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What it's like to gather relics of Fr. Stanley Rother

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 20, 2017 / 03:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Fr. Stanley Rother, a missionary priest from Okarche, Oklahoma, was killed by rebels in Guatemala, his body was transferred back to the United States to be buried by his family.

But his heart remained in Guatemala.

Literally.

The native Guatemalans loved their pastor so much that they enshrined his heart at the mission parish in Santiago Atitlan.

On Sept. 23, that heart will go from being a disembodied remain to a first-class relic, a sacred artifact of someone who has been beatified by the Catholic Church.

The keeping and venerating of relics is perhaps one of the more bizarre Catholic practices, but it’s a scripturally-backed practice of the Church since its beginning.

There are three classes of relics recognized by the Church. First-class relics are bodily remains of a saint, such as bones or flesh or hair. Second-class relics are belongings of the saint, such as clothes or other personal items. Third-class relics are items that have been touched to a first- or second-class relic of that saint.

When Archbishop Paul Coakley was installed as head of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese in 2011, he inherited the task of the cause of canonization for Fr. Stanley Rother. As part of this undertaking, he also inherited the task of his gathering relics, a process that officially commenced once it was clear that the martyred priest’s beatification was imminent.

The second-class relics were easy. Over the years, the archdiocese had collected a handful of personal items of Fr. Stanley, donated by friends and family, including some of his clothes, and a pipe that he smoked. Once he is beatified, these things become second-class relics.

But when it came to exhuming the body to collect first-class relics, Archbishop Coakley admits he was a little lost.

“We had to do a lot of research,” the archbishop told CNA. “This happens so rarely, we didn’t know how to go about preparing for this.”

First, he obtained permission and rights to Fr. Stanley Rother’s remains from the priest’s two surviving siblings.

Then, according to Vatican protocol, he gathered the proscribed team of witnesses and medical experts who would help with the canonical exhumation and examination of Fr. Stanley’s body.

The medical team consisted of a pathologist and an orthopedic surgeon, both local Catholics. They helped examine and describe the remains, and compile a report sent to the Holy See. Among other things, the Church looks for signs of incorruptibility, when a body does not decompose. The condition has been found among some saints, although by itself, it is not enough to prove sanctity.

“They had expertise that would be helpful in describing what would be found when his tomb was opened, because we didn’t know what we could find,” Archbishop Coakley said.

Both the exhumation and examination are done “with great dignity and reverence, and there is a process by which we exhumed his body from the family plot at the parish cemetery in Okarche,” the archbishop added.

“And in that process we took one of his ribs, and that’s what we used for preparing first class relics,” he said.

His body was then transferred to a temporary resting place in Resurrection Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery next to the pastoral center in Oklahoma City, while his rib was sent to Rome.

“There is an Augustinian monastery of St. Lucia in Rome, and they are custodians of relics and have experience in preparing relics, so we sent our relic of Fr. Rother to them,” Archbishop Coakley said.

The sisters there will divide the rib into many tiny fragments, which will be encased in reliquaries, available to bishops who wish to obtain relics of Fr. Rother for public veneration. First-class relics are no longer distributed to lay persons, in order to protect the relics from negligence or abuse.

Meanwhile, the task of preparing the third-class relics (sometimes referred to as “touched relics”) of Fr. Stanley fell to the Carmelite Monastery of Rochester, New York, a congregation of 11 discalced, cloistered Carmelite nuns.

Mother Therese, the prioress of the convent, told CNA that while the sisters had done smaller “touched relic” projects for Carmelite saints, this was the first major relic project the convent has undertaken.

“A sister from Oklahoma City mentioned to me that the archdiocese was looking for someone to put together relic cards for Fr. Stanley’s beatification,” she said. “I said, ‘Well we’ve not done this on a huge scale but we are familiar with this process’...so that’s how it came about, a simple question from one of our Carmelite nuns.”

Often, third-class relics distributed at beatifications come in the form of a little piece of cloth embedded in a holy card.

“When the body was exhumed, the bones were wrapped in a very large and special cloth,” Mother Therese said.

This cloth was signed and dated by Archbishop Coakley during the exhumation in May and then sent to the nuns, who are punching small holes in the holy cards of Fr. Stanley and affixing the pieces of cloth – which will become relics once Fr. Stanley is beatified – to the cards.

The holy cards also have a picture of Fr. Stanley on the front, and a prayer for his canonization on the back – some in English and some in Spanish. The sisters have already made 10,000 and are expecting to make several thousand more.

“It’s a very great privilege for us,” Mother Therese said. “It has brought us very close to Fr. Stanley...we feel that he will intercede for us and that he will bless our community and the Church in the U.S. as well, because he’s the first American-born martyr.”

Archbishop Coakley said working on Father Stanley’s cause has been an honor, especially as someone who graduated from the same seminary as Fr. Stanley (though years later) and has been interested in his story for quite some time.

“I took that as a great privilege to be coming into the Oklahoma City Archdiocese at such a time,” he said.

“I...entrusted my ministry to him and prayed for his assistance and intercession as I undertook this ministry, I’ve felt a very near kinship with him since I was a seminarian and a priest and as the archbishop now.”

 

 

 

Catholic health care growth a benefit, not a threat, ethicist says

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A research paper that depicts the growth of Catholic health care as a threat to reproductive health ignores the attraction of Catholic hospitals and downplays the ethical concerns about procedures like abortion and sterilization, one commentator has said.

The number of hospitals that are Catholic-sponsored or Catholic-affiliated has increased 22 percent from 2001 to 2016, including through mergers or changes of ownership. This growth is the focus of a September 2017 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, “Medically Necessary but Forbidden: Reproductive Health Care in Catholic-owned Hospitals.”

“The ‘problem’ that the authors of this study are examining results from the fact that Catholic hospitals and Catholic healthcare systems have been remarkably successful in America's competitive market,” Edward Furton, an ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA Sept. 18.

“Catholic hospitals tend to be better managed, are governed by a sense of social duty, perform greater amounts of charitable care, and have strong ethical safeguards in place to protect their patients.”

Furton attributed the growth of Catholic healthcare to patients’ appreciation for these features.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is an  influential domestic policy think tank based in Cambridge, Mass. Its working paper estimated that the expansion of Catholic hospitals reduces by 30 percent the annual rates per-bed of inpatient abortions. The rates of tubal ligations or sterilizations drop 31 percent.

Elaine Hill, a co-author of the working paper, is a professor of health economics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She said access to procedures is part of how to “reduce unwanted pregnancy.”

“Policies addressing the ways in which ownership of hospitals might impede access could be very beneficial to the population of women affected,” she told STAT, a health, medicine and scientific research publication from Boston Globe Media.

Furton, however, said the working paper was written by “a group of economists, not healthcare workers.” He questioned the paper’s use of the phrase “medically necessary but forbidden.”

“Neither abortion nor permanent sterilization can be properly described as a medical necessity. They are typically chosen for reasons other than maintaining health,” he said.

“Often times, studies such as this are designed to highlight supposed impediments to health care access within Catholic institutions. In other words, they suffer from an inherent bias,” he added. “In this case, the authors assume that all Americans want unlimited access to abortion and sterilization. That is obviously not true.”

He also defended the presence of Catholic ethics in health care.

“Many people see the reduction in abortion and sterilization as positive goods. The authors assume that denying access to these ‘services’ represents a moral failing of some sort, but not many people would agree,” he said.

“Abortion is obviously of great concern to most people, and few among the general public are fooled by the claim that the lack of sterilization procedures in Catholic hospitals is going to affect contraceptive use among American women,” said Furton. “Contraception is widely available and the refusal to offer permanent sterilizations in Catholic hospitals is not going to change that fact.”

The study estimated that there are about 9,500 fewer tubal ligations each year because Catholic hospitals do not perform them. It charged that this represents “a substantial cost to women, who must subsequently rely on other, more inconvenient suboptimal forms of contraception.”  It claimed that black and Hispanic women were disproportionately affected by these restrictions.

The same working paper found that Catholic hospitals showed no statistically significant increase in complications from miscarriages or sterilization procedures.

Data used in the study came from the states of Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, California, New York, and Washington.

The study said that Catholic ethics are not always followed or it would have found a 100 percent reduction in abortions and sterilizations.

Furton said it is regrettable that not all Catholic hospitals follow Church teaching. However, he suggested that some of the procedures cited in the paper’s data could reflect actions that would not violate Catholic ethics.

“For example, some of what the authors of this paper would call abortions are in fact actions in which the child is unavoidably lost while the medical team is performing a procedure that has some hope of saving either the child, the mother, or both. These should not be classified as abortions. They are justifiable under the principle of double effect.”

Some opponents of the expansion of Catholic hospitals that operate according to Catholic teaching include the American Civil Liberties Union and the group the MergerWatch project. They co-authored a 2013 report that claimed the growth of Catholic hospitals was a “miscarriage of medicine.”

St. Louis archbishop leads prayer for peace after violent protests

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 19, 2017 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of St. Louis led an interfaith group of religious leaders in prayer for peace and justice on Tuesday, after protests over the weekend turned violent.

“It is in this humble spirit of peace that we gather together as one human family this afternoon to both pray and reflect. Each one of us brings a heavy heart, but also a faith-filled heart,” Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis said at the Ecumenical Prayer Service for Peace in downtown St. Louis.

Archbishop Carlson led the prayer service after several days of protests took place in the city over the acquittal of a former police officer in a 2011 shooting.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson on Friday acquitted former officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder charges, stemming from a 2011 shooting of 24 year-old Anthony Lamar Smith after a car chase.

According to a court document reported by the Washington Post, the district attorney charged that Stockley was heard threatening to kill Smith during the car chase, and, once he drove into Smith’s car, got out and shot five times into the car, killing him.

“This Court, in conscience, cannot say that the State has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, or that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense,” Judge Wilson said, reported by CNN.

After Friday’s ruling, Archbishop Carlson called for prayer and forgiveness, and exhorted members of the community not to react with violence.

“We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us,” he said. “Violence does not lead to peace and justice – they are opposing forces and cannot coexist. I implore each of you to choose peace!”

Protests of the ruling began on Friday evening, and also occurred on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Protests on Saturday and Sunday reportedly began peacefully, but turned violent after dark when buildings were damaged and police officers were assaulted. Reports claimed that a small contingent of the protesters were violent.

The city’s police department reported making 123 arrests on Sunday, after orders to disperse were ignored by some individuals who blocked street intersections.

At Tuesday’s interfaith prayer service, Archbishop Carlson thanked those in attendance for showing a “sign of your commitment to peace,” and thanked other religious leaders present for their “leadership” and “moral witness.”

According to St. Paul, “we are one in the Lord,” the archbishop said, exhorting the audience to remember their “truest identity as children of God, capable of bringing God’s peace to every corner where division and violence would seek the upper hand.”

He said that “peace is not an unrealistic dream that would blind us to the sin and brokenness of humanity,” but rather that peace and justice go together.

“One cannot cry for peace and ignore justice, and vice versa,” he said. “We do not demand justice without peace in our hearts.”

Other religious leaders from Christian denominations, as well as a Jewish rabbi and an imam, cited long-standing issues in the city of “endemic racism,” poverty, gun violence, and inequality of education, as well as the history of slavery in the area in the 1800s.

Fr. Ronald Mercier, SJ, Provincial superior of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province, also cited the need to address the roots of injustice.

To “seek only an end to violence without addressing its roots” would be “dangerous,” he said. “The fruit of injustice is violence.”

“For too many people,” he said, “justice is an unfulfilled reality.” He noted that “the sin of racism” present in the area “deprives all of us of an inability to feel at home.”

“Yes, we need to pray today for the gift of peace,” he said, “a peace that God wants to give us.”

 

How Christians can accompany those with same-sex attraction

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2017 / 04:09 pm (CNA).- Have compassion and empathy: especially for those dealing with struggles which are different than yours.

This is the message Dan Mattson hopes all believers will take from his book, which encourages a new sense of compassion for those who have same-sex attractions.

“I’d encourage them to have compassion and empathy,” Mattson said of his message to believers. “Maybe they can’t empathize, but they can have compassion.”

In his book, “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” Mattson discusses his objection to the use of the term “gay” – as well as the term “straight” – in reference to human sexuality.

The Church’s traditional view of sexuality – which does not define persons by their attractions – presents a fuller vision of human identity and life, he said. Taken alongside other teachings on suffering and chastity more broadly, this vision for sexuality leads to true happiness for all persons, including those who experience same-sex attractions.

His writings have gained the support of Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, who wrote the foreword for the book and mentioned his support for the book in a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.  

Mattson encouraged those who experience same-sex attractions, along with their family and friends, to have faith in the Church and the Gospel. “Have confidence that the Church is the place for all of (your) loved ones, on any teaching on these issues of such contention these days,” he said. “It’s the source where we’re going to find freedom and true joy. We really have to believe that chastity is the Good News.”

He also encouraged people with loved ones experiencing these attractions “to journey along with them, accompany them in love.” He advised family to “listen to their story” before talking about morality. “Trust that God, in the fullness of time, is going to bring this person back, but equip yourself with good ways to talk about the Church’s teaching as Good News and trust that God will give the opportunity and give you that chance to help bring them home.”

Mattson explained that he wrote the book as a way of making sense of his own experiences with same-sex attraction, and questions he had when he was younger. “Hopefully it will help some other people who love God and want to follow him,” he offered.

He said that, in his experience, the modern way of talking about sexuality in which people are considered as either “gay” or “straight” misses the context the Church provides, which looks at a person as a whole. The same element of Church teaching which deals with sexuality also says “that we all have challenges to growth,” Mattson explained. “Well, this is a challenge to growth for me, but the Catechism tells me what to do and the Church is there to guide me, just like everyone else.”

One of the challenges to growth that Mattson hopes his experience can illuminate is the challenge of loneliness – “a fundamental question that anyone with same-sex attraction has to ask.”

He explained that readers of all backgrounds have offered that they found his testimony to the experience of loneliness fruitful and enlightening, and said that the struggles of loneliness faced by those with same-sex attraction can help others who may be single or widowed or divorced facing the same battle.

“I have found that I write quite a bit about friendship and how good, healthy friendships have helped me, but also I’ve come to realize that loneliness can be a gift we can enter into,” he said.

 

In talk at Facebook, Bishop Barron tackles how to debate religion

Menlo Park, Calif., Sep 19, 2017 / 03:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- People need to learn how to argue better on the internet, especially about religion, Catholic media personality and Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said in remarks at Facebook's headquarters on Monday.

“Seek with great patience to understand your opponent’s position,” he advised, adding that it can be “very tempting just to fire back 'why you’re wrong.'”

Instead of going after what’s wrong, he said, one should seek also highlight what your opponent has right. This is an “extraordinarily helpful” way to get past impasses.

Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire website and media content reach millions of people each year over the internet. The bishop spoke to Facebook employees Sept. 18 at the company's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters on the topic “How to have a religious argument.” The event was live-streamed to around 2,500 viewers.

“If we don't know how to argue about religion, then we’re going to fight about religion,” he said.

For Bishop Barron, argument is something positive and “a way to peace.”

If one goes on social media, he said, “you'll see a lot of energy around religious issues. There will be a lot of words exchanged, often angry ones, but very little argument.”

Bishop Barron praised the intellectual tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas and his time's treatment of disputed questions. A professor would gather in a public place and entertain objections and questions.

“What's off the table? Nothing as far as I can tell,” the bishop summarized. He cited the way St. Thomas Aquinas made the case for disbelief in God before presenting the arguments for rational belief in God.

“If you can say 'I wonder whether there's a God,' that means all these questions are fine and fair,” Bishop Barron continued. “I like the willingness to engage any question.”

Aquinas always phrases the objections “in a very pithy, and very persuasive way.” In the bishop's view, he formulates arguments against God's existence even better than modern atheists and sets them up in the most convincing manner, before providing his responses to these arguments.

Further, St. Thomas Aquinas cites great Muslim and Jewish scholars, as well as pre-Christian authorities like Aristotle and Cicero, always with great respect.

Bishop Barron said authentic faith is not opposed to reason; it does not accept simply anything on the basis of no evidence.

He compared faith to the process of coming to know another human person. While one can begin to come to know someone by reason, or through a Google search or a background check, when a relationship deepens, other questions arise.

“When she reveals her heart, the question becomes: Do I believe her or not? Do I trust her or not?” he said.

“The claim, at least of the great biblical religions, is that God has not become a great distant object that we examine philosophically,” the bishop said. “Rather, the claims is that God has spoken, that God has decided to reveal his heart to his people.”

Bishop Barron addressed several other mindsets that he said forestall intelligent argument about religion.

The mentality of “mere toleration” keeps religion to oneself and treats it as a hobby. However, religion makes truth claims, like claims that Christ rose from the dead.

“Truth claims, if they really are truth claims, cannot be privatized,” he said. "A truth claim always has a universal scope, a universal intent."

“The privatization of religion is precisely what makes real argument about religion impossible.”

While science has created great knowledge that should be embraced, there is the mindset of “scientism” which reduces all knowledge to scientific form.  

“It results in a deep compromise of our humanity, it seems to me,” he said, contending that religious truths are more akin to those of literature, poetry and philosophy. The scientistic mindset would have to argue that Shakespeare’s plays or Plato’s philosophical dialogues do not convey deep truths about life, death, faith, and God.

Scientism also mistakes its subject when attempting to consider God. “The one thing God is not is an item within the universe,” Bishop Barron said.

The bishop also faulted a mindset that is “voluntarist,” which believes that the faculty of the will has precedence over the intellect. In a religious context, this holds that God could make two plus two equal five. This gives rise to a view of God as arbitrary and even oppressive.

In response, some people believe humanity’s will trumps the intellect and determines truth through power. According to Bishop Barron, they see God as incompatible with human freedom and, in the words of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, see freedom as the inherent liberty to determine the meaning of one’s own concept of existence, the universe, and human life itself.

Addressing the Facebook employees about their work, he said that their company’s social media network shows an “extraordinary spiritual power” in connecting all the world.

“I think that it’s a spiritual thing that you’re bringing everybody together,” he said.

Mother Cabrini's care for immigrants remains relevant, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2017 / 11:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter Tuesday to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pope Francis reflected on the role of their foundress, St. Frances Cabrini, explaining how her example is a fitting guide for the challenges of migration we face today.

“The centennial of the death of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini is one of the main events marking the journey of the Church,” the Pope said Sept. 19. “Both because of the greatness of the figure commemorated and because of the contemporary nature of her charism and message, not just for the ecclesial community but for society as a whole.”

With the “inevitable tensions” caused by the high levels of migration around the world today, Mother Cabrini becomes a contemporary figure, he continued.

Pointing to her example, he said “the great migrations underway today need guidance filled with love and intelligence similar to what characterizes the Cabrinian charism. In this way the meeting of peoples will enrich all and generate union and dialogue, not separation and hostility.”

The Pope’s words on Mother Cabrini and immigration were sent to participants in the General Assembly of the Institute of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

They are meeting in Chicago Sept. 17-23, marking the 100th anniversary of the death of their foundress, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants.

An Italian missionary, Mother Cabrini died on Dec. 22, 1917 after spending much of her life working with Italian immigrants in the United States.

She spent nearly 30 years traveling back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean as well as around the United States setting up orphanages, hospitals, convents, and schools for the often marginalized Italian immigrants. Her feast is celebrated Nov. 13.

We must not forget, Pope Francis noted, St. Cabrini’s missionary sensitivity, which was not “sectorial, but universal.”

“That is the vocation of every Christian and of every community of the disciples of Jesus,” he said.

Mother Cabrini’s charism gave her the strength to devote herself to Italian immigrants, particularly orphans and miners, the Pope stated, and always in cooperation with the local authorities.

She helped them to fully integrate with the culture of their new countries, accompanying the Italian immigrants in becoming “fully Italian and fully American.” At the same time she worked to preserve and revive within them the Christian tradition of their country of origin, Francis pointed out.

“The human and Christian vitality of the immigrants thus became a gift to the churches and to the peoples who welcomed them.”

In addition to all of this, she accepted the call from God to be a missionary at a time when it would have been considered unusual for women to be sent all over the world to do missionary work with their own charism as consecrated women religious.

But her “clearly feminine, missionary consecration” came from her “total and loving union with the Heart of Christ whose compassion surpasses all limits.”

St. Frances Cabrini's love for the Heart of Christ gave her the evangelical fervor and strength to care for those on the edges of society, Francis said.

“She lived and instilled in her sisters the impelling desire of reparation for the ills of the world and to overcome separation from Christ, an impetus that sustained the missionary in tasks beyond human strength.”

This year’s centennial celebration gives us the opportunity to look at Mother Cabrini and the charism of the Institute of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with “intimate and joyful gratitude to God,” the Pope continued.

“This is a great gift above all for you, the spiritual daughters of Mother Cabrini,” he concluded. “May your whole Institute, every community and every religious receive an abundant effusion of the Holy Spirit that revitalizes faith and the following of Jesus in accordance with the missionary charism of your Foundress.

Pope Francis retools John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2017 / 07:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis issued a new motu proprio changing the legal status of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, making it a theological institute charged with studying marriage and the family from a scientific perspective.

The motu proprio, titled “Summa Familiae Cura,” meaning “Highest Care of Families,” was published Sept. 19 and officially established the John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and Family, replacing the former institute founded by John Paul II in 1981.

In the document, Francis noted that John Paul II made great strides in the area of the family, first of all with his 1980 Synod of Bishops on the topic and the subsequent publication of his post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the conclusions of the gathering, “Familiaris Consortio.”

He then established the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family in 1981 with the Apostolic Constitution “Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum” in order develop the themes in his 1960 book “Love and Responsibility,” written when he was still Cardinal Wojtyla, and as well as the theology of the body he developed while Pope.

“Since then it has developed a profitable work of theological and pastoral education both in its central headquarters in Rome and in the territorial sections, present on all continents,” Francis said.

While the institute's main headquarters remains in Rome, they have campuses all over the world, including Washington DC, Nigeria, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, India and South Korea, among others.

This path of development has continued, Francis said, with the recent 2014 and 2015 Synods of Bishops on the Family, which resulted in Pope Francis' own apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” published in 2015.

In the text, which was signed on the Sept. 8 Feast of the Nativity of Mary, the Pope said that in light of the new challenges families today face and increasing cultural changes, he wanted to establish the new entity so that the work of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family can be “better known and appreciated in its fruitfulness and relevance.”

Francis said this is why he chose to make it a theological institute with a scientific perspective, “expanding the field of interest, both in terms of the new dimensions of the pastoral task and the ecclesial mission, as well as in the development of human sciences and the anthropological culture in such a crucial field for the culture of life.”

Composed of six articles, the motu proprio said the new John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and the Family, linked to the Pontifical Lateran University, will officially “substitute” the prior entity, annulling the 1981 constitution that established it.

However, Francis stressed that “the original inspiration” that led to the founding of the original institute will “continue to fertilize the vast field of engagement” of the new entity, “effectively contributing to make it fully correspond to the modern needs of the pastoral mission of the Church.”

The motu proprio stated that the new institute will be a “center of academic reference” on matters of scientific interest regarding marriage and the family, particularly on topics “connected with the fundamental alliance of man and woman for the care of generation and of creation.”

The new institute will be tied to the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. It will also be required to adapt its structures to offer the necessary personnel, professors, programs and administrative staff needed to carry out its new task.

Students who attend the institute will now be able to obtain various degrees, including a Doctorate, Licentiate or diploma in the Sciences of Marriage and Family.

Although the statutes for the new institute still need to be defined, the leadership will remain the same, and will continue to be headed by the Institute's Grand Chancellor, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, Chairman Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, and the entity's Board of Directors.

Until new statutes are in place, the theological institute will temporarily be governed by the norms under which the previous institute operated.

In a Sept. 19 press breifing on the motu proprio, Archbishop Paglia said the decision to establish a completely new entity was due to the importance of the family today.

The two key aspects of the new institute, he said, are that it is now “theological” and “scientific.”

Adding “theological” to the title points to “the ecclesial dimension in its fullness, the moral perspective, the sacramental perspective, but the biblical and dogmatic perspective, the perspective of history, of law,” he said.

By adding “sciences,” Paglia said it gives the institute the ability to study and explore topics in the “entire realm of human studies,” including the sociological, anthropological and psychological view from a more scientific perspective.

He said Pope Francis' 2015 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia will be new “magna carta” of-sorts for the institute, noting that Chapter 2 of the document is dedicated to the social and anthropological aspects of the family, while Chapter 4 is dedicated to scripture.

“The family, for Pope Francis, is not simply an abstract reality,” the archbishop said. “Families for Pope Francis are families who today must be helped and accompanied to rediscover their historical task, both in the Church and in society.”

Because of this, he said, there is a special link between the new motu proprio and the 2014 and 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.

In addition, he said faculty will not be cut, but rather expanded, bringing in new professors and experts to discuss themes relevant to the the Sciences of Marriage and Family, including those who aren't Catholic.

Because it is a scientific entity and due to its link to the Pontifical Academy for Life, the institute “dialogues with everyone who reflects on this theme,” Paglia said, adding that “it clear that the dialogue with those who aren't Catholic must be done.”

Faith, science, beauty: what doctors can learn from Catholic art

Denver, Colo., Sep 19, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The intersection of art, medicine, and faith in the Catholic tradition has a lot to teach today, especially if you’re a doctor.

“Catholic art has a long history of demonstrating the beauty of the human person, beauty both in its health as well as its disease,” Dr. Thomas Heyne, M.D. told CNA. “Catholic artists have been very effective observers and demonstrators of that dual beauty.”

“In looking closely at artwork, we’re able to have a window into what disease looked like many centuries ago as well as how our patients still look today.”

Heyne, who works in the internal medicine department of Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke at a breakout session “Did Michelangelo have Gout?” at the Catholic Medical Association’s annual educational conference, held in Denver earlier this month.

Reviewing historic artwork helps doctors review the presentations of forgotten or rare diseases, he said. It helps improve their observational skills, and remember how patients behaved when lacking simple treatments like pain-relieving ibuprofen.

Citing several studies on medical training, he said that medical examination of art can help make doctors better through honing their observation skills, tolerance for ambiguity, mindfulness, communication skills, and empathy.

Heyne also contended that teaching medicine through art also advances a deeper appreciation for Catholicism’s role in both art and medicine, indicated that looking at classical art is a unique opportunity through which a secular audience can encounter the beauty of Catholic history, especially with regard to care for the sick and poor.

 “To me, this is a pretty helpful thing for the new evangelization.”

His presentation drew on many studies and arguments from doctors and art scholars, including his own research.

Among his examples of diagnosing health conditions in art was Giovanni Lanfranco’s work from about 1625: “St. Luke healing the Dropsical Child.” It shows St. Luke taking the pulse of a child with a distended belly, as a woman looks on. A book of the ancient medical writer Hippocrates rests on a nearby table with an icon of a woman saint.

Heyne suggested that the child’s symptoms as painted by Lanfranco could be the earliest known depiction of congenital heart disease.

At the same time, any interpreter must take into account the interplay between realism and stylistic convention. Despite the child’s stomach, the child appears to have a healthy musculature. Lanfranco tended to paint all children beautifully, Heyne explained.

Even the standard iconography of saints can show Catholic awareness of medical problems. St. Roch, a patron saint of plague victims, is often shown with the tell-tale bulba of plague.

In Istanbul’s Chora Church, a fourteenth century mosaic depicts Christ healing a multitude. One person depicted has crutches, another is blind, another appears to have rickets.

The work also shows a sitting man with a bulge nearly the size of a basketball in his groin area. According to the doctor, this is likely a massive inguinal or scrotal hernia.

“This artist put a giant scrotum on the top of a church. This is pre-Puritan,” said Heyne, interpreting the art as saying, “Jesus came to save everyone.”

“I think this is remarkable: ‘No shame: come out and you will be healed’,” he said. “I think it is a remarkable testament to what the human body was back then.”

The mosaic could be the first depiction of a hernia.

The art history of European Christianity shows diseases now associated only with the developing world.

Other artworks show signs of longstanding diseases like leprosy, while others trace the arrival of diseases new to Christian Europe. A 1496 sketch from Albrecht Dürer shows a man with syphilis, just four years after the disease is believed to have spread to Europe from the New World.

Some figures in famous paintings show signs of finger deformities suggesting rheumatoid arthritis, like the hands of the nude women in Peter Paul Rubens’ 1639 painting The Three Graces.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa portrait shows the famous subject in great detail. The 25-year-old woman appears to show an accumulation of cholesterol under the skin in the hollow of her left eye. Her hand shows a fatty tissue tumor. She is known to have died at age 37.

Heyne took these conditions together and asked whether Mona Lisa died of a cardiovascular event.

As for master artist Michelangelo, his training in anatomy helped give deeper artistic significance to his work. For instance, his statue Night from 1531, depicting a bare-breasted woman personifying Night, and perhaps death, appears to show signs of a breast tumor.

Heyne did criticize some interpretations of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. While some suggested the bulging of some figures’ eyes was intended to represent disease, he said it rather simply represented astonishment at the arrival of the apocalypse.

Review of art also helps doctors understand how patients with particular diseases or health conditions were viewed throughout history.

There is the example of the seventeenth-century Spanish painter Diego Velazquez, who painted at least ten portraits of people with dwarfism. These show their “dignity and beauty,” and don’t depict them as “court buffoons,” Heyne said, suggesting this is another role for Christianity in art.

Archbishop calls for peace amid protests over St Louis verdict

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2017 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of St. Louis called for prayer and peace after a judge acquitted a former St. Louis police officer in the shooting of a man in 2011.

“If we want peace and justice, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness,” Archbishop Robert Carlson said Sept. 15. “While acknowledging the hurt and anger, we must not fuel the fires of hatred and division.”

On Friday, St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted former officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder charges in the shooting of 24 year-old Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. Stockley, a white officer with the St. Louis Police Department, fatally shot Smith after a car chase.

The case received special attention in the wake of another high profile case in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, where police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18 year-old Michael Brown. Riots occurred in the area, pointing to longstanding racial tensions and alleging a history of police abuse.

Over the weekend, demonstrations in protest of Friday’s ruling took place in the city’s downtown area. Marchers called for reforms to the justice system and called attention to racism. The mayor’s house was reportedly damaged in the protests.

Demonstrations on Saturday began peacefully but turned violent after dark, the St. Louis Police Department reported on its Facebook page on Saturday night. Nine officers had been injured by late Saturday night, and tear gas was deployed after officers had been pelted with bricks and other objects, the department said.

On Sunday, the police reported making arrests after protesters blocked street intersections and orders to disperse were ignored; the department reported over 100 arrests made, according to the Washington Post. The Guardian reported that a group of police officers in riot gear chanted “Whose street? Our street” on the side of a street on Sunday. On Monday morning, the demonstrations were peaceful and no arrests were made, the department said.

Archbishop Carlson said that prayer and solidarity are the answers to the verdict, not violence and discord. “We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us,” he said.

“Violence does not lead to peace and justice – they are opposing forces and cannot coexist. I implore each of you to choose peace! Reject the false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence,” he said.

An interreligious prayer service for peace has been planned for 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Kiener Plaza, led by Archbishop Carlson and other religious leaders.

“We must work together for a better, stronger, safer community, one founded upon respect for each other, and one in which we see our neighbor as another self,” the archbishop said.

Cardinal Gracias: curial reform is nearing the 'end of the tunnel'

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2017 / 01:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly four years after the Pope established his Council of Cardinal advisers to help him in the task of reforming the Roman Curia, one member of the group said their work is wrapping up, and that it could take only a few more meetings to finish what they set out to do.

The ongoing process of reform “is being done at various stages of development, and I hope we'll come to an end in all of these matters soon,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told CNA Sept. 14.

“It will take two or three more meetings more,” he said, adding that “by June perhaps we'll be seeing the end of the tunnel.”

Cardinal Gracias is also President of the Asian Bishops Conference and in 2013 was chosen by the Pope along with eight other prelates from around the world to advise him in matters of Church governance and reform.

He spoke to CNA in a lengthy, sit-down interview after the council – also called the “C9” – concluded their latest round of meetings last week.

As far as the reform goes, Cardinal Gracias said “there won't be very major changes; it's the governance of the Church, we can't just turn everything upside down.” Rather, it will be “a gradual change, a change of mentality, a change of approach, restructuring a bit of the departments so that they are more logically suited to the needs of today.”

He said a key goal of the C9  is to implement the vision of the Second Vatican Council, specifically when it comes to the importance of the role of the laity and women, and incorporating greater synodality and collegiality into the Church's structures.

From the beginning Pope Francis “had very clear what he wanted this group to do,” the cardinal said. “He had no hesitation, he's a good leader. He had a clear vision.”

Cardinal Gracias admitted that in the beginning he had doubts as to whether or not they were going in the right direction, and had started to worry what people on the outside might say, since many fruits of the meetings weren't and likely won't be immediately visible. He said he also struggled with doubts about the pace at which they were moving, and believed that things were going “too slow.”

“I will confess that once at the beginning I was wondering, 'are we going in the right direction?' I asked myself. But now I can see it is,” he said, explaining that Pope Francis' Christmas speech to the Roman Curia last year was a “tipping point” for him.

More than anything, there is a change in mentality that's needed, which will take longer than simply reforming the Vatican's structures, he said, but said the group is “rather confident that it will happen because the Pope is giving very effective leadership.”

In addition to the ongoing curial reform, Cardinal Gracias also spoke about the recent release of Indian priest Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil 18 months after he was abducted in Yemen. He also spoke about the Pope's upcoming trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, and when a possible papal trip to India might take place.


Below are excerpts from CNA's interview with Cardinal Gracias:

You've seen Fr. Tom and you were at his meeting with Pope Francis. How is he doing?

I was pleasantly surprised with calmness with which he came out, because he did not know, to my knowledge, that he was being released. But he said I know people have prayed for me, I'm grateful for the people who were praying for me, but he kept on saying 'Jesus is great, Jesus is great.' And then he told the Holy Father. It was a very moving moment. As soon as the Holy Father came he prostrated in front of the Holy Father and kissed his feet, and he said, 'thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you Holy Father, but just one message I want to give you: Jesus Christ is great. Jesus was with me right through, I could sense the presence of God with me'...And once I thought the Holy Father had tears in his eyes. When Tom kept on speaking about Jesus, this is what he told the Holy Father: please tell the people that Jesus is great! I would say that he's come out of it with an experience of the presence of the Lord, and I think at that moment the Holy Father had tears in his eyes...I met the Holy Father later that afternoon, and he was telling me how impressed he was. He was also surprised with the calmness of the man, with Tom...He was a man who is perhaps strengthened in the faith after this experience, and not bitter about anything. Particularly about his captors, he was very understanding. It was a special experience, very edifying. He needs rest, certainly, he'll have a medical exam and he'll be with his superiors, but eventually he'll go back (to India). So thank God really. It was an anxious moment for the whole Church in India. We didn't know what was happening, but we understood that putting more pressure, in the perspective of the government, could make things more difficult for him. (But) he's not really stressed in any way you can make out. Physically weak, but spiritually strong. When he met the Holy Father, he was weeping right through it. And the Holy Father was very touched, he kissed his hand and blessed him...He felt the comfort and strength of the entire Church. As he said, there was never a moment when he felt abandoned, either by the Church or by God. He kept saying, 'Jesus is great.' So he came out spiritually strengthened in that sense. It was a big relief, a big blessing, and the Holy Father was overjoyed. I think the government of Oman did a very splendid job of helping out...they even brought a Salesian to accompany him on the last plane. It was very human of them, so had the comfort of a spiritual companion.

What role did the Holy See play in working out his release?

They only offered help, they kept the issue open and kept sharing. The Holy See was told he was alive, and the Holy See communicated with the Indian government. In Yemen, the political situation is very fragile, and one doesn't know who is in charge. There are bombardments and all sorts of groups are taking over, so there was always a risk I suppose, that if you tried to liberate him you could have harmed him. But they were always interested, they kept it alive. Every time I came to Rome somebody from the Secretariat of State updated me. The Vatican made sure there was interest. Any information the Holy See had, they shared it with the Indian government, the Omani government, so that was good.

It's interesting that there is still no word on who is responsible...

It's not a terrorist attack, it's a kidnapping. They wouldn't glory in taking him. That has not come out. I spent about half an hour with him before the Holy Father, and he was speaking continuously. I did not at any point attempt to ask him questions, because I think that would be a stress for him. He has got to share...he wants to share it and then I imagine you feel lighter. He's probably just got to rest, and rest and rest, physically and then mentally too, he's got to get it out of his mind. He's not come out of it a broken man at all. I was afraid of that, that he would come out a broken man, but no...It's a moment of grace, a moment of faith, a special experience. The high point was when he told the Holy Father, 'just tell everybody that Jesus is great, Jesus is great.' Just three simple words. That was like the sum of his whole experience, what he meant and why he meant it...he felt not abandoned, I suppose. I hope recovers. I imagine he needs a couple of months really, or maybe more than a couple of months, to really rest. He needs time with the family also, natural circumstances...I'm not sure about this, but I have a feeling that the Omani government decided to bring him to Rome, because they (wanted) to hand him over to the Vatican. I think it was better for him, because I think if he had gone to India he would have been mobbed by everybody. He just needs space to recover, and for doctors to examine him. Physically to see if he's alright, and psychologically also, to be investigated. I think it was a wise decision, but I think it was a decision more of the Omani government.

I don't want to exploit your time, but I wanted to ask a few questions about the process of reform and the C9. You just finished your latest round of meetings...

Yes, we just finished the latest round, the 21st meeting. I can't imagine we've had 21. I didn't realize it's 21 already. I think we are working hard. What's nice is that we're a cohesive group now. In the beginning we were all (gestures). Now we know each other so well and we work together, and of course trying to implement the Holy Father's vision of the Church. Also, one of the things we always say, and it's very clear, before the conclave the cardinals had spoken a lot of their vision of the Church, and we have the texts of what all of the cardinals said, and all the cardinals gave their vision. We picked up from that, the Holy Father picked up from that, his own vision. We've focused so far … it's for a dual purpose that the group was formed: one is to help him help him in the governance of the universal Church, and the second is to revise Pastor bonus, the papal document of St. John Paul II for establishing the Curia and giving the job descriptions and the vision of each dicastery. It's to revitalize, I suppose that's what Pope Francis wants us to do, and to have a new mentality which is applying Vatican II also; how to make the Roman Curia at the service of the Holy Father more effectively, but the Churches at the local level, the Churches in the dioceses, how to make the Roman Curia assist the local Churches to be more effective pastorally, so they can be more vibrant in that sense. So I think the holy Father is satisfied with what's happening. I'm satisfied too with the way we are going ahead. We come for three days and work intensely, we work from 9:00 on the first day to 7:00 (pm) on the last day trying to wrap things up, but lots of work has been done. But it's coming to the end. I think it will take maybe two or three more meetings until we wrap up our conclusions about the dicasteries. Then of course the Holy Father will study the thing and decide. So we're going well. The feedback we receive is the Holy Father is happy, he is satisfied, and he has been using the Christmas messages sometimes to give an indication, a little progress report, so this year's Christmas message (2016). I didn't realize it, but when I read it I realized it's practically giving a progress report of what this group has been doing. I hope that it will make an impact. There won't be very major changes; it's the governance of the Church, we can't just turn everything upside down. But a gradual change, a change of mentality, a change of approach, restructuring a bit of the departments so that they are more logically suited to the needs of today, and also of answering the vision of the Second Vatican Council: the importance of lay people, synodality, collegiality, then concern about women, getting more women involved, then giving importance to the local Churches. Then reflecting on the role of episcopal conferences in all this, because that's another big issue. So all of this is being done at various stages of development, and I hope we'll come to an end in all of these matters soon. It will take two or three more meetings more, I foresee at least February, June...by June perhaps we'll be seeing the end of the tunnel.

It's been a long process...

It's been a really long process, really, but it's good. I've been in other committees of this sort, in which at the beginning we don't what we're doing, where to begin, and they you find your way and you find your vision. But here it was very clear, the Holy Father had very clear what he wanted this group to do...we were not clear in why we were called and what he wanted to do, but gradually we understood his mind. He had no hesitation, he's a good leader. He had a clear vision and he had his people with him. He's there with us, he genuinely doesn't take any other appointments. He's there except the general audience. There are emergencies of course, this time there were lots of things happening, but he participates and he listens to discussion, and every now and then he raises his hand when he wants to speak. It's very odd, but now we're accustomed to it, the Pope raising his hand (laughs) … it's very valuable, he's part of the discussion all the way through, completely inserted right in the thick of it. Certainly he doesn't speak that much, because I think we would feel inhibited and want to go in his direction. So it's just the right amount and at the right time.

Well he's very much about the process, isn't he? He doesn't want to interrupt the process that's happening...

Yes, absolutely. And he's happy. And everybody speaks their mind. We know each other so well, and we know that the Holy Father wants us to speak our minds, so no one is at any stage (overly) conscious that the Pope is there with us, no...but it's going well, I think it's going well. I will confess that once at the beginning I was wondering, 'are we going in the right direction?' I asked myself. But now I can see it is. He's a man of deep faith, the Pope. I remember having spoken to him once about the synod, I was sharing him my anxieties on whether the synods were going well, and he told me, 'Cardinal, I am not worried.' He told me that. I told him I was worried, I don't know what direction we're taking, whether we'll be able in two synods to give your vision. (He said) 'I'm not worried. It'll work out.' He knows what he wants, he's a good Jesuit, and the Jesuits know exactly what they want.

At what point were you convinced that things were going in the right direction?

After about seven or eight or nine meetings, I was beginning to wonder. My worry was what will the world say? Everybody knows we're meeting over here, but we are very limited in what we say are the fruits. What are these eight men – nine, we became nine after the Secretary (of State) joined – the nine cardinals are coming and discussing here, what's happening? They're not just coming here for debate. I was worried about the fruits not being seen, and the process being too slow. But then, especially after I heard the Holy Father's speech (at Christmas 2016), for me that was it. I was like, wow, there has been a lot done. That was absolutely...this past Christmas, it was like a progress report of this group. I'm in the group, right, but I never realized the number of things we had really discussed. Besides modifying the document, the protection of minors, the economy, updates on these things, general principles of collegiality, synodality, we're thinking about these things. Care of the Curia personnel. It's everything that the Holy Father...he isn't like us, who when we go back home we're fully in the diocese, he has this in mind and he keeps working on this fully afterwards. We go back to our dioceses and are concerned about the local Church, but he certainly follows up with what we say. I've seen it several times. He takes the group very seriously. Every now and then he would ask us to take up some point on the agenda to discuss it a bit, which he wants advice on. I think it's a new system he has started in which he gets feedback from all over the world, and he gets it from the grassroots. I think,  anyway, I hope. We come from different continents and we bring in our own experiences. But it is going well. In fact I really, really think there has been a contribution to the Holy Father, and then the Holy Father takes decisions. I have a feeling this is shared by all now. I have no doubt, this would be the general feeling of all about it. The tipping point was really his speech, but already before that, say about six or seven months before that, we began to see really when we reflected that...perhaps the Holy Father knew that that was in our minds. It was in my mind, and maybe I expressed it indirectly. And the Holy Father once commented also, he said 'we have done this much, so don't get discouraged.' So at one stage he sort of answered that doubt in my mind.

You mentioned that there's also a change of mentality needed. Other than the structural shifts, it seems that the change of mentality will be the more challenging task...

That will take longer. But we hope it will percolate down, because once you have a certain mentality you generally don't change unless the circumstances change, the ambiance changes. And in a certain sense not changing dramatically. That will I think take longer. But I'm positive that it will happen. We're very, very hopeful. We're rather confident that it will happen because the Pope is giving very effective leadership, and every now and then there is a clear message from him. But it will come about and suddenly we'll realize, oh there has been a change! That's how it will happen. It won't come overnight, but at a certain point we'll realize things have changed. He knows what he wants. And he's happy. Certainly the indication I can see is this way; the relationship he has with the group and the joy he has in being with the group. He says he feels that it has helped him. Thank God. We do what we can. I don't know how or why he chose us, but he's happy. I was very surprised when I got a call from him. I said 'why me? What have I done?' I suppose he knows. I don't know why. I did not know the Holy Father before, we've never been in any other committee before. Only at the conclave. I don't even remember having chatted with him at the conclave, or before the conclave. After the conclave it was true that I was with him. It's true that after I was with the Pope at Santa Marta for a few days. Then we were having meals together – breakfast, lunch and dinner for four or five days. That's the time we came to know each other. So we were thrown together for about a week. It struck me that after his election I was at Santa Marta, because there were five or six cardinals. All the American cardinals were there, the European cardinals, all the ones from close by left and came back (for the installation). I stayed for the installation and then went back to India. And then you share, when you speak. He was very comfortable with us, very comfortable with me. But still, he had to make a choice.

Has he mentioned anything about when a visit to India might take place?

He's very interested. We're working it out, and I'm very hopeful. He would like to come and we would like to have him, and the government would like to have him. But now we must see his program, the government's program, but I'm certain he will come. There are no details at all for the moment. I'm rather certainly positive that we will be able to get the Holy Father, he's interested and I think he's getting more interested. And the people will be excited...we are looking forward. In the beginning, as soon as he was elected, I asked him, 'when are you coming to India?' And he was sort of (disinterested), but gradually he began to like the idea. He's never been to India before. As a Jesuit I think he was supposed to go to Japan, that's what he was telling me. He's going now to Bangladesh and Myanmar. It will be very sensitive. Bangladesh has it's own problems, I believe they have elections next year, and Myanmar has problems to solve, also the refugee problem at the moment. Of late it is continuously on, I believe yesterday or this morning I saw it on CNN, and BBC is reporting on it. It's an issue for the world. I've been there (Bangladesh) a few times. It's a nice Church, concentrated mostly in Dhaka, a living faith. I've been to Myanmar also, I went as a papal legate there some years back, and I found the Church very vibrant. A simple faith, but I'm happy. I think it will mean a lot to the people. It will also strengthen the people. I think the Church is also very vibrant, it's not have any specific difficulty, in my impression as a papal legate about two or three years back, but I was very impressed by the faith and the organization. It was vibrant. The Church was small, but strong and alive. It will make a difference for the Churches, and for the governments I expect.

Will you be there?

I plan to go to both places yes. In all of these trips in Asian I've come along: Sri Lanka, Korea, the Philippines. At the moment I'm president of the Asian Bishops Conference, so I suppose in that capacity I'll have to go.