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Archdiocese of Baltimore files for bankruptcy amid clergy sex abuse claims

Credit: Minerva Studio/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 29, 2023 / 15:49 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Baltimore declared bankruptcy on Friday several weeks after warning it might do so in response to a looming wave of sex-abuse-related lawsuits.

Archbishop William Lori said in a statement on Friday that ”after consulting with numerous lay leaders and the clergy of the archdiocese,” he had made the decision for the archdiocese to file “for Chapter 11 reorganization.”

“With an approved plan under Chapter 11, the archdiocese will be reorganized, victim-survivors will be equitably compensated, and the Church will continue its mission and ministries,” the archbishop said.

The process will “involve several steps over the next two to three years,” Lori said, including “accept[ing] claims from victim-survivors for a specified period of time” and then “enter[ing] negotiations” with those individuals.

The filing, Lori said, is “the best path forward to compensate equitably all victim-survivors, given the archdiocese’s limited financial resources, which would have otherwise been exhausted on litigation.” 

“Staggering legal fees and large settlements or jury awards for a few victim-survivors would have depleted our financial resources, leaving the vast majority of victim-survivors without compensation while ending ministries that families across Maryland rely on for material and spiritual support,” he said.

The prelate also made the announcement via a prerecorded video uploaded to YouTube on Friday afternoon.

Responding to a user question on its Facebook account, the archdiocese on Friday told members of the diocese that “the money you place in the collection basket or give to your parish online will continue to be used to fund your individual parish.”

“Archdiocesan parishes and schools are separate legal entities, distinct from the archdiocese,” the post said. “Charitable entities such as Catholic Charities are similarly separate legal entities. The ministries and operations of parishes, schools, and other entities, such as our Catholic Charities agencies, should not be directly affected by the archdiocese’s Chapter 11 proceeding.”

Lori had said earlier this month that the archdiocese was considering bankruptcy as one possible maneuver to deal with a potential wave of sex abuse lawsuits against Baltimore. A new law going into effect Oct. 1 will end the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits for negligence in relation to child sexual abuse, opening the local Church up to lawsuits over abuse from years past.  

The archdiocese will join more than two dozen other U.S. dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy in recent years. Behind Baltimore, the Archdiocese of San Francisco is the most recent, having filed in late August in response to numerous abuse lawsuits. 

In his public statement earlier this month, Lori said a bankruptcy filing would help establish “a reasonable and equitable method for compensation of victim-survivors while also preserving the many vital ministries of the archdiocese.”

“In this type of reorganization, the archdiocese would be required to provide resources which would be used to compensate victim-survivors while at the same time ensuring our mission can continue,” Lori said. 

If the archdiocese attempted to litigate each individual lawsuit, Lori said, it would “potentially lead to some very high damage awards for a very small number of victim-survivors while leaving almost nothing for the vast majority of them.” 

“The archdiocese simply does not have unlimited resources to satisfy such claims; its assets are indeed finite,” the prelate said at the time. 

The Maryland attorney general earlier in the week had released an unredacted report on child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, one that named most of the individuals accused there. A redacted version of the report had been released in April.

The report alleged more than 600 children were abused by 156 people in the diocese over a period beginning in the 1940s through 2002.

Pope calls for an end to global food waste

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CNA Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 13:54 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday commended a U.N. agency’s efforts to end what the Holy Father called “the scourge of food loss and waste” across the planet, with the pope calling for a “radical paradigm shift” in how the world deals with wasted food.

Francis in his letter to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization told FAO Director Qu Dongyu that the “prevailing culture” has “led to the denaturalization of the value of food, reducing it to a mere commodity to be exchanged.”

The letter was sent on the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, established by the FAO in 2020. The U.N. says on its website that the day is meant to help “prioritize actions and move ahead with innovation to reduce food loss and waste.”

In his letter on Friday, Pope Francis said the world must “be clear about the urgency of a radical paradigm shift,” because “we can no longer limit ourselves to interpreting reality in terms of economics or insatiable profit.” 

“Food has a spiritual basis and its proper management implies the need to adopt ethical behavior,” he wrote. “When we talk about food, we must consider the good that more than any other ensures the satisfaction of the fundamental right to life and the basis of the dignified sustenance of each person.”

Food waste, Francis said, “shows an arrogant disregard for everything that, in social and human terms, lies behind food production.” 

“Throwing food away means failing to value the sacrifice, labor, transport, and energy costs involved in bringing quality food to the table,” he wrote. “It means disregarding all those who work hard every day in the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors to provide food that was lost or wasted and did not achieve its laudable purpose.”

The pope said activists “cannot continue to cite world population growth as the cause of the earth's inability to feed everyone sufficiently.” The problems of global hunger, he claimed, lie with “the lack of concrete political will to redistribute the earth’s goods.”

Beyond investing financial resources and time to solve the food waste problem, Francis said the issue should be addressed by “strengthen[ing] our conviction that wasted food is an affront to the poor.”

“[I] would like to stress this,” Pope Francis added, “that the food we throw away is unjustly taken from the hands of those who lack it. From those who have a right to daily bread because of their inviolable human dignity.”

The Holy Father said he was “deeply grateful” to the U.N. and FAO for its food-related efforts. 

The FAO says on its website that the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for “halving per-capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along production and supply chains.”

Those reductions, the agency said, bring “tangible benefits for people and planet.”

German bishops conclude tense gathering with all eyes on Synod on Synodality in Rome

Bishop Georg Bätzing addresses journalists on Sept 28, 2023. / Credit: Martin Rothweiler/EWTN Germany

CNA Newsroom, Sep 29, 2023 / 10:45 am (CNA).

As German bishops wrapped up their plenary meeting on Thursday with a final press conference amid tensions over same-sex blessings and a whole host of underlying issues, the focus was clear: All eyes were turned toward the fraught relationship with Rome and the forthcoming Synod on Synodality. 

Bishop George Bätzing of Limburg, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, took public issue with the apostolic nuncio in Germany, Archbishop Nikola Eterović, for reminding the German bishops of statements by Pope Francis on anthropology, including gender ideology. 

Citing Pope Francis, the papal ambassador had addressed the German prelates at their plenary assembly with a reminder it was “necessary to reject ideological colonization, including gender ideology” while emphasizing “that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, should be respected in their dignity and welcomed with respect.”

When asked by CNA Deutsch about this reminder, Bätzing on Sept. 28 accused the pope’s envoy to Germany of engaging in a culture war with terms such as “gender ideology” or “ideological colonization.”

 “And when the Church engages in a culture war, it will always lose,” he said.

Bätzing used the German term for culture war — “Kulturkampf.” Given its bitter historical context, this is a loaded concept, amid the current concerns over the German Synodal Way, including its demand for blessing homosexual unions.

The alternative to a culture war, Bätzing added, was “not adaptation, not simply agreeing to everything and going along with everything,” but “the ecclesial principle” of “discernment of spirits.”

“This is precisely what we have tried to do in the Synodal Way,” the bishop claimed. 

“The spirit of the times — ‘Zeitgeist’ — is the spirit of the world. Signs of the times are signs that God gives to people through culture, through a current development [movement], so that we can better understand what the Gospel wants.”

The president of the German bishops’ conference added: “We have to differentiate.”

Asked by EWTN Germany program director Martin Rothweiler about irritation caused by individual bishops moving forward on issues such as the blessing of homosexual unions openly defying the Vatican, Bätzing said: “Many more believers are irritated that the Church is not moving on this issue.” 

Diversity, not division?

While Bätzing used the opportunity to double down on his approach, it is clear that not everyone in the Church in Germany shares his vision. For instance, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg has frequently sounded alarms over doctrinal drift. His concerns mirror those of a minority of other bishops.

Augsburg Bishop Bertram Meier, who will attend the synod in Rome, offered a nuanced view on Thursday, stressing the need for the “wealth of different positions, opinions, and creative ideas.” 

Yet, the prudent prelate warned that diversity should not become division. “I also wish that from the diversity of opinions no threats stand, but that we discover the richness of what catholicity means,” Meier remarked.

Amid this diverse cacophony, Bätzing doubled down on his stance, declaring: “We are in a phase in the Church where perhaps it is not security that is the unifying and stabilizing element but rather a dynamic in certain directions.”

Conscious of mounting tensions and open defiance around issues like the blessing of same-sex unions, the assembly in Wiesbaden served as a charged prelude to more significant debates on Church governance and hot-button issues.

With the Synod on Synodality on the immediate horizon, the Catholic world will watch how Germany’s controversial Synodal Way integrates — or collides — with the global Catholic event. Bätzing’s assertion that “a dynamic in certain directions” holds the Church together now casts its shadow onto the upcoming synod.

Celibacy is not a direct cause of sexual abuse, Jesuit expert says

Father Hans Zollner. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Father Hans Zollner, a German priest and an expert in the fight against sexual abuse in the Church, said in a Sept. 26 interview with Infovaticana that celibacy is not a direct cause of this evil.

Celibacy and homosexuality

The psychologist, who also holds a doctorate in theology, said that “celibacy is not a direct cause of abuse; what can become a risk factor is a ministry poorly lived and not fully accepted.” 

“All scientific reports, including those commissioned by non-Church institutions, conclude that celibacy in itself does not lead to abuse. Therefore, it is wrong to say that with the abolition of celibacy there would no longer be cases of abuse in the Catholic Church,” he emphasized.

The former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, from which he resigned in March, said that “sexual abuse arises above all from an abuse of power that someone takes advantage of.” 

“These reports conclude, and this is what I also maintain, that without a solid human formation or a healthy, integral life and working in community, a celibate life can lead to abuse,” he said. “If the priest does not have human, spiritual, and work equilibrium, inner emptiness and desires that are not well integrated can lead him to commit abuse.”

The priest and director of the Institute of Anthropology at the Gregorian University in Rome noted that “scientific studies indicate that it cannot be considered that there is a monocausal relationship that explains the relationship between homosexuality and abuse.”

“The human person is complex and many factors influence one’s behavior. Additionally, many male child molesters do not identify exclusively as homosexual,” he explained.

“The 2011 John Jay Report in the United States refers to them as ‘occasional abusers,’ that is, they abused those closest to them, who at that time were mostly boys. But the figures from recent years show that since there have been more altar girls and co-ed schools there has been more abuse of girls,” he noted.

In May 2011, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops presented the study “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010,” conducted by a team of researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice from the City University of New York.

The report concluded that “there was no single cause or predictor of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. The report added that situational factors and opportunity to abuse played a significant role in the onset and continuation of abusive acts.”

Abuser profile and seminary formation

Regarding the profile of the abuser, the Jesuit said that there is not only one “and there can be many different reasons that lead a person to commit abuse. We can say that there are behavioral and psychological patterns that are repeated in the profile of abusers within the Church. I would highlight four: the narcissistic abuser, the obsessive, the insecure, and the true pedophile in the sense of the psychiatric definition.”

Regarding seminary formation, the German priest noted that this “is key. It is necessary that at this very important stage of their lives they not only acquire knowledge but also skills. They must learn everything necessary to lead a healthy life at all levels and develop their future priestly ministry well.”

Victims and abusers

Regarding the impact of abuse on victims, Zollner commented that “it can have very serious consequences on a person’s faith. Abuse can also be of a spiritual nature and can cause the victim to question his relationship with God and the Church.”

“I believe that victims and survivors should surround themselves with those who listen to them and understand them, people who seek justice and who can put them in contact with professionals from different fields who can help them,” he recommended.

After emphasizing that financial compensation is important for the victims, the Jesuit said that this “is not the main desire. What many, or the vast majority of victims of sexual abuse and other types of abuse want, is for Church representatives to listen to them. They want to talk and express what happened to them, their rage and anxiety.”

As for abusers, the expert said that they should be judged in civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions and, “as Pope Francis has said in some instances, they should not return to their ministry or have contact with minors.”

“In any case, they must be helped to find a meaningful way of life that does not endanger others. They must be supervised, including psychological evaluation, therapy, and spiritual accompaniment,” he continued.

Zollner also emphasized that “the Church must be willing to do what is necessary to ensure that perpetrators of abuse and those that cover up for them are punished fairly and in a way that prevents further abuse in the future.”

After commenting that the institute he directs offers various programs for training in these issues, the German priest said that some emblematic cases involving Jesuits such as those in Barcelona and Bolivia or the former Jesuit Marko Rupnik “have had an impact on the Society of Jesus and on the credibility of the order, as happens in any case of abuse. I noticed it already in 2010 when the first news broke in Germany at a Jesuit school in Berlin which led to a great flood of news about abuse.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Celebrations planned for 30th anniversary of Vatican Observatory’s Arizona telescope

The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) on Mount Graham in southern Arizona. / Credit: Vatican Observatory

CNA Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) on Mount Graham in southern Arizona celebrated its 30th anniversary this month, and the observatory has several days worth of celebrations planned for this weekend. 

The VATT is a relatively recent extension of the Vatican Observatory, which has roots dating to 1582, making it one of the oldest active astronomical observatories in the world. The observatory was re-founded in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, who intended to reinforce the Catholic Church’s support of science. 

Originally located near St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Vatican Observatory moved to Castel Gandolfo under Pope Pius XI due to light pollution from the city. In 1981, again due to growing light pollution, the observatory launched another research center under the famously dark Arizona skies. 

The VATT, which is paid for by private donations, is today located on a mountaintop in rural Arizona about 200 miles southeast of Phoenix. The complex consists of the Alice P. Lennon Telescope and the Thomas J. Bannan Astrophysics Facility. The telescope saw “first light” on Sept. 18, 1993, the observatory said.

The observatory’s headquarters remain at Castel Gandolfo, a town just outside Rome and the location of the summer residence of the popes. 

Chris Graney, an adjunct scholar at the Vatican Observatory, previously told CNA that Catholics can take pride in the fact that their Church embraces science, and promotes and encourages the kind of research that gets published “in the best scientific journals.” 

He also noted that the priests working at the VATT are following in the footsteps of other Catholic scientists who have contributed to our knowledge about the universe, including Father Georges Lemaître, the originator of the Big Bang theory. 

The observatory’s facilities on Mount Graham have been involved in numerous scientific discoveries over its three decades of operation. Astronomers at the VATT continue to discover new heavenly bodies, many of which end up bearing the names of Catholics.

The featured guest and speaker for the VATT’s 2023 weekend of celebration is Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., who flew on four Space Shuttle missions, served as NASA administrator from 2009 to 2017, and has described himself as a “practicing Christian.” The event will be hosted by Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, Vatican Observatory director and Vatican Observatory Foundation president.

Celebration events include a reservation-only gala dinner at the Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, Tucson, at which Bolden will speak, on Sept. 29. On Sept. 30, Vatican Observatory astronomers Father Christopher Corbally, SJ, and Father Pavel Gabor, SJ, will give a tour of the observatory. 

Set for Oct. 1 is a memorial Mass for Father George V. Coyne, SJ, past director of the Vatican Observatory, at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Tucson. And finally, on Oct. 2, the VATT will be featured at the Public Evening Lecture Series of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, with panelists discussing the telescope’s history and future.

The observatory recently announced that thanks to a grant from the Thomas Lord Charitable Trust, the VATT will be fully robotized in 2024, enabling its remote operation from anywhere in the world.

Catholic gym trains members to become ‘warriors against the evil one’

Coach Joe Enabnit (far left) with members from the St. Michael Barbell Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. / Credit: Joe Enabnit

CNA Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

In 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic and a storm wreaked damage on his town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Joe Enabnit opened St. Michael Barbell Club in what he calls “a leap of faith.”

The gym’s mission is “to make strength training accessible and compatible with Catholic life, to spread the practice of strength training as a means of spiritual growth,” all while integrating fitness and prayer life and offering the work done in the gym up to God.

The St. Michael Barbell Club located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: Joe Enabnit
The St. Michael Barbell Club located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: Joe Enabnit

Enabnit, an experienced fitness coach, spoke with CNA about how the gym runs, how faith is incorporated into its mission, and what he hopes his members are taking away from being a part of this community.

Enabnit explained that in 2020 he was working at a gym that closed due to the pandemic. Since he had a gym in his basement, he decided to start training people himself. Since all gyms were closed in the area, word quickly spread about what he was doing and his home gym soon became overcrowded.

Then, on Aug. 10, 2020, a “derecho” hit Cedar Rapids, causing catastrophic damage. A derecho is characterized by a widespread, long-lived wind storm, and for the city of Cedar Rapids, it brought 140 mph winds that lasted for more than 45 minutes.

Once the storm passed and people came outside, trees were uprooted, cars and fences were destroyed, every single traffic signal in the city was damaged, power was out for more than a week, and three people had lost their lives.

That was when Enabnit realized that being physically fit was not only beneficial for one’s own health, it could also be used to serve the community.

“Being physically fit meant that all day long, we could help people,” he said. “And that was what we did for three weeks after that, day in and day out, six, eight hours, cleaning up people’s yards, helping people get their stuff together, taking food and ice to people because there was no electricity for several weeks.”

Enabnit continued: “It clicked for me and a lot of guys that there was more to this working out gym thing than just … a hobby. It wasn’t just about looking good, feeling good. It was an opportunity to participate in the ministry of being a member of a community where people can help each other.”

On Sept. 29, the feast of the archangels, St. Michael Barbell Club officially opened in a new, rented space. It’s an open gym where members pay a monthly membership fee and can work out whenever they like. Enabnit explained that members receive a key so they can let themselves in to work out whenever is best for them. They also use an app to help track their progress and view their workout program. For those in need of a more hands-on approach or support, Enabnit offers personal training as needed. 

Members also have their spiritual needs met by praying the rosary and the Angelus together, plus there are several priests who are members of the gym who hear confessions at the gym and give blessings.

“It’s not a marketing gimmick. We’re all serious about this Catholic stuff,” Enabnit said.

The St. Michael Barbell Club located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: Joe Enabnit
The St. Michael Barbell Club located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: Joe Enabnit

The longtime trainer shared how he views the relationship between the spiritual life and the fitness life.

“For some people, maybe they’ve been addicted to food or they’ve been addicted to drugs or alcohol and they need to find some sort of outlet for their addictive personality that allows them to respect their body rather than destroy it.”

“Or it’s something where even though they absolutely hate exercising, they know that it’s going to make them a better husband and father, or mom and wife, and it gives them a chance to sort of deny their desire to be lazy and redirect it into something that is bigger than themselves, whether it’s just between them and God or between them and their family,” he said. 

Specifically for the men of the gym, Enabnit emphasizes the idea that it is their “moral obligation” to take care of their bodies and remain physically fit if they are otherwise healthy.

“If you’re otherwise a healthy guy, it is a moral obligation because it allows you to do so much more for your family, for your friends, for your community,” he said. “And if you allow your body to waste away unnecessarily, you’re making it so that you’re not capable and you’re not ready when your family needs you, such as when we have a giant storm that destroys the town.”

Enabnit added: “You don't have to be a gym addict to maintain a high level of physical readiness. All it takes is a few hours a week of taking care of your body. And if you’re not going to do it for yourself, do it for your kids, do it for your wife, do it for your community.”

However, he pointed out that people can use strength training in immoral ways and there can be many temptations.

“There are many temptations with strength training, whether it’s focusing too much on yourself, too much on your body, whether it’s taking drugs to get stronger,” he shared. “Or it can be directed toward positive ends, whether it’s being useful to your family and your community, or personal growth.”

“The spiritual life and the fitness life are very similar to each other. There are many areas of overlap. Just like a prayer life, if you want to be successful with fitness, you have to be consistent.”

“You have to sometimes do things you don’t want to do, whether it’s sticking to a diet or doing a workout when you don’t feel like it,” Enabnit said. “Or in your prayer life, maybe it’s praying a rosary when you’re distracted or when you don’t feel like it … And all of these things that we do with the gym, it’s like training for the spiritual life.”

Enabnit said he believes that “a properly ordered fitness lifestyle is not just compatible with the Catholic faith but can actually help you to grow in your Catholic faith if you direct it toward the proper purposes.”

And why is the gym named after St. Michael the Archangel?

In addition to the gym opening on the feast of the archangels, Enabnit believes every Catholic man and woman is called to be “a warrior against the temptations of the evil one.”

“I want to emphasize the idea that the spiritual life is an ongoing battle, and it’s a battle that we sometimes appear to lose, but that we have to trust that if we keep fighting, we ultimately win,” he explained. “And that’s kind of the spirit of St. Michael because at the end he casts Satan into hell.”

Enabnit hopes that his gym members are “learning useful skills — both for taking care of their bodies as well as the skills that transfer into other areas of life” — and that he can inspire them to step away from the TV screens and constant scrolling on their phones to instead interact with those around them.

“What greater calling is there for a Christian than to see Christ in the person standing right in front of you?” he asked.

The three great archangels of the Bible: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael

Credit: Pexels

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 29, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Many Catholics can, at the drop of a hat, recite the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel — the famous petition to that venerable saint to “defend us in battle” and “cast into hell Satan.” 

In the culture of the Church, Michael is often accompanied by his two fellow archangels — Sts. Gabriel and Raphael — with the three forming a phalanx of protection, healing, and petition for those who ask for their intercession. The Church celebrates the three archangels with a joint feast day on Sept. 29. 

St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel is hailed in the Book of Daniel as “the great prince who has charge of [God’s] people.” 

Michael Aquilina, the executive vice president and trustee of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio, describes Michael among angels as “the one most often named — and most often invoked — and most often seen in history-changing apparitions.”

Devotion to Michael, Aquilina told CNA, “has been with the Church from the beginning. And Michael has been with God’s people since before the beginning of the Church.”

Michael’s history in the Bible is depicted through Daniel, in Jude (in which he battles Satan for possession of Moses’ body), and in Revelation as he “wag[es] war with the dragon” alongside his fellow angels. 

Michael, Aquilina said, was “a supremely important character who was there from the beginning of the story.” Rabbinic tradition holds that Michael was at the center of many of the great biblical dramas even if not explicitly mentioned. 

He was an early subject of veneration in the Church, though Aquilina notes that the Reformation led to a steep decline in devotion to the angels — until the end of the 19th century, when Michael began an “amazing comeback journey” in the life of the Church. 

Following a vision of Satan “running riot” on the planet, “Pope Leo composed three prayers to St. Michael, ranging from short to long,” Aquilina said. “The brief one, he commanded, should be prayed at the end of every Mass.” 

This was a regular feature of the Mass until the Vatican II era, after which it came to an end — though Pope John Paul II in 1994 urged Catholics to make the prayer a regular part of their lives.

“St. Michael is there for us in the day of battle, which is every day,” Aquilina said.

The St. Michael Prayer: St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the divine power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

St. Gabriel the Archangel

Gabriel appears regularly in Scripture as a messenger of God’s word, both in the Old and New Testaments. Daniel identifies Gabriel as a “man” who came “to give [him] insight and understanding,” relaying prophetic answers to Daniel’s entreaties to God. 

In the New Testament, Luke relays Gabriel’s appearances to both Zechariah and the Virgin Mary. At the former, he informs the priest that his wife, Elizabeth, will soon conceive a child; at the latter he informs Mary herself that she will do the same. The two children in question, of course, were respectively John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. 

Christian tradition further associates Gabriel with the apostle Paul’s reference in his First Letter to the Thessalonians to the “archangel’s call” and “the sound of the trumpet of God.”

“Judgment will begin with the archangel’s call and the sound of the horn,” Aquilina told CNA. “Thus we hear often of Gabriel’s trumpet.”

Media workers in particular have “good professional reasons to go to Gabriel,” Aquilina said.

“Since he is the Bible’s Great Communicator — the great teller of Good News — he is the natural patron of broadcasters and all those who work in electronic media,” he said. 

“For the same reason, he’s the patron saint of preachers ... but also of postal workers, diplomats, and messengers.”

The St. Gabriel Prayer: O Blessed Archangel Gabriel, we beseech thee, do thou intercede for us at the throne of divine Mercy in our present necessities, that as thou didst announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation, so through thy prayers and patronage in heaven we may obtain the benefits of the same, and sing the praise of God forever in the land of the living. Amen.

St. Raphael the Archangel

Lesser-known among the three great archangels, Raphael’s mission from God “is not obvious to the casual reader” of the Bible, Aquilina said. Yet his story, depicted in the Book of Tobit, is “something unique in the whole Bible.” In other depictions of angels, they come to Earth only briefly, to deliver a message or to help God’s favored people in some way. 

“Raphael is different,” Aquilina said. “He stays around for the whole story, and by the end he’s become something more than an angel ... he’s become a friend.”

In Tobit, Raphael accompanies Tobias, the son of the book’s namesake, as he travels to retrieve money left by his father in another town, helping him along the way and arranging for his marriage to Sarah. 

The biblical account “has in every generation provided insight and consolation to the devout,” Aquilina said. 

Notably, Raphael deftly uses the natural world to work God’s miracles: “What we would ordinarily call catastrophes — blindness, multiple widowhood, destitution, estrangement — all these become providential channels of grace by the time the threads of the story are all wound up in the end.”

“Raphael is patron of many kinds of people,” Aquilina said. “Of course, he’s the patron of singles in search of a mate — and those in search of a friend. He is the patron of pharmacists because he provided the salve of healing. He is a patron for anyone in search of a cure.” 

He is also the patron saint of blind people, travelers, sick people, and youth. 

“Raphael’s story,” Aquilina said, “remains a model for those who would enjoy the friendship of the angels.”

Prayer to St. Raphael: St. Raphael, of the glorious seven who stand before the throne of Him who lives and reigns, Angel of health, the Lord has filled your hand with balm from heaven to soothe or cure our pains. Heal or cure the victim of disease. And guide our steps when doubtful of our ways. Amen.

Alleged Rupnik victim: Many of the abused women have never received help

Father Marko Rupnik / Credit: Centroaletti, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 28, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Italian professor Fabrizia Raguso, one of the original members of the Loyola Community and an alleged victim of Father Marko Rupnik, whom she met in 1990, explained the reasons that led her and the other signatories to publish an open letter following a report by the Diocese of Rome on the Aletti Center, founded by the Slovenian priest in the Eternal City.

“I personally cannot sit still and wait for everything to be decided behind our backs, without being informed of anything and without being allowed to participate in [how things turn out for us],” Raguso said in an interview with La Nueva Brújula Cotidiana.

“Although I have already requested and received the indult [to leave] and therefore I am completely freed from the community [Loyola], I nevertheless feel a responsibility, both civil and ecclesial, so that everything that has happened in these 30 years comes to light and justice is done,” she explained.

“Many of the sisters are still in quite bad shape and have never received any help, neither material nor psychological. The others who signed with me, in some way, with certainly personal nuances, feel the same,” she said.

Rupnik, who has been in charge of Lenten meditations for the Vatican Curia, is co-founder of the Loyola Community with Ivanka Hosta in Slovenia in the 1980s and where he allegedly abused adult nuns.

After a preliminary investigation entrusted to the Society of Jesus, the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) “determined that the incidents in question should be considered beyond the statute of limitations and therefore closed the case at the beginning of October of this year 2022,” according to a statement from the Jesuits dated Dec. 2, 2022.

The open letter from Rupnik’s victims

A group of alleged victims of Rupnik, who has been expelled from the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), published an open letter Sept. 19 in which they expressed their outrage and consternation following the report of the Diocese of Rome on the Aletti Center.

The letter, published in seven languages, is signed by several women who were part of the Loyola Community, such as Raguso, who is an assistant professor of psychology at the Portuguese Catholic University of Braga; Mira Stare, doctor in theology from the University of Innsbruck; Gloria Branciani, graduate in philosophy; Vida Bernard, graduate in theology; Mirjam Kovac, doctor in canon law; and Jožica Zupančič, doctor in missiology.

“The events and communications that have taken place in recent days: the private audience, later made public through images that appeared on the web, granted by the pope to Maria Campatelli, former nun of the Loyola Community and current president of the Aletti Center; and the statement made public today with the final report of the canonical visit made to the community of the Aletti Center, leave us speechless, without a voice to shout our consternation, our outrage,” says the letter, whose first addressee is the Holy Father.

The letter also charges that the report from the Diocese of Rome “ridicules the pain of the victims, as well as that of the entire Church, mortally wounded by such ostentatious arrogance.”

Rupnik and Hosta ‘are truly dangerous’

In the interview with La Nueva Brújula Cotidiana, Raguso noted that the signatories of the open letter feel “responsible for all the other people who may still be involved in Rupnik and Ivanka’s plots, especially if they are young.”

“In addition to Rupnik’s cunning ways of insinuating [himself] into civil, cultural, and ecclesial life, Ivanka has always continued to look for ‘vocations.’ She was concerned that not only was the community not growing but that many had left over time,” Raguso said.

The Italian professor warned that Rupnik and Hosta “are truly dangerous; they must be stopped definitively. Now, faced with this clumsy but also arrogant attempt to rehabilitate Rupnik and the Aletti Center, we feel that waiting for truth and justice from the ecclesial authorities was a waste of time.”

“We had to take a decisive step: Writing an open letter and putting our names and academic titles was a way to give a face and a name to the victims and counteract the preconceived idea that victims are ‘vulnerable’ because they lack awareness or are little educated,” she explained.

After emphasizing that “in the spiritual life, abuse destroys the relationship of the abused person with God,” the professor commented that after the abuse she has always seen Rupnik “as a true narcissist and with a great desire to assert himself, to gain fame and power; very angry when contradicted.”

Report of the Diocese of Rome on the Aletti Center

On Sept. 18, the Diocese of Rome released a statement about the canonical visit made to the Aletti Center, founded by Rupnik, with the aim of “investigating the dynamics of the association.”

Father Giacomo Incitti, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome and in charge of the investigation, stated in the report that in “the Aletti Center there is a healthy community life, free of any particular critical problem.”

In addition, the visit also examined “the main accusations made against Father Rupnik, especially the one that gave rise to the request for excommunication,” the report states.

“On the basis of the abundant documentary material studied, the visitor has been able to note and, therefore, point out seriously anomalous procedures, the examination of which has generated well-founded doubts even about the request for excommunication itself,” states the report from the Diocese of Rome.

Rupnik was briefly excommunicated in 2019 for absolving in confession an accomplice of a sin against the Sixth Commandment.

“I believe that a Church so torn by these plots lacking clarity will not be able to endure much longer. It sincerely pains me that the bishops still do not understand that hiding evil destroys the Church; it doesn’t preserve it at all,” Raguso concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Oklahoma archbishop decries execution of Anthony Sanchez as ‘archaic’

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley. / null

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 28, 2023 / 17:22 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City on Thursday called the execution of convicted murderer Anthony Sanchez, which took place a week ago, “fundamentally at odds with the culture of life the state of Oklahoma proclaims to be building.”

Sanchez was convicted of the 1996 rape and murder of 21-year-old University of Oklahoma student Juli Busken, KOCO5 reported. He died Sept. 21 at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, about a 130-mile drive from Oklahoma City. 

“Today the state of Oklahoma has once again delivered what it deems ‘justice’ with the execution of Anthony Sanchez. No matter how heinous a crime a person commits, they do not forfeit their human dignity bestowed upon them by God, the author of life,” Coakley, who often speaks out against the death penalty, said in a Sept. 28 statement. 

Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, despite enacting several anti-abortion measures in the largely conservative state, lifted a state moratorium on the death penalty in 2020. He has presided over 10 executions since taking office four years ago, as many as took place during the six years between 2013 and 2019. 

“This archaic punishment is fundamentally at odds with the culture of life the state of Oklahoma proclaims to be building,” Coakley continued. 

“I implore all people of goodwill to join me in advocating for an end to the death penalty in Oklahoma and instead working to achieve actual justice that respects human dignity and prioritizes healing the wounds of grief and loss. Please join me in praying for the soul of Juli Busken, her family, Anthony Sanchez, his family, and the corrections staff involved in carrying out the execution.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, reflecting an update promulgated by Pope Francis in 2018, describes the death penalty as “inadmissible” and an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” (No. 2267). The change reflects a development in Catholic doctrine in recent years. 

St. John Paul II, calling the death penalty “cruel and unnecessary,” encouraged Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” The bishops of the United States have spoken frequently in favor of life sentences for convicted murderers, even those who have committed heinous crimes.

Coakley’s statement upon Sanchez’s death was similar to the one he released in July after Oklahoma executed convicted murderer Jemaine Cannon, who stabbed a 20-year-old mother of two to death. Coakley sits on the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. 

Oklahoma was the first jurisdiction in the world to adopt lethal injection as an execution method, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Since 1976, Oklahoma is the state with the highest number of executions per capita with a total of 112 executions, according to Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), a national advocacy organization that demonstrates against the death penalty. 

Capital punishment in Oklahoma has come under scrutiny and criticism in recent years, especially after a botched execution in 2021 during which John Marion Grant began convulsing and vomiting after being administered midazolam, the first drug in a three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections. Grant’s execution was itself the first in the state since the botched execution of Charles Frederick Warner in 2015.

One-third of St. Louis Catholic schools face possible closure 

Credit: Wuttichai jantarak/Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 28, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of St. Louis may close more than 25 Catholic elementary schools amid a major restructuring plan that has already closed and merged many parishes. 

Roughly one-third of the 80 Catholic parish elementary schools in the Archdiocese of St. Louis will meet with representatives from the Office of Catholic Education and Formation and their Episcopal Vicar to consult on their current and future status, the archdiocese announced Sept. 27.

The schools being met with were chosen based on enrollment numbers, demographic trends, parish and school financial strength, and proximity to neighboring Catholic parish elementary schools, the announcement continued. 

“While some Catholic parish elementary schools may be recommended by the parishes to close, others will enter a feasibility analysis phase,” the archdiocese, led by Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski, said. 

Throughout October, the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education and Formation and archdiocesan Episcopal Vicars will meet with pastors to discuss “the long-term sustainability of their parish elementary schools.”

“These meetings will be consultative in nature, and pastors will share and consider this information with parish and school leadership. Once this process is complete, pastors will return recommendations concerning their parish elementary schools to Archbishop Rozanski, much as they would under normal archdiocesan procedure,” the announcement continued. 

“Pastors who believe their schools are sustainable long-term will be asked to consider their current processes, develop a feasibility plan, and engage in strategic planning efforts to create strong, viable Catholic elementary schools.”

The archdiocese said it expects to announce school changes in early December — possibly later for some schools — to be implemented for the 2024-2025 school year. The archdiocese previously said that in response to requests to raise teachers’ salaries, they are “looking at a new compensation model for our teachers to take effect for the 2023-24 academic year.”

St. Louis is not one of the country’s largest dioceses but has historically had a disproportionate number of students in its Catholic schools. As recently as last year, 38% of St. Louis’ Catholic elementary school-age children were in a Catholic school compared with 13% nationally, and 31% of Catholic high school-age children are in a Catholic school compared with 10% nationally.

Three Catholic schools in the archdiocese closed earlier this year — St. Rose Philippine Duchesne in Florissant, St. Mark in south St. Louis County, and Good Shepherd in Hillsboro. Also closed was Barat Academy, an independent Catholic high school in Chesterfield, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Closures for two other high schools — Rosati-Kain for girls and St. Mary’s for boys — were announced, but supporters raised enough money to keep the schools open independently. 

Existing Catholic school building structures in the archdiocese are at roughly 65% capacity and, due to the archdiocese’s expansive footprint, many schools are “facing increased costs that are affecting tuition, declining enrollment often based on geography, increased building maintenance needs, and parishes that are unable to subsidize the cost of a school,” the archdiocese said. 

The consultative process is part of a larger process of consolidation, branded “All Things New,” which is administered by the Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI). It is very similar to the ones undertaken by CLI in recent years in other major midwestern archdioceses, such as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Numerous factors, including increasing suburbanization and rising crime, have led in recent years to an exodus of people from St. Louis’ historic inner core, where the greatest number of large, historic parishes were clustered. Catholics have been gradually moving west for several decades, away from the city center along the Missouri River and toward the suburbs, leaving parishes in the more urban areas with smaller Catholic populations from which to draw. 

Overall, in 2021, the number of Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis dipped below 500,000 for the first time since the 1960s. The number of parishes would have likely exceeded the number of priests by 2026 without action, according to archdiocesan projections. 

Rozanski’s final plans for the mergers and closures, announced in May, saw roughly 25% of the archdiocese’s parishes close or merge. 

Some Catholics in the archdiocese were critical throughout the All Things New process, in part because of the shakeup of parishes. More than 3,000 Catholics in the archdiocese signed a petition that asked the archbishop to halt the plan last spring, but Rozanski ultimately declined to revoke any of the decrees he made regarding the final plans, leaving the parishes with recourse only to the Vatican.

As a result, at least eight parishes this summer announced plans to send appeals to the Vatican, putting aspects of the mergers planned for the parishes on hold until the Dicastery for the Clergy issues a ruling, which could take several months.

Before making the changes, the archdiocese held 350 listening sessions, with at least one in each of the parishes as they were at the time. It considered feedback from 70,000 Catholics in the archdiocese who participated in a survey. Feedback was also solicited from 18,000 school parents, staff, teachers, donors, and community partners. In addition, the archdiocese held focus groups and talked with civil and business leaders.

Rozanski said the feedback helped structure the final plan, which was approved by the All Things New Planning Committee. The committee included priests, deacons, parish life coordinators, lay leaders, and religious within the archdiocese. In addition to considering the feedback, they also looked into financial data and other information.