It appears that the recent Supreme Court decision changed nothing regarding our primary concerns as Catholics. The Affordable Care Act would allow the use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting long-standing federal policy. It also fails to provide essential conscience protection for individuals and religious communities. Among the ways the pending legislation allows the government to infringe on religious freedom and individual conscience is the Health and Human Services mandate which forces religious and other employers to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortion-causing drugs. The law purports to define religion and what is to be considered religious activity. Further, it does so in such a narrow way as to exclude many Church entities from the exemption from the mandate.
Gov. Jay Nixon must act now to protect the rights of individuals and Churches by signing the Missouri religious liberty bill, SB 749. It’s important that we contact him at 1-573-751-3222 and urge him to do so. We ask him to sign this bill so that employers and employees are not forced to pay for abortions or contraceptives in their health insurance plans for Missouri.
Bishop James V. Johnston Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
Beginning mid-May, a week full of commemorative events helped the people of Joplin and the world remember and honor the events of May 22, 2011. A year after a devastating tornado ripped through the southwest Missouri town citizens continue to rebuild their lives and their community.
A variety of events, ranging from a half-marathon to a presidential address at Joplin High School’s commencement, were planned around the May 22 anniversary of the 2011 Joplin tornado. There were many moments that were specific to the Catholic community in Joplin in honor of the loss of St. Mary Catholic Church and School and all those affected by the storm in the parishes of St. Mary and St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Churches.
On Sat., May 19, a memorial concert featuring contemporary Christian musical artists Steve Angrisano and Tony Melendez was held in the McAuley Catholic High School gymnasium. It was a time for a little over 200 people to reflect and remember what was lost, but at the same time look forward to the continued recovery.
“Steve and Tony both delivered their performances in an interactive way for the benefit of a very enthusiastic crowd,” said Renee Motazedi, development director of the Joplin Catholic Schools (JACSS). “Many commented afterward how much Steve and Tony’s ministry meant to them on that night in their healing journey.”
More than $1,000 in proceeds from this event benefited the JACSS scholarship fund, which was established in the aftermath of the tornado in an effort to help those affected by the storm continue their Catholic education.
The huge iron cross that still stands vigil over the landscape of the former St. Mary Catholic Church in Joplin stood high above the Catholic faithful of Joplin on Tue., May 22, for a rosary that commemorated the anniversary of the events of the disastrous tornado that destroyed the church and school. The cross has remained an icon in Joplin since the storm and has become a place where people go to pray and reflect, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. It is one of the most photographed structures throughout Joplin. There are accounts of people trapped in the storm’s aftermath in their destroyed homes who could see the cross looming in the sky, which gave them hope.
The cross will remain at the site as a memorial
Students, faculty, and many staffers of JACSS as well as parishioners from St. Mary Church and St. Peter Church, and other citizens, prayed the rosary together on what was a sunny afternoon, a sharp contrast to the same day a year earlier.
The rosary was led by Sharon Reeve, a teacher at St. Mary Catholic School. She was helped by student representatives who read petitions throughout the service. Students also led the crowd in song singing “Ave Maria” and “Father We Adore You.”
“We stand on sacred ground today,” Bp. James V. Johnston said before the rosary. The bishop invited those in attendance to remember all the events that took place on this ground before the tornado: baptisms, weddings, Masses, and the learning that took place in St. Mary School. The bishop reflected that while the storm took away the physical buildings, it did not take away the church and school. The church and the school are made up of people, the bishop said—many of them there at the prayer service—therefore the church remains strong and present.
“We gather here today to acknowledge what happened a year ago that changed school and church life,” Bp. Johnston said. “But we also gather here to give thanks to the Lord for the many blessings that he has given this past year. Even out of tragedy and destruction, there is power, and the power of His love brings forth new life.”
“You have shown your true colors during the course of this year,” Bp. Johnston said, “and it is a reminder that you are the school—you are the church.”
Fr. Justin Monaghan, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, described what the past year has been like for the people of St. Mary’s.
“Emotionally, it has been a very difficult year,” said Fr. Monaghan, who himself rode out the 2011 tornado in the rectory bathtub. “It is tremendous what St. Peter Parish has done for us and we are grateful. However, we feel homeless, and feel like we don’t see each other anymore. We are trying to get past that and are grateful for a temporary building that is in the plans.” St. Mary Catholic Church recently moved to a temporary location at 1230 E. 7th St., Joplin.
The plans for rebuilding St. Mary are progressing. Architects are being contracted and there has been a meeting where ideas were discussed between the bishop, building coordinators, Fr. Justin, and the parish council, who comprise the building committee. The land has been purchased and construction will begin shortly. The parish hopes that the church will be completed in two years, and will know more in the near future as the plans become more concrete.
Students from St. Mary Catholic School have been having classes at a temporary location, a refurbished warehouse next to McAuley Catholic High School and St. Peter Parish. Fr. Monaghan expressed excitement for the future of St. Mary and appreciation for people from all over the diocese who have given their time and resources to be a part of the rebuilding process.
“We are very grateful for the support and feel really good at how we have stayed together in difficult circumstances,” he said.
Later that evening at Mass in St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. Fr. John (J.) Friedel, pastor, celebrated the liturgy and focused on the events in Joplin one year ago. He reflected that they were preparing for evening Mass just before the tornado hit a year ago. He decided after the storm to stay and have Mass with those people who also wanted to stay.
“We gather on the anniversary that changed our lives as people of faith,” Fr. Friedel said in his homily. “We stayed that night to pray, we have prayed throughout the year, and tonight we will continue to pray.” He spoke of how the storm that night affected their parish family and encouraged the congregation to “pray for each other, that we may do what God calls us to do until we are called from this world to the next.”
Throughout the events and various speeches surrounding the anniversary of the tornado that changed a city and a community forever, the resounding message was one of pride for what the people of Joplin have accomplished in the face of this adversity despite their grief. The people tearfully acknowledge what they have lost, for example, 161 of their neighbors who perished in the storm. However, much like St. Mary’s cross that couldn’t be destroyed, Joplin heralds hope and resiliency and is still standing: The damaged buildings and city are being rebuilt and a loving community looks with hope toward the future.
As Catholics and in His love for us, Christ provides for all of our spiritual needs in the seven Sacraments of our Faith. The Lord does this in a unique way through the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is often misunderstood. In today’s world, a fair amount of people learn about the Catholic Faith through the media, in particular television. Oftentimes, the information presented about this sacrament in the secular media is not accurate. For example, priests often receive calls from family members requesting “last rites” for a dying loved one, a phrase used quite often on TV and in movies. Let’s look at the two rituals that the Church provides for those who are sick and dying.
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is often “underused” by many of today’s Catholics. Perhaps it falls back to a time when this sacrament was referred to as “Extreme Unction,” meaning the “last anointing” before a person died. However, the Church now approaches this sacrament differently. The Scriptural foundation for it is found in the New Testament letter of St. James: “Are there any who are sick among you? Let them send for the priests of the Church, and let the priests pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick persons, and the Lord will raise them up; and if they have committed any sins, their sins will be forgiven them (James 5:14-15).
The purpose of this sacrament is to bring spiritual comfort and strength to someone who is suffering physically, spiritually, or emotionally. The sacrament does not “guarantee” a total healing and recovery, but rather commends the sick to the mercy and healing power of God. In reading the Gospels, we know that Christ spent a large portion of His time and ministry in healing people of a variety of physical and spiritual afflictions. He continues that healing ministry in the Church today through this sacrament. In following the directive given in the Letter of St. James, the forgiveness of venial sins is also received through the grace of this sacrament, which is why only a priest or bishop may celebrate the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Normally, this sacrament is requested by a person prior to surgery or some other serious medical procedure as well as by the elderly who have grown weaker with age. It is also celebrated in case of an emergency (e.g. someone suffering from a heart attack or involved in an accident). This sacrament may be repeated and celebrated again if a person’s condition becomes more grave or if one recovers after being anointed and then falls ill again.
Secondly, if a person is in the process of dying with little or no hope of recovery, the Church provides the celebration of “Viaticum,” which is Latin meaning “with you on the way.” If able to do so, the dying person receives Holy Communion as “food for the passage through death to eternal life,” as Christ, in the Eucharist, is our guide and companion “on the way” to eternal life. In addition, prayers for the commendation of the dying are offered to comfort not only the dying person, but his or her family as well. These are very beautiful and powerful prayers.
When ill and dying, whether it be ourselves or a loved one, we know the comforting power of these prayers of the Church. As pastors, we want to remind the faithful that one only need to request this sacrament of healing in order to bring God’s mercy, healing, and strength to those in need. Viaticum and the Commendation of the Dying are perfect ways to assist and help prepare our loved ones for the great transition of concluding earthly life and entering into eternal life.
Catholic business schools urged to help students develop moral compass
Dayton, OH–Business is a vocation from God, Card. Peter Turkson said June 18 at the University of Dayton, calling on Catholic business schools to help students develop a moral compass along with excellence in business education. “Let me insist, business is a noble pursuit,” said Card. Turkson in his keynote address at the eighth annual International Conference on Catholic Social Thought. “At its best, and most true to its nature, business serves the common good. Business and entrepreneurship is a calling from God to be a co-creator in a responsible way.” The cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which issued a controversial report last year calling for a “true world political authority” to bring more democratic and ethical principles to the global marketplace, said the business world requires mature leaders who steer these enterprises to benefit human life. “Such leaders must not focus on any single dimension of business to the exclusion of others,” he warned. “Such has been the failure with the unilateral, indeed myopic, embrace of the profit motive. The need for rebalancing in the economy, between profit on one hand and social and environmental concern on the other, is of paramount importance.” Card. Turkson said profit was essential for a company to be sustainable but should not be its purpose. “Profit is a bit like oxygen for a person–it is not the purpose of your life, but you would quickly die without it,” he said. “Yet life is more than oxygen and business is more than profit.”
Vatican II’s Bible promotion said to create vitality in church life
New York–In the 50 years since the Second Vatican Council encouraged Catholics to read, reflect and act on Scripture, there has been a “surging vitality in the life of the church,” according to Card. Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. “There is nothing that the church does that is not rooted in Scripture,” he told participants at the New York Catholic Bible Summit June 16. Card. Turkson gave the English keynote address at the bilingual conference. More than 500 people from three states attended the third annual daylong event at the New York Catholic Center. Mexican Abp. Carlos Aguiar Retes, president of the Latin American bishops’ council, delivered the Spanish keynote. “The Bible is a means of letting the solo tune of Jesus fill the whole symphony of human history,” Card. Turkson said. Listeners nodded in agreement when Card. Turkson said it was unusual for Catholics to open a Bible before Vatican II. They listened to the word of God at Mass and heard it explained in homilies and the catechism, he said. “Dei Verbum,” the council’s document on divine revelation, opened Bible ministry to Catholics and urged them to be informed Christians by venerating God’s word. “The Bible is one of the gifts that God has given to the church,” he said.
Newspaper ads urging people to leave church seen having little impact
Washington–Dialogue generated by full-page newspaper ads placed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation is a good thing, said an associate professor of theology. “The very presence of an ad like that is a symbol for one dimension of the situation of Catholicism in American society today,” said Tom Beaudoin, associate professor of theology at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education in New York. The ads, which appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times and USA Today in May and June, encouraged “nominal Catholics” to quit the church. The full-page, in the form of an open letter, cited the US Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate, the Vatican’s call for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and church teaching against artificial contraception and same-sex marriage, as reasons to leave. Beaudoin, who studies de-conversion in modern society, said that religion is changing in the United States and people live their religion differently. In his view, “responding to what the ad represents, rather than going point for point with the ad, is a more promising pastoral, theological response,” he said. Paul Scolese, president of the John Carroll Society in Washington, said the ads misstated Catholic teaching and the church’s stand on religious liberty, but he added that such campaigns were not likely to have an impact or propel a massive movement away from religion. “It was just a medium for this atheist organization to state their position,” Scolese told Catholic News Service. “Their numbers are probably small, but they are very vocal.”
Caring for one’s health has moral, spiritual dimension, says priest
Washington–Jesuit Fr. Peter Clark, a bioethics professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, believes Catholics have a moral obligation to care for their health. “Catholics have a right to health care, and therefore (we) have a corresponding duty to take care of our health,” he said in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service. At a time when the rate of obesity among Americans is on the rise, he added that “obesity is both a sanctity-of-life issue and a question of justice.” A recent Gallup study found that Americans are more likely to be at an unhealthy weight than at a normal weight, and that 26 percent of Americans are considered obese. The trend is affecting not only health care costs, but personal well-being. Though there is no simple solution, many, like Fr. Clark, offer a spiritual approach. Tom Hafer, who is a minister with Volunteers for America, a physical therapist and the author of “Faith and Fitness,” uses ecumenical teachings to incorporate spirituality into a wellness lifestyle. To him, prayer is as vital as exercise and proper food when losing weight. “Prayer, or a deeper understanding of our connection to our Creator is necessary,” Hafer told CNS. “Because everything we need for sustaining health and wellness has come from our Creator. The act of exercise itself can be the conduit to a deeper prayer life.” Exercise can be a meditative experience, according to Hafer. He suggested reading a psalm or praying before going for a run, saying the exercise and prayer will complement each other. Because life and well-being are God’s gift, “exercise really is an expression of gratitude and thanksgiving,” he said. Hafer described his job as a lifestyle, not a program, because his work is not necessarily about weight loss, but about “returning to a full life.”
High court: FCC didn’t give enough notice, can’t fine over indecency
Washington–The Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, said the Federal Communications Commission did not give sufficient notice that certain words or depictions on broadcast television could be considered indecent and thus subject to fines or other sanctions. The June 21 ruling removes the threat of penalties against Fox and ABC–Fox for language used on awards shows that aired live, and ABC for showing female rear nudity and a side view of a breast on the long-since-canceled police drama “NYPD Blue.” But in the 8-0 decision, the high court did not rule on the constitutionality of the FCC’s policy banning broadcast indecency. Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not participate in the case; she had been a member of a federal district court that heard one aspect of the indecency suit in the 2000s. “Any time you have a potentially hot-button issue that the court decides unanimously, you know the court is doing something very narrow,” said Fordham University Law School professor Abner Greene, a First Amendment expert. Even so, he added, the case is “a good teaching example that justices from different parts of the (ideological) spectrum can get together and agree on something.” Greene told Catholic News Service in a June 21 telephone interview that the indecency issue is “a very complicated law that the justices keep not wanting to address.” As for the future, “we need to wait to see if the FCC is going to continue imposing its policy or not,” Greene said, adding that followers will have to note the “pattern of its application. Is it fairly clear or is it going to be scattershot?”
Lived faith, service, charity keys to evangelization, says synod text
Vatican City–Catholics who act like their faith has nothing to do with daily life and a church structure that is more bureaucracy than service are two impediments to the church’s ability to proclaim faith in Jesus, said the working document for the next world Synod of Bishops. “Every one of the church’s actions has an essential evangelizing character and must never be separated from the duty to help others encounter Christ in faith,” said the document that will guide the work of the synod, scheduled for Oct. 7-28 at the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI chose as the synod’s theme: “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” The working document, released June 19, said the bishops and other synod participants will focus on: faith in Jesus as the heart of evangelization; how changes in the world impact belief and the practice of the faith; how liturgy, catechesis and charitable activity do or should bring people to faith; and a look at particular ways Catholics evangelize and educate people in the faith. The new evangelization, it said, “will also involve the courage to denounce the infidelities and scandals” within the church and “to acknowledge faults while continuing to witness to Jesus Christ.” Looking within the church, the document said, “many lament the excessive bureaucratic character” of church structures, which are “perceived as being far removed from the average person and his everyday concerns.”
Vatican plans for Year of Faith include hymn, Mass, packed calendar
Vatican City–With a hymn and a prayer, Italian Abp. Rino Fisichella presented the Vatican’s initial calendar of events for the Year of Faith, which begins with a Mass Oct. 11 in St. Peter’s Square. Abp. Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, said the pope has invited as concelebrants bishops and theologians who, like the pontiff, served as members or experts at the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council. The archbishop said he hoped about 35 “council fathers” would be able to join the presidents of national bishops’ conferences and bishops participating in the world Synod of Bishops in concelebrating the opening Mass. During a news conference at the Vatican June 21, Abp. Fisichella unveiled the sheet music for the official hymn for the Year of Faith, “Credo, Domine, Adauge Nobis Fidem” (I believe, Lord, increase our faith). “I’ll spare you my musical interpretation,” he told reporters, smiling. He also distributed copies of the official Year of Faith logo and prayer card, which features a mosaic image of Christ from the cathedral in Cefalu, Italy. The Nicene Creed is printed on the back of the cards, with the idea that the profession of faith would become “a daily prayer, learned by heart, as it was in the first centuries of Christianity,” the archbishop said.
10 experts offer guidance in getting back up when you’re down
As busy people with spouses, kids, jobs, responsibilities, we’re all bound to fall into a funk from time-to-time–a phase when we feel dejected, overwhelmed, ungrateful, unappreciated or just plain blah, sometimes for no good reason. So what can we do about it? Ride it out? Throw up our hands? Yell at our kids? Kick the dog? Drown our sorrows?
What to do?
I presented that question to 10 people I consider spiritually grounded, wise, virtuous, and generally upbeat; while at the same time, in touch with the real world, including priests, parents, a religious sister, and a psychologist.
Here is a compilation of their advice for curing a funk.
10 Ways to Get Out of a Funk
Move your alarm clock across the room and set it to go off 30 minutes earlier. “Invite God into your morning routine more intentionally. Read the daily Mass readings over coffee, download inspiring talks on an iPod and get out for a morning walk or run, and pray with and bless your spouse and children before leaving. Leave the house earlier and visit the adoration chapel on the way to work.”
–Mark Hart, the “Bible Geek,” VP of Life Teen, author, speaker, husband, father of three girls
“If you’re in a funk, go to a funky soup kitchen. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking less often of yourself.”
–Fr. David Nix, St. Anthony Parish Sterling, CO, Bike for the Unborn coordinator
“Nothing cures a funk like prayer. Prayer is the funk-cure, it gets you out of your head. It also helps me to talk to good friends who, like the Lord, love me enough to tell me to snap myself back into reality! Ever hear the song “Stuck in the Moment” by U2? Great song for a funk.”
–Chris Stefanick, author, speaker, director of youth outreach for YDisciple, husband, father of six (up from five as of last week)
“Go for a walk and focus on the wonder of God’s creation; pray your way around the nearest park looking for small miracles. Make a pilgrimage to a church you’ve wanted to visit, have a date night with your spouse, make cookies with your kids. Even a slight diversion can help you see your surroundings with new eyes and appreciate them with a new heart.”
–Fr. Bob Fisher, Colorado State Knights of Columbus chaplain, pastor All Souls Parish, Englewood, CO
“Sometimes we become overwhelmed by too many activities, expectations and goals. Underneath our frenetic busyness is a hidden desire to be the perfect parent, perfect friend, the perfect me. When we don’t succeed, we get down on ourselves. When we accept ourselves as human and let go of the impossible effort to be perfect we begin to see ourselves the way God does. We discover we are loved not for what we achieve, but simply for who we are.”
–Sr. Kathleen Harmon, SNDdeN, PhD, liturgy expert and music director at Institute for Liturgical Ministry Dayton, OH
“Spend time with a close friend. Though we don’t know the details, we do know that heaven is all about union with God and the communion of saints. We are relational beings! It’s worth the time and energy to develop intimate friendships with those who share our faith and values.”
–Elizabeth Walker, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist, wife, mother of five
“I often get out of a funk by recognizing there will always be noise and distractions, but I must be ready to unplug as often as I can and fill that regained time with prayer and silence. Seek the intercession of Our Blessed Mother.”
–Randy Hain, business executive Atlanta, GA, author of The Catholic Briefcase, husband, father of two boys
“When I find myself in a funk, I try to actively do something for someone else: pray for them, lend a hand with a problem, or simply be a listening heart who hears their concerns. In these moments, I’m always reminded of the goodness of God’s love for me. Feeling sorry for yourself? Do something for someone else. A sure fire way to end a funk!”
–Lisa Hendey, founder of CatholicMom.com, author of The Handbook for Catholic Moms, wife, mother of two boys
“It seems we get into a funk because we load ourselves down with details and not living in the moment. It sounds cliché but living in the moment is very Catholic. When we live in the moment we are giving to God what he desires from us: trust, the trust that we will be provided for. Pray each day that the inspiration of God will encourage you, and do not depend so much on yourself for all the answers.”
–Fr. Joseph Hearty, FSSP, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Latin Rite Parish Littleton, CO
“Ask God for his help and advice. What is it that made you feel like a coward? Face up to this. What are you sad about? Look around, sit down with your family, and thank God that you are up every day and have your health. Bottom line: talk with God, find some upbeat people, and never give up on yourself.”
–Pete Zarlengo, 86, raised in Denver orphanage; father of seven, grandfather of 17, great-grandfather of five, foster father for many, sponsor for 46 children internationally
You may want to save this post (I know I will). Bookmark it, print it, keep it handy; you never know when you might need a little pick-me-up.
Julie Filby, wife and mother of two (ages 8 and 5), is a reporter for the Denver Catholic Register newspaper. She also enjoys blogging at Mother’s Musings about the simple ways Christ is unmistakably present in every-day family and work life. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter. She also contributes to CatholicMom.com and Catholic Lane.
In 1988 Barrow, Alaska, a television reporter (John Krasinski) stumbles on a hole in the offshore ice and discovers a family of gray whales. Trapped five miles from open water, they’ll drown unless something is done to free them. The story of their plight is broadcast around the world, and soon a varied host of people–including a Greenpeace activist (Drew Barrymore), an oil magnate (Ted Danson), a local Inupiat boy (Ahmaogak Sweeney) and even President Reagan (Quinn Redeker)–join in offering assistance. Director Ken Kwapis’ screen adaptation of the real-life events recounted in Thomas Rose’s 1989 book “Freeing the Whales” makes an inspiring and uplifting feature suitable for all but the youngest viewers. A few mild oaths and one semi-profane expression. Spanish titles option. The CNS classification is A-II–adults and adolescents. The MPAA rating is PG–parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment; also available on Blu-ray)
‘The Colossus of New York’ (Blu-ray Edition; 1958)
When a brilliant scientist (Ross Martin) dies in a tragic accident, his surgeon-father (Otto Kruger) keeps the son’s brain alive, then places it in control of an oversized robot fashioned by his other son (Robert Hutton), but the robot runs amok until, like the Golem, it is stopped by a child. Directed by Eugene Lourie, the pulp proceedings are memorable only for the robot’s eerie appearance and laser-beam eyes. Stylized violence and a rather ghoulish premise. The CNS classification is A-II–adults and adolescents. Not rated by the MPAA. (Olive Films)
‘Evita’ (15th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition; 1996)
Lavish adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about Eva Peron (Madonna) who rose from illegitimacy and poverty to marry Argentinean dictator Juan Peron (Jonathan Pryce) and attract the adulation of the masses before dying of cancer in 1952 at age 33. Writer-director Alan Parker’s polished but hardly riveting musical drama explores the conflicting images of Evita as both saint and sinner. Premarital promiscuity and violent riot scenes. Spanish titles option. The CNS classification is A-III–adults. The MPAA rating is PG–parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)
‘Gran Torino’ (2008)
Improbable and gritty if ultimately humane redemption tale of a crusty Korean War vet (Clint Eastwood in peak form) who resents the encroachment of the Laotian Hmongs who have moved into his Detroit neighborhood, but becomes their reluctant hero and unlikely friend after he saves the young teen (Bee Vang) next door from being pressured to join a marauding Hmong gang. Eastwood directs with his customary frontier worldview, with the cultural tolerance theme and a positive priest character (Christopher Carley) strong pluses, though the nonstop racial epithets and expletives are, even in this context, excessive. Pervasive rough language, profanity and racial slurs, violence with bloodshed, and a morally tangled ending. The CNS classification is L–limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The MPAA rating is R–restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (Warner Home Video; also available on Blu-ray)
‘Newsies’ (20th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition; 1992)
Run-of-the-mill musical about New York City newsboys (including Christian Bale and David Moscow) going on strike in 1899 to protest higher newspaper prices decreed by publisher Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall). Though it offers some skillful choreography and a sprightly musical score, director Kenny Ortega develops little dramatic interest in the characters or their predicaments. Brief violence. Spanish titles option. The CNS classification is A-II–adults and adolescents. The MPAA rating is PG–parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)
The “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People”–now 10 years old–was not meant to be “the last word” in solving the abuse crisis, according to the chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.
Instead, Bp. R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, IL, said the charter has provided a framework for ongoing efforts. Its requirements are “not a temporary fix” but have to “become part of our culture,” he added.
The charter was part of the US bishops’ response to the clergy abuse scandal that was a top concern when they met 10 years ago in Dallas.
Their June meeting took place just five months after The Boston Globe began publishing articles about the sexual abuse of minors by priests and accusations of a systemic cover-up by church officials. The reports prompted other victims across the country to come forward with allegations of abuse that put the scandal in the national spotlight.
The bishops responded by developing a national policy to oust predators and protect children. They adopted the charter and approved a set of legislative norms to enforce implementation in all dioceses. They also established a lay-run National Review Board to monitor compliance, commission studies of the causes and context of the crisis, and recommend further actions. Later that year, the bishops formed a national Office for Child and Youth Protection.
A decade later, the review board reported on the effectiveness of the bishops’ response to the abuse crisis at their June 13-15 meeting in Atlanta.
According to Al J. Notzon III, chairman of the National Review Board, “striking changes” have occurred in the Church’s efforts to prevent and report abuse but said more work still needs to be done.
The charter outlined how the Church leaders would provide a safe environment for children and young people in Church-sponsored activities. It established uniform procedures for handling sex-abuse allegations and adopted a “zero tolerance” policy. It also required background checks and training in child protection for Church employees and required dioceses facing allegations made about priests or other Church workers to alert authorities, conduct an investigation and remove the accused person from duty.
Deacon Bernard Nojadera, head of the US bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, said even with these efforts, many Catholics are often unaware that the church has taken such an active role to stop and prevent abuse.
In part, this stems from “pockets of allegations” that continue to surface, he said.
Notzon also said that many Catholics do not know what the church is doing to stop abuse and said people often suggest to him that the church do things it is already doing.
“Word needs to get out about what’s being done,” he said from his San Antonio home.
He said the general public also should know what the Church is doing since abuse is a societal problem. “The Church is on the leading edge and needs to share its information and let others know there are valuable things they can learn without the pain the church had to go through.”
When abuse allegations emerge in the Church, he said, they could stem from a failure to implement charter policies, which the review board investigates.
Notzon said in recent years the church has changed the way it treats victims from “immediately getting defensive” with them to taking a more pastoral role. He also said the credibility of the audit–measuring how dioceses comply with the charter–has improved. “Compliance auditors are trained to look to make sure not just the law but the spirit of the law is followed.”
The bishops’ level of commitment to the issue proves they know the charter is something that needs to be “supported over time,” he added, noting that the review board’s role is to “continually hold up a mirror to the bishops to say, ‘Here is your commitment and here is your response.’”
A report released in April on the implementation of the charter showed that nearly all US dioceses are in full compliance, including the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.
James Marasco, director of StoneBridge Business Partners, the Rochester, NY, company that conducted the most recent audits, said in the audit that StoneBridge hopes to help the US Catholic Church “continue to restore the trust of the faithful and heal the wounds caused by abuse.”
Deacon Nojadera said healing is still a major aspect of the crisis as the Church continues its outreach to survivor victims and families and address how abuse affected the entire church.
“As with any deep wound, it takes time to heal,” said Bp. Conlon.
He said the Church’s efforts to restore credibility “take a step forward and then a step backward,” noting that when Church officials do not follow protocol for reporting abuse it “sets things back for all of us.”
The bishop said he is grateful to pastors and laypeople who have taken a leadership role at diocesan and parish levels to raise awareness of abuse, put standards of safety and codes of conduct in place to make the Church a safe place for children.
“I want to encourage everyone to stay the course,” he said.
“We have to make assurances that what happened in the past never happens again,” he added, noting that Church officials have to be “as transparent as we possibly can and have to be prayerful about it.”
The catechism is a compendium of Catholic beliefs structured around the four pillars of faith: creed, sacraments, commandments, and prayer.
The USCCB announcement about the latest eBook format comes at a time when more active readers are moving to eBooks from traditional formats. A Pew study conducted in February shows 21 percent of adults say they read an eBook in the past year, compared with 17 percent in December 2011 who said they had done so.
Additional research shows that overall eBook owners are more likely to read than those who read via print formats.
In late 2011, the USCCB accommodated that trend by releasing the eBook edition of the catechism through Amazon, iTunes, and the USCCB Online bookstore. Why make it available through browsers?
“Providing the catechism in this particular electronic format will make this foundational resource even more accessible to people,” explained Bp. John C. Wester of Salt Lake City. “It is free to anyone who has access to the Internet.”
The bishop, who is chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Communications, made the comments in a statement.
The Pew study reports 42 percent of eBook users read their eBooks on a computer. Therefore, not only is the catechism now more available but, statistically, readers may be more inclined to access it.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church is proving to be as compelling if not more, of an influence on the faithful,” said Bp. David L. Ricken of Green Bay, WI, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.
“Our ability to use the new technologies means that many more millions will be able to find the Catholic Church’s teachings on their tablets, their smartphones, and their laptops,” he said in a statement.
The catechism was approved by Pope John Paul II and issued in French in 1992. The Vatican completed final revisions of English translation in 1994, and it was published June 22 of that year in the US and Canada. A revised second edition was published in 2000.
Since its release, it has become a best-seller for the Catholic Church. The USCCB said it has sold more than 988,000 print copies. Since 2011, the eBook version on Amazon, iTunes, and the USCCB Online bookstore has sold more than 7,100 copies.
The Vatican is in line to control the new Internet address extension “.catholic” and decide who is allowed to use it.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit corporation that coordinates the assignment of Internet domain names and addresses around the world, announced the Vatican’s formal application June 13 in London.
The corporation is overseeing a huge expansion in the number of Internet extensions beyond the standard .com, .org., .edu and .gov. The extensions formally are known as generic top-level domains. The assignment of country-code top-level domains, like the Vatican’s own .va, will not be affected by the change.
Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told Catholic News Service that the Vatican’s application to control the top-level domain .catholic “is a recognition of how important the digital space is for the Church.”
Controlling the top-level domain “will be a way to authenticate the Catholic presence Online,” Msgr. Tighe said. The Vatican plans to allow “institutions and communities that have canonical recognition” to use the extension, “so people Online–Catholics and non-Catholics–will know a site is authentically Catholic.”
The Vatican does not plan to allow individual bloggers or private Catholics to use “.catholic,” Msgr. Tighe said. Use of the domain would be limited to those with a formal canonical recognition: dioceses, parishes, and other territorial Church jurisdictions; religious orders and other canonically recognized communities; and Catholic institutions such as universities, schools, and hospitals.
The Vatican filed four separate applications for new domain names, seeking to control “.catholic” and its equivalent in other languages using Latin letters, as well as the equivalent of the word “Catholic” in the Cyrillic, Arabic, and Chinese alphabets.
The fee for each application was $185,000, which Msgr. Tighe said “is a lot of money, but if you think of the money you have to spend to maintain a Church structure,” and then consider how important the structure of the Catholic presence on the Internet is, it was a good investment.
Controlling the domain name will promote “a more cohesive and organized presence” of the Church Online, “so the recognized structure of the Church can be mirrored in the digital space.”
In addition to the fee, the Vatican and other applicants for new generic top-level domains had to fill out complicated forms and must submit to background checks to ensure they are the best representative of the name they chose and to prove they have the financial, technical, and institutional stability to run the domain, are not involved in criminal activity and have no history of “cyber-squatting”–registering a name more properly associated with someone else and trying to sell it at an inflated price.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has set up a process for resolving conflicting claims to the same or very similar names, although an auction of some extensions is possible. It said that of the 1,930 applications received, “there are 231 exact matches” with two or more applicants competing for the domain name.
The Vatican was the only applicant asking for .catholic.
When the corporation discussed the idea of expanding the number of generic top-level domains in 2009, the Vatican representative to the corporation’s governmental advisory committee, Msgr. Carlo Maria Polvani, expressed concern about “the possible perils” connected with religious domain names, including the risk of “competing claims” and “bitter disputes” between individuals or institutions claiming to represent, for example, Catholics or Muslims or Buddhists.
Msgr. Tighe said June 13 that the concerns, voiced “at a much earlier stage of the process,” were meant to warn the corporation of possible conflicts, particularly involving religious groups that do not have any clear or strong central leadership.
Once the corporation decided to move forward with the expansion, he said, “we decided we were best suited to apply for ‘catholic.’”
The applications for Latin alphabet domain names revealed June 13 included one request for “.christmas,” but no requests for “.christian.” Two applicants asked for “.church,” but no one asked for “.orthodox,” “.lutheran” or “.anglican.” Seven applicants asked for “.love,” one requested “.islam,” but no one requested “.jewish.”
At the London news conference announcing the applications, Rod Beckstrom, president of the Internet corporation, said no one had yet been granted the rights to any of the requested domain names.
The vetting process is ongoing and even entities that appear to have a right to the name and the ability to run the new domain are unlikely to have anything Online before spring 2013, said Kurt Pritz, vice president. He also said the corporation is asking comments from the public for 60 days. In addition, he said, for the next seven months it will be accepting “formal objections” based on specific criteria such as possible brand or trademark infringement. But formal objections also can be submitted to demonstrate opposition to the applicant from a significant number of people who feel they are represented by the domain name.
The annual fee for the new generic top-level domains is $25,000, the corporation said.
When the Internet corporation began accepting applications in January for new Internet extensions, there were about two dozen approved generic top-level domains, including .info, which was added in 2000, and .travel, which was added in 2004.
The current expansion of top domains will be the largest in Internet history.
Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America
by Michael Meyerson. Yale University Press (New Haven, Conn., 2012). 385 pp., $32.50.
Reviewed by Br. Jeffrey Gros, FSC
Michael Meyerson’s Endowed by Our Creator, an engaging volume on a timely issue, outlines a history that should inform the minds of all Americans, religious or not. The carefully researched study of the drafting, religious intent and historical context of the First Amendment language–“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”–is both well documented and easy reading.
The thesis of the author is that those who characterized the US in its origins as a secularist state rigidly excluding religion, as did post-revolutionary France, and those who saw it as a Christian or even Protestant nation in its original intent both are historically incorrect.
Of course, these positions and dozens of others existed in the 18th-century colonies, but the compromise reached was crafted by religious people intent on providing a context for the peaceful development of pluralism in religion, protection of human dignity of all and freedom from federal intervention in religious affairs. In fact, some of the Founding Fathers mention Muslims and Hindus among the groups protected by this freedom and the bar to any religious test for public office.
Catholic John Carroll, soon to be the first bishop for the small Catholic minority in the fledgling nation, was able to say: “The establishment of the American empire was not the work of this or that religion, but arose from a generous exertion of all her citizens to redress their wrongs, to assert their rights, and lay its foundation on the soundest principles of justice and equal liberty.”
Some 175 years later, his own Catholic Church was to take this position as its own, rooted in the dignity of the human person and the freedom of the Gospel. There were a variety of concerns that brought the fathers of the Second Vatican Council to this development, but the American Catholic experience was an important voice. Neither in the US experience nor in the Declaration on Religious Freedom were all the issues foreseen or resolved, but a new era was opened by these two historic moments.
The book provides seven chapters, with an introduction tracing the explicitly biblical imagery proposed in the first sketches for the Great Seal of the new county, before the more simplified and religiously neutral bald eagle was selected. The author begins with the prehistory of reflection and relationships in the colonies that set the context for religious freedom. Of course, the myth that the early colonists, pilgrims especially, came to plant religious freedom in the colonies has long been dispelled. They rather came to find freedom for their own establishment. Massachusetts was the last state to relinquish its Congregational state-sponsored religion. In colonial days, there were strong religious advocates for religious freedom especially among the Baptists.
The first three chapters outline this prehistory and the debates that made toleration possible in spite of the deep divisions over the role of religion and attitudes toward Catholics, Jews, and other non-Protestant minorities. Though we often look back as though Protestantism was one thing, in fact tensions among Quakers, Anglicans, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and others were as marked as those with Catholics. Tolerance and the move to religious equality before the law on the constitutional level in the new country came slowly. It was only gradually universally received by the citizenry.
Chapters four and five outline the debates that went into the framing of the Constitution, and why religion is given such a minor treatment. Chapter six outlines the reception of the religious freedom in the first few decades of the new republic, through the laws enacted, treaties written, and the attitudes of the first four presidents.
Of course, the implications of this important value are clarified in each decade through public debate and judicial decisions as we see in the present context. The churches do well to protect the right to define their ministries and the rights of religion in the public sphere, because they will continue to compete with one another and with more secular concerns, as the pacifist churches did from the very beginning of the republic.
This is an engaging beginning of a long story, the future of which may be as surprising as is this fascinating history. This tale should inform all education for citizenship, whether it occur under public, private or religious auspices. The book would make for lively discussions for ecumenical or parish study groups, especially in the rather charged environment of election-year rhetoric.
Brr. Gros, a member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, is resident scholar in Catholic studies at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL.