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Courage director responds to Austrian book on same-sex Church blessings

June 1, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2020 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- Blessings of homosexual couples in the Catholic Church would only obscure knowledge of what is important and good about persons with same-sex attraction, according to the director of Courage International.

“We need to have hope that some, perhaps many, of the people who propose things like these liturgical blessings for same-sex couples are motivated by good intentions. They do not want anyone to feel excluded by the Church, and so they look for ways to honor and recognize members of the parish in public ceremonies,” Fr. Philip Bochanski told CNA May 26.

Courage International provides pastoral support, prayer support, and fellowship for people with same-sex attraction who want to live chaste lives according to Catholic teaching.

“The Benediction of Same-Sex Partnerships” is a recently published, German language book which considers how homosexual couples might receive a formal, liturgical blessing of their union in the Church.

According to the book’s author, it was written in response to a request from the liturgical committee of the Austrian bishops’ conference.

Fr. Bochanski explained that pressing for blessings of same-sex couples “restricts rather than expands our understanding of what is good and important about our brothers and sisters.”

“To suggest that without a recognized sexual relationship (marriage or something like it), we are expecting people to live lonely, loveless lives, overlooks the fact that there are many kinds of love — charity, affection, friendship, to name a few — that are real, vital loves in their own right and not consolation prizes for people who aren’t married. We appreciate love less, not more, by insisting on same-sex unions.”

The Church, he said, should “speak the truth in love to them as we call them to pursue chaste friendship in its fullness rather than a sexual relationship that is missing essential elements of its meaning and purpose. It is not always an easy discussion to have, but it is an invitation to deep, authentic love, rather than an imposition that restricts someone’s freedom or fulfillment.”

Fr. Ewald Volgger, the principal author of the German language book, has said that through the blessing the Church would express “the obligation of fidelity and the exclusiveness of the relationship.”

Fr. Bochanski noted that “life-long fidelity and total exclusivity are two of the essential characteristics of conjugal union — that is, the qualities that make marriage what it is,” along with complementarity and openness to procreativity.
If each of these four characteristics are present, “you have an intimate relationship according to God’s plan,” he said. “If one or more of them is missing, then the relationship is outside of God’s plan — it is immoral.”

“The life-long fidelity and total exclusivity that are essential elements of marriage” are directed to erotic love, he said, and they thus tend “toward sexual union.”

“To say that people of the same sex ought to…pursue a permanent, exclusive relationship based on eros and not have a sexual union is unrealistic. But to tell them that in their pursuit of a permanent, exclusive relationship they can and should have a sexual union that by its nature excludes complementarity and procreativity is immoral.”

He added that “we find our fulfillment by following God’s plan for our lives. The clear teaching of the Church is that sexual intimacy between people of the same sex is always immoral. To tell our brothers and sisters who are attracted to the same sex that the way to find happiness and fulfillment, in this world and in eternal life, is to pursue a relationship that is contrary to God’s plan is a dangerous lie.”

Rather than pushing for blessings of homosexual couples, Catholics should begin outreach with accompaniment and listening, Fr. Bochanski stated.

“Our pastoral approach to people in same-sex unions who are seeking deeper participation in the life of the Church ought to start with a real willingness to ask for and listen to their stories.  Pope Francis says that ‘we ought to accompany them starting from their situation,’ and that when we welcome people with mercy and a willingness to take them where they are, ‘the Holy Spirit inspires [us] to say the right thing.’”

He said that “as we get to know the people who are coming to us, we begin to understand what they’ve been through, what they’re looking for, and whether they’re finding it.” Then a conversation about “what Christ and his Church desire for each member of the Body of Christ” can be had.

“We should invite people to talk frankly about what they understand of the Church’s moral teaching, whether they are living it, and what makes it easy or difficult for them to do so,” he said. “In this way we can enter a long-term dialogue in which we can lead them, step by step, to understand the teaching more clearly, and embrace it more fully.”

Celibates have a particular role in this, the Courage director said: “We ought to testify by our words and our lives the joy that we find in sacrificing one type of relationship — the sexually intimate relationship of marriage — and diving deep into loving relationships with friends, family and parishioners….joyful, faithful celibates can give a powerful witness and encouragement to those who are being called to embrace chastity in the form of an intentional single life.”

Fr. Bochanski also noted that the Church’s teaching on sexual morality is based on both scripture and the nature of the human person. It is found in the opening chapters of Genesis, and is reiterated by both Christ and St. Paul, and is written “not only in the human heart, but on the human body: we can look at how men and women’s bodies are different and related, and understand a great deal about God’s plan for intimate sexual union.”

“Our understanding and evaluation of same-sex intimate relationships is simply an application of these broad principles to a particular question, and it is in harmony with the teachings on sexuality and chastity that apply to every person and to every relationship,” he reflected.

“We can and should always be looking for ways to make these teachings understandable, to speak them clearly in ways that modern people can…grasp the beautiful realities that the doctrine expresses,” Fr. Bochanski advised. “We find new ways to present the age-old teachings because of where they come from. The Word of God and the nature of the human person are unchanging and unchangeable, and so the truths they teach us simply cannot change.”

He called it “extremely distressing” that some German prelates “speak as if the Church’s teaching can and ought to change. On the contrary, teaching that is part of the revealed Word of God and is consistently taught by the magisterium of the Church is held to be infallible and must be accepted with the assent of faith. This is particularly the obligation of priests, bishops and cardinals, who take an Oath of Fidelity at their ordinations in which they swear to hold these teachings firmly, teach them clearly, and shun anything contrary to them.”

The Courage director concluded, quoting from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons: “Departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church’s position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.”


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More than 300,000 attend Argentina’s online March for Life

June 1, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Argentina’s digital March for Life May 30 drew 390,000 participants on Facebook alone, according to preliminary numbers from march organizers.

The pro-life effort came on the heels of a promise from Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez to again push for a bill to legalize abortion in the country’s legislature. That legislation was on the verge of being introduced in March when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the country, forcing its postponement.

Current law in Argentina prohibits abortion, except when the mother’s life or health is determined to be in danger, or in cases of rape.

In a controversial move, Fernandez’ appointee as Minister of Health, Ginés González García, issued new protocols on abortion Dec. 12 2019, widening the circumstances for a legal abortion.

Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Senator Silvia Elías de Pérez, a pro-life leader in the country’s legislature, stressed that “today’s march has been very positive.”

The senator said that a 2018 bill that would expand legal protection for abortion in Argentina was defeated in part because of  “a huge number of Argentinians who throughout the country came out to defend their ideas, their rights, to say that in Argentina every life matters and that being born in Argentina should not be a right only for those who are wanted.”

Argentina’s May 2018 March for Life events drew an estimated three million participants in multiple cities across the country.

The 2020 digital march, Elías de Pérez said, can serve “as a new point of departure” helping pro-life groups to “get back on track again, back to work, because we have to take up the fight again.”

The senator lamented that “it is extremely sad, dramatic, that in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, in which we are fighting for people’s lives, it still occurs to a government to send (to the legislature) this kind of anti-life initiative.”

“So what’s important once again is to put our minds and passion at the service of this cause, which is the noblest of all because it means fighting for the preservation of the human race, understood as preserving life in all its stages” she said.

The digital march, which lasted about two hours on Facebook and YouTube, featured the participation of well-known pro-life leaders, including Mexican actor and producer Eduardo Verástegui.

The actor said that in all the pro-life forums he participates in, “the message I always give is to take the word pro-life to its fullest meaning.”

“Of course we have to defend life in the mother’s womb, defend the most important and fundamental right, the right to be born, because if you’re not born you can’t enjoy any other right,” he said. “But we pro-lifers don’t stop there, because after that, who’s next? Homeless children, there shouldn’t be one more child on the street, and that depends on us, on everyone,” Verástegui said.

The Mexican movie star also urged eradicating the crime of human trafficking as well as helping teens addicted to drugs and abandoned or abused mothers.

To be pro-life, he continued, is to care “for the lives of the sick who don’t have the resources to pay for a good doctor, for adequate treatment,” and to advocate “for the lives of those who are falsely accused and in prison.”

Defending life also means, Verástegui said, doing something for “the lives of the elderly who are abandoned in a nursing home, sad to death because not even their family members come to see them.”

“To be the voice of those who have no voice, to defend those who cannot defend themselves” is to be pro-life,” he emphasized.

A version of this story was first publish by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.



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Pope Francis donates an ambulance to aid the homeless

June 1, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2020 / 11:57 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has donated an ambulance that will be set apart to serve Rome’s poor and homeless population in need of emergency medical care.

“It is a new gift from the Holy Father, entrusted to the Office of Papal Charities, in favor of the poorest, in particular of the homeless who face the difficulties of the streets,” a Vatican communique stated June 1.

The pope blessed the ambulance before Mass on Pentecost Sunday. The Vatican City ambulance will be used in coordination with the Vatican’s medical aid initiatives for service to the poor, who arrive sick at the Vatican’s homeless shelter and medical clinic.

This is the most recent of Pope Francis’ many initiatives to serve the homeless near the Vatican.

During the coronavirus pandemic, St. Peter’s Square itself became a refuge for Rome’s homeless who could not find a place in the shelter’s across the city.

Despite added risks, the services for homeless men and women near the Vatican continued uninterrupted, including the papal charities-run showers and bathrooms, located under and between the right colonnade and a Vatican wall.

The mobile medical clinic in St. Peter’s Square continued to provide medical care to those in need throughout Italy’s lockdown in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pope Francis also opened a four-story homeless shelter right off of the St. Peter’s Square colonnade in November. The homeless shelter, staffed by the Sant’Egidio community, has two floors of dormitories that can sleep 50 men and women, a kitchen to provide breakfast and dinner, and a recreation area for fellowship, educational programs, and psychological counseling.

The Vatican statement said that Modesta Valenti served as an inspiration for the papal ambulance dedicated for the homeless. Valenti was a homeless woman who died in front of Rome’s Termini train station on Jan. 31, 1983 after an ambulance refused to take her to the hospital because she had lice.

Rome’s homeless gather to pray and honor those who died on the streets each year with the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, who organize an annual memorial near the anniversary of Valenti’s death. There are an estimated 8,000 homeless people currently living in Rome.



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Hong Kong police cancel Tiananmen Square vigil

June 1, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Hong Kong police have reportedly curtailed a vigil for the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, citing public health concerns.

The cancellation of the annual vigil comes after the Chinese legislature last week moved to impose security laws on Hong Kong that democracy advocates say completely undermine the region’s autonomy.

On Monday, the city’s police force sent a letter to the organizer of the Tiananmen vigil saying that the annual event could not take place out of caution for spreading the new coronavirus, the Hong Kong Free Press reported. The police said they were extending current public health restrictions on gatherings to the event.

It is reportedly the first time in 30 years that the vigil will not take place in Hong Kong, which commemorates the killing of hundreds pro-democracy protesters by the Chinese military in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, on June 3-4 in 1989. 

The “special administrative regions” of Hong Kong and Macau are the only places in China where the events have been publicly commemorated. Vigils for the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen last year were censored in the Chinese mainland. The annual vigil in the city’s Victoria Park draws large crowds every year. In 2019, organizers estimated participation at 180,000, though police announced a crowd size of only 40,000.

As a “special administrative region” of China, Hong Kong has its own legislature and economic system as part of the “one country, two systems” agreement when the United Kingdom transferred control of the territory to China in 1997.

While tensions with the Chinese mainland have existed since the handover, in recent years pro-democracy advocates have voiced increasing concerns that the city’s autonomy is in jeopardy.

Last summer, Hong Kong’s legislature introduced a controversial bill that would allow for extradition of alleged criminals to the Chinese mainland; the bill was pulled after months of large-scale pro-democracy protests. Mass demonstrations and street protests continued throughout the second half of 2019, with some Catholic students taking a role in the protests to push for autonomy and religious freedom.

Last month, China moved to impose new security and anti sedition measures on Hong Kong, prompting international observers to declare that the region is no longer autonomous.

After efforts to pass the law on the island stalled, on May 21 the mainland government announced a plan bypass Hong Kong’s legislature, criminalizing acts that are interpreted to be a subversion of state authority, foreign interference, or secessionist. On May 28, the national legislature passed a resolution to allow for the security laws to be imposed on Hong Kong. The vote carried by a margin of 2,878 to 1, with the single delegate from Hong Kong opposing the measure.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, told CNA on May 27 that “We have nothing good to hope for. Hong Kong is simply completely under [China’s] control.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated on May 27 that “[n]o reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.” A May 28 joint statement of the U.S., Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom expressed “deep concern” over the security law, saying it would “dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who authored the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act which passed the U.S. House last year, said that Beijing’s actions are linked to its systematic repression of human rights throughout the whole country.

“It would be myopic for the world not to recognize Xi Jinping’s assault on Hong Kong including the new draconian national security legislation as part of the Chinese communist government’s exponential increase of abuse that includes genocide against Muslim Uyghurs, the massive crackdown on religious freedom, the pervasive use of torture against prisoners of conscience, coercive population control including forced abortion and COVID-19 lies that launched a pandemic,” Smith said.

“The United States—even if we have to go it alone—must impose sanctions.” he said.

On May 30, President Trump announced that the U.S. would revoke its policies conferring special treatment on Hong Kong and revise the State Department’s travel advisory to the region.

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong has been led temporarily by retired Cardinal John Tong Hon since January of 2019. Cardinal Zen told CNA his concern that the next bishop of Hong Kong would have Beijing’s approval.

“And you can just imagine, in all these years, with all the persecution increasing in China, with all the cruelties, the brutalities of the police on our young people— no word from the Vatican. No word. Not one word,” Cardinal Zen said.