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Vatican responds to allegations that ex-auditor was ousted

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2017 / 10:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has issued a response to allegations made by former auditor general Libero Milone, who, three months after mysteriously stepping down in the middle of a five-year mandate, has said he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work.

The Vatican’s Sept. 24 statement voiced “surprise and regret” at the allegations. It said that by speaking out, Milone “failed in the agreement to keep confidential the reasons for his resignation from office,” the Vatican said, noting that according to the statutes of his department, Milone's task had been to “analyze the budgets and accounts” of the Holy See and its related administrations specifically.

“Unfortunately the office directed by Milone exceeded its powers and illegally commissioned an external firm to carry out investigative activities on the private lives of representatives of the Holy See,” the statement said.

“In addition to constituting a crime,” the act “irreparably crippled the trust placed in Mr. Milone, who, placed in front of his responsibilities, freely agreed to resign.”

Milone gave an interview to several media outlets Sept. 23, saying “I think the Pope is a great person, and he began with the best intentions.”

“But I’m afraid he was blocked by the old guard that’s still wholly there, which felt threatened when it understood that I could relate to the Pope and to Parolin what I had seen in the accounts. This is the logic,” he said.

According to his version of events, Milone, 69, said that in June he was falsely accused with “staged” allegations of a misuse of funds when he hired an outside firm to check security on computers in his office, and then “intimidated” into resigning from his position.

Milone said he wanted “to do good for the Church, to reform it like I was asked, but they wouldn’t let me.”
 
Speaking from his lawyer’s office, the former auditor made his comments to reporters from four different Italian and English language media outlets, including Italian paper Corriere della Sera, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters news agency and Italian TV channel SkyTg24.

He left his post in June without an explanation just two years into a five year mandate after being hired as the Vatican’s first Auditor General in a move to introduce more financial transparency in the Vatican City State.

Prior to coming to the Vatican, Milone had been chairman and CEO of the Deloitte global accounting firm in Italy, and had also worked for the United Nations and car enterprise Fiat.

At the time of his resignation, the Vatican said the act was done by “mutual agreement.” However, in his comments to media, Milone said this was not the case, but that he was intimidated into resigning when faced with threats of prosecution.

The Vatican statement in response to Milone’s comments made assurances that the investigations carried out were done “with every scruple and respect for the person.”

In his comments to media, Milone said he chose to speak out because in the past three months rumors have come out that are “offensive for my reputation and my professionalism.”

“I could no longer afford a small powerful group to expose my person for their shady games,” he said, explaining that he had always had a good relationship with the Pope, but for a year and a half prior to his resignation, he had been isolated and alienated from the Pope and other Vatican personnel.

Although he declined to give details due to non-disclosure agreements, Milone voiced his belief that he had been targeted after launching an investigation into a possible conflict of interest involving an Italian cardinal.

Describing his version of the chain of events that leading up to his resignation, Milone said he was called to the office of Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, the Vatican’s deputy Secretary of State, on June 19 and told that the Pope had lost faith in him and had requested his resignation.

When he asked why, Milone said he was given a series of explanations, “some of which seemed incredible.” When he asked to see the Pope, Milone said he was sent to Domenico Giani, head of the Gendarmeria, the Vatican’s police force, where he was interrogated for several hours.

After relocating to Milone’s office, the auditor said Giani yelled at him and demanded to have access to his computer and certain documents. Eventually Giani produced two receipts for payments he had made to the outside contractor that had checked security on the computers in his office.

The former auditor said one of the receipts was “a fake,” and voiced his belief that they had been fabricated as a result of a security check he had done after discovering unauthorized access to his computer and that spyware had been planted on his secretary’s computer in 2015.

After more questioning, Milone said he finally decided to sign a letter of resignation in order to “protect my family and my reputation.”

Milone said that when he offered to draft the letter, he was informed that one had already been written up, and was handed a letter dated for one month before his actual resignation took place, raising suspicious that the entire affair had been “staged.”

He also suggested that it might not be a coincidence that his own exit happened to coincide with the abuse charges recently raised against Cardinal George Pell, the architect of the Pope’s financial reform, the allegations of which started to come out around the same time that his efforts for reform were becoming increasingly controversial within the Vatican.

However, in comments to Reuters, Giani said there was “overwhelming evidence” against the former auditor, though he did not offer details.

Also in comments to Reuters, Archbishop Becciu said Milone had gone against “all the rules and was spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me.” If he had not agreed to resign,” Becciu added, “we would have prosecuted him.”

Milone said he sent a letter to Pope Francis through a “secure channel” in July saying he was framed and “amazed” that his departure took place at the same time as that of Cardinal Pell, but has not received a response.

Pope Francis: God is calling you to work in his kingdom

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2017 / 08:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- No one is “unemployed” when it comes to spreading the message of the Gospel, Pope Francis has said, because each one of us is called to take up the task and to do our own part in God’s plan of salvation.

“The message is this: in the Kingdom of God no one is unemployed, everyone is called to do their part,” the Pope said Sunday Sept. 24.

“And for everyone there will be the compensation of divine justice – not human (justice), fortunately! – which is the salvation that Jesus Christ acquired for us with his death and resurrection.”

This salvation is “not merited, but given,” Francis said, explaining that this is why Jesus in the Gospel says “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

He spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address, focusing on the day’s Gospel from Matthew which focuses on the parable of the landowner who hires men to work in his vineyard at all hours of the day, and in the end pays them all equally.  

Jesus tells his disciples this parable to communicate two different aspects of the Kingdom of God, Pope Francis said. The first is that “God wants to call everyone to work in his kingdom,” and the second is that “in the end he wants to give everyone the same reward, which is salvation, eternal life.”

When the end of the day comes and everyone is paid the same amount, no matter how many hours they worked, those who labored all day understandably complained, the Pope said, because they received the same amount as those who worked less.

However, the landowner reminds them that “they received what was agreed,” and if he wants to be generous, those who came earlier “should not be envious.”

The Pope said that in reality, “this ‘injustice’ of the landowner is used to provoke, in whomever listens to the parable, a jump in level, because Jesus does not want to speak about the problem of work and a just salary, but the Kingdom of God.”

In telling the parable, Jesus wants to open our hearts “to the logic of the Father, who is free and generous,” Francis said. This means to let ourselves be “amazed and fascinated” by the ways and thoughts of God, which, he noted, “are not our ways and thoughts.”

Rather, the thoughts of mankind are often marked by selfishness and personal gain, and frequently our “narrow and winding” paths are not comparable to those of the Lord, which are “broad and straight.”

“The Lord uses mercy, forgives widely and is full of generosity and goodness that pours onto each one of us, and opens to all the boundless territories of his love and grace, which alone can give the human heart the fullness of joy,” he said.

Jesus, Francis said, makes us contemplate the specific gaze of the landowner, which is “the gaze with which he sees each one of his laborers waiting for work” and is the gaze with which he calls us “to go into his vineyard.”

His gaze is also one that calls, invites one to get up and start walking, the Pope said, because the Lord wants the fullness of life for each person, one that is committed and “saved from emptiness and inertia.”

“God does not want to exclude anyone and he wants everyone to reach their fullness,” he said, adding that “this is love, the love of our Father.”

He closed his address asking that the Virgin Mary help us to welcome “the logic of love” into our lives, “which frees us from the presumption of earning the reward of God and from negative judgments of others.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis noted that Fr. Stanley Francis Rother was beatified Saturday in Oklahoma City.

Considered a martyr, Fr. Rother was killed in hatred of the faith “for his work of evangelization and of human promotion in favor of the most poor in Guatemala,” the Pope said.

He then prayed that Fr. Rother’s “heroic example” would help us to be “courageous witnesses of the Gospel, committing ourselves to promoting the dignity of the human being.”

Michigan lawsuit could imperil religious adoption agencies

Lansing, Mich., Sep 24, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Faith-based adoption agencies won't be able to adhere to their religious mission in Michigan if a lawsuit challenging state law succeeds, critics say.

“This suit challenging Michigan's law is mean-spirited, divisive and intolerant,” the Michigan Catholic Conference said Sept. 20.

“It is counter-productive toward efforts to assist vulnerable persons and to promote a variety of opportunities for differing families. It is imperative for the state law to be defended from yet another egregious attack on religious faith in public life.”

The conference defended the law as necessary “to promote diversity in child placement and to maintain a private/public partnership that would stabilize the adoption and foster care space for years to come.”

The federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday, is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. It charges that the state law allows groups to use a religious test in carrying out public services like foster child or adoption placement. It contends this is unconstitutional and violates both the equal protection and establishment clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

The 2015 law, which was passed with the backing of the Michigan Catholic Conference, prevents state-funded adoption and foster agencies from being forced to place children in violation of their beliefs. The law protects them from civil action and from threats to their public funding. When the law was passed, about 25 percent of Michigan’s adoption and foster agencies were faith-based.

These agencies have worked in the state for decades and have helped place thousands of vulnerable children, the Michigan Catholic Conference said.

David M. Maluchnik, a spokesperson for the Michigan Catholic conference, told the Wall Street Journal that the law aimed to protect “the right of these agencies to operate in accordance with their religious mission.”

“We play a primary role in providing homes for loving families looking to adopt or foster a child,” he said.

The law requires agencies that decline to place children with same-sex couples to refer the couples to other providers.

ACLU attorney Jay Kaplan contended that the law allows agencies to discriminate and puts a child in a situation between “finding a permanent loving home or staying in the system.”

Kristy Dumont, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she and her civilly recognized spouse Dana Dumont had wanted to adopt in Ingham County but were turned down by Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services.

Maluchnik said that there are many Michigan agencies that would place a child with the couple. He questioned why the plaintiffs sued rather than go to another agency.

Before the law was passed, Bethany Christian Services warned that future policies could force faith-based agencies to “choose between their desire to help children and families and their fidelity to their religious principles,” the Michigan-based MLive Media Group reported in 2015.

SSPX bishop signs letter claiming Pope Francis enables error

Rome, Italy, Sep 23, 2017 / 08:50 pm (CNA).- A letter presenting itself as a filial correction of Pope Francis for reputed errors and heresies has been signed by over 60 Catholic clergy and scholars, including most prominently Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the breakaway traditionalist Society of St. Pius X group.

The letter to the Pope, dated July 16, says it concerns “the propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ and by other words, deeds and omissions of Your Holiness.” It claims the publication of the exhortation and other acts of the Pope has given “scandal concerning faith and morals” to the Church and to the world,

“While professing their obedience to his legitimate commands and teachings, they maintain that Francis has upheld and propagated heretical opinions by various direct or indirect means,” a press release accompanying the letter said of the signers. It added that the signers do not believe the Pope has propagated these opinions as dogmatic Church teachings and make no judgment about the Pope’s culpability.

The letter was delivered to Pope Francis on Aug. 11, the press release said.

Bishop Fellay reportedly learned of the document only after its delivery. The district superior of the Society of Pius X, Father Robert Brucciani, is also a signatory. The society’s leader in 1988 ordained four bishops without papal permission in 1988 and all five prelates were excommunicated. Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in 2009 and there have been continuing talks seeking to reconcile the society with the Church.

The letter to Pope Francis cites differences among the Catholic bishops and cardinals concerning the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried. It objects to the Pope’s silence in the face of the “dubia” submitted to the Pope by four cardinals seeking clarification of “Amoris Laetitia,” in September 2016.

It charges that the Pope’s actions have allowed Holy Communion to be received sacrilegiously by divorced people now living as husband and wife with someone not their spouse.

The letter claims the Pope has voiced “unprecedented sympathy” for Martin Luther and suggested there is an affinity between Luther’s ideas and the ideas of “Amoris Laetitia.” It also blames theological modernism for provoking a crisis within the Church.

Other signers include Dr. Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, past president of the Institution of Religious Works and an ethics professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, as well Msgr. Antonio Livi, dean emeritus of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Some U.S.-based signers include Dr. Philip Blosser, a philosophy professor at the Detroit archdiocese’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Christopher Ferrara, president of the American Catholic Lawyers’ Association and a columnist in the hardline traditionalist Catholic newspaper The Remnant; and Dr. John Rao, a history professor at St. John’s University in New York City who directs the Roman Forum.

My cousin the martyr: meet Blessed Stanley Rother's large family

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 23, 2017 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- They came from Illinois and they came from Wisconsin. They came from Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

They came from Minnesota--three or four buses worth. At least 16 cars made the drive down from Nebraska.

The many, many, first, second and third cousins of Father Stanley Rother descended on Oklahoma City like the Boomers of old descended on the Oklahoma plains when there was free land for the claiming. But this time, they came to watch one of their own become “Blessed” in the eyes of the Church.

Fr. Stanley was born in 1935, and grew up with his parents and four siblings in the rural farming town of Okarche, Okla. He became a priest in 1963 and was martyred in 1981 in Guatemala at the age of 46, after serving as a missionary there for 13 years.

He was beatified on Sept. 23 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. His two surviving siblings, Sister Marita and Tom Rother, as well as hundreds of extended relatives, were in attendance at the Mass, along with 14,000 of the faithful.

Doris Horne was in charge of mobilizing the Nebraska contingent. Many Rother relations are from the small town of Humphrey, Nebraska, while others have settled in the Columbus, Ohio area.

“There are 140 of us from my Grandmother Smith-Fuchs side here, from six states,” she told CNA as she sat amongst many of them at the Cox Convention Center before the beatification Mass for Fr. Stanley Rother, her second cousin.

Horne’s parents were first cousins to Fr. Stanley’s parents. Although she never met Fr. Stanley, Horne said she remembered his parents coming to visit. She was also able to make a pilgrimage to his mission in Guatemala on the 25th anniversary of his death.

“Everyone down there loved him, and the churches were packed” for the occassion, she recalled. “He was so loved down there.”

“I don’t know how to put it into words, but it’s an honor. We pray to him all the time, and I’m just honored to be part of the family,” she said.

Cousins have always been an important part of life for Fr. Stanley Rother, who came from a German Catholic family. The first wedding he ever celebrated was that of his cousin Kay Rother and her husband.

These days, Kay volunteers a lot at Holy Trinity parish in Okarche, Okla., where Fr. Stanley went to church and school. She said it’s probably a good thing Fr. Stanley wasn’t alive to witness all of his beatification happenings.

“With all this going on, he would not want it,” she said with a mixture of humor and bemusement, gesturing to the small crowd of journalists and distant relatives descending on the otherwise quiet parish grounds the day before the beatification Mass.

Stanley was a humble, quiet person and would have loathed being the center of attention, Kay explained.

“He wouldn’t like all the hubub,” she said. “He was very quiet and humble, and he didn’t brag on what he did.”

Besides being a cousin and the celebrant of her wedding, Fr. Stanley is dear to Kay for another important reason: she credits his intercession for saving the life of her daughter, Amber.

Several years ago, when Amber was just in her early twenties, she had a brain aneurysm rupture. The first hospital said there was nothing to be done except to take her upstairs and harvest her organs. Another hospital said if Amber lived, she’d spend her life in a vegetative state.

That’s when Kay’s husband called on Stan.

“My husband said don’t worry about it, I’m going to the cemetery. So he went to the cemetery and said ‘okay Stan, time for you to work.’ And three days later she opened her eyes, and today you’d never know it,” Kay said. Amber is healthy, and happily married, with one child.

Fr. Stan is a big reason she’s spent the past 30 years volunteering at the parish. Even in the midst of the beatification chaos, Kay was trying to fix the air conditioning in the church that had stopped working “today of all days.”

“I just felt like I owed it to him. It’s the least I can do,” Kay said, doing her best to hold back the tears.

When Fr. Stanley was killed in 1981, his heart remained interned at the altar in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His body was flown back to Okarche, where it was buried in Holy Trinity’s cemetery until just a few months ago, when his remains were moved to a temporary resting place in the archdiocese, pending the completion of a shrine in his honor.

But his headstone still marks the original plot in the Holy Trinity Cemetery. “Padre A’plas”, it reads, the name for Father Francis in the native Guatemalan language of Tzutuhil, which he had learned to speak fluently.

Lee Rother and his family visited the cemetery the Friday before the beatification Mass, to honor Fr. Stanley, as well as the other Rother relatives buried there. As he walked through the grounds, Lee recalled fond memories of the people whose gravestones he passed. He must have known at least half of the people buried there.

Lee himself has settled in Minnesota, along with many of the other Rother relatives. He told CNA that he has given talks on Fr. Stanley, his third cousin, and is inspired by his faith.

“How he lived, how he served God and his people--he had a tremendous, deep faith in him,” he said.

This was something Fr. Stanley passed on to the Guatemalans he served.

“That parish flourished after he died, because he gave them a faith that they could lean on in the midst of their oppression,” he said, his excitement about his cousin palpale.

“It’s a tremendous thrill, it’s so exhilarating to have a relative who’s being beatified by the Catholic Church,” he said. “The best thing that’s ever happened to the Rother family.”

Kathy Rother is a cousin of Father Stanley’s who knew him growing up. Her family lived just a few miles down the road, and she went to school with Stanley and his siblings.

Kathy fondly remembered Stanley as a kind, brotherly figure, someone who once stopped the bullies on the bus from picking on her.

“The big boys would like to pick on the little kids because they were bored. They’d pull their hair or take your lunchbox,” Kathy said.

“I remember one time I was the butt of the jokes... and I remember looking around for one of my older brothers to rescue me, and they didn’t, but there was Stan sitting there and he patted the empty seat next to him, and I sat there and they left me alone, the boys just backed off,” she said.

“it wasn’t like Stan was a sissy, he was very self-contained, he knew what was right, and it wasn’t right to be picking on little kids,” she said. “He was very much looked up to.”

Kathy still remembers getting the news of her cousin’s untimely death. “That cut me to the heart”, she remembered, her eyes tearing up. But then, look what came of it, she added, smiling.

And he’s still there for her, though this time its through his prayers in heaven, rather than rescuing her from bus bullies.

“Many times I’ve called on Stan (in prayer),” Kathy said. “And he comes through.”

Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 9/24

Image source

Today's Pause for Prayer is a powerful song, sung powerfully by hundreds gathered at a Gospel conference.  This musical style may not be for everyone - in fact, it's not my usual bent - but this piece took hold of a deep place in my heart and perhaps it will reach yours, too...




It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul!

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul!

My sin (oh, the bliss of this glorious thought)
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend.
Even so, it is well with my soul!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul!


 

    
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Faithful martyr and missionary Father Stanley Rother beatified in Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 23, 2017 / 02:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma priest martyred in Guatemala, was beatified Saturday during a Mass in Oklahoma City attended by over 20,000 people. Pope Francis named him blessed in a letter that cited his “deeply rooted faith,” his “profound union with God,” and his “arduous duty to spread the word of God in missionary lands, faithfully living his priestly and missionary service until his martyrdom.” His feast day is set for the anniversary of his death, July 28, 1981, which the papal letter described as “the day of his heavenly birth.” Blessed Stanley Rother served indigenous people of his Guatemala parish at a time of civil war. He returned to his home state of Oklahoma after a death threat, then returned knowing the dangers. Before his last Christmas, the priest wrote to a parish in Oklahoma about the dangers in Guatemala: “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger,” he said. Armed men broke into his rectory, intending to abduct him. He resisted and struggled, but did not call for help, so others at the mission would not be endangered. He was shot twice and killed. At a time of great social and political turbulence, the priest lived as a disciple of Christ, “doing good and spreading peace and reconciliation among the people,” Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect for the Congregation of Saints, said in his homily. “Unfortunately, this immediate recompense on this earth was persecution and a bloody death, in accord with the Words of Jesus: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit,” said the cardinal, citing the words of the Gospel. Celebrating the Mass with Cardinal Amato were Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley, dozens of bishops, scores of priests and thousands of laity, including some from Guatemala. The Mass took place at Oklahoma City’s Cox Convention Center. Family of Fr. Rother were also in attendance. Sister Marita Rother read the first reading, from the Book of Sirach. Though Blessed Stanley faced difficulties in his seminary studies, he showed great dedication to the manual labor he was familiar with from his youth on his family farm near Okarche, Okla. After volunteering for the Guatemala mission Santiago Atitlan, the priest learned Spanish. He even the local language of the Tz’utujil Mayan Indians so well that he could use it in his preaching. He would spend 13 years of his life there, diligent in visiting newlyweds and baptizing and catechizing their children. He was vigorous in both religious and social formation, drawing on his experience to work the fields and repair broken trucks while also building a farmer’s co-op, a school, a hospital and the area’s first Catholic radio station. Blessed Stanley even took action after a major earthquake in 1976. “With courage he climbed the ravines in order to help the very poor, pulling the wounded out of the ruins and carrying them to safety on his shoulders,” Cardinal Amato said. Cardinal Amato recounted the civil conflict in Guatemala. From 1971 to 1981, there were numerous killings of journalists, farmers, catechists and priests, all accused falsely of communism. “This was a real and true time of bloody persecution of the Church,” the cardinal said. “Fr. Rother, aware of the imminent danger to his life, prepared himself for martyrdom, asking the Lord for the strength to face it without fear.” “He continued, however, to preach the gospel of love and non-violence.” Both the priest’s mission and the aid he gave to the victims of violence were seen as subversive, explained the cardinal, who added: “a good shepherd cannot abandon his flock.” “In the face of kidnappings and violence Fr. Rother felt helpless because he did not succeed in changing the situation of reconciliation and forgiveness,” Cardinal Amato continued. “He often cried in silence to a Carmelite nun who asked what to do if he were killed.” “Fr. Rother responded: ‘Raise the standard of Christ Risen’.” Others spoke about Blessed Stanley. Oklahoma City Archbishop emeritus Eusebius Beltran voiced gratitude to God for the beatification of the first native-born priest and martyr of the United States. “His death was a tragedy for Oklahoma and for Guatemala. However, through his death, his saintly life has become known well beyond the boundaries of Guatemala and Oklahoma and the faith of all those who are now familiar with his life is greatly strengthened, and the Church continues to flourish,” Archbishop Beltran said. Archbishop Coakley said that the priest “chose to remain with his people” and “gave his life  in solidarity.” “Pray that Church will experience a new Pentecost and abundant vocations, aided by the intercession of Bl. Stanley Rother,” he said. The Mass was multi-lingual, incorporating Spanish, Comanche and the Mayan language of the indigenous people Fr. Rother served. The offertory was dedicated to the Guatemalan parishes where Blessed Stanley Rother served, in order to help meet their needs and sustain the faith there. The Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma is managing donations through the webpage http://stanleyrother.org/mass

Vatican at UN: Nukes won't save us – let's seek a better path

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nuclear weapons are a force for instability and any claims they promote peace are chasing illusions, the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States told leading diplomats seeking a nuclear test ban treaty.

“While having no illusions about the challenges involved in achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, the challenges posed by the status quo ante of growing tensions, continuing proliferation, and new modernization programs are far more daunting,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said.

“Nuclear arms offer a false sense of security. The uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence has time and time again proved a tragic illusion. Nuclear weapons cannot create a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of annihilation.”

The U.K.-born archbishop's words came in remarks to the 10th Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, held at the United Nations in New York City. The Holy See signed the treaty in 1996.

“The rising tensions over North Korea’s growing nuclear program are of special urgency,” he said. “The international community must respond by seeking to revive negotiations. The threat or use of military force have no place in countering proliferation, and the threat or use of nuclear weapons in countering nuclear proliferation are deplorable.”

“We must put behind us the nuclear threats, fear, military superiority, ideology, and unilateralism that drive proliferation and modernization efforts and are so reminiscent of the logic of the Cold War,” he said.

Putting the treaty into force is even more urgent considering contemporary threats to peace, he said, citing continued nuclear proliferation and some nuclear states’ major new modernization programs.

Archbishop Gallagher said political analysis that relies on nuclear weapons is misleading. The supposed peace based on a balance of power and “threats and counter-threats, and ultimately fear” is “unstable and false.” He called for the replacement of “a logic of fear and mistrust” with “an ethic of responsibility” that would foster multilateral dialogue and consistent cooperation between all members of the international community.

The archbishop said the Holy See is troubled by “the continued lack of progress” in making sure the treaty enters into force. The two decades since the treaty’s launch have been a lost two decades in achieving “our common goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The Holy See welcomes the opportunity to join other states that have ratified the treaty in appealing to remaining states whose ratification is necessary, he added.

“In ratifying this treaty, these States have an opportunity to demonstrate wisdom, courageous leadership, and a commitment to peace and the common good of all,” he said.

The comprehensive test ban is “a critical component to broader nuclear disarmament efforts.”

He cited Pope Francis' Sept. 25, 2015 speech urging the U.N. General Assembly “to work for a world free of nuclear weapons” and for a full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that aims for “a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

“An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as ‘nations united by fear and distrust,” the Pope said.

Pope Francis has also written to Elayne Whyte Gómez, president of the U.N. conference seeking a nuclear weapons ban, urging the international community to go beyond nuclear deterrence and adopt “forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security.”

On Thursday, the Holy See was among the first to sign and ratify a new treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons. Archbishop Gallagher signed on behalf of the Holy See and Vatican City at the U.N. in New York, Vatican Radio reports. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Weapons has over 40 signatories and it will take effect 90 days after at least 50 nations formally ratify it.

That treaty bars the development, production, testing, acquisition, possession or stockpiling of nuclear weapons or other nuclear devices. It also bars the use or threat of use of these weapons. Most nuclear powers did not take part in the negotiations.

Denver event hopes to change how society views homeless people

Denver, Colo., Sep 22, 2017 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- When volunteers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development counted the number of homeless people in Colorado one night last year, they found more than 10,000.

Christ in the City, a Denver-based outreach program, hopes to positively impact some of those people – not just with food or shelter, but with friendship.

The organization sees one of its primary goals as getting to know homeless people on the streets.

Young adult missionaries walk the streets of Denver in teams of three. They seek to encounter the homeless people who are often ignored. Over time, as they have conversations and meet regularly with the people on the streets, friendships develop.

“The people society usually ignores are called by name, treated with authentic love, and are reminded of their innate dignity. Their posture becomes more upright, their eyes begin to shine, and their hearts are softened as missionaries treat them with the tender care Christ modeled,” the organization said in describing its mission.

Currently, Christ in the City has 24 missionaries, ages 18-27. The organization operates in Denver, but has had requests to expand in the Archdioceses of Lincoln, Neb., and Philadelphia, Penn.

Also critical to the group’s approach is formation of the missionaries and efforts to help change the way society views the poor.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, Christ in the City will host “A Night of Encounter,” an event that will offer a glimpse into what it’s like to serve the homeless not only in their material needs, but through friendship.  

Hosted by Holy Name Parish in Englewood, Colo., the event will include an outdoor cocktail hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m.

Missionaries will sit with guests, who will have the opportunity to hear their stories of encountering homeless people on the streets of Denver.

Tickets for “A Night of Encounter” can be purchased at: http://christinthecity.co/annualcelebration/

Villanova 'culture warrior' professor accepts Douthat debate invitation

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- New York Times columnist Ross Douthat invited Villanova theologian Massimo Faggioli to a debate, and Faggioli has said that he would be open to the idea.

“I am really looking forward to meeting him in person, as soon as is possible. I don’t know if this event is going to happen, in what form. I am totally open to it,” Dr. Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University, told CNA of Ross Douthat’s invitation to a debate.

Douthat, a Catholic, is an author and op-ed columnist at the New York Times, writing on religion, politics, morality, and culture. Faggioli is a theology professor, church historian, and Catholic commentator at Villanova University. Douthat and Faggioli have both been referred to as “culture warriors,” one a conservative, the other a liberal.

In a Sept. 20 column, “Expect the Inquisition,” Douthat noted two recent examples of priests or theologians losing academic positions or speaking engagements because of online campaigns opposing them.

Instead of “conflicting inquisitions, liberal and conservative,” Douthat proposed more “serious argument” and “respectful debate” amongst academics, theologians, and bishops.

In particular, Douthat invited Faggioli – with whom he has previously engaged in online debates, most notably in October of 2015 during the Synod on the Family – to a debate. “I myself am only a train ride away from Professor Faggioli’s Villanova and would happily allow him to educate me on my theological deficiencies on a platform of his choosing,” he said.

Faggioli told CNA on Thursday that he would be open to such a debate.

Faggioli noted that he would not want a debate that would resemble a “boxing match,” but rather “just two individuals there to present a much bigger debate.”

“I think it’s much bigger than Ross and Massimo. But it’s certainly a step forward from two years ago, when there was a much harsher exchange,” he said. Faggioli said he would be open to meet “at Villanova, or at Commonweal, or wherever that can happen.”

“We have to find a way to meet and talk,” Faggioli said, “but there’s a lot of noise that is really part of the environment. And that is still violent. That’s the problem. And we have to find a way to neutralize those violent voices who have no interest of exchange of ideas.”

“What’s a bit disturbing,” he added, is that “if you read the comments that their readers post on their column or their messages against me following Douthat’s article yesterday, that is scary, honestly,” he said.

In an interview with CNA, Faggioli questioned Douthat’s ability to comment on theological and ecclesial issues. “It is striking that he’s commenting with this cavalier attitude on important issues with a fundamental lack of knowledge, I would say.”

“And about what’s going on in Francis’ pontificate, it seems to me that he has a very sketchy idea with very little knowledge of the real people appointed by Francis, what they have published, what they have said, their curriculum, who they are,” Faggioli said.

Although Douthat’s recent column was “a bit less arrogant, a bit less aggressive, looking for a dialogue with people like me with whom he has disagreed for a couple of years now,” he said, “there’s the same lack of knowledge and of curiosity for what this Pope is doing.”

“He doesn’t know, he doesn’t read what the other people are doing. And it’s deeply, deeply unfair and false to make a caricature of them as the bolshevik of Pope Francis,” he said.

Douthat and Faggioli have recently clashed over response to “Building a Bridge,” a book by Fr. James Martin, SJ, addressing LGBT issues in the Church.  Fr. Martin was recently disinvited to address seminarians at Theological College, a seminary in Washington, DC, after outcry and protests from online groups Faggioli has called “cyber-militias.”

In a September 18 essay published by La Croix, Faggioli criticized the “campaign of hatred and personal attacks” against Fr. Martin, and said that “this sort of vitriol is profoundly changing the communion of the Catholic Church.”

“It signals a new kind of censorship that uses verbal violence to intimidate individual Catholics, as well as institutions within the Church,” he said.

In his September 20 column, Douthat responded that “Professor Faggioli’s sudden concern about online campaigns was interesting to me, because it was just a short while ago that the professor was himself busy organizing an online campaign against myself.”

Douthat was referring to an October 2015 letter to the New York Times, written by Faggioli and more than 50 other academics, objecting to a column by Douthat. Among the signatories was Nicholas P. Cafardi, a civil and canon lawyer who served as chairman of “Catholics for Obama,” and characterized President Barack Obama as “pro-life” in 2012.

In the criticized column “The Plot to Change Catholicism,” Douthat speculated that the Pope sided with the proposal of Cardinal Walter Kasper that the divorced and remarried be allowed to receive communion, without first receiving a declaration that their first marriages were invalid. Pope Francis picked synod delegates who would be sympathetic to such a position, Douthat said.

In subsequent comments on Twitter, Douthat criticized supporters of the so-called “Kasper proposal” at the synod. “If you take a view the church has consistently rejected, you don't get to whine when the ‘h’ word comes up,” Douthat said, adding, “Own your heresy.”

The response letter questioned Douthat’s credibility. “Aside from the fact that Mr. Douthat has no professional qualifications for writing on the subject, the problem with his article and other recent statements is his view of Catholicism as unapologetically subject to a politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is,” the letter stated.

In response to that letter, Bishop Robert Barron defended Douthat, writing at the Word on Fire website: “If a doctorate in theology were a bottom-line prerequisite, we would declare the following people unqualified to express an opinion on matters religious: Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis, William F. Buckley, W.H. Auden, or to bring things more up to date, Fr. James Martin, George Weigel, and E.J. Dionne. In point of fact, it is often the case that those outside of the official academy often have the freshest and most insightful perspectives, precisely because they aren’t sequestered in the echo-chamber of politically correct faculty lounge discourse.”

While no debate has been scheduled, CNA has learned that details for the possibility of a debate are being explored, and may soon be announced.  

Faggioli told CNA, “As long as it’s not a debate like Muhammad Ali versus George Foreman; I don’t want this to become a personal thing. But I’ll be happy to meet with him and discuss with him.”

Douthat also affirmed his openness to a debate. “I meant what I wrote,” he told CNA. “I’m happy to debate him when our schedules, as fathers of young children, will allow for it.”

Douthat told CNA that serious conversation about issues is important for Catholics. In his September 20 column, he wrote, “There is no way forward save through controversy. Postpone the inquisitions; schedule arguments instead.”

If Douthat and Faggioli meet for a debate, controversy may well point a way forward.