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Guatemalan cardinal responds to Daniel Ortega’s attack on the Church

President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua / Public Domain

Denver Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 14:16 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Álvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imeri of Huehuetenango gave a spirited response to Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, who a few days ago verbally attacked Pope Francis and said that the Catholic Church is “the perfect dictatorship.”

“It’s true, the Catholic Church is not a democracy, but it has a spirit of participation and communion that makes it possible for all of us who are the Church, from the pope to the lay faithful, to live in peace and harmony,” the Guatemalan cardinal said in a video posted by the Latin American Bishops’ Conference Oct. 1.

“Mr. President Daniel Ortega, if you are a Catholic, what I as a bishop would expect from you is that you have respect for the Catholic Church and the proper order that directs this institution founded by our Lord Jesus Christ,” the cardinal continued.

In his speech marking the 43rd anniversary of the founding of the National Police, Ortega questioned: “Who elects the priests, the bishops, the pope, the cardinals, how many votes, who votes for them? If they’re going to be democratic, they must begin by electing the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, with the vote of the population, with the votes of Catholics.”

“Let the population elect them and not all of them imposed [on the people], it’s a dictatorship, the perfect dictatorship. It’s a tyranny, the perfect tyranny,” he continued.

After calling the pope a “holy tyrant,” the Nicaraguan dictator asked: “With what authority do you speak to me about democracy? How many votes did the bishop have from the population to be appointed bishop?”

Ramazzini said that if Ortega doesn’t respect the Church, then “I very much doubt that you are really a Catholic person.”

“It’s not a matter of saying ‘I’m Catholic and I do whatever I feel like. I’m a Catholic, a Catholic president and that’s why I put a bishop in jail, falsely accusing him. I’m a Catholic and I persecute the Church of which I am a member. It’s a contradiction in terms,’” the cardinal asserted.

The cardinal was referring to Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, whom the police abducted Aug. 19 from the chancery where he had been forcibly confined by riot police for more than two weeks and took him to Managua, where he remains under house arrest.

The same night Álvarez was seized, four priests, two seminarians, and a layman who were also confined in the chancery with the prelate were also taken away and are being held in the El Chipote prison, known for torturing opponents of the regime.

Ramazzini also stressed that “it’s typical of dictators to want to create a basis for their dictatorial attitudes and actions in order to be able to convince themselves.”

“I hope that these statements can help clarify ideas,” he concluded, “because there is nothing worse than telling half-truths, because that makes half-lies appear as total lies.”

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

Climate change documentary features Pope Francis

Pope Francis meets Arouna Kandé, one of the subjects of the documentary “The Letter.” / Photo credit: Laudato Si’ Movement

Vatican City, Oct 4, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis is featured in a documentary film on climate change and the environment that premiered at the Vatican on Tuesday.

“The Letter,” which can be streamed for free on YouTube Originals starting Oct. 4, follows a climate activist, an indigenous leader, a climate refugee, and married marine biologists as they travel from their corners of the world to the Vatican to speak to Pope Francis.

The film includes video from the meeting with Pope Francis as well as never-before-seen footage from Francis’ papal inauguration on March 19, 2013.

The inspiration for the documentary’s title was taken from the word “encyclical,” which is used for certain papal messages and literally means “circular letter.” The title refers to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si'.

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, preacher of the papal household, also appears in “The Letter” to speak about the Franciscan roots of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment.

The world premiere of the film took place in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Oct. 4 also marked the Holy See’s formal accession to the 2015 Paris Climate Accords.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, presented the film at a press conference on Tuesday. Czerny’s dicastery was a partner of the film together with the Vatican’s communications office.

From left: Cacique Odair “Chief Dadá,” Hoesung Lee, Cardinal Michael Czerny, Lorna Gold, and Nicolas Brown at an Oct. 4, 2022, press conference at the Vatican. Photo credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
From left: Cacique Odair “Chief Dadá,” Hoesung Lee, Cardinal Michael Czerny, Lorna Gold, and Nicolas Brown at an Oct. 4, 2022, press conference at the Vatican. Photo credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“The film ‘The Letter’ highlights the key concept of dialogue,” he said. “Dialogue is central to the Holy Father’s vision for humanity’s peace with the Creator, with all creation, and among us humans.”

Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said at the press conference that the film “is a timely reminder of the urgency and importance of Laudato si’.”

“Both the science community and the faith community are very clear: the planet is in crisis and its life support system [is] in peril. The stakes have never been higher, and we should be the source of the solution to this crisis,” he added.

The film’s writer and director, Nicolas Brown, said the exercise of making the documentary “has been one of getting out of our bubbles and meeting each other across this planet. These voices are important largely because they are the perspectives of those who suffer the most.”

The five main subjects of the film “The Letter” pictured in front of a map in the Vatican. They traveled to Rome to meet Pope Francis. Photo credit: Laudato Si’ Movement
The five main subjects of the film “The Letter” pictured in front of a map in the Vatican. They traveled to Rome to meet Pope Francis. Photo credit: Laudato Si’ Movement

The film’s subjects are Cacique Odair “Chief Dadá,” an indigenous leader of the Novo Lugar community of the Borarí people in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil; Ridhima Pandey, a young climate activist from India; Arouna Kandé, a climate refugee from Senegal; and Robin Martin and Greg Asner, marine biologists who live in Hawaii.

Lorna Gold, president of the Laudato Si’ Movement, is also part of the film.

“The film and the personal stories powerfully show that the ecological crisis has arrived and is happening now,” Cardinal Czerny said. “The time is over for speculation, for skepticism and denial, for irresponsible populism. Apocalyptic floods, mega-droughts, disastrous heatwaves, and catastrophic cyclones and hurricanes have become the new normal in recent years; they continue today; tomorrow, they will get worse.”

The cardinal said: “In his letter Laudato si’, Pope Francis says, ‘I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.’ The film ‘The Letter’ provides a pathway into such [an] encounter and dialogue. This beautiful film — a heartbreaking yet hopeful story — is a clarion cry to people everywhere: wake up, get serious, meet, act together, act now.”

U.S. bishops nominate candidates for conference president and vice president

USCCB Fall Meeting 2021 / CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 11:41 am (CNA).

The U.S. bishops released on Tuesday the names of the 10 candidates nominated to be the next president and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

An election will be held during the bishops’ Fall General Assembly in Baltimore Nov. 14–17 to replace the outgoing president, Archbishop Jose H.Gomez of Los Angeles, and vice president, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, whose three-year terms end at the conclusion of the meeting.

The nominees, chosen by their fellow bishops, are as follows:

  • Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Archdiocese for the Military Services

  • Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Diocese of Arlington, Virginia

  • Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut

  • Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

  • Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archdiocese of San Francisco

  • Archbishop Paul D. Etienne, Archdiocese of Seattle

  • Bishop Daniel E. Flores, Diocese of Brownsville, Texas

  • Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, Archdiocese of San Antonio

  • Archbishop William E. Lori, Archdiocese of Baltimore

  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana

According to the bylaws of the USCCB, the president will first be elected by a simple majority vote of those present and voting. Then an election will be held for the position of vice president, with the remaining nominees making up the slate for that office. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, a second vote would be taken. If no candidate emerges with a majority a runoff would take place between the two top vote-getters.

The bishops will also vote for new chairmen of six USCCB standing committees. The nominees are as follows:

Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, Diocese of Springfield, Illinois

Bishop Alfred A. Schlert, Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania

Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania

Bishop Peter L. Smith, auxiliary bishop, Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon

Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, Archdiocese of Indianapolis

Bishop William D. Byrne, Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts

Committee on International Justice and Peace 

Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez, Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan, MLM, Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon

Committee on Protection of Children and Young People 

Bishop Barry C. Knestout, Diocese of Richmond, Virginia

Bishop Elias R. Lorenzo, OSB, auxiliary bishop, Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey

Committee for Religious Liberty

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archdiocese of San Francisco

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana

Analysis: Amid new testimonies, Vatican corruption trial points to key question

A hearing in the Vatican finance trial on May 20, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Oct 4, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The hearings at the Vatican’s corruption trial resumed last week and shed light on new aspects of the “trial of the century” and the broader context of Vatican finances.

Behind every decision and litigation, in the end, one can glimpse a power struggle, whether it is big or small, systemic or personal.

Primarily, the trial revolves around the Secretariat of State’s investment in luxury real estate in London. However, it also explores further criminal allegations.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, for instance, also faces charges for allocating money from the Secretariat of State to Caritas in his native region. The Sardinian is furthermore called to answer for the engagement of Cecilia Marogna as a consultant to the Secretariat of State.

However, the big deal at the center of the trial is the luxury property investment.

The Secretariat of State bought shares of the property on London’s Sloane Avenue and repeatedly changed brokers — apparently to make the investment profitable — before deciding to buy the property, only to sell it at a considerable loss.

The court will determine if the businessmen who profited on the Secretariat of State’s investment behaved legally and in accordance with the contracts.

A broader scenario emerges

The trial also digs into financial details. However, taking a look at the broader scenario emerging from the investigations is essential to understanding what happened.

After a two-month break, the hearings resumed on Sept. 28 with interrogations of the defendant Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former official of the administrative section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and the lawyer Nicola Squillace.

For now, only two witnesses have been heard: Roberto Lolato, who acted as consultant to the Vatican promoter of justice to extricate himself from the terms of the deal, and Alessandro Cassinis Righini, auditor general of the Holy See.

Let’s start with the testimony of Cassinis Righini, made on Sept. 30. 

A climate of hostility and use of Peter’s Pence

The auditor not only disclosed a climate of hostility for his work in the Vatican and especially on the part of the Secretariat of State, but he also went so far as to point out that advice on investments was not just about the soundness of investments.

This statement was made with all the competence of an auditor, who is, above all, to ensure that the accounts are in order and compliant with international standards.

Cassinis Righini also stressed that that was not the way to manage the money from Peter’s Pence, and when asked, he said he was confident that it was indeed Peter’s Pence’s money.

The question of whether this is the case or simply a case of “mistaken identity” has been raised previously. The Secretariat of State has had an account since 1939 called the “Conto Obolo,” (Obolo is the Italian for “pence”).

The auditor also contested the operations of the Secretariat of State. He said that the Vatican department’s assets of more than 900 million euros were almost all in Switzerland. He spoke of 516 million euros or 564 million euros on two occasions. 

A question of audits 

The Secretariat of State has always had autonomy in the management of funds. So much so that there is a rescript from Pope Francis of Dec. 5, 2016, which reaffirms the independence of the Secretariat of State. 

The rescript ended a dispute in 2016 when accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was tasked with auditing the Vatican accounts.

The Secretariat of State opposed the transparency initiative’s brief and then redefined the contract with PwC to play an assisting role, “adaptable to the Holy See’s needs.”

The aftermath of this was reflected in the testimony of Cassinis Righini. He described a clash between those who wanted to defend the Holy See and those who, in reality, wanted to make a company out of the Holy See.

In a climate of tension, it is easy to create enmities. Cassinis Righini also stressed that it would have been better not to pursue the contract with Gianluigi Torzi. 

Torzi had taken over the management of the London Palace real estate fund, keeping the unique 1,000 shares with voting rights for himself. Cassinis Righini said that once he was involved in the analysis of the contracts, he would immediately let it be known that the negotiations would have to be stopped.

But the negotiations were not interrupted. According to the available testimonies and interrogations, this decision was made by Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, then head of the administration of the Secretariat of State, who also dealt with the negotiations in London without a lawyer from the Holy See.

Yet Perlasca was not on the list of the first 27 witnesses presented by the promoter of justice. The prosecution might have decided that Perlasca’s documented testimony was already sufficient.

The president of the Vatican Tribunal, Giuseppe Pignatone, urged to include Perlasca among the witnesses. However, it turned out that Vatican prosecutor Alessandro Diddi wanted to summon him only toward the end of his list of witnesses. Certainly, Perlasca’s absence from the first number of witnesses was striking.

Who made what money?

Another aspect is the management of Vatican finances, which has been family-oriented for a long time.

Faced with Tirabassi’s desire to leave the Secretariat of State in 2004, the then director of administration, Monsignor Gianfranco Piovano, gave him the authorization to practice outside the Vatican and a power of attorney for advice with Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS). This Swiss bank held part of the funds of the Secretariat of State.

From 2004 to 2009, the year in which the Holy See ended the relationship with UBS, Tirabassi earned 1.36 million euros in dividends. That is to say, he made about 200,000 euros each year.

With the termination of the relationship with UBS, this “bonus” ended.

The question of Tirabassi’s wealth was the subject of much of his interrogation, aimed at ascertaining whether the office of the Secretariat of State took commissions or other amounts of money.

The courtroom heard that everything was legal and above board.

A cautioning word from the tribunal president

Before starting the phase of listening to the witnesses, Pignatone invited everyone to be precise and concise, reminding witnesses that everything was on record. 

At the same time, he recalled that he had allowed a broad debate, “also admitting questions that would have been inadmissible.”

In this way, Pignatone made it clear that he was aware of procedural flaws but that, at the same time, he would ensure smooth proceedings.

A note about the consultant Lolato: He worked in the office of the auditor general from 2016 to 2019 and was then moved to the Vatican’s Gendarmerie to collaborate in the investigation. He was alongside Cassinis Righini in the auditor’s first appraisals of the property.

Cassinis Righini first said he was sure that the pope did not know anything about the investment but that it was known to the high levels of the Secretariat of State. 

However, he then had to admit that he couldn’t say for sure if the pope knew.

Plausible deniability? 

Cassinis Righini testified that decisions were made that required explicit authorization from superiors.

Based on this testimony, it seems unlikely that no one informed Pope Francis, let alone his Secretary of State. 

The pontiff was photographed in Santa Marta with Gianluigi Torzi on Dec. 26, 2018, when Torzi was negotiating his exit from the deal.

These latest testimonies at the trial thus provide a broader scenario that raises numerous questions — even if it helps to understand the climate at the beginning of the investigation.

The key question is just how and why the Secretariat of State’s investments were made — and this question awaits an answer.

‘St. Francis helps us not to run from suffering’: Cardinal Zuppi offers Mass in Assisi

Mass in Assisi with Cardinal Matteo Zuppi on the feast of St. Francis, Oct. 4, 2022 Andrea Cova/Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi / Andrea Cova/Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Rome Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

On the feast of St. Francis on Tuesday, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi offered Mass in Assisi in the basilica that holds the 13th-century saint’s tomb.

“St. Francis helps us not to run from suffering,” Zuppi said in his homily on Oct. 4.

The cardinal and president of the Italian bishops’ conference recounted how St. Francis had been repulsed by the sight of lepers at first but experienced a transformation when he encountered them in person.

St. Francis recorded in his testament: “While I was in sin, it seemed very bitter to me to see lepers. And the Lord himself led me among them and I had mercy upon them. And when I left them that which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body.”

Zuppi said that everyone can experience this same transformation in which “what before seemed burdensome, a deprivation, an impossible sacrifice becomes instead a source of sweetness and awareness of humanity.”

“Helping others leads us to find ourselves. This is the sweet and gentle yoke that unites us to the one who first bound himself to us, Jesus, in a bond of love that frees us from the heavy and unbearable yoke of individualism,” he said.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, present in the Basilica of St. Francis for the feast day Mass, lit a votive lamp and gave a speech about the patron saint of Italy.

Pope Pius XII declared St. Francis the patron saint of Italy in 1939 along with St. Catherine of Siena. The founder of the Franciscan order is affectionately known in Italy as the Poverello (Poor Little Man).

The Italian president said that peace has been “betrayed right in the heart of Europe” with the war in Ukraine. He added that St. Francis’ life exalted the value of peace with the “prophetic force of his life.”

Zuppi, the archbishop of Bologna, also invoked St. Francis’ intercession asking for peace in Europe: “The difficulties are far from over. We see this dramatically in the world and in our country. Let us entrust Italy to the intercession of our patron.”

“Like St. Francis, we can all be artisans of peace,” he said.

Belgium violated right to life in euthanasia case, European Court of Human Rights rules

European Court. / Elvira Koneva / Shutterstock.

CNA Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 08:53 am (CNA).

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled that Belgium failed to conduct a proper investigation into the circumstances of the 2012 euthanasia of Godelieva de Troyer on the grounds of “untreatable depression.” 

The court found there was a violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights that everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. 

The landmark euthanasia case was brought to the court in Strasbourg by Tom Mortier, de Troyer’s son. She died in 2012 after she had approached the country’s leading euthanasia advocate, who ultimately agreed to euthanize her despite being a cancer specialist.

Before her death by euthanasia at age 64, neither her son nor any family member was consulted.

The Court of Human Rights on Oct. 4 did not rule that there was any violation of Belgium’s legislative framework for the practice of euthanasia.

The judgment was with regard to the way in which the facts surrounding de Troyer’s euthanasia were handled by Belgium’s Federal Commission for the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia and the promptness of a criminal trial following de Troyer’s death.

“Taking into account the crucial role played by the commission in the a posteriori control of euthanasia, the court considers that the control system established in the present case did not ensure its independence,” the ruling said.

The court found that Belgium failed to fulfill its obligation under Article 2 of the convention both because of the lack of independence of the commission and due to lack of promptness of the criminal investigation.

Over a period of just a few months, de Troyer had made a financial payment to a Belgian euthanasia advocate’s organization. He referred her to see other doctors who were also part of the same association, despite a requirement for independent opinions in the case of individuals not expected to die soon.

The same doctor that euthanized her is also co-chair of the federal commission charged with approving euthanasia cases after the fact.

The Court of Human Rights’ finding that there was no violation of Belgium’s legislative framework and no violation of Article 2 for the conditions of the euthanasia was decided in a 5-2 vote.

“We welcome the court’s finding of an Article 2 violation, which demonstrates the inadequacy of ‘safeguards’ for the intentional ending of life,” the Christan legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF International) said in a statement Oct 4. “The decision counters the notion that there is a so-called ‘right to die’ and lays bare the horrors that inevitably unfold across society when euthanasia is made legal.”

ADF International said that while the court ruled more “safeguarding” was an appropriate solution to protecting life, its own ruling made clear that laws and protocols were indeed insufficient to protect the rights of Mortier’s mother.

“It is unfortunate that the court dismissed the challenge to the Belgian legal framework; however, the takeaway is that the ‘safeguards’ touted as offering protection to vulnerable people should trigger more caution toward euthanasia in Europe and the world,” said Robert Clarke, deputy director of ADF International, who represented Mortier before the court.

“The reality is that there are no ‘safeguards’ that can mitigate the dangers of the practice once it is legal. Nothing can bring back Tom’s mother, but we hope this decision offers Tom some small measure of justice,” Clarke said.

Countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands have been at the forefront of offering euthanasia and assisted suicide, and doctors who personally object to the practice must still refer patients.

Vincent Kemme, the founder of the Belgian bioethics organization Biofides, told EWTN News in September that his organization has observed a shift in recent years, especially in the low countries of Europe, away from conscience protections for the medical profession.

“In Europe and the United States, the introduction of relativism and moral subjectivism has completely changed the profession of the doctor,” Kemme said.

Under Belgian law, euthanasia is permissible when a “medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering” resulting from a severe and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident cannot be alleviated.

 

'Exciting time to become a saint', says new rector of Pontifical North American College in Rome

Ordination of deacons of the Pontifical North American College Seminary in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, on Sept. 29, 2022 / Evandro Inetti / CNA

CNA Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 07:03 am (CNA).

“It is really an exciting time to become a saint,” Monsignor Thomas Powers, the new rector of the Pontifical North American College Seminary, told EWTN News ahead of the ordination of 23 deacons from his college on Sept. 29.

“We know from history, from Church history in particular, that the saints were risen up in times of persecution, in difficult times, within and outside the Church,” Powers said. Speaking about the men who would be ordained, he praised their readiness “to step up and to be called to heroic virtue, and to become the saints that that we’re all called to be.”

Monsignor Thomas W. Powers is the twenty-fourth rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. EWTN Vatican
Monsignor Thomas W. Powers is the twenty-fourth rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. EWTN Vatican

The 23 men from the North American College ordained to the Diaconate on Sept. 29 were joined for the ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica by over a thousand family members and friends. They prostrated themselves in front of the altar and dedicated their lives in service to God’s Church and to his people.

Monsignor Powers hopes others will follow the same path as these men and become seminarians. “Pray that young men hear God’s voice and decide to become priests,” he said.

According to a 2021 study from Georgetown University, enrollment in seminary programs has been quite steady in the last two decades. Still, Powers believes that the Church needs strong leadership now as much as ever. Speaking of his own students, he explained: “they’re about to embark on a life that’s very joyful. It’s fulfilling, it’s rewarding, but it’s also challenging, because we have challenges within the Church and outside of the Church.”

He praised the faith of his students, saying, “I thank God on my knees every day for the men that are here, because they’re superb, wonderful, joyful men. They want to be good, holy priests, and they want to be formed well in their faith.” 

Ordination of deacons of the Pontifical North American College Seminary in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, on Sept. 29, 2022. Evandro Inetti / CNA
Ordination of deacons of the Pontifical North American College Seminary in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, on Sept. 29, 2022. Evandro Inetti / CNA

This formation, Powers believes, is integral to the development of strong Catholic priests. He recounted his own experience studying in Rome, near the residence of the Holy Father and at the center of the Catholic Church. But the formation vital for his development as a priest was the fraternal formation he gained through friendship and community with his fellow seminarians.

“For two years, we stayed here in Rome,” Powers recalled. “Maybe our families visited, maybe they did not. But, we really had to learn to develop a new relationship with Jesus Christ. Ties back home were cut, and we were formed as a men and as Christians who wanted to give our lives as priests,” Powers said. “I have wonderful friendships from my time here that continue to this day and I know the men being ordained today will say the same thing.”

He spoke of the calling received by each priest and each diaconate candidate: “I think it’s amazing that God’s voice still gets through, that these men still hear God’s voice, and they respond generously, and give that that Marian ‘Yes’ to what God is asking them to do, despite our complicated society and the very difficult and challenging times inside and outside of the Church,” he said. 

He said priests and seminarians “come from different backgrounds, experiences, family life, origins, and yet they all hear that same call. That’s an individual call from God, each one of them. And, so, it’s inspiring that they listen to that call.”

Monsignor Powers hopes that watching the ordination of these men will inspire others to become seminarians. “It’s really all the Church asks,” he said, “that a young man leaves his heart open, just as I did and just as these men about to be ordained did. Leave your heart open to the possibility, and let God surprise you.”

 

Details emerge about Father James Jackson's alleged pre-trial release violations

Father James Jackson, FSSP, appearing at a Nov. 15 arraignment before the Rhode Island District Court. / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Providence, R.I., Oct 3, 2022 / 18:25 pm (CNA).

Father James Jackson, a Rhode Island priest who was arrested in October on federal and state child pornography charges, admitted Monday in federal court that the government could prove that he violated certain conditions of his pre-trial release.

The conditions of Jackson’s pretrial release were set in November 2021 before he was allowed to leave Rhode Island to reside with a family member in Kansas. He was arrested in July by the U.S. Marshals in Kansas. He is currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshals at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island. 

In his Oct. 3 hearing in U.S. District Court in Providence, Jackson admitted that the government could prove that he violated the condition prohibiting him from “possessing any materials including videos, magazines, photographs, computer generated depictions or any other forms that depict sexually explicit conduct involving children,” according to James Rosenberg, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Rhode Island.

John C. Calcagni III, Jackson’s lawyer, did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Jackson, wearing a brown prison uniform, also admitted that the government could prove that he violated the condition prohibiting him from having access to more than one internet-connected device, Rosenberg said. 

In addition, Jackson admitted that the government could prove that he violated the condition requiring him to “notify his supervising probation officer of all computers or electronic data storage devices where he was residing and to report any additional acquisitions,” he added.

“Additionally, he further admitted that the government could establish probable cause that he committed a new crime, to wit, possession of child pornography, while on pretrial release," Rosenberg said.

“To be very clear — he did NOT admit that he committed the new crime, only that the government could establish probable cause that he did,” Rosenberg wrote CNA in an email.

Rosenberg said that Jackson “conceded that he should be detained pending further proceedings.”

It’s unclear when the next hearing will be. In addition to federal proceedings, Jackson is also being investigated by a local police department in Kansas.

Around the time of his arrest in July, Overland Park Police Major James Sutterby told CNA that the department had an ongoing investigation into Jackson but he would not elaborate on the details. Sutterby could not be reached for further comment Monday.

Jackson's Rhode Island charges came after the state police had executed a search warrant Oct. 31 at his parish and arrested Jackson after determining that he was the owner of large amounts of child sex abuse material found on an external hard drive in an office area near his bedroom, an affidavit states. 

Jackson was originally charged with both federal and state offenses, but the state charges were dropped as a procedural move in January. 

The federal charges of distributing child pornography are punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, with a minimum mandatory term of incarceration of five years. Possessing and accessing with intent to view child pornography, his other federal charge, is punishable by up to 20 years of incarceration. His trial is set for November.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Oct. 3 to correct the date for Jackson's trial. It is on the trial calendar for November, not September.

Cardinal Müller warns of grave danger that could lead to humanity’s ‘collective suicide’

Cardinal Gerhard Müller / Photo credit: Bohumil Petrik / ACI Press

Denver Newsroom, Oct 3, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, warned of a grave danger that could lead to the “collective suicide” of humanity.

“Christianity promotes a civilization of life and challenges the culture of anthropological nihilism, which would have to end in the collective suicide of humanity. Atheism is nihilism. Its fruit is death,” the cardinal said in a presentation given in Spanish by his secretary Sept. 30 at the 14th World Congress of Families, which took place Sept. 30–Oct. 2 in Mexico.

On its website, the congress states it is “a major international and interreligious event that seeks to unite and equip leaders, organizations, and families to affirm, celebrate, and strengthen the family as the natural and fundamental human environment, key to the flourishing of mature individuals and sustainable societies.”

In his lecture, Müller explained that “nihilism, that is, ‘the feeling of the new age’ that ‘God himself is dead,’” as the philosopher Hegel wrote, can lead to the feeling that “there is nothing bad in the human being and everything that pleases him is allowed, if we believe in the kindly divine rationality over and in all that has being in his creation.”

In his discourse titled “Man made in the image and likeness of God: a manifesto against anthropological nihilism,” the cardinal referred to the theses of Nietzsche, “the prophet of post-Christian nihilism” who proclaimed “the death of God”; and to the historian Yuval Noah Harari, who “has become something like the guru of the so-called trans- and post-humanism.”

‘Divine superman’ can become ‘diabolically inhuman’

The prefect emeritus explained that “as a historian, Harari himself should know how quickly the vision of a divine superman can become diabolically inhuman. The 20th century has cruelly demonstrated this. In Western and Eastern Europe. Especially in Germany and Russia.”

“If man ceases to be a creature in the image and likeness of the triune God, he sinks into the depths of anthropological nihilism,” Müller warned.

For example, the cardinal referred to people “who have had their face or other parts of their body ‘lifted’ or ‘updated.’ It’s no longer a Hollywood fashion, but rather that these poor creatures deserving of mercy have fallen — without knowing it — into anthropological nihilism.”

“Anthropological nihilism has as its father the pride of the creature that wants to become like God (Genesis 3:5) and wants to establish the difference between good and evil, true and false for itself,” he said.

Its source of motivation, the German cardinal continued, “is the blind madness of the impious, who exchange the ‘glory of the incorruptible God’ for their self-fabricated ideological images. When man worships the creation instead of the Creator, he loses the glory of the sons and friends of God.”

Hostile to life and marriage

The cardinal warned that anthropological nihilism “is significantly hostile to life,” since it encourages the act of “killing children in the womb as a human right and the utilitarian requirement of the so-called ‘merciful death’ (euthanasia) for ‘depleted’ or ‘no longer utilizable’ human beings.”

“But the rotten fruits of anthropological nihilism are also shown in the questioning of marriage between man and woman, which is seen as a variant among any number of possibilities of the orgiastic enjoyment of sexual satisfaction without the full surrender in love and without transcendending oneself to (form) a third person, namely, the child as the fruit of love and of the womb of its parents,” he continued.

Thus the relationship of marriage to fruitfulness is denied, “with which the Creator has blessed man and woman so that they transmit, preserve, and promote the life created by God.”

Gender ideology

Cardinal Müller then addressed the issue of gender ideology, which makes a false distinction between biological sex and gender as a sociocultural construct.

“Apart from the biologically proven fact that a real sex change isn’t possible, the fiction of freely choosing one’s gender is a denial of God’s will for our person. Every human being exists in (his or her) bodily nature in either male or female expression,” he said.

“Gender ideology, which certainly also falls under the umbrella of anthropological nihilism, deprives both men and women of their own possibilities,” he pointed out.

“A man, by virtue of his spiritual and bodily disposition, has the possibility of becoming a loving husband to his wife and a faithful father to his children. But he cannot be a wife or mother to another person without betraying himself,” the cardinal said.

The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “no one can reform or modernize the teaching of Christ, ‘because he himself (by his Incarnation) brought with him all the newness and modernness to renew and vivify man,’” as St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who was recently declared a doctor of the church by Pope Francis, said.

Dangerous for the Church

“Anthropological nihilism becomes really dangerous for the Church when even Catholic theologians in key positions no longer assume the fact of the historically unique and insuperable revelation of God in Jesus Christ, but instead make a perverse compromise with post-humanism, just for the Church to ‘survive’ as a social organization in a modern world without God,” the cardinal said.

For this “theology without God,” then, “the creation and the covenant, the Incarnation and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his bodily resurrection are only considered existential symbols of mythical quality.”

“If Christianity were just a collection of disparate views of the unknowable divine that spread over our theoretical understanding of the world and the practical way of coping with contingency, then it wouldn’t really be worth fighting, suffering, and dying for the truth of Christ,” Müller explained.

The German cardinal stressed that “our faith in the God and Father of Jesus Christ overcomes the culture of death and anthropological nihilism. Faith opens us to a culture of life in the love of the Triune God because we are freed from the ‘slavery of the transient to the freedom and glory of the children of God.’”

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

Priest prevented from returning to Nicaragua: It’s ‘not a crime’ to criticize government

Father Guillermo Blandón / Facebook

Denver Newsroom, Oct 3, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Father Guillermo Blandón, who was prohibited by the Nicaraguan dictatorship led by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, from returning to the country, said that it’s not a crime to denounce the abuses of the government of the Central American country.

Before he could take the flight from Miami to Nicaragua, the priest was informed that the Nicaraguan government had prohibited him from returning and expressed his surprise, “because returning is a right that I have as a Nicaraguan and I don’t think I’ve committed any crime that would prevent me from returning to my country.”

The 60-year-old priest said that he has “always denounced the injustices, the abuses, like these trials where they don’t allow a lawyer or let a lawyer see the prisoners. That’s unjust and shouldn’t be done.”

Blandón was referring to the political prisoners who are in the El Chipote  prison, which is known to torture opponents of the regime, where several priests are currently being held.

“A prisoner has constitutional rights and the state cannot take them away; they have the right to a lawyer but they’re not allowed to. I have preached this because that’s not right,” the priest told EWTN News.

“Why do certain prisoners have all their rights taken away? What crime did they commit? Thinking differently from the government, but that’s not a crime. Instead of being offended, the government should reflect,” Blandón continued.

“They make judgments that have no legal basis; they’re like the doctor who studies in order to cure and procures death,” he lamented.

Blandón said that when the Church announces the Gospel, she assumes her role of being light in the world.

“The Church is a light that continues to illuminate. When we exhort, it’s not filing a lawsuit, but for the government to reflect,” he said.

“The priest preaches the word of God, he applies it so that the people realize what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong, especially if we believe in the Lord.”

“That’s been my life, 29 years of priesthood, preaching, announcing, denouncing sin, what’s wrong, abuses, the manipulation of the holy people of God; like the prophets, who preached the truth and justice of God,” the priest said.

“Those of us who are pastors, the Church, we defend the dignity of the children of God.”

Blandón also told EWTN News that he has already contacted his bishop, Jorge Solórzano, who heads the Diocese of Granada.

“I told him not to expect me; he gave me words of encouragement, he told me to pray, [and told me] ‘We’ll pray for you. These are difficult trials that one must undergo.’ Like a good bishop, he was solicitous,” he recounted.

Now in Miami, the priest is going to see the archbishop and request permission to celebrate the Eucharist “or if they can assign me a parish.”

He will also have to see if the U.S. will grant him asylum.

The priest has received the support of the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Báez, living in exile in the United States since 2019, and also from several members of the faithful in Nicaragua who have sent him money to support himself.

However, he said, “I’m not bitter, I’m happy because what God allows is to purify us; he doesn’t make mistakes. Peace is not the absence of problems but his presence in the midst of problems.”

“At my age I am starting over again, with the grace and blessing of my Lord,” he concluded.

EWTN journalist Bárbara Socorro contributed to this article.

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