Christianity can survive in Iraq but not without your help

Santiago, Chile, Nov 2, 2017 / 04:00 pm (ACI Prensa).- “Iraq needs aid now, or it will be without Christians,” said Fr. Luis Montes, a missionary priest has been serving in the Middle East and the Holy Land for more than 20 years. His current mission is a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, that houses 120,000 people. Fr. Montes has also visited Christians who have decided to return to their cities liberated from ISIS, where only the foundations of their houses are left standing, marked with the Arabic letter “nun,” which stands for  “Nazarene,” or Christian. A native of Argentina and member of the  Institute of the Incarnate Word religious order, Fr. Montes was invited by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Chile to raise awareness about the current situation of Christians in formerly-ISIS occupied areas of Iraq.   In an interview with ACI Prensa, Fr. Montes explained that Christians displaced by the war are returning to their destroyed hometowns because they have “the grace of God that allows them to endure martyrdom.” “God gives courage to those who are the weakest. This is something purely from God, not from themselves. In face of persecution, God gives them grace. He never gives us a mission he doesn’t give us the strength for. God gives them the grace to endure the worst pain and torture and to be able to follow him,” he said. “There are things that help them, for example, their very beautiful devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the queen of martyrs, she teaches them to be martyrs.” “Everything was taken away from the refugees,” so lacking material goods, they just “simplify their lives,” the missionary priest explained. “Life is simple. They love God because he is the giver of their material needs. They love the Blessed Virgin because she is the Mother that God has given us.” “That is the wisdom that comes from the Cross. They know their crosses and whoever joins himself to the Cross has that wisdom and draws on it and God grants him peace, which is the closest thing to happiness here on earth,” he added. “When you visit them” the priest continued, “ you see suffering people but they have an inner peace. Despite everything they have suffered, they never deny their God. The people thank God every day. They tell him about their hardships, they weep and then they finish saying, ‘Allah karim’ which means ‘God is generous,’” he said. “This people has suffered so much but, they are people tested by suffering. They hold fast to their  faith because their situation is simpler than what you can see from the outside. They are well formed in their faith, so for them, reconstructing their lives is the easier thing to do.” “Starting their lives over brings them a great deal of joy and consolation, knowing that they can go back to their cities, to their former lives. They have been living as refugees. Compared to that, this is now a paradise!” Fr. Montes emphasized. While basic services are slowly returning to the cities destroyed by ISIS, the families that come camp over the foundations of the homes that were burned or destroyed by the Islamic extremists. Fr. Montes said that help coming to the refugees from Christians, through organizations like Aid to the Church in Need, is essential to their repatriation. Since 2014, ACN has been providing food and housing for displaced Christian families. “With outside aid coming in, Christians have the courage to begin again and return to their lives. But the aid has to come now or Iraq will be without Christians, ” he stressed “The Church in Iraq is going through a crucial moment and helping them is everyone’s duty. Imagine how shameful it would be for future generations if it were to be said that Christians had to abandon the Middle East because no one came to their aid,” Fr. Montes concluded.This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA. Read more

Death in the modern age – and how to prepare as a Catholic

Washington D.C., Nov 2, 2017 / 03:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Death. It’s a subject seen as sad, morbid and fearful, something that people would rather not think about, and certainly not discuss. Yet for Catholics, death is an essential part of the faith. “For those who die in Christ’s grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord, so that they can also share his Resurrection,” reads the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The celebration of the sacraments hearken for a kind of death: death to self, death as a consequence of sin, a remembrance of Christ’s death and entrance into eternal life. As the 20th century priest Fr. Henri Nouwen remarked, “Dying is the most general human event, something we all have to do.” The question, he asks, is “Do we do it well?”Hiding from death Advances in medicine and technology have drastically increased life expectancies in the past century. In 1915, most people would not expect to live past age 55. A child born in the US in 2017 is expected to see their 85th birthday. As a result, death has become something distant and even foreign, argues Julie Masters, a professor and chair of the Department of Gerontology at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. “We get lulled into thinking death doesn’t hit us very often, because it waits until people are very old,” she told CNA. “We know that younger people do die, that middle aged people do die, but in this country, the majority of people who die are going to be older people.” The average American in the 21st century simply doesn’t have the experience with death that previous generations had, she said. And this lack of experience can lend itself to fear and a tendency to ignore the uncomfortable unknown of the future. “So we’ll put it off until we have to talk about it, and when we do talk about it, then we get in a pickle because we’re not sure what people want,” Masters said. Hiding from death can have other consequences, as well. Cultural unease and inexperience with death can affect how we approach loved ones as they die. “If we’re uncomfortable with death, if someone is dying, we may be unwilling to visit them because we don’t know what to say, when in reality we don’t need to say anything,” Masters said. “We may be less available to comfort them.” Avoidance of death can also impact vulnerable members of society who are not actively dying, Masters warned. “Our uncomfortableness with dying may be symptomatic of our desire to control dying and death,” she said. When that control or the fear of becoming a “burden” gives way to conversations about physician-assisted suicide, she continued, “we look at the most vulnerable and say ‘are they really worthy of living, think of all the resources they’re taking up?’” “Each step in that slope, it gets easier to get rid of people who are no longer valuable or are vulnerable. Yet don’t we learn from the vulnerable?” she questioned. “They’re the ones who teach the strong what’s most valuable in life.” But Masters also sees a desire to move towards a broader discussion of how to die well. She pointed to the spread of Death Cafes and other guided discussion groups that encourage conversations about death, dying and preparation for the end of life. Churches can offer a similar kinds of programming, she suggested: “People want to talk about it, they just need the place to do that.”What does it mean to have a ‘happy death’? While a person may plan for their death, ultimately the circumstances of one’s passing will be out of their control. However, everyone can aspire to a “good” or “happy” death, said Fr. Michael Witczak, an associate professor of liturgical studies at The Catholic University of America. He told CNA that the essential qualities of a happy death are being in a state of grace and having a good relationship with God. The idea of a happy death, or at the very least the aspiration of it, gained popular consideration in the Ars Moriendi – a collection of 15th Century Catholic works laying out the “Art of Dying,” he noted. The texts elaborate on the temptations – such as despair – that face the dying, questions to ask the dying, advice for families and friends, how to imitate Christ’s life, and prayers for the bedside. Resources such as these, from ages of the Church that had a more daily experience of death, Fr. Witczak suggested, can be a good resource for beginning to live “intentionally” and to think more about death and how to die well. Masters agreed that intentionality is key in shifting the cultural mindset on death and dying. “What if people approached death with the same joy that they greet the birth of a new baby?” she asked. It’s a fitting analogue, she argues. Both processes – birth and death – are the defining markers of human life, and natural processes that all the living will experience. Both processes also open the door to a similar set of unknowns: What comes next? What will it be like afterwards? How will we cope? She added that the modern tendency to view death with suspicion and trepidation – or to ignore it altogether – reflects something about the culture. “If we’re so afraid of death and dying, I have to wonder if we’re also afraid of life and living.”Last wishes Discussing death is the first step in making practical preparations for it. Without planning, Masters said, loved ones may not know a person’s preferences for treatment, finances, or funeral preparations, which can lead to sometimes sharp divides between friends and family. “When we get comfortable talking about death,” she noted, “we can let people know what our wishes are, so that hopefully our wishes are followed.” Thorough planning includes setting advanced directives and establishing a power of attorney who can make medical decisions on one’s behalf if one is unable to do so. It is also important to be aware of different care options in an individual’s geographic location. These include palliative care, which focuses on improving quality and length of life while decreasing the need for additional hospital visits. Not just limited to end-of-life situations, palliative care is available for a range of long-term illnesses, and seeks to relieve pain rather than cure an underlying condition. Hospice care is also an option when the end of life approaches. At this point, the goal is no longer to extend the length of life, but to prepare for death, trying to alleviate pain and offer comfort, while also helping mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to prepare for death. Funeral planning and creating a will are also important steps in the preparation process. Even for the young or those without material possessions, planning for one’s death can be useful for grieving friends and family members, Masters said. She explained that the idea of creating an “ethical will” is a Jewish tradition in which a person writes a letter or spiritual autobiography, leaving behind the values and morals they found important in their life to pass on to the next generation. The practice, which is growing in popularity, is available to anyone “to put down into words what’s given their life meaning,” and can have special meaning for those who “feel, because they don’t have a lot of wealth or a lot of possessions, that they have nothing to leave their family.” Masters pointed to a student of hers who wrote an ethical will shortly before passing away in college and the example of her own grandparents instilling the recitation of the Rosary as people who left behind some of their most meaningful gifts to their loved ones. “It’s a testament to what that person believed in. What a gift that is!” Paul Malley, president of the non-profit group Aging with Dignity, stressed that planning the more specific details of end-of-life care can help respect a person’s dignity during illness or on the deathbed. “Those who are at the end of life, whether they may be suffering with a serious illness or disability, tend to have their dignity questioned,” he told CNA. The sick and dying are often isolated, receiving care from medical professionals, he explained. And while advanced care planning often focuses on decisions regarding feeding tubes, ventilators, and other medical treatment options, that discussion “doesn’t tell your family anything about what dignified care means to you.” “It’s important not to just talk about caregiving in terms of medical issues,” Malley stressed. “That’s a small fraction of a day – the rest of the day plays out at the bedside.” Aging with Dignity promotes planning for acts of comfort, spiritual issues and family relationships in order to make the time surrounding death easier and more dignified for all involved. “These issues were never talked about when it came to end-of-life care or advanced care planning.” Among some of the requests participants make, he elaborated, are small acts of comfort like cool cloths on a forehead, pictures of loved ones in a hospital room, favorite blankets on a bed, or requests for specific family or friends to come visit. Planning to incorporate what Malley calls “the lost art of caregiving,” was important to his own family when his grandmother died. “One of the most important things for her was that she always wanted to have her feet poking out of the blanket because her feet were hot,” he recalled. Although nurses and care providers would often bundle her feet up to try to keep her warm, her family was able to untuck her feet afterwards so she could stay comfortable. “That might be something that sounds very trivial, very small, but for her, for my grandmother, laying in that bed where she couldn’t get up and couldn’t reach down to pull up her own blanket, having her feet stick out at the edge of the blanket was probably the most important thing to her all day long,” Malley said.The end of the earthly pilgrimage For Catholics, spiritual preparation for death should always include the sacraments, Fr. Witczak said. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, important for all the faithful throughout their lives, is a particularly important spiritual medicine for those nearing death. Additionally, Anointing of the Sick should be sought for those who have begun to be in danger of death due to sickness or old age, and it can be repeated if the sick person recovers and again becomes gravely ill, or if their condition becomes more grave. “The Church wants people to celebrate the sacrament as often as they need to,” Fr. Witczak said. The Eucharist can also be received at the end of life as “viaticum,” which means “with you on the way.” “It’s receiving the Lord who will be with you on the way to the other side,” said Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., vice president and academic dean at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies. He added that the Eucharist can be received as viaticum more than once, should a person recover, and can also be given even if someone has already received the Eucharist earlier during the day.A good death is a gift Prayer, reception of the sacraments, and seeking forgiveness from God and one another can mark death as a time of peace, Fr. Petri said. Death can also be a time of surprise, as it “either amplifies the way a person has lived their life or it causes a complete reversal,” with some people undergoing profound conversions or surprising hardenings of the heart during their last days. “Much of it really does really on the will of God,” he reflected, adding that we should all pray for the grace of a holy death. Dying a happy death is not only a blessing for the person dying, but can be a gift to others as well, Fr. Petri said, noting that family and friends can be drawn closer to one another and to God as the result of a holy death. Masters agreed, adding that “the dying can serve as examples or role models,” by teaching others how to die without fear. Ultimately, Fr. Witczak said, Christians “do” death differently because Christians “do” life differently. “I think as human beings, death is a topic we’re afraid of and we’re told not to think about, and the Christian tradition keeps trying to bring it before people, not to scare people, but rather to remind people of their ultimate destiny,” he said. “This is not simple and it’s something people ultimately have to learn for themselves, but it’s the important task of life. I think what the Church tries to do is to help people live their life fully and even live their death as an entryway into the life that is promised to us by Jesus Christ.” Looking toward death and the vulnerability that surrounds it can be a vital way of encountering death – and overcoming the fear of it, he said. Masters agreed, noting that those who have had encounters with death or profound suffering often “look at life differently.” “They understand it is so fleeting. But because they know how close death is they look at life in a different way.” For many people, this different approach to life includes an increased focus on family, friends and service, she said. “That’s how you’re remembered at the end of the day: what did you do for other people?” Starting with even the most basic conversations about death, she added, can be beneficial for those wanting to confront mortality. “When you can acknowledge that you’re going to die, you can begin to live your life.” Read more

Bishop Morlino: don’t let funeral controversy overshadow Christ’s love

Madison, Wis., Nov 2, 2017 / 12:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, misconceptions and negativity are dominating the reaction to his diocese’s private message to priests about funeral rites for people in a same-sex union… Read more

On All Souls’ Day, Pope Francis prays for an end to war

Albano Laziale, Italy, Nov 2, 2017 / 09:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- We should beg God to put an end to the violence and destruction wrought by war, especially as the world seems to prepare for another conflict, Pope Francis said on All Souls’ Day. Today “the world is at war again and is preparing itself to go more heavily into war. No more, Lord! No more! With war, you lose everything!” the Pope said Nov. 2. “This is what we should say today; that we pray for all the dead, but in this place we pray in a special way for these young people (killed in war).” Pope Francis said gave a short homily at Mass for All Souls’ Day at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, an Italian cemetery for American personnel killed in World War II. Located a little more than 20 miles south of Albano Laziale and dedicated in 1956, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery covers 77 acres. There are 7,860 servicemen buried there and in a chapel on the grounds are the names of 3,095 servicemen who went missing in action. Most of those who are buried in the Nettuno cemetery died in the liberation of Sicily, the landings at Salerno and Anzio, and in air and naval support of these operations in 1943 and 1944. In recent tradition, popes have said an All Souls’ Day Mass at Rome’s Campo Verano cemetery, founded in the 19th century. Pope Francis did the same for the first three years of his pontificate, though in 2016 he chose to say the All Souls’ Day Mass at Rome’s Prima Porta Cemetery instead. All those present at the cemetery today are “gathered together in hope,” he said. But often this hope has its roots in human suffering, such as the suffering of war. But it is “better to hope without this destruction,” he pointed out and without the death of “thousands upon thousands” of young people. Therefore, he said, “if today is a day of hope, today is also a day of tears.” Tears just like those cried by the women who mourn the death of a husband or a child who has died in service to their homeland. “It’s tears that humanity today must not forget,” he emphasized. The Pope explained that pride is the vice which leads people to seek solutions to problems through a declaration of war, and that humanity “has not learned the lesson” nor does it seem to “want to learn it.” Francis concluded by reminding that today is a day to pray for all the dead, but that we should pray especially for those young people killed in war and buried in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. “We also pray,” he continued, “for the dead of today, the dead of war, even innocent children. This is the fruit of war: death.”   Read more

Canadian doctors face questions over assisted suicide, euthanasia for minors

Ottawa, Canada, Nov 2, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Only one year after assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia became legal for adults in Canada, a new study is showing that some of the country’s pediatricians are being faced with questio… Read more

What society can learn from the Catholic Church regarding child protection

Denver, Colo., Nov 2, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One month after an avalanche of sexual assault accusations were lobbed against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, another Hollywood scandal broke. This week, actor Anthony Rapp accused actor Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting him as a minor. Spacey apologized, but said he didn’t remember the encounter, and also took the opportunity to come out as gay. In the early 2000s, the Catholic Church in the United States was also reeling from a sex abuse crisis when the Boston Globe broke the story of a former priest who was accused of molesting 130 minors, mostly young boys, over the course of more than 30 years. This led to a large-scale uncovering of thousands more allegations of abuse in dioceses throughout the country. Since then, the Church has put into place numerous policies and practices to protect children from sexual abuse, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Charter for Child and Youth Protection. The charter, implemented in 2002, obligates all compliant dioceses and eparchies to provide resources both for victims of abuse and resources for abuse prevention. Each year, the USCCB releases an extensive annual report on the dioceses and eparchies, including an audit of all abuse cases and allegations, and recommended policy guidelines for dioceses. Dr. Elizabeth A. Heidt Kozisek is a psychologist and the director of the Child Protection Office for the Diocese of Grand Island, which is in compliance with the charter. Her diocese, like most throughout the country, has an abuse prevention program called Safe Environment training that is required for all adult employees and volunteers within the diocese, which trains them in preventing abuse, recognizing warning signs, and reporting incidents of abuse. They also provide children in the diocese with education on appropriate relationships, Kozisek said. “We educate children and youth in the qualities of right relationships and what to do when a relationship isn’t right; and provide continuing education for youth and adults with a goal of helping all experience right relationships throughout their lifespan,” she said. “We strive to create a culture of healing and protection, where fostering right relationships, building resilience, and promoting healing are an integral part of who and how we are with children and youth, rather than merely a series of programs.” Kozisek added that the USCCB charter provides the basic guidelines and principles for child protection in the U.S. dioceses, which then implement them with some specific considerations for their individual communities and the resources available within them. When abuse allegations are reported, Kozisek said the protocol is first to report the abuse to local law enforcement authorities and to Child Protective Services. The accused person is immediately suspended from ministry pending a legal and internal investigation. If someone is legally charged, they are immediately barred from ministry. Even if an accused individual is not legally charged, but the internal investigation still finds them “unfit for ministry”, they are removed from their employment or volunteer position, Kozisek said. The Archdiocese of New York is also compliant with the USCCB charter, and has trained more than 100,000 people in providing a safe environment for children. Edward Mechmann, director of public policy for the New York archdiocese, told CNA that the local Church has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to sexual abuse of minors, and that they also follow the protocol of having both legal and internal investigations of each allegation of abuse. “At the conclusion of our investigation, if the accused is a cleric we submit the case to the Advisory Review Board for evaluation,” he said. “If they determine that the allegation is substantiated, then a recommendation is made to the cardinal that the cleric be permanently removed from ministry. If the accused is a layperson, and we determine that the allegation is substantiated, then they are discharged from employment or volunteer service and permanently barred from any ministry. As a result, we have a zero tolerance policy that applies equally to clergy and laity.” Last year, the USCCB found widespread compliance throughout the country in their annual report on the implementation of the charter. The report, carried out by the bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board, found that 189 dioceses and eparchies were compliant with the charter and one diocese was partially compliant, specifically with Articles 12 and 13, which require proof that training programs are in place and that background checks are conducted on employees, clerics, and volunteers. The one diocese not fully compliant is that of Lincoln, though according to the report the diocese plans to fully participate in the audit next year. According to the 2016 report, 386 out of the 838 people who reported past abuse as minors accepted diocesan outreach and healing, and continued support was provided to 1,646 victims. Mechmann said the key to combating abuse is combating a culture of abuse, which the Church has worked hard to do since the scandal of the early 2000s. The Church continuously reviews and updates recommended abuse prevention and reporting procedures and strives for full disclosure and a zero-tolerance policy of abuse. “In the area of child protection, the corporate culture is the most important element. In the Church, we have successfully made child protection a key part of our regular course of business and we have made it unequivocally clear that any kind of sexual sin against minors is utterly unacceptable,” he said. “We have put into place strong policies that are aimed to prevent any abuse. These policies are taken very seriously by the leadership of the Church (laity and clergy alike) who have all demonstrated repeatedly that they are committed to the program. We have demonstrated over and over again that we are open to receiving complaints, we take all allegations seriously, we vigorously investigate them, and we are firm in correcting any problem,” he said. Hollywood, he noted, could learn from the Church’s work in combating a culture of abuse. “The contrast with the entertainment industry couldn’t be more stark – there is clearly a corporate culture of sexual vice, there is no commitment to cleaning out the bad elements, and they are doing little or nothing to prevent further abuse.” The USCCB declined to comment on this story. Read more

Theologian resigns from USCCB committee after publishing letter to Pope Francis

Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2017 / 05:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission has resigned his position as a consultant to the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, following the publication of a letter written to Pope Francis asking the Pope to correct the “chronic confusion” of his pontificate, which he says “fosters within the faithful a growing unease.” Father Thomas Weinandy, OFM, Cap., who previously served as Executive Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Doctrine, sent the five-page letter to Pope Francis July 31, the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Weinandy told Crux that he sent the letter after a powerful experience of discernment convinced him that “Jesus wanted me to write something” that would “be of help to Pope Francis, to the Church, and to the faithful.” In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, James Rogers, Chief Communications Officer of the USCCB, said that “after speaking with the General Secretary of the Conference today, Father Thomas Weinandy, OFM, Cap., has resigned, effective immediately, from his position as consultant to the USCCB Committee on Doctrine. The work of the Committee is done in support of, and in affective collegiality with, the Holy Father and the Church in the United States. Our prayers go with Father Weinandy as his service to the Committee comes to a close.” Weinandy’s letter, published by Crux on Wednesday, addressed five points. Weinandy told the Pope that his pontificate had fostered confusion, diminished the importance of doctrine in the Church’s life, appointed bishops who teach and act in harmful ways, fostered a culture of fear among bishops, and caused faithful Catholics to lose confidence in the papacy. The letter also expressed Weinandy’s “love for the Church and sincere respect” for the office of the Pope. The priest expressed hope that by recognizing “darkness, the Church will will humbly need to renew herself, and so continue to grow in holiness.” Father Thomas Petri, OP, academic dean of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, told CNA that Weinandy “is a theologian of the highest caliber,” and that the “letter to His Holiness is quite obviously written with a deep filial piety and loyalty to both our Holy Father Pope Francis and to the Church.” “There is no need to continue to litigate theological points in the public square and so Father Weinandy says directly but, I think, charitably what he believes is on many people’s minds. Many priests are confronted daily by members of the lay faithful expressing confusion and concern in reports they read or hear about Pope Francis and his advisors,” Petri added. Chad Pecknold, professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, agreed. Weinandy “is arguably the most distinguished Franciscan theologian working in the English language today,” Pecknold told CNA. “He is a theologian centered in the Church, and not at all at her outermost fringe. So his letter carries the weight of the center.” “Rather than presume to correct, Father Weinandy describes the current situation, and informs the Holy Father that what seems to many like ‘intentionally ambiguous’ teaching has led to confusion, leading some of his own advisors to publicly advance error….There is something admirable about the impassioned plea of a son of St. Francis writing to Pope Francis, in truth and love, as a son to a father. His love for the pope is evident throughout his appeal.” While Pecknold called Weinandy’s letter “deferential,” he told CNA “it is certainly reasonable to ask whether it should have been published in the media.” Jacob Wood, theology professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, raised similar concerns. “If Father Weinandy’s intention is fraternal correction, publishing his letter might not be the best way to go about it,” Wood told CNA. “It is easy for our intentions to get warped when treated in the mass media by people who don’t share the perspective of faith. There does exist some danger of scandal.” Weinandy told Crux that he published the letter because it “expresses the concerns of many more people than just me, ordinary people who’ve come to me with their questions and apprehensions,” adding: “I wanted them to know that I listened.” RR Reno, editor of First Things magazine, and formerly a professor of theology at Creighton University, told CNA that publishing letters like Weinandy’s can be helpful to Catholics. “Weinandy’s letter is an attempt to clearly state problems we face,” Reno said. “Everyone in the Church has a role – priests laity and bishops – and each of us is going to have to make a discernment how best to serve the Church in the current climate. We have to discuss how to move forward in this pontificate as loyal members of the Church,” he said, adding that Weinandy’s letter is a helpful catalyst for such discussion. Reno also said that publicizing letters like Weinandy’s “aids people who are in positions of responsibility,” in the Church, “providing some support for those who want to address the challenges the Church is facing.” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, “on the nature of dialogue within the Church,” which he said was occasioned by the publication of Weinandy’s letter and his resignation. DiNardo said that theological debates are often the subject of media attention, which “is to be expected and is often good.” DiNardo added that theologians and bishops should make every effort to interpret the Holy Father’s teaching charitably, and that all Catholics should “acknowledge that legitimate differences exist” among Catholics, “and that it is the work of the Church, the entire body of Christ, to work towards an ever-growing understanding of God’s truth.” Father Charles L. Sammons, OFM Cap, told CNA that he lived with Weinandy in 2015. “I experienced Fr. Thomas as an uncomplicated and earnest person who simply loved the Lord and his Church, and didn’t seem to have many concerns apart from that. I remarked to myself more than once that this seemed like a blessed way to live,” Sammons told CNA. Sammons said that time with Weinandy “had been given to me as a grace of good example, for my own religious life as a Capuchin friar.” Read more

Notre Dame to cut birth control coverage for faculty, students

South Bend, Ind., Nov 1, 2017 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The University of Notre Dame has announced to its employees and students that it plans to end birth control coverage in 2018, following broad religious exemptions recently added to the federal contraceptive mandate.According to Indiana Public Media, the University sent out letters to staff and students Oct. 27 informing them of the coming changes, which will go into effect in January 2018 and August 2018 respectively. Notre Dame is taking advantage of recently-added religious exemptions to the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which were announced by the Department of Health and Human Services Oct. 6. Father John Jenkins, president of the university, welcomed the changes because “critical issues of religious freedom were at stake.” “For that reason, we welcome this reversal and applaud the attorney general’s statement that ‘except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law,'” he said in an Oct. 6 statement. Previously, the Catholic university was one of several organizations that sued the government over the federal contraceptive mandate, which required most organizations to provide birth control coverage either directly or through a third party service. As a Catholic institution, Notre Dame objected to this mandate on the grounds that all forms of contraception are against Catholic moral teaching. The university, along with dozens of other Catholic institutions, argued in the lawsuit that the third party option would still make them cooperate in an act to which they were morally opposed. A federal judge ruled that the mandate did not infringe on the university’s religious freedom, and Notre Dame was legally obligated to allow for contraceptive coverage through the third party service. Now, the new broadening of exemptions to the contraceptive mandate on religious or moral grounds will allow the university to drop all coverage of birth control. Notre Dame will still cover birth control medications or procedures if they are being used as a treatment for other medical problems, such as endometriosis. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, challenging the new religious exemptions. The recent expansion of religious and moral exemptions to the contraceptive mandate was issued the same day that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined new principles of religious freedom that federal agencies and departments were to adopt. Speaking to CNA Oct. 6, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said the new religious freedom protections, including the contraception exemptions, were a “victory for the First Amendment, and a victory for all Americans, even those who don’t agree with the Church’s” teaching on contraception. “I think it restores a balance that was lacking,” said the archbishop, who is chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty. “It permits us to do our ministries” without violating Catholic moral principles, he added. Read more

Cardinal Wuerl: We must address the challenge of racism

Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new pastoral letter on racism, the Archbishop of Washington has encouraged Catholics to recognize the dignity of every human person, and to address the challenges – both subtle and ob… Read more

Cardinal Wuerl: We must address the challenge of racism

Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new pastoral letter on racism, the Archbishop of Washington has encouraged Catholics to recognize the dignity of every human person, and to address the challenges – both subtle and ob… Read more




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