Knights of Columbus planning to replace traditional uniform

By Tony Gutierez
PHOENIX, Ariz. (CNS) – The Knights of Columbus, long associated with swords, capes and chapeaus, will be going through a significant uniform change.
The traditional regalia worn by fourth-degree Knights will be replaced, announced Supreme Knight Carl Anderson Aug. 1, during the international fraternal organization’s 135th annual Supreme Convention in St. Louis, which was livestreamed on EWTN.
Throughout the years, the regalia of the Knights’ fourth degree, known as the patriotic degree, has gone through changes, Anderson said, noting that when this degree was first established, the uniform included white ties, top hats and tails.
In place of a tuxedo with a black bow tie, members will be wearing a blue blazer, an official Knights of Columbus tie and a beret, all with the fourth-degree emblem on them, along with a white shirt and dark gray slacks. After the convention, Anderson said swords could still me used. Mississippi’s Supreme Knight, Philip Jabour, told Mississippi Catholic that in this state, knights always defer to the preference of their parish priest when it comes to using swords during events.
“The board of directors has decided that the time is right for a modernization of the fourth-degree uniform,” Anderson said. “On a limited basis, assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for color corps at public events and honor guards in liturgical processions. However, the preferred dress for the fourth degree, including color corps and honor guards, is the new uniform of jacket and beret.”
Robert Earl, a member of the Father Novatus Assembly 23, which serves Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Daniel the Prophet parishes in Scottsdale, welcomes the new changes.
“I feel it is significant that the order changes to respond to changing times. The new uniform evokes an image of elite military corpsmen in my mind, and I believe this is the intent behind the change,” Earl told The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.
“Our former regalia was reminiscent of Navy officers and consistent with the nautical theme in the patriotic degree, but it perhaps did not have currency in the minds of the general public,” he added, noting that in addition to the tuxedo, the other items collectively could cost approximately $500. “I think the new uniform creates a positive and striking image of ‘soldiers for Christ,’ which is, after all, what we are meant to be.”
Many members are not as thrilled about the pending changes, which generated some controversy among the membership. Joseph Meyer from Msgr. Bernard G. Collins Assembly 2899, which serves St. Bridget and Christ the King parishes in Mesa, said the new uniforms lose a sense of the pageantry associated with the Knights’ fourth-degree level.
“I have been a fourth-degree Knight since 1978 and we have always had this regalia,” said Meyer, who was a color corps commander in Toledo, Ohio. for 13 years before moving to Arizona. “We all looked great in the fourth-degree outfits. These (new) outfits look bad.”
Meyer also expressed concern for members who own the current uniform and have to spend money on the new one.
“If we get a new uniform like this, you will see a lot of Knights leave the degree. A lot of your Knights are retired and don’t have over $500 to spend,” he said.
Paul Lee, a member of the Iowa delegation who spoke to The Catholic Sun from St. Louis, said the reaction on the ground was “mixed.”
“The largest concern is people don’t feel that they have answers for the question of why the need for the change. They want something beyond a more modern look,” said Lee.
Lee said many members he’s interacted with are excited about the changes because it brings the uniform “more in line with other military service organizations because it connects us as patriotic organizations.” There also are members who “don’t like change, so they’re already up in arms,” he added.
“Then you have the sect of folks that feel that their voice was not consulted, (that) this sort of change should have taken place as discussion at the state council level and then brought concerns to the Supreme level,” said Lee, who countered that notion by saying conversations have been happening at all levels of the order about the need for change.
Representatives of the Arizona State Council said it was too early to comment as program details and guidelines for implementing the new uniforms were still unavailable.
(Gutierrez is editor of The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.)

National Black Catholic Congress engages younger attendees

By Gail DeGeorge
ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) – A standing-room-only crowd of young black Catholics in a frank session that lasted more than two hours told bishops, priests and women and men religious why they stay in the church, what threatens to drive them away and that they want a stronger voice from church officials for the Black Lives Matter movement.
As the National Black Catholic Congress got underway in Orlando July 6 with more than 2,000 attendees, some 120 participants discussed ways to keep young adult black Catholics engaged in their parishes and the church – and raised criticism of, and an apology for, the church’s silence regarding the movement spawned by the killings of unarmed blacks by police.
Among the bishops attending Congress XII was Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
“How do we respond as people of faith to issues of race that have always been going on in society but especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement? And in a lot of the police killings, a lot of people feel that the church has been almost silent in its response,” Stacy Allen, one of the facilitators, said toward the end of the session.
“The church is very vocal on a myriad of issues – immigration for instance – which are important,” Allen said. “But specifically on the issues of race, especially from the perspective of a young adult black Catholic, what should the Catholic response be?”
That prompted Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri III of New Orleans to stand. With a bow to those in the room, he said, “To the black youth, I apologize to you as a leader of the church because I feel we have abandoned you in the Black Lives Matter movement and I apologize.
“Partly, I didn’t understand it, and by the time I did understand it, it was too late – the moment was gone,” he said. “I’m very proud of you – you stood up and said enough is enough. As a leader, I want to say that to you – thank you.”
He then went on to tell of challenges in his own journey as a priest and a bishop, his outreach to bring young people, and starting choirs in parishes. “You’re going to struggle and you’re going to persevere,” he said. He counseled that young black adults reach out to each other and others within their parishes and church communities.
“No one knows how to best minister to you as young people – we’re all learning this together,” he said. “One of the reasons we have faltered when it comes to vocations from our community because when it comes to being church, we just don’t have the community working at it together and that’s the failure.”
Many at the session spoke of the need to address a lack of programs for young adults and meaningful engagement and leadership opportunities within parishes and the larger church. Young adults want more than to be tapped to set up tables, take out trash, run kids’ programs and generally do things that older parishioners don’t want to do, participants said.
Too many parishes have youth programs that end at high school – and nothing for those who come back after college with talents and skills and a willingness to get involved, participants said. A participant from New Orleans said the reason she stays Catholic is the strength of her parish community, she has encountered resistance in other parishes. “One reason young adults are leaving is that sometimes it feels like the church does not want us,” she said.
She said she’s tried to volunteer and has been told “no because of age, or no because they don’t say it, but because I’m a young adult, and they think I’m too young to know about that, or no because that’s ‘too black’ and that might be fine for your church in New Orleans but not here,” she said.
“We as young adults don’t want programs, we want a relationship,” said a participant. “We don’t want things to do – we have enough to do. We want a place to belong. Successful young adult ministries are where they feel invested to make change within their parishes.”

Convovation format: part retreat, part pep-rally aimed to inspire leaders

By Carol Zimmermann
ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) – From July 1-4 the main floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Orlando was transformed into a huge parish hall with places for worship, prayer, discussion, and even coffee and doughnuts during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.”

At the convocation 3,500 church leaders – men and women religious, bishops and laypeople – gathered to set a new course for the U.S. Catholic Church.
Following a retreat format, each day started and ended with group prayer. Mass was celebrated each day in the hotel ballroom, and there were plenty of scheduled times for the sacrament of reconciliation and private prayer in a large room turned into an adoration chapel.
Many of the keynote sessions took the form of pep talks encouraging delegates to share their faith boldly with the world at large and within their own families and parishes. The numerous breakout sessions provided the working aspect of the gathering: closely examining what the church is doing and where it can do more.
More than 155 bishops attended the gathering, sitting with their delegations for meals and breakout sessions. Cardinals and bishops who spoke at keynote sessions or in Mass homilies encouraged participants that this was their time, their moment, stressing the urgency to bring God’s message of love to a divided world.
At the final Mass, described as a “Mass of Sending,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the church is called to achieve great things in the face of the impossible – to unite people together by going to the peripheries of society and sharing the good news of Jesus through action rooted in faith.
“Sisters and brothers, we are in a very, very significant time in our church in this country,” said Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and he urged the delegates to receive God’s grace for the work ahead.
None of the homilists or keynote speakers sugarcoated the challenges for the modern church and more than once speakers pointed out that Catholics are leaving the church in greater numbers, particularly young adults, than those joining the church.
But as Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles pointed out: “The saints always loved a good fight and we should like a good fight too.”
The bishop, who addressed the crowd through a video hookup July 4, told them it was an “exciting time to be an evangelist” but that they also should pick up their game to evangelize effectively.
Throughout the convocation Pope Francis was pointed out as a model for modern Catholics to follow in inviting others, especially those on the peripheries, to Christ. Speakers also were quick to quote his 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), which lays out a vision of the church dedicated to evangelization – or missionary discipleship – in a positive way, with a focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged, unborn and forgotten.
Two homilies during the convocation specifically quoted the pope’s admonition in “Evangelii Gaudium” that Catholics shouldn’t be “sourpusses” but should reflect joy.
Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl acknowledged that Catholics are not always comfortable with the idea of evangelizing, but said they need to be willing to step out of themselves and talk with people about their faith as part of an encounter the pope speaks about.
Part of this simply involves listening to people, caring for them and leading them to Jesus, said speaker Sister Miriam James Heidland, a sister of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.
Delegates were repeatedly encouraged to reach out to the peripheries especially to immigrants and the poor, but also to all members of the church’s diverse family – people of all races, women and young people.
Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, said it is time for the church to start building a “language of communion” rather than dividing the church community into different groups and individually responding to those needs.
“It’s the church serving the church,” he said. “We all are the church.”
That message inspired Sister Kathleen Burton, a Sister of St. Joseph who is co-director of the Office of Faith Formation, Family Life and Lay Ministry Formation in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, who said: “The walls need to come down.”
“There’s a renewed sense of evangelization and re-evangelization,” the delegate told Catholic News Service. “We’re being challenged that we don’t wait for people to come to us, but we’ve got to go out to them.”
For many delegates, seeing the church’s diversity – Latinos, African-Americans and Africans, Native Americans, and Asians from across the continent at the convocation – was an inspiring sight, helping them better understand the idea of the church as family.
Vanessa Griffin Campbell, director of the Office of Ministry to African American Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland, said the key to embracing diversity and going to the peripheries will be teamwork among laypeople, clergy and diocesan staff.
The church should “not just open the doors on Sunday,” she said, “but make sure our doors are open Sunday to Sunday.”
At the end of the closing Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, who attended all four days of the convocation, congratulated attendees for the invigorating discussion.
He called it a “kairos,” or opportune moment, in the life of the U.S. church and said he would tell Pope Francis: “the Spirit is alive in the church in the United States.”
“I will tell him of the commitment of many missionary disciples and their love for the church,” he added.
(See related stories on pages 3 and 6. Contributing to this report was Dennis Sadowski in Orlando.)

Changing landscape requires mutual accompaniment, convocation hears

By Dennis Sadowski
ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) – The U.S. Catholic Church’s increasing diversity presents Catholics with the opportunity to accompany each other on the journey of faith Pope Francis envisions, a Boston College professor told delegates to the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” in Orlando.
Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, said the changes in the landscape are a sign of strength and present new opportunities to welcome newcomers into the church family.
“It’s OK if we wrestle with diversity and pluralism,” he told the 3,500 delegates assembled for the convocation’s first plenary session July 2. “This where we need to exercise the pastoral practice of mutual accompaniment.”
Ospino suggested that Catholics of the first decades of the 21st century might begin to understand that they can set the course of a “new Catholic moment in the U.S.” by embracing diversity.
Citing the explosive growth of Catholic communities in the American South and West, Ospino said the church is being called to respond to the needs of new immigrants so that they are welcomed and not made to feel forgotten.
He said half of U.S. church members today are non-European, with about 40 percent Latino, 5 percent Asian and Pacific Islanders, 4 percent African-American and 1 percent Native American. The numbers contrast with the church population of 50 years ago, when 80 to 85 percent of Catholics were of European descent, he said.
“The question is do we see those faces in our faith communities? Do we see them in our diocesan offices? Do we see them in our Catholic schools, universities, seminaries? Do we know their concerns?” he asked.
“The future of U.S. Catholicism is being forged in areas once not central to U.S. Catholic life. … Are we paying attention?” he asked.
“This is an excellent opportunity for us as a country to be a poor church for the poor. As Pope Francis reminds us, an opportunity for solidarity of Catholics at all places,” he said.
Ospino also cautioned that the church faces challenges from increased isolation, rising secularization and increasing numbers of people unaffiliated with any faith community, and the continuing differences entrenched in the “so-called culture wars.” He called for respectful dialogue among people with differences of opinion across the spectrum of issues that concern the church, from abortion to care for the poor.
“Our society continues to witness an erosion of communal life. If communal life is not important, advocating for others is not a priority. Caring about the most vulnerable is somebody else’s problem,” Ospino said, explaining that the church can bridge such gaps.
He said the convocation-goers and those they engage when they return to their home parishes and dioceses can set the tone for future historians to see that they have laid the foundation for a stronger church that embraced diversity and inclusion.
In response, four panelists offered their insights into the changing landscape the church is facing, saying that the church will be better positioned to respond following the convocation.
They addressed issues of women’s role in the church, the need to embrace young Latinos as active church members and the vital role of family in the church at a time when society’s understanding of family is changing.
Franciscan Father Agustino Torres, who has worked with youth and specializes in bilingual outreach to Hispanic millennials said he had found young Latinos want to engage in ministries that affirmed their identity. “Latinos don’t want just a program,” he said.
“If the church can say, ‘You belong here. This is your home,’ you’re going to get an army of people,” he said.
Women can be welcomed into church leadership roles that do not depend upon ordination, said Helen Alvare, professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. She said women must be accepted seriously as contributors rather than being chosen for their roles to check off a box on a list.
She suggested, to applause, that Catholics adopt an expanded view of complementarity that applies equally to family and the church.
Kerry Weber, executive editor of America magazine, recalled her conversations with parishioners across the country who are seeking ways to live out the joy of the Gospel, as Pope Francis envisioned in his encyclical, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”).
“People are trying to see how to turn this sentiment into action,” she said.
Pope Francis calls people to show mercy, not as a passive action, but in response to the realities of the world today, Weber said, adding, “We have to figure out how to live mercy in the world today.”
Jesuit Father Thomas P. Gaunt, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, said the center’s researchers have identified as many as one-third of the country’s 75 million self-identified Catholics are not connected with the church.
He said the resulting question focuses on why people who may not be connected with the church still consider themselves Catholic and he suggested that they represent an untapped resource for the church.
“How do we re-invite and re-engage them once more?” he asked.
The key, Ospino concluded, is that it is time for the church to start building a “language of communion” rather than dividing the church community into different groups and individually responding to those needs.
“It’s the church serving the church,” he said. “We all are the church.”
(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Abbey Schuhmann, Coordinator for the Office of Youth Ministry and Charlene Bearden, Coordinator for the Office of Family Ministry attended the convocation. Look for their reflections in the next edition.)

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori carries a monstrance under a canopy as he leads a eucharistic procession during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” July 3 in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations are gathering for the July 1-4 convocation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) See CONVOCATION- July 3, 2017.

Sacerdote de la Santa Cruz presenta reflexión sobre temas de inmigración para los obispos

Por Natalie Hoefer
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – El Padre Daniel Groody estuvo ante los obispos estadounidenses el 14 de junio y sostuvo un cáliz. No era especial en apariencia, sino más bien en la historia que contaba. El cáliz fue hecho a mano principalmente con madera de un barco de refugiados que desembarcó en las playas de Lampedusa, la isla mediterránea de la que el Papa Francisco arrojó una corona en las aguas para recordar a los miles de refugiados que perdieron la vida intentando huir de la persecución.
La base del cáliz se formó a partir de mesquite, una madera común a lo largo de la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México, atravesada por inmigrantes que buscan mejores vidas en América. Juntos, dijo, los materiales del cáliz hablan de la difícil situación de los inmigrantes, un tema abordado durante la reunión de la Conferencia de los Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos en Indianápolis.
“La migración es un tema increíblemente complejo, y aquellos que no se dan cuenta de su complejidad tampoco están escuchando, o no entienden”, dijo el padre Groody, profesor asociado de teología en la Universidad de Notre Dame y director de inmigración Iniciativas en el Instituto para Estudios Latinos de la universidad. “Y segundo, la migración es un tema increíblemente simple, y aquellos que no se dan cuenta de su simplicidad o no están escuchando, o no entienden”, dijo.
A lo largo de esas líneas de dualidad, el Padre Groody señaló la necesidad de “mover a la gente más allá del lenguaje binario: legal o ilegal, ciudadano o extranjero, nativo o extranjero, e intentar ir al río más profundo de estos temas”. Habló de las tensiones en el tema de la inmigración, la tensión entre los derechos soberanos y los derechos humanos, entre el derecho civil y el derecho natural, y entre la seguridad nacional y la seguridad humana.
La reflexión del Padre Groody precedió a una revisión del grupo de trabajo sobre migrantes y refugiados creado por la asamblea general de obispos el pasado mes de noviembre. El cardenal Daniel N. Dinardo de Galveston-Houston, presidente de USCCB, anunció el 15 de junio que estaba ampliando el grupo.
El arzobispo José H. Gómez de Los Ángeles, vicepresidente de la USCCB y presidente del grupo, y el obispo Joe S. Vasquez de Austin, Texas, presidente del Comité de Migración de la USCCB, se refirieron a los orígenes, actividades y pasos futuros de los grupos de trabajo.
El arzobispo Gómez señaló que parte de la razón por la que el grupo fue creado en noviembre pasado fue el “deseo de los obispos de una fuerte respuesta a las políticas anticipadas de la administración entrante con respecto a los refugiados e inmigrantes”. Ese motivo resultó profético. Algunas de las primeras acciones del grupo involucraron la emisión de declaraciones oficiales que se oponían a tres órdenes ejecutivas relacionadas con la inmigración y los inmigrantes que la administración Trump emitió en su primera semana. La orden ejecutiva de la prohibición de viajes y una revisión de la misma está siendo suspendida en los tribunales; La orden prohíbe temporalmente la entrada en los EE.UU. por personas de seis países de mayoría musulmana.
“Estas declaraciones, combinadas con muchas declaraciones locales de los obispos de todo el país en la misma línea, ayudaron a tener un impacto positivo en la conversación pública con respecto a las órdenes”, dijo el arzobispo Gómez.
El obispo Vásquez también señaló el esfuerzo colaborativo en curso de los grupos católicos a través de Justicia para los Inmigrantes – https://justiceforimmigrants.org. El sitio web de coalición, creado en 2004 y coordinado por la USCCB, ofrece información de antecedentes, webinars y alertas de acción que el grupo de trabajo desarrolló y difundió.

Archbishop Gregory asks survivors for forgiveness

(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz participated in this Mass during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s gathering. See related stories on pages 1 and 3.)
WASHINGTON – As they began the spring general assembly, bishops from across the U.S. gathered June 14 at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis for a Mass of Prayer and Penance for survivors of sexual abuse within the Church. The Mass was held in response to a call from Pope Francis for all episcopal conferences across the world to have a Day of Prayer and Penance for victims of sexual abuse within the Church.
The bishops gathered together in solidarity to pray for victims and to acknowledge the pain caused by the failures of the Church in the past. The Mass marked the opening for the June plenary assembly of bishops held June 14-15 in Indianapolis.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the principal celebrant.

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory delivers the homily during Mass June 14 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual spring assembly. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, of Atlanta, and former president of the USCCB, was the homilist.
Following is the full text of Archbishop Gregory’s homily.
In the very same chapter of his Gospel in which St. Matthew presents his rendition of the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that He has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Clearly, the Beatitudes are in fact a startling new edition of God’s Law. Jesus is Himself both the new law and the fulfillment of the old law. He calls us to see with new eyes how to live in a world so continually filled with sorrow, injustice and violence and how important it is to acknowledge our own share in causing or compounding the sorrows, suffering and violence that often seem to surround us.
We bishops have learned a great deal about the sorrow and pain of those we love and serve, even as we have to acknowledge humbly, publicly and pitifully our share in bringing much of that pain to bear. We feel, we see, we live with, as they do in much greater measure, the impact of behaviors, responses and revelations that have no place in Matthew’s Gospel, in the Beatitudes, or in the narrative of Jesus’ promise to fulfill God’s Law. And yet only there, by His Grace and His unwavering example, can we begin to learn to heal and to reconcile — to bind the wounds and to assuage the sorrow. We recognize this even as Paul reminds us that we have been qualified for this ministry only by God’s purpose and designation.
Pope Francis has summoned us as bishops to find occasions and opportunities to pray earnestly for God’s grace to bring about the healing and the reconciliation of those who have been harmed in this tragedy that has hurt far too many of His people and far too much of His Church. The Holy Father has called us respectfully to acknowledge our own share in causing the pain that so many are still enduring.
At this Mass, we bishops humbly and sincerely ask for the forgiveness of those who have been harmed, scandalized or dispirited by events that, even if they happened many years ago, remain ongoing sources of anguish for them and for those who love them. We humbly seek forgiveness from the faith-filled people of our Church and from our society at-large — and especially from those whose lives may have been devastated by our failure to care adequately for the little ones entrusted to us and for any decision that we made or should have made that exacerbated the sorrow and heartache that the entire Church has felt and continues to feel — for what we have done, and for what we have failed to do. We can never say that we are sorry enough for the share that we have had in this tragedy of broken fidelity and trust.

Clergymen pray during Mass at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual spring assembly June 14 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (CNS photo/Mike Krokos, The Criterion)

With hearts that are contrite we ask the forgiveness of God, our Almighty Father, under whose purpose and designation we are entrusted with this ministry, and whom we disgrace most profoundly when we fall so woefully short.
There have been many procedural and educational expressions of our commitment to reform and renewal that have been put into place in the past 15 years. They are sincere, state-of-the-art, and effective. Nevertheless, this expression of our sorrow is far more important at this time, in this place, than any administrative process or training effort, however beneficial to the Church and to the world.
While we have had many opportunities to pray in our own dioceses with survivors, their families and our people, we gather this evening as a community of bishops to pray together for the grace of healing and reconciliation that only the Lord Jesus Himself can bestow upon His Church. While there is still more, always more, that must and will be done to assure our people of our dedication and commitment to safeguarding the innocent lives of our young and vulnerable faithful, this evening we acknowledge that ultimately it must be the Lord Himself who heals and reconciles the hearts of those who live with the pain of God’s law unheeded.
For that Grace, with sincere hearts, with contrite spirits and with a renewed promise to protect, we simply pray this evening. Amen

Clergymen pray during Mass at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual spring assembly June 14 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (CNS photo/Mike Krokos, The Criterion)

Bishops also address religious liberty, healthcare, sacramental guidelines

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) tackled a number of issues during its spring meeting in Indianapolis. Here is a brief outline of some of their actions other than the safe environment report.
• The bishops voted June 15 to make the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty a permanent standing committee. The bishops’ action came less than a week before the start of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fifth annual Fortnight for Freedom June 21-July 4. It is a two-week period of prayer, advocacy and education on religious freedom.
• Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, briefed his brother bishops on the sobering topic of international persecution and human rights violations, and what his committee has been doing the prelates behalf to improve the situation. Bishop Cantu’s trips are called “solidarity visits.” His mandate as chairman “includes sharing and promoting the social teaching of the church, especially human rights and religious freedom.”  
• As the country awaits the U.S. Senate’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the coming weeks, the U.S. bishops made it clear that their efforts are focused on “ensuring the fundamental right of medical care” for all people. The Conference also reinforced its stand that the American Health Care Act passed by the U.S. House May 4 needs major reform – to provide quality health care for the “voiceless,” especially children, the elderly, the poor, immigrants and the seriously ill. “Within two weeks, we may see a federal budgetary action with potentially catastrophic effects on the lives of our people, most especially children and the elderly, the seriously ill, the immigrant and our nation’s working poor,”said Bishop George L. Thomas of Helena, Montana, in his remarks to his fellow bishops.  
• The body overwhelmingly approved revisions to the guidelines governing the celebration of sacraments for people with disabilities that take into account medical and technological developments. The revisions in the “Guidelines for the Celebration of Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities” updates a document that was adopted in 1995. The guidelines were developed as a tool to improve access to the sacraments by persons with disabilities and reduce inconsistencies in pastoral practice.

U.S. bishops urged to be vigilant, never complacent, in stopping abuse

By Catholic News Service
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, urged the U.S. bishops June 14 during their spring meeting in Indianapolis to continue to keep their commitment to stopping clergy sexual abuse and supporting victims of abuse “at the forefront” of their ministry.
He said sexual abuse of minors by clergy is “not a thing of past” and stressed the bishops have to always be vigilant and be sure to not “let complacency set in” in their efforts to stop it.
The review board is a group working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address and prevent sexual abuse of minors in the U.S. by clergy and other church personnel.
Cesareo pointed out there was still work to be done in this area, but he also praised the bishops for what they’ve accomplished and stressed that dioceses in the United States are among the safest places for children and are also models for rest of the world.
In his report to the bishops, he presented some of the key points of the recently issued 14th annual report on diocesan compliance with the U.S. Catholic Church’s “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
The report – based on audits conducted between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016 – shows that 1,232 survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy came forward with 1,318 clerical abuse allegations in 132 Catholic dioceses and eparchies. The allegations represent reports of abuse that occurred from the 1940s to the present.
The review board chair said he was pleased with the high number of dioceses participating in the audit, noting that only two did not participate, down from six the previous year. He said all dioceses have indicated that they will participate in the next audit.
The value of participating in the audit “can’t be overemphasized,” he said.
One weak spot he noted in the audit process is the overall lack of parish participation, which he urged bishops to do something about to provide full transparency.
Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, stressed that the review board wants to help the Catholic Church by providing tools to implement the charter and even to work on improving the charter by making it more specific.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has appointed four new members to serve on the review board. The new members, announced June 14, are: Amanda Callanan, director of communications for the Claremont Institute, a California-based think tank; Suzanne Healy, victims assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 2007-2016; Dr. Christopher McManus, who practices internal medicine and is an active member of the Northern Virginia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association; and Eileen Puglisi, former director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.
Cesareo will continue to chair the review board until his term expires in 2020.
Prior to his presentation to the bishops, Margaret Simonson, chair of the U.S. bishops’ National Advisory Council, a group of laypeople who advise the bishops, gave her report.
She said the council supported several items on the bishops’ agenda for their June 14-15 meeting, particularly discussion about religious liberty, which she said was so important in “this particular time in history.”
She also said the council supported the “Mass of Prayer and Penance” being celebrated in the early evening June 14 for survivors of sexual abuse within the church, the discussion of revised guidelines for people with disabilities and an update on the upcoming convocation for Catholic leaders taking place in Orlando, Florida, July1-4.
(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz has joined the committee for the protection of children. Read more about his appointment and child protection efforts in this diocese on page 3 and 16.)

Pope Francis names bishop for Pensacola-Tallahassee

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) –  Pope Francis has named Holy Cross Father William A. Wack, who is a pastor in Texas, to be the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
Bishop-designate Wack, 49, has been pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, since 2009. He succeeds Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, who was named last November to head the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida.
The appointment was announced in Washington May 29 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
The date of Bishop-designate Wack’s episcopal ordination has not yet been determined.
“Now I know for sure that God is merciful, having called this sinner to serve in this capacity,” Bishop-designate Wack said May 29 in a statement about his appointment. “The first words which came to mind when I heard of the appointment were, ‘Lord I am not worthy … but only say the Word … .’ With joy and zeal, I accept this appointment, and I am thrilled to begin service to God’s people as a bishop.”
“While I am very sad to be leaving the parish of St. Ignatius Martyr in Austin … I couldn’t be more excited to move in and get to work here in the diocese,” he added.
He said he has always loved being a priest. “For me there is nothing higher than the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist and the other sacraments,” Bishop-designate Wack said. “Over the past 23 years I have grown tremendously in my faith, through the very mysteries I have served.”
As a Holy Cross priest, he continued, “I know of the power of the cross of Christ, and the hope that it brings to all creation. We in Holy Cross strive to be ‘educators in the faith’ wherever we go, and I am happy to continue to do this in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
Bishop-designate Wack added: “While I embrace a leadership position in the church once again, I believe that I stand to learn much from the very people I will serve. We are all God’s children, for we have been given God’s Spirit. It is our sacred duty to celebrate and practice our faith together, and to make God known, loved and served in all that we do.”
“Father Wack is an exemplary priest who is well respected by his brother priests and loved by those he serves,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin said in a statement. “Father Wack has been of great help to me, and I express my deep appreciation to him for his years of service in the Diocese of Austin.”
“As the people of Pensacola-Tallahassee come to know him, they will see his love for the church and his desire to serve his flock with warmth and compassion,” he added.
Holy Cross Father Thomas O’ Hara, provincial superior of the U. S. province of the Congregation of Holy Cross, called Bishop-designate Wack “a gifted pastor and administrator who possesses an extremely welcoming personality.”
“He is quick to reach out to all, is strong enough to lead and humble enough to listen. Above all, he is an outstanding priest who is passionate in his faith and absolutely dedicated to serving the people of God,” Father O’Hara said.
Bishop Parkes said he shared in the joy of Catholics of Pensacola-Tallahassee getting a new shepherd, who with the diocese “will be in my prayers during this time of transition.”
Since Bishop Parkes’ appointment to St. Petersburg, Msgr. James Flaherty has served as Pensacola-Tallahassee’s diocesan administrator.
Born June 28, 1967, in South Bend, Indiana, Bishop designate-Wack is the second-youngest of 10 children. His younger brother also is a Holy Cross priest, Father Neil Wack.
William A. Wack entered the novitiate for the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1989. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in government and international relations from the University of Notre Dame in 1989. He earned a master of divinity degree in 1993, also from Notre Dame.
He professed his final vows in 1993 and was ordained a priest April 9, 1994. His assignments after ordination included associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from 1994-1997. He was associate director of vocations for his congregation from 1997-2002 at Notre Dame; at that time, he also was with the Holy Cross Associates, 1998-2002.
He then spent six years, from 2002 to 2008, as director of Andre House of Hospitality in downtown Phoenix, which is ministers to the city’s poor and homeless. It runs a soup kitchen, which serves more than 200,000 meals per year, and provides a small transition shelter for men and women; clothing and blanket distribution; and showers and lockers for its clients.
The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee covers about 14,000 square miles in Florida’s panhandle. Out of a total population of 1.46 million people, about 5 percent, or 67,316 people, are Catholic.

Ecumenical leaders call for context, nuance in Catholic-Lutheran dialogue

By Colleen Dulle
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, renowned for his ecumenical efforts, addressed a Washington gathering of Catholic and Lutheran leaders striving for unity.
Cardinal Koch’s speech took place May 30 at “The 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s Posting of the Ninety-Five Theses Conference: Luther and the Shaping of the Catholic Tradition,” held at The Catholic University of America.
In his address, Cardinal Koch called for a new understanding of Martin Luther that takes into account his historical and religious context.
The cardinal, who leads the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, outlined how Luther was grounded in the monastic and mystical traditions of late medieval Catholicism, like Christ-centered theology.
He also pointed out that the reforms Luther called for were not extraordinary in their time: similar reforms were gaining traction elsewhere, like the “devotio moderna,” or “modern devotion,” movement in the Netherlands that called for humility and simplicity in the church, or the first multilingual edition of Scripture that was published in Spain in 1515.
Luther, the cardinal said, never intended for his reforms to divide the church, just as medieval reformers such as St. Francis and St. Dominic never intended to found new religious orders. They only intended to reform the church from within.
Cardinal Koch said the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was partly to blame for the division.
“If Martin Luther’s call for reform and repentance had found open ears among the bishops of the time and of the pope in Rome, the reform intended to be initiated by him (Luther) would not have become the Reformation. For the fact that the original reform of the church became instead a church-dividing reformation, the Catholic Church of the time must bear its share of the blame,” Cardinal Koch said.
He pointed out that it wasn’t until later in his life that Luther began to call into question the role and structure of the church. Because of this, he said, it isn’t fair to see the posting of Luther’s theses as the moment the church split into Lutheranism and Catholicism.
Koch stated that political leaders in Germany were largely responsible for the formation of a distinct Lutheran Church about 100 years after Luther wrote his theses.
Still, he said, Luther’s essential question about the role of the church remains important and must be addressed in the dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans going forward.
Additionally, reconciliation must be a guiding theme in the conversation, the cardinal said, referencing Pope Francis’ words in Sweden last year.
Cardinal Koch said that Catholics must continue to apologize for their sometimes-violent offenses, like wars, against other religious groups, just as Lutherans must apologize for the way it has painted the pre-Reformation Catholic Church over the years.
The cardinal also called for a consensus between Catholics and Lutherans on Luther’s doctrine of justification –  the idea that a person is saved through faith rather than actions. “After 500 years of division,” the cardinal said, “we must strive for a binding communion and put it into effect already today.”    
Retired Lutheran Bishop Eero Huovinen of the Diocese of Helsinki responded to the Cardinal Koch’s address, saying he agreed with everything the cardinal had said.
Bishop Huovinen focused his response instead on the 2015 Catholic-Lutheran joint “Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and the Eucharist,” which attempts to reach common theological ground between the two groups.
Both speakers praised the progress already made to reconcile Catholics and Lutherans. They called for the 500th anniversary of the theses to be a jumping off point for a more nuanced effort toward reconciliation going forward.
The May 30-June 1 conference at Catholic University was co-sponsored by Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Catholic University’s School of Theology and religious Studies, the Vatican’s Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, and the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Martin Luther, a German monk, is depicted in this painting at a church in Helsingor, Denmark. The issue of papal authority was the one point that led Luther to break from the Catholic Church, according to a Catholic University of America professor who will speak at a May 30-June 1 symposium on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation co-sponsored by the university in Washington. (CNS photo/Crosiers)