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Brutal Regensburg report hailed as step in the right direction

Rome, Italy, Jul 20, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A member of Pope Francis' commission to protect minors says a new report on the abuse of more than 500 choir boys in Germany points to a current reality in many non-western countries – and that bringing these things to light means progress for everyone.

“It will take time, but this kind of sensitivity that is created by publicly discussing these things of course will push, because people realize what is right and what is wrong, and they realize that they will be questioned if something goes wrong,” Fr. Hans Zollner told CNA July 19.

Fr. Zollner is vice-rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, director of the university's Center for Child Protection (CCP), and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

He spoke following the July 18 publication of a report on an investigation German lawyer Ulrich Weber carried out on the Regensburger Domspatzen, the official choir for the Regensburg Cathedral.

While it was previously thought that only 250 children had been victimized, Weber said the number of children affected is closer to around 500.

According to the report, members of the choir were exposed to physical abuse and 67 suffered sexual abuse from 49 members of the school's faculty, ranging from 1945 until the early 90s. However, most of alleged perpetrators will likely not face charges due to the amount of time that has gone by.

The reported violence ranged from public ridicule, heavy beatings, and sexual abuse, but a significant portion of the documented incidents involved slapping and food deprivation, a legal form of discipline in Bavaria until the 1980s.

Fr. Zollner said that the magnitude of the abuse was discovered thanks to the decision of the diocese's bishop to open the archives, allowing a more in-depth investigation to take place.

What came to light was “a horrible and horrendous story” that has been going on for some 70 years, he said, adding that this took place because “in those years and decades people who could have known didn't look at it, people who could have spoken to police didn't do it.”

“This includes of course the Church leadership, but this also includes the parents and relatives of the children,” he said, noting that he himself grew up in the city and had friends who were members of the choir.

Zollner recalls his friends talk about getting “beaten up,” but that at the time, “sensitivity to child rights and the violation of these rights was not as high as it is now, and corporal punishment was considered more or less a normal way of education.”

The majority of the excessive discipline in the choir was attributed to Johann Meier, a schoolmaster at one of the boarding schools from 1953 to 1992. However, Benedict XVI's older brother, Georg Ratzinger, who directed the choir from 1964-1994, was accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse.

It also accused Cardinal Gerhard Muller, who oversaw the diocese from 2002-2012, of cover-up.

Fr. Ratzinger said he was unaware of any sexual abuse, but admitted to slapping children, as it was common practice at the time.

In his comments to CNA, Fr. Zollner noted that while societal understanding of abuse has changed in most western countries, there are several in Asia, Africa and some parts of Latin America where such actions are still common practice.

Speaking of a recent visit to Myanmar, where he offered training and workshops on child protection guidelines, the priest said that while there, he was told that parents would often “specifically ask the teachers to beat their children if they do not obey.”

Zollner said that in Myanmar specifically, it is still normal in some Buddhist monasteries to flog the monks publicly if they are disobedient.

“This is the idea that you learn obedience and correct behavior by beating. So this is the idea that at present in the minds and in the context and in the behavior of parents in an Asian country,” he said, noting that he has seen the same scenario in some African and Latin American countries.

However, the government is now “clamping down on that, so they are also changing the law so that in public schools corporal punishment is prohibited.”

In western society the use of corporal punishment is widely recognized as unacceptable, and this is thanks to both a growing awareness and a “owning up” to the consequences of what is now considered as abuse.

The adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of the Child by the U.N. in 1959 and the subsequent formation of the U.N. Committee for the Rights of the Child have both prompted an increase in awareness that “a young person needs formation and education, yes, and also needs limits, but this can never be imposed and should never be imposed by physical violence or psychological violence or humiliation,” Zollner said.

But to make the point across the board, these rights must be explained and repeated, he said. We must also be realistic with the fact that while many, if not all, countries have signed the declaration, “not all have ratified them.”

When it comes to taking punitive action against those who were abusive in the past, believing it to be acceptable as the normal custom of the time, Fr. Zollner said holding them to account for their actions is a tricky question.

In most cases there is a statute of limitations, and “you can only hold people accountable for the time period that the law covers and for all those criminal acts that are punishable.”

“We don't have general measures that would and could punish people for something that has happened decades ago if there is not a legal provision for that,” Zollner said.

A current trend for western charities funding Church or social work is to have the recipient sign up not only to obey the law in their country, but they are also required to sign a child protection/safeguarding policy that the charity maintains.

“People unfortunately are not just doing good things because they want to do it, but sometimes they also need to be forced to do it by such measures that are taken in case you do not follow the norms,” he said.

When it comes to the Church and her role in protecting children from predators, Fr. Zollner said the first thing to do is to learn from the mistakes of the past, particularly bishops and Church leaders as a whole.

This, he said, “gives us the possibility to do at least a little bit of justice to all those who have been harmed in such a terrible way.”

Practical steps include thorough screenings of employees on the part of Church institutions that carry our educational, social or pastoral work, delving into the person's past and present, looking specifically at their interactions with youth.

It's also necessary that “very clear guidelines and norms” are given, as well as initial and ongoing training for Church workers, which is a task the commission is specifically responsible for.

David Daleiden to appeal huge contempt fine over Planned Parenthood videos

San Francisco, Calif., Jul 20, 2017 / 02:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge has ordered over $136,000 in fines after the release of several undercover videos in a series that appeared to implicate Planned Parenthood officials and the National Abortion Federation in the illegal sale of unborn baby body parts.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick III on Monday sanctioned David Daleiden, his Center for Medical Progress, and his criminal defense lawyers for disclosing videos whose release was barred by his February 2016 preliminary injunction. The judge said each of the parties was jointly liable for security and legal costs for the National Abortion Federation, the subject of the videos.

The lawyers said they would appeal the ruling.

The Center for Medical Progress contended that the contempt charge against the attorneys was “just for trying to use the same video evidence in his defense that the California attorney general is using in his prosecution.” In a July 11 Facebook post, the center charged that the action would hinder efforts to provide a fair trial for Daleiden. The center also cited Daleiden’s attorneys’ ongoing efforts to disqualify the judge for alleged bias and links to Planned Parenthood.

The first investigative video release took place in July 2015, appearing to implicate Planned Parenthood in illegal activity and adding to the momentum to defund the United States’ largest performer of abortions.

In 2016, Judge Orrick had granted an injunction barring disclosure of the videos involving two National Abortion Federation meetings in Baltimore and San Francisco that the center’s investigators, including Daleiden, had surreptitiously recorded while posing as fetal tissue purchasers for a non-existent medical supply company.

However, Daleiden's lawyers, former Los Angeles prosecutor Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira, posted the videos to their website in May of this year. The release included preview footage of convention attendees casually discussing the skulls, eyeballs and other baby body parts they encounter in abortion procedures.

“An eyeball just fell down into my lap, and that is gross!” one panelist said in the video, to laughter from the crowd.

Planned Parenthood employees also appeared in the footage discussing baby organs that could be provided to biotech firms for money.

“They’re wanting livers,” one abortion provider said. “Sometimes she’ll tell me she wants brain,” another medical director said.

The footage also appears to show a person acknowledging the performance of illegal partial-birth abortions.

The videos had been uploaded to a private YouTube account and were not viewable without a link. One of Daleiden’s attorneys argued that this meant the posting itself was not a violation of the court order. Judge Orrick disagreed, saying that the enjoined materials were shared with a third party, namely YouTube.

The judge said he believed Daleiden had created the preview video and playlist, uploaded it, and forwarded the links to his criminal attorneys “for their use on his behalf.” He said it was reasonable to conclude the videos were uploaded “for the purpose of facilitating the publishing and distribution of those videos, which is what in fact occurred.”

When the videos initially became public, a spokesperson for the attorneys told National Review that the footage was entered into the public record when Calif. Attorney General Xavier Becerra Read filed a public criminal proceeding based on it.

Judge Orrick, however, said the lawyers failed to explain why the links to the videos needed to be published when the California state court judge had a thumb drive with the files, Courthouse News Service reports.

Defending themselves against the contempt charges, the attorneys had told Judge Orrick they aimed to use the videos to help defend their client against 15 felony charges he faced in California state court. They had believed the injunction did not apply to them. The judge said that under federal court rules an injunction also applies to attorneys, Bay City News reports.

The National Abortion Federation had accused Daleiden of creating a three-minute “preview” that identified abortionists by name, called them “evil,” “a baby killer” and “a systematic murderer.” The video asked viewers to share the video to hold Planned Parenthood accountable for “their illegal sale of baby parts.”

Judge Orrick’s ruling sided with the abortion federation, saying that Daleiden had failed to rebut the evidence against him by showing “deafening silence” and refusing to answer questions in his defense. Rather, he cited attorney-client privilege.

The judge said that in his review of the videos he found no evidence that abortion providers agreed to illegally sell fetal tissue, as alleged.

He ordered Daledein and the Center for Medical Progress to turn over all video of the federation’s meetings to the attorneys representing him in the civil lawsuit against him.

In June, a California court dismissed 14 of 15 felony charges against Daledein and a co-defendant Sandra Merritt involving illegal recording of confidential communications for their videos of Planned Parenthood employees, not the abortion federation.

The California attorney general is seeking to reinstate the charges.

In the federal case, Daleiden’s attorneys filed a June 7 motion to disqualify Judge Orrick, claiming the judge was biased in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant.

The motion cited an affidavit by Daleiden citing the judge’s role as an emeritus board member for a family resource center linked to a Planned Parenthood affiliate that is part of the National Abortion Federation.

Daleiden also cited the social media behavior of the judge’s wife, such as expressions of support for Planned Parenthood in the face of the videos. She also appeared to support stories critical of the Center for Media Progress and Daleiden. The judge’s wife had liked a post on the Facebook page “Keep America Pro-Choice” that supported the Harris County, Texas indictment of Daleiden.

The videos provoked a massive response from Planned Parenthood and its allies. A 2015 grant listing from the Open Societies Foundation, published after a foundations’ computer system was hacked, revealed apparent plans for a $7 to $8 million response campaign.

 

 

Supreme Court order affects thousands of refugees seeking US entry

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2017 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Grandparents and other family members are temporarily exempt from the travel and refugee bans implemented by President Donald Trump, the US Supreme Court said Wednesday.

The court also said that for the time being, a ban on entry by refugees already working with resettlement agencies may remain.

The Supreme Court did not explain its reasons in a brief order July 19. It said the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals must consider further arguments about who is included in the ban under Trump’s executive order. Supreme Court justices will hear further arguments about the executive order Oct. 10.

The Trump administration had argued that an exemption for close family members should not apply to grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and brothers- and sisters-in law.

A federal court in Hawaii said that definition of close family was too strict.

The ban bars travel into the U.S. for 90 days by nationals of Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Iran, all predominantly Muslim countries. It halts all refugee resettlement for 120 days. The first version of the ban, which had a broader impact, was announced in January, then blocked in federal court. A revised version was announced in March, then blocked by legal challenges.

In June the Supreme Court restored the ban, while saying those with “bona fide” links to the U.S. were exempted: close family members, employment, university admission, or relationships with other institutions.

Hawaii was among the challengers of the revised ban. It also argued that a refugee organization’s interactions with a refugee qualify as a bona fide relationship. About 24,000 refugees have formal assurances with resettlement agencies for relocation assistance.

However, the Supreme Court rejected that argument, thus allowing the U.S. government to halt efforts to grant entry to these refugees.

The order was not signed, though it stated that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch would have granted the Trump administration’s request to put the lower court’s entire order on hold.

Trump had presented his order as a temporary anti-terrorism measure. The Trump administration has also lowered the cap on refugee admissions to 50,000 people per fiscal year. That cap was reached July 13.

In March the U.S. bishops had warned that security concerns could overshadow real human beings.

“Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life,” the bishops said. “They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future. As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: 'We are with you'.”
 
“It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity,” said the March 22 statement from the US bishops' conference's administrative committee.

In latest appointments, Pope names new members of Roman Rota

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2017 / 06:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Pierangelo Pietracatella and Fr. Hans-Peter Fischer are the newest members of the Roman Rota, and mark the latest in a string of appointments Pope Francis has made this summer as part of his ongoing effort to restructure the Roman Curia.

Hailing from the northern Italian diocese of Toronta, Fr. Pietracatella, a member of the Rota, has been named as its new Chief of Office.

Fr. Fischer, a priest of the archdiocese of Freiburg, located in Germany's black forest region, has been named an auditor of the Rota. He is the current rector of the Pontifical Teutonic College of Santa Maria in Campo Santo, located in the Vatican.

Composed of various auditors, the Roman Rota is one of the three courts of the Holy See, the other two being the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage nullity cases are judged.

The Roman Rota is the Vatican's court of higher instance, usually at the appellate stage, with the purpose of safeguarding rights within the Church.

Among its responsibilities is the trying of appeals in marriage annulment cases. The annulment process was streamlined by Pope Francis in December 2015, giving the possibility of a stronger role to local bishops and cutting the automatic appeal of initial judgments, among other things.

Announced in a July 20 communique from the Holy See, the appointments to the Rota are the latest carried out by Pope Francis in his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.

Earlier this month the pontiff made waves by choosing to not renew the 5-year term of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In his stead, the Pope Francis on July 1 named Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria, former secretary of the congregation, to take the helm.

Just over two weeks later, on July 18, he tapped the congregation's undersecretary, Father Giacomo Morandi, to take Ladaria's place as secretary. The priest was also appointed titular Archbishop of Caere, however, the date of his episcopal consecration has not yet been set.

These latest appointments by Pope Francis are significant, since many curial officials were been named by Benedict before his resignation.

While Francis has made several of his own appointments since his election, the terms of the officials named by Benedict are now coming to an end, giving way for a curia that is shaped more by the mind of Francis as he moves forward in his process of Church reform.

Bishops to Trump: Don't abandon young people to deportation

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Undocumented young people brought to the U.S. by their parents contribute to American society and deserve continued protections from the Trump administration, said the U.S. Catholic bishops this week.

“These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas said July 18.

Young people who qualify under the program are “contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes,” said the bishop, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was implemented in 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security to address the situation of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. at a young age. It provides more than 750,000 youth with a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization to work legally in the U.S.

Bishop Vasquez urged the Trump administration to continue the program and “to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation.”

In late June, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, with the attorneys general of nine other states, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding the Trump administration end the DACA policy. The letter threatened to amend a lawsuit against another deportation deferral program in order to target the policy, Politico reports.

Bishop Vasquez, however, addressed the young people and their families: “the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you.”

“We recognize your intrinsic value as children of God,” he said. “We understand the anxiety and fear you face and we appreciate and applaud the daily contributions you make with your families, to local communities and parishes, and to our country. We support you on your journey to reach your God-given potential.”

Bishop Vasquez also said that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is not a permanent solution and called on Congress to find a legislative solution for these youth “as soon as possible.”

“My brother bishops and I pledge continuing efforts to help find a humane and permanent resolution that protects DACA youth,” he said. “Additionally, I note the moral urgency for comprehensive immigration reform that is just and compassionate. The bishops will advocate for these reforms as we truly believe they will advance the common good.”

According to Politico, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a gathering of 20 Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he can’t guarantee the Trump administration will defend the DACA policy in court. Attorneys have told him the program wouldn’t survive a legal challenge.

 

 

Is the single life a vocation? Maybe we're asking the wrong question.

Denver, Colo., Jul 20, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- From a young age, Catholics are taught to pray about and discern their vocations – whether they're called to marriage, to the religious life, to the priesthood, or consecrated single life.  

This can leave the lay single person feeling that they are in a vocational limbo of sorts, and it's become a topic of much heated and emotional debate in the Catholic blogosphere: have these people missed their vocation? Is the lay single state, chosen or by default, a vocation?

But actually, at the end of the day – does it matter?

Fr. Ben Hasse is a vocations director for the Diocese of Marquette, Mich. He said addressing the topic of singleness in the Church can be difficult because of the emotions surrounding the issue.

“I have quite a few friends who would like to be married, so there's a much more emotional investment in the question because there’s more people who find themselves single” rather than having specifically chosen it, he said.

Recognizing the emotional weight of the topic, Fr. Hasse noted that there are many aspects to addressing the question of vocation and singleness that need to be taken into account, and that it can be difficult – and dangerous – to make generalizations about a population in the Church that is actually very diverse.

Being specific about singleness

Fr. Hasse said that he has found it’s helpful as a pastor to approach singleness very specifically – whether it's a college student who hopes to marry someday, or a widow who lost her husband last month, being single encompasses a wide variety of people and circumstances.

“Everybody will be single for at least part of their life. Nobody is born as a priest or married to someone or a consecrated religious, so everyone will pass through being single,” he said.

“It's important to distinguish between people who are single because that's kind of where you're at when you're 16, versus someone who has really felt God calling them to give their life in service to the Church as a single person,” or various other circumstances.

For example, a single 19-year-old college student is probably not necessarily living a vocation of singleness in any settled way, Fr. Hasse said, but a person in their 40s who finds joy in serving Christ in their everyday circumstances of work and life “is not someone I would say lacks a vocation.”

“It would be different from the way we usually use the word because it wouldn't be defined, and made concrete by vows or promises,” he said.

“But the single accountant or school teacher could certainly live their life and see the work of their hands as something they're offering to God, and live that in a very spiritually fruitful way, and I wouldn't say – now here's a person without a vocation.”

Your vocation is given at baptism

Jason Coito, Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, told CNA that most of the debates surrounding singleness and vocation rely “on a very narrow definition of vocation, or confuses the term with what we refer to as 'states in life.'”

He said when we become fixated on discerning our state in life, referred to in the Church as the primary vocation, “...we become so focused on the ranking of them, rather than looking at each day or the bigger picture and saying, here are all of these components of my life, now how am I called to live the promise of my baptism and of my life, and how do these things work together?”

It can be helpful instead to refocus these debates and conversations on the universal vocation to holiness that each Christian receives at their baptism, Coito said.

“I think this helpfully reframes the conversation and then asks us, 'How is God calling me to make a response to Him and to my brothers and sisters from within the state in life in which I find myself?'”

This respects every vocation, because it's a question anyone can answer on any given day in their life, regardless of their state in life, he said.  

“You do have a vocation. All baptized Catholics are called to live their lives as disciples of Jesus. This is the foundational call of our lives as Catholics,” he said.

“If you feel deeply called to get married, and you have prayerfully discerned and confirmed this call, then until you meet the person you feel called to get married to, you continue to live out your baptismal call, open to the people and circumstances that God puts in front of you each day. For those who are married, we do pretty much the same thing, except that we do this out of the sacramental relationship we have with our spouse,” he said.

In Lumen Gentium, one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI wrote about the universal call to holiness each Christian has:

“Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.”

Fr. Hasse reiterated the importance of the baptismal call to holiness, and said that this call is not something to “settle for,” but rather should be the primary focus of our lives as Christians.

“The call to holiness is not some second-string operation,” he said.

“It's not like – wow I really wish I had something important to work towards, but since I don't, sanctity will have to tide me over until the beatific vision.”

“So I think a reappropriation of the universal call to holiness, which is deeply, profoundly significant, it’s the one that matters in a sense, and we're all called to that,” he said.

The big lie: You are incomplete until you've made vows

Coito noted that one of the worst patterns of thinking that a Catholic can fall into when thinking about vocation is to believe that they are somehow less-than or incomplete until they are married, or are a priest or in a religious order.

When he taught high school religion, Coito said he would ask his students to recall the famous line from Jerry Macquire, when he tells his love interest (played by Renee Zellweger): “You complete me.”

“I would always tell them that from a Catholic perspective, that's ridiculous. It wasn't as though before marriage you were incomplete, or that a priest before his ordination is incomplete. God already made us whole and entire,” he said.

“We've been given everything as human beings that God intends us to have, so to begin to think of ourselves as somehow unfinished...we can joyfully be living out our vocation already right now.”

Part of this mentality has seeped in from the culture, he said, which tends to romanticize love and to view marriage as another achievement or milestone in life, rather than as a sacrament.

“I think it's important to address the mentality that if I'm not married or in a community or ordained that I’m this sort of 'Catholic arrested development' or 'suspended animation,'” he said.

The belief that marriage or religious life will also magically make us completely fulfilled is also a mentality that can set people up for disappointment, he noted.

“It ends up being a Disney sort of (mentality) of happily ever after, but it's much more Paschal mystery than happily ever after,” he said.   

Finding fulfillment: It's about self-gift

The reasons that there are more single people in the Church now than in other times in recent history are many and varied – an emphasis on education, a culture that values individualism, higher rates of divorce and economic factors are just some of the many reasons there are more singles in the pews.

But this doesn't mean that human nature has changed – we are still made for love, self-gift and service, Fr. Ben Hasse said.

“Trying to schedule events in our lives that will make us happy at some point that doesn't really work,” he said. “Happiness is richest and fullest kind of as a by-product of gifts of love and of service.”

“There's almost a way where you can attend to the basic dynamics of seeking to live a life of holiness, and that's the actually the path that’s going to leave you more and more disposed to receive his call,” he said.

In particular, acts of service can be a key way to find fulfillment regardless of one's state in life, he said.

“Look for opportunities to give of yourself,” he said. “It's also a good way to meet other people who have a similar disposition...doing that has very real potential to fill one's heart, and leaves you more and more receptive to (God's) call.”

Soley utilizing acts of service as a way to find a spouse would be unhealthy, Fr. Hasse added, but serving alongside like-minded people, and finding others who share your values is a good way to find authentic community, in whatever form that may take.

What the Church has to say about single people

Pope John Paul II, who wanted to be known as ‘the Pope of the family’, wrote in his familial document “Familiaris Consortio” that those without a family must be able to find their family within the Church. In fact, the entire final section of this document is dedicated to single people.

This is a subject with which John Paul II would have been intimately familiar – by the age of 20, all of his immediate family on earth had passed away, and he surrounded himself with good friends that essentially became his family.

In the document, he wrote: “For those who have no natural family the doors of the great family which is the Church - the Church which finds concrete expression in the diocesan and the parish family, in ecclesial basic communities and in movements of the apostolate - must be opened even wider. No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who 'labor and are heavy laden.'”

The Catechism of the Catholic also recognizes “the great number of single persons who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to live – often not of their choosing – are especially close to Jesus' heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors.” (CCC 1658).

Practical advice from single Catholics

Still, it can sometimes be difficult for single people to know where they fit in the Church. Parishes are often structured around family life, which can make it challenging for single people to find community.

Judy Keane is a 40-something single Catholic and author of “Single and Catholic,” a book in which she interviewed numerous single Catholics of a wide variety of ages, circumstances and backgrounds about their experiences in the Church.

“Mother Teresa once said that the greatest poverty is loneliness, and feeling discounted by society,” Keane said.

“So I would say (to married people in the parish): approach single people, connect with them, take that initiative to introduce yourself, not make them feel like because they don't have a spouse and children in the pew with them that they’re no less a member of the parish community,” she said.

MaryBeth Bonacci is a Catholic author and speaker who has often written on the topic of being a single Catholic. She said she loves it when people in her parish help her feel included in their families and lives.  

“Some people would say, 'Oh well she wouldn’t want to go to a 1-year-old's birthday party.' Yeah I would!” she said. “We don't have our exciting singles lives that you think we have, I'm at home eating cottage cheese and watching Simpsons reruns, it’s not that exciting.”

Bonacci said she's also had a friend at her parish who told her she was invited to her family's dinner any time. And she didn't wait to make good on the invitation – she followed up with Bonacci every day.

“She would call me every day at 3:00 and say, am I setting a place for you? And I didn't go every night...but she actually called every day, and said if you want to come, we'll set a place for you, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that.”

She added that she appreciates when parishes make an effort to create a cohesive community, rather than always segregating people into groups according to their states in life.

Both Bonacci and Keane said that they especially have noticed that there are many single elderly Catholics who are alone, whether they’ve never been married or have since lost their spouse.

“If you're having a family Sunday dinner, why not try to befriend an elderly single person who may have lost their spouse and say we’re having our family dinner, would you like to join us?” Keane said.  

It's also important to remember that God acts in unexpected says, and oftentimes frustration with one's state in life stems from a place of thinking about vocation or God’s will too rigidly, Fr. Hasse noted.

“If I'm talking to someone who says well most of my friends seem to have found their vocation and I haven’t, what do I do? I usually say man, the saints are people that God caught in all kinds of unexpected situations and places,” Fr. Hasse said.

“So there's lots of precedent for thinking God has passed me by or hasn't answered my prayers” but then he shows up in unexpected ways, he said.

Be protagonists of change, Cardinal Sandri tells Ukrainian youth

Buchach, Ukraine, Jul 20, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the close of his recent trip to Ukraine, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri met with youth from the troubled country, telling them not to be discouraged by the challenges they face but rather to trust in the Lord and commit to changing society for the better.

The cardinal, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, began his July 15 speech noting that the youth “have had a thousand reasons to stay at home” rather than join him and his delegation for the annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Zarvanytsia, where the encounter took place.

Among these reasons are “the summer heart and the fatigue of the journey, but also and above all the interior ones,” he said, and pointed to the various doubts and questions they might have, such as “ why must I get on the road and march like a pilgrim, when when around me I see so much suffering and fatigue linked to the possibility of building a future?”

“Why believe in God, when around me I see so much violence, when I hear the noise of war, when the steps that are asked of some of you are those of marching like a soldier? Why trust still, when it seems that a corrupt mentality cannot be stopped and the attachment to power is lived as personal gain rather than for the interests of the community and the building of the common good?” he asked.

As a consolation, Cardinal Sandri said the only answer he can give them is to “look at yourselves, as we are doing here from the stage, at your faces – tired, perhaps, but happy.”

The decision to make the pilgrimage is itself “the answer that your hearts and your lives have given to every doubt and every question, which can arise in youth as in adults,” he said.

“Your journey is the right attitude of the heart and of life, and it's also the most rational,” he said, explaining that “we walk with the mind, learning to study and reflect, cultivating intelligence and learning to discern what happens around us in the world.”

Pointing to the Annunciation, Cardinal Sandri noted that Mary's question to the angel, “I do not know a man” showed that Mary was not static, but involved in the story. This question, he said, “ became the engine to not stay closed in herself, but rather to go out, to go to her cousin.”

“The encounter with Elizabeth is a precious occasion for Mary,” he said, noting that when meeting her, Mary “explodes in a song of joy, which we call the Magnificat, which is the song of the poor ones of Israel, of those who regardless of everything continued to believe that the Lord had not forgotten his promises.”

In this song, he said, is the “great wisdom” of one who has learned to entrust themselves to God and to contemplate the great things he has done throughout history and which he continues to do them now.

Even in the “famous and beautiful” shrine where the meeting took place is part of the story of faith of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainians, he said.

As such, it serves as an invitation to learn about their tradition and discover that even today, God “continues to be close and make us participants and protagonists in the work of salvation that he continues to fulfill even for your people.”

Cardinal Sandri made a July 11-17 visit to Ukraine to participate in the national pilgrimage to the Shrine of Zarvanytsia, located 15 miles north of Buchach.

His visit falls in amid of ongoing upheaval in the country, where pro-Russian separatists in the east have been fighting government forces since April 2014. The conflict has killed nearly 10,000, and displaced millions.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine followed closely on the March 2014 annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory, by Russia. Russia is also believed by Western governments to be assisting the rebels in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts; a claim denied by Moscow.

In his speech, Cardinal Sandri said he would carry with him the various celebrations and meetings he had while in Ukraine, particularly his visit to the eastern, conflict-ridden region of the country “so tried by the battles which have forced many of your brothers and sisters to flee.”

“I have seen the pain, but also many signs of hope, like many flames which slowly light a great fire,” he said, and pointed to the example of displaced persons who, despite their own situation, have begun to work with the local Caritas to “alleviate the pain and deprivation” of others in the same situations.

He pointed to the example of priests, both Greek-Catholic and Latin rite, who during the years of communism were imprisoned or deported.  

In addition to these, he also pointed to priests who “in recent episodes of war that have have bloodied your land have protected and saved as many as they could,” despite being in danger themselves.

As youth, who get the majority of their information through various forms of social media, the cardinal asked that they think of the suffering children in other parts of the world have to endure, such as the students and volunteers of the Jeremiah Educational Center of Faisalabad, Pakistan, who are persecuted “for their faith in Jesus.”

He also asked youth to consider stopping to pray the rosary, and in so doing, send “the embrace of Jesus” to the British infant Charlie Gard and his family, who are in the midst of a legal battle over treatment for the critically ill child.

“The exercise of intelligence to understand the present, prayer, charity and solidarity are ways in which you can also start to walk, like Mary,” he said.

Cardinal Sandri then told the youth to read and meditate on Pope Francis' message for the upcoming World Youth Day in Panama in 2019.

In his message, the Pope asks that youth “continue your steps not only remembering the past, but also having the courage in the present and hope for the future, to recognize your origins, to always return to the essential and to throw yourself with creative fidelity into the building of new horizons,” Cardinal Sandri said.

“You are the salt and light of this world; don't resign to thinking that things cannot change,” he said, telling them to “change society, where often the strongest and corrupt dominate, through a pure heart, faithful to God, faithful to the most authentic humanity.”

The cardinal also told attendees to “allow the oil of God's consolation to soothe the inner wounds of so many,” particularly young women manipulated into being surrogate mothers – which he called “a terrible practice” increasingly banned by countries – and those who have had abortions.

“Let us pray that they feel the desire for the caress of God's mercy and commit ourselves for a new surge of the defense of the dignity of women and children from every form of trafficking and exploitation,” he said.

Cardinal Sandri closed his speech asking the youth to also help their priests prepare for the upcoming synod of bishops in 2018, dedicated to “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

The cardinal noted how in the Pope's letter to youth, published alongside the initial outline of the synod discussion, Francis wrote: “Can things change? YES.”

“This cries from your young heart which does not bear injustice and cannot bend to the culture of waste, and neither can it believe in the globalization of indifference!” he said, quoting the Pope.  

“Even when you experience, like the Prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of your age, God encourages you to go where he invites you: do not be afraid, because I am with you to protect you,” Cardinal Sandri said, and entrusted the youth to the intercession of the Virgin Mary before giving his blessing.

Florida's abortion waiting period law awaits further testimony in courts

Tallahassee, Fla., Jul 19, 2017 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The attorney general of Florida has been given 60 days to gather evidence and testimonies in defense of a 2015 state law mandating 24-hour waiting periods for abortions.

The law's constitutionality is being challenged in the courts, and it has been on hold since its passage.

The decision was passed down by Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis after a July 19 hearing that had been meant to re-evaluate the law. In February, the Florida Supreme Court had upheld a lower court’s decision to stay the law after its passage in June 2015.

Among the plaintiffs challenging the law are the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Gainesville Woman Care, an abortion clinic which started the lawsuit.

When the matter came before the state Supreme Court, they issued a stay on the law while they considered the law. The temporary injunction was issued in February.

In a brief filed last month, lawyers defending the statute on the state’s behalf said the state “must be afforded a full and fair opportunity to canvas applicable relevant literature, to consult with and retain experts as needed and appropriate, to seek discovery from plaintiffs and their experts as well as from third parties, and to marshal and present relevant facts in the context of relevant law.”

Opponents of the law argue it is an unconstitutional violation of the state’s right to privacy, and singles out abortion from other riskier medical procedures that don’t require a waiting period.

“No mandatory abortion delay in this country has ever survived strict scrutiny,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote in a June 1 statement asking for a summary judgement on the case.

The Florida bishops' conference issued a statement supporting the law after its 2015 passage. They called it “good legislation” that “gives women one day to reflect upon the risks of abortion, one day to view the image of her unborn child’s ultrasound, and one day to consult with friends, family and faith.”

They also noted that 26 other states have such waiting period laws, and that Florida “already requires waiting periods before marriage, divorce, and the purchase of a handgun.”

Charlie Gard's family could be allowed permanent US residency

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2017 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid the Gard family's legal battle in the U.K. to pursue experimental treatment for their infant son, a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that could grant them permanent residency in the states.

“We just passed amendment that grants permanent resident status to #CharlieGard and family so Charlie can get the medical treatment he needs,” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) said in a July 18 tweet.

The amendment could help the Gard family pursue additional treatment for Charlie, who suffers from a rare mitochondrial disease which paralyzes muscles and causes brain damage.

Charlie Gard has made headlines over the past few months as U.K. courts denied his parents the right to transfer him to other hospitals for treatment. The Gard family appealed to the EU court and was denied a hearing.

Claiming that prolonging Charlie's life would cause unnecessary suffering, British judges had ruled that London's Great Ormond Hospital could remove life support without the consent of the parents. The hospital granted Charlie an extension on life support so his parents may have a few more moments with him.

During the extension, a team of seven medical experts told the hospital that unpublished data on an experimental drug suggest a treatment which may improve the condition of Charlie’s brain. One of the experts is a neurologist and a researcher located at the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome – a Vatican hospital who's request to transfer Charlie to their facility was also recently denied.

Additionally, a U.S. specialist in mitochondrial diseases speculated in a video last Thursday that the experimental treatment, nucleoside therapy, has a success rate of at least 10 percent and a potential high of 56 percent.

Since experts have submitted new data that advocates for Charlie’s possible recovery, the Great Ormond Hospital has asked the courts to reopen the baby’s case that Charlie be transferred to the U.S. for nucleoside therapy, which his parents have successfully fundraised over $1 million for.

Charlie was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Depletion Syndrome – a fatal disease which progressively weakens the muscles and causes brain damage. The genetic disease is very rare, and Charlie is thought to be only one out of 16 people in the world diagnosed with the disease.

Despite Charlie’s low potential for survival, his parents have received U.S. and Vatican support for their right to fight for his life.

A statement was issued July 2 on behalf of Pope Francis, saying that the pontiff “prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”

Pope phones trash man who lost legs in accident

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 19, 2017 / 01:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Maximiliano Acuña is a garbage collector in Buenos Aires who earlier this year was injured in a serious accident that left him without legs.

On Tuesday, he was surprised to receive an unexpected phone call from Pope Francis.

The Pope offered words of encouragement, 33-year-old Acuña told the Argentine Morfi Television program.

On March 22, the father of five children had been collecting garbage in a Buenos Aires neighborhood when he was struck by a car going some 80 miles an hour.

As a result of the accident, both of his legs had to be amputated.

A Buenos Aires legislator, Gustavo Vera, decided to tell Pope Francis what happened in an e-mail, in which he explained that the “doctors' prognosis was for the worst.”

“In the best case scenario, he was expected to be in a vegetative state or to have serious neuronal damage, and in the worst case it was going to be the end for him,” Vera told the Holy Father.

However, Acuña surprised doctors when he came out of the coma on the third day. Two days later, he was moved from intensive care to a regular hospital room. “In a few weeks he was already home with his five children,” Vera related in his message to the Pope.

This July 18, Acuña was getting ready to be honored at a ceremony at the Buenos Aires Legislature when he got a special call.

“I'm Pope Francis. A friend (Vera) sent me a letter, and I was moved and struck by how much strength you have,” the voice said on the other end of the line. “Always go forward, because you're an example.”

Acuña recounted these words with emotion at a ceremony in front of hundreds of other garbage collectors.

Now, Vera is working with the general secretary of the Truckers Union, Pablo Moyano, to propose that March 22 be declared “Waste Collectors' Day,” in tribute to this young collector.

“God gave me my life back, because they removed both legs, but everything that is happening to me is beautiful,” Acuña said.

“I always believed in God, I always went to church, praying everyday asking him for work, and that he take care of me day by day.”

“God exists,” Acuña continued. “I want to give everyone this message, that God exists and that he has given me a new opportunity.”