Tuesday, February 21, 2017

February - Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Almighty and beneficent God! who didst impose upon our mother Eve, in punishment for her sin, that she should give birth to her children in pain:

I offer to Thee all the pains which I have thus suffered in atonement for my sins, and thank Thee, that I have safely brought a child into the world, whom I now offer to Thee, according to the example of the Mother of Thine only-begotten Son, for Thy holy service, whom I shall zealously endeavor to educate for Thy honor.

Give me but this grace through the intercession and merits of this most blessed Mother.

Bless me and my child, and grant, that we may here live in accordance with Thy divine will, and receive eternal salvation.

Through Christ, our Lord.


More essential than ever for Catholic hospitals to maintain distinct identity: Cardinal Burke

Image result for cardinal raymond burkeCatholic health-care institutions are needed today more than ever, Cardinal Raymond Burke told a conference on Catholic hospitals in Ohio last week.

“Our country suffers the scourge of an attack on the dignity of human life,” the cardinal said. 

He pointed to the increased acceptance of abortion, euthanasia, and “the pervasive view of the human body as a tool to be used for achieving maximum personal convenience and pleasure.” 

To counteract these influences, he said, it is essential for Catholic institutions to maintain their religious identity and their ethical principles. 

Among the dangers facing Catholic institutions, Cardinal Burke said, is the reliance on “financial support and assistance which is given under conditions which obscure of even betray the Christian identity of the Catholic health-care institution.”

South Sudan: bishop demands justice after nun’s murder

Nine months after a Slovak missionary nun was slain in South Sudan, a bishop has demanded information from the government.

“We demand [for] justice,” said Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Yei , according to the Fides news agency. 

“The investigation on her murder had been started by the government, but after making few arrests the government went quiet.”

Syrian Orthodox bishops assail Patriarch for reverencing Qu’ran

Image result for Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem IISix bishops of the Syrian Orthodox Church have accused their Patriarch Ignatius Ephem II of “betrayal of the faith,” after the Patriarch made a gesture of respect for the Qu’ran and referred to “the prophet Mohammed.” 

During a meeting with Muslim leaders, the Syrian Patriarch raised the Qu’ran in an indication of reverence. 

That gesture outraged some Syrian prelates, whose protests were acknowledged by the Patriarch as a “serious internal problem” for his Orthodox community.

The Patriarch defended his expressions of respect for Islam. “Christ loves everyone, and calls us to be peacemakers with everyone,” he explained.

Cardinal suggests joint commission to study historical Catholic-Orthodox disputes in Ukraine

Image result for pontifical council for christian unityThe president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity has suggested the creation of a joint commission to resolve historical disputes between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Cardinal Kurt Koch said that such a commission might help with the “purification of memory” that could ease tensions between the two Ukrainian churches. “Without memory healing, it is difficult to imagine a common future,” he said.

Cardinal Koch offered this suggestion at a meeting of Catholic and Russian Orthodox leaders, marking the anniversary of the meeting between Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, which took place last year in Havana.

Russian Orthodox leaders complain frequently about the activities of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which they regard as a source of division in Ukraine and a violation of their “canonical territory.” 

There are also many disputes about the ownership of church properties, which were confiscated from the Ukrainian Catholic Church during the Stalinist era and handed over to Orthodox parishes.

Vatican worried by populism, nationalism, Secretary of State says

Image result for cardinal pietro parolinCardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, said that “all the issues that Italy and the Holy See hold dear were tackled” during bilateral talks this week, marking the anniversary of the Lateran Accords that established the status of the Vatican city-state.

Cardinal Parolin said that he expressed the concern of the Catholic Church about pending Italian legislation on end-of-life care. 

More generally, he said that the Vatican took a keen interest in “social emergencies” such as youth unemployment and migration.

Speaking generally about European affairs, the cardinal told reporters that the Vatican is worried by the trends toward nationalism and populism. “The inability to welcome and integrate can be dangerous,” he said, saying that it is “never a good policy.” 

He recognized the tensions within the European community, and suggested that they may point to “an opportune moment to reset the political relationship on a new basis.”

Australia's oldest online petition starter takes on Catholic church over daughter's rape, suicide

A 92-year-old widow taking on the Catholic church over her daughter’s alleged rape and sexual abuse now has an army of almost 50,000 supporters behind her.
 Stephanie Piper was allegedly rape and abused by Melbourne Catholic Priest Gerard Mulvale.Stephanie Piper was allegedly rape and abused by Melbourne Catholic Priest Gerard Mulvale.Stephanie Piper was allegedly rape and abused by Melbourne Catholic Priest Gerard Mulvale.
Eileen Piper’s daughter Stephanie tragically took her own life 23 years ago, one year after police charged disgraced priest Gerard Mulvale over her alleged rape.

Mulvale and the Catholic Church have denied knowing about Stephanie’s sexual abuse, but Mulvale was later convicted of sex crimes against two boys in her friendship circle and sentenced to three years’ jail.

“They’ve been brutal and heartless,” Ms Piper said of the church. “They’re hoping I’ll die so that they don’t have to deal with me anymore or pay me proper compensation for the heinous sexual abuse to Stephanie.”

Determined to get justice for her only daughter, Ms Piper started a Change.org petition, becoming Australia’s oldest online petition starter.

The petition is now just 1000 signatures off its target of 50,000.

Ms Piper said her daughter had told her how Mulvale allegedly threw her in the boot of his car and raped her.

“He locked her in the boot of his car, drove her down a dirt road and brutally raped her,” she wrote in her petition.

“She described it as “being torn apart internally”. That image still haunts me.”

In a video message, Ms Piper said she would never give up fighting for justice for Stephanie.

“Unless you apologise personally to me, recognising Stephanie’s horrific sexual assaults, the fact the church says it’s ‘changed’ is a lie and won’t be believed,” she said.

Venezuela Catholic Church Feels Backlash After Chiding Socialists

A woman walks into a church at the 23 de Enero neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 30, 2017. Clergy meddling in politics has recently reawakened a long-simmering church-state antagonism in the South American nation.On a recent Sunday morning, several hundred Catholic worshipers were at Mass inside a hillside church of a poor Caracas neighborhood when there was a sudden commotion at the back.

About 20 people barged in, mainly men with some wearing red shirts, to shout insults at the clergy like "Satan in a cassock!" and "Fascist!" witnesses said.

They also used the ruling Socialists' rallying cry, "Chavez lives!" in honor of late President Hugo Chavez.

"Some people were scared, obviously, but no one was hurt," recounted Luis Arias, 67, a catechism teacher at the San Pedro Claver church in the "23 De Enero" community, long an area of militant support for Venezuela's 18-year socialist government.

"They said 'because the priests have spoken about politics, we have the right too," added Arias, who was present throughout.

The leader of the group, who works at a nearby radio station, took the pulpit to give a political speech and denounce the local priest who had been publicizing church pronouncements critical of President Nicolas Maduro's government.

The San Pedro Claver fracas was the latest of half a dozen incidents in recent weeks, some violent, that have outraged Venezuela's Roman Catholic hierarchy and reawakened long-simmering church-state antagonism in the South American nation.

A month ago, government supporters protested against an archbishop, Antonio Lopez, at his home in Barquisimeto city after he gave a speech saying socialism had brought "misery."

Caracas' main cathedral was stoned in the middle of the night. 

And on the same day as the interruption at San Pedro Claver church in Caracas, January 29, police entered a church in Venezuela's second biggest city Maracaibo and interrupted the sermon - apparently to enforce traffic fines.

Also just before January 1, masked and rifle-wielding assailants entered a Trappist monastery in the Andean state of Merida, robbing and terrorizing monks.

Though that incident had the hallmarks of gang crime that has become commonplace across violent Venezuela, it came after thugs beat up and stripped naked some Catholic students in the same state earlier that year - leaving the church suspicious.

"This list, in my opinion, shows they are not isolated events," Archbishop Diego Padron, who heads the main church authority Venezuela's Episcopal Conference, told Reuters.

Enumerating the incidents one by one, Padron drew a parallel with the jailing of priests and hostility toward the church in 1958 near the end of Venezuelan dictator Marcos Perez' rule.

"There must be a line, an order, to intimidate the church, to lower its discourse, to be silent," the 77-year-old cleric added in an interview at the conference's headquarters on a hillside of west Caracas. "The government's retaliation against the declarations of the Conference is intimidation."

Though government officials have frequently spoken in public about the church, to chastise clergy for taking political stances, requests to discuss the specific recent incidents went unanswered. 

Members of the group who entered the San Pedro Claver church, contacted by Reuters, declined to comment.

‘Failed 21st century socialism?’

After numerous frays with Chavez during his 1999-2013 rule, the church has once again taken its gloves off, with a series of highly critical speeches and proclamations since late last year.

Despite its oil wealth, the OPEC nation of 30 million people is suffering an unprecedented economic collapse, with inflation the highest in the world, long lines at shops, and basic foodstuffs and medicines running scarce.

Venezuela's murder rate is one of the world's highest, and foes say the state has morphed into dictatorship by jailing protesters, sidelining congress, and dragging its feet on elections.

"We locate the root of such a tough crisis in the application of a failed political system they called '21st century socialism'," said Padron, referring to Chavez's radical revamp of Venezuela's economy and political system.

Venezuela is a deeply religious country, and politicians on all sides flaunt their faith. But senior officials say church leaders have long been in bed with the elite and wealthy, and are allying with the opposition to seek Maduro's downfall.

"They are part of the right wing. They should take their seat as a political party in the opposition," the Socialist Party's powerful No. 2 Diosdado Cabello scoffed recently.

Seeking to show that plenty of rank-and-file churchgoers were behind Maduro, despite church leaders' anti-socialist rhetoric, at one rally Cabello asked for a show of hands from those who both backed the government and were Catholics.

"Here are 'Chavista' Catholics too, not all Catholics are 'squalid'!" he said, using a pejorative term for opponents first coined by Chavez, who never forgave some in the Catholic hierarchy for endorsing a short-lived 2002 putsch against him.

Underlining the latest flare-up in enmities, another senior official this month accused the Church of seeking war, while a bishop alleged clergy's telephones were being tapped.

The Vatican did step into Venezuelan politics toward the end of last year, facilitating talks between the Maduro government and the opposition coalition. But the dialogue quickly collapsed amid incriminations between both sides.

Outside the San Pedro Claver church in "23 De Enero," a painted figure of St. Peter sits on a wall next to the slogan "We are with Chavez and Maduro."

Most worshipers there simply hope there will be no repeat of last month's scary incident, when the group disrupted Mass and also barricaded the road outside to block a procession.

"It's no secret the country is very needy at the moment and the Church is trying to tell the truth," said Samuel Gamboa, 21, who plays the guitar there. "But everyone needs to stay calm and handle all this in peace."

Philippine Catholic church abusers rarely prosecuted

Image result for Philippines: Sins of the FatherSexual misconduct in the Catholic church is a growing problem in the Philippines, an Al Jazeera investigation has revealed, and priests suspected of abuse are seldom prosecuted.

Oscar Cruz, a retired archbishop overseeing the investigation, told Al Jazeera's 101 East programme that in recent years more cases had come to the church's attention.
"Yes, yes, yes... [there are] more reports on paedophilia and homosexuality," Cruz said. "It is a heinous crime, you know. And a priest at that? Violating a minor? Come on!"

For centuries, the Catholic church has wielded considerable influence in the Philippines, with more than 80 percent of a 100 million-strong population following the faith. 
"If clerical abuse victims take on the most powerful institution in the Philippines, it is a David and Goliath battle," 101 East's Drew Ambrose, reporting from the capital Manila, said. 
In an interview with Al Jazeera, "Imelda" said she was sexually assaulted by a priest three years ago, when she was 15.
After she filed a police report, two members from her village church paid her $150 to drop the case, she alleged.
"At first, I didn’t really want to accept the money because I already knew it was from a priest, but they were so insistent that I take the money," she said.  
Jaime Achacoso, a lawyer and expert on the Catholic Church's canon law, said priests found guilty of sexual misconduct had not been removed from ministry.
"Oh yes, they weren’t, unfortunately. And the inadequate investigations in the past have festered, so things have not been solved," he told Al Jazeera. "Priests continue to be there."

'Scale of abuse' unknown

Merian Aldea, an outreach worker helping victims of abuse, said some of them had barely started school and were often terrified to speak out.

"The youngest is six. They are afraid they will be cursed or 'God' will curse them if they go against these people."
Observers say that is just one reason why the full scale of abuse by Filipino priests may never be known.
The Vatican and the Archbishops of Manila and Cebu refused to comment on the investigation.
Among the most high-profile accusations of abuse was one from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has repeatedly said the church hierarchy are "hypocrites".
Duterte said that, during his teenage years, he and other male classmates were molested by an American priest while attending a Jesuit school in his hometown of Davao.

"This religion is not so sacred," he was quoted as saying.
He also said he was too young and frightened to file a complaint against the priest, who was later linked to similar abuse after he returned to the United States.

You can watch the full 101 East film, Philippines: Sins of the Father, on aljazeera.com at any time after that. 

Australia : Church has paid out $276 million in abuse claims

Image result for Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual AbuseThe Catholic Church has paid more than $276 million in claims to thousands of victims of child sexual abuse, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard, ABC News reports.

Close to 4500 people made claims for alleged incidents of child sexual abuse between January 1980 and February 2015, but the earliest incidents reported to a claim were in the 1920s.

Counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness SC, told the Sydney hearing that figure included compensation, treatment, legal and other costs.

Of the total amount, $258.8 million was monetary compensation of about $91,000 per claim.
"The Christian Brothers who, at the relevant time operated a number of residential facilities, reported the highest number of payments," Ms Furness told the hearing.

"This order made 763 payments, amounting to $48.5 million, with an average payment of $64,000.

The Christian Brothers also issued a statement apologising to victims of abuse and their families.

"To those who were subjected to abuse at any of our facilities we express again our profound sorrow and enduring regret that their trust was so grievously betrayed," the statement said.

The hearing heard the most common institution type identified in claims was schools: they were identified in 46 per cent of all claims, and children's orphanages or residential facilities were identified in 29 per cent of claims.

The highest number of claims of child sexual abuse concerned a residential care facility operated by the De La Salle Brothers in Queensland, with 219 claims relating to the facility.

Earlier, Francis Sullivan from the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, told the hearing that things are very different now, and that parents should be aware that their children are in safe hands at Catholic schools.

Mr Sullivan said the Church's approach to handling redress claims has improved but victims are not consistently dealt with and do not have the same opportunities or payouts between dioceses and congregations, The Australian adds.

"It's still not a fair system," he said.