San Antonio, Texas, Nov 5, 2017 / 06:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After at least 26 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, the local Catholic archbishop offered prayers and solidarity for the victims. “We need prayers! The families affected in the shooting this morning at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs need prayers. The evil perpetrated on these who were gathered to worship God on the Lord’s Day – especially children and the elderly – makes no sense and will never be fully understood,” Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio said Nov. 5. “Disbelief and shock are the overwhelming feelings; there are no adequate words. There can be no explanation or motive for such a scene of horror at a small country church for families gathered to praise Jesus Christ.” He said that “These Baptist brethren are our family, friends and neighbors who live among us in the archdiocese … We are committed to work in unity with all our brothers and sisters to build peace in our communities; to connect in a more direct and substantial way. The Catholic Church in Texas and across the United States is with you.” Garcia-Siller added that the San Antonio archdiocese’s Catholic Charities “stands ready to assist and provide whatever services may be needed in this time of tragedy and will do whatever needs to be done.” “Let’s help these brothers and sisters with prayers; they need us. Also, pray fervently for peace amidst all of the violence which seems to be overwhelming our society. We must be lights in the darkness. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May God have mercy!” Sutherland Springs is  small town located about 35 miles southeast of San Antonio. A shooter entered the town’s First Baptist Church late Sunday morning, during a service. He has reportedly been killed. The suspect, who fled in a car, was shot at by a local citizen. The suspect was found dead in his car by police. At least 20 people were injured by gunfire and taken to the hospital.   Read more

Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2017 / 02:12 pm (CNA).- It’s been a month since the New York Times first published an investigative report on Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood film producer and studio executive who has been accused of sexually assaulting numerous women in the entertainment industry since the 1990s. Already, the reports have been followed by a movement among women – both those who have made additional accusations against Weinstein and other celebrities, and women throughout the world who are sharing their own stories of sexual assault on social media, accompanied by the hashtag #MeToo. The Catholic Church in the United States faced its own sex abuse crisis in the early 2000s, beginning with the Boston Globe’s report on extensive sexual abuse by clergy, particularly against minors. Since then, the Church has taken care to provide numerous resources to such victims, and develop robust child protection policies. But what can the Church provide for adult victims of general sexual assault, whether committed by Church personnel or other people?   Catholic psychologist Dr. Greg Bottaro said one of the most important things the Church can do to help victims of sexual assault is to anticipate and initiate the conversation about it. “I think that’s the good thing about the Harvey Weinstein case – obviously this has become a more common conversation, but there needs to be more of that,” he said. “Let people know that it’s ok to talk about this, it’s ok to report this, if something has happened to you it’s ok to come forward.” Victims also need validation “that the assault is wrong, because sexual assault is traumatic. It’s trauma in the deepest sense of the word, and the definition of trauma is the perceived harm to life or integrity of body. Having your bodily integrity violated is a traumatic event, there’s a loss of power that happens, it’s a real victimization.” If a Catholic experiences sexual assault, there are several websites that can help connect them to Catholic counselors and therapists, including,, and Most dioceses also have Catholic counselors and therapists with whom they work closely and to whom victims can be referred, Dr. Bottaro noted. Seeking a healing and help that incorporates one’s Catholic faith is important, Dr. Bottaro said, because the trauma caused by sexual violence can wound the deepest parts of the human person. “Our bodies are meant to be gifts to be given with full freedom in a full fruition of our choice, and when that choice is taken away, that’s a strike against our sense of (self),” he said. “So the healing we seek has to take that into account and help us rebuild the sense of self that is founded on a deeper principle.” People who have experienced sexual assault also often are in need of spiritual healing, because such traumatic events can cause them to question their belief in God as a loving father, Dr. Bottaro noted. “One effect (of trauma) is that our sense of being safe in the world is violated, and that digs down into our sense of having a father who loves us and takes care of us,” he said. “Victims of trauma have to make sense of that – how can you say that there’s a father in heaven who loves me when this happened to me? So having a psychologist who can walk through that with somebody, and help wrestle with that reality, and learn how to accept suffering as part of God’s will is an essential element to healing.” Sue Stubbs is the director of the Victim Assistance Office for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia. While her office was originally created to respond to the clergy sex abuse crisis, as were many diocesan child and youth protection departments, Stubbs said that her office has become a catch-all, and now provides resources to a wide variety of victims, whether they were assaulted by church personnel or not. Besides helping connect victims with counselors, Stubbs said the office also puts on retreats every year, two for women and one for men, that help address both psychological and spiritual components of healing after sexual assault. Stubbs said it was important for victims to seek spiritual as well as psychological healing, because the two areas often overlap, and because recognizing God as an all-good and all-loving creator helps victims make sense of their experiences. “You have to believe that someone bigger than you cares about you, and created you a certain way, to really understand that nothing…that happens to you and nothing that you do can change the way God made you. (Your worth) stays the same no matter what.” Her office also facilitates trauma recovery groups for victims that are usually put on once or twice a year, for nine sessions each. The groups welcome people who have suffered all kinds of trauma and sexual assault, whether in childhood or later in life. The benefit of a group, Stubbs said, is that people can get a sense that they’re not alone. “You don’t feel alone, you don’t feel different. (Victims sometimes) feel like a freak and they realize they’re not. Someone in the group is saying the same thing that they’ve thought a million times,” she said. “And it provides a safe connection, because these people get it, they’re not afraid to reach out because they know that this person has had something similar.” Stubbs said that she often tells other people in Church leadership that the Church has to start seeing victims of sexual assault as people who are on the peripheries, to whom Pope Francis has called the Church to minister. “The people that come to church oftentimes are the periphery, you just can’t see it,” Stubbs said.  “People who’ve been sexually assaulted are the periphery and they could be sitting right next to you and have no idea, because they don’t talk about it, they hide it, it’s an invisible secret that they’re afraid to show anybody.” “There’s a part of them that feels broken, they perceive themselves as something sinful, but it isn’t their sin, it’s someone else’s sin that has affected their life, and it’s confusing,” Stubbs said.   “And I think that’s where the Church can help to untie those knots – I think we could add the spiritual piece” that is missing from other community resources, she said. College campuses are unfortunately a place of increased risk for sexual violence – especially for women. RAINN – the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, reports that women ages 18-24 are at a heightened risk to experience sexual assault, both on and off college campuses. In order to prevent and educate students about sexual assault and other harmful situations, The Catholic University of America (CUA) has created PEERS – Peer Educators Empowering Respectful Students – a group that seeks to educate other students and help foster a more respectful environment on campus. Stephanie Davey is the Assistant Dean in the Office of the Dean of Students at CUA and oversees much of the work that PEERS does. She said that PEERS helps students understand what sexual assault is, and how to either intervene to prevent it from happening or what to do if sexual assault has occurred. Davey said they especially want victims to “understand that we are a supportive place and they don’t have to be fearful or ashamed about seeking support,” whether the incident occurred with another CUA student or not. The university just concluded observing October as Sexual Violence Prevention Month, during which the school has participated in several national campaigns that raise awareness of sexual violence and encourage increased conversation about the issue. For example, Davey said, the students participated in the national “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” campaign, which usually involves men walking in high heels, but CUA decided to do it with a Catholic twist. “Instead of having men walk in high heeled shoes we had a candlelit solidarity walk through campus and stopped at different places through campus and read testimonies of survivors…and culminated with a prayer service outside our chapel with our chaplain and then had some fellowship,” she said. Much of their training, such as bystander intervention training, is rooted in the Catholic faith, she said – being a good Samaritan, being a good neighbor, and upholding the dignity of everyone. “I think that that’s what we do well in terms of addressing these issues but also not ignoring our Catholic identity,” she said. “Every person has worth and dignity, it’s our responsibility to look out for each other and uphold that dignity.”     Read more

Vatican City, Nov 5, 2017 / 11:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has reportedly said he will allow for debate as to whether married men could be ordained to the priesthood in the region during a 2019 Synod of Bishops focusing on the Church in the Am… Read more

Vatican City, Nov 5, 2017 / 06:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis offered some punchy advise to both average faithful and people in positions of authority, saying true power is expressed through service and a good example, which Christians must always show to others in humility. Speaking during his Nov. 5 Angelus address, Pope Francis told pilgrims that “a frequent defect in those who have authority, whether it is civil or ecclesiastical authority, is to demand from others things, even justly, but which they do not put into practice firsthand. They lead a double life.” He noted how in day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus, whose death is drawing nearer, offers “serious critiques” of the scribes, and at the same time leaves “important signs” for Christians not just of that time, but of all times, including us today. Jesus, Francis noted, tells his disciples to listen to the scribes and the Pharisees say, because they have the authority to teach on the law, but not to imitate what they do, because “they preach but they do not practice.” Quoting the day’s Gospel passage, the Pope said the scribes and Pharisees “tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” This attitude “is a bad exercise of authority,” which ought to have strength in offering a good example, rather than a show of power, he said. Real authority “is born from the good example, in order to help others practice what is right and proper, supporting them in the trials that they encounter on the path of good,” Francis said, explaining that authority ultimately ought to be used to help people. However, if it is exercised badly, “it becomes oppressive, it does not allow people to grow and it creates a climate of mistrust and hostility and even brings corruption.” When speaking to the Christians in the day’s reading, Pope Francis noted how Jesus gives his disciples some specific instructions, telling them to “Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant.” As disciples of Jesus, Christians “shouldn’t look for titles of honor, authority or supremacy,” he said, adding that it pains him personally “to see people who psychologically live running behind the vanity of honors.” “We disciples of Jesus must not do this, but rather, there should be a simple and fraternal attitude among us,” he said, explaining that as Christians, “we are all brothers and we must in no way overwhelm others and look down on them from above. No.” If we have received certain qualities or authority from God, then we must put these at the service of others, the Pope said, rather than trying to take advantage of them “for our own interests and personal satisfaction.” Neither should a Christian consider themselves superior to others, he said, adding that a healthy dose of modesty “is essential for an existence that wants to be conformed to the teaching of Jesus, who is meek and humble of heart and came not to be served, but to serve.” Pope Francis closed his address asking Mary intercede for us so as “to avoid pride and vanity, and to be meek and docile to the love which comes from God for the service of our brothers and sisters, and for their joy, which will also be ours.” Read more

Quezon City, Philippines, Nov 5, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Victims of the deadly Philippines drug war deserve to be remembered, said Catholic seminarians as they reaffirmed the need for true peace and unity. “We, seminarians of San Jos&e… Read more

Madrid, Spain, Nov 4, 2017 / 06:01 am (ACI Prensa).- Next Saturday 60 members of the Vincentian Order who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War will be beatified at a Mass in Madrid, a “celebration of hope, faith and forgiveness.” “The grace experienced by these martyrs is impossible to understand without faith,” said Sister Angeles Infante, a Daughter of Charity who is postulator of the cause for beatification. She praised the martyrs’ “faithfulness to the Vincentian charism, giving their lives, the greatest treasure they had, for Christ.” The Nov. 11 Mass of Beatification at the Palacio Vistalegre will be a celebration of hope because “these martyrs believed in the beatitudes and their martyrdom summed them all up.” “It ‘s not a violent death that makes you a martyr, but the cause you die for, which is Christ. They gave their lives for God, embodying the faith through their witness, forgiving and asking their families to forgive,” the postulator said. Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, who will celebrate the Mass, said that “these 60 martyrs gave their lives out of love. They died loving and forgiving, demonstrating a wisdom which comes from above, not taking sides in the conflict or getting involved in the civil unrest, but having a wisdom which came from Jesus Christ.” “A human being’s weapons are not hatred or rancor but those of Jesus Christ: the love which engenders life and not death.” He also emphasized that these 60 martyrs are a model “more timely than ever because they led the life of God which is always relevant,” especially during “times in history when it seems hard  for us to  forgive. That’s why it’s good to remember people like these, people who don’t destroy but forgive instead, who give their lives not for an idea, but for a person: Jesus Christ.” Those being beatified are Vicente Queralt Lloret and 20 companions, and José Maria Fernández Sanchez and 38 companions. They were killed in 1936 and 1937 by Republican forces. Thousands of priests and religious, accompanied by laity, were martyred during Spain’s civil war. More than 1,800 have already been beatified, and several have been canonized.  This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA Read more

Vatican City, Nov 4, 2017 / 05:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Echoing strains of the 1979 hit “Refugee” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pope Francis on Saturday told representatives from Catholic universities that just because people are often forced into becoming migrants and refugees, they don’t have to live like it – at least, not where education is concerned. Among other things, he said the phenomenon of forced migrations is a “sign of the times,” and urged Catholic universities to find more opportunities for migrants and refugees to study, even if it means creating distance programs for people living in camps or welcome centers. He also encouraged universities to conduct in-depth studies on both the causes of forced migration, as well as the “discriminatory” and “xenophobic” attitudes that traditionally Christian countries can at times have toward incoming migrants. Catholic universities, he said Nov. 4, have the task of carrying out “a scientific, theological and pedagogical reflection” of the topic which is rooted in Catholic social teaching, and which looks to “overcome the prejudices and fears linked to a lack of knowledge about the migratory phenomenon.” He spoke at the close of a conference organized by Catholic universities around the world, titled “Migrants and Refugees in a Globalized World: the Response of Universities.” Happening in Rome Nov. 1-4, the conference was put on by the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) in partnership with the Being the Blessing Foundation, the Pontifical Gregorian University, and the Center for Interreligious Understanding. In his speech to participants, the Pope said the work of Catholic universities is to “harmonize” scientific research with theology, and to promote true “dialogue” between faith and reason. And this happens primarily through three fundamental aspects, which according to Francis are research, teaching and social activity. He encouraged the academics to launch deeper studies on the “remote causes” of forced migration with the aim of finding practical solutions, even if those solutions are long-term, so that from the start people are ensured of the basic right “of not being forced to migrate.” “It’s also important to reflect on the negative, and at times discriminatory and xenophobic reactions, that the welcome of migrants is having in countries of ancient Christian tradition,” so that a real and true formation in conscience can be achieved. To this end, the Pope said the contribution migrants offer their host countries is “worthy of greater appreciation.” Francis also urged participants to delve into a solid theological reflection “on migrations as a sign of the times,” saying the stories that migrants and refugees bring with them are “a challenge to the faith and love of believers,” who themselves are called on “to heal the evils that derive from migrations” and to discover how God works through them, even if they were caused “by obvious injustices.” When it comes to teaching opportunities for migrants, Francis said Catholic universities ought to provide those living in refugee camps or migrant welcome centers the opportunity to pursue higher education, whether that is through the development of courses and distance-learning programs, or scholarships that allow for relocation. The “dense international academic network” must also be taken advantage of, he said, allowing for the recognition of the professional qualifications that migrants and refugees already have both for their own benefit, and that of the societies who welcome them. Students must also be educated in “a careful reading of the migratory phenomenon, in a perspective of justice, global co-responsibility and of communion in cultural diversity,” Pope Francis said, noting that many of these students will go on to become political leaders, entrepreneurs and “artisans of culture.” In terms of acting in society, he said the university is often viewed as an entity that “takes charge of the society in which it operates, exercising, first and foremost, a role of critical consciousness in respect to the different forms of political, economic and cultural power.” He then pointed to 20 “action points” proposed by the Migrants and Refugees section of the Vatican dicastery for Integral Human Development regarding the U.N. Global Compacts of migrants and refugees for 2018, saying these can help Catholic universities become “privileged actors” in society. Part of this social action, he said, might include something like creating incentives for student volunteering programs that assist refugees, those who have requested asylum and migrants that have freshly arrived in their new country. Francis closed his speech by telling the academics that their work is linked to the “four cornerstones” of the Church’s attitude toward reality of contemporary migrations, which are “to welcome, protect, promote and integrate.” Pointing to the day’s feast of St. Charles Borromeo, the Pope said the saint was “an enlightened and passionate pastor, who made humility his motto,” and prayed that his “exemplary life” would inspire the “intellectual and social activity, and also the experience of brotherhood” in the IFCU. Read more

Vatican City, Nov 4, 2017 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).-   Last weekend, Pope Francis delivered a keynote speech to a major conference on the future of the European Union. Although the Pope is often characterized as a staunch progressive, his Oct. 28 speech was a reminder that his views on life, marriage, and sexuality go beyond the stereotypes with which he is often characterized. During the speech, the Pope spoke out against abortion, and said the Christian understanding of the family can serve as a model on which the European continent can base its identity as it faces a changing and uncertain future. Speaking to participants in the Oct. 27-29 conference “(Re)Thinking Europe: A Christian Contribution to the Future of the European Project,” Pope Francis stressed that the family, “as the primordial community,” is fundamental to understanding Europe’s increasingly multicultural and multiethnic identity. In the family, “diversity is valued and at the same time brought into unity,” Francis said, explaining that the family “is the harmonious union of the differences between man and woman, which becomes stronger and more authentic to the extent that it is fruitful, capable of opening itself to life and to others.” Likewise, he said secular communities are also “alive” when they are capable “of openness, embracing the differences and gifts of each person while at the same time generating new life, development, labor, innovation and culture.” He also pointed to the low birth rate in Europe, lamenting the fact that there are so few children because “all too many were denied the right to be born.” These comments, which echo the critiques of European secularism often proffered by Benedict XVI, might surprise those who have, since the beginning of his pontificate, painted Francis as being untethered by Catholic doctrine. Yet while the Pope has often seemed to take a progressive approach to liturgy and has been outspoken on environmental issues, he has also been equally loud when defending Catholic doctrine on moral issues like abortion and homosexuality in the public square. Of course, there is still significant internal debate surrounding the interpretation of Chapter 8 of his 2015 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which addresses the Church’s response to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. In fact, this week the debate flared up again when news came out that Father Thomas Weinandy, OFM, Cap., a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, resigned from his position as a consultant to the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine after publishing a 5-page letter he had written to Pope Francis calling for a correction to the “chronic confusion” of his pontificate, which the priest said “fosters within the faithful a growing unease.” The letter, which charged that Pope Francis has downplayed the importance of doctrine, created confusion, and appointed questionable bishops, made waves throughout the Catholic world, especially given Fr. Weinandy’s prominent role within the USCCB and the Pope’s theological commission. But while Francis seems to invite debate on this and other points, he demonstrated last Saturday that he does so while calling for respect for the Catholic worldview in secular culture, especially regarding the family. Who am I to judge? It was early in his pontificate, on a return flight from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, that Pope Francis famously responded to a question about homosexuality in the priesthood with “who am I to judge?”   In some ways, the question became a lens through which his pontificate is often viewed, especially in the media. Since 2013, the “who-am-I-to-judge Pope” has spoken out frequently on the need to be more welcoming of people with homosexual orientation, and has insisted on the need to use language reflecting welcome, rather than a closed door. During his September 2015 visit to the United States, images of Pope Francis hugging a gay man circulated on the internet after he met with the man and his partner in Washington D.C. The man was a former student who had written to ask for a meeting, and the Pope accepted. And while Pope Francis’ approach to homosexuality has been depicted by some as a deviation from the Church’s doctrine, and hailed by others as a step in the right direction, his speech to E.U. leaders is a reminder that he aims to promote a worldview guided by Catholic doctrine, rather than contradicting it.   A Catholic Worldview Looking back throughout Francis’ pontificate, his speech on Saturday was the latest among dozens of times he has spoken on behalf of the role of the traditional family, the sacredness of human life, or the Church’s teaching on sexuality in the public square. Some of these occasions, just to name a few, are as follows: 1. In a 2014 audience with members of the German-born, international Schoenstatt movement marking the 100th anniversary of their founding, Pope Francis said the family, in the Christian understanding, was being attacked. “The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” he said, noting that in the modern context, “you can call everything family, right?” He said contemporary society has “devalued” the sacrament of marriage by turning it into a social rite and removing the most essential element, which is union with God. “So many families are divided, so many marriages broken,” he said, adding that frequently, there is “such relativism in the concept of the sacrament of marriage.” 2. On the flight back from his trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan a year ago, in October 2016, the Pope was asked about the possibility of biological roots to homosexuality and transgender identities.   Pope Francis said that those who struggle with sexuality and gender identity must be “accompanied as Jesus accompanies them,” and Jesus “surely doesn’t tell them ‘go away because you are homosexual,’” he said. But Francis also pointed to the “wickedness which today is done in the indoctrination of gender theory” that is now frequently being taught in schools, and which he said “is against the (nature of) things.” Pastoral accompaniment “is what Jesus would do today,” he said, but asked journalists to “please don’t say: ‘the Pope sanctifies transgenders.’…Because I see the covers of the papers.” Gender theory, he said, is “a moral problem. It’s a human problem and it must be resolved…with the mercy of God, with the truth.” During the same trip, the Pope gave a lengthy, off-the-cuff speech to priests, seminarians and pastoral workers in which he said “the whole world is at war trying to destroy marriage,” not so much with weapons, “but with ideas…(there are) certain ideologies that destroy marriage. So we need to defend ourselves from ideological colonization.” 3. In his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, published in June 2015, Pope Francis condemned abortion, population control and transgenderism. Regarding gender, the Pope said that, like creation, “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. ” Further, he said that “valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.” He also said that to protect nature is “incompatible with the justification of abortion,” and that it is “clearly inconsistent” to combat human trafficking or protect endangered species while being indifferent to the choice of many people “to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.” Francis also lamented that “instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate.” “Demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development,” he said, adding that to blame a growing population for poverty and an unequal distribution of resources rather than the “extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.” 4. In February 2015, the Pope praised Slovakia, which had voted against a referendum to legalize same-sex “marriage,” voicing his appreciation “to the entire Slovak Church, encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defense of the family, the vital cell of society.” Defying stereotypes The Pope has made more statements along the same lines over the past few years in general audiences, as well as in homilies, speeches and letters, advocating for public respect for the Church’s position on life, marriage, and family. When the Pope spelled out his vision for the Christian contribution to the continent of Europe on Saturday, he made it clear that his moral and political vision is one based on the Church’s longstanding teaching on the family. Pope Francis can be hard to pin down at times, and the resulting “gray area” often leads to stereotype – which is why he is so frequently the subject of caricature, rather than serious study. But caricatures of Francis inevitably miss the mark.   On Saturday, Pope Francis proved this by again reminding Europe of its roots, and of the importance of the family and of Christianity to those roots, showing himself to be a leader who, instead of falling into stereotypes, defies them. Read more

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2017 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, details of the Republican Party’s proposed tax reform legislation were released, including plans to eliminate an adoption tax credit intended to lighten the financial burden o… Read more

New York City, N.Y., Nov 3, 2017 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- If the people of Australia vote to redefine marriage in the country, the consequences will be dire, warned former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. “The idea that you can just change the de… Read more

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