Federal appeals court affirms parish assets separate from archdiocese

May 1, 2018

by Maria Wiering,

Minneapolis — A federal appeals court upheld two lower court rulings that the assets of Catholic institutions, including parishes, are separate from those of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and that they cannot be consolidated with archdiocesan assets in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The April 26 ruling came from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thomas Abood, chairman of the archdiocese's Reorganization Task Force, welcomed the ruling April 30.

"We are pleased that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a meritless legal argument by claimants' counsel that has been directly responsible for delaying the resolution of the archdiocesan bankruptcy and has given rise to the erroneous claim -- now rejected for the third time in this litigation -- that the archdiocese has undisclosed assets which it has not made available to its creditors in its bankruptcy," Abood said in a statement.

"I hope all abuse survivors, reassured by the court's decision, will soon be able to choose the path of settlement and closure on this aspect of their quest for justice and healing," he said.

In 2016, the Unsecured Creditors Committee, which represents more than 400 sexual abuse claimants, filed a motion for the assets of 187 parishes in the archdiocese, three Catholic high schools and the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota to be merged with the archdiocese's assets in a reorganization plan.

Judge Robert Kressel, who is overseeing proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, denied the motion in July 2016. The creditors committee appealed the decision to U.S. District Court, which, in December 2016, upheld the ruling. The committee then appealed that decision to the appeals court, which heard the case in December.

A three-judge appeals court panel said in its ruling that the committee had "failed to plausibly allege sufficient facts to negate the nonprofit non-debtor status of the targeted entities" and, therefore, they are entitled to legal protections and "cannot be involuntarily substantively consolidated with (the archdiocese)."

"We understand the committee's sincere attempts at recovery for a class of creditors who have suffered greatly by clergy abuse," the ruling said. "However, global consolidation of all entities in the archdiocese is not authorized by the bankruptcy code. There are remedies available in the bankruptcy code to address specific abuses by (the archdiocese) or other entities, if they exist. Substantive consolidation of all related entities, however, is not one of those remedies."

The ruling does not affect the more than 100 parishes facing lawsuits for clergy abuse outside the bankruptcy.

Ordination Class of 2018: CARA Report Gives Reasons for Hope and Areas for Growth

WASHINGTON (USCCB.org) - According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate's (CARA) annual survey, in the Ordination Class of 2018, almost all responding ordinands reported being baptized Catholic as an infant (90 percent). Among those who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 26. Four in five responding ordinands (83 percent) report that both their parents were Catholic when they were children. One in three (35 percent) has or had a relative who is a priest or religious.

The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2018, 430, is a lower number from 590 in 2017.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, of Newark, Chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data gives reason for hope as well as provides areas for future growth.

"Although the overall number of ordinations to the Priesthood is lower this year, the information gathered from this survey and the generosity of those to be ordained continues to inform the important work of vocations ministry for the future. It is essential that we continue to make the conscious effort to encourage young men to be open to hearing God's call in their life and assist them in the discernment process."

Father Ralph B. O'Donnell, Executive Director of the Secretariat, cited the significance of encouraging vocations awareness: "One of the most encouraging statistics to see in this study is that 86 percent of those to be ordained to the priesthood this year were encouraged to do so by someone in their life (most frequently a parish priest, friend or another parishioner). A similar percentage was reported in February in the most recent survey of those solemnly professed. This fact should enliven in the faithful a resolve to actively encourage the young people that they encounter to consider to what vocation God is calling them and to be generous in their response."

The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate gathered the data for "The Class of 2018: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood." CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 78 percent of the 430 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 334 respondents include 252 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood and 78 ordinands to the religious priesthood.

Among the survey's major findings:

The majority of responding ordinands are Caucasian (seven in ten) and were born in the United States (three in four). One in four is foreign-born. By comparison, since 1999, on average each year, 30 percent of responding ordinands were foreign-born.

The four most common countries of birth among the foreign-born are Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Colombia. On average, foreign-born responding ordinands came to live in the United States 12 years ago at the age of 23.

On average, responding ordinands first considered priesthood when they were 17 years old. Responding ordinands were scheduled for ordination on average 18 years later (at the age of 35). Since 1999, the average age of responding ordinands has fluctuated only slightly each year, from an average of 36 in 1999 to the current average age of 35.

Between 39 and 47 percent of all responding ordinands attended a Catholic school for at least some part of their schooling. Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) participated in a religious education program in their parish for seven years, on average.

Nearly half of responding ordinands (45 percent) report that they completed a college or university undergraduate degree before entering the seminary. The most common fields of study are social science, theology or philosophy, business, or liberal arts.

Two in three responding ordinands (64 percent) reported full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary. One in twenty responding ordinands served in the U.S. Armed Forces themselves. About one in eight responding ordinands (13 percent) reported that one or both parents had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Almost all responding ordinands reported being baptized Catholic as an infant (90 percent). Among those who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 26. Four in five responding ordinands (83 percent) report that both their parents were Catholic when they were children. One in three (35 percent) has or had a relative who is a priest or religious.

Regarding participation in parish ministries before entering the seminary, nearly three fourths of responding ordinands (74 percent) served as altar servers before entering the seminary. Nearly three in five (57 percent) served as lectors. Around half served as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (46 percent). One in three served as catechists (38 percent), in campus ministry or youth ministry (35 percent), or as confirmation sponsors/godfathers (31 percent).

In regard to participation in vocation programs before entering the seminary, half of responding ordinands (46 percent) reported participating in "Come and See" weekends at the seminary or the religious institute/society.

Nearly nine in ten responding ordinands (86 percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life (most frequently, a parish priest, friend, or another parishioner). Responding ordinands indicate that, on average, four individuals encouraged their vocation.

One-half of responding ordinands (51 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by one or more persons. Most often, this person was a friend/classmate or a family member (other than parents).

The full report can be found online: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/class-of-2018/ordination-class-of-2018.cfm.

Benedict XVI celebrates 91st birthday with his brother

Rome, Italy, Apr 16, 2018 / 10:25 am (CNA/EWTN News) - Benedict XVI turned 91 on Monday, celebrating “with his brother Georg in a calm and familiar climate,” according to a Vatican statement.

This evening, members of the Swiss Guard band are scheduled to perform in the Mater Eccelsiae monastery in honor of the pope emeritus.

Pope Francis offered Mass in the morning for Benedict XVI, and sent him a greeting afterward, the Vatican said.

Benedict XVI was pope from 2005 to 2013. He shocked the world when he announced his resignation Feb. 11, 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength. On Feb. 28, he stepped down from the papacy. A conclave was called to name his successor, and on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis was elected.

Rumors regarding the retired pontiff’s health have arisen numerous times since he stepped down from the papacy, with reports that his death is imminent repeatedly denied by those close to him over the past five years.

Last year, Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, said in an interview with EWTN that despite some physical ailments, the former pope was “in good spirits, very clear in his head and still has a good sense of humor.”

In a letter published Feb. 7 this year in Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Benedict said, “I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home.”

Pope Francis issues exhortation praising the ‘middle class’ of holiness

By Hannah Brockhaus

Vatican City, (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis released an apostolic exhortation in which he aims to “repropose” the universal call to holiness – which he says is the mission of life for every person.

Published April 9, Gaudete et exsultate, or “Rejoice and be glad,” is Francis’ third apostolic exhortation. It is subtitled “On the call to holiness in the contemporary world.”

The 44-page exhortation explains that holiness is the mission of every Christian, and gives practical advice for living out the call to holiness in ordinary, daily life, encouraging the practice of the Beatitudes and performing works of mercy.

Francis mentioned the holiness “in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness.’”

Francis said that all Catholics that, like the saints, “need to see the entirety of your life as a mission,” and explained that this is accomplished by listening to God in prayer and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance in each moment and decision.

“A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness,” he stated, explaining that this path has its “fullest meaning in Christ, and can only be understood through him.”

Using the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Francis wrote that “holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full.” As a result, the measure of our holiness stems not from our own achievement, but “from the stature that Christ achieves in us.”

Therefore, Pope Francis said, to walk the path of holiness requires prayer and contemplation alongside action; the two cannot be separated.

The pope also touched on what he calls the “two enemies of holiness” – modern versions of the heresies of Pelagianism and Gnosticism, saying that these lead to “false forms of holiness.”

In the modern form of Gnosticism, Francis said, one believes that faith is purely subjective, and that the intellect is the supreme form of perfection, not charity.

This can lead Catholics to think that “because we know something, or are able to explain it in certain terms, we are already saints,” he said, when really, “what we think we know should always motivate us to respond more fully to God’s love.”

In contemporary Pelagianism, he said the common error is to believe that it is by our own effort that we achieve sanctity, forgetting that everything in fact “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy (Rom. 9:16).”

The pope explained that “the Church has repeatedly taught that we are justified not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the Lord, who always takes the initiative,” and that even our cooperation with the gift of divine grace is itself “a prior gift of that same grace.”

Some may be asked, through God’s grace, for grand gestures of holiness – as can be seen in the lives of many of the saints, Francis said – but many people are called to live the mission of holiness in a more ordinary way, and in the context of their vocation.

However large or small one’s call seems, Francis said that acts of charity are always undertaken “by God’s grace,” not as people “sufficient unto ourselves, but rather ‘as good stewards of the manifold grace of God’ (1 Peter 4:10),” he said.

The pope offered several practical recommendations for living out these “small gestures.” In addition to the frequent reception of the sacraments and attendance at Mass, he said that in the Beatitudes Jesus explains “with great simplicity what it means to be holy.”

He also said that a way to practice holiness is through the works of mercy, though he warned that to think good works can be separated from a personal relationship with God and openness to grace is to make Christianity into “a sort of NGO.”

The saints, on the other hand, show us that “mental prayer, the love of God and the reading of the Gospel” in no way detract from “passionate and effective commitment to their neighbors.”

The pope highlighted several qualities he finds especially important for living holiness in today’s culture, including: perseverance, patience, humility, joy, a sense of humor, boldness, and passion.

Boldness and passion, he said, are important in order to avoid despondency or mediocrity, which he said can weaken us in the ongoing spiritual battle against evil.  

In the journey toward holiness, “the cultivation of all that is good, progress in the spiritual life and growth in love are the best counterbalance to evil,” he said, emphasizing that the existence of the devil is not a myth or an abstract idea, but a “personal being that assails us.”

“Those who choose to remain neutral, who are satisfied with little, who renounce the ideal of giving themselves generously to the Lord, will never hold out” against temptation, he stated.

“For this spiritual combat, we can count on the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration, sacramental Reconciliation, works of charity, community life, missionary outreach,” he listed.

About the importance of prayer on the path to holiness, the pope said that though “the Lord speaks to us in a variety of ways, at work, through others and at every moment… we simply cannot do without the silence of prolonged prayer.”

“Naturally, this attitude of listening entails obedience to the Gospel as the ultimate standard, but also to the Magisterium that guards it,” he stated, “as we seek to find in the treasury of the Church whatever is most fruitful for the ‘today’ of salvation.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States bishops' conference, praised the exhortation in a statement released Monday, saying: “In this exhortation, Pope Francis is very clear – he is doing his duty as the Vicar of Christ, by strongly urging each and every Christian to freely, and without any qualifications, acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be – that is ‘to be holy, as He is holy’ (1 Pet 1:15). The mission entrusted to each of us in the waters of baptism was simple – by God’s grace and power, we are called to become saints.”

 

Don’t be afraid of shame, open hearts to God’s mercy, pope says

VATICAN CITY — Feeling ashamed of one’s sins does not mean wallowing in guilt, rather it is the gateway all men and women can use to experience firsthand God’s tender mercy and forgiveness, Pope Francis said.

Christians should be grateful for shame because it “means that we do not accept evil, and that is good,” the pope said April 8 at an outdoor Mass in St. Peter’s Square commemorating Divine Mercy Sunday.

“Shame is a secret invitation of the soul that needs the Lord to overcome evil,” the pope said. “The tragedy is when we are no longer ashamed of anything. Do not be afraid of being ashamed! Let us pass from shame to forgiveness!”

Divine Mercy Sunday, celebrated every year on the Sunday after Easter, was added to the universal church calendar by St. John Paul II in 2000. The Polish pope was a longtime devotee of the Divine Mercy devotions of St. Faustina Kowalksa, whom he beatified in 1993 and canonized in 2000.

As Pope Francis celebrated the Mass, a painting of Jesus inspired by St. Faustina’s visions was near the altar. The image, perched on top a bed of white roses, depicts Jesus with one hand raised in blessing and the other pointing to his heart emanating red and white light.

As the sounds of the Sistine choir filled the air, Pope Francis stood and bowed reverently in front of the painting before incensing it three times.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. John which recalled the apostle Thomas’ disbelief at Christ’s resurrection.

Despite Thomas’ initial lack of faith, Pope Francis said, Christians should learn from his example and not be content with hearing from others that Jesus is alive.

“A God who is risen but remains distant does not fill our lives; an aloof God does not attract us, however just and holy he may be. No, we too need to ‘see God,’ to touch him with our hands and to know that he is risen for us,” the pope said.

Pope Francis greets the crowd after celebrating Mass marking the feast of Divine Mercy in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Like Thomas and the disciples, he explained, Christian men and women can only understand the depth of God’s love by “gazing upon” Jesus’ wounds.

Although “we can consider ourselves Christians, call ourselves Christians and speak about the many beautiful values of faith,” he said, “we need to see Jesus by touching his love. Only thus can we go to the heart of the faith and, like the disciples, find peace and joy beyond all doubt.”

There are several “closed doors” that must be opened in order to experience this love and to understand that God’s mercy “is not simply one of his qualities among others, but the very beating of his heart,” Pope Francis said.

The first step, he said, is seeking and accepting God’s forgiveness which is often difficult because “we are tempted to do what the disciples did in the Gospel: to barricade ourselves behind closed doors.”

“They did it out of fear, yet we too can be afraid, ashamed to open our hearts and confess our sins,” the pope said. “May the Lord grant us the grace to understand shame, to see it not as a closed door, but as the first step toward an encounter.”

Another closed door is remaining resigned to one’s sins, he said, so “in discouragement, we give up on mercy.”

Through the sacrament of reconciliation, Christians are reminded that “it isn’t true that everything remains the way it was,” and absolution allows them “to go forward from forgiveness to forgiveness.”

The final door, Pope Francis said, is the actual sin that is “only closed on one side, our own,” because God “never chooses to abandon us; we are the ones who keep him out.”

However, he added, confession allows for God to work his wonders and “we discover that the very sin that kept us apart from the Lord becomes the place where we encounter him.”

“There the God who is wounded by love comes to meet our wounds. He makes our wretched wounds like his own glorious wounds. Because he is mercy and works wonders in our wretchedness,” the pope said.

Copyright ©2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Death doesn't have the final word, Pope Francis says on Easter

By Elise Harris

VATICAN CITY, Apr 1, 2018 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his Urbi et Orbi Easter blessing, Pope Francis said Jesus' death and resurrection provide hope to a world marred by conflict, proving that modern tragedies such as war and violence won't have the final say.

“We Christians believe and know that Christ’s resurrection is the true hope of the world, the hope that does not disappoint,” the Pope said April 1, Easter morning.

Like the parable Jesus told of the grain of wheat which has to die before bearing fruit, Francis said that “it is the power of the grain of wheat, the power of that love which humbles itself and gives itself to the very end, and thus truly renews the world.”

“This power continues to bear fruit today in the furrows of our history, marked by so many acts of injustice and violence,” he said, and pointed to the plight of migrants and refugees, and victims of the drug trade, human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery.

He asked for peace throughout the world, especially in the “long-suffering” nation of Syria, “whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war.”

“This Easter, may the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course, that humanitarian law may be respected” in order to facilitate access to aid, and to allow those who have been displaced to return to their homes.

Pope Francis also prayed for the Holy Land, which in recent days has seen an increase in violence, for Yemen and for the entire Middle East, “that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence.”

“May our brothers and sisters in Christ, who not infrequently put up with injustices and persecution, be radiant witnesses of the risen Lord and of the victory of good over evil.”

He also prayed for those who yearn for “a more dignified life,” specifically children and those from areas in Africa that suffer from hunger, violence and terrorism, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

Francis also prayed for the process of peace and dialogue on the Korean peninsula, and for Ukraine, that humanitarian aid would be able to reach the people and that recent steps to promote peace and harmony in the nation would be “consolidated.”

Turning to Venezuela, Pope Francis said citizens are living “in a kind of foreign land within their own country,” and prayed that with the grace of the resurrection, the nation would be able to find “a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it.”

Prayers were also offered for children who lack education as a result of war, for elderly who have been “cast off by a selfish culture that ostracizes those who are not productive,” and for world leaders, that they “may always respect human dignity, devote themselves actively to the pursuit of the common good, and ensure the development and security of their own citizens.”

Pope Francis closed his address repeating the question the angel posed to the women who came to the tomb and found it empty, asking: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

“Death, solitude and fear are not the last word.” he said. “There is a word that transcends them, a word that only God can speak: it is the word of the resurrection.”And by the power of God’s love, “it dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty.”

 

MCC: Some firearms regulations could serve common good

by Matthew Davis

ST. PAUL (March 8) - As gun control advocates have focused on the Minnesota State Capitol in the weeks following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, the Legislature has delayed gun regulation bills. Minnesota Catholic Conference Executive Director Jason Adkins doesn’t anticipate the state’s legislative response to gun control to change this session.

“Gun-violence restraining orders for persons struggling with mental illness has a very small chance of moving forward,” Adkins said. “But it is more likely that the political response to school shootings will be calls for more funding for mental illness treatment and counseling in schools, as well as more funding for school security measures.”

Adkins does not believe political efforts to curb gun violence by addressing mental illness alone will suffice. The MCC has been tracking bills in the House and Senate regarding firearms possession and background checks. All of the bills were introduced in 2017, prior to the Florida shooting. While opposition to gun control legislation often stems from a defense of the Second Amendment, Adkins said it’s important to look at the issue “in terms of rights and responsibilities.”

Just because “shootings begin with wounds in the heart does not mean we are impotent to enact gun control measures to make people safer,” he said. “We have to protect people with prudent laws while we bind the wounds of hurting people and address the social and cultural factors that nurture gun violence.”

The Second Amendment allows for the right to bear arms and has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow for self-defense. “The right to self-defense is part of the natural law, and the use of force one applies in self-defense can be effective force,” Adkins said. “You don’t have to bring a butter knife to a gun fight.

“But the natural right to self-defense and the civil right to own a gun come with duties and responsibilities to the common good,” Adkins continued. “In particular, the public has a responsibility to ensure that those who exercise gun ownership can do so responsibly. Therefore, tools like background checks and gun-violence restraining orders for people with mental illnesses are legitimate regulations of gun ownership.”

He added that the Legislature can also legitimately enact “bans on certain classes of weapons that are meant for military personnel, or that can endanger large groups of people in the wrong hands” because of the right to life. He also noted that “improvements in gun technology can make weapons more dangerous, but also much safer.”

“Legislatures must balance these considerations in their particular social, cultural and geographic contexts,” Adkins said. “There is not necessarily one over-arching set of gun regulations that should apply in all places and at all times.”

Note: The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota. MCC supports the ministry of our state’s Catholic bishops by:

  • Working with political and community leaders to shape legislation that serves human dignity and the common good
  • Educating Catholics and the public about the ethical and moral framework that should be applied to public policy choices
  • Mobilizing the Catholic community to make its voice heard in the public arena

For further information about MCC visit https://www.mncatholic.org/

Chairmen Call Faithful to Prayer and Action Urging Congress to Enact the Conscience Protection Act

March 6, 2018

WASHINGTON – Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty urge the faithful to flood Congress with emails and calls asking for enactment of the Conscience Protection Act as part of the 2018 funding bill and to pray for this outcome. Congress is currently considering whether to include the Conscience Protection Act in must-pass government funding legislation, and a decision on the Conscience Protection Act’s inclusion will be made prior to March 23, 2018.

The joint statement follows:

“Increasing and fierce attacks on conscience rights regarding abortion cry out for an immediate remedy. Nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participating in abortions or leaving health care altogether. Churches and pro-life Americans are being forced to provide coverage for elective abortions—including late-term abortions—in their health care plans. Opponents and supporters of abortion should be able to agree that no one should be forced to participate in abortion. Congress must remedy this problem by enacting the Conscience Protection Act now as part of the FY 2018 funding bill.

We call on all the faithful to pray and to act by emailing and calling Congress in the coming week especially on Monday, March 12 with the message that enacting the Conscience Protection Act is urgently needed to protect Americans from being forced to violate their deeply held convictions about respect for human life. Your calls and emails to your Members of Congress really do make a difference, so please act now to protect conscience rights!”

Members of Congress can be reached by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking to be connected with your representative or senator.  Or you can email and call your Members of Congress quickly and easily at https://www.humanlifeaction.org/take-action?vvsrc=/campaigns/49865/respond.

The USCCB has also created a video available on its YouTube channel and Facebook.com/USCCB.

For additional information and videos featuring nurses who were forced by their employers to choose between their jobs and participating in abortions go to www.usccb.org/conscience

 

U.S. Bishops’ Migration Chairman Urges Immediate “Humane Solution” for Dreamers after Monday’s Supreme Court Decision

February 27, 2018

WASHINGTON — On February 26, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the government's request to hear its "appeal before judgment" on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) cases. Accordingly, the lower court injunctions in the California and New York, DACA cases remain in effect nationally and DACA renewals remain available to those who currently have DACA status.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, stated:

"Monday's Supreme Court decision does not reduce the urgency of finding an immediate legislative solution for Dreamers, people who were brought to the United States as children and have known only our country as their home. The anxiety and uncertainty that Dreamers and their families face remain unabated. Monday was our National Call-in Day for Dreamers, when thousands of Catholics urged their leaders in Congress to protect Dreamers. These faithful took action because they recognize that protecting these young people from deportation is an issue of human life and dignity, and that a legislative solution is necessary to make that protection durable. My brother Bishops and I continue to call upon Congress to work towards a bipartisan and humane solution as soon as possible."

Pope on first Sunday of Lent: Now is the time for conversion

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2018 / 09:10 am (CNA/EWTN News) - Lent is a time to face our temptations and be converted by the Gospel, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on the first Sunday of Lent.

His reflections were based on the passage in the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert for 40 days.

Jesus goes into the desert to prepare for his mission on earth, the Pope said.

While Jesus has no need of conversion himself, he must go to the desert out of obedience to God the Father and "for us, to give us the grace to overcome temptation."

“For us, too, Lent is a time of spiritual ‘training’, of spiritual combat: we are called to face the Evil one through prayer, to be able, with God’s help, to overcome him in our daily life,” he continued.

Immediately after he is tempted, Jesus goes out of the desert to preach the Gospel, which demands conversion from all who hear it, the Holy Father said.

“(Jesus) proclaims, ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel!’ — believe, that is, in this Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand. In our life we always have need of conversion — every day! — and the Church has us pray for this. In fact, we are never sufficiently oriented toward God, and we must continually direct our mind and our heart to Him."

Lent is the time to have the courage to reject anything that leads us away from God and repent, Francis noted, “but it is not a sad time!”

“It is a joyful and serious duty to strip ourselves of our selfishness, of our ‘old man,’ and to renew ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism,” he said.

During Lent, we must listen to the call of Christ and be converted, recognizing that true happiness lies in God alone, Francis said.

He concluded his address with an appeal to Mary:

“May Mary Most Holy help us to live this Lent with fidelity to the Word of God and with incessant prayer, as Jesus did in the desert. It is not impossible! It means living the days with the desire to welcome the love that comes from God, and that desires to transform our life, and the whole world.”

This Lent, revive your enthusiasm for the faith, Pope says

By Hannah Brockhaus

Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - In his message for the Lenten season which begins today, (Feb. 14 - Ash Wednesday) Pope Francis urged people to renew their enthusiasm for the faith, using this season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as an opportunity to stoke the flame of charity in their heart.

“Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer,” the Pope said in his message, published Feb. 6.

“If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.”

At the Easter Vigil, we will light the Easter candle, he said, explaining how it symbolizes a “new fire,” and will “slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly.”

“May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds,” he continued. “By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.”

Written on the Solemnity of All Saints, the Pope’s message for Lent is on the theme: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold (Matt. 24:12).”

In the message, he warned against both cold hearts and “false prophets,” which he said tempt us to be led and enslaved by our emotions, or by a desire for wealth. “How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness!” he wrote.

This is the core of Pope Francis’ Lenten message: to draw attention to the fact that there are many experiences which “whittle away all of [our] enthusiasm and zeal” for the faith, Cardinal Peter Turkson told CNA Feb. 6.

Head of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, he said that living as a disciple of Jesus has a lot of challenges, and therefore Francis’ message highlights the need to re-kindle the fire of our faith.

“Love can become cold because there are very many things which prevent it from sustaining the warmth of enthusiasm that it had,” Turkson explained. Therefore, this message invites us, through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, to re-inspire our love of God and neighbor.

“And this is crucial because all the good works that we decide to do… are all animated by a sense of love,” he continued.

Seeing the problems in the world and within ourselves, the solution is to turn to the Church, Pope Francis said, because along with the truth, she “offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”

One of the biggest obstacles to charity, he continued, is the evil of greed of money, which is what almsgiving helps to counteract.

“How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us!” the Pope said. “How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church!”

Almsgiving is very fitting during Lent, he continued, but added that he hopes that “even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself.”

Almsgiving, along with prayer and fasting, are intended as instruments to fight both sin within ourselves and its effect on the world. For from greed, follows “the rejection of God and his peace,” he said. We begin to prefer “our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments.”

Greed also may lead us to violence, he noted, pointing to how we lash out, in particular, at those we think threaten the “certainties” of our lives, such as the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the immigrant, or even just the neighbor “who does not live up to our expectations.”

Almsgiving is a way of setting us free from greed, acknowledging that “what I possess is never mine alone.”

In fasting, too, we are given the opportunity to grow, he said, both by experiencing the hunger that many people around the world experience daily, and by expressing our own “spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God.”

“Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbor. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger,” he said.

He explained that devoting more time to prayer also helps us to root out vice from our hearts and to find consolation in God, who is our Father and who “wants us to live life well.”

“Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life,” the Pope said. “With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth.”

He also said that the Church would again be celebrating the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which is a day for the whole Church to focus on the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation, within the context of Eucharistic adoration.

This year, it will take place March 9-10, he said, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness.” In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, he said, offering opportunities for adoration and sacramental confession.

Led by Pope Francis, “24 Hours for the Lord” is a worldwide initiative which points to confession as a primary way to experience God's merciful embrace. It was launched in 2014 under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Statement from Diocese of New Ulm Regarding Fr. Bernard Steiner’s Return to Limited Ministry

NEW ULM, Minn. – Fr. Bernard Steiner has returned to limited ministry based on the recommendation of the independent Diocesan Review Board following a completed investigation by police that found no substantial credible evidence to support the abuse allegation made against him

Fr. Steiner is allowed to concelebrate Mass and administer the Anointing of the Sick in the presence of other members of the clergy.

Fr. Steiner was ordained in February 1961 for the Diocese of New Ulm. He retired from assigned parish ministry in 2005. For the following 11 years, he celebrated Mass and administered the sacraments at area parishes and at Our Lady of Good Counsel for the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Mankato. In 2016, the Diocese of New Ulm removed him from all public ministry following notification of a civil claim made against him stemming from his time as pastor at the Church of St. Paul in Comfrey in the 1970s. His removal from ministry was publicized in 2016. No other claimants have come forward with reports againstIt is standard procedure for the Diocese of New Ulm to remove a member of the clergy from ministry if an allegation has been made against him. The Diocese of New Ulm takes all allegations against clergy very seriously and continues to ask that anyone with information about sexual misconduct by clergy report it to law enforcement. In addition, anyone who has suffered sexual abuse by clergy is encouraged to contact the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at 507-233-5313 for counseling or other assistance in healing.

Bishop John M. LeVoir requests prayers for both Fr. Steiner and the individual who made the claim against him.

 

Senate vote to prevent filibuster on 20-week abortion ban fails

By Courtney Grogan

Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2018 (CNA) - A procedural vote on a Senate bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks failed on the evening of Jan. 29, after more than three hours of debate. The cloture motion, which would have prevented a filibuster on the bill, required 60 votes to pass, and failed by a vote of 51-46.

The bill could continue to be considered in the Senate, even with the prospect of a filibuster, though this is not widely expected. The bill is likely to be a topic of debate in 2018 Senate elections.

The  U.S. is one of seven countries in the world that allow abortions after 5 months of pregnancy.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act proposes that abortion be made illegal after 20 weeks of gestation, on the basis that fetal neural development enables the unborn to experience pain at that point. The bill includes exceptions for an abortion in the case of rape or incest, as well in the circumstances in which the pregnancy threatened the life or the mother.

“After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling,” according to the text of the Pain-Capable Act.

Because of an unborn child’s sensitivity to pain at this stage, anesthesia is regularly administered during in-utero surgery after 20 weeks. An ultrasound can reveal the gender of an unborn child, who can be viewed sucking their thumb, yawning, or stretching by 20 weeks of pregnancy. The nervous system begins functioning in the fourth month of pregnancy.

The bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives in Oct. 2017, is opposed by most Senate Democrats. To prevent a filibuster, Republicans needed Democratic support, in addition to the votes of the 51 Republican Senators.

Democratic Senators Bob Casey, Joe Manchin, and Joe Donnelly supported the motion. Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted against it.

Twenty-one states currently have a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A recent Marist poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus found that 76 percent of Americans support limiting abortion to the first trimester of pregnancy.

“There is no reason why this should be a partisan issue,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor before the vote.

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act reflects a mainstream, growing consensus that unborn children should not be subjected to elective-abortion after 20 weeks,” he added.

In France, Italy, and Germany, abortion is illegal after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The United States, China, North Korea, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Vietnam are the seven countries that permit elective abortions after 20 weeks.

Catholic Schools Week 2018, January 28-February 3, to Focus on “spiritual, academic and societal contributions” of Catholic Schools

January 23, 2018

WASHINGTON — National Catholic Schools Week 2018 (CSW) will be observed in dioceses around the country January 28–February 3. This year’s theme, “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.,” focuses on the important spiritual, academic and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education.

As Bishop George V. Murry, SJ, of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Catholic Education said, “Catholic schools provide an invaluable service to young people, their families, and our nation by helping to form women and men with the sharp intellects, broad perspectives and big hearts who bring their best to communities near and far. Jesus Christ came to change hearts and to serve – one person at a time – and so Catholic schools invite students to encounter Christ, to be changed by Him, and love God by serving others with all of their heart, mind, soul and strength.”

One way Catholic school students have been challenged to “learn, serve, lead and succeed” this academic year has been through the National Catholic Educational Association’s (NCEA) “Student to Student” campaign. In August, NCEA began a national campaign that invited Catholic school families to donate at least $1 toward the “Student to Student: A Catholic School Response to Hurricane Harvey” campaign to help those Catholic school communities hardest hit by the events in the United States, the Caribbean and U.S. territories. The campaign was eventually renamed “Student to Student: A Catholic School Response to Hurricane Relief 2017” to include those that followed Harvey and the wildfires in the west. As of last month, 826 Catholic schools from across the country donated more than $600,000 to this solidarity effort. 300 students at Lumen Christi High School in the Archdiocese of Anchorage, for example, put on a taco lunch and raised more than $900. NCEA has begun the process of disbursing funds to Catholic arch/dioceses affected by recent natural disasters, beginning with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Nearly 1.9 million students are currently educated in 6,429 Catholic schools in cities, suburbs, small towns and rural communities around the country. Students receive an education that prepares them for higher education, a competitive work environment, and most importantly, living a Christian life of virtue in a challenging society.  “Since their founding in our country, Catholic schools have provided a well-rounded education to disadvantaged families, new arrivals to America and to all who seek a seat in our schools. We have always sought to welcome families of all backgrounds while maintaining our principles and teaching in a spirit of charity,” Bishop Murry said.

The observance of CSW began in 1974. Schools and parishes around the country will hold activities such as Masses, open houses, and pot luck gatherings to celebrate the communities they represent. The week also highlights the educational and community successes of Catholic schools nationwide. Ninety nine percent of students graduate from high school and 86 percent of Catholic school graduates attend college.  This percentage has been consistent over the past 20 years.

More information on the Committee on Catholic Education and other resources are available online: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/ and www.NCEA.org/csw. Catholic Schools Week can also be followed on Twitter @USCCBCatholicEd, @NCEATalk, and throughout social media via #CSW18.

Bishops stand with 'Dreamers' as DACA battles continue

by Courtney Grogan

Washington D.C., (CNA) - Catholic leaders have responded to developments in the legal battle over the DACA program, including a court order maintaining legal protections for undocumented youth, known as “Dreamers,” and a presidential commitment to legislative support for them.

U.S. District Judge William Alsap’s Jan. 9 order temporarily blocks President Trump’s attempt to phase out the DACA program, which was initiated by President Obama in 2012. Nearly 690,000 undocumented immigrants are beneficiaries of the DACA program. 

While President Trump has worked to phase out the program, he has also called for a legislative solution to resolve the immigration status of DACA recipients. In a televised meeting with bipartisan lawmakers Tuesday, President Trump that he hopes to reach a solution for DACA recipients with a “bill of love.”

In a recent column, Archbishop José Gomez expressed concern for the estimated 125,000 DACA recipients who live within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, all of whom could face deportation when the program ends in March.

“It would be cruel to punish them for the wrongs of their parents, deporting them to countries of origin that they have never seen, where they may not even know the language,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.

The archbishop called for systematic immigration reform, explaining that most DACA recipients have not experienced a healthy U.S. immigration system in their lifetime.

“This debate is passionate and partisan, as it should be. Systematic reform of our immigration policy is absolutely vital to our nation’s future. And we need to have this conversation. But Congress needs to separate the conversation about DACA from these larger issues.”

Deportation of DACA recipients, Gomez said, “would lead to a humanitarian crisis.”

The DACA program postponed deportation of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who had been brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. since June 2007.

DACA participants are eligible to apply for work permits, obtain social security numbers, and, in most cases, apply for a driver’s license. In 2017, a group of business leaders explained that if DACA recipients were deported, “our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.”

In a Jan.10 statement, Bishop Joe Vasquez, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, wrote that bishops are “encouraged by the consensus that emerged from yesterday’s White House meeting that Congress and the President should move expeditiously to craft and enact legislation that would provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers. For years, these young people have been living in and enriching the United States in many ways. They are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes and communities. They and their families deserve certainty, compassion, generosity, and justice.”

Vasquez also called for financially sound, effective, and safe measures to strengthen national security at the US border. “Our teaching acknowledges and respects the right of sovereign nations to control their borders,” he wrote. “However, we caution against introducing unrelated, unnecessary, or controversial elements of immigration policy—especially those that jeopardize the sanctity of families or unaccompanied children—into the bipartisan search for a just and humane solution for the Dreamers.”

The Minnesota Catholic Conference recently organized a postcard campaign urging lawmakers to support bipartisan legislation that “protects the dignity of every human being,” particularly the “immigrant youth who entered the United States as children and know America as their only home.”  Other Catholic organizations have organized similar campaigns.

“As a nation, we have a moral and humanitarian obligation to Dreamers,” Vasquez wrote.

A Message from the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops During National Migration Week, January 7-13

January 5, 2018

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers a National Migration Week message to the nation with special gratitude for the gift of immigrants and refugees. 

Cardinal DiNardo's statement as follows:  

“On Sunday, the Catholic Church across the United States will celebrate the beginning of National Migration Week.  For nearly 50 years, this week has been a time of prayer and reflection on our history as a migrant Church and nation.  In these five decades, the face of the immigrant may have changed – European, Asian, South American, and elsewhere -- but their faces reveal a common desire to secure the great blessings of American opportunity. 

Pope Francis, in his statement on the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2018, advises us that if we view the situation of migrants and refugees through the wisdom of our faith ‘we discover that they do not arrive empty-handed.  They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them.’

This week, I invite everyone to reflect on the Holy Father’s words as well as on your own family’s immigration story. Please also join me in prayer for all families, as together, we ‘Share the Journey’ toward a better life.”

National Migration Week 2018 to be Celebrated January 7-13th

WASHINGTON - National Migration Week 2018 will take place January 7-13th. This year’s theme is "Many Journeys, One Family.” The theme coincides with the Caritas Internationalis migration campaign entitled “Share the Journey”. National Migration Week provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the contributions of migrants, including refugees, and victims of human trafficking in our communities.

With over 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes globally, the world is increasingly affected by migration. National Migration Week offers a time to educate Catholic communities about migration and to come together to encounter immigrants and refugees in parishes, dioceses, and communities.

“National Migration Week allows for reflection upon the biblical teaching concerning welcoming the newcomer and allows us to share the journey with our brothers and sisters who have been forced from their homes.” said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration.

As part of the 2018 National Migration Week celebration, USCCB/MRS will be participating in an event at The Catholic University of America with the Institute for Human Ecology entitled “On the Margins: At the Intersection of Catholic Thought and Migration” on January 11th. To register for the event in person, visit www.marginsevent.org, to view livestream of the event visit https://livestream.com/CatholicUniversity/events/8001597.

The US bishops began the observance of National Migration Week nearly 50 years ago to give Catholics an opportunity to honor and learn about the diverse communities of the Church, as well as the work that the Church undertakes to serve immigrants and refugees. The week serves as a time for both prayer and action in support of migrants and refugees.

Educational materials and other resources for National Migration Week are available for download at www.justiceforimmigrants.org/take-action/national-migration-week.

President Should Work with Congress Toward Acceptable Tax Bill, Says U.S. Bishops Chairman

December 20, 2017

WASHINGTON - After the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed The Tax Reform and Jobs Act, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, drew attention to unacceptable problems that remain, and called on President Trump to insist that Congress fix them before he signs a bill into law.

The full statement follows:

“Today, Congress passed its tax reform legislation, The Tax Reform and Jobs Act, and it has been sent to the President to consider.  The legislation achieves some laudable things, like doubling the standard deduction, which will help many struggling families avoid tax liability, expanding the use of 529 education plans, and increasing the child tax credit.

However, the Act contains a number of problematic provisions that will have dramatic negative consequences, particularly for those most in need.  Among other things, the Joint Committee on Taxation indicates that the bill will eventually raise taxes on those with lower incomes while simultaneously cutting taxes for the wealthy.  This is clearly problematic, especially for the poor.  The repeal of the personal exemption will cause larger families, including many in the middle class, to be financially worse off.  The final bill creates a large deficit that, as early as next year, will be used as a basis to cut programs that help the poor and vulnerable toward stability.  The legislation is also likely to produce up to a $13 billion drop in annual charitable giving to nonprofits that are relied upon to help those struggling on the margins.  This will also significantly diminish the role of civil society in promoting the common good.

As the President considers the tax bill before him, we ask that he take into account the full consequences of its provisions and work with Congress to remedy them before signing a tax bill into law.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane’s December 6, 2017, letter analyzing the Senate and House bills prior to reconciliation can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Tax-Conference-Letter-Congress-2017-12-06.pdf

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Faith Leaders Affirm the Inherent Beauty and Dignity of Being Created Male or Female

WASHINGTON - Following the USCCB General Assembly in November 2017, a group of ecumenical and interfaith partners gathered with bishops of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage to discuss gender ideology. As a result of this discussion, faith leaders today issued an open letter entitled "Created Male and Female".

Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs signed the letter.

"We hope this letter communicates to the public our shared understanding of the goodness of the creation of humanity as male or female and underscores our commitment to service of this truth with both clarity and compassion," said Bishop Conley.

The religious leaders stressed the importance of acknowledging the reality of sexual identity, noting, "Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can 'change' their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of 'first, do no harm.'"

The leaders close with a hope: "We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity."

The letter is available at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/created-male-and-female.cfm and follows three previous open letters: "The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment," issued December 6, 2010, "Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together," issued January 12, 2012, and "The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness," issued on April 23, 2015, which are available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/ecumenical-and-interreligious-activities.cfm.

 

As pope turns 81, kids entertain with song, dance and 13-foot pizza

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) - Celebrating his 81st birthday, Pope Francis blew out the candles on a 13-foot long pizza after being serenaded with song and dance by children and employees from a Vatican pediatric clinic.

A group of children receiving assistance from the Vatican's St. Martha Dispensary, a maternal and pediatric clinic, had given the pope a birthday party Dec. 17 marked with singing, dancing and a cake adorned with gold and white fondant decorations.

They also rolled out a large pizza with a single lit candle on it. The pope was joined with several children from the clinic and counted down before blowing out the candle.

Read more at - http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2017/as-pope-turns-81-kids-entertain-with-song-dance-and-13-foot-pizza.cfm