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Pope Francis asked Catholics to renew Marian consecration every March 25. Here’s what that means
Posted on 03/24/2023 20:30 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
St. Louis, Mo., Mar 24, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).
March 25 marks one year since Pope Francis consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Earlier this week, the pope encouraged “each believer and community, especially prayer groups,” to renew the consecration of the whole world every March 25 on the solemnity of the Annunciation. But what does all this mean? Here’s what you need to know.
What does consecration mean?
To “consecrate” is to set aside for a holy purpose. The word “entrustment” is often used synonymously with the word “consecration.”
The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship defines consecration to Mary as an overt recognition of the “singular role of Mary in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church, of the universal and exemplary importance of her witness to the Gospel, of trust in her intercession, and of the efficacy of her patronage.”
St. John Paul II — who consecrated the entire Church and world to Mary three times during his pontificate — taught that by consecrating oneself to Mary, we accept her help in offering ourselves fully to Christ.
Colin Donovan, vice president for theology at EWTN, told CNA that consecration “is an entrustment and also an appeal to God. The entrustment here is the fact that we lay ourselves, our hearts, our prayers, our desires at the feet of Our Lady, and that serves God’s purposes because it elevates Our Lady in the mind of the Church, and hopefully in the mind in the world. And it’s an appeal to God for our particular needs.”
What is the Immaculate Heart of Mary?
The Immaculate Heart of Mary is an object of devotion, as it symbolizes her perfect will as expressed in her “fiat.” Mary’s heart is generally depicted with seven wounds and pierced by a sword. Early devotion to the heart of Mary was exemplified by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, but the modern devotion was founded by St. John Eudes, a French priest of the 17th century.
The feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first observed by Eudes, and it began receiving papal approbation at the opening of the 19th century. The feast was placed on the General Roman Calendar in 1944, to be observed Aug. 22, the octave day of the Assumption.
What was Pope Francis’ consecration of Russia and Ukraine?
Taking place just over a month after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Pope Francis said he wanted to entrust the nations at war to the Blessed Virgin Mary in response to the “numerous requests from the people of God.”
“Nearly a month has passed since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine that is daily inflicting immense suffering upon its sorely tried people and threatening world peace,” Pope Francis said in a letter dated March 21, 2022.
“At this dark hour, the Church is urgently called to intercede before the Prince of Peace and to demonstrate her closeness to those directly affected by the conflict.”
The pope released another letter March 23 asking all Catholics to assemble in their parishes on that Friday to pray the act of consecration. Catholics around the world — including in every U.S. diocese — participated.
In his homily last year before praying the consecration, the pope said that the prayer “is no magic formula but a spiritual act.”
“It is an act of complete trust on the part of children who, amid the tribulation of this cruel and senseless war that threatens our world, turn to their Mother, reposing all their fears and pain in her heart and abandoning themselves to her,” he said.
What am I being asked to do now?
Here’s what Pope Francis said:
“Let us not tire of entrusting the cause of peace to the Queen of Peace. I would therefore like to invite every believer and community, especially prayer groups, to renew every March 25 the act of consecration to Our Lady, so that she, who is Mother, may preserve us all in unity and peace. And let us not forget, in these days, troubled Ukraine, who is suffering so much.”
What is the prayer I’m being asked to pray?
The text of the prayer can be found here.
Housekeeper’s husband pleads not guilty to murder of Bishop David O’Connell
Posted on 03/24/2023 20:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Boston, Mass., Mar 24, 2023 / 12:00 pm (CNA).
Carlos Medina, the man charged with murdering Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell in February, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in court Wednesday.
News of O’Connell’s Feb. 18 murder shocked the nation after it was reported that he died after suffering multiple gunshot wounds at his Hacienda Heights home. The local and wider Catholic community mourned O’Connell, who was remembered as a man of peace dedicated to serving the poor and immigrants.
Medina, 61, is the husband of O’Connell’s housekeeper, and it remains unclear what the motive for the murder might have been. He is being held on more than $2 million bail and will have his next court hearing May 17.
Before his not guilty plea, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón said in a Feb. 22 press conference that Medina admitted to the murder.
“He admitted that he had done the killing and we believe we recovered the weapon that they were using, and we have other evidence from the bed, certain things that indicate that they were in the place where the killing occurred,” Gascón said in Spanish, translated here by CNA.
Following the revelation of the alleged admission, a current and former colleague of Gascón criticized him for breaking the L.A. District Attorney’s Office’s own policy of forbidding the disclosure of a defendant's admission in an open criminal case.
John Lewin, a former deputy district attorney for Los Angeles, told Fox News Digital that the statement could affect the outcome of the trial.
“It cannot be more simply stated, George Gascón is a DA who either doesn’t know the basic ethical rules that govern the agency he leads or doesn’t care to follow them,” he said.
“What if a court decides that the confession will not be admitted to trial? You can’t put that genie back into the bottle,” he added.
John McKinney, a current LA deputy district attorney, told Fox News Digital that the disclosure was contrary to police department rules.
“By disclosing a defendant’s confession in an open criminal case, George Gascón has not only committed a blatant violation of LADA policy but has also potentially violated the due process rights of the accused.”
Obtained by CNA, the District Attorney’s Legal Policy Manual states that “at the time of arrest, the issuance of an arrest warrant, the filing of a complaint, or the public revelation of an indictment,” information about a confession, admission, or statement given by the accused shall not be released.
Marc Debbaudt, a former career deputy district attorney for Los Angeles, told CNA Feb. 27 that he didn’t think Gascón’s announcement of the admission could cause the case to be thrown out but said that “it could result in motions to change jurisdiction.”
“It’s just embarrassingly unprofessional,” he said.
Three days of memorial services were held for O’Connell, 69, in early March. O’Connell’s funeral was attended by thousands as Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez called him an intercessor for souls.
Speaking briefly at the conclusion of the funeral liturgy, Gomez said “Bishop Dave,” as O’Connell was affectionately known, would be sorely missed, but “we know that he’s in heaven.”
“From there he’s going to continue to intercede for us,” Gomez said, “as he has done his whole life.”
Texas bishops support plan to give families tuition credits to spend on private or parochial schools
Posted on 03/24/2023 19:08 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2023 / 11:08 am (CNA).
Catholic bishops in Texas are all-in advocating for parental school choice in the state Legislature this spring.
“St. Paul VI spoke well of the Catholic Church’s understanding of education. He said, ‘Parents, who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children, must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools.’ Therefore, parental choice continues to be a top priority of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops,” Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth said in a video released Monday.
A bill introduced by state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, would establish an education savings account program to allow parents to receive some of their tax dollars back to help pay for the educational institution of their choice. This would allow more Catholic parents to be able to better afford to enroll their children in a Catholic or private school or home-school.
In Iowa earlier this year, Catholic bishops hailed the passage of a school choice bill as a boon for Catholic schools. That state’s bill would allow students to put $7,598 in an educational savings account to be spent at any private or parochial school.
“Currently, there are not any private school choice programs in Texas,” Helen Osman, a spokesperson for the Texas Catholic Bishops, told CNA.
“There are charter schools in many areas of the state, and the state does allow home schooling, but there is no funding provided to parents to choose educational options for their children … We will be testifying in support of [parental choice legislation],” she said.
With the backing of the state’s Catholic bishops, school choice reform seems likely to happen in Texas.
In addition, state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, introduced the Texas Parental Bill of Rights to guarantee parents the right to access information about their children and make decisions regarding their education.
The bill explicitly states that a parent has “the right to direct the moral and religious training of the parent’s child, make decisions concerning the child’s education, and consent to medical, psychiatric, and psychological treatment of the parent’s child.”
If passed into law, the bill would guarantee Texas parents the right to have input on their children’s courses and educational materials. Parents would have the ability to opt their children out of unwanted vaccinations or instruction deemed objectionable such as on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Key Texas political leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, have also signaled their support for the legislation.
Abbott, a Catholic Republican, said on Tuesday that “we must empower every parent in Texas to choose the best education opportunity for their child. This session, we’ll deliver education freedom for every family in Texas.”
Both parental choice bills were presented to the state Senate’s education committee on Wednesday, the first step the bill needs to clear to be passed into law.
Many Texas Catholics showed up at the state capitol in Austin Wednesday to show their support for the bill. Some, including Bishop Olson and Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops legislative director Jennifer Allmon, testified before the education committee in support of parental choice.
“This is not a zero-sum game where private schools win, and public schools lose. It is a win-win for communities when all children can flourish in the educational setting best suited for them,” Allmon said in her testimony.
“It is unrealistic to expect every public school to be everything to every child. By combining public school parental rights improvements with an education savings account, [parental choice legislation] recognizes that public schools will remain the predominant method of receiving education in Texas while allowing children who need something else to have a better chance to access it.”
Here’s what real exorcists are saying about Russell Crowe’s Vatican exorcist movie
Posted on 03/24/2023 17:56 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver, Colo., Mar 24, 2023 / 09:56 am (CNA).
The trailer of the upcoming Russell Crowe movie “The Pope’s Exorcist” indicates that the film might not do justice to the Italian exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth or the rite of exorcism as practiced in the Catholic Church, according to an exorcist organization Amorth himself helped to found.
The International Association of Exorcists on March 7 voiced concern that the film seems to fall under the category of “splatter cinema,” which it calls a “sub-genre of horror.”
The Vatican, the statement said, is filmed with a high-contrast “chiaroscuro” effect seen in film noir.
This gives the film a “‘Da Vinci Code’ effect to instill in the public the usual doubt: Who is the real enemy? The devil or ecclesiastical ‘power’?” the exorcists’ association said.
While special effects are “inevitable” in every film about demonic possession, “everything is exaggerated, with striking physical and verbal manifestations, typical of horror films,” the group said.
“This way of narrating Don Amorth’s experience as an exorcist, in addition to being contrary to historical reality, distorts and falsifies what is truly lived and experienced during the exorcism of truly possessed people,” said the association, which claims more than 800 exorcist members and more than 120 auxiliary members worldwide.
“In addition, it is offensive with regard to the state of suffering in which those who are victims of an extraordinary action of the devil find themselves,” the group’s statement added. The statement responded to the release of the movie trailer and promised a more in-depth response to the film’s April 14 theatrical release.
Amorth, who died at age 91 in 2016, said he performed an estimated 100,000 exorcisms during his life. He was perhaps the world’s best-known exorcist and the author of many books, including “An Exorcist Tells His Story,” reportedly an inspiration for the upcoming movie.
Several of Amorth’s books are carried by the U.S. publisher Sophia Institute Press. The publisher’s newly released book “The Pope's Exorcist: 101 Questions About Fr. Gabriele Amorth” is an interview in which the priest addresses many topics ranging from prayer to pop music.
Michael Lichens, editor and spokesperson at Sophia Institute Press, voiced some agreement with the exorcist group.
“The International Association of Exorcists is right to be concerned and I’m thankful for their words,” Lichens told CNA. “My hope is that audiences will remember that Father Amorth is a real person with a great legacy and perhaps a few moviegoers will look up an interview or pick up his books.”
“This was a man who included St. Padre Pio and Blessed Giacomo Alberione as mentors, as well as Servant of God Candido Amantini, who was his teacher for the ministry of exorcism,” he said. “Father Amorth fought as a partisan as a young man and grew to fight greater evil as an exorcist. His life is an inspiration and I know that his work and words will still reach many.”
Amorth was born in Modena, Italy, on May 1, 1925. In wartime Italy, he was a soldier with the underground anti-fascist partisans. He was ordained a priest in 1951. He did not become an exorcist until 1986, when Cardinal Ugo Poletti, the vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, named him the diocesan exorcist.
The priest was frequently in the news for his comments on the subject of demonic forces. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph in 2000, he said: “I speak with the devil every day. I talk to him in Latin. He answers in Italian. I have been wrestling with him, day in, day out, for 14 years.”
The movie “The Pope’s Exorcist” claims to be “inspired by the actual files of the Vatican’s chief exorcist.” The Sony Pictures movie stars the New Zealand-born actor Russell Crowe as Amorth. Crowe’s character wears a gray beard and speaks English with a noticeable accent.
“The majority of cases do not require an exorcism,” the Amorth character says in the movie’s first trailer. A cardinal explains that Crowe’s character recommends 98% of people who seek an exorcism to doctors and psychiatrists instead.
“The other 2%... I call it… evil,” Crowe adds.
The plot appears to concern Amorth’s encounter with a particular demon. Crowe’s character suggests the Church “has fought this demon before” but covered it up.
“We need to find out why,” he says.
The trailer shows short dramatic scenes of exorcism, including a confrontation between Amorth and a girl apparently suffering demonic possession.
The International Association of Exorcists said such a representation makes exorcism become “a spectacle aimed at inspiring strong and unhealthy emotions, thanks to a gloomy scenography, with sound effects such as to inspire only anxiety, restlessness, and fear in the viewer.”
“The end result is to instill the conviction that exorcism is an abnormal, monstrous, and frightening phenomenon, whose only protagonist is the devil, whose violent reactions can be faced with great difficulty,” said the exorcist group. “This is the exact opposite of what occurs in the context of exorcism celebrated in the Catholic Church in obedience to the directives imparted by it.”
CNA sought comment from Sony Pictures and “The Pope’s Exorcist” executive producer Father Edward Siebert, SJ, but did not receive a response by publication.
Amorth co-founded the International Association of Exorcists with Father René Laurentin in 1994. In 2014 the Catholic Church recognized the group as a Private Association of the Faithful.
The association trains exorcists and promotes their incorporation into local communities and normal pastoral care. It also aims to promote “correct knowledge” about exorcism ministry and collaboration with medical and psychiatric experts who have competence in spirituality.
Exorcism is considered a sacramental, not a sacrament, of the Church. It is a liturgical rite that only a priest can perform.
Hollywood made the topic a focus most famously in the 1973 movie “The Exorcist,” based on the novel by William Peter Blatty.
“Most movies about Catholicism and spiritual warfare sensationalize,” Lichens of Sophia Institute Press told CNA. “Sensationalism and terror sell tickets. As a fan of horror movies, I can understand and even appreciate that. As a Catholic who has studied Father Amorth, though, I think such sensationalism distorts the important work of exorcism.”
“On the other hand, ‘The Exorcist’ made the wider public more curious about this overlooked ministry. That is a good thing that came out, despite other reservations and concerns,” he continued. “Still, I would love it if a screenwriter and director spoke to exorcists and tried to show the often-quotidian parts of the ministry.”
An unhealthy curiosity can be a problem, Lichens said.
“When I work as a spokesperson for Amorth’s books, I am always concerned about inspiring curiosity about the demonic,” he told CNA. “As Christians, we know we have nothing to fear from the demonic but curiosity might lead some to want to seek out the supernatural or the demonic. Father Amorth has dozens of stories of people who found themselves afflicted after party game seances.”
Lichens encouraged those who are curious to read more of Amorth’s writings, some of which are excerpted on the Catholic Exchange website. Sophia Institute Press has published “Diary of an American Exorcist” by Monsignor Stephen Rosetti and “The Exorcism Files” by the American lay Catholic Adam Blai.
“First and foremost, Father Amorth was involved in a healing ministry,” Lichens said. “Like other exorcists, his work often involved doctors in physical and mental health because the goal is to bring healing and hope to the potentially afflicted.”
“Those of us who read Amorth might have been excited to read firsthand accounts of spiritual warfare, but readers quickly see a man whose heart was always full of love for those who sought his help,” he added.
The International Association of Exorcists, for its part, praised the 2016 documentary “Deliver Us,” saying this shows “what exorcism really is in the Catholic Church and “the authentic traits of a Catholic exorcist.” It shows exorcism as “a most joyful event,” in their view, because through experiencing “the presence and action of Christ the Lord and of the Communion of the Saints,” those who are “tormented by the extraordinary action of the devil gradually find liberation and peace.”
Exiles describe Nicaragua regime’s ‘unholy war against the Catholic Church’ at congressional hearing
Posted on 03/24/2023 01:14 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2023 / 17:14 pm (CNA).
Recently released political prisoners and human rights activists testified before members of Congress Wednesday about the ongoing persecution in Nicaragua, which one witness called an “unholy war against the Catholic Church.”
In recent years, the Nicaraguan government under Daniel Ortega has detained, imprisoned, and likely tortured numerous Catholic leaders, targeting at least one bishop and several priests.
In addition, the Ortega regime has repressed Catholic radio and television stations and driven Catholic religious orders, including the Missionaries of Charity, from the country.
Among those to testify March 22 was Juan Sebastian Chamorro, a former presidential candidate opposed to the Ortega regime who detailed his arrest and imprisonment.
“I was kidnapped by the police from my house the night of June 8, 2021. I was captured in front of my wife and my daughter … My family did not know anything about me until I was able to see my sister … almost three months after my arrest,” he said.
“Today, as the result of this authoritarian project in Nicaragua, there is no law, there is no media, and there are no civil rights.”
Other witnesses included Bianca Jagger, a Nicaraguan human rights activist and former actress, and Felix Maradiaga, a Nicaraguan scholar and activist who is another recently freed political prisoner. It was Jagger who called the repression an “unholy war against the Catholic Church and civil society in Nicaragua.”
Dozens of other Nicaraguan exiles attended the hearing, held at the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill before members of two House subcommittees: the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere and the Subcommittee on Global Health, Human Rights, and International Organizations. The latter body is chaired by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey.
“Under President Ortega, Nicaragua has become a pariah dictatorship, in league with other human rights abusers like Cuba. Russia, Iran, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China,” Smith said in his opening statements.
According to Chamorro, “the repression against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua is unprecedented in the history of Latin America … After putting all opposition in jail, repressing all forms of protest, the dictator had to deal with the last standing voice defending freedom, defending peace, and defending human dignity.”
“Ortega had to silence the voice of the Church in order to impose his own voice of hate and violence,” Chamorro added.
On Feb. 10, the Ortega regime struck at the heart of Nicaraguan Catholicism by sentencing one of the country’s foremost leaders, Bishop Rolando Álvarez Lagos, to 26 years and four months in prison for being a “traitor to the homeland.”
Pope Francis condemned Alvarez’s arrest, likening Ortega’s regime to Nazi Germany.
Last week the Vatican’s diplomatic headquarters in Nicaragua was forced to close and its last remaining diplomat, the chargé d’affaires (ambassador), left the country, officially cutting diplomatic ties with the Church in what is a deeply Catholic country. A little more than a year ago, Ortega expelled the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag.
“Alvarez is in prison because he was the only voice left free to preach an undeniable truth, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Maradiaga said during his Wednesday testimony.
Members of Congress, including Smith; Rep. Maria Salazar, R-Florida; and Rep. French Hill, R-Arkansas, followed the testimony by focusing their questions to witnesses on the reasons beyond Ortega’s repression and how the U.S. can best respond to the Ortega regime’s oppression.
Salazar asked why Ortega has targeted the Catholic Church in particular.
“This guy is a tyrant. This guy is willing to bet anything to do anything to push his plan … and he knows that the Catholic Church is the only institution in his way,” Maradiaga answered.
“The message of the leaders of the Catholic Church was very powerful,” Chamorro said. “They defended with a strong voice and Ortega didn’t appreciate that; he doesn’t like criticism.”
Smith told CNA after the hearing that he “learned a lot” from the testimony, and he criticized what he called a lack of response from the Biden administration.
“Not enough is being done. I wish somebody would ask Biden … ‘You say what a great Catholic you are, what about Bishop Alvarez?’” Smith said.
“Why aren’t we doing something with the [U.N.] Human Rights Council? Bring an action against Nicaragua right now, do it,” he continued. “Charles Taylor, the president of Liberia, has got 50 years for his crimes against humanity. It can be done. It takes a commitment and purpose, and it’s lacking.”
Priest stripped of faculty to hear confessions after he advocated violating that sacrament in sex abuse cases
Posted on 03/24/2023 00:00 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Boston, Mass., Mar 23, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).
Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee has stripped one of his priests of the faculty to hear confessions following the clergyman’s public support for civil laws mandating that priests break the seal of confession for sins of sexual abuse.
“I have informed Father James Connell that effective immediately he is to cease all such erroneous communications that distort the teachings of the Church about the confessional seal,” Listeicki wrote in a March 22 statement.
“I have also immediately removed the canonical faculties of Father Connell to validly celebrate the sacrament of confession and to offer absolution, here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and thereby also in the Catholic Church around the world.”
Connell, a retired priest in the archdiocese and former vice chancellor, made comments March 13 in delawareonline.com advocating for a Delaware state bill that mandates priests break the seal of confession for penitents who confess sins of child sexual abuse.
Connell wrote that “no institution in our society, not even a recognized religion, has a significant advantage over governments’ compelling interest and responsibility to protect its children from harm by abuse or neglect.”
“Thus, no valid freedom of religion argument rooted in the absence of truth can provide a moral justification for sheltering perpetrators of abuse or neglect of children from their deserved punishment, while also endangering potential victims,” he continued.
This isn’t the first time Connell, a canon lawyer, has spoken publicly on the issue. In 2018, he appealed to Pope Francis in an online article to “release from the seal of confession” all information regarding child or vulnerable adult sexual abuse so authorities can be notified.
The seal of confession “is not a matter of divine law,” he said in that piece.
In the Code of Canon Law, Canon 983 says that “the sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”
In 2019, he filed a lawsuit in a U.S. district court against Wisconsin and nine other states arguing that exemptions for the clergy from being mandatory reporters in cases when sexual abuse became known to them under the sacramental seal are unconstitutional.
That lawsuit was dismissed by the judge one day after it was filed.
Connell is a vocal advocate for victims of clerical sexual abuse. Following the August 2022 death of Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who covered up priestly sexual abuse and paid hush money to a former adult seminarian with whom he had a sexual relationship, Connell publicly called for clergy in the archdiocese to boycott the funeral.
Connell himself was accused in 2009 of covering up a sexual abuse case when he worked in the chancery, a claim that both he and the archdiocese denied.
In his recent column, Connell wrote that “all people in Delaware should support the proposed HB 74 that would repeal the Delaware clergy-penitent privilege statute.”
Listecki said that Connell’s comments on the confessional seal are “gravely contrary” to Church teaching and that the Church “firmly declares that the sacramental seal of confession is always, and in every circumstance without exception, completely inviolable.”
“The false assertions of Father James Connell have caused understandable and widespread unrest among the people of God, causing them to question if the privacy of the confessional can now be violated, by him or any other Catholic priest,” he said.
CNA reached out to Connell for comment but received no response by time of publication.
Sandra Peterson, the archdiocese’s communications director, referred CNA to Listecki’s statement and added that she is unaware of any intervention against Connell for his prior comments against the seal of confession in the two years she has been working for the archdiocese.
Archbishop Gomez to lead 6-mile eucharistic procession through Los Angeles
Posted on 03/23/2023 23:30 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
St. Louis, Mo., Mar 23, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).
Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles will lead a six-mile eucharistic procession on Saturday through the city as part of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative of the U.S. bishops to renew Catholics’ devotion to Christ in the holy Eucharist.
The March 25 procession will go from a historic Los Angeles mission church, three miles down a main road to another parish, and back.
The day will begin with Mass at 8:30 a.m. PT at the historic Mission San Gabriel, which held its first Mass in more than two years last September after suffering severe damage in an arson attack in mid-2020. Following the Mass, the procession will begin at 9:30. The faithful are invited to walk along with the procession after signing up online.
The route will take the Eucharist through downtown Los Angeles to St. Luke the Evangelist Church before returning to Mission San Gabriel for Benediction. The total route is about 6.5 miles, according to the archdiocese.
A eucharistic procession serves as a way to honor God by professing Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist in a public way. A priest carries a monstrance containing the Eucharist, and traditionally at least three altar servers — one carrying a cross, flanked by two others holding candles — lead the crowd of participants. Traditionally, the monstrance containing the Eucharist will be carried under a small canopy. The canopy serves as a reminder of the “tent of the presence” in which the Israelites of the Old Testament transported the bread of the presence — the prefigurement of the Eucharist — and also serves as a focal point for the procession.
The Los Angeles procession is part of the national revival’s Year of Diocesan Renewal, which kicked off last June with more than 100 eucharistic processions in dioceses across the country. During this stage of the revival, each U.S. diocese is invited to offer events to promote and inspire understanding of the Eucharist. The revival was launched, in part, in response to a 2019 Pew Research study that suggested that only about one-third of U.S. Catholics believe the Church’s teaching that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
A subsequent Year of Parish Revival launches on the solemnity of Corpus Christi on June 8. The bishops have said they want to encourage “grassroots creativity” and embrace diverse eucharistic traditions to help parishes foster a greater love for the Eucharist among their members. Parish-level initiatives could include offering teaching Masses and small-group formation, the leader of the initiative, Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, has said.
The revival is set to culminate with the National Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis from July 17-21, 2024. More than 100,000 Catholics are expected to attend in person, with more joining remotely, to celebrate the Eucharist.
Human composting, alkaline hydrolysis disrespect the human body, U.S. Catholic bishops say
Posted on 03/23/2023 22:50 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
St. Louis, Mo., Mar 23, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).
The U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee on Thursday issued a statement reiterating the Church’s preference for burial of the deceased and stating that newer methods — namely alkaline hydrolysis and human composting — do not show respect for the human body.
“In recent years, newer methods and technologies for disposition of the bodies of the deceased have been developed and presented as alternatives to both traditional burial and cremation. A number of these newer methods and technologies pose serious problems in that they fail to manifest the respect for last remains that Catholic faith requires,” the bishops wrote March 23.
“Unfortunately, the two most prominent newer methods for disposition of bodily remains that are proposed as alternatives to burial and cremation, alkaline hydrolysis and human composting, fail to meet this criterion.”
The Catholic Church teaches that one day, at the final resurrection, the souls of the dead will be reunited with their bodies. Catholics are “obliged to respect our bodily existence throughout our lives and to respect the bodies of the deceased when their earthly lives have come to an end. The way that we treat the bodies of our beloved dead must always bear witness to our faith in and our hope for what God has promised us,” the bishops wrote.
Noting the upcoming celebration of Easter, when Christians celebrate Christ’s bodily resurrection, the bishops reiterated that “the Church has always taught that we must respect the bodies of the deceased.” Thus, a traditional burial is “considered by the Church to be the most appropriate way of manifesting reverence and respect for the body of the deceased because it ‘honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit,’ and clearly expresses our faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.”
The process of human composting — also known as natural organic reduction — is a relatively new phenomenon in the U.S. and has been legalized in a handful of states, most recently California. When a body is composted, it is placed in a reusable container where microbes and bacteria decompose it into soil over the course of 30-45 days. Alkaline hydrolysis is a process whereby a human body is broken down in a tank of chemicals at high pressure and heat, resulting in a few bone fragments and a large quantity of wastewater.
Although the practices of cremation, human composting, and alkaline hydrolysis all involve the acceleration of the decomposition of the body, the latter two do not allow for all parts of the body to be “gathered together and reserved for disposition,” the bishops noted.
“There is nothing distinguishably left of the body to be placed in a casket or an urn and laid to rest in a sacred place where Christian faithful can visit for prayer and remembrance,” the bishops said.
The Catholic Church as a whole does not have an official teaching on the composting of human bodies but has weighed in many times over the years on the practice of cremation. While strongly discouraged, cremation can be permissible under certain restrictions; notably, the remains are not to be scattered and must be kept in a sacred place out of reverence for the Church’s teaching on the eventual resurrection of the body.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s October 2016 instruction Ad Resurgendum Cum Christo states that while cremation “is not prohibited,” the Church “continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased.”
In that same document, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarified that a person’s ashes are not to be scattered nor kept in the home or preserved in mementos or jewelry but instead must be “laid to rest in a sacred place,” such as in a cemetery or church. As the document explains, “by burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity.”
California legalized the practice of human composting in 2022, and it is set to become available in the state by 2027. Ahead of the legalization, the California Catholic Conference said the use of a body composting method originally developed for farm animals creates an “unfortunate spiritual, emotional, and psychological distancing from the deceased.” In addition, executive director Kathleen Domingo said, the process “reduces the human body to simply a disposable commodity.”
Bishops in states such as Texas, Missouri, and New York have expressed opposition in recent years to the legalization of alkaline hydrolysis.
Local Chinese authorities order parents at school to sign pledge renouncing their faith
Posted on 03/23/2023 22:08 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2023 / 14:08 pm (CNA).
In another crackdown on religious freedom, local authorities in an eastern Chinese city ordered parents of kindergarteners to sign a pledge that affirms they are not religious.
Guardians of children at schools in Wenzhou, a city in the Zhejiang province, were asked to sign a “pledge form of commitment for family not to hold a religious belief,” according to the human rights group China Aid.
The pledge states that the parents affirm they “do not hold a religious belief, do not participate in any religious activities, and do not propagate and disseminate religion in any locations.” It also makes them affirm “exemplary observance of the [Chinese Communist] Party discipline and the country’s laws and regulations [and to] never join any Falun Gong and other cult organizations.”
Falun Gong, a religious movement founded in China in the 1990s, is openly critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
The order came from Chinese Communist Party officials in the Longwan district of the city of Wenzhou, according to ChinaAid. The nonprofit is a Christian human-rights organization that received the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy for its commitment to religious freedom in China in 2019.
The district is home to about 750,000, people. Christians represent about 10% of the city’s population and have grown in number over the past decade. This is much higher than the national average, which is less than 1% Christian.
One preschool teacher anonymously said the local authorities had never gone this far before, ChinaAid reported.
“In the past, the higher-level education department made it compulsory for kindergartens not to be superstitious and not to participate in cult organizations but did not mandate kindergarten children’s families not to believe in religion or participate in any religious activities,” the teacher said.
The Chinese constitution states that citizens “enjoy freedom of religious belief” but limits religious practices to “normal religious activities,” according to the U.S. Department of State. The Chinese government recognizes five religions, which it calls “patriotic religious associations”: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism. However, the city and the nation as a whole have repeatedly been accused of violating the rights of those who practice these religions as well.
In Wenzhou, Christians have faced persecution in several ways. The city banned children from attending religious services and engaging in religious activities in 2017. The following year, the city forbade teachers, hospital workers, and other city employees from holding religious beliefs.
The Vatican signed a deal with the Chinese Communist Party in 2018, but much of the deal has remained secret. The deal was meant to unify the underground Catholic Church with the more public Catholic Church in China by allowing the Chinese Communist Party to play a larger role in the appointment of bishops. This ultimately led to crackdowns on Catholics in the underground churches, which resulted in priests, bishops, and even cardinals being detained or arrested.
One of the fiercest critics of the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on Catholics is Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was arrested for helping operate the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund to help Hong Kong citizens who protested the Chinese Communist Party. In a 2020 interview with WION, Zen said the Vatican’s deal with China only emboldened the Chinese Communist Party to crack down harder.
“We have only the moral strength to resist peacefully against the persecution,” Zen said. “It’s [important] for us to keep our faith, not to surrender our faith; we can even sacrifice the sacraments — when you are arrested you cannot keep the sacraments but your faith is in your hearts to help you but you cannot deny your faith.”
What to know about contraceptives, breast cancer risk, and ‘informed choice’
Posted on 03/23/2023 21:48 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver Newsroom, Mar 23, 2023 / 13:48 pm (CNA).
Some forms of contraceptive use have “a significant increase in risk of breast cancer,” a new study says, and one fertility specialist believes that women deserve to know the risks — and the alternatives.
“If it increases risk, women simply need to be informed of this. They need to be able to make an informed choice,” Dr. Marguerite Duane, MD, a family physician who specializes in women’s health and restorative and reproductive medicine, told CNA.
“Without birth control, their risk is lower. It is lower, and that is a fact,” she said. Some women may choose to take that risk, while other women with risk factors like a family history of breast cancer may choose not to.
Duane is an adjunct associate professor at both Georgetown University and Duquesne University School of Medicine. She is also executive director of the Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science, a group of physicians, health care professionals, and educators who provide information on natural or fertility awareness-based methods of family planning.
She responded to news coverage of a study published in the PLOS Medicine journal by Oxford researchers. The study shows a 20% to 30% relative risk for breast cancer associated with progestogen-only contraceptives, according to CNN. The study drew on data from almost 10,000 U.K. women who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over a 21-year period and from more than 18,000 women who were not diagnosed with breast cancer.
Progestogens, also known as progestin, are synthetic hormone drugs that mimic progesterone, a natural hormone vital for menstruation and pregnancy. Progestogen-only contraceptives are provided in various ways: an implant, a hormonal intrauterine device, a contraceptive injection, or the “minipill.”
These contraceptives differ from the most popular contraceptive, a combined oral contraceptive pill that includes estrogen.
The researchers used data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink and combined these results with previous research on contraceptives, CNN reported. They estimated “absolute excess risks,” which means “the additional number of women who would be expected to develop breast cancer in those who used oral contraceptives compared to those who did not,” according to the March 21 news release from Oxford Population Health’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit.
They reported “a significant increase in risk of breast cancer” regardless of which contraceptive drug was used.
In high-income countries, five years of use of combined or progestogen-only contraceptives has a 15-year “excess risk” of breast cancer dependent on age, according to researchers. They estimated that for women ages 16 to 20, this excess risk means 8 in 100,000 contraceptive users will develop breast cancer, while for women aged 35 to 39 it is 265 per 100,000 users.
“This, I think, further supports the argument that there are risks associated with hormonal birth control,” Duane told CNA. “Cancer is just one of the risks. There is also a significant risk of blood clots that can lead to stroke and heart attack in women. And I will tell you, I have personally met families who have buried their daughters due to the side effects of hormonal birth control, who felt anger and frustration that they were never informed.”
Any evaluation of the elevated relative risk of breast cancer should be based on each woman’s “baseline risk,” according to Duane.
“I do not have a family history of breast cancer. So I have a lower baseline risk. I also breastfed my children for nearly 10 years. Breastfeeding is a known factor that reduces a woman's risk,” she said. “For example, I might have a risk of breast cancer of 1%, whereas a person who has a strong family history and who also smokes, which is a known risk factor for breast cancer, might have a 10% risk of breast cancer.”
A 30% risk increase for Duane might mean a risk of breast cancer rising from 1% to 1.3%, whereas another woman could see a risk increase from 10% to 13%.
While birth control proponents will argue that contraceptives are safer than pregnancy, Duane said that just because someone is not on birth control does not mean that she will be pregnant. Duane herself has been pregnant for 36 months out of 30 years in which she has not used birth control.
Kirstin Pirie, a researcher at the University of Oxford, was the lead author of the progestogen-only contraceptive study. She told CNN that excess risks must be seen in light of the “well-established benefits” of contraceptive use for women of reproductive age, including birth control and hormone regulation.
Duane objected to this description.
“Pregnancy is not a disease, and the purpose of birth control is to prevent pregnancy. So hormonal birth control is synthetic steroid hormones that are given to healthy women to essentially create a diseased state, to make them infertile,” she said. “It does not regulate hormones; to be very clear, it suppresses normal hormone production.”
“The World Health Organization [WHO] recognizes hormonal birth control, specifically combination hormonal birth control, as a class one carcinogen. It is in the same category of cancer risk as tobacco, and asbestos,” she said. “And yet, it is considered a preventive health service that should be provided for free, again, to prevent pregnancy, which itself is not a disease.”
WHO’s International Association for Research of Cancer on its website lists estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives as among 122 carcinogenic agents. It also notes “convincing evidence” that the drug has a “a protective effect against cancer in the endometrium and ovary.”
“Natural methods of family planning or fertility awareness-based methods can be used and can be used very effectively with effectiveness rates comparable to hormonal birth control. I think that’s really important,” Duane said. “The World Health Organization recognizes fertility awareness-based methods as the only form of family planning with no medical side effects.”
Catholic ethics rejects the use of contraceptives.
John F. Brehany, executive vice president of the National Catholic Bioethics Council, warned that Catholics should not adopt a “contraceptive mentality.”
“We should understand and respect the fertility of our bodies through the lens of faith — knowing that we are part of a created order designed by the God of love and life,” Brehany told CNA. “Life and sex are best approached within God’s plan (and using medicine and technology consistent with that plan), not as a series of risk mitigation calculations.”