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August 18, 2018 – Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Blessing of the Children Matthew 19:13-15 Jesus draws attention to the children who exemplify the proper attitude for gaining entrance into God’s Kingdom. In the culture, children have no claims or rights. They can do nothing but trust in the goodness of others. In the same way, the disciples are to depend completely on the Father. Prayer: Like a child I place my hand in yours. Please don’t let me let go.

Text of 'Statement of Episcopal Commitment' from U.S. bishops’ charter

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a lengthy letter to U.S. Catholics Aug. 16, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo announced three key goals and a comprehensive plan to address the "moral catastrophe" of the new abuse scandal hitting the U.S. church. In the letter he references "A Statement of Episcopal Commitment" that is part of the bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," approved in Dallas in 2002. Here is the text of the statement of commitment: We bishops pledge again to respond to the demands of the Charter in a way that manifests our accountability to God, to God's people, and to one another. Individually and together, we acknowledge mistakes in the past when some bishops transferred, from one assignment to another, priests who abused minors. We recognize our roles in the suffering this has caused, and we continue to ask forgiveness for it. Without at all diminishing the importance of broader accountability, this statement focuses on the accountability which flows from our episcopal communion and fraternal solidarity, a moral responsibility we have with and for each other. While bishops are ordained primarily for their diocese or eparchy, we are called as well to protect the unity and to promote the common discipline of the whole church (CIC, c. 392; CCEO, c. 201). Participating in the college of bishops, each bishop is responsible to act in a manner that reflects both effective and affective collegiality. Respecting the legitimate rights of bishops who are directly accountable to the Holy See, in a spirit of collegiality and fraternity we renew our commitment to the following: 1. Within each province, we will assist each other to interpret correctly and implement the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," always respecting church law and striving to reflect the Gospel. 2. We will apply the requirements of the charter also to ourselves, respecting always church law as it applies to bishops. Therefore, if a bishop is accused of the sexual abuse of a minor, the accused bishop is obliged to inform the apostolic nuncio. If another bishop becomes aware of such an allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor by a bishop, he too is obliged to inform the apostolic nuncio and comply with applicable civil laws. 3. In cases of financial demands for settlements involving allegations of any sexual misconduct by a bishop, he, or any of us who become aware of it, is obliged to inform the apostolic nuncio. 4. Within each of our provinces, as an expression of collegiality, including fraternal support, fraternal challenge and fraternal correction, we will engage in ongoing mutual reflection upon our commitment to holiness of life and upon the exercise of our episcopal ministry. In making this statement, we firmly uphold the dignity of every human being and renew our commitment to live and promote the chastity required of all followers of Christ and especially of deacons, priests and bishops. This Statement of Episcopal Commitment will be reviewed by the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations upon the next review of the charter.

Americans surveyed on views on ethics of genetically engineering animals

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Pew Research Center report released Aug. 16 found that Americans' view of genetically engineering animals varies widely based on the intended purpose of the modifications. Despite the wide differences in approval of various uses of genetic engineering, men, those with high science knowledge (based on science-related questions Pew asked) and those low in religiosity were more likely to approve of any given use of genetic engineering than their counterparts. The survey also found that people opposed to using animals in research were about 10 to 20 percent more likely to be opposed to genetically modifying them than those who favor the use of animals in research. Of the five ideas Pew proposed, genetically modifying mosquitoes to limit their reproduction and so halt the spread of disease was viewed favorably by 70 percent of respondents. The 29 percent who viewed it unfavorably tended to cite concerns about "messing with nature/God's plan" or concerns about the effects it could have on the environment. A smaller portion also expressed a general concern about unintended consequences. Fifty-seven percent of respondents viewed using animals to grow organs and tissues for humans as a legitimate use of technology. About 20 percent of those opposed listed each of animal welfare, messing with nature/God's plan, and concerns about human health as a reason that they were opposed. "In manufacturing organs, the existence of these animals would be miserable," said one respondent. "When you mix human and nonhuman genetics I believe that will cause extreme problems down the road," said another. Forty-three percent approved of modifying animals so that they would produce more nutritious meat. Of those opposed, the largest group, 20 percent, cited unintended consequences, and 19 percent cited messing with nature/God's plan. Thirty-two percent approved of genetically modifying a closely related species to bring back an extinct animal. Twenty-eight percent of those opposed cited concerns about potential damage to the ecosystem, 23 percent cited messing with nature/God's plan, and 14 percent said that reviving extinct animals is an unnecessary waste of resources. One respondent in the first group said, "Consider the problems man has created by reintroducing species that have become extinct (in) a given area, i.e., wolves and mountain lions to areas now occupied by humans and domestic livestock." Four percent of those opposed were concerned about a "Jurassic Park" scenario. Only 21 percent approved of modifying aquarium fish to glow in the dark, even though fish modified in this way are already commercially available. Forty-eight percent of those who were opposed said that it was not needed or a waste of resources. The margin of error for the whole sample group of 2,537 U.S. adults who were surveyed was plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

August 17, 2018 – Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Marriage and Divorce Matthew 19:3-12 The Pharisees are testing Jesus by questioning him about marriage and divorce. His response makes it clear that Jesus considers marriage indissoluble. Moses allowed divorce as a concession to the weakened nature of humanity. Jesus also speaks about celibacy as a state of life that some, but not all, are called to. Prayer: I pray this day for those in difficult marriages and for those who have suffered the pain of divorce. May they find healing and wholeness again.

U.S. church's response to sex abuse shows progress, but questions remain

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With the Aug. 14 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on priestly sexual abuse of minors, the U.S. Catholic Church again is confronting questions about its response to abuse allegations dating back several decades. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken steps to address abuse claims and prevent abuse, including the 2002 adoption of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and special legal norms. Annual reports have documented compliance with mandated policies and practices to protect children and respond to allegations of clergy abuse. The charter was revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018. Here are some key events in the U.S. church's response to allegations of abuse during the past 35 years. 1983 -- The Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, suspends Father Gilbert Gauthe after he admits having sexually abused at least three dozen boys and girls. Over the next three years, lawsuits against the diocese and the priest's criminal trial and conviction draw national media attention for the first time to the clergy sexual abuse of children. 1985 -- Several dioceses and state Catholic conferences develop policies for responding to abuse allegations. -- At their spring meeting, the bishops discuss the abuse problem. A few bishops are given a report by three specialists, labeled confidential, warning that the problem is of crisis proportions and could cost the church billions of dollars. -- In the fall, Father Michael Peterson, one of the report's authors, mails it to bishops who head dioceses. Although the bishops already have started addressing many of the issues at a national level through their own internal procedures and structures, several years later the report is leaked and victims and their lawyers cite its recommendations as evidence that the bishops were given a plan to follow in 1985 but simply ignored it. 1986-1990 -- Many dioceses establish stronger personnel policies and training programs to prevent abuse. In fall 1987, the bishops discuss the issue again, focusing on canonical issues of dealing with accused priests. -- The conference sends bishops guidelines on developing personnel policies to prevent and respond to abuse. Many bishops re-evaluate decisions whether to return a treated priest to ministry after therapy or what kind of ministry to permit him to do. -- While the numbers of allegations and lawsuits grow, a new trend develops: As time goes on, more of the new claims concern abuse from the distant past rather than recent misconduct. 1992 -- Following a daylong discussion behind closed doors at the bishops' annual June meeting, the bishops' conference president issues a five-point statement summarizing principles behind the guidelines sent to dioceses four years earlier: Respond promptly to allegations; remove the offender and provide treatment for him if evidence supports an allegation; report incidents as required under civil law and cooperate in any criminal investigation; reach out to victims and their families; and "deal as openly as possible with members of the community about this incident." -- At their November meeting, the bishops discuss the issue further and a group of bishops meets with adult survivors of abuse. The bishops' Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry forms a subcommittee on sexual abuse to make recommendations to the bishops. 1993 -- The new subcommittee develops proposals for the bishops to discuss and recommends the bishops form a special task group to address the legal, moral, canonical, medical, therapeutic, pastoral, ministerial and administrative issues surrounding sexual abuse and its prevention. -- Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez of Santa Fe, New Mexico, resigns following allegations of past sexual impropriety with two teenage girls. -- At their June meeting, the bishops openly discuss clerical sexual abuse and the conference president appoints an Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse to address the issue. -- Several years of ...

Network of homes provides love, hope, help for pregnant women in need

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Chris Bell was working in Times Square in the late 1970s, he was shocked to repeatedly see young mothers entering crisis shelters with their children, and he decided that he had to do something. With the help of Father Benedict Groeschel, a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and his spiritual director at the time, Bell founded Good Counsel, a network of pro-life maternity homes. Currently, Good Counsel operates six homes -- four in New York state, one in New Jersey and one in Alabama -- and works with other homes all over the country. It also is looking to both grow and expand its network. "Good Counsel is one of the founding members of the National Maternity Housing Coalition," Bell told Catholic News Service. "Most of the homes are small and limited in what they can do, but we can help find a place for any pregnant woman in the country." Bell said that any pregnant women can enter the maternity homes for free, and the homes will help provide them with opportunities to go back to school and find jobs. Good Counsel will even assist pregnant women with drug addictions or mental illnesses and help find suitable places for them. They also can help plan adoptions. Bell said that many women don't realize that they can choose the couple who would adopt their child and fear that the child will be placed in the foster care system. Bell said that many women who are told that their child will have genetic defects can benefit from maternity homes. "I don't know why the only response so many medical people have is to tell the mother to get rid of it if it looks like the child will have genetic defects," he said. "Especially in the United States, where we're rich and have the technology to help them." He told the story of a woman whose doctor told her that her unborn son had a defect in every cell in his body, and the doctor recommended she abort. She then called Good Counsel, saying "I just want to be a good mother." Good Counsel took her in, found a different medical facility for her, and prayed with her because she wanted to pray. When the boy was born, the fears of the doctor were unfounded. He had a hole in his heart, which required two surgeries, but by the time the mother left the home her son looked like any other one-year-old. Bell also told another story of a mother who already had a 3-year-old when she came to Good Counsel. When she told the father that she was pregnant, he kicked her in the stomach and she left him. Within her first few months, she had obtained a home health certificate, and, after having the baby and staying with him for a few months, she found a job. "When I think about where she was when she came to us and where she was when she left, it was a total turnaround," Bell said. Bell said he thought that media coverage was one reason for a lack of awareness about maternity homes. "I think the media has a strong bias against anything anti-abortion," he said. Despite that, he intends on continuing his work. "The question I ask: Isn't there enough love in the world for another baby? Where there's love, there's life, and where there's life, there's hope. We can change things by looking at one life at a time and one family at a time." - - - Information about the Good Counsel network of homes can be found by going to goodcounselhomes.org or by calling (800) 723-8331.

August 16, 2018 – Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Matthew 18:21-19:1 Peter wants to know how many times we are required to forgive. He suggests what he thinks is a reasonable number, seven. Jesus says in response that human forgiveness must be a reflection of God’s and cannot be measured or limited. He expounds upon God’s will through the parable. Prayer: This parable calls me to examine my tendency to limit forgiveness, especially in those situations where I feel others are undeserving.

PA grand jury identifies 301 ‘predator priests’

The Catholic Church in Pennsylvania conducted a decades-long “systematic” and “sophisticated” cover-up to protect alleged predator-priests, a state grand jury concluded, following a nearly two-year investigation into how local Church officials handled child sex-abuse allegations. In announcing the grand jury’s findings, which were detailed in an 884-page report released on Aug. 14, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro blasted Church leaders for showing “a complete disdain for victims” and having fought to prevent the report from being released to the public. “In fact, they wanted to cover up the cover-up,” Shapiro said during a press conference in which more than a dozen clergy sex abuse victims, most of whom were middle-aged adults, sat behind him. Related Reading Editorial: Naming Names The grand jury’s report said the investigation uncovered credible evidence against 301 priests in six of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses: Erie, Allentown, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Pennsylvania’s two other dioceses — Altoona-Johnstown and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — were the subjects of previous grand jury investigations into clergy sex abuse. Findings The new report identified more than 1,000 child victims, but the grand jury said it believes there are many more who did not come forward. Only two priests — from the dioceses of Erie and Greensburg — who were named in the report were criminally charged because the statute of limitations had expired in the other cases. “Due to the Church’s manipulation of our weak laws in Pennsylvania, too many predators were out of reach,” Shapiro said. “The cover-up made it impossible to achieve justice for the victims.” The report, which details 70 years of alleged priestly misconduct and malfeasance on the part of the state’s bishops, was the culmination of an 18-month probe that Shapiro emphasized remains open for other victims to come forward. The bulk of the report concerns allegations — many of which the grand jury said were corroborated by internal Church documents, including written confessions — that occurred before the early 2000s. While noting improvements that the dioceses have undertaken since the United States bishops’ 2002 Dallas Charter on clerical sex abuse, the grand jury said “the full picture remains unclear.” “We know that child abuse in the Church has not yet disappeared, because we are charging two priests, in two different dioceses, with crimes that fall within the statute of limitations,” the grand jury said. ‘It doesn’t go away’ Several victims at the press conference became emotional as Shapiro cited several graphic examples from the report of priests who were alleged to have molested and raped their victims, one as young as 18 months. The victims were mostly boys. Some were teens and many were prepubescent. The report said some victims were manipulated with alcohol and pornography. “It doesn’t go away. It has an effect on you for the rest of your life,” said Shaun Dougherty, a clergy sex-abuse survivor who, in a prerecorded video before the press conference, added that the abuse had “absolutely destroyed” him. In its recommendations, the grand jury recommended that lawmakers eliminate the state’s criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children, expand the civil window to allow older victims to sue for damages, clarify the penalties for failing to report suspected child abuse and to make clear that civil confidentiality agreements cannot legally prohibit victims from speaking with law enforcement. Cardinal Wuerl The report took several bishops to task for their handling of clergy sex abuse. Those who were criticized included Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988-2006, who is the current archbishop of Washington. The grand jury accused the cardinal of coining the phrase “circle of secrecy” to describe the alleged abuse cover-up. In a prepared statement, the Archdiocese of Washington disputed the accuracy of ...

'Army of Youth,' synod endeavor to engage young Catholics

“An army of youth flying the standards of truth, / We’re fighting for Christ, the Lord. / Heads lifted high, Catholic Action our cry, / And the cross our only sword.” More than a few Catholics of a certain age will recognize those stirring words as the opening of a song they sang in Catholic schools more years ago than they care to remember. Its name is “For Christ the King” — otherwise known as “An Army of Youth” — and it could tell us something useful about reaching and motivating kids today. Church leaders and Catholic parents alike often express alarm at the evidence that large numbers of today’s young people are walking away from the Faith. An assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October will focus attention on this problem and what can be done about it. “For Christ the King” isn’t the total solution, but it illustrates an approach that apparently worked at one time and, judiciously adapted to current circumstances, might work again. In a nutshell, it comes down to presenting kids with a noble ideal and challenging them to go for it. Father Lord The song was the work of Jesuit Father Daniel A. Lord, an activist from the Midwest who, along with writing music, published some 90 books and 300 pamphlets. He also composed and directed a string of stage productions featuring drama and music that he wrote and frequently performed on the piano — all in the service of promoting religious faith and sound values. Father Daniel A. Lord. OSV file photo Born in Chicago in 1888, he joined the Jesuits as a young man and was ordained in 1923. A 2005 article in the Jesuit magazine, “America,” published to mark the 50th anniversary of his death, summed up his achievement like this: “Lord’s dramatic and literary works testified to the enduring appeal of themes of heroism, virtue and faith and their ability to speak to the young of every generation. During his lifetime he energized and engaged hundreds of thousands of young people by employing music, drama, narrative and ritual as means to spiritual growth.” In 1927, he served as a technical consultant for producer Cecil B. DeMille’s famous silent film depicting the life of Christ, “King of Kings.” A few years later he wrote a draft of a production code for motion pictures that, adopted with only minor changes, set the moral standards for Hollywood movies well into the 1950s. But movies were only part of his work. In 1926, he’d been named national director of the Jesuit-sponsored Sodality of the Blessed Virgin. The organization, headquartered in St. Louis, was a loose federation of sodalities — groups for spiritual formation and devotion — that then were common at Jesuit and other Catholic schools. In decline when Father Lord took it over, the sodality movement reversed course under his vigorous leadership, eventually reaching a peak membership of 2 million. Writing at the rate of 20,000 words a month, he cranked out a steady stream of books, pamphlets and articles. Along with teaching the Faith and fostering devotion, he argued for economic and social justice and opposed racial discrimination and anti-Semitism. By the time death ended his 35-year ministry, his published works had sold more than 25 million copies. The priest also edited the national Sodality magazine, “The Queen’s Work.” It was there in 1932 that “For Christ the King” made its appearance. “On earth’s battlefield / Never a vantage we’ll yield / As dauntlessly on we swing. / Comrades true, dare and do, / ’Neath the Queen’s white and blue, / For our flag, for our faith, / For Christ the King.” Although its military imagery might not click with kids today, back then the song’s jaunty march tune and lofty sentiments about duty, honor and devotion made it a hit with its intended youth audience. It was repeatedly sung at sodality convocations and gatherings of other groups, such as the Catholic Students Mission Crusade. Youth today All this bears little resemblance to the preparations for the impending bishops’ synod on ...

Statements from bishops of dioceses named in grand jury abuse report

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The following are excerpts of statements, and links to the full statements, made by the bishops of the six Pennsylvania dioceses named in a grand jury report released Aug. 14 that detailed a two-year investigation of seven decades of clergy sex abuse claims. Many of the claims date back decades. Pennsylvania officials say 301 priests were linked to sex abuse claims and more than 1,000 victims were identified by the grand jury investigation. The bishops' statements were made on the day the report was released. From Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh: "It is difficult to stand here before you today. Yet, I wouldn't want to be, I couldn't be, any other place than with you at this moment. The women and men of the Grand Jury have spoken. They have spoken for victims. To those women and men and all those they have spoken for: We hear you. The church hears you. I hear you. … We cannot bury our heads in the sand. There were instances in the past, as outlined in this report, when the church acted in ways that did not respond effectively to victims. "Swift and firm responses to allegations should have started long before they did. For that I express profound regret. At the same time, I express gratitude to survivors who have taught us to respond with compassion to those who are wounded and with determination to remove offenders from ministry. To apologize and express sorrow for the past is an important step. But it is not enough. Continued action is necessary." Bishop Zubik's full statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2KSdhWN . The Diocese of Pittsburgh's response to the grand jury report is at https://bit.ly/2MjWvov and a chart on abuse claims https://bit.ly/2Bc8tMx . From Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg: "I read the grand jury report on child sexual abuse with great sadness, for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them. I am saddened because I know that behind every story is a child precious in God's sight; a child who has been wounded by the sins of those who should have known better. … In my own name, and in the name of the diocesan Church of Harrisburg, I express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children. "We will continue to make amends for the sins of our past, and offer prayers and support to all victims of these actions. We are committed to continuing and enhancing the positive changes made, to ensure these types of atrocities never occur again. Since the turn of the century, the church has instituted policies that take clear and decisive action to prevent future abuse." Bishop Gainer's full statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2nANol0 . He also referred to the diocese's release Aug. 1 (and updated Aug. 6) of a list of 72 clergy, both dead and alive, accused of abuse at https://bit.ly/2OBYiTn . The diocese has other documents on its new Youth Protection blog, https://www.youthprotectionhbg.com . "As I stressed last week when we released information regarding our own internal review of child sexual abuse in the Harrisburg Diocese," Bishop Gainer said Aug. 14, "I acknowledge the sinfulness of those who have harmed these survivors, as well as the action and inaction of those in church leadership who failed to respond appropriately." From Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown: "As your bishop, I am deeply saddened by these incidents. I sincerely apologize for the past sins and crimes committed by some members of the clergy. I apologize to the survivors of abuse and their loved ones. For the times when those in the church did not live up to Christ's call to holiness, and did not do what needed to be done, I apologize. "I also apologize to you, the faithful of the diocese, for the toll this issue has taken over the years: the sadness, the anger, the doubts, and the ...