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Scottish Church says Catholics schools don't cause violence

Edinburgh, Scotland, Sep 19, 2019 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said Wednesday the suggestion that Catholic schools in the country are a cause for bigotry is “staggeringly intolerant.”

“Scotland’s peculiar obsession with religious intolerance has been in the spotlight again recently following the offensive and ill-informed comments of a former police chief, who claimed that the existence of denominational schools are at the root of the problem and suggested that sectarianism and bigotry can best be tackled by closing Catholic schools,” Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, wrote in an op-ed Sept. 18.

“This staggeringly intolerant attitude is symptomatic of a simplistic belief that educating children in a faith-based environment is wrong and will inevitably lead to conflict and strife in society,” he added.

Kearney’s comments came in response to a Sept. 16 column in The Scotsman, a leading newspaper in Scotland. The column, penned by Tom Woods, a former deputy chief constable in Edinburgh’s regional police force, argued that “religiously segregated education” is the source of sectarian demonstrations and violence in the country.

“I have no doubt that the provision for separate Roman Catholic education as enshrined by The Education (Scotland) Act 1918, was a good idea 100 years ago, but is it acceptable that in the 21st century, we emphasise differences by separating five-year-old children based on their parents’ religion?” Woods asked.

“As Scotland moves forward with equality as our watchword, our century-old practice of segregated education is contradictory to say the least,” he wrote, adding that “if we really want to dig out the roots of sectarianism, we must do what’s difficult, and have the courage to tackle the historical anomaly of religious segregation in our schools.”

Kearney wrote that “there is not a shred of empirical evidence to back up” Woods’ claims.

“To suggest that children who aren’t schooled together can never interact or relate harmoniously to one another in adult life is clearly absurd. Taken to its extreme this would suggest that children from different parts of the country or from different countries or with different languages are doomed to perpetual strife as adults, since they didn't share a playground.”

The disagreement emerged after several political marches and demonstrations have turned violent in Scotland in recent weeks, with clashes between Republican and Loyalist groups leading to a ban on some political marches in the city of Glasgow.

Scotland has experienced significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country's largest religious community.

Sectarianism and crimes motivated by anti-Catholicism have been on the rise in Scotland in recent years.

An April 2018 poll of Catholics in Scotland found that 20 percent reported personally experiencing abuse of prejudice toward their faith; and a government report on religiously-motivated crime in 2016 and 2017 found a concentration of incidents in Glasgow.

Kearney said that schools are not to blame for the strife, which he attributed partially to anti-Catholicism.

“Sectarian, like racial, discrimination is not taught in schools but bred, through ignorance, in homes and spread through society at large.”

 

Indiana bishop offers cemetery for burial of aborted remains

Fort Wayne, Ind., Sep 19, 2019 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend offered Thursday the use of a Catholic cemetery to bury the more than 2,000 remains of aborted children that were discovered in the garage of a recently-deceased former abortionist, as authorities in one state close their investigation into the discovery.

“I join my voice to the many people who have expressed their horror and disgust at the discovery of 2,246 medically preserved remains of unborn babies in the Illinois home of Ulrich Klopfer, who performed thousands of abortions in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend,” Rhoades said Sept. 19.

“I strongly support the investigation being carried out by the attorneys general of Illinois and Indiana. I also offer any assistance, including the use of our Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, for the proper and dignified burial of the remains of these unborn children.”

At a press conference Thursday, the Will County Sheriff’s Office announced that they will not pursue criminal charges related to the discovery of 2,246 “medically preserved fetal remains” in the Klopfer's garage. The remains were discovered by Klopfer’s family members Sept. 12, nine days after his death at age 75.

According to the sheriff’s office, the remains were discovered in more than 70 cardboard boxes that were stacked nearly up to the ceiling of the garage. He said Klopfer’s family has been cooperating with the investigation.

“The remains discovered were inside small sealed plastic bags, which contained formalin, a chemical used to preserve biological material,” said a joint statement from the Will County Sheriff’s Office, Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Will County Coroner's Office. The statement said that these boxes were mixed with boxes that contained “various personal property” of Klopfer.

The statement said that the boxes were dated 2000-2002. During those years, Klopfer owned and operated three abortion clinics in Indiana. These clinics, which were located in South Bend, Fort Wayne, and Gary, were all shuttered by the end of 2015 after numerous complaints against Klopfer’s practices.

In 2016, Klopfer’s medical license was suspended after he admitted that he performed abortions on two 13-year-old girls, and did not report them to the state in a timely manner. He also admitted that he did not give pain medication to adult patients unless they paid extra, and his clinic in Fort Wayne was described as dirty and unkempt, with broken equipment.

Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley said at the press conference that Klopfer left no documentation as to why he chose to store the remains in his garage.

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said that he was working with the Indiana Attorney General’s office to transfer the fetal remains to Indiana authorities, where the investigation will continue. He said that there will be an investigation into Klopfer’s admission that he performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape survivor, who was then returned to her family without reporting the act.

Glasgow declined to state the estimated gestational age of the fetal remains, and did not elaborate as to how the bags were labeled. He said that once the remains are transferred to Indiana, the attorney general will ask women who were Klopfer’s patients at that time to contact the agency with any additional information that they may have.

While Klopfer cannot be charged with anything as he is deceased, the presence of fetal remains in his home suggests he violated Indiana law regarding the disposal of medical waste, as well as a law regarding records keeping. Authorities in Indiana will investigate whether Klopfer had an accomplice who helped him transport the remains to his home in Illinois. That person may be charged, although the age of the remains could be past the statute of limitations.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, said that he found the discovery to be “extremely disturbing,” and he supported an investigation. He also said that he hopes it is not used to further restrict abortion rights.

“I hope that it doesn’t get caught up in politics at a time when women need access to healthcare,” he added.

As mayor, Buttigieg attempted to block the construction of a pregnancy center in South Bend, and supported the operation of Whole Women’s Health, an abortion clinic. Whole Women’s Health currently is operating without a license, and is administered by a former employee of Klopfer.

Transgender man will be allowed to sue Catholic hospital over hysterectomy

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 19, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A Sacramento-area woman who identifies as a transgender man will be allowed to sue a Catholic hospital for cancelling and rescheduling a procedure to remove her uterus, following a ruling from the 1st District Court of Appeal that overturned a lower court ruling on Wednesday.

Evan Minton, who identifies as a male, says in the lawsuit that Dignity Health, a Catholic health system that operates Mercy San Juan Medical Center outside Sacramento, in 2017 cancelled a planned hysterectomy when she mentioned to a nurse that she identifies as trangendered.

Dignity Health arranged for Minton to have the procedure done at a different hospital within 72 hours of the cancellation, the Sacramento Bee reports. The surgeon, Dr Lindsey Dawson, told the Bee that Dignity Health officials assisted her in getting emergency privileges at Methodist, a non-Catholic affiliated hospital, so she could perform the hysterectomy there.

Minton sued, arguing that the hospital’s actions violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which says businesses must offer full and equal access to state residents, the Bee reports.

Dignity Health provided a response to the Sacramento Bee.

“Catholic hospitals do not perform sterilizing procedures such as hysterectomies for any patient regardless of their gender identity, unless there is a serious threat to the life or health of the patient,” the Dignity statement said.

“Courts have repeatedly recognized the right of faith-based hospitals not to provide services based on their religious principles....In this case, Mr. Minton was able to quickly receive the sought-after procedure at another nearby Dignity Health hospital that is not Catholic-affiliated.”

A San Francisco Superior Court judge initially dismissed Minton’s lawsuit, on the grounds that the hospital followed court precedent in rescheduling the patient quickly at a different hospital.

Court records show that Minton underwent hormone replacement therapy in 2012 and a mastectomy in 2014, and planned to undergo the hysterectomy before having a penis surgically created.

Another Catholic health system in California, St. Joseph Health, is facing a similar lawsuit filed in March from another woman who identifies as a transgender man after one of its locations, St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, refused to perform a hysterectomy.

After the surgery at St. Joseph was denied, Knight underwent a hysterectomy at a hospital unaffiliated with the St. Joseph Health of Northern California system, 30 minutes away.

Like Dignity Health, St. Joseph Health said in a statement that hysterectomies are only performed at their facilities when they have been deemed “medically necessary,” and not for purposes of sterilization.

The teaching of the Catholic Church recognizes a hysterectomy as licit when there is a grave and present danger to the life or health of the mother, and when the intention of the procedure is not to prevent the possibility of conception.
 
In January 2019, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an authoritative response which explained the circumstances under which a hysterectomy could be morally licit.

A 2016 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services signed by the general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with other groups, affirmed that the denial of surgery to someone seeking to change their gender would not be discriminatory, noting that in such cases there would be nothing medically wrong with otherwise healthy organs to be removed.

“It is not ‘discrimination’ when a hospital provides care it considers appropriate, declines to perform procedures destructive to patients’ welfare and well-being, or declines to take actions that undermine the health, safety, and privacy of other patients,” the letter said.
 
“A hospital does not engage in 'discrimination' when, for example, it performs a mastectomy or hysterectomy on a woman with breast or uterine cancer, respectively, but declines to perform such a procedure on a woman with perfectly healthy breasts or uterus who is seeking to have the appearance of a man.”

 

Polls show majority support in US for medical conscience protections

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- New poll results show that a large majority of Americans believe that healthcare professionals should not be forced to provide procedures that violate their moral beliefs. 

The results of two polls, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Sept. 18, show widespread support for conscience protections in the healthcare industry, and for regulatory changes that take into account new pressures surrounding so-called gender reassignment procedures.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans agree: no healthcare professional should be forced to violate deeply-held beliefs in order to keep a job. The practice of medicine depends on those courageous and generous enough to serve all people — especially the poor and marginalized — with the highest ethical standards,” said a joint statement on the results released by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, who chairs the USCCB committee on pro-life activities. 

The release was also signed by Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, chair of the committee for religious liberty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, chair of the committee on domestic justice, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the subcommittee for the defense of marriage.

“If we exclude people of faith from the medical profession, Americans will suffer, especially those most in need,” the bishops added. In many areas of the country, Catholic or other religiously-affiliated hospitals are the only institutions present to serve a community. 

A total of 83% of all respondents in the Heart+Mind Strategies poll, conducted on behalf of the USCCB, said that it was important to not force healthcare professionals to participate in procedures to which they have moral objections. This total included 86% of women polled and 79% of men. 

The survey polled 1,004 adults over the age of 18 from July 18-21, 2019. The sample size was equally divided between men and women. 

Nearly six out of 10 respondents said that healthcare providers, such as doctors or nurses, should not be required to perform abortions if they are morally opposed to the practice. Only 20% thought it should be legally required for doctors or nurses to perform abortions, and another 22% said they were not sure.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said that they supported regulations to protect conscience rights, and 21% said they were opposed. An additional 21% said they were not sure if they supported these regulations. 

These numbers were slightly different when the question was modified to specifically ask about doctors opposed to performing “gender reassignment procedures.” This question saw 60% of respondents say they were in favor of regulations to protect the rights of doctors to refuse to perform such procedures with 22% who said they were opposed. Only 18% said they were unsure if they thought doctors should be forced to violate their consciences in these cases. 

The poll also found that over eight out of 10 Americans believe that “having a moral alignment with one’s healthcare professional is important.” This figure rose four points to 85% among women, and fell to 77% among men. 

In May, the Department of Health and Human Services introduced the Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority rule, which protects doctors and other medical practitioners who object to procedures like abortion, sterilization, or facilitating euthanasia. The rule mandates that institutions receiving federal money be certified that they comply with more than two dozen laws protecting conscience and religious freedom rights. 

After initially being scheduled to go into effect in July, it has been delayed until the end of November due to legal challenges.

Draft law would preserve abortion pill restrictions

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- New federal legislation has been drafted to preserve restrictions on the availability of abortion pills. The Support and Value Expectant Moms and Babies Act (SAVE) was introduced Thursday by pro-life congressional leaders in response to efforts to broaden access to chemical abortions in the United States.

“While the national abortion rate decline is a welcome sign, the dramatic rise in use of the abortion pill should worry pro-life activists and pro-abortion activists alike,” stated Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio), sponsor of the SAVE Moms and Babies Act which he introduced in the House Sept. 19.

“The SAVE Moms & Babies Act helps ensure this abortion method is recognized for what it is: dangerous,” Latta said.

Mifepristone—also known as Mifeprex—is the first of two drugs used in the RU-486 chemical abortion process, and its use together with Misopristol is highly-regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Mifeprex causes the mother’s body to stop nourishing the unborn child; Misoprostol, taken afterward, causes contractions and expels the child and placenta from the mother’s body.

The FDA has applied special guidelines, the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), to the two-drug process. Under REMS, the drugs can only be prescribed and dispensed by a certified health care provider in a health care setting, and can only be administered up to 70 days after the woman’s last menstrual cycle.

Abortion advocates are pushing for increased access to the drugs through mail order, online and through telemedicine.

In 2016, the FDA adopted revisions to its guidelines which included removing the requirement that the drugs be prescribed by a physician. The REMS process is still in place.

“Lawmakers and advocates pushing for this pill to be available on demand and over the counter are neglecting the safety and health of women across this country,” Rep. Latta said, noting that chemical abortions already pose danger for the mother even with medical oversight.

“Without proper medical oversight, it has resulted in hospitalizations, severe complications, and several deaths,” he said.

The SAVE Moms and Babies Act would prevent the removal of the FDA’s existing REMS standards for the abortion pill, and would also prohibit the remote dispensing of the pill through the mail or by telemedicine. It would also block new chemical abortion drugs from FDA approval.

Pro-life groups are warning that increased access to chemical abortions could result in more women experiencing dangerous complications if they self-administer the abortion pill without proper medical oversight.

According to a 2018 GAO report, the FDA recorded around 4,200 incidents of Mifeprex-related “adverse events” between its approval in September of 2000 and June 30, 2017. Out of approximately 3.2 million women who have used the drug, 20 deaths were reported during that period, the report found.

The report added that “FDA has conducted a variety of monitoring activities and these have not identified significant concerns with the safety and use of Mifeprex, in accordance with its approved REMS.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2271 teaches that “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion” and that direct abortion “is gravely contrary to the moral law.” In addition to being a mortal sin, the procurement of a completed abortion is a canonical crime carrying with it the penalty of excommunication.

In 2009, when Italy legalized the abortion pill, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life Monsignor Elio Sgreccia said it was no different than a surgical abortion and stated that “there will be excommunication for the doctor, the woman, and anyone who encourages its use.”

“First abortion was legalized to stop it being clandestine, but now doctors are washing their hands of it and transferring the burden of conscience to women,” Monsignor Sgreccia said, as reported by Reuters.

Bishops in California are currently working to oppose state legislation, currently waiting for the governor’s signature, that would force the state’s universities to offer chemical abortions to students. 

Latta’s bill comes after Planned Parenthood’s research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, reported an overall decline in the abortion rate to an all-time low in the U.S., with an estimated 862,000 abortions in 2017.

However, the percentage of chemical abortions in “nonhospital facilities” has gone up 25% since 2014, to a total of 339,640 abortions—39% of the overall abortion number.

Guttmacher admitted that the overall abortion decline might not be as steep as reported, in part due to unreported “self-managed abortions.” Mifeprex and Misoprostol “are becoming increasingly available online, as are resources about how to safely and effectively self-manage an abortion outside of a clinical setting,” the report stated.

“The industry’s migration to chemical self-abortion is deeply disturbing,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life organization. He also noted that the trend could push the abortion rate back up in the future but with a “higher rate of injury” to women.

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for Susan B. Anthony List, said the increase in chemical abortions is part of the abortion industry’s determination to profit “off the destruction of unborn children and wounding of mothers” while cutting overhead costs.

Chaput: Fr. James Martin's message causes confusion about Church doctrine

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 19, 2019 / 07:46 am (CNA).- After Fr. James Martin, SJ, spoke at a Philadelphia university, the Archbishop of Philadelphia urged caution about the priest’s message, especially regarding the possibility that Catholic teaching on sexuality might change.

“Father Martin has sought in a dedicated way to accompany and support people with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. Many of his efforts have been laudable, and we need to join him in stressing the dignity of persons in such situations,” Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in a Sept. 19 column published on his archdiocesan website.

“At the same time, a pattern of ambiguity in his teachings tends to undermine his stated aims, alienating people from the very support they need for authentic human flourishing. Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims,” Chaput added.

Martin is the author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” and speaks frequently on issues pertaining to homosexuality and Catholicism. He spoke Sept. 17 at Philadelphia's St. Joseph's University.

Chaput’s column raised his concern that “Father Martin – no doubt unintentionally -- inspires hope that the Church’s teachings on human sexuality can be changed.”

“In his book, ‘Building A Bridge,’ he writes: ‘For a teaching to be really authoritative it is expected that it will be received by the people of God . . . From what I can tell, in the LGBT community, the teaching that LGBT people must be celibate their entire lives . . . has not been received.’ One might easily, and falsely, infer from such language that the Church’s teaching on sexual intimacy lacks binding authority for same-sex attracted Catholics,” Chaput wrote.

The archbishop credited Martin for the priest’s insistence that he has never directly challenged Catholic teaching.

“But what is implied or omitted often speaks as loudly as what is actually stated, and in the current climate, incomplete truths do, in fact, present a challenge to faithful Catholic belief. When people hear that ‘the Church welcomes gay people’ or needs to be more ‘inclusive and welcoming’ without also hearing the conditions of an authentically Christian life set for all persons by Jesus Christ and his Church -- namely, living a life of chastity -- they can easily misunderstand the nature of Christian conversion and discipleship,” Chaput noted.

“For this reason, Catholic teaching always requires more than polite affirmation or pro forma agreement, particularly from those who comment publicly on matters of doctrine. Faithful Catholics who are same-sex attracted need support and encouragement in the virtue of chastity. They deserve to hear – as all people do – the truth about human sexuality spoken clearly and confidently. Anything less lacks both mercy and justice.”

Chaput’s column addressed other concerns about Martin’s work. 

Among those concerns is Martin's collaboration with New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group that has been criticized by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for "ambiguities and errors" in its teaching. The organization gave Martin its 2016 Bridge Building Award.

The archbishop noted that “Father Martin suggests that same-sex attracted people and those with gender dysphoria should be labeled according to their attraction and dysphoria, calling for use of the phrase 'LGBT Catholic' in Church documents and language. But while the Church does teach that the body is integral to human identity, our sexual appetites do not define who we are.”

“If we are primarily defined by our sexual attractions, then, in order to be fulfilled, it would follow that we must identify with and act on our attractions. Anything calling for the denial or restraint of our sexual appetites would logically amount to repression and even cruelty. This is the opposite of the Gospel's clear teaching that our identity is found in Jesus Christ, created in the image and likeness of God and called to be sons and daughters of God,” the archbishop said.

The archbishop also lamented that Martin “suggests that Catholic teaching on same-sex attraction as ‘objectively disordered’ (for example, in CCC 2358) is cruel and should be modified.”

That suggestion “misrepresents Catholic belief,” Chaput said.

“It’s worth recalling here that the Catechism also describes lust, extra-marital relations, and contracepted sex (2351), masturbation (2352), and even non-sexual sins such as lying and calumny (1753), as intrinsically ‘disordered.’ The suggestion that the wisdom of the Church, rooted in the Word of God and centuries of human experience, is somehow cruel or misguided does grave harm to her mission. Families have been destroyed because of this misperception, and Father Martin regrettably contributes ambiguity to issues that demand a liberating biblical clarity,” the archbishop added.

For his part, Martin tweeted a response to Chaput's column Thursday morning. The tweets took the form of a letter to Chaput.

“I think my main response is that it's difficult to respond to critiques that I am ‘implying’ things, when I am assiduous in my writings and talks about not challenging church teaching,” Martin wrote.

Martin noted that the lecture he offered at St. Joseph's University “is the same lecture that I presented at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin last year, the text of which was vetted and approved beforehand by the Vatican.”

Acknowleding that same-sex relations and same-sex marriage are impermissable and immoral, Martin tweeted that “LGBT Catholics have heard this repeatedly. Indeed, often that is the only thing that they hear from their church.”

“What I am trying to do instead is encourage Catholics to see LGBT people as more than just sexual beings, to see them in their totality, much as Jesus saw people on the margins, people who were also seen as ‘other’ in his time,” the priest wrote.

During his World Meeting of Families lecture, which Martin said was the same lecture he gave in Philadelphia this week, the priest criticized “homophobic pastors” and said that “LGBT people bring special gifts to the Church, like any group.”

Chaput’s column, which explained that he was unable to prevent Martin from appearing at a Catholic college overseen by a religious order, also criticized “bitter personal attacks” against the priest from other Catholics.

“As I’ve said previously, such attacks are inexcusable and unChristian.”

Nevertheless, the archbishop said, he had a responsibility to raise objections to some aspects of Martin’s message.

“Supporters of Father Martin’s efforts will note, correctly, that several Church leaders have endorsed his work,” Chaput concluded.  

“Those Churchmen are responsible for their words -- as I am for mine, as pastor of the Church in Philadelphia.  And specifically in that role as pastor, I want to extend the CDF’s caution to all the faithful of the Church in Philadelphia, regarding the ambiguity about same-sex related issues found throughout the statements and activities of Father James Martin.”

 

Chaput: Personal holiness, fidelity to the Church key in difficult times

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 19, 2019 / 03:17 am (CNA).- During times of scandal and confusion, Catholics should strive for personal holiness and fidelity to the Church, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said in a talk last week.

“Christ sent his disciples out in his name, with his authority, to continue his work in the world as the Church — and only through the Church can we even be talking about Jesus today,” he said.

“The fidelity of Catholics to the Church, generation after generation, even when her leaders have been foolish or weak or sinful — that fidelity is what carries the message of the Gospel through time.”

Faithfulness to the Church is not a mere act of servitude, but “a choice to participate in the act of giving life to the world,” Chaput said, adding that the Church is how Christ can be known, and how God’s will can be known in our lives.

Archbishop Chaput delivered the Sept. 12 keynote address at the seventh annual St. Joseph the Worker Medal Awards at Malvern Retreat House in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

In his address, he stressed the importance of personal holiness, saying, “If we want to be disciples and make disciples; if we want to repair the Lord’s Church in the shadow of today’s scandals and confusion; we need to understand that without saints, nothing we do will work.”

“We can’t give what we don’t have,” he continued. “If Jesus Christ and a real Catholic identity don’t burn in the interior cathedral of our hearts, we can never possibly rebuild the external life of the Church in the world.”

Reflecting on what constitutes personal holiness, the archbishop pointed to St. Francis of Assisi, saying that “what many people overlook is that Francis lived in an age very much like our own…The 13th century was a time of great political unrest, and deep confusion and corruption in the Church.”

When Francis discovered the Gospel, his life was transformed from one of shallow comfort to a radical commitment to holiness – being set aside and separate from the ways of the world.

“What distinguished Francis from many of the other reformers of his day was one simple thing,” Chaput said. “He understood that he could never live out his love for God alone, or even with a group of friends. He needed the larger family of faith Jesus founded. He needed the Church. So he never allowed himself or his brothers to separate the Gospel from the Church, or the Church from Jesus Christ.”

“Francis was always a son of the Church. And as a son, he always insisted on fidelity and obedience to the Holy Father and reverence for priests and bishops — even the ones whose sins meant they didn’t deserve it,” the archbishop said.

He noted that Jesus on the Cross asked St. Francis not to “replace” or “reinvent” the Church but to “repair my Church,” which the saint went on to do through the sanctity of his personal witness.

The Church is our mother, more than simply an institution, and greater than the sins of her people or leaders, he said, and it is important to keep this in mind in times of scandal.

In his talk, Chaput also emphasized the example of St. Joseph as a man of sanctity.

Praised in scripture for his justice and piety, St. Joseph is a model of holiness though simple devotion to God and family, marked with silence to hear God’s voice in everyday life, the archbishop said.

St. Joseph worked hard to provide for Mary and Jesus, whom he faithfully loved, Chaput said. His life was one of simplicity and generous service, and he is a model of masculine virtue for both husbands and priests.

While many Catholics today may feel that they are living in uncertainty or their beliefs are facing attacks, Chaput said, “I think this is actually a privileged moment; a moment when we get to prove who we really are and what we really believe.”

He pointed to the words of Lumen Gentium, which teach that Mary, “the mother of Jesus … is the image and beginning of the Church as [she] is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise [the Church] shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim people of God.”

“That’s the image we need to nourish in our hearts — especially in times of confusion and scandal — to keep us focused on the reality of the Church that gives life to her institutional forms,” the archbishop said.

Brooklyn diocese teaming with NYPD to search for church vandalĀ 

New York City, N.Y., Sep 18, 2019 / 10:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Brooklyn is partnering with the New York Police Department to find a woman suspected of causing thousands of dollars in damage to a Catholic parish in Queens over the last two weeks.

“This person needs to be brought to justice. We are working with the NYPD and we need to continue to foster an environment of respect,” said John Quaglione, a spokesman for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The attack on Saint Gerard Majella Catholic Church in the Hollis section of Queens, New York, has caused an estimated $10,000 in damages. Some of the damaged objects had recently been purchased through a fundraised by the Generation of Faith Diocesan campaign.

A woman was first caught on the church’s security cameras on Sept. 8, damaging two parish sign signs and tearing down potted plants. On Sept. 15, the same woman can be seen on security footage vandalising the sprinkler system and rosary plaques, the diocese said. She appeared carrying heavy tools, including a hack saw, which was used to remove a handrail on an outside staircase.

The identity of the woman is unknown. The authorities have asked anyone with information on the vandal to call CRIME STOPPERS at (800) 577-TIPS.

“It’s a kick in the stomach. It hurts,” said the Rev. Joseph Jude Gannon, pastor of Saint Gerard Catholic Church.

“It’s also a matter of time to make sure we get her before she hurts herself or others or before it escalates to something else,” he told CBS2 of the suspect.

Ganon specifically lamented the damage to the rosary plaques, which are handcrafted and imported from Italy. Twenty rosary tablets were torn down from stations around the church. All of them were thrown in the trash and several were broken. The damaged plaques will be sent to Italy for repair.

“These are hurtful attacks against the image of Mary and the parish,” said Gannon in a recent statement. “Such acts of religious intolerance have no place within our society, and every house of worship, regardless of their beliefs, should be respected.”

Bishops in US make the Real Presence a focus of their catechesis

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Six weeks after a Pew Research study found that only one-third of Catholics in the US believe that the bread and wine become at Mass the body and blood of Christ, bishops across the country are writing to the faithful in the hopes of educating them about this central tenet of the Catholic faith.

The study, released in early August, found that 31% of U.S. Catholics they surveyed believe that the bread and wine used in the Eucharist, through a process called transubstantiation, become the body and blood of Christ — a fundamental teaching of the Catholic faith, known as the Real Presence.

Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria has released his 2020 annual teaching document, “The Real Presence”, a year early in the hopes of a renewed witness to the Real Presence.

“I...ask that this year and in coming years, at parish councils, religious houses, faculty meetings, chaplain meetings, RCIA and catechetical meetings, that our entire Local Church look for ways to reinforce our teaching and witness regarding the Blessed Sacrament,” Jenky wrote Sept. 16.

“It is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church, revealed by the Holy Spirit and preserved from any possibility of error, that the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ are truly and substantially present in the Most Holy Eucharist. This is not an opinion to be measured against any opinion poll but rather Divine Revelation as expressed by the absolute authority of Scripture and Tradition.”

In his letter, Jenky encouraged Eucharistic devotions such as Benediction, processions, visits, holy hours, and quiet times of personal prayer before the tabernacle.

“These Eucharistic devotions are obviously also intended to deepen our conscious recognition of the centrality of the Real Presence of Jesus within the liturgy of the Mass,” he wrote.

“Quiet Masses, sung Masses, solemn Masses, and especially the ordinary ritual Masses for weddings and funerals are certainly great opportunities to witness to our faith in the Eucharist as a pastoral gift to those who may have been poorly catechized or even have fallen away.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1374 states: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained’...it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

In the Pew Research study, 69 percent of Catholics surveyed reported their belief that the bread and wine used during the Eucharist “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” This mindset made up a majority in every age group surveyed.

“Most Catholics who believe that the bread and wine are symbolic do not know that the church holds that transubstantiation occurs,” Pew reported.

“Overall, 43% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are symbolic and also that this reflects the position of the church. Still, one-in-five Catholics (22%) reject the idea of transubstantiation, even though they know about the church’s teaching.”

Interestingly, a small percentage of those surveyed— 3%— claimed to believe in the Real Presence despite not knowing that this is what the Church teaches.

Bishop Jenky pointed to what he sees as a “noticeable decline in our ritual reverence and recognition” in recent decades.

“Sometimes our churches may seem more like hotel lobbies than an awesome House of God,” Jenky said.

Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon addressed his flock in August regarding the results of the survey.

“These results have to be a real wake up call for all of us,” he wrote Aug. 30.

“To simply shrug our shoulders at such disturbing news and move on with business as usual is simply not an option. We must do everything in our power to reverse this trend. People will more easily grow lax in the practice of their faith, or drop out altogether, if they don’t understand and believe the mystery we celebrate in the Holy Eucharist and how that drives everything else we do in the ministry of the Church.”

Sample challenged those in the archdiocese’ Catholic schools, parish religious education programs, and adult faith formation programs to put a greater emphasis on the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist.

He also paralleled Jenky’s assessment of an overall decline in reverence for the Eucharist over the years.

“To put it bluntly, we have lost much of the reverence, awe and respect for the Holy Eucharist that we once had in the Church. How we celebrate the Holy Mass and treat the Blessed Sacrament are at the heart of this,” he said.

In robota Christi? Why robots can never be Catholic priestsĀ 

Denver, Colo., Sep 18, 2019 / 04:34 pm (CNA).- Once a man is ordained a priest for the Catholic Church, he acts, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “in persona Christi capitis”: in the person of Christ the Head.

During the ordination ceremony, the priest’s hands are anointed with oil, he lies prostrate on the ground to symbolize the laying down of his life, and the bishop’s hands are laid on his head. Like baptism and confirmation, ordination leaves an “indelible mark” on the priest’s soul.

During his priesthood, the priest uses his mouth to preach and to speak the words of blessing and consecration, his hands to elevate and distribute the Eucharist, and his heart, mind and soul to pray.

Now, what if the priest were a robot?

In an interview with Vox, Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, who holds the Josephine C. Connelly Endowed Chair of Theology at Villanova University, said that Catholicism should “reimagine” the priesthood and consider robots instead of, or alongside, men.

“The Catholic notion would say the priest is ontologically changed upon ordination. Is that really true?” Delio told Vox. “We have these fixed philosophical ideas and AI challenges those ideas - it challenges Catholicism to move toward a post-human priesthood.”

Delio said robotic priests would have certain advantages - including being incapable of committing sexual abuse.

But numerous Catholic experts told CNA that a robot priest would be sacramentally impossible in the Catholic Church, explicitly because they are not humans.

Sister Mary Christa Nutt, RSM, told CNA that robots cannot be priests because they are incapable of having an intellect or a will with which to cooperate with God’s grace.

“It has to do with our Catholic understanding of the need for human mediation, cooperation with interior grace,” Nutt told CNA.

“We're not dualists,” she said. “So we don't separate the importance of the rites, and the bodily involvement of all the senses in the rites are very important. But they don't of themselves suffice. There has to be the interior cooperation of intellect and will.”

Robots are programmed, she said, and are incapable of having a will and an intellect or an interior prayer life of their own. A human soul, conformed to Christ, and belonging to someone willing to participate in the sacraments, is what makes the grace of those sacraments efficacious, she said.

“We believe that the priest is in the person of Christ, so only a human being can participate in the person of Christ with intellect and will,” Nutt said.

“How would a robot cooperate by intellect and will interiorly with grace to be conformed to Christ ontologically? It just makes absolutely no sense. It's so outside the realm of possibility when you have a sacramental logic and you have absolutely no dualism in the religion,” she said.

Fr. John Kartje is the rector of Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. Kartje told CNA that his background in physics meant that he found the story about the possibility of robot priests intriguing.

He said that according to the article, Buddhist priests might be possible, because they are people simply guiding people along a path. But for Catholics, he said, their faith necessitates an encounter with a person - God.

“For Christians, prayer or any sort of religious activity is not primarily a path, but it's an encounter with a person...with God. And so, that for me is the fundamental distinction. What the priest is doing, he's acting in persona Christi, in the person of Christ,” Kartje said.

“He's also helping to facilitate in a sacramental way making really present that encounter between the Catholic and the divine, but not just the divine as some sort of vague concept, but with the real person of God, that real person of Jesus Christ.”

Kartje added that that does not mean that Catholics should fear technological advancements or even artificial intelligence, because these can be helpful, even in the context of faith.

“I mean, in some degree, we all make use of simple artificial intelligence without thinking about it in the same way. Our phones are based on algorithms, which make decisions without our directly being involved with them,” he said. “Most priests have breviaries on their phones, which program ahead and let us pull up the (daily Mass) readings.”

Sister Nutt also said that technology can be a helpful tool in learning the faith. In the Vox article, author Sigal Samuel mentions the SanTO robots, developed by a Japanese roboticist, which resemble saint figurines and can recite certain prayers if prompted.

Such robots, Nutt said, could help children memorize prayers, but “the prayer has no significance outside of its material reality, unless it's said by a human being who offers it to God interiorly.”

When we are faced with advanced technologies, Fr. Kartje said, we should allow the questions that they bring about to help us hone our understanding and definitions of human beings and free will.

Still, he said, a robot could never replace a person, because it cannot encounter God or act on its own free will.

“A robot is the encounter of an algorithm with the natural world, and a human is the encounter of the divine with the natural world,” he said.

Dr. Kevin Miller, an associate professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, told CNA that in order to understand the priesthood, Catholics must look to Jesus Christ. And Jesus is, decidedly, not a robot.

“The sacraments are instituted by Christ and configure us to Christ in various ways. In Christ, God the Son took on a human nature ‘for us men (human beings) and for our salvation,’” he said, quoting the Nicene Creed.

“The sacraments are part of the same saving plan. The sacraments are for human beings, in the sense that they can be neither received nor administered by robots or AI devices or the like (or any other non-human created beings),” he said.

“All of this is, pace Sister Ilia Delio, ‘really true,’ and cannot be ‘reimagined.’”