American Sisters accept Vatican reforms on doctrine, theology

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2015 / 04:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a joint report marking the conclusion of a multi-year mandate for reform, members of the LCWR have agreed to corrections called for by the Vatican, and said they will continue on the path of dialogue. “We are pleased at the completion of the mandate, which involved long and challenging exchanges of our understandings of and perspectives on critical matters of Religious Life and its practice,” Sr. Sharon Holland, IHM, President of LCWR, said in an April 16 press release. Officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle and officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met at the Vatican April 16. Although she was unable to attend the Vatican meeting, Sr. Holland said that “we learned that what we hold in common is much greater than any of our differences.” Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said in the press release that “the Congregation is confident that LCWR has made clear its mission to support its member institutes by fostering a vision of religious life that is centered on the person of Jesus Christ and is rooted in the Tradition of the Church.”   This vision, he said, “makes religious women and men radical witnesses to the Gospel, and, therefore, is essential for the flourishing of religious life in the Church.” Archbishop Sartain, who in 2012 was charged with leading their reform, presented a joint report with members of the LCWR on the implementation of the congregation’s Doctrinal Assessment and Mandate, which was issued in April 2012. The joint report outlines the process in which the implementation of the mandate has been carried out. With the congregation’s acceptance of the joint report, the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment of the LCWR has come to a close. Members of the LCWR leadership met with Pope Francis today at 12:15 p.m., following the official publication of the final report. With some 1,500 members, the LCWR constitutes about 3 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States. However, the group says it represents 80 percent of American sisters since its members are leaders of their respective religious communities. In April 2012, the Vatican released the findings of a four year doctrinal assessment of the women’s conference, which found a state of doctrinal crisis within the organization, and raised concerns of dissent from Church teaching on topics including homosexuality, the sacramental priesthood and the divinity of Christ. Among the assessment’s key findings were serious theological and doctrinal errors in presentations at the conference’s recent annual assemblies. Some presentations depicted a vision of religious life incompatible with the Catholic faith, or attempted to justify dissent from Church doctrine and showed “scant regard for the role of the Magisterium,” the assessment found. At the same time the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith assigned Archbishop Sartain to oversee the conference’s reform, and he was given a mandate of up to five years to help the LCWR review and revise their statues, formation materials, presentations, events and links with affiliated organizations. A key topic the report addressed was the mandate’s call for a careful review of the LCWR’s publications and programs to ensure that they are faithful to Church teachings. The conference said that the nature of their publications is intended to address spiritual matters rather than engage in formal theological inquiry, since their audience extends beyond members of the Catholic Church. However, because of the “vital link between spirituality and theology” as well as the goal to both inspire and grow as women religious, the report consented that all of their publications “need a sound doctrinal foundation.” “To this end, measures are being taken to promote a scholarly rigor that will ensure theological accuracy and help avoid statements that are ambiguous with regard to Church doctrine or could be read as contrary to it,” the report stated. It was also noted that a publications advisory committee has been put into place, and that all manuscripts will be reviewed by “competent theologians, as a means of safeguarding the theological integrity of the Conference.” The choice of assembly topics and speakers – which has been one of the most contested points of the LCWR’s reform mandate – was also addressed in the report. In order to stay faithful to their mission and service in the Church, the selection of discussion topics and speakers will be carried out in “a prayerful, thoughtful and discerning manner,” according to the report. In 2012, the same year the original assessment was released, the conference hosted philosopher Barbara Marx Hubbard, an author and promoter of “Conscious Evolution” as the keynote speaker for their annual general assembly. Since then the concept – which Cardinal Müller cautioned opposes Christian revelation – has been featured heavily in LCWR materials. “When taken unreflectively,” the cardinal said, the fundamentals of Conscious Evolution “lead almost necessarily to fundamental errors regarding the omnipotence of God, the Incarnation of Christ, the reality of original sin, the necessity of salvation and the definitive nature of the salvific action of Christ in the Paschal Mystery.” However, the joint report assures that the LCWR will select speakers and presenters who speak “with integrity and to further the aims and purposes of the conference, which unfold within the wider context of the Church’s faith and mission.” “When a topic explicitly addresses matters of faith, speakers are expected to employ the ecclesial language of faith,” the report reads. “When exploring contemporary issues, particularly those which, while not explicitly theological nevertheless touch upon faith and morals, LCWR expects speakers and presenters to have due regard for the Church’s faith and to pose questions for further reflection in a manner that suggests how faith might shed light on such issues.” The report also announced that they have revised the process for selecting the recipient of their Outstanding Leadership Award, which in 2014 was given to Sister Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J. – a theologian whom the U.S. bishops have criticized for serious doctrinal errors, including misrepresentations of Church teaching on God. The joint report also recognized the revision of the LCWR’s statues, which have been changed to clarify the conference’s role as “a public juridic person centered on Jesus Christ and faithful to the teachings of the Church.” The revised Statutes were approved Feb. 6, 2015, with an official Decree from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Other topics emphasized in the report were the importance of celebrating the Eucharist and the need to pray the traditional Liturgy of the Hours prayer in religious communities. The centrality of a communal process of contemplative prayer practiced at LCWR Assemblies and other gatherings, the relationship between LCWR and other organizations and the essential understanding of LCWR as an instrument of ecclesial communion were also discussed. The report closes with an expression of gratitude for the “clarifying and fruitful conversation” that has taken place throughout the mandate process. “The very fact of such substantive dialogue between bishops and religious has been a blessing to be appreciated and further encouraged,” it read, and highlighted the commitment of the LCWR leadership to its “crucial role” in serving the conference, as well as bearing witness to the vocation of religious life.   Read more

The new celibacy? How porn may be destroying the impetus for sex

Denver, Colo., Jun 11, 2017 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- One of music artist John Mayer’s most signature songs is “Daughters,” a sweet and simple tribute to the importance of parents’ influence on their little girls. Here’s the refrain: “So fathers, be good to your daughters, Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, So mothers, be good to your daughters too.” But when John Mayer isn’t crooning about your beautiful daughters, he’s looking at naked pictures of them, sometimes hundreds at a time before he gets out of bed in the morning. In fact, he often prefers that to an actual human being, according to his wildly controversial 2010 interview with Playboy magazine. “You wake up in the morning, open a thumbnail page, and it leads to a Pandora’s box of visuals. There have probably been days when I saw 300 (naked women) before I got out of bed,” he told the magazine. Unfortunately, Mayer’s morning routine is not unique to him. Studies show that easy access to free internet pornography is having devastating effects on real-life relationships.Preferring pixels to people “For many individuals, the more porn they consume, the more likely it is that they can end up preferring the fantasy to reality, they can end up preferring the pixels to a person, and that’s really messing up relationships, as you can imagine,” said Clay Olsen, co-founder of the internet movement “Fight the New Drug” (FTND). The FTND movement, so named because of porn’s addictive properties, aims to raise awareness of the harmful effects of pornography through creative mediums such as blogs, videos and infographics. The website includes personal stories as well as scientific studies to illustrate pornography’s effects on the brain, the heart (relationships), and ultimately on the world. “Our goal is to change the conversation from ‘Dude, check this out,’ to ‘Dude, that’s messed up,’” Olsen told CNA. The longstanding, pervasive cultural narrative surrounding pornography is that it is a healthy sexual outlet and can improve sex lives. However, science begs to differ. Several studies cited in FTND’s article, “Porn Ruins Your Sex Life,” found that pornography not only leads to dissatisfying sex, it can lead to less sex with actual human beings.    In a series of studies examining pornography use, “The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers” published by the Witherspoon Institute, researchers found that those who viewed pornography became less satisfied with their sex lives, and that viewing porn just once can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction towards a human partner. According to an article in Psychology Today by clinical psychologist Tyger Latham, Psy.D, erectile dysfunction, while once considered an issue plaguing old men, is cropping up more in young men who rely heavily on pornography to become sexually aroused. A study by the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine surveyed 28,000 men on their internet porn habits, and found that porn use over time led to a lower sex drive and an eventual inability to become aroused at all. “As soon as they try to actually get close to someone and commit to somebody and have an intimate relationship with somebody, it’s in those moments that the harms of pornography show their full colors and truly manifest themselves,” Olsen said. “The unrealistic expectations are completely exposed… And we now see people in their 20s having porn-induced erectile dysfunction because they cannot get excited or aroused without the presence of pornography.”A decline in marriage rates Not only is pornography use destroying the physical sexual life, it may be impacting the number of people pursuing marriage or committed sexual relationships. In the fall of 2013, an article in The Guardian sounded the alarm that fewer people in Japan were having sex, citing as evidence numerous statistics on the country’s declining birth rate, marriage rate, and even rates of young people who are dating or who are interested in dating. A follow-up article on Slate found that while the actual number of people having or not having sex might not be definitively pinpointed, the statistics on falling marriage and birth rates only mean Japan is leading a world-wide trend, rather than bucking one. While it’s not clear whether porn is directly influencing these numbers, many have speculated that it is. Researchers with The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany found an increase in free Internet pornography is at least correlated with a significant decrease in the percentage of young married men, and it may even be contributing to the trend. A 2013 Pew study found that 71 percent of single Americans were not looking for a committed relationship. Another study found that nearly 40 percent of American women had never been married.   “The results in this paper suggest that such an association exists, and that it is potentially quite large,” the study notes, as reported in the Washington Post. The study used General Social Survey (GSS), a comprehensive, nationally representative survey which analyzed internet use of 1,500 men ages 18-to-35, between the years 2000 and 2004. The researchers studied the number of hours spent on the internet per week, how often internet pornography was used in the past 30 days, as well as other activities such as use of religious sites. Even when adjusted for variables such as age, income, education, religion and employment, the study found that generally, the more a person used the internet, the less likely they were to be married. Additionally, it found that the more a person used internet pornography, the less likely they were to be married. On the other hand, the use of religious websites was positively correlated with marriage.   Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and a Catholic who has studied religion and sexual behavior, cautioned against assuming that correlation equals causation in such studies – but said that pornography use is likely part of a more complex reason for dropping marriage rates. “We know that both things are occurring, but it’s difficult to establish a causal connection,” he told CNA in an e-mail interview. “A variety of things are contributing to the declining marriage rate.” “I don’t think porn use necessarily causes that, but contributes to it (together with diminished earnings power, diminished confidence, etc.),” he added. “To be sure, porn use doesn’t help build confidence in men, something that’s pretty necessary (but not sufficient) to be considered marriageable. So I’d say porn use is a suspect here, but connecting the dots is hardly straightforward.”Increasing awareness Only in the past few years and months has a conversation countering the “it’s healthy, it’s normal” narrative been emerging in mainstream media about pornography. Several celebrities are speaking up, and there are an increasing number of websites dedicated to helping people fight pornography addictions. In 2015, the release of the controversial “50 Shades of Grey” movie sparked a conversation on social media about sexual violence against women in media, with the hashtag #50dollarsnot50shades encouraging people to forgo the movie and instead donate to places that help victimized women. The movie sparked a response from an unlikely source – British comedian Russel Brand, whose short video about the problems with pornography went viral, generating over 500,000 views on his YouTube channel and over 2 million views on FTND’s website. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is another celebrity who has been outspoken about the negative impact of pornography, most notably in his 2013 movie “Don Jon,” which he wrote, directed and co-starred in along with Scarlett Johansson. The film explores the unrealistic expectations of love and relationships that come from pornography addictions and from the media at large. “I think that there’s not a substantial difference between a lot of main-stream culture and pornography. They’re equally simplistic, reductionist,” Gordon-Levitt said in an interview with NPR about the film. “Whether it’s rated X or ‘approved by the FCC for general viewing audiences,’ the message is the same. We have a tendency in our culture to take people and treat them like things.” But the internet has been around for decades now – why has it taken society so long to catch on to the fact that pornography is harmful? “Science has caught up with the fact that pornography’s harmful,” Olsen said, “but society is still catching up.” It often takes years for something that was once culturally accepted as true to be flipped on its head as science proves otherwise, Olsen said, so Fight the New Drug knows they still have a lot of work ahead of them. “We’re very excited to see some of this progress and some of these mainstream media outlets kind of following suit and starting to talk about the negative impacts, we couldn’t be more excited about it, but we still have a long way ahead of us.” Some other websites that are also trying to raise awareness and give help to those struggling with pornography include The Porn Effect and Covenant Eyes, and internet filtering and accountability system. The best way to kick a porn habit? Keep fighting it and lean on the sacraments, Regnerus said. “(My) advice: don’t give up hope; pursue confession regularly; recognize and avoid the contexts which give rise to temptation. That’s a start.”  This article was originally published on CNA April 16, 2015. Read more

Australian bishops: the suffering need compassion, not suicide by drugs

Sydney, Australia, Apr 16, 2015 / 02:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Euthanasia isn’t what the suffering and dying really need, said Australia’s Catholic bishops. “Suicide is always a tragedy, and all people who are confronted by their mor… Read more

Kidnapped Nigerian girls deserve more than just a hashtag, activist says

Jos, Nigeria, Apr 15, 2015 / 04:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted a year ago by the group Boko Haram deserve a major, sustained rescue effort, says a Nigerian lawyer who urges far more global attention for the wider crisis in the country. “Every day of captivity for these girls is a dark day in their lives and their parents’ lives. It’s harder to keep hope alive,” international human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe of the U.S.-Nigeria Law Group told CNA April 14. He said not enough is being done to find the girls. In his view, intervention of an international coalition is needed. “(T)he world hasn’t aligned itself similarly to counteract Boko Haram, as they are doing with ISIS,” he said, referencing the Islamic State terrorist group, to which Boko Haram has reportedly pledged allegiance. On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram militants abducted nearly 300 predominantly Christian girls from a secondary school in Chibok. Several dozen escaped, but there are 219 girls believed to remain in captivity. Escapees have reported rape, forced marriage, forced labor and abuse. The group International Christian Concern said some of the abuse was intended to coerce them into rejecting Christianity. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed the abducted girls have all converted to Islam and have been married, Agence France Presse reports. The abduction of the Chibok girls prompted a social media campaign using the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls.” Participants in the campaign included U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, human rights activist and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, and more than a dozen Hollywood personalities. But while the social media effort may have raised awareness, Ogebe said concrete action to rescue the girls has been lacking. “There needs to be massive deployment of intelligence assets and available technology to look for the girls, and this needs to happen on a sustained basis. We cannot wait for every anniversary before we have a fresh hashtag campaign,” he said. The lawyer also pointed out that the kidnapping of the school girls was far from an isolated incident. According to Amnesty International, at least 2,000 women have been abducted in 38 mass kidnappings in northeast Nigeria since the start of 2014. Boko Haram is believe to have killed at least 15,500 people since 2012. Ogebe said Boko Haram’s “onslaught” has continued despite Nigeria’s elections and the regional efforts of the military. He pointed to what he sees as a double standard in the reaction to violence by Boko Haram and the reaction to the actions of ISIS: the latter have drawn strong global condemnation and airstrikes from an international coalition. While the beheading of about 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by Islamic State militants inspired “global outrage,” Ogebe said, there was little reaction to Boko Haram’s September 2013 mass beheading of 170 people, 150 of whom were Christians. Both groups have declared their own Islamic caliphate and follow strict interpretations of Islamic law. Last month, reports were released indicating that Boko Haram had pledged its allegiance to ISIS. Ogebe said the international community appears not to have a consistent approach, “in spite of the fact that both terror groups are now aligned.” “What clearer evidence do we need that this is the same ideology at war?” he asked. In addition to global cooperation to rescue the girls, Ogebe also said that international humanitarian assistance from religious groups is “desperately needed.” “This really has the potential for a huge crisis. And we don’t have any of the major humanitarian groups working in Nigeria,” he said. On April 14, Nigerians marked the anniversary of the Chibok kidnapping with protests and vigils. Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president-elect, has said it not known whether the girls can be rescued and their whereabouts are unknown. “As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them,” he said, while pledging that his government will do “everything in its power to bring them home.”     Read more

Papal blessings for Asia Bibi’s family, as death sentence still looms

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2015 / 03:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has blessed the family of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, as they continue to work for her release.   Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, said “the Holy Father blessed and encouraged us.” Masih and the couple’s youngest daughter, 14-year-old Isham, briefly met with Pope Francis after his Wednesday General Audience. “We are here in Italy to make sure we can be the voice of an innocent woman who has been suffering in jail for six years,” Masih told CNA April 15. Asia Bibi was convicted of violating Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws in 2010, an allegation she denies. She was accused of making derogatory comments against Islam’s Prophet Muhammad while arguing with a Muslim woman in 2009. On Oct. 16, 2014 the Lahore High Court rejected Bibi’s appeal seeking to overturn the death sentence. Isham, Bibi’s daughter, was nine when her mother was arrested. She defended her mother during an April 14 press conference at Italy’s Chamber of Deputies. “The accusations against her are false,” Isham said. “My mother was working when two women asked her for water to drink. When my mother gave them the water, they began saying their hands were impure, that Christians are not dignified to eat and drink with Muslims, who are clean. On this basis, the accusation of blasphemy was built.” Masih told CNA he and his daughter wanted to ask Pope Francis to encourage the government of Pakistan to free Bibi. They also wanted to raise awareness about Bibi’s case before the Pope and European authorities. Joseph Nadeem, one of Asia Bibi’s lawyers, spoke about her case. “We still have the hope of a presidential pardon,” he told CNA, saying a pardon would immediately release Bibi. Appeals to the Pakistan Supreme Court “could take a very long time.” Bibi’s family is seeking help from the international community to pressure Pakistan’s government to help secure a presidential pardon. Masih visited his wife before the trip to Italy. She is currently an inmate in a prison close to Lahore. Bibi is kept in isolation because sharing a cell with Muslims could put her life at risk.   “Since the day Asia Bibi was arrested, our family is totally destroyed. The children cannot survive without their mother. Asia Bibi misses her children, the children miss her,” said Masih.     “Asia’s faith is very strong, but she cries,” Masih added. “All of our family is praying to God to help her, and so we appeal to international community.” “The life of Christians in Pakistan is very difficult,” he said, adding that “every Christian is in danger in Pakistan.” People in Pakistan have made public protests against Bibi’s release. Some of those released from prison after facing blasphemy charges have been killed. According to Masih, their killers “enjoy great esteem.”   He said that about 74 percent of Pakistan’s population is Muslim, adding “most of them are against Asia Bibi, they don’t want her to be set free. “If Asia Bibi will be free, she cannot stay in Pakistan, she should move abroad very quickly.”   The blasphemy law has been in effect since 1986. According to the Pakistan Catholic Church’s National Committee for Justice and Peace, at least 964 people have been charged with the crime of blasphemy from 1986 to 2009. Among these were 479 Muslims, 340 Ahmadis, 119 Christians, 14 Hindus and 10 people whose faith is not known.   Asia Bibi is the first woman sentenced to death under the 1986 law. The law has faced criticism within Pakistan, as well. Salman Taseer, a Muslim who was governor of Punjab, called the law a “kala kanoon,” a “black law” in the Urdu language, because it can be exploited.   Shabhaz Bhatti, a Catholic who had served as Pakistan’s minister for religious minorities, said that the law is often used “as a tool to solve personal issues” and that 85 percent of the charges are false. Both Taseer and Bhatti advocated for Asia Bibi’s release. Both of them were assassinated in 2011 by Islamist extremists.   Religious extremism in Pakistan is still a major issue. Fides news agency reported that a 14-year-old boy named Nauman Masih was recently burned alive by a group of Muslims, causing severe burns. After several days at a Lahore hospital, he died April 15. The boy had reportedly been assaulted because he had said he was Christian.   Read more

Pope Francis: If men and women aren’t different, we have problems

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2015 / 09:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has warned against gender theories which seek to eradicate differences between man and woman, saying they perpetuate the very problems they are trying to solve. “Experience teaches us: to know each other well and grow in harmony, the human being requires the reciprocity of man and woman,” the pontiff said Wednesday to participants in his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. In his Apr. 15 catechesis, the Pope challenged notions of “so-called gender theory,” and whether it “aims to erase sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.” Observing how such theories are an expression of frustration and resignation, the Pope added: “the removal of the differences is the problem, not the solution.” “We risk taking a step backward,” he said. Pope Francis acknowledged that today’s culture has allowed for advancements in the understanding of man and woman’s differences, but warned that “many doubts and skepticism” have also been introduced. Sexual difference is evident in many life forms, but what makes men and women unique is that they are created in God’s image and likeness, he said. Recalling that we are called to “listen to and help one another,” the pontiff suggests that without this reciprocal relationship, we cannot understand “what it means to be man and woman.” Problems with relationships are resolved when men and women speak, listen, know, and love each other more, he added. Pope Francis also stressed the universal significance of marriage, saying it is “serious matter” for everyone, and not just for Christian believers.   He appealed to intellectuals to not desert the idea of marriage, as though it has become “secondary” in their commitment to build a “freer and more just society.” Without the “alliance” between men and woman, affection and hope diminish in the world, the pontiff said. He observed that there are already “worrying” signs that this is the case. There is an urgent need to be attentive to the role of women in the Church and society, and recognize the significance of man and woman being created in the image and likeness of God, Pope Francis said. In order to strengthen the reciprocal relationship between men and women, women should “not only be listened to more,” but they should be “a recognized authority, in society and in the Church.” Pope Francis also noted the connection between the crisis in man and woman’s “alliance” and the modern crisis of faith in God. The Bible, he said, shows how “communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple, and that the loss of faith in the Heavenly father engenders division and conflict between man and woman.” “From here comes the great responsibility of the Church, of all believers, and  above all believing families, to rediscover the beauty of creative design, which inscribes God’s image even in the alliance between man and women.” Read more

With Iraqi Christians besieged, these are the priests and nuns who choose to stay

Alqosh, Iraq, Apr 15, 2015 / 04:31 am (Aid to the Church in Need).- “At night we often hear gunfire,” says Father Steven, a priest in Alqosh, Iraq. “But luckily we are quite a bit away from the fighting,” he adds. In fact, as… Read more

High-profile Rome exorcist: ‘ISIS is Satan’

Rome, Italy, Apr 15, 2015 / 02:25 am (CNA).- In a recent Facebook post, well-known Roman exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth said the Islamic State (ISIS) “is Satan,” and he also questioned the lack of response from Western nations. “I… Read more

Relic of Saint John Paul II makes pilgrimage to Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Apr 15, 2015 / 12:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Seventeen years after the historic visit of Saint John Paul II to Cuba, the Polish pope is returning to the country, thanks to a relic brought by the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Ma… Read more

Priest who died on the Titanic could be on path to sainthood

London, England, Apr 14, 2015 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When the Titanic began to sink on April 15, 1912, Father Thomas Byles had two opportunities to board a lifeboat. But he forewent those opportunities, according to passengers aboard the sinking ocean liner, in order to hear confessions and offer consolation and prayers with those who were trapped aboard.   Now, a priest at the former church of Fr. Byles in England is asking that his beatification cause be opened. Some 1,500 people died when the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic Ocean in 1912. Believed at the time to be “unsinkable,” the ship lacked adequate lifeboats for all the passengers on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. Fr. Byles was traveling on the Titanic to preside at his brother’s wedding in New York. The 42-year-old British priest had been ordained in Rome 10 years prior and had served as a parish priest at Saint Helen’s Church in Essex since 1905. Miss Agnes McCoy, a third class passenger and survivor of the Titanic, said Fr. Byles had been on the ship, hearing confessions, praying with passengers and giving his blessing as the vessel sank. McCoy’s testimony, and that of other passengers onboard, has been collected at Helen Mary Mocklare, another third class passenger, offered more details about the final hours of the priest’s life. “When the crash came we were thrown from our berths … We saw before us, coming down the passageway, with his hand uplifted, Father Byles,” she recalled. “We knew him because he had visited us several times on board and celebrated Mass for us that very morning.” “’Be calm, my good people,’ he said, and then he went about the steerage giving absolution and blessings…” Mocklare continued: “A few around us became very excited and then it was that the priest again raised his hand and instantly they were calm once more. The passengers were immediately impressed by the absolute self-control of the priest.” She recounted that a sailor “warned the priest of his danger and begged him to board a boat.” Although the sailor was anxious to help him, the priest twice refused to leave. “Fr. Byles could have been saved, but he would not leave while one (passenger) was left and the sailor’s entreaties were not heeded,” Mocklare recounted. “After I got in the boat, which was the last one to leave, and we were slowly going further away from the ship, I could hear distinctly the voice of the priest and the responses to his prayers.” More than a century later, Father Graham Smith – the current priest at Fr. Byles’ former parish of Saint Helen’s – is the promoter for opening his cause for beatification. In a statement to the BBC, Fr. Smith announced the beginning of the process seeking the canonization of his predecessor, whom he considers to be “an extraordinary man who gave his life for others.” Fr. Smith said that in the local community, “We are hoping and praying that he will be recognized as one of the saints within our canon.” The canonization process first requires that the person in question be found to have lived the Christian virtues to a heroic degree. A miracle attributed to the intercession of the individual must then be approved, for the title of “Blessed” to be bestowed. Once beatified, another miracle due to the intercession of Fr. Byles would need to be approved, for him to be declared a saint. “We hope people around the world will pray to him if they are in need and, if a miracle occurs, then beatification and then canonization can go forward,” Fr. Smith said.   Read more