Category Archives: Feature

Abp Chaput thinks you should read this young Catholic father’s letter

Abp Chaput of Philadelphia speaks at the Vatican, 25 Mar 2014.  Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

PHILADELPHIA, Pa – In a time of cultural confusion and challenge, youth need clarity and guidance from the Church – and failure to give it could be disastrous, says a young father who wrote to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.

For Archbishop Chaput, who reproduced the letter April 18 at First Things, the man’s thoughts are worth considering as Catholics “seek a fuller understanding of the pastoral challenges facing young adults in a changing world.”

The Catholic Church will hold a Synod on Youth this October, and Archbishop Chaput is among the Church leaders preparing for it. He received the letter just after a pre-synod meeting in Rome where about 300 young adults gathered to discuss how they view the Church and the faith.

“We young people crave the truth and clarity of good teaching,” said the unnamed author, a self-described 26-year-old father of three. He suggested this craving is proved by the swift rise of Canadian professor and author Jordan Peterson, whose videos on YouTube have drawn a large following.

“We crave the truth, no matter how blunt or difficult it is for us to swallow or for the shepherds of our flock to teach,” the young father said.

“We urgently need the Church’s clarity and authoritative guidance on issues like abortion, homosexuality, gender dysphoria, the indissolubility of matrimony, the four last things, and the consequences of contraception (moral, anthropological, and abortifacient). My generation has never, or rarely, heard these truths winsomely taught in the parishes.”

The author claimed young Catholics hear most forcefully from the U.S. bishops’ conference and from dioceses about the federal budget, border policy, gun control, and the environment. Efforts to reach out effectively to those who don’t affiliate with a religion, colloquially known as the “nones,” may also be at risk.

“Though the Church’s growing focus on evangelization of the ‘Nones’ is encouraging, there have been recent discussions emanating from several prominent figures in Rome and throughout Church leadership regarding a so-called ‘paradigm shift’ relative to doctrine, the supremacy of individual conscience, and pastoral accommodation,” the man continued.

“My wife and I find these developments disturbing and potentially disastrous for the evangelization of the young and the fallen-away.”

“Our culture is roiled in confusion concerning the basic tenets of human nature,” the author continued, citing controversies over gender, masculinity, the family, and “propaganda” that “desecrates the nature of sex and its fruits, especially the unborn child.”

This letter prompted Archbishop Chaput to reflect: “The future of the Catholic faith belongs to those who create it with their fidelity, their self-sacrifice, their commitment to bringing new life into the world and raising their children in truth, and their determination to walk Christ’s ‘narrow way’ with joy.”

The archbishop prayed that God would grant the fathers of the 2018 Synod on Youth “the grace and courage to lead young people on that path.” – CNA/EWTN News, 19 Apr 2018

Catholic communicators urge greater respect in public discourse

Michael Warsaw at a Communication Seminar in Rome, Italy, 17-19 April 2018. Credit: Marina Testino/CNA

VATICAN CITY – This week, Catholic communicators gathered in Rome to discuss the need for more respectful dialogue in the public sphere, saying that fake news and polemics must be overcome with truth, mercy and openness.

When it comes to modern day public discourse, Irish Archbishop Eamon Martin said, “we have to be aware of our language, because nowadays people switch off, they don’t hear, and we cannot get the Gospel message out simply condemning everyone who lives their lives contrary to what we believe in.”

Now more than ever when emotions are high, polemics are strong, and digital communication is increasingly more impersonal, mutual respect is needed in order to effectively communicate with those we don’t agree with, both within the Church, and outside of it, he said.

This is also true “in the kind of culture wars which we are engaging in sometimes even within the Church; they simply drown out any opportunity for people to make that personal commitment to Christ, which is really what the Gospel is about.”

“This is a challenge for us within the Church, and it’s exemplified by blogs countering blogs, Twitter countering Twitter, where everyone is shouting and absolutely no one is hearing anything.”

The remedy, Martin said, is to focus, in every exchange, on communicating the fact that “God loves you, he loves you personally, he’s calling you to conversion in your own personal life story.”

Archbishop Martin spoke on the first day of an  17-19 April 2018 conference for Catholic communicators in Rome. Co-organised by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and EWTN, the three-day seminar was dedicated to the theme of “Dialogue, Respect and Freedom of Expression in the Public Arena.”

Speakers and panelists included media representatives and experts from around the world who touched on issues such as polarisation, fake news, defamation and how to promote values through the media.

Michael Warsaw, Chairman of the Board and CEO of EWTN Global Catholic Network, gave a keynote speech on fake news and the responsibility of journalists on the final day of the conference.

Warsaw pointed to a recent example of a fake story that gained a lot of steam during the US presidential election of 2016.

During the campaign season, a fake news site published an article titled “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement,” which gained more than 100,000 comments, shares, and reactions on Facebook alone, and nearly 1 million Facebook engagements, making it “the single biggest fake news hit of the US Election.”

Shortly after, another fake news article appeared saying Pope Francis had endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, he said, noting that it is thanks to articles like this that modern society has come to be known as the “post-truth” or “post-fact” world.

Warsaw cited various studies showing that consumers of fake news are no small minority, and, quoting the pope, said that because of this, journalists in particular are called to be “the protectors of news.”

“Pope Francis, in his 2018 message, rightly condemns that ‘spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests,’…But, the challenges facing journalism and the public at large today go deeper than the ‘fake news’ phenomenon,” he said.

Rather, the real crux of the matter is growing general distrust of media, as well as a loss of trust in data, analysis, and objective facts, he said.

Because of this, those who work in social communications must be offered ongoing formation, both spiritual and professional, so that both individual journalists and media outlets “become more trusted by the public, and are seen as objective and reliable.”

Quoting Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Social Communications, Warsaw said the most “radical antidote” to the phenomenon of fake news is “purification by the truth.”

“As Catholic communicators and media, we are called to do our part to be truth tellers,” he said, and “we must take heart in knowing that we are not the first Catholics to live in a ‘post truth’ era.”

In his comments to CNA, Archbishop Martin stressed the importance of fostering an environment where true and honest dialogue can take place, and where media can help “engage in a culture of encounter.”

“We meet people where they are at, some of whom are completely against what we stand for, others who are open to conversation,” he said, explaining that when things get heated, “pacifying” one’s tone is a good place to start in terms of having a fruitful exchange.

“I think this conference has courageously opened up a sort of middle-ground where we can engage in a type of court of the gentiles, where we enter that space in which there are some people who are diametrically opposed to what we stand for.”

And this, the archbishop said, can only happen “out of respect, and it can only happen when there is a culture of freedom to speak.”

For those involved in communication, “we c only hope that with the help of the Holy Spirit and by the grace of God, that we can invite people, that we can win them for Christ, by our witness, by our example, and by the strength and courage of our message.” – Elise Harrisan, CNA/EWTN News

Papal commission asks Francis for synod on women’s role in the Church

Credit: Bohumil Petrik, CNA

VATICAN CITY – The Pontifical Commission for Latin America has proposed that Pope Francis convoke a synod on the role of women in the life and mission of the Church.

The proposal is contained in a 15-paragraph statement approved by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America’s plenary assembly one month ago, and published on 11 April 2018 in L’Osservatore Romano.

The Pontifical Commission for Latin America stressed that the Catholic Church “must be freed from prejudices, stereotypes and discriminations” women are subjected to, and for this reason a “pastoral conversion” is needed in order to ask women’s forgiveness “for all the situations” in which Christian communities “have been and are accomplices of attempt against women’s dignity.”

The document also challenged local dioceses to be courageous, and to “denounce all the forms of discrimination and oppression, of violence and exploitation” to which women have been subjected.

The commission warned against “cultural and ideological colonisation” spread from “well organised lobbies” sometimes “instrumentalising feminist claims” in order to argue against the truth of marriage and family.

The Pontifical Commission of Latin America asked the Church to “multiply and widen the places and the opportunities of women’s cooperation to pastoral structure” in parishes, dioceses, episcopal conferences and in Roman Curia.

It is – according to the document – “a needed and urgent opening,” that requires “an investment in the Christian, theological and professional formation” of women – whether they are religious sisters or members of the laity – so that they can “work at the same level with men.”

The statement promoted an education tackling “male chauvinist resistance, frequent paternal and familiar absence, and irresponsibility in sexual behaviour.”

It also promoted research on those issue in Catholic universities, as “the era of feminism might be a good liberating occasion,” that might “claim the full respect of women’s dignity and at the same time a responsible paternity” committed to “raising children, at the mother’s side.”

The statement said that the modern era requires “a change of mentality and a process of transformation” similar to that which Pope Francis “made concrete” with the two synods on the family “that led to the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia,” to be followed by the upcoming bishops’ synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, to be held in October.

The plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America was held March 6-9. The theme, chosen by Pope Francis, was “The woman: a pillar in the edification of the Church and society in Latin America.”

Exceptionally, the plenary assembly included some women, unusual because all members and consultors of the commission are cardinals and bishops. Topics of discussion during the assembly were the promotion of the woman in Latin America, the presence of the Virgin and the role of women in evangelising Latin American people, and also the woman as “pillar of the family,” and the role of women in catechesis, society, politics.

It is expected that the role of women will be discussed at a Special Synod for the Panamazonic Region in 2019, and at the October 2018 synod on young adults and vocations. It is possible that the next Ordinary Synod Bishops, scheduled for 2021, could also be dedicated to a discussion on women.

Pope Francis has often spoken about the importance of the role of the woman in society, and in 2016 he set up a commission to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons.

Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,  was appointed president of a commission composed of 12 members, 6 men and 6 women. The members are:  Msgr Piero Coda; Sr Nuria Calduch-Benages; Francesca Cocchini; Fr Robert Dodaro; Fr Santiago Madrigal Terrazas; Sr Mary Malone; Fr Karl-Heinz Menke; Fr Amailble Musoni; Fr Bernard Pottier; Marianne Schlosser; Michelina Tenace; Phyllis Zagano.

According to sources, the commission is drafting its final report, expected to be presented to the pope within this year.

The issue of women deacons had been discussed in the recent past. A 2002 report issued by the International Theological Commission, titled “From Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles,” dedicated a whole chapter to the role of women deacons in the ancient Church.

With regard to the ordination of women to the diaconate, the documents stressed that “deaconesses” of the tradition of the ancient Church cannot be considered the same as ordained deacons. In addition, the document underscored that both the ecclesial tradition and the magisterium consider diaconal ministry an element of holy orders.

Based on those two points, the document suggested that women could not be ordained to diaconate.

Though he was aware of the work done in the past, Pope Francis wanted to appoint a new commission, in order to clear out any possible doubt and to have a final word on that. – Andrea Gagliarducci, CNA, 11 Apr 2018

Seven spiritual mistakes of ‘good Catholic parents’

A few weeks ago I wrote that the greater part of what is wrong with young people today is parents(see A Church of kids: Will the Synod on Youth get it backwards?). I also touched briefly on some key elements of sound Catholic parenting, particularly in education. But it would be wrong to give the impression that I know how to raise your children.

Prayerful, engaged parents understand their children better than anybody else does, except God. Moreover, each child is different. With children, while parents must be fair, one size does not fit all, and it never will. Neither the State nor the day care system nor the schools (nor even yours truly) can raise your children nearly as well as you can—if only you will avoid the very first spiritual mistake listed below. But check yourself against the other six mistakes as well. My purpose here is to help you avoid what I see as the seven biggest spiritual pitfalls for those who try hard to be good Catholic parents.

1. Failure to pray: The very first principle of good parenting is that parents are flawed creatures who, even with the best of intentions, make significant and even serious mistakes. Yet you would be amazed at how many Catholics do not recognize the inescapable corollary: Parents must pray daily both for their children and for themselves: To understand their children rightly, to raise them well, and to secure Divine protection. You and your children have guardian angels, too, so call them to account! The point is that grace is available for parents as parents and for children as children. Fostering the reception of grace in your whole family must be even more constant than your natural human love.

2. Over-engagement: Call it an emphasis on doing over being, or a lopsided preference for the active over the contemplative life: We live in a hyperactive and hyper-distracted culture. One symptom of this is constant overwork in our paying jobs, but it can also manifest itself in chronic over-engagement. For “good Catholics”, this often includes justifying too much time taken from family life for apostolic work. But even apostolate does not trump vocation. Over-engagement communicates to children that the culture of the family must take second or third or fourth place. A lack of presence of parents to their children, when it is not absolutely demanded by the survival of the family itself, teaches that the loving formation of children is not the high priority parents claim it to be.

3. Transcendental restriction: Consider the three transcendentals—truth, goodness, and beauty. Interest in and attraction to these transcendentals mark three different paths to God, and each person is more attuned to one of these paths than the others. In many counter-cultural Catholic families today, parents find themselves in conflict with a world which rejects nearly every specific teaching of the Church. In consequence, it is not uncommon for them to emphasize doctrine, doctrine and more doctrine. But these same parents are likely to have children who (whether generally or at certain stages) are far more attracted to saints than to catechists, or far more attracted to the beauty of God as manifested in nature and art than in the mastery of moral principles. Parental attention and approval must recognize and encourage all of the transcendentals, that is, all of these ways to God.

4. Spiritual smothering: When I was growing up, I knew neighborhood kids with over-protective parents who would never permit anything that involved even the slightest risk. The same problem can occur spiritually, especially in the midst of a culture hostile to faith and morals. But children who are too isolated from the larger culture, with all its benefits and all its dangers, can be easily overwhelmed when finally released into the world. Kids are not best served by what we might call the formation of theoretical virtues in the complete absence of temptation. Just as children need physical exercise, they need moral exercise. This requires judicious exposure to the life they will one day be called to live as mature Christians in the world. The same applies to a form of spiritual smothering which prevents children from awakening to all the gifts of God which manifest themselves outside the realm of specifically “Catholic” and “spiritual” activities.

5. Hypercriticism: It is hard to remain upbeat when living in a culture hostile to nearly everything we believe, and in a Church which too closely mirrors that culture. The Devil launches a gigantic wave of temptations against serious Catholics to be annoyed by every failing and to comment instantly on what is wrong (including in our kids). One of my adult children mentioned that he was so used to hearing me criticize bishops that it took him a long time to enter into a proper relationship with the Catholic hierarchy. (Happily, I have another adult child who remembers that, after Mass one day, when the kids were commenting negatively on how the liturgy had been done, I pointed out that not one of us is worthy of even the most poorly said Mass.) Parents who constantly criticize everything, including their children and their children’s friends, cannot be surprised if their children run for cover as adults.

6. Confusion between tradition and Tradition: Readers of CatholicCulture.org tend to accept everything the Church teaches and try to live accordingly. While many of their neighbors confuse cultural platitudes with the Faith, our readers are more likely to confuse Catholic traditions with Catholic Tradition. For example, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven is part of Tradition (and therefore revealed), but the use of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite is not. The unique particulars of this rite and even the use of Latin itself are simply human Catholic traditions. This does not mean it is wrong to have a preference for them—only that they are preferences. Parents who treat any human traditions as if they are Tradition run the risk of alienating their children from the Church when they realize that something inculcated as a matter of Faith is not Divinely ordained.

7. Emotional piety: The cases encompassed by item 6 are often occasioned by unrecognized emotional attachments. Just as our approach to the Faith can be too narrowly focused on behaviors or doctrines as if they exhaust the Divine mystery (see item 3), so too can our piety be too rooted in human emotion. While this can affect us in all kinds of ways, a classic example is found in the charismatic experience, which tends to be emotionally stimulating, and can lead to a confusion between feelings and the action of the Holy Spirit. Parents run a risk when the experience of the Faith they offer their children is predominately emotional. Unlike reverence and the principles of faith and morals, emotions cannot be inculcated. No matter what the context, if emotions are at the core of religious commitment, children who do not experience these emotions will drift away as they mature.


This list will do little good for the majority of those who claim the Catholic name. Better indeed that they should fall into a few of these excesses than continue to be lukewarm, proud of being in step with the larger culture, refusing to make the sacrifices to give their children a truly Catholic education, and failing to recognize that Catholicism must effect that revolution in all their affections which we call conversion. Such parents may well see these pitfalls as warnings against the very effort to acquire what St. Francis de Sales would call true devotion.

No, this is for those who are self-consciously committed to raising children to be lifelong Catholics. I have tried to outline seven dangers frequently experienced by parents who take their Catholicism very seriously. For, serious as we may be, we are all still very much “on the way”. We may be committed souls and committed parents, but we are as weak and fallible and sinful as anyone else who has received the treasure of the Faith with far too little gratitude.

Still, much has been given to us in our children, and so much is expected of us. Therefore, we may not fully trust our fallen nature. As parents we must be trained and corrected through constant prayer, by the Church and by Christ Himself. And of course even after our children are grown—and even if they fall away—our prayers must never cease, nor our confidence that Christ and His Church will bring them safely home. – Jeff Mrius, Catholic Culture, 10 Apr 2018

Artificial contraception and abortion have damaged society, conference hears

An anti-abortion activist holds a model of a fetus during a protest outside of the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on 7 May 2015. Protesters are demanding Republican lawmakers approve a bill banning all abortions after 20 weeks.  (Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON DC – Medical and legal experts addressing the damaging effects of artificial contraception and abortion on health care, law and society as a whole urged hundreds of attendees at a symposium to evangelise and transform the culture through the Catholic Church’s profound encyclical reaffirming the sanctity of marriage and human life.

The speakers were talking about Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”) and they made the comments at an April 4-6, 2018 symposium marking the 50th anniversary of the document.

The gathering was titled “Embracing God’s Vision for Marriage, Love and Life” and hosted by The Catholic University of America.

Among the speakers was Helen Alvare, a professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. She spoke on April 6 as part of a panel on “The Prophecies of ‘Humanae Vitae’ — A Panel on Health and Love: The Distortions Introduced Into Healthcare, the Marital Relationship and Law by the Contraceptive Mentality.”

Alvare addressed the historical roots of making birth control and abortion a constitutional right in the United States and what she described as a devastating decline of legal safeguards for women and children that has resulted.

State laws existed in this country banning unwed cohabitation, pornography, birth control and abortion, but throughout the 1950s and 1960s, those laws began to be wiped away, Alvare said. The purpose of these laws was to protect children so they would be raised with a married mother and father.

“Poor women and poor children have suffered the most since contraception,” she said. “(Society’s message is) sexual expression without marriage is freedom.”

In erasing those laws, the courts soon found a “right to privacy,” which now in the opinion of many people supersedes all other rights, she said.

As a result, “being without children is (believed to be) women’s highest goal. … The courts have made women’s chief freedom the right to be alone with their contraceptives and abortion clinics,” Alvare warned.

In another session, Elizabeth Kirk, a scholar who writes and speaks on matters of family law and religious freedom, spoke about the document’s teaching on infertility and the hope that it can bring to couples like Kirk and her husband, who have struggled with infertility throughout their marriage.

The heart of “Humanae Vitae” affirms that the unitive and procreative meanings of conjugal love are inseparable, said Kirk. It specifically notes that all couples are called to live fully fruitful lives, even if they are infertile, she added.

“The beauty of ‘Humanae Vitae’ is that it tells infertile couples that conjugal love expressed fully and faithfully always carries both meanings,” even if it does not result in biological children, said Kirk, who noted that the teaching “brings great comfort and consolation to infertile couples,” who can discern other ways that God is calling their particular marriage to bear fruit, such as through adoption.

“Infertility is just one example of how our human suffering can bear spiritual fruit,” she said.

The Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage, abortion, human sexuality and contraception is rooted in the same respect for human dignity that guides its work for social justice and care for poor people, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said in his keynote address opening the symposium on April 4.

It is imperative that the church make known why it upholds its teaching, as reiterated in “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), so that Catholics and the world understand God’s plan for humanity, said the archbishop, who chairs the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. – CNS, 10 Apr 2018

Abp Chaput: the truth of Humanae Vitae makes us free

Archbishop Charles J Chaput of Philadelphia speaks during a press conference with a delegation from Pennsylvania at the Vatican 25 March 2014. A delegation of government, religious and community leaders from Pennsylvania were meeting with Vatican officials to plan the 22-27 Sept 2015, World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

WASHINGTON DC – The Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage, abortion, human sexuality and contraception is rooted in the same respect for human dignity that guides its work for social justice and care for poor people, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput told a Catholic University of America audience.

It is imperative that the church make known why it upholds its teaching, as reiterated in Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), so that Catholics and the world understand God’s plan for humanity, the archbishop said during the 4 April 2018 opening session of a symposium marking the 50th anniversary of the papal teaching.

The encyclical is notably known for upholding church renouncement of contraception. It followed by eight years the 1960 US Food and Drug Administration approval of the first birth control pill.

Blessed Paul convened a commission to examine whether the historic Christian rejection of contraceptives would apply to the new technology. Most commission members advised the pope that it would not, but Blessed Paul eventually disagreed, saying in the encyclical that the new technology was prohibited birth control.

Blessed Paul’s decision has been widely criticised, Archbishop Chaput acknowledged, with some Catholic clergy, theologians and laypeople refusing to accept it. “That resistance continues in our own day,” said the archbishop, who chairs the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. He made the comments in a 35-minute presentation to about 200 people.

“‘Humanae Vitae’ revealed deep wounds in the church about our understanding of the human person, the nature of sexuality and marriage as God created it,” he explained. “We still seek the cure for those wounds. But thanks to the witness of St John Paul II, Pope Benedict, Pope Francis and many other faithful shepherds, the church has continued to preach the truth of Jesus Christ about who we are and what God desires for us.

“People willing to open their eyes and their hearts to the truth will see the hope that Catholic teaching represents and the power that comes when that truth makes us free,” he said.

The archbishop challenged widespread denunciation of the teaching on contraception by those who say church leaders spend too much time on “pelvic issues,” thus obscuring, they argue, the Gospel message of caring for poor people.

“As a bishop for 30 years in the dioceses where I served, that’s three of them, the church has put far more money, time and personnel into the care and education of the underprivileged than into programs related to sex,” he said.

“And it’s not that the critics don’t know this. Many don’t want to know it because facts interfere with their story line of a sexually repressed, body-denying institution locked in the past.”

Church teaching on contraception can be traced to the early days of Christianity, particularly in ancient Rome, where Christians emphasised upholding human dignity, he said.

Citing the work of Kyle Harper, provost at the University of Oklahoma and an expert in Roman history, the archbishop said the Romans “presumed that sex was just sex, one instinctual need among others” and that prostitutes and slaves were “safety valves” to satisfy such needs. But it was the early Christians who “welcomed all new life as something holy and a blessing,” teaching that each person was created in the image and likeness of God, he explained.

Christians also preached that God gave all people free will to act in accordance with God’s commands or against them, he said, continuing to cite Harper.

“Christianity embedded that notion of free will in human culture for the first time. Christian sexual morality was a key part of this understanding of free will. The body was a ‘consecrated space’ in which we could choose or reject God,” he said.

As a result, Christians began demanding “care for vulnerable bodies,” speaking out against slavery and supporting the needs of poor people, and that concern included opposition to contraception, he said.

Archbishop Chaput noted that Christian opposition to contraception continued until the 1930 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, which determined that while the preferred method of avoiding birth should be sexual abstinence, other methods may be used to prevent pregnancy as long as they fell in line with Christian principles.

“Their minor tweak gradually turned into a full reversal on the issue of contraception. Other Christian leaders followed suit,” he said.

“Today this leaves the Catholic Church almost alone as a body of Christian believers whose leaders still maintain the historic Christian teaching on contraception,” he continued. “The church can thus look stubborn and out of touch for not adjusting her beliefs to the prevailing culture. But she’s simply remaining true to the faith she received from the apostles and can’t barter away.”

Since then, Archbishop Chaput said, “developed society has moved sharply away from Christian faith and morals, without shedding them completely.”

He echoed author GK Chesterton, who asserted that society is surrounded by “fragments of Christian ideas removed from their original framework and used in strange new ways. Human dignity and rights are still popular concepts, just don’t ask what their foundation is or whether human rights have any solid content beyond sentiment or personal preference.”

“Our culture isn’t reverting to the paganism of the past. It’s creating a new religion to replace Christianity. It’s that we understand that today’s new sexual mores are part of this larger change.”

The moral conflicts society faces, such as broken families, social unraveling and “gender confusion” stems “from our disordered attitudes toward creation and our appetite to master, reshape and even deform nature to our wills. We want the freedom to decide what reality is. And we insist on the power to make it so,” he said.

Such thinking is manifest in efforts to master the limitations of the human body and “attack the heart of our humanity,” the archbishop added.

Blessed Paul explains that “marriage is not just a social convention we’ve inherited, but the design of God himself. Christian couples are called to welcome the sacrifices that God’s design requires so they can enter into the joy it offers. This means that while husbands and wives may take advantage of periods of natural infertility to regulate the birth of their children, they can’t actively intervene to stamp out the fertility that’s natural to sexual love,” he said.

Because the church’s teaching often was not being followed prior to the encyclical, Archbishop Chaput said Blessed Paul offered four predictions if that trend continued: widespread infidelity and the general lowering of morality; loss of respect for women as they become viewed as instruments of selfish enjoyment rather than as beloved companions; public policies that advocate and implement birth control as a form of population policy; and humans thinking they had unlimited dominion over their own bodies, turning the person into the object of his or her own intrusive power.

“Half a century after ‘Humanae Vitae’ the church in the United States is at a very difficult but also very promising moment,” the archbishop said. “Difficult because the language of Catholic moral wisdom is alien to many young people, who often leave the church without every really encountering her. Promising because the most awake of those same young people want something better and more enduring than the emptiness and noise they now have.

“Our mission now, as always, is not to surrender to the world as it is, but to feed and ennoble the deepest yearnings of the world and thereby to lead it to Jesus Christ and his true freedom and joy.” – Dennis Sadowski, Catholic Herald, 6 Apr 2018

Abp Chaput: Paul VI would not be surprised by the #MeToo movement

WASHINGTON DC- “The #MeToo movement, emotional wreckage, sexual disease and date rape are the realities we’ve inherited from the sexual revolution. Paul VI would not be surprised,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput in a speech Wednesday.

“The Church in Humanae Vitae identified and rejected sexual exploitation of women years before that message entered the cultural mainstream,” said Chaput.

The Archbishop of Philadelphia spoke on 4 April 2018 on the need to heal the wounds in human sexuality and marriage by embracing God’s vision for love and marriage. He was delivering the opening keynote for a symposium at the Catholic University of America celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Humanae vitae.

The April 4-6 conference gathers scholars from across the US in Washington, D.C., to discuss the encyclical, from the philosophical underpinnings of the Church’s teaching on contraception to pastoral initiatives with natural family planning.

Chaput pointed out how prescient was Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on the regulation of birth in its predictions of the societal effects of widespread use of contraception.

Humanae vitae predicted that the pill would contribute to increased objectification of women and conjugal infidelity.

“Turn on the radio or TV and see how this has played out … As late as the 1980s, much of our popular entertainment still showed casual sex as affectionate, healthy and fun, with few if any consequences,” explained Chaput.

“Today’s film and TV dramas are very different. They’re far more wounded and vastly more cynical. Lena Dunham’s cable series ‘Girls,’ and the short story ‘Cat Person’ published by New Yorker magazine and the media uproar it created, are just two of the most obvious examples,” he continued.

The encyclical also accurately predicted and warned that governments would implement birth control as a form of population control (ten years before China introduced its One Child Policy).

Bl. Paul VI expressed concern that contraception would “mislead human beings into thinking they had unlimited dominion over their own bodies, relentlessly turning the human person into the object of his or her own intrusive power,” said Chaput.

“Much of the moral conflict, broken family life, social unraveling, and gender confusion that seems so common today stems – directly or more subtly – from our disordered attitudes toward creation, and our appetite to master, reshape and even deform nature to our wills. We want the freedom to decide what reality is. And we insist on the power to make it so,” he said.

“Each of his [Paul VI’s] warnings has come true, in ways more tragic than he could imagine,” said Chaput.

In the face of the fulfillment of these predictions, “Our mission now, as always, is not to surrender to the world as it is, but to feed and ennoble the deepest yearnings of the world – and thereby to lead it to Jesus Christ, and his true freedom and joy,” affirmed Chaput.

“Men and women fall in love with each other because they see a reflection of God’s beauty and goodness in each other – body, mind, and soul. God is a communion of persons united in a love so fruitful that it overflows into the created world. That world gives glory to God and reflects his attributes, especially that crown of creation, human beings. We’re uniquely created in the image and likeness of God. God has therefore made our love fruitful, like his own, and called us to take part in the creation of new life,” he said.

“Humanae Vitae is remembered for the great ‘no’ that Paul VI uttered, and rightly so. But we often forget that his ‘no’ came only after an even more powerful ‘yes’ to the beauty of marital love,” explained the archbishop.

“Pope Paul begins Humanae Vitae by noting four key elements of married love. Married love is human. It’s an act of the free will by which a man and woman are joined, body and soul, in a communion of life. It’s also total, a gift of one’s whole life and self. It’s also faithful, a gift made exclusively to one person until death. And marriage is finally fruitful, overflowing to new life like the love of the God in whose image we are made,” Chaput continued.

Bl. Paul VI called us to lives of self-giving love and self-denial, the archbishop said.

“The Church believes what she believes about human sexuality because of what she believes about the meaning and dignity of the human person as a whole. We care for the poor and work against injustices like human trafficking for the same reasons we believe that sexual love is reserved for marriages between men and women who are open to children,” explained Chaput.

He argued firmly against the popular narrative that Christian sexual morality is repressive, pointing out an irony that “beneath all of today’s enlightened talk about liberating human sexual behavior is a contempt for the weakness and inefficiency of the flesh.”

It is contraception that “presupposes that a woman’s body should work like a man’s in order for a woman to flourish and be free,” with its treatment of “her fertility and biological rhythms are problems and weaknesses; in effect, a disease that needs to be managed,” said Chaput.

“And yet it’s the Church – not the pharmaceutical industry with its profits and manufactured infertility, or the doctors who deal with the pill’s collateral health damage, or the abortion industry that cashes in lavishly on the failures of contraception, but the Church – that gets criticized as abnormal and intrusive. Nothing speaks more nakedly to the doublethink we now accept as the rhythm of our daily lives,” he said.

“Pope Francis warns that our desire for mastery and autonomy has created a human crisis similar to the crisis of our natural environment,” said Chaput.

He quoted Pope Francis’ article in the book “Not Just Good, but Beautiful: The Complementary Relationship between Man and Woman”, in which the Roman Pontiff wrote, “marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.” – Courtney Grogan, CNA/EWTN News

Founder of 40 Days for Life enters Catholic Church on Easter

David Bereit, founder of 40 Days for Life, enters the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil Mass, 31 Mar 2018.  Credit: Lori Diane E Fowlkes

FREDERICKSBURG,  Va – David Bereit, the founder of 40 Days for Life, entered the Catholic Church on Easter, 31 Mar 2018, giving thanks for the inspiration of influential Catholics, including his wife and children.

“After years of prayer, discernment, and a whole lot of wrestling with God, I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at last night’s Easter Vigil,” wrote Bereit in an April 1 Facebook post.

Bereit celebrated Easter with his family at St Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. His wife Margaret was his sponsor, and his son Patrick was an altar server at the Mass. His daughter Claire and mother-in-law Helen were also in attendance.

Bereit said that he had been attending Sunday Mass with his wife – who is Catholic – every week for the last 28 years, ever since their second date at St Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M in 1990.

But while he and Margaret shared many things in common as Christians, Bereit said he also longed to be more unified in their church affiliation and therefore spent years wrestling with the Catholic Church.

“I struggled with many questions, misconceptions, and hangups along the way. I have endeavored to continually learn and grow through prayer, studying Scripture, theology, and church history, reading, and seeking wise counsel,” he said.

“Throughout my life I have also been surrounded by many amazing Catholic Christians whose faithful, loving witness has continually inspired and attracted me – most notably the beautiful example lived out by my incredible wife and wonderful children.”

Last September, Bereit experienced a profound encounter of faith during Eucharistic adoration. Soon after, he began attending RCIA classes, which he said led to a more fruitful Lent and Easter this year.

“Lent took on far more meaning than usual for me, as I prayed and fasted more intensely than ever with a focused desire to continue growing closer to Christ. Now I am filled with joy, and am at complete peace, about this next step in my life-long journey of faith.”

In 2004, Bereit began 40 Days for Life as a local prolife advocacy group in Bryan-College Station, Texas. The group has grown into an international organization, holding Christian campaigns of prayer and activism to end abortion. Over the course of 40 days, participants hold a 24/7 prayer vigil outside of a single abortion facility in the community. The organisation also engages in community outreach, through partnerships with churches and door-to-door petitions.

Bereit stepped down as CEO in 2016, but continues to be actively involved in the pro-life movement.

He said in his Facebook post that his decision to become Catholic may be surprising to some, but it will not change his dedication to serve the entire body of Christ.

“This journey has deepened my appreciation for a wonderful Christian upbringing, my years of experiences within the Presbyterian Church, the time I was involved with Evangelical ministries while in college, and the blessing of getting to work and pray alongside the many different parts of the Body of Christ in my 15+ years of pro-life work.” – CNA, 3 Apr 2018

Retreat fosters healing for adult children of divorce

Couple infidelity. Credit: nd3000 Shutterstock CNA

WASHINGTON, DC – According to the Pew Research Center, only 46 percent of Americans under the age of 18 live in a traditional family with two parents in their first marriage.

For those who are now adults and grew up in a divorced family, the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC is seeking to help heal wounds that remain after parents divorce.

Many suffer silently from their parents’ divorce, according to Daniel Meola, who leads the ‘Recovering Origins” healing retreats for the shrine.

“Regardless of the amount of individual love our parents give us, what we’ve lost is the love of our parents together,” Meola explained to CNA, drawing on his own experience of his parents’ divorce. “We have to recognize that we have something to grieve.”

“Children of divorce are not, as a rule, asked how they feel about their parents’ divorce — not as a child and not in the decades that follow,” Catholic writer, Leila Miller, wrote in her 2017 book, “Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak.”

“Our society says that the kids should be alright. There should be no problem. There’s a lot of happy divorce talk … so that can kind of silence us,” explained Meola.

Although many children of divorce learn to silence their feelings, their wounds really begin to show themselves in young adulthood and in the ability to form and maintain relationships, according to Meola.

There can be “this deeper anxiety that many of us have that any good thing can turn bad at the drop of the hat or always expecting the piano to fall,” said Meola, who added that trust issues, anger, and depression are other common struggles.

Many participants in past retreats have expressed fear of repeating their parents’ mistakes. The key to addressing this concern is practising the Church’s teaching of merciful love, Meola said.

“The form of marriage is merciful love … I think that if we can forgive our parents or even just start to forgive them that we will be starting a really good foundation for our own love and our own marriages,” he commented.

“You can love your parents and still hate the divorce,” explained Meola. “We have this beautiful distinction in the Church, at least I found very comforting, between the person and his acts. I found this very comforting actually for grieving that ‘Ok, I can hate this act my parents did, but I can still love this person deeply and profoundly.’”

“I’ve always found it really beautiful and fascinating that Christ’s strongest words on marriage in Matthew 19, saying it is indissoluble, are preceded by his strongest words on forgiveness in Matthew 18 where he tells people to forgive 77 times 7 times,” he continued. “I think that what the Scripture is suggesting there is that the form of indissolubility is merciful love.”

The Church’s teaching on self-giving love in marriage can also seem counterintuitive to adult children of divorce. “I think that one of the temptations when you are wounded is you just want to self-protect rather than give, even though giving is what is key for happiness, especially in love,” explained Meola. “Another sign of self-protecting is leaving at the first sign of problems and not addressing conflicts.”

“Cohabitation can also be a form of self-protecting,” he added.

The goal of the retreats is for the participants to bring these wounds and anxieties to Christ’s healing love. “As John Paul II said in Salvifici Doloris, if we have eyes of faith and we encounter Christ in the wound, then it can awaken love. That is the deepest level of healing that we are looking for.”

At the heart of each retreat is a detailed meditation on the Our Father. Small group discussions focus on more practical aspects of navigating healthy boundaries with one’s parents and in relationships after divorce.

“When your parents divorce, they are in survival mode and so are you, and what often happens is that you feel like you need to be the parent to the parent, rather than the child. And what I mean by that is that they often turn to you as their emotional confidant because they do not have their spouse any longer, so what happens is you don’t feel the permission to share your feelings with them because they are dumping so much on you and you feel the need to help them figure out their emotional life. But in a healthy marriage, it is flipped — the child is supposed to be getting direction about their emotional life from the parent … when you are married, you need to be each other’s emotional confidant… We do have to draw a boundary,” explained Meola.

“We tend to think of boundaries as pushing the other person away, but they are actually at the service of reconciliation and having a good relationship. Because what is going to push you away is if you have an unhealthy relationship. You are going to collapse and get really angry. Boundaries are actually at the service of a good relationship with your parents,” he continued.

“Verbal abuse can be very prolific. Because we are a child of both parents, when one parent bashes the other parent, that really hurts us, because we are a fruit of that, we have qualities of that parent that they might be bashing,” continued Meola who said that the retreat can empower young people to speak up when this occurs.

“Each parent is half of who the child is. When the parents reject each other, they are rejecting half of the child. They may tell the child, ‘We still love you; we just don’t love each other.’ The child cannot make sense of this impossible contradiction. In my opinion, this is the underlying reason for the well-documented psychological, physiological, and spiritual risks that children of divorce face,” wrote Dr Jennifer Roback Morse, the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, in the introduction to Miller’s book on adult children of divorce.

The “Recovering Origins” healing retreat was born out of an earlier symposium hosted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in 2012 that brought together scholars who have studied the impact divorce has had on children, including Elizabeth Marquardt, whose groundbreaking book, “Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce,” was one of the first studies on the impact of divorce on young people.

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, saw how fruitful the symposium was, and decided that the Church should offer more opportunities for healing. The Knights of Columbus and the John Paul II Institute developed the retreat, which was first held in 2016.

Each retreat is usually capped at 25 participants to encourage discussion. Speakers at the last retreat at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine on March 23-25 included Fr Jim McCormick MIC and Dr. Jill Verschaetse, both of whom are adult children of divorce.

The next retreat is scheduled for September 7-9 in Arlington, Virginia. – Courtney Grogan, CNA, 2 Apr 2018

Misunderstanding NFP: Where Catholics and non-Catholics get it wrong

The Pill.  Credit: Layue, Shutterstock, CNA

ATCHISON, Kansas – The encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI shocked the world when it was published in 1968.

While society was in the midst of the sexual revolution, the pope wrote that couples could not morally use contraception as a means of planning or spacing their children.

“It was an explosion in the Church,” said Dr Janet Smith, a professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and a Catholic speaker and author on marriage and family.

In the 50 years that followed, she said, the Church has worked to explain its teaching to a world that often refused to accept it.

“But we’ve made some great strides,” she noted. “The fact that you can get 60 scholars to come and talk about Humanae Vitae? In Kansas? It’s fantastic!” Dr. Smith was one of four keynote speakers at Benedictine College’s seventh annual Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelisation. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Humanae Vitae 50 Years Later: A Call to Self-Gift.”

While Humanae Vitae states that couples may not use contraception, it affirms that they may make use of the natural fertile and infertile times of a woman’s menstrual cycle, measurable through Natural Family Planning (NFP), in order to achieve responsible parenthood.

But there are problems even within the Christian and Catholic community of understanding exactly how NFP works and what it means to use it morally, Smith noted.

For example, there are certain groups within the Church whom Smith called “Providentialists” – they believe that NFP should only be used by couples to limit family size for “grave reasons,” while the original Latin text of Humanae Vitae and the Catechism use the words “serious” and “just” reasons.

“Providentialists hold that unless grave reasons present themselves, such as very serious health or financial ones, spouses should just let the babies come,” Smith said.

“They’re beautiful people who really want to do God’s will in a very radical, self-giving way, though I think they reason falsely about these matters,” she said.

With Natural Family Planning, couples work together with a woman’s cycle to determine – through methods such as body temperature and cervical mucus observation – the fertile and infertile phases of her cycle. Typically, a woman’s menstrual cycle is around 28 days, and she is fertile for just a handful of those days, though the specifics of the number of days of each phase varies woman to woman.

Couples using Natural Family Planning discern through prayer and practical reasons whether to have sex during the fertile or infertile phases of a woman’s cycle, depending on whether or not they believe it is a good idea for them to get pregnant at that time. As long as couples do not impede the possibility of pregnancy through artificial means (contraception) or natural means (withdrawal), they act according to Church teaching, Pope Paul VI notes in Humanae Vitae.

Where Providentialists go wrong, Smith said, is in believing that couples should be required to have sex during every phase of a woman’s cycle, and that NFP should only be used to avoid pregnancy if a woman is on her deathbed, or the family is in financial ruin.

It’s moral to abstain from sex for other, somewhat trivial reasons, Smith noted – a spouse with a headache, someone would like to finish a book, someone wants to catch a sports game, the walls are too thin, etc.

“So I have a simple question for you. Why would it be wrong not to have sex because it’s not a good idea to have a child at that time?” she said.

“I’m certainly going to affirm that children are the primary purpose of marriage and commend the Providentialists for their devotion to that good,” Smith said, “but I’m going to challenge the claim that [just reasons to abstain] only mean the woman’s near death or the family’s financial ruin.”

The culture at large, on the other hand, misunderstands sexuality as something “nasty and naughty,” and sees children as an optional means of personal fulfillment or a hobby, Smith said, rather than as a supreme gift from God resulting from the gift of sexuality within the context of marriage.

“They don’t see [sex] as a huge gift from God that God has given to spouses as a means to let them help him create new human souls,” she said.

“[Children] are a supreme gift of marriage, they give people meaning, purpose, joy, unbelievable laughter…and bills to worry about and all kinds of things,” Smith said. If Christians believe they are raising up souls for God, “why wouldn’t they want to have a lot of children?”

But while the Church recognises children as a gift and asks couples to be generous in their openness to life, it also allows for couples to abstain from sex during the fertile phase for “serious” and “just” reasons, including “physical, economic, psychological and social conditions,” Humanae Vitae states.

Furthermore, it notes that “responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

What counts as serious or just enough reasons? “It’s between you and God,” Smith said. “One thing you have to do [to use NFP] is to learn how to pray, and to learn how to say, ‘What do you think, God?’”

It is possible to use NFP selfishly, Smith noted, but she added that the cure for that selfishness can also be found within the use of NFP, since it facilitates conversations between the couple about their family and relationship. Furthermore, she said, most people want to have sex, meaning that abstaining from sex requires a self-mastery that is not characteristic of selfish people.

“If you believe you’ve got good reasons [to abstain], go ahead and use NFP, but keep praying, and tell God: ‘If we’re being selfish with NFP, let us know,’” she said.

When asked what the biggest hurdles are for Catholics and non-Catholics alike when it comes to accepting Church teaching on this issue, Smith said it is a misunderstanding of both contraception and NFP within both groups.

“They don’t have any idea the damage that the hormonal contraceptives do to a woman’s body, so they don’t even know they should be looking for something else,” Smith told CNA. Furthermore, “they don’t understand the many benefits that abstinence brings to a relationship, and it needs to be acknowledged that it’s difficult. It’s as difficult as dieting, and budgeting and exercising regularly, but everybody knows that those bring great benefits to those who do those things. And if you have a necessity to do them, they’re that much easier, because you have a necessity,” she said.

It’s important that the Church keep teaching the truths of Humanae Vitae even 50 years after its original publication, Smith said, because most people still don’t know the truth, and it has also become “more and more overwhelmingly clear that it was right, that contraception would be devastating to relationships and to cultures.”

Smith added that she was encouraged by the symposium at Benedictine. “It was astonishing, and these were young people for the most part in some way defending Humanae Vitae,” she said. “People who oppose Humanae Vitae seem to think it’s a dead letter, but we need to show that young people are confirming its truth rather than rejecting it.”  – Mary Rezac, CNA, 28 Mar 2018

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