Browsing News Entries

In last Sunday Mass as Philly archbishop, Chaput retires with gratitude

Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 17, 2020 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Charles Chaput has been a diocesan bishop for 31 years. For most of that time, his people have known where to find him on Sunday afternoon or evening: hearing confessions and offering Mass in his cathedral.

Chaput celebrated this weekend his last Sunday Mass as a diocesan bishop.

At the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Chaput told his parishioners he is grateful to them, and pointed following Jesus Christ as the pathway to truth and happiness.

“I’ll still be around, I’m not dying, I’m just retiring,” Chaput said Feb. 16, just days before the Tuesday installation of his successor, Archbishop-designate Nelson Perez.
 
In a homily that stayed tied to the Mass readings, characteristic of Chaput’s preaching style, the archbishop cited the second reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, saying it captures his experience of ministry to the Church in Philadelphia.
 
“What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and what has not entered the human heart: what God has prepared for those who love him,” St. Paul wrote. “This, God has revealed to us, through the Spirit.”
 
Chaput thanked the congregation for “the gift of your presence in my life.”
 
“God bless you,” he concluded.
 
The archbishop described his successor Perez, until recently the Bishop of Cleveland, as “a very good man” who “will serve you well as archbishop.”
 
“I am very grateful to those who have supported me at this Mass,” he said, thanking the choir, cathedral rector Father Gerald Gill, and the cathedral community.
 
“Some of you are regular Mass attenders at this Sunday night Mass,” he said. “I’m very grateful for your presence. It really is the highlight of my week.”
 
“It’s hard for you to believe, isn’t it? Looking at you is the highlight of my week. I must have a very bad week,” he joked, before turning serious. “It’s been a very important part of my life, I’m very grateful to you.”
 
In his homily, Chaput reflected on divine law and God’s revelation.
 
“One of the problems with the commandments is we think of them as laws or rules. What they really are is a pattern of life,” Chaput said. “They’re not there to test us to see if we’re good, because we know we’re not, right? The commandments are there to show us how to be good.”
 
“God is telling us if you want to be happy, then don’t steal. If you want to be successful, you won’t bear false witness. If you want to have successful marriages, you won’t commit adultery,” the archbishop explained.
 
“We have freedom to choose whether or not to be good,” he said. At the same time, he emphasized that Christians can’t keep the commandments on their own, but must depend on God’s grace. Some struggle and sin again and again, “sometimes because we depend on ourselves rather than God.”
 
“Think about the most difficult (sins) for you: gossip, adultery, not to kill, not to anger,” Chaput said, stressing the importance of the commandments.
 
“What’s at stake here is our salvation, our eternal life, or our eternal damnation,” he added. stressing the importance of the commandments.  “You and I determine our future by what we choose: life--following the commandments—or death. Good or evil.”
 
On Sunday’s gospel, the archbishop warned of the “danger of scandal.”
 
“One of the biggest sins that you and I can commit is leading someone else into sin,” he said. “It’s bad enough we lead ourselves into sin. But it’s much worse if we lead ourselves into sin, and through that lead someone else into sin.”
 
Chaput said he couldn’t state it any clearer than Jesus himself in the Gospel of Matthew: “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
 
Archbishop Chaput asked the congregation: “When’s the last time you led somebody into sin by your sin?”

As an example, he mentioned the sexual temptations facing young people who are dating, temptations through which they can lead one another into serious sin.
 
“It’s really awful because they’re leading somebody they love into serious sin, as well as committing it themselves,” he said. Others teach children to use foul language by their example, or lead people into “patterns of selfishness” shown by their own lives.
 
Not following the commandments has an impact on the lives of people who are very important to us, and can lead them away from God.
 
The reading from Gospel of Matthew also teaches us how Jesus sees himself, Chaput said. While the law given to Moses stresses “you shall not kill,” Jesus elevates this to say that whoever is angry with his brother will also be under God’s judgment.
 
“Jesus is telling us that he has authority over the commandments, and that he calls us to a greater level of obeying them than Moses called the Jewish people to,” Chaput said.

“That’s what he means when he says your righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees. Because he calls us not only to follow the commandments literally but to apply them across the board in our lives.”
 
“Even though most of us don’t kill other people, all of us here are angry with others. And we can’t curse them, or say, ‘go to hell,’ and really mean it,” the archbishop said. “Jesus ratchets it up and calls us to a greater intensity in following (the commandments).”
 
When Jesus says a man looking at a woman with lust commits adultery, Chaput said the conclusion “isn’t that we shouldn’t go ‘that far,’ we shouldn’t go down that path at all.”
 
Jesus’ use of exaggerated language, such as recommending someone cut off his hand rather than sin, makes the point of the seriousness of the matter.
 
“It would be better for us, really, that we don’t have a hand than that we sin,” said Chaput. “And we take sin so casually in our life.”
 
“Does Jesus really mean we can’t divorce and remarry? Is it all that bad?” he asked, referring to Jesus’ own teaching that remarriage after divorce is adultery.
 
“Jesus’ words are very clear and it really seems that he doesn’t allow exceptions for any of us,” said Chaput.
 
Jesus does not only reject false oaths, but his call to “let your ‘yes’ mean yes” is something that “calls us to integrity and truth in our ordinary relationships, and not just when we make vows and solemn promises.”
 
“Jesus was very serious about the Ten Commandments and invites us to do the same,” said Chaput. “We ask the Lord to give us a love for the commandments. We don’t see them as a burden, but as a pathway to joy and peace and great happiness in our lives.”
 
Pope Francis accepted Chaput’s retirement and appointed his months after the archbishop turned 75, when bishops customarily submit letters of resignation to the pope.

 

Priest with brain tumor 'embraces it willingly' for victims of clergy abuse

Indianapolis, Ind., Feb 17, 2020 / 03:41 pm (CNA).- When Fr. John Hollowell went to Mayo Clinic for brain scans after what doctors thought was a stroke, he received a shocking diagnosis. The scans revealed that instead of stroke, he had a brain tumor.

While it is a serious diagnosis, Hollowell, a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said he believes the tumor was an answer to prayer.

“When the scandals of 2018 broke out, most of you know that they have affected me deeply, as they have most of the Church,” he wrote in his blog, On This Rock.

“I prayed in 2018 that if there was some suffering I could undertake on behalf of all the victims, some cross I could carry, I would welcome that. I feel like this is that cross, and I embrace it willingly.”

Hollowell was ordained in 2009 and serves as pastor of St. Paul the Apostle parish in Greencastle as well as pastor of Annunciation parish in Brazil, Indiana. He is also the Catholic chaplain at DePauw University and Putnamville Correctional Facility.

The plan for Hollowell’s treatment involves the removal of the tumor via brain surgery, and then both radiation and chemotherapy.

Hollowell said that while his treatments will not be as harsh as those for some other kinds of cancer, he still wants to offer up each day of his recovery, chemotherapy, and radiation for victims of clergy abuse.
“I would love to have a list of victims of priestly abuse that I could pray for each day. I would like to dedicate each day of this recovery/chemo/radiation to 5-10 victims, and I would like, if possible, to even write them a note letting them know of my prayers for them,” he said.

He encouraged victims, or those who know of a victim, to write to him with the victim’s name (with their permission) and with an address where he could send them a note when he prays for them.

He added that he would like to include in his prayers those victims who have been helped by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and asked that SNAP send him names of victims for whom he can pray.

Hollowell said he was grateful for his many “wonderful” doctors at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere who have been part of his care thus far.

“Each person has played a key role in this process, and I am very thankful and amazed by the state of medicine in the US in 2020,” he said.

Ultimately, the priest said he was “very much at peace.”

“Other than time in the hospital, the only effects of this tumor that I have had are 5 episodes of spasm/seizure that have each lasted 90 seconds. I also realize I am blessed to have uncovered it through this process vs. finding out about the tumor down the road after it had grown more in size,” he wrote.

“You all will be in my prayers, as I pray daily for the salvation of all the souls of those who live and study within my parish boundaries,” he added. “May Our Lady of Lourdes watch over and intercede for all those who are sick or suffering in any way!”

McCarrick gave $1 million to scandal-hit religious order

Washington D.C., Feb 17, 2020 / 01:40 pm (CNA).- Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick was a major donor to a religious community whose founder was found guilty of sexual misconduct.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that McCarrick gave nearly $1 million to the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) from 2004-2017. The religious community was founded in 1984 in Argentina by Fr. Carlos Miguel Buela, who retired in 2010 and was found guilty of sexual misconduct with seminarians by the Vatican in 2016.  

According to previous CNA reports, McCarrick used his status as a senior archbishop and cardinal to support the community and defend it against critics within the Church, including then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, before his election as pope. 

McCarrick was laicized by Pope Francis in February of 2019, after a Vatican canonical process found him guilty of sexual abuse of minors and misconduct with adults. He previously served as bishop of the diocese of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark, and Archbishop of Washington, D.C., before his retirement in 2006.

According to the Post’s report, McCarrick donated funds to the institute through the Archbishop’s Fund, a charitable account under the oversight of the Archdiocese of Washington through which he also sent hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to charities and senior Vatican officials over the years. 

After his retirement as Archbishop of Washington, McCarrick resided at a house adjacent to the IVE’s Ven. Fulton Sheen Seminary, in Chillum, Maryland, from 2011 until late 2016 or early 2017.

Priests and seminarians of the community were assigned as staff to McCarrick while the cardinal lived there and after he moved out; those positions were funded by the Washington archdiocese.

The Post also reported Monday that McCarrick granted control of a church-owned property in Maryland to the institute for a seminary that opened in 2005. The website of the Venerable Fulton Sheen Seminary says it was opened in September 1998, two years before McCarrick was appointed to Washington. 

The archdiocesan Redemptoris Mater seminary, also located in Chillum, was opened in 2005, but that seminary is not connected to the IVE.

McCarrick took up residence near the IVE seminary after sanctions were reportedly placed on him by Pope Benedict XVI and he was ordered to move out of the Redemptoris Mater seminary where he had been living in a self-contained apartment.

In 2018, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, alleged that canonical sanctions were placed on McCarrick in 2009 or 2010, and that he had warned Vatican superiors of McCarrick’s history of sexual misconduct with seminarians and priests as early as 2006. McCarrick’s successor in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, was first informed of an abuse allegation against McCarrick in 2004 while he was Bishop of Pittsburgh. 

In 2018, the Washington archdiocese repeatedly told CNA that McCarrick made his own living arrangements in his retirement, but sources at the IVE told CNA that Wuerl intervened to have McCarrick moved from his residence near the seminary.

While residing near the institute’s seminary, McCarrick would join the community for meals, and had a priest and seminarians from the institute assigned to him as his personal staff. The IVE property also includes St. John Baptist de la Salle parish, staffed by the institute, as well as the headquarters of its Province of the Immaculate Conception.

McCarrick’s presence was reportedly a source of tension within the community and formators warned students to avoid McCarrick’s “worldly” lifestyle. CNA has previously reported that McCarrick insisted on a special food menu, and that he made seminarians assigned to him accompany him to a casino and on trips to a beach house. McCarrick’s conduct triggered complaints by formators to the order’s leadership in Rome. 

McCarrick last ordained priests for the institute in 2017.

Catholic business leaders respond to 'no breaks' Bloomberg video

Washington D.C., Feb 17, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Catholic business leaders have said a work-life balance is critical for success after a video of presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg advising workers to avoid taking breaks went viral last week.

In a video clip of a 2011 interview with TechCrunch, Bloomberg—billionaire founder of the news and financial services company Bloomberg L.P., and former mayor of New York City—gave his recipe for workplace success. He advised employees against taking lunch breaks and even suggested they should avoid going to the bathroom. The video was repeatedly shared on social media last week and viewed thousands of times.

 “I’m not smarter than anybody else, but I can outwork you,” Bloomberg said of his work ethic.

“My key to success—for you or for anybody else—is make sure you’re the first one in there every day, and the last one to leave. Don’t ever take a lunch break or go to the bathroom, you keep working. You never know when that opportunity is going to come along,” he said.

In 2013 on his radio show, Bloomberg gave similar advice in telling workers to “take the fewest vacations and the least time away from the desk to go to the bathroom or have lunch.”

On Feb 14., leaders at a Catholic business school responded that prayerful prudence is key to achieving a proper work-life balance, which is necessary to workplace success.

“I hope that when he said that, Bloomberg was exaggerating for effect,” Professor Andrew Abela, founding dean of the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America, told CNA on Friday.

“Hard work is necessary, but time for prayer, family, friends, community are absolutely necessary too, not just for a life well lived, but for a successful career as well,” Abela said.

Professor Maximilian B. Torres, J.D., who teaches business ethics and organizational behavior at the Busch School, said that as a father of eight with a spouse of 30 years, he believes a work-life “balance” can be fluid and depend upon the situations at work and at home.

“There are times when it would be criminal not to exert extra effort at work.  There are other times when it would be criminal not to make time for a late-night, father-son conversation, or a family dinner,” Torres said, adding that no boss or spouse should “demand 24/7/365 obsession.”

“Ultimately, balance lies in the counsels of prudence, and results from prayer,” Torres said.

In the 2011 TechCrunch interview, Bloomberg did go on to say that success is not all about money.

“We measure success by, ‘how much money do you have?’ That’s not the only measure of success. I know some very successful people who measure it by how many lives they’ve saved, or how many kids they’ve helped in the classroom, or how well they’ve brought up their children,” Bloomberg said.

He said of his time in “public service” as mayor of New York City that he hoped he could one day tell his grandchildren, “I’ve left you a better world.”

Employee perks offered by Bloomberg News might also contradict the billionaire’s advice on taking breaks, noted Paul Radich, assistant professor of practice, marketing, and social thought at the Busch School.

The company’s building in midtown Manhattan offers free pantry food and free soup at lunchtime to employees in a central location, he noted—although it is unclear whether such policies were instituted to take care of employees or to maximize worker productivity.

Bloomberg, L.P. has also drawn criticism from former female employees who have alleged a hostile workplace culture.

In 2008, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a discrimination lawsuit against Bloomberg L.P., saying pregnant female employees who took maternity leave received demotions or pay cuts, or were replaced.

Ultimately, 65 women were claimants in the lawsuit which was dismissed by a federal judge in 2011. The judge concluded there was a lack of evidence that the company engaged in a “pattern” of discrimination.

The New York Post reported in December 2019 that Bloomberg, L.P., had been the subject of nearly 40 discrimination and harassment lawsuits by 64 former employees.

According to a November report by the New York Times, one of the lawsuits alleged that Bloomberg told a pregnant employee “kill it,” referring to her baby, and complained about the number of pregnant women at the company. That lawsuit was settled without an admission of guilt.

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that a former Bloomberg technology writer said he witnessed the conversation in which Bloomberg allegedly told the pregnant employee to kill her baby.

Other lawsuits have also alleged that Bloomberg made disparaging remarks about pregnant employees.

Virgil Dechant, long-serving KofC Supreme Knight, dies at 89

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2020 / 06:55 pm (CNA).- The longest serving Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus died Saturday at 89.

Virgil Dechant was Supreme Knight from 1977 to 2000. He died in his sleep Feb. 15.

“God has called home a good man and one of the Knights’ great leaders,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a Feb. 16 statement.

“Virgil Dechant used to say that his goal was to leave the Knights better than he found it, and in myriad ways, he accomplished that. He leaves a lasting legacy and an excellent example of what it means to be a Knight and a fraternalist,” Anderson added.

The Knights of Columbus say Dechant was instrumental in helping to grow the Knights of Columbus, and fostering the organization’s collaboration with the Vatican during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II.

Dechant “forged a close relationship with the Vatican during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, leading the Order to sponsor numerous renovation projects – including of the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica, and working with the pope to promote the faith in Eastern Europe, which was then behind the iron curtain,” the Knights of Columbus said in a press release.

He also “oversaw tremendous growth in the Order’s membership as well as in its assets and insurance business, while also opening the Order to greater involvement by the wives and families of its members,” according to the statement.

Dechant was a Kansas native who farmed, sold farm equipment, and owned a car dealership before he began working for the Knights of Columbus as Supreme Secretary in 1967. He became Supreme Knight ten years later.

In recognition of his committment to the pro-life movement, Dechant received the National Right to Life Award in 1998. He was also the recipient of several Vatican honors,

In 2005, he escorted President George W. Bush to the funeral of Pope St. John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. 

In 2012, Anderson said that his predecessor “was the model of Catholic fraternalism for an entire generation."

Dechant is survived by his wife Ann, four children, and the couple's grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 

McCarrick was a 'devourer of souls,' former priest secretary tells parish

Washington D.C., Feb 15, 2020 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- A priest who was the personal secretary of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick said he is sickened by manipulative fundraising tactics employed while McCarrick was Archbishop of Washington. The priest called McCarrick a “manipulator” and a “devourer of souls.”

“For a portion of my priesthood, I worked directly for the foremost fund-raiser in the Church – in the whole Church, the universal Church.”

“He was a master of the art, and knew every technique and tactic to its finest point. He paired with that an extraordinary, even preternatural sense of people, what they wanted and what they needed,” Monsignor K. Bartholomew Smith wrote Feb. 15 on a blog he maintains for parishioners of St. Bernadette’s parish in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“My stomach churns at the recollection, and not only because of how successful he was at this; but also because of what he obtained by this. He received the gratitude, the affection, and the emotional dependence of untold numbers of people high and low, rich and poor, because he made himself the bestower of the approval that they craved, told them that they were good and God Himself was grateful to them, and delivered them from the authentic demands of Jesus and His Gospel.”

“This is what their giving purchased, and what his fundraising obtained.  But he took more from them than just their donations, for he was a ravening manipulator of human affections, and a devourer of souls,” Bartholomew added.

The priest, who was ordained in 1998, was McCarrick’s private secretary in the early 2000s, before being appointed to serve in a similar role for Cardinal William Baum, who was then living in Rome.

Smith told his parishioners that “you would be hard pressed to find a person in our Archdiocese, Catholic or not, who did not fall for [McCarrick’s] seduction to some degree, or at some time.  We all want approval; we all enjoy gratitude. He offered Divine approval and God’s own gratitude, and many were the ones who did his bidding to obtain it.”

McCarrick, Smith wrote, “was a master of convincing folks of the pernicious delusion that God Himself needed, approved, and in fact was grateful to them for the difference that they were making in the world. This, in one line, is the snake-oil song of the ecclesiastical fundraiser, and he was the all-time virtuoso chanter and enchanter.” 

“Many good works were accomplished in this manner, and benefits from them still accrue to this day. But the cost, the cost in human lives and dignity, the cost to the integrity of the Faith, the cost to the fabric of the Church, is only recently become apparent to all,” Smith added.

Smith’s remarks came in the context of the annual archdiocesan appeal. He told his parishioners that because of his experience with McCarrick, “I beg your indulgence if I eschew fundraising techniques, and avoid tactics with proven records of success.”

“Instead of a fund raiser, I am charged by God to be a faith-raiser,” the priest added.

McCarrick served as Archbishop of Washington from 2000-2006, capping an ecclesiastical career in which he had also been the Archbishop of Newark, the Bishop of Metuchen, and an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York.

In June 2018, a report emerged that McCarrick had been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. That report was followed by a torrent of sexual abuse, coercion, and harassment allegations against McCarrick made by priests, former seminarians, and laypeople. McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state in Feb. 2019.

Catholics in the U.S. are awaiting a Vatican report on McCarrick that is the result of an internal investigation into the former cardinal’s ecclesiastical career. While the report was initially expected to be released in the early weeks of 2020, Cardinal Blase Cupich told EWTN News this week that it might be released in March, but the exact date of release is still under consideration by Pope Francis.

 

'No different from the rest of us'- Priests and mental health care

Denver, Colo., Feb 15, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- After the suicide of a Missouri priest last month, psychologists talked with CNA about the issues priests can face when they need help with caring for their mental heatlh.

Fr. Evan Harkins of Kansas City took his own life in late January, leaving parishioners and friends across the country mourning the beloved priest.

Shortly after Harkin's death, Bishop Vann Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph said the priest had a “sunny” personality, but had begun to struggle with anxiety and his physical health.

The bishop said the priest's decision to end his life might have been connected to his medication.

He said Harkins had developed serious stomach and gastrointestinal issues, which seemed to cause him anxiety.

“He was given a prescription drug to deal with the anxiety and was experiencing some of the extreme negative side effects of this drug including terrible nightmares, among other things,” Johnston explained.

Though the factors leading to his death are no doubt comlicated, the priest’s death has begun a discussion about the mental health needs of priests, and the stigmas that surround them.

Dr. Melinda Moore is a Licensed Psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University and has studied Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS).

Moore told CNA that suicide prevention steps are incredibly important. She pointed to studies that show how a single individual's suicide can have a devastating effect that ripples throughout the community.

“We've got 48,000 Americans who are dying by suicide every year. … [These are] Americans who are killing themselves and leaving entire families, networks, communities devastated by their deaths. We know that for every person who dies by suicide, there are 135 people exposed. Out of those 135, forty-eight people will be seriously impacted by the death.”

“What we know is these people who are impacted significantly, they have higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and another study showed suicide attempt. So not only are these 40,000 Americans killing themselves every year, they're leaving all this collateral damage that amounts to over 2 million people every year,” she said.

Suicide among priests, and pastors of other Christian denominations, occurs more commonly than expected, Moore said. However, she said religious leaders often face stigmas about seeking psychological help.

“Priests are no different from the rest of us. The difference is that priests and other clergy oftentimes are idealized and held to a standard where they feel like they can't ask for help. They are the individuals that other people come to for help, and so they themselves feel like they can't seek help.”

Moore said suicide is not always tied to mental illness. But she said people who commit suicide often encounter three feelings - not belonging, being a burden to others, and the sense that that could carry out lethal self-harm.

“They oftentimes feel like they’re a burden, and then they also sometimes feel like they no longer belong to a community that they once belonged to … It's like they really feel like people would be better off if they weren't alive, that they are a burden to their loved ones, ” Moore said.

“Lastly, there's this thing called acquired capability to enact lethal self-harm. It's sort of a fearlessness in the face of death. It actually takes a lot of courage to kill yourself,” she added.

Dr. Christina Lynch was director of psychological services at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver from 2007 until she retired about a month ago. Lynch is still a supervising psychologist for the seminary, and is an advisor for the Catholic Psychotherapy Association (CPA), which she previously served as president.

Lynch told CNA that stigmas among priests regarding psychology differ depending on several factors, like location, age, and community. She said counseling may be looked down upon by older generations, noting that millennials are more sympathetic to it.

Lynch also said a sense of shame about getting psychological help may worsen if the priest or seminarian does not view the therapy setting as confidential or safe.

Shame among priests about seeking help gets worse among priests if mental health care is not supported by the bishop or laity. Lynch applauded the decision of Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, who announced in December that he was taking a leave of absence to focus on mental health.

Lynch also said the laity have a unique opportunity to support priests, even through simple actions like inviting them over to dinner.

“If they don't have support from their bishop, they feel shame or they don't want to go to counseling. So the support they received from the bishop is really important. I'm sure you read the article by Bishop Conley. I've heard from so many priests since then that this just gave them courage.”

“The laity have a role to play with the parish priest. They need to be praying for them, be friends with them. A lot of times laity are afraid to be really friends with their priests … They need to be attentive to their priests and make sure they're supporting them … The more support a priest is going to get from everybody instead of criticism, the better it is going to be for them.”

Dr. Cynthia Hunt, a Catholic psychologist, is a board advisor for the Catholic Medical Association and has also served as Chief of the Department of Psychiatry at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.

Hunt said that stigmas about mental therapy are pervasive among clergy. She highlighted several reasons why priests might consider therapy a difficult process to access.

“There seems to be a shame surrounding the very human need for assistance in the mental health realm,” she said.

“Some difficulties which might bar priests from accessing therapy include their desire for more privacy (not wanting to sit in a waiting room), issues of shame, as noted above, as well as the desire to 'work things out on their own'.”

“Priests may consider their depression or anxiety a 'flaw' in their character. They also may not recognize the severity of their symptoms or realize that there is treatment,” Hunt added.

Hunt said that anxiety and depression can be as common among priests as it is among the general population. She said hereditary traits may contribute to a priest’s emotional issues, and addictions, like alcohol abuse, can exacerbate the problems.

The psychologist highlighted the options that priests can take to address these concerns.

“Priests may obtain therapy from a variety of disciplines including Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Marriage Family Therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other licensed professional counselors. The type of therapy can be tailored to the needs of the priest to include but not limited to psychodynamic Therapy, trauma-informed therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and affirmation therapy,” she said.

While rural areas may face a lack of counselors, Hunt noted, there has been an increase in telemedicine, where priests can access therapy through video-platforms.

Hunt said psychological healing is best addressed through a holistic approach - a combination of biological, psychological, social and spiritual efforts. She said that while medication is not always necessary, it can be helpful, especially when coupled with counseling.

However, she added that some medications, like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), have an occasional side effect, and people may continue to have recurring anxiety and depression throughout their life.

“SSRIs improve many symptoms of anxiety and depression through their biochemical action on neurotransmitters such as serotonin and others … With more balance again in the neurotransmitter system, many symptoms improve including but not limited to panic, chronic anxiety levels, low mood, sleep or appetite issues, fatigue, lack of enjoyment of things once enjoyed and suicidal thinking,” she said.

“As with all medications, there can be side effects. In the case of SSRIs these tend to be quite mild and short-lived such as nausea and headache. There are very rare but serious effects which can include increased agitation, restlessness or suicidal thinking.”

In order to address the possibility of suicide among priests, Dr. Moore told CNA that dioceses should focus strongly on education regarding suicide awareness and suicide prevention methods.

She said the topic should be addressed at the pulpit, and dioceses should also make more resources available, including the suicide hotline number and health care professionals.  She also said priests should educate themselves through books designed to address their needs. Hunt mentioned “Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors” by Karen Mason.

For her part, Moore applauded initiatives the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky has begun to support suicide prevention and mental health. She the dioceses has provided resources and sought to be more sympathetic to the deceased and their families.

“[I am] very pleased that the Diocese of Lexington, which is led by Bishop John Stowe, has been very much an ally in putting out messages around being attuned and being sensitive to people who are in crisis …  but then also those people who've lost a loved one to suicide, making sure that the loved one who died is not demonized, and that the loved ones are provided resources.”

Father Anthony Sciarappa, the parochial vicar of Holy Spirit Parish of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, told CNA about his experience with therapy and mental health. He said, during his first year of seminary, he struggled with anxiety and depression.

“We had lots of events as seminarians where we put on our seminary uniform and we were supposed to meet with people, talk with people and all that was overwhelming. I would be physically, like, ill and sick, just paralyzed with that.”

“I have been suffering from anxiety and depression and I thought that's just how everyone lives and that was just normal,” he said.

Sciarappa’s bishop lived at the seminary where he studied. About six months into Sciarappa’s formation, the bishop, having spoken with the seminary faculty, encouraged the young seminarian to enter into therapy.

“When the bishop told me, I think I just started crying and his office right there, because it was just so overwhelming to be faced with the fact that I do need help,” he said.

It was a difficult concept to grasp, he noted, because therapy and mental illness were not topics typically discussed during his childhood. He said, among other stigmas, he considered therapy to be a tool for crazy people.

“I didn't know anybody who had done this before. It wasn't something that was ever just talked about in my circles growing up,” he said.

He went to a therapist for about three years. He went back to counseling during major seminary in Washington D.C. He described therapy as both a difficult and valuable process.

During counseling, Sciarappa said, he had to work through “core wounds” and the issues affected by habits learned during childhood. He said, “going through that is really hard work.”

“There were so many days I'd be exhausted after everything, but once [I brought] those things into the light I could make more sense of my life.”

It got easier as he progressed through the process, Sciarappa  noted, stating that he began to acknowledge the fruits of therapy and witness its impact on his health. He said, because of therapy, he learned the tools and skills to cope with depression and anxiety. He said it helped to better understand himself and what to expect from these kinds of struggles 

“It was like mechanisms and how to cope and strategies,” he said. “Now we see what's going on with the problem and why that's going on. For me, finding out why I struggled with this then helped me deal with it more and more.”

When asked about how to best priests can maintain mental health, Sciarappa stressed the importance of outside support, including spiritual direction, close friendships, and a priest support group to which he belongs.

The priestly support group meets once a month at one of the member’s rectories. At each meeting, there are two moderators, one a trained therapist, to help the team keep on track.

He said the group discusses personal struggles, like loneliness, but also struggles particular to priests, including the clerical abuse scandals, and priest relocation. Sciarappa said it is significant to have peers to confide in. It is not appropriate to be as open with parishioners, he added, noting it is nevertheless valuable to have community among the laity. 

“It's so important to have a brother priest so he can talk honestly about stuff, about difficulties, about insecurities,” he said. “I'm not going to spill my guts out to the random parishioner-- that would be unhealthy for them and for me.”

“I think it's [valuable to have] supportive, close friends, priests, laypeople. That's the biggest thing,” he said. “I'll talk about different things in those different circles or talk about them in different ways, but that way nothing that is going on stays in the darkness.”

Sciarappa said it’s difficult to enter into suffering places, recognizing one’s need for help and therapy. However, he said the experience has also given him more empathy and allowed him to truly experience the grace of God.

“It's given me tools where I can recognize it in other people. The big thing … it's made me a more empathetic person,” he said.

“Going through that suffering and having Christ redeem it and heal me more and more, when I speak to people about hope, when I speak to people [about] how healing can happen, I can speak about it from a place of experience. It's not theoretical, I really mean it. And that's going to change the way you preach. That's going to change the way you talk to people.”

US bishops praise pope's 'clarion call' for nuclear disarmament

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States released a statement on Friday calling for the United States and other nuclear powers to dismantle their arsenals and praising Pope Francis for drawing the world’s attention to nuclear weapons.

“The Committee on International Justice and Peace is grateful to the Holy Father for this renewed effort to bring about a world of peace and justice that is not based upon fear or the threat of nuclear annihilation but justice and human solidarity,” said the statement released Feb. 14. 

The statement was co-signed by the eight bishops who comprise the committee, as well as the two bishop consultants to the committee. The chairman of the committee is Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford. 

The bishops referenced Pope Francis’ November visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki while he was in Japan. Both cities were attacked with atomic bombs at the end of World War II. The bishops said the pontiff “spoke forcefully” on the issue. 

“Speaking at Nagasaki, he emphasized the need for a wide and deep solidarity to bring about security in a world not reliant on atomic weapons,” said the bishops.

They quoted the pope calling on “individuals, religious communities and civil society, countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not, the military and private sectors, and international organizations” to work together to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

In Hiroshima, the bishops recalled, Pope Francis stated that the use of nuclear weapons is always immoral, as is their possession.

“The words of Pope Francis serve as a clarion call and a profound reminder to all that the status quo of international relations, resting on the threat of mutual destruction, must be changed,” they said. 

The bishops noted that the continued existence of nuclear weapons “weighs on the consciences of all to find a means for complete and mutual disarmament based in a shared commitment and trust that needs to be fostered and deepened.”

“As such, we also call upon our own government to be part of and indeed renew its primary responsibility in that effort.” they said. In addition to the United States, the other nations possessing nuclear weapons “must take the lead in mutual reduction” of their stockpiles.  

“The international community [has] recognized the need to move away from the threat of mutual destruction and toward genuine and universal disarmament,” said the bishops. 

Currently, eight countries--the United States, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and the United Kingdom--are known to possess nuclear weapons. Israel is also believed to have nuclear weapons, but has refused to confirm the matter. 

The former Soviet states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, along with South Africa, have all disarmed themselves of nuclear weapons.

Alabama state Rep. proposes forced vasectomy law

Mobile, Ala., Feb 14, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- An Alabama state representative has introduced a bill that would require men of a certain age or state to have a vasectomy.

The legislation (HB 238) was introduced in the state legislature on Thursday by Rep. Rolanda Harris (D). It provides that a man must undergo a vasectomy “at his own expense” within one month of his 50th birthday or the birth of his third child, “whichever comes first.”

Harris tweeted on Thursday that her aim “is to neutralize the abortion ban bill” and “help men become more accountable as well as women” in family planning decisions.

Harris’s statements refer to the “Human Life Protection Act,” passed by the state legislature last year and signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey.

One of the strongest pro-life state law in the country, the measure outlaws abortion except in “cases where abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child's mother.”

The law also made performing or assisting in an abortion a felony offense for medical professionals; criminal penalties would not apply to mothers having abortions. Doctors performing abortions could be charged with a Class A felony and face up to 10 years in prison. No exceptions were made for cases of rape or incest.

The law has been the subject of legal challenges and was passed in part as an effort to force the reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. The 1973 decision struck down state abortion bans and instituted a “viability” test where states could only regulate abortion when the unborn child is considered “viable.”

The 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision built upon that framework and said that states could not put an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to get an abortion pre-viability.

Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabama, stated his strong support for the 2019 Alabama law and expressed his hope to “eventually, to make the killing of unborn children in our country something that is no longer viewed as anything but the horrendous and inhumane killing of the most innocent among us that it is.”

In October last year, a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect.

Harris, on Thursday, said her bill aimed to “neutralize” the Human Life Protection Act by forcing men to sterilize themselves to cut down on the number of cases where abortion is considered.

“The responsibility is not always on the women. It takes 2 to tangle. This will help prevent pregnancy as well as abortion of unwanted children,” she tweeted.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2399 lists direct sterilization as one of the “morally unacceptable” means of the regulation of births, along with contraception.

More wives, fewer penalties? Utah debates partial decriminalization of polygamy

Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb 13, 2020 / 09:40 pm (CNA).- The Utah Senate will consider a bill that would partially decriminalize polygamy after a state senate committee passed it unanimously, drawing strong views on both sides.

“The diocese is not taking a position on this bill, but I will say that we find the sponsors’ statements that the bill could help individuals come out of the shadows of polygamy to be very credible,” Jean Hill, director of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, told CNA Feb. 13.

However, Ora Barlow, who grew up in a polygamous community, opposed changes in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Salt Lake City Tribune reports.

“The law is there for a reason,” she said. “And it’s for people like me who feel trapped.”

Barlow said she felt free when her church’s leaders were imprisoned and prosecuted. That action made her realize that she had been treated like property all her life.

Nicole Van Tassell-Henderson, a former member of a plural marriage, said lightening the legal penalties for polygamists will give “power and control” to community leaders, the Salt Lake City television affiliate Fox 13 reports.

Utah law presently punishes polygamy as a felony with a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Senate Bill 102 would treat polygamy among consenting adults as an infraction penalized less severely than many traffic offenses. Those cited for polygamy could be punished by fines of up to $750 and community service if the bill becomes law.

Polygamy could still be punished if the defendant is also convicted of fraud, child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, human smuggling, or human trafficking. In these situations, polygamy is penalized by up to 15 years in prison.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, is the predominant religion in Utah. Its leaders supported the practice of polygamy in the 19th century, but ordered an end to plural marriages in the late 1800s, under heavy pressure from the federal government.

Some breakaway groups still continue the practice of plural marriage. An estimated 30,000 people live in polygamous communities in the state.

“The polygamous community is small, and very insular, with a few notable exceptions,” Hill told CNA. “The Catholic Church does not have many dealings with these communities and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not affiliated with the polygamous groups.”

“Catholic teaching does not recognize polygamy as a valid relationship,” Hill said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism teaches that “conjugal love between husband and wife is part of God’s plan for humanity.” It is a “a lifelong communion of a man and woman” that is a blessing to the couple, the Church and the world when it is “faithful, exclusive, and open to life.”

Sen. Deidre Henderson, a Republican sponsor of the Utah bill, told National Public Radio that strict enforcement of the anti-polygamy law in the mid-20th century did not deter plural marriage. She said polygamous families have been driven underground “into a shadow society where the vulnerable make easy prey.”

Henderson argued that the current law is unenforceable if there are no other crimes. She said the law has created a “full-blown human rights crisis” that makes victims of abuse and fraud afraid to come forward and which criminalizes citizens who otherwise follow the law, the Salt Lake City Tribune reports.

She also argued that the bill codifies current practice of the Utah Attorney General to prosecute only when other serious crimes are being committed.

Henderson said people in polygamous communities “long to feel part of society.”

“They are tired of being treated like second-class citizens,” she said. “They feel like Utah has legalized prejudice against them. They want to be honest people, but feel like they have to lie or teach their children to lie about their families in order to stay safe.”

Shirlee Draper, who grew up in a polygamous family in Colorado City, Arizona, told the Senate committee she was taught never to speak to law enforcement. Her father and other adults would warn children of raids on polygamous communities, which encouraged fear of outsiders as “kidnappers.”

Draper, a victim advocate who backs decriminalization, said abuse and violence cases come from a variety of family and religious backgrounds. She suggested that nobody argues that “it’s the family structure that causes those abuses.”

She said polygamous families are wrongly assumed to be committing illicit acts.

Other backers of the bill include the ACLU of Utah and the Statewide Association of Prosecutors.

Easton Harvey, speaking to the Senate committee on behalf of the polygamy critics Sound Choices Coalition, said members of these communities are afraid to report abuse because they fear ostracism from their community or divine punishment.

Angela Kelly, director of the Sound Choices Coalition, said polygamy is comparable to organized crime and slavery. Reducing criminal penalties would encourage more polygamous households and send the message that it is “an okay lifestyle.”

The coalition denies that polygamy is a choice, National Public Radio reports. It accuses fundamentalist Mormons of using their scriptures “to justify crimes and deviant behaviors” and “to subvert and oppress their wives and their numerous offspring who have been indoctrinated from birth into believing that a loving God commanded such suffering and disparity.”

The Sound Choices Coalition says that in polygamous practice, young men are pushed out of polygamous communities so that older men may monopolize young women as wives. It contends the practice is linked to child brides, incest, and the extortion of money in exchange for the promise of religious salvation.

Republican Sen. Dan Thatcher, the only member of the Senate committee who did not sponsor the bill, said he was not interested in hearing about the badness of polygamy because it would not cause him to vote against the bill.

“This is better than what we are doing now, and I have not heard a single person bring forward a better solution,” he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the prohibition on polygamy.

In 2019 the American Psychological Association launched a special task force to counter what it said was the “stigmatization” of people who practice consensual polygamy.

In 2017 a Gallup poll found 17% of Americans find polygamy to be morally permissible. Support had particularly increased among non-religious Americans. The change in opinion followed the 2010 launch of the reality show “Sister Wives,” which presents a sympathetic portrayal of a polygamous family. Pollsters also attributed the shift of the popular concept of polygamy from patriarchal and masculine centered family to a gender-neutral definition.

Kody Brown and his four wives, featured on the television show “Sister Wives”, had challenged a polygamy ban.

A lower court initially said the law violated their right to privacy and religious freedom. In April 2016, an appellate court ruled the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the law because they were not charged under it.

When the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 struck down anti-sodomy laws that criminalized same-sex sexual relations, critics warned that it set the stage for recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. The U.S. Supreme Court then mandated the nationwide legal recognition of same-sex marriage in 2015.