Indian Catholic Leaders Protest Call to Ban Sacrament of Reconciliation
Catholic News Service (CNS) || 30 July 2018
India's Catholic Church has led a chorus of protest over a demand to ban the sacrament of reconciliation from the chairwoman of the National Commission for Women.
"This demand is absurd and it displays ignorance about the sacrament of confession," Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of Catholic Bishops Conference of India, told Catholic News Service July 27.
"The tenor of the demand shows they do not understand the meaning nor do they have respect for religious freedom," the cardinal said following wide media coverage of the July 26 demand from Rekha Sharma, commission chairwoman.
Sharma said that "priests pressure women into telling their secrets," noting that the commission had heard testimony about one such case. "There must be many more such cases and what we have right now is just a tip of the iceberg," she said in calling for the end of the church practice of confessing sins.
The call came after five Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church priests in Kerala state were suspended from ministry, including at least two who had sex with a married woman.
The scandal erupted when an audio clip of a telephone conversation, purportedly between the woman's husband and a church official, went viral on social media in June, ucanews.com reported.
It was alleged a priest had sex with the woman after threatening to break the seal of confession to reveal to her husband that she had confessed to having a relationship with a priest in her parish before she was married. The priest hearing the confession allegedly video recorded having sex with the woman and passed the information and video to another priest, who also used it have sex with the woman.
The woman's husband said he learned of the incident after he found a bill for a five-star hotel in his wife's name and she admitted what had occurred.
The commission's demand "betrays a total lack of understanding of the nature, meaning, sanctity and importance of this sacrament for our people; and also an ignorance of the strict laws of the church to prevent any abuse," Cardinal Gracias said in a press statement July 27.
"Such a ban will be a direct infringement on our freedom of religion guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. ... I am confident the government will totally ignore this absurd demand from the commission," Cardinal Gracias said.
The cardinal urged the commission "to pay attention to empowerment of women, their capacity building, prevention of domestic violence, organizing rescue systems, and so on, instead of dabbling in religious matters about which it understands nothing."
The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council branded the commission's call "unconstitutional."
"It is an attack on the Christian faith and spiritual practice," the council said. "We strongly feel that the recommendation is unwarranted. ... We suspect communal and political motives behind this unconstitutional interference into the internal spiritual affairs of the church."
Cardinal Gracias told CNS that there seemed to be a "contrived attempt" by Sharma to discredit the church by making such a "shocking demand."
Alphonse Kannanthanam, a Catholic politician hailing from Kerala and the only Christian minister in Prime Minister's Narendra Modi's cabinet, denounced Sharma's call as well.
Africa's Top Mobile Operators Ready for 'Digital Transformation'
Balancing Act || ANRTIC Moroni - Oasis Grande Comore || 20 July 2018
Three of Africa’s mobile operators – MTN, Orange and Vodacom - now have in place a “digital transformation” strategy. In plain English, this buzz word means that they have an idea of how they will replace formerly lucrative voice revenues with digital content and service revenues. Russell Southwood looks at what they’ve got planned.
According to the latest GSMA report – The Mobile Economy: Sub-Saharan Africa 2018, penetration (excluding duplicate handsets) was 44% against 66% globally. The market will reach peak users some time soon. The GSMA says that there will be 50% penetration by the end of 2023 and 52% by the end of 2025. 33% of all Sub-Saharan African subscribers have smartphones and that figure will rise to 67% by 2025.
The foundations of the old mobile business model – voice revenues – are under threat and data produces low margins and requires higher levels of capital investment. Until recently, mobile operators in Africa have struggled to produce internally consistent business strategies that explain how they will dig themselves out of this hole.
It has also meant that the OTT (Over-The-Top) operators have been blamed by the mobile operators and many regulators for creating this set of circumstances by slowly bleeding away voice revenues through data voice apps like WhatsApp, Skype and Viber.
However, voice is only part of the digital services economy and there are wider and more profound consequences: it’s much more than just lost voice revenues, there’s a whole digital landscape out there. In a talk at the Apps Africa Innovation Awards in November last year, Herman Singh, Group Chief Digital Officer explained that users used to go on their phones and mostly use telco-provided services Now they use only 20% of services (and falling) that are telco-provided and users are going off elsewhere on their phone to get what they want. “Voice, data and text will decline. Do we just hand over to the OTTs? We need to become OTTs ourselves. The opportunities in the space are awesome.”
So at the heart of MTN’s fight-back against the OTTs is copying the business strategy of the OTTs themselves:”The trick is building a big community and keeping them on your platform as long as possible. That’s the secret to making money in this space.” Through its investments in Jumia in Africa and Snap in Iran, it wants to build a single app that will do all the digital things users want access to. In Africa, this is Jumia One:”There’s everything on one app. You never need to leave the app.”
He identified three key services that users can send each other in digital form: music, movies and games. Based on the latter, MTN has already built itself a US$100 million gaming business. MTN has chosen to build future new revenues by getting into digital services:” We’re a telco talking about e-commerce. This is not our core business. We got into it because no-one else wanted to get into it”.
Orange has a similar but slightly different strategy to build a new business model. It plans to focus on 1. mobile financial services; 2. Energy; 3. Content and 4. developing its B2B services. Again there is a focus on building a platform that will gain user attention and revenues. According to Thomas Chalumeau, Senior Vice President Strategy and Development, Orange Middle East and Africa:” What we want to do is increase the users of Orange et Moi (My Orange) and by doing this increase the overall audience for all digital players”.
Also, like Safaricom, it wants to build the volume of financial transactions on its platform and in doing so build a significant revenue stream from servicing these transactions. According to the latest GSMA report referred to above, there were 135 live mobile money services across Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2017. The bulk of these services were in West (57) and East (51) Africa, with far fewer in Southern and Central Africa. The report also says there are now 120 million active mobile money accounts.
Part of Orange’s strategy will be done through building partnerships with digital content providers:” We will chase revenue share agreements with digital partners. So for example, TV services are a simple way to monetize networks and we partner with Canal+ and irokotv” It has also invested in Bizao that facilitates easier access to APIs for both mobile companies and digital services operators.
Specifically on the increased CAPEX required for new data networks needed to achieve all this, Chalumeau said:”Globally Africa is the continent that needs most (infrastructure). We are interested in both passive and active infrastructure sharing and will accelerate discussions with partners. We want to build a stronger agenda in this area”.
Again Vodacom – the third of the large African operators - is taking a leaf out of the OTT operators’ playbook. According to Zunaid Mahomed, Vodacom Group Digital and Fixed Services Officer: “We have embraced a version of our digital service operating model where we are able to provide services, not just to traditional Vodacom telco service customers, but to all customers. Most of our Vodacom-branded digital service portfolio is available to all digital audiences. While the service is telco agnostic, there will be instances where Vodacom SIM users get a better experience”. This same “anyone-can-use-it”, platform agnostic approach is also echoed in the music streaming platform of Safaricom, Songa, which is also Vodafone-owned.
It is focusing on Vodacom branded services (like
Vodacom Soccer, All Out Rugby) and in some instances working with existing brands like Deezer:” This is dependent on where we are able to scale, where partners have a real advantage as well as our ability to link our network, which creates the unique ability to reach new audiences (e.g. our VideoPlay service provides a network award download feature to download videos when there is spare capacity). It’s a partner model that means “we don’t necessarily want to own content or services.”
Again its has a strong emphasis on video (“with users and usage growing significantly on a monthly basis”); music (growing but hard to get paying subscribers); and games (a dedicated portal and free data days promotions). Also like MTN, it is investing in harvesting more advertising revenues from having large numbers of users on its platforms.
The growth of digital services is upending previously solid industry sectors. In early 2017 Senegalese mobile money transaction company Wari announced it wanted to buy the Senegalese subsidiary of Millicom branded as Tigo. The matter is currently in an arbitration court but as CEO Kabirou Mbodje told me at a recent event:”It could be another telco (if we don’t get Tigo). We’ve acquired a bank already and financial institutions in the USA and Europe.”
All three strategies have common threads but are expressed differently in the detail. Both MTN (e-commerce) and Orange (energy) want to grow new businesses. There’s also some greater degree of understanding at group level of the need to share infrastructure at a country level: not all the infrastructure required for the bight new digital dawn can be built by one operator. Becoming a key transactions platform – both for content and services and financial – is key to their efforts to remain central in the market.
The new digital services sector in Sub-Saharan Africa that these three opoerators are betting on is growing but is less visible than its telecoms and Internet counterpart. For example, Jumia has 4.2 million customers for its e-commerce business. MTN’s mobile games business has a US$100 million turnover. In the mobile money field, there are an estimated 2 million plus mobile money agents.
Whilst there is considerable excitement about some of the African start-ups involved in the new digital services sector, it tends not to be seen as a new and vital area of business activity. However, the companies involved in it – whether African or international – are beginning to attract investment into the continent. The sums attracted may be smaller than those invested in telecoms infrastructure but they do bring investment and jobs. Mobile news platform Opera announced at the beginning of the year that it will invest US$100 million to develop its African services. Over US$25 million has been invested in irokoTV. A third of all venture capital invested in African start-ups in 2017 – US$65 million – was invested in Fintech services.
There is even infrastructure investment from the OTT providers: After creating two metronets (one in Uganda and the other in Ghana), Google (and its partners) have committed US$100 million to develop infrastructure. Facebook has partnered with Airtel and BCS to lay 800 kms of fibre in North West Uganda.
But the digital transformation dream is still busy being born. I write this sitting in Lagos where yesterday I spoke to two successful content providers, one for music and the other for TV channels. Both were complaining that the regulator NCC (in a bid to stop the blizzard of SMS marketing and accompany consumer abuse) was restricting how much could be charged for VAS services. (Despite these restrictions, I’m still receiving over 15-20 SMS marketing messages a day on my local phone). Inevitably these price restrictions have hit those wanting to sell music and TV streaming services and made it harder for these popular services to be successful. And we’re talking services that have millions of users.
The other thing that’s not changing much is the percentage revenue share these digital service providers are getting. The TV channels provider is getting 25% of gross and can only console himself with the thought that “it’s early days.” The music streaming company is getting 50% of net and is never told what the overall gross figure is. Furthermore the operator they are partnered with started charging a percentage to cover data when it is not a service bundled with data. So although there is now much greater clarity with the major operators at group level, not all the staff in their opcos seem to have got the memo yet.
Opening of market for Internet Access and Service Providers in the Union of the Comoros.
As a part of the market liberalization of the Electronic Communications sector in the Union of the Comoros, the regulatory body, ANRTIC, welcomes all firms and individual wishing to set up as an internet access and services provider, to send a declaration of interest for installation and operation of the following activities, in line with the Comoros Communications Act (2014):
The provision of internet services in the framework of independent (standalone) networks;
The provision of internet access to the public using facilities provided by Comoros Telecom and / or TELCO S.A .;
The provision of closed-user-group internet services to specific customers (banks, hotels, Universities, hospitals etc), using facilities provided by Comoros Telecom and / or TELCO S.A .
Source: Balancing Act…
More African Wikipedia Contributors to 'Decolonize the Internet'?
AllAfrica || Deutsche Welle (DW) || 19 July 2018
Wikipedia contributors are few in Africa. The custodians of the free online encyclopedia and other Wiki resources are gathered in South Africa to talk about "decolonizing the internet."
"Only about 20 percent of Wikipedia's knowledge is produced by folks from the global south," Anasuya Sengupta said. And with that remark, the knowledge activist and co-director of the "Whose Knowledge?" campaign opened the "decolonizing the internet" pre-conference workshop of the Wikimedia Foundation's annual Wikimania. It's the first time that the conference is being held in sub-Saharan Africa.
"We essentially want to make the internet look much more like the real world. The complexities, the multitudes, the richness of all of our histories and knowledges," Sengupta said.
The volunteer authors, librarians, artists and activists invited to the upcoming Wikimania conference in Cape Town will concern themselves with how to achieve that. From July 20 to July 22, they will try to find ways to attract more black people and women to Wikimedia.
Wikimedia projects include Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikidata, Wikibooks and Wiktionary. White European and American men provide 80 percent of the content. Only one in every 10 Wiki authors is a woman, the Wikimedia Foundation estimates.
Internet access the main hurdle
Conversely, only 14,000 of the 70,000 active Wikimedia authors come from developing countries and only 1,000 of them are based in Africa.
This tragically low number of African "Wikipedians" is due to a number a number of factors, says Dumisani Ndubane. He is the learning and evaluation strategist at Wikimedia ZA, the foundation's South African chapter.
"Access to the internet is one of the biggest reasons. Data is expensive to buy, so when people do buy data they want to do things that are interesting to them, and volunteering and editing Wikipedia might not fall into that category," he says.
To change that, Wikimedia has taken on several Africa-wide projects: in Nigeria, the local film industry, or Nollywood, produced several short films to raise public awareness for Wikipedia. In South Africa, "Joburg-Pedia," which centers on historic buildings, came into being.
"People come and get excited to edit Wikipedia about their own city and we've seen a few people come through because of that," says Ndubane.
Variety through oral history
The Wikimedia 2018 theme is "Bridging the knowledge gaps - the ubuntu way forward." In recent years the Wikimedia Foundation has acknowledged that knowledge doesn't only occur in written form. The question of how to integrate oral history as a Wikipedia source is a further topic of discussion at the conference.
Even though much still has to be done, "Whose Knowledge?" founder Siko Bouterse points to the momentum of oral history in the Wikimedia movement. "There are projects that are starting to crop up in a few places. Afrocrowd, based in the United States, for example, is building an oral history-sort of repository of knowledge that will be digitized and available online, and they are not the only ones. So we see some of this really building and it's exciting to get to build together," says Bouterse.
Not only in English
Another matter close to Ndubane's heart is the diversity of languages. He wants Africans in particular to know that Wikipedia entries need not necessarily be in English. The language is not the mother tongue of many South Africans. Ndubane himself has made more than 500 Wikipedia entries, most of them in his home language of Xitsonga. His focus is history, personalities and Tsonga traditional clothing.
What motivates him to use his free time to work on Wiki entries? "Later on, my child can go onto Wikipedia and learn what that traditional dress is in his or her language. I've realized if I don't do it there is no one else who will," he says.
All Missionaries of Charity homes in India to be Inspected
UCANews || By Saji Thomas || 19 July 2018
A federal ministry in India has ordered inspections of all childcare homes run by Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by Mother Teresa, after a nun was accused of selling babies for adoption.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development said in a statement on July 16 that its move followed the recent case of alleged illegal adoptions carried out by Nirmal Hriday (tender hearts) home for unmarried mothers run by Missionaries of Charity in Ranchi in Jharkhand state.
Minister Maneka Gandhi has asked all states to get homes run by the congregation inspected immediately.
Sister Concelia Balsa and social worker Anima Indwar were arrested on July 4 after a childless couple complained to the state's Child Welfare Committee that Indwar took money to provide a baby but failed to keep the promise. They were accused of having already sold three babies from the home.
Indwar reportedly confessed to police that she took money for the baby.
"We are fully cooperating with the investigations and are open to any free, fair and just inquiry," Sister Mary Prema Pierick, the congregation's superior general, said in a July 17 statement.
She said Indwar, who had worked at the home for six years, enjoyed the trust of Sister Concelia, who was in charge of the unmarried mothers section.
The nuns, when busy with other work, allowed Indwar to escort unwed mothers to take their babies to the Child Welfare Committee's office. The nuns had no facility to verify if a baby had been surrendered because "as a matter of practice" the government office would not acknowledge taking custody of a baby from an unwed mother, Sister Prema said.
Media reports said Indwar, the baby's mother and a guard at the home jointly took money to sell the baby in question.
"We have full faith in the courts of law and the investigating authorities and are confident that justice shall prevail," said Sister Prema's statement.
Father Peter Minj, a lawyer who is helping Missionaries of Charity, said the federal move to inspect all the congregation's homes was the "latest in a series of probes we are facing."
State police chief D.K. Pandey wrote to the federal home secretary on July 11 urging him to freeze the congregation's bank account to facilitate an investigation into whether there were violations of regulations covering acceptance of foreign funding.
Church leaders say the government headed by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party is using the case to tarnish the image of Missionaries of Charity and the entire Christian community.
"Many myths are being spread, information distorted and false news being diffused, and baseless innuendos being thrown about regarding the Mother Teresa sisters," Sister Prema said.
The congregation that Mother Teresa founded in 1950 has 5,167 members serving in 760 homes in 139 countries. It has 244 homes in India.
Commentary: Catholic Media, and the Truth that Sets Us Free
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By JD Flynn || 13 July 2018
This week at CNA, we published an article about a bishop under investigation in India after a religious sister accused him of rape. The story is still developing, facts are not yet clear, and, of course, the bishop deserves the benefit of due process. CNA’s article explained those things.
But after the story was published, I received notes and messages from some readers, asking why we had published the story. Some said that it was scandalous to write the story before the allegations were proven. Or that we were causing mistrust. Or that articles like that one might cause people to lose their faith.
Those criticisms are nothing new. In fact, I hear them from some readers every time we publish a story about an allegation of sexual abuse, financial mismanagement, doctrinal infidelity, or some other negative charge against Church leaders.
I understand why readers have those concerns. And I think they deserve a reasonable response. Why would Catholic journalists- in fact, a Catholic news agency- publish negative stories about the Church?
As Catholic journalists, our job is to do more than simply write about the Church. As Catholic journalists, our job is to report about the Church and the world as Catholics. This means that we presuppose that the Church’s doctrinal claims are true. Our coverage aims to write about the world from a perspective that takes Catholic teaching seriously, and tries to recognize the way in which grace is operative and evident in the world.
But it is not our job to be public relations agents for the Church. It is our job to look for the truth, and to report it. Sometimes the truth about the Church and her members is discouraging, or ugly, or scandalous. But we can’t ignore that. In fact, as Catholic journalists, we need to be especially zealous for the truth, because we know that the truth will set us free.
As Catholic journalists, we believe in sin, and we believe in redemption. We (believe) that God’s grace is real. We know his mercy can be transformative. We know that every person is made for holiness, and that God’s grace can make each one of us holy. But we know that holiness is rooted in mercy. And mercy depends on repentance. And repentance depends on acknowledging the truth about ourselves.
If we ignore, hide, or spin the ugly truth, it won’t go away on its own. Sin, like mold, festers in the darkness. Sunlight is a disinfectant. By bringing the truth into the light, we hope that the Church will acknowledge the places where sin has infected the Body of Christ- that Catholics will repent when necessary, that Church leaders will reform structures and institutions when necessary, and that God’s grace will make each one of us holy.
Our job is to inform, to inspire, to encourage, and to elucidate. I hope that our work helps Catholics to think, see, and act in the world as Catholics. St. Paul tells believers to be “transformed by the renewal of your minds.” I hope our work helps minds to be renewed, and hearts to be transformed.
But all of that depends on telling the truth. The Christian life can never be based on falsehoods, lies, or PR "spin."
Satan, the father of lies, seeks to confuse us, to hide what's real, to convince us that true is false and false is true.
Catholic journalists need to tell the truth about the great things happening in the Church- the ways in which the Holy Spirit is moving - and about the things in need of reform, the places in which the Church must repent.
We also need to tell the truth when the Church is misrepresented, mischaracterized, or misunderstood.
When we know the truth, we know where we stand before God. We know what we must do to become holy. We know the good that fellow believers are doing, and we learn that we can imitate them. When we know the truth, we also know when we should ask for forgiveness, and when we should reform ourselves.
To be “iron sharpening iron,” we must see the places where we have grown dull or rusty.
The sexual abuse crisis in the Church is a scandal. It is heartbreaking and infuriating. And most people know that if the media had not asked questions, and uncovered the places where Church leaders had acted negligently, the Church in the U.S. might not have begun the long process of reform. We’re still in the midst of that process, and so we need to continue asking questions.
Heterodoxy is also a scandal. So is pastoral negligence. We need to ask about those things, precisely because we believe what the Church teaches, and because we believe that God’s grace is real.
But our mission is also to tell the stories of God’s redemption, of his generosity, of his grace. We love to tell the stories of new apostolic projects, of bold and creative disciples of Jesus, of the New Evangelization in action. We love to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. That’s also part of telling the truth. But to do that with any credibility- to be believed- our readers deserve to know that we won’t be compromised. That we’re a free press. That we are servants of the truth, and that we’ll follow it, wherever it leads.
Wherever the truth leads, we know that in Jesus Christ, it leads to our freedom.
JD Flynn is editor-in-chief of CNA. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Catholic News Agency.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Vatican Issues New Document on Vocation of Consecrated Virgins
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 05 July 2018
The Vatican has released a document that establishes norms and principles for women who dedicate their lives as consecrated virgins and their place in the life of the church.
Presenting the new document at the Vatican press office July 4, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said it is the "first document of the Holy See that delves into the character and discipline of this way of life."
"The instruction on the 'Ordo virginum' ('Order of Virgins') intends to respond to the requests that numerous bishops and consecrated virgins in these years have presented to the congregation for consecrated life regarding the vocation and witness of the order of virgins, its presence in the universal church and, particularly, its formation and vocational discernment," Cardinal Braz de Aviz said.
Consecrated by her local bishop, a member of the order of virgins makes a promise of perpetual virginity, prayer and service to the church while living independently in society.
The publishing of the document, "Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago" ("The Image of the Church as Bride") comes two years ahead of the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the renewed "Ritual for the Consecration of Virgins,'' an ancient rite in the church that fell into disuse in the years before the Second Vatican Council.
Divided into three parts, the document's first section highlights the biblical origins and characteristics of the order of virgins, in which women "with spousal love are dedicated to the Lord Jesus in virginity."
"Since this form of consecrated life was reintroduced in the church, there has been a real revival of the 'Ordo virginum,' whose vitality is evident in the rich variety of personal charisms placed at the service of the church's development and of the renewal of society in the spirit of the Gospel," the document stated.
Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the congregation, told journalists that through prayer penance and works of mercy, women in the order of virgins "take the Gospel as the fundamental rule of life."
"The unique element of the 'Ordo virginum,' which distinguishes itself from the Institutes of Consecrated Life, is that the charism of virginity is harmonized with the charism of each consecrated woman, making room for a great variety of responses to vocations, in a creative freedom that demands a sense of responsibility and the exercise of a serious spiritual discernment," Archbishop Rodriguez said.
The document's second section, he added, deals with the pastoral duties of bishops in fostering and nurturing the vocation of consecrated virgins as well as their role within the diocese.
While rooted in their diocese, consecrated virgins are not confined to it and instead "are opened to the horizons of the universal mission of the church" in other dioceses, bishops' conferences and the universal church," Archbishop Carballo said.
Finally, the third section of "Ecclesia Sponsae Imago" details the discernment and formation of women who choose the life of consecrated virgins.
Bishops, the archbishop said, must ensure that their dioceses have the available resources to help women discern their calling that "deepens the understanding of the ecclesial value of this consecration."
"Reproposing this way of life in the church may seem as an anachronism, but it is an act of trust in the action of the spirit, who is leading many women to accept and interpret this vocation in the light of the path fulfilled by the church over the centuries and according to the needs of the current historical context. It is a true path of sanctification that is fascinating and demanding," Archbishop Carballo said.
Young Adults Worldwide Less Religious than Older Adults, Pew Report Says
Catholic Herald || By Steve Larkin || 20 June 2018
However, more religious populations are growing faster
A study by the Pew Research Center found that young adults worldwide are generally less religious than older adults by a variety of measures.
The study, which drew upon previous surveys by Pew, concluded that this was true regardless of the predominant religion in the country, its level of economic development, or its level of religiosity. It defined young people as those under 40 years of age and older people as those 40 or older.
The study noted projections indicate countries whose populations are growing fastest are very religious, while countries projected to have shrinking or stagnant population levels tend to be less religious.
In addition to determining the differences between the rates of religious observance of younger and older people, the study, published in mid-June, attempted to identify possible causes for those differences.
As life expectancy, the average amount of schooling, income equality, and gross domestic product increase, the study found that religious observance decreases, with very few exceptions.
For example, of the 102 countries included in the report, the United States was the only one with an above-average GDP per capita and an above-average rate of daily prayer.
“Religious commitment is lower in places where life is easier. And in places where life is steadily becoming easier, the theory goes, younger adults generally are less religious than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations,” the report says.
The correlation between religious commitment and the ease of life also seems to run in the other direction. In many of the countries in which young adults are more religious than older adults – such as Ghana, Liberia, Chad and Georgia – civil wars, violence, or other forms of unrest occurred while young people were coming of age.
In 41 of the 106 countries surveyed, young people were less likely to have a religious affiliation than older people. Most of these countries were in the Americas or Europe, but South Korea, Australia and Japan had some of the world’s largest gaps between the percentages of young and older people who are religiously affiliated. The majority of age gaps in affiliation are in countries that have generally Christian populations.
The study also found that in North America and much of Latin America and Europe, young adults were less likely than older adults to say that religion was very important in their lives. About half the countries in the Middle East, where almost all adults have a religious affiliation, had a similar gap. In the average country surveyed, 57 per cent of older people said religion was very important in their lives, while 51 per cent of young people said the same.
Young adults are also less likely than older adults to attend weekly religious services. The study found that this was almost universally true in the Americas and in over half of the surveyed countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
Poland, a historically Catholic country, had the largest gap of any country surveyed: 26 per cent of young people attend religious services weekly, while 55 per cent of older people do. The report theorizes that this difference is due to the Catholic Church’s association with “nationalism, Polish identity, and resistance to the Soviet Union during Poland’s communist period,” which the older generation, unlike the younger generation, would remember.
The study found that “the generational divide in religious commitment is most apparent when examining daily prayer. Not only is it the measure with the highest number of countries with an age gap, but it is also the measure by which the average country has the biggest gap globally.”
The gap exists in 71 of the 105 countries surveyed, including all 19 countries surveyed in Latin America, 27 of 35 European countries, the United States, Canada, and a number of countries in other regions.
The difference in rates of daily prayer was especially wide in the United States – 18 percentage points – and Latin America and the Caribbean – 14 percentage points – and the average difference was nine points. Both generally religious and nonreligious countries were among the 71 countries where older people are more likely to pray daily than younger people.
Source: Catholic Herald…
Former Pro Football Player Prepares to Take Final Vows as a Franciscan Nun
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || 18 June 2018
Every single vocation story is different, but Sr. Rita Clare (Anne) Yoches is probably one of the more unusual.
Sr. Rita Clare, who this month will profess final vows with the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, was a four-time national champion professional football player prior to entering the convent.
Yes, that’s American football. (She was a fullback.) Nowadays, the only football Yoches is playing is the annual two-hand touch game she organizes with the 38 T.O.R. sisters she lives with in Toronto, Ohio.
Although she was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, Yoches said she never once considered becoming a nun. Her family attended Mass each Sunday, but that was about it in terms of her faith life. A talented athlete, Yoches earned a full basketball scholarship to the University of Detroit-Mercy, where she played for four years.
After college, she began her football career in 2003 after a successful tryout with the Detroit Demolition, a now-defunct women’s professional team. She left the team in 2006, and in March of 2007, the former self-described party girl experienced a calling to enter religious life. She ended her relationship with her boyfriend, and entered the Franciscans shortly after.
“(I) loved to stay out as late as could on Friday and Saturday nights, but always went to Mass on Sundays. But I never really listened to what God was saying,” said Yoches in a video about her conversion.
One Sunday, after a particularly moving homily, Yoches realized that she needed to drastically change her lifestyle.
“And I was like, that’s me. I’m sick and dying on the inside. So that convinced me to go to Confession for the first time in a long time.” Her priest provided her with guidance about reading scripture every day, and she began attending Eucharistic Adoration.
It was during Eucharistic Adoration that she felt truly embraced by God, and really began to get a sense of His plan for her life.
"And then I felt God the Father just wrap his arms around me and give me a hug, and just pulled me onto his chest like only a father can hug a daughter,” she said.
“And my life was forever changed. I just wanted more and more of Jesus."
She says while her family was supportive of her decision to enter the convent, her friends were surprised, as she had largely kept her faith life private.
“People were very surprised that this was really who and what I wanted to do and be,” she told the Detroit Free Press.
Sr. Rita Clare will profess final vows on June 30.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Australian Law Forces Priests to Violate Seal of Confessional
Catholic Herald || By Nick Hallett || 13 June 2018
Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the law was 'seemingly driven by a desire to penalise the Catholic Church'
A new law requiring priests to break the seal of the confessional is “premature and ill-judged”, the Archbishop of Brisbane has said.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian bishops’ conference, said the law in Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was “seemingly driven by a desire to penalise the Catholic Church without properly considering the ramifications of the decision”.
Priests in Canberra now face criminal charges for maintaining the seal of the confessional where someone confesses to child sexual abuse under new legislation passed by the ACT assembly. The move has sparked fears that other Australian states and territories could introduce similar requirements.
Under Church law, the seal of the confessional is absolute and any priest who violates it faces excommunication.
“What sexual abuser would confess to a priest if they thought they would be reported?” Canberra and Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse said. “If the seal is removed, the remote possibility that they would confess and so could be counselled to report is gone.”
“The Government threatens religious freedom by appointing itself an expert on religious practices and by attempting to change the sacrament of confession while delivering no improvement in the safety of children,” he added.
Archbishop Coleridge said that the legislation also raised important practical questions about it could be implemented. “It’s the sort of legislation that could be drawn up and passed only by people who know little or nothing of the way the sacrament works in practice,” he said.
“One can only hope that other jurisdictions will be more considered in their decisions and more willing to listen to the voices of Catholic clergy and people than the ACT authorities seem to have been.”
Source: Catholic Herald…
Queen Awards MBE to Loreto Nun for Her Anti-Trafficking Work
Catholic Ireland.Net || By Sarah Mac Donald || 10 June 2018
Prestigious honour recognises Sr Imelda Poole’s "outstanding service in combatting human trafficking and modern slavery".
Congratulations have been pouring in for a Loreto Sister who was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in her Birthday Honours list in recognition of the nun’s efforts to end modern slavery.
The honour for Sr Imelda Poole IBVM was hailed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Church in England and Wales, as well as the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy.
The Cardinal tweeted on Saturday that Sr Imelda and her many colleagues in other religious congregations have long been champions in this important work.
“Her hard work, determination and her compelling advocacy constantly bring support and encouragement to all involved in this struggle, myself included,” he said.
Ambassador Axworthy said the recognition of Sr Imelda’s outstanding service in combatting human trafficking and modern slavery, through the European religious sisters’ anti-trafficking network RENATE which she leads, and through and Talitha Kum, the religious sisters’ worldwide anti-trafficking network, was well-deserved.
She added, “Sr Imelda is a key ally in Her Majesty’s Government’s campaign to eradicate modern slavery. It is wonderful to see such a distinguished friend of this Embassy honoured in this way.”
Sr Imelda Poole IBVM is a member of the English province of the Loreto Sisters. She has been on mission in Albania for almost thirteen years.
The Archbishop in Tirana asked the Loreto Sisters to work in the field of anti-trafficking in his diocese.
In an interview with the Catholic Times in 2016, she explained that she is “a Birmingham girl.” She first arrived in Albania in 2005 in response to Loreto in Britain’s decision to start a new foundation at the margins, beyond the boundaries of where their ministry had led them thus far.
The urgent necessity of anti-trafficking initiatives was underlined by the growth in human trafficking year on year. As many as 26 million people are trafficked globally and that trafficking cuts across regional, national and international jurisdictions, benefitting organised crime.
“We know for instance that Albanian girls are the highest number of victims [of trafficking] being rescued in the UK. Three years ago, that wasn’t the case, but it is now according to government statistics,” Sr Imelda told the Catholic Times.
As the UNHCR has highlighted, more trafficked women come from Albania than any other country in southeastern Europe. Of those trafficked, almost 60% were tricked into prostitution, and 35% were abducted. But it is not only women, children and men are trafficked too.
In 2005, Sr Imelda along with another Loreto Sister began working with Caritas in Tirana, finding their feet culturally and socially and networking with NGOs to see how they could contribute to efforts to stem trafficking. Today that commitment has spawned ten projects focused on prevention, awareness-raising, rehabilitation and advocacy for women, men and children.
The major issue for the president of Renate is the demand for trafficked women, children and even men for the sex trade.
“We have to address the problem of demand and the problem of irregular laws on prostitution. 50% of trafficked victims are in sex tourism or the sex labour industry. 80-90% of prostitutes are not there by choice, they are there because of poverty or need and the trafficked victims are there by force. There needs to be an outcry from the Church and every single government in the world. There should be much more law on the side of the victims and there should be no criminalisation of victims. That is very key.”
The Mary Ward Loreto women’s project operates six centres across Albania and much of the focus of the work is gender equality because the culture of patriarchy means good laws are routinely ignored.
The women’s project works with up to 1,000 women and has established seven small businesses aimed at economic empowerment and helping participants become “economically viable and strong”. The projects also offer care and support in healthcare, conflict resolution and tackling domestic violence.
Sr Imelda Poole was the tenth of twelve children, six boys and six girls. It was a Catholic upbringing. Her mother had converted to Catholicism when she was a teenager while her father’s family was from Oxfordshire and had been Catholic for generations.
Studying for her A levels, she began to discover God personally through a book ‘The Love of God – Meditations on the Love of God’. Fr Adrian Charterton, a priest in the cathedral parish where she lived, became her spiritual adviser.
As she finished school she decided to test her vocation. “The priest thought I should wait but my parents were open. I remember my father taking me to a pub in Nottingham for three hours to quiz me about my vocation and at the end of it he said, ‘well if this is God’s will – you go for it’. And that was it.”
Prior to this mission Imelda began ministry as a teacher in secondary education followed by a ministry in formation, spiritual direction, counselling and before moving to Albania, she worked for 16 years in grass roots ministry on a council estate in the North East of England.
The aim of the NGO, Mary Ward Loreto (MWL) Foundation, is to focus on the work being developed against trafficking within the philosophy and charism of Venerable Mary Ward. The main values are Freedom, Justice and Sincerity.
Source: Catholic Ireland.net…
Pope to Seminarians: Beware of the Devil’s Temptations, Keep a Sense of Humor
Crux || By Claire Giangravè || 06 June 2018
In a just released transcript of Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff speech to seminarians studying in Rome, which he gave March 16, the pontiff warns about the dangers of the internet, the temptations of the Devil and the need for a good, healthy sense of humor.
“Be prepared, for when the demons of life arrive,” Francis told the more than 2,000 students of the Roman ecclesial colleges gathered in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, “and for when many other challenges will arrive, all born from original sin and the temptation of the devil.”
The pope went through the main challenges that priests have to face and prepare for, emphasizing that it’s a journey that requires accompaniment and discernment.
“If you are a priest, you can’t be a ‘quiet’ priest, a sacristy priest,” Francis said, one who only receives and offers confession from such to such a time on certain days of the week. If this is the case, he added, “you have extinguished your zeal, you changed your register a little bit and have learned to listen only to other things.”
Francis acknowledged that this journey “is tiring,” and that’s why it’s important for priests to have someone who accompanies them, but the pope makes a very important distinction. “One thing is your confessor, where you go, you say your sins, he forgives you and it’s finished. Another is who accompanies you: They are two separate things.”
He who accompanies the priest, the pope said, does not have to be a priest - in fact - he added, it’s even better if he is a layperson, as long as he has the charism to accompany you. Such a person is important in guiding the priests down the right path, and avoiding the temptations of the Devil.
“The devil exists!” Francis said. “And the devil - as Peter says - patrols, like ‘leo rugens’ [a roaring lion].”
While answering a question by Nebil from Sudan, Francis took the opportunity to answer something that had stuck in his craw. “The slanderers say ‘now discernment is in vogue: This pope came here with this issue… What does that matter here?’ But discernment is in the Gospel! Right in the Gospel and in the entire history of the Church,” he said.
The pope credited his Jesuit metaphysics professor, Father Florito, with teaching him how to discern, adding that he acted as his spiritual father until his death. Discernment, he added, is also fundamental in order to avoid rigidity and leave space for the Holy Spirit.
“When you are incapable of going forward with things that are happening to you or outside and judge them, you will become rigid or will fall into casuistry, in the logic of ‘this is okay, this is not okay.’ And everything is closed. The Holy Spirit does not work,” Francis said.
According to the pope, “we fear the Holy Spirit,” and try to cage Him within gestures and doctrine. An easy way to spot if the Holy Spirit is active within someone, Francis added, is by seeing whether he has a sense of humor.
“For me a sense of humor is the human behavior - it’s human! - that is closest to grace,” he said. “It’s that good ‘relativism,’ the relativism of joy, the relativism of spirituality, that relativism which is born from the Holy Spirit.”
Beyond the spiritual formation that Francis mentioned, it’s important to cater to the human formation of priests as well. Spontaneity, and not rigidity, is key for a priest to be able to be with his brothers and flock, the pope said, though he warns about the dangers this might entail without discernment.
“If you don’t know how to caress well as fathers and as brothers, it’s possible that the devil might lead you to pay for caressing,” Francis warned. “Be careful.”
He went on to make a distinction between priests who act like fathers or step-fathers, where the former are capable of giving life and the latter are sour and stuck in the routine. “If one of you doesn’t feel like becoming a father, then please leave, it’s better,” the pope said.
To Luigi, a priest from the United States, Francis described the importance of diocesan priests having a good relationship with their bishop, their brother and their parishioners, and once again condemned gossip as the “leprosy of a presbytery.”
Finally, the pope encouraged the priests to take part in a permanent formation, to ward off the dangers and temptations of everyday life and not become a mere “functionary of the sacred.” Among the main dangers is contemporary culture, the pope said, and modern forms of communication.
“How do I enter, with my cellphone, in my virtual communications?” Francis asked. “You know well what I speak of: what am I trying to look at, out of curiosity? And you know. There is contemporary culture that enters my soul and sullies it.”
Quoting St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, the pope also warned against riches, vanity and pride as the three steps leading to sin. Beyond the desire for comfort, celibacy is also a challenge, he continued, telling priests to be prepared and, always, discern.
“You are normal men, you have the desire to have a woman, to love,” Francis said. “And if the possibility should arise, how would you react? Do you have the desire to generate children? Not just spiritual but also others? This is something that we have in our nature given by God.”
All these challenges, the pope said, will be difficult to face as life goes on. For this reason, he said, permanent formation is always important.
“Not just to solve temptations, but also to stay familiar with current realities, in the developments of pastoral care, of theology, and the life of the Church,” Francis said.
Pope Francis Rejects German Proposal for Inter-Communion
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 04 June 2018
One month after Vatican and German delegates met in Rome to discuss a proposal put forward by German bishops to allow Protestant spouses in inter-denominational marriages to receive the Eucharist in certain circumstances, Pope Francis has rejected it.
In a letter dated May 25 and addressed to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and president of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal-elect Luis Ladaria SJ, the Vatican’s top authority on matters of doctrine, said the text of the German proposal “raises a series of problems of considerable importance.”
The letter was published June 4 on the blog of Veteran Vatican journalist Sandro Magister.
The Holy See press office has confirmed the authenticity of the letter, which was also sent to members of the German delegation who attended a May 3 meeting between German prelates and Vatican official on the topic in Rome, including Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Cologne; Bishop Felix Genn of Münster; Bishop Karl-Heinz Wieseman of Speyer; Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg and Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg.
After speaking with Pope Francis about the matter in light of the May 3 discussion, Ladaria said the pope “came to the conclusion that the document is not mature enough to be published,” and cited three main reasons for the decision.
First, Ladaria stressed that admission to Communion of Protestant spouses in inter-confessional marriages “is a topic that touches the faith of the Church and has relevance for the universal Church.”
Allowing non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist, even in certain limited conditions, would also have an impact on ecumenical relations with other Churches and ecclesial communities “which should not be underestimated.”
Finally, he said the question of Communion is a matter of Church law, and cited canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law, which deals with access to the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.
Specifically, canon 844 states that “Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone,” apart from a number of exceptions spelled out in the canon.
These exceptions include allowing non-Catholic Christians to receive the sacraments of Confession, the Eucharist, and the Anointing of the Sick by non-Catholic ministers in churches where these sacraments are valid “whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided.”
Catholic ministers, the canon says, can also administer these sacraments licitly on members of Eastern Churches that are not in full communion with Rome, “if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed.”
The canon says this is also valid “for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches.”
For non-Catholic Christians unable to approach a minister from their own confession, the canon says they are able to receive these sacraments only “if the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it.”
However, to receive the sacraments they must seek reception “on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”
The canon concludes underlining that in the case of the exceptions, “the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community.”
In his letter to Cardinal Marx, Ladaria noted that while there are “open questions” in some sectors of the Church in regards to the interpretation of canon 844, “the competent dicasteries of the Holy See have already been charged with producing a timely clarification of these questions at the level of the universal Church.”
However, he said it would be left up to diocesan bishops to judge when there is a “grave impending need” regarding the reception of the sacraments.
Ladaria, who was recently tapped by Pope Francis to get a red hat in a consistory later this month, heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
His letter to German prelates follows a May 3 meeting on the topic of inter-communion between a delegation of German bishops and members of Vatican dicasteries to discuss whether the question of inter-communion for non-Catholic spouses in inter-denominational marriages could be decided at a local level, or whether it needed Vatican intervention.
The meeting was called after reports, later denied by the German bishops’ conference, came out saying the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had rejected a proposal by the German bishops to publish guidelines allowing non-Catholic spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist in certain limited circumstances.
In February, Cardinal Marx had announced that the German bishops conference would publish a pastoral handout explaining that Protestant spouses of Catholics “in individual cases” and “under certain conditions” could receive Holy Communion, provided they “affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist.”
Marx's statement concerned a draft version of the guidelines, which was adopted “after intensive debate” during a Feb. 19-22 general assembly of the conference.
After Marx's announcement on the inter-communion proposal, several German prelates appealed to the Vatican for clarification. Specifically, they wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Council for Legislative Texts.
Signatories, who did not consult Cardinal Marx before writing the letter, included: Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg; Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstätt; Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg; Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau; Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg; Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz and Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Cologne.
None of the signatories, apart from Cardinal Woelki, were present for the May 3 meeting at the Vatican, which was held at the Vatican.
Members of the German delegation for the May 3 meeting also included: Cardinal Marx; Bishop Genn; Bishop Wiesemann, president of the Doctrinal Commission for the German bishops conference; Bishop Feige, president of the German bishops' Commission for Ecumenism; Bishop Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Fr. Hans Langendörfer SJ, secretary of the German bishops conference.
On the Vatican side, the meeting was attended by: Archbishop Ladaria; Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Msgr. Markus Graulich, undersecretary for the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and Fr. Hermann Geissler, who serves as a kind of office manager for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
After the meeting, Ladaria was tasked with recounting the details of the discussion to Pope Francis. In his May 25 letter to Marx, Ladaria said he spoke to the pope about it May 11, and again May 24. It was after these discussions, he said, that Francis decided the inter-communion guidelines put forward by Cardinal Marx could not be published.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Chilean Bishop Suspends 12 Priests, Apologizes for Not Acting Sooner
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 21 May 2018
Over the weekend, Chilean Bishop Alejandro Goić Karmelić suspended several priests after allegations of sexual misconduct were raised against them. He apologized for not following up when the accusations were first brought to his attention.
“I would like to ask forgiveness for my actions in this case,” the bishop said in a May 19 statement.
Goić, who heads the diocese of Rancagua, said he “acted without the proper swiftness” when a woman came to him nearly a year ago with concerns regarding the conduct of Fr. Luis Rubio and other priests.
Goić's apology came the day after a program detailing accusations against Rubio was aired on Chile's TV13 channel, the same station that leaked Pope Francis' 10-page letter to Chilean bishops chastising them for a systematic cover-up of clerical abuse and calling them to institute deep changes.
The program was aired May 18, the day after Goić returned from the May 15-17 meeting with Pope Francis. It focuses on the testimony of Eliza Fernandez, a youth minister in the parish of Paredones who approached the bishop last year with concerns about Fr. Rubio's behavior, particularly with minors.
Rubio had been part of a priestly fraternity referred to as “La Familia,” several of whose members have been accused of sexual misconduct, including the abuse of minors.
“I do not know whether to call it a brotherhood, a sect, or a group of priests who have practices that do not conform to their status as clerics; and with respect to young people,” Fernandez said in the program, adding that the confraternity had shown an unnatural interest in youth who were 'between 15 and 29 years old,' and that some publicly joked about being homosexual.
In the program, Rubio admitted to sending nude photos of himself to a Facebook account he thought belonged to a 16-year-old named Pablo, but which was a fake profile Fernandez had set up to catch the priest.
“I'm not asking for saints, but for a person who is dignified,” Fernandez said in the program, adding that she cannot imagine how a priest would be able to hear her confession and then send naked photos to a minor via social media.
Having been approached by TV13 reporters after celebrating Mass May 12, Rubio in the footage admitted to sending the pictures, saying “it was my mistake, I acknowledge that,” and calling the act “a horrible shame.”
When asked if he would remain a priest, Rubio said “it's a decision that I need to make in my conscience.” He said the day was one “of great sadness for me, and I regret what I have done...I recognize what I have done, that it is horrible, but I cannot say anything more.”
In a previous statement, aired on the program, Bishop Goić had said, “I did not study to be a detective, I studied to be a pastor.” He said that no one had come to him with a “formal accusation,” and that while Fernandez had reached out regarding personal concerns, she had not lodged an official complaint and had not given him any proof, so he could not investigate.
In his statement, Goić said he values the reporting done by TV13, “because they have delivered aspects that I did not know, and which have affected me greatly and caused me great suffering, as well as the community.”
The bishop said he had already submitted a formal complaint to Rancagua's prosecutor, which contained background on Rubio from the program, and that he will send all the information they have available to the Holy See this week.
Goić also suspended several diocesan priests mentioned in the TV13 program, asking them to halt their ministry until a full investigation can be done.
“I deeply regret any action or situation that violates the values and principles that underpin our Catholic Church and I want to express my clear availability to collaborate in any type of procedure which derives from the knowledge of these facts,” he said.
He asked anyone with information about actions which “do not coincide with the priesthood” to inform their dioceses, and provided the email addresses for the diocese of Rancagua.
“I must admit that, personally, as a Christian and as a pastor, I find myself deeply affected by this difficult situation, which hurts and embarrasses me,” he said, and prayed that “the truth will be revealed, the whole truth, in these cases and in any other situation which threatens the Gospel of the love of Christ.”
Goić, along with every other active bishop in Chile, submitted a written resignation to Pope Francis Thursday, the last day of their meeting with Pope Francis.
The meeting was called by Pope Francis himself last month following an in-depth investigation of abuse cover-up by Chilean Church hierarchy. The investigation, carried out by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu, resulted in a 2,300-page report, which has not been made public.
The investigation was initially centered around Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, appointed to the diocese in 2015 and accused by at least one victim of covering up abuses of Chilean priest Fernando Karadima.
In 2011, Karadima was convicted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of abusing minors and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude. Allegations of cover-up were also made against three other bishops – Andrés Arteaga, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela – whom Karadima's victims accuse of knowing about Karadima’s crimes and failing to act.
Pope Francis initially defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. However, after receiving Scicluna's report, Francis apologized, said that he had been seriously mistaken, and asked to meet the bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.
As of now, no decisions have been made regarding the bishops' fate, and it will be up to Francis whether to accept or reject their resignations.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Why Catholics Should Have a Great Sense of Humour
Catholic Herald || By Francis Phillips || 23 April 2018
A book on self-esteem by a Benedictine monk reminds us how faith makes us joyful
Is it possible to be a practising Catholic and have a sense of humour? The question is absurd; as GK Chesterton might have riposted, although in more punchy paradoxical style: it is because Catholics know the divine purpose of their lives and the means to attain it that they can then set about living it with joy and gusto. By this argument, they will actually have a much keener sense of fun than your average atheist or agnostic. Saint Teresa of Avila is said to have commented, “God protect me from sad-faced saints” and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, one of her spiritual daughters who had been a solemn and serious atheist philosopher before her conversion, admitted that she had never laughed so much as when she had become a Carmelite nun.
These musings have arisen as I have just read Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem by J Augustine Wetta OSB (Ignatius Press.) Don’t be put off by the title which might not sound jolly (I have noted that most books on the subject of improving our “self-esteem” seem very earnest). The author, a monk at St Louis Benedictine Abbey in the US, has written a very amusing as well as wise book. It is also only 173 pages; always a recommendation in my view.
At this point, I must mention the illustrations in the book which are one of its funniest features. Wetta has taken medieval and Renaissance paintings of monks and digitally reconfigured them so that at second glance you realise the joke he is playing: there are monks as disc jockeys, monks as weight-lifters, monks as darts throwers, monks taking selfies and so on. In case you might think this is a very puerile kind of humour, I assure you it isn’t – but you would have to buy the book to know it.
As anyone who has read it knows, St Benedict’s original Rule is a miracle of brevity and psychological insight. Its core message is that genuine self-esteem means self-abandonment; instead of fixating on yourself, you simply focus on God and only regard yourself in the light of his gaze. Wetta explains that there are twelve rungs on the ladder of humility: fear of God, self-denial, obedience, perseverance, repentance, serenity, self-abasement, prudence, silence, dignity, discretion and reverence. When you think about it you see how they all hang together.
Wetta, as befits a monk at ease in his vocation, provides the persevering reader with “homework” at the end of each chapter. These include the light-hearted, “Spare the life of a bug. Bonus points if it’s a mosquito” to the more difficult, “Spend an entire day without correcting anyone.” I felt smug at the direction, “Spend an entire day without looking at the screen” as I practise this every Sunday.
On “Silence” he advises, “When you meet a wise person, listen to him and you will learn wisdom; when you meet a foolish person, listen to him and you will learn patience; when you are alone, listen to God and you will learn everything else.” Yet he doesn’t always suffer fools gladly; when a woman once asked him, “Why did you have to become a monk? Isn’t it enough just to be a good person?” he tells her, “No! God wants you and me to be saints – to give and give and give until it hurts!”
Wetta is an all-rounder. In his spare time he supervises the school juggling team, cultivates carnivorous plants, raises carpenter ants and surfs. His final “homework” is, “Give this book away” – so having read and laughed over it I shall do just that.
Source: Catholic Herald…
Priests are Performing Exorcisms Over the Phone, Cardinal Claims
Catholic Herald || By Staff Reporter || 17 April 2018
Rising demand means priests are saying some prayers over the phone, Cardinal Simoni said
Priests have been carrying out exorcisms over the phone as demand continues to rise, a Cardinal has said.
Speaking at the Vatican’s annual exorcist training conference in Rome, Cardinal Ernest Simoni said priests are delivering prayers of liberation, part of the exorcism ritual, remotely.
“There are priests who carry out exorcisms on their mobile phones. That’s possible thanks to Jesus,” he said.
However, some warned that the practice was not wise, as people who are possessed often writhe around violently and have to be restrained during exorcisms.
Professor Giuseppe Ferrari said: “Priests pray with people on the phone to calm them down, but if you are not there you cannot control the physical aspects. Some exorcists say it is effective. Whether it is orthodox or correct, I couldn’t say.”
Around 250 priests from 50 countries are attending this year’s conference at the Regina Apostolorum university as prelates from around the world report an increase in demand for exorcisms.
The course started in 2004, and since then the number of priests attending each year has more than doubled.
Earlier this year, Irish priest Fr Pat Collins said calls were rising “exponentially” and added that he was “baffled” Church leaders were not doing more.
“What I’m finding out desperately, is people who in their own minds believe – rightly or wrongly – that they’re afflicted by an evil spirit,” he said.
“I think in many cases they wrongly think it, but when they turn to the Church, the Church doesn’t know what to do with them and they refer them on either to a psychologist or to somebody that they’ve heard of that is interested in this form of ministry, and they do fall between the cracks and often are not helped.”
Last month, Italian exorcist Fr Benigno Palilla said there had been a surge in demonic activity in the country, and that Italy needed many more exorcists.
In his most recent apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis warns that the devil is not a myth but a “personal being who assails us”
“We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea,” the Pope wrote. “This mistake would leave us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable.”
Source: Catholic Herald…
Why Did We Forget How to Date? New Documentary Aims to Find Out
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Mary Rezac || 16 April 2018
It was about 10 or so years ago when Kerry Cronin, a professor at Boston College, noticed something was up with the way her young students were dating – or, rather, not dating.
It was the end of the year and she was talking to a group of bright, charismatic students who were full of plans for their future. Cronin asked her students if graduation meant some difficult conversations with their boyfriends or girlfriends – and she got blank stares.
“(They) were just really stellar people, beautiful inside and out, and had all kinds of charisma and everything and almost none of them had dated at all in high school or college,” Cronin told CNA. “And I thought wait, what? What’s going on?”
Further conversations with students proved to her that this group of seniors was not an anomaly, but the norm.
“I started talking to them about hookup culture and how that had impacted dating, and what I realized was that the dating social script was sort of gone,” she said.
And so, like any good professor, Cronin turned the problem into an (extra credit) assignment that she gave to her senior capstone class the following year.
While her students all thought it was a good idea, none of them had asked someone on a date by the end of the semester.
“And I realized they had no idea what I was talking about,” Cronin said.
So she tweaked the assignment to include a set of rules that students had to follow – ask a legitimate romantic interest out on a date. In person. Keep the date 60-90 minutes. Go out to ice cream or coffee – something without drugs or alcohol. You ask, you pay – but a first date should only cost about $10 anyway. The only physical contact should be an A-frame hug.
The idea caught on, and pretty soon these “Cronin dates” were the talk of Boston College. Today Cronin travels the country, speaking to college students about how to date, and continues to give the dating assignment in her classes.
Her renown as the ‘Date Doctor’ reached the ears of Megan Harrington and her colleagues, who were looking to create a documentary about dating in today’s world.
“We had put together a pitch at dinner, and there were 14 women at dinner, two were married and the rest were single, and a lot of us just didn’t know when the last time we went on a date was,” Harrington told CNA. “And we were kind of saying, what is going on?”
After hearing about Cronin, Harrington and her team decided to feature the dating assignment in their new film “The Dating Project” – part dating how-to, part dating documentary.
Besides Cronin’s dating assignment, the film follows five single people of varying ages and backgrounds who are looking for love – two college students, Matt and Shanzi; Cecilia, a 20-something living in Chicago; Rasheeda, a 30-something living in New York; and Chris, a 40-something from Los Angeles.
“Dating, at least here at (Boston College) has kind of a broad, uncertain, ambiguous definition,” Matt says in the film.
“Definitely hooking up is more common on a college campus,” Shanzi adds.
The uncertainty and ambiguity is a constant thread in every storyline. Cecilia wishes her Tinder date would tell her what he wants, Rasheeda can’t remember the last time she was on a real date, or what that even means. Chris is so overwhelmed by online dating he’s not sure where to begin.
The moniker “hooking up” is a term young people have embraced, Cronin noted in the film, because it could mean anything from making out to having sex, and everyone gains some social status from being able to say they “hooked up.”
Cronin tries to help her students see that it’s braver – and ultimately better – to get to know a person before becoming physically intimate with them, something the hook-up culture gets backwards.
“They don’t build great habits for marriage and family. It’s easy to let someone see your body. It’s hard to let someone see you,” she said.
Harrington said she was “shocked” at the amount of pressure on college kids to be very physical in relationships, “and I think that carries over when you get out of college, this pressure to fit in.”
“I knew it was there and it’s not a new thing, and technology has just made it easier,” she added.
Cronin said that while the hook-up culture is prevalent, she’s found that most students are unhappy with that status quo and are looking for a way out.
“They want the way out but nobody’s offering it to them,” she said.
That’s why the rules for her dating assignment are so important, she noted. It’s not that she wants to return to the 1950s or some other bygone era, she added, but there are good things to be gleaned from these “dating scripts” of yesteryear.
“The rules are to help you so that you know what you’re doing,” Cronin said. “You’re not asking someone on an uber romantic date, this isn’t a candlelit dinner with violins and flowers, this is just a cup of coffee, just to see.”
She put together the “rules” from what she remembered of her own days of dating, as well as advice from friends and feedback from students who have done the assignment, Cronin said.
The students, she added, welcome the dating guidance.
“I am amazed at how much this generation of young adults wants coaching in all areas of their life,” she said. “They are hungry for coaching, and they responded so well to these rules I was amazed. In some ways I have no idea why they would do this, but then they do and they’re happy and they want people to help them navigate situations where they need to be brave.”
Two of the three production companies involved in “The Dating Project” are Christian companies – Paulist Productions and Family Theater Productions. Most of the single people featured in the film end up talking about their faith and values at some point, some more explicitly than others.
Rasheeda is the most outspoken about her Christian faith in the film. At one point, she expresses dismay that she can’t seem to find a man who shares her values and wants something out of dating besides a sexual encounter.
Harrington, herself a Catholic, told CNA that faith wasn’t necessarily meant to be a central theme of the film, but faith and values are a topic that inevitably come up during the dating process, and each person in the film talked about it to the extent they felt natural.
What the film does show, Harrington said, is that Christians are not really any better at dating in the modern world than anyone else is.
“It’s very apparent that even in the Christian world, in this area of life – dating and relationships – we’re just as lost as anyone else, we’re really not leading the way,” she said. “I think it’s just as difficult for Christians as it is for anyone else.”
Both Cronin and Harrington said that dating sites and apps are not bad in and of themselves, but they should be viewed as a tool.
“Use it as a tool to meet someone in person, because meeting in person is how you get to know someone,” Harrington said.
“The danger with apps is that people can become objects and we become consumers, and you’re swiping left and swiping right. Part of what is bad is that some people use them for just a hookup or sexual experience,” she added.
“The thing I think with any app is – have a plan, and that plan should be in line with your values and should result in you getting to meet someone face to face and having a conversation,” she said.
Cronin said the most heartening thing about her dating assignment has been that it gets students talking to each other about what they really want dating and relationships to look like.
“It’s one thing to give out an assignment to 25 students and that’s great, but what I was really heartened by is that most of those students go home to their resident halls and talk to their roommates and their friends about it,” she said.
“Within maybe two or three semesters of giving this assignment way back when, people were talking about it so actively and that was really wonderful, it ended up being one of the best thing about the assignment, because people knew about it, and it just gave people permission to go on casual, non-intense...dates,” she said.
She added that she hopes that this documentary will accomplish the same thing.
“My hope for this movie is that it will just get people to talk about our crazy fears and our crazy anxieties and why we hide so much and what it is we really want,” she said.
Harrington added that she hoped the film would encourage people to examine and re-evaluate their own relationships and dating behaviors.
“I think that the change has to come individually, we have to change ways in which we’re seeing people as experiences instead of as human beings,” she said. “You have to make a decision of changing a behavior that isn’t bringing out the dignity of the human person.”
“And if you’re of a faith, it has to be your relationship with God strengthening that and saying ok, I’m made in the image and likeness of God, and so is the other person,” she said. “So in order to change the dating culture, we have to change our own behaviors and look at the ways that we’re engaging with people.”
“The Dating Project” will show on April 17 in select theaters throughout the country. More information can be found at: https://www.thedatingprojectmovie.com/
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Facebook CEO Apologizes for 'mistake' of Blocking Catholic Content
Catholic News Agency || By Courtney Grogan || 11 April 2018
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced questions from lawmakers about his company’s censorship of Catholic content during his two-day congressional hearing following the revelation that millions of Facebook users’ personal data had been compromised.
Zuckerberg apologized and said that the company “made a mistake” in blocking a Catholic theology degree advertisement by Franciscan University of Steubenville, when asked about it by Washington state Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers on the second day of questioning.
The ad, which featured a crucifix, was rejected by Facebook over Easter on the grounds that its content was “excessively violent” and “sensational.” Facebook later apologized, saying that the ad had been blocked erroneously and did not violate terms of service. Zuckerberg on Wednesday emphasized the large number of ads that are reviewed daily by the Facebook team, saying, “I wouldn’t extrapolate from a few examples to assume that the overall system is biased.”
The tech CEO also expressed regret that he did not “take a broad enough view of our responsibility” to prevent tools from being used for harm, particularly with regards to “fake news, for foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R.-Texas) confronted Zuckerberg about alleged bias and censorship of political and religious content on the technology platform, saying Facebook “has blocked over two dozen Catholic pages” as well as conservative content “after determining their content and brand were, quote, ‘unsafe to the community.’”
In July 2017, CNA reported that Facebook blocked 25 Catholic pages in English and Portuguese. Facebook later apologized, saying the error was due to a malfunction rather than malicious intent. Earlier this year, another Catholic group said it was experiencing critical delays in approval of its fundraising content in support of vocations during the Christmas season.
Cruz continued to grill Zuckerberg over whether any Planned Parenthood or MoveOn.org ads had been removed. The Facebook CEO said that he was not aware of this ever occurring.
Pressed about bias, Zuckerberg said that “Facebook in the tech industry are located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place,” but that he is committed to “making sure that we do not have any bias.”
Many lawmakers questioned Zuckerberg about his company’s policies for monitoring the ads and debates on its platform.
When asked to “define hate speech” by Senator Ben Sasse, Zuckerberg responded, “I think that this is a really hard question,” but reiterated his resolve to block efforts that spread hatred or violence.
Sasse continued, “There are some really passionately held views about the abortion issue on this panel today. Can you imagine a world where you might decide that pro-lifers are prohibited from speaking about their abortion views on your content — on your platform?
“I certainly would not want that to be the case,” responded Zuckerberg, who went on to say that a technological shift toward using artificial intelligence to “proactively look at content,” will lead create “massive questions for society about what obligations we want to require companies to fulfill.”
The Facebook CEO was called to testify before Congress in the wake of scandals involving privacy violations and foreign interference in the 2016 elections.
Zuckerberg apologized repeatedly for the scandal involving the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, in which personal information from 87 million accounts was “improperly shared.”
Addressing these privacy concerns, Senator Dick Durbin asked Zuckerberg if he would be comfortable sharing the name of the hotel where he was staying.
When the CEO responded that he would not, Durbin replied, “I think that may be what this is all about: your right to privacy, the limits of your right to privacy and how much you give away in modern America in the name of, quote, ‘connecting people around the world.’”
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Selection of Quotes from Pope's Exhortation on Holiness
Catholic News Service (CNS) || 09 April 2018
Here is a selection of quotations from "Gaudete et Exsultate" ("Rejoice and Be Glad"), Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on holiness:
-- "I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God's people: 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."
-- "Holiness is the most attractive face of the church."
-- "The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts, rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them."
-- "In times when women tended to be most ignored or overlooked, the Holy Spirit raised up saints whose attractiveness produced new spiritual vigor and important reforms in the church."
-- "We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case."
-- "We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves."
-- "This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures."
-- "Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy."
-- "Thanks be to God, throughout the history of the church it has always been clear that a person's perfection is measured not by the information or knowledge they possess, but by the depth of their charity."
-- "Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12; Lk 6:20-23)."
-- "Giving and forgiving means reproducing in our lives some small measure of God's perfection, which gives and forgives superabundantly."
-- "We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven. All of us have been looked upon with divine compassion."
-- "The saints are not odd and aloof, unbearable because of their vanity, negativity and bitterness. The Apostles of Christ were not like that."
-- "In this call to recognize him in the poor and the suffering, we see revealed the very heart of Christ, his deepest feelings and choices, which every saint seeks to imitate."
-- "It is true that the primacy belongs to our relationship with God, but we cannot forget that the ultimate criterion on which our lives will be judged is what we have done for others."
-- "The saints do not waste energy complaining about the failings of others; they can hold their tongue before the faults of their brothers and sisters and avoid the verbal violence that demeans and mistreats others."
-- "Christian joy is usually accompanied by a sense of humor."
-- "The saints surprise us, they confound us, because by their lives they urge us to abandon a dull and dreary mediocrity."
-- "A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present, sanctifying it in accordance with the Father's plan."
-- "I do not believe in holiness without prayer, even though that prayer need not be lengthy or involve intense emotions."
-- "We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable."
-- "The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice. When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities."
-- "Discernment is not about discovering what more we can get out of this life, but about recognizing how we can better accomplish the mission entrusted to us at our baptism."
-- "Let us ask the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us a fervent longing to be saints for God's greater glory, and let us encourage one another in this effort."
University Says Facebook Rejected Ad Because it Shows Jesus on Cross
Catholic News Service (CNS) || 04 April 2018
The Franciscan University of Steubenville said March 30 in a blog post that an administrator of its Facebook page noticed one of its ads had been rejected because it contained "shocking content, sensational content, excessively violent content."
"What was the offending image?" the blog post asked. "The San Damiano Cross. Jesus in glory, reigning from his cruciform throne. This is what the monitors at Facebook consider excessively violent, sensational and shocking."
The blog post at https://bit.ly/2GAGlRj includes a screen capture of the message of rejection from Facebook: "Your image, video thumbnail or video can't contain shocking, sensational, or excessively violent content."
The university said the San Damiano Cross image was one in a series of ads it posted to Facebook March 29 to promote two of the school's online master's degree programs -- in theology and in catechetics and evangelization.
The San Damiano Cross is the large Romanesque rood cross that St. Francis of Assisi was praying before when he is said to have received the commission from the Lord to rebuild the Catholic Church. The original cross hangs in the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi, Italy. Franciscans cherish this cross as the symbol of their mission from God.
"Indeed, the crucifixion of Christ was all of those things," the blog post said. "It was the most sensational action in history: man executed his God. It was shocking, yes: God deigned to take on flesh and was "obedient unto death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:8)
"And it was certainly excessively violent: a man scourged to within an inch of his life, nailed naked to a cross and left to die, all the hate of all the sin in the world poured out its wrath upon his humanity," it added.
Pope Francis: People May Receive Communion in the Hand ‘where Permitted’
Catholic Herald || By Carol Glatz || 21 March 2018
Catholics can also receive while standing if they do so 'with devotion', the Pope said
Despite the chill and gusts of wind in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis welcomed the beginning of spring with an impromptu lesson about gardening and how to grow into being better Christians.
“Does a tree or plant that is diseased bloom well? No! Does a tree or a plant that isn’t watered … bloom well? No. And does a tree or plant with no roots bloom?” he said before delivering his general audience talk March 21.
Christians can learn from what makes spring flowers flourish, the pope said, because for Christians, their root is Jesus and the water that replenishes those roots are the sacraments and prayer, which makes lives bloom with Christian virtues and good works.
“I wish that this spring would be for you a spring in bloom” and an Easter that blossoms, he said. Offering a saying that is well-known in Argentina, the pope said, “‘The flowers a tree puts forth come from what it has underneath.’ Never cut off (one’s) roots with Jesus.”
In his main talk, the Pope continued his series on the Mass, focusing on the rite of Holy Communion.
This rite is a continuation of Jesus’s offer at the Last Supper, where he said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him,” the Pope said. The priest or deacon distributes to the faithful “the bread of life and the chalice of salvation” in Jesus, he said.
After the celebrant breaks the consecrated bread, the people reflect on the words spoken at the altar, proclaiming Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” he said.
This moment is an invitation, “calling us to experience the intimate union with Christ, source of joy and holiness,” the Pope said. It is also an invitation to an “examination of conscience, enlightened by the faith,” he said.
On the one hand, “we see the distance that separates us from the holiness of Christ; on the other, we believe that his blood was shed to take away the sins,” he said.
Just as baptism washes away sin, he said, “we are all forgiven or will be forgiven each time we approach the sacrament of reconciliation.”
“Do not forget! Jesus always forgives. Jesus never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness,” he added.
When St Ambrose wrote, “I, who sin continually, must always have a remedy,” he was reflecting on the salvific power of the blood shed by Christ, the Pope said.
The same faith is at work, he said, when the assembly looks to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, and beseeches, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.”
When the people process toward the altar to receive Communion, the Pope said, “in reality, it is Christ who comes toward us to assimilate us in him.”
Receiving the Eucharist means letting oneself be transformed by what is received, he said.
“Every time we take Communion, we resemble Jesus more,” increasingly being transformed in Jesus and stripping away one’s selfishness by uniting oneself closer with Christ, he said.
Just as the bread and wine are turned into the real body and blood of Christ, he said, so too are those who receive the gifts, transformed into “a living Eucharist,” becoming “body of Christ.”
“We become what we receive,” he said.
The Pope said receiving Communion can be done standing “with devotion” or kneeling, whichever has been determined by each bishops’ conference, and Communion can be received on the tongue or, “where it is permitted”, in the hand.
He encouraged people to use the time after receiving Communion to pray more deeply, silently speaking with Jesus from the heart.
“The Eucharist makes us strong, to give us fruit, flowers of good works,” he said. Receiving the Eucharist is receiving Jesus, who “is so good and so great,” he transforms people.
Source: Catholic Herald…
Stephen Hawking: What an Atheist can Teach Believers
Spotlight.Africa || By Anthony Egan, SJ || 15 March 2018
What might people of faith learn from the life of the late Stephen Hawking? As a self-proclaimed atheist who once observed that God was superfluous to his theory of the universe, Hawking nonetheless has much, I would suggest, that believers should take seriously as they seek to understand both God and the universe.
Some biographical details seem appropriate at this point, particularly as Hawking’s remarkable life seems so closely tied to his work. Born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death (January 8th 1942), diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1963 while still working on his PhD and told he had only a few years to live, physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking died on March 14th 2018 – the anniversary of the birth of another great scientist, Albert Einstein. Universally acknowledged as one of the greatest scientific minds of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, he was a cultural icon too for his refusal to let his motor neurone disease impede his quest to understand the nature – and origins – of the universe. While for Hawking this was probably a combination of secular stoicism and intellectual curiosity, it can also perhaps be read as a kind of faith, not in any divine providence as such but in a sense of commitment to engage with life in its most basic sense, a purpose that transcends obstacles in pursuit of a higher goal: meaning-making or insight.
Hawking’s breakthrough insight, published in the March 1974 issue of the journal Nature, that applied quantum theory (itself a monstrously complex theory of subatomic particles) to black holes led him to develop his unified theory of nature. To his initial chagrin this contradicted his earlier theories about black holes but – faithful to his discipline – he drew on his new insights (built in part upon his debates with fellow physicists) and presented to the world the idea that black holes could indeed collapse, and that they emitted radiation until they disappeared. This theory – called Hawking radiation – was highly theoretical and controversial. Attempts to simulate it experimentally suggested Hawking was right, but as often happens in the scientific community the results were hotly disputed.
The dynamic of this process, a questioning search for truth rooted in dialogue and the willingness to revise or even jettison ideas that no longer work, seems to me the natural allegory of a religious community at its best: engaging honestly with faith’s resources to understand where God can be found now. In short, doing theology.
Hawking’s fame grew. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society later in 1974, he was subsequently appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University (1979-2009), a position held in the 17th Century by Sir Isaac Newton. He continued to work on his grand theory of everything, even as the Lou Gehrig’s disease took its toll. For most of his career Hawking was confined to a wheelchair; in the last two decades he was effectively paralysed, communicating in a kind of code with a finger while it still could move and by blinking his eyes. Through technical wizardry these movements were processed into an artificial voice machine connected to his chair.
His condition did not stop him from producing a swathe of important articles and books. His most famous book A Brief History of Time (1988), in which he expounded on a universal theory of physics, sold nearly 10 million copies. Though aimed at a popular audience, it is still a hellishly complex book. A subsequent book, The Grand Design (2010) co-authored with colleague Leonard Mlodinow, explored among other things the mathematical possibility of multiple universes, a ‘multiverse’.
Courage in the face of obstacles seems to me another metaphor for faith lived by action. It is moral courage that takes believers and non-believers from a position of passivity and powerless to action and a sense of agency. While action is inevitably constrained by personal and social circumstances, the will to act as best one can distinguishes victim from victor, onlooker from agent, ‘subject’ from ‘citizen’ of sapient life.
By exploring the origin and nature of the universe, Hawking inevitably found himself dealing with the ‘God question’. Here too we saw not a kneejerk atheist, but an atheist who directly or indirectly was ready to engage with believers willing to debate with him. In his work Hawking dealt with scientists who were believers, either individually or through organisations like the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Based on his interpretation of the evidence he concluded that God was a ‘metaphor’ for the cosmos he tried to understand, a ‘possibility’ that could not be disproved but who seemed superfluous to his theory, and on balance probably did not exist.
I suspect believing scientists would agree with much of Hawking’s cosmology, and where they may disagree it would be on scientific issues primarily, not out of a kind of dogmatic reaction. And, precisely on the limits to the science they see in his theories, they would argue that God – however metaphorically interpreted by historic scriptures and doctrines – is more ‘probability’ than possibility, that which is within, before and beyond the material universe or multiverse. Here too, though perhaps in the somewhat different language of mathematics, they come to the same conclusion as the best of religious traditions’ theologians and philosophers.
Undoubtedly such views – holding together philosophy and astronomy, myth and math – may unsettle many believers. Such a scenario Hawking himself may have anticipated in a famous comment in an interview where he concluded that, in a battle between science and religion, science would ultimately win because while religion rested on dogma backed by authority (sometimes even force) science was based on truth derived from evidence. The later he called bluntly facts.
Philosophers of science who follow Thomas Kuhn’s approach – which embraces a more complex view where sometimes scientists (including at times Hawking himself, I should note) started with hunches that had to be tested and verified – might object to Hawking’s bluntness here. But theologians, religious leaders should primarily see it as a friendly challenge.
It is a challenge to interpret beliefs in the light of the best available scientific knowledge. (Given the Latin roots of the word ‘Scientia’, the latter two words could if I were mathematically inclined be simply ‘knowledge2’). It is a challenge to avoid intellectual laziness, or complacency, the temptation to assume because we believed something a certain way in the past we need no longer examine it. Or to simply assert beliefs from a position of ‘authority’ – even sometimes by naked power.
Scientists like Hawking do not simply affirm and repeat the claims of their intellectual predecessors. While honouring the genius of those before them, they question, theorise and experiment to see the gaps in understanding, correct the mistakes, refine questions and propose better answers. 100 years from now, no doubt, a future Lucasian Professor of Mathematics will unpick some or all of Hawking’s theories. This is not disloyalty, nor ‘heresy’: it is the very process of science itself.
It is also the last and best challenge and gift Stephen Hawking has given believers. Do we have the moral courage and sufficient spiritual conviction to take it up?
Stephen Hawking was a Longtime Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
Catholic Herald || By Carol Glatz || 14 March 2018
The academy said he told four popes he wanted to 'advance the relationship between Faith and Scientific Reason'
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who said he did not believe in God, was still an esteemed member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and fostered a fruitful dialogue between science and faith.
The academy, which Pope Pius IX established in 1847, tweeted, “We are deeply saddened about the passing of our remarkable Academician Stephen #Hawking who was so faithful to our Academy.”
“He told the 4 Popes he met that he wanted to advance the relationship between Faith and Scientific Reason. We pray the Lord to welcome him in his Glory,” @CasinaPioIV, the academy, tweeted March 14.
The Vatican observatory, @SpecolaVaticana, also expressed its condolences to Hawking’s family.
“We value the enormous scientific contribution he has made to quantum cosmology and the courage he had in facing illness,” the observatory tweeted in Italian.
The British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died March 14 at the age of 76.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster tweeted, “We thank Stephen Hawking for his outstanding contribution to science. As a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, he will be missed and mourned there, too.”
Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury tweeted, “Professor Stephen Hawking’s contribution to science was as limitless as the universe he devoted his life to understanding. His was a life lived with bravery and passion. As we pray for all those who mourn him, may he rest in peace.
Blessed Paul VI named Hawking a member of the papal academy in 1968. The academy’s members are chosen on the basis of their academic credentials and professional expertise – not religious beliefs.
Blessed Paul, the first of four popes to meet Hawking, gave the then 33-year-old scientist the prestigious Pius XI gold medal in 1975 after a unanimous vote by the academy in recognition of his great work, exceptional promise and “important contribution of his research to scientific progress.”
Pictures from the academy’s archives show the pope kneeling before Hawking, who was seated in a motorized wheelchair, to present him with the medal and touch his head.
Hawking had most recently met Pope Francis when he delivered his presentation on “The Origin of the Universe” at the academy’s plenary session on science and sustainability in 2016.
In interviews and his writings, Hawking asserted that God had no role in creating the universe.
Yet his avowed atheism did not keep him from engaging in dialogue and debate with the church as his work and contribution to the papal academy showed.
He also debated on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 2010 with Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer — a philosopher and educator — over the scientific underpinnings of the beginning of the universe and the theological arguments for the existence of God.
Vatican astronomer, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, who has studied both physics and philosophy, told Catholic News Service in 2010 that “the ‘god’ that Stephen Hawking doesn’t believe in is one I don’t believe in either.”
“God is not just another force in the universe, alongside gravity or electricity,” he added. “God is the reason why existence itself exists. God is the reason why space and time and the laws of nature can be present for the forces to operate that Stephen Hawking is talking about.”
Source: Catholic Herald…
Lightning Strikes Church in Rwanda, Kills 16
The New Times || By Kelly Rwamapera || 12 March 2018
Sixteen people were struck dead by lightning on Saturday in Nyaruguru District. All but one were worshipping at Gihembe Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nyabimata Sector.
Another one was killed from a farm in Ruheru Sector in the same district.
The victims were laid to rest yesterday.
At least 140 worshipers, who were injured from the same church were transferred to nearby health facilities. The deceased were all buried yesterday in Nyabimata cemetery, according to Collette Kayitesi, the vice mayor for social affairs in Nyaruguru.
Kayitesi said the district will incur all the costs of treatment as they did the cost of the burial of the 16 who died.
Hundreds of worshipers were gathered at the church during a Sabbath service that had been graced by a visiting choir, according to church elder Emmanuel Ruremesha, who survived the lightning strike.
During an interview with The New Times, Ruremesha, who was seated at the altar, said that the rain that brought the thunderbolt began at around mid-day when the service was at its prime.
“Normally, we finish at mid-day sharp but because of the visiting choir, we had extended the day’s programme so as to accord more time for the visiting choir. By the time it started raining we had just welcomed the preacher to the pulpit,” Ruremesha told The New Times.
Ruremesha says they had heard lightning strikes in the district the previous days so he warned worshippers not to use phones in church during the rain.
“Suddenly, there was a big bang, I saw a thunderbolt strike worshippers. We all fell down for minutes,” he said.
Marceline Mukamana, who lives near the church, was the first to arrive at the scene following the strike.
Mukamana, a community health worker, says she had just returned home for lunch when it started raining and then heard the lightning.
Minutes later, she heard a woman crying for help and ran thinking the church had collapsed upon people only to find it intact but all people inside strangely lying on the ground.
“It was very terrifying to see. I started moving back with my legs shaking. I realised I had to go home for my phone to call local authorities,” said Mukamana.
She called sector and district authorities who also called for ambulances from Munini Hospital to help.
Dr Innocent Ndebeyaho, of Munini Hospital, says 70 people were received at Munini Hospital and 70 at Muganza and Nyabimata hospitals.
“Those in health centres have been discharged with only four remaining while at Munini hospital 58 have been discharged, one transferred to University Teaching Hospital of Butare and eleven are steadily recovering.
Among the eleven still at Munini Hospital is a man who lost his wife in the lightning strike.
According to Ndebeyaho, the patient was yesterday helped to go to the cemetery to bury his wife “because he insisted he couldn’t afford to miss the burial of his wife. He was taken there in an ambulance with doctors.”
Response to the disasters
Alphonse Hishamunda, the acting Director of Risk Reduction and Preparedness Unit at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees (MIDMAR), says the ministry have embarked on a campaign to sensitise Rwandans about lightning, through different platforms.
“It’s so sad that our people have died, we call upon all Rwandans to stand warned as we have always advised of lightning happenings because it’s rainy season,” he said, urging the general public to install lightning rods, especially in placed where many people meet.
Concerning the Nyaruguru lightning incident, Hishamunda said there are very few cases where lightning strikes people indoors but when it happens, it is due to houses lacking lightning rods.
“We recommend installation of lightning rods on all public buildings, avoid contact with electric conductors, including water, and using telephones when it’s raining” he advised.
Source: The New Times…
Are Religious Sisters Exploited by the Church? Three Sisters Respond
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Mary Rezac || 07 March 2018
Last week, the women’s edition of a magazine distributed in the Vatican published an article claiming that religious sisters in the Church are poorly treated and economically exploited.
The article appeared in Women Church World, a monthly women’s magazine published by L’Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of Vatican City. The Associated Press called the story an “exposé on the underpaid labor and unappreciated intellect of religious sisters.”
In the article, three religious sisters, whose names have been changed, expressed that the work of women religious is undervalued, that sisters are treated poorly by the priests and bishops they serve, and that they are not recognized or paid fairly for their work.
One nun, identified only as Sr. Marie, said that nuns often work long hours in domestic roles for little pay. She also lamented that some sisters are not invited to eat at the same table with the clergy that they serve, causing frustration and resentment.
Another sister in the article lamented that sisters with advanced degrees are sometimes tasked with menial jobs.
“I met some nuns in possession of a doctorate in theology who have been sent to cook or wash the dishes the following day, a mission free from any connection with their intellectual formation and without a real explanation,” said a religious sister identified in the article as Sr. Paule.
But several religious sisters have told CNA that the article does not reflect their experiences in religious life.
Mother M. Maximilia Um, who is the Provincial Superior of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in Alton, Illinois, said that the article might indicate specific problems in particular sisters’ situations, rather than systemic institutional problems.
“None of the concerns or problems pointed out in this article can really be completely dismissed, but...I don’t think that they can be confined to relationships between men and women, and those who are ordained and those who are not,” she said. “I suppose in the end it’s a problem as old as sin.”
While Mother Maximilia’s order of sisters mostly serve in health care and education positions, they have “quite a history” of serving in the households of priests or bishops, like the sisters in the article.
However, the views of the sisters in the article do not reflect “the very real experience our sisters have had in these apostolates, where there is real care and concern shown for the sisters and for their service,” she said.
Mother Marie Julie is the Superior General of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, headquartered in Connecticut, whose apostolates are primarily in health care and education. Their charism is “to serve the people of God in a spirit of heartfelt simplicity.”
“So by our charism, we’re not looking to get our name in lights, we’re not looking for adulation or praise or notice even, we just want to be in the heart of the Church, and I think that’s pretty much the feeling of most religious congregations and their members,” Mother Marie told CNA.
She added that she was “saddened” by the L’Osservatore Romano article, because, she said, it paints a “misleading and bleak picture” of religious life, and does not emphasize the gift of the vocation, both to the consecrated individual and to the Church at large.
“There are disgruntled people everywhere, and also I have to admit there is probably some truth to what was written in that article, I can’t say that those people have never had any of those experiences,” she said. “But that has not been my experience or the experience of those sisters that I know.”
Rather than a feeling of servitude, religious sisters typically feel that they are daughters of the Church, and are loved and respected as such, said Mother Judith Zuniga, O.C.D., Superior General of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, California.
“I feel and know myself to be a daughter of the Church, which in essence means that the Church is my Mother and I sincerely love her,” Mother Judith told CNA by email.
“If there is sexism and discrimination, my sisters and I have not experienced it. There seems to be more a feeling of respect, affection, and gratitude for the services we render, for who we are. This would be the more standard response we've received from people within and outside the Church,” she said.
When it comes to monetary compensation, Mother Maximilia noted that while the salaries or stipends of a sister doing domestic work might be less than what she might make in other apostolates, “that was never an issue for us because first of all we see this as a real service to the church,” she said. Furthermore, the households in which sisters served often provided other compensation, such as meals or lodging.
“I feel like we were always adequately compensated for service,” she said.
Mother Marie told CNA that sometimes, if a particular parish is struggling, the sisters serving there might be paid less, or paid later as the funds come in, but “those are the parishes that are struggling, that is not the norm by any stretch of the imagination,” she noted.
“We don't expect that we would live simply on the love of God, we have to have insurance and we have responsibilities and overhead,” Mother Marie said. “But when that happens - when we’re in a ministry and we’re not paid adequately as the world would see it - that’s not servitude, that’s Gospel, and that’s a privilege,” she said.
Religious sisters in the Church typically make three vows - those of poverty, chastity and obedience. During the celebration of the final profession of those vows, a sister often lies prostrate, face down, before the altar and the cross, in a symbolic gesture that she is giving up her old life and rising with Christ as someone who totally belongs to him, Mother Marie said.
That moment is “one of the holiest moments of our lives as sisters,” Mother Marie said.
“When we laid our lives at the service of the Gospel, we also laid at the foot of the altar our expectations for what we would gain in life,” in terms of worldly success or recognition, she said. Instead, “our hope is that we would gain souls, and I know that that might sound sort of Pollyannish, but that’s what gets us up in the morning,” she added.
Regarding the complaint that sisters with advanced degrees might be working in positions of service that are considered less intellectually stimulating, Mother Maximilia said that kind of thinking reveals a bias about what makes work valuable.
“The thought that [intellectual work] is objectively more valuable is already a biased opinion,” Mother Maximilia said.
“The point of any work is to serve and love God and neighbor, and I think actually that shows itself in a very particular way in direct service to a person’s needs,” she said.
“I would argue that it often is very intellectual work to balance and manage a household, so I think first of all we have a skewered notion of what valuable work is, and I would accentuate that what makes work valuable in the end is love, and we’ve always understood that service to the clergy is primarily that,” Mother Maximilia said.
It is natural, Mother Marie noted, that a religious sister with an advanced degree would want to work in her field of expertise at least for a time, and that is often the plan for those sisters. However, sometimes extenuating circumstances necessitate that sisters serve in other apostolates.
“If God calls us to do something else either through our superiors or the signs of the times or just through events, then we respond to that...we see that as the will of God,” she said.
When a sister is serving in a position that may not have been her first choice, it is not unlike the sacrifices that mothers and fathers make for their families, she added, such as staying up all night with a sick child, or taking a lower paying position in order to have more time for their family.
“That’s done for love, and it’s love that drives what we do, and a recognition of this great gift that we have,” as consecrated people, she said.
Mother Judith added that while education is a good and necessary thing, it is not ultimately the measure by which souls will be judged at the end of their lives.
“In the final analysis, when we come to the end of our life and we come before the Lord, I think it's safe to say that He's not going to ask us how many degrees we had or how we used our education,” she said. “He's going to ask us how we loved.”
Mother Judith noted that the article misses, as contemporary culture often misses, the gifts that women in their femininity bring to the world, regardless of what specific tasks they are performing.
“We live in a culture that doesn't seem to value the true gifts that women bring to our culture - motherhood, gentleness, patience, intuition, sensitivity, attention, warmth and the list goes on. These qualities are now seen in a negative light, seen as weaknesses, when in fact, it's our strength,” she said.
“For consecrated religious, these elements of true femininity should be even more deeply rooted in us simply because of who we are. People see us and right away they associate us with God, the Church and rightly so. What a blessing and privilege it is to be a daughter of the Church.”
Source: Catholic News Agency…
10 Ways that Science Is Proving the Church Is Right and the Culture's Wrong
Aleteia || By Jim Schroeder || 15 November, 2014
risk of HIV transmission is 18 times greater during anal intercourse than vaginal intercourse.
8. The Church teaches that all human life is precious, from conception to natural death, and that each person is deserving of our love and care. The American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations strongly condemn discrimination against those with disabilities whose medical care, happiness and livelihood are often threatened by others (but, curiously, they support the “right” to abort persons with disabilities).