Pope Francis Hands Out Boxes with ’59 Little Pills’ in Them

Pope Francis offered medicine boxes that contained “59 little pills,”  in St Peter’s Square this weekend.

This medicine is “good for your health, your heart and your whole life,” the Pope told his audience. “Don’t forget to take it.”

What is the ‘medicine’ the Pope is prescribing?

Watch the video below and see.

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Cardinal Zen Calls for More Support for the Church In China

The Vatican needs to do more to support the true Church in China. That is the message from Cardinal Zen.

His comments are worth considering, not only because of the religious persecution in China, but because of the growing tendency for government to try to control the Church and the faithful in the Western world.

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Billy Graham: God Can Change the Past

I respect Billy Graham. He’s the real deal.

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Dolan: Christian Persecution is “a Humanitarian Catastrophe’

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God love Cardinal Timothy Dolan. 

He took the podium at the annual fall assembly of Catholic Bishops to speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Public Catholic reader, Manny, sent a wonderful letter to Cardinal Dolan a few weeks ago, encouraging the Cardinal to do all that he could to help persecuted Christians. Perhaps we should all take to our word processors and send letters.

Christians need to stand in unity with persecuted Christians and not be intimidated by foul-mouthed attacks from those who seek to silence us. People who try to deny the persecution of Christians and who attack those who speak out for them are fellow travelers and enablers of those who carry the guns, wield the clubs and light the flames. 

From Catholic News Agency:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the USCCB Fall meeting Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the USCCB Fall meeting Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, urged his fellow bishops to be advocates of Christians persecuted for their faith around the world, encouraging prayers as well as action on their behalf.

In his address to the assembly, Cardinal Dolan said one million Christians have been killed for their faith in the first years of the 21st century, which he called “a new age of martyrs.” Citing the Pew Research Center, he said that over 70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with restrictions on freedom of religion.

He declared a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Syria, where two Orthodox bishops have been kidnapped amid the ongoing civil war. He said the Iraq war and its consequences have “devastated” Iraq’s ancient Christian community. The 2012 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad resulted in a massacre of 58 Christians.

The cardinal also noted a “serious escalation of violence” against Christians in Egypt, where dozens of Coptic churches have been burned. An August attack on a school run by Franciscan nuns resulted in the rape of two teachers. Three nuns were paraded “as prisoners of war.”

There have also been attacks on African Christians, such as shootings of priests and church burnings …

Cardinal Dolan said the situation in India is “grave” in the aftermath of the 2008 Orissa massacres that killed hundreds of Christians and displaced thousands more. Thousands of homes and about 400 churches were destroyed. 

In addition, the cardinal noted the pressures on Christians in China, such as the state supervision and imprisonment that faces Catholic bishops and other religious leaders.

In light of these grave global challenges, Cardinal Dolan made several suggestions for action.

The bishops should encourage “a culture of prayer for persecuted Christians,” both in private prayer and in liturgical intercessions …

He encouraged the bishops to make others aware of the suffering of other Christians through their columns, blogs, speeches and pastoral letters … ask pastors to preach on the topic … encourage Catholic media to “tell the stories of today’s new martyrs.”

The bishops can insist that U.S. leaders listen to persecuted Christians and make their protection “a foreign policy priority,” he added, observing that this has not been a high priority for presidential administrations of either major political party.

Message to the Vatican: Traditional Families Need Your Help

After all the hullaballoo, it turns out that the Vatican is not seeking input from the laity about it teachings, procedures, or anything else.

The survey the Vatican announced a week ago is designed to collect raw data at the diocesan level. It is not, as the popular press implied, a poll of the laity on Church doctrine and discipline. The data will be used as a resource in the 2014 Synod.

I’ve seen the survey, and I hope that it is not fully reflective of the issues that will be considered in the Synod. I am concerned that it is too focused on the needs of “new” family structures and not enough on how the Church can better support the traditional family.

I realize that the problems and the noise from those in “new” family structures tends to focus Vatican attention. But while those in “new” family structures are making all the demands and creating all the fuss, traditional families are quietly foundering.

Men and women, husbands and wives, in traditional Catholic families need a lot — and I mean a lot — more teaching and support, both spiritual and practical, from their Church. I hope that the bishops do not have the idea that what the Church is doing now to support traditional families within their care is enough. It simply is not, and I point to the need for this survey on “new” family structures as an indication of how serious the problem is becoming.

The huge increase in these “new” family structures which predicates surveys and Synods on how to deal with them is, to a great extent, testimony to the fact that traditional families have been suffering and failing. Traditional family has been under unremitting, concerted attack for almost 5 decades now. The Church needs to change how it supports traditional families to reflect this reality.

We need new and more inclusive ways of nurturing healthy Catholic families for the simple reason that traditional Christian families are under such enormous destructive pressure in this post Christian society. This destructive pressure bears down on every area of family life, from the way jobs are constructed, to social pressures, to the propaganda our children are inundated with in the public schools.

As Yogi Beara said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

If the church truly is a community, building healthy Catholic families by providing practical support of many types has to be part of its ministry.

From the National Catholic Register:

Vatican Collecting Diocesan Data, Not Lay Opinions in Worldwide Survey (2030)

Multiple media reports have given rise to the misconception that Pope Francis is polling Catholics for their views on Church teaching and practices.

 11/08/2013 Comments (3)

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi and Archbishop Bruno Forte, special secretary of the 2014 Synod of Bishops, speak Nov. 5 at the Vatican.

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis wants to know about the state of marriage and the family in the Church, before the bishops meet in Rome for an extraordinary synod next year. However, the lay faithful should not expect to be receiving a survey on their views from the Vatican anytime soon.

For one thing, the Vatican’s survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and the aim is to collect raw data, not opinions on Church doctrine or discipline, in advance of the 2014 synod. The data will help inform the bishops as they develop pastoral solutions for the challenges faced by modern families.

“Each bishop determines what is the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in preparing his report for the Vatican,” said Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Clemmer said once a diocese completes its report, the data will be sent back to the USCCB and then forwarded on to the Vatican.

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/vatican-collecting-diocesan-data-not-lay-opinions-in-worldwide-survey?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-11-8%2022:12:01#ixzz2kAjgql7O

Vatican Bans Medjugorje Apparitions in US Churches

Medjugorje

I don’t much about Medjugorje.

I’m not even really sure how to pronounce it.

For those who are even more uninformed that me, Medjugorje is the site of what has been regarded by a lot of people as authentic visits by Our Lady.

I know people who’ve gone to Medjugorje and experienced profound spiritual awakening as a result of the trip. Was that because of the Marian apparitions, or the work of the Holy Spirit, Who is always there when two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name?

I don’t know.

It appears that the Vatican doesn’t know, either.

In a move that evidently surprised those who are promoting the validity of the Medjugorje apparitions, the head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a letter concerning Medjugorje to the USCCB for distribution to all American bishops. The letter instructs that “clerics and the faithful” may not “participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations in which the credibility” of the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje “are taken for granted.”

After a bit of consideration, this instruction makes sense.

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is investigating these apparitions to determine whether or not they are valid. They are simply asking the bishops — along with the rest of us — not to indirectly put the Church’s imprimatur on the apparitions before they have made a decision about them.

It seems that this letter was prompted by a planned tour of the United States by Medjugorje visionary Ivan Dragicevic.

I think what the Vatican has done with this letter is a reasonable action. I know that Medjugorje inspires deep emotions. If the Church decides that these visions are valid, I will accept that and not worry about it. I will do the same if the Church decides that they are not valid.

At the same time, I believe the things my friends who’ve been there have told me about their personal spiritual awakenings. Since I believe that God works with all of us, all the time, I don’t see the two things as contradictory.

I think it’s good for us not to get ahead of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and promote the Marian Apparitions at Medjugorje as valid before they have made a decision about it.

I trust the Church in these matters.

From Medjugorje Today:

“His Excellency wishes to inform the Bishops that one of the so-called visionaries of Medjugorje, Mr. Ivan Dragicevic, is scheduled to appear at certain parishes around the country, during which time he will make presentations regarding the phenomenon of Medjugorje. It is anticipated, moreover, that Mr. Dragicevic will be receiving “apparitions” during these scheduled appearances” the papal nuncio opens his letter to the US Bishops that has been obtained by the Catholic news portal Spirit Daily.

Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on whose behalf the papal nuncio writes his letter to the US Bishops

CDF is also the body to which the current Vatican Commission for investigation of the events of Medjugorje is going to report, the fact next addressed by the papal nuncio:

“As you are well aware, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is in the process of investigating certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the phenomenon of Medjugorje. For this reason, the Congregation has affirmed that, with regard to the credibility of the “apparitions” in question, all should accept the declaration, dated 10 April 1991, from the Bishops of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, which asserts: “On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

The complete letter from the papal nuncio to the Catholic Bishops in the United States (click to enlarge)

“It follows, therefore, that clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such “apparitions” would be taken for granted.”

“In order, therefore, to avoid scandal and confusion, Archbishop Müller asks that the Bishops be informed of this matter as soon as possible” papal nuncio Carlo Maria Vigano ends his letter.

ENDA and Bully Politics

GAY RIGHTS march

The United States Senate is quietly passing a law, known by the acronym ENDA, (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that will place homosexuals in the same protected class as African Americans.

Personally, I am in favor of civil rights for gay people. They have the right to live their lives as they chose and to love whomever they want. They definitely should not be subjected to unjust discrimination. Homosexuals are human beings and American citizens.

However, I want the laws we pass to be just for everyone. Laws that seek to create a super category of citizen whose rights trump those of other citizens are, on their face, unjust laws. I am particularly concerned about issues of religious freedom.

I am also concerned about the way that Congress approaches legislation these days. I would wager that there are two incentives behind this particular bill. One is to pass a “hero deal” for the gay rights community. The motive for his is to pull gay activists and their dollars even closer to the Democratic Party. The other is to force the Republican House to either pass the bill and thus enrage a large part of their own base, or to kill and it and thus motivate the Democratic base.

One thing I’m reasonably sure is not under serious consideration is the impact ENDA would have on the lives and freedoms of ordinary Americans. I doubt if the question as to whether or not this is a good piece of legislation has been seriously discussed in the halls of Congress by either side of the debate.

According to a letter that the United States Conference of Bishops sent to members of the United States Senate, this proposed law would threaten religious liberty, support the redefinition of marriage, and reject the biological definition of gender. Those are serious charges, which should open the legislation for debate and amendment.

In the current climate, it is a stand-up action for the bishops to speak against this legislation. They, the Church, and faithful Catholics along with them, will be excoriated and called bigots and worse for having the temerity to suggest that the language of this legislation is flawed and too one-sided.

All this raises a couple of questions. First, is every piece of legislation that the gay rights community supports, by definition, good legislation that should not be debated, amended or critiqued for its content? Second, is expressing concern about bad language and specific components of a piece of legislation that is supported by gay rights advocates automatically, and by definition, an act of bigotry?

Have we reached the point where people of good will are unable to discuss legislation on its merits because of the mindless rhetoric and name-calling that is used to promote it?

I have the impression that Congress has moved past being a deliberative body and entered the arena of bully politics and don’t-read-the-bill-it-will-only-make-it-harder-to-vote-for-it.

I’ve done some of this myself, so I know a little bit about the emotions that push it. When a powerful special interest group wants something, every law-maker knows that the political price of opposing it will be terrible. If the special interest — in this case, gay rights advocates — wants something, and they are known for being a group that can turn on a dime and attack with intent to destroy in a personal way anyone who opposes them, the stakes grow higher.

If the special interest in question is also one that a law-maker has supported and been supported by in the past, the hill to climb to vote against or even amend a piece of legislation the special interest wants becomes a job-losing mountain.

Hence, the motivation to not read the bill. It’s easier to vote for a bad bill if you don’t read it or think about it or let yourself listen to requests to revise it.

I imagine the bishops would be happy to support a piece of legislation that addressed genuine discrimination against any group of people, and certainly something that addressed genuine discrimination against homosexuals.

It is truly a shame that Congress no longer deliberates about the legislation it passes, but just lines up the votes according to political consideration and then rams things through to see if they will hurt the opposing party in the next election.

I miss Congress. Congress matters.

Here is a copy of the letter issued by the USCCB concerning this law.

 

Bishop s end letter

Bishop s letter 2

Even if I Die, I Should be the First One

Putharayil Fr Benny

Father Benny Putharayli

Even if I die, I should be the first one.

That was how Father Benny Putharayli evaluated the situation when the gunman who had invaded his church during mass gestured for him to step forward.

Father Putharayli’s parishioners were already on the floor, taking cover. A gunman had walked into the Church of St Michael in Ray, ND during mass and yelled, “Stop Father!”

“It was a shocking moment because I was preaching,” the priest recounted. The parishioners hit the floor and that left Father Putharayli the only one standing.

When the gunman gestured for the priest to come forward, Father Putharayli thought, “Even if I die, I should be the first one.”

I would guess that Father’s thoughts were almost instantaneous. This doesn’t sound like the kind of situation where someone has time to weigh their ideas and contemplate consequences. Moments like this strip away the intellectual boundaries we place between who we are and who we would like to be.

It sounds as if that split second thought was Father Putharayli, offering his life for that of his parishioners.

The gunman was a killer. He had murdered two people, including his 82-year-old mother, before coming to the church. Fortunately, he only wanted money from the parishioners. But Father Putharayli didn’t know this when he was looking down the barrel of that shotgun, and given that he was dealing with someone so depraved that he had killed his own mother, things could easily have turned bloody in that church that evening.

The world gets crazier and violent acts multiply. But, even in the midst of this violence, individual acts of heroism and self-sacrifice witness to the best that’s in us. That is one of the messages we need to take away from the many terrible events in our society. Good happens, and it happens in the worst of times.

I’m tired of asking the question “Why?” about the senseless violence in our society? The operative word about these terrible crimes is that they are senseless by ordinary thinking. There will never be a comprehensible answer to the question Why? or at least not one we want to hear.

The truth is, our society has become a psycho-breeder. We don’t want to face that and the implications it has for some of our cherished misbehaviors. But without a willingness to forego easy answers and quickie fixes that will not work, the eternal whys of the victims have no answers.

As I said a few months ago, we are going to have to learn to live with this. This is our new normal.

I understand the shattered victims who ask Why? That is the first and deepest response of the grievously wounded. Coming from those whose lives have been shattered, Why? isn’t a question so much as it is a statement. I am worth something it says. My loved one who is dead or injured is a beautiful gift from God and their worth is beyond counting. Don’t you see that?

That is what Why? means when it comes from a shattered victim.

But as a rhetorical question from a stunned public, it has ceased to resonate, at least for me. I am tired of asking Why?

I refuse to go where these rhetorical Whys? lead to, which is a fixation on the monsters who do these things. I don’t want to talk about them. I would rather we never spoke their names and, when the times comes, that we salt their graves so nothing can ever grow there again.

So, if you want to gabble about the various shootings and tragedies of this week or the weeks before, go elsewhere. The silence on this blog is my salt on the monster’s graves. They are anathema to me. When I speak, it will be about the beautiful acts of heroism and love that ordinary people rise to as a result of these pitiless assaults.

We need to focus on the brave and selfless people who look down the barrel of a shotgun and think Even if I die, I should be the first one. 

Because, even in the worst of times, good happens.

From Chicago Sun-Times.com:

The Rev. Benny D. Putharayil was conducting Saturday night mass at the Church of St. Michael in Ray, N.D. when a man armed with a shotgun barged in.

“It was a shocking moment because I was preaching,” Putharayil recalled Monday night, only after learning the man had been wanted for murder. “He stepped in with a gun and shouted, ‘Stop, Father.’”

Heads in the pews turned to catch sight of 54-year-old Billy Varner, who has since been charged with the murder of two women in north suburban Antioch, according to the priest and authorities.

Nearly three-dozen parishioners hit the floor, taking cover in the pews, leaving Putharayil the only one standing, the Catholic priest said in a phone interview.

Then the man gestured with his gun for Putharayil to come forward.

“My thought was, ‘Even if I die, I should be the first one,’” Putharayil said. “By God’s grace I was a spared.”

Can You Imagine Jesus Using a Word Like Catechesis?

Catechism

Can you imagine Jesus using a word like catechesis?

Me neither.

How many blank stares would He have gotten if He had announced, “The Father and I are consubstantial?”

That might have ended His mission right there. No one would have been able to charge Him with heresy since they wouldn’t have had the first clue what He was talking about. Think about it: No Calvary, no redemption and no salvation for humankind, all because of the obscurity of the word “consubstantial.”

Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening to a lot of individual people in the world today. People are by-passing the Church that has the words that lead to eternal life, or they are shunning its teachings, because they don’t “get” what religious leaders are trying to tell them.

The Vatican plans to survey Catholics around the globe in an attempt to figure out why their message isn’t getting through to the faithful. Since I am a sort of Catholic (there are days when I feel pretty marginal in my worthiness to say that) I am going to give my own completely unsolicited idea as to what might be done to improve the ability of Church teaching to actually teach.

In my humble opinion, our religious leaders need to teach more like Jesus and less like their theology professor.

I’ll wager it was a small group in their theology classroom, and it will be a small group in heaven if the leaders of the Church don’t clear their palates a bit.

Jesus taught people all the truths that all the theology these guys have stuffed into their heads is based on, and He taught it in accessible and simple terms. There really is a difference between being simple and speaking simply. Direct language, used in straight-forward declarative sentences, communicates. Obscure language in sentences that are long strings of dependent clauses hung together with commas, confuses.

It really is as easy as that. Eloquence is not necessary for communication. But clear thinking and direct language are.

The reason I’m focusing on this is twofold:

1. The number one gripe I hear from other pew-sitting Catholics has nothing to do with gay marriage or contraceptives. It is about being forced to say ugly words like consubstantial. I don’t personally hang out with Catholics who actually read the Pope’s encyclicals. I also don’t personally know a Catholic who lies awake nights worrying about the color of the Pope’s shoes.

These people exist, and they make a lot of noise. But they are very small in number compared with the huge Catholic ocean of believers who just want know what they need to do to get to heaven.

2. The fact that Church directives of every sort fail to communicate with the just-tell-me-what-I-need-to-do-to-get-to-heaven crowd leaves these people wide open to be led by those who do bother to read the various communications. In short, it leaves them at the mercy of people like me.

The Catholic blogosphere has become a sort of second magisterium. Sadly, this bogus magisterium of the blogosphere often trumps the true magisterium in terms of the fidelity of its followers. The temptation to become a tin-plated god for a lot of hapless people runs strong in some folk. I lost count a long time ago of the number of things I’ve read in which members of the laity excoriate the pope — the pope! — because he doesn’t live up to their itty bitty interpretation of things.

That is a natural outgrowth of vague, inaccessible teaching from the Church itself. If those who are charged with leadership don’t lead, that creates a vacuum that someone else will step up and fill. We don’t need more demagogues in the blogosphere, but we will get them so long as the Church continues to communicate in such an inaccessible way.

I think that the Church needs to teach its teachings in language that is clear-cut and that communicates.

It can begin by finding a better word than catechesis.

Bishops in Disgrace and Whither the Church is Tending

I am the good shepherd with glowing shepherds crook

The so-called Bishop of Bling, Bishop Frantz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, has been suspended for what may prove to be misappropriation of funds. 

The charges against him are basically that he has been living large off monies that should have gone to Church ministries. 

Other bishops find themselves in situations like that of Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St Paul Minneapolis. This bishop is in trouble for failure to remove priests with pedophile problems from active ministry. 

While the charges against both these bishops are serious, I don’t feel nearly as strongly about the things Bishop Tebartz-van Elst is accused of doing as those that Archbishop Nienstedt may have done. I am, as I said yesterday, out of patience with the refusal by some bishops to do their jobs vis a vis the clergy child sex abuse scandal. 

Both these situations highlight a simple fact: The Church’s way of dealing with the public failings of its bishops is going to have to change. 

The era of ignoring things is over. The reason it is over is that the world has changed. We live in an age where I can sit in Oklahoma and learn about the missteps of a German bishop right along with the people in his diocese. I know about what is happening in Minnesota as soon as the Minnesotans know. 

More than that, I learn about these things in an immediate way that makes me feel as if I am one of the parishioners in Minnesota or Germany, that this is my problem, as well as theirs. 

Unfortunately, vendetta-inspired lies and smears transmit with the same speed as facts. Different pressure groups, particularly gay marriage advocates, have used this ability to communicate at internet speed to punish, coerce and just plain injure those who disagree with them. 

Not only do we live in a world of instant communication, we also live in a world of self-entitled people who think that whatever they want is a moral imperative that justifies whatever they do to get it. 

What this means for bishops of the Church is that they are often the targets of vendetta-motivated smear campaigns. The bishops who speak out strongly for Church teaching against the forces that want to oppose that teaching are the most viciously targeted. 

Since bishops are human beings with human failings, there will always be things about them to criticize. Not one person on this planet can survive this kind of malicious scrutiny intact. We’ve all done something or other. Most of us have done lots of somethings or other, that would look gross when they are put in the worst possible light and flung out on the internet by those who hate us and are motivated to destroy our reputations. 

The question for the Church is when to stand by a bishop in disgrace, and when to remove him. 

This is not a small question. If the Church allows public witch hunts to provoke it into removing bishops, then it will destroy its own strength of witness in the world. On the other hand, if it leaves truly disgraceful bishops in place, it will — once again — destroy its witness in the world. 

I don’t have to make these decisions, and I’m glad I don’t. However, I do have one opinion. 

The sexual abuse of children by clergy has got to stop. 

Period. 

No arguments. 

No discussions. 

It has to stop. 

I understand that charges like this are sometimes flung against priests falsely. I also understand that each priest functions more or less independently most of the time, which means that bishops don’t know all that they are doing.

But when a bishop is given credible information that makes it seem likely that a priest is engaging in kiddie porn or other improper behavior with and about children, that bishop needs to act immediately. It is not necessary to ascertain if the evidence will stand up in a court of law. The safety of children demands that if the evidence is credible — as opposed to baseless vicious gossip — the bishop has to remove that priest from active ministry.

I’ve read several reports now of people within a diocese sending a bishop clear evidence of priests having salacious photos of children on their computers and the bishop brushing it off. This has happened with different bishops in different states. We’ve had to deal with a bishop in New Jersey who allowed a priest who had been convicted of child sex abuse to go back into ministry with children.

If the bishops will not remove priests who have these problems from active ministry, then the bishops themselves need to be removed. 

The safety of our children and the integrity of the Church depend on it. 


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