POPE: MAKE WORLD MORE HUMAN BY GUARANTEEING THE DIGNITY OF THE DISABLED – HOLY SEE, SANT’EGIDIO COMMUNITY TO BRING REFUGEES TO ITALY FROM LESBOS

Pope Francis this morning met with 37 bishops, including emeritus prelates, and one priest who is the diocesan administrator of Shreveport in Louisiana, from Regions IV and V of the USCCB who are in Rome on their ad limina visit. These mandatory visits normally take place every five years but the US prelates were last in Rome on ad limina in 2011. Region IV includes the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia, and the Military Archdiocese. Region V prelates are from Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

POPE: MAKE WORLD MORE HUMAN BY GUARANTEEING THE DIGNITY OF THE DISABLED

On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3rd, Pope Francis recalls how the promotion of the right to participation plays a central role in combating discrimination and promoting a culture of encounter and quality of life.
By Lydia O’Kane

In his message marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Pope Francis notes that “great progress has been made towards people with disabilities in the medical and welfare fields.”

But he highlights the fact that even today there is still a culture of waste with many disabled people feeling that “\”they exist without belonging and without participating.”

Protection of rights
The Pope stresses that “all this calls not only for the rights of people with disabilities and their families to be protected,” but “it also urges us to make the world more human” by removing prejudice.

It is necessary, Pope Francis writes, “to take care of and accompany people with disabilities in every condition of life, also making use of current technologies,” so that they can actively and with dignity participate in both civil and ecclesial communities.

He also says, that the accessibility of places and quality of life need to be promoted, taking into account all the dimensions of the human being.

Hidden exiles
In the message, the Pope emphasizes “the many ‘hidden exiles’ who live in our homes, our families and our societies.”

“I am thinking of people of all ages, especially the elderly who, also because of their disability, are sometimes felt as a burden, as ‘cumbersome presences’, and are in danger of being discarded, of being denied concrete job prospects to participate in the construction of their own future.”

Pope Francis stresses that “we need to develop antibodies against a culture that considers some lives” first or second-class. “This is a social sin,” he says.

A change of mentality needed
On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Pontiff invites people to “have the courage to give a voice to those who are discriminated against because of their disability.”

“Making good laws and breaking down physical barriers is important,” the Pope writes, “but it is not enough, if the mentality does not change.”

Concluding his message, Pope Francis encourages “all those who work with people with disabilities to continue with this important service and commitment, which determines the degree of civilization of a nation.”

HOLY SEE, SANT’EGIDIO COMMUNITY TO BRING REFUGEES TO ITALY FROM LESBOS

A December 2 communique from Apostolic Almsgiver:

“The Holy Father Francis, on the occasion of his trip to the Island of Lesbos in April 2016, brought back to Italy three Syrian families seeking asylum. The Holy See took on the charge of welcoming and sustaining them, while hospitality and integration were assumed by the Sant’Egidio Community.

“Last May, three years after that event, the Pope asked the Apostolic Almsgiver (Office of Papal Charities) to return to the island to renew solidarity with the Greek people and refugees, and he also expressed the desire to make a further gesture of solidarity and host a group of young refugees and some families from Afghanistan, Cameroon and Togo.

“After an intense period of official negotiations between the competent authorities, in order to carry out this new humanitarian corridor the Interior Ministry of the Italian Republic gave final assent to carrying out the operation.

“Therefore today, December 2, the papal Almsgiver* returned to the Island of Lesbos, together with some leaders of the Sant’Egidio Community. They will return to Italy on December 4 with a group of 33 refugees requesting political asylum. This operation will end in December, when another 10 refugees will be accompanied to Italy, thus starting the procedures necessary for the request for international protection.

“Welcoming these refugees will be assumed by the Holy See, through the Apostolic Almsgiving office and by the Sant’Egidio Community.”

A Vaticannews story with the title, “Two families in Luxembourg,” noted that, on November 19 the archdiocese of Luxembourg, led by new Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich who, in May, had participated in the mission of Cardinal Krajewski to Lesbos, also opened its doors to two families of refugees from the same camps on the Greek island, one originally from Kuwait with two children aged 8 and 5 and one from Syria with twins aged almost two years.

* The head of the Apostolic Almsgiving Office (Office of Papal Charities) is Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, also known as the papal almsgiver. (https://www.elemosineria.va/)

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES – GLORIOUS LIVES, CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE

You can follow the US Bishops meeting online at http://www.usccb.org and you might want to check out these twitter accounts: https://twitter.com/HeinleinMichael, https://twitter.com/jdflynn, https://twitter.com/canonlawyered, ttps://twitter.com/NCRegister You might want to see if your bishop is tweeting or has a blog.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES
(Source: http://www.uscb.org)
Cardinals – There are 14 U.S. Cardinals
5 Cardinals Currently Lead U.S. Archdioceses
§ Cardinal Blase J. Cupich – Chicago
§ Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo – Galveston-Houston
§ Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan – New York
§ Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley – Boston
§ Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, CSsR – Newark

4 U.S. Cardinals Currently Serve in a Another Capacity
§ Cardinal Raymond L. Burke – Patron of the Order of Malta
§ Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell – Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life
§ Cardinal James M. Harvey – Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls
§ Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien – Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

5 U.S. Cardinals Are Retired
§ Cardinal Roger M. Mahony – Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles
§ Cardinal Adam J. Maida – Archbishop Emeritus of Detroit
§ Cardinal Justin F. Rigali – Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia
§ Cardinal James F. Stafford – Major Penitentiary Emeritus
§ Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl – Archbishop Emeritus of Washington

Eastern Catholic Churches are churches with origins in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa that have their own distinctive liturgical, legal and organizational systems and are identified by the national or ethnic character of their region of origin. Each is considered fully equal to the Latin tradition within the Church in the United States. The curial offices and chanceries of Eastern Catholic Eparchies and Archeparchies are based in a certain city. However, the Eparchies and Archeparchies have jurisdiction over large swaths of the United States (and Canada) based on the breadth of each individual Church.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA provides pastoral care and spiritual services to those serving in the armed forces of the United States, Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, and the dependents of those retired or on active duty. On July 21, 1986 Pope John Paul II reorganized the military vicariate as an archdiocese with its own archbishop and relocated the see to the District of Columbia. The AMS oversees Catholic priests serving as chaplains and has no defined territory. Its jurisdiction extends to wherever American uniformed military members serve including all U.S. Government property, military installations, embassies, and other diplomatic missions.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter was established January 1, 2012 to serve former Anglican groups and clergy in the United States who sought to become Catholic. Similar to a diocese though national in scope, the Ordinariate is based in Houston, Texas and includes parishes and communities across the United States that are fully Catholic, while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage and traditions.

The Archdioceses and Dioceses of the United States are divided into 14 geographic regions with the Eastern Catholic Churches constituting their own membership region for the purposes of USCCB proceedings. These regions typically include two or more Metropolitan Archdioceses and several Dioceses across one or more States.

When bishops come to Rome for their ad limina visits, as U.S. bishops have been doing since November 4 and will do to January 2020) they come in numerical order by region, I, II etc.).

Click here to see all the (Arch) dioceses of the United States, bishops and websites: http://www.usccb.org/about/bishops-and-dioceses/all-dioceses.cfm

GLORIOUS LIVES, CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the reasons I came to Washington was to be at the presentation last evening at CUA, Catholic University of America, of the documentary “Glorious Lives – Cardinal Francis George,” produced by Shalom World with Mike Stark. It was a most memorable evening with very special guest commentators and moderator, Chad Pecknold, CUA professor of theological, social and political thought.

Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois was a guest commentator, as were Michael Heinlein who is writing a biography of Cardinal George, Mary Hallan FioRito whose decades in the Chicago archdiocese included a term as the first female vice-chancellor and her great friendship with the cardinal, and Robert Royal of the Faith and Reason Institute, also a friend of the cardinal’s. It was like a mini family reunion for me as I joined those guests, Mike Stark and Fr. Dan Flens, Cardinal George’s longtime secretary and now a very good friend of mine.

The following piece appeared today in the UK’s Catholic Herald. I offer this to all my friends who knew, loved and perhaps even worked for Cardinal George as frosting on the cake that was the film.

The photos are mine.

If you need to be inspired by someone who was truly one of the greats, this will do it for you.

THE CARDINAL WHO SHOWS THE CHURCH HOW TO FACE SUFFERING WITH DIVINE CHARITY
by C C Pecknold

Even while battling cancer, Cardinal George was also leading the bishops in their defense of freedom

Catholic University students were treated last night to a screening of a remarkable new documentary on the life and witness of Cardinal Francis George, OMI. The former Archbishop of Chicago is remembered for raising the intellectual standard of the episcopate, and insisting upon the importance of intelligent evangelization in a secularizing culture. His sharp warnings against a “nation state gone bad, claiming an absolute power, deciding questions and making ‘laws’ beyond its competence,” came to a prophetic head when the 2012 HHS contraceptive mandate made those threats real with the Obama administration’s overt attack on the Church’s liberty. Even while Cardinal George was battling cancer, he was also leading the bishops in their defense of freedom.

Even before the long battle over the contraceptive mandate, Cardinal George had warned a group of priests that as secularization of society increases, so will the suffering of the Church. He told those priests these famous words: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Those words became emblazoned on the minds of many American Catholics, as they faced new hostilities, the idea that they may have to suffer for their faith.

Cardinal George’s hard realism about the trials and tribulations set before the church today, from within and without, were always matched with joyful perseverance and the witness of hope. This documentary doesn’t focus on Cardinal George’s famous words so much as the gift of faith that gave us his most elevated and prophetic words.

Born Francis Eugene George in Chicago on January 16, 1937 as the world was setting to war, he was stricken with polio as a child. The great pain and physical suffering was matched by the difficulties of being told by his own diocese that he could not pursue the priesthood due to his limitations. As the film makes clear, even the young Francis knew how to look at suffering squarely in the face and trust God to find a way through it. He became a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, became a priest, then Vicar General for his religious community, before becoming bishop of Yakima, Portland, and finally Chicago.

As Pope Pius XI once said of the missionary fortitude of the Oblates, could certainly be said of Cardinal George, he was a “specialist in the most difficult missions of the Church.”

Cardinal George would sometimes collapse at Mass due to post-polio weakness. But then he’d pick himself back up as Christ did with his cross. He never treated his suffering as a burden, though he had every external reason to do so. Why? At the heart of Cardinal George’s faith as an Oblate was oblation. An oblation is an offering to God, but an offering that you are really willing to lose, to have it destroyed in hopes that God will make something holy out of it.

In the Old Testament, one gives “first fruits” as an oblation. Yet Christ makes the perfect offering, the total gift of himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity. In conformity to Christ, faithful are also called to make an offering of themselves, most of all, at Mass — to give oneself completely to God in Christ means to give yourself in a way that you are willing to lose your life, to have something holy made out of it.

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Watching the inspiring documentary of his life, I saw something new in the man I once met, and admired from afar. I saw more clearly the secret of his life. I saw the secret of his joyful perseverance. Facing suffering in himself with realism, intelligence and joy was possible because this was his oblation, his offering to God through Jesus Christ, meant a suffering life could be transfigured into something holy that heals and elevates a person.

Cardinal George’s non-liberal defense of human dignity inspired me. He once said, “The Church’s social teaching doesn’t begin with the individual, it begins with the family.” He would stress that society is more than politics, and that the Catholic can stress commonality and the common good so powerfully because we have a clear vision that the human person is made for communion. I deeply resonated with his defense of the unborn as integral to our common good.

“When the we took the protection of law away from the unborn,” Cardinal George would say, “we destroyed our constitutional order.” That is precisely right, it seems to me. Yet Cardinal George also had a reputation for praying for women during difficult pregnancies. He did not simply make arguments, he made oblations, offerings, prayers, sacrifices for his flock that bore holy fruit and benefits both temporal and eternal.

Today I think about Cardinal George, and how much we still need his help. The Church is going through great suffering. How must we respond to suffering in our lives as Catholics? How should we respond to suffering in the Church? How are we to respond to the suffering of our neighbors, those in the outer courts, even the suffering of those who would like to inflict suffering upon us? As secularization advances, the Cardinal warned, so will the suffering of the Church. The thought itself can become for us a great burden which causes us to despair, to lose hope, to scatter, and be crushed without being made holy.

Yet Cardinal George would point us to a better hope, an oblative hope, and an intelligent evangelical zeal. He would point us to the blood of the martyrs that becomes the seed of the Church in every age. He would point us to those sacrifices we can make for the love of God and neighbor, the love that picks up the ruined shards of civilization.

Francis Cardinal George suffered greatly throughout his life. Nearing the end, dying of cancer, he said “The lord strips things away from us, sometimes even good things, until there is nothing left but the love of God.” This is the Christian who can teach us how to offer ourselves completely to God, even our suffering, so that we can truly bear joyful witness to Jesus Christ who makes holy our oblations. At the center is always Jesus, the only one who truly gives strength to the weak, who raises up the broken hearted, who gives evangelical hope to the hopeless — and who can set our world on fire with divine charity. I believe Francis George was purified, and made holy, by Jesus Christ — and that he shows that the path of holiness is possible for all of us. I pray his cause advances, and that we ask for his intercession, both for ourselves, and for all the pilgrim Church in her present suffering, especially for our bishops. May the Lord strip away the things which distract us from the love of God, without which nothing endures forever.

Cardinal George, pray for us.

US BISHOPS MEET FOR FALL GENERAL ASSEMBLY

I am in Washington, D.C. this week for two important events and am just a short drive away from Baltimore where the U.S. bishops are meeting for their annual fall assembly, Several bishops are in Rome, as you will read below, for their “ad limina” visits and thus not in Baltimore for today’s vote on the new USCCB president and vice president. However, arrangements have been made at the North American College where they are staying to watch the Baltimore proceedings. They will be able to cast a written vote in Rome and two of their brother bishops will tally the written votes and communicate them orally and directly to the Baltimore meeting.

There is an event tonight at CUA, Catholic University of America, a special viewing of a new documentary on the life of Cardinal Francis George, the first Chicago native to become the Archbishop of Chicago, and a CUA alumnus. Following the film, a panel presentation featuring bishops and laity who worked with the Cardinal and knew him best will be offered.

The moderator is Professor Chad Pecknold of CUA’s School of Theology and Religious Studies, and panelists include Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Michael Heinlein, Mary Hallan FioRito and Robert Royal. Bishop Barron, scheduled to be present, had to make a presentation to his fellow bishops in Baltimore.

So much of my life was intertwined with Cardinal George during his years in Chicago that I really wanted to attend this event, inaddition to knowing all the panelists.

The second event I will be attending this week will be at the apostolic nunciature and is offered by the Bethlehem University Foundation. This is an annual event and I am always happy to be present when possible because I am a big fan and follower of the Middle East’s only Catholic University (more later this week)

FYI…
A number of the U.S. bishops and cardinals tweet or post blogs when they are in Rome for their “ad limina” visits. Cardinal O’Malley of Boston did so last week when bishops from his Region I were in Rome.

Cardinal Dolan has been posting since traveling to Rome yesterday for the start of another regional “ad limina” meeting with Vatican office and the Holy Father. (https://twitter.com/CardinalDolan) (cardinaldolan.org). He is part of Region II (New York).

Some info from the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website:

Episcopal Regions, Archdioceses, and Dioceses in the U.S.
In the United States, there are 195 archdioceses/dioceses, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
§ 145 Latin Catholic dioceses
§ 32 Latin Catholic archdioceses
§ 15 Eastern Catholic dioceses
§ 2 Eastern Catholic archdioceses
§ 1 Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA
§ 1 Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter

There are currently 7 Vacant (Arch)Dioceses in the United States:
§ Diocese of Alexandria – Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, Apostolic Administrator
§ Archdiocese of Atlanta – Bishop Joel M. Konzen, Apostolic Administrator
§ Diocese of Helena – Rev. Msgr. Kevin O’Neill, Diocesan Administrator
§ Archdiocese of Anchorage – Bishop Andrew E. Bellisario, CM, Apostolic Administrator
§ Diocese of Shreveport – Very Rev. Peter B. Mangum, Diocesan Administrator
§ Diocese of Rapid City – Very Rev. Michel Mulloy, Diocesan Administrator
§ Diocese of Gary – Rev. Michael J. Yardon, Diocesan Administrator

Bishops: There are 432 active and retired (arch)bishops in the United States
Active Bishops:
§ 5 Cardinal Archbishops
§ 28 Archbishops
§ 157 Diocesan Bishops
§ 76 Auxiliary Bishops
§ 4 Diocesan Administrators

Retired Bishops:
(in accordance with Canon Law, all Bishops are required to submit their resignation upon reaching retirement age of 75. However, the Pope can accept a Bishop’s resignation at any point regardless of age)
§ 5 Retired Cardinals
§ 18 retired Archbishops
§ 96 retired Diocesan Bishops
§ 45 retired Auxiliary Bishops

US BISHOPS MEET FOR FALL GENERAL ASSEMBLY
by Vatican News/USCCB

The Bishops of the United States are set to elect a new President and Vice-President of the episcopal conference, during the fall general assembly that opened on Monday in Baltimore.

In addition, the Bishops are expected to vote for the chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and for Chairman-elect of five standing committees: on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance; Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Evangelization and Catechesis; International Justice and Peace; and Protection of Children and Young People.

On the Agenda
The agenda for the Fall Meeting will also feature votes on the Program for Priestly Formation, for use in the United States; and supplements to the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”, addressed to all the faithful, concerning the political responsibility of Catholics.

Bishops of the Latin-Rite will also be asked to vote on translations of two documents: the “Order of Christian Initiation of Adults as the base text for a future edition of this rite for use in the United States; and a translation of the “Hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours”.
In addition, the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs will request authorization of the full body of Bishops to lead the process of developing a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Hispanic/Latino ministry in response to the V Encuentro process, a process of ecclesial reflection meant to discern the way in which Latino Catholics respond as Church.

The Bishops will also vote on the Revised Strategic Priorities for the 2021-2024 Strategic Plan for the USCCB, as well as the proposed budgets for 2020. They will elect the new Board of Directors for Catholic Relief Services, which carries out the commitment of the Bishops of the United States to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas.

Finally, the Bishops are also expected to hear an update on progress toward establishing a nationwide, third-party reporting system for abuse or misconduct by Bishops.

USCCB FALL MEETING: DAY ONE, SACKCLOTH, ASHES AND A MAJOR SHOCK – ARCHBISHOP VIGANO TO U.S. BISHOPS. YOU HAVE A SACRED MANDATE – POPE FRANCIS ON EIGHTH COMMANDMENT: GOSSIP KILLS, GOD IS TRUTH

The following column was prepared yesterday but my computer died – or was in a comatose state – before I finished writing and editing so could not post it. All is well today, at least so it seems, so here is the news from November 13 and a bit on today’s general audience with Pope Francis.

Among the offerings I had for yesterday was a penetrating piece by the Register’s Matthew Bunson on the request by the Vatican that the USCCB, as they meet in their fall assembly, delay any vote on further action in the clerical sex abuse issue, especially their plan to propose standards of conduct for bishops and how bishops might be disciplined or punished if in violation of those standards. This was to be the centerpiece of the November meeting. The Vatican asked that the bishops delay these proposals until the February 2019 meeting that Pope has called for in Rome for all the heads of Episcopal conferences throughout the world to address the abuse scandal

Two interesting pieces of news from November 13 from the Holy See Press Office

1. The Pope named Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while remaining archbishop of Malta. For years he worked at the CDF before becoming an archbishop and he has been the Pope’s point man on important cases regarding clerical sex abuse. You might recall that Francis sent Scicluna earlier this year to Chile to investigate allegations of clerical sex abuse. The Pope had called the allegations ‘calumny’ but when Scicluna presented a massive report backing those who were abused, the Holy Father, in all humility, did an about-face, saying he was wrong and also “part of the problem.” Chile’s bishops came to Rome for a meeting and resigned en masse but the Pope has so far only accepted a small number of those resignations.

2. The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis, welcoming the invitation of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and of the (nation’s) bishops will undertake a trip to Morocco on March 30-31, 2019, visiting the cities of Rabat and Casablanca. The program will be published in due time

USCCB FALL MEETING: DAY ONE, SACKCLOTH, ASHES AND A MAJOR SHOCK

Matthew E. Bunson (National Catholic Register)
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opened its Fall Assembly in Baltimore Monday with an agenda of prayer and deliberations on dealing with bishop accountability in the face of the scandal surrounding former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The agenda lasted only a few minutes before being upended by the announcement that no votes would be taken on several key items of reform at the request of the Holy See.

The decision by the Holy See – specifically the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops under its prefect Cardinal Marc Ouellet – asked the bishops not to vote on a new “Code of Conduct” for bishops and the creation of a lay-led board to investigate accusations of misconduct against bishops. The news came as a complete surprise to virtually all of the bishops in attendance, even as it raises significant questions about the prospects for finding solutions to the clergy sex abuse crisis and the McCarrick scandal and signals a blunt rejection of the U.S. bishops.

Some might even go so far as to describe the Vatican’s decision and its timing a deliberate act of humiliation of the U.S. bishops at a time when they are trying in good faith to grapple with the greatest crisis in the history of American Catholicism.
“Let us begin by taking those concerns to prayer.”

The U.S. bishops were only a few minutes into their morning session when the conference’s president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, gave the news to his disbelieving brother bishops. The decision, he told them, was at “the insistence of the Holy See” and had been delivered to him only the night before the start of the fall meeting.

The surprise and anger were palpable in the room in the Marriott hotel in Baltimore, and Cardinal DiNardo himself went on to express his own disappointment.

“Brothers,” he said, “I am sure that you have concerns about this, as I do myself. Let us begin by taking those concerns to prayer.” In an address to the conference that had to be altered by the shocking news, Cardinal DiNardo stressed, “We remain committed to the program of episcopal accountability. Votes will not take place, but we will move forward.”

He again apologized to the victims of abuse and pledged to go forward.
In a news conference just a few hours later, he again urged Catholics to understand there is no lessening of their resolve.

“We have accepted these events [of the Holy See request],” he said, “we’ll keep pushing and moving until we get to a point until it becomes action. We are not happy.”

He explained further that the demand of the Holy See had come in the form of a letter from the Congregation for Bishops. The stated reason, the cardinal explained, was that the Holy See desired all votes on new measures related to the crisis be delayed until after the February meeting in Rome that Francis has called. That gathering will bring together the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences to discuss the global sex-abuse crisis.

While the stated reasons are defensible enough, the request short-circuited months of preparations by the officials of the U.S. bishops’ conference and the genuine desire of the bishops in Baltimore to take highly anticipated concrete steps both to make progress in the crisis but also to try and regain some of the credibility that had been lost in a summer of scandals, attorneys general reports and simmering anger among the faithful over disgraced Archbishop McCarrick. The shocking events also completely overshadowed what was supposed to be one of those steps in restoring credibility: a day of prayer and penance.

The original plan was to devote most of the first day to prayer and to hearing from abuse victims, as well as reflections on the Book of Daniel, Chapter 9, on sackcloth and ashes, and the great reformer St. Charles Borromeo who was willing to face assassination to bring authentic renewal to his archdiocese of Milan in the 16th century.

The day of prayer, penance and adoration followed by deliberations and votes was potentially doubly significant.

First, it would have anchored the subsequent deliberations in a proper spiritual context, tying the important reality of institutional reform to the need for a corresponding authentic spiritual reform. Second, it would have served as a first step toward the planned longer and presumably deeper reflection, prayer and penance in January that will take place at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago.
Francis and Synodality

The notion of prayer had one additional facet. During their September meeting with Francis, Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, the vice president of the USCCB, expressed their desire for the Holy See to launch a full investigation into the McCarrick scandal.

In reply, Francis encouraged them to cancel the fall assembly and have prayer and penance. The bishops took to heart the Pope’s suggestion but then also pushed ahead with the debate and vote on the plans to deal with the crisis. It was a compromise with the Pope’s recommendation, a down payment on the week of prayer in Chicago in January and a first step of offering the Catholic faithful a tangible set of proposals for the future.

The vote itself would have benefited from the credibility of action. They had a plan entering the assembly, and while it might not have been perfect and perhaps might not have passed the critical eye of the Congregations for Bishops and the Congregration for the Doctrine of the Faith, it was something the bishops could point to as a first concrete and transparent step.

Francis, however, wanted days of prayer and no votes. He apparently got his wish. But after asking frustrated and angry Catholics — many victims included — to wait for years for the bishops to begin holding themselves accountable, the idea of waiting months longer might seem intolerable to many. The Congregation for Bishops saw potential problems with the bishops’ proposals and acted firmly but with also painful timing.

To the bishops, of course, there is the requirement of obedience to the Vicar of Christ. At the news conference Monday, Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, the outgoing head of the Bishops’ Committee on Communications, both emphasized the importance of obedience.

Bishop Coyne said in answer to a question on why not just vote anyway, “Bishops by our very nature are collegial. … We work in union with each other to come to a collegial place. So when the Holy See asks us to work in collegiality, that’s what we do.”

Cardinal DiNardo added, “We are Roman Catholic bishops in communion with our Holy Father in Rome and he has people in Vatican congregations, and we are responsible to him to be attentive. Given that attentiveness, of faith, when we receive this letter we respond.”

The demand of the Holy See and the response of the bishops also exemplified another major issue, one that also emerged out of seeming nowhere during the Synod on Youth: synodality. From the closing days of the synod to the first day of the bishops’ meeting, the definition of synodality has been debated and interpreted.
In his morning address, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, taught, “Pope Francis asks us to be a synodal and humble Church. A Church that listens. We need to listen once more to the voice of Christ.”

Synodality means, as the nuncio stressed, listening. It has also been described as a journeying together. Was what happened on Day One in Baltimore a moment of synodality or were the U.S. bishops treated to the sheer raw exercise of power?
When asked if he saw the action of the Holy See as synodal, Cardinal DiNardo described it as “quizzical,” theorizing that the Congregation for Bishops might have considered the U.S. bishops to have been too hasty in crafting their proposal.
“I’m wondering if they could turn the synodality back on us,” he added. “My first reaction was, ‘This didn’t seem so synodical.’ But maybe the Americans weren’t acting so synodically either. But it was quizzical to me, when I saw it.”

Over the next days, the bishops will discuss the most important approaches to the crisis, and while there may not be a vote, the bishops will likely have plenty to say. Look for a final statement and a series of resolutions to salvage something from the disastrous news that began their journey together in Baltimore. Will the road ahead continue to be a long and tortured one? Will Pope Francis be listening?
Pray for our bishops and pray for our Holy Father.

ARCHBISHOP VIGANO TO U.S. BISHOPS. YOU HAVE A SACRED MANDATE

November 13, 2018 Tuesday
Dear Brothers Bishops in the US,
I am writing to remind you of the sacred mandate you were given on the day of your episcopal ordination: to lead the flock to Christ. Meditate on Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom! Do not behave like frightened sheep, but as courageous shepherds. Do not be afraid of standing up and doing the right thing for the victims, for the faithful and for your own salvation. The Lord will render to every one of us according to our actions and omissions.
I am fasting and praying for you.
+Arch. Carlo Maria Viganò Your former Apostolic Nuncio
November 13, 2018 Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

POPE FRANCIS ON EIGHTH COMMANDMENT: GOSSIP KILLS, GOD IS TRUTH

In his continuing catechesis on the Ten Commandments, the Pope during his General Audience reflects on the eighth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour”.

In his Catechesis devoted to the eighth commandment, Pope Francis told pilgrims in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday that Christians are called to be “truthful not only in our words but in our entire way of acting towards others.” Speaking at his weekly General Audience, the Pope said that, “our ultimate model in this regard is Jesus himself. He is the truth in person who, at his trial before Pilate, revealed that he came into this world to testify to the truth.”

Where there is a lie there is no love

When a person is not communicating authentically, underlined the Pontiff, it is a serious matter because it inhibits relationships and therefore inhibits love. “Where there is a lie, he continued, there is no love. ”

Beware of Gossip

Gossiping, Pope Francis pointed out, kills. It kills, he explained, “because the tongue kills, like a knife.” Be careful, the Pope added, the gossip “is a terrorist because he or she throws a bomb and leaves.” “Christians are not exceptional men and women, said the Pope, “we are, however, children of our heavenly Father, who is good and does not disappoint us, and places in our hearts the love for our brothers and sisters.”

God is truth

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour” he stressed, means living as children of God, acting in accordance with his will and trusting in him. “It bids us live this new life to the full, and thus to bear true witness to God’s saving love, made incarnate in the humanity of Christ our Lord. “I trust God”, concluded Pope Francis, “ this is the great truth.”

Here is the official English language summary of the Pope’s catechesis at the General Audience on 14th of November 2018:

Dear brothers and sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Ten Commandments, we now turn to the eighth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that this commandment “forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others” (No. 2464). We are called to be truthful not only in our words but in our entire way of acting towards others. Our ultimate model in this regard is Jesus himself. He is the truth in person (cf. Jn 14:6), who, at his trial before Pilate, revealed that he came into this world to testify to the truth (cf. Jn 18:37). In the mystery of his life, death and resurrection, he disclosed the deepest meaning of our life on earth, and invited us to share in his divine life. His gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, enables us to become adoptive sons and daughters of our heavenly Father and to dwell in his love as brothers and sisters. The eighth commandment bids us live this new life to the full, and thus to bear true witness to God’s saving love, made incarnate in the humanity of Christ our Lord.

THE SYNOD: GETTING THE NEWS OUT – OR KEEPING IT IN? – CARDINAL DINARDO WELCOMES VATICAN INQUIRY INTO MCCARRICK FILES

As you know from reading this column both Saturday and Sunday, it was a big weekend here! The synod did not make headlines but two Vatican communiqués did: Saturday’s Holy See Press Office statement on ex-cardinal McCarrick and Sunday’s Open letter by Cardinal. Marc Ouellet on recent accusations against the Holy See. They are still – and will be for a while – the focus of news stories around the world.

A big news story today is about the news – read on…

THE SYNOD: GETTING THE NEWS OUT – OR KEEPING IT IN?

The Vatican Information Service (VIS) was instituted because of a desire of Pope John Paul to be closer in touch with the Church’s bishops and nuncios who had been telling him for years that communications with the Vatican, the Holy See were sporadic at best.

We are talking decades before the advent of today’s communications media – Internet, email, cell phones, social media, Facebook live, etc. Even the fax machine was relatively new in the 1980s, and certainly was uncommon in most homes.

When, sometime in the late 1980s, John Paul asked Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who headed the Holy See Press Office from 1984 to 2006, how the Vatican could better communicate with the bishops and nuncios around the world, Navarro-Valls said that, although telegrams and faxes were the best options at the time, technology was always developing and he wanted the Vatican to be on the cutting edge of whatever was new. The Vatican’s first webpage appeared in 1996 so the Church did get in on the ground floor of cutting edge technology.

Holy See diplomats had the distinct advantage for years – and still do – of receiving news from Rome in a very timely fashion in diplomatic pouches – and getting back to Rome in the same manner.

When the 1990 synod on “The Formation of Priests in Circumstances of the Present Day” took place, VIS was opening its offices, hiring staff, etc., and therefore did not cover it. I had begun to work at VIS in August 1990 and was greatly honored in the new year with an invitation to help translate into English parts of Pope John Paul’s Apostolic Exhortation on that synod, “Pastores dabo vobis.”

The years I was at VIS we covered the following nine synods, several of which were continental and had been called by Pope John Paul as a lead up to the Jubilee Year 2000: 1991 Europe, 1994 The Consecrated Life and its Role in the Church and the World, 1994 Africa, 1995 Lebanon, 1997 America, 1998 Asia, 1999 Oceania, 1999 Europe II, 2001 The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.

Whenever we heard an announcement that a synod was being planned for such-and-such a year, we groaned. It was an enormous amount of work, though we fully realized that the staff of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops probably worked double the hours we did, preparing the synod and then being present in the synod hall almost around the clock while it was underway.

The press center was set up temporarily in the Synod Hall in a spot known as the “fungo”, the mushroom.

All participants in a synod who were to give a talk, were asked to hand that talk – preferably a summary of the short intervention – over to synod officials who then turned those summaries over to translators and to all of us at VIS as VIS transmitted its daily new service in four languages: English, Spanish, French and Italian.

For example, a bishop from France would give his French-language summary to synod officials, that summary was translated into other languages and then the original and the translations were placed in color-coded (for language) synod daily bulletins and made available to every member of the press corps, permanent or temporary, who was accredited by the Holy See Press Office to the synod.

Thus, French-speaking journalists would pick up the blue-color French synod bulletin to know what their prelates and those from other parts of the world were saying on the synod floor. The Spanish bulletins might be yellow, English green and so on for other languages.

The media was usually only allowed in the synod hall at the start of morning and afternoon sessions when the synod participants opened with a prayer. Media did not remain during the work session, although Vatican staff from VIS, the press office, and Vatican radio were usually present.

This system meant that all members of the media, in addition to any private interviews they had done or meetings they held with synod participants, had a very good overview of what was happening and what was being said in the synod hall. They knew what was being said and debated on certain topics relevant to the synod theme

In addition to the synod’s language bulletins, journalists keep abreast of news via press office conferences and, almost on a daily basis, briefings in different languages for smaller groups, ie, an English-speaking prelate for English media, etc.

That useful and worthwhile system, however onerous it was for all of us involved – nonstop work, skipped meals, late hours, etc – has been relegated to the past, given what I’m hearing and reading about the current synod.

You may have seen Ed Pentin’s tweet: Information Sec Fr. Spadaro justified not giving interventions in detail by saying #synod2018 is a “place of discernment” so delegates “must know what they say will remain in the hall.” If everything “were repeated externally, it would limit freedom, as it’s a spiritual context”

Hello! Several hundred people in the same room at once and not a single word will get out! We won’t find out what’s happening unless you want us to know?!

Delegates who want their message to get out will post on Facebook or a blog, tweet it and/or give a radio or print or TV interview.

If delegates want the world to know what is really happening in the synod hall and during coffee breaks, they will tell us.

If their want their intervention not to be published or publicized, that too will probably happen.

There cannot be a repeat of the 2014-2015 synods where enough people inside and outside the synod hall knew what was happening, knew and reported what people were saying so that when a draft of the final message came out and it did not reflect what the majority of synod fathers had said, all you-know-what broke loose!

I suggested a few sites the other day to follow for synod news. I included vaticannewsa.va and http://www.synod2018.va but now realize they in no way reflect what is happening in the hall where prelates and experts and auditors from around the world gather twice daily and scores of speeches are given.

Vaticannews, at least so far, has given only a handful of highlights – the Holy Father, the head of the Synod of Bishops and a few prelates. Iit does offer the possibility each day of clicking onto the link to the daily press conference so that viewers can listen in to the reports of Synod Fathers – all very helpful if you know several languages.

http://www.synod2018.va is basically a fact sheet on the synod. The section called “Press Review” highlights articles from vaticannews.va in different languages as well as articles from a few independent media organizations. It does not feature the speeches of Synod Fathers.

I recommend now, more than ever, following synod participants on their blogs or their Twitter accounts.

It will be interesting in coming days and weeks (the synod ends October 28) to see the news as it comes from official Vatican sites and what we hear from those participating. Will they be telling the same story?

CARDINAL DINARDO WELCOMES VATICAN INQUIRY INTO MCCARRICK FILES

Vatican City, Oct 8, 2018 / 03:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The president of the U.S. bishops conference said Sunday he welcomes the Vatican’s announcement of a further investigation into files on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, praising the pope’s steps to end sexual assault.

“On behalf of my brother bishops in the United States, I welcome the statement of October 6 from the Holy See which outlines additional steps Pope Francis is taking to ensure the faithful are protected from the evil of sexual assault,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said.

DiNardo’s Oct. 7 statement was a response to the Vatican’s announcement that it would review its files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick, who has been accused in recent months of serially sexually abusing two teenage boys, and of sexually coercing and assaulting priests and seminarians during decades of ministry as a bishop.

The Archdiocese of New York has already conducted a formal investigation into one allegation that McCarrick serially sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s, and announced in June that the allegation had been found credible.

The Vatican said that Pope Francis has decided to combine the information from that investigation “with a further thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick.”

“The Holy Father’s ‘pressing invitation to unite forces to fight the grave scourge of abuse within the Church and beyond’ has been and will continue to be diligently accepted by the bishops of the United States,” DiNardo said.

He stated that the truth is what will ensure the “terrible sins of the past are not repeated” and said the courage of abuse survivors in bringing sexual abuse to light must be matched by the courage of pastors “to respond in justice.”

“Pope Francis echoes the call of Christ to be with survivors in their time of need. Let us respond simply. ‘Yes, Lord!’” he continued.

The statement also said the bishops offer their prayers and solidarity for the pope at this time and urged everyone in the Church, “particularly the bishops,” to reaffirm communion with Pope Francis, “who is the visible guarantor of the communion of the Catholic Church.”

“We unite in prayer and service with His Holiness as he leads the Church to meet our brothers and sisters in their suffering. With a pastor’s heart, the Holy Father calls us to a path of healing,” the statement concluded.

DiNardo, who is Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, also met with Pope Francis and other Vatican offices Oct. 8, ahead of the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly next month.

USCCB Vice-President Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles and Msgr. Brian Bransfield, USCCB general secretary, were also present at that meeting. They were joined by the conference’s associate general secretary Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill.

The meeting took place just one month after Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop Gomez, Msgr. Bransfield, and Cardinal Séan O’Malley of Boston, met with Pope Francis to discuss the ongoing sexual abuse scandals in the Church in the U.S.

U.S. BISHOPS RESOLVE TO ADDRESS “MORAL CATASTROPHE”

U.S. BISHOPS RESOLVE TO ADDRESS “MORAL CATASTROPHE”

PRESIDENT OF U.S. BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE ANNOUNCES EFFORT THAT WILL INVOLVE LAITY, EXPERTS, AND THE VATICAN AS U.S. BISHOPS RESOLVE TO ADDRESS “MORAL CATASTROPHE”

August 16, 2018

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement after a series of meetings with members of the USCCB’s Executive Committee and other bishops. The following statement includes three goals and three principles, along with initial steps of a plan that will involve laity, experts, and the Vatican. A more developed plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Those sentiments continue and are deepened in light of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report. Earlier this week, the USCCB Executive Committee met again and established an outline of these necessary changes.

The Executive Committee has established three goals: (1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.

We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican. We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.

The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.

Allow me to briefly elaborate on the goals and criteria that we have identified.
TO CONTINUE, CLICK HERE: http://www.usccb.org/news/2018/18-139.cfm

MY HEART IS BROKEN

MY HEART IS BROKEN

Journalists and writers are often called “wordsmiths” as words are the tools we use to forge images, ideas, opinions and feelings, and to tell stories. Well, today, reading the report from Pennsylvania on clerical sex abuse cases, I have run out of words.

Appalled, saddened, disillusioned, angered – these words don’t even start to say what I feel. How many priests have I known in my lifetime? Only God knows – and I’m sure He is at a loss for words as well.

I think of pastors I’ve known in my life, some well, others less so. I think of hospital and university and military chaplains I’ve known over the decades. University professors. Employees of the Roman Curia. Seminary professors. Seminary rectors. Employees of dioceses around the world. Priests who were friends of friends who suggested they look up Joan when they came to Rome for a visit or retreat or pilgrimage or to study. And so on….

I always smile when I hear from past or present priest friends. I smile because I think of our visits, our meals, our conversations, the laughter, the shared love for the Church and for our various ministries (I believe what I do is a form of ministry), our joy in the faith that we hope somehow we are transmitting to people and maybe transforming their lives.

I smile when I think of the good men I’ve known, those who accepted God’s call to become His shepherds, to be “in persona Christi” for us, to act in the Lord’s behalf for us.

I cannot smile today, even on this glorious feast of the Assumption. My heart is broken at the thought of even one priest on this planet breaking his vows and abusing another human being in such a terrible, inhuman way. One priest in the history of the Church found guilty of abuse would always be one priest too many! My heart is broken by the sheer numbers revealed in the Pennsylvania report. My heart is more than broken for the victims!

My heart also breaks as I think of my priest friends and their own feelings as they read this report. I cannot even imagine the depth of their sadness or anger. Will they be rejected – or feel rejected – by the faithful? Will a Roman collar no longer inspire respect and trust? I pray not!

I had written a totally different column to celebrate today’s solemnity, but it would appear almost frivolous in the wake of the news of the Pennsylvania clerical sex abuse report.

I think it’s time for a rosary………

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2018-08/usccb-pennsylvania-grand-jury-sexual-abuse.html