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Mexican bishops concerned by US-Mexico immigration agreement

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 11, 2019 / 03:03 pm (CNA).- The Mexican bishops' conference expressed its concern Monday about the immigration and tariffs agreement reached between the governments of the United States and Mexico.

Mexico has agreed to take measures to reduce the number of migrants to the US, in order to avoid tariffs being imposed.

Some 6,000 National Guard troops will be assigned to Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, and some asylum seekers in the US will be sent to Mexico to wait while their claims are processed.

The Mexican bishops' conference expressed “its concern for the lack of a truly humanitarian reception for our migrant brothers which reflects our convictions regarding the equal recognition and protection of the rights of all human beings” in a June 10 statement.

“Deploying 6,000 National Guard troops on the southern border is not a fundamental solution that addresses the true causes of the migration phenomenon. The fight against poverty and inequality in Mexico and Central America seems to be replaced by fear of the other, our brother,” the bishops said.

“If we as Mexicans have rejected the construction of a wall, we ourselves can't become that wall,” they added.

For the bishops' conference “it is completely legitimate and necessary to make courageous decisions to avoid the imposition of tariffs on Mexican products traded with the United States.” Nevertheless, the bishops said, “our migrant brothers must never be a bargaining chip.”

The Church will continue to be committed “without hesitation to provide migrants with the humanitarian aid they require in their transit through our national territory,” the said.

“And so we express our respect and gratitude to the thousands of men and women of the Catholic Church, other churches, and civil society, who for decades have defended, at the risk of their lives, the fundamental rights of migrants in Mexico, the United States, and Central America.”

Bishop Alfonso Gerardo Miranda Guardiola, auxiliary bishop of Monterrey and secretary general of the Mexican bishops' conference, told CNA that the Church's care for migrants continues “both in Tapachula, particularly at the entrance point into Mexico, and the country's north, as well as in all the migrant centers that we have, thanks be to God, provided throughout the national territory.”

“They remain full to the brim and the assistance continues day by day,” Bishop Miranda noted.

He lamented that “this feeling and this attitude of xenophobia, of rejection of the migrant, has arisen in many Mexicans.”

“An anti-immigrant climate or a climate of the criminalization of the migrant has arisen in many parts of Mexico, as if they all were thieves or evildoers.”

For the prelate, it is clear that out of a country “come all kinds of people, but there is a factor at the origin which has to do with violence, poverty and the lack of opportunities, on the levels of education and jobs and also driven by threats from criminal gangs.”

For the Church, he recalled, to assist migrants is to follow “the direct command of Jesus.”

“Even today, in today's Mass, there are the Beatitudes. That's our creed, that's our doctrine, by which we govern our actions: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, no matter if it's a migrant or a Mexican.”

“It is a person suffering need, so we extend a hand,” he said.

Bishop Miranda pointed out that the causes of migration and how governments address them “are not the Church's direct responsibility, that belongs to the governments, the international organizations.”

“The Church, Christians, when we see a brother suffering, who's hurting, we can't be indifferent, we can't deprive him of his rights.”

The bishop also emphasized that neither Mexico nor the United States are isolated from the migration problem, and he encouraged “a dialogue, negotiations, international agreements in which large scale solutions are sought.”

If they are not resolved on a global level, he said, “we're just going to patch up the problems but not provide fundamental solutions.”

As to what pertains to the Church, he added, “it will not cease to do its work on the individual level, the family level, on the level of persons. But politics, in the highest sense of the term, does not just look to the common good of the nation, but also the international, global common good.”

“Sooner or later the repercussions will be global and sooner or later any country that closes itself up is going to suffer the inescapable consequences, because we are all connected,”  he concluded.

Cesareo repeats call for greater lay involvement as church tackles abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- National Review Board chairman Francesco Cesareo offered the U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore a series of recommendations that he said will strengthen the church's response to the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The recommendations made June 11 during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring general assembly in Baltimore included a call for a greater role for laity in investigating allegations of abuse or reaction to reports of abuse against bishops.

Cesareo also said National Review Board members recommend a thorough review of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and a revision in the audit process regarding diocesan implementation of the charter, which governs the church's response to clergy abuse allegations.

Strong measures are necessary to show that while progress has been made since the charter's adoption in 2002, the bishops would demonstrate that they are serious in their response to clergy abuse in response to the mistrust and serious questions laypeople still harbor.

"My hope is that they will seriously consider the recommendations we made on the four action items come to recognize that the proposals that we've made are only going to strengthen their response," Cesareo told Catholic News Service after his address.

"It's not meant to undermine their authority but in reality strengthen their position in dealing with the questions around this issue as opposed to a challenge to their authority or position. That's not the intent. The intent is how can we together work on this issue to put you, as the leaders, in the best possible position to effectively and definitively deal with this," he said.

Cesareo stressed to the bishops the need to carry out what Pope Benedict XVI described as the laity's co-responsibility to help build the church.

He told CNS that co-responsibility means "together we can have a role to play for the well-being of the church."

Cesareo also admitted that he has used strong and firm language in delivering the review board's recommendations "to show the urgency of the situation and that we can't just keep pushing this down the road."

In his address to the assembly, Cesareo called on the bishops to improve the audit of dioceses to ensure their compliance with the charter so that it is "more thorough and independent." He said the audit is a means for the bishops to establish their credibility with laypeople.

A working group, composed of three members of the bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People and three lay members of the National Review Board, has been discussing a framework for improving the audit, he said. The focus has been on allowing the outside contractor that is hired by the USCCB to conduct the audit to be more independent and flexible in its work, he said.

Cesareo recommended that changes in the audit process occur as soon as possible so they can be implemented in the next audit cycle beginning in 2021.

"A strengthened audit would provide a means for improving your dioceses' existing methods to protect and heal," Cesareo said. "Virtually all your dioceses, including those where problems came to light under the microscope of the media and attorney generals, have easily passed the audit for years since the bar currently is so low. Now is the time to raise the bar on compliance to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated."

Cesareo also recommended that the charter "should be revised immediately to explicitly include bishops and demand for greater accountability."

While such a revision has been suggested to the bishops in the past, Cesareo said the time has come for a proposal to be addressed. Among the changes he recommended include the reporting of all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to diocesan review boards; the need for review boards to meet annually to assist with diocesan policy reviews; consideration of continual supervision and monitoring of offenders who have not been laicized; and the start of parish audits.

"Despite ongoing challenges, positive momentum has been evident in the church since the initial approval of the charter and the audit," Cesareo added. "Any delay in revising the charter or implementing an enhanced audit would not only put children at risk, but could signal a step backward in the church's efforts."

The review board chairman cited Pope Francis "motu proprio" regarding the bishops' plan to adopt new standards to govern their own accountability on handling abuse claims.

The document, titled "Vos estis lux mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), is a new universal law from the pope to safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable. It governs complaints against clergy or church leaders regarding the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons. The U.S. bishops will vote on directives for implementing this church law later during the spring assembly.

Cesareo said the article 13 of the document allows that the bishops of a province may include qualified persons, including laity, to be part of the investigation of a bishop who has had a claim filed against him.

"The NRB urges that this must be the case in the United States through the establishment of an ad hoc lay commission, either on the national or local level," he said.

He said such lay involvement would "restore the trust of the faithful in the bishops and even in the Holy See's own processes for holding bishops' accountable."

The pope's new juridical instrument calls for a "public, stable and easily accessible" reporting system for allegations; clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families; timeliness and thoroughness of investigations; whistleblower protection for those making allegations; and the use of "proven experts from among the laity"; and the oversight of the metropolitan (archbishop) for such investigations in his province. The U.S. Catholic Church has 32 metropolitans.

However, Cesareo said that the metropolitan archbishop "should not be the sole gatekeeper of allegations that come forward" because it could lead to "mishandling of an allegation."

"You have a great opportunity," he said, "to lead by example and help show dioceses and episcopal conferences around the world not only how important it is for lay involvement to ensure greater accountability and transparency, but also how laity and the episcopacy can be co-responsible for the church's well-being."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski


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Vatican bank reports decreased profits in 2018

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Institute for the Works of Religion, often referred to as the Vatican bank, made a profit of 17.5 million euros (about US$19.8 million) in 2018, just over half the profit reported in the previous year, according to its annual report.

The bank, which had made a profit of 31.9 million euros in 2017, said the decrease was due "to the strong turbulence of the markets throughout the year and the persistence of interest rates which are still very low."

The institute held assets worth 5 billion euros (US$5.6 billion) at year's end, which included deposits and investments from close to 15,000 clients -- mostly Catholic religious orders around the world, Vatican offices and employees, and Catholic clergy.

In a statement released by the Vatican June 11, the institute said it continued to provide financial services to the Catholic Church present in the whole world and Vatican City State.

According to the report, the bank's assets are worth 637 million euros (US$721 million), placing its tier 1 capital ratio -- which measures the bank's financial strength -- at 86.4 percent compared to 68.3 percent in 2017. The increased ratio, the bank said, "is a testament of its elevated solvency and its low-risk profile."

Additionally, the bank refined its screening process for financial investments to ensure that it is "consistent with Catholic ethics by selecting only companies that carry out activities that are in accordance with the social doctrine of the church."

The Vatican bank, the statement said, continues "to make investments aimed at fostering development in poorer countries while respecting choices that are consistent with establishing a sustainable future for future generations."

The IOR, which is the Italian acronym for the Institute for the Works of Religion, said that it also "contributed to the implementation of numerous charitable and social activities, both through donations of a financial nature and through reduced-rate or gratuitous leases for the use of its own real estate to entities for social purposes."

Before the report's release, the 2018 financial statements were audited by the firm Deloitte & Touche and were reviewed by the Commission of Cardinals overseeing the institute's work, the press release said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Missionary mandate rooted in baptism, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis, in his message for World Mission Day, asked the Church to remember her ‘missionary awareness and commitment’, rooted in the grace of baptism.

He emphasized “the importance of renewing the Church’s missionary commitment and giving fresh evangelical impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ” in his message, released June 9. The 93rd World Mission Day will be held Oct. 20.

The title of the pope’s message and October’s missionary month is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.”

Pope Francis asked that in October the Church commemorate the centenary of Maximum illud, Benedict XV’s apostolic letter on the propagation of the faith throughout the world.

“Celebrating this month will help us first to rediscover the missionary dimension of our faith in Jesus Christ, a faith graciously bestowed on us in baptism,” said Pope Francis. “Our filial relationship with God is not something simply private, but always in relation to the Church. Through our communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we, together with so many of our other brothers and sisters, are born to new life. This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practise proselytism – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission.”

“The Church is on mission in the world,” Pope Francis stated. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity teach us how to be missionaries in the world.

“Faith in Jesus Christ enables us to see all things in their proper perspective, as we view the world with God’s own eyes and heart. Hope opens us up to the eternal horizons of the divine life that we share. Charity, of which we have a foretaste in the sacraments and in fraternal love, impels us to go forth to the ends of the earth.”

“The man who preaches God must be a Man of God,” Pope Francis wrote.

“This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God’s love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love. Even if parents can betray their love by lies, hatred and infidelity, God never takes back his gift of life. From eternity he has destined each of his children to share in his divine and eternal life.”

He said that baptism “gives us rebirth in God’s own image and likeness, and makes us members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. In this sense, baptism is truly necessary for salvation for it ensures that we are always and everywhere sons and daughters in the house of the Father, and never orphans, strangers or slaves.”

Baptism “remains the vocation and destiny of every man and woman in search of conversion and salvation. For baptism fulfils the promise of the gift of God that makes everyone a son or daughter in the Son.”

“In baptism,” according to Pope Francis, “we receive the origin of all fatherhood and true motherhood: no one can have God for a Father who does not have the Church for a mother.” Hence, our mission “is rooted in the fatherhood of God and motherhood of the Church.”

“The mandate given by the Risen Jesus at Easter is inherent in Baptism,” he said, and therefore “this mission is part of our identity as Christians.”

In “today’s rampant secularism,” the pope said, “when it becomes an aggressive cultural rejection of God’s active fatherhood in our history, is an obstacle to authentic human fraternity, which finds expression in reciprocal respect for the life of each person. Without the God of Jesus Christ, every difference is reduced to a baneful threat, making impossible any real fraternal acceptance and fruitful unity within the human race.”

Pope Francis notes that Benedict XV, given the universality of salvation, saw “that the Church’s universal mission requires setting aside exclusivist ideas of membership in one’s own country and ethnic group.”

Today, the Church needs men and women “who, by virtue of their baptism, respond generously to the call to leave behind home, family, country, language and local Church, and to be sent forth to the nations, to a world not yet transformed by the sacraments of Jesus Christ and his holy Church.”

Pope Francis noted the coincidence of World Mission Day with the Synod on the Churches in the Amazon, saying, “A renewed Pentecost opens wide the doors of the Church, in order that no culture remain closed in on itself and no people cut off from the universal communion of the faith. No one ought to remain closed in self-absorption, in the self-referentiality of his or her own ethnic and religious affiliation. The Easter event of Jesus breaks through the narrow limits of worlds, religions and cultures, calling them to grow in respect for the dignity of men and women, and towards a deeper conversion to the truth of the Risen Lord who gives authentic life to all.”

We confide our mission to Mary, Mother of the Church, Pope Francis said: “In union with her Son, from the moment of the Incarnation the Blessed Virgin set out on her pilgrim way. She was fully involved in the mission of Jesus, a mission that became her own at the foot of the Cross: the mission of cooperating, as Mother of the Church, in bringing new sons and daughters of God to birth in the Spirit and in faith.”

Pope Francis concluded his message with a brief mention of the Pontifical Mission Societies, who “serve the Church’s universality as a global network of support for the Pope in his missionary commitment by prayer, the soul of mission, and charitable offerings from Christians throughout the world.”

Francis: Leaders who talk of peace but sell arms will face 'wrath of God'

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2019 / 11:08 am (CNA).- Discussing the Syrian civil war Monday, Pope Francis said God hears the cry of orphans and widows, and that his wrath will be visited on those who deal in arms trafficking while speaking of peace.

“I think with sadness, once again, of the drama of Syria and the dense clouds that seem to thicken above it in some areas that are still unstable and where the risk of an even greater humanitarian crisis remains high. Those who have no food, those who do not have medical care, who have no school, orphans, the wounded and widows raise their voices up high,” the pope said June 10 to participants in the plenary assembly of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches.

“The hearts of men may be insensitive, but that of God is not: wounded by the hatred and violence that can be unleashed among his creatures, always able to be moved and take care of them with the tenderness and strength of a father who protects and guides. But sometimes I also think of the wrath of God that will be unleashed against the leaders of countries that talk about peace and sell weapons to carry out these wars. This hypocrisy is a sin.”

Francis' meeting with ROACO was at the Vatican's Consistory Hall. The organization unites funding agencies to provide services to members of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

In his address the pope also discussed Iraq, where he said he wishes to visit next year, hoping “it may look ahead through the peaceful and shared participation in the construction of the common good of all the religious components of society, and that it may not fall into the tensions which come from the never-ending conflicts of regional powers.”

Pope Francis then voiced his desire for peace among the people of Ukraine, “whose wounds caused by the conflict we have tried to alleviate with the charitable initiative to which many ecclesial realities have contributed.”

“In the Holy Land, I hope that the recent announcement of a second phase of study of the restoration of the Holy Sepulchre … will be accompanied by the sincere efforts of all local and international actors for a peaceful coming soon living together in respect of all those who live in that land, a sign to all of the blessing of the Lord,” he reflected.

He recalled his condemnation of arms trafficking, saying: “People fleeing, huddled on ships in search of hope, not knowing which ports they will be able to receive, but in Europe they open the ports to boats that have to load sophisticated and expensive weapons, capable of producing devastation that do not spare even children. This is the hypocrisy of which I spoke.”

“We are aware here that Abel’s cry rises up to God, as we remembered in Bari a year ago, praying together for our faithful of the Middle East.”

Though there is lamentation and weeping in the homes of the Eastern Catholic Churches, there is also “hope and consolation” through ROACO's “tireless work of chariaty,” the pope said.

“This expresses the face of the Church and contributes to making her alive, in particular nurturing hope for the young generations. Young people have the right to be heard announcing the fascinating and demanding word of Christ and … when they meet an authentic and credible witness they are not afraid to follow Him and to question themselves on their vocation.”

He urged the members of ROACO to “ontinue and increase your effort, so that in the countries and situations you support, young people can grow in humanity, free from ideological colonization, with open hearts and minds, appreciating their national and ecclesial roots and desiring a future of peace and prosperity, which leaves no one behind and discriminates against no-one.”

The pope recalled with gratitude the reopening of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and he urged the spreading of his document on human fraternity adopted in February with the grand imam of al-Azhar.

“And let us all commit ourselves to preserving those realities that have been living the message for years, with particular attention to educational institutions, schools and universities, so precious especially in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, authentic laboratories of coexistence and workshops of humanity to which all can easily have access,” he concluded.

Zanchetta to stand trial in Argentina for sexual abuse of seminarians

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 10, 2019 / 09:30 am (CNA).- Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta has been criminally charged with sexually assaulting two seminarians before a court in Argentina. The bishop has been barred from leaving the country and ordered to undergo a psychological examination. 

The decision to charge Zanchetta was made June 6. The bishop arrived in Argentina earlier last week, having been in Rome and Spain. The court-ordered examination is expected to take place on Wednesday, June 12.  

A Vatican trial of the allegations against Zanchetta is also underway.

Zanchetta, bishop emeritus of Orán, Argentina, was first accused of sexually inappropriate behavior in 2015. At that time, it was discovered that his cell phone contained various sexual images, including nude selfies. The bishop claimed his phone and computer had been hacked, and that the accusations were motivated by people who did not support Pope Francis.

Zanchetta and Pope Francis have been close for years, and one of the pope’s first acts in office was to appoint him as a bishop.

None of the alleged pornographic images on his phone are reported to be of minors.

Zanchetta stepped down from the diocese in August of 2017, ostensibly due to health issues. Four months later, he was appointed by Pope Francis as the Assessor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, a position that Pope Francis created for Zanchetta.

The Vatican has stated twice that they did not know about Zanchetta’s misdeeds until 2018, a claim that is disputed by Fr. Juan José Manzano, the former vicar general of the Diocese of Orán. Manzano claims that he reported Zanchetta in 2015, after the pornographic images were found on his phone. Manzano says he also reported him again in 2017.

In 2016, a complaint was made against Zanchetta that accused him of “problematic behavior” with seminarians. This behavior included entering their rooms at night, requesting massages from them, waking up seminarians in the morning, sitting on their beds, and drinking alcohol with them.

That complaint stated that Zanchetta had an “obsessive omnipresence” in the seminary that made the seminarians very uncomfortable. Pope Francis has said that "there is no doubt that the clergy did not feel well treated by him."

In May, the pope confirmed that a preliminary investigation into the bishop had concluded and the matter was proceeding to a canonical trial.

Francis said that the charges had been given over to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who will conduct the process. "They will make a trial, they will issue a sentence and I will promulgate it," the pope stated.

If convicted by the civil court in Argentina, Zanchetta could face between three and 10 years in prison.

New Vatican document says gender theory is 'cultural and ideological revolution'

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2019 / 08:35 am (CNA).- A Vatican department has issued a sweeping denunciation of so-called gender theory, and affirmed the principles of human dignity, difference, and complementarity.  

“In all such [gender] theories, from the most moderate to the most radical, there is agreement that one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex,” the Congregation for Catholic Education wrote June 10, in a new document entitled “Male and Female He Created Them.”

“The effect of this move is chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society.”

The document says it aims to set out an intellectual framework “towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education.”

Published at the beginning of “Pride Month,” during which many cities and corporations mark the campaign of LGBT advocacy, the document says that the Church teaches an essential difference between men and woman, ordered in the natural law and essential to the family and human flourishing.

“There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated,” the document explains.

“The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be.’”

The text, signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, outlines the philosophical origins of the gender theory movement, and notes the broad movement to enshrine its distinct anthropology in policy and law.

The Congregation explains that, beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, a series of studies were published which proposed that external conditioning had the primary determinative influence on personality. When such studies were applied to human sexuality, the document says, they did so with a view to demonstrating that sexuality identity was more a social construct than a given natural or biological fact.

“These schools of thought were united in denying the existence of any original given element in the individual, which would precede and at the same time constitute our personal identity, forming the necessary basis of everything we do.”

“Over the course of time, gender theory has expanded its field of application. At the beginning of the 1990s, its focus was upon the possibility of the individual determining his or her own sexual tendencies without having to take account of the reciprocity and complementarity of male-female relationships, nor of the procreative end of sexuality,” the document says.

The result was a “radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the later.”

The problem with this theory, according to the Congregation, is not the distinction between the two terms, which can be properly understood, but in the separation of the two from each other.

“The propositions of gender theory converge in the concept of ‘queer’, which refers to dimensions of sexuality that are extremely fluid, flexible, and as it were, nomadic.”

The result of this ideological trend, according to the Congregation’s assessment, is an undermining of the family.

“[In gender theory] the only thing that matters in personal relationships is the affection between the individuals involved, irrespective of sexual difference or procreation which would be seen as irrelevant in the formation of families.”

“Thus, the institutional model of the family (where a structure and finality exist independent of the subjective preferences of the spouses) is bypassed, in favor of a vision of family that is purely contractual and voluntary.”

The document said that despite the challenges, dialogue remains possible. It also called for protection of human and family rights, decried unjust discrimination, and noted points of unity among people of divergent perspectives on gender ideology.

“For instance, educational programs on this area often share a laudable desire to combat all expressions of unjust discrimination, a requirement that can be shared by all sides,” the document said.

“Indeed, it cannot be denied that through the centuries forms of unjust discrimination have been a sad fact of history and have also had an influence within the Church. This has brought a certain rigid status quo, delaying the necessary and progressive inculturation of the truth of Jesus’ proclamation of the equal dignity of men and women, and has provoked accusations of a sort of masculinist mentality, veiled to a greater or lesser degree by religious motives.”

The aim of the Church at the institutional and individual level must be the education of children in line with authentic principles which defend and instil authentic human dignity, the Congregation explains.

“In practice, the advocacy for the different identities often presents them as being of completely equal value compared to each other.”

“The generic concept of ‘non-discrimination’ often hides an ideology that denies the difference as well as natural reciprocity that exists between men and women.”

Referencing classical philosophy, historic Church teaching, Vatican Council II and the writings of several popes, the document explains the Church’s understanding of a Christian anthropology, insisting that it be at the heart of human formation.

For Christians working in schools, both religious and secular, the radical individualism of gender theory should be avoided in favor of teaching children “to overcome their individualism and discover, in the light of faith, their specific vocation to live responsibly in a community.”

Above all, the document says, the family remains “the primary community” to which the students belong and the fundamental vehicle for preserving, understanding, and transmitting human dignity.

“The school must respect the family’s culture. It must listen carefully to the needs that it finds and the expectations that are directed towards it.”

In the modern context, however, the essential alliance between school and family “has entered into crisis,” the Congregation notes.

“There is an urgent need to promote a new alliance that is genuine and not simply at the level of bureaucracy, a shared project that can offer a ‘positive and prudent sexual education’ that can harmonise the primary responsibility of parents with the work of teachers.”

“Although ideologically-driven approaches to the delicate questions around gender proclaim their respect for diversity, they actually run the risk of viewing such difference as static realities and end up leaving them isolated and disconnected from each other,” the document concludes.

Promoting a culture of dialogue between the Church and those advancing gender theory principles must take place, the document says, in a manner that respects “the legitimate aspirations of Catholic schools to maintain their own vision of human sexuality,” based on “an integral anthropology capable of harmonizing the human person’s physical, psychic and spiritual identity.”

The congregation ends by insisting on the rights of the Church, the family, and of Catholic educators to defend authentic teaching and understanding in the face of an increasingly exclusivist approach to education in line with secular progressive principles.

“A democratic state cannot reduce the range of education on offer to a single school of thought, all the more so in relation to this extremely delicate subject, which is concerned on the one hand with the fundamentals of human nature, and on the other with natural rights of parents to freely choose any educational model that accords with the dignity of the human person.”

With international service group, pope connects Catholic charismatics to broader Church

Rome, Italy, Jun 9, 2019 / 08:27 am (CNA).- As several thousand Catholics belonging to the charismatic renewal gathered in Rome this Pentecost weekend, the Vatican officially launched a new international service to aid the ministry in its commitment to communion and service.

Bishop Peter Smith told CNA that with the creation of CHARIS, “the Holy Father is trying to say okay, we’re part of a much bigger thing here, let’s not lose sight of that connection and let’s help one another to build the Kingdom and not just be focused on ourselves.”

“This pope sees [the charismatic renewal] as a much broader thing,” he said.

CHARIS is an abbreviation for Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service and fulfills a request of the pope that there be one charismatic service organism for all expressions of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

It does not have any legal authority over charismatic communities, but its purpose is communion, formation, and advice. It also has a doctrinal and canonical commission, which can study and give information on things such as baptism in the Holy Spirit, as CHARIS moderator Jean-Luc Moens told CNA.

“We need to be sure that we serve the Church without going into our own ideas,” he said.

Auxiliary bishop of Portland, Oregon, Peter Smith has been in the charismatic renewal since a young adult in the late 1970s. As CHARIS launches under the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, he is serving on the leadership team as one of two representatives for North America.

Smith explained to CNA that the charismatic renewal is not an organized movement in the sense of having a founder or one overarching vision, but that it is very loosely organized.

“The heart of the charismatic movement is a profound encounter with Christ and the Holy Spirit,” he said. “There’s sort of a deeper infusion of the Holy Spirit into our lives that transforms us, and so, people go forth from there.”

“It deepens people’s lives of faith significantly,” he said, explaining that the way most Catholics would encounter the movement is likely through a prayer group at their parish, at conferences and retreats, or communities and ministries.

He said there are an estimated 100 to 112 million active members of the charismatic renewal worldwide, many of whom are in Africa and Asia.

Pope Francis met with around 3,000 or more Catholics of the charismatic renewal on June 8 in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall. He told them that with the start of CHARIS “a new stage begins on this journey.”

“A stage marked by communion among all the members of the charismatic family, in which the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit is manifested for the good of the whole Church,” he continued.

The pope said he expects the movement to share Baptism in the Holy Spirit with everyone in the Church: “it is the grace that you have received. Share it! Do not keep if for yourself!”

He also asked them to serve the unity of the body of Christ and to serve the poor.

“These three things: Baptism in the Holy Spirit, unity of the Body of Christ and service to the poor, are the necessary testimony for the evangelization of the world, to which we are all called for our Baptism,” he said.

Smith described the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the context of Confirmation, which he said, “is a gift of a deeper experience of the Holy Spirit.” And just like any gift one receives, “it is worthless unless you do something.”

“You have to take it, you have to open it, you have to see what it is, you have to make it part of your life,” he noted. “And when you do, that gift comes alive for you. The same thing happens with the gift of faith.” The charismatic renewal helps people to have a “vivified, living faith.”

“God is not just a philosophical reality... God becomes like a close friend in the sense that you experience him,” he said. “This is all fundamentally part of our faith life.”

“I’ve bumped into certain groups of Catholics who say, well [the renewal] is Protestant. My reaction to that is no, that’s been Catholic from the beginning,” Smith argued. While the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has been around for just 52 years, the bishop said what the renewal promotes can be seen even in the writings of the early Church Fathers and in the lives of saints.

For Catholics who would like to have a deeper experience of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost, Smith said there is not a set formula except for simply placing one’s self in God’s presence. If there is some obstacle to communion with God, something one needs to repent of, do that, he said, and then “just ask God to reveal himself more closely to you, to make the Holy Spirit come alive within you.”

“Countless people, myself included, we were good Catholics, always lived the Church’s teaching,” he noted, “but there comes a point where you can say, Lord, I want more.”

Most people, he said, will never have one of “these St. Paul moments” where you are going about your life and “wham, you have this incredible experience.”

For most people, “we begin to pray, you surrender your life to God, you ask the Holy Spirit to be more a part of your life, and you begin to see things happen.”

It can be summed up by thinking about the universal call to live and proclaim the Gospel. “We can’t do that on our own, nobody can. We fall short,” he explained. “So, God in his mercy gives us the Holy Spirit, which makes Christ present in us in a much deeper way and strengthens us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit... so that we can live as he calls us to.”

“That is why people who experience this often have their faith come alive,” he said.

Guam governor wants to expand abortion, but local doctors are unwilling

Hagatna, Guam, Jun 9, 2019 / 04:24 am (CNA).- The government of the island of Guam is offering waivers and discounts for contraception through a public health clinic, and the territory’s governor has said she wants to find a doctor willing to perform abortions, after the retirement of the island’s last abortionist.

Governor Lourdes Leon Guerrero, a former nurse who took office in January, recently expressed her wish to expand abortion access in the territory, but no doctors on the island are willing to perform abortions.

Though abortion is legal in some cases in Guam, the territory’s last abortion doctor retired in May 2018.

“I'm concerned about [abortion] going underground because then we can't really control it, we can't really monitor, we can't really make sure that the women are doing it in an environment that is conducive to a healthy recovery,” she told the AP last week.

Guam is predominantly Catholic, and Guerrero has said that finding a doctor willing to perform abortions there “will take some work.” She said officials are trying to recruit doctors to come to the island and establish clinics.

Abortion is legal in Guam up to 13 weeks or up to 26 weeks in case of rape or incest, but anyone who terminates a pregnancy without help from a doctor can be charged with a felony, the AP reports. Doctors also have the legal right to refuse to perform an abortion except in the case of a medical emergency.

Women in Guam seeking abortions must fly thousands of miles from the island to seek abortions elsewhere, the AP reports. Many go to Hawaii, as the nearest mainland country, the Philippines, does not allow abortion. U.S. federal law applies in Guam and its people are U.S. citizens; the island is home to about 170,000 residents.

Despite this, there have only two or three Guam women given abortions in Hawaii since last year, and none was an elective procedure, an OB-GYN and University of Hawaii professor told the AP.

The morning after pill, an abortifacient drug, is available in Guam over the counter and by prescription for women over 18.

Pro-life activism on the island, led by the Guam Catholic Pro-Life Committee, saw hundreds of pro-life advocates march in Guam’s first annual Rally for Life in January.

Costa Rica considers bill threatening seal of confession

San José, Costa Rica, Jun 8, 2019 / 03:23 pm (CNA).- A bill in Costa Rica would require Catholic priests to violate the seal of confession to report cases of suspected child sex abuse. Its sponsor says he was inspired by similar legislation advancing in the state of California.

Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly is considering a proposal to require clergy, coaches, and other individuals who work with youth to report allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Currently, only teachers and health care personnel are required to report suspected abuse.

President Carlos Alvarado told La Nación, “As a nation, we have seen the issue of violence, which is sexual in this case against children, is a problem that concerns us on the basis of evidence and is something important to learn.”

Catholic officials in the country have opposed the bill, stressing that the seal of confession is inviolable.

According to QCostaRica.com, a local Catholic Church spokesman said the bill is “a danger to the practice of religious freedom” and argued that it “does nothing in the cause of justice.”

Canon law describes the seal of the confessional to be “inviolable,” and priests are “absolutely forbidden” to disclose the sins of a penitent “in any way, for any reason.” Violation of the seal by a priest is a grave crime against the faith and is punished by an automatic excommunication which can be augmented with other penalties, including dismissal from the clerical state.

The bill is being sponsored by Enrique Sánchez, who has said he was inspired by a similar bill in California. That legislation has sparked controversy and sharp criticism from opponents.

An initial draft of the California bill would have compelled the violation of the sacramental seal any time a priest came to suspect abuse from any penitent. However, the bill was amended and the version that passed the Senate would only require priests to report any knowledge or suspicion of child abuse gained while hearing the confession of another priest or colleague. The bill now goes to the California State Assembly.

Critics of the California legislation argue that even in its final form, the legislation is a serious violation of religious freedom with which priests cannot comply. They also maintain that the legislation would not be enforceable, due to the private nature of confession, and would do little to actually protect minors from clerical sexual abuse.