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Vatican transfers task of Ecclesia Dei to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2019 / 06:02 am (CNA).- Pope Francis issued a motu proprio Saturday ending the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei and creating an office within the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to focus on doctrinal dialogue with traditionalist groups.

For over thirty years, the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei has “facilitated the full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, communities or individual religious linked to Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre’s fraternity, who wished to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church, preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions,” Pope Francis wrote in the apostolic letter published Jan. 19.

“The institutes and religious communities that usually celebrate in extraordinary form have found today their own stability of number and life,” the pope noted.

Pope Francis stated that the issues dealt with today by the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei are of  “a predominantly doctrinal nature,” and therefore the complete transfer of the pontifical commission’s task to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith is with the desire that “these aims become more and more evident to the conscience of the ecclesial communities.”

Established in 1988 by St. John Paul II in order to carry on a dialogue with traditionalist parties, Ecclesia Dei was reformed by Benedict XVI in 2009 with the instruction Universae Ecclesiae, linking the commission to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

The closing of Ecclesia Dei is the latest step in the pope’s wider project of reform of the Roman Curia. Administrative matters, including the pontifical commission's budget, will now be included in the ordinary accounts of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

The Ordinary Session of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith on November 15, 2017 requested that “the dialogue between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X be conducted directly” by their congregation, the apostolic letter explained.

In November 2018, Fr. Davide Pagliarani, the superior general of the SSPX, met with CDF Prefect Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer and Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei.

During the meeting “it was recalled that the fundamental problem is actually doctrinal … Because of this irreducible doctrinal divergence, for the past seven years no attempt to compose a draft of a doctrinal statement acceptable to both parties has succeeded. This is why the doctrinal question remains absolutely essential,” according to a SSPX statement.

The SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church after the Second Vatican Council. Its relations with the Holy See became particularly strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer consecrated four bishops without the permission of St. John Paul II.

The illicit episcopal consecrations resulted in the excommunication of the bishops involved. The excommunications of the surviving bishops were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI, and since then negotiations “to rediscover full communion with the Church” have continued between the SSPX and the Vatican.

There were indications in recent years of movement towards regularization of the priestly society, which has some 600 priest-members.

In March 2017, Pope Francis gave diocesan bishops or other local ordinaries the authorization to grant priests of the SSPX the ability to celebrate licitly and validly the marriages of the faithful who follow the Society's pastoral activity.

And in September 2015, the pope announced that the faithful would be able to validly and licitly receive absolution from priests of the SSPX during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This ability was later extended indefinitely by Francis in his 2016 apostolic letter Misericordia et misera.

Terror cannot be the seed of peace, Bogota cardinal says after car bomb

Bogotá, Colombia, Jan 19, 2019 / 06:01 am (ACI Prensa).- Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota said that terror can never be the seed of justice and peace, following Thursday's car bomb attack at a police academy in the Colombian capital.

The Jan. 17 attack which killed 21 has been attributed to the National Liberation Army (ELN), a left-wing guerilla group. Dozens more were injured, but most have been released from hospital.

“Death, violence and terror can never be the seed of justice and peace,” Cardinal Salazar said in a message posted on the Archdiocese of Bogota's Twitter account.

“We reject this and every attack that violates the dignity of persons and society,” he added. Cardinal Salazar also expressed his “solidarity with the nation, the police, the victims and their families, and we implore the Lord for forgiveness and peace.”

A vehicle carrying 175 pounds of pentolite, a military-grade explosive, accelerated into the General Santander police academy after being stopped at a checkpoint. The pentolite detonated when the SUV struck a wall. The academy was holding a promotion ceremony for cadets.

Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez reported that the vehicle's driver was José Aldemar Rojas Rodríguez, the ELN's top explosives expert, and that an accomplice had been arrested in Bogota.

Miguel Ceballos, High Commissioner for Peace, said the government will not dialogue with the ELN “until they hand over all the kidnapped people and completely renounce their criminal acts.”

Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega of Villavicencio, president of the Colombian bishops' conference, stated that “every act of violence engenders more violence, which is why we reiterate the call to continue to work for reconciliation in the country. We pray for the victims. We stand in solidarity with their families and the national police.”

“I ask you to not lose heart in working to overcome enmities and creating bridges that lead us to fraternity in the family and in the various social environments,” he added.

The Military diocese also offered prayers for the victims, their families, and the officer training school.

In a telegram to Cardinal Salazar from Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis expressed his “deep sorrow for the victims who lost their lives in such an inhuman act.”

On the scene of the blast, the president of Colombia, Ivan Duque, said that the attack was “not just against young people, or the police, but against all of society.”

He said that what happened “was a demented terrorist attack which will not go unpunished,” and that
“we will act with unbending determination.”

Car bombings were once not uncommon in the Colombian conflict, which has been ongoing among the government, right-wing paramilitaries, and left-wing guerillas since 1964.

The conflict has abated since a 2016 peace deal between the government and the largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Duque has not taken up peace talks with the ELN.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Appeals court rules in Texas' favor over effort to defund Planned Parenthood

New Orleans, La., Jan 18, 2019 / 06:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated Thursday a previous injunction barring Texas from stripping Planned Parenthood affiliates of Medicaid funding.

The injunction was based largely on undercover videos released by the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) during the summer of 2015 which show Planned Parenthood workers negotiating the sale of body parts from aborted children.

“The [Texas Office of Inspector General]...concluded, based on the videos, that [Planned Parenthood affiliates] at a minimum violated federal standards regarding fetal tissue research and standards of medical ethics by allowing doctors to alter abortion procedures to retrieve tissue for research purposes or allowing the researchers themselves to perform the procedures,” Circuit Judge Edith Jones wrote in the court’s Jan. 17 opinion.

Many media reports since 2015 have characterized CMP’s undercover videos as “deceptively” or “heavily” edited, undercutting their credibility.

“The district court stated, inaccurately, that the CMP video had not been authenticated and suggested that it may have been edited...In fact, the record reflects that OIG had submitted a report from a forensic firm concluding that the video was authentic and not deceptively edited,” Jones wrote. “And the plaintiffs did not identify any particular omission or addition in the video footage.”

In the videos in question, two individuals including journalist David Daleiden posed as representatives from a fetal tissue procurement company, and claimed to be interested in purchasing liver, thymus, and neural tissue from fetuses aborted during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Melissa Farrell, Research Director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, is shown in the videos discussing the possibility of a research partnership, providing a tour of her clinic’s surgical facilities, and displaying tissue samples from recently aborted fetuses, according to the court ruling.

An Aug. 2016 grant proposal attributed to George Soros’ Open Society Foundations indicated at least $7-$8 million would be spent in a campaign to counter the CMP videos and “transform the narrative, charging that the videos were doctored.”

Following the release of the videos, the Texas Office of the Inspector General (OIG) subsequently informed Planned Parenthood’s affiliates in October 2015 that they were “no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, and legal manner” and their funding would be terminated, and sent final notice of the decision during December 2016.

Planned Parenthood’s 30 affiliates in Texas currently receive $3.4 million in Medicaid funds.

The affiliates sued in federal court to block the termination of funding, and the district court granted an injunction for the plaintiffs in part because, in the February 2017 opinion of district judge Sam Sparks, the undercover videos had not been authenticated and appeared to have been edited.

The district court also discounted statements from Farrell because she claimed on the witness stand that she had no personal knowledge of the medical aspects of abortion procedures and “had never even been in the room when an abortion was performed.”

Jones affirmed that the state has the right to exclude a healthcare provider from Medicaid funds, and criticized the Planned Parenthood affiliates’ argument that the OIG has insufficient expertise to determine the qualifications of abortion providers.

“That the Chief Medical Officer is a surgeon – and not himself an abortion provider – does not mean that he deserves no deference when deciding whether a provider has failed to meet the medical and ethical standards the state requires,” Jones wrote.

“It is even odder to claim that federal judges, who have no experience in the regulations and ethics applicable to Medicaid or medical practice, much less in regard to harvesting fetal organs for research, should claim superior expertise.”

The case is now remanded to the district court for further review, which has been ordered to apply a different legal standard to determine the final outcome.

The Texas House of Representatives first passed a budget that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of its state funding in April 2017. Texas’ Inspector General had sought to strip the abortion provider of state funding because the videos “indicated noncompliance with accepted medical and ethical standards,” according to the lawsuit.

“Planned Parenthood’s reprehensible conduct, captured in undercover videos, proves that it is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, so we are confident we will ultimately prevail,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in a Jan. 17 statement.

Sister resigns from Detroit seminary after sex abuse allegations

Detroit, Mich., Jan 18, 2019 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit announced this week the resignation of Sr. Mary Finn, 84, a long-time faculty member and assistant professor of theology, after allegations surfaced that she had sexual contact with young adult novices under her charge in the 1970s.

“In recent days, information came to my attention regarding inappropriate conduct over fifty years ago by Sr. Mary Finn,” Msgr. Todd J. Lajiness, the rector and president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said in a statement published Wednesday.

“After a series of conversations with her, her superior, Archbishop Vigneron and members of the Archbishop’s team, I have accepted her resignation from the faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, effective today.”

In a story reported by Deadline Detroit, Theresa Camden, a former novice with the Home Visitors of Mary, recalled “confusing” experiences with Finn, then the novice director for the order, such as being made to lie very close to her on exclusive retreats.

Camden told Deadline Detroit that in hindsight, she knew something felt wrong. After Camden and another novice, who has remained anonymous, were suddenly kicked out of the order in 1972, they sought therapy for their experiences with Finn. The anonymous novice confirmed to Camden that she had had a sexual relationship with Finn.

Michael Betzold with Deadline Detroit reported that Finn’s resignation was announced by the seminary as his story on the allegations was being prepared.

In her resignation letter, posted to the seminary’s website, Finn admits to having “misused my position of authority as a director of novices in the Home Visitors of Mary (HVM) Order, engaging in inappropriate conduct with two adult novices. I regret that behavior, have repented of my actions, and sincerely apologize for the harm I have caused.”

The Home Visitors of Mary hung up the phone when CNA attempted to contact the order about Finn. Subsequent attempts to contact the order went unanswered.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, chairman of the board of trustees at Sacred Heart, was quoted in the seminary statement supporting Finn’s resignation, citing “additional information and what we have come to learn about how best to respond to these situations.”

He said that “While serving as rector of Sacred Heart in the late 1990s, I was given partial details about Sr. Mary's inappropriate conduct that had occurred in the early 1970s. At the time, I thought the matter had been resolved. I regret this was not the case.”

In a Jan. 18 statement, Archbishop Vigneron went on to say: “It is only in recent days that I have come to know new and additional details and context regarding Sr. Mary's misconduct. Based on this information, the current rector, Msgr. Lajiness, accepted Sister Finn's resignation and I endorse this action.”

In 1969, three years before Camden and the other novice were expelled from Finn’s order, Finn began working at Sacred Heart Seminary, where she has served in various positions ever since.

Most recently, Finn was an assistant professor of theology and served on the Priestly Formation Team for the College of Liberal Arts, among other roles, according to a cached website of her seminary page, which had been removed from the school’s website by Friday, Jan. 18.

Edward Mischel, director of community psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, was in the seminary at Sacred Heart about 10 years after Finn started there, in the late 1970s.

Mischel, who completed four years of college at the seminary before discerning that he was not called to the priesthood, told CNA that he chose Finn for his spiritual director and remembers her fondly. They still maintain contact to this day.

“She’s been this quiet, spiritual, loving, easy-going person,” Mischel told CNA. “The guys in the seminary, they adore her.”

News of the allegations of sexual misconduct in the early 1970s was “disheartening,” Mischel said, but he rejected any insinuations that Finn “was dominant or in this old boy’s club, that’s like the antithesis of her. I’ve never seen that in the 30, 40 years I’ve known her, nothing like that at all.”

Mischel said he knows Finn to be a staunch advocate for the people of Detroit, and a very kind and forgiving person.

When asked if he had any concerns that she was placed in charge of young seminarians, after having been accused of sexual misconduct with young women, Mischel said he was not concerned, because he had seen “nothing like that at all” by Finn against the seminarians.

But not all former seminarians of Sacred Heart remember Finn as fondly, and the news of her resignation and the allegations against her as a novice master have also raised serious questions and concerns about her conduct at the seminary.

Two former seminarians at Sacred Heart seminary have told CNA that Finn had a reputation for being overly “handsy” with seminarians - extended hugs, smooches, squeezes and generally unwanted contact were to be expected from Finn.

“In legal terms, it was unwelcomed touching. But if a seminarian reported it, they became a problem,” one former seminarian, who asked for anonymity, told CNA.

Another former seminarian, who also asked for anonymity, told CNA that Finn had become such a “fixture” of the seminary and was so well-liked and considered so holy that she became “untouchable” - any complaints against her were promptly dismissed.

This same seminarian told CNA that Finn was always “touching people,” and while he doesn’t know of any explicitly sexual touching, he said her behavior was “grossly inappropriate.” He recalled on instance where Finn almost pushed a seminarian over a balcony, only to pull him back at the last second, as a joke. When the seminarian turned to throw a punch, assuming it had been a fellow seminarian, he instead saw Sr. Mary.

“She had no sense of boundaries,” the former seminarian said. Her meetings would often run late, and seminarians were expected to listen to her for hours, in what felt like “indoctrination lectures,” he said.

In another example of boundary violation, both former seminarians told CNA separately that Finn was known for wandering the residence wing of the seminary late at night unannounced, and would often walk past seminarians who were in their towels or boxers, coming to and from the communal showers.

One time, Finn wandered in on a priest in the shower, but that issue was “promptly addressed,” one of the former seminarians said.

At some point after the late 1970s, Finn had been moved from her community to live at the seminary. While she would wander the wing belonging to the seminarians, her room was in the faculty wing.

Mischel told CNA that Finn was still living with her community during his time at Sacred Heart. He said he suspects she may have been moved to the seminary due to health problems - she eventually developed Parkinson’s disease, which may have made it difficult for her to drive.

Mischel said he had never had any experience of Finn intentionally walking past half-dressed seminarians, and said he wondered whether it could have been a sign that Finn was entering stages of dementia.

One of the former seminarians who spoke to CNA also said Finn seemed to be “detached from reality” at times, and had difficulty remembering dates. Both of the anonymous former seminarians included in this article were at Sacred Heart in the early and mid-2000s.

When asked why Finn had been moved from her community to live at the seminary, Mary Henige, Strategic Communications Director for Sacred Heart Major Seminary, told CNA that “We do not know when and why Sr. Mary Finn moved to the seminary.”

Both former seminarians also told CNA that Finn’s theology was “unsound.” Part of her theology classes, they said, included “feelings lists” where seminarians were asked to recall an experience from their lives and describe their feelings. The lists, provided by Finn, included “feeling words” such as “sexy”, “hot,” or “horny”, they recalled.

One of the former seminarians told CNA that multiple men had attempted to register complaints against Finn’s conduct, but they were ignored because of the reputation she enjoyed. Many of the faculty at Sacred Heart had been formed by Finn during their time in seminary, and believed her to be saintly. He said at one point, he had heard a faculty member refer to Finn as the “Holy Spirit Incarnate.”

He said on the one hand, she did seem to have a genuine love and concern for people. She saw Christ in people in a way that was “beautiful,” he said.

But she acted like she “was everyone’s mom, but she wasn’t and she’s not,” he said. “There were clear boundary issues. She was very emotionally manipulative of people, very passive aggressive.”

“She had a cult-following, so this is devastating to a lot of people,” he added.

When CNA asked the archdiocese about these claims about Finn’s conduct at Sacred Heart seminary, the archdiocese referred all questions to Sacred Heart.

When asked whether the faculty at Sacred Heart were aware of Finn’s alleged reputation for unwanted touching, inappropriate contact or for allegedly wandering by seminarians in towels, Henige told CNA that “We’re not going to respond to character allegations, nor would that be our role. Sr. Mary’s resignation letter outlines the reasons why she resigned.”

 

Knights on parade: With the Knights of Columbus at the March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- Their activism has sparked controversy in recent months, after a U.S. senator called the Knights of Columbus and their pro-life work “extreme.” But the Knights of Columbus say their work in the pro-life movement is a part of their Catholic identity, and that they’re proud of their long-standing involvement in the annual March for Life  

In fact, according to Supreme Knight and CEO Carl A. Anderson, when the March for Life began in the early 1970s, the Knights of Columbus was one of the first groups to lend a hand.

Anderson told CNA that the Knights now play a part in “just about everything that needs to be done” on the days leading up to, and during, the march.

CNA spent the 2019 March for Life getting a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the Knights of Columbus during the nation’s largest annual pro-life gathering.

Standing guard

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic Church in North America; it was designed to hold about 10,000 people. The night before the March for Life there were at least that number present for the National Prayer Vigil for Life. People filled the pews, and nearly every space around them in the aisles.

At 5:30 p.m., a procession of priests, bishops, and cardinals entered the basilica. When they did, Knights of Columbus from 19 different local councils were among the volunteers serving as ushers to help keep the crowd in order.

One of those ushers was Alec McGuire, a sophomore at the Catholic University of America.

McGuire told CNA that joined the Knights of Columbus because his grandfather was a Knight. At Catholic University, the Knights of Columbus is one of the largest student groups on campus. On Thursday, it was his job to “make sure people are where they're supposed to be."

Patrick McAleer is a field agent for the Knights of Columbus, selling the insurance policies the organization offers to its membership. He is also the chairman of the Shrine’s usher ministry. He’s been a Knight for 25 years.

For McAleer, volunteering at the Vigil Mass and other events is “a way to serve and be around so many young people who travel long distances to take part in the Mass and March.”

As an usher, McAleer said it is his job to “welcome to all our visitors to the Basilica, handle the congregation with care when we have to move people for the processional and recessional, as well as the most important duty: protecting the Blessed Sacrament, at communion time.”



‘An amazing group’

The day of the March for Life began bright and early at 7:30 a.m. for Tyler Lomnitzer, the Knights of Columbus’ program manager for pro-life activities. He spent the morning unloading signs for marchers from a U-Haul, and organizing the volunteers who would help disperse those signs.

“We successfully distributed 10,000 ‘Love Life, Choose Life’ Knights of Columbus signs,” Lomnitzer told CNA. In addition to signs, the Knights of Columbus distributed drawstring bags, fleece headbands, and beanies emblazoned with their logo.

Lomnitzer said he got involved in the Knights of Columbus when he was a freshman at CUA. When he was in school, he thought the Knights were “an amazing group of faithful and dedicated young men, helping one another grow in holiness.” Like McGuire, he too served as a volunteer at the Vigil Mass when he was in school.

“It left such an impression on me that I now oversee the pro-life activities of the Knights of Columbus on a global level,” said Lomnitzer.



On the March

Making sure that throngs of marchers begin and end the march in a safe and orderly way is a tough job, but one the Knights of Columbus have handled for years. Members of councils from around Virginia served as marshalls, and were present on street corners, around the front of the stage, and near the media and speaker areas.

Santiago Garcia, a Knight from Manassas, VA, has been in the Knights of Columbus for about two and a half years. He told CNA that he prayed to the Blessed Mother for her to “find something for me to do in the Church,” and then inquired about the Knights of Columbus. This is the second March for Life at which he has volunteered.

Garcia, along with Chris Sozio, an eight-year Knight but a first-time March for Life volunteer, was posted at the street corner by the Natural History Museum. The two worked to make sure that the sidewalks would stay open and free from loiterers before the march began, and then would walk ahead of the crowd of marchers to make sure nobody jumps ahead.



A long road

It is not unheard of for March for Life pilgrims to endure a several-hour bus journey to Washington for the march. John Moore, a Knight from Gallup, New Mexico, had by far the longest trip of all: he walked to Washington, DC from San Francisco, carrying a 20-pound wooden cross the entire way.

Moore, and his 26-year-old daughter Laura, stepped off from San Francisco on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2018. Laura drove ahead each day and provided assistance as needed, and they spent each night at hotels. She told CNA that her father spent years saving and planning the trip and was inspired by his first March for Life six years ago.

At 11:43 a.m. the morning of the March, their journey came to an end as they finally arrived at the National Mall, just in time for the start of the March for Life Rally.



Leading from the front

Carl A. Anderson, CEO and Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, has the most public role of any member of the Knights of Columbus at the March, including an address to the massive crowd during the March for Life rally.

Anderson pumped up the crowd, and announced that his organization had recently donated its thousandth ultrasound machine to a pregnancy clinic.

“Science is on your side, and so is the American public,” said Anderson. He told the crowd that an end to abortion is “not far off” and that one day the March for Life will become a “victory parade.”

“Together we will celebrate the victory of both faith and science--both compassion and common sense.”



Keeping the momentum going

The Knights’ work does not end with the March. Local Washington-area and Virginia councils clean up the mess left behind by marchers, while out-of-town Knights board busses, planes, and cars and travel back to their homes. Once home, they continue the pro-life and other charitable work that the Knights of Columbus have done for decades.

Last year, the Knights of Columbus made $187 million in charitable donations and served over 85 million hours of volunteer time.  

Anderson explained to CNA that in addition to the ultrasound initiative, the Knights of Columbus are also involved in the distribution of educational materials each October for the USCCB’s Respect Life Month. Local councils work with area pro-life groups and do fundraisers and volunteer hours.

"I would say just about everywhere the pro-life movement is active, Knights are involved," said Anderson.

The Knights of Columbus’ core principles are charity, fraternity, and unity.

Over two days, between taking care of marchers and worshipers, distributing warm clothes and cleaning up after the crowds, all while raising thousands of dollars to help women in crisis pregnancy situations, the Knights of Columbus offered a clear picture of their notion of a commitment to charity.

It may not be “extreme,” but it is extraordinary.



 

Photo credits, in order: Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus, Christine Rousselle / CNA, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus.

Amid curriculum controversy, Franciscan University president calls for unity

Steubenville, Ohio, Jan 18, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The president of Franciscan University of Steubenville said Monday that the university is committed to a faithful Catholic approach to university education, and he invited university administrators, faculty members, and others to renew with him an oath of fidelity to the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

“As some persons raise questions about what it currently means to be faithful to the magisterium- what it means to be orthodox- it is important to remember that Catholic identity should thoroughly pervade our teaching, our research, and all other activities pursuant to which this university advances her mission,” Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, said Jan. 14, in his homily at the university’s opening Mass for its spring semester.

“In recent months, critics of Franciscan University have accused us of compromising our Catholic mission and witness,” Sheridan said.

“Is anyone here perfect? No. Do people here make mistakes? Yes. But our particular Franciscan charism is rooted in ongoing conversion. That we resolve to continue to do better everyday.”

Sheridan’s comments seemed to refer to a recent public controversy over the university’s curriculum. On Jan. 8, the ChurchMilitant website drew attention to a book that had been taught by a university English professor in the previous academic year. The book, “The Kingdom,” by Emmanuel Carrère, included passages that ChurchMilitant described as blasphemous and pornographic.

Sheridan issued a letter Jan. 9 stating that while he believed “the professor’s intention in using this book in his class was not malicious, the book is scandalous and extremely offensive.” He said the book would not again be assigned at the university, and offered an apology to “Our Blessed Mother and Her Son, and to anyone who has been scandalized by this incident.”

Sheridan’s letter added that “Catholic education should prepare students to stand for the truth of the Catholic faith and to do battle against the blasphemy and heresy rife in our culture today. To do so, the must be equipped with a firm knowledge of Catholic Church teaching as well as a thorough understanding of the views and philosophies of their opponents.”

Announcing that he had directed administrators to “review and revise our existing policy on academic freedom to prevent future use of scandalous materials,” Sheridan also wrote that university professors “must walk the fine line between underpreparing their students for the mighty tasks ahead and overexposing them to material that may cause them spiritual harm.”

The professor, Stephen Lewis, was subsequently replaced as chairman of the university’s English department.

“The Kingdom” was the subject of a December 2018 review in the magazine First Things. As the controversy erupted, First Things senior editor Matthew Schmitz took to Twitter Jan. 14 to opine that: “Mobs are not well qualified to make decisions about literary quality or moral risk. In a more civilized age we allowed popes to compile the Index, instead of giving the job to bloggers.”

In a Jan. 18 essay published by First Things, Lewis wrote that he had assigned the book “in an upper-level course to students whose maturity and intellectual preparation I knew well.”

“Our class read the entire text, focusing not on a few lurid passages but on its appropriation of Renan’s method and its related atheistic concept of witness, so as to understand the superiority of Christian methods and concepts. The aim was not to shock, but to edify. I share the revulsion Catholics rightly feel toward lewdness and blasphemy, but in the end I decided that my students could benefit by reading this text.”

While “certain websites have taken a handful of obscene passages from the book and presented them to the public in a manner intended to shock and scandalize,” Lewis wrote, “the book provided my students with both insights into and questions about the meaning of the collapse of faith for contemporary men and women, from the standpoint of both believers and unbelievers.”

“Discussion of the book ... helped the students to understand more deeply what it means when we Catholics affirm that Jesus Christ cannot be known outside the Church. The Church, as the ongoing presence of Christ among us, is the only way by which we gain knowledge of him,” the professor wrote.

Each of the five students in the class “has claimed to have grown in faith by reading the work, despite its ugly aspects,” Lewis stated. “One has even stated that she feels her current work as a missionary has been made more effective because she frequently encounters people who display features of Carrère’s mindset.”

Sheridan’s homily said that the controversy “has been a serious disruption to our unity. We have stopped trusting one another. And it pulling us apart as a university.”

“With the help of our shared governance council in the next few weeks, I will be working to set up an ongoing commitment to our fidelity and freedom, to advance higher education within our entire faithful, orthodox Catholic university,” Sheridan announced.

That project, he said, “will help to restore that break in our unity.”

Sheridan added that he would be consulting with the leaders of other Catholic universities and Catholics involved in higher education, as well as those connected for Franciscan University, and drawing on the scholarship presented at a university symposium on Ex corde ecclesiae, the 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities. Sheridan, a canon lawyer, wrote a doctoral dissertation on the document.

“It is the responsibility of everyone who belongs to the university family to advance the university’s Catholic identity. It is the responsibility of all of us to strive for unity within this university that we all love.”

In recent months, the university has also faced criticism amid 2018 reports that administrators have improperly addressed allegations of sexual assault, abuse, or misconduct. In response to those reports, Sheridan announced in August 2018 an independent review of university records by a law firm “specializing in Title IX compliance and sexual abuse and violence.”

A report from the firm will reportedly be delivered to the university’s board of trustees this month; university administrators have not announced whether it will be subsequently released publicly.

Sheridan’s homily encouraged a period of rebuilding.

“These days demand courageous Catholics who will stand up for our faith to go forth and rebuild. Our Church, our world, needs people who are willing to stand for truth,” he said.

Sheridan concluded his homily by inviting all members of the university community to join him in renewing the profession of faith and oath of fidelity he had taken upon assuming the university’s presidency in 2013. Members of the university’s theology and philosophy faculties already take the oath annually.

“God has entrusted his university to us to lead and guide,” Sheridan told university faculty members and administrators.

“May we always be courageous Catholics, empowered to fight together, for the fidelity of this university, and the work that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has entrusted to us.”

 

'Every life is worth protecting,' President Trump, VP Pence tell March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- The March for Life again gathered myriad pro-life advocates to mark the anniversary of legalized abortion in America, and in a surprise appearance Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence introduced a pre-recorded message from President Donald Trump.

“This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life,” President Trump said in a pre-recorded message to the massive Jan. 18 rally, before the crowd began its march through the streets of Washington, D.C.
 
“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child we see the beauty of the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation, we know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting.”
 
“I will always protect the first right in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life,” he said.

Trump touted his administration’s new expansion of the Mexico City Policy, which restricts funds for international organizations that promote or perform abortions. He promoted his administration’s actions to protect religious freedom for medical professionals and religious charities, as well as support for adoption and foster care. Among new proposals are limits barring Title X funds for clinics that perform abortions; and making permanent the Hyde Amendment budget restrictions on abortion funding.

Trump is something of an unlikely ally for the pro-life movement. Before he launched his successful 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had a record of pro-abortion rights statements. That record, his personal character and other actions have drawn criticism and concern from some pro-life leaders. His presidency continues to be one of the most controversial in recent history, with his anti-immigrant crackdowns and rhetoric becoming major concerns for Catholic bishops.

For the 2018 March for Life, Trump had given a special live address to the March for Life rally from the White House Rose Garden.

This year, following the Republicans’ loss of control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections, Trump pledged to veto any legislation that would undermine “protection for human life.”

“Every child is a sacred gift from God,” he said. “Each person is unique from day one. That’s a very important phrase. Unique from day one. And so true… Together we will work to save the lives of unborn children.”

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence appeared in person to introduce the president and to give their own remarks.

“We gather here because we stand for life,” the vice president said. “We gather here because we stand for compassion. We gather here because we believe as our founders did because we believe all of us, born and unborn, are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights and first among these rights is the right to life.”

Pence said that the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “turned its back on that right,” but that decision gave birth to “a movement born by compassion and love a movement animated by faith and truth, a movement that’s been winning hearts and minds every day since.”

Because of those gathered here, he said, “we know in our hearts that life is winning once again.”

Pence praised and thanked pregnancy center volunteers, adoptive families, and “courageous men and women who step forward to serve in public office” in the U.S. capitol and state legislatures. He urged pro-life advocates to “stand strong” and give reasons for their hope “with gentleness and respect.”

“They will attack you, they will question your hearts to silence others but don’t listen to them. Listen to the truth,” he said. He told marchers that God will not forsake them and they do not stand alone.

“Know that you have an unwavering ally in this vice president and this family. And you have a champion in the President of the United States, President Donald Trump.”

Pence similarly touted Trump administrative actions, saying Trump “kept his promise” on judicial nominees and signed legislation allowing states to defund abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

Karen Pence thanked marchers for “standing in the cold for something that you believe in.”

“Thank you for your stories of courage. Thank you for your stories of regret and forgiveness and starting over,” she said. “Thank you for your stories of hope. Thank you for your stories of inspiration. Thank you for your stories of truth.”

Other elected officials spoke at the event, among them U.S. Rep. Chris Smith R-N.J., a co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, announced the launch of what he said was “the first-ever pro-life caucus in the U.S. Senate.” This caucus, he said, “will allow us to accelerate the momentum of the past few years in promoting and protecting life.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., another co-chair of the House’s pro-life caucus, addressed the event. Lipinski is regarded as a leader among pro-life Democrats. In a tight 2018 primary election, he defeated a strong challenger who was pro-abortion rights.

“We don’t agree on everything We’ve got Republicans, Democrats, independents,” he said. “We all agree on one thing: every life is sacred. It needs to be protected. No one is expendable. Our highest priority has to defend life from the first moment. Everyone is unique from day one.”

“We will never ever give up,” said Lipinski. “Together we’ll march until one day life, especially the most vulnerable, are protected.”

Louisiana State Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, claimed Louisiana was the most pro-life state.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, black or white, we fight for life,” she told the crowd. “When people ask me ‘Why are you a black female Democrat fighting for life?’ I say ‘Because I’m a Christian first’,” Jackson said.

Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of a popular conservative podcast, faulted the Democratic Party’s strong pro-abortion rights stand, but also challenged Republican legislators’ failure to defund Planned Parenthood.

He depicted abortion as a betrayal of American efforts to secure “the promise of God-given rights, chief among them the rights to life and liberty.”

“We decided that we could safely blot out millions of souls who could not protect themselves,” he said. “We lied to ourselves, and then we built walls around that lie,” Shapiro continued, criticizing “anti-scientific arguments” about life’s origins and “euphemisms” like “termination of pregnancy, abortion, choice.”

“We stand between America and the darkness, and we will march until that darkness is banished forever and all our children can stand in the sunlight,” he told the marchers.
 
A video sponsored by the Knights of Columbus showed the pro-life work of the Catholic men’s organization, including its ultrasound machine donation program. Its head, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, spoke to the rally and cited a Knights-sponsored poll showing strong support for “substantial restrictions” on abortion and policies to “protect mother and child before birth.”

He also asked eligible men to join the Knights of Columbus, which has about 1.9 million members worldwide. The group’s many friends and allies spoke out after a controversial December Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which two Democratic senators had questioned a judicial nominee’s membership in the Knights due to their views on abortion rights and marriage.

Dr. Kathi Aultman, a former abortionist and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reflected on her journey away from performing abortions.

“If it was wanted, it was a baby. If it wasn’t wanted, it was a fetus,” she said.

While qualms about abortions arose during her neonatal rotation, when she tried to save babies the same gestational age as those she was abortion, only the birth of her daughter made her stop performing abortions.

After realizing that women who kept their babies did better compared to those who had sought abortions, and watching nearly aborted children in her church grow up instead, her views began to change further. Caring family and friends brought her fully to the pro-life cause.

The event emcee Jeanne Mancini said the country was “forever changed” by Roe v. Wade.

“Since that time, we have tragically lost over 60 million American children, little girls and little boys, to abortion. And many mothers and fathers regret having been involved in abortion,” she said.

“We’re marching to end the human rights abuse of our time, abortion,” Mancini told marchers. “That’s why we march. And that’s why you are so urgently needed.”

She encouraged marchers to share their story on social media, using the hashtag #WhyWeMarch.

Dr. Alveda King, a niece of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the closing prayer.
 

 

Pope Francis tells Christians to share their gifts with each other

Rome, Italy, Jan 18, 2019 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The path to Christian unity takes a willingness to acknowledge and share in the gifts other Christian communities have also received, Pope Francis said at an ecumenical Vespers service Friday.

To take the first step toward unity requires humble recognition of the fact that the blessings Catholics and other Christians have received do not belong to them by “right,” but are a gift meant to be shared with others, he said Jan. 18.

“Then, we must acknowledge the value of the grace granted to other Christian communities,” he continued. “As a result, we will want to partake of the gifts of others. A Christian people renewed and enriched by this exchange of gifts will be a people capable of journeying firmly and confidently on the path that leads to unity.”

Held at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the service marked the beginning of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the week’s theme, “Seek to be truly just,” inspired by the line from Deuteronomy which says: “Justice, justice alone shall you pursue, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord, your God, is giving you.”

One of the grave injustices of today, he said, is the vast disparity in wealth which exists in many countries around the world.

“When society is no longer based on the principle of solidarity and the common good, we witness the scandal of people living in utter destitution amid skyscrapers, grand hotels and luxurious shopping centers,” he said. “We have forgotten the wisdom of the Mosaic law: if wealth is not shared, society is divided.”

He pointed out that in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the same idea is applied to the Christian community: “those who are strong must bear with the weak.”

“Following Christ’s example, we are to make every effort to build up those who are weak. Solidarity and shared responsibility must be the laws that govern the Christian family,” Francis urged.

He also reminded Christians that it is a “grave sin to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given our brothers and sisters, and to think that God somehow holds them in less esteem.”

“When we entertain such thoughts, we allow the very grace we have received to become a source of pride, injustice and division. And how can we then enter the promised kingdom?” he asked.

“It is easy to forget the fundamental equality existing among us,” he said, “that once we were all slaves to sin, that the Lord saved us in baptism and called us his children. It is easy to think that the spiritual grace granted us is our property, something to which we are due.”

“The gifts we have received from God can also blind us to the gifts given to other Christians,” he noted.

The Vespers was attended by representatives of various Churches and ecclesial communities, including the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, and students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Finland. Members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were also present.

Senate fails to advance bill to ban federal abortion funding

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 10:56 am (CNA).- In a procedural vote on Thursday, the Republican-led U.S. Senate failed to advance a bill that would prohibit taxpayer funding for abortions.

The Jan. 17 vote to invoke cloture and end debate on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2019 (S.109) need 60 supporters. Only 48 senators, including two Democrats, voted in favor of cloture, with 47 legislators voting against it.

There are 53 Republican senators in the 116th Congress. Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the measure, while Democratic Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted in favor of bring the bill to a vote.

Shortly after the bill failed to advance, Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the pro-life SBA List, praised the vote itself, saying, “Today’s vote sends a strong signal that Leader McConnell and the pro-life Senate majority will be a ‘brick wall’ against pro-abortion House Democrats’ extreme agenda, which includes forcing taxpayers to pay for abortion on demand by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

“We are grateful to our Senate allies for standing with the majority of Americans who oppose taxpayer funding of abortion,” she added.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing federal policy prohibiting tax dollars from paying for elective abortions. The Hyde Amendment, introduced in 1976 by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), is not a law, but rather has been passed as a rider to budget legislation every year.

The act would also have barred federal subsidies from being used to purchase insurance plans which include abortion coverage and ensure full disclosure of the extent to which insurance plans on Affordable Care Act exchange fund abortion.

The bill, which has the support of the White House, was sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

“As thousands gather in our nation’s capital this week to March for Life, it is well past time Congress passed a comprehensive solution to the patchwork of regulations prohibiting federal funding for abortion services,” Wicker said, according to Politico. “Our legislation would create a permanent, government-wide prohibition on abortion funding so that not one taxpayer dollar goes toward the destruction of innocent human life.”

The Hyde Amendment enjoyed decades of bipartisan support, but in recent years the Democratic party has called for its repeal.

Also on Thursday, three Congressmen introduced an analogous bill in the House of Representatives.

Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Andy Harris (R-MD) introduced HR 20 to the lower chamber, which is controlled by the Democratic party.

“The Hyde Amendment has saved at least two million lives: because public funds were unavailable to effectuate their violent demise, these individuals survived, and their mothers benefited from prenatal health care and support,” said Smith. “Two million survivors have had the opportunity to live and enjoy the first and most basic of all human rights – the right to life. It’s time to make the Hyde Amendment permanent law.”

Lipinski said the bill “would finally make sure the Hyde protections are placed in law. This is long overdue.”

An identical bill passed the House each of the last three years.

'You are renewing American society' nuncio tells Mass for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Young pro-life marchers are charged with renewing American society. This was the message apostolic nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre delivered to a packed arena Friday morning ahead of the March for Life in Washington, DC.

 

Addressing the assembly before beginning the Mass at which he was the principle celebrant, the pope’s personal representative in the United States thanked those present “for the witness of your Catholic faith both now at Holy Mass, later on in the streets of Washington, and even more importantly when you return home.”

 

“Know that you are making a solid contribution to the renewal of American society,” he said.

 

“For the future of this vast country lies in the hands of young people like yourselves who believe that it has been created as one nation under God, and no human authority has the right to challenge the law of God.”

 

More than 18,000 pro-life marchers filled the Capital One Arena in downtown Washington January 18 for the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life. Lines had already formed by the time the doors to the area opened at 6:15 am.

 

The yearly event, organized by the Archdiocese of Washington, begins a day centered around the March for Life.

 

The rally began with more than two hours of speakers and devotional music, in English and Spanish. Bus-loads of groups from parishes, schools, and colleges from around the country sat in different sections, with many groups wearing matching hats and sweatshirts.

 

The arena, normally home to the Washington Capitals and Wizards sports teams, appeared full. As a religious sister called out from the stage to groups from states like Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, and Nebraska, cheering and crowd waves broke out, with the atmosphere more resembling a playoff game than an early morning prayer meeting.

 

Throughout the rally portion of the morning, long lines formed in the halls of the upper deck of the arena, where priests offered confession to the thousands of arrivals.

 

While the crowd was dotted with many priests, religious brothers and sisters, parents and teachers, the clear majority of the crowd were young people under 30 years old.

 

At 9am, the atmosphere shifted to devotional with the recitation of the rosary.

 

Mass began at 9:20, led by Archbishop Pierre, with Washington auxiliaries Bishop Mario Dorsonville and Bishop Roy Campbell representing the archdiocese. Among the other bishops present were U.S. bishops’ conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney, Australia, who was greeted by some in the crowd waving inflatable kangaroos.

 

During his words of welcome, Pierre delivered a message from Pope Francis to the crowd-turned–congregation.

 

“His Holiness is deeply grateful for this outstanding witness to the right to life of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our human family,” Pierre read.

 

The pope wrote that upholding the inviolable dignity of human life and ensuring its protection in law was the challenge of every generation “and especially the young.”

 

“Respect for the sacredness of every human life is fundamental to the building of a truly good, just, and free society in which each person is valued and welcomed as a brother or sister,” the pope’s message continued.

 

The crowds emptied onto the streets of Washington after Mass, heading towards their assembly points for this afternoon’s march. As they made their way out of the arena, one religious priest was overheard encouraging the group he was leading.

 

“Today is about bringing life to people – we’ve been to confession and received Christ in the sacrament, that is the most life we can receive. Let’s bring life to someone else today.”