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Archbishop Chaput highlights voices of young adults ahead of synod

Philadelphia, Pa., May 24, 2018 / 02:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an effort to highlight the voices of young people ahead of the Synod on Youth this fall, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is periodically offering his column space in the diocesan newspaper to young adults over the next four months.

“With a synod of the world’s bishops focusing on young people scheduled for this October, hearing directly from the young and those engaged in guiding them can be a great resource,” he wrote.

The 2018 Synod will take place this October. Bishops from around the world will meet to discuss the theme, “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.”

In preparation for the gathering, the Vatican sent out a survey asking young people around the world about their experiences and beliefs. In March, 315 young adults were invited to the Vatican for a pre-synod gathering. They released a document summarizing their discussions at the end of the meeting.

Since Archbishop Chaput decided to open his column to young adults earlier this month, he has shared the comments of two young people: Regina Luczyszyn, a 26-year-old graduate from Temple University Law School who is currently engaged, and Brother Bryan Kerns, a 29 year-old seminarian who will be ordained this summer.

Last week, Luczyszyn reflected on the need for young adults to be accompanied by faithful mentors. In a world marked by confusion, she said, many people bear wounds from a damaged past, so guides are necessary to help navigate the way.

“Finding Christ in the darkness isn’t always an easy journey,” she said. “Christ gave us the answer by showing us the importance of mentorship and discipleship – a model the Church needs to revive if she expects young adults to follow Christ.”

She highlighted chastity as one issue in which mentorship would be helpful, particularly in guiding questions during dating about appropriate boundaries and ways to express love in virtue.

Luczyszyn suggested that priests, religious, and laity can all be mentors to help navigate young adults through these trails. Just as Christ spent three years forming his disciples, she said the Church must accompany her members by “strengthening them, loving them, and teaching them.”

This week, Brother Kerns reflected on the Church’s need to for strong witnesses, leading the Church towards the value of silence and rest. When the world is overwhelmed by noise, he said, people are unable to truly know themselves.

“The world is drowning in noise – the young in particular. And the noise is not the worst problem; it’s a symptom of our failure to understand our nature. We use noise as an antidote to our restlessness, when what we really need is rest.”

He said the Church needs to evaluate how young adults can be encouraged make silence in their lives to face the burdens of this world and rely on the Church for silent strength. Brother Kern said the answer is not another document or program – although those things may be helpful – but witnesses willing to lead by example.

“Our world, our Church, and especially our young people, need witnesses. Witnesses who prove irrefutably, through their words and actions, that Jesus Christ dwells with quiet fire in their hearts.”

 

Nationwide protests in Nigeria ask government to improve church security

Abuja, Nigeria, May 24, 2018 / 12:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics from across Nigeria participated in peaceful protests on Tuesday, calling for greater government protection following a recent attack at a Catholic Church that left 19 dead.

Thousands of people in 54 cities across Nigeria participated in protests May 22, corresponding with the burial of two priests and 17 parishioners killed by Fulani herdsmen, who opened fire at a daily Mass on April 24. The herdsmen then flooded the streets, attacking pedestrians and setting fires to some 50 homes.

White caskets of those killed in the attacks were carried through the streets of the Benue state’s capital city, Makurdi, near Saint Ignatius Church, where the attack took place. Christians in other cities carried signs on the same day to proclaim the sacredness of life and a greater need for government aid.

The state of Benue shut down operations May 22 to honor those who died, Nigeria’s PM news reported. Several dozen bishops attended the burials spoke at rallies across the nation.

Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, spoke at a requiem Mass in Ayatu, Benue, according to local media. He questioned, “If we are not safe in our place of worship centers, where else can we be safe?”

Bishop Lucius Ugorji of Umuahia spoke at a peaceful protest in Abia state. In his speech, local media reported, he decried a lack of respect for life within the nation.

“Life has lost its meaning in Nigeria. And I wonder our fate if the government continues to fail in their core responsibility of providing adequate security of lives and properties in Nigeria,” he said.

“The Catholic Church in Abia state is in prayer solidarity with our brothers in Benue. The Government must do [what is necessary] to save Nigerians from herdsmen and Boko Haram attacks.”

Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of Makurdi, where the attack took place, particularly criticized Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, according to Deutsche Welle.

“[President Buhari] should wake up to his responsibilities. He was elected as a president for the people of this country, not for any particular group, not for any tribe,” he said, noting Buhari is the president of “a nation with about 200 million people, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and pagans.”

Violence between Fulani herdsmen and farmers has increased in recent years, as climate issues have pushed herders further south. By mid-January this year, more than 100 deaths had been attributed to the herdsmen.

 The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria voiced grave concern about the violence in a January statement. They recognized the challenges faced by the herdsman, but expressed the need for better alternatives to open grazing.

“Government should rather encourage cattle owners to establish ranches in line with international best practice,” the bishops said.

“Farmers and herdsmen have a lot to contribute to the socio-economic prosperity of our nation. A more enduring strategy must be worked out for their peaceful co-existence and mutual respect.”

 

Report: Pope Francis affirms Church practice against admitting gay men to seminary

Vatican City, May 24, 2018 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a closed-door speech to Italian bishops on Monday, Pope Francis spoke about the number and quality of seminary candidates, including concerns about their sexual orientation.

At the start of his May 21 audience with Italian bishops, Pope Francis voiced three areas of concern for the Church in Italy, the first of which was the lack of vocations.

Francis' brief remarks on his concerns, which also touched on evangelical poverty and transparency and the incorporation of Italian dioceses, were televised; however, his discussion with the bishops afterward was not.

In his public remarks on vocations, Pope Francis lamented the culture of the provisional, of relativism, and of the dictatorship of money, which hinder young people from discerning consecrated life. He also proposed that Italian dioceses with an abundance of vocations lend some of their priests to those Italian dioceses lacking in priests.

But in the discussion that followed the pope was more direct, telling the bishops to care more for the quality of seminary candidates than the quantity. Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, president of the Italian bishops' conference, confirmed Francis' comments about homosexuality in a May 24 press conference.

The Pope touched on the topic of homosexuality, particularly when it comes to individuals with “deep-seated tendencies” or who practice “homosexual acts”, yet who want to enter the seminary.

In these cases, “if you have even the slightest doubt it's better not to let them enter,” Francis said, because these acts or deep-seated tendencies can lead to scandals and can compromise the life of the seminary, as well as the man himself and his future priesthood.

Pope Francis' comments were made during the opening May 21 session of the 71st general assembly of the Italian bishops' conference.

However, the pope's statements on the issue of homosexuality and the seminary reflect the Church's teaching on the topic.

In the 2016 edition of the Congregation for Clergy's ratio on priestly formation, the dicastery had written that “in relation to people with homosexual tendencies who approach seminaries, or who discover this situation in the course of formation, in coherence with her own magisterium, 'the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called “gay culture”.'”

The ratio quoted from the Congregation for Catholic Education's 2005 instruction “Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders.”

The instruction noted that those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the gay culture “find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”

It distinguished those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies from those “with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem - for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded.”

Men with transitory homosexual tendencies could be admitted to seminary, the congregation wrote, though “such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.”

The instruction drew, in turn, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a 1985 memo from the Congregation for Catholic Education, and a 2002 letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Though Pope Francis has not addressed the topic publicly, he alluded to problems of homosexuality in seminary formation during a recent meeting with Chilean bishops.

In a letter written to the bishops which was leaked to Chilean media, the pope issued a sharp correction of his brother prelates for a systematic cover-up of clerical abuse in the country.

One footnote in the letter noted how abuses were not limited to just one person or group, but was rather the result of a fractured seminary process.

In the case of many abusers in Chile, Francis noted how problems had been detected while they were in seminary or the novitiate, but rather than expelling these individuals, some bishops or superiors “sent priests suspected of active homosexuality to these educational institutions.”

After five decades, Pacem in terris is still relevant, Francis says

Vatican City, May 24, 2018 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking about St. Pope John XXIII’s encyclical on establishing universal peace, Pacem in terris, Pope Francis said that even 55 years after its publication, the document still stands as “a permanent commitment” to peace.

Even if the way war is carried out has changed since the time when the encyclical was written, and today there appears to be more violence and conflict than in the past, St. John XXIII’s reflections “remain valid,” he said.

In an interview published May 24 in “L’Eco di Bergamo,” a newspaper of the northern Italian town of Bergamo, Francis said he is concerned about the ways violence occurs, not only with weapons, but with “mechanisms of oppression.”

Imbalances linked to the “reckless exploitation of men and of the resources of nature” are a cause for concern today, he continued, underlining that peace cannot only “be linked to the absence of war,” but must involve the “integral development of people and populations.”

The job of the Church is not to “make governments change,” he said, but to bring the “logic of the Gospel into the thinking and gestures” of those who govern.

It must be understood that “the commitment for social groups and states is to live relationships of justice and solidarity that cannot be just words.” Instead, “every form of selfishness, individualism, group interest” must be overcome at all levels of society.

The pope granted the interview for the occasion of a visit of St. John XXIII’s remains to the Diocese of Bergamo.   

Exposed for veneration at an altar inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the saint’s body has returned to his home diocese May 24-June 10 to mark the 55th anniversary of his death and the publication of the encyclical Pacem in Terris.

This visit is “a gift and an occasion” for a new journey of faith, the pope said. Especially for the elderly, poor, and sick, or anyone else who may not be able to visit St. Peter’s Basilica to venerate the saint.

St. John XXIII, he said, was “a man, a saint who did not know a contrary word, who did not like words like crusades or proselytism and who instead always sought what unites, who trusted in God and in man in his image.”

The ‘Good Pope,’ Francis said, believed that the Church is called to serve all people, “not only Catholics,” and to “defend above all and everywhere the rights of the human person…aware that the pope must build bridges.”

St. John XXIII also invites people “to look at what really matters,” he said, noting how his predecessor would keep a crucifix hanging opposite his bed so that it was the first thing he would see when he woke in the mornings.

The saint knew that “Christianity is not an ideal to follow, a philosophy to adhere to or a moral to be applied,” but “an encounter with Jesus Christ that makes us recognize in the flesh of brothers and sisters his very presence,” Pope Francis stated, encouraging people to serve the poor and sick – anyone who cannot give anything in return.

The story of St. John XXIII is filled with examples of “these gestures of closeness” with people who suffered, whether they were Catholics, Orthodox, or Jews, he said.

In the interview Francis also spoke about the future of Christianity, stating that identifying Christianity with Western culture in an absolute fashion “no longer makes sense” and that the future of Christianity will be “more concretely Catholic, universal, fully ecclesial,” and respectful of other cultures – for example in Africa, Asia and Latin America – or else risk “irrelevance.”

Reform bill the ‘first step’ to restorative prison justice, advocates say

Washington D.C., May 24, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed prison reform legislation that would integrate faith-based programs into federal prisons to help prisoners prepare to successfully reenter society.

The First Step Act was authored by Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and has the goal of incentivizing prisoner participation in vocational and rehabilitative programs. Lawmakers approved the bipartisan legislation by a 360-59 vote on May 22.

“I'm thrilled to see such bipartisan support for the First Step Act,” said James Ackerman, president of Prison Fellowship, the largest prison ministry in the United States.

“We have a duty as a society,” continued Ackerman, “to implement a more restorative approach to criminal justice -- one where people become healthier and more productive citizens when they return to society after serving time in prison then when they went into prison.”

The First Step Act calls for the implementation of individualized risk assessment interviews in federal prisons to better address each inmate’s personal needs, Prison Fellowship Vice President Craig DeRoche explained to CNA.

“For one person it, it might be addiction, for another it might be anger management and other issues to work through while they are incarcerated so that when they leave they are transformed and better suited for employability and success," said DeRoche.

This has proven successful at the state level in places like Texas, where it has “reduced expense and it has transformed lives in restored families and healing communities,” according to DeRoche.

Prison Fellowship operates in 428 prisons throughout the country. Their staff have seen many prisoners lives transformed by their faith-based programming.

Tiheba Williams-Bain previously served time in a federal prison in Texas. She explained to CNA that the skill-building and faith-based programming that she participated in positively impacted her life.

“I took advantage of every opportunity that was accorded to me while I was in prison to help me get better,” said Williams-Bain.

“It helped me navigate through the system, as well as my own self-doubt and insecurities that I had about myself,” she continued.

 Williams-Bain added that rehabilitation requires more than programs available, saying “it comes from the mindset of the person that utilizes the programs.”

Prison Fellowship Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Craig DeRoche said that it was only through Christ that he was able to recover from 29 years of addiction.

He said that is why he believes it is significant that the First Step Act “affirmatively states that faith-based programs will be welcomed into the prisons as a solution.”

“No person is beyond Christ's touch and healing grace and offer of redemption,” said DeRoche.

“It doesn't matter if it is a non-violent criminal or a low-level  or a violent criminal that has done horrible things, we've seen that Christ can make a person new again,” he continued.

The First Step Act will likely face opposition from both sides in the Senate, but it has President Donald Trump’s support.

At the White House Prison Reform Summit on May 18, President Trump said, “At the heart of our prison reform agenda is expanding prison work and the programs so that inmates can reenter society with the skills to get a job. We also want more mental health services so released inmates can cope with the challenges of life on the outside.”

The president continued, “Get a bill to my desk.  I will sign it.”

 

A Catholic mom made a big difference in her community – by speaking up

Denver, Colo., May 24, 2018 / 12:29 am (CNA).- Abriana Chilelli is a Catholic mother of four children who lives in Denver, Colo.

Every day on their daily route to school, she and her kids would drive by a strip club downtown that featured a parked van with pornographic images of two women.

While disturbed by the images, especially on behalf of her children, Chilelli initially believed she would not be able to do anything to change it.

“The van was parked on the club’s private parking lot, but was directly facing the street passing by. It infuriated me when I saw it, but we live in a city and society which I assumed would not be offended by the image,” Chilelli told CNA.

“So, I figured what could I possibly do on a city level to get it taken down?” she continued.

However, the images on the van continued to bother Chilelli. She tried distracting her kids every time they passed by the strip club, but eventually they noticed the overt poster of two women “engaged in an obviously sexual act.”

“I got mad – furious – that my children, residents of this city, have an offensive image directed at their eye level every day that advertises the objectification of women and uses women’s bodies to advertise pornography,” Chilelli said.

Motivated to make a change, she began to research city zoning codes and found a few that she believed the strip club might be violating. She called the police non-emergency line to file a report against the club, but the police officer told her that the poster was “not violating public indecency laws in regards to clothing.”

Chilelli did not stop there, however. She took her complaints to her city councilman, who then passed her along to another councilman. Eventually, she received a response saying that the issue was being investigated.

“I expected the councilman to echo what the police officer initially told me over the phone,” she said.

But a few weeks later, Chilelli received news that the city’s Community Planning and Development Zoning board “found the club’s billboard to be out of compliance with Denver Zoning Code,” and was issuing a formal notice to the strip club.

A few days later, the van with the pornographic images was gone.

Looking back on the experience, Chilelli reflected on the need for Catholics to speak up “to proclaim what is true, good and beautiful.”

“It’s important to speak up about issues like these…I often lament the immorality of our culture at large, which for me often ends in just that – lamenting,” Chilelli said, noting that to simply “wish away the problem…doesn’t actually help.” 

“I am quick to forget that I also exist in these public spaces – that my opinion and understanding about the truth of the body also exists in this public sphere we all exist together in, and that my rights as a citizen to not have to view offensive images should also be respected by our city, state, and federal codes and laws,” she continued.

Chilelli hopes that others will be encouraged by the idea that just one voice can promote change.

“[The experience] helped me realize that we can impact and affect change, despite how insurmountable the degradation of the culture seems,” she said. 

Chilelli added that this particular issue was especially important to speak out against because of the confusion fostered by a culture that believes the body is for sexual gratification, exploitation, and consumption.

“I want to encourage others to not passively accept the lies our culture tells us about our bodies, to not passively accept the lies our culture tries to teach our children about their bodies.”

She particularly called upon Catholics to share the truths of their faith, which she sees as a logical response to much of the world’s confusion.

“What I do think is important is that Catholics speak the language of the culture and do their best to identify areas where our culture is seeking truth, so we can speak the Gospel message to our very confused society, bringing light to what is so very dark about our culture’s understanding of the body and human sexuality.”
 
 
Editor’s note: Chilelli is related to CNA’s editor-in-chief, JD Flynn, who was not involved in the reporting or editing of this article.

 

 

Church in Peru launches collection to help Venezuelan refugees

Lima, Peru, May 23, 2018 / 11:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- The bishops of Peru have launched a campaign to collect funds to provide for the basic needs of Venezuelan refugees living in the country.

The Peruvian bishops’ conference announced the collection will take place June 3, during the day's scheduled Masses.

According to Caritas International, about four million people have left Venezuela due to the grave economic crisis marked by a major shortage of food and medicine under the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro, the president of the country since 2013. Maduro was re-elected May 20 in questionable elections.

Maduro is the hand-picked successor of socialist president Hugo Chavez.

The main destination of the millions of refugees is Colombia, along with other countries such as Peru, Chile, and Argentina.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies stated that the average Venezuelan lost about 24 pounds in 2017, in a population where almost 90 percent live below the poverty line.

The lack of medicine has caused an resurgence of diphtheria and an increase in measles and malaria, diseases that had almost been eradicated in Venezuela.

Cases of Malaria have skyrocketed while measles has claimed the lives of 26 children just in the Orinoco Delta area.

Venezuela closed 2017 with an inflation rate of 2,616 percent and a drop in Gross National Product of 15 percent. The International Monetary Fund forecasts inflation at 14,000 percent for 2018 which would be the highest index of inflation among emerging markets for this year and the next.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Your vote is the unborn child's voice, pro-lifers say in Irish abortion debate

Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2018 / 11:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum on Friday, pro-life and pro-abortion rights debaters have squared off in a country where voters will be asked to remove constitutional protections for the unborn, known as the Eighth Amendment.

“What the government has proposed is an extreme law, stripping every right in the constitution for the unborn... taking away the right to life for the right to kill,” said Maria Steen, a speaker with the Iona Institute. “What the government is asking us to do is to become judge and jury over the lives of babies in the womb.”

The May 23 debate on Ireland TV3’s The Pat Kenney Show comes ahead of a May 25 referendum on whether to repeal the pro-life language in the Republic of Ireland’s constitution, which recognizes the equal right to life of mother and unborn child. The language dates back to a 1983 referendum passed with the support of 67 percent of Irish voters.

In the four-person debate, Ireland’s Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty of the Fine Gael party claimed that abortion opponents failed to provide abortion alternatives and “haven’t been willing to look or support anything in 35 years.”

Doherty, who describes herself as "pro-life" despite her support for the repeal, charged that keeping the amendment means ignoring women in crisis, reported the Irish news site BreakingNews.ie.

A “yes” vote would remove the constitution’s pro-life language, while a “no” vote would preserve it.

In a March 2018 case that some have compared to the Irish Roe v. Wade, the country’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that unborn children have no other rights except those guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment.

If the repeal vote is successful, Irish lawmakers are expected to propose legislation allowing unlimited abortion up to three months into pregnancy, and up to six months into pregnancy in cases where there might be risk to a mother’s physical or mental health.

About 3,000 Irish women travel to the U.K. for abortions each year. The procedure is largely illegal in Northern Ireland as well.

At one point in the TV3 debate, Independent Senator Ronan Mullen rejected the claim that there is evidence that mental health is valid grounds for abortion. He also cited a woman who was considering traveling to the U.K. for abortion, but then reconsidered.

“This woman told me ‘the time it took me to arrange an abortion in England is the time it took for me to change my mind’,” he said.

Doherty contended that the 72-hour waiting period in the draft legislation provides a period for women to reconsider an abortion.

Another debater, Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty Ireland, said “the Eighth Amendment has not stopped abortion. It has stopped some abortions, but it has forced others to continue pregnancies.”

Steen summed up her argument against repeal: “Women who need their health looked after deserve better than an abortion. We think this is a step too far. We all think taking the rights of all unborn children is fundamentally unjust.”

A Tuesday night debate on the show RTÉ Prime Time was a two-person debate between Minister for Health Simon Harris of the Fine Gael party and Sinn Féin Member of Parliament Peadar Tóibín.

“Wanted, unwanted. There are not two classes of people--we are all one. The child is the weakest individual. She has no voice.” Tóibín said, according to BreakingNews.ie.

Harris charged that opponents of the referendum sought to force rape victims to carry their pregnancies to term.

For his part, Tóibín cited his experience working with rape victims in County Meath.

“Meath will have legalized abortion in Meath before it has a rape crisis center,” he said.

Tóibín charged that repeal would allow a general practitioner with only six months of psychiatric training to decide whether a woman may have abortion on mental health grounds. He charged that repeal would mean abortion on demand.

The repeal effort is backed by Ireland’s major political parties.

Overseas involvement has also been a matter of controversy.

Financier and philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and its pro-abortion rights grantees Amnesty Ireland, Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland, and the Irish Family Planning Association have run afoul of Irish political finance rules barring foreign funding of political campaigns.

Ireland is part of the foundations’ broader strategy against pro-life Catholic countries, according to a document reportedly hacked from the foundations and posted to the site DCLeaks.com.

“With one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, a win there could impact other strongly Catholic countries in Europe, such as Poland, and provide much needed proof that change is possible, even in highly conservative places,” said the foundations’ proposed 2016-2019 strategy for its Women’s Rights Program.

The internet giant Facebook has banned foreign-backed ads related to the Irish referendum, including small ad purchases from Irish-American pro-life advocates. Google has banned both foreign and domestic ads.

The latter move was seen as a blow to the Irish pro-life cause. The Save the 8th campaign's strategy relied on intensifying its internet ad campaign in its final weeks, Pat Leahy, politics editor of the Irish Times, said in a May 10 analysis.

The Irish Times suggested that companies have become afraid that if voters reject the referendum, they will face blame and further scrutiny for allegedly influencing elections.

Augustine Institute releases video series on the Eucharist

Denver, Colo., May 23, 2018 / 10:49 pm (CNA).- The wealth of the Catholic Church’s teachings and traditions can be challenging for many to understand, which is why the Augustine Institute has released a new video series focused on the Eucharist.

“Catholicism is so vast and deep, learning it can be overwhelming,” Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Augustine Institute, in an interview with CNA.

“But if there is one thing that we can teach Catholics, one thing that holds all our faith together and makes it stick for folks, that is understanding God’s presence in the Eucharist,” Gray continued, adding that “no other teaching can be so uplifting and tangible for people’s spirituality than this mystery, which is why the Church calls it the sum and summit of our faith.”

The Augustine Institute is a Denver-based graduate school and organization which aims to serve the Church through academic and parish programs in light of St. John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization.

The video series, titled “Presence,” is available for purchase and was released by the Augustine Institute as part of their sacramental video series. It follows the succession of their previous video programs on marriage, baptism, and reconciliation.

“The next in line was the Eucharist,” Gray said.

“We did not want to start with the Eucharist because we knew it was the most important, so in a sense the other sacramental programs prepared us to approach this treatment of the Eucharist so that we could give it our best treatment,” Gray continued.

The series explores the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist through its institution at the Last Supper and its role in the Catholic faith. It is available in two editions – one for personal use and one for group use in parishes.

The personal edition includes three episodes and an explanation of the Mass for children. The parish edition is aimed at sacramental preparation and catechesis and also includes an apologetics section. The series also comes with leader kits and guides, as well as a personal participant guide.

Gray explained that each episode begins with a true story “that is both compelling and dramatic.” His personal favorite of the series are the beginning segments of episodes two and three, “which shows the incredible story of an amazing protestant minister and Jewish woman who encounter the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist.”

Gray went on to say that he hopes viewers will deepen their understanding of the Eucharist through the video series and be reawakened to the beauty of its mystery.

“The Mass and Eucharist is central to Christian life, but too often we assume that everyone understands this mystery when they don’t,” Gray noted.

“This series aims to help open eyes to understand the depth of mystery found in God’s amazing presence, but also rekindle a fire for those of us who believe but need to be reawakened to the tremendous gift we have in the Eucharist,” he continued.

“If Catholics understand this one thing, they will not leave the Church.”

Foreign bishops respond to German intercommunion proposal

Philadelphia, Pa., May 23, 2018 / 06:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several bishops from outside Germany have critiqued a proposal to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive communion in German dioceses under some limited circumstances, citing the proposal’s effects on their own local Churches.

The proposal has been championed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who announced in February that the German bishops’ conference would publish a pastoral handout that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics "in individual cases" and "under certain conditions" to receive Holy Communion, provided they "affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist”.

But the proposal was questioned by seven German bishops, who asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith whether the question can be decided on the level of a national bishops' conference, or if rather "a decision of the Universal Church" is required in the matter.

When several bishops from Germany visited Rome May 3, an inconclusive meeting ended with the Vatican sending the Germans back, saying Pope Francis wants the bishops to come to an agreement among themselves.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was pointed in his criticism of the proposal in an essay published May 23 at First Things, raising doctrinal concerns regarding what it would mean to allow these non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

Chaput explains that while bishops everywhere have disagreements, he believes the situation in Germany to be different due to both the “global prominence of the controversy,” as well as the doctrinal issues. He added that “What happens in Germany will not stay in Germany. History has already taught us that lesson once,” citing the effects of Martin Luther’s schism.

“The essence of the German intercommunion proposal is that there would be a sharing in holy communion even when there is not true Church unity,” writes Chaput, noting that there are serious difference between Protestant theology and Catholic theology, including debate over the divinity of Christ among some more liberal Protestants.

Chaput disagrees with the proposal, as it would fundamentally redefine what the Church is as well as who she is, given that the Eucharist “is the sign and instrument of ecclesial unity.”

The German proposal would, “intentionally or not”, then, be “the first stage in opening communion to all Protestants, or all baptized persons, since marriage ultimately provides no unique reason to allow communion for non-Catholics.”

Admitting Protestant spouses of Catholics to Communion would "adopt a Protestant notion of ecclesial identity" for the Catholic Church, in which only baptism and a belief in Christ would be necessary to receive. Chaput questions if the Protestant spouse would have to also profess belief in other sacraments, such as holy orders. If this were not the case, Chaput suggests that perhaps the German bishops do not believe this sacrament relies on apostolic succession, which would be a “much deeper error.”

The proposal also “severs the vital link between communion and sacramental confession,” he stated.

“Presumably it does not imply that Protestant spouses must go to confession for serious sins as a prelude to communion. But this stands in contradiction to the perennial practice and express dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church, the Council of Trent, and the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the ordinary magisterium. It implies, in its effect, a Protestantization of the Catholic theology of the sacraments.”

Chaput writes that the intercommunion practice would do nothing more than insert a lie into what should be a profound encounter with Christ.

“To insert a falsehood into the most solemn moment of one’s encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist -- to say by one’s actions,’I am in communion with this community’ when one is demonstrably not in communion with that community -- is a lie, and thus a serious offense before God.”

Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht was critical of the pope’s request that the German bishops come to a consensus. Writing in the National Catholic Register May 5, Eijk said Pope Francis’ response was “completely incomprehensible,” as the doctrine of the Eucharist has not changed and cannot change, even with unanimity among a bishops’ conference.

“The practice of the Catholic Church, based on her faith, is not determined and does not change statistically when a majority of an episcopal conference votes in favor of it, not even if unanimously,” wrote Eijk.

Instead, Eijk says that he thinks Pope Francis should have been more direct to the German episcopal conference, and should have instead given them “clear directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the Church.”

Eijk’s comments were echoed by Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who said May 23 at the Catholic Register it was “puzzling” that Pope Francis instructed Germany’s bishops to come to a unanimous decision on the issue.

“This kind of open communion is against Catholic teaching and from what I can see in non-Catholic congregations that follow a discipline of ‘open communion,’ it is also spiritually and pastorally unfruitful,” said Prendergast.

He noted that people in his local Church have already been asking about the German proposal.

Prendergast believes there should be more teaching on the benefit of attending Mass without receiving the Eucharist, as well as what it means “to be properly disposed and in the state of grace.”

“We need to invest more in receiving the sacraments worthily and fruitfully. This is true for the Eucharist, but also for Baptism and Confirmation,” Prendergast added.

“In Holy Communion we receive the Lord, and so, to receiving worthily, we need to be fully open to Him and connected to His Church, visibly and invisibly, institutionally and internally. That and nothing less is Catholic teaching.”

As a fellow Jesuit, Archbishop Prendergast also spoke to Pope Francis, thanking him “for reminding us that accompanying people through their lives, especially in dark times, is essential for being a priest.”

“We Jesuits always have to remember that most Catholics are not Jesuits — a fact we tend to overlook sometimes,” he added. “Our spirituality is not for everyone … For me, becoming a bishop was a real change, for then I had to recognize the whole spectrum of theologies, spiritualities, ministries and charisms present in the diocese entrusted to me. Through this I came to realize what a great gift doctrine is for the Church, enabling it to be one, holy, and catholic.”

The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”