During Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing for Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, held on September 6, 2017, Senator Chuck Grassley posed the following question to the nominee: “When is it proper for a judge to put their religious views above applying the law?”
Barrett replied, “Never. It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”
Barrett’s answer deserves significant attention. As C.C. Pecknold understands, the overarching question that pervaded much of the confirmation hearing concerns the nature of political theology. In the modern liberal account, law is considered to be secular, devoid of any religious influence or reference to the divine. The deepest worry here is that Barrett will impose her “personal religious convictions” as the standard for either applying or undermining the law.
Augustine’s Doctrine of the Two Cities
Opponents of Barrett’s appointment fear that she holds an understanding of politics and faith that corresponds to a type of unity, a political theology whose judgment regarding the law comes from a divine, not secular, source. This supposition corresponds with Senator Diane Feinstein’s remark that Barrett’s religious faith is a dogma that “lives loudly within” her.
The image could not be clearer: liberal political thought inaugurated the needed division between politics and religion. Amy Barrett appears to be aiming for a union of politics and religious faith. What is at stake here is the very achievement of modern liberal democracy itself.
The irony in such a narrative is that, in fact, Barrett is the one arguing for the truth that religion and politics need to be separated. And this impetus towards seeing the separation between religion and politics comes, for Barrett, precisely as the result of her Catholic faith.
The Catholic Church teaches that the salvific message of Jesus Christ transcends the political; salvation is not dependent upon the condition of one’s political society. The fullest meaning of Christianity ensures that the spread of its healing doctrine not be tied to a political regime. To be a citizen of a particular political order does not make or break one’s eternal beatitude. Salvation can be had in any type of regime, be it good or bad.
At the same time, as St. Augustine argues in The City of God, patriotism may be an obstacle to our salvation. Augustine was certainly a realist in affirming that most regimes would fall short of justice. This is why he drew such a sharp distinction between the City of God and the City of Man. The City of God is a transpolitical reality, and something to which human beings are ordered as their ultimate end. Following in the footsteps of Plato and the classical tradition of political philosophy, Augustine believed that it was necessary to ask what the best regime would be. Yet he also agreed with Plato that such a perfect regime is impossible to create in this life and that attempting to bring it about would destroy actual regimes.
In his letter to the Emperor Anastasius, Pope Gelasius I articulated this twofold distinction between the spheres of religion and politics. For Gelasius, political authority is honorable, and given for the purpose of having care for human affairs in the temporal order. However, in matters that transcend the polity, a political ruler needs to recall that he shall “bow [his] head humbly before the leaders of the clergy and await from their hands the means of [his] salvation.” While acknowledging the legitimacy and necessity of the political order, the Pope is nonetheless echoing Augustine in upholding the supremacy of the religious and transpolitical sphere. Political rulers must take care not to impose their will and authority over spiritual matters that are the proper sphere of the Church.
The City of God and Man Become One
For all our contemporary invocations of the separation of church and state, this distinction between the City of God and the City of Man has actually been undermined in modernity. Describing Augusto del Noce’s insights into the modern age, Michael Hanby observes that, for Del Noce, modernity is
predicated upon the attempted elimination of every form of transcendence: the transcendence of truth over pragmatic function, the transcendence of the orders of being and nature over the order of historical construction, the transcendence of the civitas dei over the civitas terrena, the transcendence of eternity over time, the transcendence of God over creation. Every form of transcendence save one, that is. For once real transcendence is eliminated or suppressed, political order itself becomes the transcendental horizon, assuming sovereignty over nature, truth, and morality—over anything that would precede, exceed, and limit it.
This elevation of the political order as supreme is one of the first principles of the modern age. Praxis usurps the primacy of the contemplative or theoretical order as being the highest good for human life. What follows logically from this principle will be that the political order reigns supreme.
The foundational claim of modern political thought is that it inaugurated the separation between religion and politics. This is how we have been instructed to read modern political thinkers such as Machiavelli, Locke, and Hobbes. Yet there is a strange anomaly in this narrative of modern thinking.
In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes goes so far as to argue that scripture supports a combination of politics and religion. Yet the last two parts of Leviathan reveal that Hobbes is not writing about a rational, secular political order. Instead, Hobbes is writing in the arena of political theology precisely as a theologian. Understood in this context, it may be surprising to discover that Hobbes’s primary intellectual target is the Jesuit theologian Robert Bellarmine. Why? Bellarmine was arguing for the Augustinian position that the spheres of politics and religion were not the same.
In his Letter on Toleration, John Locke initially sounds as if he is endorsing such an Augustinian understanding, arguing that the spheres of politics and religion are utterly separate and immovable. He warns against jumbling “heaven and earth together,” those two societies that “are in their original, end, business, and everything, perfectly distinct and infinitely different from each other.” Yet Locke’s fundamental understanding regarding the purpose of religion actually aligns quite well with the overarching aims of a liberal political order. Toleration, according to Locke, is the very substantive core of the gospels.
Thus, in both Hobbes and Locke, the supposed division between politics and religion has collapsed: the political and the spiritual are brought together, and such a joining is ultimately confirmed in the name of religion.
Is Catholicism Safe in Modern Liberal Democracy?
In his illuminating 1998 essay, “Transforming Constitutionalism and the Case of Religion: Defending the Moderate Hegemony of Liberalism,” Princeton political theorist Stephen Macedo makes the following observation about modern liberal democracy and its relationship to American Catholicism in particular:
We might almost say that American Catholics (though perhaps not Fundamentalists as of yet) have come to accept the American rather than the Catholic position on the separation of church and state. To be American is to have a religion (we have very few village atheists these days), but any religion at all will do.
In assessing the kind of struggles that Catholic candidates for public office have had to endure, Macedo goes on to claim that the litmus test for such service must presuppose “the practical meaninglessness of their religious convictions.” In other words, Macedo claims that religious practice will inevitably disqualify one from public office since, following the liberal stance, religion and politics are utterly separate.
However, this outward appearance of separation neglects a more subtle reality that may be overlooked: religious practice would be acceptable insofar as it holds to the liberal position of toleration and any of its other ultimate “virtues.” What makes religious conviction “practically meaningless” stems not from a separation of politics and religion. Rather, religion becomes subsumed within the political. Religious practice will be allowed space if its aims are tied with the principles of modern liberal politics.
And so we return to Amy Barrett and her political interlocutors. Barrett was pressed about whether she considers herself an orthodox Catholic. This is the central question, not just for her, but for our entire political and social order. Perhaps it will provoke us to reconsider the degree to which orthodox Catholicism can truly be tolerated in modern liberal democracies. The argument that needs to be heard, for the health of both religion and politics, insists that the things of Caesar and those of God are not the same. For Barrett, this teaching is at the heart of the Catholic faith, and it is thankfully a dogma that lives loudly within her.
(Editor’s note: This essay was published originally in slightly different form on The Public Discourse site on October 8, 2017.)
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“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21).
Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13; Luke 8: 19-21
We need to understand the importance of family and tribal loyalty in ancient culture to appreciate how shocking it was for Jesus to claim a higher loyalty for his disciples than their own brothers, sisters and mothers. With members of his blood family waiting outside, Jesus publicly declared that those who hear God’s word and keep it were equal to those central relationships in his life.
The Gospel of Mark gives a dramatic context to this encounter. In Chapter 3, Jesus is already in full confrontation with the religious authorities over healing on the Sabbath. Large crowds from all over are flocking to hear him preach. His critics accuse him of being possessed by Satan. His family hears of this commotion and comes “to take charge of him saying, ‘He is out of his mind’” (3:20). They were not there to visit Jesus; they came to assert family authority over him.
Jesus, once so familiar to his neighbors and relatives as just the local carpenter, had burst onto the scene as a miracle worker, exorcist and spell-binding preacher who was challenging synagogue leaders, arguing with scribes and Pharisees and even the inquisitors sent from the temple in Jerusalem. He was under surveillance by Roman authorities and by Herod’s agents for his close ties to the fiery radical, John the Baptist. Trouble was in the air and this upstart preacher from the hill country of Galilee was clearly “out of his mind.”
All of this deepens our focus on Jesus’ claim that the word of God was guiding him. Like the prophets of old, he was willing to defy every threat, pressure and influence to carry out his mission. His determination to risk his life in Jerusalem even began to disturb his disciples. When he spoke of being rejected and killed there, Peter sought to take charge of him, and for this Jesus rebuked him, calling him “Satan.”
If we did not know the Gospel’s outcome and were entering the story of Jesus at this point, what would we have thought? This may be the challenge of today’s Gospel, for are we not in the middle of our own stories, facing questions about our own deepest loyalties and commitments? Where do we stand on important issues facing our generation, our moment in history? What family influences and social pressures do we bow to in our opinions and actions, either to go along, to dissent or remain silent, waiting and watching or deciding and acting?
The Gospels are filled with tension. The Word of God comes to us to stir questions in us, to draw us into scenes and parables that confront us with our own stances before God and in our relationship with Jesus as one of his disciples. How do we let the Word stir us to life and give us the confidence that, as Jesus proclaimed in Nazareth, that “this word has come true in our hearing” and is about us, here and now?
Albuquerque, N.M. — The Santa Fe Archdiocese’s Office of Social Justice and Respect Life called on National Catholic Prayer Breakfast officials to withdraw its plans to honor U.S. Attorney General William Barr with a special award at its Sept. 23 event because he is a Catholic who supports the death penalty.
At the breakfast, being held virtually this year because of the pandemic, Barr is scheduled to receive the Christifideles Laici Award, which is named for St. John Paul II’s postsynodal exhortation. The award is given “in honor and gratitude for fidelity to the church, exemplary selfless and steadfast service in the Lord’s vineyard.”
The archdiocesan office it was “appalled” the group will honor him “in light of the fact he just recently began executions of federal prisoners; something that has not been done since 2003.”
“Catholic teaching on capital punishment — the death penalty — is clear,” it said in a Sept. 18 statement, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The church teaches that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.'”
The Office of Social Justice and Respect Life statement follows the same plea the organization withdraw the award from Barr issued by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and the Catholic Mobilizing Network in statements released earlier in September.
In an email sent early Sept. 15 to Catholic News Service, a spokeswoman for the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast said the organization’s officials declined to comment on the two groups’ statements.
The priests’ association also had called out Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, the scheduled keynote speaker for the breakfast, saying he was to “confer the award virtually” and asked him “to withdraw from that role.”
A spokesman for Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries told CNS Sept. 14 the bishop “is simply an invited speaker” for for the event. On Sept. 19, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests issued a new statement pointing out it had mistakenly said Bishop Barron would confer the award.
The Santa Fe archdiocesan office noted in its statement that “we here in New Mexico worked tirelessly with many faith-based and community groups to eliminate the death penalty for New Mexico. In 2009, New Mexico became the 15th state to abolish the death penalty and to replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“As of today, there are 30 states that have abolished the death penalty, while 20 states and the federal government still allow executions.”
Referring to data from the Death Penalty Information Center, it said, “The federal death penalty applies in all 50 states and U.S. territories but is used relatively rarely. About 60 prisoners are on the federal death row, most of whom are imprisoned in Terre Haute, Indiana.”
The Santa Fe office criticized Barr for lifting the 17-year-old moratorium on the use of the federal death penalty; Barr reinstated it July 25, 2019, for five death-row prisoners convicted of murdering children.
The first of the five was Daniel Lewis Lee, a 47-year-old who was convicted of being an accomplice in killing three family members in 1996. He died July 14. The second execution was of 68-year-old Wesley Purkey, convicted of raping and murdering a 16-year-old in 2003, on July 16. The third was of Dustin Honken, a meth kingpin, on July 17. He who was convicted in 2004 for the murder of five people in 1993, including two children, in an effort to thwart his prosecution for drug trafficking.
Two more federal executions are coming up in Terre Haute, one before the Sept. 23 breakfast and one after, as those opposing the honor for Barr pointed out.
William LeCroy, convicted of killing 30-year-old nurse Joann Tiesler in Georgia in 2001, is to be executed Sept. 22; and Christopher Vialva, found guilty of murdering youth ministers Todd and Stacie Bagley in Texas in 1999, is to be executed Sept. 24.
“There are numerous serious reasons to oppose the death penalty: the dignity of both victim and perpetrator, the routine inconsistent application of capital punishment, the fact that mistakes are irreversible, the exorbitant cost of the appeals process, and a lack of correlation between the death penalty and crime deterrence,” the Santa Fe statement said.
It noted that St. John Paul, Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops have consistently opposed the death penalty and provided guidance to abolish the death penalty at both state and federal levels.
“As Catholics, we acknowledge the inherent dignity and sacredness of all. We work to protect all life, whether it be a child in the womb, a person without a home, a refugee family, an elderly person at the end of life, a victim of a crime, or a person on death row,” the statement said.
“There is no justifiable reason to support government-sponsored execution as punishment for even the most heinous crimes. We possess means in today’s society to render the perpetrators harmless through life in prison without parole,” it added.
“With this in mind,” it concluded, “we call for the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast to withdraw [its] honor of Attorney General Barr; and we call on Attorney General Barr to stop all federal executions. Let us not become the evil we despise.”
Vatican City, Sep 21, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has criticized an appeal by German theologians for intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants.
In a letter to Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, the CDF said that the proposal did not do justice to the Catholic understanding of the Church, the Eucharist, and Holy Orders.
The letter, dated Sept. 18, was signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, and accompanied by a four-page doctrinal note.
The letter and note, obtained by CNA, were prompted by a document entitled “Together at the Lord’s Table,” issued by the Ecumenical Study Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians (ÖAK) in September 2019.
The 57-page text advocated “reciprocal Eucharistic hospitality” between Catholics and Protestants, based on previous ecumenical agreements on the Eucharist and ministry.
The CDF letter said: “The question of the unity of the Eucharist and the Church, in which the Eucharist presupposes and brings about unity with the communion of the Church and her faith with the pope and the bishops, is undervalued in the aforementioned document.”
“Essential theological and indispensable insights of the Eucharistic theology of the Second Vatican Council, which are widely shared with the Orthodox tradition, have unfortunately not been adequately reflected in the text.”
The CDF said that Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, had requested a doctrinal assessment of the document in May. It noted that the German bishops had discussed the text at their plenary meeting that month in Mainz.
CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German language news partner, reported that the ÖAK adopted the intercommunion document under the co-chairmanship of Bätzing and the retired Lutheran Bishop Martin Hein.
It added that Bätzing announced recently that the text’s recommendations would be put into practice at the Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt in May 2021.
The ÖAK was founded in 1946 to strengthen ecumenical ties. It is independent of both the German Catholic bishops’ conference and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), an organization representing 20 Protestant groups, but it informs both bodies about its deliberations.
The doctrinal congregation emphasized that significant differences in understanding of the Eucharist and ministry remained between Protestants and Catholics.
“The doctrinal differences are still so important that they currently rule out reciprocal participation in the Lord’s Supper and the Eucharist,” it said.
“The document cannot therefore serve as a guide for an individual decision of conscience about approaching the Eucharist.”
The CDF added that the ÖAK text should inspire further theological discussions. But it cautioned against any steps towards intercommunion.
“However, an opening of the Catholic Church towards Eucharistic meal fellowship with the member churches of the EKD in the current state of the theological discussion would necessarily open new rifts in ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Churches, not only in Germany,” it said.
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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 21, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The former Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, has warned that the Church’s efforts to negotiate an extension to the 2018 provisional agreement with China are harming the evangelization of that country.
In an interview with CNA, Cardinal Zen said that the Church’s silence on Communist human rights abuses, including the detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs in a network of concentration camps in Xinjiang Province, was damaging the ability of the Church to play a role in shaping the future of the country.
“The resounding silence will damage the work of evangelization,” the cardinal said. “Tomorrow when people will gather to plan the new China, the Catholic Church may not be welcome.”
While Cardinals Zen, Charles Muang Bo of Burma and Ignatius Suharyo of Indonesia have repeatedly denounced China’s human rights violations, the Vatican, including Pope Francis, have remained silent on what human rights groups have called a “genocide” and campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Uyghurs as diplomatic talks continue on the future of the Vatican-China agreement.
In recent weeks, both the Holy See and the Chinese government have signaled their intention to extend the 2018 deal, which was meant to unify the country’s 12 million Catholics, divided between the underground Church and the Communist-administered Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, and clear a path for the appointment of bishops for Chinese dioceses.
While Zen says there is a lack of visible progress on either Communist tolerance of underground Catholics or on the nomination of bishops, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, said last week that negotiations continued to “normalize” the life of the Church in China.
“With China, our current interest is to normalize the life of the Church as much as possible, to ensure that the Church can live a normal life, which for the Catholic Church is also to have relations with the Holy See and with the Pope,” Parolin said Sept. 14.
Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a press conference Sept. 10 that “With the concerted efforts from both sides, the interim agreement on the appointment of bishops between China and the Vatican has been implemented successfully since it was signed around two years ago.”
Zen is not the only expert to criticize the Vatican’s agreement with Beijing. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Holy See to take a more prominent role in opposing and denouncing human rights abuses by the Chinese government.
“What the Church teaches the world about religious freedom and solidarity should now be forcefully and persistently conveyed by the Vatican in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s relentless efforts to bend all religious communities to the will of the Party and its totalitarian program,” Pompeo wrote Friday in First Things.
“Two years on, it’s clear that the Sino-Vatican agreement has not shielded Catholics from the Party’s depredations, to say nothing of the Party’s horrific treatment of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong devotees, and other religious believers,” Pompeo observed.
Pompeo noted that “as part of the 2018 agreement, the Vatican legitimized Chinese priests and bishops whose loyalties remain unclear. Meanwhile, Pompeo wrote, “communist authorities continue to shutter churches, spy on and harass the faithful, and insist that the Party is the ultimate authority in religious affairs.”
Cardinal Zen told CNA that, in his view, there is little reason to expect an extension will yield progress toward Parolin’s stated aims. The cardinal said that he had little hope a renewed Vatican-China deal would secure the future of Chinese Catholics “unless the regime collapses.”
Zen especially criticized Vatican acceptance of the CPCA, which operates under the direct control of the Chinese Communist Party. Many bishops and priests have refused to cooperate with the state-sponsored CPCA, and have said that they are expected by Beijing to sign documents acknowledging Communist teaching and the supremacy of the party over Church affairs – attestations that run counter to Catholic doctrine regarding the primacy of the pope.
Expressing his opposition to the Communist Party’s requirements for Catholic clerics, Zen offered his assessment of the situation bluntly: “Parolin is calling a united schismatic Church, which he has produced, ‘Catholic.’”
Clergy who refuse to submit to Communist oversight continue to be arrested and imprisoned, church buildings are regularly demolished, and government officials have offered bounties of thousands of dollars for people to report underground Christian worshippers.
In Hong Kong, the diocese Zen led until 2009, the mainland government has imposed a sweeping new National Security Law, which criminalizes previously protected civil liberties under the headings of “sedition” and “foreign collusion.” Before the law’s implementation, many Catholics, including Zen, warned that it could be used to silence the Church in Hong Kong, though the law was defended by Cardinal John Tong Hon, Zen’s successor in the diocese, who is currently serving as apostolic administrator.
Since the law came into effect on 1 July, several prominent pro-democracy activists and journalists – many of them Catholics – have been arrested.
Cardinal Zen told CNA that Catholics arrested under the new law’s provisions, like Jimmy Lai, Agnes Chow, and Martin Lee, were “simply putting into practice the social teaching of the Church.”
“In this moment, democracy means freedom and human rights, human dignity,” Zen said.
The cardinal has previously warned that a crackdown on religious liberty in Hong Kong by the mainland government could see the diocese, which has enjoyed relative freedom compared to mainland dioceses since the 1997 handover from the U.K., subject to the same restrictions as Catholics on the mainland.
“We are already in that situation,” said Zen.
Recently, Cardinal Tong instructed Catholic schools and clergy to refrain for addressing contentious political issues in classrooms and homilies and instead “foster the correct values on national identity.”
Zen told CNA that, while he understood the sensitivity of the situation, “this servile attitude saddens me a lot.”
“We are losing dignity and credibility,” he said.
“I admit that in this moment it is very difficult to run a school. The way the government school authority is dealing with teachers is utterly disgraceful, humiliating. But we are no more in the position to defend the teachers.”
The cardinal lamented division in the Church, saying that unity among all Hong Kongers is necessary if there is to be hope of resistance to creeping Communist repression.
“The society is lacerated,” the cardinal said. “The division and contrast is everywhere: in families, in work place, obviously also among teachers and parents of the students. Are we bound to accept the position of the Government, when they impose an unjust law on the community?”
“How to teach the duty of discerning between right and wrong? Surely not by imposition but by free open discussion. But even if we dare to do this against the will of the Government, without a unanimous, or even only a strong majority [in favor], how can we proceed further?
“When the day comes that our teachers must only teach what the Government commands them to teach, against truth and justice, we may have no choice than declare publicly that the school can no more be called Catholic, because we are no more responsible for it,” Zen said.
Asked if he saw any prospect of an improvement for the local Church coming out of Vatican negotiations with the current Communist government, Zen said simply “No.”
“Is there any choice between helping the Government to destroy the Church or resisting the Government to keep our Faith?”
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CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- As the Trump Administration looks to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, the coming judicial session features a slate packed with religious freedom cases.
The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday created the first opening on the Court during a fall or spring term since 2017; the Court’s opening conference for the fall is on Sept. 29.
The Court also announced on Sept. 16 that it will begin its fall term hearing oral arguments telephonically and not in-person, a continuation of its extraordinary policy from last spring that was due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Perhaps the most notable religious freedom case this term, that of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, will be heard on Nov. 4. A decision could impact faith-based adoption and foster care agencies around the country which are affected by state and local non-discrimination ordinances.
In 2018, the city of Philadelphia notified Catholic Social Services with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as well as Bethany Christian Services, that their policies of not working with same-sex couples on foster care placements were discriminatory; the city stopped contracting with both services.
Later in the year, Bethany Christian said that while the organization’s religious beliefs on marriage remained the same, it would begin working with same-sex couples. Catholic Social Services, however, did not alter its policy and has not had any new foster care placements through the city.
Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, who have fostered more than 40 children and who partnered with Catholic Social Services, brought the case against the city that is currently before the Supreme Court.
Another religious freedom case pending before the Supreme Court, Dalberiste v. GLE Associates, involves a lawsuit by a Seventh-Day Adventist, Mitche Dalberiste, who is seeking a religious accommodation for the technician job for which he was hired.
The job reportedly required employees to serve 12-hour shifts seven days a week for a period of time, but Dalberiste requested leave from sundown on Fridays until sundown on Saturdays, to observe the Sabbath. He filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) when the job offer was rescinded.
Becket is also representing three Muslim men, Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah, and Naveed Shinwari, who were placed on the FBI’s No-Fly list in order to pressure them to act as informants on Muslim communities.
Becket is arguing that individual government officials can be held liable for damages in Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) cases, or where they unlawfully violate someone’s religious freedom.
The group Alliance Defending Freedom is also bringing a college free speech case to the Court, and is petitioning for the Court to consider a pro-life speech case.
In Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, a student at Georgia Gwinnett College sued over the college’s restrictions on the space where he could evangelize fellow students; while using the limited space, he was also told by a campus police officer to stop and was charged with “disorderly conduct.” The school altered its policy, but Uzuegbunam sued, alleging the previous violation of his free speech.
There are also multiple cases which the Supreme Court has not yet taken up, but which Becket and others are asking it to consider.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is asking the Supreme Court to hear the case of Nikki Bruni and other pro-life sidewalk counselors, who has challenged Pittsburgh’s 15-foot “buffer zone” outside abortion clinics; they were banned from speaking with women or praying within the zone, which included sidewalks and streets.
ADF has also petitioned the Court to consider the case of the Michigan non-profit Thomas More Law Center, which litigates religious freedom, family, and life issues.
In 2012, the California attorney general’s office demanded that the center provide the names and addresses of its California supporters.
Editor’s note: The following homily was on September 21, 2020, the feast of St. Matthew, at the Church of the Holy Innocents, New York City.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Matthew, author of the First Gospel. In the New Testament, he has two names, Levi and Matthew. It was not uncommon for Jews of the first century to have two names: one, the original one, used among family and friends; the other, used especially in business affairs with Gentiles. Apart from his profession as a tax-collector, little else is known about our saint of the day, not even where he went to evangelize nor how he died – although numerous legends abound. Some sources say he went to Parthia and Persia, or Ethiopia.
Being a tax-collector (publicanus, in Latin) among the Jews put one in a class with prostitutes because the publican not only had sold out to the hated Romans by doing their dirty work but, in most instances, levied a higher tax than required, so as to skim off the top for himself. As a humorous aside, some of you may recall that we Catholic school kids called the public school kids “publicans”! At any rate, that is the historical context for understanding and appreciating the call of Matthew (immortalized in art by Caravaggio and venerated in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome).
As Matthew experiences the tender mercy of Christ, he responds with joy and enthusiasm, throwing a celebratory banquet. Bede the Venerable (the English church historian of the seventh century) explains this response in his commentary on this passage:
This conversion of one tax collector gave many men, those from his own profession and other sinners, an example of repentance and pardon. Notice also the happy and true anticipation of his future status as apostle and teacher of the nations. No sooner was he converted than Matthew drew after him a whole crowd of sinners along the same road to salvation. He took up his appointed duties while still taking his first steps in the faith, and from that hour he fulfilled his obligation and thus grew in merit. To see a deeper understanding of the great celebration Matthew held at his house, we must realise that he not only gave a banquet for the Lord at his earthly residence, but far more pleasing was the banquet set in his own heart which he provided through faith and love.
The evangelists are traditionally recognized according to their symbolic representations as the four living creatures found in Revelation 4:7; Matthew is depicted as a winged man.
For a few minutes, let’s rehearse the more salient points of the First Gospel.
While many scholars hold that Mark’s was the first Gospel written, probably about thirty-five years after the Resurrection of Jesus, a more ancient opinion—and one regaining respectability and currency—is that an Aramaic version of Matthew’s Gospel was first, having been committed to writing within a decade of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection. The Church Father Papias tells us, from his vantage-point of the first century, that “Matthew wrote down the sayings [of Jesus] in the Hebrew language.” In all likelihood, he meant “Aramaic,” rather than Hebrew (since Aramaic was the spoken tongue at that time). Intelligent conjecture suggests that the Aramaic text identified by Papias provided the base-line for the canonical Greek text we know as the First Gospel.
Matthew directed his message to Jewish converts or potential converts and so stressed the fact that conversion to Jesus does not mean entrance into a new religion but rather the only logical perfection of Judaism. The frequency of citations from the Old Testament is a constant reminder of this, as Matthew uses the Scriptures to show how Jesus is truly the long-awaited Messiah. The picture of Jesus we get from Matthew is a thoroughly Jewish one: In addition to quoting the Old Testament prophets extensively, he is familiar with Jewish customs and parallels the experience of Israel in many ways, especially as we see Jesus in the flight into Egypt and His temptations. The Jesus of Matthew is a real “son of David,” as Matthew’s genealogy is at pains to stress. Jesus promulgates His New Law, like Moses, from a mountain (5:1ff). And so, Matthew presents Jesus teaching His New Law (the Gospel) to the New Israel (the Church); in Him, the Old Law attains perfection and reaches its fulfillment.
An important theme in this Gospel is the Kingdom of Heaven. Mark and Luke refer to it as the Kingdom of God, but Matthew’s wording points to the same reality. (Matthew substitutes “Heaven” for “God” because of the Jewish tendency to avoid using the name of God.) The Kingdom is inaugurated with the preaching of Jesus, and His signs of healing give credibility to His claim that the reign of God has begun. However, this Kingdom of Heaven is not yet here in full force; it is the task of the Church to hasten its coming (Mt 16:16ff) and to pray for its arrival in power and glory (6:10). The thirteenth chapter of Matthew is devoted to a description of the characteristics of the Kingdom through the use of the famous parables of the seed, the weeds and the wheat, the mustard seed, the hidden treasure, the net. Thus, Matthew presents his audience with the twofold aspect of the mystery: Jesus has established the Kingdom of Heaven, but its full realization is contingent upon the Church’s work to “make disciples of all nations” (28:19). Matthew sets the Church’s agenda for all ages.
All of the Gospels were written as documents of faith. Each Gospel-writer wanted to put his readers into contact with Jesus, so that they might attain salvation. The Gospels inform us of the works of Christ and His preaching. His life makes demands on our lives. If we respond with faith, then the saying of the Risen Lord to Thomas was said with us in mind: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20:29).
Between now and the feast of St. Luke on October 18, why not commit to read a chapter a day of St. Matthew’s Gospel? Then you can pick up with the Third Gospel. Tomorrow evening, I would like to present you with some Catholic principles of Bible reading and interpretation.
Today we thank God for the “good news” given us by St. Matthew, especially the good news that a sinner can, by God’s grace, become a saint. If Jesus can rehabilitate a tax-collector, he can do the same with you and me.
St. Matthew, pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
By Stefan J. Bos
Arkady Rotenberg has known Russian president Vladimir Putin since childhood. Together with his brother Boris, Rotenberg became co-owner of the Stroygazmontazh (SGM) group. That’s the largest construction company for gas pipelines and electrical power supply lines in Russia.
But financial restrictions, or sanctions, were imposed on Rotenberg by the United States and the European Union in 2014. That meant Western banks could face severe consequences for doing business with him.
The sanctions were in response to Russia’s role in the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and Moscow’s support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
However, despite these punitive measures, it seemed business as usual for Rotenberg. Leaked documents suggest Putin’s friend used Britain’s Barclays Bank in London to launder money and dodge sanctions.
Documents from an arm of the U.S. Treasury Department show that he conducted $60 million in transactions through a company called Advantage Alliance at Barclays.
The documents reveal that Rotenberg laundered money through Barclays from 2012 through 2016, including after introducing sanctions.
Barclays closed the Advantage Alliance account only in late 2016. But it conveniently allowed another Rotenberg account at the bank, Ayrton Development Limited, to remain open until 2017.
That gave him plenty of time to launder the money. In July, a U.S. Senate investigation alleged that the Rotenberg brothers used luxury art purchases to evade sanctions. Barclays has denied that it knowingly violated sanctions and says it complied with all legal and regulatory obligations.
The Rotenberg accounts’ information was only part of a massive trove of 2,100 documents from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the U.S. Treasury Department.
They were initially leaked to media outlet BuzzFeed. But it shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 400 journalists around the world.
The trove of documents indicates that over the period from 1999 to 2017, global banks moved more than $2 trillion in payments they believed were suspicious.
They show how significant banks, including HSBC, JPMorgan, and Deutsche Bank, helped criminal networks worldwide move and hide money.
On Monday, HSBC’s share price fell to its lowest level since 1995. After revelations, it allowed fraudsters to transfer $80 million around the world.
That happened even after it had learned of their scam, which involved investors having to recruit people to make money. That led to one victim being murdered. His body was found in a vineyard in the United States, recalls sergeant Chris Pacheco of the Napa County Sheriff’s Department.
“Most of his body was submerged underwater. He was bound. He had coverings over his face. We knew that he was deceased. He was a victim in a scheme. He was a victim of a homicide. Just a true, true victim.”
The investigation also alleges that U.S. President Donald Trump may have profited from dirty money. Olicharchs from Kazakhstan allegedly bought apartments at a Trump New York property with laundered money. But Trump’s company denies knowing who these customers were, though they did make money from the transactions.
The revelations are incredibly tricky for Deutsche Bank. Germany’s largest bank already faced millions of dollars in fines in 2017 over shady dealings in Russia. The documents suggest the activities we’re more widespread than previously thought.
But Deutsche Bank spokesman Jörg Eigendorf denies wrongdoing by the institution’s CEO. “He founded a unit that leads these investigations,” he said. “There have since been also external investigations. And at no stage could any responsibility be traced back to the head of the business”. Eigendorf added.
However, the documents have underscored concerns that financial institutions and governments are not doing enough to stop illicit money flows.
Since a massive leak in 2017 from two offshore legal and corporate service providers, the FinCEN dump is the latest secretive global financial records breach. Known as the Paradise Papers, they revealed the shady offshore financial dealings of politicians, celebrities, and business leaders.
Rome Newsroom, Sep 21, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Thirty years ago Judge Rosario Livatino was brutally killed by the mafia on his commute to work at a courthouse in Sicily. Today he is recognized in the Catholic Church as a Servant of God and a candidate for sainthood.
Before his murder at the age of 37 on Sept. 21, 1990, Livatino spoke as a young lawyer about the intersection between the law and faith.
“The duty of the magistrate is to decide; however, to decide is also to choose… And it is precisely in this choosing in order to decide, in deciding so as to put things in order, that the judge who believes may find a relationship with God. It is a direct relationship, because to administer justice is to realize oneself, to pray, to dedicate oneself to God. It is an indirect relationship, mediated by love for the person under judgment,” Livatino said at a conference in 1986.
“However, believers and non-believers must, in the moment of judging, dismiss all vanity and above all pride; they must feel the full weight of power entrusted to their hands, a weight all the greater because power is exercised in freedom and autonomy. And this task will be the lighter the more the judge humbly senses his own weaknesses,” he said.
Livatino’s convictions about his vocation within the legal profession and commitment to justice were tested at a time when the mafia demanded a weak judiciary in Sicily.
For a decade he worked as a prosecutor dealing with the criminal activity of the mafia throughout the 1980s and confronted what Italians later called the “Tangentopoli,” or the corrupt system of mafia bribes and kickbacks given for public works contracts.
Livatino went on to serve as a judge at the Court of Agrigento in 1989. He was driving unescorted toward the Agrigento courthouse when another car hit him, sending him off the road. He ran from the crashed vehicle into a field, but was shot in the back and then killed with more gunshots.
After his death, a Bible full of notations was found in his desk, where he always kept a crucifix.
On a pastoral visit to Sicily in 1993, Pope John Paul II called Livatino a “martyr of justice and indirectly of faith.”
Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, the current archbishop of Agrigento, told Italian media on the 30th anniversary of Livatino’s death that the judge was dedicated “not only to the cause of human justice, but to the Christian faith.”
“The strength of this faith was the cornerstone of his life as an operator of justice,” the cardinal told the Italian SIR news agency Sept. 21.
“Livatino was killed because he was prosecuting the mafia gangs by preventing their criminal activity, where they would have demanded weak judicial management. A service that he carried out with a strong sense of justice that came from his faith,” he said.
The courthouse where Livatino used to work in Agrigento also organized a conference over the weekend marking the anniversary of his death.
“Remembering Rosario Livatino … means urging the whole community to join forces and lay the foundations for a future no longer burdened by mafia loans,” Roberto Fico, president of the chamber, said at the event Sept. 19, according to La Repubblica.
“And it means strengthening the determination — which continues to animate so many judges and members of the police on the front line against organized crime — to want to do their duty at all costs.”
Pope Francis expressed his support this year for an initiative aimed at countering mafia organizations’ use of the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary to promote submission to the will of the mafia boss.
A working group organized by the Pontifical International Marian Academy will bring together about 40 Church and civil leaders to address the abuse of Marian devotions by mafia organizations, who use her figure to wield power and exert control.
The pope previously met with the Anti-Mafia Parliamentary Commission on the anniversary of Livatino’s death in 2017. On that occasion, he said that dismantling the mafia begins with a political commitment to social justice and economic reform.
The pope said that corrupt organizations can serve as an alternative social structure which roots itself in areas where justice and human rights are lacking. Corruption, he noted, “always finds a way to justify itself, presenting itself as the ‘normal’ condition, the solution for those who are ‘shrewd,’ the way to reach one’s goals.”
The diocesan phase of Livatino’s cause closed in September 2018. There are two alleged miracles attributed to his intercession that need to be verified by the Vatican.
“Justice is necessary, but not sufficient, and can and must be overcome by the law of charity which is the law of love, love of neighbor and God,” Livatino said.
“And once more it will be the law of love, the vivifying strength of faith, that will solve the problem at its roots. Let’s remember Jesus’ words to the adulterous woman: ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’ By these words, he indicated the deep reason of our difficulty: sin is shadow; in order to judge there is need of light, and no man is absolute light himself.”
Washington — Two Catholic women judges are on the short list of possible candidates to fill the vacant Supreme Court justice seat after the Sept. 18 death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The judges are Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appellate court judge in Chicago, and Barbara Lagoa, a federal appeals court judge in Atlanta.
President Donald Trump told reporters the afternoon of Sept. 19, and rallygoers later that evening, that he intended to pick a Supreme Court nominee in the coming days, and it would likely be a woman.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, pledged hours after Ginsburg’s death that he would hold a vote on Trump’s nominee to fill the court vacancy despite blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death that February, because it was an election year.
McConnell and other Republicans have said the situation is different this time because the same party, Republicans, control both the Senate and the White House.
To move Trump’s nominee through the Senate would require a simple majority vote. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said that if he wins the election, he should be the one to nominate Ginsburg’s successor.
One of the first names to emerge as possible contender for Ginsburg’s seat — raised while mourners were gathered on the steps of the court chanting, “RBG!” — was Barrett, a 48-year-old who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Court, based in Chicago.
The judge, a former law professor at the University of Notre Dame and a mother of seven, is not an unknown. She was viewed as a potential candidate for the nation’s high court in 2018 after Justice Anthony Kennedy retired, a slot that was filled by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Barrett, a former clerk for Scalia, was the focus of Senate grilling during her 2017 confirmation hearing to serve on the 7th Circuit, when she was asked about the impact her faith would have on her interpretation of the law.
At the time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, told her: “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern.”
Barrett responded: “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”
After this hearing, several Catholic leaders spoke out against the line of questioning used on her that focused on her faith.
Feinstein had referred to Barrett’s speeches and a 1998 article she wrote about the role of Catholic judges in death penalty cases. The senator questioned Barrett about upholding Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.
When Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, asked Barrett if she considered herself an “orthodox” Catholic, Barrett said: “If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and am a faithful Catholic, I am. Although I would stress that my present church affiliation or my religious beliefs would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”
The other name that emerged as short-list contender for the Supreme Court — and quickly gained traction as a potential election boost for the Trump — was Lagoa, the 52-year-old Miami-born daughter of Cuban exiles.
Last year, Lagoa spoke at a Florida reception of the St. Thomas More Society after the annual Red Mass, which prays for lawyers and judges, at St. Anthony Church in Fort Lauderdale. She said her Catholic education instilled in her “an abiding faith in God that has grounded me and sustained me through the highs and lows of life.”
Lagoa, a judge of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, asked the audience if “one could be a strong advocate for one’s client and still be a Catholic?” She answered the question by saying faith was “more than going to Mass every Sunday, and to me at least, it means having a personal relationship with God that in turn informs how we treat others.”
She also gave the example of St. Thomas More and said he shows how legal professionals should not compartmentalize professional lives from spiritual lives to justify a lapse in faith or moral conviction.
“Perhaps it starts with reminding ourselves, even when it is hardest, of the dignity of each human being — even the most difficult opposing counsel — and it also starts with reminding ourselves that none of us are perfect and that we ourselves can contribute to or exacerbate a difficult situation,” she said.
Vatican City — Given the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors met online and, for those who could, in Rome for their plenary assembly Sept. 16-18.
“It was business as usual,” Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, a commission member, told Catholic News Service Sept. 18. The meetings, held twice a year, give the 17 members a chance to listen to each working group’s progress report and to lay the groundwork for future action.
Everyone was in attendance, he said, including U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, commission president, who took part online.
With members on each continent, Zollner added, the challenge was finding meeting times to accommodate people in vastly different time zones; that meant signing in after midnight for one member on the Polynesian archipelago of Tonga and being up before 6 a.m. for members in the Americas.
A statement released Sept. 18 said members “reviewed the impact of moving their outreach, study, research and education programs online.”
They discussed the opportunities and challenges presented by the ever-changing nature of “virtual and digital realities and the impact of lockdowns and quarantines, particularly for minors and for people who have suffered abuse,” it added.
Of the different working groups, the group working with survivors held several meetings online with those who had been abused and with family members and experts, it said.
That group will take the insight learned from those meetings and turn them into “a series of webinars and seminars on ministry to those who have been abused, taking into account diverse cultural contexts.”
The pandemic has had a huge impact on the pilot project of local “survivor advisory panels,” it said, but there has been progress. For example, it said, the panel in Brazil inspired the creation of “an office to help as a task force for the Special Safeguarding Commission as it implements ‘Vos estis lux mundi,'” Pope Francis’ letter on the duty and accountability of leaders to protect their flock.
Zollner said the working group he belongs to, on education and formation, talked about the four webinars on safeguarding that were held over the summer and sponsored by the women’s International Union of Superiors General.
The commission looked at the feedback from online attendees, who represented religious orders, formation or safeguarding departments, educators and others, who said they “expressed interest in further online formation in practical matters of safeguarding.”
The group will work on “offering such online formation programs in the immediate future,” the commission said.
The working group on safeguarding guidelines and norms had held a special seminar in December on “Promoting and Protecting the Dignity of Persons in Allegations of Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults: Balancing Confidentiality, Transparency and Accountability.”
All the contributions presented at that seminar, Zollner told CNS, would be published in the next canon law journal published by the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Different offices of the Roman Curia collaborated with the effort, he said, and the commission said it believes the collection of the seminar’s discussions about “procedural issues affecting the sacrament of reconciliation, canonical processes and matters of jurisprudence” will make a “significant contribution to scholarship in these important areas.”
Lastly, the commission said members would continue to help local churches and religious congregations implement current church laws and procedures on handling accusations of abuse by clerics against minors.
Vatican City — If the church fails to go out and proclaim the Gospel to those who are lost or forgotten, it risks falling ill to the evil that is committed by its own members, Pope Francis said.
Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his Angelus address Sept. 20, the pope said that just as God “calls everyone and calls always,” the church must also “offer everyone the word of salvation that Jesus came to bring.”
“The church needs to be like God: always going out; and when the church does not go out, it becomes sick with the many evils we have in the church,” the pope said.
“And why are these illnesses in the church?” he asked. “Because she does not go out. It is true that when someone goes out there is the danger of getting into an accident. But it is better a church that gets into accidents because it goes out to proclaim the Gospel than a church that is sick because it stays in.”
In his address, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus recounts the parable of the landowner who goes out several times a day to hire laborers for his vineyard.
The pope said that the image of the landowner going out repeatedly to look for workers was “touching” because it represents God who “acts this way.”
God, he said, “continues to call anyone, at whatever hour, to invite them to work in his kingdom. This is God’s style, which we in turn are called to receive and to imitate. He does not stay shut in within his world, but ‘goes out.’ God always goes out, in search of us. He is not closed up — God goes out. He continually seeks out people because he does not want anyone to be excluded from his loving plan.”
The pope also emphasized how the landowner paid all the employees the same no matter how long they had worked.
Like the landowner, the pope explained, God “always pays the maximum amount. He does not pay halfway; he pays everything. In this way, it is understood that Jesus is not speaking about work and just wages — that is another problem — but about the kingdom of God and the goodness of the heavenly Father who goes out continually to invite, and he pays everyone the maximum amount.”
Francis reminded the faithful that those who use human logic and complain that God’s compensation is not based on merits would do well to remember the first saint.
“Let us remember who was the first canonized saint in the church: the good thief,” the pope said. “He ‘stole’ paradise at the last minute of his life: this is grace. This is what God is like, even with us. Instead, those who try to think of their own merits, fail; those who humbly entrust themselves to the Father’s mercy, from being last — like the good thief — find themselves first.”
CNA Staff, Sep 21, 2020 / 10:23 am (CNA).- The US needs to hear the proclamation of the unity of nations and the universality of salvation, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles preached Sunday during a Mass recognizing immigrants.
“In this moment, I believe God is calling our immigrant Church to be a light to our immigrant nation,” the archbishop said during his homily during Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles Sept. 20.
“He is calling us to proclaim what St. Paul proclaimed, what the Catholic Church has proclaimed since the day of Pentecost – the unity of the nations, the universality of salvation. The mercy and forgiveness of God that is available to every person, of every nation under heaven.”
He continued: “Our great nation still needs to hear this good news! That no matter what the color of your skin, or the blood of your race, or the language you speak – you are a child of God. And Jesus Christ died for you, offered his body and blood for you.”
The Mass of the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time was said “in Recognition of All Immigrants”.
It came amid the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Sept. 18-26 novena meant to prepare for the 2020 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, observed Sept. 27. The archdiocese has held an annual Day in Recognition of All Immigrants since 2013.
The celebration includes a 60-mile walking pilgrimage tracing the path St. Junipero Serra walked as he founded the first nine mission churches of California.
Archbishop Gomez preached that the Mass was held “to praise God our Father and celebrate our identity as children of God whom he has called from every nation and race to build his Kingdom here in our country.”
The reading at Mass tell us “that our lives have a purpose in [Christ’s] plan of love.”
The meaning of our lives is that “we belong to God. He gives us life so that we can serve Christ, so that we can labor and bear fruit in his vineyard, which is the Kingdom that he has planted and is growing in the world.”
“God is One and the human race that he created is one,” he excaimed. “But he creates us as ‘many’ – many races, many nationalities, many languages, and ethnic cultures.”
God delights in humans’ “variety and diversity,” the archbishop said. “And yet, for all this diversity that we can see in God’s vineyard, we are still one. One people, one family.”
He said St. Paul preached that God is Lord over every nation, and that we are his children.
“In this moment in God’s vineyard in America, I think this is a powerful message that our Lord is calling us to bring to our neighbors,” Archbishop Gomez said.
He reflected on the current conversation about racism in America, and said the Church is to be a light amid it.
“In Christ we have one love, one hope, one destiny. And in Christ, we have one calling.We are called to this beautiful duty to live for him and to share his teaching, to bear fruit for his vineyard, his Kingdom.”
The archbishop said that “no matter who you are or how you came here, today once more he is sending you into his vineyard. We have a responsibility … He is sending each of us into this vineyard in this moment to labor for unity and justice, for the right to life, for equal opportunity and freedom for every person.”
The labor of the vineyard is first of all internal, Archbishop Gomez said: “We need to root out all the intolerance and envy and selfishness from our hearts … Let’s ask for the grace to love with a generous love, to show the same mercy and forgiveness to others as God shows to us. We need to build strong communities and strong families; we need to raise up our children to love and serve the Lord.”
He added that he dreams that the archdiocese will “have vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life coming from every race and nationality to serve all people!”
“This is the great mission that we have as Catholics, as the Church in this moment. Let us go out today into his vineyard and let us renew our country in the beautiful vision of God and make America truly a home for peoples of all nations and races,” the archbishop concluded.
On Aug. 31, the Catholic bishops of Wisconsin announced an end to the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, issued in March because of safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
But before the lifting of the dispensation could be implemented, the number of cases skyrocketed to the state’s highest rates since the pandemic began. On Sept. 19, Wisconsin reported a 19.4% positivity rate. (A positivity rate of 5% is considered a threshold for safe reopening.) A few days earlier, the University of Wisconsin at Madison announced it was cancelling spring break in an effort to curb spread of the virus.
On Sept. 16, data listing the top 20 U.S. cities with the fastest growing number of COVID-19 cases featured eight Wisconsin ones: 40% of the country’s hotspots were in one state. (That number has since decreased to five cities out of 20, as rates grow in other places).
While we understand the strong desire of Catholics to return to their faith communities, church leaders must listen to the scientific and medical data. It’s too early to lift the Mass dispensation and encourage more people to return to in-person services.
We all want to get back to normal, and that includes a more normal participation in the sacraments. Being unable to receive the Eucharist is particularly painful since it is the “source and summit” of the Christian life.
And, as a recent poll indicates, having a high percentage of Catholics — especially young people, at 36% — who plan to attend Mass less frequently after the pandemic will clearly hurt parishes with already declining participation and financial giving.
But, as NCR has editorialized throughout the pandemic, resumption of religious services cannot come with such a risk to people’s health, and indeed their lives, especially as the country moves into winter and fall, when experts predict the spread of the virus will increase.
Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki said as much in his letter detailing the lifting of the ban in that archdiocese.
Listecki said Catholics could continue to miss in-person church services if they are at risk because of age, underlying medical conditions or a compromised immune system, or to care for a sick person.
But, according to the archbishop, general fear of getting sick was no longer an acceptable reason to miss Mass. Catholics who “deliberately fail to attend Sunday Mass commit a grave sin,” he said.
This language — unpersuasive to many, even before the pandemic — will nonetheless pressure some Catholics to take unnecessary risks.
Even more alarming is a report that in at least one Wisconsin diocese, the Green Bay Diocese, churches also will no longer have to restrict the number of people who can come to services, as long as church-goers can maintain proper social distancing.
Most Catholic churches have taken appropriate precautions to make in-person services as safe as possible, including requiring masks, banning singing and limiting the number of attendees. Backtracking on those precautions before rates stop climbing is irresponsible.
Churches that do follow strict safety protocols should not be unfairly penalized, however. In San Francisco, other establishments — including indoor malls and museums, and, as potentially as of Oct. 1, indoor-dining at restaurants — are allowed up to 25% capacity. (Admittedly, a brief visit to a mall or a museum, where patrons are less likely spend prolonged time in close proximity to other people is less risky.)
Churches in San Francisco have been limited to outdoor services, with buildings only open for individual prayer. The mayor’s plan to re-open churches as of Oct. 1 has a cap of 25 persons — likely less than 25% capacity for most church buildings in the archdiocese. While San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone may be overstating the level of conspiracy on the part of the government, churches need to be treated fairly in reopening plans.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and completely lift Mass dispensation orders, especially in states where cases are still dangerously high.
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 21, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump announced on Monday that he expects to name his nominee for the Supreme Court by the end of the week. The nomination, Trump’s third to the highest court, follows the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose funeral services will be held this week.
Speaking to the television program “Fox & Friends,” President Trump said that he is “going to make a decision on either Friday or Saturday,” and that he “will announce it either Friday or Saturday, and then the work begins.” The president added that he would not make the announcement earlier “in all due respect” for the late justice’s memorial arrangements.
Justice Ginsburg died September 18, at the age of 87. She had previously been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Trump said that he was “looking at five, probably four, but I’m looking at five very seriously” options to replace Ginsburg. Previously, Trump had said he would nominate a woman for the position.
He said two of the people he was considering were “fantastic,” but did not elaborate further.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced on Monday that Ginsburg will lie in state at the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol on Friday, following two days of lying in repose at the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday. Ginsburg will lie underneath the Portico, and the public will be permitted to view the casket outdoors.
As per tradition, Ginsburg’s former law clerks will serve as her honorary pallbearers.
According to the New York Times, Ginsburg will be buried in a private ceremony alongside her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, is widely reported to be the front-runner on the president’s shortlist of prospective nominees.
Barrett, a federal judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, is reported to lead the president’s short list, and was also a contender for Trump’s second Supreme Court nomination in 2018, before the president nominated Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
According to Axios, Trump in 2018 said of Barrett that he was “saving her for Ginsburg” in explanation of his decision not to appoint her to the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Appointed a federal judge in 2017, Barrett had been a professor at Notre Dame’s law school until her nomination was confirmed. Barrett has twice been honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year” at Notre Dame, and was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
As a nominee to the federal bench, Barrett was pointedly questioned by Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee in 2017 on how her Catholic faith would influence her decisions as a judge on cases of abortion and same-sex marriage.
During confirmation hearings, Senator Diane Feinstein said of Barrett’s Catholicism “the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”
“You’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems,” she said. “And Roe entered into that, obviously.”
Barrett repeatedly said that as a judge, she would uphold the law of the land, but many pro-life groups believe she would be open to overturning the precedent of Roe vs. Wade, and uphold state restrictions on abortion.
By Lydia O’Kane
Put “people at the heart of local peace and security efforts.” That’s the message from Caritas Africa and Caritas Europa on International Peace Day which is observed on 21 September.
Both agencies voice their concern “about the risk of a future partnership marked by top-down approaches,” and are urging leaders to be inspired by this year’s International Day of Peace theme, “Shaping Peace Together.”
They also invite leaders to make the upcoming 6th AU-EU Summit “an opportunity to commit to practical ways of building peace through genuinely inclusive processes.”
The 6th AU-EU Summit is planned for 28-29 October 2020, when AU and EU leaders are expected to adopt a joint declaration mapping out the priorities and concrete actions of EU-Africa relations in the next few years, including in the fields of peace and security. The last AU-EU Summit took place in 2017.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Advocacy Officer for Caritas Europa Luisa Fondello says, “For us it’s one of the high priorities to put people at the core of this new strategy.” In terms of peace, she adds, “it’s about building on the potential of local communities and ensuring social cohesion because that’s a strong component of this building, and sometimes it’s overlooked.”
Caritas Europa and Caritas Africa point out that “Despite the EU’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda principles and to creating a people-centred partnership, previous statements by EU institutions on their vision for this future partnership have consistently focused more on state security.”
Both agencies emphasize that EU-Africa relations should “be based on multi-stakeholder partnerships, involving civil society and other actors, not only governments or intergovernmental institutions.”
This, they continue, “is particularly relevant given that peacebuilding is a holistic process that requires addressing the root causes of conflict and investing in community-level conflict prevention and social cohesion. “
Peacebuilding, they underline, “also requires important efforts towards the elimination of extreme poverty and the preservation of the rule of law.”
In conclusion, both Caritas Africa and Europa call on EU and African leaders “to recognise the importance of local community engagement and the contribution of faith actors in peacebuilding efforts.”
Ms Fondello notes that there needs to be a more formal acknowledgement on the part of European Union and African Union decision-makers of the importance role of local actors, “especially now in the context of COVID recovery. We see that local communities and local NGOs are very much present and they are the ones taking the lead.”
She also says it’s important for local communities to be at the discussion table. “For example, we would see a bigger role for women and youth to be at the discussion table when it comes to peace talks.”
Both agencies are advocating for “grassroots participation, not only because it is indispensable for the effectiveness of peace building strategies, but foremost because it is a clear option for recognising each person’s dignity, for solidarity, for co-responsibility, and for the choice to work for the common good.”
“We envision and encourage,” they add,” the future EU-Africa partnership to benefit from the opportunity to put people at the centre of peace efforts by investing in community-driven initiatives. “
By Vatican News
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is holding their annual Plenary Assembly this week, September 21-25. More than 80 Bishops from dioceses and eparchies across Canada are expected to take part in the meeting, which due to the coronavirus pandemic will be held via videoconference.
Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg is president of the CCCB, and will preside over the daily meetings. Speaking with Vatican News ahead of the Plenary, Archbishop Gagnon explained how the Covid-19 crisis is affecting this year’s gathering.
“I think for us in Canada, as well as in many countries, the episcopal conferences, the national episcopal conferences, have had to switch their approach to their yearly meeting or biannual meetings; and that switch entails going video, going digital,” he said. “And so for the first time in Canada, in our history as a conference, we’ll be having our plenary via a video conference. So that’s a major, major change.”
Archbishop Gagnon said the Plenary will give the Canadian Bishops their first opportunity as a body to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and its implications since the crisis began. He elaborated some of the questions they will be looking at: What are the effects of Covid on our local churches? What are the means by which are we are coping with that? What are the hopes that may be present? What are some of the challenges? What are some suggestions that would assist the churches in the local level to move forward under very difficult situations?
The Bishops, he said, will have to address “the rebuilding of communities, financial stress, and the challenges of evangelization.” So, he continued, the Bishops “have allowed considerable time during the plenary to explore this thoroughly.”
In addition, the Canadian Bishops will be discussing a number of other issues, including the indigenous peoples of Canada and the Church’s relationship with them; the abuse of minors and vulnerable persons; efforts to reform and re-organize the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace; and issues with the Canadian federal government, notably euthanasia and medical assistance in dying issues.
Archbishop Gagnon emphasized the importance of the Bishops being in contact with one another, even through digital means. “I’m hopeful that there will be a strengthening and a sense of focus on rebuilding our communities at the local level,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for the Bishops to really connect and hear what’s being done across the country.”
By Fausta Speranza & Linda Bordoni
The terrible explosion that brought destruction and death to Beirut at the beginning of August compounded a national crisis in a country suffering from endemic corruption, mismanagement and the collapse of the economy and of infrastructure.
Shortly after the fire and blast in the capital’s port area on 4 August that killed over 200 people, wounded more than 6,000 and displaced 300,000, Marwan Sehnaoui, the President of the Order of Malta’s Lebanese Association, wrote an open letter of appeal from what he described “the middle of a heartbroken city and an ever-wounded country.”
He told Vatican Radio that today, the people of Lebanon are in need of everything:
“The Lebanese people have nothing anymore,” Marwan Sehnaoui said, explaining that they need houses, health-care, food, electricity.
Power cuts, he said, mean people have only 3 or 4 hours of electricity a day, and this has an enormous impact on all aspects of daily life (from keeping necessities like milk refrigerated, to generating energy for life-saving equipment in operating theatres and ICUs).
”When tomorrow everything collapses – because everything will collapse if nothing happens – and you are in surgery and the electricity goes off…,” he reiterated, stressing that everything in Lebanon today is a humanitarian crisis: “health, food, energy, education… everything is humanitarian!”
Sehnaoui explained that more than 3 or 4 hundred thousand people have lost their jobs in the past four months in the country. Lebanon, he continued, has been in economic free-fall for the past ten months and what the blast in Beirut did, was to bring the dire situation to the attention of the world.
But in reality, he said, “the big problem of Lebanon began ten months ago when the state declared bankruptcy.”
From then on, Sehnaoui explained, the people have progressively lost everything because the banks have stopped working. Their deposits have been drained and the flow of money has all but halted.
“If you have 2 million dollars in the bank you have to queue for hours to get 200 dollars a month”, he said adding that it is not possible to transfer money or receive dollars in cash, “which means that the capacity for surviving financially” is reduced to zero.
He said that 60% of the population is living on or below the poverty line. Inflation is around 600 to 700% and Lebanese currency has lost about 85% of its value.
“Which means that if you were earning a salary of about 3,000 dollars [per month], today you have to survive on about 300 dollars,” he said.
What’s more, he added, this has to be converted into Lebanese pounds that have no buying power, meaning that it has become impossible even for those who haven’t lost their jobs, to survive on their salaries.
“You have to buy from the outside, your money is decreasing, plus you only get Lebanese pounds with which you can’t buy anything!” he said.
In a country that is on its knees, Sehnaoui said that the Sovereign Order of Malta is bringing much-needed health aid and basic services from north to south, including to the people in the Bekka Valley and to cities.
Its personnel and volunteers are running about 10 Primary Care Health Centers and 7 Medical Mobile Units, and all their services are free of charge.
“All services are completely free for all: for Christians, Muslims, Muslims Shia, Muslim Sunni, Muslim Druze. They are all exactly the same: they are creatures of God.”
Vatican City, Sep 21, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis told children with autism spectrum disorder Monday that everyone is beautiful in God’s eyes.
The pope welcomed the children from the Ambulatorium Sonnenschein in St. Pölten, Austria, to the Vatican Sept. 21.
He said: “God created the world with a wide variety of flowers of all kinds of colors. Each flower has its own beauty, which is unique. Also, each one of us is beautiful in the eyes of God, and He loves us. This makes us feel the need to say to God: thank you!”
The children were accompanied to the audience in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall by their parents, as well as Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the governor of Lower Austria, and Bishop Alois Schwarz of St. Pölten. St. Pölten is the largest city and capital of Lower Austria, one of the country’s nine states.
The Ambulatorium Sonnenschein, or Sunshine Outpatient Clinic, was established in 1995 to support children with the developmental disorder which affects communication and behavior. The center has treated more than 7,000 youngsters since its opening.
The pope told the children that saying “thank you” to God was “a beautiful prayer.”
He said: “God likes this way of praying. Then you can also add a little question. For example: Good Jesus, could you help my mother and father in their work? Could you give some comfort to grandma who is sick? Could you provide for children around the world who have no food? Or: Jesus, please help the pope to lead the Church well.”
“If you ask in faith, the Lord will surely hear you,” he said.
Pope Francis previously met with children with autism spectrum disorder in 2014. On that occasion, he said that by offering greater support “we can contribute to breaking down the isolation and, in many cases, the stigma burdening people with autism spectrum disorders, and just as often their families.”
Promising to pray for all those associated with the Ambulatorium Sonnenschein, the pope concluded: “Thank you for this beautiful initiative and for your commitment to the little ones entrusted to you. Everything that you have done for one of these little ones, you have done it to Jesus!”
By Vatican News
In an appeal to mark the International Day of Peace, Caritas Internationalis calls for a cessation of war and violence all over the world and especially in the Middle East. It also appeals for the promotion of “much-needed dialogue” to find a political solution to ongoing problems.
This Day of Peace, the message underlines, “is an important occasion for humanity to uphold peace as a unique value, and to express unconditional commitment to peace above all differences.”
The aid organization quotes Pope Francis, saying that “every war is a form of fratricide that destroys the human family’s innate vocation to brotherhood.”
In line with these words of the Holy Father, it says, “Caritas Internationalis believes in peace as a culture that needs to be nurtured, shared, and lived at all levels of society, from local communities to the political level.”
In its appeal, the agency calls on sanctions to be lifted in Syria, saying “it is clear that they do not help in promoting peace, but rather aggravate the conflict and are detrimental to peace.”
Caritas also calls for every effort to be made, and for the implementation of every initiative “that can lead to peace in the areas of conflict, to ensure that international aid for development gives important attention to building peace and reconciliation at the grassroots level in order to build community-centred peace and harmony.”
Furthermore, it encourages support for the efforts of religious leaders and faith-based communities engaged in promoting interreligious dialogue.
“Our humanity today,” the agency highlights, “continues to witness millions of people living in dire conditions due to war and violence, which prevent them from living their human condition in dignity. Millions are dying due to the absence of peace, due to war and violence the causes of which are to be found in selfishness, greed, corruption, religious and ethnic discrimination and also the illegal exploitation of natural resources.”
The aid organization goes on to say that “At a time when COVID-19 revealed to all of us the fragility and vulnerability of human existence and brought the whole of humanity together in solidarity to combat the propagation of the virus, we need to stand together in order to fight against all forms of division, all temptation of hatred.”
Caritas Internationalis works to address the root causes of conflicts and violence through conflict prevention, mediation and peace-building, and accompanying, caring for and giving voice to vulnerable people living in crisis areas and difficult social environments.
It notes that at present, in Kachin and Northern Shan State, Caritas Myanmar is carrying out a “Durable Peace Program with internally-displaced people, conflict-affected villages and host communities, women, youth and religious leaders in close collaboration with the Church.”
There are many more projects like those in the Central African Republic, Colombia, Pakistan and in Mindanao, in the Philippines, where Caritas and the local Church are working for a peaceful solution in a region where violence prevails.
On this International Peace Day, Caritas Internationalis emphasizes that “Peace cannot be attained without the courageous selfless act of putting the human person and the human condition above any other vested interests.”
Rome Newsroom, Sep 21, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- After President Alexander Lukashenko announced that he was putting troops on high alert and closing Belarus’ borders, a Vatican diplomat called Friday for dialogue and respect for the human rights of Belarusian protesters, who continue to take to the streets more than a month after disputed elections.
“The Holy See … renews its appeal for a peaceful and just resolution to the tensions through sincere dialogue, the rejection of violence, and respect for justice and fundamental human and civil rights,” Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič said in Geneva Sept. 18.
Speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s special debate on Belarus, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva said that the Vatican had followed “with great attention the sociopolitical situation following the elections in Belarus.”
“In the search for a peaceable solution to the current crisis, the Holy See considers it indispensable that demonstrators present their requests in a peaceful way. It is also necessary that governing authorities exercise restraint and listen to the voices of their citizens and remain open to their just aspirations, assuring full respect for their civil and human rights,” Jurkovič said.
For six straight weeks, protesters in Minsk have been demanding the resignation of Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994. The protests began after the Aug. 9 election in which Lukashenko claimed victory in the presidential election with 80% of the vote. His challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, complained to electoral officials after they said she had earned just 10% of votes. Fearing imprisonment, she then fled to Lithuania.
The European Parliament rejected the Belarusian election results Sept. 17, passing a resolution saying that it would not recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate president once his current term ends Nov. 5.
Tsikhanouskaya addressed the Human Rights Council Meeting via video link. She spoke of the Belarusian opposition’s “willingness to talk with the authorities and look for peaceful rights-based solutions to the crisis.”
The Belarusian government representative at the UN meeting repeatedly interrupted the video, demanding that it be turned off, reported the Guardian newspaper.
“Belarus needs fast and resolute decisions,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “It’s very important to recognize that standing up for the democratic principles and human rights is not interfering in internal affairs; it is a universal question of human dignity.”
As a result of a vote at the meeting, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on the Belarusian authorities to enter into dialogue with the political opposition and allow for freedom of assembly and expression.
The UN resolution came a week after a senior Vatican official met with with the Belarusian foreign minister in Minsk.
During his four-day trip to Belarus, Archbishop Paul Gallagher met with government officials and Catholic bishops to discuss the future of the Church in the country in the midst of political tumult.
When the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States met with Belarussian bishops at the apostolic nunciature in Minsk on Sept. 12, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, president of the country’s bishops’ conference, was not present as he has been barred from entering the country by Belarusian authorities since Aug. 31.
L’Osservatore Romano reported Sept. 17 that Gallagher’s meeting with the bishops in Minsk “was very useful in evaluating together the path that the local Church must follow in order to remain faithful to its identity and its evangelical mission, making itself, at the same time, also an effective instrument of social cohesion.”
At the same time as the Vatican official’s visit to Belarus, Lukashenko was in Russia visiting President Vladimir Putin, his closest international ally, who offered him a $1.5 billion loan.
Anaïs Marin, the UN’s special rapporteur on Belarus, said that the human rights situation in Belarus was “catastrophic.” She indicated that more than 10,000 people have been arrested and thousands have reported being “savagely beaten.”
“Let’s not allow another iron curtain to descend on the European continent,” she said.
By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis expressed his delight at meeting the group of 42, including children with ASD, their parents and the staff of Ambulatorium Sonnenschein where they are treated. “Welcome to the Vatican! I am happy to see your faces, and I read it in your eyes that you too are happy to be here with me for a while,” he told the group.
The children undergo therapy at Ambulatorium Sonnenschein or the Sunshine Outpatient Clinic, which was established in 1995. The treatment combines diagnosis, advice and therapy for children and adolescents with special needs under one roof.
“Your house is called “Sunshine”, a beautiful name!” the Pope said, adding, there is a reason behind it.
“It is because your house is like a magnificent blooming meadow in the sunshine and you are the flowers of this “Sunshine” house!” He explained that God created the world with a great variety of flowers of all colours, and every flower has its beauty, which is unique.
“Each of us,” the Pope said, “is also beautiful in God’s eyes, and God loves us.” Hence, we need to thank God for it.
“Thank you for the gift of life, for all creatures! Thank you for mom and dad! Thank you for our families! And thank you also for the friends from the “Sunshine” centre!” the Pope said. Gratitude, he explained, is a beautiful prayer that is pleasing to God.
He told the children they can also ask Jesus to help their parents with their work or comfort the grandmother who is a bit sick. They can ask Jesus to help children around the world who have nothing to eat or even help the Pope to lead the Church well. “If you ask with faith, the Lord will surely hear you,” the Pope assured them.
Pope Francis concluded his meeting, thanking all those present, including the clinic staff. “Thank you for this beautiful initiative and for your commitment to the little ones entrusted to you,” he said, adding, “Everything that you have done for one of these little ones, you have done it to Jesus!”
Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
Concerned about the risk of a future partnership marked by top-down approaches, Caritas Africa and Caritas Europa urge European and African leaders to be inspired by this year’s International Day of Peace theme, “Shaping Peace Together,” and commit to practical ways of building peace through genuinely inclusive processes.
Initially scheduled for 28 and 29 October in Brussels, the sixth Africa Union (AU) – European Union (EU) Summit has been postponed to 2021 because of COVID-19.
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.
According to the United Nations, “This year, it has been clearer than ever that we are not each other’s enemies. Rather, our common enemy is a tireless virus that threatens our health, security and very way of life. COVID-19 has thrown our world into turmoil and forcibly reminded us that what happens in one part of the planet can impact people everywhere,” reads a UN statement.
For Caritas Africa and Caritas Europa, “Putting people at the heart of peace and security efforts would entail going beyond a state-centric approach, acknowledging peoples’ capacities, and formulating ambitious strategies for inclusivity in peace and resilience building,” said Albert Mashika, Regional Executive Secretary of Caritas Africa.
The now postponed sixth AU-EU Summit was expected to lead to a joint declaration laying down the priorities and concrete actions of the EU-Africa relations in the next few years, including in the fields of peace and security.
Both Caritas Africa and Caritas Europe believe that time has come to move the EU -AU talks beyond just discussing security issues at state level.
According to the two continental Caritas organisations: Despite the EU’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda principles and to creating a people-centred partnership, previous statements by EU institutions on their vision for this future partnership – such as the proposal made by the European Commission (EC) and the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Council Conclusions on Africa – have consistently focused more on state security. EU – Africa relations should, however, be based on multi-stakeholder partnerships, involving civil society and other actors, not only governments or intergovernmental institutions. This is particularly relevant given that peacebuilding is a holistic process that requires addressing the root causes of conflict and investing in community-level conflict prevention and social cohesion. Peacebuilding also requires important efforts towards the elimination of extreme poverty and the preservation of the rule of law.
“Only with a bold commitment to shaping peace together will actions under the future EU-Africa partnership succeed in addressing security issues, such as limited social cohesion, and ultimately reduce conflict and instability that severely undermine development efforts in better rebuilding a post Covid-19 reality,” said Maria Nyman, Secretary-General of Caritas Europa.
The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate the Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.
The United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.
Beginning in 2021, a cohort of Latino leaders from the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, will start a year of intensive leadership formation as Joliet becomes the first diocese to partner with Leadership Roundtable’s Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative.
Leadership Roundtable, an organization devoted to promoting best church management and ministry practices, selected Joliet out of a pool of applicants around the country partly because the diocese’s application highlighted its existing commitment to fostering and supporting Latino leaders, said Andrea Blanco, the initiative’s program manager.
According to Blanco, one of the primary reasons for underrepresentation of Latinos among church leaders is a lack of institutional investment in Latino leadership formation. The new initiative aims to counter that disparity.
“We want to invest and help dioceses — not just Joliet, but so many dioceses around the nation — to invest in Latinos and teach them concepts about church management and best practices, so they can serve the local community better and step into leadership roles,” she told NCR.
In the Diocese of Joliet, the Latino community’s primary leadership formation hub has been the Escuela de Capacitación Pastoral, (roughly translated in English as “School of Pastoral Abilities”), which provides a two-year Spanish-language leadership formation program. But Elisabeth Román, diocesan director of Hispanic and ethnic ministries, said a strong desire for personal formation remains among the diocese’s Latino leaders. Many talented people in Joliet’s Latino community hesitate to pursue decision-making positions within the church, she said, in part because they feel that they lack adequate preparation.
Román also noted that some may choose not to pursue prominent positions because they are undocumented, or because their work simply does not afford them enough spare time.
Through its partnership with Joliet, the initiative, funded in part by a $1 million three-year grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc., will engage 24 trainees — 16 to 18 lay leaders and six to eight clergy — in a year-long leadership education process, partly in person and partly online.
Joliet’s Bishop Edmund Pates said he is confident the initiative will add quality and depth to the diocese’s leadership formation opportunities, along with significant financial resources. Pates has been serving as Joliet’s apostolic administrator since now-Bishop Emeritus Daniel Conlon took a medical leave of absence last December and subsequently resigned his position. Though the initiative will begin under Joliet’s newly-appointed bishop Ronald Hicks, who takes up the position Sept. 29, Pates is enthusiastic and excited about what the initiative will bring to the diocese he has led throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“One of the very key dimensions of all Hispanic ministry today is obviously development of leaders — that was an outcome of V Encuentro, and this [initiative] seemed to be a remarkable opportunity and vision for development,” Pates told NCR.
According to its website, the main goal of V Encuentro, the fifth national consultation process on Latino ministry conducted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is to discern ways in which the church in the United States can better respond to the growing Hispanic/Latino presence.
Blanco says Leadership Roundtable identifies with two of the priorities identified by V Encuentro: leadership development and promoting best practices.
Román, who will herself be one of Joliet’s 24 participants, hopes those who take part in the program will emerge with a sense of common purpose that will help unify the diocese, and that they will spread what they learn to their parish communities. “My greatest hope is that — the 24 people who come into this — when we come out we’re a diocesan community, and we all have the same mission and vision and goals, to take what we’ve learned and to share it with everyone else in the diocese,” she said.
From Leadership Roundtable’s perspective, Blanco said, one of the most important aims of the year-long partnership with Joliet will be to create a comprehensive report about success and shortcomings that will shape future diocesan partnerships as the initiative continues.
The Public Religion Research Institute reported in 2017 that more than a third of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic. Among Catholics under 30, Hispanics make up the majority. According to Blanco, many parishes do not have staff who speak Spanish. Román said the needs and concerns of Latino Catholic leaders include formation in Spanish, family ministry, funds for education, and immigration reform.
In Joliet, about 30 miles southwest of Chicago, the Latino population has grown as Chicago’s cost of living has risen, Román said. According to Pates, about 40% of the 600,000 Catholics in the diocese are Hispanic or Latino, but that percentage is not reflected among the diocese’s leadership. In selecting the individuals who will participate in the leadership formation initiative, Pates said the diocese’s strategy is to choose individuals who are already predisposed to church leadership so that the training will make them all the more effective. So far, all of the selected participants have either been involved with the encuentro process or with the Escuela de Capacitación Pastoral, Román said.
I’m very proud of those leaders that we have in the Hispanic community — they’re very outgoing, they’re very positive, they’re very dedicated to the faith and evangelization, and I’m excited because I think this will be an opportunity for them to reach the potential that they have used a great deal, but now to an even greater degree, for the benefit of the Diocese of Joliet,” Pates said.
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