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Bishop announces launch of new catechetical institute 

Bishop Frank Caggiano / File Photo/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

In a presentation to fellow U.S. bishops on Friday, Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport unveiled a proposal for a new institute on the Catechism. 

Bishop Caggiano said the institute would not be a physical building or a single event, but would be a “comprehensive initiative” to address recent challenges to the faith in the United States. He is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ subcommittee on the Catechism, which is sponsoring the initiative.

On Friday, the bishop cited a growing disaffiliation with the faith among youth, a need for catechesis to be “informational and formational,” the necessity of using technology to preach the Gospel, and a rise in the need for Catholic apologetics. All of these are reasons behind the institute’s creation, he said.

He also pointed out the need for “inculturated Hispanic catechesis.”

“It is important for us to recognize that as the growing number of Hispanic Catholics in our dioceses continues to increase, there is a profound need for us to have an inculturated catechesis that could not be addressed by our current review process,” he said. 

Bishop Caggiano addressed the U.S. bishops at their virtual general assembly held this week. The bishops debated and voted on several action items at their meeting, including the launch of a three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative, pastoral statements and frameworks on marriage, youth and young adult ministry, and on Native American ministry, a teaching document on the Eucharist, and approval of causes of canonization.

In his address on Friday, Caggiano explained the conference’s responsibility to start a national catechetical office to review the state of catechesis in the United States. The conference was charged with attending to the relationship between editors, authors and bishops to ensure faithfulness and authenticity of catechetical programs, he said. . 

Bishop Caggiano said the institute would seek to accompany publishers in the development of materials faithful to the Catechism. He also proposed a definition of “evangelizing catechesis.”

“Evangelizing catechesis” seeks to “deepen a personal encounter with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Caggiano said that “evangelizing catechesis” would involve proclaiming the Gospel, accompanying people in conversion to Christ, and sending out missionary disciples who promote a vision of life, humanity, justice, and human fraternity. 

Diocesan and Catholic publishing house staff will be invited to “annual formational experiences” of the institute, he said. Caggiano envisioned an environment that is “prayerful, studious and communal to both inform and form” those attending.

The virtual launch of the initiative is scheduled for December 2021. Caggiano said his plan was to establish the first in-person gathering - for every bishop and his diocesan staff - in Baltimore in November 2022. 

The institute will serve its “key stakeholders” of bishops on the education, doctrine, and family life committees, as well as the bishops of the 21 dioceses with catechetical publishing houses, he said. 

Continue pressing for immigration reform, US bishops told

Bishop Mario Dorsonville.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 16:29 pm (CNA).

The Church must continue to push for immigration reform and to address the root causes that make people migrate to the United States, the head of the US bishops’ migration committee said Friday.

Bishop Mario Dorsonville, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, was presenting at the Virtual Assembly of the USCCB, in the final presentation of the June 18 public session. 

“The present administration has identified immigration reform as a priority, and we hope he fulfills that commitment through bipartisan Congressional engagement,” he said. 

Bishop Dorsonville noted that several bills have been passed since March, but that there was more work to be done. 

“As a Church we recognize the inherent God-given dignity of every human person, regardless of immigration status, therefore we will continue to call for comprehensive immigration reform, consistent with the common good that preserves family unity, honors due process, respects the rule of law, recognizes the contribution of foreign-born workers, defends the vulnerable, and addresses the root causes of migration,” he said. 

Bishop Dorsonville identified the root causes of migration as violence, corruption, a lack of opportunity, and climate change, among many other things. 

“After this pandemic, today, more than ever, the Church becomes a Church of mercy,” said Bishop Dorsonville. “Let us see how we are continue to move from indifference to solidarity, guided by the words of our Holy Father Pope Francis in Fratelli tutti, where he exhorts us to be brothers and sisters, who bring a sense of love, faith, and hope, especially the presence of Jesus Christ, in the lives of those who most need it.” 

He said that working alongside other organizations, including Catholic Charities and other nonprofits, would be able to make a “real immediate impact” in the United States. 

“As we welcome the immigrants, we become a country with borders that have to be open,” he said. But merely opening borders, he said, would not fix the problem, and he urged the United States to “become an example for others to follow.”

“The government, the civil society, the Church in developed countries have a major role to play in this process,” he said. 

“I know many of us have had the opportunity to see the suffering face of Jesus Christ in the life of the immigrants,” he said, noting that many of his brother bishops have visited detention centers and celebrated Masses for the detained immigrant population.

“We know that with the drama and the process they have to endure, and the heavy loads they have to carry out,” he said.

The Washington auxiliary bishop called for the other bishops to work harder to change immigration laws and policies. 

“With this, I exhort you to continue to call the people who have the power in your churches to change the law,” said Bishop Dorsonville. “To pray for them, and especially, to be available to them.” 

“I really think that this is a Christian initiative, where we have to continue to be open to respond to the human drama that is in front of each of us.”

Pro-abortion Catholic Democrats: Don’t deny us the Eucharist

Nicole Glass Photography/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Dozens of Catholic members of Congress issued a statement on Friday claiming that denial of Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians is a “weaponization of the Eucharist.”

In a “statement of principles,” 60 House Democrats – led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) – claimed their Catholic faith influences their actions in Congress, and that denial of Communion for their support of legal abortion would be “contradictory.”

“We solemnly urge you to not move forward and deny this most holy of all sacraments, the source and the summit of the whole work of the gospel over one issue,” they stated, addressing the “Church” in their statement.

“The Sacrament of Holy Communion is central to the life of practicing Catholics, and the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of a woman’s safe and legal access to abortion is contradictory,” the lawmakers stated.

Rep. DeLauro, who led the letter, has supported taxpayer-funded of abortion through repealing the Hyde amendment. She chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

Among the other signers of the letter were Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) – a pro-abortion member who unseated pro-life Democrat Dan Lipinski in a primary last year – as well as Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), recognized as a member who sometimes votes for pro-life policies but who was not endorsed by Democrats for Life of America in 2020.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who helped lead efforts in Congress to recognize the genocide against Iraqi Christians in 2016, signed the statement, as well as Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), who hosted Bishop Robert Barron for a meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol in 2019.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who signed the statement, tweeted at the U.S. bishops on Friday that he supported contraception, abortion, “treatments for infertility,” “the right for people to get a divorce,” and “the right of same sex marriage.”

“Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion,” he stated.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is Catholic and pro-abortion, did not sign the statement. Her local ordinary, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, publicly rebuked her support for abortion in January.

Archbishop Cordileone, in a May 1 pastoral letter on the Eucharist, called on Catholic public officials to oppose abortion.

“You are in a position to do something concrete and decisive to stop the killing,” he said. “Please stop the killing. And please stop pretending that advocating for or practicing a grave moral evil – one that snuffs out an innocent human life, one that denies a fundamental human right – is somehow compatible with the Catholic faith. It is not. Please return home to the fullness of your Catholic faith.”

On Friday, Archbishop Cordileone stated, “Our God-given responsibility as bishops is to proclaim the truth as did St. Paul: the Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Christ. We must confess our serious sins and seek reconciliation in the sacrament before presenting ourselves for Holy Communion.”

“I would exhort us all to remember the Eucharistic martyrs who died to protect the Most Blessed Sacrament from profanation,” he added.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2271 states, “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person.”

“Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense,” the catechism states.

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in his 2004 letter to then-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, referred to a politician’s consistent “campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” as “formal cooperation” in the “grave sin” of abortion

The 60 members pointed to other “policies contrary to the Church teachings,” including support for the death penalty, separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, denial of asylum, and reducing food assistance to the poor.

“No elected officials have been threatened with being denied the Eucharist” for supporting these policies, they stated.

“We believe the separation of church and state allows for our faith to inform our public duties and best serve our constituents,” they said.

The members issued their statement as the U.S. bishops met virtually this week for their annual spring general assembly. At their meeting, the bishops debated drafting a document on the Eucharist, which would include a sub-section on “Eucharistic coherence,” or worthiness to receive Communion.

In a proposed outline of the document, the bishops’ doctrine committee cited the special need for Catholic public officials to uphold Church teaching in public life.

On Friday, President Joe Biden was asked about a "resolution" of the U.S. bishops to deny him and other pro-abortion politicians Communion – even though their vote this week was on drafting the teaching document, not any national policy of denying Communion.

“That’s a private matter and I don’t think that is going to happen,” Biden said.

Individual bishops have made statements recently that, according to canon law, Catholic public officials cannot present themselves for Communion when they publicly support permissive laws on grave evils such as abortion and euthanasia.

According to a 2004 instruction by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, pastors and bishops must speak to such public officials in their jurisdictions, informing them that their positions are contrary to Church teaching and instructing them that they are not to receive Communion.

If the officials persist in their positions, then the minister of Communion must not distribute it to them, he said. Cardinal Ratzinger’s memo was an implementation of canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law.

The members, in Friday’s statement, stated that their faith informs their actions, through “helping the poor, disadvantaged, and the oppressed, protecting the least among us, and ensuring that all Americans of every faith are given meaningful opportunities to share in the blessings of this great country.”

“We believe the Church as a community is called to be in the vanguard of creating a more just America and world. And as such, we have a claim on the Church's bearing as it does on ours,” they stated.

Citing the Second Vatican Council’s “renewed emphasis on the Eucharist,” they stated, “To pursue a blanket denial of the Holy Eucharist to certain elected officials would indeed grieve the Holy Spirit and deny the evolution of that individual, a Christian person who is never perfect, but living in the struggle to get there.”

The Vatican council’s constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et spes, states, “Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.”

The constitution on sacred liturgy also states that Catholics “should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it [the Eucharist] in vain.”

Gaudium et spes also states, “To the extent that they [believers] neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion."

On the life issue, the members stated their support for promoting “alternatives to abortion.”

“Each of us is committed to reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and creating an environment with policies that encourage pregnancies to be carried to term and provide resources to raise healthy and secure children,” they stated.

“We believe this includes promoting alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, improving access to children's healthcare and child care, and creating a child benefit through the expanded and improved Child Tax Credit.”

This article was updated on June 18 with new information.

Human rights activist to China: Don’t wait till 2025 to lift all birth restrictions

An elderly Chinese woman walks with her granddaughter. / Fotokon/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

In light of a report that China’s rapidly aging population has caused Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials to consider eliminating government-imposed birth restrictions in 2025, a human rights advocate has asked: why wait?

After vigorously imposing a one-child policy from 1980 to 2016, CCP officials have discussed the possibility of doing away with all birth restrictions at the end of the party’s current five-year economic plan, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on June 18.

Reggie Littlejohn, the president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an aid and advocacy organization founded in response to forced abortion, forced sterilization, and sex-selective abortion of baby girls under the one-child policy, told CNA that she is continuing to call on the CCP to end all coercive population control policies immediately.

“If the CCP waits until 2025, how many more tens of millions of ‘extra’ pregnancies will be aborted -- too often by force?” Littlejohn asked.

“Women should be free to give birth to their children -- now,” she said.

Decades of government-enforced population control have left China with significant gender and age imbalances that have had far-reaching societal consequences, including a rise in sex trafficking and elderly suicide.

China’s most recent census results released in May revealed that 190.64 million people, or 13.5% of the country’s aging population, are over 65 years old.

In 2020, the country recorded the slowest population growth rate since the early 1960s, when the Great Leap Forward campaign by Mao Zedong, the founder of the Chinese Communist Party, resulted in a famine that killed 45 million people in four years.

The Chinese government announced last month that couples can now have up to three children in response to the sharp fall in the country’s birth rate.

The official state-run Xinhua News Agency said that the decision was taken as the government sought to ensure continued economic growth, national security, and social stability.

Littlejohn pointed out that the Chinese officials have not “repented of forced abortion or sterilization, but are considering this measure purely for demographic and economic reasons.”

“Since they are heading into a demographic disaster, why do they need to wait until 2025?” she asked.

The human rights advocate also questioned whether the reported future elimination of birth restrictions would be granted equally, noting that the CCP has recently conducted forced abortion and sterilization among the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.

“The three-child policy rule is that every couple is allowed to have three children. Therefore, it remains illegal for single women to give birth,” she said.

“If the CCP ‘eliminates’ all birth restrictions, will they finally let single women give birth? Or will the new rule be, ‘all couples can now have as many children as they want?’”

For more than three decades, Chinese authorities enforced a one-child policy with steep fines, sterilizations, and forced abortions, in an effort to curb what they perceived as excessive population growth.

The Catholic Church has consistently opposed such measures. In his 1967 encyclical Populorum progressio, Pope Paul VI spoke out against “drastic remedies to reduce the birth rate.”

“There is no doubt that public authorities can intervene in this matter, within the bounds of their competence,” he wrote. “They can instruct citizens on this subject and adopt appropriate measures, so long as these are in conformity with the dictates of the moral law and the rightful freedom of married couples is preserved completely intact.”

“When the inalienable right of marriage and of procreation is taken away, so is human dignity.”

China replaced the one-child policy with a two-child policy following concerns that the country’s population was aging rapidly. The change inspired a brief baby boom, but the birth rate fell again, with couples citing the high costs of raising children.

“Right now the problem in China is not that they have too many people. It is that they have too few young people to support their rapidly aging population and, even under the two-child policy, they are not getting the baby boom that they need to help with that situation or to help with the fact that their labor force is now declining,” Littlejohn told CNA in 2018.

In response to this shift, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers has expanded its mission to also serve elderly widows in China in need of support.

More than 35 million women in China will be over the age of 84 years old by 2050, while the number of women in their 20s and 40s will drop significantly, according to the United Nations Population Division.

Pope Francis said in a speech last month that low birth rates reveal the need to recover the idea that every life is an “unrepeatable gift.”

“Life is the first gift that each one of us received,” the pope said in his opening address at the General States of Birth event in Rome on May 14.

“We have received a gift and we are called to pass it on. And a child is the greatest gift for everyone and comes first,” he said.

“Let us help each other, dear friends, to rediscover the courage to give, the courage to choose life,” he said.

Speaker Pelosi won’t answer if unborn child is a human being at 15 weeks

Michael Candalori/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday would not say if an unborn child at 15 weeks was a human being.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a reporter from CNSNews asked Pelosi about a case currently before the Supreme Court – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – regarding Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15-weeks. The exchange was broadcast by CBS News.

“Is an unborn baby at 15 weeks a human being?” the reporter asked Pelosi. The Speaker answered that she supported Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

“Let me just say that I am a big supporter of Roe v. Wade. I am a mother of five children in six years. I think I have some standing on this issue, as to respecting a woman’s right to choose,” Pelosi answered.

Pelosi, a Catholic, has supported legal abortion during her time in Congress, and has pushed for taxpayer funding of abortion through removing the Hyde amendment.

In a Jan. 18 podcast with former senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Pelosi said that the support for President Trump by pro-life voters “gives me great grief as a Catholic.” She said that those who voted for Trump because of the abortion issue “were willing to sell the whole democracy down the river for that one issue.”

She added that those who “reject terminating a pregnancy” should “love contraception.”

Her local ordinary, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, responded in a statement several days later, “No Catholic in good conscience can favor abortion.” Archbishop Cordileone said that “Nancy Pelosi does not speak for the Catholic Church.”

In a 2008 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Pelosi said that regarding the question of when life begins, “over the centuries, the Doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition.” She said that her Catholic faith “shouldn’t have an impact on a woman’s right to choose.” 

“And on the question of the equal dignity of human life in the womb, she [Pelosi] also speaks in direct contradiction to a fundamental human right that Catholic teaching has consistently championed for 2,000 years,” he said.

In May, Cordileone expressed hope that “progress can be made” in talks with Pelosi on her support for legal abortion and worthiness to receive Holy Communion.  

Supreme Court oral arguments in the Dobbs case are scheduled for this fall.

In 2013, in response to a question about a 20-week abortion ban, Pelosi said the bill was part of an effort to ensure that “there will be no abortion in our country.” She described the issue as “sacred ground” to her.

“As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this,” she said.

In 2019, she said the passage of pro-life laws in several states was “about lack of respect for women.”

US parishes must better serve hidden migrant communities, bishops hear

Aug. 17, 2017 - A volunteer at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas helps a Central American refugee family / Vic Hinterlang/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

Many parishes in the United States are unaware of the immigrant, refugee, and itinerant communities within their boundaries, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ subcommittee on pastoral care for migrants said on Friday.

In a presentation to the U.S. bishops at their annual spring meeting – held virtually this year –Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima introduced a new report by the Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) on migrant communities in the United States, and the Church’s awareness of them at the parish level. The bishops’ conference contracted with CARA to produce the report.

Regarding migrant populations – which include immigrants and refugees, but also seasonal and transportation workers and human trafficking victims – “there is a widespread lack of awareness of the presence of the communities by Catholic worship sites, including parishes, missions, cathedrals, basilicas, chapels, shrines, and other pastoral centers,” said Bishop Tyson.

“Where worship sites do report an awareness of these communities, a majority do not provide specialized pastoral care to migrants, refugees, and itinerant communities,” Bishop Tyson,chair of the bishops’ subcommittee on pastoral care for migrants, refugees, and travelers, said on Friday.

The U.S. bishops met virtually this week for their annual spring general assembly. From Wednesday through Friday afternoon’s session, the bishops held public debates and votes as well as private meetings, discussing issues such as a planned three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative, two causes of canonization, translations of liturgical texts, pastoral statements, and a teaching document on the Eucharist.

The CARA report presented to the bishops on Friday was compiled through an inventory sent to nearly 20,000 “worship sites” in the United States, and which remained “in the field” from June 2017 to November 2020. Of these sites, 2,391 of them – parishes, basilicas, cathedrals, shrines, and chapels – responded for the survey.

Territorial parishes are “not necessarily stable” models now, Bishop Tyson said, noting that many Catholics are quickly transitioning in and out of parish boundaries.

According to a General Social Survey, four-in-10 of foreign-born persons residing in the United States in recent years self-identified as Catholic, Bishop Tyson said.

Prior to the pandemic, CARA studied residential mobility between dioceses, he said, and  the archdioceses of Miami, Galveston-Houston, and Los Angeles saw the majority of new residents coming from other countries.

“We hope the data collection will increase the visibility of the communities and provide the initiative to reach out to them, and develop new programming and resources to serve their needs and draw them closer to Christ and the Church,” Bishop Tyson said.

Among these communities are human trafficking victims, he said, stressing the need for parishes to provide specialized outreach to this vulnerable population.

“How can the Church assist the victims of human trafficking, who may not have anyone else to turn to in the new community that they’ve been taken to against their will?” he said.

Parishes in the South were slightly over-represented than those in other regions among respondents in the CARA report. This might reflect a greater number of migrant communities in the South and West, Fr. Thomas Gaunt, SJ, executive director of CARA, noted.

For sites that did not respond, “Many worship sites had no awareness of the presence of any of these communities in their territory, and so did not have anything to report,” Fr. Gaunt stated on Friday.

Of the parishes that responded, around 22% indicated they provide at least one Spanish Mass each weekend, and around 8% of them have a Mass in a language other than Spanish or English.

Of the respondents, 554 of the sites reporting serving an immigrant community, Fr. Gaunt said,

Of immigrant communities from various world regions, parishes were most aware of immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala – out of Latin American and Caribbean countries. They were most aware of Nigerian immigrant communities from Africa, and in Asian and Pacific communities, they were most aware of immigrants from the Philippines, Vietnam, and India.

Some communities have high rates of Catholics; 65% of Filipino Americans self-identify as Catholic, Fr. Gaunt reported.

Certain communities are more likely to be clustered in certain regions. The largest communities of Nigerian-born people are located in the archdioceses of Galveston-Houston, Washington, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Dallas. The largest communities of Filipino-born people are in the Pacific West, in Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Diego, Oakland, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Bernardino.

More than 270 responding parishes reported undocumented immigrant communities in their boundaries, while 256 parishes reported annual tourist and pilgrim populations. Nearly 220 parishes reported migrant farmworker communities. Other communities reported included refugees, family members of migrants in U.S. immigrant detention facilities, truck drivers, circus performers, unaccompanied child migrants, and airport communities.

Parishes in the Pacific and Mountain West – in California areas of Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey, Yakima, and Sacramento, as well as Portland, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho – reported the largest foreign-born agricultural worker populations.

Bishops plan response to Native American Catholics who 'want their voice heard'

Bishop James Wall of Gallup greets parishioners following Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Gallup.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 18, 2021 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

Native American ministry was an action item for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday, as the relevant subcommittee sought approval for a new statement and a “comprehensive vision” for indigenous Catholics and those who serve them.

“There is at present no guide for the Catholic Church in the U.S. in approaching, understanding and promoting Catholic Native ministry,” said Bishop James Wall of Gallup, head of the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs under the U.S. bishops’ Standing Committee for Cultural Diversity.

In his June 17 remarks to the bishops’ spring assembly and in an interview with CNA, Wall outlined a plan for better enculturation of the Catholic faith, recognition of Native American ministry and spirituality, and the needs of Native American communities. He especially noted the need to address lingering issues of justice and reconciliation regarding historical matters like Catholic boarding schools that were part of the effort to assimilate and Americanize Native American children, often through coercion.

Native American Catholics have not had a new statement from the U.S. bishops in over four decades.

Subcommittee listening sessions with Native American Catholics drove home the point that “they wanted to make sure that their voice was being heard within the Church here in the U.S.,” Wall said. There was concern about a “perceived lack of interest” in Catholic Native American ministry by the Catholic Church. The statement would reassure Native Americans that their ministry has “a high priority” in the Church.

As subcommittee chairman, Wall proposed the formal question to the bishops: “Do the members authorize the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American and Alaska Native ministry?” 

The measure passed easily, with bishops voting 223 in favor, six voting against, and zero abstentions.

“The last time we had a pastoral plan was 1977. That was a long time ago and a lot has happened since,” Wall said. Many aspects of Native American ministry ministry have changed in the last 44 years: approaches to racism; canonization of the first indigenous North American saint, St. Kateri Tekakwitha of the Mohawk people; and new approaches to social justice in Native American communities. Pope Francis’ remarks “have made indigenous peoples a priority in the universal Church,” Wall added.

For their part, Native American Catholics have seen a need for coordination between Native Catholic organizations, dioceses, parishes, schools, and missions. A pastoral plan is “a most important step” in this coordination, said Wall.

The bishops who spoke in response welcomed the proposal.

“Natives can be present, yet unseen and unheard,” lamented Bishop Michael Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, who previously served in Alaska.

“The opportunities to deeply listen to Native Americans and see how we could be of assistance would be a wonderful thing, and writing this document could help this,” said Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, a former Bishop of Cheyenne. He said he had seen “tremendous, tremendous needs” among Native Americans and their communities, including “a lot of need for healing." 

Ricken suggested the subcommittee speak about the importance of Catholic spirituality “intersecting with Native American spiritualities to help them see the similarities and the differences.” St. Kateri Tekakwitha, he said, could help advance understanding given “the two worlds she lived in.”

Some bishops emphasized the need to consider the majority of Native Americans who live in urban centers, not reservations.

“There’s great poverty in urban centers. I certainly experienced that here in the Twin Cities,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Wall said the subcommittee was taking the urban presence of Native Americans into account. The subcommittee is also looking at the needs of immigrant indigenous people with roots in Central and South America.

Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne said there was a need for “greater understanding” of the history between Native and non-native peoples to help improve relations. Bishop Douglas Lucia of Syracuse asked whether the subcommittee might address the Doctrine of Discovery, the 500-year-old principle by which Christian explorers, European monarchs, and their colonies asserted the right to claim the lands of non-Christian natives.

Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark of Los Angeles cited his two decades of involvement with the local Native American community, whose presence in Los Angeles is among the largest in the country. Clark said he has heard “deep suffering and pain over and over” from some Native Americans and noted the “suspicion” that many have towards the Church. California’s bishops have made “an outreach and a promise” to Native communities both on and off the reservation.

Wall said that the subcommittee’s listening sessions showed the need for the bishops to address the boarding school period of American history, which involved tens of thousands of indigenous children and their families

Boarding schools were run by the U.S. government, the Catholic Church, or Protestant ecclesial communities and bound up in the ideologies and assumptions of late 19th-century America. Children were sometimes forcibly removed from their homes to go to the schools. The schools generally assumed white racial superiority, the inferiority of indigenous cultures, and the need to assimilate and Americanize children in isolation from their families. They were physically punished for speaking their native languages. Native dress and cultural practices were also targeted for elimination.

Some schools had significant problems of neglect or physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. A lack of trained staff and adequate resources to care for the children compounded the dangers of common threats at the time like outbreaks of deadly diseases.

Wall’s comments came only weeks after the rediscovery of unmarked and likely undocumented mass graves of 215 children on the grounds of the closed Catholic-run Kamloops Indian Residential School in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The school, which closed in 1978, had hundreds of students each year. It opened in 1890 under lay Catholics, then operated by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1893 to 1969, followed by a short period of government operation.

The Canadian residential schools, whose mission was similar to American boarding schools, came under major scrutiny in recent decades and have prompted apologies from many Canadian government and Catholic leaders. Prior to the discovery at Kamloops, a commission had estimated 4,100 to 6,000 students died as a result of neglect or abuse in the Canadian schools. Though established by the Canadian government, two-thirds of them were run by the Catholic Church or individual Catholic religious orders.

Bishop Wall told CNA the Kamloops revelations were “really sad and tragic news.” Wall said the bishops “need to be able to address that in a pastoral way so that we can bring things into the light and we can talk about it. We can bring healing, we can bring reconciliation, we can move forward in a healthy way.”

In response to Wall’s presentation, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix said the current work of Catholic schools deserves to be acknowledged.

“We not only need to look at the residential schools in the past, but also the Catholic schools we have now that are serving the Native American people. We are blessed in the Diocese of Phoenix to have the St. Peter’s Indian Mission School, which does a really great job.”

“We should not forget that COVID had a really terrible impact on Native American peoples certainly here in Arizona. The health and the well-being of our native brothers and sisters is really important,” he said, adding that the bishops should seek to foster religious vocations among young Native Americans who are “a great source of leadership.”

Wall told the bishops’ assembly there is a need to address “a true sense of inculturation” for the Church in Native American communities, including through the Christian liturgy.

“Within the Native American communities, how is it that we are allowing the light of the Gospel to truly shine, like light through a prism?” he said to CNA. “How much are we letting that light shine through the beautiful culture of Native American peoples?”

Centuries ago, at the same time the Protestant Reformation drew millions of Europeans away from the Catholic Church, Wall noted, “Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to an indigenous person, St. Juan Diego.”

 “The evangelization of the ‘New World’ first came through an indigenous person,” he added. “They’ve always been a very integral part of the Church, just as any baptized person.”

In Wall’s view, Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia Charles Chaput was a “trailblazer” in this ministry. The part-Potawatomi churchman, the first Native American U.S. archbishop, has “always been a strong voice for the Native American Catholics in the U.S.”

While Wall was hard pressed to name younger Native American Catholic leaders, he said some Native Americans are notably serving as deacons. He acknowledged the need for more vocations and lay involvement.

He praised the work of Maka Black Elk, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, who heads the reconciliation process at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, S.D.

The proposal put to the bishops on Thursday had its origins in a meeting with Catholic Native American leaders in 2019, Wall told CNA. The bishops of the subcommittee were joined by bishops whose dioceses have a large Native American population for a “listening session” with Native American individuals and groups involved in Native American ministry. Also in attendance were subcommittee advisor Father Henry Sands of the Black and Indian Catholic Mission Office and some leaders of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization which now has a Native American initiative.

About 20% of Native Americans are Catholic and make up about 3.5% of all U.S. Catholics, according to the Native American Affairs subcommittee section on the U.S. bishops’ website. Over 340 parishes serve predominantly Native American congregations. As of 2008, about 2.9 million Americans identified as Native Americans or Alaskan Natives. Another 1.6 million people claim some kind of Native American ancestry, about 780,000 of whom are Catholic.

USCCB approves drafting of Eucharist document, other action items

U.S. bishops meet at their fall general assembly in Baltimore, Maryland, in November 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2021 / 12:05 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week voted to move forward on several action items, including a draft of a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Meeting virtually for their annual spring general assembly, the U.S. bishops voted on Thursday to begin drafting “a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.” The vote took place after extensive and, at times, spirited debate on Wednesday and Thursday, with some bishops opposing the move to begin drafting the document.

The measure passed by a vote of 168 to 55, with six abstentions. A simple majority was required for passage of the action item. The U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee will now lead the process of drafting the document, with input from other conference committees. A draft of the document could be ready to be debated, amended, and voted on by the bishops at their November meeting - which is currently planned to be held in-person in Baltimore, Maryland.

Results of voting for the various action items of the spring meeting were announced on Friday afternoon, on the third and final day of the meeting. The bishops also authorized the development of a statement on Native American ministry, approved several liturgical translations, and approved a pastoral statement on marriage ministry.

They also held a canonical consultation on two causes of canonization, for Servant of God Fr. Joseph Verbis LaFleur, and Servant of God Marinus (Leonard) LaRue. The bishops voted overwhelmingly to “consider it opportune to advance on the local level” their causes of canonization.

One action item, which asked the bishops to “authorize the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American / Alaska Native ministry,” passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 223 to 6. 

Three action items concerned the approval of ICEL translations of readings and prayers for the feast of Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, as well as translations of prayers and intercessions for the Liturgy of the Hours and a translation of the Order of Penance. 

The action items passed by a vote of 188 to 2, 186 to 3 (with one abstention), and 182 to 6 (with two abstentions), respectively. The items required two-thirds of all Latin Church bishops present to vote in favor of approval. 

Another action item, to authorize the drafting of a national pastoral framework on youth and young adults, passed with a vote of 222 to 7. The bishops also voted to approve a  draft of a pastoral framework on marriage and family life ministry “Called to the Joy of Love,” which passed by a vote of 212 to 13, with four abstentions.

The bishops had extensive debate before voting to authorize the drafting of a teaching document on the Eucharist. A proposed outline of the document, provided by the doctrine committee, included the Church’s teachings on the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, Sunday as a holy day, the Eucharist as sacrifice, and worthiness to receive Communion.

A proposal on the first day of the assembly to adjust the agenda to allow for unlimited dialogue on the draft of the statement stretched into an hour-long debate. Although the proposal failed with 59% of bishops voting in opposition, debate on Thursday stretched long after the proceedings were scheduled to end.

Voting was extended an extra hour on Thursday evening due to the extensive debate on the issues.

Berlin Catholic archdiocese releases previously unpublished section of abuse report

St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the cathedral of the Berlin’s Catholic archdiocese. / Cedric BLN via Wikimedia (Public domain).

Berlin, Germany, Jun 18, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic archdiocese of Berlin published Friday a previously unreleased section of a report on clerical abuse.

The archdiocese announced June 18 the publication of Part C of the report “Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons, and male religious in the area of ​​the Archdiocese of Berlin since 1946.”

The report, originally issued Jan. 29, was commissioned by the archdiocese in November 2018 and compiled by the law firm Redeker Sellner Dahs.

It concluded that 61 clerics were accused of abusing 121 minors in the archdiocese that covers the German capital between 1946 and 2020.

Part C of the report presents the personnel files of the accused clerics.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the names of many of the 61 accused clerics do not appear in the newly published section.

Names, file numbers, place names, and other content relating to accused clergy are blacked out.

The archdiocese argued that the redactions were “legally necessary.”

Other German dioceses are publishing similar reports, including Cologne archdiocese, which released the 800-page Gercke Report in March.

A study of the handling of abuse claims in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, by the Munich law firm Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl, is expected to be released in the next few months.

CNA Deutsch said that, unlike the Cologne study, the Berlin report did not provide an assessment of personal accountability when it came to the responsibility for handling cases.

CNA Deutsch noted that Archbishop Heiner Koch, archbishop of Berlin since 2015, was mentioned in 13 cases, as were other senior figures serving in the archdiocese over the past decades.

The archdiocese said that the report did not mark the end of its efforts to investigate past cases and “remedy identified structural deficits.”

“By publishing the report, the archdiocese of Berlin hopes that further victims of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults will be encouraged to come forward and disclose their case,” it said.

Pope Francis may continue to make changes in the Roman Curia

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2021 / 10:19 am (CNA).

As the completion of curia reform approaches, Pope Francis would be moving towards some changes. The pope's next moves might be the appointment of a new Master of Ceremonies and the appointment of a president for the Committee to prepare the Jubilee 2025.  

Msgr. Guido Marini has been the Papal Master of Ceremonies since 2007. Called to the position by Benedict XVI and well known for his rather traditional approach to liturgy, Mons. Marini was able to cooperate with Pope Francis, even if sometimes their views on liturgy differed. According to sources speaking to CNA, Monsignor Marini would be appointed a bishop in Italy. 

Marini's replacement, according to the sources, should not be interpreted as a punishment. It is, instead, a clue that Pope Francis wants no “permanent” positions in the curia.

The pope might send Marini to Tortona, a diocese near Liguria, Marini's birthplace. The diocese is vacant since the Pope picked its bishop as secretary of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments. 

There are three candidates to replace Marini as Master of Ceremonies, according to the sources. One is Fr. Giuseppe Midili, director of the Liturgical Office of Rome's Vicariate. The second is Msgr. Diego Ravelli, already one of the Papal Master of Ceremonies; and finally Msgr. Pietro Moroni, Dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Urbanian University and consultor of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

Meanwhile, curia reform continues to be under discussion. Originally scheduled to be announced by the end of June, the draft reform should come out next autumn, according to a cardinal who spoke with CNA. 

According to the cardinal, the delay is in part due to discussions regarding how to merge smaller dicasteries with larger ones. In fact, in the first draft of the reform, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization was going to be absorbed by the Congregation for Evangelization. The purpose of the merging was to combine into one dicastery traditional and new evangelization.

Things have changed, and now the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization should become an office within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The president of the Council, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, might be appointed president of the Jubilee 2025 Preparatory Committee. A Jubilee, or ordinary “Holy Year”, happens every 25 years. The last ordinary Holy Year was headed by St. John Paul II in the year 2000. Fisichella, who already successfully organized the 2015 Special Holy Year or “The Year of Mercy,” would bring his experience organizing major events.