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Pope sends investigators to Osorno in latest move on Chilean abuse crisis

May 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 31, 2018 / 07:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Thursday that to help with the process of healing in Chile, Pope Francis will send Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu to the diocese of Osorno, and will issue a pastoral letter on the nation’s abuse crisis.

A May 31 statement from Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said in order to “advance the process of healing and reparation for victims of abuse” in Chile, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will travel to Osorno in the coming days.

The Diocese of Osorno has been in the international spotlight the past few years after the controversial appointment of Bishop Juan Barros in 2015, who has been accused of covering up the crimes of his longtime friend Fr. Fernando Karadima, one of Chile’s most notorious abusers.

In 2011, Karadima was found guilty by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of sexually abusing several minors during the 1980s and 1990s, and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude.

In addition to Scicluna and Bertomeu’s visit, Burke also announced that Pope Francis will send a letter to the president of the Chilean Bishops Conference, Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, addressed to the People of God.

Scicluna and Bertomeu traveled to both the United States and Santiago in February to investigate the accusations against Barros, as well as other cases of clerical abuse in the country.

The Maltese archbishop is widely recognized as the Vatican’s top investigator on the clerical abuse. In 2015 he was named by the Pope to oversee the team in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith charged with handling appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He served as the congregation’s Promoter of Justice for 17 years, and is widely known for his expertise in the canonical norms governing allegations of sexual abuse.

After seeing the results of Scicluna’s 2,300 page report on the findings of the February investigation in Chile, Pope Francis – who had initially backed Barros, calling the accusations against him “calumny” – issued a major “mea culpa,” in an April 8 letter to Chile’s bishops, apologizing for having made “serious errors” in judgment of the situation due to “a lack of truthful and balanced information.”

Shortly after, Pope Francis held both private and group meetings with three of Karadima’s most outspoken victims – Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Andres Murillo – at the Vatican from April 27-29.

Two weeks later, the pope met with all of Chile’s bishops, many of whom have also been accused of cover-up, at the Vatican to address the crisis.

During the May 15-17 meeting, Francis criticized the 34 bishops present for systematic cover-up of clerical abuse in Chile, and urged them to refocus, putting Christ and the Gospel back at the center of their mission.

The gathering concluded with all of Chile’s active bishops offering a written resignation to Francis, which he will either accept or deny. So far, there has been no news of the pope’s decision.

This weekend Pope Francis will meet a second round of Chilean abuse victims at the Vatican, consisting of five priests and two laypersons who suffered either sexual abuse or abuse of power or conscience by Karadima, and two priests who have accompanied the victims.

Expected to arrive to Rome Friday, the group of nine will have Mass with Pope Francis Saturday morning, and are expected to have both individual and private meetings with the pope.

Benedict XVI made a similar move after the clerical abuse crisis in Ireland blew up in 2009. He summoned the country’s bishops to Rome in December of that year, and in March 2010 issued a pastoral letter to all Catholic faithful in Ireland apologizing for the Church’s role in the crisis, and promising action, including the apostolic visitation of several dioceses.


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Pope Francis names apostolic visitor for pastoral care in Medjugorje

May 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 31, 2018 / 05:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Thursday extended the mandate of his special envoy to Medjugorje, tasking him with oversight of the pastoral needs of both the local parish community, and pilgrims who come to visit the site of alleged Marian apparitions that took place in the city.

Henryk Hoser, archbishop emeritus of Warszawa-Praga, was tapped as the pope’s special envoy to study the pastoral situation of Medjugorje in February 2017.

On May 31 Francis named him apostolic visitor to the site for an undetermined amount of time “ad nutum Sanctae Sedis,” or “at the desire of the Holy See.”

Hoser’s task now, according to a Vatican communique on the appointment, is an “exclusively pastoral” role in continuity with the work Hoser did when first named as the papal envoy.

According to the Vatica, Hoser concluded his work sometime within the past few months. In his new role as apostolic visitor, the archbishop’s specific mission, rather than simply looking into the pastoral situation, will be to ensure “a stable and continuous accompaniment” of the parish community in Medjugorje, as well as pilgrims who visit the shrine, “whose needs require special attention.”

The alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje started June 24, 1981, when six children in the town, now a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, claimed to have had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to the alleged visionaries, the apparitions conveyed a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.  

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six visionaries claiming to have received apparitions every afternoon because not all of the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

In April 1991, the bishops of the former Yugoslavia determined that “on the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

On the basis of those findings, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed in October 2013 that clerics and the faithful “are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.”

However, Benedict XVI established a commission, headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to study the topic in further detail.

In January 2014, the commission completed their study on the supposed apparitions’ doctrinal and disciplinary aspects, and was to have submitted its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The congregation has yet to submit its final document to the pope for a final decision.

Pope Francis tapped Archbishop Hoser as a special envoy to look into the pastoral situation in  Medjugorje in February 2017.

Two months after his appointment as special envoy, Hoser told members of the press that the site bore many genuine expressions of faith, and many vocations were found there. However, he clarified that the final determination of the apparition’s authenticity remains to be seen.

Pope Francis has often referenced the alleged Medjugorje apparitions in daily homilies, saying Mary is not a “post-master” who delivers messages everyday on the hour.

When asked by journalists about the apparitions on the flight back from Fatima, Portugal in May 2017, the pope said the original apparitions from more than three decades ago deserve further study, but the ongoing visions seem less credible.

He stressed the need to distinguish between the two sets of apparitions, and referenced the report given to the CDF by Cardinal Ruini in 2014.  

“The first apparitions, which were to children, the report more or less says that these need to continue being studied,” he said, but as for “presumed current apparitions, the report has its doubts.”

“I personally am more suspicious, I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of an office, who every day sends a message at a certain hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus. And these presumed apparitions don’t have a lot of value.”

He clarified that this is his “personal opinion,” but added that the Madonna does not function by saying, “Come tomorrow at this time, and I will give a message to those people.”


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The rise of the sex robot: Will technology solve our loneliness problem?

May 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Denver, Colo., May 31, 2018 / 03:09 am (CNA).- Earlier this year, a 25-year-old man smashed his rental van into innocent pedestrians in downtown Toronto on a Tuesday, killing 10 and injuring more than a dozen.

The driver was not part of the usually-suspected terrorist networks. Instead, he was found to be part of the “incels” – short for involuntary celibates – an obscure online community of mostly men who blame women and society for their lack of a sex life. They believe the distribution of sex in the world to be unfair – particularly to them.  

Their once dark and largely-unknown corner of the internet has since garnered some attention following the attack, prompting New York Times columnist Ross Douthat to posit that sex robots will be society’s answer to the incels – the logical way to pacify their lust before they turn more vans on innocent civilians.

“Whether sex workers and sex robots can actually deliver real fulfillment is another matter,” Douthat wrote. “But that they will eventually be asked to do it, in service to a redistributive goal that for now still seems creepy or misogynist or radical, feels pretty much inevitable.”

A subsequent cover story on sex robots featured in New York Magazine noted that some research has predicted that by 2050, sex robots will not just be for the angry incels, but for society at large. People will have – and possibly prefer – intimate relationships to sex robots than to people, the story predicted.

Are we more than an orgasm?

Sr. Mary Patrice Ahearn is a psychologist and a religious sister with the Religious Sisters of Mercy in Alma, Michigan.

Ahearn said that the rise in communities like incels and the prospect of relationships with sex robots points to the fact that society has forgotten God, or the transcendental aspect of the human experience.

“I think what they’re both pointing to, which nobody talks about, is the transcendental desire or part of each of us,” she said. “(W)hen we take out this transcendental part, or dare I say faith or God, you have to fill that void with something.”

People need to seriously grapple with the transcendental ache and longing that they feel in their lives, and come to terms with what that might mean, rather than looking to fill the void with sex robots or other technology, she said.

“So I would ask the question: Is the deepest desire in your heart to be sexually satisfied, to have an orgasm? Is that the deepest desire of my heart? And people have to seriously ask those questions,” she said.

“Everyone has this desire for sex,” Ahearn said, “but so do the cows we drive by on the road, we all have that.”

Not only is society increasingly irreligious and unwilling to acknowledge the transcendental, but humanity is also losing some of the basic bonds of family and friendship to technology, bonds which used to allow people to experience intimacy outside of sexual relationships, she added.

“We’re more connected than ever if you think of technology and all the ways that we can communicate,” she said. But it doesn’t always lead to deeper human relationships because it’s “this constant checking with their devices, just constant restlessness with it.”

The rise of the incels and the sex robot seem to be indications (albeit extreme ones) of another societal problem – we’re really, deeply lonely.

The loneliness problem

Recent research has shown that Americans are lonelier than ever, and technology may be the biggest culprit. A 2016 study found a strong correlation between amounts of time spent on social media and depression in young adults – the longer one lingered on sites like Facebook and Instagram, the more depressed they were.

Last year, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy began warning of a loneliness epidemic, a public health crisis he says has gone largely ignored but that nonetheless has detrimental impacts on people’s physical and emotional well-being.

Just last month, a survey of Americans conducted by Cigna insurance company also found that people are lonelier than ever – especially the young. At least half of the survey respondents identified themselves as lonely, and the average American scored a 44 on the UCLA-created “loneliness” scale, qualifying them as, well, lonely. The Cigna survey also found that how people used social media mattered – those who used it to reach out and make real connections were less lonely than those who just passively scrolled through feeds.

Cristina Barba is the founder and executive director of The Culture Project, an organization which sends teams of young people to high schools and youth groups to “proclaim the dignity of the human person and the richness of living sexual integrity, inviting our culture to become fully alive.”

In their work with young people, Barba said they have found that technology is exacerbating the already-emerging problems of social isolation in American culture to the extreme. Not only are young people more lonely, she said, they often do not know how to make authentic, real-world connections.

“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Barba told CNA. “The breakdown of family and marriage, families move far apart from each other, people not even having their parish worship communities like they used to…those are all broader societal issues.” “But I think what is most pervasive and most recent is technology,” she added. “Technology has just taken this to the next level, much more quickly.”

Barba’s findings match up with what researcher and psychologist Jean Twenge found among what she calls iGen, the generation after Millennials that grew up never knowing a world without the internet and smartphones.

“Social-networking sites like Facebook promise to connect us to friends. But the portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation,” Twenge said in a September 2017 article for The Atlantic. “Teens who visit social-networking sites every day but see their friends in person less frequently are the most likely to agree with the statements ‘A lot of times I feel lonely,’ ‘I often feel left out of things,’ and ‘I often wish I had more good friends.’ Teens’ feelings of loneliness spiked in 2013 and have remained high since,” Twenge said.

The Culture Project itself started out as a community of friends that came together, bonding over the fact that they had tried the culture’s path to happiness in various ways and had found it wanting, Barba noted.

Instead of “sitting around and moaning” about it, Barba said that group of friends decided to do something to make a difference. They started living in community, and forming the mission of The Culture Project, which gives talks to teens throughout the country about chastity and living lives of sexual integrity.

But while community has been a “key pillar” for The Culture Project, they’ve found that technology has made it so that teens today do not know how to form community or even friendships among themselves, let alone romantic relationships.

“We’ve had parents coming to us and say, ok it’s great that you’re talking about virtue and dating, but my kids don’t even know what it means to have a friend. Can you talk about friendship?”

Today’s teens are a generation that has been raised on the internet and social media, Barba said, which means that their idea of friendship equates to that of a follower.

“It’s like a show that you’re putting on,” she said, “it’s people that follow you and people that you follow. It’s not an interaction, the only interaction is to make others jealous, or to be cooler than or to prove yourself. There isn’t actually a meeting of common interests, or someone you do stuff together with, someone you care about. All of those things are lost through social media at a young age.”

‘Encounter’ as a solution

Culture Project missionaries address the friendship crisis in multiple ways throughout their encounters with teens, Barba said. One of the most effective ways to address this crisis has been simply modeling authentic, healthy friendships among the Culture Project teams.

“It’s actually them seeing the interactions of our missionaries – a couple guys who are normal, fun, attractive young men and women who are a little bit older than them…and they see these people interacting and it’s a beautiful, healthy, normal dynamic of friendship,” she said. “What we model in our interactions is what is profound and shocking to them.”

They also take the time to address social media, and bring to their students’ attention how much time they are probably spending on social media, and how it could be impacting their relationships.

Pornography and sexting – major pitfalls for young adults in a technology driven world – are also important to address.

The idea is not to bash technology, which is a neutral tool, Barba said, but to raise awareness of how addicted they have likely become to their devices, and to offer practical tips to counter that with more human interaction in their lives.

“We just bring to their attention – what are the ways that we use this? And wow, how many hours a day am I really on that?”

The challenge students to do media fasts – whether that’s an hour a day, or even a week, that they don’t use social media, and see how they feel during that time.

They also challenge them to fill that time with real human interaction – and they’ve had to come up with basic friendship guidelines to teach students how to do this.

“We’re literally making suggestions – and I just have to laugh – it’s the way people need dating guides right now, but it’s like friendship guides,” Barba said. “Like what do friends do? You could meet and go to the mall. You could meet and go to the movies. You could meet and go for a walk. I’m not even kidding.”

While the problem is not one that is easily fixed, Barba said she and her missionaries have found that little efforts can make a big difference.

“I think even just providing a space for young people, whether its a physical space or an event, but providing activities they can do together,” she said.

“It’s so basic, just basic human things, like families and parents spending time together. Or basic community, what parish life used to be or should be – people living near each other, that care about each other, that worship together, that have fun together, that have meals together, things like that,” she said.



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Calls for beatification of English missionary to Zimbabwe

May 30, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Harare, Zimbabwe, May 30, 2018 / 10:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A group devoted to John Bradburne, a lay missionary to what is now Zimbabwe in the 1970s, is raising money to fund an investigation into his life and virtues, in view of opening his cause for beatification.

The group, led by Bradburne’s neice, Celia Brigstocke, hopes to raise GBP 20,000 ($26,600) for the investigation.

Bradburne was born in 1921 in England, the son of an Anglican clergyman. He served in the British army in World War II, and he converted to Catholicism in 1947 after staying with the Benedictines of Buckfast Abbey.

He wished to become a monk at Buckfast, but had not been long enough in the Church, and he became a wanderer throughout Europe and the Middle East. He was a prolific poet. He stayed at other Benedictine abbeys, with Carthusians, the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, tried living as a hermit on Dartmoor in England, and became a Third Order Franciscan in 1956.

Through a Jesuit friend in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), Bradburne came to serve at the Mutemwa Leper Settlement, spending the last 10 years of his life there.

Southern Rhodesia declared independence in 1965, and the Rhodesian Bush War was fought from 1964 to 1979 among the white minority government; the Marxist Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army; and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).

As ZANU forces approached Mutemwa, Bradburne was urged to leave, but he insisted on remaining. He was kidnapped, and murdered Sept. 5, 1979.

He had confided in a Franciscan priest that his wishes were to serve leprosy patients, to die a martyr, and to be buried in the habit of St. Francis.


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Baptist congregation votes Jesus statue out for being ‘too Catholic’

May 30, 2018 CNA Daily News 3

Charleston, S.C., May 30, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Jesus is being evicted from a South Carolina church, and he must be out by the end of the month.

Red Bank Baptist Church in Lexington, about 120 miles northeast of Charleston, has voted to remove a  statue of Christ and its accompanying reliefs after 11 years, because they are believed to be too “Catholic in nature”.

The white, hand-carved statue in question shows Christ with his outstretched and stepping out of the wall, while the reliefs depict images from Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

Red Bank Baptist Church leaders sent a letter to the artist, Bert Baker Jr., earlier this month, informing him that the congregation had voted to remove the statue because it was being perceived as a Catholic icon and was causing confusion among churchgoers.

“We understand that this is not a Catholic icon, however, people perceive it in these terms. As a result, it is bringing into question the theology and core values of Red Bank Baptist Church,” church leaders Jeff Wright and Mike Dennis said in the letter.

Baker, a former member of the church’s congregation himself, was commissioned to make the statue for Red Bank in 2007.

In a response letter, Baker told the church leaders that he wanted the Christ statue to appear to be stepping out in a symbol of the Lord’s commission, and that the other images in the reliefs were based on basic facts about Christ’s life which can be found in the Bible.

“Under each arm the reliefs depict scriptural and historical events that we as Christians believe represent the life of Christ. There should be no confusion on the facts of Jesus’ birth, life events, the miracles, His crucifixion, death and most importantly His resurrection,” Baker said in his letter.

In comments to local newspaper The State, Baker said he was “not interested in stirring the pot, but people not liking it because it looked too Catholic is crazy, man. It’s been up there for 11 years.”

“I don’t agree with the letter, it bothers me,” he added.

Rhonda Davis shared photos of both the church’s letter and Baker’s response in a Facebook post, and commented that she found it “truly sad” that the statues were going to be removed for reasons that singled out Catholics.

She called the decision “disturbing and sad that in a time when we are all needing to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ to project and reflect His love to a lost and dying world…”

In his response letter to the church, Baker said that he was “stunned that your letter both insults the intelligence of the Red bank community (as not intelligent enough to know that Red Bank Baptist Church is a Baptist church despite having a large sign stating as much) and, more disturbing, singling out the Catholic church in such a manner as to suggest that their denomination is deficient in theology and lacking in Christian core values to the point that you wish to prevent or avoid any perceived association with them.”

“In a world that is dying with prejudices, it is disappointing for (a) church that claims Christ as its head would exclude any of His followers.”

Red Bank offered Baker the chance to remove the statues himself before May 31 if he wanted to reclaim them, but Baker said that he made the statue and reliefs for the church and that it was their choice to do with them as they wished.

However, he said he hoped the art would not be destroyed and that it instead might be donated to another church or sold to support a mission.

“I was commissioned to make the sculpture, and whatever they choose to do with it is their prerogative,” Baker told The State. “I just didn’t want it destroyed. I don’t want to take it down personally, but I hope they find another place for it.”


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Church building in Venezuela seized by local government group

May 30, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Merida, Venezuela, May 30, 2018 / 03:14 pm (ACI Prensa).- A group of people appropriated the facilities of a parish in Venezuela’s Mérida state on Monday afternoon, saying they were acting on behalf of the local government.

The group seized Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Ejido, fewer than 10 miles southwest of Mérida, May 28.

Bishop Luis Enrique Rojas Ruiz, Auxiliary Bishop of Mérida, said the group stormed in and tore off the padlocks to the doors that give access to the soccer field and parish halls.

The pastor, Fr. José Juan Flores, prevented them from entering the church and asked their identity. They replied that they were from the city council and they came on behalf of the mayor of Ejido, Simón Pablo Figueroa.

The occupiers immediately asked Fr. Flores to remove his belongings and proceeded to weld shut from the outside the metal doors leading to the soccer field.

Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency, Bishop Rojas explained that once he learned about the incident he decided to send a Whatsapp message about the “frightening and arbitrary” behavior of the group.

“We call on the authorities in charge of this case to answer for physical integrity and safety of  the parish priests as well as that all of the people who are there,” Bishop Rojas’ message reads.

Hours later, Bishop Rojas had a phone conversation with the mayor and invited him to a meeting. However, the meeting has not yet materialized, as the mayor is in Caracas.

Fr. Flores said that an incident of this kind was imminent since the church had been threatened with the seizure of its parish buildings and the priests and faithful had also been threatened.

“They have insulted the faith on many occasions, scratching highly offensive graffiti on the parish buildings. They want to damage the image of the priests and the diocese and so they damage beautiful works of art with expletives and major insults,” Bishop Rojas said.

Lawyers from the archdiocese and the town were to meet May 29 to agree on solutions to end the seizure.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA .