WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Women’s Health Protection Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House June 8 “would invalidate nearly all existing state limitations on abortion,” said Jennifer Popik, director of federal legislation for National Right to Life. “This legislation would also prohibit states from adopting new protective laws in the future, including various types of laws specifically upheld as constitutionally permissible by the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said in a June 9 statement. The measure was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and in the House by Reps. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Lois Frankel, D-Fla., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. Blumenthal first introduced the measure in 2013 and has reintroduced it off and on over the years. The current measure has 48 Democrats as co-sponsors in the Senate; Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., are not co-sponsoring it. In the House, there are 176 co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats. Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said the measure “would essentially remove all legal protections for unborn children on the federal and state level. The Women’s Health Protection Act is, in effect, a no-limits-on-abortion-until-birth bill. Tragically, the only ones to benefit from such a law would be abortionists and abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood,” she added.
HOUSTON (CNS) – The founder of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s program Angela House addressed a national webinar recently about what is needed most to help imprisoned women successfully transition back to their community and families. First is to understand “these are really just human beings and not evil-doers,” said Dominican Sister Maureen O’Connell, a social worker by training who also spent 13 years as a Chicago police officer and chaplain. Speaking during the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition webinar in May, she explained how other dioceses and community groups can provide similar guidance for the women, 85% of whom have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse in their lives. “It all started for me when I was a volunteer chaplain in Gatesville (women’s prison in Texas) and realized that the women who had been incarcerated two or three times basically needed a safe place to live when they left prison to get away from negative people, places and things,” Sister O’Connell said. Since 2002, she has developed a program of interventions focused on trauma-informed counseling, addiction recovery, employment readiness, and personal and spiritual growth including residential living at Angela House in southeast Houston, free for women recently released from incarceration.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Agreeing with German Cardinal Reinhard Marx that Catholic leaders cannot adopt an “ostrich policy” in the face of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis still told the cardinal that he would not accept his resignation as head of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. “If you are tempted to think that by confirming your mission and not accepting your resignation, this bishop of Rome – your brother who loves you – does not understand you, think of what Peter felt before the Lord when, in his own way, he presented him with his resignation: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinner.’ And listen to the answer: ‘Shepherd my sheep,'” the pope wrote to Cardinal Marx. The German cardinal, who is only 67, announced June 4 that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Francis because he believed bishops must begin to accept responsibility for the institutional failures of the church in handling the clerical sexual abuse crisis. Pope Francis wrote a long reply to the cardinal June 10, and the Vatican press office published the letter the same day. “I agree with you in describing as a catastrophe the sad history of sexual abuse and the way the church dealt with it until recently,” the pope wrote. “To realize this hypocrisy in our way of living the faith is a grace; it is a first step that we must take.”
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Seminarians can learn more from the way their bishops, rectors, spiritual directors and formators live than from what they say, Pope Francis said. Noting the yearlong celebration underway dedicated to St. Joseph, the pope said all those responsible for the formation of new priests – primarily their bishops, but also staff at their seminaries and schools – need to have St. Joseph as their inspiration and model, caring for and protecting priestly vocations. During an audience at the Vatican June 10 with members of the Pontifical Regional Seminary Pius XI of the Marche Region in Ancona, Italy, the pope said that seminarians “can learn more from your life than from your words.” Therefore, he said, “may they learn docility from your obedience; diligence from your dedication; generosity toward the poor from the witness of your sobriety and helpfulness; paternity from your deep and chaste affection.” The pope also urged seminarians to seek out and visit elderly priests, who are “the church’s treasure,” but are often forgotten or isolated in care facilities. They possess wisdom and knowledge that has matured like “fine wine” and can help new ministers in solving their pastoral problems.

Pope appeals for peace in Holy Land, says death of children ‘unacceptable’

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The injury and death of so many innocent people, especially children, caused by escalating violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip is “terrible and unacceptable,” putting the area at risk of sinking into “a spiral of death and destruction,” Pope Francis said.
The pope launched an appeal for calm and asked leaders of both sides “to put a stop to the roar of weapons and to follow the paths of peace, even with the help of the international community,” he said May 16 after reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Square.
“Many people have been injured and many innocent people have died. Among them are even children, and this is terrible and unacceptable. Their death is a sign that one does not want to build the future, but wants to destroy it,” he said.
The growing hatred and violence in different cities in Israel “is a serious wound to fraternity and to peaceful coexistence among citizens, which will be difficult to heal if we do not open immediately to dialogue,” the pope said, asking, “Where will hatred and vengeance lead? Do we really think we can build peace by destroying the other?”
The pope appealed for calm, a cease-fire and constant prayers so that “Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness, to be patient builders of peace and justice, opening up, step by step, to a common hope, to a coexistence among brothers and sisters.”

Palestinian Suzy Eshkuntana, 6, is treated by a medic at a hospital after being pulled from the rubble of a building during Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City May 16, 2021. (CNS photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

He then led those gathered in the square in praying the Hail Mary for the victims, the children and for peace.
Meanwhile, the head of the Vatican’s press office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed that Pope Francis spoke over the telephone May 17 with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
While the Vatican did not comment on the content of the conversation, the Turkish communications department said the two leaders discussed the ongoing attacks.
According to a written statement reported by Andalou Agency, Erdogan said Israel’s attacks were an atrocity and that the latest violations were putting regional security in danger.  
Pope Francis’ appeal May 16 came as Israel escalated its assault on Gaza and it also faced growing civil unrest in its mixed Jewish-Arab cities.
Jewish mobs had destroyed Arab property, and Arab mobs attacked Jewish businesses and burned synagogues, with attempted lynchings on both sides over the past week.
The violence between Israel and Hamas was at its worst since the 2014 Gaza War with Israeli airstrikes and hundreds of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip killing at least 145 Palestinians and 10 Israelis, according to Reuters May 16. Efforts by the international community were underway to broker a cease-fire.

Accountability, transparency, due process still needed, abuse experts say

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – To help foster a wider discussion on work that still must be done to safeguard minors and vulnerable people in the Catholic Church, a canon law journal published a series of talks by experts regarding accountability, transparency and confidentiality in the handling of abuse allegations.
The talks were part of a seminar in December 2019 sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to address the topics as well as the seal of confession and the pontifical secret.
The “Periodica” journal of the faculty of canon law at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University published the talks at the end of 2020.

Carmel Rafferty and Ian Liwther protest clergy sexual abuse outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney in this July 18, 2008, file photo. Safeguarding experts have published proposals in the “Periodica” faculty canon law journal of the Pontifical Gregorian University to help foster more analysis and wider discussion on work still needed to safeguard minors and vulnerable people in the Catholic Church. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Among the suggestions for improvements, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said more could be done in supporting the rights of victims.
Pope Francis’ “Vos estis lux mundi” provides for the first time “a universal law that states that the victim has a right to be advised of the outcome of the investigation” concerning crimes allegedly committed by people in leadership, he wrote.
But “I would suggest that we also use this law by analogy for all other situations” by giving the same right to victims of people who are not just leaders but are members of the clergy or of religious orders, he wrote.
Another suggestion, he said, is to appoint “a safeguarding officer or other suitable person that keeps contact with the victim and informs the victim of the progress of the procedures,” including the outcomes of investigations, trials or extrajudicial processes, especially now that the “pontifical secret” has been removed.
Archbishop Scicluna said there should be a “procurator for the person aggrieved,” that is, a person designated to represent the victim in the church’s penal processes and share information with the victim.
Father John P. Beal, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said in his talk that past abuse scandals in the U.S. showed “how lack of transparency in church governance allowed these lapses in accountability to go unrecognized and unaddressed for decades.”
Restoring a sense of legitimacy to ecclesial governance will be ineffective, he wrote, “as long as the church’s accountability structures are judged inadequate by the faithful, and they will continue to be judged inadequate as long as they remain almost totally lacking in transparency.”
The “almost total lack of transparency that enshrouds the canonical penal process” and the administrative penal process, he said, makes it difficult to know if the accused and victims have been dealt with fairly.
This absence of transparency “is often justified by concern for the reputations of the accused and the victim. While there may be good reason to withhold from the public record the names of accusers and victims of sexual abuse, especially if they are still minors,” the name of those found guilty of abuse should be made public, he wrote.
Clear and public procedures would also help restore the reputation of those who have been wrongly accused instead of letting rumors fill the vacuum when investigations are not transparent or conclusive, he added.
“We in the United States have learned with much pain that efforts to ‘hush up’ unpleasant ecclesiastical business will ultimately fail,” Father Beal wrote.
The pope’s removal of the “pontifical secret” in cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by clerics allows bishops and other church authorities to provide “timely information to victims and affected communities of the faithful about the status, progress and outcomes of cases, while maintaining due confidentiality about matters that might jeopardize reputations or the progress of process,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, he wrote, more robust accountability for how diocesan bishops and other church authorities handle abuse cases “is still almost exclusively vertical, toward higher authorities, and not downward to the faithful.”
Until accountability is complemented by “a serious commitment to transparency on the part of all involved, they will do little to dispel the pervasive anger and cynicism among the faithful about the bishops’ handling of complaints of misconduct.”
Jesuit Father Damián Astigueta, professor of canon law at the Gregorian University, wrote that transparency does not mean universal or public access to sensitive or confidential information, but it is sharing information with those who have a right to see it.
Total and inappropriate public disclosure of certain information is often driven by a sense of guilt and a hope that “selling” a better image of the church will bring credibility, he said. The focus should be on justice for the entire community of faithful, fidelity to the Gospel value of truth and on professionalism rather than on what people think.
Authorities in charge of investigating and acting on accusations must seek the truth and follow the principles of real justice, which guarantees due process, the right of defense and presumption of innocence for the accused, he said.
Neville Owen, a retired supreme court judge from western Australia and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said equality before the law and the right to a fair trial would be better guaranteed by providing the reasons for how a case was decided.
Providing reasons for a decision is part of fairness, due process and justice, he said. It would let the parties know why they have won or lost; let them see whether their arguments were understood and accepted; facilitate accountability because decisions could be scrutinized; and help build a basis upon which similar cases will be decided in the future.

Vatican says no blessing gay unions, no negative judgment on gay people

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While homosexual men and women must be respected, any form of blessing a same-sex union is “illicit,” said the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The negative judgment is on the blessing of unions, not the people who may still receive a blessing as individuals, it said in a statement published March 15.
The statement was a response to a question or “dubium” that came from priests and lay faithful “who require clarification and guidance concerning a controversial issue,” said an official commentary accompanying the statement.

A same-sex couple is pictured in a file photo exchanging rings during a ceremony in Salt Lake City. The Vatican’s doctrinal office says in a new note that any form of blessing of same-sex unions is “illicit,” but that the negative judgment is on the blessing of unions, not the people, who must be respected. (CNS photo/Jim Urquhar, Reuters)

The response to the question, “Does the church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” was “Negative.”
“It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage – i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life – as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex,” the doctrinal office said in an explanatory note accompanying the statement. Pope Francis approved both the statement and the note for publication.
“The Christian community and its pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness,” the explanatory note said.
The clarification “does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by church teaching.”
“Rather, it declares illicit any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions as such. In this case, in fact, the blessing would manifest not the intention to entrust such individual persons to the protection and help of God, in the sense mentioned above, but to approve and encourage a choice and a way of life that cannot be recognized as objectively ordered to the revealed plans of God,” said the doctrinal office.
The statement came days before the launch March 19 of a yearlong reflection on “Amoris Laetitia” that will focus on the family and conjugal love.
The date marks the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), which affirmed church teaching on family life and marriage, but also underlined the importance of the church meeting people where they are in order to help guide them on a path of discernment and making moral decisions.
The doctrinal congregation said in its note that some church communities had promoted “plans and proposals for blessings of unions of persons of the same sex.”
“Such projects are not infrequently motivated by a sincere desire to welcome and accompany homosexual persons, to whom are proposed paths of growth in faith,” it said.
In fact, the question of blessing same-sex unions arose from this “sincere desire to welcome and accompany homosexual persons” as indicated by Pope Francis at the conclusion of the two synodal assemblies on the family, it said.
That invitation, it added, was for communities “to evaluate, with appropriate discernment, projects and pastoral proposals directed to this end,” and in some cases, those proposals included blessings given to the unions of persons of the same sex.
The doctrinal congregation said the church does not and cannot have the power to impart her blessing on such unions and, therefore, “any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions as such” is illicit.
That is because a blessing “would constitute a certain imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessing invoked on the man and woman united in the sacrament of matrimony,” it said, citing paragraph 251 of “Amoris Laetitia,” which reiterated the synod members’ conclusion that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
“Only those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the church,” it said. As such, it is illicit to bless any relationship or partnership that is outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open to the transmission of life, it added.
Declaring “the unlawfulness of blessings of unions between persons of the same sex is not therefore, and is not intended to be, a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the church understands them,” the doctrinal office said.
The church teaches that “men and women with homosexual tendencies ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.'”
As such, the doctrinal note makes a “fundamental and decisive distinction between persons and the union. This is so that the negative judgment on the blessing of unions of persons of the same sex does not imply a judgment on persons,” it said.
Such blessings are illicit for three reasons, it said:
– In addition to such a blessing implying “a certain imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessing” imparted to a man and a woman united in the sacrament of matrimony, there is the nature and value of blessings.
– Blessings belong to “sacramentals, which are ‘liturgical actions of the church’ that require consonance of life with what they signify and generate,” so “a blessing on a human relationship requires that it be ordered to both receive and express the good that is pronounced and given by the blessing.”
– And, “the order that makes one fit to receive the gift is given by the ‘designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord.'” The church does not have power over God’s designs nor is she “the arbiter of these designs and the truths they express, but their faithful interpreter and witness.”
“God himself never ceases to bless each of his pilgrim children in this world, because for him ‘we are more important to God than all of the sins that we can commit,'” the congregation said. “But he does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.'”

Returning from Iraq, pope talks about ‘risks’ taken on trip

By Cindy Wooden
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM IRAQ (CNS) – The Catholic Church’s commitment to dialogue with other churches and with other religions flows from the Gospel, but Pope Francis said he knows some Catholics disagree.
“Often you must take a risk” to promote harmony, he told reporters March 8 as he flew back to Rome from Baghdad. “There are some criticisms: ‘The pope isn’t courageous, he’s reckless.’ He’s doing things against Catholic doctrine. He’s a step away from heresy.’”
Still, he said, through prayer and listening to the advice of experts and aides, he has become convinced that God wants the church – and all humanity, for that matter – to continue promoting a sense of belonging to one human family.
And, he said, it does not matter if some religions, sects or groups seem further from sharing that vision.
“The rule of Jesus is love and charity,” the pope said. “But how many centuries did it take us to put that into practice?”
Preaching and living “human fraternity” – recognizing that all men and women, created by God, are members of the same human family and brothers and sisters to one another – is a process that requires effort, emphasis and repetition.
“You are human. You are a child of God. You are my brother or sister,” the pope said.

With sporadic violence continuing in Iraq, the pope’s trip March 5-8 involved a massive security operation with the deployment of thousands of police and military officers. Even the Vatican police and Swiss Guards wore bulletproof vests under their dark suits, an unusual practice on a papal trip.
But the other danger was posed by COVID-19 and the risk that people gathering to see the pope, who has been vaccinated, would create a surge in the already-rising number of cases in Iraq.
Pope Francis said the pandemic – not the security issue – was what made him repeatedly think, “maybe, maybe not” about the visit.
Decisions about foreign trips are “stewed over time,” the pope said. “I thought so much, prayed so much” about the Iraq trip because of the coronavirus pandemic, “and in the end I made the decision freely, but it came from within. And I said to myself the one who helped me decide this will take care of the people.”
And even though many experts do not expect the pandemic to be resolved by the fall, Pope Francis said he has promised to go to Budapest, Hungary, for a day in September to celebrate the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress, which was postponed from 2020.
The other trip he would like to make soon, he said, is a visit to Lebanon.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, even asked him to stop in Lebanon on the way to or from Iraq, the pope said, but doing that would seem like giving the Lebanese people “crumbs” given how they are suffering.
Asked about his meeting March 6 in Najaf with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an authority figure for Shiite Muslims in Iraq and around the world, Pope Francis described him as “a great man, a wise man, a man of God.”
The meeting, he said, “was good for my soul” and was another step on the path of promoting greater understanding and cooperation with Muslims.
The day after meeting the ayatollah, Pope Francis traveled to Mosul, a city terrorized and left largely in ruin by Islamic State militants who controlled the area from 2014 to 2017.
Even though he said he had seen photos of the ruined churches of Mosul, Pope Francis said standing amid the rubble was “unbelievable, unbelievable.”
But even more touching, he said, was the testimony of survivors, including of a mother who lost a son, who spoke about the importance of forgiveness and of rebuilding.
“We are so great at insulting people and condemning them,” he said, but too many people have forgotten the power of forgiving others.
Asked when, if ever, he will make a trip to Argentina, Pope Francis repeated that he imagined either dying or resigning and remaining in Rome, “my diocese.”
He joked that he had spent 76 years in Argentina and didn’t see why people wanted him to spend more time there.
But, denying he had what he termed “patrio-phobia,” he told reporters that he had planned a trip to Argentina, along with Chile, in November 2017. However, the trip was pushed back to January 2018 because of elections in Chile. And January in Argentina would have been just too warm.
“I don’t know if the trips will slow down now, but I can tell you that on this trip, I’ve felt more tired,” he said, adding that being 84 comes with some baggage.
However, he said, he does enjoy being with people, especially “after these months of imprisonment” because of the pandemic and the lockdown in Italy.
“I feel different when I am far from the people,” he said, adding that he would continue to follow the recommendations of government health authorities as far as holding general audiences or other events that could attract a large public.
“Closeness to the people of God” is an essential part of being a priest, the pope said. “The only ones who save us from pride are the holy people of God,” otherwise priests run the risk of acting like “an elite caste.”

Three new books explain pope’s approach to facing world’s tribulations

By Jan Kilby Catholic News Service
“Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future” by Pope Francis and Austen Ivereigh. Simon and Schuster (New York, 2020). 160 pp., $26.
“Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Challenge of the Environment” by Pope Francis. Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, Indiana, 2020). 103 pp., $16.95.
“Letters of Tribulation” by Pope Francis, with Antonio Spadaro, SJ, and Diego Fares, SJ. Orbis Books (Maryknoll, New York, 2020). 144 pp., $20.
New books by Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of over 1 billion Catholics and a worldwide leader, provide guidance and encouragement for readers.
“Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future” by Pope Francis and Austen Ivereigh offers hope to readers coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises of our time. The authors suggest how to view crises, discern how to deal with them and then take action.
In their prologue, Pope Francis and Ivereigh identify some contemporary crises. They assure readers, however, that God’s mercy will always help them cope. They state that “times of trial” are opportunities for “purification.” They say that these can help people mature and change their priorities. 
Early in the book, they urge people facing a crisis in what they call a culture of “individualism and self-obsession” to “commit to the small, concrete, positive actions.” They assert this is better than responding selfishly or despairing.
They cite recent events signaling a societal call for change. These include the #MeToo movement, the protests over racial injustice after the death of George Floyd while in police custody and the anti-racist protests resulting in the removal of statues. The pope also shares three of his own personal crises.
In the second part, the authors encourage readers to discern the best actions to take in a challenging time. This requires openness, prayer and reflection, and valuing “fraternity over individualism.”
Finally, they suggest how to act on one’s beliefs. This involves respecting universal human rights and values.
The authors’ epilogue contains their advice to readers to let themselves be transformed by the current crises and be of service. They also include an inspiring poem. Ivereigh in a postscript describes how and why the book was written. “Let Us Dream” offers profound, practical and timely advice about surviving turbulent times.

These are the covers of “Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future” by Pope Francis and Austen Ivereigh; “Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Challenge of the Environment” by Pope Francis; and “Letters of Tribulation” by Pope Francis, with Jesuit Fathers Antonio Spadaro and Diego Fares. They are reviewed by Jan Kilby. (CNS photo/Simon and Schuster; Our Sunday Visitor; Orbis Books)

In “Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Challenge of the Environment,” Pope Francis calls everyone to honor God’s gift of nature. He says that this can reduce pollution, climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the exploitation of resources.
The book includes a preface by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, two opening essays on the pope’s theology of ecology, ideas from 12 of his past encyclicals, audiences and homilies on the subject and a final new essay.
In his first two essays, Pope Francis calls for “global cooperation” to protect nature. He says new policies, programs and habits can help do this. 
In his collection of past works, the pope reminds readers that “the future of all nations is interconnected.” He also says the earth’s resources are gifts and not simply to be used for greed, consumption and profit. He calls Christians to an “ecological conversion,” quoting his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
In his final essay, the pope suggests what can give readers hope for a better future – technology, a commitment to conversion, the liturgy and “a universal brotherhood.”
“Letters of Tribulation” by Pope Francis, with Jesuit Fathers Antonio Spadaro and Diego Fares, is a new version of the pope’s 1987 book of the same title.
In the original book, the pope – then a Jesuit priest in Argentina – shared a spiritual approach to dealing with difficulties, based on letters that 18th-century Jesuit superiors general had sent to their bishops coping with persecution. This had led to the Vatican’s suppression of their order in several countries from 1758 to 1831.
The pope’s expanded 2020 book includes a modern tribulation – the sexual abuse of minors and the abuse of power by priests and others in church leadership roles. 
In it, he includes letters that he sent to the bishops and the church and the people of God in Chile in 2018. He had been prompted to write these after reading a Vatican report of 2018 on the problems of clerical sexual abuse there. These showed his desire to restore public trust in the church and church leaders’ integrity with themselves and to heal abuse victims.
The book reveals the spiritual discernment needed by those facing persecution from “cultural and historic events.” The pope says this can help people avoid temptations to “argue over ideas, to not give to the matter the importance that it should be given, to concentrate too much on the persecutors and to keep going over the desolation of one’s mind.” Instead, he says to “move toward virtue and spiritual perfection” and suggests ways to do so.
This excellent book shows Pope Francis’ spiritual and moral maturity and insight about people and the nature of sin and conflict. He offers wise counsel to readers.
Also of interest: “Christ in the Storm: An Extraordinary Blessing for a Suffering World” by Pope Francis. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2020). 104 pp., $19.95.

(Kilby is a writer in San Antonio.)

New books demonstrate majesty, power of Vatican through the years

By Timothy Walch
VATICAN (CNS) – “Vatican Secret Archives: Unknown Pages of Church History” by Grzegorz Gorny and Janusz Rosikon. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2020). 370 pp., $34.95.
“The Church and the Modern Era (1846-2005): Pius IX, World Wars and the Second Vatican Council” by David M. Wagner. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2020). 192 pp., $17.95.
“Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity” by Russell Shaw. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2020). 152 pp., $15.95.
“Rome has spoken; the matter is settled.” Attributed to St. Augustine in the fifth century, this maxim underscored the authority of the pope and the Vatican for more than 1,500 years.

These are the covers of “Vatican Secret Archives: Unknown Pages of Church History” by Grzegorz Gorny and Janusz Rosikon; “The Church and the Modern Era (1846-2005): Pius IX, World Wars and the Second Vatican Council” by David M. Wagner; “Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity” by Russell Shaw. They are reviewed by Timothy Walch. (CNS composite/courtesy Ignatius Press, Ave Maria Press, Ignatius Press)

These three books embellish and enhance our understanding of how that power has evolved, particularly in recent times.
Foremost among the three is “The Vatican Secret Archives.” The word “secret” refers to restrictions on use, not on the content of the collections. In 2019, therefore, Pope Francis changed the formal name to the Vatican Apostolic Archives. As the authors note, the Vatican’s archival collections have been used by historians for more than a century.
“The Vatican Secret Archives” is an overview of the history of the church as shown in its documentary collections. The book is handsome, both well-written and well-illustrated. It will be an excellent addition to any church or parish library.
After an initial chapter that explains the structure and content of the Vatican’s 650 collections, the authors focus on eight distinct historical events. These include the trial of the Knights Templar, the Crusades, the paradoxes of the Inquisition, the conquest of the Americas, the trial of Galileo, the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War and the papacy of Pope Pius XII during World War II.
The stories are compelling and intended for a general audience. Value can be found in the design of each page and the images of documents and other antiquities are exquisite. Also of note are vignettes on curiosities such as the oldest book in the collection, the use of secret codes and the discovery of missing manuscripts.
The majesty of the Vatican came at a price, however. The books by David M. Wagner and Russell Shaw articulate the struggle that popes have had with evolving modernity. Both Wagner’s “The Church in the Modern Era” and Shaw’s “Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity” highlight the enormous changes that have taken place in the church and society since the installation of Pope Pius IX in 1846.
There’s been a fundamental tension between church doctrine and the societal changes brought on by industrialism, world wars, sexuality, technology and so much more. Both authors take on these challenges and provide clear overviews of how individual popes have responded to world events.
Wagner’s book is the final installment in the seven-volume series “Reclaiming Catholic History.” The series strives “to communicate history in a way that’s accessible, even entertaining,” notes Mike Aquilina, the series editor. “They see history as stories well told.” And that is a goal that Wagner meets with aplomb.
He’s produced a readable, 10-chapter volume that traces the evolution of the church from 1846 to 2005. Each chapter includes a vignette of a saint of that era as well as a question for readers that focuses on the special challenge of that time.
Wagner also includes substantial notes, an index and a guide to further reading. Together these elements combine to make a thought-provoking book for the general reader.
Shaw is an author who needs little introduction to most readers of Catholic literature. In fact, he’s been writing extensively on church history and related issues for decades. It’s no surprise, therefore, that his most recent book is a lively, well-reasoned overview of 20th century popes from St. Pius X to St. John Paul II.
The book is built on a series of brief biographical essays that Shaw first published in Our Sunday Visitor. In book form, Shaw expands his treatments and includes extensive excerpts from the writing of these popes that gives readers a better understanding of the values and philosophies of each man.
Shaw also includes a separate chapter on the Second Vatican Council and its central role in the history of the church.
Together these three books remind all readers – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – of the central role of the church in the evolution of moral and social values over two millennium.
It’s an extraordinary institution that has been the guardian of knowledge, culture and the moral values that are the foundation of Western civilization. Rome speaks through these books.

(Walch is an historian of American Catholicism and the author of many books including “Parish School” (2016)).

Papa añade a Marta, María , Lázaro y doctores de la iglesia a calendario universal

Por Junno Arocho Esteves
CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) – Reconociendo su bienvenida y testimonio de Cristo, el Papa Francisco aprobó cambiar la fiesta litúrgica de Santa Marta para incluir a su hermana y hermano, María y Lázaro, en el calendario universal de días festivos de la iglesia. Los nombres de María y Lázaro se agregarán a la fiesta del 29 de julio en el Calendario General Romano, el calendario universal de días santos y días festivos para el rito latino de la Iglesia Católica.
El Vaticano publicó, el 2 de febrero, la Congregación para el Culto Divino y el decreto de los Sacramentos ordenando el cambio de calendarios. Firmado por el cardenal Robert Sarah, el prefecto de la congregación, el decreto dice que el Papa Francisco aprobó el memorial de Marta, María y Lázaro después de “considerar el importante testimonio evangélico que ofrecieron al dar la bienvenida al Señor Jesús en su hogar, al escucharlo con atención y en creer que él es la resurrección y la vida. En la casa de Betania, el Señor Jesús experimentó el espíritu familiar y la amistad de Marta, María y Lázaro, y por eso, el Evangelio de Juan dice que los ama”, decía. “Marta le ofreció generosamente su hospitalidad, María escuchó atentamente sus palabras y Lázaro emergió rápidamente de la tumba por orden del que humilló la muerte”.

María Magdalena está representada en una vidriera de la Iglesia de St. Waudru en Mons, Bélgica. Los hermanos María y Lázaro son agregados junto a su hermana Martha al Calendario General Romano (Foto de CNS)

El decreto explicaba que “la tradicional incertidumbre de la iglesia latina sobre la identidad de tres mujeres llamadas María en los Evangelios:
María Magdalena, a quien Cristo se apareció después de su resurrección, María, la hermana de Marta y María, la pecadora y a la que el Señor había perdonado – incertidumbre que resultó en la inclusión sólo de Martha el 29 de julio en el Calendario Romano, incertidumbre que se ha resuelto en estudios y tiempos recientes, “allanando así el camino para celebrar a los hermanos en un solo memorial.”
Otro decreto de la congregación, también publicado el 2 de febrero, dijo que el Papa también aprobó el memorial opcional de tres doctores de la iglesia, Santos: Gregorio de Narek, un monje armenio del siglo X; Juan de Ávila, el famoso predicador, confesor y escritor espiritual del siglo XVI; y la abadesa alemana Hildegard de Bingen del siglo XII. Los santos, que provienen de las tradiciones de la iglesia oriental y occidental, fueron declarados doctores de la iglesia por sus importantes contribuciones a la teología y la espiritualidad.
El memorial opcional de San Gregorio de Narek se celebrará el 27 de febrero, mientras que los de San Juan de Ávila e Hildegard de Bingen se celebrarán el 10 de mayo y el 17 de septiembre, respectivamente.
En su decreto, la congregación explicó que los que reciben el título de “doctor de la iglesia” ejemplifican el “vínculo entre la santidad y la comprensión de las cosas divinas y también humanas. Actualmente hay 36 doctores de la iglesia, incluidos los Santos Juan Crisóstomo, Agustín, Catalina de Siena y Teresa de Lisieux.

Pope establishes World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly

By Junno Arocho
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Pope Francis announced the establishment of a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly as a reminder of the important role they play as a link between generations.
During his Sunday Angelus address Jan. 31, the pope said the day will be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday of July to coincide with the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents. The first celebration of this day will be July 25.
“It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents because – as the prophet Joel says – grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream and have great desires, and young people – taking strength from their grandparents – will go forward and prophesy,” he said.
Highlighting the Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the pope said the recognition of Christ as the Messiah by the elderly Simeon and Anna is a reminder that “the Holy Spirit still stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly today.”

Ben and Isaac talk to their grandparents, Sue and Alan, through a window as they self-isolate at their home in Cheshire, England, March 22, 2020. (CNS photo/Martin Rickett, PA Images via Reuters) See POPE-ANGELUS-GRANDPARENTS July 27, 2020.

“Their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and safeguards the roots of peoples,” he said. “They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young.”
“Grandparents are often forgotten and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on,” he added.
In a statement published shortly after the pope’s announcement, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, said the yearly event was “a gift to the whole church” that emphasizes the pastoral care of the elderly as “a priority that can no longer be postponed by any Christian community.”
“In the encyclical, ‘Fratelli Tutti,’ the Holy Father reminds us that no one is saved alone. With this in mind, we must treasure the spiritual and human wealth that has been handed down from generation to generation,” he said.
Cardinal Farrell added that “today, more than ever, we are committed to making every effort to dismantle the throwaway culture and to enhance the charisms of grandparents and the elderly.”
The dicastery said Pope Francis will mark the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly July 25 with an evening Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. However, the Mass will be “subject to sanitary regulations in place at the time.”
“Closer to the world day, the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life will announce any further initiatives that will mark the event,” the statement said. “As of now, the dicastery is inviting parishes and dioceses around the world to celebrate this world day at the local level in ways that are suited to their pastoral context.”

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines

The question of the use of vaccines, in general, is often at the center of controversy in the forum of public opinion. In recent months, this Congregation has received several requests for guidance regarding the use of vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19, which, in the course of research and production, employed cell lines drawn from tissue obtained from two abortions that occurred in the last century. At the same time, diverse and sometimes conflicting pronouncements in the mass media by bishops, Catholic associations, and experts have raised questions about the morality of the use of these vaccines.

There is already an important pronouncement of the Pontifical Academy for Life on this issue, entitled “Moral reflections on vaccines prepared from cells derived from aborted human fetuses” (5 June 2005). Further, this Congregation expressed itself on the matter with the Instruction Dignitas Personae (September 8, 2008, cf. nn. 34 and 35). In 2017, the Pontifical Academy for Life returned to the topic with a Note. These documents already offer some general directive criteria.
Since the first vaccines against Covid-19 are already available for distribution and administration in various countries, this Congregation desires to offer some indications for clarification of this matter. We do not intend to judge the safety and efficacy of these vaccines, although ethically relevant and necessary, as this evaluation is the responsibility of biomedical researchers and drug agencies. Here, our objective is only to consider the moral aspects of the use of the vaccines against Covid-19 that have been developed from cell lines derived from tissues obtained from two fetuses that were not spontaneously aborted.

  1. As the Instruction Dignitas Personae states, in cases where cells from aborted fetuses are employed to create cell lines for use in scientific research, “there exist differing degrees of responsibility” [1] of cooperation in evil. For example,“in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision.” [2]
  2. In this sense, when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available (e.g. in countries where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients, or where their distribution is more difficult due to special storage and transport conditions, or when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated) it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.
  3. The fundamental reason for considering the use of these vaccines morally licit is that the kind of cooperation in evil (passive material cooperation) in the procured abortion from which these cell lines originate is, on the part of those making use of the resulting vaccines, remote. The moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent [3] – in this case, the pandemic spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. It must therefore be considered that, in such a case, all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive. It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines.
  4. In fact, the licit use of such vaccines does not and should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses. [4] Both pharmaceutical companies and governmental health agencies are therefore encouraged to produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated.
  5. At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary. In any case, from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good. In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed. Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.
  6. Finally, there is also a moral imperative for the pharmaceutical industry, governments and international organizations to ensure that vaccines, which are effective and safe from a medical point of view, as well as ethically acceptable, are also accessible to the poorest countries in a manner that is not costly for them. The lack of access to vaccines, otherwise, would become another sign of discrimination and injustice that condemns poor countries to continue living in health, economic and social poverty. [5]

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on 17 December 2020, examined the present Note and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on 21 December 2020, Liturgical Memorial of Saint Peter Canisius.

Luis F. Card. Ladaria, S.I. + S.E. Mons. Giacomo Morandi
Prefect Titular Archbishop of Cerveteri

[1] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Dignitas Personae (8 th December 2008), n. 35; AAS (100), 884.
[2] Ibid, 885.
[3] Cfr. Pontifical Academy for Life, “Moral reflections on vaccines prepared from cells derived from aborted human fetuses”, 5th June 2005.
[4] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruct. Dignitas Personae, n. 35: “When the illicit action is endorsed by the laws which regulate healthcare and scientific research, it is necessary to distance oneself from the evil aspects of that system in order not to give the impression of a certain toleration or tacit acceptance of actions which are gravely unjust. Any appearance of acceptance would in fact contribute to the growing indifference to, if not the approval of, such actions in certain medical and political circles.”
[5] Cfr. Francis, Address to the members of the “Banco Farmaceutico” foundation, 19 September 2020.