Ahead of the synod, LGBT activists lobby bishops. Here’s what they want.

Rome, Italy, Oct 2, 2015 / 03:08 pm (CNA).- As the Synod on the Family approaches, a well-funded LGBT activist coalition is lobbying bishops to revive controversial language from the debates of the 2014 extraordinary synod. It also advocates that the synod adopt the practices of dissenting Catholic groups. The European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups is among the organizers of the “Ways of Love” conference of LGBT Catholic activists and their allies. The conference will be held in Rome Oct. 3, just ahead of the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family. The Forum’s event is distinct from – and even opposed to – the Living the Truth in Love conference, held Oct. 2 at the Angelicum by Courage, Ignatius Press, and the Napa Institute, which aimed at welcome and accompaniment, aligned with Church teaching, to Catholics with homosexual tendencies. Michael Brinkschroeder, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups’ Catholic coordinator, is inviting bishops to attend the conference. In an e-mail sent to several bishops and obtained by CNA, he said he and his allies see the Church as engaged in “a process of spiritual discernment” that “will lead the Church to greater respect for the dignity of persons who identify as lesbian or gay, our love and partnerships − including their sexual expression − and our families.” He said the conference puts forward “best practices for pastoral projects with LGBT people and their families from all regions of the world.” The European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups has been the recipient of at least two Arcus Foundation grants totalling over $390,000 for several activities, including advocacy related to the Synod on the Family. These activities include the forum’s response to “homophobic Catholic church family synod decisions” and efforts to “pursue its successful strategy of shifting traditional views.” The grants also fund the drafting, testing and use of “a counter-narrative to traditional values,” including a special focus on “advocacy opportunities” such as the 2015 Catholic Synod on the Family, according to the forum’s annual report and grant announcements from the U.S.-based foundation. The European Forum is a founding member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, a new activist coalition which includes the dissenting Catholic groups New Ways Ministry and Dignity USA. These U.S.-based groups recently called for same-sex unions to become a sacrament of the Church. On June 23 the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics proposed its own language for the final document of the 2015 synod. Its preferred language was published on the website of the European Forum. The activist network said the synod should follow “positive pastoral ministry” and encourage renewed “theological reflections on human sexuality and gender identity” in a way that would work towards what it called “the right integration of ortho-praxis and ortho-doxy.” It said the synod should propose a three- to five-year “discernment process” at global and local levels of the Church in order to “involve homosexual people, including those living in long-term, stable relationships as well as those who are single or celibate, their children and parents, experienced pastoral ministers, and theologians, as well as relevant dicasteries of the Holy See.” This process would reflect upon “examples of positive pastoral experience and ongoing theological, anthropological and scientific study.” The Catholic Church’s 2015 synod on the vocation and mission of the family will be held Oct. 4-25. In preparation, the Church held an extraordinary synod in October 2014. The 2014 synod’s mid-term working summary of the debate, known as a relatio, became the topic of serious debate and also sensational headlines that claimed the Church was changing its teaching. Many bishops countered these speculations, but some bishops also criticized the document itself for having confusing and even erroneous language on topics such as the pastoral response to same-sex couples, or people who have divorced and contracted a civil remarriage. The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics wants the synod to reinstate some of this controversial language, though their proposal leaves out the original document’s comments recognizing the moral problems of homosexual unions. The activists’ proposal does include the relatio’s language about the “gifts and qualities” of homosexuals. It also copies a preliminary English-language translation of the relatio which said that “the question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge.” The activist network also included the mid-synod document’s statement about mutual aid being a “precious support” for same-sex partners. “Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority,” it said. The activist network linked this sentence to a passage from the working document for the 2014 synod: when same-sex couples request a child’s baptism, “the child must be received with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children.” The European Forum had praised the mid-term relatio, but was critical of the 2014 synod’s final document. In October 2014 Brinkschroeder characterized the outcome as “a disaster for gays and lesbians.” The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops prepared the working document for the 2015 synod, known as an instrumentum laboris. It rejects any equivalence between same-sex unions and God’s plan for marriage and the family. It also insists on respect and sensitivity towards those with a homosexual tendency and repeats Catholic teaching against unjust discrimination. It recommends that dioceses devote “special attention” to accompanying homosexual persons and their families. The document rejected pressure on the Church, and also rejected international efforts to link financial assistance to poor countries with efforts to introduce gay marriage. According to Brinkschroeder’s email to bishops, the “Ways of Love” conference keynote speaker will be Bishop José Raúl Vera López of Saltillo. In 2011, the Mexican bishop met with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, to discuss his support of a diocesan ministry that advocated positions on homosexuality contrary to Catholic teaching. The ministry later separated from the diocese. Bishop Vera was also head of two NGOs that promoted the legalization of abortion in Mexico. Also at the conference will be former Irish president Mary McAleese, a vocal gay marriage advocate. She will be interviewed by Robert Mickens, a National Catholic Reporter columnist. Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, is among the speakers, as is Martin Pendergast of the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council. The speakers include three Jesuit priests: Fathers Pedro Labrín of Chile, Pino Piva of Italy, and Kenya-based Terry Charlton. Father Charlton’s name was removed from a later version of the conference website, which described the speaker as “a priest working in Africa whose superior requested anonymity.” The remaining speakers are Rungrote Tangsurakit of Thailand and Sister Anna Maria Vitagliani of Italy. The 2014 “Ways of Love” conference’s keynote speaker was Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, who authored a book which was rebuked by Australia’s bishops for doctrinal problems. Some members of the global network, including New Ways Ministry and Dignity USA, have faced rebuke from Catholic officials on grounds they do not represent Catholic teaching. The two U.S. groups have received funding from the Arcus Foundation. Other members of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics include the Polish group Wiara I Tecza, the Italian group Nuova Proposta, the Chilean group PADIS, and the Maltese group Drachma. The European Forum’s activities report said the global network was organizing advocacy efforts towards the Curia and synod participants. CNA sought comment from the European Forum but did not receive a response by deadline. Brinkschroeder’s e-mail invitation to bishops included a series of interviews with self-identified LGBT Catholics in the west African countries of Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. He said they face exclusion from family, loss of work, and blackmail. The European Forum’s annual report said the project was a reaction to “the extremely negative influence from bishops from Western Africa on the final document of the Family Synod 14.” The project had intended to interview people in Cameroon. Fastenopfer told CNA that the effort was intended for “sensibilization [sic] regarding the second Synod of the Family.”   Fastenopfer’s foundation board is headed by Bishop Felix Gmur of Basel, though his approval was not needed to fund the Africa project. Bishop Gmur was an attendee at what critics have called the “Shadow Council,” a secretive May 25 meeting of Swiss, French, and German bishops and theologians at the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Some of the attendees advocated changing Catholic teaching on homosexual acts. LGBT activism has already had a “long pattern” of disrupting Christian groups in the United States, said John Lomperis, the United Methodist director at the ecumenical think tank Institute for Religion and Democracy. “It appears that they see American churches as institutions that can be usefully hijacked for their political agendas, or else torn apart if they refuse to get with the program,” said Lomperis.   “There are very focused, well-funded efforts to develop strategic slogans to try to reshape the narratives and discussions within the churches in really misleading and theologically vacuous ways.” He added that activists can be extremely focused on engaging the media. “They seek to use media coverage as a weapon to embarrass, shame, and pressure church leaders who disagree with them. They can increasingly rely on a biased mainstream media in the U.S. and other Western nations to be very willing accomplices.” Activists’ voices are highlighted in a way that creates “very misleading narratives” about division in churches when official church teaching is clear, according to Lomperis. He said mainline Protestant denominations faced problems with some activists “essentially lying their way through ordination” and claiming to agree with church doctrine “so that they can go on to undermine the church’s own standards from within the ranks of clergy.” “It’s just naïve to think that any Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant church is immune from the dangers of this,” he said. “Activists very forcefully target weak points and apparent loopholes in the structures of the churches they seek to divert from biblical and historic Christian teaching, especially when they suspect a church leader is weak or quietly sympathetic.” Lomperis said his eccesial community has allowed denominational meetings to be “disruptively taken over” by the protest group Love Prevails. He said that Episcopalians and the Anglican Communion have suffered “a massive, traumatic, and still ongoing global split” due to the rise of LGBT activism. He recommended that churches targeted by such activism respond by being “faithful, pastoral, and non-naïve.” “It is critical to not be naïve about the nature and the unprincipled tactics of the movement to silence church disapproval of homosexual practice as well as extra-marital sex more generally,” he continued. “Never make the error of thinking that any appeasement of such activists will accomplish anything beyond making things far worse and more difficult for your church in the long run.” Read more

What to expect from this year’s synod of bishops

Vatican City, Oct 2, 2015 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the synod’s schedule and methodology were rolled out ahead of its launch this weekend, some novelties came along with it, such as no midterm report and a heightened emphasis on the small groups. Set to take place Oct. 4-25, this year’s ordinary synod will reflect on the theme “Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the family” and will gather 279 cardinals, bishops and representatives from all over the world. Each day of the synod will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions, similar to last year. However, with a longer overall duration, the gathering will be divided into three parts, with each week dedicated to one of the three sections of the synod’s guiding document. Released in June, the synod’s “Instrumentum Laboris” builds on the final report of last October’s extraordinary synod, and incorporates suggestions from Church entities like bishops’ conferences and even individuals who freely sent their opinions. The first part, titled “Listening to the challenges of the family,” focuses mainly on themes surrounding last year’s synod, and will be the topic of the first five days of this year’s ordinary synod. Afterward, discussion will shift to the second part, titled “Discernment of the family vocation,” before culminating with the third, “The mission of the family today.” Both of the final parts will address the new themes to be discussed this year. The schedule and new method were presented by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi and the Secretary General of the synod of Bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, during an Oct. 2 press briefing. Cardinal Baldisseri explained that although there will be no midterm report during this year’s synod, all of the reports of the small groups will be published and available to the press. However, due to time constraints, official translations into the rest of the languages will not be available. Divided by language into 13 groups with around 20 members each, there will be one German group, four in English, three in Spanish, two in Italian and three in French. Groups were determined by both the language of participants and the requests of the synod fathers. Fr. Lombardi said that the publication of the small group reports is really “the novelty” of this synod, since last year they were only published once, and now they will be published after each of the three synod phases. Small groups will meet in total 13 times throughout the three-week gathering. Also distinct from last year is the fact that there will be no midterm report. However, the synod fathers will draft an initial report summarizing the discussions of the first week, and will continue to develop the document throughout the following two weeks of discussion. The synod will officially be opened by Pope Francis Sunday, Oct. 4, with a special inauguration Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Discussion will formally begin the following day with speeches from Cardinal Baldisseri as well as the synod General Relator, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who will expose the first theme. Afterward, a married couple auditing will have the chance to speak. Cardinal Baldisseri said it is still unknown whether or not Pope Francis will speak at the opening discussion, but said they at least expect the Pope to stop by for a greeting. Discussion will then continue with the synod fathers in the General Congregations. Each participant will have three minutes to speak, but are able at any point to provide a text expressing more of their thoughts. After the initial general meetings take place, there will be several small group sessions, during which the participants will reflect on the Instrumentum and develop it with their own thoughts and input. When the small group sessions finish, one member from each will give a brief presentation of their work in the synod hall, which will then be made public. This process will be repeated for the three stages of the synod discussion. At the end of the three-week gathering, a special 10-member global commission nominated by Pope Francis will draft the final synod report. The members include: Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest (Hungary), Rapporteur General; Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the General Secretary; Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto (Italy); Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay (India); Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington (United States of America); Cardinal John Atcherley Dew, archbishop of Wellington (New Zealand); Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (Argentina); Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan of Mouila (Gabon); Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano (Italy); Father Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, superior general of the Society of Jesus, representing the Union of Superiors General. When the final synod document has been finished, it will, like last year, be voted on paragraph by paragraph with a required majority of 2/3 vote to be approved. However, the final approval of the report depends on Pope Francis. Cardinal Baldisseri stressed that it is still unknown whether the document, including the details of the voting, will be published like last year’s. That decision, he said, depends on the Pope. Conclusions from the synod discussion will then be used by Pope Francis to draft his first Post-Synodal Exhortation, which can be expected in 2016. Among the 279 participants are 74 cardinals, including one cardinal Patriarch and 2 major archbishops; six Patriarchs; one major archbishop; 72 archbishops, including three titular; 102 bishops, among whom are six auxiliaries, three apostolic vicars and one emeritus; two parish priests and 13 religious. There will also be 24 experts and collaborators, 51 auditors, both couples and individuals, and 14 fraternal delegates.   Read more

These African pastors want to maintain Christ’s love, and truth, at the synod

Vatican City, Oct 2, 2015 / 06:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ten prelates from Africa have stood up against a pastoral approach to new challenges to marriage and the family that would effectively modify the Church’s doctrine, by writing essays for a book meant to be a “contribution to the Synod onf the Family by African pastors.” This is the subtitle of Christ’s New Homeland – Africa, published this week by Ignatius Press, and which features a preface by Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship. In the book, cardinals and bishops from Africa tackles the main issues of the upcoming Synod on the Family; shed light on shortcomings in the synod’s instrumentum laboris (working document); stress the importance of formation of Christians; and face challenges such as polygamy and interreligious marriages. Above all, the African prelates claim the importance of their continent in facing secularizing trends, and explain that a strong faith is the best response to them. The book is divided in three parts: “The Synod on the Family: From one Assembly to Another”; “The Gospel of the Family”; and “Pastoral Care of Families that are Hurting”. There is also an epilogue, an “Appeal from the Church in Africa to the State”, which explains why governments should support families. The books contributors are Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship; Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Archbishop Denis Amuzu-Dzakpah of Lomé; Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Ouagadougou; Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa; Cardinal Christian Tumi, Archbishop Emeritus of Douala; Archbishop Antoine Ganye of Cotonou; Cardinal Théodore-Adrien Sarr, Archbishop Emeritus of Dakar; Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala; and Cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan. The first part of the book is constituted by two essays, by Cardinal Sarah and Bishop Adoukonou, critiquing the instrumentum laboris of the upcoming synod. Both found numerous deficiencies – “slippery language” and “treacherous expressions” among them –  in the synod’s working document, and underscored the role the  media has played in discussions leading up to the synod. According to Cardinal Sarah, “the media coverage of this debate gives the impression that, on the one hand, there are those who are in favor of ‘closed doctrine’ and, on the other hand, those who are for ‘pastoral openness’.” But – the cardinal underscored – “in reality, there is no doctrinal party opposed to a pastoral party; instead, both parties claim to be attached to the Church’s perennial doctrine and want pastoral practice to express God’s mercy toward everyone … Might there be some, then, who would argue for the continuation of a pastoral practice that, if it changed, would ipso facto modify the doctrine? Cardinal Sarah added that “new developments in pastoral practice would not mean changing doctrine, they maintain, but rather would allow the Church to make God’s loving heart more apparent and accessible.” He countered, however, that such “developments” would be “a sort of ‘mercy’ that accomplishes nothing but lets them seek deeper into evil.” “But could they seriously think that the bishops and cardinals who were warning about a real danger of doctrinal deviation have a fixed concept of pastoral practice? If God’s pedagogy changes, that of the Church should not become rigid,” concluded the prefect. He noted that the media who push for a change to pastoral practice “forget to say that now most practicing Christians are found no longer in the Northern Hemisphere but rather in the Young Churches.” Cardinal Sarah also highlighted some “perplexities” raised by the synod’s working document, especially as it seems to propose civil marriage as a preparation for  sacramental marriage. “To what population does the document address this reality of civil marriages as a preparation for sacramental marriage? To the baptized members of the Church or to sympathetic pagans in areas where an initial evangelization is being conducted? Unless it applies to the neo-pagans in the countries of former Christendom!” “Set God and doctrine aside, and you create a major pastoral confusion,” Cardinal Sarah wrote. Cardinal Sarah also underscored that “the Church’s pastoral ministry, as her pastors strive to conduct it in the Young Churches, has never outlawed from the community those who are in difficult marital situations. On the contrary, in most cases, they are active members in ecclesial life.” He then explained that “the fact that they do not go to sacramental Communion – which is not in their view a simple communal meal from which they would feel excluded – nevertheless does not diminish their profound desire to serve Jesus and his ecclesial community.” According to Cardinal Sarah, “the lack of a clear position and all the confusion that we note in the relatio synodi are obvious signs, not only of a deep crisis of faith, but also of an equally deep crisis in pastoral practice: pastors hesitate to set out clearly in one direction.” The instrumentum laboris, he said, reflects the malaise of the Church in the West, and that were the Church to allow the divorced-and-remarried to receive Communion, “why would we reject the lay faithful who had become polygamous? We would also have to remove ‘adultery’ from the list of sins.” Bishop Adoukonou wrote that “the fundamental methodological limitation that we observe in the document lies in the fact that it utilizes the resources of almost all the human and social sciences to put into context the topic of the family today without bringing to light the most important background, namely, the historical choices that led to this disaster.” A clear position is needed, says Bishop Adookonou. Citing the rise of the Islamic State caliphate, similar efforts in the Sahel and that “other extremist movements seek to set up radical Islamic regimes everywhere, which confuse decadent Western civilization with Christianity, we have the obligation to set ourselves apart from that postmodern civilization, not out of fear or by way of withdrawing into our own enclaves, but out of fidelity to our deep Christian and African identity,” he wrote. And he added: “For the sake of attracting people, we do not want to put ourselves into situations that would compromise our values, under the illusion of being open to the world in that way.” Bishop Adokonou also declared that “conscious more than ever of this interdependence, Africa would like to remind the Church in the West that she could not possibly engage in a hermetically sealed dialogue with the postmodern world, while ridiculing other countries as though they were trapped in various forms of obscurantism that no one understands, without seriously compromising her faith and Christian roots.” The archbishop deems “unacceptable” the idea – contained in the Synod’s working document – that “the Gospel in itself is a burden from which the Church, out of mercy, ought to strive to relieve our poor contemporaries.” He went so far as to suggest that a section of the document “contains elements that are highly debatable and even in contradiction with Catholic doctrine.” Cardinal Souphraniel highlighted the Church’s importance in providing a correct education about marriage and family. The Church – he wrote – “prepares young couples for marriage. She provides religious education for children grades 1–12. She makes available Catholic schools from kindergarten to the university level, where truths of the faith and moral truths are part of the learning experience. She provides classes in Natural Family Planning, family counseling, and pastoral care, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation and forgiveness. She counteracts such contemporary trends as hedonism, abortion, euthanasia, and value-free sex education.” But the most important thing is that “she provides the sacraments, whereby every man, woman, and child can obtain the spiritual help he needs to resist temptation, to pursue virtuous living, and to grow in the worship and praise of God,” Cardinal Souphraniel underscored. Archbishop Kleda also shed light on the lack of education, especially for couples. In his words, “one last form of suffering that can be observed involves couples who are not well prepared for marriage, who have not understood the meaning of family life and have not agreed to give themselves totally to each other.” In the end, explains Cardinal Kutwa, “The family is and remains, in Africa as elsewhere in the world, society’s most precious resource. It is the place where one learns the importance of oneself, certainly, but also the importance of the other. No one is born alone and for himself alone.” This is one of the many reasons Cardinal Kutwa provides to explain why the state should support family. But the real, final rationale of the book is that of setting the core on Christian families who are fully living their vocation as Christian families. “The beautiful Christian families that are heroically living out the demanding values of the Gospel are today the real peripheries of our world and of our societies, which are going through life as though God did not exist,” wrote Cardinal Sarah. Read more

Vatican clarifies background on Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis

Vatican City, Oct 2, 2015 / 04:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After meeting with Pope Francis earlier this morning, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed that the Pope met with Kim Davis and her husband as part of a large group invited by the nunciature. In an Oct. 2 statement, Fr. Lombardi said that Pope Francis met with Davis alongside several dozen others who had been invited by the nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings “occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability,” he said, adding that the only specific audience granted by the Pope at the nunciature “was with one of his former students and his family.” Fr. Lombardi clarified that during Pope Francis’ meeting with Davis, the Pope “did not enter into the details” of her situation, and specified that the meeting with her “should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.” The spokesman answered questions about the meeting with Davis during an Oct. 2 press briefing for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family, saying that “I don’t have anything else to add at this moment.” Davis, a clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, has repeatedly made headlines for refusing out of conscience to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states in its decision, Obergefell v. Hodges. The district court judge ordered that Davis serve jail time for refusing to obey the law, stating that her conscientious objection was not enough for her to lawfully recuse herself from issuing licenses. Davis served five days in jail. Headlines have been circling the past few days after Roberty Moynihan, editor of the publication “Inside the Vatican,” broke the news about the meeting Sept. 30. The meeting was later confirmed by Davis’ attorney, Matthew Staver, to several news outlets. Fr. Thomas Rosica C.S.B., CEO of Salt and Light media foundation and the English language assistant to Holy See Press Office, told journalists Oct. 2 that as far as the Pope’s meeting with Davis goes, “I don’t think it’s a matter of being tricked as of being fully aware of the situation and its complexities.” “I don’t think anyone was willfully trying to trick the Pope,” he said, but clarified that the Pope had not been fully briefed on her situation, or the impact such a meeting would have. Fr. Rosica said that since Pope Francis had not been fully aware of Davis’ situation, he was not referring to her when he made his comments about a government employee’s right to conscientious objection on board the plane from Philadelphia to Rome. He also said he is unaware whether any U.S. bishop had known about the meeting in advance, and was not sure who orchestrated the meeting, if it had been the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, or the Davis’ lawyer. Although Fr. Rosica had been very involved in Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last week and was aware of the details, he said that no one really knew about the meeting with Davis and her husband until the Pope had returned to Rome. Read more

A Mexican exorcist advances on path to sainthood – courtesy of the Pope

Vatican City, Oct 2, 2015 / 04:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Among the eight causes for sainthood advanced by Pope Francis is a Mexican exorcist who lived during the time of the Cristero War, and was mentored by a bishop that has since been canonized. The Pope gave the green light to move the causes on to the next step in a private Sept. 30 audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican’s congregation for saint’s causes. Fr. Juan Manuel Martín del Campo was one of five priests recognized for heroic virtue, and who have now received the title of “Venerable,” only two steps away from canonization, which takes place after the requirement two miracles has been fulfilled. Born in in Lagos de Moreno, in the state of Jalisco, Dec. 14, 1917, Fr. Martín del Campo served as a priest for more than 50 years before his death, eight of which (1987-1995) were spent as the official exorcist for the Mexican diocese of Xalapa, Mexican newspaper “Diario de Xalapa” reports. Raised in a pious family, the priest would pray the rosary with his parents and siblings every day, and would receive a blessing from his mother, Ana, each night before he went to bed. One of his brothers, Fernando, also became a priest. He entered the seminary of Veracruz in the 1930s, during the time of Mexico’s Cristero War that was sparked by anti-clerical legislation being passed by the Mexican President Elías Calles in 1926. The laws banned religious orders, deprived the Church of property rights and denied priests civil liberties, including the right to trial by jury and the right to vote. The persecution became so fierce that some Catholics began to forcibly resist, fighting under the slogan and banner of “Cristo Rey” (Christ the King). Martín del Campo stood out as an exemplary student in the seminary, and was mentored by his bishop, Rafael Guízar y Valencia, who was canonized by Benedict XVI in 2006. In the midst of the persecution, when the seminary was still in hiding, Bishop Guízar y Valencia named the young seminarian coordinator of the group of students in charge of buying food for the seminary. In 1939 he was appointed to the ministry of acolyte – the person in charge of preparing all liturgical celebrations – by Bishop Guízar y Valencia’s successor, Manuel Pío López Estrada. Martín del Campo was ordained a priest Dec. 21, 1940, and afterward continued on at the Veracruz seminary as a professor and director and prefect of theologians until 1947. He became the Vicar of religious in April 1947, and seven years later, in 1954, was appointed the diocesan director of the Work of the Propagation of the Faith. Four years later the priest was put in charge of St. Jerome parish in Coatepec, where he continued to serve for the next 10 years. In 1970, he was appointed as Canon penitentiary for the Xalapa Cathedral. A canon penitentiary is a member of the cathedral’s chapter who serves as a general confessor of the diocese. After serving in that role for 15 years, he became the diocese’s exorcist until 1995, the year before he died. Fr. Martín del Campo passed away Aug. 13, 1996, in Xalapa. His remains have since been moved to the Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, inside the Church of St. Jerome in Coatepec in 2010. In addition to the exorcist, the heroic virtue was approved for four priests, a religious sister and a laywoman. The martyrdom of a priest and his four companions was also recognized, allowing for their beatification. Fr. Valentino Palencia Marquina and his four companions were recognized as having been killed in hatred for the faith July 15, 1937, in Spain. Sister Maria Benedetta Giuseppa Frey was one of those approved of heroic virtue. A Cistercian nun, she was born in Rome in 1836, and died May 10, 1913. Also approved of heroic virtue is Anna Chrzanowska, a Polish laywoman who was an Oblate with the Ursuline Sisters of St. Benedict. She was born in Varsavia in 1902, and died in Krakow April 29, 1973. The four priests approved of heroic virtue were Italians Fr. Giovanni Folci, founder of the Work of the Divine Prisoner who died in Colorina in 1963, and Fr. Antonio Filomeno Maria Losito of the Congregation of the Holy Redeemer, who was born in Puglia in 1838 and died in Pagani in July 1917. Spanish priest Giuseppe Rivera Ramírez of Toledo, Spain and Fr. Francesco Blachnicki of Rybnik, Poland were also approved of heroic virtue. Fr. Ramírez was born in 1925 and died in March 1991, and Fr. Blachnicki lived from 1921-1987, when he died in Germany. Read more

Dating apps could be leading to a rise in STDs – and Tinder isn’t happy about it

Denver, Colo., Oct 1, 2015 / 04:46 pm (CNA).- A new billboard linking dating apps with an increase in sexually transmitted disease rates spurred one app – Tinder – to issue a cease and desist order against the group behind it. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which posted the billboard in Los Angeles, said they hoped to raise awareness about increasing STD rates, which have been linked to an increase in dating app use. The billboard featured four silhouettes of men and women with the words “Tinder, Chlamydia; Grindr, Gonorrhea,” and encourages people to get tested. “Mobile dating apps are rapidly altering the sexual landscape by making casual sex as easily available as ordering a pizza,” Whitney Engeran-Cordova, a senior director at the foundation, said in a statement. “In many ways, location-based mobile dating apps are becoming a digital bathhouse for millennials wherein the next sexual encounter can literally just be a few feet away – as well as the next STD,” Engeran-Cordova said. While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many people use Tinder – the company claims 8 billion connections – in the past few years, the app has become one of the most widely-used dating apps. What sets Tinder apart in the online or mobile dating experience is speed and brevity. Based on a photo, first name, and age alone, users decide whether to swipe left (to pass) or right (to like). With GPS tracking, the app also tells users exactly how far away potential matches may be, making life even easier for those just looking for a quick hook-up.   However, Tinder contests that the new billboard unfairly smears the app. “These unprovoked and wholly unsubstantiated accusations are made to irreparably damage Tinder’s reputation in an attempt to encourage others to take an HIV test by your organization,” Tinder attorney Jonathan Reichman said in the letter, according to reports from the Los Angeles Times. But the problem of increased STDs with strong correlations to dating app use isn’t limited to California, and is not wholly unsubstantiated. Throughout the country, health departments are reporting an uptick in sexually transmitted diseases in patients, who are also increasingly reporting that they met their partners through location-based online or mobile dating services. In July 2015, the Rhode Island Department of Health found that rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia were at a 10-year high in the state. While health officials did not have firm numbers as to how many of these cases came about because of a dating app, they said they were alarmed at the rate with which infected patients said they met their partners through apps like Tinder. “We do not know how much social media has contributed to the rise in STDs, but we believe it is a contributing factor,” the Rhode Island health department said in a statement to the Globe. A September 2015 report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found a 56 percent increase in the number of early syphilis cases during January 1 to July 31 when compared to the same period in 2014. Nearly half of all reported cases – 47 percent – reported that they had used dating apps to find sexual partners. “So the state investigates each new case of syphilis and they ask people, ‘who do you think you got this from and where did you meet him or her?’ This particular syphilis outbreak, if you want to call it that, or trend, is mostly affecting men,” Dr. Sarah Rowan, Interim Director of HIV and Viral Hepatitis Prevention with Denver Public Health, said in an interview with Colorado Public Radio. “Ninety-eight percent of the cases have occurred in men. So they ask men, ‘where do you think that you met your partner?’ and about 50 percent say they met them through an internet app – Grindr, SCRUFF, Craigslist – so those may be associated. In some ways, internet apps make it harder to do some contact tracing – so to say, ‘well, let me find this person and ask them to get tested and ask their partners as well.” New York, Utah and Texas are also among the states reporting increased instances of syphilis and other STDs, with several health experts also linking these increases to dating apps.   Read more

In wake of Pope Francis, bishops urge Congress to move on religious freedom

Washington D.C., Oct 1, 2015 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Citing Pope Francis, the U.S. bishops are urging lawmakers act quickly to pass a bill that would reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, whose mandate expired yesterd… Read more

This event hopes to bring the voice of chaste, gay Catholics to the Synod

Rome, Italy, Oct 1, 2015 / 06:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An upcoming international conference in Rome is hoping to give a face to those with same-sex attraction living in accord with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality – and to help make their voice heard at the Synod on the Family. Centering on the pastoral needs of men and women who experience homosexual tendencies, the conference is partly in response to the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family, where persons with same-sex attraction did not have an adequate voice, according to one organizer. “There was a voice that was not heard at that synod,” said Fr. Paul Check, the director of the Courage Apostolate, a group which offers pastoral care and support for homosexual persons. “That is the voice of the person for whom homosexuality is a part of their story and their life.” While it is important that the Catholic catechism is “straightforward and precise” in its language on the subject of homosexuality, Fr. Check said this conference aims to bring the teaching a step further. “What we wanted to do,” he said, was “to put a face on the teaching of the Church in the lived experience of this person” with same-sex attraction. Their story, he said, includes those who had lived the gay lifestyle, but have since had a “change of heart.” “Their homosexuality is not vanquished by any means, but they see it in a different light,” he said. “They trust that what the Church teaches is true, and (that it) leads to fulfillment, even if it can be hard to live.” The conference, entitled: “Living the Truth in Love: Addressing the Pastoral Needs of Men and Women with Homosexual Tendencies” will take place in Rome’s Pontifical Thomas Aquinas University – or, the Angelicum – on Friday, Oct. 2. Organized by Courage, Ignatius Press, and the Napa Institute, the gathering was intentionally scheduled to take place as close to the Synod on the Family as possible. At least two of the Synod fathers will take part in the event: French Guinea’s Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Divine Worship, and Australia’s Cardinal George Pell, prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy. In 2014, a preparatory document for last year’s Synod, known as the Instrumentum Laboris, touched on questions facing families today, including the pastoral concerns with regard to persons with same-sex attraction. “It requested that we in the Church be thinking about effective, appropriate, pastoral approaches to same-sex issues,” said Dr. Janet Smith, a professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, and one of the organizers of the conference. Smith, who holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at the seminary, explained that there is already a wealth of information on the subject of pastoral care for same-sex attracted persons – the challenge is getting this knowledge to those who need it. “There’s already a body of understanding, a body of knowledge, that exists,” she said. The conference, therefore, aims at directing those responsible for pastoral care – people who work in parishes, dioceses, high schools, etc. – to these resources. One of the resources she cited was a documentary released July 2014 by Courage, entitled “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” which chronicles the stories of two men and one woman having same-sex attraction, and how they eventually found peace in the Catholic Church. Smith also cited a newly published book to which she is a contributor, Living the Truth in Love. This book resulted from a similar conference in Detroit last August that was put together by the same organizers. Friday’s conference in Rome comes at a time in history when many Catholics struggle to understand the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. This difficulty, Smith says, largely begins from an inability to understand the Church’s teaching on contraception. “If you don’t understand why contraception is out of sync with God’s plan for sexuality, it will also be hard to understand (the Church’s) teaching on homosexuality,” she said. Smith suggested that this difficulty in understanding also results from a lack of exposure to authentic Catholic teaching on homosexuality. “They don’t have a very good foundation on which to build an understanding of an issue like same-sex attraction. Add to that, we are bombarded all day long by the media about the acceptability of same-sex sexual relationships.” “It’s a very difficult thing to educate a Catholic populace that has not been educated in its own Church, and it’s being educated by the culture.” The conference will also include Monsignor Livio Melina, president of Rome’s John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family, as well as experts such as Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins; Dr. Timothy Lock, a clinical psychologist; and Dr. Jennifer Morse of the Ruth Institute. There will also be a panel discussion featuring testimonies of Catholics living faithfully with same-sex attraction. This year’s Synod on the Family, to be held on Oct. 4-25, will be the second and larger of two such gatherings to take place in the course of a year. Like its 2014 precursor, the focus of the 2015 Synod of Bishops will be the family, this time with the theme: “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.”   Read more

To welcome a migrant is to welcome God himself, Pope says

Vatican City, Oct 1, 2015 / 04:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis recognized the challenges involved with welcoming migrants, but stressed that despite the difficulties they should always be … Read more

Man up! Phoenix bishop encourages, challenges Catholic men in new letter

Phoenix, Ariz., Oct 1, 2015 / 03:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Calling on all Christian men to take a stand in the Church’s spiritual battle, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix asked men in his diocese to courageously pursue their vocations as friends, fathers, and spouses. “Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you,” the Phoenix bishop said in a Sept. 29 exhortation, saying that “this battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident.” “Catholic men have not been willing to ‘step into the breach’ – to fill this gap that lies open and vulnerable to further attack,” he continued. Bishop Olmsted spoke of the ways in which this spiritual battle is developing and how the Church is being attacked. Over the past 15 years, millions have left the faith, baptisms have decreased in both infants and adults, parochial religious education is declining, and fewer sacramental marriages have occurred. In addition, he continued, the parents who promised to raise their children in the faith at baptism have devastatingly fallen short on their pledges, while the Catholics who do remain faithful to the Church’s teachings are often timid, practicing their religion in the shadows. “I offer this Exhortation as an encouragement, a challenge, and a calling forth to mission for every willing man,” Bishop Olmsted asserted, saying that this call applies to all men – whether young or old, priests, married or single.   “I urge you to heed Jesus’ call and to let him form your mind and heart with the light of the Gospel for the purpose of being sent…I am hereby exhorting you to step into the breach – to do the work of Christ’s soldiers in the world today,” he said. Modern complexities have threatened the authentic role of men in today’s world, the bishop said. He pointed to gender ideology as one of the breaches between the natural complementarity of men and women, creating unnecessary division and confusion while blurring the identity of genuine masculinity. “Looking to what the secular world holds up as ‘manly’ is in fact to look at shadows – or even at outright counterfeits – of masculinity.” In contrast, the bishop pointed to Jesus as the “fullness of masculinity,” saying that Christ displays genuine masculine virtue and strength. Instead of looking at possessions, success, and worldly goods as the definition of manhood, Bishop Olmsted said, men should secure their identities in their Christian beliefs. “Simply put, our identity is caught up in the identity of the eternal Son of God.” The bishop also proposed that every Catholic man invoke the intercession of a patron saint, who can guide their journey through life. He offered examples including St. Joseph, Pope St. John Paul II, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, and St. Michael the Archangel. To practically live out this Christian manhood, he suggested daily prayer and examination of conscience, Mass as often as possible, scriptural reading, honoring Sundays for rest, frequent confession, and nurturing Catholic brotherhood in friendship. Bishop Olmsted went on to explain how Catholic men should love, saying that “the true love of Christ is centered on willing the good of the other, on pouring oneself out in charity for others.” “Each man is called to commit and give of himself completely,” Bishop Olmsted said, whether through marriage, priesthood, or service towards God. If a man’s call is to marriage, then it must emulate Christ’s spousal love for the Church – a love so united that it “achieves the infinite and eternal character to which every love aspires.” However, the bishop also noted that marriage holds the epicenter of the modern-day masculine battle, because it requires the virtue of chastity. “Chastity allows us to master and properly live out this calling to be men of authentic communion,” he said, and a man must nurture chastity within the call to marriage by loving his wife as Christ loves the Church. In addition to this definition of masculine love, he described three other outlets for men to love: as a friend, a husband, and a father. The bishop advised every man to evaluate how he loves in each of these relationships. Are his friendships healthy and holy? Does he love his wife with dignity and fullness? Is his fatherhood responsible and faithful? Furthermore, Bishop Olmsted stressed the importance of fatherhood, while cautioning against the modern-day notion of freedom from the commitment of a family.   “To fully live, all men must be fathers and live out their fatherhood” in some way, he said. “If you do not embrace the spousal and fatherly vocation God has planned for you, you will be stuck in the impotence of the ‘seed’ that refuses to die and refuses to give life. Don’t settle for this half-life!” Bishop Olmsted concluded his exhortation in hope all that all men “will take what is helpful in my message, bring it to the Lord in prayer, and go forward confidently in your vocation as men.” “Our life in Christ is not one of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ but an adventure of authentic freedom,” he continued, urging Catholic men to “embrace that freedom in order to place your life at the service of Christ, beginning in your home and radiating into the world.” The full text of Bishop Olmsted’s letter can be read here.   Read more

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