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Pope Saint John Paul II

Pope Saint John Paul II

Feast date: Oct 22

Saint John Paul II is perhaps one of the most well-known pontiffs in recent history, and is most remembered for his charismatic nature, his love of youth and his world travels, along with his role in the fall of communism in Europe during his 27-year papacy.

Karol Józef Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his October 1978 election to the papacy, was born in the Polish town of Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from Krakow, on May 18, 1920. He was the youngest of three children born to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died in 1929. His eldest brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned army officer died in 1941. A sister, Olga, had died before he was born.

He was baptized on June 20, 1920 in the parish church of Wadowice by Fr. Franciszek Zak, made his First Holy Communion at age 9 and was confirmed at 18. Upon graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in Krakow's Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama.

The Nazi occupation forces closed the university in 1939 and young Karol had to work in a quarry (1940-1944) and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.

In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Krakow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow. At the same time, Karol Wojtyla was one of the pioneers of the "Rhapsodic Theatre," also clandestine.

After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of Krakow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Sapieha in Krakow on November 1, 1946.

Shortly afterwards, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome where he worked under the guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange. He finished his doctorate in theology in 1948 with a thesis on the subject of faith in the works of St. John of the Cross (Doctrina de fide apud Sanctum Ioannem a Cruce). At that time, during his vacations, he exercised his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland.

In 1948 he returned to Poland and was vicar of various parishes in Krakow as well as chaplain to university students. This period lasted until 1951 when he again took up his studies in philosophy and theology. In 1953 he defended a thesis on "evaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of Max Scheler" at Lublin Catholic University. Later he became professor of moral theology and social ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin.

On July 4, 1958, he was appointed titular bishop of Ombi and auxiliary of Krakow by Pope Pius XII, and was consecrated September 28, 1958, in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, by Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak.

On January 13, 1964, he was appointed archbishop of Krakow by Pope Paul VI, who made him a cardinal June 26, 1967 with the title of S. Cesareo in Palatio of the order of deacons, later elevated pro illa vice to the order of priests.

Besides taking part in Vatican Council II (1962-1965) where he made an important contribution to drafting the Constitution Gaudium et spes, Cardinal Wojtyla participated in all the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.

The Cardinals elected him Pope at the Conclave of 16 October 1978, and he took the name of John Paul II. On 22 October, the Lord's Day, he solemnly inaugurated his Petrine ministry as the 263rd successor to the Apostle. His pontificate, one of the longest in the history of the Church, lasted nearly 27 years.

Driven by his pastoral solicitude for all Churches and by a sense of openness and charity to the entire human race, John Paul II exercised the Petrine ministry with a tireless missionary spirit, dedicating it all his energy. He made 104 pastoral visits outside Italy and 146 within Italy. As bishop of Rome he visited 317 of the city's 333 parishes.

He had more meetings than any of his predecessors with the People of God and the leaders of Nations. More than 17,600,000 pilgrims participated in the General Audiences held on Wednesdays (more than 1160), not counting other special audiences and religious ceremonies [more than 8 million pilgrims during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 alone], and the millions of faithful he met during pastoral visits in Italy and throughout the world. We must also remember the numerous government personalities he encountered during 38 official visits, 738 audiences and meetings held with Heads of State, and 246 audiences and meetings with Prime Ministers.

His love for young people brought him to establish the World Youth Days. The 19 WYDs celebrated during his pontificate brought together millions of young people from all over the world. At the same time his care for the family was expressed in the World Meetings of Families, which he initiated in 1994.

John Paul II successfully encouraged dialogue with the Jews and with the representatives of other religions, whom he several times invited to prayer meetings for peace, especially in Assisi.

Under his guidance the Church prepared herself for the third millennium and celebrated the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 in accordance with the instructions given in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio adveniente. The Church then faced the new epoch, receiving his instructions in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, in which he indicated to the faithful their future path.

With the Year of the Redemption, the Marian Year and the Year of the Eucharist, he promoted the spiritual renewal of the Church.

He gave an extraordinary impetus to Canonizations and Beatifications, focusing on countless examples of holiness as an incentive for the people of our time. He celebrated 147 beatification ceremonies during which he proclaimed 1,338 Blesseds; and 51 canonizations for a total of 482 saints. He made Thérèse of the Child Jesus a Doctor of the Church.

He considerably expanded the College of Cardinals, creating 231 Cardinals (plus one in pectore) in 9 consistories. He also called six full meetings of the College of Cardinals.

He organized 15 Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops - six Ordinary General Assemblies (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994 and 2001), one Extraordinary General Assembly (1985) and eight Special Assemblies (1980,1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 (2) and 1999).

His most important Documents include 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions, 45 Apostolic Letters.

He promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the light of Tradition as authoritatively interpreted by the Second Vatican Council. He also reformed the Eastern and Western Codes of Canon Law, created new Institutions and reorganized the Roman Curia.

As a private Doctor he also published five books of his own: "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" (October 1994), "Gift and Mystery, on the fiftieth anniversary of my ordination as priest" (November 1996), "Roman Triptych" poetic meditations (March 2003), "Arise, Let us Be Going" (May 2004) and "Memory and Identity" (February 2005).

In the light of Christ risen from the dead, on 2 April a.D. 2005, at 9.37 p.m., while Saturday was drawing to a close and the Lord's Day was already beginning, the Octave of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church's beloved Pastor, John Paul II, departed this world for the Father.

From that evening until April 8, date of the funeral of the late Pontiff, more than three million pilgrims came to Rome to pay homage to the mortal remains of the Pope. Some of them queued up to 24 hours to enter St. Peter's Basilica.

On April 28, the Holy Father Benedict XVI announced that the normal five-year waiting period before beginning the cause of beatification and canonization would be waived for John Paul II. The cause was officially opened by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, on June 28 2005, and he was beatified May 1, 2011.

On April 27 , 2014 he was canonized by Pope Francis during a ceremony in St. Peter's Square.

In an April 24 message sent to the Church in Poland, Pope Francis gave thanks for the great “gift” of the new Saint, saying of John Paul II that he is grateful, “as all the members of the people of God, for his untiring service, his spiritual guidance, and for his extraordinary testimony of holiness.”

Bishops of Lake Charles, Raleigh issue statements on Latin Mass

Bishop Glen Provost of Lake Charles / Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Oct 21, 2021 / 18:01 pm (CNA).

Three months after the release of Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis’ restrictions on traditional liturgies, U.S. bishops are continuing to implement the apostolic letter within their respective dioceses. 

The Bishop of Lake Charles is allowing traditional liturgies to be offered at the cathedral parish and at a second parish in the southwest Louisiana diocese. He granted both parishes a canonical dispensation from the document’s restrictions on traditional liturgies being celebrated at parochial churches.

“As a pastor and a bishop, I am aware of the needs of the flock and address them,” said a letter from Bishop Glen Provost published on the diocesan website on Oct. 19. Provost noted that his diocese has endured several natural disasters within the last year, in addition to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and that many within his diocese are still displaced from their homes.

“Given these burdens and the emphasis on mercy exhibited by our Holy Father, I am prompted to address this implementation, where appropriate, in a spirit of epikeia and with the application of Canon 87,” he said. 

Canon 87 of the Code of Canon Law states, “A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church.”

The diocese already seeks to address the needs of certain groups of Catholics, he said, “such as our University students, the Hispanic community, and the hearing impaired.”

“Our pastoral concern extends as well to those who worship in the usus antiquior, that is, with the Roman Missal of 1962, and who have done so since the establishment of the Diocese,” he wrote. 

The Diocese of Lake Charles was established on Jan. 29, 1980, nearly a decade and a half after the closing of the Second Vatican Council. 

In his motu proprio Traditionis custodes, issued and made effective on July 16, 2021, Pope Francis allowed individual bishops to authorize the celebration of traditional liturgies in their dioceses. Among the document’s provisions, bishops allowing the Traditional Latin Mass are to designate locations for celebration of the Mass; the liturgies cannot be offered at “parochial churches.”

In a letter accompanying the document, Pope Francis cited the need to promote unity in the Church. He said he was “saddened” that the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass “is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church’.” 

In his letter, Bishop Provost wrote that he was “unaware of anyone in this community who has expressed opposition to the Second Vatican Council, much less denied its legitimacy,” and that “those who have chosen to discuss with me their devotion to the usus antiquior have insisted upon the validity of the reformed liturgy.” 

Restricting the Latin Mass in the diocese, he said, “would be grossly negligent, if not callous” in light of what Catholics in his diocese have endured. 

“In my many years of having the privilege of celebrating the Sacraments in the Diocese of Lake Charles, I have been continually struck by the tender devotion of the faithful,” said Provost. “I am also aware, as well as can be, of the needs of the people as they have expressed them to me. Whether at Masses in newer or older rites, I know the people with their concerns.”

These concerns, he explained, include financial issues, unemployment, deaths, illnesses, and many others. 

“They suffer quietly, not advertising their problems, seeking some solace in the rites of the Church, whether in the vernacular or in Latin,” he said. “If we, as pastors, do not acknowledge these realities and instead continue to engage in arguments that the faithful find incomprehensible, then we truly risk becoming a ‘resounding gong and clashing cymbal’ and just as irrelevant.” 

Earlier in October, Bishop Luis Zarama of Raleigh stated in a letter to priests that the Novus Ordo Mass is to “take priority” in the diocese, which includes the eastern half of North Carolina. 

“It is my expectation that priests serving all parishes, missions, stations and chapels of ease will celebrate Mass using [the 2011 Missal] every Sunday and on weekdays, as the principal celebration(s) of the day,” he wrote in an Oct. 12 letter to the priests of the diocese. 

The monthly Sunday Latin Masses at the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh and the Basilica Shrine of Saint Mary in Wilmington will continue, he wrote, as will Sunday Latin Masses at two other parishes in the diocese. However, he restricted the time of day at which the Masses can be offered on Sundays. 

The Masses may begin no earlier than 1 p.m., and the translations for the prescribed scripture readings in the vernacular should be taken either from the Revised Roman Lectionary or the New American Bible, Revised Edition, he said.

The weekday Latin Masses that had previously been offered at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Rocky Mount will be suppressed under the implementation of Traditionis custodes

Only priests who have previously received faculties from Zarama are permitted to celebrate the Latin Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, he wrote, “as the faculty to do so is a personal privilege and not one proper to a parish or faith community nor any other group of the faithful.” 

The changes will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, he wrote. 

“It is my hope that this direction may assist us as a Diocesan family to continue to grow in holiness through a renewed relationship with God through our prayer and integrity of life, but also by fostering further formation throughout our Diocese on the beauty, theology and praxis of the sacred liturgy, where we encounter Our Lord most intimately,” said Zarama.

Santa Fe archdiocese: Woman's attempted ordination invalid

The Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque, N.M., seat of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, which hosted the attempted ordination of Anne Tropeano Oct. 16, 2021. / teofilo via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Santa Fe, N.M., Oct 21, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The supposed ordination of women is invalid, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe reiterated Monday, shortly after a woman claimed to have been ordained a priest in Albuquerque.

“As Pope Saint Paul VI explained, because Jesus freely chose only men for apostles, ‘…in fidelity to the example of the Lord, [the Church] does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.’ Thus, the Roman Catholic Church does not see attempted ordination of women as valid and, indeed, is [sic] an excommunicable action,” Fr. Glennon Jones said Oct. 18.

Anne Tropeano was the recipient of an attempted priestly ordination held Oct. 16 at the Cathedral Church of St. John, an Episcopalian cathedral in Albuquerque. She simulated Mass the following day at St. Paul Lutheran Church, an ELCA community in Albuquerque.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decreed in 2007 that whoever “shall have attempted to confer holy orders on a woman as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive holy orders, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” That decree was reflected in a 2010 modification made to the norms regarding more grave delicts, which added the attempted ordination of a woman to the delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The existing Code of Canon Law makes clear that ordination is validly received only by “a baptized male,” and a revision that will enter into force in December codifies the 2007 decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In its 1976 declaration Inter insigniores, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said it is necessary to recall that the Church “does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.”

St. John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis taught definitively that only men may be ordained priests.

Prior to the promulgation of Inter insigniores and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, that holy orders can be validly received by a baptized male only was held to be a theologically certain teaching.

But subsequently, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded to a dubium regarding whether the apostolic letter's teaching, that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.

In a 1995 response, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith answered in the affirmative, writing that “this teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff … has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of faith.”

And in a 1998 doctrinal commentary related to Ad tuendam fidem, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote that the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men is to be held definitively, it having “been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

Last year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith required submission to the proposition that only a baptized male can be ordained validly as the condition for the return to ministry of a priest whom it had barred in 2012.

The Irish Times reported in September 2020 that the congregation had written to the Redemptorists that Fr. Tony Flannery “should not return to public ministry prior to submitting a signed statement regarding his positions on homosexuality, civil unions between persons of the same sex, and the admission of women to the priesthood.”

According to the Association of Catholic Priests, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked that Fr. Flannery, to return to ministry, sign a proposition that "according to the Tradition and the doctrine of the Church incorporated in the Canon Law (c. 1024), a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly."

This proposition regarding the reservation of priesthood to men was supported by excerpts from Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and from Pope Francis' 2020 apostolic exhortation La querida Amazonia.

Denver archbishop denounces ‘anti-Semitic and hateful vandalism’ at two schools

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila says Mass for the Transitional Deacon Ordination in 2020. / Archdiocese of Denver, photography: A&D Creative LLC

Washington D.C., Oct 21, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver denounced recent incidents of “anti-Semitic and hateful vandalism” that occurred at two area schools last weekend. 

“I condemn the recent incidents of anti-Semitic and hateful vandalism at George Washington High School, and the property destruction at Denver Academy of the Torah,” Aquila said in an Oct. 20 statement. “These acts have absolutely no place in our society, and we stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters.” 

The Denver Post reported that George Washington High School, a public school, was vandalized with graffiti containing racist and anti-Semitic messages, according to the school’s principal, Kristin Waters. The incident is being investigated by the school district and the Denver Police, and the graffiti has been removed.

At the nearby Denver academy of the Torah, a Jewish day school, a rock was thrown through one of its windows and an electrical box inside was found damaged, the Post reported. According to the Anti Defamation League, a witness confronted the suspect who allegedly made an anti-Semitic statement before leaving the scene. 

Police are investigating the incident, and are in the process of determining if the two incidents were related. 

“These acts have absolutely no place in our society, and we stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” Aquila said on Wednesday. 

In recent weeks, Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and a Catholic church in nearby Boulder were both vandalized with spray paint. 

The cathedral doors were defaced with the slogan “Satan lives here” on Oct. 10, and the outside walls, sidewalks and a statue on the property were all spray-painted. The parish of Sacred Heart of Mary in Boulder was vandalized in September with pro-abortion slogans. 

Aquila thanked the Jewish Community Relations Council and the ADL Mountain States Region for speaking out against recent acts of vandalism against churches in the diocese, and for offering their support. 

“As brothers and sisters in faith,” he said, “I acknowledge our common bonds and desire to be able to worship freely without fear of attack or intimidation in its many forms.”

Aquila added that even in a “divided and pluralistic society,” committing acts of violence and hate “are never the answer to our differences.” 

“I pray for an end to these attacks, heading for the impacted communities, and that God’s love will be known by anyone who feels compelled to commit these acts,” he said. 

Aquila called on local elected officials to denounce the recent acts of vandalism.

“Finally,” he said, “we are grateful to the police departments that have responded to these incidents, and to the numerous community members who, regardless of their beliefs, have reached out to our parishes and offered support and help in cleaning up after these attacks.”

Other incidents of vandalism and theft have occurred at churches in Northern Colorado in recent months.

St. Louis parish in Louisville, Colorado was vandalized with pro-abortion graffiti in early September. 

In late August, the predominantly African-American parish of Curé d'Ars, located in north Denver, was targeted for burglary. All the church's vessels used for Mass were stolen from the vestry, which the thieves accessed by kicking in a wooden door. The thieves also cut out copper piping, flooding the church basement with water. By late September, some of the stolen items - including the tabernacle and church vessels - were found; stolen consecrated hosts had not yet been recovered and were “obviously dumped,” according to the parish deacon.

In June, Holy Ghost Catholic Church in downtown Denver was tagged with red graffiti in a possible reference to the ongoing controversy over former Catholic-run schools for Indigenous in Canada, though the exact motive remains unclear. 

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Oct. 14 reported that churches and Catholic sites have been targeted in more than 100 acts of vandalism, arson, and other destruction since May 2020. The conference began tracking such attacks on churches in May 2020, and now says that at least 101 incidents have occurred in 29 states since then. 

“These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable. There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God’s grace,” stated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Missouri Christian church wins settlement over coronavirus restrictions on worship

null / Photo Spirit/Shutterstock

Kansas City, Mo., Oct 20, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A Kansas City-area Baptist megachurch has reached a $150,000 settlement with the county over coronavirus restrictions, with the church claiming that the county treated them more harshly than secular institutions when it came to COVID protocols. 

Abundant Life Baptist Church, which has locations in Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs, Missouri, filed a lawsuit against Jackson County over a year ago, arguing, as places of worship in other states have, that the county’s coronavirus restrictions treated places of worship more harshly than secular institutions such as retail stores. 

Under the terms of the settlement, Jackson County vowed that in exchange for the church dropping the lawsuit, it would ensure that future enforcement measures would not impose stricter requirements on religious organizations than their secular counterparts, the Christian Post reported. 

Jackson is one of Missouri’s largest counties by population, and Abundant Life claims that some 4,500 people generally attend their services. 

When the church filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri during May 2020, the county’s coronavirus restrictions limited church services to no more than 10 people, while stores, restaurants and bars did not have numerical limitations, but rather percentage-based limits, generally 10-25% of capacity.

The church argued that the rules went against both the First Amendment and the Missouri Constitution. 

“If Abundant Life were to engage in retail sales, or served food and liquor as a bar, rather than religious worship at its Lee’s Summit location, Jackson County’s Phase I plan would allow 474 people in the building at a time while meeting or exceeding the CDC’s guidelines,” the lawsuit claims. 

Dan Tarwater, one of the six county legislators who approved the settlement with the church, told the Kansas City Star that they believed they were “going to lose” the case unless they approved the settlement. Equal halves of the settlement will be paid by the county and by University Health, formerly known as Truman Medical Centers, which operates the county health department. 

The Supreme Court had ruled in late November 2020 that New York state restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic constituted a violation of the First Amendment's protection of free religious exercise. After the ruling the Bishop of Brooklyn, whose diocese was a plaintiff in the suit, said that religious worship should be considered an essential during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state's restrictions at the time forbade the attendance of more than 10 people at religious services in state designated "red zones”, and 25 people in "orange zones."

"Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID–19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services. Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue," the court wrote.

"...even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty," the decision concluded.

During February 2021 an unsigned order from the U.S. Supreme Court said that the total ban on indoor worship, which was in effect for most of California at the time, is unconstitutional. At most, the state may limit indoor capacity to 25% of normal, the court said, citing its November ruling in the Brooklyn case. 

The Washington D.C. archdiocese appealed to a district judge in late 2020 over rules that limited houses of worship to 25% capacity, up to a maximum of 250 people inside, regardless of their official capacity. This included the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest church in North America, which has a total capacity of around 6,000 people for its upper church.

A subsequent March 2021 court order allowed houses of worship in D.C. to admit as many people inside as they can, in line with other public health regulations such as social-distancing. 

In April 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that California’s coronavirus restrictions on home-based religious gatherings like Bible studies, worship and prayer meetings were more strict than the constitution allows. Citing an appeals court decision in a different case, the unsigned majority’s court order said the state cannot “assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work.”

The court majority found that comparable secular activities treated “more favorably than at-home religious exercise” under California rules included private suites at sporting events and concerts as well as indoor restaurant dining, where more than three households were allowed to gather.

Two priests in Lincoln diocese reassigned with restrictions, following review of alleged misconduct

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska in St. Peter's Square, a day before the canonization Mass of St. John Henry Newman, Oct. 12, 2019. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2021 / 16:09 pm (CNA).

Two priests in the Diocese of Lincoln are being reassigned to ministry with restrictions, following diocesan review of accusations of sexual misconduct. Neither priest was charged with a crime.

Fr. Scott Courtney, suspended from active ministry in September 2018 over accusations of having sexual relations with an adult woman, has now been assigned to minister to prisons, nursing homes, and retirement homes, as well as providing administrative assistance to the chancery, starting in January 2022. 

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln said in an Oct. 8 statement that the reassignment was made after a hearing from the ministerial conduct board. Courtney had undergone “a professional evaluation and a period of personal renewal,” he said. 

Another priest, Fr. Thomas Dunavan, is being tasked with providing administrative assistance to the chancery and helping retired priests, as of Nov. 8, 2021. In March 2019, shortly after he was ordained a priest, Dunavan faced an accusation of sexual misconduct that dated back 20 years. He was placed on administrative leave following the allegations.

“After commissioning an independent investigation, consultation with the Holy See, and hearing from the ministerial conduct board, restrictions have been imposed on Father Dunavan’s public ministry,” Bishop Conley said in a separate statement on Oct. 8. 

According to the state’s criminal justice website, neither priest was charged with a crime, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported.

A third priest in the diocese has recently retired after pleading no contest to serving alcohol to a 19-year-old male. 

Fr. Charles Townsend resigned his pastorate at St. Peter church in Lincoln in August 2018, and in May 2019 was found guilty of providing alcohol to a minor; he pleaded no contest to the charge. The Journal-Star reported that the 19-year-old was an altar server. The diocese says it investigated the matter and forwarded its findings to the Holy See.

Townsend was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 18 months probation. The Lincoln diocese said that while his relationship with the then-19-year-old was inappropriate, it was not sexual in nature. 

In July, the diocese announced that it imposed restrictions on his public ministry and that he was a retired priest. 

“The Congregation for the Clergy, after its independent examination of the matter, determined that no perpetual penalty could be imposed on Fr. Townsend,” Conley stated on July 23.

After Catholic football coach was fired for refusing COVID-19 vaccine, lawyer alleges anti-religious animus

Former Washington State University head football coach Nick Rolovich / Washington State University

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The former Washington State University football coach, a Catholic, intends to sue the school after he was refused a religious exemption to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and was subsequently fired for not getting vaccinated.

Nick Rolovich had previously announced in July that he would not be receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, but would follow state guidance. As head football coach at a state university, Rolovich was subject to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

He requested a religious exemption from the vaccine requirement, but the university denied this request and he was subsequently fired on Oct. 18, along with four assistant coaches who were unvaccinated.

His lawyer, Brain Fahling, said on Wednesday that Rolovich will be taking legal action against the university, and called it "a tragic and damning commentary on our culture" that Rolovich "has been derided, demonized, and ultimately fired from his job, merely for being devout in his Catholic faith.”

Fahling called the firing “unjust and unlawful,” in his statement published by KXLY.

“It came after Coach Rolovich’s request for a religious exemption from the vaccine was denied by the University. The institution also indicated that even if the exemption had been granted, no accommodation would have been made. As a result, Coach Rolovich will be taking legal action against Washington State University, and all parties responsible for his illegal termination,” he said. 

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced the vaccine mandate on Aug. 18, requiring employees in K-12 schools, most early childhood learning centers, and institutions of higher education to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Although the mandate allowed for religious exemptions, Rolovich applied for an exemption but did not receive one by the deadline of Monday, Oct. 18.

Per Washington state’s Office of Financial Management, 1,887 state employees had either left their jobs or been fired as of Oct. 18 due to the mandate. This figure is nearly identical to the number of accommodations - 1,927 - granted by the state. 

A total of 89.4% of the state’s roughly 63,000 employees have been vaccinated, and an additional 4.6% are “pending action, which includes being in the process of being vaccinated, pending retirement, pending accommodation or separation.”

Fahling said that the university’s athletic director Pat Chun had Rolovich escorted off campus following his termination, and forbade Rolovich from going into his office or speaking to the football team. 

Fahling accused Chun of having “animus towards Coach Rolovich’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” and said that the extent of his “dishonesty” would be revealed in the coming lawsuit. Fahling did not state when the suit would be filed. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith both have acknowledged ethical concerns with the COVID-19 vaccines currently in use, due to their use of cell lines derived from an elective abortion. However, the Vatican congregation called the vaccines’ connection to the evil of abortion “remote,” and said their use is “morally licit” due to the “grave danger” of the pandemic.

The vaccines, however, are not “a moral obligation,” the congregation stated, and those refusing the vaccines out of “conscience” must take alternative actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, whose diocesan territory includes Washington State University, has said that Catholics may receive the COVID-19 vaccines available for use despite their “remote” connections to abortion. 

In a Jan. 29, 2021 letter to the diocese concerning vaccines, Daly wrote, “We may accept these vaccines for the morally proportionate reasons in this circumstance, such as the preservation of health, lives, and livelihoods.” 

Daly said that while “individuals are morally free to decline the vaccine,” they “should remain attentive and responsive to ways that they can contribute to the common good in this time of pandemic.” 

Daly has also acknowledged the conscience rights of Catholics to refuse COVID-19 vaccines, but has dissuaded priests from signing documents affirming their conscience exemptions. 

Synod on Synodality a learning opportunity for Catholic Church, Archbishop Gomez says

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles at the USCCB's fall meeting in Baltimore, Md., Nov. 11, 2019. / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Oct 20, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The upcoming gatherings of Catholics for a synodal process are important opportunities for outreach, support, and communication, according to Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“The Holy Father has called for the local churches to hold inclusive consultations with the People of God as part of the synod,” Gomez said Oct. 20. “We face a challenge after over a year of being physically distanced within our communities because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This synod is an opportunity to meet the immense and important request of the Holy Father to engage in dialogue to better understand our call to holiness and feel the responsibility to participate in the life of the Church.”

A synod is a meeting of bishops that aims to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

“Outreach, communication, support, and encouragement are vital in order to be missionary disciples,” Gomez continued. “As is with the nature of the synod, I hope we will learn as we ‘journey together,’ and I pray that the process will enrich and guide the future path of both the local Church as well as the universal Church over the course of the next two years, and beyond.”

The Synod on Synodality, opened by Pope Francis earlier this month, is a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics will be encouraged to submit feedback to their dioceses.

Synodality is generally understood to represent a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving clerics, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation.

Father Michael Fuller, interim general secretary for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is leading efforts to share synod-related information with U.S. bishops, the bishops’ conference said.

The U.S. bishops’ conference’s diocesan liaison is Richard Coll, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

“I welcome the opportunity to be a resource to the diocesan representatives as they engage with their local faithful in this most important phase of the synod,” Coll said.

The bishops’ conference is providing tools and tips for local diocesan synod efforts, as well as sharing the preparatory documents prepared in Rome by the Synod of Bishops.

The U.S. bishops’ conference website will provide highlights from the local-level synod and aim to incorporate synodal experiences into its resources.

The opening phase of the global synod process is a diocesan phase expected to last until April 2022. The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents.

In Sept. 18 remarks, Pope Francis said the synod is “not about gathering opinions, no … it is about listening to the Holy Spirit.” At an Oct. 10 Mass, the pope stressed the importance of using the synod to encounter God and one another. He said he hoped the acts of encountering, listening, and discerning would characterize the synodal path.

One objective of the synod on synodality, according to the preparatory document, is to examine “how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel.”

The Vatican documents ask a “fundamental question” for dioceses and bishops to consider: “A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together.’ How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together’?”

A second, continental-level phase of the synod will take place from September 2022 to March 2023. The third, universal phase will begin with the Sixteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

Pro-life groups must 'wake up' in support of pro-life Democrats, former congressman says

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) testifies before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 20, 2007 / Alex Wong/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pro-life Americans must do more to support embattled pro-life Democrats, said a Catholic former Democratic congressman.

Dan Lipinski is a Catholic eight-term congressman from Illinois who was ousted in a 2020 primary challenge by pro-abortion Marie Newman. He told CNA this week that support from pro-life groups in his primary fight was no match for an avalanche of pro-abortion spending against him.

“I was happy to see some support from pro-life groups, but the amount of money that came in from the other side certainly dwarfed anything that came in, support-wise, from pro-life groups,” Lipinski told CNA in an interview.

Pro-abortion political groups such as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Planned Parenthood Votes, and WOMEN VOTE! all predictably teamed up against Lipinski in the primary race, highlighting his pro-life voting record.

These groups “have a lot of power within the Democratic Party,” he noted. “I was one vote out of 435 in the U.S. House, and the pro-choice groups found that I was so important to spend easily over $5 million against me to get rid of me,” he said, “because they didn't want even one pro-life voice in the party, and they saw a danger in that.” 

“I think that the pro-life groups need to wake up and do more to support pro-life Democrats," he said.

Lipinski was recognized as one of the last consistently pro-life Democrats in the House before he was defeated in 2020. He told CNA that pro-life Democrats still exist in state legislatures, and that he knows pro-life candidates who are running for the U.S. Congress as Democrats. Lipinski himself is reportedly considering a rematch with Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), according to a Crain’s Chicago Business report from last week.

CNA spoke with Lipinski about the current political situation, including how Catholics ought to approach politics, the possibility of a post-Roe America, and threat of increased taxpayer funding of abortion.

Not only pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood opposed Lipinski on the life issue in 2020, but also groups focused on other issues such as education, labor, and the environment.

Just weeks before the primary election in 2020, SEIU and the Illinois Federation of Teachers joined Planned Parenthood Votes, NARAL, and other groups to invest $1.4 million in direct mail and digital media campaigns highlighting Lipinski’s opposition to abortion.

Lipinski had a 91% lifetime rating with the pro-environment League of Conservation Voters, yet he said the group supported Newman because of his own pro-life record.

“And because I'm pro-life, they not only endorsed my opponent, but they spent some money sending mailers out to Democratic voters in the district for her,” he said.

“These groups are becoming very intertwined,” he said of various issue groups uniting in support of pro-abortion candidates. “Look, these groups aren't really honest sometimes in what they really do care about."

Although Lipinski’s race with Newman focused on the abortion issue, Newman also attacked him for not supporting policies championed by progressive activists, such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Lipinski had previously opposed the Equality Act, a pro-LGBT bill opposed by the U.S. bishops’ conference, before he voted for a version of it in 2019. Newman, who has a child identifying as transgender, had attacked Lipinski for his previous opposition to the legislation.

In an April 2021 interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Lipinski called on Catholic public officials – including President Joe Biden – to “be different. We shouldn’t just be Democrats, Republicans, and follow the party line.”

This applies to Catholic and pro-life voters, too, he told CNA. He warned of the trap of “sectarian partisanship,” where voters choose a political party and take all the policy positions supported by that party – whether or not they have fully considered them.

“And this is really dangerous for Catholics, because Catholics don't fit neatly into either [political] side,” he said.

"It's a problem for the Catholic Church right now, this divide," he said, noting that political divisions among Catholics intensified after the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

“We can't demonize others, we cannot view others as evil. That goes against everything that Jesus taught us,” he said.

Many pro-life groups support Republicans, arguing that they are “the pro-life party,” he noted.

“I understand that, that general feeling, but I think it's important to be able to look out for the pro-life Democratic candidates and support them, and understand the importance of having pro-life voices in the Democratic Party.”

A current priority of pro-abortion groups is the repeal of the Hyde amendment and similar policies, which prohibit federal funding of abortion in a number of programs including Medicaid. Appropriations bills that passed the House this summer excluded the Hyde amendment, and a bill introduced Monday in a Senate committee also excluded the policy.

“The Hyde amendment is an acknowledgement that even people who consider themselves to be pro-choice, many of them have a problem with abortion,” Lipinski said of bans on taxpayer-funded abortion.

Pro-abortion groups “just want to get rid of that idea," he said, pointing to the development of the Democratic Party platforms as an example. While the 1996, 2000, and 2004 platforms called for abortion to be “rare” or “more rare,” the platforms subsequently dropped that language. The 2016 and 2020 platforms called for taxpayer-funded abortion.

The Supreme Court this fall will hear arguments in a major abortion case that legal experts say could result in the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Pro-life advocates must prepare for a society where Roe is overturned, Lipinski emphasized, as “there's going to be a lot more work for people who are pro-life for them to do, and we need to be preparing for that right now.”

Cardinal Dolan outlines 7 ‘non-negotiables’ for the Synod on Synodality

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

New York City, N.Y., Oct 19, 2021 / 17:09 pm (CNA).

In an effort to explain Pope Francis’ vision for the Synod on Synodality for his flock, Cardinal Timothy Dolan's homily Sunday offered seven “non-negotiables” that Jesus intended for the Church.

The Synod on Synodality, initiated by Pope Francis earlier this month, is a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics will be encouraged to submit feedback to their local dioceses.

A synod is a meeting of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

“[Pope Francis] wants us to join him in praying, listening, discerning, examining ourselves personally, and the Church communally, to see if we’re truly on the path Jesus has set for His beloved bride, His mystical body, the Church,” Dolan said.

“He has reminded us of certain clear essentials intended by Jesus, constant, although, at times, we admit, clouded and dimmed, in the Church’s amazing 2,000-year drama. Here are some of those non-negotiables.” Dolan went on to outline the following points:

  1. Dolan said that “the energy and direction driving the Church comes from the Holy Spirit, not ourselves.”

  2. "While in the world, we are not of the world, and thus our guiding principles come from the Gospel, revelation, and the patrimony of the Church’s settled teaching," he said.

  3. Dolan said “that the principles of the innate dignity of every human person and the inherent sacredness of all human life are the towering moral lighthouses on our path.”

  4. Dolan said that "our journey through this life back to our true and eternal home of heaven is most effectively accomplished precisely as a journey as we walk with and accompany each other, with Jesus as our guide, His Mother and the saints, and we sinners at each other’s side.”

  5. "On this journey we pay special attention to those at the side of the road, especially those who are sick, weak, poor, or unable to keep up with us,” he said.

  6. "Our wealth only comes from faith, trust, prayer, the sacraments, and His grace," he said.

  7. Finally, Dolan said that "mercy, love, invitation, humility, joy, selfless generous service, and good example are our only tools, never harshness, condemnation, or pride.”

Dolan said he sees these seven “non-negotiables” as “synodality in a nutshell.”

He said that throughout its history, the Church has “expanded and developed its style of organization and authority.”

After comparing and contrasting the different sufferings and triumphs the Church has experienced throughout its history, Dolan said that “now the successor of Saint Peter as bishop of Rome and pastor of the Church Universal, Pope Francis, has asked us all to commence an examination of conscience on how we as a Church are living up to the model of the Church given us by Jesus.”

“We are loyal Catholics,” Dolan added. “The Holy Father has asked us to help him keep the Church always under the direction Jesus, our good shepherd, intends.”

The concept of "synodality" has been a topic of frequent discussion by Pope Francis, particularly during the previous ordinary Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment in October 2018.

Synodality, as defined by the International Theological Commission in 2018, is "the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God."

The term is generally understood to represent a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving bishops, priests, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation.

Pope Francis told the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's theological commission in November 2019 that synodality will be key for the Church in the future.

The Vatican announced in May that the Synod on Synodality would open with a diocesan phase lasting from October 2021 to April 2022.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023. The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

Dolan shared his homily on Monday after noting that "many have asked about the “'synod process’ initiated by Pope Francis.”

The Cardinal acknowledged in his homily that he himself has questions. “I don’t know if I completely understand [Synodality]," Dolan said, adding that "the Holy Father is honest in admitting that neither does he have the full comprehension, which is precisely why he has summoned us to this endeavor.”