Saturday, March 25, 2023

Spanish Bishop Criticizes Constitutional Court for Upholding Euthanasia Law

File:José Ignacio Munilla 2.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

The bishop of Orihuela-Alicante in Spain, José Ignacio Munilla, criticized the Constitutional Court’s decision to uphold the country’s euthanasia law.

The court stated that the law “recognizes a right of self-determination to decide in a free, informed, and conscious manner.”

Bishop Munilla countered on Twitter: “Doesn’t suicide put an end, precisely, to self-determination?”

The prelate added to his criticism by quoting the proverb “all mushrooms are edible, but some only once,” and charged that this was a decision “in which ideology supersedes reason and law.”

The majority on the Constitutional Court considered that the euthanasia law supports the “free, informed, and conscious decision as to how and when to die” in cases of terminal illnesses or severe disability.

The court’s ruling rejected “considering solely and in isolation the fundamental right to life.”

The resolution states that the constitutional concept of life as a fundamental or legal right to be protected is not “disconnected from the will of the person who holds that right” nor is it “indifferent to their decisions on how and when to die.”

The court also said that the government has “the duty to provide the necessary means to enable the help of third parties” and thus administer euthanasia.

In addition, the court stated that palliative care “does not constitute an alternative in all situations of suffering” entailed in the law.

Two judges dissented from the ruling: Enrique Arnaldo and Concepción Espejel, who pointed out that the decision exceeds “the scope and limits of the jurisdiction that corresponds to the Court.”

In their opinion, the ruling once again creates an alleged fundamental right “to which the nature of the right to public services is tied.”

These members of the Constitutional Court maintained that the ruling imposes this law “as the only possible constitutional model” in this matter, “so that it closes off any other legislative option.”

Impartiality Challenged

The Spanish Foundation of Christian Lawyers filed a complaint against the court’s president, Cándido Conde-Pumpido, for crimes against the administration of justice for not recusing himself and not allowing judges Juan Carlos Campo and Laura Díez to recuse themselves.

When the euthanasia law was passed, Campo was Minister of Justice and Díez served as a high-ranking official within the Ministry of the Presidency.

Last February, the Christian Lawyers Association filed another complaint for the same reasons in relation to the ruling of the Constitutional Court on the abortion law approved in 2010.

Catholics Urged to Be Generous to Good Friday Collection to Benefit the Holy Land

 Homepage | Pro Terra Sancta

As in past years, a special collection will be taken in Catholic churches throughout the world on Good Friday to support Christians in the Holy Land.

The Vatican has overseen the annual Holy Land — “Pro Terra Sancta” — collection since 1974, when St. Paul VI established Good Friday as the day for it to be taken up by parishes and bishops around the world. 

This year, Good Friday falls on April 7. U.S. Catholics can donate to the collection online as well as at churches.

The collection is traditionally split, with 65% going to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which has maintained the Holy Places of Christianity in the region for more than 800 years. The remaining 35% is given to the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches to support seminarians and priests as well as educational and cultural activities. Last year the collection brought in over $9 million. 

Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, wrote in a March 24 appeal letter that Pope Francis asked him to extend an invitation to “solidarity with the Christian community of the Holy Land,” keeping alive the memory of Christianity’s origins.

“As the prophet Isaiah recalls: ‘Consider the rock from which you were hewn’ (Is 51:1),” the archbishop wrote. 

“The Church spread throughout the world with the preaching of the apostles, and each of us through baptism has become a stone called to remain united to the foundation, which is Christ the Lord, in order to construct a spiritual building. In Jerusalem are our wellsprings, and we want to remain united with the brothers and sisters who continue to testify to the Gospel there.”

Archbishop Gugerotti said the massive February earthquake in Syria and Turkey — which was felt in Jerusalem — has led to a renewed need for the charity that Christians in the Middle East and the Holy Land provide. Christians in the Holy Land “remain sources of hope by caring for the littlest ones, educating school children and youth, accompanying mothers in difficulty, attending to the elderly and the sick, as well as offering housing projects for new families and creating jobs, so that it is worthwhile continuing to stay in the Places of Salvation.”

Apart from the recent difficulties caused by war and the earthquake, Archbishop Gugerotti also recalled an incident last month whereby a vandal desecrated an image of Jesus in a Catholic church in Jerusalem.

“That mutilated crucifix invites us to recognize the pain of so many of our brothers and sisters who have seen the bodies of their loved ones tortured under the rubble or hit by bombs,” Archbishop Gugerotti wrote. 

“The precious presence of the Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land not only guarantees the maintenance of the sanctuaries but also safeguards the life of the Christian communities, often tempted to lose their vocation to be Easter people in the lands blessed by the presence of the Redeemer.”

In past years, the collection has been used to finance numerous projects in the Holy Land including renovations of historic buildings, scholarships for students, housing for the needy and young couples, and emergency assistance for victims of war. The territories benefitting from the donations include Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.

In a report on its activities in 2021, the Custody of the Holy Land noted the strain on its finances caused, in part, by a precipitous drop in tourism numbers due to the pandemic.

It said: “Ever since the end of February 2020 we have found ourselves without pilgrims, and this means serious economic difficulties for the local Christian communities, for the Christian families, and also for the Custody.

“In the meantime, we are trying to continue the mission that has been entrusted to us, knowing that divine providence, which has willed our presence here, will continue to take care of us.”

‘The Pope’s Exorcist’: Here’s What Real Exorcists Are Saying About Russell Crowe’s New Movie

Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto) and Father Gabriele Amorth (Russell Crowe) in Screen Gems’ The Pope's Exorcist

The trailer of the upcoming Russell Crowe movie The Pope’s Exorcist indicates that the film might not do justice to the Italian exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth or the rite of exorcism as practiced in the Catholic Church, according to an exorcist organization Amorth himself helped to found.

The International Association of Exorcists on March 7 voiced concern that the film seems to fall under the category of “splatter cinema,” which it calls a “sub-genre of horror.”

The Vatican, the statement said, is filmed with a high-contrast “chiaroscuro” effect seen in film noir.

This gives the film a Da Vinci Code effect to instill in the public the usual doubt: who is the real enemy? The devil or ecclesiastical ‘power’?” the exorcists' association said.

While special effects are “inevitable” in every film about demonic possession, “everything is exaggerated, with striking physical and verbal manifestations, typical of horror films,” the group said.

“This way of narrating Don Amorth’s experience as an exorcist, in addition to being contrary to historical reality, distorts and falsifies what is truly lived and experienced during the exorcism of truly possessed people,” said the association, which claims more than 800 exorcist members and more than 120 auxiliary members worldwide.

“In addition, it is offensive with regard to the state of suffering in which those who are victims of an extraordinary action of the devil find themselves,” the group’s statement added. The statement responded to the release of the movie trailer and promised a more in-depth response to the film’s April 14 theatrical release.

Father Amorth, who died at age 91 in 2016, said he performed an estimated 100,000 exorcisms during his life. He was perhaps the world’s best-known exorcist and the author of many books, including An Exorcist Tells His Story, reportedly an inspiration for the upcoming movie.

Several of Father Amorth’s books are carried by the U.S. publisher Sophia Institute Press. The publisher’s newly released book The Pope's Exorcist: 101 Questions About Fr. Gabriele Amorth is an interview in which the priest addresses many topics ranging from prayer to pop music.

Michael Lichens, editor and spokesperson at Sophia Institute Press, voiced some agreement with the exorcist group.

“The International Association of Exorcists is right to be concerned and I’m thankful for their words,” Lichens told CNA. “My hope is that audiences will remember that Father Amorth is a real person with a great legacy and perhaps a few moviegoers will look up an interview or pick up his books.”

“This was a man who included Saint Padre Pio and Blessed Giacomo Alberione as mentors, as well as Servant of God Candido Amantini who was his teacher for the ministry of exorcism,” he said. “Father Amorth fought as a partisan as a young man and grew to fight greater evil as an exorcist. His life is an inspiration and I know that his work and words will still reach many.”

Amorth was born in Modena, Italy on May 1, 1925. In wartime Italy, he was a soldier with the underground anti-fascist partisans. He was ordained a priest in 1951. He did not become an exorcist until 1986, when Cardinal Ugo Poletti, the vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, named him the diocesan exorcist.

The priest was frequently in the news for his comments on the subject of demonic forces. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph in 2000, he said, “I speak with the devil every day. I talk to him in Latin. He answers in Italian. I have been wrestling with him, day in, day out, for 14 years."

The movie The Pope’s Exorcist claims to be “inspired by the actual files of the Vatican’s chief exorcist.” The Sony Pictures movie stars the New Zealand-born actor Russell Crowe as Father Amorth. Crowe’s character wears a gray beard and speaks English with a noticeable accent.

“The majority of cases do not require an exorcism,” the Father Amorth character says in the movie’s first trailer. A cardinal explains that Crowe’s character recommends 98% of people who seek an exorcism to doctors and psychiatrists instead.

“The other 2%... I call it… evil,” Crowe adds.

The plot appears to concern Father Amorth’s encounter with a particular demon. Crowe’s character suggests the Church “has fought this demon before” but covered it up.

“We need to find out why,” he says.

The trailer shows short dramatic scenes of exorcism, including a confrontation between Father Amorth and a girl apparently suffering demonic possession.

The International Association of Exorcists said such a representation makes exorcism become “a spectacle aimed at inspiring strong and unhealthy emotions, thanks to a gloomy scenography, with sound effects such as to inspire only anxiety, restlessness and fear in the viewer.”

“The end result is to instill the conviction that exorcism is an abnormal, monstrous and frightening phenomenon, whose only protagonist is the devil, whose violent reactions can be faced with great difficulty,” said the exorcist group. “This is the exact opposite of what occurs in the context of exorcism celebrated in the Catholic Church in obedience to the directives imparted by it.”

CNA sought comment from Sony Pictures and The Pope’s Exorcist executive producer Jesuit Father Edward Siebert, but did not receive a response by publication.

Father Amorth co-founded the International Association of Exorcists with Father René Laurentin in 1994. In 2014 the Catholic Church recognized the group as a Private Association of the Faithful.

The association trains exorcists and promotes their incorporation into local communities and normal pastoral care. It also aims to promote “correct knowledge” about exorcism ministry and collaboration with medical and psychiatric experts who have competence in spirituality.

Exorcism is considered a sacramental, not a sacrament, of the Church. It is a liturgical rite that only a priest can perform.

Hollywood made the topic a focus most famously in the 1973 movie The Exorcist, based on the novel by William Peter Blatty.

“Most movies about Catholicism and spiritual warfare sensationalize,” Lichens of Sophia Institute Press told CNA. “Sensationalism and terror sell tickets. As a fan of horror movies, I can understand and even appreciate that. As a Catholic who has studied Father Amorth, though, I think such sensationalism distorts the important work of exorcism.”

“On the other hand, The Exorcist made the wider public more curious about this overlooked ministry. That is a good thing that came out, despite other reservations and concerns,” he continued. “Still, I would love it if a screenwriter and director spoke to exorcists and tried to show the often-quotidian parts of the ministry.”

An unhealthy curiosity can be a problem, said Lichens.

“When I work as a spokesperson for Father Amorth’s books, I am always concerned about inspiring curiosity about the demonic,” he told CNA. “As Christians, we know we have nothing to fear from the demonic but curiosity might lead some to want to seek out the supernatural or the demonic. Father Amorth has dozens of stories of people who found themselves afflicted after party game seances.”

Lichens encouraged those who are curious to read more of Father Amorth’s writings, some of which are excerpted on the Catholic Exchange website. Sophia Institute Press has published Diary of an American Exorcist by Monsignor Stephen Rosetti and The Exorcism Files by the American lay Catholic Adam Blai.

“First and foremost, Father Amorth was involved in a healing ministry,” said Lichens. “Like other exorcists, his work often involved doctors in physical and mental health because the goal is to bring healing and hope to the potentially afflicted.”

“Those of us who read [Father] Amorth might have been excited to read first-hand accounts of spiritual warfare, but readers quickly see a man whose heart was always full of love for those who sought his help,” he added.

The International Association of Exorcists, for its part, praised the 2016 documentary Deliver Us, saying this shows “what exorcism really is in the Catholic Church and “the authentic traits of a Catholic exorcist.” It shows exorcism as “a most joyful event,” in their view, because through experiencing “the presence and action of Christ the Lord and of the Communion of the Saints,” those who are “tormented by the extraordinary action of the devil gradually find liberation and peace.”

Chinese bishop wants Catholics to abandon 'undergound' Church

 中國蘭州教區韓志海主教致教區公開信| 鹽+光傳媒

A Chinese bishop, recognized by both state and the Vatican, says all Catholic clergy in China should register with the government to end the division among them as state-sanctioned and underground churches.

“What hurts and torments us the most are the situations of disunity and heartbreak between brothers,” said Bishop Joseph Han Zhi-hai of Lanzhou in the province of Gansu in north-central China.

Han made the remarks in a letter he sent to the Vatican Fides agency, on the 20th anniversary of his ordination as the bishop. Fides published the letter on March 20.

Han was ordained with a Vatican mandate in 2003, but in 2017, he sought and obtained recognition from the Chinese political apparatus.

The recognition came a year before the 2018 China-Vatican secretive deal was signed, reportedly agreeing on terms for both parties to jointly appoint bishops in the communist nation.

The 57-year-old Han regretted some bishops did not like being recognized by the state.

During his installation as state-approved bishop in 2017, an official “celebration was organized in the diocese. Some brothers did not accept it and there was still no path of reconciliation,” he recalled.

Catholics in Lanzhou Diocese faced state persecution for years before Bishop Han was ordained.

His predecessor, Bishop Philip Yang Libai, who was secretly ordained in 1981 and led the church until his death in 1998, was detained and abused for decades.

Yang, a key figure of the underground episcopal conference established in 1989, had been jailed for more than 30 years in his almost 50 years of priestly life.

Yang was punished for his repeated refusal to join the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. He was kept on a farm for "re-education through labor" by authorities.

Han said when he became bishop 20 years ago, he wrote a letter expressing his desire to join the state-stationed church.

He also appealed to the bishops “to take courage, to be recognized by the political authorities, to accept the laws of the state and thus live openly in full communion with the Universal Church, even in the context of their particular condition.”

“Twenty years later, I perceive that a path of growth has been followed,” Han said.

Pope Benedict XVI himself wrote that "underground " is not the normal condition for the Church to accomplish its mission, he said.

“This is why I believe that we must respect the law of our country and carry out our apostolic work of proclaiming the Gospel within the framework of the legislation in force in our country.

“We have to deal with so many problems that often bother and worry us. Life is hard, for so many reasons! But the Church is moving forward and carrying out its work and its mission in this situation,” the letter said.

Han said the Church in China faces “a new situation.”

There is a new situation, “in many respects different from that of previous decades (when) there was nothing, something began to emerge,” Has said.

For example, he said, the diocese he administers experienced tremendous growth during the past two decades.

The diocese built or renovated 20 relatively large churches, trained more than 20 priests, and “accompanied the growth of three congregations with 136 religious sisters,” he said.

“Although there are difficulties of all kinds, with the help and closeness of the whole Church, we can face them, even if they are not easy,” Han observed.

The Vatican-China deal, Vatican officials say, was signed with a "pastoral concern" of normalizing the Church life and uniting some 12 million Catholics, now divided as state-sanctioned and underground churches.

The deal was signed in October 2018 for two years and was renewed in 2020 and 2022, each time for two years. The deal reportedly allows both China and the Vatican to accept or reject a candidate for bishop.

But the deal triggered strong opposition from church leaders within and outside China.  

Outspoken Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong termed the deal “a betrayal” and “sellout” of underground Catholics who remained loyal to the Vatican despite state persecution.

Since the deal was signed, six bishops have been ordained in China with both state and Vatican approval, and the Vatican recognized several bishops who were ordained “illicitly” without a papal mandate.

Reports say still about 40 dioceses remain without a bishop.

Besides, rights groups reported Chinese regime has been exploiting the deal to persecute Catholics, aiming to force underground Catholics to join the patriotic church.

However, reports say, millions of Catholics continue to attend underground churches served by Vatican-approved bishops and priests, who refuse to register with the communist government.

Cardinal McElroy criticizes EWTN, says San Diego Diocese won't publish content


San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy sharply criticized the Eternal Word Television Network, the conservative Catholic U.S. media conglomerate, in an interview with Spanish magazine Vida Nueva published on March 24. 

Vida Nueva asked McElroy about the decision of newly installed Bishop Fernando Prado of San Sebastián, Spain, to ban diocesan television from carrying content produced by EWTN. 

Prado wrote that he made the decision "trying to support the communion of the diocese with the Successor of Peter."

"I would not have EWTN on diocesan media either," McElroy responded.

"EWTN worries me because it represents a giant of economic and cultural power connected to a religious viewpoint that is fundamentally critical of the pope," the cardinal said. 

"The main anchors of the channel constantly minimize the abilities and theological knowledge of Francis, cite Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò's slander of the pope and try to move the world away from the reforms the pope is signaling," said McElroy. 

Viganò, a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., has called on Francis to resign the papacy.

McElroy said that Francis has encountered so much opposition because of his "intention of completing the work of the Second Vatican Council," as well as his "constant inclusion of the experiences and spiritual points of view of the Global South at the center of the life of the church."

In the U.S., McElroy said that this opposition is exacerbated by Catholics' worries that "the pope is open to exploring paths of pastoral action in the church that are not prohibited by existing doctrinal formulations."

"Francis' attention is centered on the life of the believer in its complexity and on how the Gospel and the tradition of the church can apply in an effective and compassionate way to the lives of those who struggle ardently to draw close to God and follow his path in the midst of so many challenges," said McElroy.

This focus of Francis "doesn't have the clarity and security that many have come to trust in their understanding of the faith," said McElroy. "But it does incarnate the pastoral method of the same Lord who calls us to draw close to each person first with a loving embrace, then with help and healing, and after with the call to conversion and to change."

In the interview, McElroy reiterated his previous call to open the diaconate to women, while raising concerns about the ordination of women to the priesthood. 

"I am afraid that the ordination of women to the priesthood in this moment would deeply divide the church and for this reason it should not be an objective of the synodal process," McElroy said, taking a more definitive stance on the issue than in his article for America magazine, where he wrote that it was "likely" the synod would opt to reserve the priesthood for men without stating a personal position.

When asked if Francis can be considered a feminist, McElroy responded that it would be "jarring" to classify the pope that way. But the cardinal praised the pope for better including women in church structures.

Francis "has broken significant barriers for women in the life of the church and has constantly underscored the essential role that women carry out in Catholic faith and action at all levels," McElroy said.

However, McElroy said, "he is still looking for — as is the whole church — a theological framework that soundly reveals the equality of women in its fullness, in the midst of the unequal cultures of our Catholic world."

McElroy's recent writing about how the church should minister to LGBTQ people and divorced and remarried Catholics has received significant backlash, including an essay where Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, seemed to accuse McElroy of heresy.

When asked by Vida Nueva if the accusation of heresy hurt him, McElroy acknowledged that it did, but he said it hurt the church more. 

"This language endangers the church even more, in breaking down the dialogue that we should maintain these days about the fundamental questions that we are confronting," McElroy said. 

He noted that he had written his doctoral thesis in theology on Jesuit Fr. John Courtney Murray. 

Murray, who served as the chief author of the Second Vatican Council document Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Freedom, had been earlier forbidden to write about religious liberty without approval from the Jesuit superior general.

"It is vital that during all of these debates over doctrinal questions we resist the temptation of using negative labels against those who adopt postures that are opposite to ours," said McElroy.

Pope Francis makes 'Vos Estis' clergy abuse law permanent

O Papa confirma 'Vos estis lux mundi', o procedimento contra abusos -  Jornal O São Paulo

Pope Francis on March 25 made permanent his 2019 experimental law on clergy sex abuse, which was established to hold bishops and religious superiors accountable for abuse that they commit or cover up, and extended the law to now include lay leaders who head international associations recognized by the Vatican. 

The norms were first published in a 2019 apostolic letter titled Vos estis lux mundi ("You are the light of the world"), and for the first time in the church's history, mandated that all priests and members of religious orders worldwide are obligated to report any suspicions of abuse or its cover-up. 

Now, after a four-year experimental period and consultation with bishops and Vatican officials, Francis has revised the legislation and made it definitive, effective April 30. 

In addition to expanding the law to hold lay leaders of Vatican-approved associations accountable, the updated version clarifies that dioceses and eparchies must have an "organization or office" for cases to be reported (rather than the 2019 requirement of a "stable system"). The revised law also extends the protection of those who file reports to both the individual alleging abuse and those who witnessed the alleged offense. 

The initial norms came on the heels of Pope Francis' historic February 2019 summit on abuse, where he summoned the presidents of every episcopal conference from around the world to Rome following mounting fallout from clergy abuse scandals involving a number of high profile cases of abuse and cover-up from prominent bishops in the United States, Chile and in Europe.  

At the time, the law was praised as "revolutionary" and a major step forward in turning a corner on clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up. In recent years, however, both accountability organizations and close papal advisers have admitted that its implementation lacked consistency and transparency. 

An editorial in Vatican News, the church's official news platform, published on March 25 said the updated norms evidence the "Church's desire to continue to combat crimes of sexual abuse."

One of the most notable changes of the new text includes a clarification of how abuse victims are defined. 

While the original norms covered abuse or cover-up against minors and vulnerable persons, the new law has been revised to specify "a minor, or with a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason, or with a vulnerable adult."

German Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, director of the Institute of Anthropology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, had previously criticized the language of "vulnerable persons" as too broad.

"Do you really want to be a 'vulnerable person' because you are a woman and because you are a parishioner? I don't think so," remarked Zollner during a March 2 dialogue with abuse survivors. 

In addition to mandating that priests, bishops, religious superiors and now the leaders of some 120 lay associations recognized by the Vatican report abuse, the new Vos estis makes clear that anyone, "especially lay believers holding offices or exercising ministries in the Church," can submit reports of abuse.

The law continues to rely on the same framework of utilizing metropolitan archbishops to examine accusations made against bishops in their regions. 

Once a report is submitted, the metropolitan must request approval from the Vatican to conduct an investigation, according to the norms. The Vatican is required to receive an update every 30 days on the status of the investigation, and once it is concluded, must receive the final results and the opinion of the investigator, before the Vatican issues a final ruling. 

Since its implementation in 2019, the process has been used in at least 40 cases, including 11 in the United States and 16 in Poland. Advocacy and accountability groups, however, have lamented the lack of transparency in knowing the full number of cases, as well as the status of the investigations underway. 

Under the new revisions to the law, the norms note that "it is the duty of the Ordinary [bishop] of the place where the events allegedly occurred to proceed in accordance with the law as provided for each specific case."

In an interview with Vatican News, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, who serves as a member of the Vatican's task force for the protection of minors, said the revision "puts a priority in cooperating with local law enforcement and following the laws of the land."

"This is not just a Church matter. This is not just a matter of a sin. This is a crime. And it recognizes that these crimes have to be adjudicated by law enforcement in each locality," said Cupich. 

Upon news that Francis had made permanent the norms, Zollner's safeguarding institute issued a statement praising the revisions, which they stated "better define the responsibilities of those in authority and extend norms to include lay leaders of international associations of the faithful, are a welcome addition to the procedures aimed at preventing abuse."

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of, called the new law ia "big disappointment" as it failed to correct what she described as the "crippling weaknesses" in its original form. 

"Vos estis remains self-policing packaged as accountability. It keeps bishops in control of investigating and judging allegations against fellow bishops. It omits any requirement to inform the public. It tells bishops that they do not have to report child molestation to civil authorities unless they are mandated to do so under local law. And it limits lay involvement to roles that are fragmented and powerless," she said in a statement. 

"Far more must happen if victims are to heal and children are to be safer inside the Catholic Church," Barrett Doyle concluded.