Browsing News Entries
EWTN CEO Michael Warsaw: Catholic journalists called to be ‘truth tellers’
Posted on 03/13/2023 17:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).
Catholic journalists are “called to do our part to be truth tellers,” even in the face of rising intolerance toward religious belief, traditional moral values, and the very idea that objective truth even exists, EWTN CEO Michael P. Warsaw said Saturday.
The head of the world’s largest religious media network, which includes CNA and the National Catholic Register, Warsaw delivered the keynote address at the conclusion of “Journalism in a Post-Truth World,” a conference held March 10-11 at the Museum of the Bible co-sponsored by EWTN News and Franciscan University of Steubenville.
His speech, titled “Communicating the Truth in a Post-Truth World,” touched on the problem of “fake news,” the public’s fixation with “echo chamber” news outlets that pander to their audiences’ preconceived opinions in the interest of ratings and “clicks” rather than truth, and efforts by Big Tech and others to silence those who speak out against abortion, gender ideology, and other media-driven causes that promote a relativistic, secularized worldview.
“Post-truth,” Warsaw explained, quoting from the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
“As Catholics, all of this presents us with great challenges,” Warsaw said.
“Whether it is the spread of fake news itself, the increasing secularization of our culture, the growing skepticism with facts and data, the increasing hostility among cultural elites toward Catholicism and religion in general, the challenges to preaching the Gospel in this current age are massive,” he said.
“For EWTN and our news division in particular, these days have been particularly difficult,” Warsaw acknowledged.
“Balancing our love for the Church, our mission to preach the Gospel, and our duty to help bring light to the darkness by accurate and truthful reporting has brought us much criticism, even from the highest levels of the Church,” he said.
“We have been attacked from both the left and the right,” he said. “We have been denounced as reporting ‘fake news’ when we indeed reported facts. We have been criticized for pointing to centuries of doctrine and tradition when calling into question statements by prelates — and even cardinals — and conferences of bishops abroad,” he said.
‘Cover yourself with prayer’
A variety of journalists addressed these challenges in panel discussions held over the two-day conference.
In one of the panels March 10, Carl Cannon from RealClearPolitics, Mary Margaret Olohan from The Daily Signal, and Clemente Lisi, a former newspaper editor and current journalism professor at King’s College, discussed media bias and the need for objectivity in reporting.
On Saturday, religion reporter Lauren Green of Fox News; Jeremiah Poff, an education reporter for the Washington Examiner; and Teresa Tomeo, a Catholic talk show host, continued that theme.
“What you see in secular media, they try to create an unoffensive Jesus, a Jesus who’s just a teacher of love, not the Jesus who says, ‘I’m the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.’ They don’t like that Jesus,” Green said.
The secular media, she added, “are very comfortable with people who are ‘spiritually searching’ … as if to say you can’t find the truth out there … [but] very uncomfortable with people who say, ‘I have found that truth, and it’s Jesus.’”
The three panelists also discussed the importance of a strong faith while working in the news media.
Tomeo related how her Catholic values put her at odds with her news editors at the Detroit television station where she worked, who espoused the view that “if it bleeds it leads.” Ultimately, she lost her job, she said, but she wound up with a much better one, and a much larger platform.
“There will be sacrifices,” she said, but “God does reward you for being faithful.”
Her advice to journalists: “You need to cover yourself in prayer, and have others cover you in prayer, as well” because a newsroom can be a very “toxic” and stressful place, and often hostile to people with deeply held religious convictions.
Poff, a 2019 Franciscan University graduate, agreed, saying he makes a point of saying a daily rosary and attending Mass regularly.
“I cover a lot of spiritually taxing issues. I cover gender identity issues in schools and I’ve gotten plenty of nasty emails and tweets because of the things I write about, and I don’t think I’d be able to endure it to the extent that I do if it weren’t for my faith,” he said.
‘We press on’
In his keynote address, Warsaw said while recent trends in journalism and the wider society can be discouraging, “we also know … that God created the human heart to seek after beauty, truth, and goodness. And that is what the Church has to offer in this moment, even when the Church herself has challenges.”
What such times demand, especially of Catholic journalists, are courage and fortitude, Warsaw said, as well as a commitment to the highest standards of ethical journalism.
As Catholics, we must remember “that we have science and reason on our side,” he said.
“As with both abortion and the transgender movement, biology, medicine, and common sense are some of our greatest tools to educate, inform, and open the eyes of an increasingly bewildered and confused culture,” Warsaw said. The EWTN CEO also encouraged his audience to find common ground and build alliances with “unlikely allies.”
“So, what do we do in the face of these adversities? We press on,” Warsaw said.
“In these challenging times, amid our post-truth society, we should not allow ourselves to despair or to be discouraged. And as Catholics we know that it is the Good News which will prevail,” he emphasized.
“In the end, amidst all the challenges of social media platforms and information chains, there is the human heart, ever in need of conversion, conversion to live out the Truth,” Warsaw concluded. “As Catholics, we will always have on our side the natural authenticity and attractiveness of the Truth — the Truth who is Our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Women’s ordination, transgender ideology move forward at German Synodal Way
Posted on 03/11/2023 16:30 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Frankfurt, Germany, Mar 11, 2023 / 07:30 am (CNA).
Delegates of the German Synodal Way on Saturday overwhelmingly passed measures to change Church practices based on transgender ideology and to push the universal Church to ordain women to the sacramental diaconate.
The votes took place on the final day of the process’ concluding assembly, held in Frankfurt March 9-11. On previous days, delegates voted overwhelmingly to adopt same-sex blessings, normalize lay preaching, and ask Rome to “reexamine” the discipline of priestly celibacy.
While the Germans pushed forward with these controversial measures, the assembly held back from crossing a line laid down by the Vatican concerning the establishing synodal councils at the national, diocesan, and parochial levels. The Vatican has said the synodal council model, which involves shared governance between bishops and the laity, is not consistent with Catholic ecclesiology.
The synodal assembly decided to delay voting on the proposal. Instead, it will be considered by a newly established synodal committee over the next three years, while Synodal Way leadership attempts to change the minds of Vatican officials and garner more widespread approval in the universal Church.
At the concluding press conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, president of the bishops’ conference, said that the results give a mandate to the bishops to make some changes in Germany now while pushing for broader reform.
“The Church is visibly changing, and that is important,” Bätzing said.
Irme Stetter-Karp, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), said the results show that the synodal path in Germany will continue.
“It does not end here. It is just the beginning,” she said.
Observers, including 103 international bishops who signed a letter warning that the Synodal Way could lead to schism, have expressed concern about the heterodox ideas promoted by the process and the effect it could have on the wider Church if the Vatican does not sufficiently intervene.
Vote on gender ideology
The implementation text “Dealing with gender diversity” passed with support from 96% of the 197 voting delegates. Thirty-eight bishops voted for it, while only seven voted against it. Thirteen abstained from voting.
Consistent with a pattern running throughout the assembly, there would have been enough votes to block the measure if those abstaining had voted against it. Critics of the Synodal Way say that organizers’ removal of the secret ballot has created a fear-driven atmosphere that has prohibited many bishops from voting freely.
The resolution calls for “concrete improvements for intersex and transgender faithful,” including changing baptism records to match someone’s self-identified gender, banning one’s gender identity from consideration for pastoral ministerial roles, and mandatory education for priests and church employees to “deal with the topic of gender diversity.” Intersex refers to people born with mixed sexual characteristics.
The text also bars “external sexual characteristics” from being used as a criterion for “accepting a man as a candidate for the priesthood,” a measure that could open the door for attempted ordinations of women.
During the debate, a small minority of bishops voiced opposition to the measure, while emphasizing that the Church should improve its pastoral care of those identifying as transgender. Auxiliary Bishop Stefan Zekorn of Bistum Münster said he could not support a text based on gender ideology, while Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau said that the document failed to emphasize that a Christian’s primary identity should be rooted in Jesus Christ.
But the vast majority of those who spoke expressed support for the measure. Gregor Podschun, the head of the heterodoxical Federation of German Catholic Youth, said the claims of gender ideology were “a scientific fact,” and that the Church’s denial was causing people to commit suicide. Julianne Eckstein, a professor of theology at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, claimed that the book of Genesis was an inadequate basis for questions of sexual anthropology. And Viola Kohlberger, a young adult from Augsburg, said that there is no “norm” for gender and that the tradition of the Catholic Church was holding back progress.
“And I would like to break it today,” she said.
When the vote passed, delegates stood to applaud, while some unfurled rainbow flags expressing support for homosexuality and transgender ideology.
Support for women’s ordination
Delegates passed the implementation text “Women in sacramental ministry: Perspectives for the universal Church dialogue” by a similarly large margin. Only 10 of 58 bishops voted against the measure, which calls for the German bishops to advance the issue of the sacramental ordination of women at the continental and universal level of the Church.
A motion adopted by the assembly replaced a call for the establishment of a “sacramental diaconate of women” with “opening the sacramental diaconate for women.” The distinction made clear that the Synodal Way is pushing for women to be integrated into already existing holy orders, an idea the Church has repeatedly affirmed is impossible.
Delegates adopted another motion that modified priorities related to the all-male priesthood, calling for the practice to be simply reexamined, rather than ended, at the universal level of the Church. Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising said that the motion was needed to “build consensus” for changes to the Church’s dogmatic teaching related to the priesthood.
Others were less interested in the slow approach. Several women delegates were seen in tears after the vote, saddened that the text did not more explicitly call for female priests.
“Discriminating against someone because of their gender must be put to an end in the Catholic Church,” said delegate Susanne Schumacher-Godemann.
“The patriarchy needs to be destroyed,” added Podschun.
Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg spoke up in opposition to the text, characterizing the push for ordaining women to the diaconate as “a first step toward opening up” the priesthood and the episcopacy, too.
The Regensburg bishop, a close friend of Pope Benedict XVI, is one of only three German bishops to have publicly voted against each of the Synodal Way’s controversial texts.
The synodal assembly also elected 20 members to the transitory synodal committee that will work over the next three years to prepare for the establishment of a permanent synodal council at the national level. The 20 elected members, which consisted of 19 laypeople and one auxiliary bishop, will join the 27 bishops who head dioceses and 27 members of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) already on the committee.
The Synodal Way, which began in 2019, has been a collaborative effort between the ZdK and the German bishops’ conference.
PHOTOS: A look back at 10 years of Pope Francis’ participation in World Youth Days
Posted on 03/11/2023 15:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Boston, Mass., Mar 11, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
In the 10 years of his papacy, the Holy Father has exhorted young people at World Youth Days (WYD) to answer the Gospel call and accept Jesus into their hearts.
Below are 10 times Pope Francis spoke to young people at the gathering and encouraged them to answer Jesus’ call to discipleship.
WYD 2013: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations!’
For Pope Francis’ first World Youth Day, he took a seven-day apostolic journey to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he addressed millions of attendees. The theme that year was “Go and make disciples of all nations!” from the Gospel of Matthew.
In his homily at the waterfront of Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis told the young people present to preach the Gospel to everyone.
“Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all; he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love,” the Holy Father said on July 28, 2013.
WYD 2014: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’
World Youth Day held local diocesan celebrations on Palm Sunday in 2014 and the theme was “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” words from the beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew.
In his message to young people that year, the Holy Father exhorted young people to “have the courage to be happy.”
Pope Francis said: “Young people who choose Christ are strong: They are fed by his word and they do not need to ‘stuff themselves’ with other things! Have the courage to swim against the tide. Have the courage to be truly happy! Say no to an ephemeral, superficial, and throwaway culture, a culture that assumes that you are incapable of taking on responsibility and facing the great challenges of life!”
WYD 2015: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’
In his 2015 message to young people for World Youth Day, which the Church celebrated in local dioceses, Pope Francis said that the “greatest good” in life is a relationship with God. The theme was “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” words from the Gospel of Matthew.
Pope Francis asked: “Where is your treasure? In what does your heart find its rest?”
“Our hearts can be attached to true or false treasures; they can find genuine rest or they can simply slumber, becoming lazy and lethargic. The greatest good we can have in life is our relationship with God,” he said.
WYD 2016: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’
In his apostolic journey to Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day 2016, Pope Francis’ theme was from the beatitudes again: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Hundreds of thousands of young people were in attendance.
In his homily for the July 31 Sunday Mass, Pope Francis encouraged young people to bring their sins to the sacrament of reconciliation.
“Dear young friends, don’t be ashamed to bring everything to the Lord in confession, especially your weaknesses, your struggles, and your sins. He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace,” Pope Francis said.
“Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love, which also demands sacrifice. Say a firm ‘no’ to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort,” he said.
WYD 2017: ‘The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name’
Catholics around the world celebrated in their dioceses for World Youth Day 2017. The theme was “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name,” Mary’s words from the Gospel of Luke.
In his message to young people, Pope Francis hailed the Blessed Virgin Mary’s magnificat as a “revolutionary prayer” that helps young people understand God’s mercy.
“Mary’s is a revolutionary prayer, the song of a faith-filled young woman conscious of her limits, yet confident in God’s mercy,” he said.
“She gives thanks to God for looking upon her lowliness and for the work of salvation that he has brought about for the people, the poor and the humble. Faith is at the heart of Mary’s entire story. Her song helps us to understand the mercy of the Lord as the driving force of history, the history of each of us and of all humanity,” he said.
WYD 2018: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God’
In Pope Francis’ message to young people for World Youth Day 2018, he encouraged them to face their fears. The theme that year was “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God,” words from the Gospel of Luke.
“Do not be afraid to face your fears honestly, to recognize them for what they are and to come to terms with them,” he said in the message for World Youth Day, which was celebrated on the diocesan level.
“In the sacred Scriptures the expression ‘do not be afraid’ is repeated 365 times with different variations, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year,” he said.
WYD 2019: ‘I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word’
Pope Francis embarked on an apostolic journey to Panama for World Youth Day in 2019.
There he spoke to hundreds of thousands of young people in a Jan. 26 vigil at Campo San Juan Pablo II in the Metro Park area and exhorted them to have no fear to “embrace life as it is.”
“To embrace life as it comes. It means embracing our country, our families, and our friends as they are, with all their weak points and their flaws. Embracing life is also seen in accepting things that are not perfect, pure, or ‘distilled,’ yet no less worthy of love,” he said.
“So, the first step is not to be afraid to welcome life as it comes, not to be afraid to embrace life as it is!” Pope Francis said.
The theme in 2019 was “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word,” Mary’s response at the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke.
WYD 2020: ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’
In 2020, the Church celebrated World Youth Day in local dioceses. The theme that year was from the Gospel of Luke’s seventh chapter: “Young man, I say to you, arise!”
In his message to young people that year, Pope Francis encouraged young people to be compassionate toward suffering people.
“May you always be attentive to the plea of those who are suffering and be moved by those who weep and die in today’s world,” he said.
“So many of your contemporaries are disadvantaged and victims of violence and persecution. Let their wounds become your own, and you will be bearers of hope in this world,” Pope Francis said.
WYD 2021: ‘Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen’
World Youth Day 2021 was celebrated on the local level for dioceses around the world. The theme for 2021 was “Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen,” the message that God spoke to St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles.
In his message to young people, Pope Francis pointed to the importance of humility.
“Such humility — the awareness of our limitations — is essential! Those who are convinced that they know everything about themselves, other persons, and even religious truths, will find it hard to encounter Christ,” he said.
“Saul, once blinded, lost his reference points. Alone in darkness, the only clear things were the light he saw and the voice he heard. How paradoxical! Only when we are blinded do we start to see!” Pope Francis said.
WYD 2022: ‘Mary arose and went with haste’
In 2022, Catholics around the world celebrated World Youth Day in their local dioceses. The theme for 2022 was “Mary arose and went with haste,” taken from the Gospel of Luke’s first chapter.
In his message to young people, Pope Francis explained Jesus’ saving love.
“You cannot save a person, you cannot save a situation, if you do not love it. Only that which is loved can be saved,” he said.
“For this reason we’re saved by Jesus, because he loves us and can’t go against his nature. We can do any number of things against him, yet he loves us and he saves us. Because only that which is loved can be saved,” he said.
Have you ever wondered what vegans give up for Lent?
Posted on 03/11/2023 14:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver Newsroom, Mar 11, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).
Vegans are individuals who follow a diet in which they abstain from eating any animal products. This means they do not eat meat, eggs, dairy products, or any other products of animal origin. Essentially, they follow a plant-based diet.
During Lent, Catholics are called to abstain from eating meat on Fridays and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. But what is Lent like if you are Catholic and vegan?
KellyAnn Carpentier, 45, a historian and writer from New Haven, Connecticut, and Kailtin Essig, 25, a manager of a coffee shop in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, are both Catholic vegans. In an interview with CNA, they shared their experiences of being a Catholic while following a vegan lifestyle.
Carpentier said that the decision to become vegan “was made after a considerable amount of prayer and contemplation. First and foremost, I had to make the lifestyle change for the right reasons.”
Essig echoed that “it was something I discerned on my own.”
How then does fasting and abstaining from certain foods impact this lifestyle?
“I was advised that I should take supplements if necessary to ensure that I am maintaining proper nutritional levels and that I should ensure that I consume enough of the appropriate [vegan] proteins,” Carpentier said about advice she received from a priest.
She added: “As for fasting, I should not attempt to exceed what my body can handle. If, at any time, I become the slightest bit unwell during a [food-oriented] fast, I need to stop immediately and fast from something else.”
So, what do they give up for Lent?
“Essentially, I do away with luxuries for the duration of Lent,” Carpentier said.
“There are a plethora of vegan versions of mainstream items such as baked goods and ice cream. I abstain from these types of items all together, which is quite penitential given my sweet tooth,” she explained. “It requires you to be very disciplined and intentional not to seek out such items or to have the luxury of a cup of [vegan] hot cocoa.”
Essig said that she abstains from “mock meats.”
“I feel it is comparable to what Fridays were like before I was vegan,” she said. “Since mock meats are a treat and not a staple in my diet, I usually also abstain from all drinks except water so that I actually notice something is missing.”
While there are no official Church teachings on veganism, there are certain religious communities that will follow something similar to veganism as part of their way of life or during penitential seasons. Monastic orders such as the Carthusians and Cistercians follow a pescatarian diet, while Carmelites follow a vegetarian diet.
Both women shared similar hardships that come with being vegan when interacting with those who are non-vegan.
Essig shared her experience being teased at times or receiving negative remarks, while Carpentier has received comments from people that it is “extreme, radical, unnecessary, irrational, and something that they would never do.”
“While some family members try to accommodate me, it is not as easy for them and can be a source of frustration because they are sincere in their attempts to follow along,” Carpentier said. “In those moments, my heart is filled with compassion because they are trying so hard, but it results in being more of a challenge than anticipated.”
Essig added: “There are definitely sacrificial and religious aspects to this lifestyle.”
The article was originally published on CNA on April 9, 2022, and was updated on March 10, 2023.
Journalists at EWTN/Franciscan conference discuss media bias in the internet age
Posted on 03/11/2023 01:30 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Mar 10, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).
“What is the nature of journalism? What are we getting right and what are we getting wrong?” Father Dave Pivonka, the president of Franciscan University, inquired during the opening speech at a conference jointly hosted by EWTN News and Franciscan University Friday.
Three speakers who work in the journalism industry — Carl Cannon from RealClearPolitics, Mary Margaret Olohan from The Daily Signal, and Clemente Lisi, a former newspaper editor and current journalism professor at King’s College — delved into those questions in a Friday morning panel discussion. The conference is being held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., from Friday, March 10 through Saturday, March 11.
The event is open to the public. Those interested can register to attend in person or livestream the event here.
Cannon, who has worked in journalism for more than 40 years, said when he first got into the industry, many reporters tried to write in a way that would interest Republicans, Democrats, and independents so “they’ll all want to read you.” At the time, he noted, newspapers made a lot of their money from advertisements that targeted a broad ideological audience.
“This ethos of being objective — it wasn’t just good citizenship,” Cannon said. “It was good business.”
As the news industry shifted toward the internet, Cannon noted, advertisements became more targeted and a lot of newspapers began to sell online subscriptions. If a news outlet failed to toe an ideological line, he said subscribers would “rant and rave and cancel their subscriptions. People wanted the culture war stuff: the slogans, instead of information.”
“If you give people what they think they want, that might work economically,” Cannon added, “but that isn’t journalism.”
Lisi echoed many of Cannon’s concerns, saying “if you tell your audience [something] they don’t want to hear, they’re going to go somewhere else.” Along with the incentive structure, he said students are being taught activism and “they go into journalism because they want to be activists.” For these reasons, he said the “fly on the wall mindset [is] going away.”
“They think this is the right way and the wrong way,” Lisi said. “It’s hard to put people in your story if you think they’re evil.”
Olohan noted that the bias in “mainstream outlets” all shifts one way because “the media is very ideologically bent.” She said mainstream outlets have taken sides on disputed topics, such as transgenderism, the right to worship, and abortion.
When speaking about the reporting on pro-life bills that ban abortion once a heartbeat can be detected, Olohan said, “you won’t see the word heart, you won’t see the word baby, [and] you won’t even see the word mother” even though “abortion ends the life of a human child.” She added: “That is activist reporting right there.”
On transgender issues, Olohan said media outlets will frame legislation as “an anti-trans bill” or as a “bill targeting transgender youth” while “not giving us all the information.”
“You can literally get your outlet kicked off of a platform [if you do not use] the language of the regime,” Olohan added in reference to preferred gender pronouns.
All three panelists argued that journalists need to put more effort into presenting the news more objectively and ensuring more diversity of thought in their newsrooms and in their articles.
“A journalist should be someone who sheds light on the truth ... in the most dignified and objective way possible,” Olohan said.
Lisi suggested a lot of people still want objective reporting and noted that the standard might change with the growth of nonprofit reporting.
“It may boomerang back,” he said.
Cannon argued that a diversity of opinion within the newsroom “would solve a lot of these problems” and suggested that nonprofit news outlets “have to get sponsors from both sides.” He said sponsors “should support journalism even that they don’t agree with.”
Although Cannon acknowledged that objectivity can be difficult, he reminded attendees of some of the difficult things Christ called on his followers to do, such as loving one’s enemies.
“If we can aspire to that, we can aspire to objectivity,” Cannon said.
In Poland, lawmakers condemn disputed report about John Paul II abuse cover-up
Posted on 03/11/2023 01:00 AM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Denver, Colo., Mar 10, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).
Polish lawmakers denounced a documentary alleging that when he was a cardinal and archbishop in Poland, Pope St. John Paul II covered up alleged child sexual abuse committed by priests.
“There are those who are trying to stir up not a military conflict, but a culture war here in Poland,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a video posted to Twitter March 8. “I stand in defense of our beloved pope, like most of my fellow citizens, because I know that as a nation we owe a lot to John Paul.”
On Thursday, Poland’s Parliament passed a resolution in defense of the former pope that “strongly condemns the disgraceful media smear campaign, largely based on the documents of communist Poland’s machinery of violence, against the great pope, St. John Paul II, the greatest Pole in history.”
Polish lawmakers in the Sejm, the national Parliament lower house, voted 271 to 43 to pass the resolution. Two centrist opposition parties declined to vote on the resolution, while members of the leftist opposition party voted against it.
Referring to the report’s use of material taken from communist secret police files, the resolution said it was “an attempt to discredit John Paul II using material that even the communists did not dare use.”
The Polish Catholic Bishops’ Conference had challenged the allegations presented in the documentary and noted the need for “further archival research.” In a March 7 statement, the bishops said that two claims of cover-up in the report had already been refuted. The third new claim, they said, was based on the unreliable files of the communist government’s secret police.
John Paul II is a national hero in Poland for his resistance to Soviet communism. He became a globally known figure for his charismatic, thoughtful presentation of Catholic Christianity and his unprecedented global travels. Pope Francis canonized him as a saint in 2014.
The controversy follows the Monday broadcast of journalist Marcin Gutowski’s documentary on the news channel TVN24. The documentary repeated allegations that the future pope, then Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, relocated two priests, Father Eugeniusz Surgent and Father Jozef Loranc, despite knowing they were accused of sexually abusing minors. Gutowski also aired a new claim about a third priest.
The broadcaster TVN, owned by U.S.-based conglomerate Warner Bros Discovery Inc., the largest private media network in Poland, has been a leading critic of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party since it took power in 2015.
Lawmakers had proposed a law to force TVN’s then owner, Discovery Inc., to sell most of its ownership stake by barring any non-European entities from owning more than a 49% stake in television or radio broadcasters. The proposal strained tensions with the United States and prompted thousands of Poles to protest in the streets. President Andrej Duda vetoed the bill in late 2021, Bloomberg news reported.
Poland’s foreign ministry invited the U.S. ambassador to a meeting “to inform him about the situation and its consequences in the form of reducing Poland’s capacity to deter a potential enemy and diminishing its resilience to threats.”
“The potential effects of these actions are identical to the goals of hybrid war aimed at leading to divisions and tensions in Polish society,” Poland’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization website says hybrid methods of warfare include “propaganda, deception, sabotage, and other nonmilitary tactics.”
It is not clear from the ministry’s statement whether the requested meeting with the U.S. ambassador concerned U.S. ownership of TVN.
The bishops’ March 7 statement was jointly authored by Father Adam Zak, the Polish bishops’ coordinator for the protection of minors, and Father Piotr Studnicki, director of the bishops’ Office of the Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth.
The statement said that allegations the late pontiff covered up abuse in the case of two priests had already been reported by Dutch journalist Ekke Overbeek in December 2022. Overbeek’s book “Maxima Culpa” was published in Polish this week, Reuters reported.
The bishops said Overbeek’s work had been refuted by two other journalists, Tomasz Krzyżak and Piotr Litka. According to Krzyżak and Litka, Wotjyla removed Loranc from his parish, suspended him from priestly service, and then forced him to live in a monastery where the civil authorities ultimately arrested him. After Loranc was released from prison, he was allowed to celebrate Mass but not catechize children and youth or hear confessions.
Surgent, who would be imprisoned for abuse, was a priest of the Lubaczów Diocese. Wojtyla made “several decisions” regarding this priest but he left “the final word on possible sanctioning” to the Bishop of Lubaczów.
The third claim from Gutowski’s broadcast has not been previously reported. It concerns an alleged cover-up of sexual abuse of young boys allegedly committed by Father Boleslaw Saduś. Wojtyla allegedly knew of the accusations against the priest but recommended him to an Austrian diocese without noting this.
The documentary presented evidence “not on the basis of a prosecutorial or judicial investigation but on the files of the security services of the People’s Republic of Poland,” the bishops’ statement said, adding that it is “impossible to determine” the nature of the acts attributed to the priest on these sources.
The Security Service was the secret police and counter-espionage agency for the atheistic communist government that ruled Poland and sought to subvert and control the Catholic Church in the country.
Gutowski interviewed several victims and a man who said in the 1970s he informed Wojtyla about Surgent’s abuse, the Associated Press reported.
In a March 9 statement, TVN24 said the documentary is “the result of many months of work, based on multiple-source documents, eyewitness accounts and — most importantly — (it) gives voice to the victims themselves.” The report underwent “several stages of verification” and was made following “the highest journalistic standards.” The role of independent media is “to show the facts, even if they are difficult and painful to accept.”
The Polish bishops’ conference noted that today there is much greater awareness about the damage of sexual abuse and the development of church procedures to respond.
“To all those who were harmed in this way by the clergy years ago and still bear the consequences of the evil experienced, we as the Church provide acceptance, listening, and support,” the statement said.
German Synodal Way approves same-sex blessings, lay preaching, and reexamination of priestly celibacy
Posted on 03/11/2023 00:36 AM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Frankfurt, Germany, Mar 10, 2023 / 15:36 pm (CNA).
The German Synodal Way has voted to adopt “implementation texts” related to same-sex blessings, lay preaching during Mass, and a request for Pope Francis to reexamine the discipline of priestly celibacy in the Latin-rite Catholic Church.
The votes took place during the first two days of the fifth synodal assembly in Frankfurt, Germany. The assembly, which has one day remaining, will conclude a three-year process March 11 that many observers have said is advancing heterodoxical ideas and may prompt a schism between most German dioceses and the universal Church.
Delegates to the Synodal Way also voted on Friday evening to delay addressing perhaps the most controversial topic: establishing synodal councils at the parish and diocesan level. Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen, a supporter of the Synodal Way, introduced the motion to delay.
While the Vatican has not explicitly condemned the Synodal Way’s promotion of heterodox proposals related to same-sex blessings and women’s ordination, the Holy See has been increasingly clear about its rejection of this form of ecclesial governance, which involves bishops and laity “sharing responsibility.” In the German proposal, laity could even overrule a bishop (or bishops at the national level) with a two-thirds majority.
“Neither the Synodal Path nor any body appointed by it nor a bishops’ conference have the authority to set up the ‘synodal council’ at the national, diocesan, or parish level,” three cardinals with significant leadership roles in the Roman Curia wrote to the German bishops in a Jan. 16 letter, with explicit papal approval. In an address to the German bishops at their Feb. 27 meeting, papal nuncio Archbishop Nikola Eterović affirmed that this prohibition also applied to diocesan bishops.
The decision to pass on voting is likely an indication that the Vatican’s warning has had some effect. Now the matter will be taken up by the synodal committee, whose members are set to be elected Saturday.
The resolution to provide Church blessings to same-sex sexual unions passed on Friday afternoon. Titled “Blessing ceremonies for couples who love each other,” the measure was opposed by only nine of 58 bishops, while 11 bishops abstained. If the 11 abstaining bishops had joined in opposing the measure, it would have failed to reach the required two-thirds support of the bishops.
The measure also calls for blessing the relations of the divorced-but-civilly-remarried and couples that aren’t married.
During floor debate preceding the vote, the measure was vocally opposed by Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstätt, and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg.
“It is foreseeable that after the blessing has been approved, the question will very quickly arise as to whether the blessing is not also discriminatory if the marriage is then refused,” Bishop Voderholzer said.
In fact, several other delegates did call for sacramental marriage for same-sex unions. Gregor Podschun, the president of the League of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ), an official Church group that supports women’s ordination, gay marriage, and abortion access, said that blessings of same-sex unions were “a minimum” and that “we need [sacramental] marriage for everyone.”
Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium, also spoke to the synodal assembly as a distinguished guest. Bonny and the other Flemish bishops of Belgium introduced a blessing of same-sex couples in September 2022. The Antwerp bishop told the synodal delegates that during the Belgian bishops ad limina visit in November 2022, Pope Francis had neither approved nor denied the blessing but said it was the pastoral domain of the Flemish bishops so long as they were all united.
With the approval of Pope Francis, the Vatican’s doctrine office had previously confirmed that the Church did not have the power to give blessings to unions of persons of the same sex.
Lay preaching, priestly celibacy, and women’s ordination
Earlier on Friday, the synodal assembly approved moving forward with officially endorsing lay preaching and lay-led baptism and marriage assistance, though language calling for lay-led confession and anointing of the sick was removed through an amendment introduced by the bishops’ conference.
“The bishops commission the pastoral staff to preach at the eucharistic celebration” as part of their ecclesial mission, “so that they can carry out their preaching service officially and in the name of the Church,” reads the adopted text, titled, “Proclamation of the Gospel by laypeople in word and sacrament.”
During floor debate, Bishop Ansgar Puff, an auxiliary bishop of Cologne, said that while he approved of laypeople providing scriptural reflections outside of the Mass, “the homily and the presiding of the Eucharist belong together.”
But the bishop was immediately countered by Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz, who said he had grown up in Cologne at a time when lay preaching was practiced and “it never hurt anyone.”
Several religious sisters also called for lay preaching and sacramental faculties. One even suggested that women in her religious community would not go to a priest for confession because they wanted to engage in the sacrament with someone who could “accompany them.”
The previous day, the assembly approved a measure to ask Pope Francis “to reconsider the link between the conferral of ordinations and the obligation to be celibate.” The measure received support from 44 bishops out of 60. Eleven abstained, while only five voted no.
A fierce debate preceded the final vote over whether the Synodal Way should ask the Holy Father to “reexamine” or “rescind” the discipline of priestly celibacy.
Some voices argued that failing to demand an end to the requirement would not be strong enough, but adopting “reexamine” ultimately prevailed.
“We need to be smart,” said Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, suggesting that the “reexamine” language was the best option for both having the measure adopted by the synodal assembly and being considered by Pope Francis.
None of the measures adopted by the Synodal Way have any binding effect in the dioceses of Germany without implementation by the local ordinary. However, observers believe that the measures will likely be implemented in most dioceses, in some cases because bishops support them, but in others due to intense pressure upon bishops from Church employees, Catholic media, and even brother bishops.
A “base text” expressing views on the priesthood that included the claim that “gender-based admission to the priesthood … is discriminatory and must be abolished” was also passed on Thursday. A vote on a related implementation text calling for women’s ordination did not take place on Friday morning due to time constraints. It will be taken up by the synodal committee, a transitory body tasked with establishing the parameters of the permanent synodal council. Synodal committee members are scheduled to be elected tomorrow.
Opening press conference sets tone
The stage for the assembly was set with an opening press conference on March 9 with members of the Synodal Way’s presidium, or leadership council.
“We want to make this Church fit for the future,” said Irme Stetter-Karp, president of the powerful Central Committee of German Catholics (Zdk), which is co-implementing the Synodal Way with the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK).
Presidium members also addressed a recent slew of defections from the Synodal Way. Four laywomen left the process in late February, stating that adopted resolutions were incompatible with the Catholic faith and cast doubt “on central Catholic doctrine and beliefs.” A priest of the Archdiocese of Cologne also resigned from the Synodal Way, criticizing the process for having a prearranged agenda and limiting debate.
“The will to and ability to integrate has limits,” said Stetter-Karp, implying that those who left the process did not have open minds or a willingness to participate by the established rules.
But minutes after Stetter-Karp’s comments about abiding by the rules, Thomas Söding, vice president of Zdk, stated that his group would “not accept” the assembly outcomes if proposals failed to receive the necessary support of two-thirds of the voting bishops.
At the previous synodal assembly in September, a text that affirmed a vision of human sexuality contrary to the Catholic faith failed to pass after 22 of 55 bishops voted against it. In response, organizers altered procedural rules to make voting public, a practice that continued for the fifth assembly.
Stetter-Karp also said that she expected more transparency from bishops “in communicating their own convictions,” discouraging bishops from abstaining from voting.
‘Cannabis Studies’ program at St. Joseph’s University a ‘scandal,’ theologian says
Posted on 03/10/2023 18:45 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Boston, Mass., Mar 10, 2023 / 09:45 am (CNA).
The Jesuit Catholic St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia is now offering four certificates in “cannabis studies,” and one theologian is arguing that the degree program causes scandal.
“The definition of scandal is action that leads another to sin, and the promotion of a certificate in Cannabis Studies will do exactly this, encouraging the further normalization of cannabis use, with a damaging impact on the health of body and soul,” Jared Staudt, a professor of systematic theology at the Augustine Institute, told CNA Thursday.
Those who enroll in the Philadelphia-based university’s new program will work toward one of four different marijuana certificates: Cannabis Compliance and Risk Management, Healthcare and Medicine, Business of Cannabis, or Cannabis Agriculture and Horticulture.
“For anyone considering a career in cannabis or hemp, specialist knowledge is the key to unlocking the industry’s most exciting opportunities,” the school’s website says.
“The cannabis landscape is complex, ever-changing, and unique. This certificate will provide you with a clear understanding of the cannabis industry, how it got there, and where it’s going,” it says.
The school is offering three separate eight-week online courses for each certificate.
A sample of the course offerings for the Business of Cannabis certificate includes: a course called Cannabis 101: History and Practice Across Industries, The Business of Cannabis I: Seed to Sale, and The Business of Cannabis II: Scaling Operations.
The website says the courses feature “expert instruction and interaction from top executives and entrepreneurs, board-certified doctors and lawyers, advanced professionals in engineering and agriculture, and policymakers.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the use of drugs, “except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.” Pope Francis spoke out against the legalization of “recreational drugs” at the 2014 International Drug Enforcement Conference.
“Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects,” the Holy Father said.
Staudt said: “I do not believe it is appropriate for a Catholic university to offer a Cannabis Studies certificate, because the Church teaches that the use of drugs constitutes a sin against the Fifth Commandment.”
“The impairment of mental functioning strikes at the very heart of our humanity and capacity for free, rational action. I know that many people argue that cannabis use is therapeutic for pain, although this has not been established medically at this point, and there are numerous studies that cast doubt on its effectiveness in treating pain at all,” he said.
CNA reached out to the university for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.
In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana was legalized in 2016. Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor Josh Shapiro has supported the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. In his most recent budget proposal, he included a hypothetical tax income, which showed legalized marijuana would bring in $16 million for the government in the first year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
On the federal level, marijuana remains illegal for both recreational and medical reasons.
Staudt said that he thinks offering the degree is immoral because “it participates in the use of a harmful substance for either recreational or questionable medical purposes.”
“Financially there are difficulties because cannabis is still illegal under federal law, and there is still much illegal activity in the distribution of cannabis,” he added.
United Nations equates Sandinista Nicaragua with Nazism
Posted on 03/10/2023 13:52 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 10, 2023 / 04:52 am (CNA).
Amid ongoing reports of oppression of the Catholic Church and the Nicaraguan people under the regime of President Daniel Ortega, concerns grow about worsening persecution.
The U.N. is among those concerned, likening Nicaragua’s Sandinista government to Nazi Germany.
“The use of the justice system against political opponents, as in Nicaragua, is exactly what the Nazi regime did,” said Jan Michael Simon, according to The Río Times. His comments were also reported in other news outlets, including The New York Times. Simon chairs the U.N.’s Human Rights Group on Nicaragua, which was established in 2018 to report on the ongoing repression of political dissidents and the Catholic Church.
According to the report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo and their government have held their people “hostage” while committing “widespread and systematic human rights violations that amount to crimes against humanity.”
Ortega and wife Murillo acted “in a joint and coordinated manner” during protests between April and September 2018,” Simon said, adding: “They have been weaponizing the justice system, weaponizing the legislative function, weaponizing the executive function of the State against the population.”
Among the regime’s targets, Bishop Rolando Álvarez, one of the strongest critics of the regime, was stripped of his citizenship and sentenced on Feb. 9 to 26 years in prison after refusing exile as commanded by Ortega. In addition, more than 200 of his compatriots were released from prison and forcibly exiled to the United States. The Sandinistas have begun expropriating their properties, according to Voice of America. Some were stripped of their citizenship.
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, an attorney and media fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology Institute at the Catholic University of America, has written extensively about human rights challenges in Nicaragua and elsewhere in Latin America. Picciotti-Bayer is also the director of the Conscience Project and the mother of 10 children.
Picciotti-Bayer applauded Bishop Álvarez and fellow Nicaraguan bishops for calling on priests and religious to stand firm in the face of the Sandinistas. “While Bishop Álvarez is cut off from his people, the Church continues to be a voice not only for him and his people but also to rally global opinion about what is happening,” she said. The U.N. and the State Department have both called for the bishop’s release from prison.
“The U.N. is calling out Ortega for his brutality and hoping Ortega and the Sandinistas will disappear. But what I worry about is that they will up their game and that the oppression will become something we’ve not seen since Nazi Germany, as far as the attempt to silence any opposition,” Picciotti-Bayer said while pointing out that the Sandinistas receive arms and economic assistance from communist China and Venezuela.
Response of the Pope and U.S. Bishops
U.S. Catholic bishops and Pope Francis have added to the chorus of condemnations of the repression taking place in Nicaragua and the treatment of Bishop Álvarez.
“His sentencing marks yet another escalated human rights violation in the ongoing ordeal the Catholic Church faces in Nicaragua,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement. And during his Feb. 12 Angelus address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis prayed for Álvarez and the 222 Nicaraguans deported to the U.S. “and for all those who suffer in the beloved nation of Nicaragua.”
While the Sandinista government has increased its persecution of its people, according to the U.S. government, in fiscal year 2022, 163,876 Nicaraguans were encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border: the largest number ever and eclipsing the numbers of Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans encountered. This represented a steep increase over FY 2021 (50,722) and an exponential increase from FY 2020 (only 3,164).
“They don’t have any other choice. These Nicaraguans are not leaving just because of economic concerns, but because [of] their autonomy and safety and the safety of their children,” said Picciotti-Bayer. “That should concern the U.S. because it is never good that people have to leave their homeland because of oppression; but it also [is] putting a strain on our country and a politically charged immigration system,”
But she underscored the humanitarian aspect.
“Catholics are called to have a greater concern for our brothers and sisters, whether they’re believers or just brothers and sisters on this earth. Paying attention to the shift towards these more totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in the Americas: If there isn’t an unequivocal response by the global community and the U.S. to stop Ortega, other countries with similar leaders may feel that they behave similarly with no repercussions,” said Picciotti-Bayer.
“The tide has turned on Ortega as the United States is making this known,” Picciotti-Bayer said about Ortega’s deportation of his fellow citizens.
Wyoming advances a new abortion ban to replace blocked ‘trigger law’
Posted on 03/9/2023 23:02 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
St. Louis, Mo., Mar 9, 2023 / 14:02 pm (CNA).
Lawmakers in Wyoming have sent a new abortion ban to the governor’s desk to be signed into law, in an attempt to end abortions in the western state after a previous abortion ban, which first came into effect last summer, was blocked in court.
House Bill 152, known as the “Life is a Human Right Act,” includes language clarifying that abortion is not healthcare but rather the “intentional termination of the life of an unborn baby,” which is a human and should therefore have the rights of a human.
“It is within the authority of the state of Wyoming to determine reasonable and necessary restrictions upon abortion, including its prohibition,” the act reads.
"The legislature, in the exercise of its constitutional duties and powers, has a fundamental duty to provide equal protection for all human lives, including unborn babies from conception.”
The legislation bans abortion throughout pregnancy but carves out specific exceptions to allow doctors to perform abortions to preserve the life or health of the mother, in cases of rape or incest, or in the case of a diagnosed lethal fetal anomaly. The act also clarifies that care for women suffering from an ectopic pregnancy, as well as procedures to care for a woman following a miscarriage, are not considered abortions and will not be affected by the law.
The act would make the performing of an illegal abortion a felony punishable by a fine of up to $20,000, imprisonment for not more than five years, or both. In addition, a doctor performing an abortion could lose their license. The act provides no penalty for the woman seeking an abortion.
The Wyoming House approved the bill on a 46-16 vote on Feb. 8. The Senate approved it March 1 with 25 voting for the bill, five voting against it and one legislator absent, the Cody Enterprise newspaper reported.
Wyoming has a “trigger law” in place that banned all abortions, with a few exceptions, upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which took place last June. On July 21, 2022, Attorney General Bridget Hill informed Gov. Mark Gordon that the trigger law will be fully authorized, allowing it to come into effect. That law also had exceptions for rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.
A few Wyoming lawmakers expressed concerns that the new law is very similar to the trigger law, which got blocked last year.
On July 27, 2022, a Wyoming court put a temporary hold on the enactment of the trigger law. The law is now blocked indefinitely while legal challenges play out in court after Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens approved a new preliminary injunction Aug. 11.
Sponsored by Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody) — the lawmaker who sponsored the state’s trigger law — the Life is a Human Right Act is currently awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. Mark Gordon. Gordon signed Wyoming’s trigger law into effect last year, saying he did so because he believes that the decision to regulate abortions should be left to the states. Gordon has signed other pro-life legislation during his tenure, including a bill requiring any physician performing an abortion to “take medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of an infant born alive.”
As of December 2022, Wyoming has only one abortion clinic in the state, a private clinic located in Jackson.
If the new law comes into effect, Wyoming will be the 12th state to successfully ban abortion. Several other states’ complete bans are blocked in court.