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Vatican Secretary of State marks 25 years of diplomatic relations with Israel

Rome, Italy, Jun 14, 2019 / 06:56 am (CNA).- Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin marked the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel Thursday by calling for a shared commitment to religious freedom and combatting anti-Semitism.

“The peace process and the future of the region are in the heart of the pope and the Holy See,” Parolin said June 13 at a ceremony commemorating the anniversary in the Great Synagogue of Rome.

“The Holy See and the State of Israel are called to join forces to promote religious freedom -- of religion and of conscience -- as an indispensable condition to protect the dignity of every human being, and to work together to combat anti-Semitism,” he said.

Parolin said that the special nature of the relationship between Israel and the Holy See emerges from the unique character of the Holy Land.

“Jerusalem, the city of peace, is at its heart, the common heritage for all the faithful of the three great monotheistic religions and of the whole world,” he said.

“Our religious and political commitment favors the city's vocation to be a place of reconciliation and encounter between religions, as well as a symbol of respect and peaceful cohabitation,” the Secretary of State continued.

To mark the anniversary, Pope Francis invited all believers and non-believers to dedicate “a minute of peace,” a minute of prayer and reflection for “a more fraternal world,” Parolin said.

The Holy See established full diplomatic relations with Israel with the Fundamental Agreement signed in December 1993, which set forth a common commitment to cooperate in combaing anti-Semitism, the promotion of academic exchanges, and cooperation in encouring Christian pilgrimages.

Diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv and the Vatican opened on June 15, 1994. Each of the following popes visited Israel since the signing of the agreement. Saint Pope John Paul II in 2000, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, and Pope Francis in 2014.

In his speech to the Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See Oren David and the Israeli diplomatic corp, Cardinal Parolin highlighted the prayer meeting between Israeli and Palestinian presidents hosted by the Vatican in June 2014 and Pope Francis’ address to international conference on combatting anti-Semintism in 2018.

“The Church wishes to extend its hand. We want to remember and walk together … mindful of the heritage shared in common with the Jewish people, driven not by political reasons, but by religious evangelical charity, we deplore the hatred, persecution and all manifestations of anti-Stemitism directed against the Jewish people at any time and from anyone,” Pope Francis said.

Illinois bishops oppose abortion law, disagree on Communion for pro-choice lawmakers

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- While two Illinois bishops are unified in their strong opposition to the state’s new abortion law, they differ on the question of prohibiting to receive Holy Communion the Catholic state legislators who led the effort for the bill’s passage.

“I think that our Catholic people are rightfully scandalized when they see Catholic politicians not only voting for, but actively promoting abortion rights, and they wonder, ‘Well how can you promote abortion rights and call yourself a Catholic in good standing?’”

“And the answer to that is ‘You can’t,’” Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. told CNA of his decision to prohibt from receiving Holy Communion in his diocese the two legislators who led in the effort to pass a law recognizing abortion as a “fundamental right” and explicitly denying independent rights to unborn children apart from the mother.

He added that “to be clear and say ‘no, you can’t be promoting abortion legislation and be a Catholic in good standing,’ it also protects the integrity of the sacraments, saying that receiving Holy Communion is a very sacred thing to do.”

The Illinois Reproductive Health Act (Senate Bill 25), signed by the state’s Governor J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday, recognizes abortion as a “fundamental right” and mandates that insurance companies cover abortions.

And it goes even further than that, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago told CNA.  

“What’s pernicious about this law, and what’s so very difficult, is that it says that the unborn child has absolutely no claim on rights,” Cupich said.

“It says that human life is cheap. That’s the message that we send—that human life is cheap in the State of Illinois.”

Cupich, however, told CNA that he thought it would be “counterproductive” to deny Holy Communion in his archdiocese to the legislators who championed the law.

“I think it would be counterproductive to impose sanctions, simply because they don’t change anybody’s minds, but it also takes away from the fact that an elected official has to deal with the judgment seat of God, not just the judgment seat of a bishop. I think that’s much more powerful,” Cupich told CNA.

“I have always approached the issue saying that the bishop’s primary responsibility is to teach, and I will continue to do that.”

Leaders in the state legislature, the Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both supported the legislation.

Paprocki issued a decree on June 5 that, because of “their leadership roles in promoting the evil of abortion by facilitating the passage of Senate Bill 25 this legislative session and House Bill 40 in 2017, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have been barred from receiving Holy Communion in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.”

Furthermore, Paprocki instructed that other Catholic state legislators who supported the abortion bill should not present themselves for Holy Communion.

The earlier 2017 legislation he referenced, House Bill 40, facilitated taxpayer funding of abortion and mandated that, if Roe v. Wade were to be reversed at the Supreme Court, abortion would remain legal in Illinois.

Bishop Paprocki cited the Code of Canon Law, specifically canons 915 and 916, in his decree. Canon 916 forbids Catholics who are conscious of mortal sin from receiving Communion without first going to Confession and repenting of sin. Canon 915 instructs that public figures who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not be admitted to the sacraments.

“‘Obstinate’ means they’re stubborn,” Paprocki explained. “The Church has been clear on this teaching, they’ve been repeatedly calling them back to what the Church teaches, and they’re just digging in, they’re not going to change their views. And ‘persistent’ means that happens over a period of time.”

Both bishops said they had communicated, or attempted to communicate, directly with Madigan and Cullerton.

“I have conversations with them, and those continue to take place. They have to,” Cupich said.

Paprocki said he conversed with Madigan and made a phone call to Cullerton that was not returned, and subsequently wrote both of them “because I wanted them to hear directly from me” before he made the decree.

Both Paprocki and Cupich told pro-lifers to continue fighting for life.

“We’ve been at this since Roe v. Wade, and we’re going to continue. This is not going to daunt us at all. We are going to continue to say our message, and we are gaining ground among young people, especially,” Cupich said.

“This is not only an issue of the Church, it’s an issue for the soul of the country and for American people.”

“I know it can be very discouraging when you see legislation like this passing,” Paprocki said.

“I had one person say to me ‘maybe I’m in the wrong state, maybe I need to move to another state.’”

Referencing the early Christians who lived in the Roman Empire, Paprocki said that “the Christians didn’t try to move somewhere where they could all be together and not be surrounded by the pagan culture. What they did was they stayed in that culture but they tried to transform the culture. Or they just said ‘We’re going to live differently. We’re going to live by our Christian values.’”

Director/Coordinator of Religious Education

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church

Is There a Limit to Abortion Extremism?

There is more and more evidence that pro-abortion advocates and the politicians they sponsor are becoming more and more extreme in their views. Yet most Americans oppose the current regime of abortion on demand for all nine months of pregnancy, and favor limits on abortions.

Don’t subsidize the taking of innocent life, archbishop says of attempts to repeal Hyde Amendment

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 07:02 pm (CNA).- Abolishing the Hyde Amendment, a proposal made recently by both Congressmen and presidential candidates, would unravel over 40 years of broad, bipartisan consensus, the head of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee told CNA.
 
“I think it’s a very important principle that’s at stake here. And it’s something that there historically was broad consensus (on) and both parties had supported,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Committee, told CNA on Thursday. “So it’s very disappointing to see the extremism now that’s attacking what most Americans would consider a very important principle.”
 
“Why should taxpayers pay for something that they find morally objectionable?” he asked, noting recent attempts by lawmakers to equate abortion with health care. “When you’re destroying a human life, this isn’t health care.”
 
Naumann spoke with CNA at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. bishops held in Baltimore, Md. from June 11-13.
 
The Hyde Amendment is named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde (D-IL), who sponsored the amendment that was first enacted in 1976, and which prevents taxpayer funding of abortions except in cases of rape or incest. The amendment has passed every year since 1976 as an attachment to spending bills, with bipartisan support.
 
A 2016 study by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, estimated that the amendment has saved over two million lives - or more than 60,000 people per year.
 
Current Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden was a long-time supporter of the Hyde Amendment, but last week he announced that he would oppose the policy. Biden insisted that politics did not play a role in his decision, in an interview with WHO Channel 13 in Iowa.
 
Other presidential candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have opposed the Hyde Amendment on the grounds that it would allegedly restrict abortion access for low-income women on Medicaid. The 2016 Democratic National Committee platform called for the repeal of the policy as well as of the Helms Amendment, which restricts U.S. foreign assistance for abortions.
 
On Monday, Roll Call reported that an amendment was inserted into the Labor-HHS appropriations bill by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), that would remove the Hyde Amendment from the package and require federal funding of abortion in Medicaid and other federal health programs, as well as prevent any state or local restrictions on abortion coverage in the private insurance sector.
 
That amendment would likely be removed from the package by the Rules Committee, Rep. Jayapal admitted to Roll Call on Tuesday, and the amendment was removed from the legislation amidst concerns that it could endanger passage of the bill.
 
“Since its implementation in 1976 when it was strongly supported by Democrats, the Hyde Amendment has saved the lives of more than 2 million Americans who otherwise would have been victims of taxpayer-funded abortions. There’s nothing ‘rare’ about millions more abortions if the Hyde Amendment is repealed,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, stated last Friday after Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden announced his opposition to the pro-life policy.
 
The Susan B. Anthony List noted that, according to a February Marist poll, a majority of Americans (54 percent) oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.
 

Pinterest suspends pro-life group's account, citing 'health misinformation'

San Francisco, Calif., Jun 13, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Pinterest, a social media site with 300 million active users, has banned pro-life activist group Live Action from its platform, just days after a whistleblower revealed documents that purport to show active suppression of pro-life and Christian content by Pinterest.

Alison Centofante, Live Action's director of external affairs, posted a screenshot June 11 of an email from Pinterest informing Live Action that their account was “permanently suspended because its content went against our policies on misinformation.”

“We don’t allow advice on Pinterest that may have immediate and detrimental effects on a Pinner’s health or on public safety,” the communication read.

Live Action founder Lila Rose shared a second email from Pinterest support that said the account was suspended because of “medically inaccurate information and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment and violence.”

“What exactly is Pinterest attempting to block? Inspirational messages to pregnant mothers, ultrasound images showing the science of prenatal development, medically accurate information on the abortion procedure, and images saying women deserve better than abortion industry leader Planned Parenthood,” Rose said in a June 11 statement.

“Pinterest has targeted Live Action, I believe, because our message is so effective at educating millions about the humanity of the preborn child and the injustice of abortion...Pinterest users deserve to know the truth and our messages deserve to be treated fairly. If Planned Parenthood can promote their message on Pinterest, then Live Action should be able to as well.”

Despite Live Action’s suspension for purported “immediate and detrimental” health effects of their pro-life materials, pins linking to websites that offered “20 Best Ways to Induce a Miscarriage Naturally at Home” were still active and available on Pinterest June 13.

Before Live Action’s total ban, documents released Tuesday by former software engineer-turned whistleblower Eric Cochran show that Live Action was intentionally marked as a “pornographic” site, thus suppressing users’ ability to link to LiveAction.org’s content.

The documents also allege that Pinterest employees labeled Christianity-related terms like “christian easter” and “bible verses” as “sensitive” search terms, meaning those terms would not show up in autocomplete search results on the site.

Cochran released the documents via the activist group Project Veritas, and says he was subsequently fired from his job at Pinterest.

“Because ‘LiveAction.org’ was added to the list of pornographic sites, the [whistleblower] showed that users cannot create pins that link to ‘LiveAction.org.’ Live Action has received complaints from supporters over the last few months that they have had difficulty pinning content from ‘LiveAction.org,’” Live Action said in a June 11 statement.

“After testing the website, Live Action was unable to create pins from our own website but was able to create pins to other pro-life websites and create pins to pro-abortion websites like Planned Parenthood.”

The whistleblower at Pinterest also revealed, Live Action says, that Pinterest added “David Daleiden/Planned Parenthood” to a list of “conspiracy theories” it monitors.

David Daleidan is a journalist and activist who used hidden camera footage to reveal Planned Parenthood executives and staff negotiating the sale of fetal body parts in 2015.

In another June 11 email, also shared by Rose, a Pinterest spokesperson said Live Action’s account was suspended because of “misinformation related to conspiracies and anti-vaccination advice, not porn,” and that the platform’s “internal tools” were “named years ago to combat porn” and had not been updated.

A media inquiry from CNA to Pinterest, enquiring what specific pins posted by Live Action the platform flagged as containing “misinformation” and how they vetted the information in question, went unanswered as of press time.

Twitter has barred Live Action from purchasing paid advertisements on their site, and the pro-life group has also alleged detrimental treatment from Google and YouTube.

Christians must sow hope among the poor, pope says

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis challenged Catholics to be a source of hope for those in poverty, especially in the face of divisions in wealth and a throw-away culture.

The Pope released Thursday his message for the third annual World Day of the Poor, which will take place Nov. 17.

In the June 13 text, he drew a comparison between the financial disparities of people the Old Testament and current social injustices. As present-day people are trapped in new forms of slavery, he said, it is the Catholic’s obligation not only to provide the poor with relief services, but with spiritual hope.

“‘The hope of the poor will not perish forever’ These words of the Psalm remain timely. They express a profound truth that faith impresses above all on the hearts of the poor, restoring lost hope in the face of injustice, sufferings and the uncertainties of life,” the pope said.

“I ask all Christian communities, and all those who feel impelled to offer hope and consolation to the poor, to help ensure that this World Day of the Poor will encourage more and more people to cooperate effectively so that no one will feel deprived of closeness and solidarity,” he added.

As during the time of the Psalms' development, there is now economic prosperity, he said. But he added that financial success has also led to an inequitable distribution of wealth. There are a privileged few, he said, but there are also millions of people who are exploited.

He said this exploitation is a type of bondage and enforces new forms of slavery. He said this abuse can be recognized in the displaced immigrants compelled to leave their homes, orphans and women forced into human trafficking, and young adults barred from employment.

“As in a hunt, the poor are trapped, captured and enslaved. As a result, many of them become disheartened, hardened and anxious only to drop out of sight,” he said. “They become for all effects invisible and their voice is no longer heard or heeded in society. Men and women who are increasingly strangers amid our houses and outcasts in our neighborhoods.”

These struggles may seem hopeless, he said, but it is the vulnerable and poor who will bear witness to God’s faithfulness. He said, even if the poor are dismissed and turned away, it will not be like that forever.

“Scripture constantly speaks of God acting on behalf of the poor. He is the one who ‘hears their cry’ and ‘comes to their aid’; he ‘protects’ and ‘defends’ them; he ‘rescues’ and ‘saves’ them... Indeed, the poor will never find God indifferent or silent in the face of their plea.”

He said it is the obligation of the Christian to care for those who are vulnerable, because Christ identifies with those in poverty. He gave the example of Jean Vanier, a Canadian Catholic humanitarian who died last month. Vanier founded L’Arche, an international organization of communities dedicated to people with disabilities.

“God gave Jean Vanier the gift of devoting his entire life to our brothers and sisters with grave disabilities, people whom society often tends to exclude. He was one of those saints ‘next door’” he said.

“His witness changed the life of countless persons and helped the world to look differently at those less fortunate than ourselves. The cry of the poor was heard and produced an unwavering hope, creating visible and tangible signs of a concrete love that even today we can touch with our hands.”

In this culture of waste, he said it is difficult to spread Christian hope. Francis said charity must go beyond the distribution of physical necessities and it must become an authentic concern for the person, inspiring that individual to hope and compassion.

“The poor acquire genuine hope, not from seeing us gratified by giving them a few moments of our time, but from recognizing in our sacrifice an act of gratuitous love that seeks no reward,” he said.

This act of kindness requires consistent commitment and a joyful individual who will listen and identify the true needs of each person, he said. It may seem illogical to the world, but charity extends beyond statistics, he further added.

“I encourage you to seek, in every poor person whom you encounter, his or her true needs, not to stop at their most obvious material needs, but to discover their inner goodness, paying heed to their background and their way of expressing themselves, and in this way to initiate a true fraternal dialogue,” said Pope Francis.

“For once, let us set statistics aside: the poor are not statistics to cite when boasting of our works and projects. The poor are persons to be encountered; they are lonely, young and old, to be invited to our homes to share a meal; men women and children who look for a friendly word. The poor save us because they enable us to encounter the face of Jesus Christ.”

Francis tells his ambassadors not to criticize him behind his back

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2019 / 02:04 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis sent a message to apostolic nuncios Thursday informing his ambassadors that they have a responsibility as papal representatives not to criticize the pope or to join groups hostile to the Roman curia.

“It is therefore irreconcilable to be a pontifical representative criticizing the pope behind his back, having blogs or even joining groups hostile to him, to the curia and to the Church of Rome,” Pope Francis said June 13 in remarks distributed to more than 100 nuncios meeting in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis said that he desired to share some simple precepts to help the papal diplomats live out their mission, calling the 4,000 word document a “Ten Commandments” of sorts for nuncios and their co-workers throughout the world.

One of the ten precepts outlined in the document is titled, “The Nuncio is a man of the Pope.” The section states that “certainly every person could have reservations, likes and dislikes, but a good nuncio cannot be hypocritical.”

“As a Pontifical Representative, the nuncio does not represent himself but the Successor of Peter and acts on his behalf at the Church … the Representative is a link, or better, a bridge of connection between the Vicar of Christ and the people to whom he was sent, in a certain area, for which he was appointed and sent by the Roman Pontiff himself,” Pope Francis said.

Other exhortations included in the document are to be merciful, obiendent, prayerful, charitable, humble, and to have initiative and apostolic zeal.

“The man of God does not deceive nor deceive his neighbor; he does not let himself go into gossip and slander; it preserves the pure mind and heart, preserving eyes and ears from the filth of the world. He does not let himself be deceived by worldly values, but looks to the Word of God to judge what is wise and good,” he said.

“The Nuncio who forgets that he is a man of God ruins himself and others; he goes off the track and also damages the Church, to which he has dedicated his life,” Francis warned.

Current papal nuncios have been caught in scandal. The apostolic nuncio to France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura has been accused of sexual misconduct against an adult male while he was nuncio in Canada. The Vatican diplomat is already under investigation for alleged sexual assault in Paris.

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, apostolic nuncio to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan has recently been accused of financial and personal misconduct during his time of service as the Vatican’s chief diplomat at the United Nations.

Some have pointed to Pope Francis’ comments about “having a blog” as alluding to the apostolic nuncio to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, because he has a blog, which was linked to a Twitter account in which he shared articles critical of some of Pope Francis’ comments.

In 2015, the nuncio tweeted a National Review article entitled, “The Pope Got It Completely and Utterly Wrong,” which called Pope Francis’ comments in an in-flight press conference “imprecise, poorly judged.” The nuncio’s Twitter account has since been deleted.

Former nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, set off a flurry of debate last August by penning a public letter alleging that some Vatican officials knew of Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct for years yet restored McCarrick’s place as a papal advisor to Pope Francis.

The former nuncio issued additional letters calling for Pope Francis to resign and gave an extended interview to the Washington Post published this week.

Francis' document to nuncios quotes Saints Maximilian Kolbe, Paul, Augustine, and Paul VI on living the Christian life. It concludes with the “Litany of Humility” written by Servant of God Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, Vatican Secretary of State from 1903-1914.

“The nuncio - and all of us - without a life of prayer, risks failing to meet all the aforementioned requirements. Without prayer we become mere officials, always unhappy and frustrated. The life of prayer is that light that illuminates everything else and all the work of the nuncio and his mission,” Pope Francis said.

More than a few fans prayed for St. Louis Blues to win Stanley Cup

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Wilking, Reuters

By

ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- Before the St. Louis Blues beat the Boston Bruins in Game 7 on June 12 to win the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup for the first time in the team's 52-year history, Twitter was alive with hopes for a little divine intervention for such a victory -- maybe even from St. John Paul II.

Many a tweet recalled a Jan. 26, 1999, visit the pontiff paid to St. Louis and just how comfortable he looked holding a hockey stick given to him by young people gathered for a rally at the arena that is home to the Blues, then called the Kiel Center.

At the end of the rally, which drew a crowd of 20,000, the pope also received a special jersey in the Blues' colors -- bearing the name "John Paul II'' and the number "1.''

When the Blues headed to the Stanley Cup Final, Catholics of the Archdiocese of St. Louis were praying hard for their team, said a May 23 editorial in the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper.

"Our city has caught Blues fever with fervor," it said. "Even Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, not a native of St. Louis but no stranger to hockey as a Minnesota native, exclaimed at the end of his May 22 State of the Archdiocese address to employees: 'Go Blues!'"

"Many people had given up on the Blues, who in January were the worst team in the NHL," the editorial noted. "It's a lesson in perseverance and never giving up. It's a lesson that we certainly could apply to our lives, and especially our faith. There's always hope. For Catholics, that hopes lies in Jesus. And, for #CatholicSTL, in the Blues, too."

The long-suffering team and its loyal fans finally got their magical moment in Game 7 with a 4-1 victory in Boston. And the celebration will continue with a parade to honor the champion team June 15 in St. Louis.

 

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Update: Church should focus on getting 'nones' back, Bishop Barron says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Although the U.S. bishops' spring assembly in Baltimore was mostly devoted to responding to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, the bishops also considered something described as the second-most important issue currently facing U.S. church leaders: How to get religiously unaffiliated, or "nones," particularly young people, back to the Catholic Church.

This is a top priority for our church, said Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, who is known for his website, "Word on Fire," and for hosting the documentary series "Catholicism."

In a June 11 presentation, the bishop said a group of experts who've examined why young people are leaving the faith in increasing numbers recently spoke with his committee about this and will share their findings during a lunch presentation at the bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore.

"How many are leaving? The short answer is: a lot," the bishop said, noting the sobering statistic he said many in the room probably were aware of -- that 50% of Catholics 30 years old and younger have left the church.

"Half the kids that we baptized and confirmed in the last 30 years are now ex-Catholics or unaffiliated," he said, and "one out of six millennials in the U.S. is now a former Catholic."

Another statistic that particularly affects him is this: "For every one person joining our church today, 6.45 are leaving" and most are leaving at young ages, primarily before age 23. The median age of those who leave is 13.

 "Where are they going?" he asked, and in response to his own question, he again gave a short answer: They're "becoming nones" although some, in much smaller percentages, join other mainstream religions or evangelical churches.

Bishop Barron said church leaders don't need to speculate about why people are leaving because there are plenty of studies and surveys that answer this. The No. 1 reason, he said, is that they simply no longer believe the church's teachings, primarily its doctrinal beliefs.

In his opinion, he said, this is "a bitter fruit of the dumbing-down of our faith" as it has been presented in catechesis and apologetics.

Other reasons he said young people are leaving have to do with relativism, science and the church's teachings on sexuality.

The bishop's hope, in this environment, is that the young, religiously unaffiliated can still be reached because as he put it, most have drifted away versus storming away from the faith. "We're not up against a fierce opponent at every turn," he said, adding: "Most are ambivalent to religion rather than hostile to it."

He also mentioned what he called the "Jordan Peterson phenomenon," which he prefaced by saying, "Please don't take this as a one-sided endorsement" of the Canadian psychology professor and author who is popular on social media.

"He speaks at a very high level about serious things and big ideas," Bishop Barron said, noting Peterson's current YouTube talks on the Bible. He said the fact that millions of young people, young men in particular, are watching this speaker talk about "our book, the Bible" is worth reflecting on and is a sign of hope.

Not everyone on Catholic social media agreed with this point. Some questioned how the bishop could present a speaker who has stirred controversy with his complaints against political correctness as a model, while others called him an example of someone who takes on the big questions.

Bishop Barron was asked in a June 12 news conference how he would respond to critics of his Peterson reference. He said he does not fully agree with everything Peterson says, but he thinks that what he is doing -- "speaking about big ideas" -- and the huge fan base that follows him can't be ignored.

"We should be able to speak about the Bible in a way that people would want to hear" is the message he said he was trying to get across to the bishops.

The other examples Bishop Barron pointed to as signs of hope were Catholic campus missionary groups, like the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS, that are "getting traction with young people."

He also said the amount of engagement about social media in religion is a good thing, even those angry about religion. He said he was recently part of an "AMA" (Ask Me Anything) feature on Reddit, an internet news aggregator, where he said he was a Catholic bishop who loved to talk with atheists and ended up with more than 12,000 questions in under an hour.

In the discussion period after his Baltimore presentation, several bishops agreed with his analysis and one bishop asked for clarification and spelling of Reddit.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, said it was "wonderful that we're talking about this issue and I think we need to make it front and center at all of our gatherings." He said he hoped the discussion on the topic at the bishops' fall meeting also would examine cultural and sociological issues influencing young people to leave the church.

For example, he said the "paradigm of parish membership" does not work for millennials since many of them move so frequently, and this also applies to society in general where so many no longer join communities which leads to isolation and loneliness.

In response, Bishop Barron said young people who are leaving can be reached in a broader sense through social media.

"We have to go get them and we do have the means to do that through social media -- with all of its negativity."

He said the paradox is that social media can also lead to further isolation because people are connected only though their screens, but at this point in time, he said using it as "an evangelical tool is required now, given the fact that people aren't going to come to our institutions."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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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.