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Apostolic Nuncio: Bishops need to regain trust of their faithful

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2018 / 08:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishops in the United States need to work hard to regain the trust of their flocks and combat a culture of clericalism, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, told those present at the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, Md.

After acknowledging that the past year has been “challenging and sobering,” Pierre spoke sternly to his brother bishops and told them that they need to accept their responsibility as “spiritual fathers” of their dioceses.

While the Church is “always” in need of renewal, Pierre said that that this task will be impossible without rebuilding the trust of their community. It is a task that demands time, effort sacrifice, and reform on the part of the bishop.

“The only way of reforming the Church is to suffer for her,” he said, and this reform needs to come from the mission of the Church. In creating reform, bishops must show that they are capable of solving problems that are placed before them, “rather than simply delegating them to others.”

Bishops, he sad, have a “special responsibility” to strengthen the faith of others, especially when presented with these challenges.

“The people of God have rightly challenged us to be trustworthy,” he said.  

“Pope Francis never ceases to tell us that if we are to begin again, then we should begin again from Jesus Christ, who lightens our lives and helps us to prove that we can be trustworthy.”

Despite admonishing the bishops for betraying the trust of the faithful, he also offered praise for certain aspects of their work.

Pierre voiced approval for the bishops’ efforts in creating sanctions and rules for the protection of children and vulnerable adults. There is, however, always more that can be done, and bishops should not be afraid to “get their hands dirty” and remain vigilant in this work.

“Those of you who have done good work have to be congratulated for your commitment as leaders, and for setting a good example for us all,” he said, noting that one case of clerical sex abuse is one too many.

He also praised the media for their work in reporting the abuse crisis, reminding the bishops not to shoot the messenger, so to speak, when it comes to these stories, regardless of how “painful and humiliating” they may be.

As a way to regain the trust of the faith, bishops need to work on fighting back against a culture that promotes clericalism and one that tolerates the abuse of authority, he said. These sins are not those of the media, nor are they “products of conspiracies,” he said. Rather, they are for the Church to confront head-on.

“These are things we must recognize and fix,” he said, starting from the beginning of the priesthood formation process in the seminaries. Those who are selected for the seminary must be properly screened, and he encouraged the bishops to spend time talking to young people and hearing their concerns.

Bishops “cannot run from the challenges that present and confront us,” he said, but instead need to have “open hearts” and hear the concerns of the faithful.

“Even if things seem dark, do not be discouraged. Have hope. [Christ] is with us, and He accompanies the Church,” he said.

Cardinal DiNardo to US bishops: Avoid despair, presumption in addressing abuse crisis

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2018 / 08:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo opened the fall assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) with a speech calling for bishops to avoid the two temptations of “despair and presumption” as they address the sexual abuse scandals facing the Church.

In his opening speech, given as president of the USCCB, DiNardo said that the Church must rely on “trusting faith,” and “living memory” as it seeks to support victims of abuse and to reassure the faithful.

DiNardo’s address was clearly amended to account for the surprise announcement that the Holy See had blocked the bishops from voting on two key proposals.

Shortly before his speech, the cardinal told the hall that he had been instructed by Rome that the U.S. bishops were not to vote on a proposed new set of standards for episcopal conduct or on the creation of a new lay-led body to investigate episcopal misconduct. Instead, the American bishops have been told to wait until after a special meeting of the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences called by Pope Francis for February.

Despite the sudden change to the conference agenda, DiNardo said that the American bishops take the abuse crisis seriously.

“We remain committed to the program of episcopal accountability. Votes will not take place, but we will move forward,” DiNardo told attendees.

Addressing survivors in the first person, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston said, “I am deeply sorry.”

“In our weakness we fell asleep,” he said, while calling for a renewed vigilance, both against abuse and against paralysis in the face of recent scandals.

Despair, he said, must yield to the knowledge that the Church “has always been and will always be the body of Christ” which the bishops are called to serve as members.

On the other hand, DiNardo also warned against presuming that the current crisis would just “blow over” or worse, was a crisis of the past not the present. While noting that many of the recent scandals concerned cases of abuse from past decades, he said that the Church could not presume that victims should “heal on our timeline.”

Progress has been made, DiNardo told the bishops, but they must remain “willing but also ready to ask forgiveness” of victims, survivors and the faithful. Bringing healing to the sexual abuse crisis will require “all our spiritual and physical resources”

“It is only after listening that we can carry out the changes needed,” DiNardo said, ending with a plea to the bishops that the conference proceed untied in humility.

“Let us submit to the Holy father and to each other in a spirit of fraternal correction,” he said.

“Brothers, we have fallen into a place of great weakness. We must act right here and right now to better serve our sisters and brothers.”

“We can begin to clean and then to heal the lacerations in the body of Christ.”

 

Vatican cancels US bishops’ vote on sex abuse reform measures

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2018 / 07:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference has told the American bishops that they will not vote on two key proposals which had been expected to form the basis for the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis.

The news came at the beginning of the U.S. bishops’ conference fall general assembly, meeting in Baltimore Nov. 12-14.

The instruction to delay consideration of a new code of conduct for bishops and the creation of a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct came directly from the Holy See, DiNardo told a visibly surprised conference hall.

DiNardo said that the Holy See insisted that consideration of the new measures be delayed until the conclusion of a special meeting called by Pope Francis for February. That meeting, which will include the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, will address the global sexual abuse crisis.

Apologizing for the last minute change to the conference’s schedule, he said had only been told of the decision by Rome late yesterday.

Ahead of the bishops’ meeting, two documents had been circulated: a draft Standards of Conduct for bishops and a proposal to create a new special investigative commission to handle accusations made against bishops.

These proposals had been considered to be the bishops’ best chance to produce a substantive result during the meeting, and signal to the American faithful that they were taking firm action in the face of a series of scandals which have rocked the Church in the United States over recent months.

Speaking before the conference session had even been called to order, DiNardo told the bishops he was clearly “disappointed” with Rome’s decision. The cardinal said that, despite the unexpected intervention by Rome, he was hopeful that the Vatican meeting would prove fruitful and that its deliberations would help improve the American bishops’ eventual measures.

While DiNardo was still speaking, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago intervened from the floor, expressing his support for the pope.  

“It is clear the the Holy See is taking the abuse crisis seriously,” Cupich said.

At the same time, he suggested that the work which had gone into preparing the two proposals should not go to waste.

Cupich suggested that if the conference could not take a binding vote, they should instead continue with their discussions and conclude with resolution ballot on the two measures. This, he said, would help best equip Cardinal DiNardo to present the thought of the American bishops during the February meeting, where he will represent the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“We need to be very clear with [DiNardo] where we stand, and be clear with our people where we stand,” Cupich said.

While acknowledging that the February meeting was important, he noted that responding to the abuse crisis “is something we cannot delay, there is an urgency here.”

Cupich went on to propose moving forward the American bishops’ next meeting, currently scheduled for June 2019. Instead, he suggested, the bishops should reconvene in March in order to act as soon as possible after the February session in Rome.

 

Sr Thea Bowman's cause for canonization could open at US bishops' meeting

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Sr. Thea Bowman was the first African American woman to address the U.S. bishops' conference. Most likely, she was also the first person to get them to hold hands and sing and sway to a Negro Spiritual.

“We shall overcome,” she intoned at their 1988 spring meeting in her signature rich voice, before exhorting the bishops to join in with a hearty “Y’all get up!”

Sr. Thea, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, a daughter of the Deep South and the granddaughter of a slave, was sick from battling cancer and confined to a wheelchair at the time.

But that didn’t stop the 51 year-old from doling out more instructions when the stiff group still wasn’t swaying to her satisfaction: “Cross your right hand over your left hand, you gotta move together to do that,” she said as the bishops crossed arms and held hands before continuing the song.

“See in the old days you had to tighten up so that when the bullets would come, so that when the tear gas would come, so that when the dogs would come, so that when the horses would come, so that when the tanks would come, brothers and sisters would not be separated from one another,” she told the bishops, referring to the days of the Civil Rights movement.

“And do you remember what they did with the bishops and the clergy in those old days? Where’d they put them? Right up in front. To lead the people in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Church,” she said.

That keynote showcased Sr. Thea in her element – sharing her faith and love of God, urging racial awareness and reconciliation within the Catholic Church, joyfully belting out Gospel hymns and convincing everyone around her to join in.

Now, nearly 30 years after her death, Sr. Thea will once again feature at the U.S bishops' conference - but this time, they will be voting to approve the opening of her cause for canonization.

The precocious 'old folks child'

Sister Thea was born Bertha Bowman on December 29, 1937 in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the only daughter to her father, a family doctor, and her mother, an educator. The family resided in Canton, a town 30-some miles to the south and east of Yazoo City.

She was the granddaughter to slaves, and her maternal grandmother was a prominent educator in the area after whom the local school was named.

From an early age, Bertha self-identified as an “old folks child”, her parents having been middle-aged by the time she was born. She was doted on by aunts, uncles, and grandparents during her childhood. Her mother taught her to read, her father taught her some of the basics of First Aid.

One thing Bertha learned early on from the “old folks” in her life was what she would affectionately call “old time religion.” Her parents were Methodist, and the Bible belt town was full of active parishes of all Christian denominations.

In the book Sister Thea: Songs of my People, she recalled: “Many of the best (religion) teachers were not formally educated. But they knew scripture, and they believed the Living Word must be celebrated and shared...Their teachings were simple. Their teachings were sound,” she said. “Their methodologies were such that, without effort, I remember their teachings today.”

The religious vitality of her surroundings sent the young Bertha on her own “spiritual quest” of sorts, and she sat in on religious services at many of the different churches in town. At the Catholic Church, she was one of just a few black people there, relegated at the time to the back pews.

Ultimately, it was the witness of the love and service of Catholic sisters, specifically the Franciscan order that she would eventually join, that convinced her to become Catholic at the young age of 9.

“Once I went to the Catholic Church, my wanderings ceased. I knew I had found that for which I had been seeking. Momma always says, God takes care of babies and fools,” she wrote in an autobiography in 1958.

By all accounts, her parents were supportive of the little convert, and enrolled her in Holy Child Catholic school following her conversion, where she became enthralled with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration from Wisconsin who were serving there.

Besides her religious seeking, her heart for God also manifested itself in other ways, said Father Maurice Nutt, a Redemptorist priest and former student of Sr. Thea who is now the diocesan promoter of her cause for canonization.

“When lunchtime would come, she would notice children who didn’t have any food, and so she would take her lunch and she would give it to them. And they would say Bertha, don’t you want to eat? And she would say no, I’m not very hungry today,” he said.

“So her concern as a child was to feed the poor, she wanted to help those who were marginalized in any way.”

Her mother soon caught on that Bertha was coming home from school hungry, and so the two of them began making extra peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Bertha to give to her friends at lunchtime.

“So you’re seeing from a very early age that this woman Thea Bowman walked with God, she was close to God, God was everything to her so she was his servant.”

Bertha becomes Thea

That strong sense of religiosity and wanting to serve others never left Bertha, and at the age of 15 she was determined to join the order of FSPA sisters that had taught at her school.

Her parents, neither yet Catholic, pleaded with her to reconsider, or to at least consider joining traditionally black orders of sisters that were much closer to home.

But the determined Bertha staged a hunger strike until her parents relented. She was accompanied by another sister on the long train ride to the FSPA motherhouse in La Crosse, Wisconsin with special permission to sit in the white passenger cars rather than in the baggage cars, as was mandated for blacks in the pre-civil rights movement days.

A couple years into formation, Bertha took the religious name of Thea, which she would have for the rest of her life.

Sister Rochelle Potaracke, FSPA, was a young sister at the time that Thea joined the convent in 1953.

She told CNA that she remembers Thea as a happy and energetic young postulant, who stuck out in the state of Wisconsin, where very few black people lived at the time. Her blackness even made news in the local Catholic paper that summer: “Negro Aspirant” read the headline.

“When I was growing up I never saw a black person, that was in the early '40s, and that’s the same for many areas I know,” Potaracke told CNA.

“But I think we accepted (Thea) very well. We loved her dearly, she fit right in with all of us, she always had her singing and her enthusiasm,” she said.

“But it must have been terribly hard for her. I think of it now, I didn’t think of it then. I didn’t think ‘Oh, the poor dear, but I think now it had to be a challenge for her, she was in a whole new almost different country so to speak.”

According to a biography, Thea’s Song, after the newness of the convent experience wore off, Thea experienced culture shock and blatant racism, within and without the convent walls.

Sister Helen Elsbernd, who went through formation with Thea at the FSPA motherhouse, said Sr. Thea didn’t mention anything to her fellow sisters about racial discrimination at the time.

“She didn’t talk about it. In the early years of formation she tried very hard to fit in with the culture here,” Elsbernd recalled.

Her first years as a sister were also challenging for another reason - in 1955, two years into formation, Thea was stricken with tuberculosis, and spent most of that year in the sanatorium.

“I marvel at her constant cheerfulness,” one sister wrote to Thea’s parents during her illness.

‘Black is beautiful’: Sr. Thea’s racial advocacy grows

Sr. Thea’s cheerful energy would remain her signature trait as her passionate advocacy for racial integration in the Catholic Church began to further develop.

Potaracke, who spent time studying with Sr. Thea during graduate school at Catholic University of America, said that for years, the sisters had been going to school at CUA, where they were simply known as the Franciscan sisters from Wisconsin.

That changed when Sr. Thea came on the scene. Early into their days at CUA, Sr. Thea and her fellow sisters attended a student event, during which Thea leapt up to tell her story as a young black woman growing up in the South.

“Thea could just grab an audience any time she wanted, she could just spark life into the group that was in front of her,” Potaracke recalled.

“She started singing these songs and everyone was clapping and dancing and jumping around. And after that time we were no longer the FSPA’s, it was oh - you’re Sister Thea’s group. I point that out because that’s the impression she made on people,” she said.

As a CUA student, Sr. Thea helped to found the National Black Sisters Conference and became a noted public speaker and advocate for African Americans in the Church. She advocated for encounter between white and non-white Catholics, for increased representation in Church leadership for non-whites, and for an embrace of music and traditions from different cultures into the Church.

As her racial advocacy grew, one of Sr. Thea’s signature phrases became “black is beautiful.”
“‘Black is beautiful,’ that’s what she would say all the time,” said Potaracke.

It was a phrase that came from Thea’s mother, who had tried to teach her from an early age to handle the racial discrimination that she experienced with love rather than hate.

“Her mother always said that she had to be honest and good to people. Her mother said: ‘You can’t hate, because if you hate you will become like the people you want to hate. Remember, black is beautiful.’”

An impressive scholar, Sr. Thea would eventually get her doctorate in English, and spent several years teaching at Viterbo College in La Crosse, which was staffed by many FSPA sisters. During her time there, she formed singing groups of African American students who became popular throughout the area, Elsbernd said.

In 1978, Sr. Thea moved back to Mississippi, to help her aging parents and to serve in outreach ministry to non-white communities for the Diocese of Jackson. During this time, she continued to expand her speaking and singing ministries, and travelled extensively to give talks nationally and internationally about the importance of racial awareness and acceptance in the Church.

In 1980, she helped to found the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans, where she taught until nearly the end of her life. It was during that time that Fr. Maurice Nutt met Sr. Thea at a conference for black Catholic clergy and religious, at which Sr. Thea was the speaker.

“I was so impressed by her. No one really meets Sr. Thea, they encounter her,” Nutt said.

Her talk was the first time that Nutt really considered what it meant to be black and Catholic, and the unique gifts that the black community could bring to the Church, he said.

“It was a cathartic moment for me, because she really enabled me to bring my very best self, my African American self, to the Church, to give my life in service to the Church,” Nutt recalled.

He was so moved by her that he joined the next cohort at the Institute.

“She would always say that we are an integral part of the Church, that as African American Catholics, we have gifts to share, we have our spirituality, we have our witness of struggle and suffering. We have the joy of knowing Jesus even in times of sorrow,” he said.

“And so what she taught me was to bring my gifts to the Church. She taught me to be very intentional in my expression of spirituality, to share what it means to be black and Catholic, that we should not hide those gifts, but that there’s a mutuality, that integration means that you have something to share but I also have something to share.”

Nutt remembers Sr. Thea as a brilliant teacher who demanded excellence, but also as a warm and caring woman who embraced her students as her own children.

“Thea became my spiritual mother, and I became her spiritual son, and she would call me son,” Nutt said. “She would say that the seminarians she encouraged, she said ‘These are the sons that I give to the Church.’ And I am so grateful that I was counted in that number.”

In 1984, Sr. Thea’s parents died within months of each other. Not long after, she received a diagnosis of breast cancer.

“That was crushing,” Nutt said. “She was the only child of this elderly couple, it seemed like her whole world had fallen apart, and then she received the challenge of cancer.”

While many would be tempted to give up, Sr. Thea made a decision: “I’m going to live until I die,” she said.

And she did. She kept up her speaking engagements and outreach ministry at full-bore. She recorded songs and helped compile the African American hymnal “Lead Me, Guide Me”, gave numerous biographical interviews including a “60 Minutes” segment, and spoke to the U.S. bishops in 1989.

“We as Church walk together,” she told the bishops. “Don’t let nobody separate you, that’s one thing black folks can teach you, don’t let folks divide you. The Church teaches us that the Church is a family, a family of families, and a family that can stay together. And we know that if we do stay together...if we walk and talk and work and play and stand together in Jesus’ name we’ll be who we say we are, truly Catholic. And we shall overcome - overcome the poverty, overcome the loneliness, overcome the alienation, and build together a holy city, a new Jerusalem, a city set apart where...we love one another.”

While she was sick, Nutt said Sr. Thea would pray “that God will heal my body. If God will heal my body, I’ll say thank you Lord. But I also know that if God doesn't give me what I ask of him, God will give me something better.”

And on March 30, 1990, “that something better was to call her home,” Nutt said.

The legacy of Sr. Thea

Nutt said he thinks Sr. Thea will be remembered for her passionate advocacy on behalf of blacks and other minorities in the Church.

“She spoke about the fact that African American Catholics, we have a deep and abiding history. She told the history that we come from the Ethiopian eunuch, we come from Simon of Cyrene...that we are not late in joining the Church but that people of African descent have been there from the early days of Catholicism, and that this is our home,” he said.

Potaracke said she remembers Thea as a warm woman who had a strong sense of self and wasn’t afraid to advocate for herself and others.

“She was a spark, and she spoke her voice, if she didn’t like something she said it strong and clear, no matter what meeting you were at, she would speak her voice,” Potaracke said.

“It was her inner belief that she was a beautiful woman, that she had a place in this world, and that she was going to go out and change the people she met, and she did. Whether you were penniless or whether you were the wealthiest person, she just had lots of friends in every corner of the world.”

He said he believed she would also be remembered for her love of God, from which flowed her joy and love for others.

“You knew in her midst that you were in the presence of someone extremely special, who had a deep connection with God. Thea said she grew up in a world where God was so alive, and she shared that joy with everyone, that God is real, that God is love, that God is alive, and anyone who met her experienced the presence of God,” he said.

As for Sr. Thea herself, she once said that she wanted to be remembered simply as someone who tried.

“Think of all the great things she did, and she simply said: I want to be remembered as someone who tried. She said she wanted on her tombstone: ‘She tried,’” Nutt said.

“That speaks of her humility. That speaks of her love for God and that she never proclaimed herself to be holy or righteous. She was a disciple of Jesus Christ who tried to love one another, to love other people, to try to lift her service to God and the Church.”

Nutt encouraged Catholics to ask for Sr. Thea’s intercession as her cause gets underway.

“I would encourage people to seek her intercession, especially if they’re struggling with their faith, if they’re struggling with family issues. I would encourage students to pray to her when they’re taking tests, I would also say anyone battling cancer of any kind to seek her encouragement, to seek her inspiration, as they journey through their battle with cancer.”

As is customary, when a bishop begins the preliminary phases of someone’s cause for canonization, the cause must be put to a vote of the U.S. bishop’s conference. At their meeting Nov. 12-14, the bishops are expected to endorse the opening of the cause of Sr. Thea Bowman, which is being overseen by Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson.

After 100 years, US Catholicism still bears the stamp of World War I

Washington D.C., Nov 11, 2018 / 03:14 am (CNA).- A century after the close of World War I, the war has faded from living memory. But its effects endure.

President Woodrow Wilson had campaigned for re-election on a promise he would keep the country out of war. But subsequent events, including the discovery of a German telegram promising American territory to Mexico in the event of war, led to the U.S. entry into war in April 6, 1917.

The country of barely 100 million people joined a conflict involving 15 other countries. The war witnessed the fall of long-standing governments, took 8.5 million lives and wounded over 21 million in combat alone, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice. American casualties numbered 53,000 killed in battle and 200,000 wounded.

Days after U.S. entry into war, Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore wrote to Wilson, pledging that the bishops and Catholics as a whole were ready “to cooperate in every way possible with our president and our national government, to the end that the great and holy cause of liberty may triumph, and that our beloved country may emerge from this hour of test stronger and nobler than ever.”

“Our people, now as ever, will rise as one man to serve the nation,” the cardinal said in an April 18, 1917 letter.

American Catholic reaction to the war came in a time when Catholics were still a patchwork of immigrant groups, themselves divided in attitudes towards assimilation, ethnicity, and their lands of origin.

“Before the war, and especially before the turn of the century, the hierarchy of the American Catholic Church was dominated by Irish bishops, but the parishes were often drawn up along ethnic lines,” Matthew J. O’Brien, a history professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, told CNA. “But in the years leading up to the war, a number of...bishops tried to curtail ethnic parishes in favor of territorial parishes, trying to foster greater assimilation into American society.”

“After the declaration of war in 1917, more Catholics stressed their military service rather than question the war effort, although there were ethnic newspapers that lost their mailing licenses during wartime for charges of sedition,” he added. “The effect of sedition laws was more indirect than direct, but they contributed to the overall pressure for Catholic Americans to ‘keep their heads down’.”

Other Catholics served with great prominence, such as the U.S. Army regiment known as the Fighting 69th. Part the historic Irish Brigade under the New York Army National Guard, it was still disproportionately Irish at the time of the war. The regiment was federalized and sent to Europe as the 165th Infantry Regiment.

The Catholic convert and poet Joyce Kilmer was a member of the regiment. His poetry featured deep piety, and at least one poem, “Trees,” still endures in popular memory: “Poems are made by fools like me / But only God can make a tree.”

At the age of 31, on July 30, 1918, he was killed by a sniper at the Second Battle of the Marne.

The week of heavy action killed or wounded half the men of the regiment.

The division’s chaplain, the Canadian-born Father Francis Duffy of the Archdiocese of New York, was responsible for boosting the morale of the soldiers and comforting the wounded in hospitals. As a Catholic priest, he would say Mass and move through the trenches after an artillery bombardment to give last rites to the dying.

Another of his primary duties as a chaplain was to bury the dead.

“I knew these men so well and loved them as if they were my younger brothers. It has been the saddest day of my life. Well, it is the last act of love I can do for them and for the folks at home,” he said in his diary at the conclusion of one battle, according to the New York archdiocese archives’ exhibit “The Great War and Catholic Memory.”

When the division learned of the armistice two days late, on Nov. 13, 1918, the troops celebrated. But the priest recorded in his diary: “I could think of nothing except the fine lads who had come out with us to this war and who are not alive to enjoy the triumph. All day I had a lonely and aching heart.”

Kilmer and Duffy served with another Catholic who would rise to prominence: William “Wild Bill” Donovan. Donovan would receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his wartime service, and during the Second World War he would head the Office of Strategic Services, the U.S. covert agency that was predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Fighting 69th became “the best-known face of Catholic soldiers in the U.S. Army,” O’Brien said. “Although they were linked by an overarching Irish-American imagery, they also proudly included Catholics from other ethnic backgrounds and Jewish-Americans as well.”

Its image became “iconic” due to the 1940 movie of the same name, which according to O’Brien had a “strong message of ethnic pluralism.”

As for Duffy, his influence would continue. He was a ghost writer for New York Gov. Al Smith during controversy over whether the Democratic presidential candidate’s Catholic faith would interfere with his ability to be president. Since 1937, five years after his death, his statue has stood in Duffy Square in the northern triangle of New York’s Times Square. It shows a priest standing before a 17-foot tall Celtic Cross.

At a time when Catholic bishops avoided forming national organizations, it was during World War I when the U.S. bishops organized the unprecedented National Catholic War Council, a forerunner to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the 1920s the council, whose name had been changed to the National Catholic Welfare Council, proved an important platform for many programs and causes. It led the national response to an attempt to ban Catholic schools in Oregon backed by the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan and the Scottish Rite Masons.

This council also proved to be the seedbed for future leaders like Msgr. John A. Ryan, who was “strongly influenced by the social justice message of Rerum Novarum,” the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, O’Brien said. Ryan would play an important role in the Roosevelt administration and was a counterweight to the polemical populist “Radio Priest” Father Charles Coughlin, who turned towards anti-Semitism and fascism during the 1930s.

But during World War I, it was anti-German sentiment that ran high. Many German-Americans were Catholic.

“German communities often toned down their ethnic displays, especially in the Midwest,” O’Brien said. “The number of German-language newspapers in cities like Milwaukee dropped precipitously, and some school districts actually stopped offering German as a language elective for high-school students.”

“In some ways, World War I left many Catholics in a vulnerable position,” O’Brien said. “The two largest ethnic groups who opposed the American entry into the war were German and Irish Americans, both of whom drew the ire of President Woodrow Wilson. Pope Benedict XV’s call for a negotiated peace also prompted some Americans to question whether the Pope secretly favored the Central Powers (although there is no evidence for this).”

The war’s Catholic critics have had little prominence in history, but their lives too are being revisited. Benjamin Salmon, one of the few Catholic conscientious objectors to the war who even declined a non-combatant role, was a strict foe of all war to the point where he seemed to reject Catholic just war theory.

His writings against the war were censored by the U.S. Post Office. The New York Times claimed he was a suspected spy, and other newspapers ridiculed him as a coward and a slacker. He was convicted in a civilian court, then convicted in a military court despite never being inducted as a soldier.

Salmon was initially sentenced to death, with his sentenced later reduced. He spent a long period in solitary confinement and his 135-day hunger strike resulted in forced feeding.

Finally released after a pardon in 1920, he had to move to Chicago with his wife and son to avoid animosity in Denver. He continued to be a devout Catholic, with a son and a daughter entering the priesthood and religious life, respectively. Some of his devotees asked the Archdiocese of Denver to consider opening his canonization cause in 2015, the Denver Post reported.

Men and women who sought to support the war effort included the Knights of Columbus, whose members provided relief work staff and helped raise more than $14 million for recreation centers for soldiers stationed in Europe.

After the war Cardinal Gibbons’ Sept. 26, 1919 pastoral letter to U.S. Catholics, praised their demonstration of “traditional patriotism” and their devotion to “the cause of American freedom” in wartime.

He also reflected on the “spiritual suffering” of those involved in the war: sorrow, hopelessness and moral evil.

“For we may not forget that in all this strife of the peoples, in the loosening of passion and the seething of hate, sin abounded. Not the rights of man alone but the law of God was openly disregarded. And if we come before Him now in thankfulness, we must come with contrite hearts, in all humility beseeching Him that He continue His mercies toward us, and enable us so to order our human relations that we may both atone for our past transgressions and strengthen the bond of peace with a deeper charity for our fellow men and purer devotion to His service,” the cardinal wrote.

He said a spirit of “union and sacrifice for the commonweal… found its highest expression in the men and women who went to service in distant lands. To them, and especially those who died that America might live, we are forever indebted. Their triumph over self is the real victory, their loyalty the real honor of our nation, their fidelity to duty the bulwark of our freedom.”

“To such men and their memory, eulogy is at best a poor tribute,” he said. “We shall not render them their due nor show ourselves worthy to name them as our own, unless we inherit the spirit and make it the soul of our national life. The very monuments we raise in their honor will become a reproach to us, if we fail in those things of which they have left us such splendid example.”
 

 

With US adoption needs high, Kansas looks to restrict religious agencies

Topeka, Kansas, Nov 10, 2018 / 04:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The incoming governor of Kansas is looking for a way to avoid enforcing a religious freedom law protecting adoption agencies that place children only in homes with a mother and a father.

"If there is way to direct the agency to not implement that, then I will do that," Governor-elect Laura Kelly said in a Statehouse news conference, according to the Associated Press.

Kelly, a Democrat, said her staff is examining whether the state can block enforcement of a new law protecting adoption agencies from being required to place children in homes against their religious beliefs.

The law was passed after debate regarding religious agencies that place abused and neglected children, and would not place children in households with same-sex couples.

Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, is confident the law will stand, according to the Associated Press. The authors of the bill were careful in drafting it to ensure that it would withstand a constitutional challenge, he said.

Other states have seen similar debates in recent years. Faith-based child welfare providers in multiple states including in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, New York, and the District of Columbia have been forced to shut down their adoption and foster care services because of beliefs that children should be placed with a married mother and father.

On Nov. 8, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released its annual analysis on U.S. adoption and foster care. The analysis found that the number of children in foster care awaiting adoption has reached a nine-year high, at 123,437.

It noted that the growing opioid crisis nationwide has led to an increase in children entering foster care.

Ryan Hanlon, vice president of the National Council for Adoption, called the report “a stark reminder of the work those of us in child welfare have before us.”

“For every one child who was adopted this year, two children eligible for adoption were left waiting,” the council said in a press release.

 

‘Whispered in the dark’ conference aims to help fight porn

Detroit, Mich., Nov 9, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- An all-day conference will be hosted in southeast Michigan to expose the problem of pornography and promote resources for those seeking help.

The event will include religious leaders and other professionals, who will share knowledge and experience on pornography addiction. The conference will also share resources, including books and local services, among them an anonymous support group for sex addicts.

Patty Breen, an event organizer and a pastoral associate at Saint Michael the Archangel Parish in Livonia, Michigan, told CNA the goal of the conference is to empower the participants.

“We just want people to feel empowered and to give them tools and resources, and for them to feel less alone in how to navigate this because I think, unfortunately, there is a lot of shame still attached to sexuality and especially this topic,” she said.

“We just want to have a loving, pastoral, honest conversation in a way that affirms people and supports them, but gives them hope, gives them resources, gives them tools.”

Called “Whispered in the Dark,” the conference will take place on Nov. 10. Organized by Breen, Danielle Center, and Naomi Vrazo, Breen said the conference is the product of women who’ve experience the harm of pornography first-hand.

A Certified Sex Addiction Therapist will present the statistics behind pornography addiction – explaining pornography’s chemical effect on the brain, and the body.

“We have a priest coming to speak about the spiritual impact of addiction and how it affects how we see ourselves, the shames that goes with this a lot of the time, what is the impact of addiction in spiritual life,” Breen said.

During the conference, some speakers will personally share the damages pornography has wrought in their life.

Nick Jorgensen will share the story of his recovery from porn addiction. A married couple, Beth and Steve, will share discuss the impact of pornography on their relationship. Breen will discuss the harmful effects of porn on her marriage.

Breen said she found out about her spouse’s addictive habit less than a year after their marriage began, and the couple immediately sought counseling. She said the struggle ultimately tore the couple apart but she wants other women in similar situations to have the resources they need.

“I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, didn’t know where to find help, and I was lucky in our diocese to find resources,” she said. “I just don’t want other Catholic women to feel alone and isolated if they find themselves in a similar situation.”

Breen said she wants to make resources available to those helping those fighting pornography addiction.

“We are frustrated to see the lack of resources, the lack of help, the lack of people talking about it in the Church,” she said.

“I hate that this exists and I hate that we live in a culture that promotes it…because I thinks it’s the greatest killer of a healthy relationship,” she added.  

 

What do Catholics expect from USCCB meeting on abuse crisis?

Denver, Colo., Nov 9, 2018 / 05:10 pm (CNA).- The annual fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will take place in Baltimore, Maryland next week.

This meeting will discuss a crisis of sexual abuse in the Church, centered around questions about how Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was able to perpetrate decades of sexual abuse against seminarians and young priests while operating at the highest levels of the Church in the United States.  

There are plans to discuss a “Code of Conduct” for all bishops, along with a third-party system for receiving and investigating sexual abuse complaints against bishops.

But is this meeting likely to bring healing to sexual abuse victims, or begin a process of renewal in the Church?

CNA spoke with theologians, priests, and other prominent Catholics about what they hope to see at the upcoming meeting of U.S. bishops.


“Rebuilding trust from the ground up”

Dr Timothy O’Malley, Director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, told CNA that he is hoping for a recognition on the part of the bishops of the existence of a “real crisis.” He said there must be an investigation into how McCarrick was allowed to commit years of abuse.

“There has to be a recognition, I think, on the part of the bishops that this is a real crisis and that it's not just sort of trumped-up charges by a media that is provocative, but that actually it really is a crisis,” O’Malley said.

“There needs to be serious movement toward the creation of ombudspersons with real authority and responsibility in diocese, to be the source of the response. It's not just going to be bishops who will receive the response; it's going to be these laypeople,” he said.

O’Malley said he hopes that this recognition of the existence of a crisis will lead to real penance from the bishops.

“Penance isn't really supposed to be publicly proclaimed, and so I think there needs to be real penance...not a prayer service where everyone sees the bishops and how sorrowful they are...I think it just needs to be serious in the sense that harm has been done and real sorrow. And it can't be a media opportunity.”

O’Malley said if the bishops manage to get beyond their personal “political battles,” there’s a chance the meeting might produce some results.

“This meeting will be important if it develops procedures and processes by which the bishops hold themselves accountable, and I think the real work for rebuilding trust is always going to happen at the local level,” O’Malley said.

“What's really going to [restore trust] is local bishops rebuilding trust from the ground up. And for a lot of them, they actually can because they're trustworthy people...they have to keep their eyes very carefully located on the crisis of trust that was precipitated through Theodore McCarrick.”

“Taking time to pray together”

Father Thomas Berg, Vice Rector and Director of Admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York, told CNA that beyond a possible revision to the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the establishment of an independent lay body to investigate the McCarrick affair, he’s “not expecting much else.”

“I don't think there's going to be time at this meeting on anything outside of those two things. Other than taking time to pray together,” he said.

Berg expressed frustration that the bishops hadn’t met sooner to discuss the crisis.

“They should have suspended all activities, all vacations, and they should have commenced meetings immediately back in June or July,” he said.

“I think there's a great amount of pressure now to do anything that the bishops are able to do.”

“Well, it's our Church”

Father Bryan Kerns, O.S.A., offered his perspective to CNA as a young priest who had followed the progress of the abuse scandal.

He said since he was only 13 years old in 2002, he “entered [priestly] formation in light of the reality of the scandal.”

He said the resignation and “quiet despair” from some Catholics in the pews, many of whom already lived through the 2002 scandal, scares him. He said other young priests that he knows are unsure of the best way to respond.

“[We] want action, but there's no one engaged enough ecclesiastically to understand how to affect action, to call forth for certain reforms,” Kerns said. “So I think [we young priests] lack an adequate mode of expression.”

“Among my peers it's more along the lines of: ‘Well, it's our Church, so it's our job to help bring the truth about. Let the truth see the light.’ But they don't quite know how to do it.”

Kerns the best-case scenario would be “action:” steps toward a more open process, and a reckoning with what has happened in the Church in the past 50 or 60 years in the United States.

“I don't expect an adequate response to that,” he admitted.  

The worst-case scenario, Kerns said, would be “more of the same,” more "sorry" and less actual action.

“I think...that the American bishops really have an opportunity to take the lead in setting the tone for accountability and transparency,” Kerns said.

“For them not to take that opportunity would not result in the destruction of the Church in the United States, would not result in a mass exodus— but it would cause [deep seated and resigned] damage that would take a long, long time to repair.”

“Perfect opportunity to expand the role of women”

Dr. Grazie Christie, Policy Advisor for the Catholic Association, said investigating the Cardinal McCarrick affair and redoubling their commitment to a “culture of life” and religious liberty should be priorities of the upcoming meeting.

Christie was one nearly 50,000 women who signed a letter to Pope Francis seeking answers about the situation with McCarrick.

“The recent Synod document called for more active involvement for women, and this would be a perfect opportunity to expand the role of women,” she wrote in an email to CNA.

“Laywomen, in particular, who love and support the Church and are active in their parishes can be helpful to the Bishops when it comes to identifying good priests and religious and recommending future leaders.”

“A systemic ‘looking the other way’"

Dr. Nathaniel Peters, Executive Director of the Morningside Institute, told CNA that the bishops’ response to the abuse crisis should reflect their status as spiritual fathers to American Catholics.

Peters was among the signatories of an August letter from young Catholics to Catholic bishops.

“A lot of the responses that we've gotten from bishops [to the crisis] have been the responses that presidents of non-profit organizations make,” Peters said.

“Which are all well and good...bishops are kind of managerial, and [do] govern. But...bishops are also fathers, and their responses should sound on some level like a father...not one primarily of damage control.”

Peters said he hopes the bishops will make clear that the Church's parlance of "vulnerable adults" should include seminarians and priests as well. In his eyes, the problem is not just that children are involved, but a general decline of chastity and a rise of sexual assault; a “systemic looking the other way" and avoidance of confrontation over sin.

He emphasized that the bishops need to recognize that the current crisis in the Church is not “just” about the abuse of children, as pressing as that issue is, but also issues of abuses of power more generally.

“I would want the bishops to make clear that they understand that the problem isn't just that there were a few bad priests that preyed on children years ago, and that we've ‘fixed’ that now,” he said.

“The bishops have not clearly communicated that it's wrong to prey on seminarians, that it's wrong for priests to live double lives and be sexually active, whether or not they are sexually active with people who are consenting...with men or with women.”

He said the bishops’ credibility on a host of moral issues, including abortion and immigration, has taken a hit, especially among young people.

“I think the worst case scenario would be that the worst responses that we've gotten from individual bishops emerge as the corporate response of the body as a whole,” he said.

“That the bishops would be seen to be more managerial than paternal...that people come away with a sense that not much has changed, or that bishops are not really interested in actually making the changes that need to be made.”

Alternatively, he said, the best-case scenario would involve bishops who have wanted to kind of work toward systemic changes in their diocese, and more broadly in the Church, feel empowered to do so.

“When it comes to cases of sexual assault in the Church, this shouldn't be a [political] matter, it should really just be a matter of opposition and a desire for justice and truth when violations take place,” Peters said.

“And it also shouldn't be about covering for the person on your "side"...what's more important than the "victory" of your theological position at this point is the vindication of victims, and exposing the truth about evil that's committed in the Church.”

Peters expressed consternation at the fact that government authorities are taking it upon themselves to investigate some diocese across the country because of a lack of transparency.

“Certainly 5 years ago, 10 years ago, among the young Catholics I know, if you had told us that the attorney generals for a handful of states are going to go after the Church with racketeering laws, we would have said immediately, ‘This is terrible, this is anti-Catholic bias,’” he said.

“It's very striking that those same people now have basically said, 'Good.' And if you're a bishop, that should be really sobering...the people who are your closest supporters are happy that state— and now federal— prosecutors have your diocese in their crosshairs. Because they think that that's how [the Church] is actually going to be changed.”

 

U.S bishops welcome new HHS mandate exemptions

Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The USCCB has welcomed the Trump administration’s new rules providing enhanced conscience protections against the HHS contraceptive mandate.

 

In a statement released Nov. 9, the U.S. bishops’ conference called the new exemptions, announced Wednesday, a victory for common sense.

 

“We are grateful for the Administration’s decision to finalize common-sense regulations that allows those with sincerely held religious or moral convictions opposing abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception to exclude such drugs and devices from their health plans,” said the statement.

 

The bishops’ response was co-signed by USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville. Kurtz leads the USCCB’s Office of Liberty.

 

The finalized rules from the Department and Health and Human Services exempt companies, organizations and individuals from having to provide coverage that includes contraceptive methods to which they have strong religious or moral objections.

 

The new rules do not make contraceptives illegal nor do they prevent various third-party groups from providing alternative coverage.

 

The new protections restores free-exercise rights to those with legitimate objections to providing contraceptives, abortifacient drugs, or sterilization methods to employees as part of their health insurance, the bishops’ statement said.

 

“The regulations allow people like the Little Sisters of the Poor, faith-based schools, and others to live out their faith in daily life and to continue to serve others, without fear of punishing fines from the federal government.”

 

After the HHS contraception mandate was announced in January 2012, many religious-based employers, including EWTN, filed suit against the federal government in opposition to the mandate. The mandate required that all employers whose insurance plans were not grandfathered in by the Affordable Care Act to provide certain contraceptives free of charge to their employees.

 

When the mandate was announced, bishops throughout the United States drafted letters expressing their opposition and explaining the Church’s position. These letters were then read at Sunday Masses over the weekend.

Trump signs rules restricting asylum for illegal migrants

Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2018 / 02:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation Friday morning that would prohibit those who entered the United States illegally through the southern border from applying for asylum.

The Nov. 9 proclamation, which goes into effect Saturday, is in response to the migrant caravan that has been headed toward the U.S. for the last several weeks. The caravan consisted of several thousand people at its peak, and recently departed Mexico City on its journey through Mexico.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit to attempt to block the order from going into effect, arguing it violates the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The proclamation was necessary to “take immediate action to protect the national interest,” said Trump, “and to maintain the effectiveness of the asylum system for legitimate asylum seekers who demonstrate they have fled persecution and warrant the many special benefits associated with asylum.”

This new policy will apply to those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, excepting unaccompanied minors who apply for asylum.

Trump said in a statement that the majority of the migrant caravan did not appear to meet the eligibility requirements for asylum. The president said that “the continuing and threatened mass migration of aliens with no basis for admission into the United States through our southern border” has turned into a “crisis” that seeks to undermine border integrity.

Those who present themselves at a port of entry are still eligible for asylum, and those who are found to have entered the country illegally can apply for protection under a different program, “withholding of removal”, which has tougher eligibility requirements.

Trump said that the techniques of those crossing the southern border have changed over the last 20 or so years. About two decades ago, the average person caught crossing the southern border was a single adult who was immediately returned to Mexico, and did not try to claim asylum or express fear about going back to their country of origin.

“Since then, however, there has been a massive increase in fear-of-persecution or torture claims by aliens who enter the United States through the southern border,” said Trump. Although the “vast majority” of these people satisfy the first step of the asylum process, which is called the “credible-fear threshold,” only a “fraction” are found to actually qualify for asylum, said Trump.

The country’s immigration system and Refugee Admissions Program is being “overwhelmed” by illegal immigration through the country’s southern border, said Trump. He was critical of policies that would release families with children who claimed they were being persecuted, which he said was “in too many instances an avenue to near-automatic release into the interior of the United States.”

“An additional influx of large groups of aliens arriving at once through the southern border would add tremendous strain to an already taxed system, especially if they avoid orderly processing by unlawfully crossing the southern border,” said Trump.

The asylum policy is to remain in effect 90 days, unless Mexico agrees to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport to Mexico Central Americans who have entered the US from Mexico.

Repeated requests for comment from the USCCB were not answered.

In June, USCCB Chairman Cardinal Daniel DiNardo was intensely critical of the Trump Administration’s various immigration policies, including one that changed eligibility for asylum claims.