Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2018 / 08:45 am (CNA).- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th circuit issued an order Thursday vacating a 2014 District Court decision against the Eternal Word Television Network in its lawsuit against the so-called contr… […]
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2018 / 06:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Servant of God Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic politician from Pakistan who was killed in 2011, is a witness of how to act with love in the face of hatred, Pope Francis said Friday.
Speaking to a Paki… […]
Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2018 / 03:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- To the outside viewer, crystals are pretty rocks.
Perfectly curated pictures of the pretty stones pepper the social media feeds of scores of millennials, as they have become increasingly popular on necklaces and as part of a “wholistic”, wellness-minded life. But, more than just a fashion statement, crystals are believed by some to have healing properties, related to their energy or vibrations.
The Catholic Church rejects all things associated with New Age beliefs, including the trendy crystals, as heretical and dangerous.
At the same time, the Catholic Church embraces the veneration of relics.
To the outside viewer, relics are likely strange at best, and morbid at worst.
Relics are pieces of the body, clothing or other objects that have a direct association with a saint or with Jesus Christ. They may be pieces of bone or vials of blood collected after a saint has died, or a piece of their cassock, a book they used, or items that have been touched to these things.
Relics are venerated, often with a touch or a kiss, for the sake of the worship of God, and to ask the prayers of those saints.
So why is it ok for Catholics to kiss a vial of St. John Paul II’s blood and pray for his intercession, but not ok for Catholics to cure their negative energy by wearing a rock around their neck?
It’s all about who you want to establish a relationship with, explained Fr. Jim Orr, the director of St. Anthony’s Chapel in Pittsburgh, which is home to 5,000 relics.
“The importance of the relics is their association with the saint, because while the saints would be in the glory of heaven, their body is still their body, so it’s that association that makes the relics important, and, if you will, creates the connection,” Orr told CNA.
“When one venerates a relic, one is essentially making a connection with the saint in the glory of heaven. So what is going on spiritually is a kind of prayer to the saint, invoking their intercession.”
What makes a saint holy or worthy of veneration is not some kind of “spiritual radioactivity,” Orr noted, but their holiness, which is how well they loved God and neighbor.
“Holiness is the difference between the world and those who follow Jesus Christ, and it’s a difference of behavior,” Orr said.
“Look at God’s great commandments: love God with all your heart, mind and soul, love your neighbor as yourself, love one another as I have loved you. This is how they will know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.”
“And any of the great saints, if you look at them, (that love) is the characteristic of their lives. So when we look at relics, or blessed or consecrated objects, it’s about how they help us make the connection with those who have gone on into glory (in heaven),” he said.
In some ways, crystals are similar to relics, in that they are physical objects that can establish a spiritual connection. But it would be a mistake to think of them as anything but harmful, Orr said.
“It’s far from harmless. This is thinly-veiled so-called witchcraft, which really is playing with demons,” he said.
In the Vatican document “Jesus Christ: The bearer of the water of life”, the Church teaches that all things associated with New Age beliefs, including crystals, must be rejected, as they claim to offer an alternative to the Word of God: “From the point of view of Christian faith, it is not possible to isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Christians, while rejecting others. Since the New Age movement makes much of a communication with nature, of cosmic knowledge of a universal good – thereby negating the revealed contents of Christian faith – it cannot be viewed as positive or innocuous.”
Furthermore, the Catechism rejects New Age beliefs and the use of crystals: “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”
Father Gary Thomas, an exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose, told CNA that relics only obtain spiritual significance because they are associated with the saints. Saints are recognized as holy through the authority of the Church, which has its authority in God through apostolic succession, starting with the first Pope, St. Peter.
Crystals can have “perverted” spiritual energy through spells or pagan rituals that are performed with them, he said.
“Crystals can be used as conjuring objects for the demonic,” Thomas told CNA. “I have had people come to me for deliverance who have been involved in the practice of using crystals for demonic musterings.”
Orr, who has also been involved in exorcism ministry, said he too has seen people who have established connections with the demonic through their use of things like crystals.
“The demons go along until they can get their hooks into this person, and then they turn on them, and that’s when we in the ministry see them, when they finally realize what they’re dealing with, and they can’t disassociate themselves from the demons,” he said. That’s when they come seeking the help of exorcists.
“So in that sense, that’s how crystals are like relics. It’s who you’re creating a relationship with. The relics create a relationship with the saints and the glory of heaven; crystals create a relationship with demons.”
Indianapolis, Ind., Nov 30, 2018 / 12:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Nineteen states and numerous pro-life and disability groups have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold an Indiana law prohibiting abortions based on race, sex or disability. The law ha… […]
Rome, Italy, Nov 29, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Gerhard Müller said in a recent interview that the problem of clerical sex abuse must be countered primarily by spiritual renewal, prayer, and penance. […]
Sacramento, Calif., Nov 29, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- A California court of appeals overturned Tuesday a lower court’s ruling that had put the state’s assisted suicide law in jeopardy.
The 4th District Court of Appeals in Riverside, Californ… […]
Santa Fe, N.M., Nov 29, 2018 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Santa Fe announced Thursday it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
At a press conference Nov. 29, Archbishop John Wester said that filing for bankruptcy is an equitable… […]
As another attack ends an uneasy calm in northern Mozambique, a growing Islamist insurgency in the region has continued to worry Catholic bishops in the southern African country. On November 14, the insurgents attacked Nagulue’, […]
Washington D.C., Nov 29, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Landmarks from London to Sydney were illuminated with red light Wednesday, in tribute to the modern martyrs around the world who have offered their lives for Christ and the Church.
In Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Catholics and Church leaders from four continents gathered inside the illuminated shrine to pray solemn vespers for the persecuted Church.
“For me, it’s really a blessed moment where we have the whole Church praying for us persecuted churches around the world,” Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq told CNA at the event Nov. 28.
Red Wednesday shows “that we are one in Christ. If any part of the body of Christ is suffering, the whole body is suffering,” he continued.
The Iraqi archbishop also spoke of suffering in the context of the “purification” of the Catholic Church, describing not only the persecution of the faithful in his home country, but also touching on Catholics’ suffering due to the sex abuse crisis in the West.
“We feel the pain of the Church today because of the sins of its servants, and I believe that the Holy Spirit is working in the Church for its painful cleansing from within to become purified and to be the bride of Jesus Christ,” Warda said at the prayer vigil.
“Jesus gave up everything only to be holy to the Father,” he said. “Love, peace, and forgiveness will always remain and have the last word. He will achieve victory with his grace.”
“God gave us the grace to overcome ISIS,” Warda said.
Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio, and Bishop Oliver Doeme of Maiduguri, Nigeria were among the distinguished guests at the basilica event organized by Aid to the Church in Need.
“We must not hide from suffering when it comes. We must firmly address it in faith, love, and prayer,” Warda said.
The Iraqi bishop shared stories and statistics of the suffering that his people have endured. “Since 2003, 61 churches and shrines were burned, destroyed, or harmed. Over 55,000 homes seized, 150,000 Christians were displaced in 2015. Countless Christians have been kidnapped or murdered,” he said.
“The Church in Iraq is a martyr Church,” Warda said. “Our persecution continues to make us a church of peace and reconciliation, transforming us into an apostolic, missionary church.”
“Persecution brings us closer to Jesus … We are called upon to remain faithful to the Gospel” through “an invitation to the cross,” he continued.
Throughout the prayer vigil, the names of 20 martyrs killed between 2017 and 2018 were read aloud. Priests were among the martyrs from Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Venezuela, Madagascar, and Kenya.
Those gathered in the basilica prayed for Catholics who remain missing since being kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and Mali.
Specific attacks against large groups of Christians in Egypt, Pakistan, Central African Republic, and other countries were also remembered. On November 15, 42 people died in an attack on the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Alindao, Central African Republic.
Aid to the Church in Need began the “Red Wednesday” initiative in an effort to draw attention to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world today. On Nov. 28, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Westminster Cathedral in London, and more than a dozen other buildings were lit red for the evening.
Warda told CNA, “This is really a time for prayer, a time to be with the persecuted one. It gives the Church a mission today … to be with those who have been persecuted for their faith, been neglected, been marginalized, to feel their pain, even when we are in distance.”
“I take this message back home and will tell them that the whole Church is praying for you,” he continued. “It makes us more strong in knowing that we are persecuted, but not forgotten.”
Washington D.C., Nov 29, 2018 / 02:19 pm (CNA).- Before it began, many U.S. bishops expected their November general assembly in Baltimore to produce something tangible – a new policy, structure, or system – that would help them reassure Catholics that they were responding to months of sexual abuse scandals breaking across the Church.
But after a last-minute Vatican’s decision to suspend a vote on draft measures until after a Rome meeting of the heads of the world’s bishops’ conferences in February, it seems likely that no universal response to the crisis will emerge until at least the second half of 2019.
Some U.S. bishops have told CNA they now realize that if they want to initiate new reforms, they’ll have to do so in their own dioceses, using the ordinary prerogatives of a diocesan bishop.
As they wait for Rome to form its response to the crisis, there are several options available to bishops who are looking to improve diocesan mechanisms for handling clerical misconduct.
And as bishops begin to implement new policies at the diocesan level, their local action might provide useful examples for study and consideration ahead of the February meeting Rome.
The Promoter of Justice
One of the common threads across most proposals for responding to the abuse crisis is the call more independent, lay-led involvement in handling accusations of abuse or sexual misconduct.
Independent lay involvement is seen increasingly as a necessary aspect of transparent and accountable investigations. Bishops have suggested such involvement is the best defense against clericalism, and a defense against any the temptation for bishops to shirk from imposing justice on themselves or clerics they (rightly) view as their spiritual sons.
While U.S. dioceses already have independent lay review boards, concerns have been raised about how such bodies fit within the Church’s structure and canonical processes,.
There is a fine line between independent accountability and “outsourcing” problems. The need to preserve canonical coherence in the handling of accusations is essential to a credible outcome.
One ready-made option for individual bishops to consider is the role of the promoter of justice. This is a position in canon law which functions as something akin to a public prosecutor or district attorney. Every diocese is to have one, and they are supposed to intervene in all cases concerning the public good.
In many dioceses, the promoter of justice is a priest who has to combine the role with other chancery or tribunal duties, leaving an important function as often little more than a name on paper. But this does not have to be the case.
Canon law provides that the promoter of justice can be either cleric or layman, with the only requirements for the role being an “unimpaired reputation,” a doctorate or license in canon law, and a proven “prudence and zeal for justice.”
Some observers have suggested that any diocesan bishop could, if he wished, appoint a lay expert in handling sexual abuse cases as his promoter of justice and empower that office with the independence and resources needed to deliver a truly credible, and canonically coherent response to allegations. This could include the use of experts in the fields of civil criminal law, psychology, and sexual abuse.
While cases of sexual abuse of minors are reserved to Rome, a sufficiently independent and well-resourced local promoter of justice could conduct the preliminary investigation into all accusations of sexual abuse – including against the local bishop – in a way which would be externally credible and canonically sound.
A serious and independent office of promoter of justice, run by a lay expert in canon law, could also help address the current confusion of terms which often clouds the handling of cases. Canonical authorities in Rome and lay experts and civil lawyers in America often mean and understand very different things when using words like “credible” or “substantiated” to talk about accusations.
A well-resourced promoter of justice might also bring a renewed level of canonical formality and rigor to cases involving clerical misconduct with adults. To help this to happen, bishops could make use of another power available to them: they could make local laws.
Enhanced Local Law
While accusations of child sexual abuse have drawn the most attention, most of the allegations facing Archbishop Theodore McCarrick concern alleged sexual behavior with seminarians and priests.
While such behavior, either coercive or consensual, is certainly sinful, many have noted that there is no clear canonical crime with which to charge McCarrick, or other clerics similarly accused.
The 1917 Code of Canon Law contained a comprehensive list of illicit sexual behavior. Clerics who engaged in sexual activity, either with men or women, minors or adults, were subject to a range of penalties up to and including laicization.
The whole code was revised following Vatican Council II, and much of the Church’s long list of canonical crimes was simplified or removed from the new version, promulgated in 1983. Many were left with the impression that the Church was moving away from the idea penal law at all, seeing it as out of step with a modern, more pastoral approach.
However, the bishops charged with reforming the Church’s penal law had an entirely different motivation.
Universal penal law was not downscaled to create a disciplinary vacuum, but in order to clear space for individual bishops to pass local laws best suited to their own circumstances.
It is within the power of every bishop to pass particular canon law for his own diocese. Such legislation could be introduced relatively easily and could address illicit sexual behavior by clerics in the diocese with adults, consensual or otherwise. Such laws could also provide for aggravating factors, like public scandal caused and the abuse of pastoral or hierarchical relationships between parishioners, seminarians, priests, and bishops.
Bishops could also lay out clear and escalating penalties for priests who are unable or unwilling to live chastely. Depending on circumstances, an initial moral lapse by a priest could be met with a lesser punishment, enhanced supervision, and restricted ministry. Those who repeatedly offend could be subjected to increasingly punitive measures, including the possibility that a bishop might ask the Vatican to remove the priest from the clerical state altogether.
Misconduct and Mental Illness
With a clear canonical framework to work from, bishops could also bring a sense consistency and rigor to clerical disciplinary procedures often haphazardly applied.
Very often, the first instinct of a bishop when dealing with a priest who has engaged in sexual misconduct is to send him for psychological assessment and treatment.
While it is true that some priests can find themselves isolated in their ministry and living under enormous pressure, illicit sexual behavior – either with adults or minors – is not itself evidence of a mental disorder.
For years, some canonical experts have said that sending, for example, two priests found engaged in consensual homosexual acts for “a psychological assessment” is a step that begins a process from the presumption of moral irresponsibility, and therefore undermines the Church’s penal law.
The current scandal might lead to a change in that practice.
Some bishops have also found that “medicalizing” canonically criminal behavior can tie their hands at the end of the process. If a priest who has committed a grave sexual offence is sent for treatment, the expectation is that he should be returned to ministry once therapists believe treatment has been effective – even if the bishop has his own doubts about the priest’s moral or personal aptitude for priestly ministry.
But in the wake of the McCarrick scandal and ensuing revelations, bishops may soon move away from the “therapeutic model,” and begin treating acts of grave immorality principally as matters of justice and mercy, punishment and reform. This move, if it happens, would leave them free to account for the damage to victims and to Church community caused by offending clerics, and allow them to make their own prudential judgment about a priest’s future.
To many Catholics, the crisis facing the Church in the United States, while caused by sexual abuse, has developed into a crisis of leadership. Earlier this week, JD Flynn wrote about the danger of a “paralysis of analysis.” Some bishops have said they are frustrated with the pace of global reforms; as they wait, they might decide that it is time to act for themselves.