Oklahoma City, Okla., Jul 7, 2014 (CNA) -
A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall defended a black mass being planned there by a convicted sex offender, even though it might involve the desecration of an actual consecrated host.
Jennifer Lindsey-McClintock, the music hall’s public information manager, said that she is not in a position to say “whether it is appropriate or not.”
“That’s not for us to judge,” she told CNA July 3, citing the music hall’s neutrality policy.
A black mass is scheduled to be presented at the music hall Sept. 21 by the occultist group Dakhma of Angra Mainyu, which claims inspiration from ancient Persian ideals.
Often connected to witchcraft and demonic worship, a black mass is a sacrilegious ceremony that invokes Satan and mocks the Catholic Mass. It involves the desecration of the Eucharist, generally by stealing a consecrated host from a Catholic Church and using it in a profane sexual ritual.
The Dakhma of Angra Mainyu website described the upcoming event and its interpretation of the black mass, explaining its use among Satanists and “modern Devil Worshippers.” The group said the modern form of the ritual uses a consecrated host “corrupted by sexual fluids” that then “becomes the sacrifice of the mass.”
“The authenticity and purpose of the black mass will remain intact while allowing for slight changes so that a public viewing can occur without breaking Oklahoma’s laws based on nudity, public urination, and other sex acts,” the group said. Tickets for the event cost $15.
Lindsey-McClintock said that the music hall’s administrators do not know whether the event would in fact use a consecrated host.
She said that any production must follow state and local laws. If a group performs illegal activity elsewhere, it is “a police matter,” she said.
If a consecrated host were obtained under false pretenses, she said, “that wouldn’t be something for us to decide. We would work under the advisement of the Oklahoma City police department.”
The public permit for the black mass event was filed by Adam Daniels, a representative of the group.
Daniels had attempted to hold a mock exorcism at the civic center’s music hall in 2010 as part of a Satanist group he had co-founded and led as a “Dark Overlord.” However, the group expelled Daniels after learning he was a sex offender.
Oklahoma City’s News 9, citing court records, in 2010 reported that Daniels was a registered sex offender and was convicted of sexual battery on a person over age 16.
Lindsey-McClintock said the music hall was aware of Daniels’ status.
She said that the 2010 mock exorcism event had an attendance of about 50, including the music band. A second event the following year had 12 attendees, and there were no attendees at last year’s event.
“We are a city-funded facility. In that vein, we must operate in a position of neutrality,” the music hall spokeswoman said. “Any group that wishes to come to us and host a production may do so.”
She said the government policy would mean the center would be willing to host a racist or anti-Jewish event “as long as it was not hosting something specifically illegal in nature, or that during the production they were taking part in illegal activities.”
“We do not discriminate against any group based on the content of their message.”
She said that about 300,000 people attend the music hall facility annually and “98 percent” of the shows at the music hall are “family-friendly” in nature. The facility also hosts “religious-themed events,” including theater productions, church services and weddings, she added.
Asked how she would respond to concerns that the black mass event might make Catholics or other Christians feel unwelcome at the venue, she replied, “That’s something that is up to them that they are going to have to think about. We cannot be the arbiter of messages that come into our facility.”
Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City on July 1 said that if the event proceeds, “we will have to consider other peaceful, prayerful and respectful options to demonstrate our opposition to this publicly supported sacrilegious act.”
He called on Catholics and others to pray for “a renewed sense of the sacred” and for God to change “the hearts and minds of the organizers of this event.”
Nettuno, Italy, Jul 7, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Following St. Maria Goretti’s feast day, the rector of the basilica where her body resides stated that her willingness to forgive is her most prominent testimony, and that her virtue is an example for family life.
Maria’s greatest witness is forgiveness, Fr. Giovanni Alberti told CNA July 7.
"Many people come saying I left to forgive, with the example of Maria Goretti. These people that are leaving, go with a great lesson from the child Saint,” Fr. Alberti said.
Fr. Alberti has been rector of the Basilica of the Mother of Grace and of Saint Maria Goretti in Nottuno, Italy for the past six years. He said the assignment is “a great responsibility and a call to live with great simplicity.”
The saint’s July 6 feast day included a large procession the night before beginning at the basilica and lasting six miles to the house where she lived for four years prior to her death. Some 4,000 people attended the procession to celebrate the life of the saint.
Born in the city of Corinaldo, Italy in 1890, St. Maria Goretti was the eldest of six children. She was killed at the age of 11 while resisting a rape, and is considered a martyr for chastity.
Coming from a poor family, Maria assisted her mother in housework and in caring for her five younger siblings following her father’s death.
In 1902 a neighboring farmhand, Alessandro Serenelli, who had made previous inappropriate comments and sexual advances toward her, attempted to rape Maria in her house. When she resisted, Alessandro stabbed her 14 times.
After being found bleeding to death, she was rushed to the hospital in Nettuno, where she forgave Alessandro, saying: “Yes, for the love of Jesus I forgive him…and I want him to be with me in paradise.”
While in prison several years later, Alessandro converted after having a dream in which Maria handed him 14 white flowers that burst into flame. The flowers represented the 14 wounds he had inflicted upon her; the flames symbolized forgiveness. After being released from prison he became a Capuchin tertiary and attended Maria’s beatification alongside her mother.
Speaking of Maria’s continuous example today, Fr. Alberti explained that those who come to the basilica in Nettuno receive a great lesson in forgiveness because “today we have many conflicts, also social.”
“We have situations of rupture in the family, in marriage. So this element of forgiveness, this teaching of Jesus is coming out, we say, decisively to change the rapport of the people, also of the family.”
“To know that there is a saint who forgave the one that killed her, is becoming an important resource in forgiveness, more than the other aspects,” he noted, describing how there “is not just one aspect” of her holiness, but many.
“There is also that of the dignity of women, the respect of women, of a sexuality that is healthy and balanced. Then there is faith in God, there is prayer, there is her devotion to Mary, her devotion to the Eucharist, and there is forgiveness, and her testimony of eternal life.
Fr. Alberti said Maria's desire to have her killer with her in paradise was remarkable for several reasons.
“It’s a testimony of a life after life. For a child of 11 this is enormous. These are very great things.”
During her life, Maria often could not go to church or school because her family lived far away from any parish. Still, Fr. Alberti said, “she had a school in her family,” because hers was “a family marked and full of virtue, full of, we say, resources.”
“She was truly the child of a family…The family is also fundamental and irreplaceable, in this aspect.”
Margherita, a 68-year-old volunteer who assists the community overseeing the basilica, told CNA July 7 that “Marietta” is “very dear” to her because she was born in Nettuno and has known the saint all her life.
“I knew Marietta since I was a little girl,” she said. “The name of Marietta was always present.”
Recalling an accident she had on a horse when she was three years old, Margherita recounted how when she went to the hospital to get stitches on her face, the doctor said that it was a miracle she wasn’t injured worse, because if the horse had been more aggressive she would have died.
“So in the family everyone used to say oh this is a miracle of Saint Maria Goretti, she was protecting Margherita,” she observed.
“I used to go around and tell everyone that I received a miracle from Saint Maria Goretti."
“So as you can see she is very dear to me, and I do whatever I do for her, in her name, with great joy.”
Margherita also revealed that the Nettuno diocese is planning to bring Maria Goretti’s body to the United States and Canada for a month-long tour in 2015.
“We are organizing with someone from the States,” she said. “Already Cardinal Dolan from New York knows about it,” and “he’s very enthusiastic.”
Margherita said the plan is for the tour to go to nine dioceses, including New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Toronto. The body will also go to New Jersey, where some relatives of Maria Goretti reside.
The dates of the tour are still being discussed, but tentative dates could be Jan. 25 – March 1, 2015, due to the low tourism traffic in Nettuno during that time.
Vatican City, Jul 7, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis, in his first Vatican meeting with sex abuse victims, asked forgiveness for the Church’s sins of omissions in sex abuse scandals and denounced sex abuse by clergy as “execrable acts.”
The meeting took place July 7 at the Pope’s Casa Santa Marta residence. Six sex abuse victims attended: three men and three women. Two were Irish, two were British and two were German.
They arrived in Rome Sunday evening and took part in Pope Francis’ Monday morning Mass at his residence. They had breakfast together with the Pope and then met with him individually for an average time of half an hour each, communicating with the help of an interpreter.
In his homily, Pope Francis stressed that abuse is “something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence.”
“Today, the heart of the Church looks into the eyes of Jesus in these boys and girls and wants to weep; she asks the grace to weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left lifelong scars,” Pope Francis said.
The Pope listed some of the wounds the victims experienced: difficulties in relationships with parents, spouses and children and addictions.
He also noted the “especially grave” suffering abuse has caused to families of victims, including “the terrible tragedy of the death of a loved one by suicide.”
“The deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole Church,” Pope Francis said.
He said that Catholic clergy sex abuse scandals have been “so much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”
The Pope said that clerical sexual abuse against minors are “sins” that “have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God,” and so the presence of six victims there “speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness.”
“Surely it is a sign of God’s mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, too look in one another’s eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation,” the Roman Pontiff said.
Pope Francis expressed to the victims his “sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you.” He “humbly” asked forgiveness.
He also begged forgiveness “for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.”
Pope Francis praised the abuse survivors for the “courage that you and others have shown by speaking up.” He called their actions “a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the Church.”
“There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not,” Pope Francis said.
And he added: “All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.”
The Pope said he would continue his commitment to “exercise vigilance in priestly formation.” To this end, he asked for the help of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to help him “ensure that we develop better policies and procedures in the universal Church for the protection of minors and for the training of Church personnel in implementing those policies and procedures.”
Pope Francis asked the victims to pray for him, “so that the eyes of my heart will always clearly see the path of merciful love, and that God will grant me the courage to persevere on this path for the good of all children and young people.”
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors had its second meeting July 6. Aside from organizing the meeting with the abuse victims, the eight members of the commission discussed potential new commission members to propose to Pope Francis in order to enlarge the geographic representation of the commission itself.
The commission also discussed a possible draft version of its statutes.
For this purpose, Monsignor Robert W. Oliver, Promoter of Justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was present at the meeting.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said the commission meeting discussed the need to establish an operational office. Msgr. Oliver is aiding this task.
Among the issues at stake is the need for the commission to coordinate its efforts with those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Within the Congregation, a new office is to be established for “delicta graviora,” i.e. the most serious crimes in the Church. These include offenses against morality: the sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric, or the acquisition, possession, or distribution of child pornography by a cleric.
The head of the new office will be Archbishop José Mollaghan of Rosario, Argentina whom Pope Francis named to the new post May 19.
The next meeting of the commission is scheduled for October, although an exact day has not yet been set.
Fr. Lombardi said he cannot foresee whether will be other papal meetings with victims of clergy sex abuses, including one with American victims.
Washington D.C., Jul 7, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholics must come together to protect the work of the Church's charities and services, said the U.S. bishops' president as the annual Fortnight for Freedom came to a close on Friday.
“We must remain free to serve these most vulnerable of our sisters and brothers, without risk of government sanction,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville during a July 4 Mass said at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Archbishop Kurtz joined the principal celebrant of the Mass, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, in closing the third Fortnight for Freedom - a period of prayer, education, and action to promote a greater respect for religious liberty, both in the U.S. and abroad.
The first Fortnight was held in 2012 amid threats to religious freedom stemming from the Health and Human Services mandate, which requires employers to provide and pay for insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions, even if such actions violate their firmly-held religious beliefs.
On June 30, during the Fortnight, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot require “closely held” corporations – companies whose stock is controlled by five or fewer individuals – to violate their religious principles in order to obey the mandate.
The U.S. bishops' conference encouraged Catholics around the country to attend and arrange events and Masses around the country highlighting the importance of religious freedom.
During the closing Mass, Cardinal Wuerl recalled two Masses he said during the Fortnight in St. Mary’s City and on St. Clement’s Island in Maryland; St. Clement’s Island is the site of the first English-language Mass celebrated in the British colonies, in 1634.
“It was at these two historic sites where the first Catholic settlers arrived and established a community that was the birthplace of religious freedom in this part of the world,” the Cardinal explained to participants in the closing Mass.
“Their purposeful founding of colonial Maryland on grounds of religious freedom, a place where all could live together in harmony, each being free to live their faith without restraint, in many respects anticipated the founding of our nation on the principle of liberty for all, which Americans celebrate today.”
In his homily, Archbishop Kurtz praised the impact that people of faith have had on the United States “precisely because we have used this freedom to serve others.”
Praising the public work and “faith in action” of Little Sisters of the Poor, who are also challenging the HHS mandate, the archbishop noted that the sisters’ service is “intimately personal”
“Their work is an expression of their love of God and God’s love of others shining through their lives,” he commented.
He also praised the work of Catholic Charities, saying that the organization’s work was done with integrity and “without ever violating the core beliefs that motivated that service.” Such “faith filled service is good for America,” the archbishop continued.
Archbishop Kurtz also called to mind the “real threats to religious freedom throughout the world and overseas,” asking for prayers for those suffering from religious persecution.
However, the limitation of religious freedom is “even at our doorstep,” he continued, pointing back to the Little Sisters of the Poor. “They cannot make a choice either to stop serving those in need or to compromise the faith that is their very reason and power to serve!”
He urged Catholics to “protect their ability to serve with love and integrity,” saying the Church “cannot stand by and allow anyone to force us to separate our acts of service from the living faith” or to “facilitate immoral acts that go against our clearly demonstrated living faith.”
“We need a robust and healthy religious freedom in our nation,” Archbishop Kurtz proclaimed.