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Abortion activists at Florida university charged with assaulting police officers

Ian Dinkla, 21, and Bryn Taylor, 26, abortion activists and students at the University of Florida are arrested by university police. / Created Equal

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2023 / 16:20 pm (CNA).

Two pro-abortion activists were caught on video stealing pro-life signs and then violently resisting arrest on March 10 at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

The activists, identified by the police as Ian Dinkla, 21, and Bryn Taylor, 26, were arrested by officers from the University of Florida Police Department. They now face violent felony charges including “battery of a law enforcement officer” and “resisting an officer with violence.” They will stand trial in Alachua county court in Florida. 

The signs stolen by the abortion activists included photos of aborted babies and were posted on campus as part of a temporary demonstration by the pro-life group Created Equal. The group had received permission to post their display from the University of Florida administration. 

An Ohio-based group, Created Equal trains and sends students to colleges and high schools across the East Coast to raise awareness of the reality of abortion.

According to the police arrest report, Dinkla repeatedly shoved a police officer in attempts to resist arrest while Taylor struck the officer over the head with a bullhorn and punched him in the face. 

The video, posted by Created Equal, first shows Dinkla grabbing a large pro-life sign and walking off with it to put in his car.

Video taken later that day shows Dinkla approaching another pro-life display and then being confronted by a plainclothes law enforcement officer who identifies himself as “Detective Tarafa with the University of Florida Police Department.”

Dinkla becomes noncompliant and shoves the detective away, saying “stop this person, I’m being attacked.”

As Dinkla can be seen resisting arrest, Taylor intervenes, striking the detective, jumping on him, and shouting profanities.

According to the police arrest record, Taylor “struck Det. Tarafa in the back of his head with a bullhorn. Det. Tarafa then attempted to detain the Defendant [Taylor] and was punched in the face with a closed fist.”

During the altercation additional uniformed police officers converged on the scene. Dinkla is recorded shouting for other students to intervene, saying: “You fools, you get involved! Bystander effect!”

After both students have been subdued Taylor continues to shout at the police, saying; “Are you f---ing insane?” and “You’re defending people who come here and harass people?”

Taylor is now facing two felony charges for battery of a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence, along with a misdemeanor charge of resisting without violence for interfering with a lawful arrest.

Dinkla is also facing two charges for robbery by sudden snatching and resisting an officer with violence. University of Florida Police documentation states that he “knowingly and willfully resisted, by doing violence to Det. Tarafa, by forcefully pushing him away, and then pulling away once Det. Tarafa placed his hands on Dinkla.”

Created Equal’s president Mark Harrington told CNA that harassment, vandalism, and theft against their pro-life efforts is “commonplace.”

“As you can imagine, going to a college campus and presenting a pro-life message is generally not very welcomed on a campus,” Harrington said. “Doing it the way we do, which is to show the victims of abortion, often brings even a higher level of opposition.”

“We face this kind of opposition everywhere we go. We will never back down or cower to these types of tactics by abortion advocates. It only emboldens us to continue on with the mission,” Harrington said. “There are a large number of students who are interested in discussing with us about abortion and that’s why we’re there.”

In a March 10 statement on Facebook, Harrington said: “It is no surprise that those who advocate for the killing of preborn humans resort to violence towards those with whom they disagree … We are grateful no staff members were injured in this incident. We also appreciate the efforts of the university and its law enforcement officers to protect the peaceful exercise of our First Amendment rights.”

The University of Florida confirmed with CNA that both Taylor and Dinkla are enrolled as students and that the school is currently conducting a disciplinary review.

Though the school could not disclose what type of disciplinary action the students could be facing, university spokesman Steve Orlando told CNA that “the University of Florida will be absolutely clear about these two things: Speech is protected, and violence is not tolerated.”

“Everyone — regardless of their views — can exercise their First Amendment rights on this campus, and nobody has a right to violence,” Orlando said. “Violent behavior and resisting arrest are unacceptable.”

Graduate Assistants United, a graduate employees’ labor union at the University of Florida of which Taylor is a member, took to Twitter in defense of the arrested students and asked for donations to pay their bail.

The group tweeted:

“!!NEED SOLIDARITY AND HELP!! 2 friends, GAs were arrested today while protesting in Turlington Plaza for women’s rights. Court support needed, Bail Money needed” and “Please share, show up, and help in any way. We will not be intimidated.”

Both Taylor and Dinkla have since been released, with Taylor being released on the condition she cannot return to the University of Florida campus during her trial, according to local news outlet WCJB.

WCJB reported that a crowd of nearly 100 protesters showed up at the county courthouse to demonstrate their support for Taylor and Dinkla.

This comes as pro-life groups and churches across the U.S. face a spate of vandalism and harassment since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

CNA has tracked and mapped more than 100 incidents of pro-abortion vandalism across the U.S., including at least 56 at pregnancy centers and 33 at churches of various denominations. 

Members of Congress have criticized the Department of Justice under the Biden administration for largely failing to respond to these crimes against pro-life groups and churches.

On Jan. 11, a resolution by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, condemning the attacks against pro-lifers and calling for the administration to act in their defense passed the House in a 222-209 vote.

The image of the Virgin Mary that wept tears of blood on St. Patrick’s Day

The image of the Virgin of Ireland in the Cathedral of Gyor, Hungary. / Credit: Diocese of Gyor

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 17, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

On March 17, 1697, on the feast day of St. Patrick and in the same year penal laws were enacted in Ireland banning Catholic bishops and priests from the country, an image of the Virgin Mary known as the Weeping Irish Madonna shed tears of blood for three hours.

The painting is now kept in the cathedral of Gyor, Hungary, where it was taken by the bishop of Clonfert, Walter Lynch, when he fled from Ireland due to the English persecution of the Catholic Church led by Oliver Cromwell. 

The image, whose original name was Our Lady Consoler of the Afflicted, shows the Mother of God with her hands folded in prayer as she looks down upon the Infant Jesus, who is lying in a little bed.

Bishop Lynch removed the image from the Clonfert cathedral to keep it out of impious hands and fled with it to Vienna, Austria, where he met the bishop of Gyor, Hungary, who invited him to serve as his auxiliary bishop there.

The Irish prelate accepted the invitation and remained in Hungary until his death in 1663.

More than 30 years after Lynch’s death, on March 17, 1697, the image, which was in the Gyor cathedral, began to weep blood during the 6 a.m. Mass, which was attested to by many.

A piece of linen was used to wipe the Virgin’s face, but the tears and blood continued to flow for about three hours.

The image was removed from its frame and examined, but no explanation could be given as to what had happened.

The linen cloth, noted Ireland’s Independent Westmeath newspaper, is kept in a glass and silver case in the Gyor cathedral, where it can be seen and venerated to this day.

There is also a parchment in the cathedral signed by the priests and faithful present that day, as well as some Lutheran Protestants, Calvinists, and a rabbi from a Jewish synagogue who attested to the miracle.

Great celebrations commemorating the miraculous occurrence took place in 1797 on the 100th anniversary and again in 1897. In 1947, on the 250th anniversary of the prodigy, about 100,000 pilgrims came to venerate the image.

In 1913, the then-bishop of Toledo, Ohio, Joseph Schrembs, visited Gyor and had a copy of the image made for the Irish Catholics of his diocese.

This year, the Diocese of Gyor has scheduled a series of celebrations and pilgrimages from March 17 to 19.

JPII and the Weeping Irish Madonna

St. John Paul II elevated the Gyor cathedral to a basilica and visited it on Sept. 7, 1996, in an encounter with representatives of the local diocese.

“I am happy to meet you on today’s feast of the three holy martyrs of Kassa and in this cathedral so dear to you all for the presence not only of the miraculous image of the Mother of God but also of the venerated relic of the holy king Ladislaus, as well as the tomb of the Servant of God, Bishop Vilmos Apor,” the Holy Father said on that occasion.

“Your task becomes ever more urgent in the face of the new possibilities of participating in public life. In this context, the Christian layman, animated by the conviction that the growth of the Kingdom of God constitutes, at the same time, a gift and a commitment, will shun any form of fundamentalism and adopt an attitude of dialogue and service, in full respect of the dignity of every person, which always remains the aim of every social action,” the pontiff said.

After encouraging everyone to become “builders of hope,” St. John Paul II  stressed that “Christ the Redeemer, center of your life, is with you! May the ‘Magna Domina Hungarorum,’ Our Lady of Gyor, the holy king Ladislaus, the martyrs of Kassa, and all the Hungarian saints assist you.”

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

Cardinals Müller, Burke rebuke German bishops over same-sex union blessings

German Cardinal Gerhard Müller (left) and American Cardinal Raymond Burke. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2023 / 13:09 pm (CNA).

A synod of German bishops overwhelmingly approved Church blessings of same-sex unions and unions between divorced and remarried Catholics, but the move has faced harsh criticism from some members of the Catholic hierarchy who have accused the German bishops of abandoning the faith. 

German Cardinal Gerhard Müller and American Cardinal Raymond Burke rebuked the German bishops and called on them to be sanctioned in an interview on EWTN’s “The World Over with Raymond Arroyo,” which aired on Thursday night, March 16. 

“There must be a trial and they must be sentenced and they must be removed from their office if they are not converting themselves and they are not accepting the Catholic doctrine,” Müller said during the interview.

“That is very sad that a majority of bishops voted explicitly against the revealed doctrine, and the revealed faith of the Catholic Church and of all our Christian thinking, against the Bible, the word of God in the Holy Scripture and in the apostolic tradition and in the defined doctrine of the Catholic Church,” the cardinal added. 

Müller said the laypeople and the bishops who supported these resolutions at the German Synodal Way are “influenced by this LGBT and woke ideology, which is materialistic and nihilistic.”

“It is absolutely blasphemic to make a blessing about those forms of life which is, according to the biblical and the ecclesial doctrine a sin because all forms of sexuality outside of a valid matrimony is sin and cannot be blessed,” he said. 

“If you look in the Bible, it’s absolutely only the matrimony between man and woman who are united in love in the body and in the soul,” the cardinal said, “and to have the possibility [to] become fathers and mothers and to found a family.”

Burke urged the Vatican to sanction the bishops who voted in favor of blessing homosexual unions.

“Whether it’s a departure, heretical teaching and denial of one of the doctrines of the faith, or apostasy in the sense of simply walking away from Christ and from his teaching in the Church to embrace some other form of religion, these are crimes,” Burke said. “I mean, these are sins against Christ himself and, obviously then, of the most serious nature. And the Code of Canon Law provides the appropriate sanctions.”

The cardinal warned that the Church is being “used” to push an ideological agenda. 

“These are human inventions, human ideologies that are being pushed and the Church is being used,” Burke added. “And what it does is it renders the Church then into some kind of a human agency, almost like a government agency that’s being manipulated to foster certain programs and certain agenda. And so we need to wake up to what is happening.”

“You will notice that in a lot of this talk, you never hear the name of Our Lord,” Burke said. “You never hear talk about what Our Lord Jesus Christ is teaching us, what he’s asking of us. So this is a very serious situation.”

The cardinal also responded to Arroyo’s suggestion that “opponents of these reforms are often derided as going against the pope.”  

“We are the ones who love the pope and are trying to help him to carry out his mission, whereas these people who simply ignore what Rome is saying to them, what the See of Peter is saying to them, show that they have no respect for him, whatever they are indeed the enemies of the pope. I think it’s clear any reasonable person can see that,” he said.

Burke said that Pope Francis “sometimes says things that are very clear and in accord with the Church’s teaching with regard to these matters.”

“What the agents of the revolution do is simply ignore these statements and take other statements in which he seems to be favorable,” he said.

Pope Francis hears confessions at Roman parish: God lifts us up when we hit ‘rock bottom’

Pope Francis heard confessions at a parish in Rome on Friday, March 17, 2023, and encouraged people to remember that God “holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize that we are ‘hitting rock bottom.’” / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Mar 17, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis heard confessions at a parish in Rome on Friday and encouraged people to remember that God “holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize that we are ‘hitting rock bottom.’”

In the presence of eucharistic adoration, the pope presided over a Lenten penitential service on March 17 to open “24 Hours for the Lord,” an initiative in which certain Catholic churches around the world will remain open 24 consecutive hours with round-the-clock confession and adoration.

“Brothers, sisters, let us remember this: The Lord comes to us when we step back from our  presumptuous ego. … He can bridge the distance whenever, with honesty and sincerity, we bring our weaknesses before him,” Pope Francis said.

“He holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize we are ‘hitting rock bottom’ and we turn back to him with a sincere heart. That is how God is. He is waiting for us, deep down, for in Jesus he chose to ‘descend to the depths.’”

Pope Francis encouraged people to remember that God “holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize that we are ‘hitting rock bottom’” at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale in Rome on Friday, March 17, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis encouraged people to remember that God “holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize that we are ‘hitting rock bottom’” at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale in Rome on Friday, March 17, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The pope underlined that God waits for us, especially in the sacrament of penance, where he said the Lord touches our wounds, heals our hearts, and leaves us with inner peace.

Pope Francis visited the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale, a parish located about one mile from the pope’s residence inside Vatican City.

Upon his arrival at the parish, the pope kissed a small Marian icon from his wheelchair and gave a bouquet of flowers to Our Lady. He offered greetings and shook hands with many people inside the parish from his wheelchair.

The pope offered a homily on God’s mercy before leading the parish in the Confiteor prayer.

Many people made confessions to priests — and some to the pope himself — during the Holy Hour at the Roman parish just outside the walls of Vatican City.

Pope Francis hears confessions at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale in Rome on Friday, March 17, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis hears confessions at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale in Rome on Friday, March 17, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Pope Francis began the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative in 2014, one year before he announced the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

The Vatican Dicastery for Evangelization has asked dioceses around the world to once again open churches for 24 hours from Friday, March 17, to Saturday, March 18, to offer the opportunity to make confessions and pray in the presence of eucharistic adoration.

In his homily, Pope Francis asked the parishioners to repeat together the prayer of a tax collector in chapter 18 of the Gospel of Luke: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

The pope prayed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner! When I forget you or I neglect you, when I prefer my words and those of the world to your own word, when I presume to be righteous and look down on others, when I gossip about others … God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

“When I care nothing for those all around me, when I’m indifferent to the poor and the suffering, the weak and the outcast, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! For my sins against life, for my bad example that mars the lovely face of Mother Church, for my sins against creation, God, be  merciful to me, a sinner.”

“For my falsehoods, my duplicity, my lack of honesty and integrity, God, be merciful to me, a sinner. For my hidden sins, for the ways in which I have unconsciously wronged others, and for the good I could have done and yet failed to do, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

No, Pope Francis didn’t really hint that the requirement for priestly celibacy will be lifted

null / Credit: P. Cristian Gutiérrez, LC / Cathopic

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2023 / 09:45 am (CNA).

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his election to the See of Peter, Pope Francis sat down with Infobae — a news agency from Argentina — to reminisce about his pontificate and to discuss issues affecting the Church and the world. During the interview, he said: “There is no contradiction for a priest to marry.” He called priestly celibacy “a temporary prescription” and said that it’s a prescription that could be reviewed.

The Holy Father made clear what he meant by his words. He said that celibacy is a “temporary prescription” inasmuch as “it is not eternal like priestly ordination, which is forever.” Secular media outlets and even some Catholic news organizations immediately jumped to the conclusion that the pope is open to revising the discipline of celibacy and that he even might lift it. 

Of course, he said no such thing. When the requirement for celibacy was openly discussed at the 2020 Amazon Synod, Pope Francis chose not to even mention celibacy in his postsynodal exhortation.

The interview provides an opportunity to ponder the priesthood and celibacy. The Church’s teaching on celibacy is different from her teaching on the indelible character of ordination and holy orders being reserved to men alone. These are dogmas taught by the Church that need to be believed lest we fall into heresy or dissent.

That ordination to the priesthood forever marks a man was universally believed until the rise of Protestantism in the 16th century. The Church has always lived Hebrews 7:17 (“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek”). Only after Protestants criticized the ordained ministry did the Council of Trent solemnly define that it is divinely revealed that every priest is a priest forever. Today, when priests are released from the obligations of the priesthood they do not become laymen again. They are simply given permission not to exercise the duties and obligations of the priesthood. They remain priests. No priest is ever “laicized,” despite the popularity of that unfortunate word.

In 1976, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted in its decree Inter Insignores that the Church had no authority to ordain women because Christ himself did not choose women to be among the Twelve and because the apostles, who were given authority to teach after Christ ascended, never chose women either. Rather than being explicit in Scripture, it’s a necessary logical conclusion from the revelation of Scripture and tradition.

Christ was not subject to cultural norms. The apostles, who taught more than Christ could in his earthly life, adopted many Greco-Roman customs instead of Mosaic norms. The Greeks had priestesses, but the apostles still did not ordain women. With the approval of Pope Paul VI, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that these facts were definitive: the Church cannot ordain women. 

In 1994, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed this conclusion in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. A year later, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted that the saintly pope’s letter was declaring that it’s always been taught that women can’t be ordained. There may come a day, as happened in the 16th century, when a pope or an ecumenical council must solemnly declare that this is a divinely revealed truth, but for now, it’s part of the ordinary and universal magisterium that we must believe women can’t be ordained lest we become dissenters to the Catholic faith.

Celibacy is in a different category. Although the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke tells us that St. Peter had a mother-in-law, the Lord’s counsel in favor of virginity for the sake of the kingdom (Mt 19:12) became normative. St. Paul noted that unmarried men are entirely devoted to the affairs of the Lord (1 Cor 7:32). Celibacy was the discipline very early on.

Although there were local councils as early as the fourth century, such as the Council of Elvira, which mandated the celibacy of priests, it was understood that even married priests were practicing sexual abstinence because they were to be single-minded in the worship of God. It was a carryover from Judaism, which understood that priests serving in the Temple ought to abstain from sexual relations with their wives to keep themselves focused on God.

When Christ replaced the Temple and the Eucharist became the primary mode of divine worship, even those priests who married in the first centuries of the Church tended to practice a “Josephite” marriage — a marriage without sexual relations — so they could be pure and undivided in worshipping God. Modern critics of celibacy haven’t done their research. Even married priests during the first centuries of the Church ceased to be husbands in the intimate sense because they and their wives understood the primacy of the worship of God and the single-mindedness worship required from those consecrated to offer the Mass. 

Although the Roman Catholic Church even today has exceptions to priestly celibacy — the Anglican Ordinariate, for instance — and although the Eastern Church has married priests, even married priests today recognize the importance, value, and superiority of celibacy. Celibate priests live as Christ lived in this world. His celibacy and his sacrifice gave life to the world.

It’s certainly possible that one day in the future the discipline of celibacy may go away, but it’s not likely. Protestant denominations with married clergy have fewer vocations than many Catholic dioceses and religious orders. A celibate clergy has been normative in the Catholic Church for several hundred years. Parishes and dioceses aren’t prepared to support clergy families. Most priests earn less than minimum wage every year, regardless of the additional benefits they may receive — benefits most parishes and dioceses cannot afford to extend to a family. 

More importantly, while priests may struggle at times with celibacy, and they may sometimes see it as a trial in their service for the Lord and his Church, there are very few, perhaps only a handful, of good priests who would give up celibacy in their priesthood. It’s only critics and outsiders who tell priests that we should be married. As great a good as marriage is, we priests know that God requires even more from us.

It requires a certain grace to live celibacy joyfully and wholly. The necessity of such a grace guarantees that priests are entirely devoted to God and because we are given the grace to be so devoted throughout our lives.

German bishops announce plans to bless same-sex unions, allow laypeople to baptize and preach at Mass

Delegates at the fifth assembly of the German Synodal Way, meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, on March 11, 2023, applaud after the he passage of a text calling for changes to the German Church's approach to gender identity. / Jonathan Liedl/National Catholic Register

CNA Staff, Mar 17, 2023 / 08:53 am (CNA).

Following the conclusion of the German Synodal Way, several bishops have announced plans to put into practice resolutions passed by the process, including liturgical blessings of same-sex unions in their churches. 

The Synodal Way, which concluded in Frankfurt on March 11, “give[s] us the tailwind we need for concrete changes in our diocese,” Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück said March 14.

Bode — who is vice president of the German Bishops’ Conference — said his diocese encouraged “all couples in our diocese who cannot or do not want to marry in church but still want to put their relationship under a church blessing” to “get in touch with us.” He added that such celebrations were already available in some parishes of his diocese.

Bode on Tuesday also announced that laypeople would be able to baptize babies and “regularly” preach at homilies, CNA Deutsch reported.  

Another German prelate, Bishop Heiner Wilmer of Hildesheim, added his support, telling staff in his diocese: “It is of great importance to me that LGBTQ people are accompanied pastorally, spiritually, and liturgically. I welcome the Synodal Way’s endorsement of establishing a task force to develop a handout for celebrations of blessing for same-sex couples as well as remarried divorcees,” CNA Deutsch reported.

On Friday last week, the German bishops and other delegates of the Synodal Way passed a resolution to develop and provide Church blessings to same-sex unions. 

Titled “Blessing ceremonies for couples who love each other,” the measure was opposed by only nine of 58 bishops, while 11 bishops abstained. 

German bishops who have previously voiced public support for the blessing of same-sex unions in the Catholic Church include Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising and Bishop Heinrich Timmerervers of Dresden-Meißen.

In March 2022, Cardinal Marx said he had personally blessed a same-sex couple in Los Angeles.

One year earlier, in March 2021, the Vatican confirmed that the Catholic Church does not have the power to give liturgical blessings to homosexual unions. Answering the question “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex,” the Congregation — now the Dicastery — for the Doctrine of the Faith responded: “Negative.”

In an accompanying note, the Vatican’s doctrine office explained that blessings are sacramentals, and “consequently, in order to conform with the nature of sacramentals, when a blessing is invoked on particular human relationships, in addition to the right intention of those who participate, it is necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord.”

Signs of hope and renewal amid the dramatic decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland

A statue of the Virgin Mary on the grounds of the 15th-century Quin Abbey in County Clare, Ireland. / Patrick Leonard/EWTN

Loughmourne, Ireland, Mar 17, 2023 / 08:32 am (CNA).

Father Owen Gorman remembers when Masses in Ireland were so crowded on Sundays that people had to sit on the steps outside the church.

“I grew up in a time in the 1970s and ’80s when churches were full for Sunday Mass. If you didn’t come early, you didn’t get a seat,” he told CNA. “That has changed now.”

In 2021, a survey by the Association of Catholic Priests found that only about 30% of Catholics in Ireland attend Mass weekly — a significant drop from 91% in 1975.

Father Owen Gorman stands outside of the Church of the Sacred Heart, one of his parishes in County Monaghan, Ireland. Colm Flynn/EWTN
Father Owen Gorman stands outside of the Church of the Sacred Heart, one of his parishes in County Monaghan, Ireland. Colm Flynn/EWTN

With decreasing vocations, priests in Ireland are also spread thin, with 2,116 priests serving at 2,650 churches or Mass centers. And more than a third of Irish priests are over the age of 60.

Gorman, 49, serves parishes in Aughnamullen East, Muckno, Latton, and Tullycorbet across the Diocese of Clogher in County Monaghan.

“We just have one seminarian for our diocese, and we haven’t had an ordination for six years now,” he said.

“In 20 years’ time, we will probably have about seven priests in the whole of our diocese, on current trends.”

The scandal of clerical abuse, the social upheaval of the 1960s, materialism, and “bad clericalism” all contributed to the dramatic decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland in the past 50 years.

“The Church had a tremendous amount of power within Ireland that created huge resentments,” Gorman said.

The abuse crisis concentrated minds and there reached a point in which all the pent-up grievances boiled over and “there was just rage against the Church.”

“There was definitely an overreach within Catholicism. We were involved in everything. We were involved in all aspects of life. … I think we took our eye off evangelization,” he reflected.

“We kind of catechized the young people in school, and then we said, ‘OK, that’s it for life.’ So, we never invested in them after that. We never spent our time in an evangelistic capacity, with the result that the faith suffered.”

People pray at Sunday Mass in St. Colmcille's Church in Rathcormac in County Sligo, Ireland. Patrick Leonard/EWTN
People pray at Sunday Mass in St. Colmcille's Church in Rathcormac in County Sligo, Ireland. Patrick Leonard/EWTN

In response to this crisis of faith, today in Ireland some movements and religious orders are pouring their energy into evangelization and faith formation. 

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford said that he sees this as a sign of hope for Ireland.

“I see tremendous hope actually. I see little pockets of light all over the country,” Cullinan said. “I see the Church as existing in small but wonderfully vibrant, loving pockets all around the place, like little candles, right around the country. And someday they’re going to light a big fire.”

Youth 2000

“There are a few youth movements within Ireland that have definitely created waves. Youth 2000 is one of them,” Gorman said.

Youth 2000 has as its goal to “raise up a new generation of saints” through peer-to-peer ministry for young people ages 16-35.

The international initiative, which came to Ireland in 1993, seeks to “draw young people to a deep and lasting union with Jesus Christ by placing the Eucharist, ‘the source and summit of the Christian life,’ at the center of its mission.”

Twenty-year-old Maria Mann said that Youth 2000 has helped her to find that “it’s so fulfilling when you have God in your life … it fills your heart and your soul.”

“I think our shepherds, our priests, are not preaching the truth. You know, they think that they are giving people what they want by a watered-down Mass or a shorter homily, but young people are craving the truth,” said Eva Newell, who is also active in Youth 2000 in Dublin.

“A lot of what we are finding is that they are craving tradition. They are craving what the Church is.”

Twenty-year-old Maria Mann said that Youth 2000 helped her to find that “it’s so fulfilling when you have God in your life … it fills your heart and your soul.” Patrick Leonard/EWTN
Twenty-year-old Maria Mann said that Youth 2000 helped her to find that “it’s so fulfilling when you have God in your life … it fills your heart and your soul.” Patrick Leonard/EWTN

Holy Family Mission

Holy Family Mission in County Waterford, Ireland, is also working to form young people in the faith by giving them the chance to live together in an intentional Catholic community, with daily Mass, eucharistic adoration, and missionary formation.

Started by three youth ministers, the nine-month “gap year” for people aged 18-30 brings together both Irish and international participants to study the faith while living on the grounds of the 200-year-old Glencomeragh estate, where they also help to organize retreats to share the faith with others.

Michael Tierney, a 27-year-old Ph.D. student from County Offaly, is currently participating in the “gap year for God.”

“For a lot of young people who are in the faith, it’s very countercultural. It’s not like it was a few generations ago, so you really need to know your faith,” he said.

“Holy Family Mission is really needed now to produce a generation of young people to lead the renewal of the Church and who are really grounded in what the Church believes.”

Michael Tierney, 27, calls Holy Family Mission in County Waterford, Ireland, a "gap year for God." Courtney Mares/CNA
Michael Tierney, 27, calls Holy Family Mission in County Waterford, Ireland, a "gap year for God." Courtney Mares/CNA

Irish Dominicans

In a country where at least 10 dioceses do not have a single seminarian studying for the priesthood, many Irish Catholics point to the number of vocations in the Dominican Order as a sign of hope for Ireland.

Father Colm Mannion, the Irish Dominicans’ vocations director, told CNA that at the moment there are 16 men in formation to become Dominicans in Ireland, some of whom left behind careers in law, health care, and other professions (including a professional soccer player who played for Manchester United) to join the order.

Part of the reason why young people are attracted to the Dominican Order is because of its charism of “studying the faith, dedicating our lives to learning truth … with a view to be able to go off and share with other people,” Mannion said.

Dominican friars pray vespers in St. Mary's Dominican Catholic Church in Cork, Ireland. Courtney Mares/CNA
Dominican friars pray vespers in St. Mary's Dominican Catholic Church in Cork, Ireland. Courtney Mares/CNA

“I think in Ireland, at the moment, there’s a real hunger for people to learn more about their faith,” he said. “And I think that is something we see a lot coming through in the younger generations.”

Many people in Ireland “have not really abandoned the faith, they’ve just kind of drifted,” Mannion noted.

“And very often the reason they have drifted from the faith is because they never really understood it to begin with,” he said.

“So I think for a lot of younger people now when they begin to see the richness of our faith and the great tradition that we have — and the great learning and the wisdom and the philosophy and the beauty of our faith — when people connect with that, they really want to be able to communicate that to other people.”

The Dominicans first arrived in Ireland in the year 1224, just three years after St. Dominic died.

“When you look at the history of the Dominican Order, as you look to the history of the Church in Ireland, there’s a lot of ups and downs over the centuries and persecutions. And we’ve experienced good times and bad times, but we’re still here 800 years later,” he said.

A great legacy of saints

Father Patrick Joseph Hughes, a country priest serving a farming community in County Cavan, offered the reminder of the great patrimony offered by Ireland’s saints and martyrs, including many brave priests, bishops, and laypeople who were killed for their faith under England’s Queen Elizabeth and the penal laws.

Father Patrick Hughes shows how to make a traditional St. Brigid's Cross in County Cavan, Ireland. Courtney Mares/CNA
Father Patrick Hughes shows how to make a traditional St. Brigid's Cross in County Cavan, Ireland. Courtney Mares/CNA

Tierney looks to the Bible and finds hope in how “in stories from the Bible we see how God uses just a remnant, like a small number of people, to actually spearhead this renewal of faith or to convert a whole town or village.”

“You do have to have courage because, you know, God is going to call you to unexpected places. And you have to have, I’d say, the courage of openness, too, and to be willing to go where he’ll lead you,” he said.

For Bishop Cullinan, the way forward for the Catholic Church in Ireland will “always come down to personal holiness.”

“As Pope John Paul II used to say, there is a hole in the human heart which only God can fill,” he said. “And that is what I continually work from, knowing that no matter what happens, Christ is the answer.”

How the Salesians are helping youth in Syria, a country in its 12th year of civil war

Young Salesians in Syria. / Credit: Salesian ANS

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 16, 2023 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

March 15 marked the 12th year of civil war in Syria, where bombs, poverty, and earthquakes have destroyed the country. Nevertheless, the Salesians — the order founded by St. John Bosco in 1859 to help disadvantaged youth — are trying to give hope to young people who have lost everything.

According to the Salesian News Agency (ANS), the armed conflict has focused on the north in an area controlled by rebels. This was compounded beginning in 2013 by attacks by the Islamic State terrorist group, which terrorized cities and killed Christians.

According to ANS, the war has taken a toll of more than a half million killed, 2.1 million injured, 13 million displaced, and an estimated 6.6 million refugees in other nations.

“More than 11 [million] of the 17 million inhabitants that the country has today urgently need humanitarian aid to survive, and among them there are 6.5 million minors,” the Salesians noted in a report.

All of this is aggravated by the lack of work and electricity, the rise in the price of fuel, and the devaluation of the currency. But more worrisome is the experience of future generations that are now growing up.

According to Father Alejandro León, superior of the Salesians in the Middle East, the younger generation “only knows war, and many young people who have lived most of their lives in the midst of violence are thinking of leaving the country.”

León noted that although they are educated in the culture of peace, many adolescents openly state that “they do not see a future for themselves and their families.”

As if this were not enough, northwest Syria suffered a powerful earthquake on Feb. 6, which along with its more than 11,000 aftershocks has killed almost 6,000 Syrians, destroyed more than 100,000 buildings, and left 1.5 million people homeless.

Despite everything, ANS noted that in these 12 years of war and destruction, the Salesians have not closed their doors but have financially assisted hundreds of families and welcomed the displaced.

They have also provided business training to groups of young people, some of whom have even received financial support to start their own businesses. The order has also rented apartments in order to give classes to the children and prevent them from traveling long distances to study.

The religious received many needy families in Aleppo and Kafroun after the earthquake. They are promoting volunteering by university students to serve children who are seeking to get up to grade level. In addition, they plan to build a youth center near Damascus.

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

Church in Spain has fewer than 1,000 diocesan seminarians for first time in 21 years

null / Credit: Cathopic / Moisés Becerra

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 16, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Spanish seminaries continue to suffer a downward trend in enrollment. According to official data from the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, in the 2022-2023 academic year the total number of aspirants to the priesthood is fewer than a thousand for the first time in 21 years, since records were first kept on a national level.

Every March 19 on the solemnity of St. Joseph, the Catholic Church in Spain observes Seminary Day and the bishops’ conference provides data on seminary enrollment. In the current 2022-2023 academic year there are 974 candidates for the diocesan priesthood.

The number of young men entering the seminary has also fallen for the first time below 200, at 172, and ordinations were fewer than 100, at 97.

These are significant figures, although for years there has been a downward trend. There were close to 1,700 seminarians in the 2002-2003 academic year, when more than 350 men entered and almost 200 were ordained.

Already in the 2016-2017 academic year, the number of aspirants to the priesthood fell for the first time below 1,300, and in the 2018-2019 academic year there were only 1,203.

The bishops’ subcommittee for seminaries said that the drop in the number of 54 seminarians compared with the 2021-2022 academic year “is explained, among other things, by the new methodology in data collection and was the responsibility of the Office of Transparency of the Episcopal Conference.”

Other factors cited affecting the number of seminarians include “secularization and lack of commitment on the part of not a few young people, which are also reflected in other statistical data, such as the decreasing number of marriages, both civil and ecclesiastical.”

In addition, Spain has a very serious demographic problem with fewer and fewer children being born and the population aging more and more.

Despite the decrease in numbers, the Spanish Bishops’ Conference encouraged the faithful “to be grateful that a significant number of young people live committed to searching for the will of God, who invites us to embrace a beautiful vocation in his Church.”

Given the serious import of the data, the conference launched the Vocational Pastoral Service in September 2022, which reports to the General Secretariat and whose objective is “to create in our pilgrim Church in Spain a vocational culture that helps children, young people, and adults to consider their vocation.”

For five years the Spanish Bishops’ Conference has not offered data broken down by diocese.

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

Here’s why a popular canon law website will have to remove much of its content

null / Credit: Alex Verrone/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2023 / 16:35 pm (CNA).

A popular canon law website, CanonLaw.Ninja, is removing much of its content by Friday, March 17, to comply with a copyright complaint, which will leave the website without an English translation of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law. 

The website, which describes itself as “a resource for both professional and armchair canonists,” includes an up-to-date translation of the Code of Canon Law with a tool that helps users easily find the information they’re seeking. Father Paul Hedman created the website when he was a seminarian and pays for the website’s upkeep with donations from users.

“Prior to my site, the only place that the code was online was, which was out of date, poorly formatted, and unsearchable,” Hedman said on Twitter

“So I made a tool to be of help. Sourcing the canons from the Vatican website and other places the code was freely available, I put together a website that for the past several years has helped hundreds of canonists, students, and Christian faithful know the law of the Church,” he wrote.

Hedman was served with a cease-and-desist order from the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA), which is the copyright holder of the translation. 

“The Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Edition,” which is the society-owned translation, is sold on the CLSA website for $75 but is currently out of stock. “The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches” is available for $50. “Dignitas Conubii: Norms and Commentary” is also available for $50. 

The Minnesota priest tweeted that the letter “came as a shock” and wondered why “the CLSA [would] want to prevent people from accessing the law” and why they had not contacted him before taking legal action, based on the principles of Canon 1446. 

“If the CLSA chooses to make their fine translation of the code less accessible, the study [and] application of canon law will suffer,” Hedman said. “I beg them to reconsider: rather than make an adversary of a priest trying to serve the Church, be a team for the salvation of souls — the Lex Suprema.”

Hedman said he requested several alternative solutions to the problem, which would have allowed the content to stay on the website, but the CLSA did not accept any of them. He offered to stop collecting donations, split the donations with CLSA, pay yearly royalties, or even give the CLSA rights to the tool. 

“I am asking the CLSA to reconsider their course of action and allow for licensing of their translation of the code so that it may be used on,” Hedman said. “It would be regrettable if the resource had to be temporarily disabled until another translation can be found.”

The CLSA did not respond to requests for comment from CNA. 

Some priests took to Twitter to voice their opposition to the legal action. 

“The reality is that whether it’s a biblical translation (USCCB) or translation of the code (CLSA), these things need to move into the public domain after cost is recouped,” Father Josh Miller tweeted. “Instead, they end up paying for the cocktail parties, and that’s pretty disgraceful.”

Father Matthew Schneider, a priest with the Legionaries of Christ, urged the CLSA to work with Hedman to ensure the website can continue to function as it has. 

“Please find some way to work with Fr. Paul & keep operating with the best English translation of canon law,” he tweeted to the Canon Law Society’s Twitter handle.

The cease-and-desist letter demands Hedman remove and destroy all copyrighted material from the website and halt any further use, reproduction, and transmission that would infringe on CLSA’s copyright. It further demands that Hedman destroy all materials, including physical copies, of the copyrighted translation, except for publications purchased from CLSA. 

According to the cease-and-desist letter, copyrighted materials include the website’s Code of Canon Law translation, the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches translation, and the Dignitas Connubii translation, which is a Vatican document on the nullification of marriages. This would not affect the other material on the website. 

The letter requests that the content be removed on March 16, but Hedman told CNA that he was given a one-day extension. He said he will comply with all of the demands in the letter and remove the copyrighted materials by Friday, March 17. 

“I fully intend to comply with the cease-and-desist order and remove the content that the CLSA owns, if that is what it comes to,” Hedman said in a tweet. “I hold no animosity against the society, and if I ever became a canonist would plan to join.”

Ecclesiastical documents are often copyrighted, except for older documents that have entered the public domain. According to Canon 828: “It is not permitted to reprint collections of decrees or acts published by some ecclesiastical authority unless the prior permission of the same authority has been obtained and the conditions prescribed by it have been observed.” 

Other Catholics have also had similar problems when trying to republish ecclesiastical works and specific translations. Matthew Warner, who founded a church communications software company called FlockNote, sent free daily emails with excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was meant to cover the entire catechism in one year. 

He discontinued that practice after he received a cease-and-desist letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which owns the copyright to the catechism.

The English version of the Code of Canon Law is available on the Vatican’s website.