New Jersey Archbishop Strains out Gnat of Legalities, Swallows Camel of Child Sex Abuse

“Whoever harms one of these little ones that believes in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck and he was cast into the sea.”

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I support the bishops.

How many times, over how many issues, have I said that?

I support them whenever and however they teach and preach the Gospel of Christ. I support them in their battles against secularism and the social dissolution around us. I support them in their efforts to evangelize this great Church and inspire the people of God to stand up and speak out for Jesus.

I support the bishops.

Except when I don’t. 

When a bishop stops preaching Christ and Him crucified and starts parsing legalities in order to get around rules he wrote himself and which he gave us his word he would keep, I take a look at him. When a bishop does this in order to excuse another violation of the promises to stop endangering children by placing them in the care of priests who are known child abusers, I don’t follow him.

A case in point is Archbishop Myers of New Jersey. Archbishop Myers has evidently placed a priest who is a convicted child abuser in a position where he will be in extensive contact with children.

Let me repeat that: Archbishop Myers put a convicted child abuser in ministry to children. 

Of course, as usual, the Archbishop is not the only bad guy involved here. Father Michael Fugee confessed to “fondling a 14-year-old boy’s genitals.” In the course of his confession, he evidently also said that he was a homosexual. Three years after his conviction, an appellate court vacated his conviction because the trial judge had allowed the jury to hear the part of the confession in which he said he was a homosexual.

I don’t know the legal hat they hung this on, but I do know that whatever basis it was sounds very much like political correctness run amok once again. I would guess that the assumption was that his admission of homosexuality was somehow regarded as too prejudicial for a jury to hear. The confession of child sexual abuse? Not so much.

So.

We have a confessed, convicted child abuser that the courts turn lose. Rather than go through another trial, the prosecutor’s office decided that what Father Fugee really needed was some of that counseling for sex offenders that has been shown to work so well at changing these guys.

The prosecutor basically did what we’ve condemned the bishops for doing. They gave a child abuser useless counseling, then put him back in the situation where he could do it again. The sop to public safety was that they made Father Fugee sign a piece of paper saying he wouldn’t do it again. More specifically, he signed a paper saying he would stay away from children, and Archbishop Myers signed it, too.

Let’s think this through. We have a court that vacates a judgement because the jury also heard that the confessed and convicted child abuser said he was a homosexual. Then, we have a prosecutor who follows in the footsteps of bad bishops and decides that what this guy really needs is some counseling and to make a promise that he won’t do it again.

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Archbishop Myers, not to be outdone in this chain of abuse of the public trust and disregard for the welfare of children, follows through by putting said child abusing priest back where he’s with children, once again. As if that’s not enough, we also have a couple of people at the parish level who know all about Father Fugee’s conviction and go along with placing him with children.

Is there anyone involved in this situation who hasn’t violated the public’s trust? 

It is so tiresome to keep hearing about abuse of the system that is so egregious that we end up more disgusted with the public and Church officials who should have done something and didn’t than we are with the actual child abuser.

Everybody involved needs to lose their job. From Father Fugee on up the food chain to the appellate court justice, they all need to go into a line of work where they are not responsible for other people’s lives. I’m including Archbishop Myers in this, as well.

I haven’t read the fine print, but I honestly thought that the bishops gave us their word that they’d stop this nonsense of putting child molesting priests back with children so they could do it again. I thought they promised us they’d stop doing this. I also thought they meant it.

I think just about every bishop out there did mean it. But it’s becoming obvious that at least a couple of them made these promises with their fingers crossed behind their backs. 

Archbishop Myer sent an it-all-depends-on-what-the-definition-of-is-is letter to his priests in which he explains, basically, that he’s done nothing wrong. His reasoning is all about the finest of fine points in the Charter for the Protection of Children, a document he says that he helped write. He says that claims that he violated this Charter are “baseless.”

I wonder, has this guy ever heard of Jesus Christ?

Has he ever once thought about the Gospels he proclaims?

What does he think that shepherd’s crook he carries means?

I think that Archbishop Myers has broken the real Charter, and that’s the charter of trust with the Catholic people of the world. Notice, I did not say the Catholic people of his archdiocese. I did not say the trust of the children he allowed this priest to be near.

He violated my trust. And yours. And the trust of every person on this planet who follows the Church with the belief that it will lead us in the narrow way of Christ.

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Whatever the fine points of this Charter that the Archbishop helped write himself to govern himself, he has violated both the letter and the spirit of the Gospels he proclaims. Jesus said, “Whoever harms one of these little ones that believes in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck and he was cast into the sea.”

What part of that contract doesn’t the Archbishop understand?

Archbishop Myer’s letter:

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From NJ.com:

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Fr Fugee with two boys during pilgrimage to Canada in 2010. Facebook photo

Amid calls for a Vatican investigation, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers came under fierce criticism Monday for his handling of a priest who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors in defiance of a lifetime ban on ministry to children.

At the Monmouth County church where the Rev. Michael Fugee had been spending time with a youth group, angry parishioners said they were never told about Fugee’s background and they questioned Myers’ defense of the priest, the subject of a lengthy story in the Sunday Star-Ledger.

“It’s complete craziness that the church can let this happen,” said John Santulli, 38, a father of two at St. Mary Parish in Colts Neck. “I’m a softball coach, and I need a background check just to get on the field. Every single person I spoke to today said, ‘Oh my God. I didn’t know about this.’ It’s incomprehensible.”

Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell, who previously said Fugee was operating in the diocese without his knowledge or permission, has ordered the pastor of St. Mary to bar the priest from any church activities, a spokeswoman said in a statement Monday.

The bishop of Paterson, Arthur Serratelli, has likewise said Fugee was on a retreat at Lake Hopatcong without permission.

For the first time in his many years as an advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse, Mark Crawford, New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on the archbishop to resign, characterizing Fugee as the latest in a string of problem priests shielded by Myers.

“The archbishop continues to insist it’s fine for Fugee to work with children. It’s a very dangerous message,” Crawford said.

Nuns and Sisters: To Inhabit the Habit, or Not?

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The old-fashioned habit that was worn by women religious for several hundred years is a romantic garb.

It is, in its own way, more high fashion than anything coming out of Paris, Italy or New York today. It harkens back to the days when Europe was going through a prolonged cold streak, when buildings where the common folk lived went mostly unheated.The habit began as the fashion of the day and, as time moved onward and the fashions of the days changed, it became an icon of religious identity for the women who wore it and those who saw them.

The habit meant something rather grand, speaking as it did of the mysteries of the sealed-off world of the convent and lives lived according to vows of lifetime commitment to Christ and His Church. The habit, when worn by Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn, was not only living religious icon, and high fashion; it was high Hollywood, as well. 

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No wonder the laity longs to see its return and many young girls like to wear it. But given that it is bound to be a rather uncomfortable and hot dress for today’s climate and an altogether unwieldy one for much of today’s work, no wonder so many other nuns were only too happy to shed it.

Fifty years on in this experiment of habit-less nuns and sisters, the question remains: To inhabit the habit, or not? Should nuns and sisters wear this garb as it always has been, or should they wear a modified version of it, or, should they abandon it altogether?

I am not a nun or a sister. I don’t, as we say here in Oklahoma, have a dog in this fight. 

What I want from sisters and nuns is the same thing I want from priests: Authenticity of purpose and fidelity to Jesus. 

I do think that it serves an important purpose for God’s vowed ones to be identifiable in public. Priests wear the collar. But they don’t wear it on the basketball court or the swimming pool. They take it off to go out for dinner with their friends and family. 

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From what I’ve seen, sisters and nuns try to wear their habits at all times, even when they are engaged in physical enterprises which make it clumsy or even dangerous. I think that is kind of extreme. 

Maybe the question should be more along the lines of what should nuns who are active in the world wear for a habit, rather than if they should dress like civilians. As I said, this isn’t my fight. The only reason I’m writing about it is because I see a crying need for sisters who will engage in ministries such as human trafficking, prostitution, and other crimes of violence against women. 

The truth is, many of the women who escape from these things are unable to relate to any man in a healthy way, and that includes priests. They are deeply wounded, maimed even, on a spiritual and emotional level. They need people of God to work with them, and it would be very helpful if at least some of these people had the authority of religious vows. 

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It can’t be men; not in the early stages. It has to be women. That, to me, means sisters. The reason I bring up the habit is that I can see that a full-bore, head-to-toe habit might be a barrier between a sister and the people they are ministering to. Victims of this kind of terrible violence have enough survival barriers they’ve created inside themselves without adding more with something like the clothing you wear. 

To me — and I’m going to say for the third time that I’m out of my depth here — but to me the question about whether or not to wear a habit should revolve around what purpose it serves. I think women religious should wear something that is uniform to their calling and that distinguishes them from the laity. But I also think that transporting middle ages fashion to the 21st century may not always be the best way to go. 

I’m not saying it’s wrong to wear this type of habit. It’s fine. But for certain kinds of ministry, it would interfere with the sister’s ability to minister. On the other hand, dressing like just anybody who walked in off the street would hamper that ministry, as well.

I mentioned the collar and black and white clothes that priests wear because I think they are a good solution. It is a distinctive and uniform look that anyone who sees it recognizes as clerical garb. At the same time, it does not inhibit a priest’s ability to walk, run, sit or drive a car. Priests even wear short-sleeved shirts in summer, which seems kinder than wearing a full habit to me. 

Priests also take their clericals off when they want to play golf or go jogging. They even take them off for private social occasions. 

Why can’t sisters and nuns exercise the same common sense in their clothing? 

I’ve read that the orders which use the full habit are growing while those that don’t wear a habit are declining. I don’t know if that has to do with the habit or with the spiritual practices and mission of these orders or what. I would like to think that young women are joining religious orders for much more important reasons that what habit they wear. 

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As I said, my interest in this comes from what I see as a crying need to have women religious in certain ministries. The lack of women religious to help in the fight against violence against women is a sadness to me. I know that they could make a profound difference for the good, but there are not women religious to do this work, at least none that I know of. 

This is a rambling post that goes off in several directions and doesn’t come around to any conclusion. That’s because I’m thinking this through as I type. 

What do you think about all this? 

Also, do you know of an order of sisters who might be interested in the kind of work I’m talking about? 

The Church needs nuns and sisters. It has to have them to do the work of evangelization that it has set for itself. 

Christian Persecution: Six Quick Takes

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This week’s six quick takes on Christian Persecution include one that I’m not entirely sure about, another that deals with a 100-year-old genocide, and the usual dismal roundup of wanton killings, abductions and imprisonment of Christians around the globe. 

I think there are two reasons why Christianity is attacked. First, as President Obama said in a speech a few years ago, it is revolutionary. His complaint at the time was that the Sermon on the Mount, would, if it was followed, lead to disarmament.

Indeed.

Governments the world over have tried to control the revolutionary message of Christ in one of two ways: Co-opt it, or attack it. Hitler was an example of co-opting coupled with attacks against those who didn’t buy into his program, while Stalin and the Communist states are examples of outright attack.

That division seems to hold up right to this day and even here in America. Right wing politicians are more prone to claim their religiosity while attempting to twist the Gospels to support their goals and left-wing politicians tend to veer toward limiting religious freedom with ironic claims of inclusion and tolerance.

Christianity has a better record of standing up to outright attack than it does co-option. I suppose that’s only natural. If somebody punches you in the nose, you know you’ve been hit. But if they flatter you and tell you how great you are while they ask you to sign the title to your house away, it’s harder to catch. Or, at least it is for some people.

The second reason is that Christianity is attacked is that it is true. Jesus really is the Son of God. He really did die for our sins and He really did rise again on the third day. He really is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

It is politically incorrect to say that, but taking offense to the truth does not make it untrue. People resent the claims that Jesus makes on their hearts and their lives. They want to be their own little gods, but they are unwilling to admit what that means. So … they attack the only hope they have.

Pope Francis talks about satan more than is politically correct, even for a Pope. But he is right to do this. Christianity is attacked because it is the Light, and the darkness hates it.

This week’s quick takes focus mainly on the nose-punching type of attack on Christians, rather than the soft-soap of the co-opters. As always, there’s a heavy dose of persecution from the Middle East. I decided to include the Armenian genocide because these people have been forgotten in the name of political expedience. I’ve read that out of a population of 2 million Armenian Christians, 1.5 million were murdered. Their blood, like Abel’s, cries out from the ground. 

I also included a story about the Pentagon blocking the Southern Baptist web site. I had read about this in several places, but only decided to take it seriously (I’m still confused by it.) because Fox News carried it. Note: I was wise to doubt this story. The Pentagon has explained that their computer detected malware on the SBC website. They say they were not blocking the site. You can read about that here

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Here are the Six Quick Takes about Christian Persecution this week. I hope that you read each of them prayerfully. 

1. NIGERIA 

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18 More Followers Of Christ Slaughtered By Muslim Attackers In Christian Village Of Mile Bakwai

Morning Star News – “Hosea Mashaf was resting in his village of Chirang Mangor, Nigeria, when area Christian youths told him that armed, Muslim Fulani herdsmen were attacking the Christian village of Mile Bakwai.

The 45-year-old farmer and other Christians rushed to Mile Bakwai, three kilometers away in the Bokkos Local Council Area of Plateau State, the night of March 27 to see how they might aid the Christians there, he told Morning Star News.

‘When we got there, the gunmen had already retreated,’ Mashaf said. ‘I saw dead bodies scattered all over the village. I counted the dead bodies we recovered, and in all we had 18 Christians who were killed by the Muslim attackers.’

They found five of those bodies in a minibus, he said.

‘They were travelling in a bus back to our village when they ran into the attack going on at Mile Bakwai village,’ Mashaf said. ‘They were killed by the attackers when they shot at the bus, which crashed into a building, but the attackers went to the place where the bus was and shot the occupants. Five of them were killed, while two others were injured.’

Dead were Geofrey Mafuyai, 35; Mahana Jamok, 50; Arandon Yusuf, 18; Dung Dalyop, 38; and, Mbata Machif, 36. Maju Mahana, 25, and Nanle Enoch, 18 were wounded and received treatment at the ECWA Evangel Hospital in Jos, he said.

The 18 slain were members of Nigerian Baptist Convention, Christ Apostolic Church and Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregations, sources said. The Rev. James Danladi Mahwash of the Bishara Baptist Church in Mile Bakwai village said five of his church members were killed, including the financial secretary of the Men’s Missionary Union of his church, 25-year-old Jamle Benjamin Sunday. (Read more here.)

2. USA

Cross Flag

Pentagon Blocks Access to Southern Baptist Website

By Todd Starnes

NOTE: A reader passed along the Pentagon’s response to this. They say that the problem was a result of their software detecting malware on the SBC’s website. You can read that story here.

The U.S. Military has blocked access to the Southern Baptist Convention’s website on an unknown number of military bases because it contains “hostile content” — just weeks after an Army briefing labeled Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics as examples of religious extremism, Fox News has learned.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination known for its support of the pro-life movement and its strong belief in traditional marriage.

Southern Baptist chaplains reported that SBC.net   had been blocked at military installations around the nation. An Air Force officer told Fox News that when he tried to log on to the website he received a message that his Internet usage was being logged and monitored for trying to access a blocked site.

The censorship was made public after an Army officer tried to log onto the denomination’s website and instead — received a warning message.

“The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content,” the message read.

Team CONUS protects the computer network of the Dept. of Defense. The SBC’s website was not blocked at the Pentagon.

It’s unclear what the “hostile content” might have been. The SBC is pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage. (Read more here.)

3. EGYPT

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Egyptian Muslims murdering Christians with impunity

Ten people are dead following clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt. The people have been killed over the past few weeks which have seen spates of violence between Christians defending their churches and homes from angry Muslims. Few Muslim attackers ever face justice.

CAIRO, EGYPT (Catholic Online) – Clashes between Muslims and Christians have claimed 10 live in Egypt where sectarian violence between the groups has been renewed in the face of Mohammed Morsi’s administration.

The most recent spate of violence started after children drew crosses on the walls of an Islamic institute in Khosoos, just north of Cairo. That acts of children’s vandalism sparked a bloody retaliation from Muslims in which four Christians and a Muslim were killed.

At the Christian funeral, Muslims struck again, this time carrying on until they reached the Coptic cathedral and damaged the structure. More Christians were murdered. (Read more here.)

4. TURKEY

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The Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s Attempt to Deny It

From 1915 to 1917 the Young Turk regime in the Ottoman Empire carried out a systematic, premeditated, centrally planned genocide against the Armenian people.  One of the documents authenticated by Turkish authorities in 1919 is a telegram sent in June 1915 by Dr. Sakir, one of the leaders of the secret organization that carried out the planning and implementation of the Genocide.  He asks the provincial party official who is responsible for carrying out the deportations and massacres of Armenians within his district: “Are the Armenians, who are being dispatched from there, being liquidated? Are those harmful persons whom you inform us you are exiling and banishing, being exterminated, or are they being merely dispatched and exiled? Answer explicitly….”

The evidence of intent is backed also by the outcome of the actions against the Armenians: it is inconceivable that over a million persons could have died due to even a badly flawed effort at resettlement.  Moreover, the pattern of destruction was repeated over and over in different parts of Turkey, many of them far from any war zone; such repetition could only have come from a central design.  Further, the reward structure was geared toward destruction of the Christian minority: provincial governors and officials who refused to carry out orders to annihilate the Armenians were summarily replaced.

More than one million Armenians perished as the result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment, and physical abuse.  A people who lived in eastern Turkey for nearly 3,000 years lost its homeland and was profoundly decimated in the first large-scale genocide of the twentieth century.  At the beginning of 1915 there were some two million Armenians within Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000.

Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, eyewitness accounts, official archives, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, and the testimony of survivors, denial of the Armenian Genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present.

The basic argument of denial has remained the same, it never happened, Turkey is not responsible, the term “genocide” does not apply. (Read more here.)

5. SYRIA

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Kidnapped bishops raise fears of Christian nightmare in Syria

ICC Note: Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, condemned the kidnapping of two archbishops and said Pope Francis is “following [the] events with deep participation and intense prayer.” The bishops were abducted by armed rebels on Monday in the village of Kfar Dael, near Aleppo, Syria while carrying out humanitarian work. The bishops are the most senior church leaders abducted in the conflict which has now killed more than 70,000 people across Syria. The kidnapping “is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian people and its Christian community are living,” Lombardi said.

By John L. Allen Jr.

4/23/2013 Syria (National Catholic Reporter) – Rome on Tuesday reacted with alarm to the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops in Syria, fearing it may mark the beginning of the nightmare scenario: that Syria will become the next Iraq, meaning the next Middle Eastern country where Christians emerge as primary victims of the chaos following the disintegration of a police state.

A Vatican spokesman called the kidnappings “a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian people and its Christian community are living.”

According to a report from the Asia News agency, the two bishops were stopped at gunpoint by armed men Monday on their way to the city of Aleppo. A catechist traveling with them was shot to death while the two bishops were forced out of the car and taken away.

The prelates involved are the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Msgr. Youhanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskenderun, Msgr. Boulos al-Yaziji. Both are well known in Rome as veterans of ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic church.

The identity of their kidnappers remains unclear, but sources in Syria say kidnapping of Christians has become a growth industry as various armed factions look for ways to fund their activities. (Read more here.)

6. CHINA: 

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Seven House Church Leaders Sentenced to Prison

4/21/2013 China (ChinaAid) – Also in Henan, seven house church leaders were sentenced on April 1 to prison sentences ranging from three to 7-1/2 years, according to the well-known Christian lawyer Li Baiguang. Their defense lawyers received the verdict and sentencing papers just last week.

Han Hai, 7-1/2 year sentence, male, aged 60, previously administratively detained twice, was also sentenced to a labor camp for three years. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Hu Linpo, seven year sentence, from Singapore, male, aged 49, the house church’s main preacher, was detained in 1989 for 30 days. Criminally detained on April 18 and is now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Yang Lianbing, three-year sentence, male, aged 23, working in Zhengzhou. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Zhang Mian, four-year sentence, female, aged 37, owner of the residence where the church meets. Criminally detained on April 20, now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.

Cao Xia, 3-1/2-year sentence, female, in her 50s, owner of another residence where the church meets. Police seized from her home CDs of Hu Linpo preaching and a computer used to make copies of the sermon CDs. Police also confiscated a Chinese-made Liebao SUV parked outside Cao’s home that belonged to a Christian man who was there to listen to the preaching. Cao was criminally detained on April 20 and is now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.

Wang En, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, said to have helped make copies of Preacher Hu’s sermon CDs. Held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Li Dan, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, probably for copying CDs. Held in the Pindingshan Detention Center. (Read more here.)

 

Pope Emeritus Benedict Relieved to Have Weight of the Church Off His Shoulders

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Pope Emeritus Benedict is “relieved” to be free of the “weight” of the Church, his brother says.

Father Georg Ratzinger told the Daily Telegraph that his younger brother is happy in his retirement. The former Pope Benedict spends his days in prayer, reading and playing the piano. 

He still “suffers the Church,” but enjoys not have the full weight of it “on his shoulders,” Fr Ratzinger said. 

Fr Ratzinger traveled from Germany to Italy for the Pope Emeritus’ 86th birthday. 

It is a miracle that these two brothers still have one another at this age and that they are both able to travel and enjoy their lives, including celebrating birthdays.

I wish them peace and happiness in this twilight of their lives. 

From National Post:

ROME — The former Pontiff, Pope Emeritus Benedict, is “relieved” to be free of the responsibility of running the Catholic Church, his elder brother has said, but he insisted that Benedict was not suffering from illness.

Father Georg Ratzinger, himself a priest, told The Daily Telegraph his younger brother was “very happy” to be living at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat south of Rome that he moved to after stepping down in February, becoming the first pope to resign in 600 years. Fr. Ratzinger, 88, who travelled from Germany to celebrate Benedict’s 86th birthday on April 16, said his brother “still suffers the problems of the Church, but is really relieved to no longer have the weight of the Church on his shoulders”.

… Speaking by telephone from his house in Bavaria, Mr Ratzinger denied the pope emeritus was suffering from major ailments. “He is now very old, he does not have any particular illness, but he is weakening due to his age,” he said.

 Since relinquishing the responsibility of overseeing the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Benedict has spent his time praying, reading and playing the piano at Castel Gandolfo, which is situated on the rim of a volcanic lake, surrounded by acres of private gardens and Roman ruins. (Read the rest here.) 

Or … Maybe Kidnapped Bishops HAVEN’T Been Released

I am not sure what the situation is concerning the two Orthodox Archbishops who were kidnapped yesterday. News reports from reputable sources said they had been released.

Now, a new report from Pravmir.com, Orthodox Chrisitianity and the World says they are still captive. Please pray for these brave men of God.

Here, without editing, is the Pravmir.com report:

Release Reports False

April 23, 2013

youhanna_yaziji.large_thumbnail-double_sidebarThere have appeared many reports in both the Eastern and Western press that the two hierarchs who were abducted yesterday by terrorists in Syria, Metropolitan Boulos Yazge, Antiochian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim, Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, have been released. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip spoke by phone this morning to His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East (pictured), who said that these reports are false, and that the release of these two hierarchs has NOT taken place.

We ask you to continue to pray for their safety, and eventual release.

Confirmed updates will be published as soon as they are known.

Kidnapped Bishops Have Been Released

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Archbishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yagizi have been released and returned to the city of Aleppo, Syria. 

They were kidnapped while traveling between the Turkish border and Aleppo yesterday. They were on a humanitarian mission to ask for the release of previous kidnap victims. Their driver was killed.

Archbishop Ibrahim is head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo. Archbishop Yaziji leads Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Church. 

From BBC News:

Two bishops who were abducted by gunmen in a rebel-held area of northern Syria have been released, a church official has said.

The pair have returned to the city of Aleppo, Greek Orthodox Bishop Tony Yazigi told Reuters.

The senior clerics, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, were seized on Monday as they were travelling from the Turkish border back to the city of Aleppo.

It was not immediately clear who had kidnapped them.

Bishop Ibrahim is the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo, while Bishop Yaziji leads the city’s Greek Orthodox Church.

They are the most senior Christian clerics caught up directly in the war.

Abductions on the rise

Kidnappings have increased dramatically in Syria in the past year but the abduction of such high-ranking Christian figures is unusual, the BBC’s James Reynolds reports from the city of Istanbul, in neighbouring Turkey.

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Christians made up about 10% of the mainly Sunni Muslim country’s population before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began just over two years ago. (Read more here.)

Trendy Jesus, Gonzaga, and MIssion Drift in Catholic Universities

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Catholic education cannot be Catholic unless it is also faithful to the Church and its teachings. 

Trendy Jesus is not the Lord of all Creation who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The Catholic Church, with its 2,000 year witness of absolute fealty to Christian teaching, is irreplaceable. It has handed the Gospels, the creeds and the sacraments forward through the millennia to us and it will send them forward again to our children and grandchildren.

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Catholic education is part of that handing forward of an unblemished faith. When Catholic universities start spinning off into their own trendy little orbits around the moral fashions of the day, they cease to be legitimately Catholic and they fail in their mission.

Catholic schools are pressured to forego their first mission of upholding and teaching the faith, even here in the Oklahoma backwaters. In my town, it’s the schools in the wealthier areas who get the most pressure and who most often accede to it.

This pressure does not usually come from Catholic parents. It comes from non-Catholics, including a surprising number of atheists, who send their children to these schools for the excellent education outside the troubled public school system. I’ve listened to these parents decry the “backwardness” of the Catholic schools they send their children to. They can sneer and belittle with the best of them.

The schools often bend to this nonsense and shear themselves clean of large parts of their reason for existing in the first place.

It appears that this process of mission betrayal is far advanced in a number of the elite Catholic Universities in this nation. I’ve written before about “elite” Catholic Universities that have become expensive funnels for tracking their students from wealthy zip codes back into those same zip codes. Rather than being the leaven of society that Americans have long thought education to be, they are becoming markers of a new and isolated ruling class. I’ll go back to that aspect of this scandal in other posts.

Georgetown obama

Today I want to talk about the loss of Catholic identity in some of our most well-known Catholic Universities. This ranges from Georgetown University and its willingness to cover the cross so that it wouldn’t be photographed with President Obama, to Gonzaga University and its refusal to give official status to the Knights of Columbus.

If Catholic Universities do not offer anything different than secular universities, then why do they matter? If all they give the Church is bragging rights about their famous graduates — many of whom appear to go out and fight against Church teaching in their careers — then why are we, the faithful — supporting them?

Gonzaga University is not alone in its mission drift. But its refusal to give the Knights of Columbus official status has certainly spotlighted what is happening there.

Dr Eric Cunningham, faculty adviser of the Knights of Columus council at Gonzaga, gave an interview to the National Catholic Register that speaks for itself in this regard. I’m going to pull quotes from the article, then link to it so you can read it all.

From The National Catholic Register:

A professor at Gonzaga University has countered claims by the school that it supports the campus’ Knights of Columbus Council after the group’s application to be a student organization was denied.

“Honestly I don’t see that they’re supported in any way,” Dr. Eric Cunningham, assistant director of Catholic Studies and faculty adviser to the university’s Knights council, told CNA April 15.

“If they’ve been denied club status, the only way they exist here is that the members of the Knights of Columbus council are enrolled here,” Cunningham stated.

This year the council has met at a seminary attached to the university, but has not been affiliated with the university, according to university paper The Gonzaga Bulletin.

Cunningham has noticed that the council is “listed in our advertising materials,” specifically in a brochure “that goes out to parents” showing the group listed as a student organization.  “So in other words, we’re kind of using them as recruiting tool, telling parents that we have a Knights of Columbus council that their sons can certainly join if they come here.”

Cunningham understands that roughly $1,000 of the council’s funds had been frozen by the Gonzaga student body association, and he said that “what I hear from the membership, is that hasn’t been returned yet.”

“Not only are they not being supported, they haven’t had their money returned to them. There’s no official support.” Cunningham has been associated with the council since 2006, and noted that he has made available to them the Catholic studies house, after “they were asked by the director of university ministry to stop meeting there.”

“They don’t have a chapter house, they were actually asked to stop meeting in the house they had been using. So I’d really love to know what Gonzaga is defining as support for the campus council.”

Cunningham lamented that this is typical of numerous Catholic universities, saying that “there’s nothing new about this” and that it “goes on I’m sure at every Catholic college campus in America, that hasn’t made its decision to reform itself as a more ‘Magisterial’ school.”

“Catholic universities are leading the way in turning Catholicism into a purely secular discourse and are restricting a serious intellectual engagement with what it means to be Catholic.” (Read more here.)

 

Pope Backs Reforms of US Sisters’ Leadership Conference

So far as I’m concerned this settles it. Cq5dam web 1280 1280

According to Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect for the Vatican’s doctrine congregation, the Holy Father has reaffirmed the Vatican’s assessment of the American Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The assessment found “serious doctrinal problems” and the findings also said that the Conference needed to be reformed.

This action resulted in public controversy and bitter comments that the bishops were a just a bunch of men attacking women for supporting the poor. I think quite a bit of the backlash could have been avoided if the bishops had done a better job of explaining what their concerns with the Leadership Conference for Women Religious were.

The situation was complicated by partisan electoral politics and the fact that the bishops were forced to take a stand against the HHS Mandate at the same time the assessment came down.

Us catholic bishops

It was poor timing, that played into the hand of secular politicians, to say the least. 

What followed is what has happened far too often. Supporters and attackers of the assessment inside the Church went right past the issues in question and headed straight on into name-calling and slander of both the bishops and the sisters. If you listened too long to either side in this debate, you would come away convinced that the other side was evil incarnate.

Nuns on the bus AP12061819474 fullwidth 620x350

We really need to stop this kind of behavior if we are going to continue calling ourselves Christians. I am not talking here about private conversations with your closely-held friends, family and clerical advisers. I am talking about the sorry practice of Catholics trashing Catholics in public discussion.

So far as the issue of reform in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is concerned, the Pope has spoken and that settles it. At least it does for me. I support my Church in its struggle to conform itself in all its members to the Gospels of Christ.

At the same time, there is no way that I am going to engage in an attack on the sisters. I was the Oklahoma contact for their legislative alerts for a couple of years and I can say they never once asked me to support or oppose any piece of legislation where I thought their position was contrary to Church teaching. I think they do a lot of good.

However, if the Holy Father has reviewed the report and says that he supports its findings, including the need for reform of the Conference, then I believe it, trust it and am not going to give it one more thought.

I will however, pray that this whole situation will be resolved in a manner that leads to the greater glory of the Kingdom and the increased holiness of all involved. 

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Pope Francis has reaffirmed the Vatican’s assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which found it had “serious doctrinal problems” and needed to be reformed.

Archbishop Gerhard L. Müller, the prefect for the Vatican’s doctrine congregation, met in Rome with conference president Sister Florence Deacon on April 15, along with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who was named to carry out the reform of the group.

Archbishop Müller told Sr. Deacon that he “recently discussed the Doctrinal Assessment with Pope Francis, who reaffirmed the findings of the Assessment and the program of reform for this Conference of Major Superiors,” an April 15 statement from the congregation said.

“It is the sincere desire of the Holy See that this meeting may help to promote the integral witness of women Religious,” the communiqué stated, and this requires “a firm foundation of faith and Christian love, so as to preserve and strengthen it for the enrichment of the Church and society for generations to come.”

Since it was his first time meeting with the leadership of the group, Archbishop Müller thanked the sisters for their “great contribution” to the Church in the United States, “as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor” that have been founded and staffed by religious.

He also “emphasized that a Conference of Major Superiors, such as the LCWR, exists in order to promote common efforts among its member institutes as well as cooperation with the local Conference of Bishops and with individual Bishops.

“For this reason, such Conferences are constituted by and remain under the direction of the Holy See,” he stated, citing canons 708-709. (Read more here.) 

First Month as Pope: What We’ve Learned About Francis

In his first month in office, Pope Francis has shown us that he is a man of:

1. Simplicity

2. Approachability

3. Continuity and Fidelity to the Magisterium

4. Tenderness

5. Service

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Pope Francis: One Cannot Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Without the Tangible Witness of One’s Life

POPE FRANCIS facebook

Pope Francis preached another wonderful homily when he celebrated Mass today. 

This pastoral Pope seems to understand us. He is able to preach to us in a way that reaches into our lives and tells us directly how to follow Jesus as we wend our way through life.

His homilies are shot through with theology, but it’s theology that doesn’t announce itself. The Holy Father is able to teach and preach theology in a real-world way that his listeners can comprehend and take home with them to live out. 

Today’s homily was another of this type. Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live? he asks.

We should all ask ourselves: Do I have the courage … to think, to choose, and to live as a Christian, obedient to God? One cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.

In other words, Preach Christ. If necessary, use words. 

Or 

You’ve got to walk the walk before you can talk the talk. 

The Pope also talked a good bit about the need for worship instead of just asking God for things and then thanking Him. 

I’ve pulled out a few quotes, which I will put below. I also will give you a chance to read the full homily for yourself. 

Read it and be blessed. 

Pope francis soft smile

Peter and the other Apostles. In response to the order to be silent, no longer to teach in the name of Jesus, no longer to proclaim his message, they respond clearly: “We must obey God, rather than men”. 

And they remain undeterred even when flogged, ill-treated and imprisoned. Peter and the Apostles proclaim courageously, fearlessly, what they have received: the Gospel of Jesus. And we? 

Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live? Do we know how to speak of Christ, of what he represents for us, in our families, among the people who form part of our daily lives?

… we all have to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel.

We should all ask ourselves:

How do I bear witness to Christ through my faith? Do I have the courage of Peter and the other Apostles, to think, to choose and to live as a Christian, obedient to God?

Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.

Worship 1

Do we turn to God only to ask him for things, to thank him, or do we also turn to him to worship him? 

 worshipping the Lord means that we are convinced before him that he is the only God, the God of our lives, the God of our history. 

This has a consequence in our lives: we have to empty ourselves of the many small or great idols that we have and in which we take refuge, on which we often seek to base our security. They are idols that we sometimes keep well hidden; they can be ambition, a taste for success, placing ourselves at the centre, the tendency to dominate others, the claim to be the sole masters of our lives, some sins to which we are bound, and many others.

I would like a question to resound in the heart of each one of you, and I would like you to answer it honestly: Have I considered which idol lies hidden in my life that prevents me from worshipping the Lord? 

Worshipping is stripping ourselves of our idols, even the most hidden ones, and choosing the Lord as the centre, as the highway of our lives.

Pope francis

Pope Francis: St Paul’s homily (full text)


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday evening in the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls. Proclamation, witness, and worship were the three key ideas on which Pope Francis focused in his homily, with especial emphasis on those who suffer for their witness to the Faith. Below, please find the full text of his homily, in English.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
It is a joy for me to celebrate Mass with you in this Basilica. I greet the Archpriest, Cardinal James Harvey, and I thank him for the words that he has addressed to me. Along with him, I greet and thank the various institutions that form part of this Basilica, and all of you. We are at the tomb of Saint Paul, a great yet humble Apostle of the Lord, who proclaimed him by word, bore witness to him by martyrdom and worshipped him with all his heart. These are the three key ideas on which I would like to reflect in the light of the word of God that we have heard: proclamation, witness, worship.

      In the First Reading, what strikes us is the strength of Peter and the other Apostles. In response to the order to be silent, no longer to teach in the name of Jesus, no longer to proclaim his message, they respond clearly: “We must obey God, rather than men”. And they remain undeterred even when flogged, ill-treated and imprisoned. Peter and the Apostles proclaim courageously, fearlessly, what they have received: the Gospel of Jesus. And we? Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live? Do we know how to speak of Christ, of what he represents for us, in our families, among the people who form part of our daily lives? Faith is born from listening, and is strengthened by proclamation.

 

        But let us take a further step: the proclamation made by Peter and the Apostles does not merely consist of words: fidelity to Christ affects their whole lives, which are changed, given a new direction, and it is through their lives that they bear witness to the faith and to the proclamation of Christ.
        In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter three times to feed his flock, to feed it with his love, and he prophesies to him: “When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). These words are addressed first and foremost to those of us who are pastors: we cannot feed God’s flock unless we let ourselves be carried by God’s will even where we would rather not go, unless we are prepared to bear witness to Christ with the gift of ourselves, unreservedly, not in a calculating way, sometimes even at the cost of our lives.
        But this also applies to everyone: we all have to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel. We should all ask ourselves: How do I bear witness to Christ through my faith? Do I have the courage of Peter and the other Apostles, to think, to choose and to live as a Christian, obedient to God?
        To be sure, the testimony of faith comes in very many forms, just as in a great fresco, there is a variety of colours and shades; yet they are all important, even those which do not stand out. In God’s great plan, every detail is important, even yours, even my humble little witness, even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships. There are the saints of every day, the “hidden” saints, a sort of “middle class of holiness” to which we can all belong.
        But in different parts of the world, there are also those who suffer, like Peter and the Apostles, on account of the Gospel; there are those who give their lives in order to remain faithful to Christ by means of a witness marked by the shedding of their blood. Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.
      Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God! Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility.
        But all this is possible only if we recognize Jesus Christ, because it is he who has called us, he who has invited us to travel his path, he who has chosen us.
        Proclamation and witness are only possible if we are close to him, just as Peter, John and the other disciples in today’s Gospel passage were gathered around the Risen Jesus; there is a daily closeness to him: they know very well who he is, they know him.
        The Evangelist stresses the fact that “no one dared ask him: ‘Who are you?’ – they knew it was the Lord” (Jn 21:12). This is important for us: living an intense relationship with Jesus, an intimacy of dialogue and of life, in such a way as to recognize him as “the Lord”, and to worship him.
        The passage that we heard from the Book of Revelation speaks to us of worship: the myriads of angels, all creatures, the living beings, the elders, prostrate themselves before the Throne of God and of the Lamb that was slain, namely Christ, to whom be praise, honour and glory (cf. Rev 5:11-14).
        I would like all of us to ask ourselves this question: You, I, do we worship the Lord? Do we turn to God only to ask him for things, to thank him, or do we also turn to him to worship him? What does it mean, then, to worship God? It means learning to be with him, it means that we stop trying to dialogue with him, and it means sensing that his presence is the most true, the most good, the most important thing of all.
        All of us, in our own lives, consciously and perhaps sometimes unconsciously, have a very clear order of priority concerning the things we consider important. Worshipping the Lord means giving him the place that he must have; worshipping the Lord means stating, believing – not only by our words – that he alone truly guides our lives; worshipping the Lord means that we are convinced before him that he is the only God, the God of our lives, the God of our history.


This has a consequence in our lives: we have to empty ourselves of the many small or great idols that we have and in which we take refuge, on which we often seek to base our security. They are idols that we sometimes keep well hidden; they can be ambition, a taste for success, placing ourselves at the centre, the tendency to dominate others, the claim to be the sole masters of our lives, some sins to which we are bound, and many others.
This evening I would like a question to resound in the heart of each one of you, and I would like you to answer it honestly: Have I considered which idol lies hidden in my life that prevents me from worshipping the Lord? Worshipping is stripping ourselves of our idols, even the most hidden ones, and choosing the Lord as the centre, as the highway of our lives.
Dear brothers and sisters, each day the Lord calls us to follow him with courage and fidelity; he has made us the great gift of choosing us as his disciples; he sends us to proclaim him with joy as the Risen one, but he asks us to do so by word and by the witness of our lives, in daily life. The Lord is the only God of our lives, and he invites us to strip ourselves of our many idols and to worship him alone. May the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Paul help us on this journey and intercede for us.

 

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