressed that Caritas Legal Services will not work against or “take volunteer attorneys away” from existing legal aid organizations, such as the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, but instead will work with them.
“It has been my experience that the legal needs of the poor are so great, you can never have enough services,” he emphasized.
Oklahoma City, Okla., Oct 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In an Oct. 7 pastoral letter entitled “Go Make Disciples,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City offered to the members of his archdiocese a multi-year vision of holiness and mission.
“The whole language of discipleship is not something that perhaps has been well understood or very much emphasized, but I think it's something that we really have to latch onto,” the archbishop told CNA Oct. 15 in a discussion of the pastoral letter.
“'Go make disciples', that's a vision for the Church that is perennial, and is not so much time-bound, but it is my intention to really, over the course of the next five years, focus our attention in that direction.”
Archbishop Coakley's pastoral letter identifies three priorities in relation to discipleship, with specific goals in those areas to be worked towards in the next few years.
The pastoral letter explains that it is a fruit of the Year of Faith, an event which prompted the archbishop to prayerfully discern a vision for the archdiocese shared with his flock. The Church of Oklahoma City held a series of “listening sessions” which allowed people to share their needs and challenges, as well as dreams for the archdiocese.
“We gained a lot from that,” he said, and the archdiocese was able to “see what the Spirit was prompting, through all of this.” They also examined demographic data to anticipate the needs of the local Church.
Archbishop Coakley wrote that sanctification is “the principle and foundation of the Christian life, of all pastoral planning and pastoral work … God creates us for holiness. God calls us to become saints.”
He said that the universal call to holiness is “really the heart of the (Second Vatican) Council, the heart of Lumen gentium for sure, so I've hit upon that for many years, even before coming here, trying to inculcate that call to holiness, that call to be saints. That's what it means to be Christian.”
He had written, “holiness is not the prerogative of an elite few. It is the fundamental vocation that every Christian receives in baptism,” and reflected that holiness is not privatized or individualistic, though its expression is unique to each person.
“I'm trying to speak to the distorted understanding of what holiness means,” Archbishop Coakley explained. People often “equate sanctity with piety, and certainly, saints are pious people, but I think genuine holiness is much more robust than that.”
“Holiness has to be attractive, if it's going to be compelling,” he said, adding that a genuine holiness “will be attractive.”
“I've encountered so much resistance to the notion of holiness, because people have such a poor understanding of what holiness looks like; what holiness looks like in a family,” he noted.
In families, he explained, holiness is a matter of mothers and fathers raising and forming their children, and sacrificing for them. It is a call to communion, service, and mission, not merely to piety.
The call to mission led him to write about the new evangelization, noting that “we all know many people today who are nominally Christian or nominally Catholic … rather than evangelizing the culture, that is, transforming the culture according to the truth, beauty and goodness of the Gospel, many Christians are being ‘evangelized’ by the anti-gospel values that the secular and atheistic culture espouses.”
Archbishop Coakley said that even in Oklahoma, home to the Bible belt's buckle, the people are “not immune to the influence of secularism” and that the new evangelization is indeed needed there.
We “need to bring our own Catholic people to a deeper conversion; that's true everywhere, undoubtedly, but what we heard people yearning for, is a deeper experience of their own faith,” he said.
He explained that in the listening sessions, people expressed particular concern for youth in danger of “falling away” from the faith.
“I can't say people were actually familiar with the language that has become all-too-common in magisterial teaching about the new evangelization, and things of that sort, but I think what we heard people asking for was precisely that: a deeper encounter with the person of Christ.”
“That's what's going to hold people,” he said. “That's what's going to keep their kids from drifting.”
Archbishop Coakley wrote that to carry out evangelization, we ourselves must first be evangelized, and fall in love with Christ. He quoted Fr. Pedro Arrupe, a late superior general of the Jesuits, and then wrote that “only the disciple can effectively evangelize others.”
“Discipleship leads to evangelization,” he wrote. “Mature disciples become disciple-makers. They become missionary disciples … this is the vision I set before you today: Go make disciples!”
This vision, the pastoral letter explained, will be supported by three priorities, each of them with two goals: new evangelization; faith formation; and Hispanic ministry.
The archdiocese has already achieved its first new evangelization goal – the creation of a new evangelization office in its chancery. It is headed by Carol Brown, the archbishop said, and they are now working out how she will collaborate with other staff “to bring a certain concern for making disciples to bear upon all that we're doing.”
“Actually,” he reflected, “that vision, go make disciples, is precisely that. It's a kind of prism that we have to learn to look through, in all that we're doing.”
The faith formation priority includes goals of transforming catechesis of youth, as well as increasing participation in adult faith formation opportunities. While not having a “roadmap” for these goals just yet, Archbishop Coakley said that “everything's possible” and that they have looked at a number of models “to re-invigorate our faith formation.”
The archbishop said his Church implemented the summer youth program “Totus Tuus” just last year, and is open to other programs as well, including “Prayer and Action,” a local service and mission program begun in the Salina diocese, where he was bishop from 2004 to 2010.
“Prayer and Action is a wonderful model that I would like to consider as we move forward,” he said. “It's certainly proven to be very effective in Salina.”
As for the priority surrounding Hispanic ministry, the archdiocese plans to alleviate overcrowding in Hispanic parishes and to improve Spanish-language adult faith formation.
The archdiocese already has a task force looking at these concerns, and Archbishop Coakley indicated that “there may be some re-configuring of Mass schedules, adding more Spanish Masses in some places,” and even the “real possibility” of “establishing a new parish” in a densely Hispanic area of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
The Spanish-speaking population in the metro area “can't be ignored,” he said, and the largest Hispanic parish has already been entrusted to a congregation from Mexico; but the phenomenon is spread across the whole of the archdiocese.
Archbishop Coakley also emphasized that Hispanic ministry is not just about facility with the Spanish language, but also a knowledge of the culture and “the heart of the people,” and so his seminarians are learning Spanish as well as going on immersion to heavily-Latino areas.
The archbishop is hopeful that the initiatives will see a “fruitful response.”
He said he was “very confirmed” in the prayerful discernment of “go make disciples” as a theme, particularly when Pope Francis “used that very language at World Youth Day in his closing homily …. so I think the alignment of what we're trying to do aligns well with what the Spirit has been trying to do in the Church for a number of years … through the teaching of Pope Francis, and Benedict, and Blessed John Paul II before him.”
“We're not trying to create something new, but trying to certainly make sure that what we're trying to do aligns well with the Gospel and with the teaching of the Church,” he explained.
Phoenix, Ariz., Oct 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Arizona-based international development organization has announced its expansion into Peru to help impoverished rural families who live near the famous Incan sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
“For the past year, we’ve been looking at South America and planning our expansion,” Tom Egan, president and CEO of Esperança, said Sept. 27. “The need in Peru is great and we’re excited to bring hope to the people.”
Esperança provides volunteer surgical missions, health education, training for community health workers, home building, clean water projects, business expertise, agricultural development, and dental programs. It helps send donated medical equipment and supplies to project sites around the world.
The organization was founded in 1970 by Phoenix attorney Jerry Tupper to help his brother, Franciscan priest Father Luke Tupper, serve the poor in South America.
The organization’s Peruvian expansion will feature a partnership with the Peruvian agency CADEP, based in Cuzco. The agency has 40 years of experience in helping indigenous communities, especially women and children.
Esperança said that the thousands of tourists who visit Machu Picchu each year do not realize the “extreme poverty” of the families who live in hundreds of rural villages in the region. Some villages are so remote they can only be reached by car on drives of eight to 10 hours on winding, treacherous roads.
Many of the region’s families suffer malnourishment, unclean drinking water and poor housing conditions.
“Despite this area being one of the top producers for potatoes, families asked how to plant more fruits and vegetables, so that they would have a well-balanced diet,” Egan said. “We’re looking forward to helping these villages and working directly with CADEP to maximum our efforts.”
In 2012, Esperança served over 100,000 people in four countries. The organization’s website is www.esperanca.org.
Portsmouth, England, Oct 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Next year’s synod on the family and evangelization is a chance to renew family life and the Catholic vision of marriage, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England has said.
“How might we educate, form and support Catholics to embrace with joy the Church’s vision and to put it into practice?” the bishop asked.
The extraordinary synod will be held at the Vatican in October 2014 to discuss the pastoral care of the family and pastoral challenges in the context of evangelization. About 150 leading bishops are expected to attend.
Bishop Egan, in an Oct. 15 letter to the clergy and laity of his diocese, said the synod is an opportunity to reflect on marriage preparation, the valid celebration of marriage, and pastoral care and support for married couples and family life.
The bishop hopes the synod will help foster “a renewed appreciation of the demanding yet beautiful vision of marriage and family life that the Church presents us with.”
He said this renewal is “so evidently necessary” given the decline of committed lifelong marriage and the rise of cohabitation.
Catholic marriages in the Plymouth diocese numbered 1,319 in the year 1962, but there were only 566 marriages in 2012 despite a 25 percent rise in the diocese’s Catholic population.
Bishop Egan said the synod is an opportunity for Catholics in the diocese “to articulate once again the teaching of Jesus and his Church on marriage and family life, and to explore new ways of showing mercy to those in difficulty.”
He said he hopes Pope Francis’ call for the extraordinary synod will help the diocese develop new resources, including a comprehensive “spiritual, theological and practical” marriage preparation program.
The bishop also voiced hope that the synod will help “find new ways of celebrating and supporting parents, married couples and Christian family life.” He suggested the development of new ways to celebrate engagements, marriages, and significant anniversaries in family life.
Among his suggestions was the creation of a “family manual” for the diocese that contains Scripture passages, Church teaching, a proposed life plan and simple prayers for meals, for sick family members, for departed loved ones and for cemetery visits.
“We need to share wisdom and good practice in parenting skills, in bringing up children, in creating a happy home, in honoring grandparents and our relations, and in living as a family the routines of being ‘the domestic church,’ such as attending Sunday Mass,” Bishop Egan said.
He suggested that families be encouraged to keep fast days and feast days, to develop family activities for the liturgical seasons, to say the family rosary, the Divine Office and mealtime prayers, and to set up a small altar or sacred space in the home.
Bishop Egan’s final hope for the synod is that it will renew attention to the situation of Catholics who are in “irregular unions” or who are divorced and remarried.
“Is there some way of affording them mercy, help and reconciliation?” he asked.
He is hopeful that the synod will offer some help for non-Catholics who wish to enter the Church but are prevented because of irregularities in their marital status or their partner’s marital status.
In focusing on family issues, he said, Catholics must not forget to “love, care and support all people, including those who are single.”
“Let us ask the Lord Jesus to pour out the many gifts of the Holy Spirit upon us all, above all on our families,” Bishop Egan concluded.
Rome, Italy, Oct 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his daily Mass homily Pope Francis reflected on the dangers of following one's own personal, “moralistic” ideology, stressing the importance of prayer in staying open to God.
If a Christian “becomes a disciple of ideology,” noted Pope Francis during his Oct. 17 daily Mass, “he has lost the faith.”
Pope Francis offered his words to those who were gathered with him in the chapel at the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, warning them against acting as if the “key is in (their) pocket, and the door closed.”
The Holy Father reiterated Jesus' words to the scholars in the day’s Gospel, taken from Luke, in which he tells them that they have taken the key of knowledge, reflecting that in this scene Jesus speaks to us about the “image of the lock.”
It is, he said, “the image of those Christians who have the key in their hand, but take it away, without opening the door,” and who “keep the door closed.”
Asking those present how a Christian is able to fall into this attitude, the Pope reflected that “The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon (people).”
Noting that it is a “lack of Christian witness does this,” he stressed that “when this Christian is a priest, a bishop or a Pope it is worse.”
“When a Christian becomes a disciple of ideology,” urged the Pope, “he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought,” and “the knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge.”
“Ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people,” he stressed, stating that it is because of this that many are distanced from the Church.
“It is a serious illness, this Christian ideology. It is an illness, but it is not new,” he said, recalling how the Apostle John alludes to this mentality in his first letter.
Pope Francis then emphasized that the attitude of those who lose their faith in preference of personal ideologies is “rigid, moralistic, ethical, but without kindness.”
“But why is it that a Christian can become like this? Just one thing: this Christian does not pray. And if there is no prayer, you always close the door.”
“The key that opens the door to the faith,” the Pope noted, “is prayer,” and “when a Christian does not pray, this happens. And his witness is an arrogant witness.”
The Christian who does not pray, urged the Pope, is “arrogant, is proud, is sure of himself. He is not humble. He seeks his own advancement…when a Christian prays, he is not far from the faith; he speaks with Jesus.”
When we pray, the Pope reflected, Jesus tells us to “go into your room and pray to the Father in secret, heart to heart,” because “It is one thing to pray, and another thing to say prayers.”
Those who do not pray abandon the faith, stressed the Pope, and allow it to become a “moralistic, casuistic ideology, without Jesus.”
“We ask the Lord for Grace,” he concluded, “first: never to stop praying to never lose the faith; to remain humble, and so not to become closed, which closes the way to the Lord.”
Lima, Peru, Oct 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Amid news of sexual misconduct by two local bishops, the Archbishop of Lima says chastity is impossible without prayer and that the priesthood is a treasure that should be safeguarded with fidelity.
“The priest who does not pray cannot live chastity, which is a gift from God. He should live obedience and poverty,” Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani said during a local priestly ordination on Oct. 12.
“In these days one has to be more and more careful, because we are like sheep among the wolves.”
The cardinal made his remarks as the cases of two former bishops who engaged in sexual misconduct have come to light. Gabino Miranda, who was auxiliary bishop of Ayacucho, has been stripped of the clerical state. Guillermo Abanto, who was bishop of the military diocese, has acknowledged fathering a child.
Cardinal Cipriani said the priesthood “is a treasure because it is not something that belongs to you or to me. The Church is not ours, it is Jesus Christ’s and these days sometimes we don’t realize what it means to administer these treasures.”
A priest should be “a man of prayer, a sincere man, who goes to confession if he falls. If he watches after his community life he will not have problems.”
At a time when impurity and sin seek to corrupt the priest, he must recognize that the kingdom of God is in his heart so that this treasure is not destroyed.
“All of us when we are ordained and filled with enthusiasm, we received this great mystery, and we don't want it to grow cold over time. Wherever you are, prepare well for Mass, devote time to the divine office, draw close to confession, receive spiritual direction,” the cardinal said.
“More love for the Church, more love for Jesus Christ, more penance, more unity with Christ in Mass, more frequent confession, more sincerity,” he continued.
“For this reason, when we see situations that grab our attention, that cause confusion or scandal, we have to say: the priest failed because he was not sincere, he wasn’t praying, he did not care for the charism of his institution. Thus the earthen vessel causes the treasure to be lost.”
During his remarks, the cardinal also encouraged the families of priests and members of the faith to protect them and help them to avoid temptation.
“As the people of God, care for your priests, make demands of them, they are not better or worse than anyone else; they have a very important task,” he said.
Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Although different belief systems create varying ideas on what's best for a nation, religious freedom is essential for the maintenance of a just and thriving society, academics said at a recent D.C. event.
“Instead of treating religious conviction as the problem, we can treat religious traditions as part of the solution,” Kristine Kalanges, law professor at the University of Notre Dame, said at an Oct. 10 panel which was part of a two-day conference sponsored by Georgetown University's Religious Freedom Project.
If society continues to treat religious traditions and viewpoints as a negative contribution to society rather than a positive one, “we’re ignoring the problem,” she warned.
“The solutions we build on top of that are not solutions, but exercises in raw power, and then the law ceases to be just.”
Kalanges made her remarks during the discussion titled “Does Every Person Everywhere – Religious or Not – Need Religious Freedom?,” part of the conference, which was called “Freedom to Flourish: Is Religious Freedom Necessary for Peace, Prosperity, and Democracy?”
Also speaking on the panel were Christopher Tollefsen, professor at the University of South Carolina, and co-author of “Embryo: A Defense of Human Life,” and Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a professor at Chicago Theological Seminary.
Tollefsen argued that belief is a “basic good,” for all persons, and “grounds” other social phenomena. In respect of this basic good for all persons of all beliefs, religious freedom should be protected.
Kalanges echoed his statements, arguing that “religious freedom is a universal human right, regardless of culture, regardless of creed, regardless of whether they have a creed.”
Thistlethwaite, however warned against supporting the “violence” that comes from any tradition claiming “access to absolute truth.”
She argued that instead of supporting religious freedom, people should be careful in supporting such arguments, because in many places around the world, religious belief is a “part of identity” and religious freedom advocacy often leads to power struggles and conflict between groups.
Tollefsen later responded to this point, looking to the domestic disputes over the HHS contraceptive mandate, saying that “it is hard for me to see how” smaller institutions, such as those asking to run their companies by their religious beliefs, “are occupying a position of power and privilege relative to that of the state.”
The mandate was issued under the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act and requires employers to provide and pay for contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs and procedures in employee health insurance plans, even if doing so violates the employer's conscience or religious beliefs.
Kalanges suggested that the tensions in society result from differing groups with “drastically different” world views trying to form one society.
These world views provide the means to answering basic human questions of what life's meaning is, and what is good. “We have to have the ability to answer the questions and live out the answers to them,” Kalanges said. “This is essential to the legitimacy of the state.”
Tollefsen warned that, for the practical maintenance of a society, religious freedom of one group is sometimes restricted because its conception of what is good is in conflict with the rest of the people's vision of what is good for society.
However, even when such differences arise, “we need to look into the restriction of any religious freedom carefully,” and question the reasons for any restriction of religious liberty and “the way in which it was done.”
Kalanges answered that in cases of such tension, a means of accommodating belief systems and ways of life should be found. “Laws that violate religious freedom are not truly laws, and they are certainly not just,” she urged.
Ultimately, however, the question of religious freedom “moves into civil society” and will depend on how society itself respects religious liberty.
“Law is only as strong as the culture” in which it is found, Kalanges stated.
Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The end of a two-week shutdown of the federal government was welcomed by both the U.S. bishops and President Barack Obama, both speaking to the harm caused to the American people by the stalemate.
“The shutdown has had a widespread impact on many people, especially the poor, who suffered for lack of basic services during the period,” said Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton in an Oct. 17 statement distributed by the U.S. bishops' conference.
“With the government now open, beneficiaries of government services, particularly the elderly and children, can hope to resume a normal life with a safety net securely in place.”
President Obama emphasized that although the the price of the shutdown was great in both financial and social capital, he was confident that “we'll bounce back from this.”
The government shutdown, which lasted 16 days, began Oct. 1, when federal lawmakers failed to agree on spending authorization bills for the new fiscal year.
This stalemate prompted a shutdown of government services deemed “non-essential,” sending federal workers supporting these services home on unpaid leave.
The programs shut down affected a range of programs, including education for for at-risk preschoolers, scientific research, and grants to charitable organizations.
President Obama affirmed that the partial shutdown left “no winners here.”
“These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy,” the president stated, saying it left families “without paychecks or services they depend on,” and impacted international credit ratings.
Going forward, the president urged the American people to “work together to make government work better instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse.”
“Push to change it. But don't break it.”
He acknowledged that there are certain issues where “we'll be just too far apart to forge an agreement,” but stated that this difference in viewpoint “should not hold back our efforts in areas where we do agree.”
The bishops affirmed that in the wake of the loss of services that many depend upon, they will “continue to advocate for a 'circle of protection' around programs that serve the poor, and vulnerable people.”
The bishops also affirmed their continued support for religious freedom protections against the Health and Human Services mandate forcing employers to provide and pay for abortion-causing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilizations, even if providing these products violates the employers’ deeply-held religious or moral beliefs.
One of the items that sparked the shutdown was a stalemate over conscience-protection measures against the mandate that were added to the spending bills.
They warned that continuing to enforce this mandate would harm many Catholic ministries that provide for the “poor and vulnerable.”
“The bishops have pressed for legislative relief from the HHS mandate since its inception more than two years ago,” Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore explained in a statement.
“Church efforts to protect rights of conscience will continue despite this temporary setback.”