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Augustine Institute releases video series on the Eucharist

Denver, Colo., May 23, 2018 / 10:49 pm (CNA).- The wealth of the Catholic Church’s teachings and traditions can be challenging for many to understand, which is why the Augustine Institute has released a new video series focused on the Eucharist.

“Catholicism is so vast and deep, learning it can be overwhelming,” Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Augustine Institute, in an interview with CNA.

“But if there is one thing that we can teach Catholics, one thing that holds all our faith together and makes it stick for folks, that is understanding God’s presence in the Eucharist,” Gray continued, adding that “no other teaching can be so uplifting and tangible for people’s spirituality than this mystery, which is why the Church calls it the sum and summit of our faith.”

The Augustine Institute is a Denver-based graduate school and organization which aims to serve the Church through academic and parish programs in light of St. John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization.

The video series, titled “Presence,” is available for purchase and was released by the Augustine Institute as part of their sacramental video series. It follows the succession of their previous video programs on marriage, baptism, and reconciliation.

“The next in line was the Eucharist,” Gray said.

“We did not want to start with the Eucharist because we knew it was the most important, so in a sense the other sacramental programs prepared us to approach this treatment of the Eucharist so that we could give it our best treatment,” Gray continued.

The series explores the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist through its institution at the Last Supper and its role in the Catholic faith. It is available in two editions – one for personal use and one for group use in parishes.

The personal edition includes three episodes and an explanation of the Mass for children. The parish edition is aimed at sacramental preparation and catechesis and also includes an apologetics section. The series also comes with leader kits and guides, as well as a personal participant guide.

Gray explained that each episode begins with a true story “that is both compelling and dramatic.” His personal favorite of the series are the beginning segments of episodes two and three, “which shows the incredible story of an amazing protestant minister and Jewish woman who encounter the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist.”

Gray went on to say that he hopes viewers will deepen their understanding of the Eucharist through the video series and be reawakened to the beauty of its mystery.

“The Mass and Eucharist is central to Christian life, but too often we assume that everyone understands this mystery when they don’t,” Gray noted.

“This series aims to help open eyes to understand the depth of mystery found in God’s amazing presence, but also rekindle a fire for those of us who believe but need to be reawakened to the tremendous gift we have in the Eucharist,” he continued.

“If Catholics understand this one thing, they will not leave the Church.”

Foreign bishops respond to German intercommunion proposal

Philadelphia, Pa., May 23, 2018 / 06:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several bishops from outside Germany have critiqued a proposal to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive communion in German dioceses under some limited circumstances, citing the proposal’s effects on their own local Churches.

The proposal has been championed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who announced in February that the German bishops’ conference would publish a pastoral handout that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics "in individual cases" and "under certain conditions" to receive Holy Communion, provided they "affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist”.

But the proposal was questioned by seven German bishops, who asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith whether the question can be decided on the level of a national bishops' conference, or if rather "a decision of the Universal Church" is required in the matter.

When several bishops from Germany visited Rome May 3, an inconclusive meeting ended with the Vatican sending the Germans back, saying Pope Francis wants the bishops to come to an agreement among themselves.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was pointed in his criticism of the proposal in an essay published May 23 at First Things, raising doctrinal concerns regarding what it would mean to allow these non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

Chaput explains that while bishops everywhere have disagreements, he believes the situation in Germany to be different due to both the “global prominence of the controversy,” as well as the doctrinal issues. He added that “What happens in Germany will not stay in Germany. History has already taught us that lesson once,” citing the effects of Martin Luther’s schism.

“The essence of the German intercommunion proposal is that there would be a sharing in holy communion even when there is not true Church unity,” writes Chaput, noting that there are serious difference between Protestant theology and Catholic theology, including debate over the divinity of Christ among some more liberal Protestants.

Chaput disagrees with the proposal, as it would fundamentally redefine what the Church is as well as who she is, given that the Eucharist “is the sign and instrument of ecclesial unity.”

The German proposal would, “intentionally or not”, then, be “the first stage in opening communion to all Protestants, or all baptized persons, since marriage ultimately provides no unique reason to allow communion for non-Catholics.”

Admitting Protestant spouses of Catholics to Communion would "adopt a Protestant notion of ecclesial identity" for the Catholic Church, in which only baptism and a belief in Christ would be necessary to receive. Chaput questions if the Protestant spouse would have to also profess belief in other sacraments, such as holy orders. If this were not the case, Chaput suggests that perhaps the German bishops do not believe this sacrament relies on apostolic succession, which would be a “much deeper error.”

The proposal also “severs the vital link between communion and sacramental confession,” he stated.

“Presumably it does not imply that Protestant spouses must go to confession for serious sins as a prelude to communion. But this stands in contradiction to the perennial practice and express dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church, the Council of Trent, and the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the ordinary magisterium. It implies, in its effect, a Protestantization of the Catholic theology of the sacraments.”

Chaput writes that the intercommunion practice would do nothing more than insert a lie into what should be a profound encounter with Christ.

“To insert a falsehood into the most solemn moment of one’s encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist -- to say by one’s actions,’I am in communion with this community’ when one is demonstrably not in communion with that community -- is a lie, and thus a serious offense before God.”

Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht was critical of the pope’s request that the German bishops come to a consensus. Writing in the National Catholic Register May 5, Eijk said Pope Francis’ response was “completely incomprehensible,” as the doctrine of the Eucharist has not changed and cannot change, even with unanimity among a bishops’ conference.

“The practice of the Catholic Church, based on her faith, is not determined and does not change statistically when a majority of an episcopal conference votes in favor of it, not even if unanimously,” wrote Eijk.

Instead, Eijk says that he thinks Pope Francis should have been more direct to the German episcopal conference, and should have instead given them “clear directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the Church.”

Eijk’s comments were echoed by Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who said May 23 at the Catholic Register it was “puzzling” that Pope Francis instructed Germany’s bishops to come to a unanimous decision on the issue.

“This kind of open communion is against Catholic teaching and from what I can see in non-Catholic congregations that follow a discipline of ‘open communion,’ it is also spiritually and pastorally unfruitful,” said Prendergast.

He noted that people in his local Church have already been asking about the German proposal.

Prendergast believes there should be more teaching on the benefit of attending Mass without receiving the Eucharist, as well as what it means “to be properly disposed and in the state of grace.”

“We need to invest more in receiving the sacraments worthily and fruitfully. This is true for the Eucharist, but also for Baptism and Confirmation,” Prendergast added.

“In Holy Communion we receive the Lord, and so, to receiving worthily, we need to be fully open to Him and connected to His Church, visibly and invisibly, institutionally and internally. That and nothing less is Catholic teaching.”

As a fellow Jesuit, Archbishop Prendergast also spoke to Pope Francis, thanking him “for reminding us that accompanying people through their lives, especially in dark times, is essential for being a priest.”

“We Jesuits always have to remember that most Catholics are not Jesuits — a fact we tend to overlook sometimes,” he added. “Our spirituality is not for everyone … For me, becoming a bishop was a real change, for then I had to recognize the whole spectrum of theologies, spiritualities, ministries and charisms present in the diocese entrusted to me. Through this I came to realize what a great gift doctrine is for the Church, enabling it to be one, holy, and catholic.”

The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

‘The most welcoming place’ - How the Church can reach out to the LGBT community

Vatican City, May 23, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Daniel Mattson is accustomed to talking about same-sex attraction.

He’s written a book on the subject, and he speaks to audiences often about his experience as a Catholic striving to follow the Church’s teaching about chastity. In a recent interview with CNA, Mattson offered some lessons the Church can learn about engagement with the LGBT community.

The first of these, he told CNA May 23, is having "the confidence that what the Church has is truly good news for the LGBT community.”

“That is what is lacking, and I just wish that we would not be afraid of it,” he said, encouraging Catholics to be open in talking about Church teaching.

The goal is not to proselytize, he said but to explain the truth and beauty of Church teaching on the issue - “not what you think it is, but what it really is,” he said.

Mattson mentioned the Gospel scene when in Jesus stops the execution by stoning of a woman caught in adultery.

“We cannot be more compassionate than Jesus,” he said, explaining that he often identifies with the woman in the story, who, though broken, meets Jesus and is invited to something more for her life.

The Church, Mattson said, must have “that welcoming message of Christ that says 'I do not have any condemnation for you, but go and sin no more.'” And part of sinning no more, he said, is an invitation “to a richer life.”

“I want to get the Church excited to talk about this,” Mattson said.

Mattson is the author of the 2017 book “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” which describes his experience with same-sex attraction and his decision to live according to Catholic moral teaching.

Visiting Rome for the launch of the Italian-language version of his book, Mattson gave a speech May 23 at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, during which he offered his testimony, sharing that he was raised in a Christian family, his experiences being bullied as a child, and the experience of sexual confusion during his childhood and teenage years.

He also spoke about an addiction to pornography and an anger towards God over his same-sex feelings, prompting him to leave his faith later in life, and live out his same-sex desires in partnerships. Mattson said doing so only made him feel unhappy and lonely, and said it wasn't until he turned to the Church that he found true fulfillment, by living out her teachings.

In his comments to CNA after, Mattson said personal witness is the key to reaching out to people experiencing same-sex attraction.

In this sense, he said, the Church needs to give more visibility to the people with same-sex attraction who have opted to live celibate lives. He pointed to Courage International, an organization that counsels individuals with same-sex attraction who chose to live according to Church teaching.

“We're just sitting over here quietly abiding by every word of the Catholic Church and finding it to be the recipe for happiness, and we don't get much attention,” Mattson said.

The people who have tried living the LGBT lifestyle and “found it empty,” he said, “want to share what we found with the LGBT community and invite them into the full community of the family of God.”

Mattson said that while he has been called “crazy” or “internally homophobic” for speaking out, “I just have to laugh that off.”

Mattson said those who describe Catholicism as “homophobic” usually imply that the Church is somehow a “hateful place” with no room for people with same-sex attraction.

However, “the opposite is exactly the case for me. I have never felt more welcomed in my life than in the arms of Holy Mother Church.”

“It's the most welcoming place,” he said, “and it's sad if people want to use the language of the world to say that, to use that word and say that the Church doesn't have a place or that it isn't welcoming. For me, it's been the exact opposite.”

When asked by a priest in the audience how pastors ought to react to people who come to them and confide having same-sex attraction and feelings, Mattson stressed the importance of creating “an environment that is safe,” since many of these people already carry many wounds.

The fact that a person feels they can open up to begin with is a positive sign, he said, explaining that most people with same-sex attraction are afraid that “they will be treated with disgust” if they open up about it, so knowing they have a safe space to talk is key.

Mattson also mentioned Pope Francis, telling CNA Pope Francis has been clear about the Church's teaching, and explaining his belief that Francis' message is often manipulated by the media “to serve their own agenda.”

Mattson said he always remembers the pope's comments on his flight back from Rio de Janeiro in 2013 when he said that he is “a son of the Church.”

“If you really look at what he's said, he's been very clear about same-sex marriage over the years, he's been very clear that chastity is an important virtue,” he added.

“He's said he's a son of the Church and I'm confident in that,” Mattson said, and voiced his hope that one day he would be able to meet the pope and tell him “how the Church has been a mother to me and has guided me to happiness and freedom.”

Mattson also expressed support for the view that sexuality doesn't define a person's life, and stressed that using labels such as “gay” or “straight” reduce a person to their sexuality, since in the end everyone is ultimately a child of God.

“The truth is that my sexual identity is (that of) a man, just like Adam, just like Abraham, David, just like every other man that has walked the face of the earth, I'm not a different sort of sexual person than they were,” he told journalists.

“The Church's teaching is that you are identified as a beloved son of God, that has been the experience for me.”

 

China may lift its two-child policy - here's what that could mean  

Beijing, China, May 23, 2018 / 04:29 pm (CNA).- Amid reports that China may be considering putting an end to its two-child policy, experts are questioning the extent of a possible law change, and the effects it would have.

According to Bloomberg, the Chinese government had commissioned research on the childbirth restrictions in the country, and on the potential effects of lifting them. An announcement on the removal of the policy could come by the end of the year, or next year, the outlet reported, citing anonymous sources.

Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said that removing the policy “would be a momentous victory for human rights and a vindication of the application of international pressure as a strategy to affect change within that totalitarian regime.” 

“But I am holding off on this celebration,” she told CNA, noting that “the Chinese government just commissioned a study. It has not yet enacted the new law.”

She also voiced concern that birth penalties may still be enacted for pregnant women who are not married.

“In some places, an unmarried woman who is pregnant may be forced to pay a ‘social compensation fee’ of up to 10 times her annual salary,” Littlejohn said. “If she cannot pay the fine, she may be required to abort.” 

Littlejohn has spent the last decade fighting against forced abortion, gendercide, and sex slavery in China. She and other human rights activists have documented abuses committed against women in China who become pregnant without permission from the state. In some cases, these women are forcibly removed from their homes and strapped to a table in a forced abortion procedure, and are sometimes forcibly sterilized as well.

China’s one-child policy was initially mandated in the 1970s in an effort to limit the country’s population growth. Recent numbers, however, show an aging demographic that could pose serious fiscal problems for the country’s future. Around 25 percent of the population is expected to be at least 60 years old by 2030, nearly double the percentage of that age in 2010.

The one-child policy was amended in 2013, permitting couples to have a second child if either of them were an only child themselves. In 2015, it was amended again, allowing all couples to have a second child.

Despite these changes, however, birth rates in the country have remained low, falling 3.5 percent last year, according to the Bureau of National Statistics.

After four decades of restrictive birth limits and national messaging aimed at convincing Chinese parents that one child is best, some experts wonder whether removing the policy will result in higher birth rates.

Huang Wenzheng, a senior researcher at the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, suggested that the change in policy will likely have little effect on the birthrate in the country. According to Bloomberg, he cited the relatively low numbers of women of childbearing age in China and a low desire to have multiple children.

Littlejohn warned that the “devastating legacy” of the one-child policy will remain even if the restrictions are lifted. Babies born now will not enter the workforce for decades, she noted, meaning that the shortage of workers will not be alleviated for years.

Another consequence of the policy has been couples resorting to abortion or infanticide if they discover their child is a girl. A strong male-preference exists in China, as boys can keep the family name and run the family business or farm.

Consequently, China has faced a serious imbalance in their gender ratio, with over 30 million more males living in China than females.

“Tens of millions of men will never marry because their future wives were selectively eliminated,” Littlejohn said.

The country has also seen a steep rise in senior suicide, with the suicide rate for the over-65 age group four to five times higher than the general population, according to a study in the American journal Aging and Disease.

Littlejohn has attributed the high suicide rate in part to the lack of family support for the aging population, due to the one-child policy. She told CNA earlier this year that she had once encountered an elderly woman in China who told her that “some days she only ate salt and she had bought a rope to hang herself with when life got too tough.”
 

 

Bigotry and politics: what this British MP said about faith in the public square

London, England, May 23, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Conservative Party member of the British parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg is in the spotlight this week for recent comments he made regarding anti-religious bigotry in the public square.

Rees-Mogg, a Catholic, said that as an MP he will not shy away from his religiously-informed views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“I believe that life begins at the point of conception, that has always been the policy of the Catholic Church,” Rees-Mogg said in a May 22 interview on BBC’s Daily Politics program with host Jo Coburn.

“I think it is a deep, deep sadness that there are 190,000 abortions in this country in a year,” he continued, saying abortion was “one of the great tragedies of the modern world.”

During the interview, Rees-Mogg also spoke to his views on gay marriage, saying “the sacrament of marriage is one that’s defined by the church and not by the state – and that the sacrament of marriage is one that is available to a man and a woman.”

While Rees-Mogg noted the law in the UK is “not going to change,” he nevertheless expressed opposition to both same-sex marriage and abortion within the nation, since it remains in opposition with “the teaching of the Catholic church, which I accept.”

“The law is not going to change. The issue is actually about what society thinks,” he said, adding that “it would be a wonderful thing if society came to a different view on abortion.”

While some have called the MP’s stance hardline on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, Rees-Mogg went on to note a level of hypocrisy in the apparent pursuit of tolerance within culture and politics. He asked the host why she was picking “on the views of the Catholic Church and say they have no place in modern politics?”

“You’re saying that tolerance only goes so far and that you should not be tolerant of the teaching of the Catholic Church – so isn’t this stretching into religious bigotry?” he asked.

“The act of tolerance is to tolerate things you do not agree with, not just ones you do agree with, and the problem with liberal tolerance is it has got to the point of only tolerating what it likes,” he continued.

The upcoming abortion referendum vote in Ireland was also a topic of discussion during the interview. Rees-Mogg, who acts as the Conservative MP for North East Somerset, said that it was “terrifying” that hundreds of thousands of on-demand abortions were performed in the UK annually, while Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson called his view “extreme.”

However, Rees-Mogg said that he will “make no bones about the fact that I’m a practicing Catholic and I believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Rees-Mogg, who was a “Brexiteer” and is a serious contender for the Conservative Party leader position, has often come under fire in the media for his Catholic views in politics.

Last autumn, he was questioned repeatedly by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on the television show Good Morning Britain for his views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“It is all very well to say we live in a multicultural country, until you’re a Christian, until you hold the traditional views of the Catholic Church,” Rees-Mogg said.

“And that seems to be fundamentally wrong.”

Humanae Vitae needs no update, commission chair says

Vatican City, May 23, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The professor who chaired a Vatican study group on Humanae Vitae stressed that the Bl. Paul VI’s encyclical “needs no updating.”
 
Professor Gilfredo Marengo, of the Pontifical Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, spoke with CNA at the presentation of his latest book, “Chiesa senza storia, storia senza Chiesa” (Church without history, history without the Church), which explores the implications and consequences of Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world.
 
Professor Marengo told CNA that, according to his studies, “one of the biggest knots in drafting Humanae Vitae was really that of going beyond the polarization between doctrine and pastoral issues.”
 
Professor Marengo added that Blessed Pope Paul VI “focused on this knowledge, and worked a lot to take the encyclical out of that polarization.”
 
Unfortunately, he said, polarization has increased in recent years, but, added that “the question cannot be solved by imagining a new doctrine or a new pastoral activity, but by going beyond the polarization.”
 
Professor Marengo stressed that “Humanae Vitae is an authoritative document of the Catholic Church, and it is part of the tradition. We are called to welcome it as it is, and to apply it with an intelligent pastoral plan.”
 
However, despite being “the most discussed encyclical in the last 50 years,” there is “no need to update it,” Professor Marengo stressed.
 
In the end, all that discussion might be framed into a general debate that took place after the Second Vatican Council, he said.

Professor Marengo heads a study group undertaking a historical-critical investigation into the drafting of Humanae Vitae. The aim is to reconstruct, as well as possible, the whole process of drafting the document.
 
As is widely known, the drafting of Humanae Vitae endured several pressures before its publication and even after its publication.

Beyond Professor Marengo, the study group on Humanae Vitae is reportedly composed of Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, head of the John Paul II Institute, Philippe Chenaux, a professor of Church history at the Pontifical Lateran University, and Msgr. Angelo Maffeis, head of the Paul VI Institute in Brescia.

In 2017, Professor Marengo told reporters that the group was given access to the Vatican Secret Archives for mid-1960s, the time of Humanae Vitae's drafting.
 
Professor Marengo told CNA that “the Second Vatican Council has facilitated the resolution of polarization between pastoral and doctrinal issues.”
 
He added that Pope Francis “is investing a lot in this resolution,” as “one of the most meaningful aspects of Pope Francis’ biography is that he is the first post-conciliar pope: all the [recent] previous popes participated to the Council, but this pope did not, and so he can look at the Council with a less emotional viewpoint.”

 

Clerical abuse arose from misuse of authority, Chilean priest says

Santiago, Chile, May 23, 2018 / 12:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- One of the Chilean priests affected by the abuses of Fr. Fernando Karadima who will meet with Pope Francis in June said Wednesday that such abuses stemmed from misuse of authority.

Fr. Francisco Javier Astaburuaga Ossa accompanied one of Karadima's victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, for nearly 20 years before Cruz went public with his suffering.

He is among the group of nine people who will visit Pope Francis June 1-3, and was one of three priests who spoke at a May 23 press conference in Santiago.

Astaburuaga said it is clear that Karadima's abuses, particularly the abuse of conscience, “started from a poor use of authority … he violated personal freedom, he restricted [his victims] and conditioned them.”

“This is the mark of an abuse,” he said, explaining that this, as well as the structural problems which allowed the crisis to happen in the first place, is something that will likely come up in their discussions with the pope.

Astaburuaga was joined at the Vatican press conference by  Fr. Alejandro Vial Amunátegui and  Fr. Eugenio de la Fuente Lora.

Six other people will also be present at the June meeting with Francis; all of them are either victims of Karadima's abuse of power, conscience, or sexuality, or have helped to accompany the victims. Two of the other priests who will meet with the pope are Fr. Javier Barros Bascuñán and Fr. Sergio Cobo Montalba; the remaining four participants have chosen not to go public.

The meeting is part of an effort to respond to Chile's clerical sex abuse crisis, and follows an similar encounter at the Vatican in April among three more of Karadima's victims: Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton, and Andres Murillo.

“There was a problem, a crisis in the Chilean Church, everyone can see it,” de la Fuente said, explaining that in his view, the process Pope Francis has begun with these meetings “is a very lucid one and we are thankful.”

The three priests said the Roman Pontiff is moving in the right direction, and that their upcoming visit is a sign of hope and a chance to begin repairing the harm done to the Church in Chile. They also noted their joy at the consolation of receiving an invitation from the pope.

The meeting will take place in a “spirit of collaboration” aimed at repairing “the damages done” to the Church in the scandal, Vial said.

Fr. de la Fuente commented that “The meeting itself gives a marvelous [opportunity] to share our personal experience with [Pope Francis], and from this lived experience … to propose solutions to solve this big problem,” of abuse and cover-up, which is largely a problem of power and the misuse of authority.

In a statement signed by Astaburuaga, Vial, de la Fuente, Barros, and Cobo, the priests voiced hope that their stories “can help give a voice to many others who have suffered abuse or who have accompanied people who have been abused.”

After presenting the statement, the priests noted the delicacy of the situation, and that the pope invited them so he could listen to them and give them a chance to share their personal experiences.

Fr. de la Fuente said the pope was clear in his original letter apologizing for having misjudged the situation, saying that the process of re-building the Church in Chile must happen “in short, medium and long term” phases.

Speaking of Cruz, Hamilton, and Murillo, Fr. de la Fuente voiced gratitude for “their testimonies, their courage and their friendship. They have helped the Church a lot.”

The solutions outlining a path forward for the Church in Chile have yet to be decided, he said, explaining that this is something they will discuss with Pope Francis.

Fr. Vial said that while they want to give a voice to victims of abuse, “each case of abuse is different. I could never pretend to represent someone who was abused in a different way and in a different context.”

One of the main goals of their meeting with the pope, he said, is to discuss how to “do as much as possible to avoid the existence of victims of abuse. For us it is very important to collaborate so that there are no more victims of abuse.”

In his comments, de la Fuente stressed that while abuse and pedophilia are problems not exclusive to the Church, they are more serious when they happen in an ecclesial environment “because it is a place of life called to give life and fullness.”

“There is a structure that creates this type of abuse,” he said, explaining that the Church “must be a house of healing.”

The goal is “to try to work at something so that the Church is what Jesus wanted it to be.”

Likewise, Vial stressed the need for pastors to be close to their flocks, and asked the press to be respectful of the communities most impacted by the crisis, “because they are communities, like the whole Church, which are going through a difficult time with a lot of suffering.”

The priests said that given the desire to maintain privacy and confidentiality, they do not plan to make any other public statements until after they return to Chile following their meeting with Pope Francis.

The Holy See press office had announced the group's meeting with Francis May 22. The encounter was scheduled a month ago, and it was said that the pope “wants to demonstrate his closeness to abused priests, to accompany them in their pain and to listen to their valuable views to improve the current preventive measures and the fight against abuses in the Church.”

The nine Chileans will stay at the Vatican's Santa Marta guesthouse. Pope Francis will say Mass for the group June 2, after which there will be a group meeting, followed by private conversations with the pope.

Karadima was convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011 of abusing minors, and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance. He has not been sentenced by civil courts because of Chile's statue of limitations.

A sacerdotal association which Karadima had led, the Priestly Union of the Sacred Heart, was suppressed within a year of his conviction.

Attention to Karadima's abuse has heightened since the 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid to the Diocese of Osorno. Barros had been accused of covering up Karadima's abuses.

Pope Francis initially defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. He later relented, and sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to investigate the situation in Chile.

After receiving Scicluna's report, Francis apologized, said that he had been seriously mistaken, and asked to meet the country's bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.

He met with Chile's bishops May 15-17. As a result, each of them tendered letters of resignation, which Pope Francis has yet to accept or reject. The pope also gave the bishops a letter chastising them for systemic cover-up of clerical abuse and calling them to institute deep changes.

Trump at SBA gala: 'Vote for love' and 'vote for life'

Washington D.C., May 23, 2018 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Delivering the keynote address at the Susan B. Anthony List’s Campaign for Life Gala, President Donald Trump emphasized the importance of electing pro-life candidates in the upcoming November midterm elections.

“Between now and November,” said Trump, “we must work together to elect more lawmakers who share our values, cherish our heritage, and proudly stand for life.”

Susan B. Anthony List is a network of organizations that includes a PAC supporting the election of pro-life candidates to Congress.

Trump’s May 22 address highlighted the steps his administration has taken to preserve and promote pro-life values and religious liberty, including the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which prevents taxpayer dollars from funding abortion overseas.

That move, said Trump, was “a little reminiscent of Ronald Reagan.”

“We’ve appointed a record number of judges who will defend our Constitution and interpret the law as written,” explained Trump, saying that he was likely to have the “all-time record for the appointment of judges.”

Early in his presidency, Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch, widely supported by pro-life advocates, wrote a 2004 dissertation at the University of Oxford on euthanasia and assisted suicide, under the supervision of Catholic legal scholar John Finnis.

Trump used the gala to officially announce that his administration has proposed a rule to prohibit Title X funds from going to abortion clinics.

“For decades, American taxpayers have been wrongfully forced to subsidize the abortion industry” through these funds, Trump told the crowd, who gave him a standing ovation.

“We have kept another promise.”

If the rule becomes policy, clinics such as Planned Parenthood would not be eligible to receive federal Title X funds for family planning services unless they decide to stop performing abortions.

Shifting gears to the upcoming elections, Trump said that his goal is to pass a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks gestation. A bill to that effect has already passed the House of Representatives, but remains stalled in the Senate and is unlikely to pass.

In order for this bill to become law, Trump said the country needs to elect Republicans to Congress, because “the Democratic Party is far outside the American mainstream.” He specifically cited Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitcamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as four senators up for reelection who voted against the abortion bill. Each of those senators represents a state Trump won in the 2016 election.

“We are nine votes away from passing the 20-week abortion bill in the Senate, so we have to get them out there,” Trump told the crowd.

“Democrats like to campaign as moderates at election time, but when they go to Washington, they always vote for the radical Pelosi agenda down the line,” said Trump to applause, before adding “Can you imagine having Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House?”

Trump warned the crowd against growing complacent going into this November’s midterms, saying that unless the Republicans are able to maintain their majorities in the House and senate, it will be impossible to appoint pro-life judges and pass pro-life legislation.

“Every values voter must be energized, mobilized, and engaged, said the president. “You have to get out there.”

“So this November, vote for family. Vote for love. Vote for faith and values. Vote for country. And vote for life.“

Although Trump’s remarks were decidedly partisan, the Susan B. Anthony List is not directly affiliated with a political party, and has supported pro-life candidates from both major political parties. The PAC supported Rep. Steve Lipinski (D-IL) in a contentious 2017 primary election.

 

The Holy Spirit makes our works effective, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, May 23, 2018 / 05:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy Spirit helps Catholics to do good works by giving them the gifts they need to be effective 'salt and light' in the world, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.

Like Jesus said: “You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world,” the pope said May 23, explaining that the images of salt and light “make us think of our conduct, because both the lack and the excess of salt make food disgusting, as the lack and the excess of light prevent us from seeing.”

“Who can really make us salt that gives flavor and preserves from corruption, and light that enlightens the world?” he asked. “It is only the Spirit of Christ!”

Explaining that at the moment of Confirmation the bishop says, “Receive the Holy Spirit, which has been given to you,” Francis said the sacrament is “a great gift of God, the Holy Spirit within us.”

“The Spirit is in our heart, is in our soul. And the Spirit guides us in life, so that we become the right [amount of] salt and the right [amount of] light for men.”

Pope Francis spoke about Confirmation after concluding his weekly reflections on Baptism, which he said is “the first step.” After Baptism, “it is then necessary to behave as children of God, that is, to conform to Christ who works in the holy Church,” he said.

“If in Baptism it is the Holy Spirit that immerses us in Christ, in Confirmation it is Christ who fills us with his Spirit,” he said. In Confirmation, Christ consecrates Catholics “as his witnesses, partakers of the same principle of life and mission, according to the plan of the heavenly Father.”

Becoming involved in Christ’s mission in the world: “This is what the anointing of the Holy Spirit provides,” he continued.

The pope also explained that the sacrament is called “Confirmation” because it “confirms Baptism and strengthens its grace,” noting that in the Italian language, the sacrament is called “Cresima,” to recall the anointing with chrism oil, which confers the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is also appropriate to speak about Confirmation following the celebration of Pentecost, the pope said, because the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples calls to mind the infusion of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation.

“Pentecost, which we celebrated last Sunday, is for the Church what for Christ was the anointing of the Spirit received at the Jordan, or the missionary impulse to consume the life for the sanctification of men, to the glory of God.”

If in every sacrament the Spirit works, it is especially in Confirmation that “the faithful receive the Holy Spirit as a gift,” he concluded. “Christian witness consists in doing only and all that the Spirit of Christ asks of us, granting us the strength to do it.”

At the end of the general audience, Francis pointed out that Thursday, May 24, is the feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Help of Christians,” which is particularly venerated at the Shrine of Our Mother of Sheshan near Shanghai, China.

This feast day “invites us to be spiritually united to all the Catholic faithful who live in China,” he said, praying for Chinese Catholics, that through the intercession of Our Lady, they would live their faith “with generosity and serenity… fraternity, concord and reconciliation, in full communion with the Successor of Peter.”

“Dearest disciples of the Lord in China, the universal Church prays with you and for you, so that even among the difficulties you may continue to entrust yourselves to God's will. Our Lady will never fail to help you and guard you with her motherly love.”

Ninja priest? Meet the unlikely new contestant on a hit TV show

Little Rock, Ark., May 23, 2018 / 12:45 am (CNA).- Among the contestants on season 10 of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, there’s one who stands out.

In addition to being a physical trainer, Father Stephen Gadberry is also a Catholic priest. He hopes that his participation in the upcoming season of American Ninja Warrior will make the clergy appear more human and available.

Physical activity can be a “simple way to start a conversation with a spiritual leader, with a pastor, where [people] may be too nervous or hesitant to start [deeper] conversations right off the bat,” he told CNA.

Contestants on the hit NBC show compete in obstacles courses of increasing difficulty, testing their strength, agility, and skill for a shot at $1 million and the title of “American Ninja Warrior.” The final round takes place on the Las Vegas strip, where participants must complete – among other obstacles – a 75-foot rope climb in under 30 seconds.

Fr. Gadberry was challenged to apply for the show by Sean Bryan, a two-time previous contestant who drew attention for donning a shirt bearing the colors of the papal flag and words “Papal Ninja.”

The Arkansas priest applied for the show in December and two months later received an invitation to participate in the preliminary round in Dallas. Fr. Gadberry said he “would be a bad steward of God’s gifts if [he] didn’t humbly and gratefully accept this opportunity as a moment” to proclaim the Gospel.

“[Evangelizing] is the primary reason for me doing this. The Lord tells us to go out and make disciples of all nations,” he said. “As this platform has stumbled into my lap…I can further deliver the message of the Gospel that I am supposed to as a priest.”

The priest serves as pastor for two parishes in the Arkansas Delta: St. Cecilia Church in Newport and St. Mary Church in Batesville. Having been raised on a farm, Gadberry said he grew up loving hard physical labor. Later in the military, he said he was introduced to the fitness regimen CrossFit.

Gadberry works out for 1-2 hours per day, but said that his workouts do not interfere with his priestly ministry, because he rarely watches television and schedules his exercise regime around his duties as a priest.

While he knows other priests who relax by watching television or building in their workshop, Father Gadberry said exercise has become for him a form of recreation that opens doors for spiritual conversations in the community.

“It has given people opportunities … to start conversations on faith, where before they may have been too intimidated to approach a priest or go to church.”

People periodically ask for his advice on lifting techniques, and once dialogue has been established, conversations sometimes turn toward spiritual and personal questions – ranging from struggles with adultery to trouble with teenagers at home.

Additionally, he said, physical activities take him to what Pope Francis has called “the peripheries.” Besides attending to sick and visiting patients in hospital, the priest is heavily involved with prison ministry. There, he has been able to exercise with inmates, building trust and initiating vulnerable conversations.

“The whole time, we are talking about life problems and struggles,” he said. “The guards loved it because they saw it was changing the guys I was working out with.”

The priest cautioned against judging people who exercise as prideful, stressing that taking care of the body is a form of stewardship.

“Often times, people will stereotype a priest or religious or someone who is devout in their faith as being uber spiritual,” to the point of neglecting the body, he said, warning that this not Catholic teaching.

He added that dietary and exercise disciplines have a correlation to the spiritual life “because virtues are developed through physical discipline.”

Whether they face physical or spiritual obstacles, Fr. Gadberry advised individuals to take challenges one step at a time, rather than stressing too much about the end goal.

“The whole mood of this ninja warrior thing is all about conquering obstacles. You’re not going to get the last obstacle, to hit the buzzer, until you get over the obstacle that is right in front of you,” he said.

“You have enough to worry about, so it doesn’t make sense to stress about the obstacles way off in the future. Just deal with the one you got right in front of you.”

The 10th season of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior will premiere on May 30.