Browsing News Entries

What’s behind the ‘woman priest’ Facebook post from the Synod of Bishops?

A screenshot of the image at the Synod of Bishops' Facebook page / null

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A social media stir has greeted the image of a “woman priest,” among several other artistic images, posted to the Synod of Bishops’ Facebook page. Though it is unclear whether the Facebook page noticed the figure, the artwork does come from a Philadelphia gathering of college students that said Holy Orders should be open to women.

“In #Frascati22 our experts are working on the syntheses produced during the local consultation phase,” the Synod of Bishops’ Facebook page said in a Sept. 24 post, referring to the Italian town of Frascati. These gatherings for the Synod of Synodality included “pages and pages full of stories, insights, but also in some cases real works of art. Look at that!”

The Facebook post includes several cropped artworks with the Latin-language watermark of the Synod of Bishops in the upper-left corner.

One image shows five young people holding hands in front of a church, including a woman in the vestments of a priest. She is next to a person holding a microphone and wearing a yellow shirt that says “pride” in rainbow-colored letters. The person with a microphone appears to say “we are the young people of the future and the future is now.” The uncropped image is subtitled “Chain of Discipleship.”

Comments on the Synod of Bishops’ Facebook page zeroed in on the woman in clerical vestments.

“Why is there a woman in a chasuble?” asks one commentator.

“This is epic cringe. Uggh,” says another.

Though the images are unsourced, CNA determined they originate with the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod. The artwork is included, uncropped, in this synod’s May 16 summary report. The images “reflect and precede each of the organizing themes included here,” the report says.

Despite authoritative Catholic teaching that the Church cannot ordain women, the report’s authors recommend that the Church “open doors to women in leadership and Holy Orders.”

In the 1994 document Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, St. John Paul II definitively excluded the possibility of the ordination of women to the priesthood. In 2016 remarks, Pope Francis characterized this as “the final word.”

The Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod drew about 400 participants from 11 Catholic colleges or universities and three non-Catholic universities’ Catholic centers. Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia attended the final plenary session with more than 50 college students and an almost equal number of campus administrators and officers, the report said.

Becky McIntyre, a northwest Philadelphia artist and alumna of St. Joseph’s University, created the images. On her professional website, she said she had been “commissioned as a visual notetaker to facilitate an interactive art installation and create digital synthesized notes of the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod cross-campus listening session event.”

Thierry Bonaventura, a spokesperson of the Synod of Bishops, confirmed to CNA he had seen the reaction to the Facebook post. "This was an example of the contributions we received. Not only [the] texts but also some designs," Bonaventura wrote. "It was an example of what the listening consultation over the world has produced."

CNA also sought comment from McIntyre and the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod.

One of McIntyre’s images summarizes the synod and pictures students against the backdrop of the Philadelphia skyline. One element of local color is included: a small image of Gritty, the mascot of the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers.

It appears to be a visual summary of this synod: 48 listening sessions at 14 universities, 28 interracial sessions, and 27 interreligious meetings. Six young people sit in folding chairs. They are labeled as “Muslim,” “first-year education student,” “physics major,” “CLC leader,” “grad student,” and “Queer.”

The image records several statements, though it is unclear if they are direct quotations from synod participants. “Being Catholic is a crucial part of my identity,” says one. “It’s all about encounter with Christ,” reads another comment.

Other comments seem more critical. “I fear labeling myself Catholic because I don’t want to be thought of as ignorant,” says one. “The only woman leader in my church was in the choir,” said another. “I don’t want my future family to be excluded because I’m gay,” one comment says.

Another synod comment suggests more “coffee dates” with priests, religious, and campus ministers.

In another image, McIntyre appears to depict the Church as a refuge from all the tensions, divisions, and broken bonds of life. Yet another image depicts the threads of various identities, including racial, ethnic, and sexual identities, being woven into a single garment by hands captioned “God is Love.”

The synod’s summary report includes various views in tension or conflict.

Some students found joy in “a strong affiliation with a tradition with deep history in the midst of so much change provides comfort and clarity.” Others cited an “inability to be who you truly are in the church, being unhealthy, hurtful, wrong.” There was consensus on some matters like the need to “be animated by a God who loves recklessly and a Church defined by hospitality.”

Last updated on Sept 28. to include the reaction by the spokesperson of the Synod of Bishops.

Catholic University raises replica of Notre-Dame de Paris truss

A group of volunteers stand in front of a Notre-Dame Cathedral truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. / Patrick G. Ryan

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A full-scale replica of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss creaked gently in the morning sun as dozens of students and volunteers pulled on ropes to raise it above the lawn of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The truss — a roof support — went up just hours before Philippe Villeneuve and Rémi Fromont, chief architects leading the restoration of the historic cathedral, visited the U.S. for the first time since a fire engulfed the medieval church in 2019. 

The architects’ first stop, the university said, would be to see the truss.

The raising was no small feat: the 45-foot-wide by 35-foot-high white oak structure weighs 8,100 pounds. Its creation, the university noted, is also remarkable. Produced using traditional, 800-year-old methods, the hand-hewn truss was created using blueprints of the original.

Together with the educational nonprofit Handshouse Studio and other groups, the university’s School of Architecture and Planning crafted the truss during a 10-day workshop last year as part of the Notre-Dame de Paris Truss Project. A team of timber framers, carpenters, faculty, and students followed French protocol from the Middle Ages in everything from timber harvesting and tools to assembly.

“It’s my understanding that we’re enacting the building and the utilization of a truss that was made with authentic materials and in an authentic construction fashion when the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris was raised in the 12th century,” the university’s president, Peter Kilpatrick, told CNA.

While the creators originally dreamed of gifting the truss to the cathedral, now they are hoping to donate their talents instead — and travel to Paris.

“We’ll be sending American students and craftsmen over there to work with their materials and their supplies,” Sam Merklein, a graduate student studying architecture who is involved with the truss project, told CNA.

Architecture students Juan Soto, Andrew Masison, and Sam Merklein helped build a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica that was raised at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Architecture students Juan Soto, Andrew Masison, and Sam Merklein helped build a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica that was raised at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

In the meantime, the truss has stood on the National Mall — between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol — as well as inside the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Millennium Gate Museum in Atlanta.

Monday marked its fifth exhibition.

Merklein, a 23-year-old from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, called the effort a “symbol of solidarity, from the U.S. to offer to the French their condolences.”

Opening the day with prayer, Bishop John O. Barres of Rockville Centre, New York, a university trustee, called on the intercession of French saints for the rebuilding of not only the cathedral but also the Catholic Church in France.

“This morning we pray in solidarity with Parisians and people around the world who treasure Notre Dame Cathedral’s beautiful expression of the Catholic faith and the Catholic soul in art, architecture, liturgy, and history,” Barres said.

Kilpatrick, together with Andre Finot, the chief communications officer for the cathedral, attended the raising. Afterward, following an ancient tradition, one of the builders scaled the truss to fix a whetting bush, or evergreen, to the top in celebration.

A builder scales the Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica to fix a whetting bush, or evergreen, to the top in celebration at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Patrick G. Ryan
A builder scales the Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica to fix a whetting bush, or evergreen, to the top in celebration at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Patrick G. Ryan

Juan Soto, 24, from Ashburn, Virginia, called the truss’ placement on the university lawn, next to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a “beautiful sight.”

“We all worked on this hands-on, we got to hew the logs as they came in last summer,” said Soto, an architecture student who graduated earlier this year. 

With this project, Kilpatrick said that he hopes that these students come away with a new curiosity. He revealed that he attended Mass at the cathedral in Paris as a young assistant professor during his first trip to France in 1984. 

He explained, today, why he is excited about the truss project.

Catholic University of America President Peter Kilpatrick attends the raising of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Catholic University of America President Peter Kilpatrick attends the raising of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

“It represents one of the most important elements of our university education, and that is that we believe in the integration of the disciplines,” he told CNA. “So knowledge is not isolated in a discipline, it’s not isolated in a time or chronology. Knowledge is part of human understanding of God’s truth for the world and so when you integrate something like history and architecture and our faith and human culture — when you integrate all those things — you’re helping our students and our community understand the continuity of knowledge and the relationship between the disciplines.”

Attorney Trevor O. Resurreccion, 43, traveled from Santa Ana, California, to attend the raising. A donor to the project, he attended the university’s architecture school as an undergraduate.

“I jumped at the opportunity and I thought, what a great way to not only support the school and the students here but also a project that is important — not just for Catholic University, but also for people around the world and, of course, Paris,” he told CNA. 

Attorney Trevor O. Resurreccion, 43, traveled from Santa Ana, California, to attend the raising of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. A donor of the project, he formerly attended the university’s architecture school as an undergraduate. Katie Yoder/CNA
Attorney Trevor O. Resurreccion, 43, traveled from Santa Ana, California, to attend the raising of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. A donor of the project, he formerly attended the university’s architecture school as an undergraduate. Katie Yoder/CNA

Afterward, the cathedral’s Finot, representatives from Handshouse Studio, and Catholic University faculty participated in a panel discussion. The group identified two carpenters present who will help with the efforts to help rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris — after making connections through the truss project.

Marie Brown, executive director of Handshouse Studio, highlighted the beauty of building something the way it was originally fashioned, whether with the truss replica or with the cathedral itself.

“By remaking something in the method it was originally made, the process of that maker, the experience of that maker, is actually embodied,” she said. “The person now picks up the tool — they might not even be familiar with it if they’re a beginner, they might be next to a person who is an expert and get to watch and learn. But then their actual embodiment of that action gets you into the mind of the maker.”

She added: “It suddenly brings out this whole understanding of history in a way that’s so personal.”

A group of students and volunteers pose in front of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Patrick G. Ryan
A group of students and volunteers pose in front of a Notre-Dame de Paris truss replica at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26, 2022. Patrick G. Ryan

Colorado Springs Diocese mourns death of emeritus Bishop Sheridan

Bishop Emeritus Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, who died Sept. 27, 2022. / Diocese of Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs, Colo., Sep 27, 2022 / 16:17 pm (CNA).

Bishop Michael Sheridan, who led the Diocese of Colorado Springs from 2003 to 2021, died Tuesday. He was 77.

The diocese announced his death at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs Sept. 27.

Bishop James Golka, Sheridan’s successor, wrote on Twitter: “Please join me in praying for the repose of his soul. He was a faithful servant until the end.”

Sheridan was born in St. Louis in 1945. He attended Rockhurst College for a year and then Cardinal Glennon College Seminary and Kenrick Seminary. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1971. 

He continued his studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, earning a licentiate, and returned to teach at Kenrick. He was active in the theater group there.

In 1997 Sheridan was consecrated a bishop and appointed an auxiliary of the St. Louis Archdiocese.

In 2001 he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Colorado Springs, and he succeeded as ordinary on Jan. 30, 2003. He retired in 2021 at age 76.

“Among his many achievements during his tenure as bishop of Colorado Springs were the development of a robust vocations program that resulted in the ordination of many new priests for the diocese and the construction of the St. John Henry Newman Chapel and Catholic Student Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs,” the diocese said.

Sheridan also hosted a weekly radio show from 2008 to 2020.

A vigil for Sheridan will be held Oct. 6 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs, and his funeral Mass will be said the following day at the city’s Holy Apostles Church.

Florida bishop calls for prayers ahead of Hurricane Ian

United States Naval Research Laboratory's infrared-gray satellite image of Hurricane Ian. / Public Domain

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

As Hurricane Ian bears down on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg asked for prayers for “protection during the storm.”

In a message emailed to each parish in his diocese and posted on the diocese’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, Parkes offered a prayer of his own.

“Loving God, maker of heaven and earth, protect us in your love and mercy. Send the spirit of Jesus to be with us to still our fears and to give us confidence in the stormy waters. Jesus reassured his disciples by his presence, calmed the storm, and strengthened their faith,” he said.

“Guard us from harm during the storm and renew our faith to serve you faithfully. Give us the courage to face all difficulties and the wisdom to see the ways your Spirit binds us together in mutual assistance,” Parkes prayed. “With confidence, we make our prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

On Tuesday afternoon the Category 3 storm struck western Cuba and headed into the Gulf of Mexico. While the exact path of the hurricane is not yet known, forecasters have issued warnings for the entire Gulf Coast. Current projections are for the storm to hit between Tampa and Ft. Myers on Wednesday.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg is, for now, to the north of the hurricane’s expected path, but dangerous flooding and damaging winds are expected for all of Florida's west coast. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for coastal and low-lying areas.

Tampa officials warned residents on Tuesday to take the hurricane seriously, as first responders are not sent out if winds are higher than 40 mph.

With sustained winds expected to reach 115 mph, and gusts up to 145 mph, the National Hurricane Center warned that “locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

National Hurricane Center's track of Hurricane Ian, expected to make landfall onWednesday. Public Domain
National Hurricane Center's track of Hurricane Ian, expected to make landfall onWednesday. Public Domain

Church in Nicaragua asks for continued prayers for abducted bishop and priests

Bishop Rolando Álvarez / Photo credit: Diocese of Matagalpa

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Matagalpa has asked the faithful to continue praying for its bishop, Rolando Álvarez, the priests, seminarians, and the layman who were arrested and abducted in the middle of the night by the police of the Nicaraguan dictatorship, led by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

In a Sept. 26 Facebook post, the Diocese of Matagalpa asked the faithful to continue “praying for our pastor, Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, priests, and laity who were with him in the Matagalpa chancery until the early hours of Aug. 19” when they were taken away by police.

“Bishop Álvarez, in his pastoral work in the Diocese of Matagalpa, of which he took possession on April 2, 2011, has chosen the preferential option for the poor, the sick, the young, those who suffer adversity, and the rural population, to whom he has shown his closeness through prayer and pastoral visits,” the post said.

“We’re praying for him,” the diocesan post concludes.

Álvarez, along with the others, was prevented by the Ortega riot police from leaving the chancery in Matagalpa from Aug. 4 to Aug. 19, when the police abducted him and took him in the dead of night to Managua, where he remains under house arrest.

According to local media, the prosecutor has supposedly indicted the bishop, but the charges against him are unknown.

On Sept. 15, the European Parliament approved a resolution by a vote of 538 to 16 demanding the immediate release of the bishop.

The night the bishop was taken into custody, other priests, seminarians, and a layman were also arrested and are currently being held in the El Chipote prison, known for torturing opponents of the regime.

Those imprisoned there are Fathers Ramiro Tijerino, José Luis Diaz, Sadiel Eugarrios, and Raúl González; seminarians Darvin Leyva and Melquín Sequeira; and cameraman Sergio Cárdenas, all from the Diocese of Matagalpa.

Another priest who is being held in El Chipote is Father Oscar Benavidez of the Diocese of Siuna.

These prisoners have also reportedly been indicted, but for what crimes it is unknown.

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

Archbishop calls on consecrated to wear religious dress as a ‘revolutionary’ gesture

Archbishop Luis Argüello of Valladolid, Spain / Screenshot, CEE/YouTube

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The archbishop of Valladolid, Spain, Luis Argüello, called it “revolutionary” in our times to make the supernatural present in the streets by wearing in public the clothing proper to consecrated religious or ordained men.

The prelate gave this reflection in his homily for a diaconal ordination, noting that the deacons will wear specific vestments.

“You are going to wear clothing proper to you. A diaconal stole and a dalmatic will be placed on your alb. And you can also wear clerical dress, you can wear a symbol so that it can be seen in the public square that you are men consecrated to the Lord,” the archbishop explained.

“There was a time when the novelty appeared that had to do with our taking off the cassock and the Roman collar. Today there is a time in which surely what is revolutionary, novel, the presence of the supernatural in the streets and squares, is friars wearing a habit, nuns being recognizable, and those of us who have been ordained also being recognizable,” he added.

The archbishop also considered the promises made by deacons at their ordination to be “revolutionary.” 

“Brothers, what these friends are going to promise today is a revolutionary novelty that our world needs,” the prelate said referring to the commitment to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, to be celibate, and to obey.

Argüello explained that praying of the Liturgy of the Hours ensures that “in the Church from morning to night, from sunrise to sunset, the name of the Lord is praised” and warned that “without praise the heart shrinks and without praise the hands close.”

Living the spousal dimension of every human being

Regarding the new deacons’ promise of celibacy, the prelate stressed that it’s a matter of living the “spousal dimension that every man and woman has.”

“How countercultural!” he exclaimed. “At a time of extraordinary trivialization of sexuality, at a time when the spousal dimension seems to have lost its place, you promise to live in celibate love!”

It’s also “a promise to love that wants to open itself up to fruitfulness,” he said, stressing that “the greatest test for your celibacy in this time of the mission of the Church may be the sterility of apostolic works.”

The freedom to love unconditionally

The archbishop of Valladolid also highlighted the promise of obedience to the bishop and his successors in an era dominated by “self-referentiality, of ‘I decide,’ of the right to decide, of the proclamation of rights, without the flip side of rights that is, inevitably, duties.”

With the promise of obedience, deacons place their freedom “in the hands of the Church, so that communion may shine forth and so that freely given freedom may shine forth. The freely given freedom of not seeking ourselves, the freely given freedom of loving without reciprocation, without conditions.”

“It’s a revolutionary proposal to live in God from morning to night, to live in celibate love, to live in obedience,” the archbishop summarized.

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

Religion is ‘interruption,’ not continuity, German bishops’ president says

Bishop Georg Bätzing / Photo credit: Synodaler Weg / Maximilian von Lachner

CNA Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 12:33 pm (CNA).

The president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said that the shortest definition of religion is “interruption,” and that some forms of continuity people seek from religion are “frankly suspect.”

Bätzing spoke in a live-streamed Mass on Tuesday on the occasion of the bishops’ plenary assembly, which is being held in the central German town of Fulda from Sept. 26–29, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

In his homily the bishop of Limburg said, “all too surely asserted continuities, i.e., seamless connections according to the motto ‘that has always been so; that has always been believed so; what was wrong yesterday cannot be right today’ ... are frankly suspect.”

Bätzing spoke of the “great images in which God’s people spelled out their historical experiences with faith and recognized God’s guidance in them.”

The German prelate, who expressed his disappointment in Pope Francis in May, said it was indeed “in our human nature to seek bridges between yesterday and tomorrow, to draw temporal lines and discover meaningful connections — which is often only possible in retrospect. We seek continuity. But the shortest definition of religion is and remains ‘interruption,’ as Johann Baptist Metz put it.”

Metz was an influential German priest and theologian who died in 2019.

This year’s fall plenary meeting of the German bishops is overshadowed by the recent turbulent meeting of the Synodal Way and the abuse report in the Osnabrück diocese with strongly incriminating statements about Bishop Franz-Josef Bode.

Bode announced he refused to resign despite a report published Sept. 20 saying he mishandled abuse cases.

The 71-year-old bishop has been vice president of the German bishops’ conference since 2017. He is also vice president of the German Synodal Way.

He has publicly supported women deacons and the development of a Church ceremony for blessing same-sex unions. At the latest meeting of the Synodal Way, participants voted to change the Church’s teaching on a number of related topics, including homosexuality and the ordination of women.

Church and contraception: Experts expose errors in Pontifical Academy for Life book

null / Image credit: Simone van der Koelen / Unsplash

Denver Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 10:07 am (CNA).

Nine international experts have pointed out in an open letter the serious errors contained in a book published a few weeks ago by the Pontifical Academy for Life, which promotes a change in the Catholic Church’s teaching on the use of contraceptives.

“It is not possible to take good care, give spiritual advice, counsel, and accompany a married couple by applying a pastoral approach that does not take the experience of medical studies into account,” the experts pointed out to the academy.

Proposing that Catholics be able to resort to contraceptives, as the document published by the academy does, “is, beyond a theoretical intellectual exercise, an affirmation that does not take the reality of the studies on the coaching of married couples nor the experience of so many marriages into account.”

The open letter, titled “Pastoral care that does not take into account experience is no longer pastoral care,” was signed by Spanish doctor Jokin de Irala, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Michèle Barbato of Italy, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology; Dr. Jacques Aimé Bazeboso of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, president of the African Federation for Family Action; and Italian physician Maria Boerci, national president of the Italian Confederation of Centers for Natural Fertility Regulation.

Also signing were Italian doctor Paolo Bordin, a specialist in Internal Medicine; Serena Del Zoppo, a gynecologist with experience in natural family planning and infertility, as well as a consultant in Naprotechnology; French physician Isabelle Ecochard, former president of the European Institute for Family Life Education; Belgian doctor Pierre Hernalsteen, a professor with experience in Belgium, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Rwanda; and Italian doctor Furio Pesci, a professor at the Sapienza University of Rome.

The experts’ open letter is a response to the book “Theological Ethics of Life: Scripture, Tradition, Practical Challenges” published this year by the Pontifical Academy for Life by Librería Editora Vaticana, the publishing house of the Holy See.

The book compiles in 528 pages the conferences that were held as part of a theological seminar sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2021 and has an introduction by its president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia.

According to Paglia, the book, which proposes that Catholics may resort to contraceptives, presents a “paradigm shift” in moral theology.

“The text makes a radical change, going, so to speak, from the sphere to the polyhedron,” he said.

The Church’s position on contraceptives ‘hasn’t changed’

The experts in health, fertility, and accompaniment for families lamented that after the publication of the book by the Pontifical Academy for Life, “There has been some confusion in some ecclesial circles and in the media for interpreting this as a change from the Holy See on these issues.”

“But the position of the Catholic Church has not changed,” the experts stressed.

“The proposals in the manuscript are from a group of experts; they do not reflect the position of the academy,” they added.

The experts noted that “St. John Paul II warned against confusing the ‘law of gradualness’ with the ‘gradualness of the law’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations.”

“The law of gradualness supposes that we are all invited to fully live the proposals of the Church, even if we manage to reach them little by little, from our personal capacities and circumstances, counting on grace and being accompanied to overcome difficulties,” they explained.

“Pope Francis guides us along these lines, strongly emphasizing the importance of accompaniment and merciful discernment of the spouses: ‘It is necessary to face all these situations in a constructive way, trying to transform them into an opportunity for a journey towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. It is a matter of welcoming and accompanying them with patience and gentleness’ (Amoris Laetitia, 294).”

For the experts, “the gradualism of the law would mean, on the contrary, that there are different laws for different people and in different circumstances.”

After noting that “pastoral care should take medical knowledge into account,” the experts stressed that “some of us have been working and coaching married couples for 40 years. Our work covers responsible parenthood, their marital sexuality, and during their use of modern natural methods (MNM), in reciprocal respect for their fertility and in permanent dialogue, to favor, space, or avoid pregnancies.”

What we know about contraceptives after 60 years

After six decades of contraceptive use, they said, “the proven results” shed light on “the effects that this ‘new’ pastoral approach would have.”

“In the 1960s, couples were taught that the pill would solve the so-called overpopulation problem. After 1968, women were taught that the pill would protect them from ‘unwanted’ pregnancies and prevent abortions. In the 1970s, artificial insemination techniques were developed to help childless couples to get their ‘desired child.’”

“Later, in the 1980s, it was claimed that the condom would prevent infections and also ‘unwanted’ pregnancies,” they added.

“The result, the breakdown of the family and the coercion of governments, was predicted by the encyclical Humanae Vitae: in addition to the worsening situation of women who were supposed to be ‘liberated’ by these methods and the increase in marriage failures, we are now suffering a ‘demographic winter’ and epidemics of sexually transmitted infections are on the rise,” they lamented.

In these decades, the experts stressed in their open letter, “we have learned and confirmed” that the natural method known as “symptothermal double-check” is “five times more effective than the condom” in preventing pregnancy.

It’s also known that “the current contraceptive pill has, as one of its mechanisms of action, the early elimination of embryos by preventing their implantation,” they pointed out, noting that “many women would not want to use it if they knew that the destruction of an embryo was possible.”

According to the “best study to date on the relationship between the pill and breast cancer, published in The New England Journal of Medicine,” the experts noted, it’s known that “oral contraceptives raise the risk of breast cancer in an epidemic scale.”

“They reduce some types of cancers, but it is not comparable to the risk of breast, liver, and cervical cancer,” they stated.

In addition, “oral contraceptives raise the risk of myocardial infarction [heart attack] and stroke by 60%.”

The use of these substances, they continued, is linked to “an increased risk of depression and suicides and suicide attempts.”

Science has also shown, they added, that methods such as Natural Procreative (NaPro) technology “obtain results similar to those of artificial methods of assisted reproduction, without their bioethical drawbacks and side effects,” including “the problem of all frozen embryos.”

According to the experts, “If only the proposals of Humanae Vitae had been followed, countless deaths from the causes described above could have been avoided in the last 50 years.”

“To question today the pastoral application of Humanae Vitae on the grounds of problems in the use of NFP could lead to one of the greatest public health scandals of all times, because it would affect the health of millions of women,” they warned.

“On the other hand, it would be an unprecedented victory for the pharmaceutical industry that seeks to silence the current medical evidence on the contraceptive pill, in order to continue increasing its business at the expense of women’s health,” they said.

The success of natural methods

The experts said that the use of “modern natural methods promotes marital autonomy; it is effective, environmentally friendly, and healthy,” and they highlighted that over the years their development has presented “increasingly better effectiveness rates, with the help of smartphone applications that include symptom-thermal algorithms with individual teaching and with the support of centers that promote them worldwide with more success and professionalism.”

After noting that those who work in health and family care with natural methods, are accompanying “the grandchildren of the first users of oral contraceptives,” the experts pointed out that “the pastoral approaches proposed by the previously mentioned working group are not new, and have been applied in some places for 60 years, probably because they did not believe in [Humanae Vitae] or because they did not know how to help married couples in other ways or were overwhelmed by the influence that Big Pharma had on the media and on health workers.”

“Now we hear very different voices in our daily practice. Young women — mostly nonbelievers —- are sad, even angry, because they were never told they could live without contraception. Sometimes they have even had to go through an abortion, simply because they blindly trusted those contraceptives,” they lamented.

After discovering the natural methods, they said, the young women “feel good as women again; they feel truly emancipated for the first time, connected to their bodies and sexuality.”

These young women, they continued, “no longer want a pastor who assumes that the ‘ideal’ is not for them, who approves of contraception, minimizes abortion, and considers divorce inevitable. The pastoral approaches that have been applied in many places over the years [have] lost meaning for them because they have endured their physical and psychological consequences. They want to fulfill the dream that the Church has maintained for centuries.”

“Instead of continuing to live in the tow of false hopes of the 60s that are old and have failed, the Church can embrace with more strength the experience and advances achieved by those who work in this field: to have a renewed pastoral role; be a hopeful sign for a youth hungry for the Truth; and who want to live to the fullest their projects as couples,” they said.

For the experts, applying the law of gradualness to family planning “would mean proposing NFP to those who want to space their pregnancies and, if difficulties arise, accompanying them while they resolve their problems so that they can live like others the good news proclaimed by the Church.”

“On the contrary, the gradualism of the law and these ‘new’ proposals would be tantamount to telling them: ‘This ideal is not for you. In your circumstances, use condoms or other contraceptives,’” they said.

The experts also highlighted the need for “a greater commitment so that lay people, health professionals, and universities with a Christian inspiration do more, much more, to facilitate and improve the care of these couples.”

“It is time to abandon the failed paradigms of the sexual revolution,” they pointed out, and stressed that “it is time for the Church to develop a true and renewed pastoral care that is sustainable, following an integral ecology, centered on free and responsible men and women.”

“The Church’s teaching is healthy and promotes public health,” they said, stressing that natural methods favor “dialogue in marriage and respect for the other, in addition to strengthening the couple’s bonds and goals.”

“When they come from love, they increase true love; when they come from freedom, they increase freedom. Our experience and science confirm that it is possible to follow and apply the teachings of the Catholic Church and accompany couples in their specific situations without departing from the teachings of Humanae Vitae,” they concluded.

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

Andrea Bocelli to sing in St. Peter’s Square this Sunday

Andrea Bocelli / Jakub Janecki / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rome Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Andrea Bocelli will sing at the Vatican this Sunday as a special guest for the inauguration of a new light display on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Italian tenor is scheduled to perform on Oct. 2 a song from his new album, set to be released at the end of October.

The performance at 8 p.m. will kick off a two-week nightly video display at the Vatican. From Oct. 2 to Oct. 16, an eight-minute video, “Follow Me: The Life of St. Peter,” will be projected onto the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The video tells the story of the Church’s first pope using video renderings of Renaissance artwork found in the Vatican Museums and inside the basilica. 

It will be shown in Italian with English subtitles on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica every 15 minutes between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. each night during the first two weeks of October.

According to a press release from the Vatican, Bocelli is slated to sing “The First Noël” from his new album A Family Christmas and other songs.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, will also speak at the opening night, along with Italian actor Flavio Insinna and TV presenter Milly Carlucci.

It will not be the first time Bocelli has performed at the Vatican. The internationally renowned artist sang “Ave Maria” and “Panis Angelicus” in St. Peter’s Square in July 2015 for an evening of prayer with Pope Francis.

He also led a children’s choir from Haiti in a surprise performance at the end of one of the pope’s Wednesday audiences in August 2017.

Bocelli performed the hymn for the Great Jubilee of 2000 for St. John Paul II and joined Benedict XVI and 300,000 young Catholics pilgrims in Loreto, Italy, in 2007.

7 things to know about Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s likely new Catholic prime minister

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), speaks at a press conference at the party electoral headquarters overnight on Sept. 26, 2022. in Rome. Italy’s national elections on Sept. 25 saw voters poised to elect Meloni, a Catholic mother, as the country's first female prime minister. / Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Italy’s national elections on Sept. 25 ended with Giorgia Meloni, a Catholic mother, poised to become the country’s first female prime minister. 

In the snap elections — called after former prime minister Mario Draghi’s unity government collapsed due to economic and military tensions — Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party captured the most votes at around 26%, skyrocketing from a roughly 4% share four years ago. 

Before and amid her party’s electoral victory, Meloni’s views have been described in the media as “far-right” and even as “fascist.” Here’s what you need to know about her:

She’s not the prime minister yet.

It’s worth noting that although Meloni’s party garnered the most votes in the recent election, it’s not yet certain that she will be Italy’s prime minister. 

It is up to Italian President Sergio Mattarella to nominate someone from the winning coalition as prime minister, a process that could take several weeks. The nominee is likely to be Meloni, who will then be tasked with assembling a majority in Parliament. Brothers of Italy was the leading party in a center-right coalition that now must form an alliance to govern. 

Meloni comes from a working-class Roman background. She worked various jobs, including as a waitress and as a nanny, before becoming a full-time politician. In 2008, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appointed her the country’s minister for youth, the youngest person to be appointed to that position. 

She made her faith a major part of her campaign.

Meloni has described herself in speeches as a Christian and has publicly expressed her admiration for St. John Paul II. She keeps a photo of John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta on her desk and has expressed a desire to meet Pope Francis in person — a virtual certainty when and if she becomes prime minister. 

“I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am a Christian, and you can’t take that away from me,” Meloni said in a speech in 2019. 

Meloni — who was raised by a single mother in Rome — now has a daughter with her partner Andrea Giambruno, though the two have never married. 

She supports several pro-life and pro-family policies.

In a speech to the Vox party in Spain earlier this year, Meloni summarized her pro-life and pro-family platform: “Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology, yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death.”

In Italy, abortion is legal through the first 90 days of pregnancy, with exceptions after that point for fetal anomalies and risks to the mother’s life. Access to legal abortions is limited, however, due to widespread opposition from Italian doctors — 68.4% as of 2017, according to the Italian Ministry of Health — who oppose performing abortions due to conscience objections. 

Meloni has not said she will attempt to change Italy’s abortion laws. She has, however, proposed pro-life and family policies to encourage motherhood, including free child-care services. She has cited Italy’s extremely low birth rate as a problem.

“I want our families to have children,” she said in a speech to supporters in Milan earlier this month. 

She has committed to opposing LGBTQ policies and gender ideology.  

Meloni has made her views against same-sex unions widely known, referring to LGBTQ content as “woke ideology” and promising to continue opposing policies allowing homosexual couples to adopt or have children through surrogacy. 

Italy has legalized same-sex civil unions but it does not afford them the same legal protections as it does marriages. Surrogacy and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are banned for same-sex couples, for example, who must travel outside the country for such procedures. Meloni proposed an amendment in 2018 to extend the surrogacy ban to same-sex couples who seek it abroad, which was not approved.

The amendment called surrogacy an “example of the commercialization of the female body and of the very children who are born through such practices, who are treated like commodities.”

Meloni said earlier this year that her opposition to such policies is not because she is “homophobic” but that she believes every child has the right to have a mother and a father for “stability.” 

She cited her personal experience growing up in a single-parent home, saying, “I lived [in] a family condition that [made] me see this.”

Meloni is strongly against illegal immigration.

Meloni has made it clear that she opposes the practice of migrants sailing from places such as North Africa to the Italian shore. In August, Meloni posted a video on social media saying she would introduce a naval blockade to patrol the Mediterranean and return migrants to their countries of origin, NPR reported. 

Meloni’s anti-immigration stance puts her somewhat at odds with Pope Francis, who has frequently spoken about the need to welcome migrants and refugees. 

Meloni is a Eurosceptic, and supports Ukraine in its war with Russia.

Meloni has been critical of the European Union (EU), saying her first priority is to defend Italy’s national interests.

“We want a different Italian attitude on the international stage, for example in dealing with the European Commission,” Meloni said in an interview with Reuters this month on her party’s Eurosceptic views.

Still, Meloni has taken pains to assure world leaders that Italy would not leave the EU. 

“This does not mean that we want to destroy Europe, that we want to leave Europe, that we want to do crazy things,” she said. “It simply means explaining that the defense of the national interest is important to us as it is for the French and for the Germans.”

Since Russia’s invasion in February, Meloni has come out as a strong defender of Ukraine, promising to continue supplying arms to the country.

Meloni has also taken a hardline stance against China and called on Italian athletes to boycott Beijing in the 2008 Olympics.

She has rejected the “fascist” and “far-right” labels often attributed to her.

Meloni has been branded as “far-right” and “fascist” by media outlets, pro-abortion and LGBTQ activists, and world leaders — a label she has rejected. 

“Everything that defines us is now an enemy for those who would no longer like us to have an identity,” Meloni said in a widely shared speech on Sept. 26. “Like it or not … we will defend God, country, and family.” 

In an interview with Reuters last month, she dismissed any suggestion that her party was nostalgic for the fascist era and distanced herself from comments she made in 1996, as a teenager, which some critics took as a praising Benito Mussolini. 

Meloni has received a warm welcome from other conservative European leaders, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who shares her traditional family views and immigration policy.