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Seminary faculty: Spiritual fatherhood central to priestly identity

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2019 / 03:09 pm (CNA).- Faculty at US seminaries have emphasized that spiritual fatherhood is an essential component of priestly identity, amid calls in some corners for priests not to be referred to as “Father”.

“Priests [are] like the father of a family – the spiritual family of the Church. It [is] a reminder to priests that they [are] to be like a father to a family,” said Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, O.P., chair of the pastoral studies department at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif.

The priest “exercises authority in a paternal that is a loving way and does so in a way in which God the Father himself exercises his authority over creation, that is, out of love,” he told CNA.

Cardinal John Dew of Wellington has said he no longer wants to be called “Father”, but “John”, suggesting that dropping the title Father could combat clericalism: “All I am trying to do is get guys to look at what clericalism might look like and what attitudes might need to change.”

Cardinal Dew, who in an Oct. 4, 2005 intervention at the Synod on the Eucharist suggested that the divorced-and-remarried could be admitted to sacramental Communion, cited an article by a French priest written in La Croix International suggesting that not using “Father” could “transform” the Church amid the clerical abuse crisis.

The New Zealander cardinal also noted the increasingly egalitarian aspect of society.

By contrast, the Second Vatican Council's decree on the ministry and life of priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, while acknowledging priests' role as disciples of the Lord in common with all the faithful, emphasized that “priests of the New Testament … exercise the most outstanding and necessary office of father and teacher among and for the People of God.”

The Vatican II document added that the faithful “should realize their obligations to their priests, and with filial love they should follow them as their pastors and fathers.”

And the newest edition of the Congregation for the Clergy's ratio fundamentalis on priesthood – which was issued in 2016 and guides priestly formation around the world – noted that priests are called "to exercise a true spiritual fatherhood in the communities entrusted to them,” and that the priest should exercise "his pastoral responsibility with humility as an authoritative leader, teacher of the Word and minister of the sacraments, practising his spiritual fatherhood fruitfully."

“Consequently, future priests should be educated so that they do not become prey to 'clericalism', nor yield to the temptation of modelling their lives on the search for popular consensus. This would inevitably lead them to fall short in exercising their ministry and leaders of the community, leading them to think about the Church as a merely human institution,” the ratio continued.

Neither Presbyterorum ordinis nor the ratio called for or suggested that priests no longer to be called “Father”.

Father John Kartje, rector of Mundelein Seminary outside of Chicago, told CNA that referring to a priest as “father” was first seen in the epistles of St. Paul, who identified himself as a father to the new believers of the Church in Corinth.

He said the use of the word 'father' is not meant to express tyrannical authority or abuse of power, but it is to be used as it was by St. Paul.

“The Church of Corinth was a Church that [Paul] founded. I think it was a Church of great endearment to his own heart and he refers to them as his beloved children. He writes in verse 15: ‘Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, you do not have any fathers, for I became your father.’”

“It’s a term of endearment and affection that [St. Paul] really cares for these people, but also that he does provide them with a servant leadership,” Fr. Kartje said.

He also said that in the early centuries of the Church bishops were referred to as “papa” and abbots of monasteries were referred to as “abba”, both of which are forms of “father”.

Fr. Pietrzyk said a priest is a spiritual leader of the community. He said authority is part of the Church and scripture, but it is not despotic ascendancy. As seen in Christ’s washing of the apostles' feet, he said it is exercised paternally and lovingly.

“Christ tells his disciples on more than one occasion that they are to exercise authority… but he reminds them that they are not to exercise that authority in a way that lords it over the people,” he said.

“The apostles exercise authority, but they do it in a way different from the world, different from civil authorities. They do it out of service to the people of God. I agree with the cardinal [that] that needs to be at the forefront of the bishop’s understanding, but you don’t do that by not calling yourself father. You do that by being a father.”

Fr. Pietrzyk noted that St. Patrick's Seminary renewed its curriculum recently. In doing so, the faculty compiled a list of characteristics to emphasize in priestly formation.

Spiritual fatherhood was at the top of the list.

“At St. Patrick’s Seminary, our primary goal in forming men to be priests is forming them to be spiritual fathers. It runs in everything that we do. That means they are fathers, that they exercise authority within a family, but they do so mindful always of the spiritual good.”

Illinois governor signs ‘radical’ abortion expansion, but pro-life leaders predict backlash

Chicago, Ill., Jun 13, 2019 / 11:52 am (CNA).- Illinois’ new abortion law is a “death penalty” for the unborn and will add to pro-life momentum across the U.S., critics said after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law on Wednesday.
“The bill Illinois lawmakers passed is so radical, they even went out of their way to repeal the state’s ban on barbaric partial-birth abortions,” charged Jill Stanek, an Illinois native and former nurse who is now the Susan B. Anthony List’s national campaign chair.
“Americans of every political persuasion are appalled by these attempts to expand abortion on demand through the moment of birth and even infanticide, and that in turn is driving pro-life momentum around the country. There is no pride or glory in being the most extreme pro-abortion state in the nation,” she said June 12.
The legislation, called the Reproductive Rights Act, passed the state’s Senate by a vote of 34-20. It had passed the House in a 64-50 vote.
“In a time when too many states across the nation are taking a step backward, Illinois is taking a giant step forward for women’s health,” said Pritzker, a Democrat. “Today, we proudly proclaim that in this state, we trust women. And in Illinois, we guarantee as a fundamental right, a woman’s right to choose.”

Besides ending a ban on partial-birth abortion, the bill would remove regulations for abortion clinics and end required waiting periods to obtain an abortion. In addition, it would lift criminal penalties for performing abortions and would prevent any further state regulation of abortion.

The legislation would require all private health insurance plans to cover elective abortions. It would eliminate abortion reporting requirements as well as regulations requiring the investigation of maternal deaths due to abortion.

“The governor and the Democratic supermajorities who fast-tracked this legislation have created a new ‘death penalty’ in Illinois, with no possibility of appeal, for viable unborn preemies,” said former Illinois State Rep. Peter Breen, who is now vice president and senior counsel for the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.
“This act is barbarous,” he said. “Its definition of ‘viability’ expressly excludes many babies who today live and thrive when born premature,” he added, noting that the law means that such unborn babies “now have zero legal rights or protections.”
In a May 26 statement, the six bishops of Illinois had denounced the rush to push the legislation through at the end of the session, without releasing the bill’s final text or vetting it through public hearings.
“The fundamental premise of the bill is flawed, and no amendment or tweak to the language will change the fact that it is designed to rob the vulnerable life in the womb of any trace of human dignity and value,” they said.
According to Pritzker, the law codifies what was already case law due to court decisions. The state’s partial-birth abortion ban, which became law in 1997, has since 2001 been under a permanent injunction from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Pro-abortion rights advocates fear new Supreme Court decisions on abortion could overturn or greatly modify precedents in decisions like the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade. They have worked to ensure permissive abortion legislation in many states, including New York.
Some of the proposed laws, such as one in Virginia, led to controversy over whether such laws would permit abortion up to birth and would encourage authorities to turn a blind eye to the deaths of babies who survive abortion attempts.
Pro-life advocates, for their part, have sought to pass strong restrictions on abortion, hoping to expand legal protection for the unborn. Legislation barring abortion based on when an unborn child has a detectible heartbeat, about six to eight weeks after conception, has become national news with special focus on Alabama’s law.
“While a growing number of states are working to advance popular pro-life laws, Illinois is trying to outdo New York’s abortion extremism – and unborn children and their mothers will pay the price,” Stanek said June 12.
Breen characterized the Illinois law as “the most radical sweeping pro-abortion measure in America.” It would make Illinois an “abortion destination” for the country and is among “the most extremely permissive abortion laws of any state in the nation.”
The law’s creation of a “fundamental right” to have an abortion and to “make autonomous decisions about how to exercise that right,” in Breen’s view, mean the legislature and the governor have made abortion “the principal and primary right in Illinois, above all others.”
In the wake of its passage, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said the vote “marks a sad moment in our history as a State.”
The six Catholic bishops of the Catholic Conference of Illinois issued a joint statement against the legislation in February. The Catholic conference issued statements after it passed the state House of Representatives and the Senate.
Previous versions of the bill which were not passed into law included provisions that allowed non-physicians to perform abortions, removed conscience protections for health care personnel who object to abortion, and repealed parental notification requirements for minors receiving abortions.
On June 2 Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki said that Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan may not be admitted to Holy Communion within his diocese, because of their work to pass the state Reproductive Health Act.
“These persons may be readmitted to Holy Communion only after they have truly repented these grave sins and furthermore have made suitable reparation for damages and scandal, or at least have seriously promised to do so, as determined in my judgment or in the judgment of their diocesan bishop in consultation with me or my successor,” he said.
The bishop also directed the Catholic legislators who have voted for legislation promoting abortion should not present themselves to receive Holy Communion until they have first gone to confession.

Paprocki said that he issued the decree to encourage conversion.

Feminists, Catholics both find reasons to oppose NY paid surrogacy bill

Albany, N.Y., Jun 13, 2019 / 10:43 am (CNA).- In a seemingly unlikely alliance, Catholics and secular feminists in New York are opposing a bill that would legalize commercial surrogacy in the state.

The bill passed the state Senate and has the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who proposed the measure. But it is stalled in Assembly due to strong opposition, notably from female legislators, the New York Times reported. The state’s legislative session will conclude in just one week.

If passed, the law would allow New Yorkers to pay a woman to carry to term a child conceived through in-vitro fertilization, also known as gestational surrogacy. It would not allow a surrogate mother to use her own eggs, and therefore be related biologically to the child, which is known as traditional surrogacy.

While the bill was presented as “an unequivocal progressive ideal, a remedy to a ban that burdens gay and infertile couples and stigmatizes women who cannot have children on their own,” it has run up against strong opposition from unexpected people, including feminists, female legislators, and other supporters of women’s rights, the New York Times stated.

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who is openly gay, is one of the legislators who expressed strong opposition to legalized commercial surrogacy, which she called “pregnancy for a fee.”

“I find that commodification of women troubling,” she told the New York Times.

Dennis Poust, the director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, told CNA in email comments that opposition to this bill is a situation in which secular feminists and Catholics agree.

“Like those groups, we stand up against the exploitation and dehumanization of women,” Poust said. “This bill treats women almost like livestock at the service of men.”

Poust said the bill was comparable to one that seeks to legalize prostitution, in that both measures, if passed, would lead to the exploitation of poor women, largely for the benefit of wealthy men.

“The one commodifies babies, the other sex, and always the victims are poor women,” he said.

“In commercial surrogacy, women’s human dignity is surrendered and they are reduced to objects desirable only for their body parts, whether that be the rental of their wombs or the mining of their eggs in risky, invasive medical procedures. The beneficiaries are nearly always wealthy and often male, while the exploited are always poor women,” he added.

Commercial surrogacy in New York has been banned since 1986, and surrogacy laws vary widely in other states. Besides New York, only three other states explicitly ban all surrogacy contracts - Nebraska, Michigan, and Arizona. Many other states have restrictions on surrogacy agreements, and treat the surrogacy process similarly to adoption, requiring court appearances, home studies, and a window for the birth mother to change her mind after the baby is born.

Abroad, the push to end legalized surrogacy has been strong in recent years, with many countries in western Europe banning the practice. India, once the capital of “fertility tourism,” passed a bill banning surrogacy last year, amid increasing concern and outcry over the exploitation of poor women who were being used for paid surrogacy, sometimes multiple times over, and usually by foreigners.

The New York bill also faces opposition from prominent feminist speaker, author, and activist Gloria Steinem, who expressed concern in an open letter about the state legislating a “profit-driven reproductive surrogacy industry.”

"Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others," Steinem wrote in a letter shared on Twitter by New York 1 reporter Zack Fink.

“The bill ignores the socio-economic and racial inequalities of the reproductive commercial surrogacy industry, and puts disenfranchised women at the financial and emotional mercy of wealthier and more privileged individuals,” she continued.

Steinem noted that surrogate mothers are often college-age women who are victims “of an educational system that does not provide free or affordable college education.”

She added that these women are often given fertility drugs without being warned of the possible side effects, and that they face other medical and psychological injuries from the procedure, “including an inability to bear other children and even death.”

She also slammed the bill for failing to provide measures properly to vet intended parents, unlike adoptive parents, who are thoroughly vetted.

Poust told CNA that while the Catholic Conference has strongly opposed the legalization of surrogacy, he worried that the bill still may pass, as Cuomo has made it an “end of session priority.”

Poust said he hopes the added opposition of otherwise progressive feminists will hold even more sway with state lawmakers considering the bill.

USCCB passes three measures in response to abuse crisis

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference voted Thursday to approve proposals intended to respond to recent scandals involving sexual abuse, coercion, and cover-up on the part of bishops, most notably former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the disgraced Bishop Michael Bransfield.

The bishops, gathered in Baltimore for their spring General Assembly, voted overwhelmingly in favor of three measures aimed at building processes to address episcopal misconduct or neglect, and the ongoing crisis of credibility widely perceived to overshadow ongoing work to eliminate sexual abuse from the Church.

The assembly approved protocol explaining the powers of a diocesan bishop to curtail the public ministry of a retired bishop in his former diocese by a margin of 212-4.

They also approved a set of directives applying in the U.S. the new universal norms for investigating allegations against bishops promulgated by Pope Francis in Vos estis lux mundi.  After initial discussion earlier this week, they were presented to bishops June 13 with an explicit exhortation for metropolitan bishops to appoint “on a stable basis, even by means of an ecclesiastical office, a qualified lay person” to receive allegations against bishops and work with the metropolitan in any subsequent investigation.

The directives were approved by 218-1.

The bishops also approved a joint statement, “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitments,” establishing a non-binding moral commitment by bishops to hold themselves to the same standards and measures as are currently applied to their priests and deacons. That document passed by a similarly wide margin of 217-1.

The consensus in favor of the measures was unsurprising. After the bishops were prevented by Rome from adopting similar proposals in November, the majority of bishops returned to Baltimore ready to vote.

The widespread agreement in favor of the three documents was reflected in the much-abbreviated discussion which preceded each vote. With relatively little debate, the bishops finished their morning session more than an hour ahead of schedule, even after adding business they’d intended to address in the afternoon.

As in the previous discussions on Tuesday, several bishops raised the need for clearly established lay involvement in the process of handling complaints against bishops. Changes to the text of the implementation directives for Vos estis were highlighted as a response to those concerns, something Cardinal Joseph Tobin noted was a “clear expectation” of Vos estis itself.

Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City said that mandatory lay involvement is essential “to make darn sure we bishops do not harm the Church” in the ways seen in recent cases.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler was the only bishop to raise directly the issue of Theodore McCarrick during the session, insisting that “a full reckoning” still needed to be made for the former cardinal’s career but that he had “been assured that the Holy See is working on that.”

On the specific point of whether lay people should be assigned formal, canonically governed “ecclesiastical offices” in order to assist metropolitans, Archbishop Bernard Hebda noted that the drafting committee thought it better to leave that as an option. In some places, he noted, metropolitans might find it best to include a non-Catholic (ineligible for formal ecclesiastical office) in the process if their expertise “offered the greatest possibilities for accountability.”

Several bishops, most insistently Bishop Jaime Soto, raised the prospect of an independent auditing process to track and assess the U.S. implementation of Vos estis over the three-year trial period.

Bishop Robert Deeley explained to the conference that the independent third-party reporting mechanism, approved by the bishops on Wednesday, was itself a form of a self-auditing system with every complaint being tracked, though there were limits to how much the bishops could assess the effectiveness of what was a papal law.

“I think the committee agrees with you that an [assessment] process will have to be done,” Deeley said, but it was not for the U.S. bishops to decide how to evaluate the essential role of the Holy See in the process and implementation of its own norms.

Related to Rome’s role in the process of handling an allegation, several bishops noted that Vos estis provided for a response from Rome “within 30 days,” something Bishop Mark O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop of Boston, called an “intolerable" amount of time for a reporting Metropolitan to be unable to advance the case.

Deeley responded by noting that Rome had committed itself to responding “within not after” 30 days, and that the experience of many bishops was that when circumstances required it, the different Roman dicasteries were respond considerably faster. The longer time period was a reflection of the universal application of Vos estis, which would have to accommodate regions where communication could be more fractured and difficult.

Deeley noted that there had been four investigations into U.S. bishops conducted by metropolitans in recent months, including McCarrick and Bransfield, and that the successful way in which they had been concluded was a sign of the effectiveness of the new model. “That gives me confidence,” Deeley told the bishops.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles told the bishops that “the Holy See is aware of the urgency of this matter,” and commended the passage of the directives to the conference.

After the passage of the abuse-related measures and the conclusion of some other conference matters, the bishops concluded the public portion of their meeting and convened an executive session.

Analysis: As USCCB meeting continues, what are lay Catholics looking for?

Baltimore, Md., Jun 13, 2019 / 07:12 am (CNA).- Nearly all U.S. bishops know by now that U.S. Catholics are experiencing crises of faith and confidence at a scale that far exceeds even the Church’s sexual abuse scandal in 2002. They were presented with data this week noting that the rate of Catholics defecting from the practice of the faith has risen dramatically in recent years, and they are reminded in their own dioceses that practicing Catholics, priests among them, are deeply discouraged of the last year, and struggling to trust.

But there is a disconnect between the work that bishops are doing this week in Baltimore to respond to those problems and the way that work is perceived by even faithful and engaged Catholics.

The mission of bishops is the salvation of souls. Their call is to proclaim the Gospel, to teach the faith, to celebrate the sacramental mysteries of grace, and to lead and coordinate the apostolic and evangelical work of priests, deacons, religious, and laity. Their ability to do those things convincingly and compellingly is hampered by the scandals of the last year.

But so is the ability of millions of other Catholics to do the work to which God has called them. Within the Church, the scandals have tainted the credibility of the bishops. Beyond the walls of the Church, the scandals have tainted the credibility of every Catholic who tries to explain, proclaim, or live the Gospel.

It is not the case that Catholic laity are the de facto moral superiors of their bishops. It is not the case that Catholic laity give consistent witness to the Gospel. It is not the case that laity are less likely to be motivated by the concerns of this world, less likely to engage in sexual immorality, less likely to live as they ought not.

But it is the case that bishops are uniquely public Catholic figures, and that the integrity of their actions is - fairly or unfairly- uniquely taken as a measure of the Gospel’s integrity.

None of that is new. What is new is the scope of their visibility in the social media era, and the degree to which the misconduct of some, and the broken ecclesial culture that fosters it, is manifestly clear to those who look toward it.

The problems occasioned by those realities are complex. Bishops this week, at the U.S. bishops’ conference meeting in Baltimore, are engaging in discussion about the nitty-gritty technical aspects of some of those problems. They are debating, or attempting to debate, the finer points of third-party reporting systems and investigative review processes.

Those debates, some observers have noted, are important, but they are also painful. They are wonky, bureaucratic, and themselves not untainted by the marks of ambition, petty politics, and some degree of impatience. But they are nonetheless important.

The bishops seem keen to reflect in these debates their contrition for the sins of their brothers, their apparent desire to be seen involving lay people in their processes, and to convey the urgency of their mandate. In the words of one observer, some of that rhetoric has a Clinton-esque quality, offered by bishops who want Catholics to know “We feel your pain.”

But despite episcopal efforts, many of which are sincere, conference staffers, along with lay and priest observers at the meeting, tell CNA consistently that, in their estimation, many bishops “still don’t get it.”

While the buzzwords among the bishops in the meeting are “transparency” and “lay involvement,” the buzzing among their closest lay and priestly collaborators is whether the bishops understand, as one staffer asked CNA, “just how bad things are.” What is it they are perceived not to understand?

In the first place, CNA is told, bishops seem not to understand how much Catholics would like questions about McCarrick to be answered, forthrightly, directly, and comprehensively, and by those in official positions of power, not by priests leaking their accounts of old emails and letters.

In the second place, priests and laity say they would like to hear bishops recognize directly the scandal of the Bransfield report, and of the subsequent revelation that despite promises of transparency, and perhaps even in good faith, the names of bishops who were given large gifts from Bransfield were omitted from the report filed with Congregation for Bishops.

While Lori himself has expressed contrition for the omission, Catholics are looking for a direct response to the ensuing scandal, and a commitment to be open about their own financial entanglements with bishops of dubious moral reputation. In fact, Catholic observers tell CNA on the whole that bishops will be forthcoming about other potential financial scandals before they are spread across the pages of America’s leading newspapers, rather than after.

But most especially, Catholics tell CNA, that what they hope bishops will “get” is just how difficult all this scandal has been. They are looking, they say, for genuine expressions of the bishops’ own pain, rather than the sense that the crisis is being managed. They are looking for bishops who are turning to the Lord for answers in humility.

Above all else, Catholics tell CNA, they are looking for leadership: for bishops who decry sexual immorality, privilege, careerism, and indifference among their brethren without ambiguity. They are looking for bishops who will be among them in their pain. They are looking for those who will insist upon the truth, no matter the cost. They are looking for leadership that begins and ends in the mysteries of the Eucharist.

They are not looking for politicians or crisis managers. They are looking, they say, for priests, prophets, and kings.

That is what they hope their bishops will understand. Whether they will find those things in Baltimore remains to be seen.