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Detroit celebrates the first feast of the 'approachably holy' Blessed Solanus Casey

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 18:39

Detroit, Mich., Jul 30, 2018 / 04:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Sixty one years after his death and eight months after his beatification, Blessed Father Solanus Casey is still able to draw crowds in Detroit.

The porter priest and Capuchin friar’s first feast day was celebrated in the Archdiocese of Detroit July 30, with a novena for his canonization and various Masses and special events held throughout the area in his honor.

Four Masses for Solanus were celebrated over the weekend and on Monday, including two celebrated by Archbishop Allen Vigneron. Each Mass was packed to full or overflowing, Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap. and director of the Solanus Casey Center, told CNA.

When asked why so many people of Detroit and beyond continue to be drawn to Solanus even decades after his death, Preuss said it is because Solanus was “good to people.”

“That’s it, he’s good to people, he always was, and he continues to be,” Preuss said.

“People were asking how many people are going to come (to his feast day events) and I said look...he is a powerful intercessor, and we hear about new favors every week, they happen all the time,” Preuss said, so he was not surprised at the overflow crowds.

Fr. Solanus was a friar and simplex priest, meaning that, due to lesser academic abilities, he was not allowed to preach or to hear confessions.

This meant he carried out simpler tasks, and in Detroit he is fondly remembered as the porter (doorkeeper) at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, where he served 1924-1945.

As porter, Fr. Solanus became the main link from the brothers to the outside world, and he became renowned among the people of Detroit for the gentle and willing counsel that he offered from his post at the door, and for the miracles attributed to his intercession.

In order to be beatified in the Catholic Church, a miracle must be attributed to a person’s intercession after their death and approved by the Vatican.

For Solanus, that miracle was the curing of a skin disease in Paula Medina Zarate, a woman from Panama, who also made the trip to Detroit this week to celebrate Blessed Solanus’ feast day.

At the Solanus Casey Center, located just down the street from the monastery in Detroit where Fr. Solanus answered the door, nine days of prayer were held for Fr. Solanus leading up to his feast day, which included prayers for his canonization and different themes each day based on various aspects of the friar’s life. There was a blessing for the sick, tours of and donations to the soup kitchen founded by Solanus, as well as Masses for families, young people, and consecrated religious.

A second Mass celebrated by Archbishop Vigneron honoring Blessed Solanus was held at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, Michigan, a place where Solanus liked to retreat to pray.

Monsignor Robert McClory, rector of the shrine, told CNA that the chair Blessed Solanus used on his visits to the shrine was displayed for his feast day.

The shrine was also chosen as the first stop for a “relic tour” of a first-class relic of Blessed Solanus - a bone from his right thumb, which will travel throughout the archdiocese’s schools and parishes in the coming days for veneration.

“In the Detroit area it’s hard to meet a Catholic who was not in some way touched by Blessed Solanus Casey,” McClory told CNA.

“Every time I make a reference to Blessed Solanus in a homily, I will typically get anywhere from 6-12 comments afterwards of people telling me stories of how Blessed Solanus helped their father, their grandparents, and had a special role in their life,” he said.

His humility and simplicity gave Solanus “an approachable holiness” that drew so many people to him, McClory added.

“He had humility, and everybody could approach him, and he had a big heart for those who were suffering and those who were sick, and that included those who suffered materially, but also those who had deep spiritual needs,” he said.

The miracles worked through his intercession gave Solanus a kind of “credibility” with God to the people who came to him, McClory added, so they trusted the friar even when they were told their prayers would not be answered in the way they had hoped.

“It’s not just that he was a vehicle through which miracles occurred, but also because of that, in a beautiful way he had more credibility when he told people their prayer isn’t going to be answered the way that you want it to be, but God has a plan and it’s going to be ok,” McClory said.

A modern, local saint shows the people of Detroit that “Jesus is near, that he’s in our midst, that God loves Detroit,” McClory added, “and that God has a desire to build up holy men and women whose virtues we can imitate and whose intercession we can seek, and it makes holiness that much closer for us.”

Blessed Solanus Casey was beatified on Nov. 18, 2017 in Detroit. The next step in his canonization process is for an additional miracle to occur through his intercession and be approved by the Vatican.

Cardinal Tobin: McCarrick's resignation necessary for accountability

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 16:11

Newark, N.J., Jul 30, 2018 / 02:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark responded Saturday to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick's resignation from the college of cardinals, which came amid numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. Tobin called for continued accountability in addressing sexual abuse claims.

“This latest news is a necessary step for the Church to hold itself accountable for sexual abuse and harassment perpetrated by its ministers, no matter their rank,” Tobin said in a statement.

He asked the faithful “to pray for all who may have been harmed by the former Cardinal, and to pray for him as well.”

Pope Francis accepted Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals on Saturday. The pope directed McCarrick, the 88-year-old former Archbishop of Washington, to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion” until the end of the canonical process against him.

A substantial and credible allegation of child sexual abuse against McCarrick was made public in June.

In recent weeks, McCarrick has faced several additional allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. These include charges that he pressured seminarians and priests into sexual relationships, and another reported allegation that he had a serially sexually abusive relationship with a child.

Cardinal Tobin noted that news of the resignation “will impact the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Newark with particular force.”

The Archdiocese of Newark is one of two New Jersey dioceses to pay settlements to two men who claim they were sexually assaulted by McCarrick while they were seminarians and young priests. McCarrick was then permitted to continue to function publicly as a cardinal.

Tobin took over as Archbishop of Newark in 2017, a decade after the archdiocese reached the settlement in the McCarrick case.

Since the allegations against McCarrick were announced, questions have been raised about whether any other bishops – including Tobin – were aware of the settlements and had spoken up about them. Tobin's statement did not address those settlements.


Albany bishop: Clerical sex abuse a 'profoundly spiritual crisis'

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 14:37

Albany, N.Y., Jul 30, 2018 / 12:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany wrote to the clerics of his local Church Sunday, saying that abuse of authority and sexual abuse by clerics is, more than a crisis of policies and procedures, a spiritual crisis.

His comments come amid a scandal centered on Theodore McCarrick, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington. Last month the Archdiocese of New York announced that it had concluded an investigation into an allegation that McCarrick had sexually abused a teenager, finding the claim to be “credible and substantiated.” Since then, media reports have detailed additional allegations, charging that McCarrick sexually abused, assaulted, or coerced seminarians and young priests during his time as a bishop.

McCarrick resignation from the office of cardinal was accepted by Pope Francis on Saturday.

“Let me be clear,” Bishop Scharfenberger wrote, “in stating my firm conviction that this is, at heart, much more than a crisis of policies and procedures. We can – and I am confident that we will – strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to 'get away with' such evil and destructive behaviors. But, at its heart, this is much more than a challenge of law enforcement; it is a profoundly spiritual crisis.”

The Bishop of Albany's July 29 letter was sent to clerics and seminarians, as well as parish life directors and department heads at the diocesan chancery.

He began by reflecting on the betrayal of Christ, saying that “Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, many of our faithful are now feeling betrayed and abandoned by their spiritual fathers, especially the bishops.”

“No doubt you have been and will be hearing from your people about how shaken and discouraged they are over public revelations of despicable behavior on the part of a very popular and charismatic Cardinal with priests and seminarians in his care.”

Bishop Scharfenberger shared that he had been texted by a friend who conveyed “his family’s utter despondency over this and that the USCCB should disband itself: '[t]heir credibility is shot, probably for decades.'”

The bishop said that further “words are not going to repair, let alone restore, the damage that has been done. Lawyering, pledges and changes in the bureaucratic structures and policy – however well intentioned – cannot do it either. I do not see how we can avoid what is really at the root of this crisis: sin and a retreat from holiness, specifically the holiness of an integral, truly human sexuality.”

Bishop Scharfenberger repeated “as clearly and directly” as he could the Church's teaching that sexual activity outside a valid marriage is a grave sin: “A cardinal is not excused from what a layperson or another member of the clergy is not … This is what our faith teaches and what we are held to in practice. There is no 'third way.'”

Gravely sinful sexual activity outside marriage “includes grooming and seduction,” the bishop wrote. Such acts of McCarrick were detailed by a priest of the Diocese of Albany, who was once a seminarian under the former cardinal, in an interview with America magazine published July 25.

“The psychological and spiritual destructiveness of such predatory behavior, really incestuous by a man who is held up as a spiritual father to a son in his care – even if not a minor – cannot be minimized or rationalized in any way,” Bishop Scharfenberger wrote. “On that, it seems to me, we are experiencing an unusual unity amidst the many political and ecclesial tensions in our communities.”

“Abuse of authority – in this case, with strong sexual overtones – with vulnerable persons is hardly less reprehensible than the sexual abuse of minors, which the USCCB attempted to address in 2002.”

He noted that the Charter for the Protection of Young People, adopted by the USCCB in 2002, “unfortunately … did not go far enough so as to hold cardinals, archbishops and bishops equally, if not more, accountable than priests and deacons.”

Bishop Scharfenberger said he believes the vast majority of clerics “live or, at least, are striving to live holy and admirable lifestyles. I am ashamed of those of my brothers, such as the Cardinal, who do not and have not. As your Bishop, you can be sure of my support for you and all the faithful during this very difficult time.”

He expressed gratitude for “all of those who have come forward to expose these patterns of sin in the lives of some – as well the institutional sins of denial and suppression of those brave witnesses whose warnings went unheard or unheeded, so that some of the harm might have been prevented.”

“I hope and pray that others who may have suffered such traumatic experiences at the hands of their spiritual fathers will find the courage to say so. To you, if you are among them, and to them I offer my support and assistance in any way the resources I have can muster.”

Bl. Paul VI's Humanae vitae “prophetically warned … of the long-range consequences of the separation of sexuality and sexual behavior from the conjugal relationship,” he said.

“Contemporary culture in our part of the world now holds it normative that sex and sexual gratification between any consenting persons for any reason that their free wills allow is perfectly acceptable. This is not a sexuality befitting of human beings that responds to the need and true desire of every human person to be respected and loved fully and unconditionally.”

Clerics “must practice what we preach and teach,” he emphasized. “We also need to uphold what our faith proclaims about the gift and beauty of human sexuality, fully lived in its essential conjugal meaning.”

“A culture of virtue and chastity – in short, personal holiness – rooted in a trusting and committed relationship with Jesus Christ is the path toward healing and wholeness, even as we seek to drive the evil behaviors among us from the womb of the Church.”

Bishop Scharfenberger commended preparation for a Eucharistic Congress as “a time of spiritual renewal for all of us seeking to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Master who was himself betrayed by his closest friends, but died for us to save us from ourselves and to offer us a way to living our humanity fully in this life and in the heaven to come.”

Bishops announce nine-week novena ahead of Supreme Court confirmation

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 05:00

Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2018 / 03:00 am (CNA).- A Novena for the Legal Protection of Human Life is being led by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Catholics are being encouraged to take part ahead of the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

The novena will be prayed each Friday between August 3 and September 28. The initiative is part of the USCCB’s ongoing Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty.

Every Friday, those who have signed up to the Call to Prayer program will receive the day’s prayer intentions by email or text message.

Senate confirmation hearings are set to begin in September, and there are expectations that Kavanaugh could be confirmed by the time the Supreme Court begins its next session in October. Kavanaugh’s nomination was welcomed by Catholics and pro-life groups who hope he could form part of a majority on the court in favor of overturning controversial abortion decisions like Roe v. Wade.

Roe, along with the companion decision in the case Doe v. Bolton, found a legal right to abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, regardless of circumstances.

The novena is tied to the confirmation process and the prayers of Catholics are important, Greg Schleppenbach, associate director of the USCCB Pro-Life Activities Secretariat, told CNA. He predicted that the confirmation process will be “very contentious,” with much of the debate centered around the issue of abortion.

"As we've already seen, the pro-abortion side is making this all about Roe v. Wade. It will clearly be contentious on that issue alone and perhaps others. But certainly, the other side has been making Roe vs. Wade a central issue, if not the central issue, in this confirmation process."

Schleppenbach hopes that the novena and prayer initiative will help teach the public and Congress about what the Roe decision and its effects have actually meant in the United States.

The novena “presents an opportunity for us to educate the public on Roe v. Wade, and to urge them to pray for this very important intention [life] that transcends even this particular nomination,” he told CNA.

"One of the things we know about public opinion, about public knowledge, is that there's a lot of misunderstanding about how radical Roe v. Wade is.”

Schleppenbach believes that recent polls indicating a high level of support for the decision are misleading, as most simply do not know what exactly overturning Roe would mean.

This prayer effort will go on even after Kavanaugh’s confirmation process ends, with hopes that this is just the beginning of a shift toward a culture where “unborn children are protected in law and welcomed in life.”

The Novena for the Legal Protection of Human Life is a “very concrete and effective way” for those who are concerned about human life to combat the “culture of death,” said Schleppenbach.

“The fact that this effort focuses on and encourages people to pray and to fast is critically important. It is absolutely one of the most productive, effective pro-life actions that we can take,” he told CNA. 

“I very strongly encourage everyone to participate in the prayer and fasting, and to utilize the educational materials on Roe, sharing them with others."

The novena begins Friday, August 3, and information on how to take part is available from the USCCB website.

After McCarrick resigns, DC archdiocese praises abuse victims' courage

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 18:38

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2018 / 04:38 pm (CNA).- Alleged abuse victims are “courageously stepping forward” with new claims of abuse by former cardinal and retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, but these claims weren’t previously known to the Archdiocese of Washington,  the archdiocese said in a Sunday statement.

“These experiences shared by survivors are profoundly troubling and represent a breach of trust and wounding that no person should bear alone,” the archdiocese said July 29. “Cardinal Wuerl again recently affirmed that those coming forward with new allegations show also a confidence in the Church to take seriously these charges and act quickly in responding.”

The archdiocese voiced continued prayers for abuse survivors and expressed understanding about “how difficult it is to share such painful memories.”

“While the struggle to confront such experiences is difficult for survivors, the archdiocese wishes to accompany them and help them through this process,” its statement continued. “The archdiocese encourages all coming forward to share these experiences with any diocese in which they reside so that these grave issues can be reviewed promptly by Church authorities, and that we can offer assistance to begin the process for healing and peace.”

Pope Francis accepted Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals on Friday. The Pope directed McCarrick, the 88-year-old former Archbishop of Washington, to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion” until the end of the canonical process against him.

The fact that there had been a substantial and credible allegation of child sexual abuse against McCarrick was made public in June.

The archdiocese said that it reviewed its own files when the first claim against Archbishop McCarrick was filed in the New York archdiocese. The Washington archdiocese found “no complaints of any kind” against the archbishop, who had led the archdiocese from 2001-2006.

“Further, the confidential settlements involving acts by Archbishop McCarrick in the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark were not known previously to Cardinal Wuerl or the Archdiocese of Washington,” the statement said.

As CNA previously reported, last week the Washington archdiocese’s vicar general Monsignor Charles Antonicelli sent a letter to priests of the archdiocese claiming that its current archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, did not know until recently about settlements made by two New Jersey dioceses in response to allegations of  misconduct on the part of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Sources close to the Archdiocese of Washington also told CNA that Wuerl was not informed of legal settlements in two New Jersey dioceses until June 2018.

In recent weeks, McCarrick has faced several additional allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. These include charges that he pressured seminarians and priests into sexual relationships.

Cardinal Wuerl said the decision to accept the cardinal’s resignation shows that Pope Francis “takes very seriously the allegation of an abuse of a minor.”

“I think this was a big step forward in trying to act quickly, decisively, even though the whole procedure isn’t concluded yet,” Cardinal Wuerl said told the Washington-area radio station WTOP Saturday. “The pope is saying that we need to show that we are hearing these things, paying attention and acting.”
Although the alleged abuse happened decades ago, he said, “people are now coming forward and saying, ‘I know I’m going to get a hearing in the Church’.”

“It’s encouraging people who have kept these things buried to step forward and say, ‘Even though this happened a long time ago, I want you to know it happened’,” said Wuerl.

Wuerl told WTOP he had never been approached with allegations that McCarrick committed abuse. He also said he was not aware of the decades-old rumors about McCarrick’s alleged misconduct.