Jun 272017
 

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2017 / 04:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, saying their journey toward full communion is one that ought to respect their unique traditions – rather than a uniformity that would, in the end, make the Church more boring.

“Peter and Paul, as disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ, served the Lord in very different ways,” the Pope said June 27.

“Yet in their diversity, both bore witness to the merciful love of God our Father, which each in his own fashion profoundly experienced, even to the sacrifice of his own life.”

Because of this, since ancient times the Church in the East and in the West has celebrated the feast of the two Apostles together, he said, adding that it is right to jointly commemorate “their self-sacrifice for love of the Lord, for it is at the same time a commemoration of unity and diversity.”

Pope Francis spoke to a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, who are currently in Rome for the June 29 celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The Pope is particularly close to the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, and has met with their Patriarch, Bartholomew I, several times since his election in 2013.

In his address to the delegation, Francis said the traditional exchange of delegations on the feast of their patrons is something that “increases our desire for the full restoration of communion between Catholics and Orthodox.”

This, he said, is something “which we already have a foretaste in fraternal encounter, shared prayer and common service to the Gospel.”

He noted how in the first millennium, Christians of both the East and West were able to share the same Eucharist and preserve the essential truths of the faith while at the same time cultivating and exchanging a variety of theological, canonical and spiritual traditions founded on the teaching of the apostles and the ecumenical councils.

“That experience,” Francis said, “is a necessary point of reference and a source of inspiration for our efforts to restore full communion in our own day, a communion that must not be a bland uniformity.”

Francis then noted how this year marks 50 years since Blessed Pope Paul VI visited Istanbul's Phanar district in July 1967, where the seat of the ecumenical patriarchate is located, to visit Patriarch Athenagoras, as well as the visit of  Athenagoras to Rome in October of the same year.

“The example of these courageous and farsighted pastors, moved solely by love for Christ and his Church, encourages us to press forward in our journey towards full unity,” Francis said.

The Pope then expressed his gratitude for the many occasions on which he has been able to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew, which have taken place largely during his various trips and ecumenical prayer events.

At the end of his speech, Pope Francis noted that in September, a meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will take place in Leros, Greece.

He voiced his hope that the event “will take place in a spiritual climate of attentiveness to the Lord’s will and in a clear recognition of the journey already being made together by many Catholic and Orthodox faithful in various parts of the world, and that it will prove most fruitful for the future of ecumenical dialogue.”

The Pope closed by voicing his hope that with the intercession of Saints Peter, Paul and Andrew, through mutual prayer they would become “instruments of communion and peace.”

Jun 272017
 

Bamako, Mali, Jun 27, 2017 / 03:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Among those bishops who will be created cardinals at the June consistory is Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, a man who has already been called the “cardinal of peace.”

In announcing the June 28 consistory at the Regina Coeli on May 21, Pope Francis expressed the desire to choose men who represent the “catholicity” of the Church. His selection of Archbishop Zerbo is particularly noteworthy in this regard, as he will be the first cardinal to hail from Mali.

Born Dec. 27, 1943 in Ségou, Archbishop Zerbo was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ségou July 10, 1971. He earned his licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Ponifical Biblical Institute in Rome, studying there from 1977 to 1981. Upon returning to Mali in the early 1980s, he taught at the major seminary in Bamako, Mali's capital, and served as a pastor in Markala.

In June 1988, St. John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Bamako. In 1994, he was appointed Bishop of Mopti, and in 1998 was made Archbishop of Bamako.

Archbishop Zerbo represents Pope Francis’ frequent calls to focus on areas where the Church is persecuted: Mali is a majority-Muslim nation that often sees harsh application of sharia as well as extremist violence against Christians.

Speaking to Cuore Amico in January this year, Archbishop Zerbo described the situation of Christians in the country as “a test comparable to that of the early disciples.”

Mali has recently been ravaged by a civil war, which exploded in 2012 with various rebel forces seizing control of parts of the country, and a subsequent coup. Although it officially ceased in 2015, fighting has continued throughout the country.

The war is largely driven by several factions of Islamist militants seeking to impose sharia, as well as by ethnic separatists. These militant groups occupy much of the northern part of the country.

During his ministry, Archbishop Zerbo has participated actively in peace talks in Mali’s civil conflict. His appointment to the College of Cardinals therefore sends a powerful message in favor of peace in the country, and a red hat will give added weight to the new cardinal’s contributions to talks.

He has also called for humanitarian aid for those suffering from hunger, thirst, and disease due to war in the country. In 2013, he told Fides that “[A] new period of suffering is beginning for the people of Mali. We would welcome support so that we can help the increasing number of displaced and refugees.”

He has stressed the need for conversion, on the part of both Christians and Muslims, saying that “peace can only be achieved through the conversion of the hearts regardless of faith. We Christians are always called to an effort of reconciliation.”

The Church in Mali has recently been accused of embezzlement of funds related to the Swiss Leaks investigation. The Malian bishops' conference said in a May 31 statement that it “takes issue with the allegations that certain bishops have misappropriated funds from the Catholic faithful” and that it “functions in full transparency.”

The bishops' conference also asked if “the authors of the tendentious article are aiming at another unavowed objective, rather than bringing constructive information to public opinion? Does this act made at the moment that this Church has just been honored with the nomination of its first cardinal aim at dirtying its image and at destabilizing it? God who sees all and who knows all will one day restore the truth.”

Archbishop Zerbo will be absent from the consistory due to unexpected medical reasons.

Jun 272017
 

Rome, Italy, Jun 27, 2017 / 03:27 pm (CNA).- More than 10 years ago, Joseph Prever found himself scouring the internet for anything that might help him: he was gay, Catholic, and confused. Resources were scarce for a man struggling with homosexuality and trying to remain faithful to the Church’s teaching.

In the intervening years, Catholics experiencing same-sex attraction have become a more vocal presence in the Church.

Google the words “gay Catholic” and one of the top sites to appear will be Prever’s own blog, a blog with the tagline: “Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine.” There, the 30-something writer considers his own experiences as a man struggling with same-sex attraction and trying to live out the virtue of chastity.

What follows is an edited version of a conversation about everything from homosexuality and Batman to poetry and football. The interview is published in two parts.

Part One

Can you introduce yourself and your blog?
 
I'm Joe Prever. I used to blog under the pseudonym Steve Gershom. I’ve been doing that for a few years now. The blog is about what it’s like to be a gay Catholic – a gay Catholic who is of course, celibate – and I say ‘of course’ because that seems to me like the only option if you’re going to be both gay and Catholic. On the blog I try to stay away from abstract discourse about spirituality and sexuality in general and more towards lived experience: that’s what I see as my niche.
 
Why did you start writing a blog?

I honestly don’t remember the thought process that led me to it, but I do remember wishing at one point that there was somebody blogging like that, and in fact these days there are just a whole lot of people in my situation who are blogging, and that’s really great. It seems liked it’s very much exploded in the last few years. My friends and I joke that there’s a gay Catholic renaissance on, or actually a gay Christian renaissance on, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of it – or at least we tell ourselves that we’re at the forefront.

Did those other people read your blog before they started theirs?

Some of them did, yes. In fact, a couple of them have said to me that I was someone who helped to inspire them to start, so I’m very proud of that.

This was a few years ago. Even at that time there were a fair amount of resources, in the sense that there were people who were writing about it, and you could find various testimonials online if you googled hard enough, but there were very few people who, on a day to day basis were like, ‘here’s what this is like, here’s how you deal with that,’ etc.

And so you decided you were going to be that resource?

Yes. Because at that time, I was sort of starting to feel for the first time that things were very much manageable, and I think back to this very specific moment in college when I was 18 or 19, and googling this kind of stuff, just to see if there was anybody out there who I could relate to and who would have some wisdom to share about it, and I did in fact find some stuff. It was remembering the feeling of how good it was to find that made me want to pass that along.

You blogged pseudonymously for years and then you ‘came out,’ so to speak, in the summer of 2014. Why did you decide to do that?

It was one of those decisions where by the time you make it, you realize that you’ve already made it, if you see what I mean. It was hard in the sense that I’d actually always said that people shouldn’t be public about being gay, because it was not anybody’s business and I felt that it would lend legitimacy to this idea that being gay is a sort of a single way to identify yourself: I actually still sort of hold that position – kind of. (Laughs).

It’s hard to describe: I don’t think that being gay is as essential of a way to identify yourself as say, being male is, or being Catholic, or being human. I guess my position right now is that if the cultural atmosphere were different from what it is, then I don’t know whether I would have gone public.  

The real reason I did is because of the blog, and talking about these things in general, and the cultural conversation in general that’s happening right now – all of these things have become such a big part of my life... it wasn’t really a question of honesty. It’s just that when something is so much a part of your life, people ask you, ‘oh, so what’ve you got going on?’ or ‘what are you doing these days?’ and I felt really lame saying, ‘oh, you know, programming computers. Watching movies. Hanging out. Stuff.’  

So honestly, it was largely a vanity thing. It’s like the scene in Batman Begins where Bruce Wayne is doing this, ‘I’m a rich celebrity playboy’ thing, and he’s bathing in fountains and buying hotels and so forth, and Katie Holmes’ (character) is upset with him for being such a wastrel. (Laughs) And I felt like I wanted to be publicly Batman: strictly for vanity-related reasons. I wanted everyone to know how awesome I am.

I’m trying not to laugh...

Well, it’s perfectly true. And I suppose there are other reasons, like I want to be a public witness and things like that, but I suspect that it’s mostly vanity.

What response did you get when you ‘came out’? When people began to associate you with this gay guy who writes a blog?

On the day that I made public the post where I came out, I received just piles and piles of comments and emails and text messages. Most were from people I didn't know, except for the text messages, obviously, but a very large portion of them were from people who had known me for a long time and who just wanted to say how pleased they were that I had done this and how proud they were of me to have taken this stance, and how courageous they thought I was and how honored they were to be my friend, and all of this stuff. In other words, I can't think of a single friend, family member, or acquaintance who did not greet this revelation with support.

I think I would have had a very, very different response were I not celibate. When I get negative feedback, which I occasionally do from people who disagree with what the Church teaches, they say that I am being made a poster boy and that I'm being used – which is to say, conservative Christians are super happy to have somebody to point to whom they can say, ‘well look, here's one person who agrees with us.’

Do you think being accused of being a ‘poster boy’ means that people are people angered by your celibacy?

That's an interesting question. I think some people are angered on my behalf for what they perceive to be a sort of ‘Stockholm syndrome,’ and I've actually heard that phrase thrown around more than once. People see me defending the Church’s teachings on marriage, and on sexuality, and what they see is somebody who’s been taught to suppress his own nature for so long that he's actually come to believe the things he’s been told about himself – that’s what they see.

What’s really there?

I can’t sum myself up, but the point is that if any of the people who accuse me of being the poster boy or of having ‘Stockholm syndrome’ or anything like that were actually to read the things I’ve said, they would see that, number one, I don't sort of unquestioningly accept whatever I'm told about sexuality, but I always bring it back to my own experience. And number two, I very much admit the difficulties inherent in the life I live and I don’t pretend that they don't exist. And I don't think I would do either of those things if I had ‘Stockholm syndrome.’

Your blog header is, ‘Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine,’ and you’ve been using the word ‘gay’ throughout our conversation so far. Do you have any thoughts on that word, as opposed to ‘same-sex attraction’ or other terms?

Absolutely. That is another hard question, and it’s a question about which my position has been continually shifting, so I don’t feel as though I’ve found solid ground yet.

I’ve always used the word. It used to be that I would use the word in writing, but sort of in my interior monologue and in private conversation I would say ‘same-sex attracted.’ I used to joke that the only reason I used the word 'gay' was so that I would tend to show up more on Google, which is only partially a joke, because you know if you’re going to use the tools of technology to evangelize, then you have to be savvy about what Google is going to find and what it isn’t.  

But I guess the shift mainly happened as I began to approach being more public about it, because as I became more public I also came into contact more openly with people who identified as gay or who struggled with same-sex attraction, or whatever. And what I found was that a lot of them had a lot of resentment towards people who insisted on not using the word gay.

Why did they have resentment?

For a few reasons. It’s a really complicated topic, and I’m not sure how to distill what is offensive about it. One, is that it’s offensive to be told what you ought to be allowed to call yourself. And in fact, I rarely feel strongly about whether I should use the word gay or not, but the one time I do feel strongly about it is when somebody starts upbraiding me for it. Because it feels incredibly intrusive.

This is a topic that gets very political very fast. It’s the sort of thing where people feel, and I think rightly, that they have been constrained to keep silent for most of their lives – and a lot of people have, whether it’s constrained by actual explicit homophobia among the people that they love and/or are related to, or whether it’s just sort of a general culture understanding that you don’t talk about this sort of thing. So you have a set of people who have felt this way for most of their lives, and then you have people saying ‘oh, well it’s sort of cool now if you talk about that, but just be sure you talk about it in this or that way.’ This is frustrating and comes across as very patronizing because these are people who don’t have any insight into the experience of what it is to be gay telling you what it is or is not ok to talk about, and what it is and is not ok to call yourself.

Would you also apply that criticism to the Church who never uses the word ‘gay’ in her documents?

I understand why She (the Church) doesn’t. I don’t know if that will continue to be the case. I don’t have any bitterness towards the Church as a whole in that way.  

This is reason that I haven’t yet come to a solid opinion on this question – because the problem is that secular people and Christian people mean two different things by the word ‘gay.’

Could you explain that a little more?

It’s really hard to distill. But you know what’s at the heart of it?

When I told my roommate I was gay, the first thing that he said to me was, ‘do you mean same-sex attracted?’ And that was actually the precisely wrong thing to say, and I don’t hold it against him. (Laughs) But the heart of it is that I was telling him this incredibly personal thing, and he was instructing me in the right way to feel about it, immediately, from the get-go.

Now I think that one reason Christians tend to dislike the word ‘gay’ is because if somebody says that they are gay, then they are usually implying that it is an unchangeable aspect of their personality. Whereas the sort of default position among a lot of Christians is that homosexuality is changeable. The unspoken implication is that if you identify yourself as ‘gay,’ then you’re probably not trying hard enough to be straight. And I believe that this why it is so offensive to be told that they shouldn’t use the word gay.  

It might be true that some people can change to some extent, but it’s extremely offensive to assume that the only reason somebody hasn’t changed is because they haven’t tried. And even though very few people would have the chutzpah to make that explicit, I do believe that that’s the belief that’s behind it.

What do you think we should be doing as a Church, as a Christian community, to be helping people who struggle with homosexuality?

That’s a really good question! I’ll start first by saying that I’m extremely grateful for the organization People Can Change, which is an organization founded precisely on the idea that radical change with respect to homosexuality is possible. I’m grateful for them not because they ‘made me straight’ or something, but because they gave me a space in which to work out some of my issues, many of which turned out not to be related precisely to homosexuality in particular, but were just sort of emotional issues that needed dealing with.

I think a lot of gay men and women do have emotional issues that aren’t going to be dealt with if they’re told that everything is already ok. But on the other hand, this is dangerous because you have a lot of Christian people already assuming from the get-go that if somebody is homosexual, then they must have various and many emotional issues that need working on, and that’s not necessarily the case. (Laughs) So you see why this is difficult!

If the understanding in the Christian world is that homosexuality is a “disorder,” and homosexual activity is a sin, then logically it would seem like as Christians, we would want to help our fellow Christians who are “dis-ordered” to be “ordered.” Do you think there’s a problem with that logic?

I think there’s a problem with that phraseology. There’s a subtle but importance difference in saying that somebody has a disordered inclination and saying that somebody is disordered.

The Church has to be clear with respect to ‘what is the nature of homosexuality itself,’ but can’t make a pronouncement on whether it is a mental disorder, for example. Many people assume that when the Church says ‘homosexuality consists of a disordered inclination,’ they take that word ‘disorder’ and assume that She means ‘mental disorder.’ But I think the Catechism has purposely phrased it in such a way that you can’t actually conclude that if you’re reading carefully. But it takes careful reading.

The Church never changes her underlying principles, but when something new happens, it’s always a question of, ‘well, what do the underlying principles dictate in this particular situation?’ And a lot of the times it turns out that it doesn’t dictate what we thought it did but it takes a while to figure that out.

What do you think the underlying principles are that are dictating what the Church is saying about homosexuality?

That men are men, and women are women, and the two are not the same.

Do you want to expound on that at all?

Nooooo. (Laughs).  

Well, what I think is that one, at the bottom of it, men and women are different. Number two, that eros is different from friendship, and number three, that physical acts have spiritual meanings.

I think those things are the fundamental axioms that we have to work with here. And I think those things are precisely the things that are being argued about. I don’t think the Church is arguing about them, and I don’t think She should, because as far as I’m concerned, those things are absolutely essential to what the Church believes about people. But those things are very much being debated in the broader culture.

I'll tell you how I see myself and what I do, which is not only with respect to homosexuality but with how I try to live the Catholic faith in general. I try to live my life by those principles that make sense to me as a human being, and are consonant with what I know about human nature and with what the world at large has discovered about human nature. However, I also believe that if anything is true, it is Christian: that every truth is a Christian truth, and that there can be no truth about human nature which is not consonant with what the Church teaches about human nature.

This article was originally published on CNA June 30, 2015.

Jun 272017
 

Marawi, Philippines, Jun 27, 2017 / 09:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Captured priest Father Teresito “Chito” Suganob was seen alive on Sunday in a part of a Philippines city under Islamist militant control, Agence France Presse reports.

“We don’t have details of his health. We were just told that he was sighted alive,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera told reporters in Marawi, citing reports from rescued civilians.

Militants of the Maute group stormed the city of Marawi, on the island of Mindanao, May 23. The group, formed in 2012, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015.

The militants still have about 100 civilian hostages, whom they use as human shields, ammunition carriers, and stretcher-barriers.

Father Suganob, who is vicar general of the Marawi territorial prelature, was featured in a video released one week after his capture. He appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw the army and stop the airstrikes.

Several bishops, including Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, have appealed for the hostages’ release.

Most of the city’s 200,000 people have fled since its occupation. Nearly 400 people have been killed in the fighting in Marawi.

The city is mostly Muslim. An eight-hour truce on Sunday allowed residents to celebrate the end of Ramadan, but military air and artillery bombardment of militant enclaves resumed with the truce’s end.

The government has said some of the militants appear to be from abroad, including countries like Russia, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Herrera said there are indications other slain militants have come from the Middle East.

The militants’ violence began after a failed army and police raid to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a local Islamist leader. Their initial attack burned several buildings, including the Catholic cathedral and the bishop’s residence.

Jun 272017
 

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2017 / 07:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis' pick of Mons. Alfred A. Schlert to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Allentown in Pennsylvania, himself born and raised in the diocese.

Bishop-elect Schlert, 55, fills the vacancy left when his predecessor, Bishop John Oliver Barres was appointed to the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York at the end of January.

In a statement on the appointment June 27, Bishop Barres said that Mons. Schlert “has a blend of holiness, intelligence and pastoral experience that will serve the mission of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Allentown in an extraordinary way.”

“He is primarily a loving pastor with an insightful and compassionate pastoral charity and a non-stop New Evangelization missionary spirit,” the statement continued.

“He is humble and down to earth and has this incredibly creative sense of humor that is charitable and puts everyone around him at ease. He is calm and steady but passionate about Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the Catholic Church’s mission of mercy in the world.”

Mons. Schlert, who was born and raised in the Diocese of Allentown, has been serving as Diocesan Administrator of Allentown since Bishop Barres' move to New York.

It is the first time a priest of the diocese has been named its bishop.

Bishop-emeritus of Allentown, Edward P. Cullen said that the people of the region have received “a great blessing” with the appointment of Mons. Schlert.

“The formation he received in the seminary of Saint John Lateran in Rome brought out in his heart and soul a powerful love for all of God’s children,” Bishop Cullen said in a statement June 27.

“His intellectual capacity is extraordinary, and his 30 years of ministry reflects his gifts as a homilist, a writer and an administrator whose heart is as compassionate and forgiving as is his love of God.”
 
Bishop-elect Schlert will bring “prudence and sound judgement to every aspect of the pastoral life of the diocese,” he continued.

“I can say without reservation that Bishop-elect Schlert is truly God’s chosen and beloved. Let us bring to him the fullness of our spiritual support.”

Bishop-elect Schlert was born in Easton, Pennsylvania on July 24, 1961, just six months after the Diocese of Allentown was formed.

He attended both Catholic grade school and Catholic high school before entering Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook. He also studied theology at the Pontifical Roman Seminary and the Pontifical Lateran University.

He was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of Saint Catherine of Siena in Allentown on Sept. 19, 1987.

He served as assistant pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Allentown, and as a professor at his alma mater, Notre Dame High School, and as the Catholic chaplain at Lehigh University.

In 1992 he completed graduate studies at the Pontifical North American College and Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, receiving a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University.

Mons. Schlert was named Vice Chancellor and Secretary to Bishop Thomas Welsh in 1997.

From 1998-2008 he was in residence at the Cathedral of Saint Catherine of Siena while serving as Vicar General of the diocese under Bishops Edward Cullen and John O. Barres. In this position he oversaw the coordination of all the administrative offices of the diocese.

He was given the title of monsignor by Pope St. John Paul II in 1999. Benedict XVI named him a Prelate of Honor, the second highest rank of monsignor, in 2005.

While Vicar General, he was also pastor of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church in Hellertown from July 2008-Feb. 2010.

His ordination and installation as bishop will take place at the cathedral on Thursday, Aug. 31st.

In addition to English, he also speaks Italian.

Bishop-elect Schlert “loves the People of God of the Diocese of Allentown,” Bishop Barres stated.

“He is a priest’s priest and now will be a Bishop’s Bishop. He is very serious about prayer and sacrifices deeply to pray deeply. Bishop-elect Schlert is a natural teacher who fine-tuned his ability to communicate in religion classes at Notre Dame High School in Easton. I am ecstatic about Pope Francis’ providential choice.”

Jun 272017
 

London, England, Jun 27, 2017 / 07:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Jewish girls' school has received a failing report from a British education standards monitor because it did not teach its pupils about sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

The report concerns Vishnitz Girls School, an Orthodox Jewish school in the London borough of Hackney for students up to age eight. Inspectors charged that the school did not give its students a “full understanding of fundamental British values.”

The British education standards office, informally known as Ofsted, faulted the school’s lack of instruction about all legally protected characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender-reassignment, the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph reports.

Ofsted charged that this means students have “a limited understanding of the different lifestyles and partnerships that individuals may choose in present-day society.” It said school policy “restricts pupils’ spiritual, moral and cultural development and does not promote equality of opportunity in ways that take account of differing lifestyles.”

The school monitor has inspected the school three times in less than a year. Its report suggested school officials are aware school policy does not fulfill U.K. equality laws.

The school’s annual tuition is about $6,600. The Ofsted report did praise the school’s resources, its teachers’ expertise, and its improvements in areas like safeguarding children and leadership.

However, failure to meet Ofsted’s requirements could shut down a school.

The British Department of Education has required schools to teach “fundamental British values,” in reaction to reports that extremist Muslim groups were trying to infiltrate schools. In November 2014, these requirements were strengthened, with all schools being required to promote equality and diversity, as defined by the education department.

At the time, the British newspaper The Guardian reported these rules were likely to conflict with Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious schools because they require them to prioritize secular law over religious teachings.

In 2014 a highly ranked Catholic school in Suffolk drew criticism from government inspectors for allegedly failing to prepare students for modern life in Britain.

The school filed a formal complaint about the investigation. The school said parents complained that the inspectors asked children as young as ten about same-sex sexual acts and transsexualism.

Ofsted and the “British values” requirement drew criticism from Catholic leaders like Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh, president of the Catholic Union of Great Britain. He charged that Ofsted “appears to be guilty of trying to enforce a kind of state-imposed orthodoxy on certain moral and religious questions.”

Jun 272017
 

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2017 / 04:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis said that the older generation should not stop striving in their spiritual lives, but that God calls them to be spiritual ‘grandparents’ to young people, who can learn from their experiences.

“And this is what the Lord today asks us: to be grandparents. To have the vitality to give to young people, because young people expect it from us; to not close ourselves, to give our best: they look for our experience, for our positive dreams to carry on the prophecy and the work.”

“I ask the Lord for all of us that he give us this grace,” the Pope said June 27.

Pope Francis said a special Mass June 27 in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination as an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992.

The Mass was attended by the cardinals in Rome. This was the Pope's final morning Mass before the start of the usual summer break from morning activities. They will resume in September after he returns from his apostolic trip to Colombia.

For his homily, Francis preached on the day’s first reading, which contains the continuation of a dialogue between God and the now elderly Abraham. In this dialogue we hear three imperatives, the Pope said: “Get up! Look! Hope!”

Abraham, he said, was more or less the same age as those present when God called him.

“He was going to go into retirement, in retirement to rest... He started at that age. An old man, with the weight of old age, old age that brings pain, illness.... But you, as if you were a young man, get up, go go!”

“And to us today the Lord says the same: ‘Get up! Look! Hope!’ He tells us that it's not time to put our life in closure, not to close our story, not to compile our story. The Lord tells us that our story is open, still: it is open until the end, it is open with a mission. And with these three imperatives tells us the mission: ‘Get up! Look! Hope!’” Francis emphasized.

The Pope reflected that there are some people who might not want the older people around, maybe calling them a “gerontocracy of the Church.” These people don't know what they are saying, he explained: “we're not geriatrics, we're grandparents.”

And if we don’t understand this, we should pray for the grace to do so, he said.

This is because we are “Grandparents to whom our grandchildren look. Grandparents who have to give them a sense of life with our experience. Grandparents not closed in the melancholy of our story, but open to give this. And for us, this ‘get up, look, hope’ is called ‘dreaming,’” he said.

“We are grandparents called to dream and give our dream to today's youth: they needs it.”

Pope Francis explained what these three words mean. To get up, he said, means you have a mission, you have a task. Just like Abraham walked, not making a home anywhere but only taking a tent, we are called to continue forward, all the way to the end of our lives.

In the second command, to “look!” God tells Abraham set his gaze on the horizon, always looking and moving ahead. There is a mystic spirituality to the horizon, the Pope said. It doesn’t end, but the further forward you go, the horizon continues to recede into the distance.

The third imperative was to have hope. Just like Abraham should not have been able to have children because of his age and because of the sterility of his wife, the Lord promises him offspring as numerous as the stars and Abraham has faith in the word of God.

This is the kind of hope in God's promises we are called to have, Francis said.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis thanked Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, for his kind words, as well as everyone for their well-wishes and for celebrating Mass with him on his anniversary.

“Thank you for this common prayer on this anniversary, asking forgiveness for my sins and perseverance in faith, hope, charity,” he said.

“I thank you so much for this fraternal company and ask the Lord to bless you and accompany you on the road of service to the Church. Thank you very much.”

Jun 272017
 

Boston, Mass., Jun 27, 2017 / 03:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A case about whether a troubled teenager convinced her depressed boyfriend to commit suicide through her words and text messages may have possible implications for physician-assisted suicide cases.

On June 16, a Massachusetts judge ruled that Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, for words and texts exchanged with her depressed boyfriend Conrad Roy III as he attempted to commit suicide two years ago. Both Carter and Roy were teenagers at the time.

The ruling of manslaughter was decided based on Carter’s words to Roy, mostly in a phone call, urging him to re-enter a truck she knew to be full of carbon dioxide, where he was attempting his suicide. Carter had also sent Roy numerous texts encouraging his suicide and later texted a friend about her phone call with Roy.

In Massachusetts, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be brought when an individual causes the death of another person by engaging in behavior that is considered reckless enough to cause harm.

While some states have laws that criminalize the encouragement of suicide, Massachusetts does not, complicating Carter’s case.

Legal experts wonder whether the case could set new legal precedents when it comes to legalizing assisted suicide.

Daniel Medwed, professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University school of law, told USA Today that the case may set a precedent of criminalizing those who sympathize with someone who expresses a desire for assisted suicide.

“Don’t forget, there’s a still a big societal debate going on about assisted suicide,” he said. “This sort of verdict would imply that anyone being sympathetic to a loved one could be at fault.”

Matthew Segal, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said the verdict “is saying that what she did is killing him, that her words literally killed him, that the murder weapon here was her words.”

Anti-assisted suicide groups believe that the case is significant because of the weight it places on outside pressures on already vulnerable people to take their lives, though it remains unclear if the case will set any legal precedent regarding the issue in reality.  

Tim Rosales, a spokesperson for Patient’s Rights Action Fund, told CNA that when it comes to assisted suicide, there are often outside pressures that can influence the person’s decision to end their life.

“Whether it’s the denial of a certain type of treatment, or there is the insinuation by a physician or a family member or someone close to them about the potential of assisted suicide versus (continued care), all of those go into someone’s mindset and decision making,” he said.  

These outside pressures can be particularly strong “when they’re in a vulnerable state, and mental illness as well as physical illness can be one of those things that puts people in a vulnerable state,” Rosales said.  

“I think we have to be exceedingly cautious and that’s one of the big reasons why you have a lot of opposition to something like assisted suicide, because at its very core it is fraught with the possibility for abuse or dangers,” he said.

“I think in (the Carter case) certainly the dynamics surrounding it kind of give us an indication of how vulnerable people can be at times and how influential those close to us are during those vulnerable times.”

John B. Kelly, New England Regional Director of the disability advocacy and anti-assisted suicide group Not Dead Yet, told CNA that he does not believe the Carter case will affect future assisted suicide legislation because the decision drew heavily from a 2002 case, Commonweath v. Levesque.

In the case of Commonwealth v. Levesque, homeless couple Thomas S. Levesque and Julie Ann Barnes were found responsible for the death of six firefighters who ran into a factory building as it burned. Levesque and Barnes had been living in the factory, escaped the fire and failed to report it.

In the Carter case, Judge Lawrence Moniz drew from the case directly in his verdict, saying that “where one's actions create a life-threatening risk to another, there is a duty to take reasonable steps to alleviate the risk. The reckless failure to fulfill this duty can result in a charge of manslaughter.”

“I don’t think that it adds any legal precedent to deciding what are words and what’s coercion (in assisted suicide cases),” Kelly told CNA.

“But I think we can say that words matter, and that this ruling underlines the commonsense notion that we make choices in a context, and that those contexts can be influenced by other people,” he said.

“Assisted suicide proponents argue that an individual makes that choice freely without any impact, but we know that it’s hard to choose...when you’re seen as a burden by those around you and your doctor thinks you would be better off dead, those are influences that would be very difficult for vulnerable people to resist.”

 

 

 

Jun 272017
 

Manila, Philippines, Jun 27, 2017 / 12:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last week, members of a terrorist group destroyed a Catholic chapel, desecrating consecrated hosts and religious icons, during a nine-hour long attack on the town of Malagakit in southern Philippines.

The June 21 attack was reportedly carried out by about 300 gunmen of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, known as BIFF, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. In the siege they also robbed houses and stores at gunpoint, causing the displacement of hundreds of residents.

Residents were also forced to flee after being caught in a fire-fight between BIFF and government forces, according to Realan Mamon, the police chief of Pigkawayan town, where Malagakit is located.

He told the Associated Press that he had a report that gunmen were occupying a school as well, although it wasn’t immediately apparent if people were trapped inside by the fighting or taken hostage.

In the chapel, which is nearby a school also destroyed in the attack, the militants used hammers to destroy religious icons and vital fixtures. They also desecrated consecrated hosts.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato decried the act Saturday, saying that he condemns “in the strongest terms possible the wicked desecration of the Catholic Chapel of Malagakit in the parish of Pigcawayan…”

“If the BIFF wants to have an image as a 'respecter' of all religions, it must punish its members who perpetrated the odious desecration in Malagakit and educate all its members in strictly respecting other religions,” he continued.

Cardinal Quevedo urged the Catholic faithful of Malagakit to restore the sacred space of their chapel, asking for the prayers of the entire Archdiocese for peace and harmony among all believers of all religions.

Some leaders of the town, such as Salvador Almonia, Jr., a chairman of Malagakit, have hypothesized that the attack on the chapel was intended to create division between the town’s Catholics and Muslims, who currently live together peacefully.

“That was meant to sow anger among us. We will not respond the way the BIFF want us to respond to that despicable act,” he said.

The vice governor of North Cotabato, Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva, urged Muslim and Christian residents to disregard attempts to sow division between them.

“Let us be sober and continue with the friendship and solidarity that we have. We just have to be vigilant and we need to help each other prevent a repeat of the incident,” Macasarte-Villanueva said Thursday.

The attack follows a May 22 siege on parts of a city on Mindanao in the Philippines, where militants burned several buildings, including the Catholic cathedral and the bishop's residence.

At the cathedral, they took hostages including a Catholic priest and a group of church-goers, threatening to kill them if the nation’s military does not cease its current offensive against them.

They are also said to have freed more than 100 inmates from prisons in the city. The fighting has reportedly killed at least 20 people in the city.

The attack was carried out by militants of the Maute group, which was formed in 2012 and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015. The militants' violence began after a failed army and police raid to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a local Islamist leader.

 

Jun 262017
 

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2017 / 04:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican's top personality on social justice issues has voiced his concern for the increased demand for drugs, including recreational marijuana, saying debate on the plant's usage doesn't take ethical concerns into account.

In a June 26 letter on the occasion of the U.N. International Day against Abuse and Illicit Trafficking of Drugs, Cardinal Peter Turkson lamented the fact that narcotics “continue to rage in impressive forms and dimensions” throughout the world.

“It is a phenomenon that is fueled – not without concessions and compromises on the part of institutions – by a shameful market that crosses national and continental borders, intertwined with mafias and drug trafficking,” he said.

Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Turkson noted that compared to the recent past, drugs have now become “a consumer product made compatible with everyday life, with leisure activity and even with the pursuit of well-being.”

Pointing specifically to cocaine, he noted that the drug is linked to the spread of heroin, which at 80 percent represents the highest number of new requests for opioid-related treatments in Europe.

However, despite the high numbers for heroin and opioid treatment requests, the cardinal noted that “the most commonly consumed recreational drug is cannabis.”

The current, raging international debate on the use of the drug “tends to overlook the ethical judgment of the substance, by definition negative as with any other drug,” he said, pointing to the current focus on its possible therapeutic uses.  

This, he stressed, is “a field in which we await scientific data to be validated by monitoring periods, as for any experiment worthy of public consideration.”

According to September 2016 report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which compared marijuana-related statistics from previous years in Colorado to data from 2013-2015, the first years after the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state, the prospects of the drug's increased use are grim.

Not only have the number of marijuana-related deaths, hospitalizations and traffic accidents increased since the drug's recreational use was legalized, there has also been growing concern over marijuana-related crime and a decrease in the IQ of youths who use it.

But before making a firm decision on the issue that is perhaps based on various prejudices, Cardinal Turkson said it would be better to first “understand trends in the use of cannabis, related damages and the consequences of regulatory policies in the various countries.”

It's especially important to recognize the factors “which push the illegal market to develop products intended to affect patterns of consumption and to reaffirm the primacy of the desire that is compulsively satisfied by the substance.”

On this point, concern has grown for many that the recreational use of marijuana is often a gateway for youth to become addicted, and eventually move on to other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, or meth.

In addition to voicing his concerns on marijuana, heroin, and the dangers of using them to improve one's “wellbeing,” Cardinal Turkson also pointed to the risks of other addictive behaviors such as gambling, saying its legalization, even in cases aimed at unmasking its criminal managers, “exponentially increases the number of pathological players.”

“Moreover, taxation by the state is to be considered incompatible from an ethical standpoint and contradictory in terms of prevention,” he said, adding that the development of “models of intervention and adequate monitoring systems, associated with the allocation of funds, is highly desirable to tackle the phenomenon.”

The cardinal noted that as the array of addictions continues to diversify, “indifference and at times indirect complicity in this phenomenon contributes to diverting the attention of public opinion and governments, focused on other emergencies.”

Plans to fight the increasing demand for drugs often collapse, he said, explaining that the present-day state of addictions shows “gaps in planning, policies and prospects,” which in turn is a sign of “sluggish progress” in the face of the drug market, “which is highly competitive and flexible to demand, and always open to novelties such as recently-created, extremely powerful synthetic opiates, ecstasy and amphetamines.”

“It is precisely the growing and widespread consumption of ecstasy that may serve as an indicator of how the use of illicit substances has now spread into everyday areas of life,” he said, adding that it could also be an indication of how the ecstasy user no longer identifies with the heroin addict, but “with the new profile of the user of multiple substances and alcohol.”

Because of this, strategies of intervention can't depend solely on reduced damage, “nor can drugs still be considered as a phenomenon that is collusive with social disorder and deviance.”

Rather, damage reduction “must necessarily involve taking on board both the toxicological aspect and integration with personalized therapeutic programs of a psycho-social nature, without giving rise to forms of chronic use, which are harmful to the person and ethically reprehensible,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Turkson stressed the importance of not seeing the addict as a problem to be solved or as being beyond the hope of rehabilitation.

To consider people as irrecoverable, he said, “is an act of capitulation that denies the psychological dynamics of change and offers an alibi for disengagement from the addict and the institutions that have the task of preventing and treating.”

“It cannot be accepted that society metabolizes drug use as a chronic epochal trait, similar to alcoholism and tobacco, withdrawing from exchange on the margins of freedom of the state and the citizen in relation to substance use,” he said.

The cardinal recognized that there is no singular cause of drug use, but rather a panorama of causes including the absence of a family, various social pressures, the propaganda of drug dealers, and even the desire to have new experiences.

“Every drug addict has a unique personal story and must be listened to, understood, loved, and, insofar as possible, healed and purified,” he said.

“We cannot stoop to the injustice of categorizing drug addicts as if they were mere objects or broken machines; each person must be valued and appreciated in his or her dignity in order to enable them to be healed.”

For the cardinal, part of this process means finding effective means of prevention, beginning with education.

“The scenario which we must all face is marked by the loss of the ancient primacy of the family and the school, the emptying of authority of adult figures and the difficulties that arise in terms of parenting,” he said, stressing that this is not time for “protagonism,” but rather for “networks” that are capable of “reactivating social educational synergies by overcoming unnecessary competition, delegation and forms of dereliction.”

“To prevent young people from growing up without care, bred rather than educated, attracted by 'healing prosthetics,' as drugs appear to them, all social actors must connect and invest in the shared ground of basic and indispensable education values aiming at the integral formation of the person.”

In this regard, educational aspects “are crucial,” he said, especially during adolescence, when youth are more vulnerable, and at the same time curious and prone to periods of depression and apathy.

Youth look for the “vertigo that makes them feel alive,” he said, quoting Pope Francis. “So, let us give it to them! Let us stimulate all that which helps them transform their dreams into plans, and that can reveal that all the potential they have is a bridge, a passage towards a vocation.”

“Let us propose broad aims to them, great challenges, and let us help them achieve them, to reach their targets. Let us not leave them alone.”

In order to combat the ephemeral happiness of addictions, a “creative love” is needed, Cardinal Turkson said, as well as the presence of adults capable of both teaching and practicing healthy self-care.

“A spiritual vision of existence, projected towards the search for meaning, open to the encounter with others, constitutes the greatest educational legacy that must be handed down between generations, today more than ever,” he said.