Tag Archives: Pope Francis

The Church of Mercy

FrancisThe Church of Mercy
Pope Francis
Loyola Press, 2014
168 pages, $16.95 paperback

Pope Francis’ simple message of mercy, service, and renewal has spread to every corner of the world. He has captured the attention of a world longing for an authentic message of hope. He says the Church must bring God’s mercy wherever suffering, division or injustice exists.

Collected from Francis’ speeches, homilies, and papers presented during the first year of his pontificate, this is the first Vatican-authorized book detailing his vision for the Church. The Church of Mercy encourages each of us to ignite the flame within to help share the light of Christ and revitalize the Church.

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Standing strong for the family

…Experts say the Vatican’s Synod on the Family must defend traditional teaching while acting as a ‘field hospital’ in a sin-sick world

synod-featureFamily problems like divorce and fatherlessness have long concerned the Church. When bishops gather Oct. 4-25 in Rome for the ordinary synod on the family, they will discuss the difficulties they’re seeing in families around the world — and offer solutions to the Pope.

Although some Bishops and Secularists would like to see major doctrinal changes resulting from the Synod — like the approval of homosexual activity or the allowing of divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communionv — the reality is that the Synod will certainly disappoint them.

Extraordinary Synod

Fr. Gerald Murray

Fr. Gerald Murray

One of the reasons many Catholics are anxious about this synod is because of the media circus and confusion that swirled around the Extraordinary Synod which met in Rome last October. What emerged was division among participants: On one side was a group of bishops who want Church doctrine to change on issues of homosexuality, contraception, and Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics; on the other side were bishops who want to uphold time-honored Church teachings on marriage and family.

“We are in the midst of a debate that will try to influence each side,” said Fox News contributor Fr. Gerald Murray. “Both sides have been going back and forth. However, I don’t believe there will be a change in Church teaching.”

German and Swiss bishops head the camp opposing Church teaching on the family, with de facto leader German Cardinal Walter Kasper.

“The German Church is the wealthiest one in the world because of a very peculiar tax system, so most German bishops agree with Kasper,” said Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Acton Institute’s Rome office.

In May, two-thirds of the German bishops voted to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics — and those living in homosexual unions — to continue employment in Church-run institutions.

Faithful Catholics look to U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke as their leader. Priests who found their vocation under Pope St. John Paul II, as well as bishops from Africa, Asia and the Middle East occupy this camp. They want Humanae Vitae (Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical opposing artificial birth control) and John Paul’s Theology of the Body to be better integrated into Catholics’ lives.

Pope Francis will use the synod’s final document to craft an apostolic exhortation on the family. Most believe that he will uphold Church teachings, while calling upon Catholics to be merciful towards struggling families.

Finding focus

Although no one knows the synod’s outcome, there are a myriad of opinions as to what the bishops will discuss.

“I would like to see efforts to strengthen family life, helping people face challenges like divorce, raising children in the faith, and preparing couples for marriage,” said Fr. Murray, pastor of Holy Family Parish in New York City. “I would like to see a clearer teaching on Humanae Vitae, not as a Catholic hang-up but as the key to cooperating with God’s plan for marriage and the family.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a delegate to the synod, told Legatus magazine that there is a great need for the Church to accompany those who are hurting.

“It’s not easy to live a good life,” he said. “For us to be that healing touch of Christ, we need to be a ‘field hospital.’ We have to be that light on the mountain, not a light hidden under a bushel.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Archbishop Kurtz says the Church needs to inspire witnesses — including single parents — to stand up and speak about the sacrifices they’ve made for their children and their marriages.

“They often say to me, ‘I don’t want my child to endure what I did alone,’” he said. “We need to call forth couples and families who can be mentors for others. There needs to be witnessing going on in neighborhoods, one family to another, even informally.”

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., said he “would like to see the synod identify cultural obstacles that make it difficult to live out marriage — and give couples the tools to navigate them. There are all kinds of wonderful tools for couples. I think that families can get overwhelmed, distracted and lose hope.”

Jayabalan said the synod fathers need to talk about the state of marriage in the wake of the sexual revolution.

“They should go back to Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and Humanae Vitae: What do we need to do to practically to teach this again?” said Jayabalan. “They should also find ways for married couples to give their testimonies.”

Creative solutions

Many dioceses and individual bishops are already working on creative solutions to the problems families face. For example, the Pittsburgh diocese announced recently that it would stop charging a fee to begin the annulment process. In the Archdiocese of Louisville, it’s been free for 15 years. The Diocese of Lincoln waives the fee if necessary and asks for a donation when possible.

Bishop Conley’s Lincoln diocese is also working on a tribunal outreach.

“Oftentimes, in the process of annulments, we wait for couples to come to us,” said Bishop Conley. “The idea now is to present a positive message and go out and find couples that are outside the Church. The idea is to offer them a remedy to look at the Church again. We will also have someone shepherd them through the annulment process. It will be a person-to-person ministry.”

The Lincoln diocese is also looking for ways to speed up the process.

Bishop James Conley

Bishop James Conley

Bishop Conley published a pastoral letter on contraception in 2014 called “Language of Love,” which re-presents Humanae Vitae in a way that people can understand today.

“It reaches out in a pastoral way,” he said. “The whole issue of contraception is at the heart of so many struggles.”

In terms of the New Evangelization for families, some dioceses, notably Lincoln and Denver, are leading the way with online resources to help struggling families — articles, webinars, audio links, blogs, and links to organizations devoted to helping couples and families.

Proponents of the Catholic Church’s teachings on the family want to encourage those faced with difficulties.

“What I would like to see at the Synod is the rich treasure of the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage re-presented in a robust way,” said Bishop Conley. “I know that there are all kinds of struggles, but we cannot lower the bar on our teaching.”

Archbishop Kurtz concurred. “We cannot turn away from the great gift of marriage as a union of one man and one woman who are open to new life. We need to be true to the dignity of every person.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

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Ordinary Synod: An advisory body to the Pope that considers issues of the Universal Church or specific to a certain geographical area. Meetings are held at fixed intervals.

Extraordinary Synod: A special synod that is held to deal with urgent matters. Only three have been held since the Second Vatican Council.

Awaiting Francis

Will the Holy Father tackle the tough issues when he visits the United States? . . . 

by Judy Roberts

As excitement builds for Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States in September, many Catholics are hoping the Holy Father will seize the opportunity to speak out on the issues that most concern them.

During his six-day trip, Pope Francis will address Congress and the United Nations, meet with President Obama, and preside over the first World Meeting of Families to take place in North America. Each venue would seem to offer him a platform for concerns like the plight of persecuted Christians, threats to religious freedom and the family, and the dangers inherent in embracing contraception and abortion.

Meeting with Obama

Leonard Leo

Leonard Leo

What the Holy Father will say remains to be seen. According to a White House statement, the Pope’s Sept. 23 meeting with President Obama will cover such issues as “caring for the marginalized and the poor, advancing economic opportunity for all, serving as good stewards of the environment, protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.”

However, parts of the Pope’s conversation with President Obama are likely to be private, giving the Holy Father an opportunity to discuss concerns that are not necessarily on the agenda.

Leonard Leo, a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter, said the Pope and the President obviously share some similar perspectives on economic and immigration issues. However, Leo said he hopes the meeting will focus on areas where there is not agreement, such as the sanctity of human life, the natural moral order in relation to marriage, and freedom of conscience.

“We’re having a crisis in our country on the issue of conscience,” Leo said. “I think that the Holy Father having a dialogue with the President on that issue would be very useful. It may or may not have an impact, but I think it’s important.”

Leo, who is executive vice president of the Federalist Society and co-founder of the Catholic Association and the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, said he also thinks the Holy Father will be in a good position to articulate the underpinnings of the Church’s teachings on life and traditional marriage, which are not widely understood.

Leo said he also hopes that Pope Francis will be able to discuss religious freedom with President Obama.

“The President’s vision is freedom of worship,” he said. “He’s perfectly happy to have us say our prayers in the pews. He’s not particularly happy with seeing religion in the public square, and America has a long history of embracing freedom of religion, which pertains to freedom of conscience.”

Religious freedom and the U.N.

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, said he expects that the Holy Father will challenge President Obama on a broader understanding of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

“Religious freedom is certainly ripe for conversation,” he said, both in the context of Christian businesses that want the right to refuse participation in same-sex weddings and those that object to providing abortifacient contraceptives in their health plans.

Ruse, whose group monitors and seeks to affect social policy debate at the United Nations, said when Pope Francis visits the U.N. on Sept. 25, he would not anticipate him talking about abortion, population control and contraception — concerns that are known to roil the international body. At the same time, he said, he will be disappointed if the Pope doesn’t mention them.

“He already says that we shouldn’t obsess on these types of issues, so I suspect that he will follow his own advice, which will be unfortunate because the African countries in particular are most upset at the imposition of this radical sexual ideology on their countries by U.N. agencies and western non-governmental organizations.”

Ruse said Pope Francis will likely talk about the environment, poverty, global inequality, human rights, and perhaps the plight of Christians in Africa and the Middle East — issues of concern to the U.N. on which the Holy Father has spoken.

“All these are very good things,” Ruse explained. “Tucked in among them I would love to hear him talk about what he himself has referred to as the gender ideology, which is being imposed on the developing world by western elites.”

On his return flight from the Philippines earlier this year, the Pope warned wealthy western nations against forcing this ideology — which holds that gender is not biological, but cultural — on developing nations by tying it to foreign aid and education.

Leo said the most important issue the Pope can address at the U.N. concerns what the international community is going to do about the persecution of Christians around the world. Neither the U.N. Council on Human Rights nor the General Assembly is doing enough about it, he said. “That’s what the Church can bring to bear at a meeting of the U.N. because we can speak with persuasive force and expertise.”

World Meeting of Families

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia — where the Pope will take part in the World Meeting of Families from Sept. 26-27 — told Legatus magazine it’s obvious that family life is a signature concern of Francis’ pontificate.

In light of that, he said, “I think the Pope will press Catholics to take their faith more seriously and to conform their hearts and their behaviors to the truth of Catholic teaching about the family. That’s the only guarantee of a healthy family, and healthy families are the only guarantee of a healthy and humane society.”

Added Ruse: “I think it’s going to be a remarkable moment for him to speak to American Catholics about the importance of family and religious belief.” Ruse said he hopes the Pope is in a “rally-the-troops” mood because it’s a time when the American people are in need of leaders who will lead, particularly in the wake of court actions that have overturned the will of the people expressed in votes to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Archbishop Chaput said he thinks Francis’ popularity means his U.S. visit will have a positive effect on Catholics who have drifted from the faith.

“Our work will begin after the Pope returns to Rome,” he said. “We need to live the kind of Christian witness that will draw alienated people more deeply back into the Church.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

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Legatus & New Evangelization

Editor PATRICK NOVECOSKY writes that the culture war is a spiritual battle for souls . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

by Patrick Novecosky

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re at war. We’re at war with radical Islam and we’re in the midst of a fierce culture war — a war of ideas over the best way to live.

What this all means, when you get right down to it, is that we are in a war for souls. The devil knows his time is shorter now than it’s ever been, so he’s hard at work trying to distract us from the reality of Christ’s victory on Calvary. Satan’s first trick is to convince people that God isn’t real. When that lie takes root, his Culture of Death spreads like wildfire.

The chair of the Democratic National Committee recently said that killing a seven-pound baby in utero is not only okay, it’s an expression of “personal liberty.” The New England Journal of Medicine reports that 18% of patient deaths in Belgium come from either lethal injection/assisted suicide or from being put into a deep coma and left to die. Nearly half of the euthanasia deaths in that country are not reported. And throughout the Western world, the fundamental building block of society — marriage and the family — is facing a full-frontal assault from secularists and the gay lobby.

It seems to me that Legatus was founded 28 years ago for a time such as this — the era of the New Evangelization. With 87 chapters and well over 5,000 leaders, Legatus is a small but powerful army of business and cultural leaders who are tasked with turning back the tide of secularism by learning, living and spreading the Catholic faith in their businesses, their families, and their communities.

The men and women of Legatus are born leaders — Type A personalities. As leaders being formed in the faith, Legates are a force for positive change in the world. By living our Catholicism courageously, we ourselves are changed to become more like Christ. The joy that comes from our prayer and deep friendship with the Lord — despite our own sufferings and the Culture of Death pressing in around us — is transformative. We are called to radiate that joy, which is infinitely attractive.

In fact, Pope Francis told young people at World Youth Day in Rio last year that joy is essential to winning the culture for Christ. “Evangelization in our time will only take place as the result of contagious joy,” he said.

We live in an illogical age where the best-reasoned theological arguments are not likely to sway people, but joyful Catholicism has a great chance of moving mountains and winning disciples to Jesus Christ. After all, the Church exists to evangelize and so do we!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

The rise of the new anti-Semitism

Catholics respond to growing anti-Jewish sentiments in Europe and here in the USA . . .

by Judy Roberts

Seventy years after the holocaust killed millions of Jews, some believe anti-Semitism is a relic of the past that will never be repeated.

But there are disturbing signs that hatred for Jews is increasingly rearing its ugly head around the world, including in the United States where tolerance is supposedly valued and religious liberty is enshrined in the constitution.

Attacks and intimidation

Protesters hold signs with pictures of victims during the Jan. 13, 2015, funeral of the four Jews killed in Paris. The sign says, ‘I died because I am Jewish’

Protesters hold signs with pictures of victims during the Jan. 13, 2015, funeral of the four Jews killed in Paris. The sign says, ‘I died because I am Jewish’

Two recent studies — one by the Pew Research Center and another by the Louis B. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. — report an uptick in anti- Semitic attacks on Jews.

The Pew study found harassment of Jews in 2013 occurring in 77 countries — a seven-year high. The problem is particularly acute in Europe, where such incidents were reported in 34 of the region’s 45 countries, causing many Jews to leave.

Already this year an attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris left four dead, a Jewish guard was killed outside a Copenhagen synagogue, Jewish graves were desecrated in a cemetery near Strasbourg, France, and a London synagogue was attacked by a mob shouting, “Kill the Jews.”

In the Brandeis-Trinity 2014 National Demographic Survey of American Jewish college students, 54% reported that they had either experienced or seen anti-Semitic attacks on campus.

Steve Ray

Steve Ray

Since the period covered by the survey, there have been reports of swastikas painted on Jewish fraternity houses at Emory, Vanderbilt, and the University of California-Davis. Last month vandals painted swastikas in Northeastern University’s International Village, and students found graffiti reading “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” in a campus restroom at the University of California-Berkeley.

Catholics should be concerned about these incidents, not only because anti-Semitism is an offense against the dignity of human beings, but because of the special relationship the Church has with the Jewish people, said author and evangelist Steve Ray, who leads tours to Israel.

“The Catholic Church’s root and trunk is Judaism and Israel,” he said.

Stephen Colecchi, director of the Office of International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, agreed. The Jews “are our forebears in the faith, and we believe they are chosen by God, and that choice was not revoked when Jesus came and established a new covenant.”

Stephen Colecchi

Stephen Colecchi

Furthermore, Colecchi said, the Jewish community in many ways is the “canary in the coal mine. They’re a smaller community and therefore more vulnerable. When you target any minority within a society, the health of the whole society is weakened and other groups will be next. It never stops there.”

Catholic reaction

The Church’s response to renewed attacks on Jews has come straight from the top with Pope Francis vigorously condemning anti-Semitism and calling for vigilance in combating it.

“It’s a contradiction that a Christian is anti-Semitic: His roots are Jewish,” the Pope said in a 2013 meeting with representatives of the Jewish community marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Rome under Nazi occupation. According to a Catholic News Agency report on the meeting, the Holy Father continued, “A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic! Let anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and woman!”

Several months earlier, in a Vatican audience with members of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, Vatican Radio said Pope Francis alluded to the common roots shared by Christians and Jews. Quoting from Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s document on non-Christian religions, he said that St. Paul “firmly condemned hatred, persecution and all forms of anti-Semitism.”

John Rothmann, a Jewish author, lecturer and radio talk show host who has written about Pope St. John XXIII and the Jews for Inside the Vatican, said Pope Francis’ attitude toward Jews and condemnation of anti-Semitism is in the tradition of John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II.

John Rothmann

John Rothmann

Rothmann said John XXIII is known for having issued thousands of baptismal certificates to save Jewish lives from the Nazis during World War II when he was apostolic nuncio in Turkey. In doing so, he made clear that this did not make Jews Catholics, but was done to save their lives.

Likewise, John Paul was a friend and supporter of the Jewish people and called them “our elder brothers.” According to Rabbi David Dalin, writing in the journal First Things, John Paul saw the Catholic and Jewish communities as closely related and considered Jewish-Catholic dialogue as a religious obligation for Catholics.

Will it get worse?

Although anti-Semitism has increased in the last seven years, Colecchi said his understanding, based on a U.S. Senate Human Rights Caucus briefing he attended recently, is that it doesn’t suggest an imminent period of severe persecution such as the Holocaust.

The Pew study, for example, showed that Jews were more likely to be harassed by individuals or social groups than by governments.

Colecchi said the briefing indicated much of the persecution is related to attacks by extremists within Muslim communities, but it is also being perpetrated by extremists who target Muslims as well as Jews.

The good news, he said, is that the Church is equipped to deal with anti-Semitism through the teaching found in Nostra Aetate.

Catholics can seek to counter hatred against Jews, Colecchi said, by indicating their disapproval of anti-Semitic comments and by talking about their respect for the Jewish people and how the Church holds Jews in special regard.

Ray also recommended showing support for Israel, although he said this does not preclude Catholics from criticizing the country when warranted and expressing concern about the plight of Palestinian Christians.

Rothmann agreed, but he said it’s important to remember that Palestinian rights cannot come at the expense of Israel’s right to exist. Furthermore, he said, he is concerned that some of the criticism of Israel on American college campuses through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is tinged with anti-Semitism.

Rothmann’s father Hans was a Jew who fled Germany after being expelled from Halle-Wittenberg University in 1933.

“I am a Jew who, when he sees what is happening, is not afraid to speak out,” he said. “I am not afraid to identify precisely what the issues are. That’s what Catholics must do. The time to fear is when you can’t speak out anymore.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

Je suis Catholic

PATRICK NOVECOSKY writes that poking fun at others’ faith is highly uncharitable . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

When free speech advocates took to the streets of Paris last month, their signs read “Je Suis Charlie,” French for “I Am Charlie.” Their noble but misguided enthusiasm caught the attention of many, including Pope Francis.

During an in-flight press conference on the way to the Philippines in late January, the Holy Father not only condemned the Islamists who murdered 12 people at the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7, but he also said there must be limits on free speech.

Pope Francis reaffirmed that “killing in the name of God” is a real “aberration.” While he agreed that everyone has the “right” — even the “duty — to speak his mind to help the common good,” he said no one should deliberately insult another’s religion.

After the attacks, Catholic League president Bill Donohue blasted the killers and took the magazine to task for profanely lampooning Islam and Christianity. “Those associated with Charlie Hebdo, are no champions of freedom. Quite the opposite: Their obscene portrayal of religious figures, so shocking that not a single TV station or mainstream newspaper would show them, represents an abuse of freedom.”

Radio host Hugh Hewitt and Megyn Kelly of Fox News excoriated Donohue for “blaming the victims” of the Paris massacre. Kelly also accused Donohue of blaming the victims saying, like Hewitt, it was similar to “blaming a rape victim for what she was wearing.” Both interviewers pointed to the First Amendment, which, interestingly, has no legal bearing in France.

While both interviewers missed Donohue’s point, Pope Francis made the same distinction as Donohue in his comments on the killings. He told the media onboard the papal plane last month that “you cannot provoke, you cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

“In freedom of expression there are limits,” he said. With a laugh and by way of example, the Pope said that if Alberto Gasbarri (the longtime Vatican papal trip organizer who was standing beside him on the plane) cursed his mother, “then a punch awaits him. But it’s normal, it’s normal.” As he was speaking, the Holy Father threw a mock jab in Gasbarri’s direction.

Both Donohue and the Holy Father made the same point. While it may be legal to poke fun at others’ beliefs, it is highly uncharitable. And it’s downright naïve to think that poking a snake in the eye won’t provoke a violent reaction.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Pope Francis and Vatican reform

ROBERT ROYAL contends that Pope Francis’ reforms are moving along smoothly . . .

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

It’s an old joke. A pope is asked how many people work at the Vatican. He replies: “About half!” But the Roman Curia, the central governing body of the Church, is no joke.

And Pope Francis — following the wishes of the cardinals who elected him — has made Curia reform a central concern of his papacy. Indeed, he’s gone so far as to appoint a nine-member council of cardinal advisers to revise Pastor Bonus, St. John Paul II’s apostolic constitution, which specifies how the Curia is to function.

About 3,000 people work at the Vatican — 2,400 are lay people involved in the practical running of the tiny city-state, not the governance of the worldwide Church. There are always calls for the Curia to be reformed and simplified, a good goal, properly understood. But simplicity has to be balance alongside some other considerations:

• The Catholic Church has 1.3 billion members scattered across all seven continents (the U.S. has one-quarter that number and there are 3 million federal employees).
• Exact numbers vary, of course, but at any moment there are roughly 5,200 bishops, more than 400,000 priests, and tens of thousands of men and women in religious orders.
• The Church is the largest provider of charitable and social services of various kinds throughout the world.
• Catholic charitable organizations carry out complicated financial transactions involving individual governments, crossing multiple national borders and legal systems.

And that’s just for starters. The Vatican has large responsibilities — not only of teaching and sanctifying — but of governing the largest and longest continuously existing institution in the world. So even as the Pope has consolidated some offices, he’s creating others. He constantly reminds the world that everything must be oriented towards the Church’s only mission: to bring people to the love of Christ and neighbor.

Francis’ reforms must proceed between two necessities. He’s changed personnel in the Congregation for Bishops, for example, which with only a small staff and about 30 bishop-advisors handles the replacement of bishops who retire or die around the world. It also manages the ad limina visits that all the world’s bishops make on a rotating five-year basis to the Holy See. Similarly, the Roman Rota and Signatura — both appeals courts of a kind — deal with many cases from around the globe each year, with only a small staff. When a diocese goes a long time without a bishop or someone waits years for a final decision on a complicated annulment, it’s often because of the staff-to-case workload. Francis has created a new commission to study annulments, and he wants to streamline and perhaps even shift the way in which the Church handles such problems, even marriage questions.

Pope Francis has moved most boldly, perhaps, in reforming the Secretariat of State and the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), colloquially called the Vatican Bank. He’s made the Secretariat of State much more directly accountable to him personally. The IOR has long been accused of vulnerability to corruption — less theft than “money laundering,” shifting of funds across national borders for unclear purposes. Francis appointed a new set of financial managers to bring the IOR into harmony with European transparency and banking rules. He went even further on the economic front in February, creating a new Secretariat for the Economy, led by Australian Cardinal George Pell.

Since Benedict XVI, the Church has also been seeking to bring global charitable donations in line with Catholic moral and spiritual principles. Caritas International, for example, had been dealing with local organizations and governments in many countries. Some believed that this had led to compromises on morally contested questions such as contraception, abortion and homosexuality. Initially, the plan was to bring all charitable contributions under the aegis of Roman offices, but that proved unworkable (rules for 501(c)3 non-profits in the U.S., Britain, and France, for example, prohibit the wholesale transfer of donations to foreign entities). Other arrangements, however, are in the works.

And all this has to be organized while the Vatican continues to welcome tourists and pilgrims, preserve the artistic and musical patrimony of the Church, maintain diplomatic relations with 180 countries, and engage in special missions to promote peace in places like the Middle East, where no one else speaks with such moral authority.

It’s a huge task. And maybe an even bigger one to attempt reforming how the whole operates. But Francis has shown in just 20 months a capacity to move the large mass of the Church forward with skill, energy and love.

ROBERT ROYAL is an author and founder of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. and editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing.

Pope Francis and economic justice

Napa Institute: Archbishop Charles Chaput challenged common conceptions of Pope Francis . . .

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput

I’m a Capuchin Franciscan, and I’ve often found that people think of Francis of Assisi as a kind of 13th-century flower child.

St. Francis was certainly “countercultural,” but only in his radical obedience to the Church and his radical insistence on living the Gospel fully — including poverty and all of its other uncomfortable demands.

Jesus, speaking to him from the cross of San Damiano, said, “Repair my house.”  I think Pope Francis believes God has called him to do that as pope, as God calls every pope.  And he plans to do it in the way St. Francis did it.

Pope Francis took the name of the saint of Christian simplicity and poverty. As he has said, he wants “a Church that is poor and for the poor.” In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he grounded this goal in Jesus Christ, “who became poor and was always close to the poor and the outcast” (186). That’s a very Franciscan idea.

The Holy Father knows poverty and violence. He knows the plague of corrupt politics and oppressive governments. He has seen the cruelty of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

An abridged version of this article appeared in the September issue of Legatus magazine.

Love is our mission

Pope Francis expected to visit Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families  . . .

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput knows well what a papal visit can do for the local church.

He witnessed it in Denver after the 1993 visit of  St. John Paul II, and now he is hoping to see it again in Philadelphia following the anticipated visit of Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families, Sept. 22-27, 2015. Its theme: Love is Our Mission:  The Family Fully Alive.

Building joy and renewal

pope-1Although the Holy Father’s participation in the meeting will not be officially confirmed until spring, the Pope typically attends the triennial gathering, which celebrates and aims to strengthen Christian marriage and family worldwide. The 2015 gathering will be the eighth since John Paul started  the World Meeting and the first in a U.S. city.

“Denver saw a huge outpouring of apostolic energy after World Youth Day 1993 — not miraculously or immediately, but building steam over the following decade,” said Archbishop Chaput, who became Denver’s archbishop after the papal visit to that city.

“The local church found a whole new spirit of confidence, with many more clergy and lay vocations, a new seminary and lay graduate school, and an influx of new movements, resources and charisms. Denver became a magnet for Catholics, especially young Catholics,  who wanted to make a difference as disciples of Jesus Christ.

“Philadelphia,” he continued, “is ripe for that same sort of experience.” After a painful decade marked by financial troubles and fallout from the clergy sexual abuse crisis, Archbishop Chaput said he thinks a visit from Pope Francis has the power to spark a renewal in the archdiocese.

Philadelphia Legate Tim Flanagan, founder of the Catholic Leadership Institute, said his organization will be putting packages together to encourage institute alumni to come to the World Meeting. “We’ll do whatever we can to get a large number of people to participate.”

Flanagan said he, too, hopes the city and archdiocese will be revitalized by the World Meeting and papal visit. Even more, though, he thinks the event has the potential to reverberate beyond Philadelphia.

“We see it as a time of building joy and renewal in our community as well as the rest of the United States,” he said. “As people go back to their respective countries, parishes and dioceses, they’re going to be beacons of hope in bringing back the good news they’ve learned. They will be a catalyst to re- energize the Church and build on the hope Pope Francis is putting forth.”

The Francis effect

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Father Bill Donovan, chaplain of Legatus’ Philadelphia Chapter, is currently in Rome as Archbishop Chaput’s representative to the Vatican for the World Meeting. He told Legatus magazine that Pope Francis has captured the imagination of people everywhere, regardless of religious affiliation.

“Many who seem disaffected with formal religion and many people of diverse faith traditions seem genuinely interested in what the Pope has to say. His message of challenging us to live the gospel with simplicity seems to resonate with many. So, initially attracted to him, men and women are invited to open their minds and hearts to hear the full message of God’s gracious plan for humanity.”

Father Donovan said the World Meeting reflects Pope Francis’ attention to the family in his young papacy. In February, he summoned the College of Cardinals into a consistory to discuss the family, and he has called two synods of bishops on the family to meet in October and again in 2015.

“The World Meeting of Families will be a unique moment for the Holy Father to directly encounter families from all over the world, listening, speaking and sharing,” he explained. “In this way, it will have a special place in the heart of the Pope over and above the three meetings with his brother bishops.”

Donna Farrell

Donna Farrell

Donna Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting and a member of the delegation that traveled to Rome in March to invite Pope Francis to Philadelphia, said the Holy Father seemed to light up when meeting their group. She said everything he has done in approving the meeting’s theme and expressing his support through the Pontifical Council for the Family indicates he is engaged in the event.

“We have every indication that the Holy Father very much wishes to come to Philadelphia,” Father Donovan added. “So we’re making plans accordingly.”

Pope Francis is tentatively scheduled to arrive Sept. 25 and to take part in the Sept. 26 Festival of Families, a cultural event that will include dialogue with one family from each continent. He would also celebrate the Sept. 27 closing Mass. A team of 15-20 business and community leaders has begun planning the event, but Farrell said she anticipates up to 10,000 volunteers will eventually be involved.

As a member of the archbishop’s finance council, Deacon Alvin Clay, president of Legatus’ Philadelphia Chapter, said he expects to be involved in some capacity in the meeting and papal visit. In 1979, the last time a pope visited the city, he remembers finding a spot on the sidewalk so he could see John Paul II.

“All I saw was him zip by in a car, but it was really exciting. The whole city was buzzing and it was very uplifting.”

Supporting the family

Deacon Alvin Clay

Deacon Alvin Clay

The World Meeting will open with a theological-pastoral congress in which experts will give presentations designed to deepen understanding of the truth of families, to enhance appreciation for the beauty of families, and to strengthen the goodness of families.

Father Donovan said the congress will address a full range of challenges and concerns facing families today. “We will have the opportunity to hear from people from every continent. Every nation and every diocese in the U.S. will send an official delegation, which will be headed by a bishop, a priest and a married couple. So we anticipate about 150 international delegations and 200 national delegations.”

Asked what a meeting like this could do to restate the Church’s teaching on marriage at a time when it’s under attack, Fr. Donovan said he believes the meeting will be a graced moment for the Church to renew God’s saving plan for humanity, which passes through the family.

“So many of our societal problems can be traced back to the failure in family structures and support,” he explained. “Getting the family right can lead not only to spiritual renewal in the Church and transformation of the world, but advances in the health and welfare of people — including promoting better culture, economics, education and a just society. All follow as evening follows the day.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

Learn more: World Meeting of Families website

Family under fire

The Vatican synod on the family will confront a hostile culture, reinforce teaching . . . 

At a time when the definition of marriage and family is being distorted almost daily, The Vatican is about to convene a synod on the family that many hope will bring clarity to a culture in confusion.

Pope Francis blesses a child during his visit to Assisi on Oct. 4, 2013

Pope Francis blesses a child during his visit to Assisi on Oct. 4, 2013

Unchanging Truth

The Oct. 5-19 extraordinary synod will discuss “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization” in preparation for a family-themed ordinary synod of bishops in 2015 that will produce working guidelines.

The 150 participants of the extraordinary synod will include the presidents of bishops’ conferences and heads of Eastern Catholic churches, along with Vatican officials, according to Catholic News Service.

In calling an extraordinary synod to prepare for an ordinary synod, Pope Francis is sending a signal about the importance of the family, said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ subcommittee for the promotion and defense of marriage. “I think this indicates what a high priority this is for [him].”

Indeed, the Pope told a worldwide charismatic gathering in June that the devil is trying to destroy the family, and he urged families to be “strong in the face of this crisis.”

In the months leading up to the October synod in Rome, some reports have cast Pope Francis as an agent of change. The Los Angeles Times, for example, said contraception, cohabitation, divorce, remarriage and same-sex unions will be “put up for debate” at the synod by “a man who appears determined to push boundaries and effect change.” The story went on to say that the synod could “herald a new approach by the Church to the sensitive topics.”

However, the idea that the synod will change Church’s teaching on marriage or any other essential truth is simply wrong, said Brian Brown, president and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, and a member of Legatus’ Philadelphia Chapter.

Brian Brown

Brian Brown

“On the issue of marriage as the union of man and woman,” Brown said, “Pope Francis has repeatedly been strong.” Catholics should reject reports that the core truths of the faith are going to be redefined, he said. Rather, “the synod is an opportunity to reassert the beauty, hope, the love that is the natural family,” Brown added.

“Church teaching can’t change,” Archbishop Cordileone told Legatus magazine. “Otherwise, we’re into that dictatorship of relativism.” Church discipline could be modified, he said, but even there he expressed caution because certain disciplines have evolved over the centuries and are deeply intertwined with Church teaching and theology.

Multi-faceted synod

Although the U.S. news media have focused on a few issues like same-sex unions and the treatment of divorced Catholics, the synod’s preparatory document lists multiple topics for discussion. These include mixed or interreligious marriages, the single-parent family, polygamy, a culture of non-commitment affecting the view of marriage as permanent, forms of feminism that are hostile to the Church, an increase in the practice of surrogate motherhood, and new interpretations of what is considered a human right.

“With a topic like the family, this synod could go in a hundred different directions,” said John Thavis, former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service and author of The Vatican Diaries. Thavis pointed out that discussions will be limited by the two-week time period, although the 2015 general synod will provide for follow- through.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

“I think what Pope Francis has in mind is that what happens this fall will be taken back to local church communities for further discussion and refinement,” Thavis said. This would be similar, he added, to what happened during the Second Vatican Council during which cardinals returned to their home dioceses for continued work on questions discussed in the Council sessions; they then went back to Rome to make decisions.

Thavis said the pope typically issues a post-synodal document in which he reworks the meeting’s final propositions, giving him a kind of last word on the deliberations.

Divorced, remarried Catholics

Based on remarks Pope Francis and some leading cardinals have made, the synod will likely take up the issue of divorced Catholics who have remarried outside the Church.

According to Catholic News Service, retired German Cardinal Walter Kasper told the world’s cardinals in February that he believes the Church needs to find a way to offer “healing, strength and salvation” to remarried Catholics who want to make their new marriages work — and want to do so within the Church with the graces of the Eucharist.

Cardinal Kasper made the remarks after Pope Francis asked him to introduce a discussion by the cardinals on family life. The cardinal proposed offering a “life raft” in the form of Communion to those who have sinned by remarrying and suggested that in certain cases the Church could tolerate, but not accept such second unions.

John Thavis

John Thavis

“I think Francis sees this almost as a test case of how much space can be created for pastoral flexibility without going against Church doctrine,” Thavis said. “I think he sees it as a difficult area, but has thrown it down as a challenge.”

However, Archbishop Cordileone said, “I don’t know how allowing them to go to Communion would be a life raft.” A life raft, he continued, would be offering divorced Catholics moral and emotional support and a sense of belonging. As for the Church tolerating second marriages, he said, “we already do that. [Divorced and remarried Catholics] are still members of the Church. They are not excommunicated and are still part of the family. Because of the irregularity of their situation, they are not allowed to receive Communion, but we don’t kick them out of the Church.”

The life raft

Rose Sweet, a Catholic speaker and author of several books on divorce and the annulment process, said the Church is able to offer healing, strength and salvation to divorced Catholics in irregular marriages, but she doesn’t believe that would be accomplished by offering them Communion.

“The teachings are that marriage, if valid, is unbreakable, and somebody who has remarried outside the Church is no longer in full communion with the Church. To receive that public or even private act of Communion would be disingenuous. It would be a lie.”

Rose Sweet

Rose Sweet

Sweet said Catholics who cannot go to Communion are not being deprived of their baptismal graces and can still have spiritual communion with Christ. The life raft the Church can offer them, she said, is a two-section one: the teachings of Christ and parish/diocesan programs that help divorced Catholics through the annulment process.

Sweet said she would like to see the Church modify its disciplines, not its teachings, to provide a more pastoral treatment for divorced Catholics. One way would be to make more advocates available to help divorced Catholics through the annulment process. Because the system is overburdened with the machinery of bureaucracy, Sweet said, the average person in a failed marriage seeking help from the Church can go through several years of the process without having anyone to help or explain things.

Thavis said streamlining the annulment process would not involve doctrinal issues. The idea of finding ways to readmit divorced Catholics to the sacraments has been brought up in past synods, he said, but never with any resolution.

Regardless of the issues it takes up, NOM’s Brian Brown sees the synod as an opportunity for the Church to make clear the truth about marriage and the great good it does for society.

“To be pastoral is not to go with the times,” he said. “Nothing has changed on that front. It wouldn’t have been right for the Church to embrace what was going on in Rome in the early periods of the Church or any culture that clearly contradicts the truth. It’s a misunderstanding to think that pastoral means to fit in; to be pastoral is to stand up for the truth in and out of season.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.