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Get real: What young religious hope to hear from the youth synod

Denver, Colo., Oct 18, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Tonia Borsellino knows she’s a part of the “one percent” in the U.S. It doesn’t bother her. In fact, she seems proud.

She’s actually Sister Tonia Borsellino. And as a newly-veiled, 23 year-old novice with the Mercederian Sisters, she is among the one percent of religious sisters in the United States under the age of 40.

While her life, and the lives other young religious, may look different from those of their lay counterparts, Borsellino and other young religious say they are looking for similar things from the bishops participating in the Vatican’s synod of bishops on young people, taking part in Rome this month.

CNA spoke with several young consecrated religious sisters and brothers about their hopes for the synod.

Chief among their concerns is authenticity - they want leaders who are honest and holy; they want their bishops to be unafraid to speak the full truth of the Gospel to young people, even when it’s hard.

Brother Lawrence Johnson, 29, is a friar with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Bronx, New York.

Johnson, who participated in a pre-synod meeting in Rome with other young people, told CNA that authenticity was one of the key concerns of the delegates at that meeting. The words “authentic” or “authenticity” appear seven times in the 14-page document from that meeting.

“We talked at the pre-synod meeting about the power of testimony and personal witness as something that really resonates with young people, and so I think to see Church leaders...give their own testimony to the power of their encounter with Christ is something youth need to hear,” he said.

It’s particularly important at this specific time in the Church, he said - the months just after the so-called  “summer of hell”, when sexual abuse scandals continued to break throughout the Church in the United States and other countries throughout the world.

Young people need an answer from their leaders as to why they are still Catholic even in difficult times, Johnson said, “because even religious and priests can have a temptation to discouragement.”

“So I think we need to talk about what’s happened, to speak credibly and authentically, but at the same time with joy and fervor...centered on the center of our faith, on the reality of God’s love manifested in Jesus Christ.”

Sister Benedicta Turner of the Daughters of St. Paul is another young sister - “yes, we exist!” - who hopes that the synod fathers recognize young people’s desire for clarity and truth, even when it is difficult.

“It is a generation that strongly values clarity and authenticity, perhaps to a fault. Slick, expensive presentations go ignored while raw, sincere testimony is held with reverence,” she said.

Turner said that Church leaders need to return to an authentic presentation of the totality of the Gospel, and to challenge rather than compromise with the current culture.

“I think we need leaders who are willing to answer the hard questions young people are asking, who are more inclined to engage the culture than to make excuses for it, and who are willing to admit mistakes and failure with honesty and humility,” she said.

“We need leaders who are unafraid to give us the Gospel in its most intense, undiluted form; the Gospel for which the martyrs offered their lives and whose beauty has inspired countless works of art over the centuries,” she added.

Only this kind of engagement with the Gospel and the hearts of young people will be effective in calling them out of complacency and into relationship with Christ, she said.

Br. Neil Conlisk, a 30 year-old Carmelite brother, told CNA that he feared the synod’s bishops would not listen to young people’s desire for authenticity and truth and that they would continue on with “business as usual” and talk past young people.  

“No one wants a worldly Church,” he said. “I fear that the Synod Fathers will try to change the Church in the name of the youth, but this ‘change-the-church’ fever is a symptom of the illness that has caused the long decline, and we simply cannot afford to destroy the Church any more.”

“We are hearing, from many bishops, moralistic therapeutic deism, but we want the fullness of the faith within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” he added.

In addition to speaking the truth, Johnson said that what he hopes arises from the synod is a greater recognition throughout the Church of the need to live lives of holiness, so that young people have examples to follow in the Christian life.

“Young people need to see examples of holiness so that they know that Christianity is true, it’s beautiful and its attainable,” he said.

When young people need to see that there are Christians who “weren’t born perfect, but there are people who admit their weaknesses and rely on the Lord’s strength and are able to lead lives of holiness,” whether that person is a bishop or a priest or a lay member of the Church, he said.

This need for examples of Christian holiness is not new, Borsellino told CNA, but it is a constant need throughout the history of the Church.

“Young people need radical, authentic witnesses of the Gospel in this world that are willing to speak to their hearts,” she said. “It has always been and will always be a need. Jesus knew that well when he formed those intimate relationships with his disciples.”  

Vocational discernment is another point of focus for the youth synod. As young people who have discerned at least the first few steps of a religious vocation, many of the young religious CNA spoke to said they hoped the synod bishops would emphasize the importance of a relationship with Jesus through prayer and the sacraments as key to discernment.

“Discernment is about listening to God's voice and one cannot do that without having a relationship with Jesus,” said Sr. Kathryne of the Holy Trinity, a 26-year old with the Mercederian Sisters. “Then once that relationship is established, it cannot remain stagnant.”

Johnson said he was surprised by the strong desire for increased access to the sacraments and Eucharistic adoration expressed by the delegates at the pre-synod meeting - something that has been echoed in synod’s working document.

“When it comes to questions of discernment and being disposed to discern God’s will, I think focusing on silence and being in the presence of Christ (particularly) in the Eucharist” are important, he said.

Another desire of young people expressed in the pre-synod document was for more formation in the faith. Borsellino said she was surprised by how many basic things about the faith she did not know until she began religious life, and emphasized the need for ongoing formation even after young people are confirmed.

“...it is important for the Church to educate the faithful because the desire will then grow in them to continue pursuing that truth,” she said.

“Especially ministering to young people, post-confirmation, when the sense of 'obligation' to continue practicing the faith is lost if there is not an understanding of the faith or deep love for Christ in their hearts.”

Overall, Borsellino said she is encouraged that the bishops are trying to listen to the young people of the Church, and encouraged Catholics not to be too discouraged by the growing number of young people who are religiously unaffiliated.

“I think the messages from the youth synod so far are proof of a desire that young people have for Truth, who is Jesus Christ,” she said. “There might not be many young people filling the pews right away but souls are being transformed. Look at the attendance at World Youth Days or FOCUS conferences,” she said.

“Young people might just go for fun at first, but then something clicks because we encounter Christ's real presence in our lives.”

She added that parishes and the whole Church community need to support each other in the journey to sainthood.

“We must all, young and old, pray for each other!” 

Legal pot will have 'disastrous effects,' Canadian bishops say

Ottawa, Canada, Oct 17, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Canada’s bishops reiterated their opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana Wednesday, the same day that legal marijuana sales began across the country.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops underlined “the ethical problems involved with the recreational use and abuse of this drug” in an Oct. 17 statement.

Lionel Gendron, Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, lamented the “growing problems of a society more and more dependent on drugs and alcohol,” and said that businesses and governments who wish to exploit sales of cannabis for commercial interests or tax revenue are “jeopardizing the pursuit of the common good.”

Canada is now the largest country in the world in which federal law permits marijuana to be legally sold and consumed for recreational purposes. Canada joins Uruguay as the only two countries to have legalized cannabis nationwide.

Under the new laws, Canadians will be allowed to grow up to four of their own cannabis plants, make their own cannabis products such as foods and drinks, and buy the drug from provincially-licensed stores or online.

Most Canadian provinces have set the legal age for buying cannabis at 19, the same as their legal drinking age. Ontario, the country’s most populous province, is still working on crafting regulations and likely won’t open any stores until next spring, the Associated Press reports.

The Canadian government also announced on Wednesday that they would be introducing new legislation that would allow people with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, which is the new legal threshold, to apply for pardons with no waiting period or fee. The new legislation will likely be introduced by the end of 2018, but may take some to make its way through Canadian parliament to become law.

Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001.  

The CCCB previously expressed disappointment at the government’s announcement of the decision to legalize cannabis in June 2018, in a statement that was also endorsed by the Chair of the Canadian Council of Imams.

The bishops cited the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and the Canadian Paediatric Society, all of whom have pointed out that the use of cannabis is linked to numerous mental and lung problems.    

“It is lamentable that the federal government has decided to facilitate the provision and use of an addictive substance that will have disastrous effects for so many people,” the bishops wrote.

The bishops asserted that their position is shared by Pope Francis, who has spoken out against even the partial legalization of so-called “soft drugs.” They assert that drug trafficking and abuse can be curtailed through education, employment opportunities, and treatment and recovery programs, rather than through legalization.

“The massive increase in cannabis use that will accompany its legalization will not produce a more just and humane society,” the bishops wrote, “But will only exacerbate or multiply problems already widespread in society, including mental illness, crime, unemployment, family breakdown, injuries and fatalities resulting from impaired driving, and increased addiction to “harder” drugs along with associated problems resulting from overdose.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2291 that the use of drugs inflicts grave damage on human health and life, and the use of drugs beyond therapeutic use constitutes a “grave offense.” It also states in paragraph 2211 that the political community has a duty to protect the security and health of families, especially with respect to drugs.

 

Hacking pastoral care: Youth synod bishops talk technology

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- Smartphone apps and Skype have transformed the way at least one synod bishop conducts his pastoral ministry with young people.

Bishop David Bartimej Tencer of Reykjavík said Wednesday that digital technologies help him to overcome the geographical challenges that come from shepherding a diocese spread over 40,000 square miles in Iceland.

“The church is moving forward thanks to the digital world,” Bishop Tencer said at a Vatican press conference Oct. 17.

Bishops have discussed how the Church can better extend missionary outreach and pastoral care to young people online during the 2018 Synod of Bishops, which is focused on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.

“‘Digital pastoral care’ --  how the church can be active in the world of social media,” was an important conversation topic in the synod hall Wednesday, according to Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications.

This included “being a missionary in the digital world,” he said.

Bishop Tencer, who has used Skype to catechise his diocese, said that in his experience, the “contact was very real with these kids.”

The Reykjavík bishop also said that the young people responded positively to his Android app Bible challenges.

“I said, ‘You know, guys, next week, you all have to download using your Android phone or whatever,” continued Bishop Tencer, “and they all downloaded it.”

“Then I asked the kids, ‘Find in the Bible where God is whistling to the bees,” the bishop went on. “My kids found this, no problem.”

Bishop Tencer said he was surprised to find that conversations surrounding technology in the synod hall have been very positive, despite the fact that the average age of the synod fathers is above 60.

The internet is “a neutral medium,” Tencer concluded.

Prior to the 2018 synod, youth around the globe submitted 150,000 online surveys answering questions regarding morality, faith and life. These responses were analyzed by an Italian university using an algorithm.

The discussion of technology in the youth synod’s Instrumentum Laboris included both enthusiasm for technology's potential, as well as caution for its unintended consequences.

“Technology can be detrimental to human dignity if not used with conscience and caution and if human dignity is not at the center of its usage,” the document says, making particular reference to the fields of bioethics and artificial intelligence.

The pre-synod document also warns against the “isolation, laziness, desolation and boredom” that can come from young people’s obsessive consumption of media, in addition to the long-term risks of a “loss of creativity” and concentration.

“While technology has, for some, augmented our relationships, for many others it has taken the form of an addiction, becoming a replacement for human relationship and even God.”

 

Chaput: The terrain and challenge U.S. Christians face

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2018 / 05:33 pm (CNA).- The following interview with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia was conducted Oct. 16 by Adam Sosnowski and will be released in Poland on Oct. 24 by the Polish Catholic magazine Miesięcznik Wpis (wydawnictwo Biały Kruk). It is published here with permission.

BIALY KRUK:  What is the reason for the decrease of faith in the Western world? What can the Church do about it?

ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT:  There’s no single reason for the decline. Many different factors shaped the problem.  

The two World Wars, the rise of murder ideologies like Communism and National Socialism, the immense savagery and loss of life starting in1914 – all these traumas deeply wounded the Western psyche. The pride of the early the 20th century produced the despair we have in the early 21st. We hide that despair under a blanket of noise and distraction and consumer appetites. But it’s very real. The idea of a loving God seems implausible today for many people not because of something wicked God has done, but because of the evil we ourselves have done without God stopping us.

Augusto Del Noce, the late Italian philosopher, described our situation best in his essay, “Technological Civilization and Christianity.” It’s worth reading. As “postmoderns,” we’ve tried to overcome our despair with science and technology, and they produce many good things. But they also focus us radically on this world and away from the supernatural. As a result, man’s religious dimension, our sense of the transcendent, slowly dries up and disappears. Technological civilization doesn’t persecute religion, at least not directly. It doesn’t need to. It makes God irrelevant.

The Church will survive and continue her mission. But to do that, she first needs to acknowledge that the culture she helped create now has no use for her -- and why. As a Church, we don’t yet see reality clearly and critically enough. For example, the current synod’s instrumentum laboris (IL) talks about young people and the effects of social media and the “digital continent.” But it has no grasp of the deeper dynamics of technology that Del Noce names.  

The IL is a collection of dense social science data with very little evangelical zeal. It speaks constantly about accompaniment, which is important, but it has almost no confident teaching.  It can’t and won’t convert anybody. Hopefully, the synod fathers will fix this.

How should the Church handle its current abuse crisis? - What is the condition of the Church in the United States right now? - How much damage has been done with the recent scandal involving Cardinal McCarrick?

The Church is the United States is still strong compared to Catholic life in nearly every other “developed” country. We have good resources, many good young clergy and lay leaders, vigorous renewal movements, and plenty of thriving parishes. But we’re losing the young. That’s a huge challenge for the future. The scandal triggered by Archbishop McCarrick has done great damage, especially to the credibility of bishops. The only way we can repair that is by being absolutely transparent and honest about the scope of the abuse problem and our efforts to address it.

How much truth is there in the accusations of Archbishop Vigano?

That’s a matter for the Holy See to address. It’s above my area of responsibility and beyond my knowledge.  

Is the heritage of Saint John Paul II still alive in the Church? Is he remembered in the US?  Do we need this heritage?

John Paul’s legacy is very much alive in the United States. His visit to Denver and World Youth Day in 1993 shaped the faith of an entire generation. Some of his encyclicals are masterworks of intellect and faith. We need his kind of Christianity – a combination of courage, zeal for Jesus Christ, rigorous intelligence, and sincere belief – now more than ever.  

Karol Wojtyla’s commitment to human dignity, to the unborn and the sacredness of all life, and his theology of the body – all these things still resonate deeply with American Catholics.

How can one counter the anti-clericalism present in today’s culture and in the media? What should the Church do about this? What about laymen?

The only way to counter it is by living differently; by practicing what we claim to believe. There’s no quick fix. We’re a family of faith, not a religious General Motors, and we need to act like it. Priests, for example, are not little godlings. They’re sinners like everyone else. We’re all equal – laypeople, religious and clergy – in the Sacrament of Baptism. But, as in any family, we all have different tasks. Priests have the duty to shepherd and teach, to serve the needs of their people, to lead as pastors, and most all, to celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments. The glue that holds the whole enterprise together is love. If we don’t respect and love each other, and show it by our behavior, everything falls apart.

What might the synod change in Church doctrine or in the interpretation of the doctrine?

No synod has the authority to change core Christian teachings; nor does any Pope. In matters of interpretation, the unstated struggle in the 2018 synod revolves around Catholic sexual morality. As one young female youth minister put it: Underneath all its social science data and verbiage, the instrumentum laboris is finally, very quietly, about sex. It’s especially odd that the word “chastity” appears almost nowhere in the IL text.  Humanae vitae and the theology of the body are completely absent.

Should the synod have been canceled?

I think the timing is inopportune. Rescheduling it for a later date probably would have been wise, but the Holy Father makes those decisions. The planning for a synod is very complicated and difficult to change.

Is it really necessary to tackle the LGBT issue at the synod and mention it in official documents?

There’s nothing wrong with addressing the issue. Quite the opposite, it’s a natural matter for discussion – so long as Catholic teaching on human sexuality is faithfully explained and reconfirmed without compromise or ambiguity. And that’s exactly where elements of the IL are regrettably weak. “LGBT” should never be used in a Church document to describe people. The Church has never identified persons by their sexual appetites, or reduced them to their sexual inclinations. “LBGT” may be acceptable in describing issues, but not people.

The traditional understanding of the family is under heavy attack. What does the situation look like in the States?  What part does the gender ideology play in this?

I’ll refer back to Del Noce here: Gender ideology is simply an expression of the technological mindset and its bias toward treating all matter, including the body, as raw material for the human will. It presumes a definition of the “human person” very different from anything in Christian belief. Gender ideology treats the body as an instrument to be upgraded, or clay to be manipulated. In contrast, Christian faith sees the body, not as some kind of “wetware” or clay capsule, but as integral and essential to who we are. God became man to redeem human flesh, not to render it meaningless.

The family, by its nature, is carnal and fertile. A man and a woman become one flesh. New life results.  It’s beautiful, it’s mysterious, but it’s not efficient.  

At the heart of gender ideology is a resentment of the weakness and limitations of the body. At the heart of today’s attacks on the family is a hatred of the mutual dependence that families demand and the love within a family that seals it tight as a unit. In the end, all of today’s sexual aberrations and dysfunctions boil down to a rejection of creation; for the natural order as it is.

This is the terrain and the challenge Christians face today in the United States.

 

A synod summary from the Polish synod fathers – Oct 17

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The synod of bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment is being held at the Vatican Oct. 3-28.

CNA plans to provide a brief daily summary of the sessions, provided by the synodal fathers from Poland.

Please find below the Polish fathers' summary of the Oct. 17 session:

The social context of young Catholics living in multicultural and multi-denominational societies was at the center of the Synod assembly on October 17th. The Synod Fathers also stressed the importance of the World Youth Day, including the meeting in Cracow in 2016.

During the morning session, many voices from Africa and Asia were heard. “People from Africa emphasized the poverty there and the lack of educational opportunities. This has led to vast emigration either inside their own homeland, from the countryside to the cities, or outside their homelands. Every emigration of this kind is a challenge for young people because, lacking education, they do not have the possibility to shape their own identity. On the other hand, Asian voices stressed the need for interreligious dialogue, because many young people from Asia belong to minority churches. Therefore, the young must engage in interreligious dialogue against a variety of dangerous fundamentalisms,” said Msgr. Grzegorz Ryś, Metropolitan Archbishop of Lodz.

During the deliberations, various social contexts in which young people are living were evoked. “In today’s discussions, I was positively surprised by the voices that emphasized the importance of widening reflection on the social context in which young people live, that is, school, universities, politics. Representatives from different countries spoke about these contexts. Some young Catholics living in a context of multiculturalism and multi-denominationalism must face the fact that they are a minority and are sometimes persecuted for that reason,” said Bishop Marian Florczyk.

Attention was also paid to the value and the importance of the World Youth Days. "

"Evoking the origins of the World Youth Days and, so, John Paul II, the great good that flows from these meetings was emphasized. Cracow, which hosted the World Youth Day in 2016, was also put into the spotlight. This meeting has largely contributed to the integration of young people,” said Bishop Florczyk.

 

What kind of archbishop is needed in Washington?

Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Washington occupies one of the most prominent posts in the Church in America. But the assignment, usually accompanied by a cardinal’s hat, comes with a tricky job description.
 
Because of his proximity to the federal government, DC’s archbishop often sets the tone, or at least frames the debate, for how other bishops in the country react to political events. Washington’s archbishop often finds himself the first point of reference on very public pastoral questions, like admittance to Communion for pro-abortion politicians, and he is often asked to take a lead role in overtly political events like the annual March for Life.
 
Washington is also one of the more diverse dioceses in the country: pastorally, liturgically, and culturally. It takes a particular skill-set for a bishop to bring together a flock of almost 700,000, which includes the deeply enculturated African-American parishes in the southeast of the city, the affluent parishes of northern parts of the city, large communities of Latin American immigrants, thousands of university students, and the rural communities of southern Maryland.
 
In addition to ordinary parish life, groups and movements like Opus Dei, the Neocatechumenal Way, and Communion and Liberation are all present in the archdiocese, as are numerous adherents to the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy, the so-called “Traditional Latin Mass.” Encouraging, promoting, and supporting those movements, without seeming to favor or disfavor one or another, can be a challenge all its own.

Beyond that, there are six Catholic colleges or universities in the diocese, and a number of seminary programs, as well as a far higher than average number of religious houses.

The Archbishop of Washington also has the USCCB in his backyard, and he is expected to play a senior role in the USCCB’s deliberations, without being seen to undermine or overrule its work on the federal level. That’s a tricky balancing act.
 
Before the scandals of the past few months, one of the most common criticisms of Cardinal Wuerl was that he was something of an episcopal Rorschach test; he could appear to be different things to different people, and seemed often to avoid coming down clearly on one side or another of difficult theological debates.

But, by some estimates, the ability to be all things to all people is a necessary skill for an archbishop in Washington – the line between taking a decisive stand and a divisive one is often very thin, indeed.

In short, the Archbishop of Washington is usually expected to represent a balance- neither to keel very far to the left or to the right, because of the scope of the issues that tend to fall into his lap.  This means he usually faces criticism from the left and the right- and Wuerl, long before the scandals, faced both. But that balance is understood to be a critical part of the job.

Framing an authentically Catholic response to the issues of the day in a way that does not appear either openly partisan or impossibly vague requires a diplomatic skill set not necessarily found, or even needed, in every bishop.
 
If the pope were to name a successor to Wuerl who is perceived to be a committed “progressive” or “conservative, or who has a reputation for a narrow focus on one band of issues, the man might arrive to find a diocese already divided over his appointment.
 
While it would be myopic to assess Cardinal Wuerl’s tenure solely through the lens of the recent scandals, it is also impossible to deny that they have been the immediate cause of his departure, and that they will be the first priority of his replacement.
 
When he announced that he was asking the pope to accept his resignation, Wuerl said that the archdiocese needed to begin to move past the summer’s revelations. Last month, a spokesman for the cardinal told CNA that Wuerl believed “healing from the abuse crisis requires a new beginning and this includes new leadership for the Archdiocese of Washington.”
 
How “new” that “new leadership” is perceived to be could determine how fast healing happens, and how seriously the Vatican is seen to be responding to the situation.
 
Wuerl himself has given some indications of the kind of bishop he hopes will replace him; key among his criteria would seem to be someone unconnected with the current scandals.
 
In an interview with the New York Times published Friday, Wuerl said he was stepping aside “to allow for new leadership that doesn’t have this baggage,” and hoped that his replacement would be someone who became a bishop after the last abuse crises of the early 2000s.
 
Of course, being free from ties to the current scandal will require more than relative youth.
 
It was, arguably, Wuerl’s proximity to his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, that did as much as anything else to end his tenure. His insistence that he knew nothing of rumors of McCarrick’s alleged misdeeds, or of supposed Vatican attempts to make him keep a lower profile in retirement, left him appearing, at least to some, to be either evasive or negligently incurious, in what became a major crisis of credibility for the American hierarchy.
 
Other bishops, including some touted as possible successors to Wuerl, have similarly had to account for their reactions, or lack of action, when they were first made aware of allegations against McCarrick.

More broadly, McCarrick’s influence helped to elevate a generation of priests and bishops from the east coast dioceses which he led, many of whom have gone on to serve in important positions in the Church hierarchy, both in the United States and in Rome. Should someone seen to be in McCarrick’s line of succession or patronage be appointed to take over in Washington, the credibility gap he would have to cross could prove immediate and unbridgeable.
 
D.C. Catholics – including Cardinal Wuerl – are now hoping for a relatively young bishop, one utterly free from association with either McCarrick or the other scandals currently roiling the Church. He’ll need to be someone of proven governing ability and diplomatic savvy, but with a pastoral heart and an established record of leading like a shepherd and father rather than an administrator.
 
It is a tall order, but not an impossible one to fill.
 
Of course, as the outgoing archbishop and still a member of the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, Wuerl will have had an outsized say in the names submitted for papal consideration.
 
At the same time, Pope Francis has a reputation for picking unexpected candidates for important jobs, and for favoring personal recommendations from people he knows well, rather than relying on officially presented shortlists.
 
How closely Wuerl’s successor aligns with his own stated hopes could speak volumes about how deep Francis’s respect really is for the man he so publicly praised while accepting his resignation. It could also be a strong indication of how seriously Rome is taking a crisis still acutely felt in the American capital.

 

Florida Catholics rally after Hurricane Michael

Pensacola, Fla., Oct 17, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Thousands of people lost their homes as Hurricane Michael wrought havoc throughout the United States and Mexico last week. Now, the Catholic community in the Florida Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee is working to rebuild and to help those in need.

 

The hurricane has taken the lives of 46 people and caused an estimated $8 billion in damage. The Florida panhandle was one of the worst hit areas, with more than 20 people believed to have died in the storm.

 

Since Michael made landfall in the area Oct. 10, St. Dominic Catholic Church has served as a staging area for disaster relief in Panama City, Florida. Associate Pastor Luke Farabaugh, himself a native of the area, told the Pensacola News Journal that the church has “become an aid facility,” with “a lot of 18 wheelers” in the parking lot.

 

Despite the amount of supplies available, Farabaugh said that they are short of volunteers to distribute the materials. Pensacola Catholic High School’s football team have been volunteering together with administrators from the school, but many more people are needed.

 

About 50 volunteers are needed each day, said Bambi Provost. Provost is the director of fund development for Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida. She told the local media that the scene in the panhandle was “total devastation” and that “everything was destroyed.”

 

Cris Dosev is one of the people who came to St. Dominic’s to help out. Dosev, who is Catholic, came in third in the Republican congressional primary for Florida’s 1st District in August, but he was able to use the backs of his campaign signs to replace those that were destroyed in the storm.

 

Now, the new sign in front of St. Dominic’s Church is a repurposed Dosev for Congress sign. He also made signs indicating where people can pick up water and supplies, and there are signs with phone numbers people can call for assistance.

 

The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee has also been able to provide limited lodging for those who are coming to the area to volunteer.

 

Catholic Charities USA, which is a national organization, gave Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida $1 million on Sunday for disaster relief. Provost said “all of it” will be used for the cleanup effort, and that the money will be used to help everyone, regardless of religious belief.

 

On its website, Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida boasts that “We strive to serve as many people as possible,” and that last year, 89 percent of those who received assistance from the organization were not Catholic.

This London Catholic school uses its garden to feed homeless

London, England, Oct 17, 2018 / 12:34 pm (CNA).- A Catholic school in London has turned its horticulture lessons into meals for the homeless.

St Gregory’s Catholic Science College in northwest London educates nearly 1000 children, aged 11-18. Many of the students volunteer for social and environmental work.

This year, horticulture students grew pumpkins from seed in the summer term and harvested their fruit in early October. The pupils used the pumpkins, along with thyme from their garden, to make soup. They sent that soup to London’s Ealing Abbey Soup Kitchen, an ecumenical initiative of service for the city’s homeless population.

Ealing Abbey Soup Kitchen has been serving people in need since 1973. The pumpkin-thyme soup provided more than 150 portions.

"I'm really proud of our pupils for sharing the fruits of their labours with those in our community who will benefit the most," the school’s headteacher, Andrew Prindiville told the UK’s Independent Catholic News website.

The students of St Gregory’s have also been recently involved with environmental projects, among them helping to clean nearby Woodcock Park. Wealdstone Brook, which runs through the park, has had a problem with misconnected water lines dumping waste into the water from some 140 nearby homes.

Thames Water and Friends of Woodcock Park, who worked alongside the students, have been flushing dirty water away from the brook for the past five years. Receiving $1,300 worth of donated flowers, shrubs, and bulbs, the students and other community volunteers were able to revitalize the landscape.

Earlier this year, St Gregory’s Catholic Science College won the Horticultural Society’s School Gardening Team of the year award. The school has also been awarded the Eco Schools Green Flag Award for its commitment to the environment as seen in its curriculum.

The school was nominated for the 2018 Sustainable Schools TES AWARD. Headteacher Andy Prindiville said consideration for that award was an incredible honor.

“This is a wonderful accolade for St Gregory’s as we are one of only eight schools to have been shortlisted and is the result of the hard work and dedication of the staff, governors, local community and pupils of St Gregory’s,” said Prindiville, the Harrow Times reported.

 

Pope tells seminarians to report abuse ‘immediately’

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2018 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis told a group of Italian seminarians to report immediately to their bishop if they ever see or suspect any kind abuse, sexual or otherwise, on the part of a priest.

 

“On this point, speak clearly,” the pope told the students from Lombardy over the weekend.

 

“If you see something like [abuse], [go] immediately to the bishop. To help that abusive brother. Immediately to the bishop.”

 

The pope met the group in the Vatican’s St. Clementine hall Oct. 13. The text of the lengthy question and answer session was released by the Vatican Oct. 16. During the meeting, he answered a question about scandals in the Church and how to help Catholics to not lose hope despite the “poverty of its ministers.”

 

“Scandal wounds. We must be clear: on this point do not yield. To scandals, no. Especially when the scandals hurt little ones,” he said, emphasizing that though statistics show abuse by priests or other clerics to be a small percentage of total cases in society, it is not a reason to ignore the issue.

 

“No. Because even if it was just one priest, this is a monstrosity,” he underlined.

 

Pope Francis also spoke about other “scandals” brought about by the public sins of priests, condemning worldliness in particular, and giving the example of a priest who is polite and well-liked, but never seen praying, going to the hospital to visit the sick, or performing works of mercy.

 

For a priest to scandalize the people of God “is very bad,” he said.

 

The pope went on to say that in his home country of Argentina, the people are not easily scandalized, but take action, even being able “to forgive a poor priest who has a double life with a woman and does not know how to solve it, saying: ‘Ah, poor man, let’s help him...’ but do not condemn immediately.”

 

“The people have great wisdom,” the pope said, and urged the seminarians to always condemn scandal when they see it, going to the bishop or even directly to the brother priest to say: “Look, you are scandalizing people with this [behavior].”

U.K. local government apologizes to pro-life charity

London, England, Oct 17, 2018 / 10:30 am (CNA).- A London borough has apologized to a U.K. pro-life charity after making inaccurate claims about the group. Life, a non-sectarian charity which provides assistance to women and children, was ejected from the Lambeth Country Show in July.

In a tweet posted Oct. 12 on the official account of Lambeth Council, the local government recognized that its previous claim that Life had booked a place at the show using “inaccurate information” – thereby justifying the removal of their stall – was untrue.

“On 22 July 2018, [Lambeth Council] tweeted that Life booked a stall at our County Show using inaccurate information. We accept that was incorrect and would like to apologise to Life,” the tweet read.

The annual event was held in Brockwell Park, south London, and was attended by approximately 150,000 people over the course of the weekend of July 21-22. Having exhibited during the day Saturday, Life staff and volunteers arrived Sunday morning to find their stall had been disassembled and their property removed from the show’s grounds.

At the time of the event, Life said that they had been given no warning or justification for the removal.

“They would not give us an exact reason for the action but did say that Life was against the values of Lambeth Council and was not in line with the causes the council has been funding and supporting. However they were then unable to tell us what those values were,” a statement from the charity said.

Over the course of that weekend, Lambeth councilor Ed Davie alleged in a tweet that Life “wasn’t officially allowed” to be at the event, was “not on the approved list of exhibitors,” and that he would “make sure” they were not permitted to remain through Sunday.

In a subsequent tweet, Davie further alleged that Life had used “inaccurate information” in their application to exhibit at the show. Lambeth Council’s official Twitter account repeated that allegation later that day. Life demanded an apology and announced they were taking legal action against the council.

Life, which offers information and support to women in crisis pregnancies, and also provides accommodation for homeless pregnant women, said they had explicitly described themselves as “a pro-life charity” in their application for the event.

Their submission to Lambeth Council included pictures of similar stalls they had run at past events.

Speaking at the time, Life’s director of education Ann Scanlan said that “nothing on our stall was offensive. There were lifelike fetal models and pictures of the unborn baby at different gestational stages which can be seen on any pregnancy website, including the National Health Service.”

The eviction came at a time when pro-life speech was under sustained pressure from local government action. Several authorities, including the London borough of Ealing, moved to ban pro-life vigils near abortion clinics. The Ealing ban was upheld against an appeal to the High Court.

In September, U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that he would not be instituting a national ban on demonstrations near abortion facilities. Javid said that, although the proposal had support across different political parties, it would not be “proportional response.”