Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Naomh An Lae - Saint Of The Day

visitationThe Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth

The image is one Fra Angelico's depiction of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. 

The sonnet below, entitled The Visitation, and today's feast, celebrate one wonderful moment of our salvation as Mary shares with Elizabeth the arrival of the "hidden God". 

The poem was written by American poet Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918), author of Trees. It has a dedication to fellow American poet, Louise Imogen Guiney. 

A sergeant in the 165th US Infantry Regiment, Kilmer was killed at the Second Battle of Marne in 1918 at the age of 31.

There is a wall of flesh before the eyes
Of John, who yet perceives and hails his King.
It is Our Lady’s painful bliss to bring
Before mankind the Glory of the skies.
Her cousin feels her womb’s sweet burden rise
And leap with joy, and she comes forth to sing,
With trembling mouth, her words of welcoming.
She knows her hidden God, and prophesies.
Saint John, pray for us, weary souls that tarry
Where life is withered by sin’s deadly breath.
Pray for us, whom the dogs of Satan harry,
Saint John, Saint Anne, and Saint Elizabeth.
And, Mother Mary, give us Christ to carry
Within our hearts, that we may conquer death.

May - Month of Mary

Sé do Beatha Mhuire

Sé do Beatha Mhuire,
Tá lán do ghrást, Tá an Tiarna leat.
Is beannaithe thú idir mhná
Agus is beannaithe toradh do bhrionne Íosa.
A Naomh Mhuire mháthair Dé
Ghúi orainn na bpeacaí
Anois agus ar uair ár mbáis. 

Prayer To Saint Matthew

O Glorious Saint Matthew, in your Gospel you portray Jesus as the longed-for Messiah who fulfilled the Prophets of the Old Covenant and as the new Lawgiver who founded a Church of the New Covenant. 
Obtain for us the grace to see Jesus living in his Church and to follow his teachings in our lives on earth so that we may live forever with him in heaven.

Down & Dromore rector is new Bishop of Clogher

The House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland meeting Monday in Dublin appointed the Revd John McDowell, Rector of St Mark's Dundela in the Diocese of Down and Dromore as the new Bishop of Clogher, to succeed the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, who was recently enthroned as the new Archbishop of Dublin. 

The appointment of the new bishop had passed to the House of Bishops as the Episcopal Electoral College which met on 4 May failed to make an appointment.

Announcing the appointment of the Revd John McDowell, the Most Revd Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said: 'I am delighted that the House of Bishops has appointed John McDowell to be the next Bishop of Clogher. He has been an outstanding Rector in his current parish and also a very highly regarded Clerical Honorary Secretary of the General Synod. John McDowell brings many gifts that will benefit the Diocese of Clogher. Gifts that are pastoral, administrative and intellectual. His new Diocese can be assured that their new Bishop will maintain the best traditions of the Church of Ireland with an openness to that broad spectrum which is characteristic of this Province of the Anglican Communion.’

Responding, the Revd John McDowell said: "I am very conscious of the privilege of being elected a bishop in the Church of God. My first task will be to get to know the clergy and people of the diocese of Clogher, whom I look forward to serving. The parishes where I have served have taught me much about the strengths of the Irish Anglican tradition and I am particularly indebted to my first vicar, the Venerable Stephen McBride for his encouragement and advice then and throughout my ministry."

The Revd John McDowell also serves as the Clerical Honorary Secretary for the Diocese of Down and since 2009, has acted as one of the Clerical Honorary Secretaries of the General Synod. 

He is married to Mary (daughter of the late Rev SR Jackson) and they have one daughter Dorothy.

The consecration of the new bishop will take place in due course, followed by enthronement in the diocesan cathedrals in due course.

Second Catholic priest sworn in as House chaplain

The Rev. Patrick Conroy was sworn in Wednesday (May 25) as House chaplain, making him the first Jesuit to hold the position, and the first candidate forced to navigate around the Catholic Church's abuse scandal.

"It's clear this loyal servant of the faithful is uniquely suited to serve as chaplain of the people's House," Speaker John Boehner said, noting that the chaplain "is the anchor of the House."

"Leader Pelosi and I have gotten a chance to know Father Pat, and we're honored that he has accepted our invitation to serve as chaplain," Boehner said.

"We are blessed to have his guidance and his wisdom as we discharge our duties and fulfill our obligations to current and future generations of Americans."

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had raised questions about Conroy, 60, after learning that the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus agreed to a $166.1 million bankruptcy settlement involving more than 500 active claims of sexual or physical abuse.

After requesting and receiving additional information, Pelosi later gave Conroy her full support. Though the dust-up was brief, Conroy referred to it as a "firestorm" that exposed the extent to which the cases remain connected to the modern church.

Conroy now becomes the 60th House chaplain and succeeds the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, who retired last month after 11 years in the position. Until his appointment, Conroy taught at Jesuit High School in Beaverton, Ore.

Institute of Christ the King to take over landmark Wirral church

A traditionalist order has agreed to take over a landmark church in the Wirral that was closed for worship three years ago.

The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) will establish its first house in England and Wales in Church of Ss Peter and Paul, New Brighton, later this year.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury and the institute’s general prior, Mgr Gilles Wach, agreed to establish the foundation in the church, which was closed amid protests three years ago.

Under the auspices of the traditionalist institute, Ss Peter and St Paul’s will become a centre for the Extraordinary Form Mass. Mgr Wach’s institute, headquartered in Gricigliano, near Florence, was given pontifical approval as a Society of Apostolic Life in 2008 and celebrates the sacraments according to the older form of the Roman Rite.

They currently have no houses in England and Wales, but send over priests from Belgium to say Sunday Mass in four English dioceses.

Bishop Davies was approached by the institute last year and met Mgr Wach after Easter to negotiate establishing the foundation. 

He also consulted with his fellow bishops in the North of England, the Patrimony Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and English Heritage about the Church’s future.

He re-opened the Dome of Home, as the Wirral Church is known, earlier this year after his predecessor closed it in 2008 as being too large and too costly to maintain.

After a concerted campaign by parishioners, the Vatican ruled in 2009 that the then Bishop Brian Noble had failed to follow the correct canonical procedure when closing the church. 

It later withdrew the ruling when it was assured that the parish’s move to a nearby Anglican parish was temporary.

A diocesan spokesman said: “The members of the institute will work in close collaboration with Fr Philip Moor, the parish priest of the Parish of the Holy Apostles and Martyrs, since it is the wish of Bishop Davies that this shrine church will express the harmony between the two usages of the one Roman Rite.

“As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, reminded us in his 2007 Moto Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, ‘there is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal’, it is the sincere hope of the bishop that this establishment will foster reconciliation at the heart of the Church: one of the express aims of the 2007 papal document.

“Finally, the foundation will ensure that the patrimony of the church building so dear to Catholics and other members of the local community is secured and continues to bear witness to the faith and mission of the Church.”

Old Catholics find home in liberal church

527FAITH1.jpgWhen the Most Rev. Michael J. Scalzi was growing up as a Roman Catholic, he dreamed of becoming a priest. 

Decades later, the divorced father of three is a priest and a bishop, although not in the Roman Catholic Church.
Scalzi serves in the Old Catholic Church Province of the United States, a national church formed last September after the merger of three “Old Catholic” jurisdictions.

Old Catholics are Christians who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ but not in key elements of the Roman Catholic Church.

Scalzi heads the Old Catholic Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, which covers Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and New York.

The diocese includes the 25-member Faith Community of St. Joseph, which meets in the Unity Church in Hampden Twp., and at a church forming near Newark, N.J.

“We are not an angry faith community,” Scalzi said. “We’re a welcoming and inclusive church, an ancient faith serving the modern world. I see the Roman Catholic Church as our mother church. It deserves respect. Like the Roman Catholic Church, we celebrate the seven sacraments.”

The Old Catholic Church has clear differences from the Roman Catholic Church, Scalzi said.

Old Catholics allow married and divorced priests. Roman Catholics don’t.

Old Catholics allow women priests. Roman Catholics don’t.

Old Catholics allow gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender priests. Roman Catholics don’t.

Old Catholics celebrate same-sex marriages. Roman Catholics don’t.

Old Catholics do not believe in all the teachings of the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholics do.

Old Catholics are not in unity and Communion with the Pope, although Scalzi said they respect him. They do not recognize Pope Benedict XVI as the supreme head of the church nor his infallibility on matters of faith. Roman Catholics do.

Locally, Old Catholics are not part of the Diocese of Harrisburg and under the leadership of Bishop Joseph P. McFadden. Roman Catholics are.

Scalzi doesn’t like his church to be called “schismatic” because “schismatic is such an ugly word. It smacks of anger and ‘anti-isms,’ both of which we are not.”

He said that the predecessors of the Old Catholic Church broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1800s over the issue of papal infallibility.

“Our church is a democracy in its operations,” Deacon Madeleine Redmond said. “We’re a church of the people. We believe in the participation of the laity on every level, fully promoting the equality of the baptized with the ordained clergy.”

As a deacon, Redmond helps set up the Unity Church altar into an Old Catholic one for the weekly Old Catholic Mass that Scalzi celebrates at 5 p.m. Saturdays. She also assists at the Mass.

Rebecca Brooks, executive board secretary for the Faith Community of St. Joseph, said she finds spiritual nourishment in those Masses.

“I grew up as a Roman Catholic,” she said. “But I felt, as a female, I was looked down upon in the Roman Catholic Church. ... I felt that I couldn’t speak to a Roman Catholic priest about marriage because he’s never been married. Here, I feel included.”

Redmond said she likes that her church does not require formal confession and doesn’t deny anyone the Eucharist.

She said she values its “warm relationship” with the Unity Church.

She and Scalzi said they found what they were looking for spiritually in their church and hope others can, too.

Scalzi was married and fathered three daughters. When his marriage ended after 15 years, he said he felt called to the priesthood but didn’t qualify as a divorced Roman Catholic.

“My soul found a home,” he said. “I was ordained a priest in the American Catholic Church in 1994 in New York. I came to Harrisburg with a dream but not a church or congregation.”

He invited 50 friends to his first service at the Holiday Inn Harrisburg East in Swatara Township.

Only two people came the next few weeks, Scalzi and one of his daughters.

Then, he said, his congregation started growing.

Over the years as an American Catholic Church, he rented spaces from hotels, churches, municipal buildings and even a funeral home.

Redmond said she disagreed with the Roman Catholic church on some “lifestyle issues.”

She said she tried a Methodist Church for five years, then was “un-churched” a few years before finding the Old Catholic Church. She’s been there ever since and became a deacon last September.

“Ever since I’ve been a little girl, God’s been under my skin,” she said.

“When I came here, I felt renewed, invigorated and wonderful. I was a lost soul. Now, I really know who God is.”

Miami Archdiocese Facing Sex Abuse Suit

The Archdiocese of Miami is facing yet another lawsuit by a man who claims he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest in the 1970s.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, claims Father Francisco Carrera sexually abused Jorge Rubio when he was a 10-year-old in approximately 1976.

"He became an extension of my family. We trusted him with everything," Rubio said at a press conference Thursday.

Carrera was assigned at Our Lady of Divine Providence at the time of the alleged abuse, and became close to the Rubio family to obtain their confidence and trust, the lawsuit claims.

Rubio said Carrera was known for being a camper and often set up trips and invited boys form the church to go on overnight trips.

The suit claims Carrera abused Rubio twice, once at Rubio's house while his parents were asleep and a second time while the two slept alone in a tent during a camping trip.

The lawsuit claims the Archdiocese was aware of the alleged abuse by Carrera and that it covered up for him by transferring him to different parishes and eventually back to his native Spain.

"Everybody should be held accountable," Rubio said. "Someone in that position should be held even more accountable."

In a statement issued Thursday, The Archdiocese said Carrera has resided in his home Diocese of Salamanca, Spain, since the early 1980s.

"As always, the Catholic Church’s concerns are for the victims and a prevailing sense of justice," the statement said. 

"In addition, over these past nine years, the Archdiocese has been forthcoming and taken steps to keep children safe through training and background screenings of all its employees."

New wave of conservatism as migrants bolster Catholic Church

IN 2003, religious writer Chris McGillion authored a book on the Australian Catholic Church called A Long Way from Rome in which he argued that while the church in Australia had changed radically, Rome had not. 

Ironically, McGillion's liberal analysis was published just before a stern warning from Pope Benedict that Australia was one of the few countries in the world where true secularism had taken hold, the church being pushed out of the "public square", and possibly in danger of extinction.

Either way, the events of the past few years, and particularly in the Queensland diocese of Toowoomba this month, would seem to confirm it is more than the tyranny of distance that separates the Australian Catholic Church from Rome.

The removal of Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba has been a drawn-out affair that goes back nearly 10 years, and has been played out against a nationwide background of the usual ills of the church in most developed Western countries: an increasing liberalisation in doctrinal matters, disaffected congregations, a decline in practice, particularly among the young, and a dearth in vocations which, having reached its nadir, is possibly improving.
Add to this a quota of sex abuse scandals and you have a situation where the church's internal upheavals are regarded as fair subject for comment by the secular press.
Morris first got into real trouble as early as 1993 over his drawing up of guidelines allowing the use of general absolution in the diocese. Critics saw it as the thin edge of the wedge for taking away the sense of personal sin.

His acrimonious dispute with formidable Nigerian-born Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, should have rung warning bells. It is an interesting caution for foolish people who think a new world cardinal would be a more progressive candidate for the papacy. On the contrary, the new world is far more conservative than the old.
Meanwhile, back in Queensland, which in the past had been a bastion of old-fashioned Irish-Catholic tradition, there is a growing group of dissatisfied conservatives, sometimes referred to by the radicals as "restorationists".

Toowoomba is not unique.

The reaction against do-it-yourself liturgies and make-up-your-own doctrine is understandable when one looks at the most extreme example, the complete break with orthodox sacraments practised in Brisbane by Peter Kennedy.
Consequently, a polarisation is emerging in the Catholic Church between doctrinal and liturgically orthodox minorities (some championing a revival of the Latin mass) and the mainstream, infected in various degrees with irreverence, lax practices and, in its most extreme manifestations, heresy.

Pity the confused everyday middle-of-the-road Catholic.

To non-Catholics these divisions seem unimportant because Morris was, and is, popular and in one particular area an effective and decisive pastor. Although the sex abuse scandals have not been as catastrophic in Australia as they have been in the US and Ireland, it has been because of the foresight of the so-called conservative Cardinal George Pell in setting up mechanisms to deal with them.
However, Morris was one of the few Australian bishops to act personally and immediately in the matter of child sexual abuse by a former teacher in a Catholic school. Controversially, he insisted on sacking a principal who failed to take action over his suspicions about a teacher who was later convicted of rape, and for this Morris rightly won plaudits from the Toowoomba flock.
Since the announcement of Morris's sacking on May 2 his situation has become something of cause celebre in the secular press, and there has been a general outpouring of sympathy in mainstream congregations for him in places as far from Toowoomba as Canberra and Sydney, including impromptu sermons greeted with applause. Sources close to the hierarchy say half of an informal meeting of bishops wanted to send a letter of protest to Rome on behalf of Morris.
That the simmering discontent of the Australian hierarchy has bubbled over on this issue is not surprising. The church in Australia, both priests and laity, partly because of its origins in the Irish convict-descended underclass, and its traditional links with the Labor movement, has always emphasised social action over doctrinal purity.

Since the 70s the Australian church has moved rapidly to the Left, with doctrinal orthodoxy almost gone in many institutions, especially schools. It is a phenomenon of a church under the thrall of secularism that although the schools are bursting with kids, there are no babies crying any more in church on Sunday.

Nevertheless, the Catholic Church is still influential in Australian public life.

That is partly because Catholics make up the biggest religious denomination in Australia (about one-third of the population) and partly because of the huge numbers attending Catholic schools: at least one-third of the total school population attend Catholic schools and in some places such as Canberra, a bastion of the green Left, it is 50 per cent.

However, this influence is in inverse proportion to its doctrinal strength and to the numbers of practising Catholics, who have dwindled, says the 2006 census, to about 11 per cent.
One reason suggested for this decline is the very liberalism that has flourished since Vatican II, which Australians embraced enthusiastically.

The results were pretty disastrous, particularly with the next generation, who have received a particularly poor quality of catechesis and have been exposed to a very substandard liturgy.
The results show in the lack of priests, with 20 per cent fewer in 2005 than in 1971.
Many priests left in the wake of post-Vatican II liberalism and there was a steep decline in vocations. Ten years ago numbers ordained in Sydney had dwindled to single figures.

However, recent figures are now showing a steady increase. For example, there are now 50 at the Good Shepherd seminary in Sydney and last year 35 were ordained.

The reason for this is twofold. First there has been an influx of Catholic immigrants, particularly in Sydney and in Melbourne. The new face of Australian Catholicism is largely Asian, Vietnamese, Filipinos and Indians, particularly in city congregations. Along with this is a revival in conservative practices in Australia, particularly among these groups. This seems to be an indication of something that is obvious across the world.
The church's decline is most obvious in the liberal parishes, with a younger, more vibrant group among the more doctrinally orthodox conservatives.

This is happening across Australia.

This was starkly illustrated during Sydney's World Youth Day in 2008 when, to the shock of many, young people from across the world brought their own orthodox brand to Sydney.

Morris's Toowoomba spruikers should take heed.

Child abuse tests how the church relates to the secular world (Contribution)

The John Jay report into sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics, commissioned by the US church itself, is one of the most comprehensive documents that the church has published anywhere in the world on the sexual scandal that has caused it so much embarrassment and its victims so much grief. 

The portrait it paints of the abusers themselves are of isolated, vulnerable individuals who had difficulties in bonding with others in normal relationships, who led stressful lives and were likely to have been abused themselves. And as the report itself says:
"Priest-abusers are similar to sex offenders in the general population. They had motivation to commit the abuse (for example, emotional congruence to adolescents), exhibited techniques of neutralization to excuse and justify their behaviour, took advantage of opportunities to abuse (for example, through socialization with the family), and used grooming techniques to gain compliance from potential victims."
So why has there been quite so much outrage about sexual abuse of minors by priests, more than, say, of sexual abuse of minors by scout masters, or doctors, or teachers?  

Andrew Brown in Comment is free last week put paid to the notion that there are more abusers among the Catholic priesthood than among other groups. So it's not the frequency of occurrence that is the problem. The disgust, I would suggest, is rightly felt in one way because the exploitation and abuse of children is so terrible a deed.

But we also feel that disgust so intensely because we all – not just Catholics, but society at large – expect Catholic priests to be different, to not be so reprehensible in their behaviour. 

And a major reason for that is that we have all bought into the problem: we have accepted the view that priests are different, that they are in an elevated position from the rest of us, that they are somehow holier. 

And if they are holier, they are above the usual human frailties. Too many of us assumed that priests would not be capable of such actions, that they should be treated specially and differently from anybody else accused of heinous crimes.

Faith is essential to religion, but this was blind faith. The institution of the Catholic church for years promoted clericalism with this view of the elevated priest above the laity, and it was barely questioned.

In his 2010 letter to the Catholics of Ireland about the abuse scandal, the pope did go some way to acknowledge the situation, speaking of the shame and remorse that he feels. This was also the man who spoke of "the filth in the church" just before he was elected pope. 

But Benedict's letter also showed the inherent weaknesses of the church's position, suggesting that the solution was greater spiritual devotion of the faithful. While he did acknowledge the role of clericalism, at least in the Irish context, he also shifted blame for the crisis on to secular culture as well.

For the Irish Catholics who love the church – and indeed those elsewhere who love the church – the idea that the clerical abuse crisis might be down to their lack of devotion is deeply depressing. As to the idea that the secular culture might be the cause – a view also promoted by the John Jay report – it is hard to understand why the church would come to this conclusion. 

For while the report concludes that the rise in abuse cases mirrors changes in American society in the 1960s and the 1970s – the "Woodstock era" of increased sexual permissiveness – it also reveals that 70% of abusers were ordained before the 1970s, that more abusers were educated in the seminaries in the 1940s and 1950s than any other era, and that abuse cases have tailed off. So an external permissive culture seems unlikely to be a cause.

The sex abuse crisis is a test of the church's relationship with the secular world. Blaming the outside for its internal ills won't help. Nor will encouraging the idea that the laity and the priestly caste are separate and different.

The laity helped blow the whistle on what the church was keeping secret. 

When Catholics hear sermons about Doubting Thomas, who wouldn't believe until he saw the evidence of the risen Christ with his own eyes, he is not usually described as a man to be admired. 

But the sex abuse crisis shows us that Doubting Thomases, if they demand the evidence others keep hidden, are our heroes.

Cardinal Zen remembers Tiananmen victims: truth conquers through martyrs’ blood

“With faith, one is reminded of the students’ noble ideals until the day those in power would admit their mistakes,” Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, said at a special Mass commemorating the 22nd anniversary of 4 June 1989 massacre.
  The young people who paid the ultimate price did so for love and respect of their compatriots. 

“Through the Blessed John Paul II’s prayers, we are not afraid to face evil forces; through the martyrs’ blood, truth conquers,” the cardinal said to about 200 Catholics who took part in the Mass at St Margaret’s Church. Each of the participants lit a candle for China.

In 1989, tens of thousands of Chinese students and supporters of the democracy movement came together in Tiananmen Square to demand democracy, freedom and a clean government. On the night of 3-4 June, they were cut down, killed, jailed and exiled.

Chinese authorities killed the innocent and young people. They jailed the peacemakers and human rights defenders, but spared the corrupted. Members of the Catholic clergy were also jailed for more than 10 years or beaten up, the prelate said.

Citing Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan as “the Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter,” Cardinal Zen said, “We believe the martyrs’ blood and Jesus’ blood will blossom and bear fruits.”

Catholic Organisations in Support of Patriotic and Democratic Movements in China have organised commemorative Masses from 25 May to 3 June. 

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy (Psalm, 126:5)” is the theme organisers chose for this year.

Catholic organisations have also organised an exhibit, video-shows and a prayer meeting in the afternoon before the mass rally and candlelight vigil set for the evening of 4 June at Victoria Park,.

Speaking about the rally, Lee Cheuk-yan, who succeeded Szeto Wah as the chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic and Democratic Movement in China, told the press on 18 May that he expected the turnout at the rally and vigil to reach 150,000.

Given the recent crackdown on pro-democracy and human rights activists in China, the turnout may be even higher, Lee added.

Editorial articles set to appear in the 29 May issue of the Kung Kao Po and Sunday Examiner, two diocesan weeklies, urge the faithful to participate in the 4 June commemoration.

Quoting Pope Benedict’s call for prayers for China on 24 May, the articles stress how Christians can enter the mystery of the incarnation of ‘the suffering Christ who is present among His people”.

The two weeklies will also report that more than 20 Tiananmen Mothers have passed away, their families still unable to mourn publicly the death of the victims of 4 June 1989, those in exile still banned from returning even for their parents’ funerals.

Both papers praised Hong Kong legislators who, every year since 1989, have put forward a motion in the Legislative Council, calling for vindication for the events of 1989, even though it is defeated each time.

Caritas Internationalis is a church body, not philanthropic, says Pope

Benedict XVI Friday received the General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis in audience, underlining that " Caritas Internationalis differs from other social agencies in that it is ecclesial; it shares in the mission of the Church. This is what the Popes have always wanted and this is what your General Assembly is called forcefully to re-affirm". 

The Pope said that consequently the organization, composed of 165 national Caritas, has a particular task. 

"Being in the heart of the Church, being able in a certain way to speak and act in her name for the common good, entails particular responsibilities in terms of the Christian life, both personal and in community. Only on the basis of a daily commitment to accept and to live fully the love of God can one promote the dignity of each and every human being. " 

In past years there have been controversies related to Caritas’ cooperation with international agencies that do not share the Church's beliefs on human life, especially abortion. Benedict XVI today said that " all Catholics, and indeed all men and women, are called to act with purified consciences and generous hearts in resolutely promoting those values which I have often referred to as “non-negotiable". 

Benedict XVI clearly stressed the difference between philanthropy and Christian charity. " For us Christians, God himself is the source of charity; and charity is understood not merely as generic benevolence but as self-giving, even to the sacrifice of one’s life for others in imitation of the example of Jesus Christ". 

The teaching of the Church must be the reference point of the Caritas: " The experience you have garnered in these years has taught you to be advocates within the international community of a sound anthropological vision, one nourished by Catholic teaching and committed to defending the dignity of all human life. Without a transcendent foundation, without a reference to God the Creator, without an appreciation of our eternal destiny, we risk falling prey to harmful ideologies. All that you say and do, the witness of your lives and activities, remains important and contributes to the advancement of the integral good of the human person". 

Caritas, in its different national and international expression must be united with the Church: "This implies a special responsibility of the Church: to be led by pastors of the Church. Since Caritas Internationalis has a universal profile and is canonically a public juridical person, the Holy See is also responsible for following its activity and exercising oversight to ensure that its humanitarian and charitable activity, and the content of its documents, are completely in accord with the Apostolic See and the Church’s Magisterium, and that it is administered in a competent and transparent manner. This distinctive identity remains the strength of Caritas Internationalis, and is what makes it uniquely effective". 

The meeting confirmed Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras as president, and appointed Frenchman Michel Roy former advocacy officer of Secours catholique Secretary-General. 

Administrator welcomes debate on religion in schools

THE debate on the future role of the Catholic Church in primary education must be conducted in a spirit of openness, the Administrator of the Diocese of Limerick said yesterday.

Fr Tony Mullins, who has taken charge of the diocese until a successor to Bishop Donal Murray is named, said the debate on the future of faith-based education was very welcome and that change is needed.

Fr Mullins said: "We must listen to each other without prejudice and respect the views of all stakeholders, especially the so far silent majority whose voice has yet to be heard.

"We live in a changing Ireland. One that is becoming increasingly diverse. It is important that we recognise that diversity of itself does not deliver inclusivity, and not diversity in and for itself, but inclusivity and mutual respect, is what we strive for.

"We can have a diverse society, which excludes some or all beliefs, or we can have a society which respects and embraces all.

He said diversity must be met with inclusivity and that students should come first, regardless of their environment or faith.

"The reality is that there is no such thing as a ‘neutral’ school ethos. In fact, a so-called neutral stance is itself a values-laden perspective and one which seeks to exclude our values from the learning process which, by definition, plays a pivotal, indeed a foundational role, in the development of the individual."

Fr Mullins said Catholics respect those who choose not to live by their values and it is only right that this is returned.

"However, this respect must be equitable and reciprocated. To tell students and parents that there is no place for faith in the school is to tell them that there is a fundamental part of themselves that they must leave outside the classroom door. There is no inclusivity in a policy of this type." Fr Mullins said.

He said diversity in education should not be viewed as a threat.

"It is to be welcomed, as those schools which are faith-based can be much less apologetic about their ethos where there is an alternative available to parents who do not wish for a faith-based ethos to characterise their children’s education.

"Therefore, the challenge and the opportunity is to develop a genuine form of pluralism which is built upon respectful encounter and dialogue which recognises and facilitates difference."

Fr Mullins was speaking at a symposium on leadership in faith-based schools at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, who gave the opening address, said: "I want our school system to reflect the richness of diversity of beliefs, values and faith systems of all our citizens.

"We must adapt our school system to meet the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly diverse society and to better reflect the diversity of our citizens.

"We must now build on the education system so that it is structured to meet the needs of all our pupils. The significant societal changes that have taken place in Ireland have led to increased demands for new forms of multi-denominational and non-denominational schooling."

Priests to discuss bishops' rejection

THE ASSOCIATION of Catholic Priests is to meet in Portlaoise next Thursday, June 2nd, to discuss rejection by the Catholic bishops of their request that the introduction of the new Roman missal be postponed for five years.

The missal, produced by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, in consultation with the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, is to be introduced in all Catholic churches throughout the island by Sunday, November 27th next.

The association has expressed “pastoral, theological, linguistic and literary” concerns about texts in the new missal and its leadership team was asked at a meeting of priests in Athlone last January to seek a meeting with the bishops to discuss those concerns and to request that introduction of the missal be postponed.

A subsequent statement from the association said it was “gravely concerned that this literal translation from Latin has produced texts that are archaic, elitist and obscure and not in keeping with the natural rhythm, cadence and syntax of the English language”

It pointed out that “many women will be rightly enraged by the continued deliberate use of non-inclusive language”.

The association of priests “strongly opposes the introduction and use of any texts which will insult and offend women who are at the heart of every Christian community in Ireland”.

The statement suggested “that the Irish bishops take a lead from the German bishops, who have objected to ‘good German texts’ being replaced with ‘unfamiliar new interpretations’ and to assert the right of the Irish conference of bishops to make its own decisions in regard to the celebration of the liturgy in Ireland”.

The association has invited the bishops and some lay groups to attend next week’s meeting, which is closed to the public and media.

Illinois Catholic Charities forced out of adoption, foster-care services

Catholic Charities of Illinois has been forced to shut down its adoption and foster-care services because of new state policies that require equal treatment for same-sex couples. 

Foster-care workers for Catholic agencies in Illinois have been informed that they will be laid off because of the new policy, which takes effect on June 1. 

Church leaders had asked unsuccessfully for a waiver from the new rules, explaining that they could not follow policies that contradicted clear Church directives.

NSW priest slams Vatican

SX News
A NSW Catholic priest facing disciplinary action for expressing his support for marriage equality has slammed the Vatican for its attempts to censor him. 

Amid cheers of support at a rally for marriage equality in Sydney on Saturday, Father Joseph Sedjrari, a 12-year parish priest, criticised the Vatican for reprimanding him for committing the “crime of thought”.

“It is still criminal for the Church to think for yourself,” Sedjrari told the crowd. “Moreover, it’s even more criminal to say something.”

Sedjrari’s comments follows a letter he received from his bishop, ordering him to recant an email he sent to parliamentarians in February stating his support for marriage equality.

In that email, Sedjrari said he believed that “most Catholics are in support of equality for same-sex couples to marry the person they love”.

“I’m currently not allowed to marry same-sex couples under Australian law but given the chance, I would value any opportunity to bring any two loving adults together in married life,” the message read.

A few weeks later, Sedjrari said he was contacted by his bishop who he claims was contacted by the Christian lobby over the email.

“The angry bishop stated, ‘Unfortunately, the content of your email has become widely known and is cause for scandal’. I was ordered to recant my opinion and face disciplinary action,” Sedjrari said.

“I was glad to face whatever disciplinary action that comes just because I have committed the crime of thought.”

Sedjrari slammed the Vatican for its attempts at silencing parishioners on “hot topics” such as women priests, priestly marriage, abortion and euthanasia.

“However, the worst of the worst of all thought crimes a priest can commit is to actually say something about marriage equality,” he said.

Sedjrari, who has worked within the Catholic Church for two decades, urged rally participants not to become complacent.

“Please do not think for a moment that equality will just happen over time. The Christian lobbies are there working hard to make sure it won’t happen. Please get involved with whatever organisation you think is really enhancing civil liberties, civil rights, human rights and equality. I came here to reiterate this year’s Mardi Gras message: ‘say something’.”

Vatican calls for stronger assistance to victims of piracy

Shipbuilders and owners must adopt stronger security measures to prevent their vessels from falling prey to pirates, and international maritime organizations must be committed to helping the families of sailors held hostage, the Vatican said.

"The phenomenon is not decreasing, considering that already (in 2011) there have been 214 new episodes with 26 ships and 522 sailors still held hostage by pirates," said a statement May 26 from the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

The council, which discussed the piracy issue in February at a meeting of regional directors of the Apostleship of the Sea, said international organizations have focused on "safeguarding ships and their cargoes. Unfortunately, little attention is given to the sailors and, especially, to their families during and after their kidnapping, leaving shipping companies with the responsibility of assisting those involved."

The Vatican called on the international community to continue looking for ways to increase maritime safety, but also to make a greater commitment to fighting the root causes of piracy, which are poverty and social unrest, as seen in the concentration of piracy cases off the coast of Somalia.

Addressing the sailors held hostage, the Vatican urged them not to lose hope and to keep their faith strong.

Addressing the hostages' family members, the pontifical council said they should feel free to turn to the Apostleship of the Sea or any Stella Maris seafarers' center anywhere in the world for support and assistance.

The Vatican asked all Christians to pray that God would protect the people who work on the seas and it appealed to pirates to "stop their criminal activities" and recognize that their hostages deserve to be treated with respect.

The Apostleship of the Sea, it said, is ready to work with governments, international organizations, shipping lines and seafarers' unions "to alleviate the suffering of the sailors held hostage and to give spiritual and psychological support to their families."

Seminarians are to learn Latin Mass

The national seminary at Maynooth has discussed how the college's programme can be updated to train future priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass.

It comes after a new Vatican document (Universae Ecclesiae) on the 'extraordinary form' Latin Mass said ''future priests should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite''.

Maynooth president Msgr Hugh Connolly told The Irish Catholic that the college has ''had discussions in recent months as to how this curriculum may be supplemented to include an introduction to celebrating in the extraordinary form''.

He said that other seminaries in these islands sometimes provide courses in the Tridentine Mass for seminarians and that Maynooth ''is also very happy to host or indeed organise one of these courses in the future''.

However, he warned that a ''judicious balance must always be sought between the disparities of aptitudes and abilities for Latin among seminarians, the need for a dignified celebration of the Holy Eucharist whether in the ordinary or extraordinary form; and gauging the likely extent of pastoral demand for these services at parish level''.

The new Vatican instruction insists that to celebrate the extraordinary form, a sufficient knowledge of Latin ''allowing the priest to pronounce the words correctly and understand their meaning'' is required.

Date for sentencing arguments set for bishop caught with child pornography

Disgraced Catholic bishop Raymond Lahey is to have a sentencing hearing for his child-pornography conviction on June 24.

The date — for submissions on how long a sentence he should serve, not likely for a sentence to be imposed — was set by Crown and defence lawyers and a judge in Ottawa court last Thursday morning. 

Lahey, then the bishop of Antigonish in Nova Scotia, was caught with child pornography on his laptop computer when he was passing through the Ottawa airport in summer 2009 after a trip abroad.

He pleaded guilty on May 4 to possessing child pornography for the purpose of importation and voluntarily went to jail then, since the crime carries a mandatory jail sentence and he chose to start serving that time immediately. 

He retains his rank in the Catholic Church until a canonical disciplinary process concludes.

Lahey had been a central figure in settling a lawsuit against his diocese over the sexual abuse of children by priests in Nova Scotia. 

The diocese agreed to pay $15 million.

The material he was caught with in Ottawa, about five weeks later, included photographs and stories featuring the humiliation and degradation of young boys.

Marriages 'better off in church'

gatt-weddings.jpgCATHOLICS should be encouraged to seek Church weddings over garden weddings or the registrar’s office, as the latter two can cause a domino effect of cutting off from the Church and misery, said Osborne Park parish priest Fr Michael Gatt. 

A number of letters and emails he’s received from people who married in his church praising the dignity and sanctity they feel their marriage has because of the ceremony has inspired him to produce a poster with photos and quotes from them to display in St Kieran’s.

He hopes it serves as a positive reminder to all who darken the doorway of St Kieran’s Church that marrying in a church is a powerful force for good as it prompts positive life choices from that point on – including baptising their children.

Even if they don’t attend Mass regularly, marrying in a church gives them that call to return to the sacraments for the big occasions like weddings, and it is at these times when the parish community must embrace them so they may become a part of the community – and practising Catholics.

Even the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton “did so much good to the sanctity of marriage all over the world as the people watched the royals kneeling down in the ceremony …  it was beautiful for everybody”, Fr Gatt said.

Similarly, the happiness on the faces of the newly wed couples on his poster “speaks more than our words. I was impressed by what they had to say”.

“People don’t think much about religion today, and some Catholics are in two minds about having their marriage in the Church,” Fr Gatt said

“We are there to support and encourage them to tell them what it’s all about. Weddings are sacraments between Christians, so in the Church they have the benefit of the prayers of the family, which is also a reminder not to let the family down.

“Many parents who spent thousands of dollars on Catholic education are broken hearted because their children went to the public registry; they don’t come to church, they don’t baptise their children, and the children are miserable because they drifted from the Church.

“A whole litany of things follow when people don’t get married in the Church. Marriage in a church leads to Baptism, Catholic education and a litany of positive follows. But this chain of goodness is cut because they chose to get married in a garden with a marriage celebrant; by doing it, they cut themselves off from the Church. This upsets their Catholic parents, and it affects the family their whole life. The more we help them to stay in the faith, the better. If they have the wedding in the Church, even if they don’t practise every Sunday but know they are of our congregation, it is helpful.”

“For example, to see the 500 in the street procession for the Italian feast of the Annunziata on 15 May, there were people there you don’t find every Sunday,” yet they made that public expression of faith, he said. 

There can even be hidden graces in “mixed marriages” where one spouse is not Catholic. For the non-Catholic spouse to come to Mass to have the blessing in Holy Communion, “this is something that’s great, as he comes to support his wife. That’s something we promote, support and admire, because after all it’s about the gift of faith”.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Naomh An Lae - Saint Of The Day

St Joan of Arc (1412-31) the maid of France

Her early life 

Jeanne la Pucelle, "Joan the Maid", was born in 1412 at Domremy, in the Vosges region of Lorraine, north-eastern France. 

There was little to distinguish her as a child from other children of the region. Illiterate but highly intelligent, from the age of fourteen she began to experience inner promptings or "voices" telling her she had a mission to win back the French kingdom from the English. 

However, she kept these voices secret for five years until in January 1429 she persuaded a captain of Vaucouleurs to give her an escort to go to meet the Dauphin (the king's son and heir) at Chinon.

Background history 

Previous to this in 1415, King Henry V of England had scored a significant victory over the French army of King Charles VI at the battle of Agincourt. 

Following further reverses, France agreed at the Treaty of Troyes (May 20, 1420) that the English king, Henry, would marry the French king's daughter, Catherine of Valois, that the French throne would pass to England on King Charles's death, thus bypassing and excluding the Dauphin, the French king's son Charles, who was then seventeen years old.

However, when both Henry V and Charles VI died in 1422, Henry's brother, John of Lancaster, first Duke of Bedford, acting as regent for his nephew, Henry VI, then only nine months old, undertook to complete the conquest by tracking down the Dauphin, who had taken refuge beyond the Loire. 

He then laid siege to Orleans, which by its strategic location north of the Loire made it the last obstacle to an assault on the French heartland.

This is the background of events which led to Joan's decision to follow the voices and take steps to implement her mission. 

Much of northern France as well as Burgundy was now in the hands of the English.

The campaign

Joan impressed the Dauphin at their first meeting, but he had theologians interrogate her for three weeks at Poitiers, and after being reassured, she was given a suit of armour and a staff of attendants and joined the army at Blois. 

Ten days later they had raised the seige of Orleans. Whether she took part in strategic planning is uncertain or was there as a staff bearer, there is no doubt that her presence at the head of the army and her belief in her mission strengthened the morale of the soldiers. 

A wound in her breast from an arrow only served to enhance her reputation. A victory followed at Patay, Troyes surrendered and Joan persuaded the Dauphin to be crowned as King Charles VII of France at Rheims, with Joan standing at his side with her standard.

Capture, trial and execution

Although keen to press on to Paris, the French did not maintain their advantage and she received a royal message to withdraw. She went to Compiègne, where the Burgundians captured her and sold her to the English. 

The English attributed her success to witchcraft and wanted her tried and condemned by the Church. Charles made no attempt to save her. Imprisoned at Rouen, the seat of the English occupation government, she was tried for witchcraft and heresy at an ecclesiastical court of the bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon. 

The charges against her were that she was in league with the devil, wore men's clothes and disobeyed the Church.

Although ostensibly a church trial, in fact it was politically motivated. Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvais, under whose jurisdiction it was conducted, was an English partisan.

It was financed by the English. Joan's request to have "ecclesiastics of the French side" at her trial was refused.

Although she answered he accusers with shrewdness and without fear, refusing to betray her conscience, she was found guilty. She was handed over to the civil authorities and burned at the stake in the market-place of Rouen on 30 May 1431. 

They reduced her body to ashes and threw them on the Seine. 

She wasn't yet twenty.

Retrial, rehabilitation and canonisation 

About twenty years later Joan's family asked for the case to be re-opened. Pope Callistus III (1455-8) appointed a commission, which after carefully examining all aspects of the case, quashed the original verdict and declared her innocent (1456). 

Another four hundred and fifty years elapsed before she was beatified in 1910 and canonised in 1920. However, the Church had not claimed her as a martyr for the faith. 

It is her integrity and simple faith that we admire: like Mary, she answered a call she saw as coming from God and she followed it to the end.