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Father Weinandy discusses Gnosticism Today

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 14:01

Denver, Colo., Jun 27, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Father Thomas Weinandy, OFM Cap., is a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, an accomplished professor of theology, and a prolific author. His most recent book is Jesus Becoming Jesus: A Theological Interpretation of the Synoptic Gospels.

  CNA Editor-in-Chief JD Flynn interviewed Father Weinandy about “Gnosticism Today,” an essay published earlier this month at The Catholic Thing:



 

Your essay, "Gnosticism Today," says that the attitude commonly described as neo-Gnosticism has "little to do with its ancient antecedent." What is Gnosticism? What is the origin of the Gnostic heresy?

As I said in my essay, gnosticism is basically the notion that one is saved by “knowledge” (gnosis). While, especially during the second and third centuries, there were many different forms, sects or schools of Gnosticism, all were concerned with addressing the problem of evil in the world and the eternal destiny of humankind. For the Gnostics the source of evil was the material world, often thought to be created by an evil deity.

The reason the Gnostics thought that matter was evil can be found, to some extent, in Platonism. Plato did not believe in an evil creator god. However, Plato did believe that truth is unchangeable – what is true is always true. Unlike what is true, matter is always changing – a tree grows and then dies, the human body is healthy and then gets sick. Moreover, human beings are slaves to bodily passions and desires – filled with greed, lust, anger, despair, etc. Because matter always changes, it cannot be the source of what is true, which never changes. The Gnostics, and other sects similar to them, concluded that matter is evil.

From a philosophical point of view, for Plato, one needs to intellectually escape the world of matter and rise up through one’s intellect to the unchanging world of ideas – the perfect unchanging idea of a tree, or dog or human being. In later Platonic thought these perfect ideas were considered divine ideas. (By way of an aside, while Plato and the later Platonic schools where correct in thinking that truth does not change, they were obviously wrong in thinking that the cause of evil- what is not true- is due to matter. Aristotle, Plato’s student, recognized that one comes to know the truth through coming to know the material world.)

Within Gnosticism, this Platonic tradition merged with other pagan thought, eastern mystery religions, astrology as well as Jewish and Christian ideas. Gnosticism in the end was very synchronistic – pulling together different philosophic and religious ideas.

The overriding claim of the various Gnostic sects was that they provided the knowledge by which one is able to extricate oneself from the evil world of matter (the body) and ascend into the eternal spiritual world of divine truth. There were also various Gnostic redeemers – those first enlightened so as to know the truth, thus empowering them to pass this gnosis, knowledge, on to others. Within various forms of Christian Gnosticism, Jesus was often seen as one of the many Gnostic redeemers.

Today Gnosticism is found in the New Age movement. Here, as in ancient Gnosticism, one becomes “enlightened” so as to be elevated to the spiritual cosmic realm and so leave the confines of this material, evil world.

Why are some contemporary Catholics characterized as "neo-Gnostics?" What attitudes are conflated with Gnosticism?

This is a very complex question. St. Irenaeus (c. 130-200 AD) wrote five large volumes, “Adversus Omnes Haereses” (“Against All of the Heresies”), attempting to answer this kind of question. Irenaeus knew that at first sight one might ask: Is not Christianity gnostic? Do not Christians “know” truths that others do not know, and did not Jesus reveal this knowledge to Christians? Was not Jesus a Gnostic redeemer? Here we must makes some very important distinctions – distinctions that Irenaeus made.

Jews and Christians believe that all that God created is good precisely because he is the perfectly good and only God. There are not “bad” gods who create evil matter. Thus, matter is good and the body is good. Evil does not find its source in matter but in the free misuse of what is good. For example, sexuality is good, but it can be freely used in an evil manner – adultery, fornication, pornography, homosexual acts, etc. Food is good, but we can freely become gluttons.

What is needed for salvation is not simply knowledge, but more important, the means to overcome moral evil and the empowerment to live freely holy lives. Christians believe that God ultimately achieved our salvation by sending into the word his Son who became incarnate by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. Now Jesus did teach us many things (like the Beatitudes), however, his most importantly he performed saving acts – his passion, death, resurrection and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Through his loving sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus freed us from the evil of sin and death. By rising gloriously from the dead, he made possible our own resurrection into eternal life. By sending forth the Holy Spirit, Jesus made it possible for us to become holy children of the Father and so empowered to live holy lives.

Of the utmost importance is our union with the risen Jesus as our Savior and Lord. We can only participate in the salvation that Jesus offers when we are united to him. We are united to him first through faith and baptism. This communion with the risen Lord Jesus is furthered through our prayer and the other sacraments – especially in the Eucharist.

Within Gnosticism, the Gnostic Redeemer does not do anything other than give knowledge and once he has given us knowledge, his importance ceases. (All world religions are Gnostic, except Judaism and Christianity. Mohammed simply informs people what they are to do if they are to please God. Buddha, similarly, tells us what we should do in order to live properly. Once they have done so, their contemporary importance ceases because we now “know” what we are obliged to do.)

The problem facing humankind is not ignorance, but sin. Within Christianity, Jesus’ saving presence is everlastingly necessary for we must always be united to him, even in heaven, as members of his body, if we are to reap the saving benefits of his salvific work. Unlike all forms of Gnosticism, we must have a personal relationship with Jesus through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so as to be in communion with God the Father.

Christians, in faith, hold all of the above to be true – this is why we recite the Creed every Sunday during Mass. What we know are the saving mysteries of our faith – the Trinity, the Incarnation, the sacraments, Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist. Moreover, we believe that we can lovingly obey God’s commandments (the Ten Commandments) because we now life in Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord. Christians are Christians precisely because they believe in Christ – the eternal Spirit-filled incarnate Son of the Father.

Sadly, and even troubling, some people today, even in high places within the Church, accuse some Catholics of Gnosticism because these so-called Gnostic Catholics believe they “know” the truth and look down upon their fellow Catholic brethren who seemingly do not keep God’s commandments. But such an accusation is slanderous. Some Catholic may be arrogant in their faith and prideful about their presumed holiness, but this is not Gnosticism – this is the sin of judgmentalism, self-conceit and egotism.

So-called Catholic Gnostics today do not hold and teach anything other than what Jesus has revealed and the Church authoritatively teaches. On the whole they are simply ordinary faithful Catholic bishops, priests and, most of all, laity. To call the faithful Catholic laity Gnostics is an egregious falsehood. It is an insult to their Catholic integrity.

Your essay claims that those who accuse others of neo-Gnosticism often propose a kind of moral relativism, in which the conscience supersedes Catholic doctrine. How does that viewpoint relate to Gnosticism?

Many of the controverted issues within the Church today revolve around questions of sexual morality – adultery, fornication, contraception, abortion, homosexual acts, etc.

While the Church has always condemned such actions as sinful because they are contrary to what it means to be truly human and so actions that God himself has condemned, some within the Church today claim that, given particular circumstances, such acts may no longer be sinful for some people in certain situations- they may even be good actions.

Those who disagree with such arguments are often called Gnostics because they think they have all of the right answers. They know the truth. Again, this is a false accusation, for such accused people only hold what the Church has always taught. If such people are Gnostic, then the entire Catholic Church has been Gnostic from the time of the apostles.

Actually, those who claim that their now “enlightened” conscience allows them to supersede God’s previous revelation and the Church’s constant teaching are the real Gnostics, for they now claim to have knowledge that most of the Catholic faithful do not possess. In a way, such “enlightened” Catholics have fallen into the moral relativism of the secular world, where everyone is permitted to do what they feel is personally right for them. There is no such thing as unchanging “truth.” But this is to deny God, who is the ultimate source of all truth.

US bishops disappointed by Supreme Court decision upholding travel ban

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 13:51

Washington D.C., Jun 27, 2018 / 11:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed disappointment with a Supreme Court ruling upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which prohibits nationals from several countries from entering the U.S.

“The travel ban targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country's core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith,” said the statement, issued by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who chairs the religious freedom committee.

“We are disappointed in the Court's ruling because it failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government,” continued the statement.

“The Catholic Church takes a strong stand against religious discrimination, and we will continue to advocate for the rights of people of all faiths, as well as serve migrants and refugees through our various ministries."

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the ban. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion in Trump v. Hawaii, which fell along ideological lines.

The Court found that President Donald Trump was acting within the limits of his authority when he announced a travel ban on nationals from seven countries. The policy prohibits entry into the U.S. of most nationals from five majority-Muslim countries: Libya, Syria, Iran, Yemen, and Somalia.

A change to the policy, enacted a few weeks before the Supreme Court was to hear the challenge to the ban, also prohibits entrance of nationals from North Korea, and to certain government officials from Venezuela and their immediate families.

The U.S. bishops’ conference, along with Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in opposition to the travel ban. The groups argued that the ban was a violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

Trump, however, has emphasized the decision as necessary to protect Americans against terrorism and other violence.

A statement from the White House June 26 called the ruling “a tremendous victory for the American People and the Constitution.”

Religious superior recommended restoration of faculties for St. John Cantius founder

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 16:15

Chicago, Ill., Jun 26, 2018 / 02:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The religious superior of Fr. C. Frank Phillips, former pastor of St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, recommended last month that Chicago’s archbishop permit the priest to return to public ministry, CNA has learned.

In a May 21 communique to Cupich obtained by CNA, the priest's superior recommended that Fr. Phillips “should not return to the parish as its pastor,” but supported the possibility that Phillips might exercise priestly ministry in some other setting.

Phillips, 68, has been accused of misconduct involving adult men. He was removed as pastor of St. John Cantius March 16, and prohibited from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago by Cardinal Blase Cupich.

Since then, Fr. Scott Thelander, SJC, has served as parish administrator ad interim.

Fr. Phillips, who is canonically a member of the Congregation of the Resurrection, had served at St. John Cantius parish since 1988.

In 1998, Phillips founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, with the approval of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Resurrectionists.

The Archdiocese of Chicago forwarded unspecified allegations to the Resurrectionists in March.

The allegations were investigated by an independent review board organized by the Resurrectionists, and by provincial leaders. The results of that investigation were forwarded to the Archdiocese of Chicago by Fr. Gene Szarek, superior of the USA province of the Resurrectionists, along with his own proposal for a resolution.

Szarek sent on May 21 a “votum”- an official opinion- to the Archdiocese of Chicago, in response to the findings of the review board. CNA has obtained a copy of that votum, which did not specify the nature of the allegations made against Phillips.

Citing “a certain amount of ambiguity between the allegations of the accusers and the testimony of witnesses, including Fr. Phillips himself,” Szarek said he would instruct Fr. Phillips to undergo a psychological evaluation, “and possible sensitivity training in the very near future.”

Fr. Szarek said further that Fr. Phillips should not return to St. John Cantius Parish as its pastor, considering both his age “and out of respect for the Cardinal's own preference.”

The superior also wrote that it “seems fair and just to restore the canonical faculties of Fr. Phillips” because “no civil or ecclesiastical crime had been established.”

He noted that Fr. Phillips' accusers “thought that his removal from the parish was all that they desired.”

Fr. Szarek also wrote that since Fr. Phillips is founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, “the ideal would be his restoration as their superior general.”

The Canons Regular are incardinated in the Chicago archdiocese, and their assignments are made by the Archbishop of Chicago, Fr. Szarek noted, so “there is no fear that Fr. Phillips could possibly interfere in some way” with the archbishop's decisions.

“The historical reality of his being the Founder and his ongoing provision of spiritual leadership would be salutary for all,” Fr. Szarek stated, adding that Fr. Phillips “would obviously not reside” at St. John Cantius Parish.

“If the above recommendation is unfeasible, then at least he and the Canons should not be prevented from communication.” A prohibition on communication between Phillips and the Canons Regular had not previously been reported.

Despite Fr. Szarek's proposal, Cardinal Cupich declined to allow Fr. Phillips to minister publicly. Ordinarily, a priest prohibited from public ministry is able to celebrate Mass only in private, and not able to hear confessions or celebrate other sacraments, unless a person is in immediate danger of death.

“We accept the Archdiocese's decision that Fr. Phillips' faculties for public ministry will remain withdrawn and that he not return as pastor of St John Cantius and as Superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius,” Fr. Szarek wrote in a June 24 letter to the parishioners of St. John Cantius parish.

Paula Waters, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune June 25 that though Fr. Phillips had not been found to have violated civil or canon law, there was other information that justified barring him from exercising public ministry.

“There are standards for behavior,” Waters told the Tribune.

Stating that the review board recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to St. John Cantius as pastor “and on other factors, the cardinal decided that his faculties to minister would remain withdrawn,” she said.

When asked about the removal of Fr. Phillips' faculties, a Chicago archdiocese spokeswoman told CNA June 26 only that “it was recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to ministry at St. John Cantius” in the Resurrectionists' investigation report.

In his letter informing the St. John Cantius community of Cardinal Cupich's decision, Fr. Szarek wrote: “While we know this news will disappoint some of Fr. Phillips' supporters, we hope everyone will come to understand that this process was conducted with prayerful deliberation and sincere compassion.”

Protect our Priests, a group formed to support and assist Fr. Phillips had issued a statement June 20 saying that Fr. Phillips had been “exonerated”, saying the review board “concluded that Fr. Phillips has not violated any secular criminal, civil or canon law.”

Protect our Priests stated that the review board, consisting of three leaders from the Chicago area who are not members of St. John Cantius parish, interviewed “the detractors and several witnesses, persons who personally know the accusers, and other individuals who came forward to testify in defense of Father Phillips’ integrity.”

The group added that Cardinal Cupich had directed that members of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius not be interviewed by the board.

The group stated June 20 that “We … remain confident that in this process, justice and truth will prevail over the mendacity, falsehoods, spitefulness and malevolent connivance from which this unpleasant episode originates; and that the accusers, who recklessly have besmirched their own reputations in this matter, will too choose to make themselves 'free', by each of them individually presenting an unconditional retraction.”

St. John Cantius parish was founded in 1892 by the Congregation of the Resurrection, according to the church's website, and each of its pastors has been a member of that congregation.

 

Arizona pharmacist under investigation after declining to fill abortion drug

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 16:04

Phoenix, Ariz., Jun 26, 2018 / 02:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Arizona pharmacist is under investigation after refusing to fill a medical abortion prescription, citing ethical objections.

The case involves a 35-year-old woman named Nicole Arteaga, who was told by her doctor at nine weeks pregnant that she had an unviable pregnancy and would ultimately miscarry. She was prescribed a drug called misoprostol, which would induce a medical abortion. 

When Arteaga went to fill the prescription at the local Walgreens, the pharmacist told her that he was ethically opposed to filling the drug and asked if he could transfer her prescription. Arteaga wrote about her experience on Facebook, in a post which was shared more than 36,000 times. 

According to the National Women’s Law Center, Arizona is one of six states in the U.S. that makes allowances for pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions based on moral or ethical objections. 

Walgreens also upholds a policy saying its pharmacists are allowed to refrain from filling drugs to which they have moral objections.

“To meet the health care needs of our patients while respecting the sincerely held beliefs of our pharmacists, our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filing a prescription for which they have a moral objection,” read a June 25 statement released by Walgreens.

“It’s important to note in that situation, the pharmacist also is required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient’s needs in a timely manner,” the statement continued, adding “we are looking into this incident.”

The Associated Press reported that the pharmacist in question was the only one on duty at the time, so he transferred her prescription over to another pharmacy. 

Arteaga was able to get the abortive drug elsewhere, but the Arizona State Board Pharmacy said it would be investigating the situation. Once the investigation is presented to the board, they will either dismiss the case or seek further action, according to the Associated Press. 

The Arizona case is not the first time pharmacists’ conscientious objection rights have been in the headlines. In 2007, a Christian-family run pharmacy filed a lawsuit against the state of Washington, which was requiring pharmacies to distribute abortion-inducing drugs, saying the enforcement violated their religious freedom rights. 

“We believe that life is precious and sacred – and that it begins at conception. We want to promote life and true health, not death or anything that goes against our religious beliefs,” said Greg Stormans, one of the Christian pharmacists who fought against the Washington law.

“We never thought that we would have to choose between living our faith and our family business – or that we would be embroiled in a legal battle. It is unfortunate, but the commission left us no choice,” Stormans had told EWTN News in a previous interview. 

A federal appeals court ultimately ruled against the pharmacists in 2015, in a decision that Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, called “unfortunate.”

Supreme Court’s NIFLA ruling draws praise from pro-life groups

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 14:23

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2018 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life groups applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on Tuesday in favor of the free speech rights of crisis pregnancy centers in California. 

“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions,” said Michael Farris, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, which argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of NIFLA, a non-profit that provides legal counsel to pro-life pregnancy centers around the country. 

“The government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion. The Supreme Court said that the government can’t do that,” Farris said in a statement.

The June 26 ruling in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra involved California’s “Reproductive FACT Act,” which requires pro-life pregnancy centers to display a notice informing patients about California programs that, among other things, can provide a free or low-cost abortion for eligible women, and phone numbers of places to obtain them.

The law also mandates that any non-medical pregnancy center, such as one that distributes free maternity clothing or baby items to a pregnant woman, must display a notice explaining that it is not licensed as a medical facility in the state of California. There is no current licensing scheme in the state of California for non-medical facilities who distribute baby supplies.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court found that the “petitioners are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the FACT Act violates the First Amendment.” It sent the case back to a lower court to be reconsidered, with the understanding that the lower court was incorrect to treat the speech of pregnancy centers as a lesser category of free speech simply because it is “professional speech.”

Anne O’Connor, the vice president of NIFLA, said in a statement that Tuesday’s decision “is not just about whether or not to hand out abortion information on a piece of paper or post it on the walls of our pro-life centers.”

“It is about the right belonging to all American citizens to be free from government-compelled speech, and from being coerced into promoting a message that contradicts their values.” 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, also offered praise for the Supreme Court’s decision. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was one of several religious groups that had filed a brief in favor of NIFLA.

Dolan said the court had “affirmed that the First Amendment protects the right of all organizations to choose for themselves not only what to say, but what not to say.”

The decision is “an important development in protecting pro-life pregnancy centers from future efforts to compel speech in violation of their deeply held beliefs,” the cardinal said. 

NARAL, a group that supports expanded abortion rights around the country, objected to the ruling, posting on Twitter that the Supreme Court had “just ruled that unlicensed fake women’s health centers are free to dress up as doctors & deliberately lie to women” about reproductive health. 

NARAL also laid blame on the newest Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch for the decision, saying the “anti-choice extremist” judge “sits in a stolen seat.” 

However, March for Life President Jeannie Mancini countered, pregnancy centers serve a “life-affirming mission,” offering support that includes child care, clothing, and diapers. 

“Pregnancy care centers in the United States offer collectively over $100 million in resources to women and men facing an unexpected pregnancy. And they operate out of the sheer goodness of their heart, to help these people in difficult scenarios,” she said.

“California has been forcing these centers to advertise for abortion, which goes against the very reason for these centers. We are delighted that the Supreme Court today protected free speech rights and protected the right of pregnancy care centers to be able to provide these wonderful resources.”

Americans United for Life, a group involved in crafting state-level pro-life legislation, said the ruling is a victory for “the thousands of women who go to the centers seeking life-affirming care and support.”

“AUL is encouraged by this ruling, and our legal team will continue to support the excellent work of pregnancy care centers,” the group said in a statement.

Supreme Court sides with pro-life pregnancy centers in California abortion case

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 10:19

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2018 / 08:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to post information on programs to obtain and free or low-cost abortion.

The 5-4 ruling in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra sent the case back to a lower court to be reconsidered, in light of the Supreme Court’s finding that “We hold that petitioners are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the FACT Act violates the First Amendment.”

Lower courts had rejected a petition to temporarily block the California law while it was being legally challenged. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the case against the law was unlikely to succeed on its merits.

The Supreme Court reversed that ruling, saying that the Ninth Circuit was wrong to treat the speech of pregnancy centers as a lesser category of free speech simply because it is “professional speech.”

California’s “Reproductive FACT Act” requires pregnancy centers that do not perform abortions to display a notice informing patients about California programs that, among other things, can provide a free or low-cost abortion for eligible women. The notice must include a phone number for a county office that would refer women to Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers.

The law also mandates that any non-medical pregnancy center, such as one that distributes free maternity clothing or baby items to a pregnant woman, must display a notice explaining that it is not licensed as a medical facility in the state of California. There is no current licensing scheme in the state of California for non-medical facilities who distribute baby supplies.

The Reproductive FACT Act was passed in 2015. The California legislature said that 200 pregnancy centers used “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices” that confuse and misinform women and intimidate them “from making fully-informed, time-sensitive decisions about critical health care.”

NIFLA, a group that works with pro-life pregnancy centers, filed suit shortly afterwards.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law. Judge Dorothy W. Nelson, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, said the state of California has “a substantial interest in the health of its citizens, including ensuring that its citizens have access to and adequate information about constitutionally protected medical services like abortion,” according to the New York Times.

Judge Nelson said the notice “informs the reader only of the existence of publicly funded family-planning services” and “does not contain any more speech than necessary, nor does it encourage, suggest or imply that women should use those state-funded services.”

But Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented NIFLA, argued that the law constitutes viewpoint discrimination and illegal government infringement upon the right to free speech.

“Forcing anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry is unthinkable – especially when it’s the government doing the forcing,” said Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.

“This is even more true when it comes to pregnancy care centers, which exist specifically to care for women who want to have their babies.”

Given that information about abortion is already widely available, “the government doesn’t need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can’t promote,” Theriot said.

Pro-life pregnancy centers are often located near abortion facilities and sometimes provide sonograms and other medical care for pregnant women, free of charge. They do not provide abortion services or abortion referrals, and counselors at these centers encourage a woman to continue her pregnancy.

Similar laws in Maryland, Texas, and New York have been struck down in courts as unconstitutional.

 

Canons of St John Cantius founder remains barred from public ministry

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 17:29

Chicago, Ill., Jun 25, 2018 / 03:29 pm (CNA).- The religious superior of Father C. Frank Phillips, former pastor of St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, told the parish Sunday that the priest remains prohibited from exercising public ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Phillips has been accused of misconduct involving adult men. He was removed as pastor of St. John Cantius March 16 by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. Since then, Fr. Scott Thelander, SJC, has served as parish administrator ad interim.

Phillips is canonically a member of the Resurrectionists, and the Chicago archdiocese forwarded unspecified allegations to that religious congregation in March.

The allegations were investigated by an independent review board organized by the Resurrectionists, and by provincial leaders. The results of that investigation were forwarded to the Archdiocese of Chicago, which has apparently determined not to reinstate Phillips.

“Over the past weeks, our review board and members of our community have heard from those involved and have informed the Archdiocese of Chicago of our conclusions,” read a June 24 letter from Fr. Gene Szarek, superior of the USA province of the Congregation of the Resurrection, to the parishioners of St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago.

“We accept the Archdiocese's decision that Fr. Phillips' faculties for public ministry will remain withdrawn and that he not return as pastor of St John Cantius and as Superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius.”

Szarek notified the parishioners that Phillips “will be receiving support and will reside at a Resurrectionist facility away from your parish.”

“While we know this news will disappoint some of Fr. Phillips' supporters, we hope everyone will come to understand that this process was conducted with prayerful deliberation and sincere compassion.”

The news comes days after a group formed to support and assist Fr. Phillips said he had been “exonerated” by the Resurrectionists' review board.

“The Review Board has concluded that Fr. Phillips has not violated any secular criminal, civil or canon law,” Protect our Priests said in a June 20 statement.

The initial announcement of Phillips’ removal cited allegations of “improper conduct involving adult men,” but did not suggest the priest had committed a crime.

In March, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago told CNA that Fr. Phillips had not been accused of a canonical crime, and to the archdiocese’s knowledge he was not being investigated for a civil crime.

Protect our Priests stated that the review board, consisting of three leaders from the Chicago area who are not members of St. John Cantius parish, interviewed “the detractors and several witnesses, persons who personally know the accusers, and other individuals who came forward to testify in defense of Father Phillips’ integrity.”

The group added that Cardinal Cupich had directed that members of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius not be interviewed by the board.

Protect our Priests describes itself as a “dedicated group of friends of St. John Cantius Church” formed to support Fr. Phillips, and asks for help to “support the man who gave gave us so much over the years.”

The group stated June 20 that “We … remain confident that in this process, justice and truth will prevail over the mendacity, falsehoods, spitefulness and malevolent connivance from which this unpleasant episode originates; and that the accusers, who recklessly have besmirched their own reputations in this matter, will too choose to make themselves 'free', by each of them individually presenting an unconditional retraction.”

The Resurrectionists and the Archdiocese of Chicago have both declined to comment on the review board's findings.

Andrea Eisenberg, a member of Protect our Priests, told CNA June 21 that “We can't wait for Father Phillips to return to the parish and the community he founded to complete the work that God intends for him to do. He has been a spiritual father to so many parishioners and has led so many people to a deeper experience of the Catholic faith. It has been a hard three months, but we have been praying fervently for our dear Father Phillips' return.”

Fr. Phillips had served at St. John Cantius parish since 1988. In 1998 he founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, with the approval of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and the Congregation of the Resurrection. It follows the Rule of St. Augustine and seeks to “preserve and foster the devotional, musical, catechetical, and artistic traditions of the Catholic Church,” its website says.

Mass at St. John Cantius is said in both English and Latin, and in both the extraordinary and ordinary forms of the Roman rite.

 

 

Anger over migrant family separation 'warranted', Archbishop Chaput says

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 17:10

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 25, 2018 / 03:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his latest column, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia called out the Trump administration and Congress for putting families in jeopardy while further frustrating immigration reform.

“...there’s a human cost to political theater that can be inexcusably ugly, especially when it’s paid by children. The administration’s most recent blunder – separating children from their parents caught illegally entering the country – was both stupid and destructive, and the storm of anger it sparked, warranted,” Chaput wrote June 22.

Last week, President Donald Trump walked back a policy at the U.S.-Mexico border that had been causing political uproar throughout the country for weeks.

In May, the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy: immigrants found illegally crossing the border would be held in a federal jail until they go before a federal judge, who must determine whether immigrants will receive prison sentences for crossing the border illegally.

This shift lead to family separation, because children cannot be held legally in a federal jail for more than 20 days per the 1997 Flores Settlement. These children were placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services while their parents’ cases were processed.

The separations sparked a nation-wide uproar, as images and recordings of distressed, separated children were widely broadcast.

On June 20, Trump announced an executive order that ended the practice of family separation, but maintained the zero tolerance policy.

Chaput wrote that “The worst part of this story … is that it’s simply the latest chapter in an endless and often hypocritical struggle by both political parties over the details of immigration reform.”

“The wrangling has been going on for many years. And the result is always the same: gridlock and mutual recrimination.”

Chaput and many other U.S. bishops have frequently spoken out in support of immigrants and their families, calling for policies that respect human dignity and keep families united.

“Yet despite hundreds of painful stories” about the human cost of unjust immigration policies, “nothing substantially has changed about our immigration laws in the last 12 months, or in the last 24 or 36 or 48,” Chaput noted.

And while the Trump administration has recently “aggravated” the problem, “there’s plenty of blame to go around” for the political impasse when it comes to real immigration reform, Chaput added.

“The responsibility for fixing our immigration problems has always resided with Congress, not the White House, and over the past decade both political parties have excelled at the kind of calculating, partisan obstructionism that makes a fix impossible,” he said.

“We’re better than this as a nation. And if we really want to ‘make America great again,’ with a moral character that proves it, then the people who make and apply our laws need to act accordingly.”

Detroit archbishop: A missionary attitude can remedy the evils of racism

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 16:42

Detroit, Mich., Jun 25, 2018 / 02:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid recent ecclesial efforts to combat the problem of racism, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit released a pastoral note last week confronting the “sin of racism,” saying a mission-centric attitude is the best remedy for the harms caused by discrimination.

“Our nation’s history has many tremendous accomplishments of which we should be proud. But it also bears the stain of many years of institutional racism whereby Blacks – even after emancipation – were treated as second-class citizens or worse,” said Archbishop Vigneron in his June 18 pastoral note “Agents for the New Creation”.

“Acts of racism are sins,” he continued, noting the Archdiocese of Detroit would be confronting racism by “recommitting ourselves to becoming a community of believers – a band of joyful missionary disciples – who affirm each person’s human dignity.”

According to Vigneron, acts of racism produce three evil fruits. First, he said, racial prejudices cause tremendous harm to whom they are directed, causing a deprivation “of his inherent human dignity” which questions their “God-given value.”

Secondly, Vigneron said racism can poison other minds through its reach, causing societal damage as it is transmitted to others.

Finally, it also causes “self-inflicted harm,” since the attitude of racism disfigures an individual’s “understanding of right and wrong and obscures his ability to see truth through the light of the Gospel.”

Vigneron said the Detroit archdiocese would focus on its commitment to “being radically mission-oriented” in an effort to fight the sin of racism.

“This means that our primary purpose for existing is to preach the Gospel,” Vigneron said, adding, “our mission is to proclaim the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.”

“The Gospel illuminates not just our relationship with God but also our relationship with others. All have been created in the image and likeness of God. Each person bears within himself the very image of God,” he continued.  

This misson-centric attitude, Vigneron said, means that Christ is the center of every action and that every life is entrusted to the providence of the Holy Spirit. Being transformed by the Holy Spirit, he continued, begins with each individual’s journey of repentance.

Unity in Christ “does not dissolve our differences,” he said. “Rather, it is the variety of gifts which Christ gives to the faithful through his Holy Spirit which makes his Bride, the Church, more able to reflect God’s goodness.”

The archbishop noted that as the Church has spread, “different customs and traditions consonant with the revealed faith and appropriate to local communities were developed. We see this richness expressed in the various liturgical rites which are present in our Eastern Churches.”

“The gifts of the African American faithful are a tremendous blessing to the Archdiocese of Detroit. We would be a much poorer Church without the expressions of faith through prayer, music, and personal testimony proper to the Black communities,” Vigneron said.

“And these expressions are a leaven to the Catholic Church. They are charisms which God has given to the whole Church through our African American brothers and sisters,” he continued.

The Detroit archbishop also said the only antidote to the evils of racism is Christ, and asked for the particular intercession of Blessed Solanus Casey, who was a “shining example” of how to treat others with dignity and love.

“As we seek to build a more just society – one in which we can truly say that racism has been defeated – we must begin, as Christians, with our personal commitment to Jesus Christ,” Vigneron said.

“To conclude, I particularly commend to you the memory of Blessed Solanus Casey,” Vigneron continued, encouraging his archdiocese to let Fr. Solanus “be for us still a powerful intercessor to obtain the grace from on high that we need to be agents for healing wounds of racism in our community, and to be agents of the new creation in Christ.”

Vigneron’s comments come amid recent efforts within the Church in the US to oppose racism.

The archbishop is a member of the USCCB's ad hoc committee against racism, which was announced in August 2017 in the wake of rising racial tensions, for the purpose of promoting education, resources, communications strategies and care for victims of racism.

The committee's chair, Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, said earlier this month at the US bishops' spring general assembly that their work is on schedule, and a draft of a pastoral letter should be presented at the autumn general assembly held in November.

The US bishops also listened to a presentation about racism by Bryan Stevenson at their spring general assembly. Stevenson is a lawyer and the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization which advocates for equal treatment in the criminal justice system.

A fellow US archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, has also written a pastoral letter on racism recently.

“The Challenge of Racism Today” was published by Cardinal Wuerl in 2017. In the pastoral letter, he wrote that “Intolerance and racism will not go away without a concerted awareness and effort on everyone’s part. Regularly we must renew the commitment to drive it out of our hearts, our lives and our community.”

Both Cardinal Wuerl's pastoral letter and Archbishop Vigneron's pastoral note were fruits of diocesan synods.

Supreme Court returns case of florist who declined gay wedding to lower court

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 10:01

Washington D.C., Jun 25, 2018 / 08:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday vacated a Washington state ruling against local florist Barronelle Stutzman, who in 2013 declined to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the Washington Supreme Court, instructing that the case be reconsidered in the light of Masterpiece Cakeshop decision earlier this month.

In the Masterpiece case, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Christian cake baker Jack Phillips, who had declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown an impermissible hostility toward religion in their handling of the case.

Stutzman’s attorneys have argued that a similar hostility against religion was on display in the handling of Stuzman’s case by Washington’s attorney general.

“While the attorney general failed to prosecute a business that obscenely berated and discriminated against Christian customers, he has steadfastly—and on his own initiative—pursued unprecedented measures to punish Barronelle not just in her capacity as a business owner but also in her personal capacity,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, the group defending both Phillips and Stutzman.

“In its Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the Supreme Court condemned that sort of one-sided, discriminatory application of the law against people of faith,” Waggoner said.

“Also, in the legal briefs that the attorney general has filed in Barronelle’s case, he has repeatedly and overtly demeaned her faith. He has compared her religious beliefs about marriage—which the Supreme Court said are ‘decent and honorable’—to racial discrimination,” Waggoner continued.

“This conflicts with the Supreme Court’s recognition in Masterpiece Cakeshop that it was ‘inappropriate’ for the government to draw parallels between those religious beliefs and ‘defenses of slavery’.”

The Washington case centers around 73-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington.

In 2013, Rob Ingersoll, a long-time friend and customer of Stutzman, asked her to arrange flowers for his same-sex wedding ceremony.

Stutzman knew that Ingersoll was gay, and had always been happy to create flower arrangements for birthdays and other special occasions.

However, because she believes marriage to be a sign of the relationship between Christ and his Church, she told Ingersoll that should could not make a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding.

Ingersoll initially said that he understood and asked her to recommend another florist. Later, however, his partner posted a message on social media about Stutzman declining to take part in the wedding, and it went viral. Soon afterward, she was informed that she was being sued by the Washington State attorney general and the ACLU.

Stutzman, who is Southern Baptist, has said that she views weddings as more than just a job. She spends months or even years getting to know the bride and groom, to understand their vision and what they want to convey.

Because her wedding arrangements are such a deeply personal labor of love, she said that she felt that she could not in good conscience design flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against Stutzman. She then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.

While the actual damages being sought by the gay couple are only around $7 – the mileage cost of driving to another florist – Stutzman could be responsible for more than $1 million in legal fees to nearly a dozen ACLU lawyers opposing her in the case. Her home, business, savings, and personal assets are all at risk in the case.

Over the last four-and-a-half year, Stutzman said she has received an outpouring and support and messages of encouragement from 58 countries, but also death threats that have required her to install a security system and change her route to work.

In a statement earlier this month, Stutzman said that she serves all customers, but cannot create products for events that conflict with her deeply-held religious beliefs.

She said the Washington attorney general “has always ignored that part of my case, choosing to vilify me and my faith instead of respecting my religious beliefs about marriage.”

“When the state trial court ruled against me at the attorney general’s request, I wrote the attorney general a letter urging him ‘to drop’ the personal claims that risk stripping away ‘my home, business, and other assets’,” she said.

“He didn’t do that. For him, this case has been about making an example of me—crushing me—all because he disapproves of what I believe about marriage.”

Tennessee parish responds to immigration raid with support, prayer

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 05:01

Knoxville, Tenn., Jun 25, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The April day nearly 100 workers were taken into custody in the country’s largest worksite immigration raid in a decade, St. Patrick’s parish center in Morristown, Tenn. opened to the community and donations started pouring in.

The parish center stayed open until 3 a.m. the night of April 5. Husbands, wives and children gathered together, trying to find out what had happened to their relatives and community members, waiting as 43 of the 97 people in custody were eventually released back to their families.

In the days following, donations of food, clothing, toiletries, and money poured in to the parish.

“We had a lot, I mean a surplus of things. We were running out of room, we had to move things down to the [church] basement,” Veronica Galvan told CNA.

The director of religious education at St. Patrick and a resident of Morristown for 23 years, Galvan was well-known in the community, located about 45 miles northeast of Knoxville, and the first to ask the pastor, Fr. Patrick Brownell, to open the church the day of the raid.

“I just went ahead and told people to go there if they didn't feel safe at home or work,” she said. “They expressed that fear and I wanted to make sure that was taken care of and they could feel safe somewhere. So we opened up the doors to whoever wanted to come.”

For the first two weeks the center “was crazy,” she said. Every day, more than 200 people who had been affected, either directly or indirectly, gathered at the parish. More than 100 volunteers came and went throughout the day from around the wider community, including lawyers, doctors, priests, and other religious ministers.

Three religious sisters originally from Mexico also came to help and to pray with people, Fr. Brownell said.

Quickly, they ran out of space for physical items and had to ask people to give only money. In most of the cases, those in police custody following the raid were the primary or only breadwinners of their families, and people needed help just to continue to pay their bills.

Galvan said with the money they received they paid the families’ bills for two months. With the more than $50,000 received through a GoFundMe campaign set up by local Hispanic and Latino aid group H.O.L.A. Lakeway, $1,000 was given to each worker to go toward their bond.

A prayer vigil was held in the community April 9 and Fr. Brownell has left the church accessible at night via a door code, so that if anyone wants to go the church to pray at night they can.

Now, two and half months later, things feel like they have returned to normal, St. Patrick’s youth ministry coordinator, Colleen Jacobs, told CNA: “I think there is some good to that, but as a community I think we should still feel more outrage than we do right now. I myself feel like, should I be doing something? What should I be doing right now?”

As of June 13, 35 of the 54 people taken out of state and held in an immigration detention facility have been released on bond and are back with their families.

But as they await court dates and a lengthy legal process which could result in deportation, they are not legally allowed to work or drive. And the money the community and St. Patrick's raised has run out.

This is one of the purposes of a weekly meeting still taking place at the church. A group of those affected created the meeting for additional support and training on things like driving and paying bills, for those who had relied on detained family members for these tasks.

Other organizations, including Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, are working to ensure workers have access to legal counsel and help with their court cases.

Though it is unknown exactly whom taken in the raid was a member of St. Patrick and St. John Paul II mission church in nearby Rutledge (names are kept as private as possible for security), there were certainly Catholics among them, Fr. Alex Waraksa said.

The assisting priest for Hispanic ministry in Morristown, who also assists at four other area churches, he was present to speak with people at the parish center following the raid.

It was “a place to be during the day and get different types of support,” including prayer, he said.

In some cases, church records on sacraments can help workers in their legal case because it provides a record of the depth and length of their ties to the community, Waraksa said. Unfortunately, there have been godparents and parents who, detained, have missed seeing their children receive the sacraments.

St. Patrick has tried to reach out to youth, too, following the raid. Wednesdays the church hosts youth nights for middle and high schoolers, with usual attendance at about 160 students, about half Hispanic, half non-Hispanic, Jacobs said, noting that it is a lot for a town of not many Catholics.

Morristown's population is around 30,000,  with around 900 families attending St. Patrick, though Waraksa said some families may bounce among the areas’ Catholic churches for Mass.

Jacobs was nervous that the students would not show up for youth group the week following the raid, though. The fear had been so strong the first few days afterward, not only did many people not go to work, Fr. Waraksa said, 500-600 students didn’t show up at school.

Regardless, Jacobs and others worked with a community organizer from a neighboring town to host an evening on community activism and how to enact change.

That night not only did most of the students show up, the usual 30-40 adult leaders were accompanied by another 35-40 counselors from the local schools and healthcare systems.

“The youth could see that there was an outpouring of love from all the adults, from all different types of organizations across the community,” Jacobs said, “so that was really powerful in itself.”

They created small groups that allowed the kids to talk about their feelings, and Jacobs noted the trauma not only for kids who had parents and other relatives taken, but also for the kids whose friends and classmates had been affected.

“It’s kind of hard to explain [the raid] to a kid when you’re trying to teach them the values of love of neighbor and... to accept people no matter their skin color, or what their background is, [and] then you have adults doing the exact opposite,” she said.

Though the overall responses from the churches in Morristown and Rutledge were positive, St. Patrick’s pastor, Fr. Brownell, said not all the voices were united on the issue.

He said if you take the non-Hispanic part of their community, “many of them are split down the center [on immigration], very much like the rest of the nation.” The criticism he heard was only from a small number of people, though those few were vocal, he noted.

Jacobs said she thinks prayer is important, and that it is something they are trying to let the kids know: “Even though we know what is going on isn’t right, we can do as much as we can and then remember to keep everyone in your prayers.”

“What the… fallout is going to be I don’t know, but it’s really, really tough.”

Unfortunately, the Morristown Hispanic community faced another tragedy, when two teens from Guatemala were found to have drowned in a local lake June 19. Fr. Brownell and other staff members of St. Patrick worked to help organize the joint funeral this week.

“Right now, I think the community is a bit numb, the Hispanic community,” Brownell said, “because they don't know where things are going.”

Most are with their families, “and that's a good thing. But I can only imagine that it’s a depressing situation... not knowing what the outcome will be... and there’s a good chance the outcome will be deportation. So it’s sort of biding time.”

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