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Vatican’s doctrinal office expected to release document on gender theory

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s doctrinal office is preparing a document which will address Church teaching and the anthropology of the human person in the context of so-called gender theory, according to a Vatican official.

According to a source, speaking to CNA on background, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is expected to publish in the coming months a more in-depth theological and anthropological text than the guide that was published by the Congregation for Catholic Education earlier this week.

With “Male and Female He Created Them,” issued June 10, the Congregation for Catholic Education did not intend to give a detailed treatment of the topic of gender in all areas, but to provide a guide for those in Catholic school and university environments on how to approach and engage with the advancement of gender theory in contemporary society, the source said.

The document focuses on the educational context because it is the congregation’s competency, according to the source, though experts and other Vatican departments were consulted as is ordinary practice.

The 31-page text, signed in February by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, was in production for three years, and came about largely due to the requests of bishops on ad limina visits.

The source told CNA that the education congregation has heard from a large number of bishops looking for support from the Vatican on the topic of so-called gender theory in the educational environment.

Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, stated last year that his department was preparing a document on gender theory.

At the time, Zani said the document was expected within one to two months. He spoke at a March 2018 study conference on education and teaching at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

Zani said on the same occasion that another “deeper” document on the same topic was in the works at the CDF.

Writing for L’Osservatore Romano this week, prefect Versaldi said the document from Catholic Education “traces history, focuses on reasonable meeting points and proposes the Christian anthropological vision.”

He criticized an ideology which “induces educational projects and legislative guidelines that promote a personal identity and an affective intimacy radically detached from the biological diversity between male and female.”

Chilean auxiliary bishop-elect steps down after controversial statements

Santiago, Chile, Jun 14, 2019 / 11:32 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Fr. Carlos Eugenio Irarrázaval Errazuriz as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Chile. Irarrázaval was criticized last month for some polemical statements about the Jewish people.

Irarrázaval, 53, was named an auxiliary of Santiago May 22, and his episcopal consecration was scheduled to take place July 16.

A June 14 statement from the Santiago archdiocese said Irarrázaval will continue in his role as a parish priest at Sacred Heart of Jesus church in Providencia, an outer suburb of Santiago.

The decision for Irarrázaval to resign “was the fruit of dialogue and joint discernment, in which Pope Francis valued the spirit of faith and humility of the priest, in favor of the unity and good of the Church that is a pilgrim in Chile,” according to the statement.

Irarrázaval apologized to the Jewish community at the end of May after he made some controversial statements in an interview with CNN Chile May 23.

In the interview, the priest was asked about the role of women in the Church, to which he said: “we all have to ensure that they can do what they may want to do. Obviously, Jesus Christ marked out for us certain guidelines, and if we want to be the Church of Jesus Christ, we have to be faithful to Jesus Christ.”

“Jewish culture is a male dominated culture to this day,” he continued. “If you see a Jew walking down the street, the woman goes ten steps behind. But Jesus Christ breaks with that pattern. Jesus Christ converses with women, converses with the adulteress, with the Samaritan woman. Jesus Christ let women care for him.”

“It is true that at the Last Supper there was no woman seated at the table, and we also have to respect that. Jesus Christ made choices and he didn’t do it ideologically,” he said.

May 28 Irarrázaval expressed his apologies to the Jewish community during a meeting held at the archdiocesan offices with Jewish representatives.

Also present at the meeting were Bishop Celestino Aós Braco, apostolic administrator of Santiago; Bishop Cristián Carlos Roncagliolo Pacheco, a Santiago auxiliary; Fr. José Manuel Arenas; and the rabbis Alejandro Bloch, Samuel Szteinhendler, and Daniel Zang.

Fr. Irarrázaval also apologized May 29 for using “expressions which troubled and even pained many people.”

“I would like to sincerely ask forgiveness for the suffering and bewilderment that my statements may have caused,” he said in a letter.

The Archdiocese of Santiago de Chile is a major metropolitan see. In the last decade it has become one of the focus-points for the clerical sexual abuse crisis in Chile.

Pope Francis named Bishop Celestino Aós Braco apostolic administrator of Santiago in March, after the acceptance of the resignation of the archbishop, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, who has faced accusations of involvement in covering up the crimes of several abusive priests.

Santiago is lacking much of its leadership after many of the archdiocese’s auxiliary bishops were appointed by Pope Francis as apostolic administrators for other dioceses in the wake of last year’s mass-resignation of Chilean bishops.

There will now be one new auxiliary bishop of Santiago, Fr. Alberto Lorenzelli, who was appointed May 22. An Argentine raised in Italy, Lorenzelli has been working in Chile the last five years. He will be consecrated a bishop by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica June 22.

Analysis: 'Job begun' not 'job done' in Baltimore

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 10:21 am (CNA).- Today the bishops of the United States return home after the USCCB General Assembly.

After a week’s worth of meetings and votes, they can point to real steps taken towards healing the breach of trust between the hierarchy and the faithful. But the passage of several worthy policy documents to one side, there is much work left for the bishops to do.

After a year marked by one episcopal scandal after another, the message the bishops take back to their diocese is more “job begun” than “job done.”

Four key measures were approved by overwhelming majorities during the sessions in Baltimore.

An independently administered, national reporting mechanism is to be set up, to ensure that complaints against bishops can be processed in a clear and credible way.

Directives for applying the pope’s new universal law Vos estis lux mundi were approved, laying out a clear role for lay involvement in the implementation of the “metropolitan model” for investigating allegations.

The weight of the last year’s scandals was addressed with an “Affirmation of Our Episcopal Commitments” by all the bishops: “Because of these failures, the faithful are outraged, horrified, and discouraged,” they wrote, while rededicating themselves to their core mission as shepherds and the high standards the people pews had every right to expect of them.

The bishops also passed, virtually without comment, a set of protocols explaining how a diocesan bishop can restrict the ministry of his retired predecessor when necessary, and made clear that the USCCB president could formally disinvite retired or resigned bishops from attending conference meetings.

By passing these four reforms, the bishops have given themselves a considerable amount of homework.

Contracting a vendor for the independent national reporting line has been left to the conference leadership, and will take some time to put in place – though it will be up and running no later than May next year. But once a complaint is made, the hotline will have to alert the appropriate metropolitan archbishop or senior suffragan -as well as the competent lay person each has designated to help in such cases.

Accounting for every metropolitan and senior suffragan, this means that for the national reporting mechanism to come online, 64 lay people have to be identified, trained, and put in place across the country – no small task. The USCCB have promised a set of guidelines to help with this process by Labor Day.

The question of lay involvement also carries over to the directives implementing Vos estis. During a closed meeting this week of the country’s 32 metropolitans, there was, according to more than one archbishop, unanimous agreement about the “indispensable” role of independent lay experts. But ensuring that each archbishop– and each senior suffragan bishop – can put in place an expert suitably qualified to add value to the process of evaluating allegations will not be done overnight.

Much work is still needed on the standards against which allegations are to be assessed.

The affirmation of episcopal responsibility commits every bishop to publish “clear explanations as to what constitutes sexual misconduct with adults, as well as what constitutes sexual harassment of adults.” Set within the wider question of what constitutes the sexual abuse of a “vulnerable” adult raised by Vos estis, every bishop in the country is now committed to drawing “clear” lines against which to measure the often very messy facts of individual cases, a legal and pastoral challenge the size of which many might not yet fully appreciate.

On Thursday, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told CNA that there would necessarily be different definitions of misconduct and harassment in different dioceses, because each had to reflect civil laws in each state. Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing sexual contact between a religious minister and a congregant. But how such distinctions will play out canonically could prove problematic – few will likely be impressed if a bishop in one diocese can escape unpunished for behavior that would be termed serious misconduct in another.

Technical questions like these went largely undiscussed on the assembly floor in Baltimore, with debate finishing nearly two hours ahead of schedule – something which many of the bishops may yet come to see as a missed opportunity.

It is possible that having had to wait since their last meeting in November to pass measures aimed at showing substantive progress in response to scandals like that of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the U.S. bishops were in a hurry to cast their votes. But in their haste, the bishops may also have passed up a pastoral opportunity to speak directly to the faithful.

While acknowledging the “outrage and horror” of the faithful at the behavior of some bishops, few in the assembly hall expressed those emotions at the microphone.

While passing the protocols to limit the ministry of retired or resigned bishops under clouds of serious scandal, there was no debate or conversation about the clear cases to which they could be usefully and immediately applied.

While the president of the conference can now formally disinvite retired bishops from future meetings, no bishop rose to suggest this be extended immediately to cover, for example, Cardinal Roger Mahony, who attended the last session in November; Bishop Robert Finn, who was in Baltimore this week; Archbishop John Neinstedt; or Bishop Michael Bransfield, who was at the center of a damning report released just prior to the June meeting.

Seeing the bishops overcome their squeamishness at calling out their scandalous brethren is, to many faithful, more than just an exercise in catharsis.

Anonymous votes may signal unity, but they are unlikely to displace McCarrick as the image that comes to mind for many when they think of the American bishops; individual bad cases may be the small minority, but the majority remain essentially faceless for many ordinary Catholics. For all the solidarity behind the reforming measures in Baltimore, the assembly lacked a clear, urgent, moral voice denouncing the sins of the few and sharing the anger, not just the sadness of the faithful.

As they return to their dioceses, the bishops have considerable work still to do before they meet again. Much of that essential work will take place in chancery offices, but the more urgent – and likely more fruitful – work will be in the pulpit.

Vatican Secretary of State marks 25 years of diplomatic relations with Israel

Rome, Italy, Jun 14, 2019 / 06:56 am (CNA).- Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin marked the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel Thursday by calling for a shared commitment to religious freedom and combatting anti-Semitism.

“The peace process and the future of the region are in the heart of the pope and the Holy See,” Parolin said June 13 at a ceremony commemorating the anniversary in the Great Synagogue of Rome.

“The Holy See and the State of Israel are called to join forces to promote religious freedom -- of religion and of conscience -- as an indispensable condition to protect the dignity of every human being, and to work together to combat anti-Semitism,” he said.

Parolin said that the special nature of the relationship between Israel and the Holy See emerges from the unique character of the Holy Land.

“Jerusalem, the city of peace, is at its heart, the common heritage for all the faithful of the three great monotheistic religions and of the whole world,” he said.

“Our religious and political commitment favors the city's vocation to be a place of reconciliation and encounter between religions, as well as a symbol of respect and peaceful cohabitation,” the Secretary of State continued.

To mark the anniversary, Pope Francis invited all believers and non-believers to dedicate “a minute of peace,” a minute of prayer and reflection for “a more fraternal world,” Parolin said.

The Holy See established full diplomatic relations with Israel with the Fundamental Agreement signed in December 1993, which set forth a common commitment to cooperate in combaing anti-Semitism, the promotion of academic exchanges, and cooperation in encouring Christian pilgrimages.

Diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv and the Vatican opened on June 15, 1994. Each of the following popes visited Israel since the signing of the agreement. Saint Pope John Paul II in 2000, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, and Pope Francis in 2014.

In his speech to the Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See Oren David and the Israeli diplomatic corp, Cardinal Parolin highlighted the prayer meeting between Israeli and Palestinian presidents hosted by the Vatican in June 2014 and Pope Francis’ address to international conference on combatting anti-Semintism in 2018.

“The Church wishes to extend its hand. We want to remember and walk together … mindful of the heritage shared in common with the Jewish people, driven not by political reasons, but by religious evangelical charity, we deplore the hatred, persecution and all manifestations of anti-Stemitism directed against the Jewish people at any time and from anyone,” Pope Francis said.

Illinois bishops oppose abortion law, disagree on Communion for pro-choice lawmakers

Baltimore, Md., Jun 14, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- While two Illinois bishops are unified in their strong opposition to the state’s new abortion law, they differ on the question of prohibiting to receive Holy Communion the Catholic state legislators who led the effort for the bill’s passage.

“I think that our Catholic people are rightfully scandalized when they see Catholic politicians not only voting for, but actively promoting abortion rights, and they wonder, ‘Well how can you promote abortion rights and call yourself a Catholic in good standing?’”

“And the answer to that is ‘You can’t,’” Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. told CNA of his decision to prohibt from receiving Holy Communion in his diocese the two legislators who led in the effort to pass a law recognizing abortion as a “fundamental right” and explicitly denying independent rights to unborn children apart from the mother.

He added that “to be clear and say ‘no, you can’t be promoting abortion legislation and be a Catholic in good standing,’ it also protects the integrity of the sacraments, saying that receiving Holy Communion is a very sacred thing to do.”

The Illinois Reproductive Health Act (Senate Bill 25), signed by the state’s Governor J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday, recognizes abortion as a “fundamental right” and mandates that insurance companies cover abortions.

And it goes even further than that, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago told CNA.  

“What’s pernicious about this law, and what’s so very difficult, is that it says that the unborn child has absolutely no claim on rights,” Cupich said.

“It says that human life is cheap. That’s the message that we send—that human life is cheap in the State of Illinois.”

Cupich, however, told CNA that he thought it would be “counterproductive” to deny Holy Communion in his archdiocese to the legislators who championed the law.

“I think it would be counterproductive to impose sanctions, simply because they don’t change anybody’s minds, but it also takes away from the fact that an elected official has to deal with the judgment seat of God, not just the judgment seat of a bishop. I think that’s much more powerful,” Cupich told CNA.

“I have always approached the issue saying that the bishop’s primary responsibility is to teach, and I will continue to do that.”

Leaders in the state legislature, the Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both supported the legislation.

Paprocki issued a decree on June 5 that, because of “their leadership roles in promoting the evil of abortion by facilitating the passage of Senate Bill 25 this legislative session and House Bill 40 in 2017, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have been barred from receiving Holy Communion in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.”

Furthermore, Paprocki instructed that other Catholic state legislators who supported the abortion bill should not present themselves for Holy Communion.

The earlier 2017 legislation he referenced, House Bill 40, facilitated taxpayer funding of abortion and mandated that, if Roe v. Wade were to be reversed at the Supreme Court, abortion would remain legal in Illinois.

Bishop Paprocki cited the Code of Canon Law, specifically canons 915 and 916, in his decree. Canon 916 forbids Catholics who are conscious of mortal sin from receiving Communion without first going to Confession and repenting of sin. Canon 915 instructs that public figures who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not be admitted to the sacraments.

“‘Obstinate’ means they’re stubborn,” Paprocki explained. “The Church has been clear on this teaching, they’ve been repeatedly calling them back to what the Church teaches, and they’re just digging in, they’re not going to change their views. And ‘persistent’ means that happens over a period of time.”

Both bishops said they had communicated, or attempted to communicate, directly with Madigan and Cullerton.

“I have conversations with them, and those continue to take place. They have to,” Cupich said.

Paprocki said he conversed with Madigan and made a phone call to Cullerton that was not returned, and subsequently wrote both of them “because I wanted them to hear directly from me” before he made the decree.

Both Paprocki and Cupich told pro-lifers to continue fighting for life.

“We’ve been at this since Roe v. Wade, and we’re going to continue. This is not going to daunt us at all. We are going to continue to say our message, and we are gaining ground among young people, especially,” Cupich said.

“This is not only an issue of the Church, it’s an issue for the soul of the country and for American people.”

“I know it can be very discouraging when you see legislation like this passing,” Paprocki said.

“I had one person say to me ‘maybe I’m in the wrong state, maybe I need to move to another state.’”

Referencing the early Christians who lived in the Roman Empire, Paprocki said that “the Christians didn’t try to move somewhere where they could all be together and not be surrounded by the pagan culture. What they did was they stayed in that culture but they tried to transform the culture. Or they just said ‘We’re going to live differently. We’re going to live by our Christian values.’”