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With Zimbabwe in turmoil over fuel hikes, archbishop calls for restraint

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- After reports of multiple deaths in violent protests over steep fuel price hikes in Zimbabwe, Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare called for restraint by the security forces and protesters. "Mature political leadership and a recognition of the need to work together for the common good" are essential, he said in a Jan. 16 telephone interview from Harare. Three people, including a police officer, died in Jan. 14 protests that followed President Emmerson Mnangagwa's announcement of a more than 150 percent rise in the fuel price. "It's difficult to get a full picture of what's happening because the internet is still down and many people haven't yet been able to return to work," Archbishop Ndlovu said. Internet services were cut Jan. 15 as mobile networks in the southern African nation enforced a government internet shutdown. Catholics schools in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, were closed, along with most other schools in the country's cities, "because of parents' concerns for their children's safety," the archbishop said. Human Rights Watch said protesters burned a police station, barricaded roads and looted shops in Harare and Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo. Security forces used guns and tear gas in response, it said. Amnesty International condemned the military crackdown and said at least 200 people had been arbitrarily detained. Soldiers and police were pulling people out of their homes and beating them, reports said. Zimbabwe has experienced an acute shortage of U.S. dollars, which has hampered imports and caused steep price rises. The U.S. currency was adopted in 2009 to combat hyperinflation. "Poverty is dire, especially in rural areas where people can't access cash to buy food and other essentials," Archbishop Ndlovu said. "With so many people in Zimbabwe's cities unemployed, there is not much for people to send to family and friends in rural areas," he said. Unemployment is above 80 percent in Zimbabwe. "The effects of price increases not only to fuel, but to basic goods and services such as health, education and food have made many people angry and desperate," Zimbabwe's Council of Churches said in a Jan. 14 statement. Zimbabweans need to "address collective challenges through an open, inclusive and solution-seeking national dialogue in a climate of trust and national unity," it said, noting that the council is working to get all Zimbabweans to participate in a "national consensus-building process to find lasting solutions to the pressing problems." Many Zimbabweans accuse Mnangagwa of failing to keep pre-election pledges to improve the economy after long-ruling Robert Mugabe was forced out in a de facto coup in November 2017. The gap between political players has widened, Archbishop Ndlovu said, noting that churches "are trying to find a way to break the deadlock." "We are looking for ways to reach out to political leaders to get them around a table to dialogue," he said. "Although the situation here is difficult, we have not lost hope," he said. Problems include jobless youths being enticed to join demonstrations where looting occurs "as they have nothing to lose," and greed and profiteering, Archbishop Ndlovu said. At a gas station, there will be a mile-long line to fill up "and while you're waiting, people will come and offer to sell you fuel at three times the price," he said. "Where do they get all that fuel?"

English bishop: Britain in 'amazing political mess' over Brexit

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Britain is in an "amazing political mess" over Brexit, an English bishop said. Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth voiced his opinion on Twitter Jan. 16, a day after the House of Commons overwhelmingly rejected the withdrawal agreement struck between Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Union. The agreement sought to set out terms of a future relationship with the European Union following Britain's withdrawal from the bloc, something the British people approved in a June 2016 referendum. The 432-202 vote on the withdrawal agreement Jan. 15 represented the biggest government defeat in British history and left May fighting for her political life. "It's an amazing political mess after last night's vote in the House of Commons," Bishop Egan said in a tweet. "No one's clear on the right way ahead," the bishop continued. "Let's ask the Holy Spirit to direct us all, but especially our politicians and leaders, in finding the best plan to take us forward." Later, Bishop Egan told Catholic News Service by telephone: "This is a time of uncertainty, and I do think we should pray for our politicians and our leaders, that the Lord will guide them in order to find some kind of active plan and also that people will really get behind them in it." He said he thought Catholics should pray for the unity of the nation, "because I think it has been quite bruising, this whole debate. When you talk to people it (Brexit) often rouses quite strong feelings and passions." He noted that if Britain leaves the European Union, it is still part of Europe. "As Catholics we are related to all people of our continent and that peace project -- that led to the formation of the EU -- we are a link to that. We should pray for that peace." The government survived a Jan. 16 motion of no confidence introduced by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, by 325-306. But with May's withdrawal agreement effectively dead, it means Parliament must find another way to implement Brexit by the statutory leaving date of March 29. Mike Kane, a Labour member of Parliament and a Catholic, told Catholic News Service in a Jan. 16 telephone interview that he voted against the withdrawal agreement principally because he thought it was "bad for the country," but also because it would make his political constituency, which covers south Manchester, "much poorer." He said he was in favor of remaining in the EU partly because, he said, "Manchester Airport is on my patch, and 74 percent of its flights are to European nations." Kane, the founder of the Catholics for Labour group, said he also believed the EU was founded on the Catholic social teaching principles of solidarity and subsidiarity and that it has guaranteed decades of peace so "we are not sending our 18-year-olds to the trenches in wars year after year." A substantial number of politicians who voted against the agreement want Britain to remain within the EU and are seeking a second referendum, even though this is not provided by the terms of the 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Act. Others, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative member of Parliament and a Catholic, opposed May's deal because they believe Britain would be better placed outside the EU and without a deal. "The problem with the House of Commons is that three-quarters of the members voted to remain," Rees-Mogg, chair of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, said on ITV news Jan. 15. "Therefore, you have got a 'remainer' House of Commons trying to implement a 'leave' that it doesn't want. That is why you have no agreement on the deal," he said. "From a 'leaver' point of view, it's very straightforward," he added. "We leave, and a deal is secondary to the issue of leaving." Catholic News Service contacted the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, whose representatives declined to comment. Clive Chapman, senior officer for mission and advocacy for the Caritas Social Action Network, an agency of the bishops' ...

Annual poll shows 75 percent of adults want restrictions on abortion

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Just in time for the annual March for Life, an annual poll of Americans' views on abortion shows that 75 percent want "substantial" restrictions on abortion access even as more than half of respondents describe themselves as "pro-choice." Conducted by the Marist Poll at Marist College, the survey of 1,066 adults Jan. 8-10 revealed that respondents would welcome limits on abortion so that it can be performed only during the first three months of pregnancy. Even 61 percent of "pro-choice" respondents favored such a restriction. Unsurprisingly, 96 percent of respondents who identified as pro-life supported such a restriction. Among Republicans, 92 percent support abortion limits, while 60 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of independents shared the same view. "What you're getting here is the sense that the debate over abortion when you look at what people want in terms of restrictions ... is in favor of substantial restriction on abortion," said Andrew Walter, vice president for communications and strategic planning for the Knights of Columbus, during a Jan. 15 teleconference with reporters. The Knights have sponsored the poll since 2008. Barbara Carvalho, Marist Poll director, said the results show that there is not "a really polarized electorate" when it comes to abortion. "We actually see where there is a good deal of common ground on the whole host of policy decisions (related to abortion)," she said during the teleconference. She said the survey results reveal that those who identify as "pro-choice" are not necessarily strongly in favor of unrestricted access to abortion as is widely portrayed in media and among some advocates in the strongly pro-life and "pro-choice" camps. The poll also asked respondents about their views on what the U.S. Supreme Court should do if it decides to revisit the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, with 49 percent saying the decision should revert to the states. Thirty percent said abortion should be legal without restriction while 16 percent said it always should be illegal. Other findings in the poll show: -- By a 54 percent to 39 percent margin, respondents oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. -- A far larger majority -- 75 percent to 19 percent -- oppose the use of tax dollars to pay for abortion in other countries. -- Fifty-five percent of respondents believe medical professionals with moral objections should be allowed to opt out of performing or provide insurance coverage for abortion while 35 percent said such workers should be legally required to participate. -- An overwhelming majority of respondents, 83 percent, felt that laws can protect both the mother and unborn child rather than choose to protect one and not the other. -- Forty-two percent of respondents said they believe life begins at conception, 10 percent within the first three months of pregnancy, 9 percent between three and six months, 19 percent when the fetus is viable and can live outside the womb and 13 percent when the child is born; 7 percent were unsure. Carvalho said the margin of error in the data was plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. Thousands of people are expected for the 46th annual March for Life Jan. 18 in Washington.

Pope advances sainthood causes for 17 women

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis advanced the sainthood causes of three women and recognized the martyrdom of 14 religious sisters who were killed during the Spanish Civil War. The pope formally recognized a miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Marguerite Bays, a laywoman from Switzerland known for her spirituality in the face of great physical suffering and for bearing the stigmata of Christ. Born in 1815, she grew up helping the peasant farmers in her small village and became a professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order. She was particularly devoted to Our Lady and discovered she was cured of colon cancer on Dec. 8, 1854, when Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The same year, she started to show signs of the stigmata on her hands, feet and chest. She died in 1879 and St. John Paul II beatified her in 1995. In other decrees signed at the Vatican Jan. 15, the pope: -- Recognized the martyrdom of Sister Isabella Lacaba Andia, who was known as Mother Mary del Carmen -- the mother superior of a community of Franciscan Conceptionist nuns -- and 13 of her companions. They were murdered "in hatred of the faith" in Spain in 1936. The move clears the way for their beatification. -- Recognized the heroic virtues of Mother Soledad Sanjurjo Santos of the Servants of Mary. Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, in 1892, she was known as the "Pearl of the Antilles" as she served as provincial superior of the Antilles and extended the congregation's work in caring for the sick throughout Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. She died in 1973. -- Recognized the heroic virtues of Polish Sister Anna Kaworek, who lived 1872-1936, and co-founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Michael the Archangel.

Opening the Word: Salvation is real

If you’re a frequent user of Twitter, you are aware of the internecine squabbles that break out among Catholics. This Catholic academic declares his or her bona fides against the rest of the hoi polloi who lack a proper education. That Catholic traditionalist insults the piety of those who worship according to the ordinary form of the Mass. Those Catholic commentators declare anathema all who don’t agree with their particular interpretation of the Church. Reading these tweets, one gets a sense that Catholicism is just another political party, another occasion to choose sides. To Catholic Twitter, St. Paul speaks, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ” (1 Cor 12:12). St. Paul is not employing a pleasing metaphor in addressing the Corinthians. The Church is not “kind of” like a body insofar as everyone has a role to play in the body. Instead, those who have been baptized into Jesus Christ have been mystically united to him. We share a body. With one another. Through Christ. Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Jan. 27, 2019 NEH 8:2-4A, 5-6, 8-10 PS 19:8, 9, 10, 15 1 COR 12:12-30 OR 1 COR 12:12-14, 27 LK 1:1-4; 4:14-21 Further, the language of body in St. Paul is not reducible to the human flesh. The body is also a political entity in the ancient world. The Church is a body insofar as she lives out a distinct kind of politics, a different way of living among one another. The Church is not a political party where the powerful and the strong win. Instead, the Church is a polis, a city of those gathering around the Lamb once slain in the book of Revelation. This Gospel is what we hear in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus Christ enters the synagogue and announces that he is the fulfillment of the messianic promises. In his coming, in his advent, glad tidings will be brought to the poor. The prisoner will be set free. God’s reign has begun. And no one is to be excluded. You see, this is the problem with Catholic Twitter, as well as prominent media sources. Catholic Twitter and media, whether intentionally or not, often exclude. Some want to erase the “traditional” Catholic from existence. Others want to erase Catholics who are concerned about the plight of the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner and the immigrant, because these commitments contradict their favored political ideology. At the root is a failure to recognize that the Church operates according to a different politics. Salvation is to be offered to each and every person. The Church is Christ’s Body, where each and every human being is to enter into the reign of God inaugurated by the Word made flesh. What too many on Catholic Twitter and in the media fail to recognize is that the Church is not a political platform. It’s the salvation of men and women. This means our neighbor, our enemy; we all need salvation. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . The Church in the U.S. has forgotten her identity. We are not a bunch of “liberals” and “conservatives” fighting a battle for the soul of our particular position. We are instead the Church of Jesus Christ, those baptized in the Lord. We are those who are offering our full humanity to the Father, through the Son, that it might become divine. We are one body. This is not a trite claim, a pleasant ditty sung from Gather hymnals. It’s the heart of the Gospel. Christ has come for all. Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is managing director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life.

Avoiding extremes

“Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” That famous line from Bette Davis’ feisty character in the classic 1950 film “All About Eve” can certainly be applied to what we’ve experienced and continue to experience in the Catholic Church. We’ve had plenty of rough and bumpy times connected to the abuse crisis — so troubling that it’s causing many Catholics to have extreme reactions that aren’t helping matters, to say the least. Certainly, it’s natural to have moments of heartache or despair. Given the headlines over the last several months, who doesn’t, on occasion, want to just head for the hills? But those feelings of frustration or disgust should not be allowed to consume us to the point where we find ourselves swinging from one end of the emotional pendulum to the other, allowing our feelings to take over and rendering us pretty much helpless, hopeless or even reckless in our approach to the ongoing crisis. Unfortunately, far too many Catholics I’ve come in contact with are exhibiting these types of behaviors. On the one hand there are those who are spending so much of their time on websites full of all gloom and doom that they’ve become convinced there are no longer any good religious left in the Church or that there is a conspiracy and a cover-up in virtually every Catholic corner. They have lost complete trust in the hierarchy and as a result, as Msgr. Charles Pope commented in a recent blog for the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. (“What Good Can Come Out of 2018?”), they’re part of a laity “that is so bold as to be incorrigible, unteachable and disrespectful of clergy and bishops.” It’s their way or the highway, so to speak. There are other extremes as well. One where folks say, “God’s got this.” They have convinced themselves that this approach shows ultimate trust. Any efforts to speak up for victims, or respectfully write or reach out to those in Church authority, are viewed as disrespectful and not having a strong enough faith. But Christians are never called to sit by and do nothing simply because we trust God can handle it. And yet one more extreme response is the “if they don’t care, we shouldn’t care” approach. One blatant example of this came from a recent listener of mine as the bishops were in the middle of their prayer retreat in the Chicago area. I encouraged listeners to pray for all the bishops to help them approach the abuse issues with renewed strength and dedication in the months and years ahead. This one particular listener wasn’t buying the prayer suggestion at all, and reading between the lines, it was quite clear he felt very justified in his decision. “You just told us we should pray for the bishops and their meeting,” he wrote. “However, I’ve heard only half the bishops have shown up in Chicago for the retreat.” Mind you, this man gave no attribution at all for his statement regarding the alleged attendance numbers of bishops, but it was all he needed to basically say “the heck with them and the Church.” Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . Even if what he “heard” were true, as I said to him in my response, what in the world did that have to do with the proverbial tea in China? I went on to suggest that he pray hard for those who were attending and harder for those who for whatever reason couldn’t be there. Whatever we’re feeling, we need to realize that if we truly love Christ and his Church, we’re in this for the long haul. Let’s fasten our seat belts so we can manage bumps in the road, and in the end be able to stand before Jesus and say we tried. Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio, and the author of “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95).

Lacking in Christ?

Question: In Col 1:24, we read about our sufferings “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” What does it mean that something was lacking in Christ’s affliction? Does this refer to redemptive suffering and, if so, is the service of Simon helping Jesus carry the cross an example of this? — Paul Vanhoudt, Erie, Colorado Answer: When St. Paul writes of what is “lacking” in the suffering of Christ, it is only lacking since the members of the Body of Christ fill their role down through time. You and I were not yet born when Christ suffered more than 2,000 years ago, but we were mystically united to him as a member of his body. For indeed, the Lord, who lives in the fullness of time, has always known, loved and included all the members of his body (see Jer 1:5). And each member of his body has some part in the suffering he endured. As times rolls on, each of his members complete their part, and what was temporally lacking is now filled in. In this way we can see that the Passion of Christ, though occurring at a moment in our historical time, also reaches across time, extending its power to all generations and including the sufferings of all generations who are or will be his members. Therefore, our sufferings are not redemptive apart from the once-for-all perfect suffering of Jesus. But they do have a redemptive power by being united to it through the grace of our baptism into Christ. As long as we stay united to him, and strive to be free of mortal sin, our sufferings do bear fruit by their connection to Christ’s suffering. Your example of Simon of Cyrene is a bit tricky since he was not baptized at the time. If there were some prevenient graces that the Lord gave him in a special way, it is possibly an example of redemptive suffering. But your example also has a problematic premise, since we are not helping Christ by our share in his sufferings. Christ as Lord does not need our help. Our sharing in his suffering is his gift to us, not our gift to him. Simon of Cyrene is more of an example of how we can help other people carry their crosses. Mother of God Question: In a recent homily on the feast of Mary Mother of God, the priest stated that “Mary was not the mother of God the Creator, nor the divine Jesus, nor the Holy Spirit.” From this I deduced that Mary is the mother of the human Jesus born in Bethlehem. — Fran Nicholson , via email Answer: Mary is given the title “Mother of God” because Jesus is God. It is true, Mary is not the Mother of the Trinity. And she is not the source of Jesus’ divine nature. But Jesus is God, not merely part of God, and in him dwells the fullness of divinity (Col 2:9). Jesus unites his human nature to his divine nature in his one person. We should not divide Jesus up. He is one person with two natures. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . Consider an analogy. Although our soul is created directly by God, we are each one person possessed of body and soul. We would not say our mother is only the mother of our body, but not our soul. We don’t talk like that. We say of our mother, she is my mother. This is true also of Jesus: Though he has two natures, they are united in his one divine person. Jesus is God, and so Mary, his mother, is rightly called “Mother of God.” Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at . Send questions to .

The Maronite experience

A priest stands at the altar, adorned in an array of beautiful vestments, clutching a crucifix, surrounded by icons, incense and bells. In Syriac Aramaic, the everyday language of Jesus and his apostles, he chants the words of consecration: “This is my Body,” “This is my Blood.” This is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or Holy Qurbana, offered in a Maronite Catholic parish. The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic sui iuris particular church in full communion with the pope. This means that in one sense it is independent, with a patriarch as its head, but still under the authority of the Holy Father. The official name is the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch, and it traces its roots to the ancient city where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians, and from where St. Paul started on his missionary journeys. The Church takes its name from St. Maron (sometimes rendered as Maroun), a fourth-century saint in what is modern-day Turkey. The head of the Maronite Church is known as a patriarch. Since 2011, this has been Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai. The headquarters are located in Bkerke, north of Beirut in Lebanon. There are large Maronite communities in several places around the world. In fact, approximately two-thirds of the Church’s members are located in the diaspora in Europe, the Americas, Australia and Africa. Establishing communities In the United States, the Church is divided into two eparchies, or dioceses. Initially a single eparchy based in Detroit, Michigan, it transferred headquarters in 1977 to Brooklyn and was renamed the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn. This eparchy covers 16 states all along the Atlantic coast, with 44 parishes and missions and about 33,000 Maronite Catholics. The other was established out of 34 states from the Pacific up to the eastern seaboard in 1994: the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles. Since 2001, the headquarters has been in St. Louis, Missouri. In this diocese there are 38 parishes and missions totaling about 46,000 Maronite Catholics. It is difficult to identify when the first Maronites came to the United States, but it is certain that in the 1880s and 1890s there was a large influx of Maronite immigrants from Lebanon and Syria. Prior to this, they were mainly emigrating to Egypt and other countries in the Middle East and Mediterranean. A lack of economic opportunities and living space were major factors for emigration, but religious issues may also have played a role. At this time, Lebanon and Syria remained a part of the Ottoman Empire, and the Muslim population continued to grow, which made Christians increasingly unwelcome in the region — sometimes explicitly so. When the first Maronites were emigrating to the United States, they were forced to attend Roman Catholic churches, as there were no Maronite priests to serve them — let alone Maronite parishes. As their religious heritage was so important to them, they quickly began petitioning the patriarch to send priests to the United States. Many missionaries were sent, and they helped to begin founding parishes around the country. In the lead-up to the First World War, from 1900-14, the population of Lebanon decreased by one-fourth due to emigration. The mass emigration continued after the war, bringing a large number of Maronites to the United States. Early Maronite immigrants sought work, and settled down wherever they could find it. Often this was in factories making steel, automobiles and the like. As a result, Maronite communities quickly developed in Pittsburgh; Detroit; Youngstown, Ohio; and other places around the country. Retaining tradition From their first days in the United States, Maronites faced a number of problems. Chief among them was a lack of priests of their own rite; they were often seen as very “other” by many in this country. One thing that set Maronites apart from other Catholics was married clergy. Like other Eastern rites, as well as Orthodox ...

Looking ahead to February's abuse summit

A high-level international meeting on clerical sexual abuse, summoned by Pope Francis to take place at the Vatican in February, is simultaneously generating high hopes and notably modest expectations concerning what it will — or won’t — accomplish. On the one hand, boosters hope the meeting will forge a global consensus on an action plan for local churches. The Feb. 21-24 sessions will involve some 100 presidents of national bishops’ conferences from around the world, along with other Church leaders. On the other hand, skeptics say the meeting’s brevity and the differences that exist from country to country in their legal situations and cultures make a one-size-fits-all formula for fighting abuse unrealistic or unneeded. No matter whether the skeptics or the boosters turn out to be right, pressure for meaningful results now is aimed squarely at the pope, whose critics accuse him of being slow to catch on to the problem or do much about it until recently. Meanwhile, during the last year alone, major abuse-related crises erupted in Chile, Honduras, Germany and the United States. Tense questions The furor in the U.S. was touched off last summer by the disclosure that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, had a long history of sexual misconduct that was apparently known to the Vatican for years. Archbishop McCarrick resigned as a cardinal and is now living in seclusion while a Church canonical process moves forward. The pressure on Pope Francis was further heightened in December by the reported conviction on abuse charges of Cardinal George Pell of Australia, previously the Vatican’s economic czar and a top papal adviser. Cardinal Pell has denied the charges. Among the many questions facing the February meeting, possibly the most sensitive is whether and how it will face the issue of homosexuality in the priesthood. Those who consider it to be of fundamental relevance in this context point to findings by researchers studying clerical sex abuse in the U.S. that boys and young men were the victims in eight out of 10 cases between 1950 and 2010. Pope Francis has repeatedly sounded the alarm about active homosexuals in clerical ranks. “It would be better if they left the ministry or consecrated life rather than live a double life,” he said in a book-length interview published last month. Those in attendance Besides presidents of bishops’ conferences — in the U.S., Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas — those attending the February meeting will include the heads of Eastern Catholic churches, representatives of superior generals of religious communities, officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and heads of several Vatican offices. Last November the pope named a planning committee that includes Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, along with Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican’s point man on abuse; and Father Hans Zollner, S.J., president of the Center for the Protection of Minors at Rome’s Gregorian University. Also involved in preparations is the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors headed by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston. Cardinal O’Malley said the idea for the February meeting originated with his group, and in a written statement he provided a kind of outline of policies he hoped it would endorse. “We must continue to embrace and practice a commitment to zero tolerance [of abuse by clerics], work for greater transparency, including the release of names of clergy accused of abuse, encourage religious orders to adopt a similar policy, and cooperate with civil and legal authorities,” he said. “Above all else, we must place the support and pastoral care of survivors first.” In essence, that is the policy adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002. Since then, the number of reported new cases of clerical abuse of minors has continued to fall, with only 24 new allegations reported in the 12 months that ended June 30, ...

Bless the mother, kill the child

For several weeks at the end of each year, Catholics in America celebrate the beauty and joy of motherhood. The liturgical feasts and biblical readings describe how God instilled hope by creating life in the wombs of virgins and barren women. On Dec. 8, the Church honors the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She, who was destined to become the Mother of God, was conceived in the womb of her mother, Anne, free from original sin, a pure vessel to bring forth the Savior of the world. Then, four days later, Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On that date — Dec. 12 — in 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Juan Diego and imprinted on his tilma an image of herself, clothed in native garb that was adorned with Aztec pictoglyphs identifying her as a pregnant virgin. Shadow of death On both feasts and on many other days preceding Christmas, the Mass readings detail the angel Gabriel telling Zechariah about Elizabeth’s pregnancy with their son, John the Baptist, and his message to Mary of God’s divine plan for the Messiah to come among man in the form of her child. These descriptions of divine events are complemented by Old Testament readings from Judges, Isaiah and Samuel, prophesying about Emmanuel and sharing stories of people who preceded and pointed to Jesus, such as Samson and Samuel. These readings bring us to Christmas. This most solemn of holy days is liturgically celebrated for eight days, ending on its octave of Jan. 1, which the Roman Catholic Church designates as the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. The old year thus ends with the birth of Our Savior, and a new year begins with a celebration of Mary’s motherhood. But even as life is proclaimed, the shadow of death looms. On Dec. 28, the Church remembers the Holy Innocents, the boys two years and younger who were ordered to be massacred by Herod because his fear that Jesus would be an earthly king. Today, a similar heinous slaughter has been repeated daily since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973. Some 60 million children in America have been destroyed before birth, exterminated by acts of their mothers’ free will and abetted by an infrastructure of death. No past society in the history of the world has ever tolerated such voluntary, massive destruction of its own people. The promotion of death is big business in the United States, with thousands of people making their living killing unborn babies. It is not compassion for a distressed mother but money that is the driving force. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which performs more than one-third of all abortions in the nation, is abetted in its grizzly business by the federal government, having received $544 million in taxpayer money during the 2016-17 fiscal year. With an outspoken pro-abortion advocate — sadly, a Catholic — as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, it is unlikely that federal support will decrease. New challenges After 46 years of battling legalized abortion, pro-life efforts are bearing results. The Center for Disease Control recently reported that the number of abortions in the United States decreased 24 percent over the decade 2006-2015, to an historic low. However, there also is a disturbing shift from surgical abortions to medication abortions. Since the Food and Drug Administration approved RU-486, commonly known as the abortion pill, in September 2000, medication abortions have increased to one quarter of all abortions. As abortifacients become easier to obtain — an increasing number of universities are making morning-after pills available via campus vending machines — more and more abortions will occur by simply “popping a pill.” There soon will be no need to go to an abortion clinic, face pro-life prayer warriors and counselors, possibly see graphic images or view an ultrasound picture, or undergo a surgical procedure. The woman will have less anxiety or feelings of guilt about taking a ...