Vie de l'église

Australian police plan to ask a…

Australian police plan to ask a judge to ban gay rights protesters from demonstrating outside the funeral of Cardinal George Pell in Sydney on Feb. 2 due to public safety concerns.

Pell, who was once considered the third-highest ranking cleric in the Vatican and spent more than a year in prison before his child abuse convictions were squashed in 2020, died in Rome this month at age 81.

The staunchly conservative church leader will lie in St. Mary’s Cathedral starting Feb. 1 and will be interred at the cathedral after a funeral Mass the following day.

The New South Wales Police Force said on Jan. 31 it has rejected an application from Sydney-based gay rights group Community Action for Rainbow Rights for a permit to protest outside the cathedral on Feb. 2 due to safety concerns.

It said police Commissioner Karen Webb will apply to the New South Wales Supreme Court on Feb. 1 to prohibit the rally.

« The NSW Police Force recognizes and supports the rights of individuals and groups to exercise their rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, however, the first priority is always the safety of the wider community, »police said in a statement.

Pell was an outspoken and polarizing figure throughout his church career and remains divisive in his native Australia in death.

The protest group has posted on social media its intention to go ahead with what it calls its « Pell go to Hell! » protest.

« We need everybody to come out and protest on Thursday. We can’t let the police get away with denying us our right to protest this bigot’s funeral! » the group said.

As archbishop of Melbourne and later archbishop of Sydney, Pell repeatedly refused to give Communion to gay activists wearing rainbow-colored sashes.

« God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, and important consequences follow from this, » Pell told a St. Mary’s congregation in 2002 after he first refused Communion to a gay activist in Sydney.

Pell was also a lightning rod for disagreements over whether the Catholic Church has been properly held to account for past child sex abuse.

Pell and his supporters believed he was scapegoated for all the crimes of the Australian Catholic Church’s botched response to clergy sexual abuse.

Protesters plan to tie ribbons in memory of child abuse victims to the cathedral’s fence on Feb. 1 as thousands of mourners are expected to gather to see the cardinal’s coffin.

« Ribbon tying on church fences has become a visual symbol of those who have suffered abuse at the hands of the church and reminder that these crimes go largely unpunished, » activists posted.

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Knights Stand Up for Life 2023

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‘Love is the Answer’

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Vie de l'église

Wanting peace by working for…

Wanting peace by working for justice « is a hard road to walk, my brothers and sisters, » Sr. Patricia Chappell told attendees at the 2023 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington in the opening plenary session Jan. 28.

« We can no longer claim to be innocent bystanders, » said Chappell, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who is a longtime educator and a former executive director of Pax Christi USA. Catholics must address the systems in this country and in the church that « have kept injustice, racism and hatred alive, » and instead replace them « with the values of the Gospel and Catholic social teaching, » she said in a reflection that laid out today’s challenges for social justice ministry.

« If we want to really understand » the injustices and institutional racism of this nation’s social and political systems — put in place by « white Western European males » to maintain power and benefit themselves, « we must listen to those on the periphery who have experienced the most violence and most institutional failures, » she said. « We have to listen to those voices and listening is the key. We must listen not to refute or debate or negate (or) deny others’ lived experience. »

As she opened her talk, Chappell, who is African American, said there « will be times during this reflection you may say ‘Amen’ but other times, my brothers and sisters you may want to say, ‘Ouch.' »

« It’s OK if you don’t invite me back again, » she added with a smile, which prompted laughter from the audience. More than a few « Amens » from her listeners punctuated her remarks.

Chappell, a former president of the National Black Sisters’ Conference, is a longtime educator who has worked on issues of social justice and racism for many years. She currently is moderator of the leadership team for her religious community’s U.S. East-West province, and has served as co-coordinator of the community’s anti-racism team.

« Every single social system in this country was intentionally set up to maintain the power and privilege of the white dominant groups, » she said.

Chappell also called for an end to « silo thinking, » because all justice issues are connected.

« Is immigration/refugee reform more important than climate control? Is food insecurity more important than voting rights for all people? Is the death penalty/solitary confinement more important than the nuclear threat? Is domestic violence and abuse more important than gun violence? Is DACA more important than those with physical and mental health challenges? » she asked.

She encouraged those at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering to see the common thread running through all these issues as they attended the meeting’s many workshops on their agenda focusing on poverty, immigration, racism, prison ministry, worker rights, criminal justice reform, mental health, economic development and other topics.

She also asked them to be mindful of these connections when they talked with their representatives on Capitol Hill the last afternoon of the Jan. 28-31 gathering.

Chappell said it « is not a coincidence » that thousands of people « held hostage at our southern border, » those seeking asylum, and those being trafficked for sexual and economic purposes are all « from communities of color. » The « staggering disproportionate number of Black and brown human beings incarcerated in this country, » she said, also « is not a coincidence. »

« Victims of infrastructure failures are found in poor white, brown and Black communities, » she said.

She pointed to water system failures: in 2014, drinking water in the city of Flint, Michigan, was found to be contaminated, exposing tens of thousands of residents to dangerous levels of lead and bacteria. It took two years or more to address, and it is still not totally resolved.

In August 2022, a major water treatment plant in Jackson, Mississippi, failed due to flooding of a nearby river but the plant was years overdue for major repairs. As a result, 180,000 residents had no running water for days, and according to a Jan. 30 FOX News report, repairs could take 10 years and drinking water availability might be intermittent. In September 2022, Baltimore became the latest major city to experience a water crisis involving contamination in the water supply.

« White supremacy is embedded in our country — and our church. Segregation and exclusion are a real part of our religious tradition, » Chappell said, noting that at one time Catholic schools would not enroll children of color, and Catholic churches often made Black Americans sit at the back of church and go to the end of the line to receive Holy Communion.

« The church was among the largest slaveholders, » she added.

In recent years, Catholic institutions have begun to address their role in slavery and the legacies of enslavement and segregation, like Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington with its reparations and reconciliation program for descendants of Black men and women enslaved by the Jesuits.

« We have been called to do the work of justice and peace in our own moment in history, » Chappell said.

« Who said we have to do all of this? Jesus, » she continued. « Jesus said, ‘I came so that all may have life and have it in abundance.’ Emphasis on that ‘all people’ may have life and abundance — not just the wealthy, not just a few, not just white folks, but all of us. »

The principles of Catholic social teaching were laid out in 1891, she noted, referring to Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical « Rerum Novarum » (« On Capital and Labor »), which is considered the church’s breakthrough model on social teaching.

« It says regardless of race, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, employment or economic status — all are worthy of respect. Even those brothers and sisters we may feel are offensive — they are worthy of respect, » she said.

Yet, she said, it seems few Catholics seem to know about this Catholic social teaching; and, she added, it is rarely preached from the pulpit.

The challenges for social justice work may seem daunting, Chappell said, but « we must do what we can. »


Portrait of Beatitude

(Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year A; This homily was given on January 29, 2023 at Santo Spirito in Sassia in Rome, Italy; See Matthew 5:1-12)

Vie de l'église

Jeshi’s debut studio album,…

Art’s revelatory power has become more important than ever as the current state of the world resembles a disorienting spin. In times like these, art conveys our collective emotional state better than conversations can. Music — particularly conscious music — has been seen as the perfect way to discuss current affairs through a culturally relevant lens.

Most songs that proliferate this genre are sermons disguised as lyrics. Artists who are determined to raise their listeners’ consciousness disregard the negative emotions that come through experiencing institutional decay at such a rapid pace. They take pride in authoritatively telling their listeners to persist and persevere.

Weirdly enough, their approach resembles a philosophy of toxic positivity that makes for a predictable experience. Nowadays, most artists are moving away from the « conscious » artist superlative. Instead, they aim to be empathetic scribes, poetically describing every little detail, regardless of its implications.

One such artist is Jeshi, a 27-year-old alternative rapper hailing from East London. He started establishing himself as an independent artist through touring with fellow English rapper Slowthai in 2019, appearing on R&B songstress Celeste’s EP « Lately, » and dropping his own body of work « Bad Taste » in 2020.

His newest project and debut studio album, « Universal Credit, » is one of 2022’s best contributions to rap. Jeshi’s empathetic worldbuilding devices allow him to creatively discuss the emotional, physical and mental tools of austerity without sounding brash or disconnected.

Throughout the album, Jeshi embodies the exhaustion and frustration of trying to survive an austerity riddled England. Take for example, the second track, « Sick. » He illustrates disappointment, as he’s

Sick of tryna sleep, close the blinds from the light
Sick of seein’ colours every time I close my eyes
Sick of things goin’ wrong and never goin’ right.

Here, Jeshi acknowledges how the everyday disappointments plague his everyday life, causing restlessness and hyperactivity. Life’s unrelenting harshness forces him into a corner he can’t escape. Melodically, Jeshi conveys this untainted melancholy by utilizing distortion and chaos through manipulating his background vocals and electronic instrumentation.

« National lottery, » arguably the best song on the album, showcases his ability as a descriptive and emotionally involved orator. In the song’s first few seconds, Jeshi seems to show glimmers of optimism and confidence.

Wish you were here
I make ice caps disappear
Watch the world burn at the bar sippin’ beer
How many units? Can I move whips?
I’m a nuisance, stop actin’ stupid.

A few moments later we realize that his attitude comes from his lottery addiction:

National lottery every week (Every week)
Itchy palms, can’t get to sleep (Sleep)
National lottery every week
Itchy palms, can’t get to sleep.

Instead of spelling out the subject matter quickly, he lets us sift through it ourselves. He trusts us enough to let us experience the emotional highs and lows he’s going through, letting us decipher what this all means.

Despite the emotional turmoil, Jeshi acknowledges the relationships that have positively impacted him. « Two Mum’s, » is a joyful yet realistic dedication to his mother and grandmother.

Jeshi never feels ashamed of his familial situation and proudly enumerates it:

Two mums
Ain’t got a dad
Won’t see me moan ’bout the cards in my hand
Walkin’ to school
Holdin’ my hand
I’m happy that you never went back.

Jeshi succeeds where other artists fail because he immerses himself and the listener in emotions that are overwhelmingly unfavorable. Time and time again, Jeshi makes himself defenseless so we can exercise empathy for others and ourselves,

Humility is an integral part of storytelling and journalism because people often put their needs and wants at the behest of the story. Many journalists in the climate sector are trying to figure out better methods to report on issues such as global warming, unpredictable weather patterns and a climate migration crisis in order to increase direct action.

Statistics-focused reporting has piqued the public’s interest, but hasn’t spurred a wave of mobilization outside climate activist organizations. While it may seem surprising, statistical reporting is often devoid of emotion and personal connection. Information about the climate crisis effect can reach its liberatory potential only if we truly highlight its effects on the human psyche.

If we want to report on how weather patterns may make islands, forests, and coastlines disappear, we need to creatively display the emotions of those who occupy these spaces. Thankfully, we have bodies of work such as « Universal Credit » that illustrate moments of political and social instability through empathy and understanding.

The best art undoubtedly imparts new perspectives that seep into our everyday lives. Jeshi’s « Universal Credit » is a masterclass in heartfelt and vulnerable social commentary that is full of creativity. Through this album, we see that telling the truth requires humility and compassion.

Vie de l'église

God’s Works Revealed takes us on a…

In God’s Works Revealed, author Sam Albano takes us on a well-sourced journey of the history of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the LGBTQIA+ experience. Sam currently serves as the national secretary of DignityUSA which « works for respect and justice for people of all sexual orientations, genders, and gender identities — especially gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual and intersex persons — in the Catholic Church and the world through education, advocacy and support. »

God’s Works Revealed: Spirituality, Theology, and Social Justice for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Catholics is written for both straight and non-straight people. As a queer, millennial Catholic, one of the main issues I perceive in the Catholic Church today is the lack of education on all things LGBTQIA+ from the people in positions of authority within the church. Decisions are being made and statements are being released by people who do not know what they are talking about because they are not in communion with the LGBTQIA+ community in any significant capacity. In speaking of what they do not know, church officials have created confusion that has led to a lot of pain.

The pain of belonging to a religion that does not want to recognize your humanity is apparent throughout God’s Works Revealed. However, the author remains respectful in his expressions of dissatisfaction and hurt. This book is not someone railing against an institution; it is a sincere attempt at dialogue from a viewpoint that has largely been ignored by those in positions of authority within the Catholic Church.

Too often LGBTQIA+ people are misrepresented as rebels who seek to destroy or desecrate church teaching and tradition. The author demonstrates what I have found to be true in my own community of Catholic LGBTQIA+ friends: a love for fellow humans, a yearning for truth and years of prayer and study of what the Catholic Church teaches. There are 12 pages of sources listed at the end of this book. God’s Works Revealed proves that LGBTQIA+ Catholics are not entering conversations about dogma and theology uneducated or unprepared, and it is time non-LGBTQIA+ Catholics had the decency to do the same.

Knowing in advance that Albano and I have differing conclusions about church teaching on the sexual act, I expected to be somewhat put off by this book. But I was unprepared for how impactful it would be to have someone speaking within the context of church teaching from and for my viewpoint as a queer person — an all too rare phenomenon in Catholic media. 

Since most church teaching and documents on the LGBTQIA+ experience are written by people who are straight, they tend to sound like « us against them » statements. This is not to say that straight people cannot effectively minister to people within the LGBTQIA+ paradigm; rather, it shows that when all teaching and ministry for LGBTQIA+ persons comes only from straight people it is not life-giving or effective. The queer community are important members of the body of Christ, and leadership in the Catholic Church does a great disservice by ignoring us or not seeking to spiritually shepherd and strengthen us. The systems currently in place are not working.

To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about this book. I appreciate the lengths the author was willing to go to in providing people with accurate information: on the experience of being LGBTQIA+ and Catholic, how the phrasing of church teaching has affected that experience (largely in a negative capacity) and how it is all closely linked with social justice. Whenever I am presented with the opportunity to speak on being queer and Catholic, I worry that what I say will be received as me trying to prove I am worthy of being alive, that I am worthy of participating in society and worthy of being a part of the Catholic Church. Books like God’s Works Revealed are certainly necessary, but I can’t help wondering if they feed into the mindset that LGBTQIA+ individuals have to « earn their place » here.

Albano and I have studied many of the same church documents. I am sure we have raised many of the same concerns within our prospective communities. Yet we have managed to come to « opposing » conclusions in several ways, even with our openness and desire for truth. Typically, this would be where we go to church teaching to « settle » the discussion, but I imagine Albano and I are united in our apprehension of trusting an institution that has been the source of so much misinformation, misrepresentation and harm when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community. If the Catholic Church wishes to remain authoritative, then the people running it must cease being pastorally irresponsible and needlessly blunt when it comes to LGBTQIA+ matters.

Even though we have differing opinions, I trust Albano has come to his conclusions after years of prayer and agonizing — indeed, this book is proof! — and I ask the same trust and consideration be given to me. I do not see it as a conflict of interest or a betrayal of my belief system to encourage people to read this book. The Catholic Church is not meant to be an echo chamber. We need to be listening to all the members in order to truly love and care for each other.

I could have passed over this opportunity or written this book off as leftist propaganda. I didn’t. You shouldn’t either.

Author’s note: I am aware that the non-LGBTQIA+ experience is too broad to be accurately described with the terms « straight » or « heterosexual » but lack of widely understood terms and a need for brevity have forced me to use them in this instance.

Vie de l'église

For two marketing classes taught…

For two marketing classes taught at North Catholic High School in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, a career and college counselor at the school invited three owners of a local store to talk about how they run their small business. As part of their visit in December, the store owners offered each student a small crystal.

That’s because the business, Elemental Magick, sells books, jewelry, candles and other items used in various metaphysical practices. The three store owners, married couple Tabitha and Tamara Latshaw and their sister-in-law Kari Latshaw, are all Wiccan high priestesses.

« We sell crystals, » said Tabitha Latshaw in a video statement posted to Facebook. « If we sold gum, we would have handed out a pack of gum. »

But after some students complained to North Catholic administrators, according to reports, the counselor, who has not been identified publicly, was questioned, then, in early January, asked to resign.

In an interview with KDKA-TV, Michelle Peduto, a diocesan school administrator, explained that educators at diocesan schools are required to sign a statement saying that their instruction will align with Catholic teachings. Both the visit and the crystals were not a « good fit, » she said. 

« It is because, as we know, our faith is in Jesus Christ and not in objects necessarily, » Peduto said in a separate interview with KDKA. « Rosary beads? Yes. But crystals, no. »

North Catholic, founded in 1939 as a boys school and staffed traditionally by the Marian order, is an anchor of Catholic life in Pittsburgh. Alumni include former CIA Director Michael Hayden and the late owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dan Rooney.

Formerly known as Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, after the former bishop and archbishop of Washington, D.C., the school removed the cardinal’s name in 2018 at his request after he was criticized for his handling of sexual abuse cases there.

According to the KDKA-TV report, letters were sent home after the store owners’ appearance in the marketing classes. The letters asked families to « dispose of the crystals » and to cleanse their home by saying a prayer to St. Michael the archangel. The Diocese of Pittsburgh reportedly labeled the employee’s actions « inappropriate » and, in a letter to the former employee, « egregious. »

The Latshaws did not know of their friend’s departure from North Catholic until last week when a reporter asked for their reaction. After learning the news, the store owners have used the situation to demonstrate the popularity of crystals across various religions and in society at large.

A recent survey by Springtide Research Institute shows that 44% of Gen Z use crystals and herbs for spiritual connection or entertainment.

« Crystals are everywhere and are exclusive to no religion, including Wicca, » said Tabitha Latshaw in the Facebook statement, pointing out that in the jewelry industry, crystals are more commonly known as semiprecious gemstones. 

The store owners labeled their weekly Sunday crystal sale #Godcreatedthis. « You don’t have to be a witch to use crystals, » Latshaw said in a video statement. « We have people of all walks of faith come in here. »

The Latshaws say they weren’t there to talk about witchcraft or religion of any kind. « We went to North Catholic High School to discuss being entrepreneurs, » Tabitha Latshaw told Religion News Service.

She told KDKA-TV: « God made these. They come from the earth. That’s all I can say. »

The former school employee told the local reporter that she did not believe that the crystals or the owners’ religion would cause a stir. In hindsight, she recognized she should have thought the visit through more carefully, but she was surprised that the situation was not used as an « opportunity for me to grow and develop as a professional and as a Catholic. »

Vie de l'église

Ukraine’s religious leaders asked…

Ukraine’s religious leaders asked Pope Francis to visit Kyiv, said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

In a meeting with the pope Jan. 25, members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religions once again extended the invitation to him. Shevchuk said they did not receive a clear response on the possibility.

« We know that the Holy Father is following the developments in Ukraine and is looking for the right moment to come, » he told journalists at the Vatican Jan. 26. « We wanted to show him that not only Catholics are waiting for him (to come). All Ukrainians are waiting for him. »

At a separate meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, the representatives said they discussed the necessary conditions for beginning peace negotiations with Russia: « the liberation of Ukrainian territory as recognized by international law, » and a commitment by Russia to pay for damages caused by the war, said Shevchuk. He also advocated for international tribunals to address war crimes.

« A peace without justice and the truth does not exist, » said the archbishop. « We have so many wounds to heal. »

Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv said that the Ukrainian people « greatly appreciate what the Holy Father and the Holy See are doing for Ukraine, » but noted that « it can be difficult for Ukrainians to understand the pope’s position » on the war, and that it often falls on bishops and priests to explain his rationale.

« Some words were not taken well by our people, and we tried to calm them down and show them, for example, that (the pope) going to the Russian embassy was him showing who the aggressor was, who started this war, » said Mokrzycki.

Shortly after the war broke out, Francis took the unusual step of leaving the Vatican to go to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See to plead for peace and offer the Vatican’s services as a mediator. He has asked for prayers for the « martyred Ukraine » at his general audience and Angelus prayer each week since the war began in February 2022.

Shevchuk explained that in Ukraine « the credibility of the Christian message is in play » due to the Russian Orthodox Church’s role in endorsing the war.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has been a vocal advocate of Russia’s war effort, and recently renewed calls for prayers and donations to support the Russian army.

« If a Christian church gives rise to an ideology of genocide, it has grave moral effects. Not only for that church, but for the entire Christian message, » said Shevchuk.

The Russian Orthodox Church aims to « pin one (form of) Christianity against another, » said Valerii Antoniuk, head of the All-Ukrainian Union of the Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. He noted that Ukraine’s many Christian confessions, bolstered by the Vatican, are united in their commitment peace.

« We believe that the Holy See’s voice can beat this ideology, » he said.

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To Serve and Protect

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