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Pope and Peruvian president discuss Venezuela, upcoming papal visit

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2017 / 06:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski Friday to discuss the country’s fight against poverty, the crisis in Venezuela and the Pope's upcoming visit, among other topics.

President Kuczynski, described the meeting to journalists at a Sept. 23 news briefing, saying “what we spoke about is what is happening in Peru, how little by little we are eliminating poverty in Peru (and) what is happening in the Peruvian government.”

“We also spoke, naturally, about the visit of the Holy Father to Peru,” he said, drawing attention to the trip Pope Francis will make to Peru and Chile in January 2018.

The president said preparations for the visit are going well, and that “almost everything is ready.” Authorities are still deciding where the Pope’s final Mass on the last day of the visit will be held, but “everything else in the trip is already organized.”

The visit, announced in June, will take the Pope to Chile from January 15 to 18 and Peru from January 18 to 21, 2018. It will mark Francis’ fourth official tour of Latin America since his election, after Brazil in 2013; Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador in 2015 and his recent visit to Colombia earlier this month.

In Chile the Pope will visit the capital of Santiago, and the cities of Temuco and Iquique. In Peru, he will visit the capital city of Lima, as well as Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

In his comments to journalists, President Kuczynski described his conversation with the Pope as “very friendly.” The Pope offered several “proverbs” known in the Spanish language, he said, adding that “he is a man very knowledgeable in literature.”

He and Francis also discussed the situation of former presidents of Peru, some of whom are currently in prison. The latest ex-president to be put behind bars is Ollanta Humal, who was jailed in July amid a corruption scandal that continues to unfold in the country.

Corruption was also naturally a part of the discussion, specifically “how the fight against corruption is going,” Kuczynski said.

He explained that in his meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin that followed his conversation with the Pope, Peruvian leaders, after consulting with other governments, are planning to make a proposal to establish an “Inter-American Court against corruption” during the 2018 Summit of the Americas, set to take place in Lima.

The president also touched on Peru’s complicated past, in many was still shrouded by the violence of the guerrilla group “the Shining Path,” largely active in the 1980-90s, and the need for reconciliation.

“In Latin America, in all countries, we need reconciliation, and the visit of the Pope without doubt will immensely help this,” Kuczynski said, noting that Peru itself “has been successful enough in reconciliation after the period of terrorism and hyperinflation that we had.”

Another topic that has somewhat overshadowed the Church in Peru for the past two years is the scandal surrounding Luis Fernando Figari, a consecrated layman who founded the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a society of apostolic life, in 1971 in Peru. It was granted pontifical recognition in 1997, and is one of the most well-known communities in Peru.

It came into the international spotlight when in 2015 accusations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse were raised against Figari, which were proved to be true. Figari, who had been transferred to Rome, was then barred from any contact with the community as the result of an investigation carried out by Peruvian civil authorities.

Although the case is likely to come up at some point during the Pope’s visit, President Kuczynski said the issue was not raised in his discussion with the Pope, as it is being handled “through other channels.”

The president said his discussion with Cardinal Parolin also touched on the crisis in Venezuela, with both agreeing that “humanitarian aid must be allowed into Venezuela because there are many people who are sick, there are no medicines.”

“The current government, for reasons of pride, is opposed to this,” he said. Another mutual interest, then, is “to look for a dialogue so that there is a transitional system of government.”

“We are all worried, we want to help,” he said. “We think that a country that has the largest petroleum reserves in the world deserves a better destiny for their inhabitants.”


Miguel Perez, Rome correspondent for CNA’s Spanish-language sister agency ACI Prensa, contributed to this article.

UN resolution to investigate ISIS crimes praised as step toward recognizing genocide

New York City, N.Y., Sep 24, 2017 / 04:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on Thursday to help investigate ISIS crimes in Iraq, one human rights group hailed the development as a step towards U.N. recognition of genocide.

 

“It is incredibly encouraging to see the Security Council take such a significant step towards ensuring justice for the countless victims and their families,” Kelsey Zorsi, the U.N. Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom International, stated in response.

 

The resolution came as the 72nd Regular Session of the U.N. General Assembly is meeting in New York City from Sept. 12-25. It passed by unanimous vote in the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.

 

The resolution establishes an investigative team, led by a Special Adviser, to help the government of Iraq gather and preserve evidence of crimes committed by ISIS against religious minorities there.

 

The human rights group ADF International hailed it as a significant development in possibly bringing ISIS criminals to justice, as well as aiding the victims of those crimes.

 

“We hope that the passage of this resolution reminds Christians in the Middle East that they have not been forgotten, that there is hope, that we will continue fighting for them, and that accountability is on its way,” Zorsi said.

 

The investigative team must work with the Iraqi government, but also with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), ADF International said.

 

For instance, aid and advocacy groups like the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians were critical in preparing a report documenting ISIS atrocities committed against ethnic and religious minorities, which led then Secretary of State John Kerry to declare ISIS actions a genocide.

 

Also, they said, “the Special Adviser should have a firm background in international law to ensure the right categories are being used for the atrocities committed.”

 

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., called the resolution “a landmark” and “a major first step towards addressing the death, suffering, and injury of the victims of crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq – crimes that include genocide.”

 

“These victims have been Yazidis, Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, and many, many more,” she said.

 

ADF International pointed out that the Security Council “for the first time” did not discount the possibility of using the term “genocide” to describe the atrocities committed by ISIS. Human rights advocates have argued that ISIS crimes constitute a genocide according to the U.N.’s definition.

 

According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, the intent to commit genocide means the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”  Genocide can be committed through killing, torture, forced sterilization, moving the children of one group elsewhere, or “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

 

In 2014, ISIS militants conquered large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in an attempt to establish a caliphate based upon an extremist interpretation of Islam.

 

As they took over cities and towns in Syria and in Northern Iraq, ISIS killed and displaced many religious and ethnic minorities in the region, including Christians, Yezidis, Shia and Sunni Muslims, Turkmen, and Shabak. There were countless reports of murders, torture, the kidnapping and enslavement of Yezidi and Christian women and girls, evidence of mass graves, and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands.

 

Pope Francis used the term “genocide” to describe what was occurring in 2015. In February of 2016, the European Parliament declared that ISIS was indeed committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in the region.

 

In March of 2016, the U.S. Congress issued a genocide resolution, and on March 17 Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “in my judgment, Daesh [ISIS] is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.

 

“Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions – in what it says, what it believes, and what it does,” he said, charging that the group “is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.”

 

The U.N. Security Council has not yet made a genocide declaration, however. Advocacy groups are hoping that will soon change.

Paraguay's government rejects gender ideology

AsunciĆ³n, Paraguay, Sep 24, 2017 / 02:42 pm (ACI Prensa).- Paraguay Secretary of Education, Enrique Riera told reporters that the country's constitution recognizes “the traditional family” consisting of “dad, mom, and children,” and stated that the government would remove from schools all material promoting false gender ideology, introduced by the previous administration. At a September 18 press conference, Riera lamented the “confusion” and criticism the government received after posts on social media stated that the country's schools were teaching that gender is a social construct, that man and woman are not born as such, among other concepts related gender ideology. The Secretary blamed this content on an agreement signed between the administration of former president Fernando Lugo, and a homosexual group called “We are Gay.” The Lugo administration signed an agreement between We are Gay and the Directorate of Ongoing Education. That agreement generated some educational materials, and they remained in use and available on the government’s website, Riera said. The Secretary explained that his office “ordered them to be taken down and revised because there is a phrase which created the whole problem,” which is “where it literally says that gender is a social construct.” “I want to tell you that the Ministry of Education is basing itself on Article 52 of the National Constitution, on the traditional family, on traditional values, with dad, mom and children: It's also my personal position and we naturally respect different options, but we're not going to inculcate them in our public schools,” he assured. Article 52 of the Paraguayan Constitution establishes that “the union in matrimony of man and woman is one of the fundamental components in the formation of the family.” Riera indicated that he informed the President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes “where this confusion came from. We all saw WhatsApp, there was some very severe criticism from some quarters.”

Cardinal Burke: Church divisions show urgent need for clarity

Sydney, Australia, Sep 24, 2017 / 12:38 pm (CNA).- Amid the ongoing debate surrounding “Amoris Laetitia,” dubia author Cardinal Raymond Burke said in a new interview that he’s wrongly depicted as the “enemy” of Pope Francis, but he stressed that current division in the Church demands an answer to requests for clarity.

“The urgency of a response to the dubia derives from the harm done to souls by the confusion and error, which result, as long as the fundamental questions raised are not answered in accord with the constant teaching and practice of the Church,” Cardinal Burke said.

“The urgency weighs very heavily on my heart,” he said. In his experience, the cardinal said he's seen “a great deal of confusion, also people feeling that the Church is not a secure point of reference.”

“Some are feeling even a certain bewilderment...they are looking for a much stronger presentation of the Church’s doctrine.”

Cardinal Burke was one of four signatories of a letter submitted to Pope Francis last September outlining five dubia, or doubts, about the interpretation of his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”

That letter had been submitted to the Pope privately, but released to the public two months later, prompting a firestorm of media commentary and debate.

However, the cardinal also addressed the purported “conflict” between him and Pope Francis, stressing that the media portrayal of he and the Pope is inaccurate, and frequently “overdone.”

“It’s all a caricature. They depict Pope Francis as a wonderful, open person and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they depict me as just the opposite,” he said, explaining that this is done “to advance their own agenda.”

However, Pope Francis “is actually not in favor of their agenda. They use this kind of technique to make it seem like he is and that’s fundamentally dishonest,” Cardinal Burke said.

Neither is there an intention to build up resistance against the Pope, he continued, explaining that the image of him being the “enemy” who is trying to undermine the Pope “isn't the case at all.”

Cardinal Burke made his comments in a recent interview with Australian journalist Jordan Grantham, published Sept. 21 in Diocese of Parramatta’s online publicaton, “Catholic Outlook.”

The cardinal noted that as faithful Catholics, those who have expressed doubt or concern over the confusion surrounding “Amoris Laetitia” love the Pope “with complete obedience to the office of Peter.”

Yet at the same time, he said, “they don’t accept these questionable interpretations...of ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ interpretations, which in fact contradict what the Church has always taught and practiced.”

Without clarity on these issues, “people are in a very difficult state,” he said, explaining that this is demonstrated by the fact that bishops conferences have issued conflicting guidelines on how to interpret “Amoris Laetitia.”

In addition to Cardinal Burke, other signatories to the dubia letter were Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop Emeritus of Bologna; and Joachim Meisner, Archbishop Emeritus of Cologne.

Cardinals Meisner and Caffarra passed away within two months of each other over the summer, leaving Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller to carry forward the ongoing debate over the dubia.

Cardinal Burke’s latest interview was not related to the release of a letter signed by 62 Catholic clergy and scholars, the most notable being superior general Bishop Bernard Fellay of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X. That letter presented itself as a “filial correction” to Pope Francis for reputed errors and heresies.

Among other things, the letter argues that the Pope has either directly or indirectly perpetrated seven heresies, most of which surround comments he has made about Martin Luther and ambiguities in “Amoris Laetitia,” specifically related to the question of the reception of Holy Communnion by divorced-and-remarried Catholics who cannot get an annulment.

The letter also objects to the Pope’s silence in the face of the “dubia” submitted to the Pope by the four cardinals.

Like the four cardinals’ original dubia letter, the 25-page letter of “filial correction” was also sent to the Pope privately, but the signatories decided to publish it after having received no response from the Pope.

Neither Cardinal Burke nor Cardinal Brandmüller signed the document. According to a Tweet sent out by the traditionalist blog “Rorate Caeli,” which has provided favorable coverage of the document’s release, cardinals were not asked to sign. The letter was “step one only.”

In his interview, Cardinal Burke said that many lay people argue over “Amoris Laetita,” and “many priests are suffering in particular because the faithful come to them, expecting certain things that are not possible because they’ve received one of the these erroneous interpretations of ‘Amoris Laetitia’.”

As a result, these people no longer understand Church teaching, the cardinal said. And in the Church, “we have only one guide, the Magisterium, the teaching of the Church, but we now seem to be divided into so-called political camps.”

The at times volatile “attacks” from parties who disagree is “a very mundane way of approaching things, it has no place in the Church,” Cardinal Burke continued. “But that’s where we’re at right now.”

The only way for the conversation to move forward on these matters, he said, “is to make the point of reference the doctrine of the Church. That’s what unifies us.”

Cardinal Burke also cleared up what he said are several misconceptions about him that are often promoted by the media, namely that he is “only interested in doctrine and law,” and that he is “out of touch with the times and living in the Middle Ages.”

“I am very pastoral and in fact, I don’t see any contradiction between being pastoral and being faithful in announcing the Church’s teaching and following the Church’s law,” he said.

The cardinal insisted that he is also “very conscious of the everyday culture in which we live, and I try to address it, but in a way that is full of compassion in the sense of addressing the Church’s teaching to the cultural situation and trying to lead the culture to a certain transformation.”

Referring to those who at times paint a picture of the Pope as a great revolutionary changing the tide of the Church in modern times, the cardinal said being the Successor of Peter “has nothing to do with revolutions.” Rather, it involves “maintaining the Church in unity with her long and constant tradition.”

Many people also claim the Pope is somehow going against the Church’s centuries-long tradition, he said. “And that isn’t possible either, because the Roman Pontiff is that principle of unity, unity which is not only present now, but unity with those who have gone before over the centuries.

“In fact, the two are one. When we are unified with the saints and especially with the great teachers of the faith along the centuries, then we also find unity with one another.”

Offering a word to all those currently worried about the state of the Church, Cardinal Burke stressed the need to remain confident in the fact that it is Jesus Christ whom they encounter in the Church, and who comes to meet us.

“Therefore, no matter what confusion or even divisions enter into the Church, we should never give up hope,” he said.

“We should cling all the more faithfully to what the Church has always taught and practiced. And that way we will really save our own souls, with the help of God’s grace, which, of course, we must always be about.”

Vatican responds to allegations that ex-auditor was ousted

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2017 / 10:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has issued a response to allegations made by former auditor general Libero Milone, who, three months after mysteriously stepping down in the middle of a five-year mandate, has said he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work.

The Vatican’s Sept. 24 statement voiced “surprise and regret” at the allegations. It said that by speaking out, Milone “failed in the agreement to keep confidential the reasons for his resignation from office,” the Vatican said, noting that according to the statutes of his department, Milone's task had been to “analyze the budgets and accounts” of the Holy See and its related administrations specifically.

“Unfortunately the office directed by Milone exceeded its powers and illegally commissioned an external firm to carry out investigative activities on the private lives of representatives of the Holy See,” the statement said.

“In addition to constituting a crime,” the act “irreparably crippled the trust placed in Mr. Milone, who, placed in front of his responsibilities, freely agreed to resign.”

Milone gave an interview to several media outlets Sept. 23, saying “I think the Pope is a great person, and he began with the best intentions.”

“But I’m afraid he was blocked by the old guard that’s still wholly there, which felt threatened when it understood that I could relate to the Pope and to Parolin what I had seen in the accounts. This is the logic,” he said.

According to his version of events, Milone, 69, said that in June he was falsely accused with “staged” allegations of a misuse of funds when he hired an outside firm to check security on computers in his office, and then “intimidated” into resigning from his position.

Milone said he wanted “to do good for the Church, to reform it like I was asked, but they wouldn’t let me.”
 
Speaking from his lawyer’s office, the former auditor made his comments to reporters from four different Italian and English language media outlets, including Italian paper Corriere della Sera, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters news agency and Italian TV channel SkyTg24.

He left his post in June without an explanation just two years into a five year mandate after being hired as the Vatican’s first Auditor General in a move to introduce more financial transparency in the Vatican City State.

Prior to coming to the Vatican, Milone had been chairman and CEO of the Deloitte global accounting firm in Italy, and had also worked for the United Nations and car enterprise Fiat.

At the time of his resignation, the Vatican said the act was done by “mutual agreement.” However, in his comments to media, Milone said this was not the case, but that he was intimidated into resigning when faced with threats of prosecution.

The Vatican statement in response to Milone’s comments made assurances that the investigations carried out were done “with every scruple and respect for the person.”

In his comments to media, Milone said he chose to speak out because in the past three months rumors have come out that are “offensive for my reputation and my professionalism.”

“I could no longer afford a small powerful group to expose my person for their shady games,” he said, explaining that he had always had a good relationship with the Pope, but for a year and a half prior to his resignation, he had been isolated and alienated from the Pope and other Vatican personnel.

Although he declined to give details due to non-disclosure agreements, Milone voiced his belief that he had been targeted after launching an investigation into a possible conflict of interest involving an Italian cardinal.

Describing his version of the chain of events that leading up to his resignation, Milone said he was called to the office of Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, the Vatican’s deputy Secretary of State, on June 19 and told that the Pope had lost faith in him and had requested his resignation.

When he asked why, Milone said he was given a series of explanations, “some of which seemed incredible.” When he asked to see the Pope, Milone said he was sent to Domenico Giani, head of the Gendarmeria, the Vatican’s police force, where he was interrogated for several hours.

After relocating to Milone’s office, the auditor said Giani yelled at him and demanded to have access to his computer and certain documents. Eventually Giani produced two receipts for payments he had made to the outside contractor that had checked security on the computers in his office.

The former auditor said one of the receipts was “a fake,” and voiced his belief that they had been fabricated as a result of a security check he had done after discovering unauthorized access to his computer and that spyware had been planted on his secretary’s computer in 2015.

After more questioning, Milone said he finally decided to sign a letter of resignation in order to “protect my family and my reputation.”

Milone said that when he offered to draft the letter, he was informed that one had already been written up, and was handed a letter dated for one month before his actual resignation took place, raising suspicious that the entire affair had been “staged.”

He also suggested that it might not be a coincidence that his own exit happened to coincide with the abuse charges recently raised against Cardinal George Pell, the architect of the Pope’s financial reform, the allegations of which started to come out around the same time that his efforts for reform were becoming increasingly controversial within the Vatican.

However, in comments to Reuters, Giani said there was “overwhelming evidence” against the former auditor, though he did not offer details.

Also in comments to Reuters, Archbishop Becciu said Milone had gone against “all the rules and was spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me.” If he had not agreed to resign,” Becciu added, “we would have prosecuted him.”

Milone said he sent a letter to Pope Francis through a “secure channel” in July saying he was framed and “amazed” that his departure took place at the same time as that of Cardinal Pell, but has not received a response.

Pope Francis: God is calling you to work in his kingdom

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2017 / 08:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- No one is “unemployed” when it comes to spreading the message of the Gospel, Pope Francis has said, because each one of us is called to take up the task and to do our own part in God’s plan of salvation.

“The message is this: in the Kingdom of God no one is unemployed, everyone is called to do their part,” the Pope said Sunday Sept. 24.

“And for everyone there will be the compensation of divine justice – not human (justice), fortunately! – which is the salvation that Jesus Christ acquired for us with his death and resurrection.”

This salvation is “not merited, but given,” Francis said, explaining that this is why Jesus in the Gospel says “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

He spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address, focusing on the day’s Gospel from Matthew which focuses on the parable of the landowner who hires men to work in his vineyard at all hours of the day, and in the end pays them all equally.  

Jesus tells his disciples this parable to communicate two different aspects of the Kingdom of God, Pope Francis said. The first is that “God wants to call everyone to work in his kingdom,” and the second is that “in the end he wants to give everyone the same reward, which is salvation, eternal life.”

When the end of the day comes and everyone is paid the same amount, no matter how many hours they worked, those who labored all day understandably complained, the Pope said, because they received the same amount as those who worked less.

However, the landowner reminds them that “they received what was agreed,” and if he wants to be generous, those who came earlier “should not be envious.”

The Pope said that in reality, “this ‘injustice’ of the landowner is used to provoke, in whomever listens to the parable, a jump in level, because Jesus does not want to speak about the problem of work and a just salary, but the Kingdom of God.”

In telling the parable, Jesus wants to open our hearts “to the logic of the Father, who is free and generous,” Francis said. This means to let ourselves be “amazed and fascinated” by the ways and thoughts of God, which, he noted, “are not our ways and thoughts.”

Rather, the thoughts of mankind are often marked by selfishness and personal gain, and frequently our “narrow and winding” paths are not comparable to those of the Lord, which are “broad and straight.”

“The Lord uses mercy, forgives widely and is full of generosity and goodness that pours onto each one of us, and opens to all the boundless territories of his love and grace, which alone can give the human heart the fullness of joy,” he said.

Jesus, Francis said, makes us contemplate the specific gaze of the landowner, which is “the gaze with which he sees each one of his laborers waiting for work” and is the gaze with which he calls us “to go into his vineyard.”

His gaze is also one that calls, invites one to get up and start walking, the Pope said, because the Lord wants the fullness of life for each person, one that is committed and “saved from emptiness and inertia.”

“God does not want to exclude anyone and he wants everyone to reach their fullness,” he said, adding that “this is love, the love of our Father.”

He closed his address asking that the Virgin Mary help us to welcome “the logic of love” into our lives, “which frees us from the presumption of earning the reward of God and from negative judgments of others.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis noted that Fr. Stanley Francis Rother was beatified Saturday in Oklahoma City.

Considered a martyr, Fr. Rother was killed in hatred of the faith “for his work of evangelization and of human promotion in favor of the most poor in Guatemala,” the Pope said.

He then prayed that Fr. Rother’s “heroic example” would help us to be “courageous witnesses of the Gospel, committing ourselves to promoting the dignity of the human being.”

Michigan lawsuit could imperil religious adoption agencies

Lansing, Mich., Sep 24, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Faith-based adoption agencies won't be able to adhere to their religious mission in Michigan if a lawsuit challenging state law succeeds, critics say.

“This suit challenging Michigan's law is mean-spirited, divisive and intolerant,” the Michigan Catholic Conference said Sept. 20.

“It is counter-productive toward efforts to assist vulnerable persons and to promote a variety of opportunities for differing families. It is imperative for the state law to be defended from yet another egregious attack on religious faith in public life.”

The conference defended the law as necessary “to promote diversity in child placement and to maintain a private/public partnership that would stabilize the adoption and foster care space for years to come.”

The federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday, is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. It charges that the state law allows groups to use a religious test in carrying out public services like foster child or adoption placement. It contends this is unconstitutional and violates both the equal protection and establishment clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

The 2015 law, which was passed with the backing of the Michigan Catholic Conference, prevents state-funded adoption and foster agencies from being forced to place children in violation of their beliefs. The law protects them from civil action and from threats to their public funding. When the law was passed, about 25 percent of Michigan’s adoption and foster agencies were faith-based.

These agencies have worked in the state for decades and have helped place thousands of vulnerable children, the Michigan Catholic Conference said.

David M. Maluchnik, a spokesperson for the Michigan Catholic conference, told the Wall Street Journal that the law aimed to protect “the right of these agencies to operate in accordance with their religious mission.”

“We play a primary role in providing homes for loving families looking to adopt or foster a child,” he said.

The law requires agencies that decline to place children with same-sex couples to refer the couples to other providers.

ACLU attorney Jay Kaplan contended that the law allows agencies to discriminate and puts a child in a situation between “finding a permanent loving home or staying in the system.”

Kristy Dumont, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she and her civilly recognized spouse Dana Dumont had wanted to adopt in Ingham County but were turned down by Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services.

Maluchnik said that there are many Michigan agencies that would place a child with the couple. He questioned why the plaintiffs sued rather than go to another agency.

Before the law was passed, Bethany Christian Services warned that future policies could force faith-based agencies to “choose between their desire to help children and families and their fidelity to their religious principles,” the Michigan-based MLive Media Group reported in 2015.

SSPX bishop signs letter claiming Pope Francis enables error

Rome, Italy, Sep 23, 2017 / 08:50 pm (CNA).- A letter presenting itself as a filial correction of Pope Francis for reputed errors and heresies has been signed by over 60 Catholic clergy and scholars, including most prominently Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the breakaway traditionalist Society of St. Pius X group.

The letter to the Pope, dated July 16, says it concerns “the propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ and by other words, deeds and omissions of Your Holiness.” It claims the publication of the exhortation and other acts of the Pope has given “scandal concerning faith and morals” to the Church and to the world,

“While professing their obedience to his legitimate commands and teachings, they maintain that Francis has upheld and propagated heretical opinions by various direct or indirect means,” a press release accompanying the letter said of the signers. It added that the signers do not believe the Pope has propagated these opinions as dogmatic Church teachings and make no judgment about the Pope’s culpability.

The letter was delivered to Pope Francis on Aug. 11, the press release said.

Bishop Fellay reportedly learned of the document only after its delivery. The district superior of the Society of Pius X, Father Robert Brucciani, is also a signatory. The society’s leader in 1988 ordained four bishops without papal permission in 1988 and all five prelates were excommunicated. Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in 2009 and there have been continuing talks seeking to reconcile the society with the Church.

The letter to Pope Francis cites differences among the Catholic bishops and cardinals concerning the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried. It objects to the Pope’s silence in the face of the “dubia” submitted to the Pope by four cardinals seeking clarification of “Amoris Laetitia,” in September 2016.

It charges that the Pope’s actions have allowed Holy Communion to be received sacrilegiously by divorced people now living as husband and wife with someone not their spouse.

The letter claims the Pope has voiced “unprecedented sympathy” for Martin Luther and suggested there is an affinity between Luther’s ideas and the ideas of “Amoris Laetitia.” It also blames theological modernism for provoking a crisis within the Church.

Other signers include Dr. Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, past president of the Institution of Religious Works and an ethics professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, as well Msgr. Antonio Livi, dean emeritus of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Some U.S.-based signers include Dr. Philip Blosser, a philosophy professor at the Detroit archdiocese’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Christopher Ferrara, president of the American Catholic Lawyers’ Association and a columnist in the hardline traditionalist Catholic newspaper The Remnant; and Dr. John Rao, a history professor at St. John’s University in New York City who directs the Roman Forum.

My cousin the martyr: meet Blessed Stanley Rother's large family

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 23, 2017 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- They came from Illinois and they came from Wisconsin. They came from Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

They came from Minnesota--three or four buses worth. At least 16 cars made the drive down from Nebraska.

The many, many, first, second and third cousins of Father Stanley Rother descended on Oklahoma City like the Boomers of old descended on the Oklahoma plains when there was free land for the claiming. But this time, they came to watch one of their own become “Blessed” in the eyes of the Church.

Fr. Stanley was born in 1935, and grew up with his parents and four siblings in the rural farming town of Okarche, Okla. He became a priest in 1963 and was martyred in 1981 in Guatemala at the age of 46, after serving as a missionary there for 13 years.

He was beatified on Sept. 23 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. His two surviving siblings, Sister Marita and Tom Rother, as well as hundreds of extended relatives, were in attendance at the Mass, along with 14,000 of the faithful.

Doris Horne was in charge of mobilizing the Nebraska contingent. Many Rother relations are from the small town of Humphrey, Nebraska, while others have settled in the Columbus, Ohio area.

“There are 140 of us from my Grandmother Smith-Fuchs side here, from six states,” she told CNA as she sat amongst many of them at the Cox Convention Center before the beatification Mass for Fr. Stanley Rother, her second cousin.

Horne’s parents were first cousins to Fr. Stanley’s parents. Although she never met Fr. Stanley, Horne said she remembered his parents coming to visit. She was also able to make a pilgrimage to his mission in Guatemala on the 25th anniversary of his death.

“Everyone down there loved him, and the churches were packed” for the occassion, she recalled. “He was so loved down there.”

“I don’t know how to put it into words, but it’s an honor. We pray to him all the time, and I’m just honored to be part of the family,” she said.

Cousins have always been an important part of life for Fr. Stanley Rother, who came from a German Catholic family. The first wedding he ever celebrated was that of his cousin Kay Rother and her husband.

These days, Kay volunteers a lot at Holy Trinity parish in Okarche, Okla., where Fr. Stanley went to church and school. She said it’s probably a good thing Fr. Stanley wasn’t alive to witness all of his beatification happenings.

“With all this going on, he would not want it,” she said with a mixture of humor and bemusement, gesturing to the small crowd of journalists and distant relatives descending on the otherwise quiet parish grounds the day before the beatification Mass.

Stanley was a humble, quiet person and would have loathed being the center of attention, Kay explained.

“He wouldn’t like all the hubub,” she said. “He was very quiet and humble, and he didn’t brag on what he did.”

Besides being a cousin and the celebrant of her wedding, Fr. Stanley is dear to Kay for another important reason: she credits his intercession for saving the life of her daughter, Amber.

Several years ago, when Amber was just in her early twenties, she had a brain aneurysm rupture. The first hospital said there was nothing to be done except to take her upstairs and harvest her organs. Another hospital said if Amber lived, she’d spend her life in a vegetative state.

That’s when Kay’s husband called on Stan.

“My husband said don’t worry about it, I’m going to the cemetery. So he went to the cemetery and said ‘okay Stan, time for you to work.’ And three days later she opened her eyes, and today you’d never know it,” Kay said. Amber is healthy, and happily married, with one child.

Fr. Stan is a big reason she’s spent the past 30 years volunteering at the parish. Even in the midst of the beatification chaos, Kay was trying to fix the air conditioning in the church that had stopped working “today of all days.”

“I just felt like I owed it to him. It’s the least I can do,” Kay said, doing her best to hold back the tears.

When Fr. Stanley was killed in 1981, his heart remained interned at the altar in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His body was flown back to Okarche, where it was buried in Holy Trinity’s cemetery until just a few months ago, when his remains were moved to a temporary resting place in the archdiocese, pending the completion of a shrine in his honor.

But his headstone still marks the original plot in the Holy Trinity Cemetery. “Padre A’plas”, it reads, the name for Father Francis in the native Guatemalan language of Tzutuhil, which he had learned to speak fluently.

Lee Rother and his family visited the cemetery the Friday before the beatification Mass, to honor Fr. Stanley, as well as the other Rother relatives buried there. As he walked through the grounds, Lee recalled fond memories of the people whose gravestones he passed. He must have known at least half of the people buried there.

Lee himself has settled in Minnesota, along with many of the other Rother relatives. He told CNA that he has given talks on Fr. Stanley, his third cousin, and is inspired by his faith.

“How he lived, how he served God and his people--he had a tremendous, deep faith in him,” he said.

This was something Fr. Stanley passed on to the Guatemalans he served.

“That parish flourished after he died, because he gave them a faith that they could lean on in the midst of their oppression,” he said, his excitement about his cousin palpale.

“It’s a tremendous thrill, it’s so exhilarating to have a relative who’s being beatified by the Catholic Church,” he said. “The best thing that’s ever happened to the Rother family.”

Kathy Rother is a cousin of Father Stanley’s who knew him growing up. Her family lived just a few miles down the road, and she went to school with Stanley and his siblings.

Kathy fondly remembered Stanley as a kind, brotherly figure, someone who once stopped the bullies on the bus from picking on her.

“The big boys would like to pick on the little kids because they were bored. They’d pull their hair or take your lunchbox,” Kathy said.

“I remember one time I was the butt of the jokes... and I remember looking around for one of my older brothers to rescue me, and they didn’t, but there was Stan sitting there and he patted the empty seat next to him, and I sat there and they left me alone, the boys just backed off,” she said.

“it wasn’t like Stan was a sissy, he was very self-contained, he knew what was right, and it wasn’t right to be picking on little kids,” she said. “He was very much looked up to.”

Kathy still remembers getting the news of her cousin’s untimely death. “That cut me to the heart”, she remembered, her eyes tearing up. But then, look what came of it, she added, smiling.

And he’s still there for her, though this time its through his prayers in heaven, rather than rescuing her from bus bullies.

“Many times I’ve called on Stan (in prayer),” Kathy said. “And he comes through.”

Faithful martyr and missionary Father Stanley Rother beatified in Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 23, 2017 / 02:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma priest martyred in Guatemala, was beatified Saturday during a Mass in Oklahoma City attended by over 20,000 people. Pope Francis named him blessed in a letter that cited his “deeply rooted faith,” his “profound union with God,” and his “arduous duty to spread the word of God in missionary lands, faithfully living his priestly and missionary service until his martyrdom.” His feast day is set for the anniversary of his death, July 28, 1981, which the papal letter described as “the day of his heavenly birth.” Blessed Stanley Rother served indigenous people of his Guatemala parish at a time of civil war. He returned to his home state of Oklahoma after a death threat, then returned knowing the dangers. Before his last Christmas, the priest wrote to a parish in Oklahoma about the dangers in Guatemala: “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger,” he said. Armed men broke into his rectory, intending to abduct him. He resisted and struggled, but did not call for help, so others at the mission would not be endangered. He was shot twice and killed. At a time of great social and political turbulence, the priest lived as a disciple of Christ, “doing good and spreading peace and reconciliation among the people,” Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect for the Congregation of Saints, said in his homily. “Unfortunately, this immediate recompense on this earth was persecution and a bloody death, in accord with the Words of Jesus: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit,” said the cardinal, citing the words of the Gospel. Celebrating the Mass with Cardinal Amato were Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley, dozens of bishops, scores of priests and thousands of laity, including some from Guatemala. The Mass took place at Oklahoma City’s Cox Convention Center. Family of Fr. Rother were also in attendance. Sister Marita Rother read the first reading, from the Book of Sirach. Though Blessed Stanley faced difficulties in his seminary studies, he showed great dedication to the manual labor he was familiar with from his youth on his family farm near Okarche, Okla. After volunteering for the Guatemala mission Santiago Atitlan, the priest learned Spanish. He even the local language of the Tz’utujil Mayan Indians so well that he could use it in his preaching. He would spend 13 years of his life there, diligent in visiting newlyweds and baptizing and catechizing their children. He was vigorous in both religious and social formation, drawing on his experience to work the fields and repair broken trucks while also building a farmer’s co-op, a school, a hospital and the area’s first Catholic radio station. Blessed Stanley even took action after a major earthquake in 1976. “With courage he climbed the ravines in order to help the very poor, pulling the wounded out of the ruins and carrying them to safety on his shoulders,” Cardinal Amato said. Cardinal Amato recounted the civil conflict in Guatemala. From 1971 to 1981, there were numerous killings of journalists, farmers, catechists and priests, all accused falsely of communism. “This was a real and true time of bloody persecution of the Church,” the cardinal said. “Fr. Rother, aware of the imminent danger to his life, prepared himself for martyrdom, asking the Lord for the strength to face it without fear.” “He continued, however, to preach the gospel of love and non-violence.” Both the priest’s mission and the aid he gave to the victims of violence were seen as subversive, explained the cardinal, who added: “a good shepherd cannot abandon his flock.” “In the face of kidnappings and violence Fr. Rother felt helpless because he did not succeed in changing the situation of reconciliation and forgiveness,” Cardinal Amato continued. “He often cried in silence to a Carmelite nun who asked what to do if he were killed.” “Fr. Rother responded: ‘Raise the standard of Christ Risen’.” Others spoke about Blessed Stanley. Oklahoma City Archbishop emeritus Eusebius Beltran voiced gratitude to God for the beatification of the first native-born priest and martyr of the United States. “His death was a tragedy for Oklahoma and for Guatemala. However, through his death, his saintly life has become known well beyond the boundaries of Guatemala and Oklahoma and the faith of all those who are now familiar with his life is greatly strengthened, and the Church continues to flourish,” Archbishop Beltran said. Archbishop Coakley said that the priest “chose to remain with his people” and “gave his life  in solidarity.” “Pray that Church will experience a new Pentecost and abundant vocations, aided by the intercession of Bl. Stanley Rother,” he said. The Mass was multi-lingual, incorporating Spanish, Comanche and the Mayan language of the indigenous people Fr. Rother served. The offertory was dedicated to the Guatemalan parishes where Blessed Stanley Rother served, in order to help meet their needs and sustain the faith there. The Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma is managing donations through the webpage http://stanleyrother.org/mass