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Dioceses of Nashville, Jefferson City get new bishops

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis' appointment of Fr. Shawn McKnight as the next bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and Msgr. Mark Spalding as the new leader of the Diocese of Nashville.

In a Nov. 21 statement coinciding with the Vatican announcement, Fr. Michael Johnston, who until now has served as Apostolic Administrator for the Nashville diocese, voiced his gratitude to both Pope Francis for the appointment, and to Msgr. Spalding himself for his “generosity” in accepting the role.

Spalding, Johnston said, “is a man filled with enthusiasm and excitement” for his new responsibilities, and is someone who has “a strong work ethic, a deep love for the Lord and his people, and a great desire to lead and serve.”

“He has already expressed such a keen interest in learning about the Diocese of Nashville, in listening to our needs and our hopes and dreams, and then discerning the direction the Holy Spirit wishes to take us,” Johnston said. “With God’s gift to him of this spirit of service and willingness to lead us, we are truly blessed.”

Spalding, 52, who until now has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General and pastor of Holy Trinity parish and Holy Name parish, was born Jan. 13, 1965, in Lebanon, Ky.

After graduating from Bethlehem High School Bardstown, he entered St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and was ordained a priest Aug. 3, 1991, in the St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral of Bardstown.

Before his ordination, he studied from 1987-1991 at the American University in Louvain, Belgium, where he obtained a master degree in religious studies and a licentiate in canon law.  

Since then, he has served at a number of parish assignments, including associate pastor at St. Joseph and chaplain at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, associate pastor at St. Augustine in Lebanon, Ky., associate pastor at St. Margaret Mary in Louisville and pastor of Immaculate Conception in LaGrange.

Since 2011 he has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General. His ordination and installation as Bishop of Nashville will take place Feb. 2, 2018, at Sagrado Corazon in the Catholic Pastoral Center on McGavock Pike.

In his comments on Msgr. Spalding's appointment, Johnston said Louisville would be losing a “fine priest,” but offered his assurance that the bishop-elect would be “loved and cared for” as he begins his new role.

Fr. McKnight, who was born in Wichita, Kan. In 1968, got a degree in biochemistry from the University of Dallas before entering seminary in 1990.

He carried out his seminary studies at the Pontifical “Josephinum” College in Columbus, Ohio, and was ordained a priest May 28, 1994, for the Diocese of Wichita.

The bishop-elect then obtained a licentiate and doctorate degree in sacramental theology from the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome and published several articles on relevant pastoral and sacramental themes, finishing his studies in 2001.

After his ordination, he served the diocese in various pastoral, teaching and diocesan roles, the most recent being pastor of the Church of the Magdalen Parish in Wichita.

From 2000-2005, McKnight served as Director of diocesan Divine Worship and was a diocesan consultant and a member of the Presbyteral Council. From 2005-2010 he was a faculty member at Saint Meinrad Seminary working in the formation of permanent deacons.

After, from 2010-2015, the bishop-elect served as Executive Director of the USCCB's Office for Clergy and Consecrated Life. In 2015, he was assigned to the Church of the Magdalen parish, where he has served until now.

Tips from a local: What Cardinal Bo recommends for Pope’s visit to Burma

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:00 am (CNA).- To prepare for Pope Francis’ trip to Burma, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the first and sole Burmese cardinal in the Church’s history, met with the Pontiff in a private audience Nov. 18.  The cardinal offered the Pope three recommendations for his upcoming trip.
 
Cardinal Bo told CNA that “the meeting lasted about 30 minutes,” and that the Pope took each of his recommendations under consideration.
 
What did Cardinal Bo recommend?
 
First, he asked the Pope not to use the term “Rohingya” in speeches during the trip. Cardinal Bo explained that “the term is controversial.” In the Bengali language it means “a person who comes from the State of Rakhine”, though it is frequently suggested, and a matter of widespread controversy, that Rohingya are “a separate ethnic identity.”  

“Extremists are trying to mobilize a population by using the word Rohingya, thus generating the risk of a possible new interreligious conflict,” the cardinal explained.

The term “Rohingya” often refers to Muslims from in the Rakhine State of Burma, who are not granted citizenship under Burmese law, and thus are stateless. The United Nations estimated that 582,000 Rohingya have fled Burma for Bangladesh. Pope Francis has made a number of appeals for the protection of the Rohingya.

Cardinal Bo said that the correct term is “Muslims of the Rakhine State.” He added that there are other minorities in Burmese territory who are enduring persecution and conflicts, among them the Kachin, Kahn, and Shahn people.  He said these ethnic minorities also face displacement, but the “media are weak in telling their story.”
 
Cardinal Bo’s second recommendation was to include in the Pope’s schedule a meeting with General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces.  Burma functioned as a military dictatorship for more than 50 years, until democratic reforms taking root in 2011.

 Despite newly emerging signs of democratic reform in Burma, also called Myanmar, the military still wields considerable political authority, including the appointment of cabinet ministers, and one-quarter of the nation’s legislature.
 
Although the Pope’s agenda has no meeting scheduled with the general, Cardinal Bo thinks it is important that a meeting take place. “For sixty years,” he said, “the Church has had no dialogue with the Army, while now a relationship has started, and we hope that the dialogue will improve.”
 
Cardinal Bo stressed that “an official meeting between the Pope and the general” would raise some issues, but there could be “a discreet private meeting,” because “neglecting the government during this trip could bring more tensions in future.” Cardinal Bo said that the Pope “would advise the general to work for peace, and have a greater respect for Burmese ethnic minority groups.”
 
Finally, the Archbishop of Yangon offered the Pope the opportunity to include a meeting with some Burmese leaders who promote interreligious dialogue.
 
He told CNA that the group of leaders is composed of “about 15 people, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims (including Muslims of the Rakhine State) and Hindus.” Cardinal Bo suggested the Pope include a meeting with them before one of the Masses the Pope will celebrate in the country. He told the Pope that “the group for the interreligious dialogue cannot be set aside, because this group could give a great contribution to build peace in the country.”
 
All of these suggestions are part of the Church’s effort to bridge communities in Burma. Although Catholics represent just one percent of population, they have become a sort of reference point for the other religions based in Burma, the cardinal said.
 
The cardinal shared with CNA that “Pope’s speeches will touch many issues: the situation of the Muslims of the Rakhine State, but also that of other minorities who are suffering.”
 
He added that “the Pope will speak about the need to work for peace,” but he will also mention the “equal use of natural resources” and environmental issues.
 
Burma is very rich in natural resources, including oil, gas, minerals, precious stones and gems, as well as  timber and forest products. Despite that, about one-quarter of population lives below the poverty line. The exploitation of timber and forests make urgent the need to tackle environmental issues.
 
Burma’s complicated political situation led Cardinal Bo to ask Western world that “there are in fact two government in Myanmar, and the military one is very powerful. The west was very judgmental and strongly criticized Aung san Suu Kyi [a democratic reformer who has been criticized regarding certain human rights issues], but people who criticize don’t know what it means to dialogue with the military.”
 
Cardinal Bo said that “the west should better understand and back Aung San Suu Kyi, as she is trying to do her best to improve the collaboration between the government and military forces.”

English judge applauds man who stole drugs, killed suicidal father

London, England, Nov 21, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An English chemist charged with murder for the 2015 killing of his 85-year-old father, who wished to die, was freed on Friday by a judge who said, “Your acts of assistance were acts of pure compassion and mercy.”

Bipin Desai, 58, was also charged with assisted suicide and two counts of theft. Desai gave his father, Dhirajlal Desai, a smoothie laced with stolen morphine at his home in Surrey on Aug. 26, 2015. Desai soon after injected his father with insulin to speed the morphine's fatal action.

The judge ruled Nov. 17 that because Dhirajlal Desai wished to die, there was no basis for a murder conviction.

Dr. Anthony McCarthy of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children responded to the ruling asking, “Are we now to believe that the killing of an innocent and vulnerable human being who is 'tired of life'  is not to be regarded as any serious crime?”

Bipin Desai pleaded guilty to assisted suicide and the theft of the morphine and insulin from his employer. He was given a suspended nine-month jail sentence, and allowed to go free.

The judge, Justice Green, said that to convict Desai of murder would be “perverse and irrational … Your father had a solid and firm wish to die. For him, being assisted to die would be fulfilling his wish of going to heaven to see his wife and being put out of his misery.”

Green said the evidence “provides no support for the prosecution case, to the contrary it unequivocally supports the defence position that this is assisted suicide but not murder,” and that Desai had been “wrongfully accused of murder.”

According to Desai, his father had been asking to end his life after the 2003 death of his wife and the 2010 death of his dog. Desai's lawyer, Natasha Wong, said in court that “what we have is a man who wanted to die, not because he was terribly ill but, sadly, because he had just had enough of life.”

Though Desai also admitted to stealing the drugs used to kill his father, Green said that “the thefts are trivial and only form part of the fabric of the wider case. The owner of the pharmacy said in his evidence that you were an honest, respectful and decent man.”

“You are free to now go with your family and start the process of rebuilding your life,” he continued.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are both criminal offenses in England and Wales under the Suicide Act 1961, and are punishable by imprisonment.

A representative of the assisted suicide advocacy group Dignity in Dying said the case showed the need for “safe and compassionate” laws which decriminalized assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Peter Saunders of Care Not Killing responded that “This case underlines the need for better support for those caring for elderly and disabled relatives but does not mean the law should change.”

A bill to legalize assisted dying in England and Wales failed in Parliament in 2015 by a vote of 330-118.

The Suicide Act 1961 was challenged in High Court last month by a terminally ill man, Noel Conway, who wanted a doctor to be able to prescribe him a lethal dose. His case was dismissed.

In jurisdictions where assisted suicide or euthanasia are legal, the procedures usually require that the individual have a terminal illness and that the fatal drugs are prescribed by a doctor. In the handful of states in the U.S. which have legalized assisted suicide, the individual must have a terminal illness which would lead to death over the course of the next six months.

The Desai case could add to the growing list of assisted suicide abuses found around the world in which pressure is placed on individuals to kill themselves, or in which patients are held down against their wills during lethal injection.

Anthony McCarthy of SPUC said, “It is shocking that a High Court Judge in this country should speak with such approval of an adult son who 'sends his father to heaven'. Serious crimes can be 'well-motivated'  and indeed, mentally ill parents who kill their healthy children sometimes also talk of 'sending them to heaven'.”

“What now of any respect for laws and investigations which seek to protect the ineliminable value of all human lives, regardless of feelings of sadness and loss on the victim's part which may perhaps respond to loving care and professional help?”

'The good Lord has guided me well': 113-year-old nun reflects on blessings

Marseille, France, Nov 21, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At age 113, Sister André is one of the oldest religious sisters in the world.

According to French newspaper Le Parisien, Sister André is the oldest person in France. She told the newspaper that this “very much surprised me because I never even thought about it.”

Sister André, who is blind, currently resides in the Sainte-Catherine-Labouré retirement home for religious in Toulon, a city in southeast France near the Mediterranean.

She was born Lucille Randon on Feb. 11, 1904 in the town of Alès , about 140 miles northwest of Toulon.

The nun told the French daily La Croix that she grew up in a poor Protestant family. Her paternal grandfather was “a pastor, very strict. The services lasted forever and you had to follow the entire sermon without budging or falling asleep! So my parents no longer practiced their religion. But that troubled me.”

When she was 27, she converted to Catholicism. “I gradually progressed, following my Catholic faith,” she said.

During her youth, she worked as a teacher and governess for various families including the Peugeots, who founded and owned the French car manufacturer.

At age 40, she joined the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and took the name André in honor of her brother André, whom she said was like a parent to her.

After World War II began, the nun started working in a hospital in the town of Vichy in central France, taking care of the elderly and children.

“Some of them were orphans, some placed there by their parents because they were no longer able to feed them,” she recalled.

Sister André cared for children in that hospital for nearly 30 years, and said that “some of them have looked me up and still come to see me.”

In 2009, the nun moved into the Sainte-Catherine-Labouré retirement home in Toulon.

“I am really fortunate to be here, because I'm very well cared for here,” she said. “That's very reassuring at my age.”

“When my brothers died when I was 70, I thought that it would be my turn soon,” she said. But several decades later, she is still alive, and grateful for all the blessings God has continued to send her.

Sister André told La Croix that she worked until she was 104 years old. What she misses now is that she can no longer “read, write, draw, embroider and knit.” However, she said that she still enjoys seeing the blue sky when the weather is nice.

“The good Lord has guided me well,” she reflected.

 

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

John Paul II relic given to 2019 World Youth Day

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At a Nov. 17 ceremony at the Polish Embassy to the Holy See, Ambassador Janusz Kotanski delivered a relic of Pope St. John Paul II to Panama’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Miroslava Rosas Vargas.  The relic is a gift from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz to the Church in Panama, as it prepares to host the 2019 World Youth Day.

John Paul II created World Youth Day in 1985 to harness the energy of young people and encourage them to participate in his call for a “new evangelization.” The first World Youth Day gathering took place in Rome in 1986.  The gatherings, held every three years, draw millions of participants from around the world.  The late Pope also created a special “youth section” within the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Laity, charged with coordinating World Youth Days.

In attendance at the ceremony delivering the relic were Polish Cardinal Stanis?aw Ry?ko, former head of the Pontifical Council for Laity and organizer of World Youth Day;  Panamanian Cardinal José Luis Lacunza, and Hondurian Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the Council of Cardinals called by Pope Francis to advise him in the government of the Church. Cardinal Maradiaga’s presence was a reminder to many of the 2019 World Youth Day’s regional importance.

During the ceremony Cardinal Rylko called John Paul II the "Pope of the youth,” because of the focus on young people that defined his papacy and his pastoral ministry.

Ambassador Kotanski expressed hope that World Youth Day in Panama would continue the “renewed springtime of the Church” called for by the late Pope. He also noted that Polish youth have begun a prayer campaign for the success of the 2019 World Youth Day, and expressed hope that the prayer campaign and relic would be a bridge between Central American and Europe.

Ambassador Vargas of Panama remarked that "to host World Youth Day is a great privilege." The ambassador’s memories of John Paul II included "the sweet and profound look, typical of the saints, the invitation to dialogue and to communication, the faith and missionary zeal so that humanity can live in a better world."

John Paul II’s "values, his principles and his love live still,” Vargas added, giving thanks that the late Pope "will be always present in the prayers of us all."

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

 

Two years later, aunt of drowned refugee child pleads for action

Vancouver, Canada, Nov 20, 2017 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- “We're still grieving” – these are the words of Tima Kurdi, the aunt of the young refugee boy who captured the world’s attention when he drowned trying to cross the Aegean Sea two years ago.

On Sept. 2, 2015, the haunting image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s tiny body laying face down on a Turkish beach made headlines, drawing attention to the stark reality of forced migration, and becoming a global symbol of the ongoing crisis.

 

A year on from Alan Kurdi, we continue to ignore future refugee crises https://t.co/Jegv1nPoKX pic.twitter.com/Ln1UXg5Tyz

— Brigitte Colman (@lakolman) September 1, 2016
In many ways, a global conscience seemed to be awoken as people learned of the tragic fate of Alan, his brother Ghalib and their mother, Rehanna, who decided to make the perilous, 30-minute boat ride from Bodrum, Turkey to the Greek island of Kos, along with their husband and father, Abdullah.

The dinghy, designed for eight passengers but packed with 16, capsized just a few minutes after setting sail. Abdullah lost track of his family in the confusion, and while he was able to reach safety, his wife and sons met a different fate. Only four people survived the voyage.

“After that image, the world woke up,” Tima said. “That’s when people started talking about it, and that’s when I went crying to world leaders: open your heart, open your border, my people are being forced to flee their home, not by choice.”

In wake of the event, global leaders promised the family “that our tragedy would be the last,” she said. “But of course, a few months later, everyone went back to sleep, went back to business.”

And while many countries offered to give Abdullah asylum, he refused. “To him it was, ‘Where were you when my family needed it?’” she said.

Speaking to CNA over Skype from her home in Vancouver, Canada, where she has lived with her husband and son for the past 23 years, Tima shared the story of what led her five siblings to pack up their families and seek refuge elsewhere, and how her life has changed after the death of her nephews.

Ever since the occurrence of what she calls “the tragedy,” Tima has become the public face of her family's suffering and the plight of thousands of others like them, quitting her job in mid-2016 to advocate on behalf of refugees, raising awareness at conferences and universities.

War breaks out

When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, “it was very shocking to the whole country,” Tima said, including to her family, who is from Damascus.

Life before the war was peaceful, and people of different religions lived side-by-side without problems, she said. But once the conflict erupted, things became dangerous very quickly, and many of her siblings lived in areas that were being bombed.

“What would you do as a family if you have children and they are in danger?” she said, explaining that she encouraged her family to flee as the situation worsened. Eventually, the home of one of her sisters was bombed, further cementing the decision to leave.

Tima’s siblings and their families – each with small children – made their way to Turkey, where they hoped to stay temporarily until things in Syria calmed down. But when they got there, they found that the refugee camps were already at maximum capacity, and the family was not able to enter.

Facing the risk of homelessness, Tima’s siblings struggled to find work. Tima helped them find housing and began paying their rent. After hearing about their ongoing struggles, she decided to go in person and see if she could help.

But when she arrived in 2014, she was shocked at what she found. “What we see in the news was not what I experienced,” she said. “It was worse than I could ever have imagined. I saw my people in the streets, families, they have no home, they were in the park. I talked to them personally, I heard heartbreaking stories.”

The experience “changed me a lot,” she said, adding that watching children begging for bread shows the inhumane reality of their plight. “It broke my heart to witness it myself.”

After returning to Canada, Tima began researching how to sponsor her family to come as refugees, but was unable to do so at that time. So when Germany offered to take in some 1 million migrants in 2015, her brother Abdullah, who was struggling to afford even diapers, decided the best option for his family was to leave, and asked Tima for help.

“Of course you discuss it. It’s risky, it’s not good, but they have no choice,” Tima said. “And that’s when they were forced to take that journey.”

“I paid for it. I paid for it,” she said, wiping tears from her face. “The guilt...that’s why I want to keep my voice alive, because that guilt, I will take it to my grave, but I did it with a good intention, because I saw the desperation, I saw my family only eating rice, I saw those children being abused at work rather than being in school, and the world was silent.”

'I want the world to wake up'

Even two years later, Tima said it pains her to talk about the experience, “and that’s why I want the world to wake up. There is no one who will leave their home and leave everything behind just because they want to take advantage of Europe or the Western world.”

She said she rarely watches the news, because she's tired of feeling “hopeless” when she sees the reports and the lack of action.

Tima said she doesn't like to get into politics, and her family doesn't support either side of the war in Syria, but she does condemn the use and sale of weapons, because ultimately, weapons “are what caused those people to flee their homes, weapons killed their loved one.”

Rather than pointing fingers, she wants the world to look at the root cause, because “nobody is talking about it.”

She voiced her admiration for Pope Francis, who often speaks out on the same issues, saying “his message and my message are exactly the same thing, from day one. He is my inspiration.”

A goal of hers, she said, is to one day visit the Vatican and meet the Pope, to discuss how to promote peace.

In her time as a public speaker and advocate, Tima has been asked to speak at various conferences and universities throughout Canada, the U.S., and Europe. She has also given a TED Talk on her story.

However, her preferred venue is the university, because she wants to educate young people to think about the importance of promoting peace.

In addition to her speaking engagements, Tima and her brother Abdullah have launched the Alan and Ghalib Kurdi Foundation to raise money in support of refugee children. Each year on the anniversary of the boys' death, she visits her brother, who is now living in Iraq, to distribute clothes and supplies to the children living in refugee camps.

Abdullah, who was offered a house with free rent in Kurdistan after losing his family, now lives in Erbil, and is still coping with the death of his wife and sons.

“The emotional (stress) really paralyzed him and he’s not doing well,” Tima said, explaining that the first year was especially difficult. When she came to visit her brother on the first anniversary of the tragedy, he didn't want to leave the house.

She offered him $500 to buy “whatever the children wanted” in the camps. Abdullah chose to buy diapers, since he couldn't afford them as a refugee, and often used a cloth or a plastic bag for Alan, who as a result frequently had a rash.

This year, Tima had raised $1,000 for her small foundation at a speaking event held at a Canadian university. She again contributed $500 of her own money as well, helping to buy and distribute 500 pieces of clothing to the refugee children, which she described as “the most beautiful thing we ever did.”

Since the fatal boat ride in 2015, the rest of her family has dispersed. While her father continues to live in Damascus, two of her three sisters are refugees in Turkey, one has moved to Germany, and she was able to sponsor her other brother and his family to come to Canada as refugees.

Of the two sisters in Turkey, one – who has three children – is hoping to either join her 18-year-old son in Germany, or else come to Canada.

The other sister, whose house was bombed, is struggling to move forward. Her family has no home to return to, and her husband recently suffered a stroke, leaving him half paralyzed. Good medical treatment is hard to obtain in the area.  

Tima said she has been offering her sister encouragement, and sending her information about local medical centers that may be able to help her cope with the trauma that she has experienced.

Tima herself often grows discouraged at the lack of international action to help refugees. Her advocacy work takes a tough mental and emotional toll. But it’s worth it, she said, if she is able to help people who are suffering.

“When I go to sleep at night and put my head on the pillow, I always say, ‘Thank God my voice is being heard, you give me power to help others.’ And (I) thank God every moment.”

Where the revolution has led: an interview with Mary Eberstadt

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic author Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and the author of several best-selling books, including Adam and Eve After the Pill and How the West Really Lost God. In the Nov. 6 issue of The Weekly Standard, Eberstadt published “The Primal Scream of Identity Politics,” an essay exploring the contours of contemporary American politics, our search for identity, and the importance of the family.

In an interview with CNA editor-in-chief JD Flynn, Eberstadt offers important insights for all Catholic Americans.

What are identity politics?

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines identity politics as “political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups.” This is not politics as usual. It’s instead an assertion of identity with one or another group that’s said to be oppressed. Believing oneself to be a victim is part and parcel of “identifying” in this way.

Identity politics, as scholars note, has only come into existence in the last thirty years, meaning that it is mostly younger people who believe this is what’s meant by “politics.” The results include theatrical repercussions that we’ve all seen in person or in the news – violent protests, increased numbers of speaker shut-downs on campus, other disruptions on the quad and elsewhere -- whose common denominators are emotionalism and unreason.

I wrote the essay not to dismiss the primal nature of identity politics, but instead to try and understand where all that deeply felt irrationalism is coming from.
 

What do we lose because of the surge in identity politics?
 
For starters, we’re losing an elemental piece of Catholic and other theology: the idea of free will. Identity politics says that biography is destiny – that how you’re born determines your political and moral interests in life. Nothing could be further from the idea that we are made in God’s image, and given the unique power of freely choosing good – or, as the case may be, evil.

The anthropology behind identity politics amounts to a crabbed, crippled, unfree view of the human person. It divides the world into victims and oppressors, leaving no room for free agency or redemption. For that reason alone, Christians above all should be wary, and reject this new way of looking at the world.

Beyond Christians, though, identity politics is toxic across society. The decibel level of unreason makes it hard to advance a civil, rational case about anything. And the Manichean division of the world into victims and oppressors leaves little space for nuance or anything else. All identity politics, all the time, makes for a dumbed-down, dreary conversation out there – just one more reason why figuring out the attraction of such politics in the first place seems like work worth doing.

You say that our “generation-wide descent into psychiatric trouble” is not caused by helicopter parenting, social media, or white racism, all of which are commonly asserted theories. Why are these convenient speculative “causes” for our contemporary political situation? What do they have in common?

The signature moral and social denial of our time concerns the real and widespread fallout of the sexual revolution. The contortions of identity politics are related to that same denial.

Of course there is authentic injustice in the world, as America’s racial history shows; as the Harvey Weinstein and related cases of predation show; and as many other examples could be added to prove. But no single injustice explains what most needs explaining, which is the frantic nature of today’s identity politics across the board.

The same unreason shows up over and over, no matter the grievance: in the mania over “cultural appropriation” that results in censorship of Halloween costumes and lots else; in the social media of identitarians of all varieties, which brims with incivility and, often, rage; in the protests against credentialed, reasonable speakers who challenge anything about the progressive view of the human person, especially on the quad.

This isn’t just protest-as-usual, either. In the essay, I cite the fact that psychiatric problems among the young have been rising for years, and that experts think this isn’t just a matter of better diagnostics; they also believe something new must be afoot.

Isn’t the most obvious culprit here the implosion of the family, the removal from many young people’s lives of a reliable circle of not one, or two, but many reliable, consistent, loving figures in the home? The family has been fractured for many by various familiar factors, among them divorce; the continuing rise in single-motherhood; and the simultaneous shrinking numbers of siblings, cousins, and other extended family thanks to contraception and abortion.

The human ecosystem is a mess. It’s no wonder that denial of the revolution’s record is ubiquitous. But at the same time, for reasons put forth in the essay, that same record is the most obvious probable cause of the hysteria we see out there, literally and figuratively.

To millennials, and I speak as one, intentional self-definition feels like the natural mode of being. It's what we do on social media without even realizing it. Has that not always been so? Aren't existential crises a long-running theme in the past century of modernity? Have they changed, or heightened?

What’s changed is not human nature – everyone asks the same questions about identity. But the familial circumstances in which many contemporary souls now find ourselves are radically changed, and make that quintessentially human question harder to answer.

For most of history, that question, “Who am I?” was answered first in the context of the family: I am a daughter, I am a cousin, a grandmother, a niece, and so on. Identity of a most obvious and unquestionable kind was provided by how any given individual was situated within the family into which he was born. If you didn’t know anything else, you at least knew that.

As of the Pill, though, and its promise of consequence-free sex, family relations have changed fundamentally – and with them, familial identity. Modern contraceptives increased the temptation to people-shop, because so many more people were now sexually available. Bonds like marriage, which once had been seen by most people as immutable, were (and are) extraordinarily strained by this massive sexual consumerism.

As a result, many people now regard “family” as a voluntary association, rather than a primordial set of bonds. That’s why we have such high rates of divorce and single motherhood – higher than ever before in history: because as of the sexual revolution, many people have behaved as if the family is negotiable, rather than given.

In the essay, I give examples of just some of the resulting confusion out there. Are you a stepsister? That depends. What if your mother and your “stepsister’s” father were married once -- and aren’t anymore? Are you still related to that person? What if they were never married in the first place, and you were just living with your mother’s boyfriend’s daughter? Would you have considered her a “stepsister” at all?

Similarly: is that my grandfather? Well, if he’s your mother’s father, probably yes. But what if he’s someone who married your grandmother after she divorced your original grandfather – what then? And so on.

Add to all of these novel existential quandaries the related fact that the family has shrunk, and you can readily see what distinguishes us from our ancestors: we have fewer attachments to family than they did, and the ones that we do have are, for many of us, in constant flux.

How is a communal animal – man – supposed to derive identity from his first community, the family, at such a time? That’s where the barely suppressed hysteria behind today’s identity politics is really coming from, I think: confusion and loneliness and familial deprivation.

You’ve worked on issues related to the sexual revolution for years.  You’ve long said that the sexual revolution is the “moral bedrock” of so many Americans that its views can’t be questioned in public conversation.  In the past, you’ve called it the “new orthodoxy.”  But we’re seeing the wholesale meltdown of Hollywood right now, as the mask of the sexual revolution falls off.  Is it possible this will lead to a resurgence of virtue, and virtue culture?  What would have to happen to make that so?

Backlash looks to be well-underway on several fronts, for this simple reason: we human beings aren’t made to live the way many do now, gorged to obesity on sex and fake sex, and simultaneously isolated from one another and from family life as never before.

That’s not us. We’re social animals. We can’t, and don’t, thrive otherwise. In this we join many other species, especially mammals, that live within kinship structures. We can understand this when we study elephants, say. We just don’t think of applying such knowledge about nature to ourselves. Pretending that we can endure as social isolates and porn potatoes, like pretending we can live happily without more robust families, is making a lot of people out there miserable.

The result is bound to be reaction to all that; and not surprisingly, there are new signs that at least some are starting to have second thoughts about where the revolution has led.

The continuing reaction to Hollywood’s systemic harassment-and-exploitation scandals, as you point out, is one example. The growth of campus groups dedicated to traditional Catholic teaching is another. FOCUS, the Love and Fidelity Network, and like-minded organizations didn’t even exist a couple of decades ago. Likewise, the proliferation of new resources to protect people from pornography is another kind of re-norming that’s part of the nascent pushback to the revolution.

Above all, even as many people have abandoned organized religion, the converts streaming into the churches are being driven in large part by the search for refuge in the world after the Pill – for a more ennobled and inspiring vision of the human person than the inferior one that’s on offer in the sexualized, secular mainstream.

There’s going to be plenty more of all of the above, I’d bet. And if there is another religious awakening ahead, great or small, we can be sure that this is exactly where it will be rooted.


You say that identity politics are the “primal scream” of our time—a “collective human howl…sent up by inescapably communal creatures who can no longer identify their own.” How do believers respond to that howl?  What does the Church need to do, right now, to respond to this crisis?  

The Church needs to do one thing: be the Church. The temptation to bend to the times is prodigious -- and has been ever since the technological shock of the birth control pill.

For clergy and lay believers alike, the temptation to soft-pedal Catholic teaching on sexual morality is probably greater than ever before, because secularist culture has now turned from mocking traditional teaching to attacking it with a ferocity not seen before. No wonder many people within the Church itself seem afraid.

But acquiescing to the times, and tacitly or overtly abandoning the very moral code that is a lifesaver for the family, isn’t going to spell relief from identity politics – or from the social changes that created such a culture of grievance. And soft-pedaling Church teaching also does a great injustice to human beings outside the flock. To acquiesce is to say, in effect, that the secularist alternative is right; that the Church would rather be approved than right; that we really are just prisoners of our color, our erotic desires, our national background, and the rest – the whole dreary list of determinism now found in identity politics.

Two thousand years of teaching says that humanity is better than that. The biggest problem with downplaying the Christian rulebook is that it sends exactly the wrong message to converts and would-be converts. They can find accommodation anywhere – in the secular orbit, in their information silos, in their schools and workplaces, in whatever’s on their phone or laptop, and for that matter, in other churches.

But the outsiders peering into the Church right now for help are not looking for accommodation. They’re looking for capital-t Truth. To borrow from Pope Francis, it would be wrong not to meet them exactly where they are.

If we understand that there’s something authentic about the primal scream we keep hearing, and that the root cause of identity politics is pathos brought on by familial destruction, we might be able to work with some of the damage out there. We might be able to bring some genuine victims – casualties of the revolution -- to a more elevated vision and a better home.

 

 

 

 

Curia reform: Pope Francis reorganizes Vatican Secretariat of State

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has established a third section, or department, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, which reportedly began its operations Nov. 9. The new section is named “Section for the Diplomatic Staff,” and is tasked with overseeing the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.
 
Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski has been appointed to helm the third section. Previously the apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Archbishop Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of “human resources office” within the Secretariat of State.
 
That office has been now elevated into an independent department, alongside the two sections that already constitute the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
 
The First Section of the Secretariat of State oversees the general affairs of the Roman Curia, and is led by the Secretariat’s “substitute,” currently Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu.
 
The second section, the “Section for the Relations with States”, is entrusted with the diplomatic activity of the Holy See. At the helm of the office is the Secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican “foreign minister.”  Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, of Great Britain, holds the post.
 
The Pope established the third section via a letter sent in October to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and delivered to the Apostolic Nunciatures, the embassies of the Holy See, around over the world.
 
In his letter, the Pope expressed that he had “great care for those who assist the ministry of Rome”, both “those who work in the Holy See, and in the Vatican City State, and in the Apostolic See” and its related institutions.
 
The Pope recalled his address to the Roman Curia for the 2013 Christmas greeting, and said that “since the beginning” he proposed the criteria of “professionalism, service, and holiness of life” in order to be a good Vatican official.
 
Pope Francis also underscored that he expressed “vivid appreciation” for the work of “pontifical representatives,” an “important work, that undergoes peculiar difficulties.”
 
He then explained that his decision was motivated by the need to provide “more human, priestly, spiritual and professional accompaniment” to those who are “in the diplomatic service of the Holy See,” whether they are head of mission or even students at the Ecclesiastical Academy, where young priests are trained for diplomatic service.
 
The letter says that “the Office of the Delegate for the Pontifical Representation is strengthened into a Third Section, with the name of Section for the Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See”; the office “will depend from the Secretary of State,” will be given  “a proper number of officials” and will demonstrate “the Pope’s attention to the diplomatic staff.”
 
The Pope’s letter also says that the delegate “will be able to regularly visit pontifical representatives” and will oversee the “permanent selection” of staff as well of “career advancement” for diplomatic personnel.
 
According to a source within the Secretariat of State, this reform is just one step toward a general reorganization of the Secretariat of State.
 
The Council of Cardinals has discussed several times the importance of clarifying and supporting the role of nuncios and diplomatic staff.

 

Pope mourns death of Cardinal Montezemolo, long-time Vatican diplomat

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent a telegram Monday for the death of long-time Vatican diplomat Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, who died in Rome Sunday at the age of 92.

His death, the Pope wrote Nov. 20, “raises in my soul a feeling of sincere admiration for an esteemed man of the Church who lived with fidelity his long and fruitful priesthood and episcopate serving the gospel and the Holy See.”

Pope Francis offered his prayers for Cardinal Montezemolo’s welcome, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul, “into joy and eternal peace,” and for those who mourn the death of this “zealous pastor.”

The Pope also expressed his gratitude for the cardinal’s many years of “generous work” as an apostolic nuncio, and the wisdom with which he devoted himself to the good of people in countries around the world.

Montezemolo's final appointment was as Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, from 2005 to 2009.

In his telegram, Pope Francis noted how the cardinal, in his role as the first archpriest of the basilica,  “gave witness to a particularly intense and expert task.”

“Both from the pastoral point of view and from the organizational and artistic-cultural point of view, (he) aimed at restoring spiritual vitality to the whole structure and new impetus to the ecumenical vocation of that place of worship,” Francis said.

The Pope had visited the cardinal in a nursing home about one year ago, in one of his unexpected and private exits from the Vatican.

His funeral Mass will be said Nov. 21 in St. Peter's Basilica. It will be celebrated by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis will preside over the rite of Last Commendation and the Valedictus.

Montezemolo was born in Turin Aug. 27, 1925. His father, a colonel in the Italian army, was killed during the Ardeatine Massacre in the Second World War. Many years later, Montezemolo and his sister publicly expressed their forgiveness of those who had killed their father.

As a young man he also fought in World War II before studying and obtaining a degree in architecture. Feeling a calling to the priesthood, he then obtained a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, while working as an architect.

He was ordained a priest in 1954, and in 1959 obtained a degree in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University.

That same year he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See and for 42 years served as the nunciature secretary in various countries, including the apostolic delegation in Mexico, the apostolic nunciatures in Japan, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, and the Secretariat of State, as council for public affairs.

He was appointed under-secretary and then secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace and in 1977 was nominated titular Archbishop of Anglona and Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in Papua New Guinea and Apostolic Delegate in the Solomon Islands.

He was ordained a bishop June 4, 1977 and over the next 24 years was appointed to various apostolic nunciatures, first in Honduras and Nicaragua.

He was then made Apostolic Nuncio in Uruguay. In 1990 he was appointed Apostlic Delegate in Jerusalem, Palestine and Jordan, as well as Apostolic Nuncio in Cyprus.  

In 1991 he was transferred to the titular see of Tuscania and from 1994-1998 he served as Apostolic Nuncio in Israel. Finally, from 1998-2001 he served as Apostolic Nuncio in Italy and in San Marino, retiring at the age of 75 in 2001.

Four years later, he was appointed Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

As an expert in heraldry, the system by which a coat of arms is devised, he contributed to the design of Benedict XVI's coat of arms. He was elevated to the position of cardinal by Benedict XVI in the consistory of March 24, 2006.

Faithful from near and far gather to celebrate Fr. Solanus, friend and healer

Detroit, Mich., Nov 19, 2017 / 12:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Usually, when Detroit’s Ford Field is filled with people, it’s because football fans are watching the Lions play another NFL team.

But on Saturday, Nov. 18, despite the chill and the rain, more than 60,000 people from around the country filled the domed stadium for another reason - to celebrate the beatification of their friend Father Solanus Casey, who is now just one step away from canonization as a saint in the Catholic Church.

Whether they knew him in real life (he died in 1957) or they found out about him through a story or a book, many who came to the beatification Mass spoke warmly of Blessed Solanus not just as an example of faith and a powerful intercessor, but as a true friend.

That was the case for Adrian Carlson, who made the trip from Lincoln, Neb. with his wife to be present for the beatification.

Born more than 30 years after Blessed Solanus’ death, Carlson never knew the friar in real life, but nevertheless, “I can honestly say I felt like I actually knew him personally,” Carlson told CNA.

His devotion to Fr. Solanus began in high school, when a family friend who was dying of cancer was praying for the intercession of the then-Venerable Solanus Casey. Although the family friend passed away, Carlson’s interest was piqued in the man his friend had invoked.

“What ultimately drew me to him was his humble acceptance of God’s will,” Carlson said.  

“He gratefully accepted God’s will and never complained about the hardships he was given. He was always submissive to his superiors viewing them as the voice through which God chose to tell Solanus the plan for his life.”

Carlson added that he has also often “thanked God ahead of time (as Solanus would do), through intercession of Solanus Casey, for healings of small ailments for them to disappear shortly after.”

It would have been enlightening to poll the audience to see how many present at the beatification had experienced Blessed Solanus’ healing intercession in their own lives, because it seemed nearly everyone had a story to tell in that regard.

Brother Richard Merling, O.F.M. Cap., a Capuchin brother based in Detroit, had the opportunity to meet Bl. Solanus in real life when he was still a teenager and had not yet discerned whether to join the same order as the friar.

Merling told CNA that he first met Fr. Solanus at the age of 15. Merling’s brother had been in a car accident, and had a badly injured leg that the doctors were going to amputate.

Desperate, Merling’s mother brought the family to see Fr. Solanus at the St. Bonaventure monastery in Detroit, seeking a miracle.

“He simply said oh don’t worry, everything is going to be alright,” Merling recalled.

That was 60 years ago. Merling’s brother recovered and did not need amputation, and only recently passed away, just before Fr. Solanus’ beatification.

“He was a man of great faith, confidence and trust in God,” Merling said of Solanus. “And I think he often encouraged people to do the same.”

Also present among the crowd at Ford Field were several youngsters whose namesake is Blessed Solanus. Among them was young Solanus Leyendecker, the 10-year-old son of John Leyendecker. The entire Leyendecker crew - including seven children and one on the way - made the five to six-hour van trip all the way from Cincinatti, Ohio to be present for the beatification.

John said he first learned about Blessed Solanus after picking up a book about his life during his years as a youth minister. At the time, his wife Lisa was pregnant with their second child, and he was so inspired by Fr. Solanus’ life that he told his wife if their child was a boy, they’d name him Solanus.

“And she said you’re nuts, we are not, because that name is a little far fetched,” John recalled. “And I said, you gotta read this book, you’ll love him.”

Halfway through the book, Lisa was also convinced that they would name their child Solanus, if it were a boy. At the same time, she discovered her family had a personal connection to the holy friar: her mother told her the story of her great-grandfather who was cured of cancer after visiting Fr. Solanus when he was stationed in Indiana.

“So my wife came home and told me if this is a boy, we’ll name him Solanus,” John recalled. The Leyendeckers had a daughter - but named their next son, who is now 10, Solanus.
 
When they told their son they were going to his namesake’s beatification, “he just lit up,” John said.

“It’s awesome,” John said. “We played Catholic roulette on a saint's name, he wasn’t even a saint yet, but we said we’re going to name him after this guy because he’s going to be raised to the altar one day. And here we are ten years later and in fact he is.”

Louis Solanus Santo, the young son of Josh and Beth Santo from Denver, Colorado, was also able to be present for his namesake’s beatification.

The Santos first heard the story of Fr. Solanus from a brother with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and they were inspired by the friar’s holiness and humility.

“We wanted our son to be inspired by Solanus Casey’s humility and for him to see that God uses us to do his great work no matter how big or small or role in the world may appear,” Beth told CNA.

“When we learned that Fr. Solanus’ beatification was taking place in Detroit we felt it was an incredible opportunity for our son to get to know his namesake better. We also wanted to show him the importance of our friendships with the saints, our role models,” Beth added.

“Most importantly, we wanted him to receive the special graces sure to be present at the Mass. We were blessed to be able to help our son be at this celebration and are so confident in Fr. Solanus’ intercession!”
 
Blessed Solanus was originally from Wisconsin, and attended minor seminary at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. A large group of seminarians from Solanus’ first seminary made the trip from Milwaukee to be present for Fr. Solanus’ beatification.

Among them was Dr. Bill Evans, a seminarian for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., who said he found great inspiration in the life of Solanus Casey even before he entered the seminary.

Evans worked as a medical doctor before feeling called to discern the priesthood. He first learned about Fr. Solanus when he gave a presentation on the friar’s life as a youth minister.

“He just moved me to my core when I was preparing to give this talk - the fact that he was a Wisconsin man was part of it, most of it was just that he was tireless in his perseverance, he trusted God with the greatest trust and simplicity,” Evans told CNA.

“Especially in these days, young people are searching and looking and they want to know - where do I fit in? And I think Fr. Solanus must have asked himself the same thing, where do I fit in?”

Blessed Solanus worked for several years before discerning a call to religious life in his late 20s. Evans said he has “bonded” with Solanus over the fact that they both had late vocations, and he said he considers him a true friend and a powerful intercessor.

When he was young, Solanus also questioned, “God what do you want me to do?” according to Evans. “And the answer was always simple, there was no complex algorithm, it was just simple, he wanted to be holy and to touch other people and to help them find a path to holiness.”

“I don’t know if we could look for a better patron, a better friend, a better advocate in heaven than Blessed Solanus,” he said.