Vie de l'église

Experts: Trump’s felony conviction is historic, with potential ramifications for US

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was found guilty on all 34 felony counts by a Manhattan jury agreeing unanimously that he falsified business records in paying hush money to an adult film actress in the closing days of the 2016 campaign.

Various Catholic legal and political experts noted the conviction is historic, marking the first time in American history that a current or former president has been convicted on criminal charges, with potential ramifications for the U.S.

Trump took no questions from reporters after the verdict was delivered, but told them that the trial was « rigged » and « disgraceful » and alleged it was a scheme by a political opponent to hurt his election prospects.

« But the real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people, » he said in reference to the election.

The case concerned a $130,000 hush money payment made by Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed she slept with the married Trump in 2006, in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election. Trump characterized his reimbursement of the payout by Cohen as legal expenses. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to tax fraud, campaign finance violations and making false statements to Congress in connection to that payment.

John White, a professor of politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, told OSV News that the conviction marked « a historic day in American history. »

« For the first time, a former president is a convicted felon, » White said. « Twelve ordinary citizens of diverse backgrounds reached a verdict. Trump has every right to appeal and will do so. But in a legal system where unanimity was required and a single juror could have resulted in a hung jury, Trump was convicted. »

But while Trump’s conviction is historic, the difference it makes in the presidential election is less certain.

White said the outcome also marks « a day of reckoning for the Republican Party. »

« Time and again, Republicans empowered Trump, » White said. « It’s certainly possible to continue to believe in a populism that believes in low tax rates, high tariffs, tough on crime laws, and immigration reform. But Republicans didn’t need Trump to lead that charge — and still don’t. Their current dilemma is of their own making. »

James Patterson, chair of the politics department at Ave Maria University in Florida, told OSV News that the verdict « likely makes no difference in the likely outcome of the election. »

« President Joe Biden is unpopular, and this verdict does not somehow make him more popular, » Patterson said. « It might make Trump less popular on the margins, but my sense is that already likely voters knew of this case and its likely outcome. The American voter of 2024 is not as likely to punish a presidential candidate for paying hush money to an adult entertainer as voters past. Such a development in the American moral sensibility seems regrettable, but here we are all the same. »

Robert P. George, a Catholic American legal scholar and McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, told OSV News that despite his criticisms of the former president, he also had concerns about the process of the trial.

« I have never voted for Donald Trump, » George said. « Indeed, the record will show that I am, and have long been, one of his harshest critics. I must, however, say that the ‘lawfare’ waged against him for transparently political reasons, leading now to a criminal conviction, constitutes a serious threat to our constitutional order, as serious as any threat posed by the former president’s own behavior. »

« We in the United States do not confect pretexts to prosecute our political opponents and put them in jail, » he said. « We do not use the legal system to interfere in elections. But that is now what is happening. The fact that the Trump conviction will almost certainly be quashed on appeal due to errors by the trial judge does not mitigate the threat. We have taken a step here down a very dark road. »

But Michael Tyler, communications director for the Biden-Harris campaign, said in a statement, « In New York today, we saw that no one is above the law. »

« Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain, » Tyler said. « But today’s verdict does not change the fact that the American people face a simple reality. There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box. Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president. »

Tyler argued Trump is « running an increasingly unhinged campaign of revenge and retribution » and that « the American people will reject it this November. »

Additional Catholic reaction has varied across social media.

Steven P. Millies, a professor of public theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, who also writes about the church’s relationship to politics, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that « ordinary citizens working in the system held a (former president) to the people’s laws. This is a great day in America. »

CatholicVote, a GOP-aligned advocacy group that endorsed Trump’s 2024 campaign, accused Biden in a post on X of « locking up his political opponent. » But Trump has yet to be sentenced and was released.

Trump’s sentencing is scheduled for July 11, a date after the first scheduled debate between Trump and President Joe Biden, and four days prior to the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Diocese of Greensburg asks police to investigate possible cover-up of staff criminal record

A Pennsylvania diocese has asked police to investigate after parish staff — overseen by a beloved pastor — possibly concealed a now-former employee’s criminal record, which includes a recent arrest for rape and incest of a minor, as well as charges dating back to 2001-2002 for lewdness, indecent exposure and drug possession.

Bishop Larry J. Kulick of Greensburg has sought the Westmoreland County (Pa.) Detective Bureau’s help in determining whether employees at two affiliated parishes — St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in North Huntingdon and Immaculate Conception in Irwin — conspired to hide glaring disqualifications for safe environment clearance for Shon M. Harrity of North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

The move was announced in a statement issued by the diocese May 28, which also noted that Father John A. Moineau has resigned effective immediately as pastor of both St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Immaculate Conception « for the good of the parishes, » the statement said, and he also will begin medical leave June 17. In the summer of 2021, the popular priest announced he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had spread to his liver and caused a blood clot in his abdomen.

Three unspecified employees from both parishes will be placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the county detectives’ investigation, said the diocese. In addition, Kulick has opened a required preliminary investigation under canon law to assess whether the case demonstrated culpable negligence for actions or omissions resulting in harm or scandal.

The 47-year-old Harrity, who until recently had worked as a groundskeeper at Immaculate Conception Parish Cemetery, was arrested May 8 by North Huntingdon police on multiple charges including rape, sexual and indecent assault, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and incest against a minor. He is set to be arraigned June 19 in Westmoreland County (Pennsylvania) Court, and was released from custody after posting bail May 28.

Cemetery director Jerry Kunkle told OSV News he was « crushed » and « shocked » by news of Harrity’s recent arrest, describing his former employee as a « good worker » and a « good person. »

« I can usually read people pretty good, but this one was well hid from me, » said Kunkle.

Harrity’s attorney, Patrick J. Thomassey, told OSV News that the eight felony and three misdemeanor charges against his client involve Harrity’s minor-aged daughter, and relate to alleged offenses committed in January 2022. Thomassey said that Harrity has returned home while the daughter has since relocated to a relative’s residence.

Both the diocese and Melanie Jones, public information officer for the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s office, confirmed to OSV News that the charges against Harrity relate to incidents that allegedly took place off site from the parish, which is served by a regional Catholic school located in Irwin.

However, Kulick said in the diocesan statement that he was « outraged » Harrity had been employed by the two parishes since 2012, as Harrity had « a criminal record … that should have automatically disqualified him from employment around children. »

Harrity had served prison time and received probation after pleading guilty to a string of offenses between 2001 and 2002 that included indecent exposure, lewdness, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, marijuana possession, fraud and forgery.

It is unclear why such charges were not initially flagged when he began work at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in 2012, given that the U.S. bishops began establishing safe environment programs after 2002 with the adoption of the « Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. » Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act, which took effect in 1980, specified the ways in which employers could use criminal history in making hiring decisions, attesting to a longstanding practice of vetting potential employees.

But an FBI fingerprint check that pulled up the 2001-2002 charges « clearly disqualified » Harrity when he went to transfer from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to Immaculate Conception Parish Cemetery, said the diocese in its statement.

Although that file « was sent by electronic mail » during Harrity’s 2023 move to Immaculate Conception, the safe environment coordinator at that parish « did not flag the file, » said the diocese, adding that an audit conducted last week revealed « several required clearance documents were missing from the file. »

Despite that gap, Moineau had « previously attested to the validity of all clearances in his parishes, signing a letter to the Bishop that he personally reviewed them, » said the diocese.

« I am beyond disappointed that our tireless efforts to raise the bar on safe environment training, required clearances and transparency were blatantly disregarded, » said Kulick in the diocesan statement. « This is exactly why we assign a safe environment coordinator in every parish and every school and every administrative office in the Diocese of Greensburg. »

He said that Moineau is « deeply remorseful » and has acknowledged his failure of oversight.

At the time of his 2020 appointment to the diocese, Kulick pledged to « work tirelessly » to implement and refine safe environment protocols in the wake of a devastating 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed extensive clerical sex abuse and cover-up in six of the state’s dioceses, including Greensburg.

Now, Kulick said he plans to « implement additional safeguards, » and has ordered « all priests and administrators … to personally review each employee and volunteer file in their parishes » within the next seven days, along with their required annual review of the files.

Over the summer, the diocesan human resources office will conduct a separate audit of clearances in all of its 78 parishes and 12 Catholic schools, said the bishop, who also added mandatory sessions for safe environment training for all clergy and all employees.

« Pastors and safe environment coordinators will receive a personal message from me: after these trainings, I will assure them, they will be held accountable for any administrative errors, » Kulick said in the statement.

While state law requires updated clearances every five years, « I won’t wait that long, » he said. « From this point forward, any employee or volunteer who is transferring positions between offices, parishes or schools will be required to renew their clearances and trainings, even if the documents are current. »

“My prayers are with the victim and those impacted by the heinous acts alleged to have taken place, » said Kulick in the diocesan statement, noting that with the measures he has taken to address the situation will likely invite criticism.

« I may live the rest of my life as the Bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg who asked one of our most popular and beloved priests to resign, » said Kulick. « But I have a responsibility to the people of this diocese. I will not hide our mistakes. And I will root out any and all potential risks to the safety of children. »

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Vie de l'église

Look inward to resolve war, famine, injustice, pope says

The social and political problems plaguing modern society can be resolved only by allowing the Holy Spirit to heal humanity’s inner turmoil, Pope Francis said.

« Around us, we can say there is external chaos, social chaos, political chaos. We think of wars, we think of so many children who do not have enough to eat, so many social injustices. This is the external chaos, » he said at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 29.

« But, » he said, « there is also internal chaos. Within each of us, we cannot heal the former if we do not begin to heal the latter. »

Beginning a new series of audience talks, « The Spirit and the Bride, » on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the church, the bride of Christ in Christian theology, Francis asked Christians to turn their « inner confusion into clarity through the Holy Spirit. »

« It is the power of God that does this, » he said. « Let us open our hearts so that he may accomplish it. »

Francis said that even in the first lines of the Bible, the Book of Genesis’ account of God creating heaven and earth, « the Spirit of God appears to us here as the mysterious power that moves the world from its initial formless, deserted and gloomy state to its ordered and harmonious state. »

« The Spirit creates harmony, harmony in life and in the world, » he said, adding that the Holy Spirit is the one who moves creation from « chaos to cosmos, that is, from confusion to something beautiful and ordered. »

And the New Testament recounts how the Spirit is present at key moments in the new creation, Francis said, such as when the dove descends over the Jordan during Jesus’ baptism or when Jesus breathes on the disciples and instructs them to « receive the Holy Spirit » just as God breathed life into Adam.

But it was St. Paul who « introduces a new element in the relationship between the Spirit and creation » by identifying the cause of the suffering present in creation as being « the corruption and sin of humanity that has dragged (creation) into its alienation from God. »

« This remains as true today as it was then, » he said. « We see the havoc that humanity has made and continues to make of creation, » especially on the part of those who have a « greater capacity to exploit its resources. »

Francis extolled the model of St. Francis of Assisi, who « shows us a way out, to return to the harmony of the Spirit: the way of contemplation and of praise. »

Humanity’s calling on earth, the pope said, « is about putting the joy of contemplating before the joy of possessing, » noting that « no one has rejoiced in creatures more than Francis of Assisi, who did not want to possess any of them. »

After his speech, Francis spoke about the church’s first celebration of World Children’s Day, hosted in Rome May 25-26, and about meeting Ukrainian children who were injured in the war.

« War is always cruelty; these children must start to walk (with artificial legs), to move with artificial arms; they have lost their smile, » he said. « It is awful, very sad, when a child loses his or her smile, let us pray for Ukrainian children. »

The pope also asked for prayers for Palestine, Israel and Myanmar and other countries at war.

Francis also noted that May 29 is the feast of St. Paul VI, « an ardent pastor of love for Jesus and the church and for humanity, » and encouraged people to read « Evangelii Nuntiandi, » St. Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation on evangelization in the modern world which he said « is still current. »

Written after the 1974 Synod of Bishops on evangelization, the document elaborated on the role of all Christians, and not only members of the clergy, in sharing the Gospel.

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Vie de l'église

LGBTQ Catholic groups call pope’s use of Italian slur ‘shocking and hurtful’

DignityUSA, a national organization advocating for LGBTQ Catholics, has denounced Pope Francis’ recent reported use of an Italian slur when discussing the admission of gay men to priestly seminaries as « shocking and hurtful. »

« We are glad that Pope Francis has apologized for using such a demeaning term, » said Marianne Duddy-Burke, the group’s executive director, in a May 28 statement. « We know that this was shocking and hurtful to many, especially to the innumerable gay priests who have served God’s people faithfully and well. We stand with them, and with the people who have benefited from their ministry. The truth is that the Church simply could not function without those countless gay priests, bishops and maybe even popes who currently serve and have served over the centuries. »

In an interview with NCR, Duddy-Burke said that « incidents like this are also very traumatizing, especially to people who have watched the pope and have hope due to his pastoral approach, even in things like his meeting with me in October 2023. They start to feel they may be able to feel real welcome and value in our church, and then those hopes are dashed when something like this happens. »

Earlier on May 28, the Vatican issued an apology for the pope’s reported use of an anti-gay slur during a recent closed-door meeting with Italian bishops. The 87-year-old pontiff reportedly made the controversial remark while discussing the suitability of gay men for priestly training.

The Vatican statement did not directly confirm whether the pope used the term, but said: « The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who felt offended by the use of a term, as reported by others. »

In the May 20 meeting, Francis reportedly advised the Italian bishops about permitting gay men to enter seminaries. According to reports from reputable Italian newspapers such as Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica, the pope used the Italian word « frociaggine, » which translates to « faggotry » or « faggotness, » in his remarks.

The comments came during a discussion on proposed amendments to guidelines for seminary candidates. Francis, a native of Argentina who speaks Italian as a second language, may not have realized the offensive nature of his words, Corriere della Sera speculated.

Reporting on the pope’s supposed comments has reignited debate over the church’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues. A 2005 ruling from the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education prohibits the ordination of men who are actively gay or have « deep-seated » homosexual tendencies, a position reaffirmed by Pope Francis in 2016. In 2018, he reportedly reiterated to Italian bishops the need to exclude gay candidates from the priesthood, in a similar closed-door meeting with the prelates.

« Unfortunately, even if intended as a joke, the pope’s comment reveals the depth of anti-gay bias and institutional discrimination that still exist in our church, » said Duddy-Burke.

« It is wrong to demean any group of people, including those of us who are LGBTQIA+, » she said. « And it is wrong to continue to act as if God calls only straight, cisgender men to service in the church and the world. »

New Ways Ministry, another prominent Catholic LGBTQ advocacy group, also issued a statement in response to the pope’s reported comments. Francis DeBernardo, the group’s executive director, expressed appreciation for the pope’s apology, saying it is a significant step toward more respectful dialogue within the church.

« His apology is a model for all Catholic leaders who continue to use language and ideas that offend LGBTQ+ people, even unknowingly, » said DeBernardo. The Vatican’s apology was interpreted by New Ways as an acknowledgment that the use of the slur was inadvertent.

New Ways also expressed disappointment over the pope’s lack of specificity regarding his stance on gay men in the priesthood. DeBernardo said Francis should clarify his comments to prevent misinterpretations that could lead to a « blanket ban » on gay men entering seminaries.

He quoted the pope’s famous 2013 remark — « Who am I to judge? » — urging Francis to offer a clearer and more compassionate statement that recognizes the faithful service of many gay priests.

« We hope this incident will encourage him to learn more about the language he uses and be more careful because misuse can be dangerously harmful, » said DeBernardo.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

In God’s waiting room, creatures great and small cultivate hope together

I live in a retirement village, sometimes called God’s waiting room. Rather than wait idly, our village is full of gardening lovers. Women well into their 80s will spend hours daily, season after season, nurturing small gardens. Others have bouts of gardening enthusiasm that wax and wane.

Too-frequent water outages and erratic rainfall these days has led to permanent watering restrictions. But still, keen gardeners will be found outside with their watering cans.

Some eco- and health-conscious retirees promote indigenous trees and shrubs. Spekboom (porkbush) is a veritable miracle plant — edible leaves, drought-resistant and a good carbon sequesterer. Some resident gardeners encourage growing vegetables and herbs, and sometimes we share the fruits of our labors. 

Others of us are keen birders and provide our feathered friends with bird feeders and birdbaths and so offer them and us moments of shared joy. But songbird calls are often masked by large, rowdy, ibis-type screechers called hadidahs that happily graze on newly germinated plants. They are among the less-liked members of our community, but in the overall ecological balance even hadidahs have a role to play. 

We are also fortunate that ours is a pet-friendly retirement village. Though not all residents appreciate the canine companions among us, those of us with small dogs or cats understand the value of a pet to love and to be loved by. Unfortunately, not everyone does.

I am constantly intrigued during dog walks how much interest my small dog takes in her environment. With her nose to the ground, her ears aprick and a friendly tail wag to anyone who welcomes her, she is a « good dog » and a popular pet who, I am convinced, offers a happy moment to members of a community of elderly and possibly lonely people.

On the day before Pentecost, the end of Christian Unity Week and the start of Laudato Si’ Week, I held a simple interdenominational prayer service. Some residents from different churches gathered around the Laudato Si’ Week theme, « Becoming seeds of hope. » We collected 14 types of flowering, tree and vegetable seeds and invited others to take a handful, plant their seeds and hope longingly for them to germinate, sprout and grow, to give joy and hope in days and weeks to come.

We shared, we prayed and we sang « We are one in the Spirit » and « All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful the Lord God made them all. » Such is life in God’s waiting room. 

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Vie de l'église

New book examines Christianity during ‘the plague that shook the Roman world’

A mysterious new illness arrived from the East, killing young and the old. The rich fled cramped cities as doctors desperately tried new but ultimately useless remedies. The economy faltered. But among this chaos, some managed to show charity and compassion to their sick and dying fellows.

This was the world of the Roman Empire in the late second century. In his new book, Pox Romana: The Plague That Shook the Roman World, Colin Elliott looks at the effects of the Antonine plague on the Roman world and its effects on an empire already beginning to crumble under its own weight. He also looks at how one of the empire’s minority religious groups — Christians — both cared for the sick in the face of the plague and were persecuted by scared people trying to do whatever they could to keep social order.

The book’s title is a play on Pax Romana, the famous period of peace in Rome considered to have lasted from circa 27 B.C. to 180 A.D. Previous scholars have suggested that this peace ended solely due to the Antonine plague. Elliott’s argument is that the empire was already struggling. He describes the vast filth and distemper of the preindustrial world: the grimy bathhouses, the smoke-filled apartment buildings and the almost complete lack of useful medicine. It offers an interesting look into the often romanticized world of the supposed peak of the Roman Empire.

Grain harvests in the years prior to the plague had been poor. Much of that grain was used to prop up the imperial capital itself — the world’s largest city at a million people — that could barely feed its denizens, even in a good year. Rural people, many of them enslaved, went hungry as large grain taxes were imposed to feed urban citizens. The city’s poorest were not citizens, and went hungry too. It was a society already teetering on the edge. Plague was an accelerant on a fire that had already started to burn.

That large army necessary to enforce the Pax Romana also meant large numbers of men marching long distances, far further than the tightly constrained radius around a village a peasant would travel. Disease spread thousands of miles from the empire’s eastern borders in Mesopotamia to its western end in Britain and everywhere in between.

Something else that had traveled in the previous century and a half from its origins in the eastern end of the empire was a new religion: Christianity. Christians were seen as suspicious due to their refusal to participate in the Roman state religion. Romans, whether they believed in it or not, were expected to offer sacrifices to the gods; to not do this was to potentially provoke divine wrath. Christians were seen as atheists, and theories about their horrifying behavior spread, with the emperors’ teacher saying Christians ate infants and had incestuous orgies.

Elliot acknowledges there are no texts directly linking the Antonine plague with anti-Christian persecutions, but there is plenty of documentation linking fear and unease, particularly around disease, with mob uprising against Christians. This was not yet state-driven (indeed, the state would sometimes try to suppress it), but driven by the populace. The theologian Tertullian, writing at the end of the plague years, would comment that Christians were blamed for every disaster, with the immediate response being to throw Christians to the lions.

Christians were different from other Romans, not only because of what they did not do but because of what they did: caring for the sick, the poor and the dead, not solely out of the sense of noblesse oblige of euergetism but as a religious tenet. They had a community of believers that helped each other that was distinct from the patron/client relationships that characterized Roman society. This reflected their religious belief in a God who freely gave grace, and whose son sacrificed himself for all, which also contrasted with the transactional nature of Roman state religion.

Pox Romana is a well-researched book that not only draws heavily on surviving textual records, both writings as well as other data like censuses, but also on archaeological findings (particularly related to coinage) as well as climatological evidence. It gives enough details without getting bogged down in excessive description of military formations or aqueduct construction.

One frustrating part of this otherwise stellar book is the author’s unnecessary and often strange digressions into modern politics. It would be difficult to publish a book about a pandemic in 2024 and not mention COVID-19 at all, but at times it feels like the author is using his book to forward a particular political and economic agenda.

Elliott is rightly critical of the poorly functioning Roman system of grain taxation, but then says our modern ability to buy cheap bread is a result « not of political planning but of voluntary trade, technology, and market integration. » It belies an ignorance of modern agricultural policy, and other criticisms of state power and taxation make it seem like he is unaware his own livelihood as a state university professor is wholly dependent on taxpayers.

He writes about a later Roman plague where Romans were required to show papers saying they sacrificed to the state gods by talking about how they had to « contribute to collective inoculation through ritual worship » and that this was a « passport » that verified they had « duly sacrificed and … therefore immune from blame for the woes of an evil age. » There is railing against Soviet collective farms and referring to rural bandits as « deplorables. » Such phrasing distracts from what is otherwise an engaging read. 

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Vie de l'église

Baltimore Archdiocese finalizes plan that will reduce city parishes by half

The Archdiocese of Baltimore revealed the final plan May 22 for parish planning in Baltimore City, with 23 parishes at 30 worship sites, about half the current number of churches available for Sunday Mass.

Currently in Baltimore City and some nearby areas of Baltimore County that were part of the project, 61 parishes at 59 worship sites serve approximately 5,000 Catholics. They make up about 1% of the Catholics in the archdiocese, served by 44% of the parishes.

The Seek the City to Come initiative began in fall 2022 with listening sessions, followed by visioning, discernment and decisions. The archdiocese released a proposal in April that would have created 21 parishes at 26 worship sites, so the final map is an expansion of that plan.

« The whole orientation of Seek the City is toward the creation of parishes that are well positioned and well equipped to evangelize neighborhoods and to really gather the people in those neighborhoods, especially the unchurched, around the table of the Lord, » said Archbishop William Lori.

He noted that the goal is to create « parishes that have what it takes to have a full range of pastoral services to do outreach, to do social ministry, and, if I may say, to be a light brightly visible in the neighborhoods where they exist. »

The archdiocese sought feedback on the proposal released in April at four public forums, which drew thousands of people, and the archbishop acknowledged that the interest at those events was beyond what most of the venues that were selected could hold. He said that was part of the « bottom-up, synodal process » of listening and responding. The final map makes that evident, since it is different from just five weeks earlier.

« People spoke passionately. People demonstrated their love for their parishes, » the archbishop said. « But also, there were points made in those meetings that were very constructive and helpful in shaping the final map. »

The Seek the City initiative included 20 months of effort by a working group of about 250 clergy and parish leaders from the city, with assistance from several departments at the Catholic Center. Seek the City leadership visited every parish site in the study area for an assessment of facilities and needs, and met with parish leadership for prayer and listening.

Open, prayerful discussions were held at points in the process, before the working group gathered to develop proposals that could be refined. The process also included data about the number of parishioners; the practice of sacraments such as baptisms, weddings and funerals; and other demographics.

Lori estimates that the archdiocese has heard some 6,000 voices in the process.

« We recognize that not everyone will be pleased with the outcome. But we truly have striven to listen. And listening has truly affected the outcome, » he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, vicar for Baltimore City and co-director of Seek the City, said the initiative provided many and varied ways for people to be heard — in-person visits, parish visits, open public sessions, emails, letters and phone calls.

« The reality of it is, you know, at some point we have to stop and say I think we’ve got a good sense of what people are concerned about, what they’re hoping for, what they might be worried and anxious about, what ideas and other possibilities that they have for the parishes. »

The bishop said that input also will be helpful in the next phase of implementation.

Some worship sites were moved or added in the final plan.

Lewandowski said the overall plan has more parishes and worship sites than the proposal based on feedback and a closer look at the data. The goal was to have fewer, larger parishes spread out to ensure a presence in many neighborhoods across the city to renew the work of evangelization.

« We mean evangelization in the strict sense: forming missionary disciples and going out into the neighborhoods and bringing the Gospel, » Lewandowski said. He said the current configuration of parishes in the city spread the church too thin. « We wanted to strike a balance, because too few would not be a solution, either. »

Lewandowski said implementation of the plan will be phased in, with archdiocesan offices providing support in human resources, clergy personnel, facilities, finance and the Office of Parish Renewal in the Institute for Evangelization. For most parishes, the new configurations and mergers will be done by the First Sunday of Advent 2024, Dec. 1. For others, it could be the first Sunday of Lent 2025, or even longer for some.

« What we’ve learned in other dioceses is it takes maybe three to five years for some people to settle into a new parish configuration. … There’s going to be a great need for patience, flexibility, kindness, gentleness and compassion because it is a jolt to the system, » he said.

The churches in the city that will no longer be worship sites for daily or Sunday Mass will remain available to parishioners for weddings, baptisms or funerals, at least until the newly formed parish decides how best to utilize all the properties.

« We want the new parish to be successful and financially strong, to be well resourced and so if any of the merging properties are sold, those funds go with the people to their new parish — according to canon law, it follows the territory and the people, » Lewandowski said.

Lewandowski believes that in a few years, the church will be able to look back on this time and see new life, new growth, renewed mission and energy and a revitalized church. « We live in the hope of a new life to come. »

Lori said the initiative « aims to create bonds of cooperation and collaboration among the parishes themselves, to avoid a parochial competition and to foster in its place a sense of shared ministry, shared concern for our city and its environs, shared concern for those who live there and who are in need of the Lord and the faith. »

That includes new forms of partnership with Catholic Charities, Catholic education and Catholic health care organizations, among others, especially those supported by the Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries.

Geri Royale Bird, co-director of Seek the City, sees the process that got the archdiocese to this point as the keystone to collaboration moving forward. The listening, visioning, discerning and modeling sessions created an opportunity and a platform of working together and gave parish leaders a chance to work with people they had not known before.

« What’s valuable is that all along we have been working together. Now we are going to put that to use even more, » she said. « The excitement of this is that … we get to have a fresh start to have an evangelizing church now. »

She understands some people will be anxious, but she hopes they « will look beyond that and know that there are brighter days because we’re creating a landscape where we will have the resources … to really do the work. »

Lori said, « We want to bring to bear upon the city of Baltimore and its environs all the gifts, all the ministries that the Holy Spirit. »

Clergy assignments for the new parishes will be forthcoming.

For now, the new parishes will take on the name of the church where it is sited, but the parishioners of the newly formed entity can eventually petition to change that name. In such cases, usually the parishioners make suggestions, and the pastor can present three or four names to the archbishop for his final choice.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Three Catholic bishops and a nun walk into the White House. Here’s why it’s no joke.

Three Catholic bishops and a nun walked into a climate policy meeting at the White House. This isn’t the beginning of a joke. Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, Arizona, Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima, Washington, and St. Joseph Sr. Carol Zinn, executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and I really did go to the White House on Nov. 17, with support from communications specialist Lonnie Ellis. We went to discuss Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation on climateLaudate Deum.

We went with a mission — a nonpartisan, faith-filled mission. Here’s why.

We are all being impacted by worsening wildfires, heat waves and floods. We know that communities of color and the poor are being hit the hardest. Last fall, Francis issued a second impassioned call to answer the climate crisis. In Laudate Deum, he specifically mentioned the United States, pointing out that our emissions are « seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries. » He encouraged individual and systemic conversion.

The pope’s call spurred Catholic leaders to advocate to our government. Shortly after Laudate Deum‘s release, we got the opportunity to speak with senior White House staff and to champion four policies supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to reduce four specific kinds of pollutants: soot pollution, methane, carbon pollution from power plants and emissions from heavy-duty vehicles.

With leadership from our domestic policy chair, Archbishop Borys Gudziak, the USCCB has advocated for stronger standards from the Environmental Protection Agency on each of these fronts.

Because pollution can enter deep into our lungs and bloodstream and lead to death, clean air and water are clear human life issues to us. Just as God tells us in the Bible to prioritize orphans, widows and other vulnerable people, so too our faith tells us to take action for those vulnerable to pollutants, wildfires and hurricanes. We also look to the future and our moral duty to leave our kids and grandkids a cleaner and safer world.

As the pope wrote in Laudate Deum, « Every family ought to realize that the future of their children is at stake. »

Technology and human experience keep telling us that our planet is small and interconnected. I would argue that faith tells us something similar. Faith tells us that we are one human family living together in a common home. This common home belongs to God, as the Bible’s Psalm 24 states: « The earth is the Lord’s and all that it holds. »

That is why Francis can boldly assert that polluting our air and water is « a sin against ourselves and a sin against God. » We commit grave harm against ourselves through environmental destruction and we go against God’s plan for us, which is to live in right relationship with one another and with God’s creation.

We are told that Washington is broken and our country is so polarized that it’s paralyzed. That is not what I see around me. People across the political spectrum worry about extreme weather and about chemicals that seem to be everywhere. I see people hoping to have clean air and clean water, regardless of their political persuasion. We all hope for a planet that is healthy for our kids and grandkids.

I am so grateful to see progress. In the six months since that White House meeting, the Environmental Protection Agency strengthened the standards on all four of those pollution sources. These measures will collectively reduce climate pollution by billions of tons and, by 2035, prevent more than 5,000 deaths per year, according to the EPA. Pollution doesn’t care how you voted.

Care for our common home is moving beyond politics. These EPA actions may be read through a partisan lens for a while. But more and more, Americans are expecting cleaner energy and fewer toxins in our world. More and more people are joining Francis’ « pilgrimage of reconciliation » with our environment. I pray that this growing, shared commitment will even lead to greater reconciliation with one another.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Pope recognizes miracle needed for church’s first ‘millennial’ saint

Pope Francis formally recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Carlo Acutis, a 15-year-old Italian teenager whose birth in 1991 will make him the first « millennial » to become a saint.

In a meeting May 23 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for Saints’ Causes, the pope signed decrees advancing the sainthood causes of Acutis, as well as one woman, and six men.

The Vatican announced May 23 that the pope had signed the decrees and that he would convene a consistory to set a date for the canonization of Acutis and other future saints: Blesseds Giuseppe Allamano; Marie-Léonie Paradis of Québec, Canada; Elena Guerra; and eight Franciscan friars and three Maronite laymen who were martyred in Damascus, Syria, in 1860.

Acutis was born and baptized in London to Italian parents in 1991, but the family moved back to Milan, Italy, while he was still an infant.

After he started high school, he began to curate, create or design websites, including one for a local parish, for his Jesuit-run high school and for the Pontifical Academy « Cultorum Martyrum, » according to the saints’ dicastery. He also used his computer skills to create an online database of Eucharistic miracles around the world.

He volunteered at a church-run soup kitchen, helped the poor in his neighborhood, assisted children struggling with their homework, played saxophone, soccer and videogames, and loved making videos with his dogs and cats, according to, the website dedicated to his cause for canonization.

« To always be close to Jesus, that’s my life plan, » he wrote when he was 7 years old.

He was devoted to Our Lady, praying the rosary every day, and to the Eucharist.

« The Eucarist is the highway to heaven, » he wrote. When people sit in the sun, they become tan, « but when they sit before Eucharistic Jesus, they become saints. »

When he was only 15, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia and died Oct. 12, 2006. He had said, « I’m happy to die because I’ve lived my life without wasting even a minute of it doing things that wouldn’t have pleased God, » according to

His mortal remains were moved to the municipal cemetery in Assisi in 2007 to fulfill his wish to be in the city of St. Francis. Then his remains were moved to the Shrine of the Renunciation at the Church of St. Mary Major in Assisi in 2019. He was buried wearing Nike sneakers, black jeans and an athletic warmup jacket — clothes he was used to wearing every day.

In February 2020, the pope formally recognized a miracle attributed to Acutis’ intercession and in October that year, the teen was beatified during a Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis. An estimated 117,000 pilgrims visited the teen’s tomb in just the first year after his beatification, the Diocese of Assisi said the day before his feast day, Oct. 12, 2021.

The two miracles attributed to the intercession of the teen involved alleged miraculous recoveries for a young boy in Brazil in 2013 and a young woman in Florence in 2022.

The miracle Francis recognized May 23 that paves the way for the blessed’s canonization involved a young woman who was born in Costa Rica in 2001 and moved to Florence in 2018 to study.

The woman fell from her bicycle at 4 a.m. July 2, 2022, and suffered a serious head injury, according to the dicastery website. Even after emergency surgery removing part of her skull to reduce severe intracranial pressure, doctors warned her family she could die at any moment.

An associate of the young woman’s mother began praying to Acutis the same day, and the mother went to Assisi and prayed at the blessed’s tomb July 8 — the same day the young woman began to breathe on her own again. She slowly recovered basic mobility and a CT scan showed the hemorrhage was gone. After a period of rehabilitation therapy and a complete recovery, she and her mother visited his tomb Sept. 2.

Francis has urged young people to learn about Acutis, who « did a great deal of good things, » despite his short life.

« Above all, he was impassioned by Jesus; and since he was very good at getting around on the internet, he used it in the service of the Gospel, spreading love for prayer, the witness of faith and charity toward others, » the pope told young Italians Jan. 29.

« Prayer, witness and charity » were the hallmarks of Acutis’ life and should be a key part of the life of every Christian, he said.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Retired judge finds no reliable evidence against Quebec cardinal; purported victim declines to talk

A retired Canadian judge said Tuesday he couldn’t find any reliable evidence of sexual misconduct by the archbishop of Quebec, after the purported victim refused to cooperate with his investigation and the cardinal strongly denied the claim.

Pope Francis had tasked André Denis, a retired judge of the Superior Court of Québec, to conduct a preliminary investigation for the Catholic Church into claims against Archbishop Gérald Lacroix that surfaced in January.

The allegations were contained in an amended class-action lawsuit filed in Canadian court against 100 current and former church personnel of the archdiocese.

Denis’ investigation has no bearing on that lawsuit and concerns only the church’s handling of the allegations, since the Vatican has its own procedures to deal with misconduct claims against clergy. The Vatican said Tuesday that based on Denis’ report, it planned no canonical trial against Lacroix, 66.

Francis appointed Lacroix a cardinal in 2014, was welcomed by Lacroix during a 2022 visit to Quebec and last year made him a member of his Council of Cardinals, nine top prelates from around the globe who advise him on church matters.

Lacroix had removed himself from day-to-day work at the archdiocese in January, after the allegations were added onto the original 2022 class-action complaint against the archdiocese. The allegations against him date back to 1987 and 1988 and were made by a woman who was 17 at the time, according to the complaint.

Lacroix strongly denied the claims at the time of his auto-suspension and did so again when interviewed by Denis, the judge said.

« He affirmed with conviction that he never carried out the actions with which he was accused, » Denis said. « The elements gathered during the investigation make it implausible that the events associated with the cardinal occurred, » Denis told a news conference in Quebec City.

However, Denis also said the alleged victim refused to be interviewed by him to provide her side or to give him access to her court filing. He acknowledged his investigation as a result was incomplete. It is not unheard of for victims to refuse to cooperate with church investigations, especially while civil claims are proceeding.

« I am unable to say whether or not the alleged act took place, » Denis said. « I’m even unable to identify a place, an event, a precise date or any other circumstance. The plaintiff’s refusal to co-operate in any way with my investigation has left me at a loss. »

He said if the purported victim does eventually want to collaborate, he would ask the Vatican to extend his mandate.

The same class-action lawsuit also accused Lacroix’s predecessor, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of misconduct, claims he strongly denied. Francis shelved a church trial against Ouellet in 2022 after a priest investigator determined there weren’t enough elements to bring forward a canonical trial.

In that case, the priest interviewed the alleged victim by Zoom.

While local dioceses often turn to lay experts to conduct preliminary investigations into abuse or sexual misconduct allegations, it is rare for the Vatican to entrust such an investigation to a non-priest.

In a statement, the archdiocese of Quebec said it welcomed the developments on the canonical investigation but said Lacroix had decided to continue to remain « on the sidelines » of the day-to-day work of the archdiocese until the civil litigation is resolved.

The statement « deplored » the delays in the lawsuit caused by the addition of new defendants and expressed its willingness to negotiate an out-of court settlement.

« On behalf of the Church, we wish to express our sensitivity to the suffering of survivors of sexual abuse and those who are seeking justice and reparation, » said Auxiliary Bishop Marc Pelchat, who has temporarily taken over day-to-day running of the archdiocese. « We are determined to contribute to a just settlement. »

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer