Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria says the declaration of Archbishop Fulton Sheen as “venerable” is wonderful news for both the diocese and the Catholic Church in America.
On June 28 the Pope Benedict XVI authorized the decree recognizing the heroic virtues of the much loved U.S. archbishop, author and television evangelist. The move brings Sheen closer to sainthood.
“Fulton Sheen’s zeal, wisdom, and holiness should help us build our faith,” Bishop Jenky said, according to a Catholic News Agency report. He thanked God that the Catholic Church has recognized “a son from central Illinois.”
Archbishop Sheen was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria and went on to become a prominent speaker and author. In addition to serving as an auxiliary bishop of New York and Bishop of Rochester, was best known for his weekly radio broadcast “The Catholic Hour” and his later weekly television program “Life is Worth Living.”
The archbishop died in 1979 at the age of 84. His cause for sainthood was opened in 2002.
Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation in Peoria, said the Catholic Church in America needs “heroes to inspire us to stand up and to fall to our knees.”
“I think in a special way, Venerable Fulton Sheen can be an inspiration and a consolation to our bishops and other Church leaders. He was a man of courage, and priest of prayer.”
In response to the decree, Bishop Jenky will celebrate a thanksgiving Mass on Sept. 9 at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria.
If a recognized miracle is attributed to him, he can be beatified. Two recognized miracles mean he can be canonized as a saint.
One possible alleged Fulton Sheen miracle is already under investigation.
In December 2011 a tribunal of the Diocese of Peoria, Ill. concluded its investigation into a reputed miracle attributed to Archbishop Sheen’s intercession. It sent the results to the Vatican for consideration.
Bonnie Engstrom and her husband Travis prayed to Archbishop Sheen in September 2010 after she delivered an apparently stillborn son at home in Goodfield, Ill.
The baby, named James Fulton after the archbishop, was rushed to the hospital but had no pulse for 61 minutes after his birth. Following their prayers his heart started beating and he escaped serious medical problems.
Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, the postulator leading Archbishop Sheen’s cause for canonization, did not speak about the possible miracle. However, he said the canonization cause is “taking a special road” and moving “quite quickly.”
“This is due to the importance of this cause for Fulton Sheen’s sainthood to the American Church and all the faithful,” he said June 28. “We hope to go on with continued momentum.”
Amid misrepresentations in the media and public square, a newly-formed U.S. lay Catholic group is working to communicate the church’s message in a way that is clear, positive and captivating.
“I think the role of the laity is to be engaged and knowledgeable and to show others the joyful, life-affirming nature of what the Church teaches,” said Kim Daniels, coordinator of Catholic Voices USA.
Daniels told Catholic News Agency on June 26 that the organization seeks to offer “a new apologetics for the New Evangelization.”
She described Catholic Voices USA as a group of lay faithful who have come together to help the church “make its case” in the public square.
The lay Catholics who comprise the organization “know and love the church” and are able to speak about its teachings from their direct experience, she said.
In May, Catholic Voices held its first U.S. training session for lay Catholics, mobilizing them to “make the Catholic case” in debates, interviews and other public settings.
Catholic Voices USA is based on the British model that was started by Jack Valero and Austen Ivereigh to carry out a similar mission in the U.K.
Daniels, who has a background as a religious liberty attorney, said that while the American group is still in its infancy, it has already “had a great deal of success.”
Members from the initial training class have published op-eds in secular newspapers, made television appearances and participated as speakers in local religious freedom events.
Such involvement is crucial now, during the “hour of the laity,” Daniels said. “We have been called by the church to step forward.”
People often learn about church teaching through the media, and misunderstandings continue to exist, she noted. Therefore, “we need to be engaged” and present the “positive case for church teaching.”
Daniels emphasized the laity’s role in showing the joyful reality of church teaching rather than the caricature that is often used to depict it.
This is carried out through one-on-one discussions in parishes, neighborhoods and families, as well as participation in public debate and discourse, she observed, adding that “obviously, prayer is central to any of these efforts.”
“My experience is that people are eminently encouraged when they see Catholics confident in their faith engage in the public square,” said Kathryn Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online, who is also a coordinator of Catholic Voices USA.
“The Catholic Church has a remarkable story to tell, that speaks to our deepest desires and makes life make sense,” she stressed. “If we can tell that story better, lives will be transformed.”
She explained that the Catholic Voices model seeks to help the lay faithful fulfill this mission.
“We encourage one another. We share our experience and talents. We educate. We love one another,” she said. “This is our call as Christians, to be open to, study, love, and share the Good News.”
Lopez added that she has been “humbled” when people have approached her and told her that something she covered, mentioned or even linked to online has had “a transformative effect on their lives.”
She explained that it was not so much her own words or actions as the fact that she “was an instrument in a lifesaving process.”
The authentic witness of a Catholic life is important partly because “you never know who is looking,” she observed. Similarly, when you have “access to a public platform,” you may never know who is consuming the material you produce.
“Media can be a powerful evangelization tool,” she said, “even when it’s not explicitly Catholic.”
Lopez acknowledged that it can sometimes be tempting to become confused or discouraged by lack of feedback or negative responses.
“But that’s all going to be fine if you know your real editor is the one who gives you the words, too, as He brings peace to your heart,” she said.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, drawing cries of disappointment and concern from pro-life and religious freedom advocates nationwide.
Christen Varley, executive director of Conscience Cause, a nonpartisan advocacy organization that works to secure and defend religious freedom, said that she was “extremely disappointed” with the decision.
“The first line of the First Amendment in our Constitution guarantees all Americans the right to religious freedom, as our forefathers intended,” Varley said in a Catholic News Agency report. “Now, we have opened the door to a government that sees no limit to the amount of freedoms it can take away.”
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled on June 28 that the law is constitutional, including an individual mandate that requires virtually all individuals to purchase health insurance plans.
The justices said that while this mandate does not fall within the powers afforded by the commerce clause, the penalty that people must pay if they refuse to buy insurance can be understood instead as a kind of tax that Congress is authorized to impose under its taxing power.
The decision means that the fight over a highly controversial federal contraception mandate will continue. The mandate would have automatically perished if the law had been struck down.
Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services under authority granted by the Affordable Care Act, the mandate will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate has drawn widespread criticism from individuals and organizations representing a variety of religious and political backgrounds. Lawsuits challenging the regulation have been filed by more than 50 plaintiffs across the country.
Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the mandate, warning that it poses a severe threat to the religious liberty of those who object to it.
Varley said that the mandate “represents an egregious affront to religious liberty” and vowed that Conscience Cause would continue working with people of all faiths to petition Congress “to overrule this devastating policy, which undermines our religious freedom.”
Critics have also spoken out against a provision under the 2010 law regulating involuntary funding of insurance plans that cover elective abortions.
This will take place through a monthly surcharge for all people enrolled in plans covering abortion.
Regulations issued under the Affordable Care Act require that the surcharge be at least one dollar per month, but they do not dictate any maximum rate, and nothing prohibits insurance companies from charging substantially more to pay for abortions.
This provision completely lacks a religious or moral exemption, and it forbids insurers from telling enrollees how much of their money is going to fund other people’s abortions, making it difficult for them to withhold that portion of their premium.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which works to elect and mobilize pro-life women, said that the Affordable Care Act was “fundamentally flawed” from the very beginning “because it makes American taxpayers complicit in the deaths of countless unborn children.”
“As the presidential race heats up, the Susan B. Anthony List will continue to remind American voters where the President’s allegiance truly lies,” she vowed. “We will not stop fighting until every U.S. taxpayer is freed from under-writing the abortion business.”
Today the United States Supreme Court issued a decision upholding as a tax the provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires individuals to purchase a health plan — the so-called “individual mandate.”
For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been and continue to be consistent advocates for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable. Although the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) did not participate in these cases and took no position on the specific questions presented to the Court, USCCB’s position on health care reform generally and on ACA particularly is a matter of public record. The bishops ultimately opposed final passage of ACA for several reasons.
First, ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy. The risk we identified in this area has already materialized, particularly in the initial approval by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of “high risk” insurance pools that would have covered abortion.
Second, the Act fails to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context. We have provided extensive analyses of ACA’s defects with respect to both abortion and conscience. The lack of statutory conscience protections applicable to ACA’s new mandates has been illustrated in dramatic fashion by HHS’s “preventive services” mandate, which forces religious and other employers to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.
Third, ACA fails to treat immigrant workers and their families fairly. ACA leaves them worse off by not allowing them to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges created under the law, even if they use their own money. This undermines the Act’s stated goal of promoting access to basic life-affirming health care for everyone, especially for those most in need.
Following enactment of ACA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has not joined in efforts to repeal the law in its entirety, and we do not do so today. The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws described above. We therefore continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix those flaws.
It’s not every day that children in Piura, Peru, learn to play American football from the coach of a National Football League team.
Jim Harbaugh, the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, told Catholic News Agency that impromptu lessons with the kids during a recent eight-day trip to the town brought him joy.
Harbaugh was one of several U.S. volunteers who traveled in June to Piura — a small town nearly 600 miles north of Lima — to help the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish with its daily ministries to the poor.
The parish’s outreach includes a women’s shelter, an orphanage, a drug rehabilitation center, a hospice facility and, most recently, tuition-free Catholic school for kindergarten through eleventh graders.
“It’s incredible the amount of work they do and they joy that they do it with,” Harbaugh said, noting that more than 60 percent of Piura’s population live in poverty and over 20 percent in extreme poverty.
The coach said he first learned about the mission trip through friends at St. Raymond’s, his parish in Menlo Park, Calif.
Now, four years and three trips later, Harbaugh said he has seen Most Blessed Sacrament become a “very vibrant and growing parish.”
“I’ve always been struck by the attendance and the joy they have for Mass,” Harbaugh said, adding that the pews are filled with faithful at daily evening Masses. “You can only describe that as the fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
Harbaugh also credits the growth of the parish and community to the support of volunteers and the leadership of Father Joe Uhen, a native of Milwaulkee who has been pastor of the parish since 1993.
He estimates that the school, which Father Uhen opened in 2011, now has an attendance of more than 600 students.
“Every desk was full,” he said. “Three years ago when we came down here, the school was just an idea.”
He said volunteers this summer helped build twenty homes and packaged and delivered locally produced rice and beans to supplement meals for 1,400 families this month.
Piuran farmers started producing rice and beans after Father Uhen invested in their crops and farming techniques, Harbaugh said.
Father Uhen also spearheaded a family sponsorship program between the United States and Peru. Through the program, titled Santisimo Sacramento, an American family “adopts” a Peruvian family, supplying scholarships, food and basic housing items including beds and stoves.
Harbaugh, who sponsors a family through Santisimo Sacramento, said he plans to continue the service trips because they give him “the feeling of going down the right path.”
“The doors that God will open for you by the people you meet or by the circumstances you’re in (allow) your character to be shaped and your spirit to grow,” he said. “Those kinds of doors are opened for (me) here.”
For more information about Most Blessed Sacrament Parish or the Santisimo Sacramento program, visit: santisimo.org.
Most Americans have a respectful view of immigrants, and would support long-term measures to make legal residence possible, a Knights of Columbus-Marist poll has found.
“There is a consensus among the American people on the issue of immigration,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a June 25 statement, according to Catholic News Agency, announcing the findings of a survey conducted by the Catholic fraternal order in collaboration with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.
“There is a real, viable, long-term solution to this problem that would transcend partisanship, have the support of the American people, and actually resolve this issue,” observed Anderson, who thinks the survey “has potential to recast our national debate if this non-partisan solution is embraced.”
The Knights of Columbus-Marist findings show that 74 percent of Americans would back legal residence for illegal immigrants, provided they paid a fine, learned English, and had a job that would pay taxes.
Asked about their attitude toward immigrants, 83 percent of respondents said most of them are “average people who come to the United States to seek a better life for themselves and their families.” Only 17 percent held a negative opinion about immigrants’ motives for coming to the United States.
Eight out of 10 Americans said they believed the U.S. could act to secure its borders while also respecting immigrants. The same proportion of respondents approved of immigrants’ hard work and family values.
The release of the poll results coincided with the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision to strike down parts of Arizona’s immigration law. However, the court allowed the state to maintain its requirement for authorities to check the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants who are stopped by police.
Controversy over immigration has continued following President Obama’s June 15 executive order, allowing some unauthorized residents — who are under age 30, arrived before age 16, and have been in the U.S. five consecutive years — to avoid deportation under certain conditions.
Although the Knights of Columbus-Marist research showed widespread respect for immigrants and broad support for a legal residence program, concerns persist about the impact of immigration on the country.
According to the same poll, 76 percent of U.S. adults are worried about the effect of immigration on the country’s health care system. Two-thirds of respondents voices similar concerns about the public school system.
Countries worldwide joined together to prevent language supporting abortion and population control from being included in an international document produced at a recent U.N. gathering.
By maintaining the correct focus, the international community can commit itself to “the pursuit of a more integral development which corresponds to the dignity of every human being,” said Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer.
Cardinal Scherer represented the Holy See at the recent Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
Timothy Herrmann of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, who attended the conference, explained that the Holy See was joined by a variety of nations, including Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria in rejecting references to abortion in the document.
He reported on June 20 that groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Catholics for Choice and the United Nations Population Fund had been working along with Iceland and Norway to insert language of “population control” and “reproductive rights” into the conference’s final outcome document.
Such language is often used to promote an international “right” to abortion and contraception.
However this effort was resisted by numerous countries, Herrmann said in a Catholic News Agency report.
The delegation from Nicaragua noted that the language of “reproductive rights” directly conflicted with the laws of many nations and is simply “a code at the U.N. for abortion.”
Chile’s delegation argued that the term “reproductive rights” is “incompatible” with the “right to life” and is not relevant to a document on sustainable development.
Russia observed that the population control language was used as an unacceptable means of reaching sustainable development.
In his address, Cardinal Scherer emphasized the importance of keeping work toward such development centered on the human person.
When dealing with the threats “posed by the persisting injustice of hunger, poverty and underdevelopment,” the international community must remain focused on “the dignity and worth of each and every person,” he said.
He observed that people are “charged with stewardship over nature,” and “this stewardship necessarily possesses an ethical dimension.”
“The right to water, the right to food, the right to health and the right to education are intrinsically linked to the right to life and to the right to development,” the cardinal said.
He warned of the “risk of obscuring this correct relationship,” particularly with regard to the right to health.
“Imposing death upon the most vulnerable human lives — namely, those in the safest sanctuary of their mothers’ wombs — cannot conceivably be brought under the nomenclature of health-care,” he insisted, cautioning that such a view “profoundly menaces the dignity of the human person.”
Cardinal Scherer called for “a renewed and deepened reflection on the meaning of the economy and its purposes,” as well as an ecological view that evaluates current challenges through “an integrally human model.”
The U.S. bishops greeted with hope and caution the June 25 Supreme Court decision to strike down provisions of an Arizona immigration law that would have allowed warrantless arrests of people suspected of an offense that is deportable, that would have made it a crime to seek work in the state and that would have made undocumented presence a state crime.
The bishops found hope in the decision in Arizona vs. United States and said it reflects the bishops’ call for humane and just immigration laws and concern for laws that could tear families apart. Their caution lay in the lifting of an injunction against immigrants having to show papers in some circumstances.
The bishops had filed a friend of the court brief in the case.
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, expressed concern regarding the one part of the 5-3 decision that narrowly upheld a provision that permits state law enforcement personnel to determine the immigration status of any person stopped, detained, or arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is not lawfully in the United States, and to verify the immigration status of any person arrested before releasing that person.
In the opinion, the justices left the door open that the provision that was upheld — known as 2(B) of SB 1070 — could later be found unconstitutional.
“While we are concerned with the Court decision not to uphold section 2 (B) of the law, we are encouraged that the Court did not rule it constitutional,” Archbishop Gomez said. “As we articulated in our amicus brief, the implementation of this provision could lead to the separation of families and undermine the Church’s ability to minister to the immigrant population.”
A copy of the brief can be found at http://www.usccb.org/ogc/amicus-briefs/upload/state-of-arizona-v-united-states-of-america.pdf
“We stand in solidarity with our brother bishops in Arizona, as they prepare to respond to the implementation of this provision and its potential human consequences,” Archbishop Gomez said.
Opponents of the law have expressed concern that the decision would lead to the racial profiling of immigrants and the violation of civil rights laws.
Archbishop Gomez highlighted the court’s other provisions.
“The Court’s decision to strike down the other provisions of the Arizona law reaffirms the strong role of the federal government in regulating immigration,” said Archbishop Gomez.
Archbishop Gomez urged state governments not to rush to pass laws similar to SB 1070 and called upon Congress to assume its responsibility and enact comprehensive immigration reform. He vowed that the Catholic Church in the United States would continue to fight for humane and just reform of the nation’s immigration system.
“The U.S. Catholic bishops across the nation will urge their state governments to not pursue laws such as in Arizona, but rather to pursue humane reform on the federal level,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Humane enforcement of our nation’s laws are part of any solution, but enforcement by itself, unjustly administered, only leads to abuses and family breakdown.”
“The church will continue to stand by immigrants and their families and seek justice on their behalf,” stated Archbishop Gomez.
Pope Benedict XVI says the church’s celebration of the birth of John the Baptist should be a reminder that for God, all things are possible.
“From his mother’s womb, in fact, John is the forerunner of Jesus: his miraculous conception is announced from the Angel to Mary as a sign that ‘nothing is impossible to God,’” he said to pilgrims in St. Peters Square during his midday Angelus address June 24.
The pope was marking today’s Solemn Feast of The Nativity of St. John the Baptist. He noted that apart from Our Lady, St. John is the only saint to have their birthday celebrated as a liturgical feast “because it is closely connected to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.”
He explained that St. John is emphasized by all four Gospel writers as the prophet who concluded the Old Testament by preparing the way for the Christ and the New Covenant.
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he,” said Jesus in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
St. John’s father, Zechariah, was “a priest of the cult of the Old Testament,” and yet “he did not immediately believe the announcement of an unexpected fatherhood,” said the pope.
And so Zechariah was silenced until the child’s circumcision when “animated by the Holy Spirit” he proclaimed his son’s mission;
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.”
“All this was manifested 30 years later,” said the pope, when St. John started to baptize in the River Jordan “calling the people to prepare, through the act of repentance, the imminent coming of the Messiah.”
St. John then fulfilled his mission by both baptizing the Messiah in the River Jordan and, explained Pope Benedict, in being “asked to precede Jesus even in violent death.”
Thus in being beheaded by King Herod, St. John “bore full witness to the Lamb of God, whom he had first recognized and announced publically.”
“Dear friends, the Virgin Mary helped her elderly cousin Elizabeth to carry to term the pregnancy of John,” the pope concluded, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
Catholics must fight against forces seeking to remove the influence of religion from American culture, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore told over 1,000 Catholics at a Mass beginning a 14-day campaign for religious freedom.
“In differing ways, both the church’s teaching and our nation’s founding documents acknowledge that the Creator has endowed individuals with freedom of conscience,” said Archbishop Lori. “Such freedom goes to the heart of the dignity of the human person.”
The archbishop delivered the opening homily for the Fortnight for Freedom, the two-week period leading up to the Fourth of July that the bishops have dedicated as a time for prayer, education and advocacy for religious liberty.
The June 21 Mass took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore, the nation’s first Catholic cathedral.
Archbishop Lori, who leads the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, was met with standing applause when he entered the overflowing cathedral, as well as after the homily and at the conclusion of Mass.
In his homily, he observed that the date chosen to kick off the fortnight was the eve of the feast day of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, 16th century English martyrs who were beheaded because they would not comply with a law that made King Henry VIII the head of the church and broke communion with the pope.
He explained that these two saints symbolize the “two aspects of religious freedom” that the Fortnight for Freedom is striving to protect and foster.
An accomplished lawyer who served as the Chancellor of England, St. Thomas More was willing to accept martyrdom courageously rather than “to betray his principles and his conscience.”
Archbishop Lori said that More represents the conscientious private employers and employees who simply seek to “go about their daily work in accord with their faith” and the demands of social justice, while avoiding “doing or facilitating moral evil in course of daily work.”
While perhaps less well-know, St. John Fisher also witnessed courageously as the Bishop of Rochester in Kent, he added.
Fisher helped renew the church from within while opposing external state interference. After his martyrdom, royal forces seized churches, monasteries and learning centers, either destroying them or forcing them to break ties with the Catholic Church.
The archbishop explained that St. John Fisher symbolizes for us the “struggle to maintain religious freedom for church institutions and ministries such as our schools and charities.”
While we are not met with the “dire brutality” that these two saints faced, the U.S. Church today is in “perilous waters,” he said.
He pointed to a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. While the mandate includes a religious exemption, it applies only to non-profit organizations that exist to inculcate religious values and that primarily serve and employ members of their own faiths.
Religious organizations such as Catholic hospitals, inner-city schools and charitable agencies do not qualify for the exemption because they are committed to serving all in need, regardless of their faith.
Thus, the church is only “religious enough” for a religious exemption if it “confines itself to the sacristy,” but not if it attempts to reach out “by hiring those of other faiths and by serving the common good,” Archbishop Lori observed.
He warned that this very narrow definition of church and religion that is embedded in the mandate “is likely to spread throughout federal law” if not swiftly removed.
With the mandate scheduled to go into effect on August 1, private employers will be forced to “violate their consciences” in less than six weeks, he said.
Recalling how religious freedom — in both private worship and public life — drew many people to America from its very beginning as a nation, the archbishop called on the faithful to “defend the Church’s freedom to fulfill her mission” through proclaiming the Gospel and manifesting God’s love in organized works of education and charity.
He stressed the need to defend the religious freedom of both individuals and church institutions, which find both their identity and their mission in firmly-held religious convictions. It is important to protect both, because the two are “inseparably linked,” and a threat to one poses a risk to the other as well, he said in a Catholic News Agency report.
Even if the mandate is overturned, Archbishop Lori cautioned, Catholics must still fight forces of secularism that are seeking to prevent religious faith from having any impact on culture.
He urged the faithful to act courageously “throughout this Fortnight and beyond,” to defend freedom and bear witness to the moral values and truths that serve as the foundation for “a society that is just, peaceful and charitable.”