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Female athletes advocate for women’s sports ahead of Title IX transgender changes

Cynthia Monteleone, shown at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. The mother of three is a track coach, a Team USA World Masters track champion, and an advocate for the preservation of women’s sports. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2022 / 16:03 pm (CNA).

Women athletes who are opposed to biological males identifying as transgender females competing in women’s sports rallied in Washington, D.C., on Thursday ahead of new proposed regulations coming from the Biden administration regarding transgender athletes.

The event, “Our Bodies, Our Sports,” sponsored by the Independent Women’s Forum, among other groups, coincided with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a federal law that ensures that no person at schools and colleges receiving federal funds is discriminated against based on sex. The Biden administration plans to broaden the scope of the law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to gender.

Several athletes spoke to CNA, including a Catholic track star from Hawaii and a swimmer from Kentucky who competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, said they attended the rally, which drew a counterprotest by trans-rights activists, to preserve women's sports.

Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male. Katie Yoder/CNA
Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male. Katie Yoder/CNA

Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, has won many championships and awards for swimming throughout her college career. Earlier this year, she tied for 5th place with Lia Thomas in the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Barker said Thomas, competing for the University of Pennsylvania, received the 5th place trophy, while she was told that one would be sent to her at a later date.

“Women have fought the past 50 years today for equal rights in terms of sports and equal opportunities,” Barker told CNA.

“Just when you think you're almost there, it's a complete 180. My goal is to be here, and to use my voice to help bring light to the situation, and to help get back what Title IX is supposed to stand for,” she said.

For Barker, this issue comes down to a matter of fairness.

“It's not that I'm transphobic. I don't think that. I think that you can do what you want in your free time, but when you're infringing on women's sport and it's involving lots of female athletes, that's when I'm going to get involved and that's when I'm going to speak up about it,” she said.

Cynthia Monteleone, who lives in Hawaii, is a mother of three, a track coach, a Team USA World Masters track champion, and an advocate for the preservation of women’s sports.

“It means more to me to champion this fight for women's sports than anything else, and that's because I'm being true to myself and allowing my faith to guide me,” Monteleone, who is Catholic, told CNA.

Monteleone said she decided to skip the world track championships in Finland to attend Thursday’s rally. Had she competed, she would have had to go against a biological male, she said.

“I began to ask questions about the fairness of this issue, and I was told to keep my mouth shut for my own safety,” Monteleone said. “I did not do that. I'm still speaking up louder than ever.”

Monteleone said the stand she’s taking stems from the moral values she derives from her Catholic faith.

“God will lead the way to the path you're supposed to be on, so I am not supposed to get that medal at that world championship this week,” she said. “It means nothing to me if there's not a fair playing field.”

Monteleone said her daughter, Margaret, had a similar experience at her first high school track meet, where she lost to a biological male.

Monteleone said she does not place any value on the words of those who call her position on the issue “transphobic” or “discriminatory.” Instead, she noted, “I just say ‘stay strong’ and don't put value in those words.”

Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University, speaks at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University, speaks at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

Another outspoken woman at the event was Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University.

“This is something that is so important to me because I have personally been affected by this issue at hand,” DeBos said, recalling a time when her relay team lost out to a team with a transgender athlete.

“Being here today and being alongside all of these athletes, I think our voices together are what's going to help make change,” DeBos said.

DeBos spoke on the biological differences between men and women and how women have the right to fight for fairness in their sports.

“This is within the sports world, and that really is a different world,” she told CNA. The physical advantages that come with being a biological male have “nothing to do with the outside world” when it comes to fair treatment.

World Meeting of Families 2022: Full text of Pope Francis' address at the Festival of Families

Rome - June 22, 2022: Day one of the World Meeting of Families with Pope Francis during the Festival of Families. / Vatican Media

Rome, Italy, Jun 23, 2022 / 10:25 am (CNA).

Here is the full text of Pope Francis' address at the Festival of Families during the World Meeting of Families 2022, which was held in the Paul VI Audience Hall on June 22, 2022.

Dear families,

I am happy to be here with you, following the disturbing events that you have all recently experienced: first the pandemic and now the war in Europe, to say nothing of the other wars afflicting our human family.

I thank Cardinal Farrell, Cardinal De Donatis, the personnel of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, as well as those of the Diocese of Rome, whose dedication has made this meeting possible.

I would also like to thank the families present, who have come from many parts of the world, especially those who have shared their testimonies with us. Thank you so much! It is not easy to speak before so large an audience about your lives, your troubles and those gifts, wonderful but profoundly personal, that you have received from the Lord. Your testimonies have served as “amplifiers”: you have given voice to the experiences of other families in the world that, like yourselves, are sharing in the same joys and concerns, the same hardships and hopes.

For this reason, I would like to say something to those of you here present and to all the married couples and families listening to us throughout the world. I want you to feel my closeness to you, wherever you are, and to your concrete life situation. My word of encouragement is precisely this: start from where you are, and, from there, try to journey together: together as couples, together in your families, together with other families, together with the Church. I think of the parable of the Good Samaritan who meets someone wounded and in need. He draws near to him, cares for him and helps him to resume his journey. That is what I want the Church to be for all of you! A Good Samaritan that draws near to you and helps you to continue your journey and to take a step forward, however small. Never forget that closeness is the “style” of God, closeness and tender love. I will now try to indicate a few “steps forward” that need to be taken together, by reflecting on the testimonies we have heard.

1. “A step forward” towards marriage. Thank you, Luigi and Serena, for having told us with great honesty about your own experience, with its hardships and hopes. I think it was painful for all of us to hear you say, “We did not find a community that would support us with open arms for what we are”. That is painful! It should make us all think. We need to be converted and to journey as a welcoming Church, so that our dioceses and parishes can increasingly become “communities that support with open arms”. How much we need this, in our present-day culture of indifference! Providentially, you found support in other families, which are in fact “little churches”.

I was greatly consoled when you explained the reason that led you to baptize your children. You said something very beautiful: “Despite our noblest human efforts, we are not sufficient unto ourselves”. It is true, we can have the loveliest dreams, the loftiest ideals, but in the end, we also discover – and this is wisdom – our own limitations, which we cannot overcome by ourselves but by opening ourselves to the Father, to his love and to his grace. That is the meaning of the sacraments of baptism and of matrimony: they are the concrete helps that God gives us in order not to leave us alone, precisely because “we are not sufficient unto ourselves”. It was good to hear those words: “we are not sufficient unto ourselves”.

We can say that whenever a man and a woman fall in love, God offers them a gift; that gift is marriage. It is a marvelous gift, which contains the power of God’s own love: strong, enduring, faithful, ready to start over after every failure or moment of weakness. Marriage is not a formality you go through. You don’t get married in order to be “card-carrying” Catholics, to obey a rule, or because the Church tells you to, or to have a party… No, you get married because you want to build your marriage on the love of Christ, which is solid as rock. In marriage, Christ gives himself to you, so that you can find the strength to give yourselves to one another. So take heart: family life is not “mission impossible”! By the grace of the sacrament, God makes it a wonderful journey, to be undertaken together with him and never alone. The family is not a lofty ideal that is unattainable in reality. God solemnly promises his presence in your marriage and family, not only on the day of your wedding, but for the rest of your lives. And he keeps supporting you, every day of your journey.

2. “A step forward” to embrace the cross. I thank you, Roberto and Maria Anselma, because you told us the moving story of your own family, and in particular about Chiara. You spoke to us of the cross, which is part of the life of every individual and of every family. You testified that the heavy cross of Chiara’s sickness and death did not destroy your family or eliminate the serenity and peace of your hearts. We can see this in your faces. You are not downcast, desperate or angry with life. Quite the opposite! What we see in you is great serenity and great faith. You told us how “Chiara’s serenity opened for us a window onto eternity”. To see how she experienced the trial of her illness helped you to lift up your gaze, not to remain imprisoned in grief, but to be open to something greater: the mysterious plans of God, to eternity, to heaven. I thank you for this witness of faith! You also quoted something that Chiara had said: “God puts a truth in each of us and it is not possible to misunderstand it”. God put into Chiara’s heart the truth of a holy life, and so she wished to preserve the life of her child at the cost of her own life. As a wife, alongside her husband, she followed the way of the Gospel of the family, simply and spontaneously. Chiara’s heart also welcomed the truth of the cross as gift of self: hers was a life given to her family, to the Church and to the whole world. We always need great examples to look to. May Chiara be an inspiration on our own journey of holiness, and may the Lord support and make fruitful every cross that families have to bear.

3. “A step forward” towards forgiveness. Paul and Germaine, you found the courage to tell us about the crisis that you went through in your marriage, and we thank you for that, because every marriage has its moments of crisis. We need to say this, not to hide it, and to take steps to overcome those crises. You didn’t try to sweeten matters with a bit of sugar! You called every cause of the crisis by its name: insincerity, infidelity, the misuse of money, the idols of power and career, growing resentment and hardness of heart. As you were speaking, I believe that all of us relived our own experiences of pain before similar situations of broken families. To see a family break up is a tragedy that cannot leave us indifferent. The laughter of married couples disappears, children are troubled, serenity is lost. And most of the time, nobody knows exactly what to do.

That is why your story transmits hope. Paul said that at the bleakest moment of the crisis, the Lord answered his heart’s deepest desire and saved his marriage. That is what happens. Deep within the heart of each person is the desire for love not to end, for the story of a love experienced together not to be cut short, for the fruits of love not to be dispersed. Everyone has this desire. No one wants a love that is short-term or is marked with an expiration date. So we suffer greatly whenever failings, negligence and human sins make a shipwreck of marriage. But even amid the tempest, God sees what is in our hearts. By his providence, you met a group of laypersons specifically committed to assisting families. That was the start of a journey of rapprochement and healing in your relationship. You began to talk to one another, to be open and sincere with each other, to acknowledge your faults, to pray together with other couples, and all those things brought you to reconciliation and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters, forgiveness heals every wound. Forgiveness is a gift welling up from the grace that Christ showers on couples and whole families whenever we let him act, whenever we turn to him. It was wonderful that you celebrated your own “feast of forgiveness” with your children, and renewed your marriage promises at the celebration of Mass. It made me think of the feast that, in Jesus’ parable, the father organized for his prodigal son (cf. Lk 15:20-24). Only this time, the ones who went astray were the parents, not the child! “Prodigal parents”. Yet this too is wonderful and can be a great witness for children. Young people, as they emerge from infancy, begin to realize that their parents are not “superheroes”; they are not all-powerful, much less perfect. In you, your children saw something much more important: they saw the humility to beg forgiveness and the God-given strength to pick yourselves up after the fall. This is something that children really need! For they too will make mistakes in life and realize that they too are not perfect, but they will also remember that the Lord raises us up, that all of us are forgiven sinners, that we have to beg forgiveness from others but also be able to forgive ourselves. The lesson that they learned from you will remain in their hearts forever. It was good for us too, to hear this. Thank you for your witness of forgiveness!

4. “A step forward” towards welcome. Thank you, Iryna and Sofia, for your witness. You gave a voice to all those persons whose lives have been devastated by the war in Ukraine. In you, we see the faces and the stories of so many men and women forced to leave their homeland. We thank you, for you have not lost your trust in providence and you have seen how God is at work in your lives, not least through the flesh and blood people he led you to encounter: host families, the doctors who helped you, and other kind-hearted men and women. The war brought you face to face with cynicism and human brutality, yet you also encountered people of great humanity. People at their worst and people at their best! It is important for all of us not to keep dwelling on the worst, but to maximize the best, the great goodness of which every man and woman is capable, and from there to start over again.

I thank you also, Pietro and Erika, for telling your own story, and for the generosity with which you welcomed Iryna and Sofia into your already large family. You shared with us that you did so out of gratitude to God and with a spirit of faith, as a call from the Lord. Erika told us that welcoming them was a “blessing from heaven”. Indeed, welcoming is a genuine “charism” of families, and especially of large families! We may think that, in a large home, it is harder to welcome other people; yet that is not the case, for families with numerous children are “trained” to make room for others. They always have room for others.

In the end, this is what family is all about. In the family, we experience what it is to be welcomed. Husbands and wives are the first to “welcome” and accept one another, as they said they would do on the day of their marriage: “I take you…” Later, as they bring a child into the world, they welcome that new life. Whereas in cold and anonymous situations, the weak are often rejected, in families it is natural to welcome them: to accept a child with a disability, an elderly person in need of care, a family member in difficulty who has no one else… This gives hope. Families are places of welcome, and woe if they were to disappear! Society would become cold and unbearable without welcoming families. Welcome and generous families give “warmth” to society.

5. “A step forward” towards fraternity. I thank you, Zakia, for having shared your story with us. It is amazing and consoling that what you and Luca built together remains alive. Your story was born and built on the sharing of very high ideals that you described when you said: “We based our family on authentic love, with respect, solidarity and dialogue between our cultures”. Nothing of that was lost, not even after the tragedy of Luca’s death. Not only do the example and the spiritual legacy of Luca continue to live on and to speak to the consciences of many people, but also the organization that Zakia founded in some way carries on his mission. Indeed, we can say that Luca’s diplomatic mission has now become “a mission of peace” on the part of your entire family. In your story, we see clearly how what is human and what is religious can become intertwined and bring forth precious fruit. In Zakia and Luca, we find the beauty of human love, passion for life, altruism and fidelity to one’s own beliefs and religious tradition, as a source of inspiration and interior strength.

Your family expresses the ideal of fraternity. In addition to being husband and wife, you lived as brother and sister in your humanity, in your differing religious experiences, and in your commitment to society. This too is a lesson that is learned in the family. Living in the family together with others different from ourselves, we learn to be brothers and sisters. We learn to overcome divisions, prejudices and narrow-mindedness, and to build together something grand, something beautiful, on the basis of what we have in common. Lived examples of fraternity, like that of Luca and Zakia, give us hope; they help us to look with greater confidence at our world, so torn by division and hostility. Thank you for this example of fraternity!

I don’t not want to move on from Luca and you without mentioning your mother. She is here, and she has always been at your side. This is the goodness that mothers-in-law bring to families, good mothers-in-law and good mothers! I thank her for coming with you today.

Dear friends, each of your families has a mission to carry out in our world, a testimony to give. We the baptized are especially called to be “a message that the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to his people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 21). For this reason, I would like you to ask yourselves this question: What is the word that the Lord wants to speak through our life to all those whom we meet? What “step forward” is he asking of our family, my family, today? Everyone should ask this. Stop and listen. Let yourselves be changed by him, so that you too can change the world and make it “home” for all those who need to feel welcomed and accepted, for all those who need to encounter Christ and to know that they are loved. We need to live with our eyes raised to heaven: as Blessed Maria and Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi used to say to their children, confronting the efforts and joys of life, “always looking from the roof upwards”.

I thank you for coming here. I thank you for the efforts you make in raising your families. Keep moving forward, with courage and with joy. And please, don’t forget to pray for me.

Why June 29 is a good day to consider the legend of St. Peter and St. Agatha

This painting of St. Peter visiting St. Agatha was created by Federico Zuccari between 1597 and 1599 for the altar of Sant’Agata in the Milan Cathedral. It was directly commissioned by Milan native Federico Borromeo, a cousin of St. Charles Borromeo. / Photo by Kathleen Naab

Milan, Italy, Jun 22, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Within the splendor of Milan’s cathedral, a unique image from the late 16th century hangs over one of the side altars of the south aisle of the nave.

Created by Federico Zuccari between 1597 and 1599 for the altar of Sant’Agata, it was commissioned by Milan native Federico Borromeo, a cousin to St. Charles Borromeo, the saint and champion of the Counter-Reformation and hero of the plague.

The painting is unique because it depicts a Christian legend that, today, is not particularly well known.

The basic outlines of the story of St. Agatha are familiar, largely due to the fact that they are so gruesome one can hardly forget them.

Agatha, a young virgin from Sicily, had pledged herself to Christ when a Roman Senator Quintianus became enamored by her beauty. She refused his advances, protesting that she already belonged to God, and this infuriated him. The governor turned her over to various tortures, one of which is memorialized in the iconography of the virgin: he had her breasts cut off. 

This horrific torment led to her becoming a patroness of women everywhere, but especially of breast cancer sufferers and nurses. It also brought about the tradition of peculiar breast-shaped sweets being popular on her Feb. 5 feast day.

Agatha is a much-beloved saint, especially in Italy, Malta, and other places, and is one of the female martyrs mentioned in the Roman Canon. Her death is believed to have occurred during the persecution of Decius, from 250 to 253.

But a lesser-known element of her legend involves St. Peter. 

According to the story, once Quintianus’ minions had severed her breasts and left her in agony in prison, St. Peter and an angel appeared to her. The first pope healed the young virgin’s wounds and reaffirmed her in her zeal.

The healing did nothing to shock or shame Quintianus into changing his mind, and he had Agatha dragged through the streets of the city until her triumphant death finally brought an end to her suffering.

It is this visit from Peter and the angel that is depicted at her altar in Milan’s cathedral, the Duomo. The painting shows a childlike Agatha looking upward, where three cherubs hover in bright light, contrasting with the darkness of her cell. Her left hand lies over a silver tray containing her severed breasts. With her right hand, she points up and her bloodied chest stains her garments. An older, bearded Peter offers her a cup, with the angel standing in the foreground, as if keeping guard against the night watchmen.

The narrative is clear, in line with Federico Borromeo’s desire to use art as a way to promote the devotion of the faithful and their understanding of the stories of salvation.

Which is why June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, is a good day to consider this legend and this masterpiece.

St. Peter was himself martyred some 200 years before Agatha and is shown here to the faithful as a source of comfort and the bearer of God’s healing for the suffering young Christian. As the first of Christ’s vicars, he is an image of the whole Church and thus comes to offer both fatherly and motherly consolation to the agonizing Agatha.

Peter’s 266th successor, Pope Francis, invites us to feel something of what Agatha must have felt at seeing Peter come to her in prison.

“Let us ask ourselves if, deep in our hearts,” the pope said in his Feb. 16 general audience, “we love the Church as she is … all the goodness and holiness that are present in the Church, starting precisely with Jesus and Mary. Loving the Church, safeguarding the Church, and walking with the Church.”

St. Peter naturally calls to mind the pope’s teaching role and how the magisterium is the source of unity for the Church; but it also reminds us that he is, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, the “shepherd of the whole flock” (No. 881) and “pastor of the entire Church” (No. 882). In other words, his teaching office is meant to be combined — as it was in Christ — with the fatherly, caring role of one who accompanies, especially in suffering.

Pope Francis often emphasizes the importance of this role. In speaking of priestly identity, he urges pastors to be close to their sheep, accompanying them both with prayer and presence in the realities they face.

“I am convinced that, for a renewed understanding of the identity of the priesthood, it is important nowadays to be closely involved in people’s real lives, to live alongside them, without escape routes,” he said in a Feb. 17 address at a symposium on the priesthood. 

Certainly, Peter’s presence beside Agatha in prison gives us a vision of just such an accompaniment.

As we celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, let us allow our hearts to fill with gratitude for the splendor of the Church’s art and history; for the many saints who are our friends in heaven; for the Church herself, our mother; and for Peter’s successors down through the ages, bringing us Christ’s comfort and closeness.

Cardinal Kasper warns German synodal way risks 'breaking its own neck'

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at the Vatican in April 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Berlin, Germany, Jun 22, 2022 / 14:40 pm (CNA).

A theologian considered close to Pope Francis has warned that the German Synodal Way is at risk of “breaking its own neck” if it does not heed the objections raised by a growing number of bishops around the world.

Cardinal Walter Kasper also said organisers were using a “lazy trick” that in effect constituted a “coup d’etat” that could result in a collective resignation, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The 89-year-old German cardinal is President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and was Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart from 1989 to 1999.  

He spoke at an online study day on June 19 of the initiative “New Beginning” (Neuer Anfang), a reform movement critical of the Synodal Way.

Kasper warned that the Church was not some substance to be “re-molded and reshaped to suit the situation”. 

In April, more than 100 cardinals and bishops from around the world released a "fraternal open letter" to Germany's bishops, warning that sweeping changes to Church teaching advocated by the process may lead to schism.

In March, an open letter from the Nordic bishops expressed alarm at the German process, and in February, a strongly-worded letter from the president of Poland’s Catholic bishops' conference raised serious concerns

Such concerns “will be repeated and reaffirmed and, if we do not heed them, will break the neck of the Synodal Way," Kasper warned in his speech.

It was "the original sin of the Synodal Way" that it did not base itself on the pope's letter to the Church in Germany, he said, with its "proposal of being guided by the Gospel and the basic mission of evangelization”. 

Instead, the German process, initiated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, "took its own path with partly different criteria”, Kasper said.

In June 2019, Pope Francis sent a 19-page letter to Catholics in Germany urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.” 

The president of the German bishops' conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, has repeatedly rejected all concerns, instead expressing disappointment in Pope Francis in May 2022.  

In an interview published earlier this month, Pope Francis reiterated that he told the leader of Germany’s Catholic bishops that the country already had “a very good Evangelical Church” and “we don’t need two.”

“The problem arises when the synodal way comes from the intellectual, theological elites, and is much influenced by external pressures,” the pope said.

Bätzing, who serves as president of the Synodal Way, is also a signatory to the “Frankfurt Declaration”. This petition demands German bishops should declare their commitment to implementing resolutions passed by the process, CNA Deutsch reported

On Sunday, Kasper decried this push for “commitment”, saying it was "a trick and, moreover, a lazy trick."

"Just imagine a civil servant who allows himself to be appointed, then renounces the exercise of his legal obligations," the cardinal said. "He would be sure to face proceedings under civil service law. Ultimately, such a self-commitment would be tantamount to a collective resignation of the bishops. Constitutionally, the whole thing could only be called a coup, i.e., an attempted coup d'état."

The Church can never be governed synodally, Kasper stressed: "Synods cannot be made institutionally permanent." Instead, he said, a synod constituted "an extraordinary interruption" to ordinary proceedings.

The Synodal Way, also referred to as Synodal Path, describes itself as a process bringing together Germany’s bishops and selected laypeople to debate and pass resolutions about the way power is exercised in the Church, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women.

Participants have voted in favor of draft documents calling for the priestly ordination of women, same-sex blessings, and changes to Church teaching on homosexual acts.

Cardinal Kasper has repeatedly expressed concern about the process.

On Sunday, Kasper used the close-sounding German words Neuerung (“renewal”) and Erneuerung (“innovation”) to say one could “not reinvent the Church,” but rather one should contribute to renewing it in the Holy Spirit: "renewal is not innovation. It does not mean just trying something new and inventing a new Church."

Instead, Kasper continued, true reform was about "letting the Spirit of God make us new and give us a new heart." 

Analogously, he said, the term "reform" applies to bringing the church back "into shape," "namely, into the shape that Jesus Christ wanted and that he gave to the Church. Jesus Christ is the foundation, no one can lay another (1 Cor 3:10 f); he is at the same time the capstone that holds everything together (Eph 2:20). He is the standard, the Alpha and Omega of every renewal."

Can laity preach at Mass? Chicago parish offers pulpit to same-sex couple

Alex Shingleton and Landon Duyka deliver a 'Gospel reflection' during Mass at Old St. Patrick's in Chicago, Ill., June 19, 2022. / Old St. Patrick’s/vimeo.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 22, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

A Chicago Catholic parish is facing questions after the pastor allowed a couple in a same-sex marriage to offer a “reflection” in lieu of the homily at a June 19 Mass. 

The parish, Old St. Patrick’s, is a historic and prominent parish on Chicago’s west loop. The priest celebrating the Mass, Father Joe Roccasalva, introduced the two men immediately after proclaiming the Gospel and said they were to give a Father’s Day “Gospel reflection.” According to canon law, laypeople are not allowed to preach homilies during Mass — only the ordained, meaning priests, bishops, and deacons, are allowed to do so. 

Upon taking the lectern, Alex Shingleton and Landon Duyka — who say they have been members of the parish for a decade — described their same-sex marriage as a “blessing” and the adoption of their two children as “miracles.” 

“Let’s be honest, there are probably not too many gay dads speaking on Father’s Day at many Catholic Churches on the planet today,” one of the men said. 

Later in the presentation, one of the men stated: “We wanted to raise our children in the Catholic Church…On the other hand, we didn’t want to expose our children to bigotry and have them feel any shame or intolerance about their family.” 

The men described as a “miracle” the fact that they had found an LGBT-affirming community at the self-described “radically inclusive” Old St. Patrick’s parish, as they said they had experienced rejection and a lack of welcome at other Catholic parishes. 

The Catholic Church teaches that people who identify as LGBT should be treated with dignity and respect, but also that homosexual acts are sinful and that homosexual unions — even if recognized as marriage by governments or society — cannot be approved by the Church under any circumstance. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that "'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved." At the same time, the Catechism and popes have drawn a clear distinction between homosexual acts and homosexual inclinations, the latter of which, while objectively disordered, are not sinful

"Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection," the Catechism adds.

In terms of the question of laypeople giving homilies, Father Pius Pietrzyk OP, a canon lawyer, told CNA in written responses that although the allowance of the reflection was technically a clear violation of the law, Catholics should not merely be concerned with the letter of the law, but also the reasons behind it. 

“[The law] expresses the Church's understanding of the role of the priest in the life of the parish community,” Pietrzyk explained. 

“More importantly, it expresses the essential link between the munus sanctificandi [duty to sanctify, or consecrate] and the munus docendi [the duty to teach], which is rooted in the sacrament of holy orders.” 

Pietrzyk said he hopes that the men who spoke at Old St. Patrick’s continue to participate in the Catholic Church. 

“We should continue to encourage these two men to participate in the life of the Church,” Pietrzyk stressed, but reiterated that the fact that they are living publicly as a same-sex married couple — a state the Church teaches to be sinful — cannot simply be ignored. 

Moreover, Pietrzyk described the priest’s decision to allow the men to speak during Mass as a “politicization of the Eucharist.”

“The selection of these two as [homilists] on Father's Day must be seen for what it is, a political act of submission to modern sexual ideologies and an act of rebellion against the teachings of Christ and his Church,” the priest said. 

In March 2021, the Vatican’s doctrinal office clarified that the Catholic Church does not have the power to give liturgical blessings of homosexual unions, writing that “it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.” The ruling and note were approved for publication by Pope Francis. 

The Archdiocese of Chicago has not responded to questions on the matter from other Catholic publications. 

Museum of the Bible exhibit explores architectural history of St. Peter's Basilica

An exhibit at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., focuses on the history of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. / Courtesy of Museum of the Bible

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2022 / 18:41 pm (CNA).

Known for its grandeur, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City has long been an architectural inspiration worldwide. Now the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is honoring the history of the structure’s architecture with a new exhibit.

Basilica Sancti Petri: The Transformation of Saint Peter’s Basilica” opened May 27 and will remain in the museum's long-term Vatican exhibit, Treasures from the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Library, through Sept. 25.

The exhibit features numerous original prints of design ideas put forward by infamous artists of the 16th century such as Antonio da Sangallo, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Carlo Fontana, Agostino Veneziano, and Antoine Lafréry.

“We have that historical perspective, but also these unique and beautiful prints at the same time,” Jeff Kloha, chief curator of the Museum of the Bible, told CNA. “So it's a combination of a historical exhibit and an art exhibit. You get to see what [the artists] started on, an idea, and how it changed.”

St. Peter’s Basilica is designed with a combination of primarily Roman and Latin influences. Its current state depicts bits and pieces from each artist’s prints.

“Basilica Sancti Petri,” the 2014 book by Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, inspired the Museum of the Bible exhibit. Kloha told CNA that Jatta’s collection of the prints for the book led her to offer the original copies for display in the exhibit.

St. Peter’s Basilica was originally built by Roman Emperor Constantine during the pontificate of Pope Sylvester I (314–345) and was completed in 337. It was eventually demolished and rebuilt in the 16th century. The basilica has been the primary church of the Vatican and the site of papal celebrations for centuries. Its architecture has been a blueprint for numerous churches and secular buildings, and it is the first Christian church to be built on the burial site of a martyr — its namesake, St. Peter.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says to Simon Peter, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”

“It's an interesting way that the Bible becomes kind of concrete in that sense,” Kloha told CNA, while also noting that “in many ways it becomes a model, a pattern for what follows,” both in Catholicism and other traditions.

Basilica Sancti Petri: The Transformation of Saint Peter’s Basilica” will be included as a part of general admission tickets to the Museum of the Bible through Sept. 25. To learn more about this exhibit and others, visit the museum’s website.

Young people 'key' to building understanding, Israeli ambassador to Poland says

Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne speaks with students and faculty at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, on June 21, 2022. / Credit: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

Lublin, Poland, Jun 21, 2022 / 17:07 pm (CNA).

Dialogue between young people from Israel and Poland is key to building understanding between the nations, Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne told students and faculty at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, on June 21.

“Meetings of young Poles and Israelis constitute an investment in our common future,” the ambassador said. “The future of our mutual relations is in their hands.”

The ambassador’s remarks came at the announcement by Father Mirosław Kalinowski, the university’s rector, of the creation of The Abraham Joshua Heschel Center at the university. The center, which will carry out joint educational and cultural projects addressed to Jewish and Polish youth, “seeks to build bridges and develop Polish-Israeli research and cultural cooperation,” Kalinowski said. Kalinowski added that he is looking forward to the center’s cooperation with the Israeli embassy and academic centers in Israel.

“A thousand years of living together on Polish soil is the cornerstone of our present and future cooperation,” Livne said. “We should work together to solve the problems that Poland, Israel, and all of Europe are currently facing. Challenges open up new opportunities. Responding to these challenges is our task.”

“A lack of respect between parties who do not understand each other is the root of many conflicts,” the ambassador continued. “My people have experienced this very strongly. Our main task is to build bridges — bridges of mutual understanding, bridges of communication. This is the answer to the challenges we are going to face in the future.”

Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne and Father Mirosław Kalinowski, rector of John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, discuss building bridges between the two countries at the university on June 21, 2022. Credit: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne and Father Mirosław Kalinowski, rector of John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, discuss building bridges between the two countries at the university on June 21, 2022. Credit: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

“It is much easier to distort history when we do not know our own past and that of our neighbors,” Livne said. “It is therefore our responsibility to conduct thorough research and to learn from history based on facts.”

The ambassador’s visit is considered a stepping stone to ongoing cooperation between the countries. Kalinowski and Livne also met on May 13 at the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw. 

Livne has served as the Israeli Ambassador to Poland since the end of February.

US couple to share advice for Catholic family life at World Meeting of Families

Soren and Ever Johnson with their five children, ages 19 to 10. / Courtesy of Soren and Ever Johnson.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 20, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

A few years after getting married in the early 2000s, Soren and Ever Johnson were reflecting on Pope John Paul II’s call for the laity to play a greater role in the new evangelization and wondering how they could contribute.

John Paul II “was constantly saying, ‘if the laity take their obligation to spread the Good News seriously, there will be a new springtime for the Church in the third millennium,’” Ever said. “And he said it over and over and over again in so many different contexts it was hard not to feel responsible to do something.”

This was the origin of their ministries Trinity House Community and Trinity House Cafe + Market, based in Leesburg, Virginia. The mission, they say, “is to inspire families to make home a taste of heaven for the renewal of faith and culture.”

The Johnsons told CNA via video call this month that they are looking forward to being speakers at the World Meeting of Families 2022 in Rome, where they will give a 15-minute presentation on Saturday, June 25.

Soren and Ever met in 2000 in Kraków, southern Poland, “in John Paul II’s footsteps,” Soren said. They will celebrate 21 years of marriage in August and have five children aged 10 to 19.

When they met, Ever was working for George Weigel, the author of “Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II.” She wanted to do more to engage Catholics and non-Catholics who might not otherwise be involved in parish life or encounter the ideas that the think tank was trying to promote.

Soren and Ever Johnson at the Trinity House Cafe + Market. Courtesy of Soren and Ever Johnson.
Soren and Ever Johnson at the Trinity House Cafe + Market. Courtesy of Soren and Ever Johnson.

“There’s only so long we can spend in the parish basement just enjoying our own company. Because this isn’t evangelization,” Ever said, commenting on their thought processes at the time. “You know, we’re having a great time and kind of encouraging each other and learning a lot, but there really wasn’t much exposure for people who weren’t already, you know, part of the choir.”

This pull to be more open to the wider community led them to open Trinity House Cafe + Market in 2014.

Trinity House Cafe + Market. Courtesy of Soren and Ever Johnson.
Trinity House Cafe + Market. Courtesy of Soren and Ever Johnson.

“Our location is at the intersection of Church and Market streets, and we’re right across from the courthouse, so it’s a really amazing location to just be this Christian presence in the community,” Ever explained.

The Johnsons said the coffee shop also hosts community events and has been a way for Christians and non-Christians to engage with each other in an open and welcoming environment.

The idea, Soren said, is to “lead with beauty in the public square. Give [people] a taste of heaven, give them a taste of hospitality, a welcoming environment where people feel listened to, they feel served and they see the beauty of the Church — not in your face, but it’s there if you want to go deeper.”

“And over these eight years, we’ve seen just amazing stories of people coming back to the faith,” he said.

The Johnsons also see hospitality and outward service as important aspects of family life, which is why they are the focus of the final “level” of a framework the couple created for helping families to increase their communion with God and with each other.

Modeled on the Holy Trinity, Ever said, “if you want to be like the Persons of God, the whole point is to be outflowing. Like producing so much grace within your family that you have more than enough to go around for what the family members need.”

“Because it involves God, in his infinite grace, [it] spills over and provides for anyone else who comes your way as well,” she said.

At the 10th World Meeting of Families, taking place on June 22-26 at the Vatican, the Johnsons will speak about discernment in daily family life.

“The way we look at it is, discernment is all about being attentive to God’s voice amid the chaos and joy of family life,” Soren said. “So in our talk, we’re going to present a framework for how parents can create an atmosphere in their homes of good discernment.”

“We will point to how each family is a communion of persons, an image of the Trinity. So we’re going to point to how the heart of discernment is following the Lord’s voice and deepening that communion as a family,” he said.

St. Columba’s 1,500-year-old legacy includes this new Scottish Catholic pilgrimage

Pilgrims traveled on foot and by ferry from the Scottish west coast, across the Isle of Mull, and to Iona Abbey during the Brecbannoch Pilgrimage June 11–13. / Sancta Familia Media

Denver Newsroom, Jun 19, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Catholic pilgrims have again returned to Iona, the coastal island where St. Columba launched the evangelization of Scotland more than 1,400 years ago. 

Sixty people walked for dozens of miles from June 11 to 13 to pray for Scotland, for spiritual renewal amid the pandemic, and to return a relic of the missionary Irish saint to the site of his deeply influential monastic community.

“The route taken involved blistering winds and rain, and some scorching sun,” pilgrimage director Jamie McGowan told CNA June 15. “We also had to wade through a few bogs. But the beauty of that was knowing that such conditions were the conditions that St. Columba himself would have faced when preaching the Gospel to the surrounding islands.”

The Brecbannoch Pilgrimage took place as the pilgrims traveled on foot and by ferry from the Scottish west coast, across the Isle of Mull, and to Iona Abbey. The walking portion of the journey was 50 miles long.

The pilgrimage takes its name from the Brecbannoch of St. Columba, a reliquary that had major significance in Scottish history. The object containing the relics of the saint was brought to important meetings of the Church and of the government to seek Columba’s intercession. The Scottish army would carry the Brecbannoch into battle.

“Now we carry it to pray for a renewal of the Catholic faith in Scotland,” McGowan said of the pilgrims’ reliquary replica.

The pilgrims’ replica is modeled on a national treasure of Scotland: the Monymusk Reliquary, a house-shaped container for saints’ relics. The National Museums Scotland said that many identify the Monymusk Reliquary as the Brecbannoch, though this has not been confirmed.

The pilgrimage reliquary contains the relics of St. Columba, St. Andrew, and St. Margaret of Scotland, the country’s patron saints.

Pilgrims waved the flag of Scotland and other religious banners and took turns carrying the reliquary on the journey to Iona. Their relic of St. Andrew is a piece of the cross on which St. Andrew the Apostle was crucified, and this cross is represented in the Scotland flag’s white saltire (diagonal cross).

Their destination was on the island of Iona, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland’s northwest coast. The island is only 3 miles by 1.5 miles wide, but it was there in the sixth century that Irish missionary St. Columba and his companions built simple monastic quarters and a church for themselves. They ministered to Irish settlers and evangelized the pagan Picts of the region.

“Iona has played a crucial part in Scottish history, where kings were crowned, married, and buried, and where pilgrims brought their petitions for centuries,” McGowan said. “Today, it maintains this status as a key historical monument in Scottish history. But for us as a Christian people it is, of course, more than a political monument: it is a shrine, not only of the many holy saints buried there, but also of the faith of many generations of Scots who journeyed great lengths to pray there.”

The latest pilgrimage to Iona began June 11 at St. Columba’s Cathedral in the west coast town of Oban, where Bishop Brian McGee of Argyll and the Isles celebrated a 6 a.m. Mass for the pilgrimage.

Pilgrims held a procession to the port and then took a ferry to the Island of Mull, the large island to the east of Iona. They camped the night in a field, then walked to Kilvickeon Chapel, a ruined medieval church. After further traveling and camping the night, they took the ferry to Iona.

The group celebrated Mass at the ruins of Iona Nunnery, a Benedictine convent founded in the 13th century. They then held a procession to Iona Abbey, rebuilt in the 20th century at the site of St. Columba’s community.

The pilgrimage concluded with Solemn Benediction with the relics in the abbey’s chapel.

The St. Columba relic came from the relic collection at Carfin Grotto in Motherwell, Scotland.

“St. Columba’s relics were removed from Iona during the Reformation, so their return on Monday is the first time that St. Columba’s bones have returned to Iona since the Reformation,” McGowan said.

A storied life

St. Columba, also known as St. Colmcille, was born in Ireland on Dec. 7, 521. He studied at several monasteries and became a priest. He spent 15 years in Ulster traveling, preaching and founding monasteries. He left Ireland in 563. One account of his life says he left simply in order to preach the Word of God. Another account says he had become complicit in a war between feuding tribes and then repented of his sins, taking on foreign missionary work as a penance.

He died June 9, 597, on what is now observed as his feast day.

The monastic community he founded at Iona became deeply influential as a center of learning and devotion. It produced artistic manuscripts, possibly including the Book of Kells, and carvings including many Celtic high crosses. Iona went into decline after Viking raids in the ninth century. Monastic communities would wax and wane on the island until the Protestant Reformation.

In the mid-20th century, an ecumenical Christian group sought to restore Iona as a place for Christians to pray and gather. A Catholic house of prayer opened on the island in 1997, the first permanent Catholic presence there in 400 years.

Organizers announced the Brecbannoch Pilgrimage on Dec. 7, 2021, the 1,500th birthday of St. Columba.

Pilgrims traveled on foot and by ferry from the Scottish west coast, across the Isle of Mull, and to Iona Abbey during the Brecbannoch Pilgrimage June 11–13. The group celebrated Mass at the ruins of Iona Nunnery, a Benedictine convent founded in the 13th century. They then held a procession to Iona Abbey, rebuilt in the 20th century at the site of St. Columba’s community. Sancta Familia Media
Pilgrims traveled on foot and by ferry from the Scottish west coast, across the Isle of Mull, and to Iona Abbey during the Brecbannoch Pilgrimage June 11–13. The group celebrated Mass at the ruins of Iona Nunnery, a Benedictine convent founded in the 13th century. They then held a procession to Iona Abbey, rebuilt in the 20th century at the site of St. Columba’s community. Sancta Familia Media

“St. Columba came to a pagan Scotland with 12 men and brought the light of the Christian faith to every corner of it,” McGowan told CNA. “In a world that is increasingly anchored to materialism and utilitarianism, his saintly example speaks to a neo-paganism that we face today in our evangelical mission — and by his intercession we can be sure that we can overcome the challenges that face any modern apostle.”

McGowan said the need for the Church to come together after the major waves of the Covid-19 pandemic was a motive for the pilgrimage. He and friends at the Knights of St. Columba Council at the University of Glasgow thought that “after the pandemic the Church in Scotland needed to pray for its mission of renewal, and the best way to do that was to make prayer and penance with the saints who brought the faith to our nation in the first place.”

“Father Ross Campbell, the lead chaplain, was very supportive of the idea and agreed to help us lead a group to carry the relics with this intention in mind,” McGowan added, referring to the Catholic chaplain at the university.

Joss Brace, warden of the Cnoc a’ Chalmain Roman Catholic House of Prayer on Iona, told CNA the house’s oratory hosted the relics overnight after the pilgrimage concluded.

“We felt very privileged to have them there and to be able to pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and St. Columba’s relics,” said Brace, adding that the relics will now return to Carfin Grotto.

The pilgrimage was sponsored by the Knights of St. Columba, a Catholic men’s fraternity that collaborates with the Catholic bishops and clergy to support the Catholic faith and the works of mercy. It is active in Scotland, England, and Wales.

“Without their generosity, this event would not have been possible,” said McGowan, who said the organization is modeled after the Knights of Columbus.

Matthew Sheppard, a young member of the pilgrimage team and a grand knight of a Knights of St. Columba council, crafted the replica reliquary. Sancta Familia Media, a video production company in Lanarkshire, Scotland, took photos and videos throughout the pilgrimage.

The 1,500th anniversary of St. Columba’s birth last year prompted observances and celebrations in Scotland and Ireland from government bodies as well as from Catholics and other Christians, though some events were scaled back due to the pandemic.

To mark the anniversary, the Catholic Truth Society published a novena to St. Columba. The novena, authored by Jesuit Father Ross Crichton, was trilingual in Irish, Gaelic, and English.

The Church ‘can neither live nor survive without priests,’ Spanish bishop says

Priestly ordination with Bishop Demetrio Fernández of Córdoba, Spain / Diocese of Córdoba, Spain

Denver Newsroom, Jun 18, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

In his weekly pastoral letter published a few days before ordaining five new priests on June 18, the bishop of Córdoba, Spain, Demetrio Fernández, wrote that the Catholic Church cannot live without her priests, stressing that they are “a vital necessity.”

“The Church can neither live nor survive without priests. It’s a vital necessity. Because she cannot live without the presence of Christ who continually vivifies her through the sacraments, and especially through the Eucharist,” the bishop said. 

"Without priests there is no Eucharist or sacramental forgiveness of sins, or accompaniment to so many people who seek that presence of Christ by their side,” the bishop stressed.

Noting that the path to the priesthood isn’t easy, Bishop Fernández said that those who seek to respond to God in this vocation must seek him in prayer.

“In the serenity of prayer, with the counsel of the formators, and with the help of brother seminarians, the horizon becomes clearer until moral certainty is reached: God is calling me to be his priest, Jesus Christ is calling me to be his totally, people need the priest to draw close to God. Here I am, send me, as the prophet said,” the Spanish prelate wrote.

The bishop pointed out that a priest is a blessing for families, parishes, and fellow seminarians and encouraged young men not to be afraid to say yes to the Lord.

“Young men, if the Lord is calling you on this path, don’t be afraid. These young men who are ordained today are made of the same stuff as you are. And if you have any uneasiness about this direction, put yourself in the hands of a priest who will help you discern,” he encouraged.

"I assure you that if you take this step, you’ll be happy, because there is no greater happiness than giving your life to the Lord and making others happy, giving them to the Lord," he said.

The bishop encouraged people to pray for priestly vocations to God since, furthermore, “there is no greater sadness for a diocese than not having seminarians, candidates for the priesthood” and “there is no greater joy for a diocese than to have seminarians, who are going to be ordained priests for the service of the holy People of God.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.