Vie de l'église

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Transformative healing

In the Bible, the Book of Wisdom, or better known as the Wisdom of Solomon, is one of the seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament. In Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches, the book is considered canonical. In the Anglican and Protestant churches, the book appears among the apocrypha and was part of the Greek version of the Old Testament but not part of the Hebrew Bible. In Judaism, the Wisdom of Solomon is also not included in the Hebrew Bible.

Heavily influenced by Stoicism and Hellenism, this book, as well as other wisdom writings, sought to shed light on a wide range of viewpoints expressing the multifaceted religious, social and psychological struggles of a covenant community under foreign domination. Much of the content tries to deal with how to cope with life, especially those experiences we do not understand. One rather incomprehensible topic that the Book of Wisdom tries to offer « wisdom » on is death.

When the unexpected death of a loved one occurs, or even more tragic, the untimely death of a child, the one left to grieve sometimes cries out, « Why, God, why have you taken my loved one, my child from me? » « Why did you let them die? » « Why were they stricken with a deadly disease? » These questions were, no doubt, also asked by the biblical people as well.

Today’s reading from Wisdom tries to provide some consolation and theological teaching in response to these heart-wrenching questions: Neither pain, suffering nor death originate with the divine. The Holy One desires life for all creation, and not just earthly life, but also immortal life. Only in the Book of Wisdom do we hear that the divine, imperishable, immortal Spirit is in all things (Wisdom 12:1). Death is part of earthly, material existence, and in the Christian belief system, death is not the final experience; it is merely a passage into deeper life as attested to by the good news proclaimed in the Gospel of Mark.

Today’s Gospel features the story of a young 12-year-old girl whose father is heartbroken over his dying child. At the midpoint of the narrative, the child dies. What Jairus, a synagogue official, wants more than anything else in this world is for his daughter to be healed through the laying on of hands by Jesus.

The act of the laying on of hands as it relates to healing occurs numerous times in the New Testament. Interpretations of this gesture associate it with the transfer of power for physical and spiritual wholeness. In light of quantum physics, however, the transference of power is better understood as the transference of energy. 

When the unexpected death of a loved one occurs, or even more tragic, the untimely death of a child, the one left to grieve sometimes cries out, « Why, God, why have you taken my loved one, my child from me? » « Why did you let them die? » « Why were they stricken with a deadly disease? » These questions were, no doubt, also asked by the biblical people as well.

Today’s reading from Wisdom tries to provide some consolation and theological teaching in response to these heart-wrenching questions: Neither pain, suffering nor death originate with the divine. The Holy One desires life for all creation, and not just earthly life, but also immortal life. Only in the Book of Wisdom do we hear that the divine, imperishable, immortal Spirit is in all things (Wisdom 12:1). Death is part of earthly, material existence, and in the Christian belief system, death is not the final experience; it is merely a passage into deeper life as attested to by the good news proclaimed in the Gospel of Mark.

Today’s Gospel features the story of a young 12-year-old girl whose father is heartbroken over his dying child. At the midpoint of the narrative, the child dies. What Jairus, a synagogue official, wants more than anything else in this world is for his daughter to be healed through the laying on of hands by Jesus.

The act of the laying on of hands as it relates to healing occurs numerous times in the New Testament. Interpretations of this gesture associate it with the transfer of power for physical and spiritual wholeness. In light of quantum physics, however, the transference of power is better understood as the transference of energy. 

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Catholics may find surprising resonance in ‘Inside Out 2’

Anyone who’s experienced puberty will benefit from Disney/Pixar’s latest masterpiece, « Inside Out 2. »

While not touted as a spiritual film, « Inside Out 2 » is a spiritual experience, as Disney/Pixar films tend to be. On the surface, the film presents itself as a coming-of-age tale of Riley Anderson, a young girl learning how to handle her emotions. But the movie’s themes tend towards the existential and can help us reevaluate the foundation (or lack thereof) we have in the Divine.

The original « Inside Out » followed 11-year-old Riley as she navigated new and uncomfortable emotions that arose from her family’s cross-country move. Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger were personified by endearing characters at her inner « Headquarters » who sorted through her memories, personality, friendships and real-time experiences. By the end of the film, the crew — and by extension, Riley herself — learned that Joy was not the only valid emotion.

The newly released sequel picks up with Riley on the cusp of puberty. Joy tells us that in her maturity, Riley has begun to create a new dimension of herself. She now has a « Belief System, » physically depicted as luminescent threads deep in Riley’s mind that can be plucked to hear its particular resonance: « I am a good person, » « I’m kind, » « Mom and Dad are proud of me. » The threads of these beliefs ascend into Riley’s Headquarters and form her seemingly spirited and positive « Sense of Self. » To help ensure that the « Sense of Self » remains strong, uplifted and inherently good, Joy regularly sends Riley’s negative thoughts to the « Back of the Mind. » 

If we build our belief systems on blind optimism or even worse, on anxiety, we are not truly experiencing the grace of God.

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As we all know, this picking and choosing cannot be sustained. Soon puberty hits, causing chaos and destruction in Riley’s head. Suddenly, the core gang is infiltrated by new emotions: Envy, Embarrassment, Ennui, Nostalgia and the « villain » of the story, Anxiety. 

Anxiety is a take-charge gal. She presents herself at first as a positive force in Riley’s life. She plans for the future. She lays out scenarios Riley may face so that she can be better prepared when the time comes. She takes it upon herself to break Riley’s standing « Belief System » and announces to the other emotions that with Riley entering high school, she needs a new and improved, more complex « Sense of Self. »

While this seems to work temporarily, soon Anxiety takes charge of Headquarters and her unhelpful traits dominate. She uses Riley’s imagination against her, creating literal « projections » of worst case scenarios, which eventually culminates in Riley’s « Sense of Self » becoming a repeating drone of « I’m not good enough. » Anxiety is in full throttle, and Riley’s mental health becomes victim to a ground-breaking depiction of a teenage anxiety attack after a particularly pivotal hockey penalty.

At this point, only Joy can break through the tornado of confusion, pleading with Anxiety: « You need to let her go. » Anxiety realizes that despite her best efforts, she cannot control Riley. The collective gang of emotions come to understand that trying to sway the outcomes of life does not make the bad go away, it only causes more trouble.

As wholesome as Joy’s intentions were in shielding Riley from heartache and embarrassment, her interaction with Anxiety forces her to see that hiding all of Riley’s more difficult experiences or shortcomings was actually unhealthy for the girl’s « Sense of Self. » 

This is where the message of « Inside Out 2 » can invite us into a deeper insight into our relationship with God. Many of us in faith-based struggles can see ourselves in Riley. From the beginning of our spiritual development we are told to seek joy, to « not let our hearts be troubled, » to cast all of our anxiety onto Christ, for we mean more to him « than many sparrows. » But surrender is not easy. Many of us Catholic Christians find the course treacherous — and for those predisposed to anxiety, cultivating a relationship with God can be an even more formidable task.

We tend to start on a positive note. As young children in faith formation, the focus is primarily joy: We are taught that God is love and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. But soon enough we are introduced to the concepts of sin, eternal damnation and camels passing through the eyes of needles. If catechesis is misguided, the emphasis might lean too heavily on what we are forbidden to do, as opposed to what we are called to do. That disconnect can create « Belief Systems » and « Senses of Self » that are built on rocky soil, despite the best intentions.

The internalized message, much like Riley’s, morphs from « God loves me » into « I am not good enough. » We might begin to question our worth or battle with scrupulosity. Even saints like Ignatius Loyola and Thérèse of Lisieux struggled with characteristics of this mental health condition, akin to obsessive compulsive disorder. These conditions can completely blind us to the beauty that is God’s mercy.

If we build our belief systems on blind optimism or even worse, on anxiety, we are not truly experiencing the grace of God.

God calls us to be our full selves. And as much as we hate to admit it, our full selves are a mix of good and bad. I am a good person — and I am selfish. We have become so accustomed to the binary (light and dark, good and evil, heaven and Hell), that we fail to see that humanity lies somewhere in the middle. We can use the knowledge of our weaknesses and acceptance of our complexities to move the needle closer to God.

God does not expect perfection. As C.S. Lewis so eloquently wrote in Mere Christianity: « Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. » After all, who wants to receive love from someone doing it out of obligation or anxiety?

As « Inside Out 2 » so vibrantly demonstrates, human nature comes with a spectrum of emotions: Sadness, Fear, Disgust, Anger, Ennui, Anxiety and Embarrassment, just to name a few. But in God, the core of our « Belief System » can be love and fullness of self; and knowing we are loved and accepted, flaws and all, can help lighten the yoke of our mental health struggles.

That’s a lesson Riley — and all of us — eventually will learn.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Massachusetts priest placed on leave for alleged sexual misconduct involving adult

A Massachusetts priest has been placed on administrative leave, following allegations of sexual misconduct involving an apparent adult victim — while an attorney for a separate alleged adult victim accused the diocese of having engaged in a « cover up » regarding the priest.

Bishop Edgar da Cunha of Fall River, Massachusetts, recently informed parishioners of St. Michael and St. Joseph parishes in Fall River that their joint pastor, Fr. Jay Mello, is under investigation due to « concerning information » the diocese had received about possible sexual misconduct.

The bishop’s letter announcing the news was shared during the parishes’ June 22-23 weekend Masses.

According to a June 23 statement by the diocese, « there are no allegations of inappropriate conduct with minors » in Mello’s case.

The diocese said an initial inquiry « found that there is sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation to determine whether Father Mello has violated the standards of ministerial behavior and the Code of Conduct for Priests. »

While on administrative leave, Mello « is no longer residing at the parish rectory and has been directed to refrain from exercising public priestly ministry. »

The diocese noted Mello « has denied the allegations of priestly misconduct and is entitled to the presumption of innocence until the investigation is complete and a final determination is made. »

The statement encouraged « anyone with concerns regarding the conduct of any priest, staff, or volunteer affiliated with the diocese » to contact law enforcement and/or the diocese’s safe environment and victim assistance director.

OSV News has reached out to \Mello by email for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.

OSV News has also contacted the Diocese of Fall River to clarify the specific restrictions placed upon the priest.

As of June 27, Mello was listed on both the St. Michael and St. Joseph parishes’ websites as their pastor.

But Boston-based attorney Mitchell Garabedian told reporters that allegations against Mello are far from unprecedented.

On June 26, Garabedian participated remotely in a press conference held outside the Diocese of Fall River’s offices, claiming Mello « took advantage … sexually » of his unnamed male client in 2013. Garabedian’s client — who is not involved in the recent allegations against the priest — was 28 years old at the time.

Garebedian said his client had met Mello in the early 2010s at the former Sacred Hearts Retreat Center in Wareham, Massachusetts, and had shared with the priest — who is a 1998 graduate of a high school culinary arts program — a « common interest » in cooking.

The attorney said that in 2013, Mello had allegedly invited the man to discuss the topic of cooking at the rectory at St. Francis Xavier in Acushnet, Massachusetts, where the priest was filling in while still assigned to St. Patrick Church in Falmouth, Massachusetts (now part of St. Joseph, Guardian of the Holy Family Parish in Falmouth).

The alleged abuse took place at the rectory, said Garabedian, adding, « There was no consent in this sexual relationship. It was a violent incident … and my client fled. »

Garabedian told OSV News the alleged incident qualified as a « criminal sexual offense, » and that his client had reported it to the Acushnet Police Department.

OSV News has requested confirmation from the police department of the complaint and is awaiting a response.

Garabedian also told OSV News that shortly after the alleged sexual assault, his client had met with now-deceased Bishop George Coleman, then bishop of the Fall River Diocese.

« And my client was ignored after that, » Garabedian said. « The bishop was very quiet, and he just listened and he did not say anything. »

Garabedian said Coleman « did nothing » after that.

« Common sense would dictate that an investigation should have been conducted back then, in 2013, » he said.

Ten years later, said Garabedian, his client — who had since become « aware of other victims » — approached the diocese again, this time under da Cunha, about Mello.

The attorney added that his client has been « on an emotional rollercoaster » as a result of the alleged abuse, and is seeking « validation » of his experience as well as compensation from the diocese.

In response to the press conference, the Diocese of Fall River issued a June 26 statement saying that it was not able to provide additional information on the case during the ongoing investigation into Mello.

Once the inquiry has been completed, « all information including any allegations will be presented to the Ministerial Review Board for evaluation, » said the diocese, referencing the independent, consultative body mandated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

« Upon its review and discussion of the information, the Review Board will offer recommendations to Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha … for a response to the allegations, » said the diocese.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Supreme Court’s narrow ruling allows abortion for medical emergencies in Idaho for now

The Supreme Court on June 27 dismissed a case concerning abortions for medical emergencies in Idaho, sending the case back to a lower court without resolving the central question of whether a conflict exists between Idaho’s abortion restrictions and federal law governing emergency health care.

The procedural ruling will in effect allow abortions for women facing health emergencies in Idaho, despite the state’s near-total ban on the procedure.

In an unsigned decision, the court voted 6-3 to dismiss the case, with Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissenting from that ruling.

Supporters of Idaho’s law argued it makes appropriate exceptions for emergency circumstances, while opponents argued that the law runs afoul of federal requirements to provide stabilizing care to pregnant women experiencing adverse effects in emergency rooms.

The federal law in question, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, obligates doctors and hospitals to attempt to stabilize both mother and unborn child in an emergency.

Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson, despite voting with the majority, argued the court should resolve the dispute at hand.

« So, to be clear: Today’s decision is not a victory for pregnant patients in Idaho. It is delay, » she wrote.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, meanwhile, who also voted with the majority, argued that the circumstances of the case have changed since the Supreme Court agreed to take it up and the scope of the dispute is now « unclear. »

« Since this suit began in the District Court, Idaho law has significantly changed — twice, » she wrote.

Barrett also argued the federal government « identified PPROM (preterm premature rupture of the membranes), placental abruption, pre-eclampsia, and eclampsia as conditions for which EMTALA requires an emergency abortion to be available. (The same conditions that the Government’s witnesses identified — before Idaho’s law changed.) »

But Barrett pointed out that the petitioners also argue Idaho law « permits physicians to treat each of these conditions with emergency abortions, even if the threat to the woman’s life is not imminent. »

The Biden administration has sought to use EMTALA to require hospitals to perform emergency abortions in states that have restricted abortion following the June 2022 Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the high court’s previous abortion precedent.

The administration has argued that doctors must perform abortions when a woman’s life is in jeopardy from the pregnancy under the 1986 emergency health care law, while others argue that law requires stabilizing care be administered to both mother and unborn child, as gestationally appropriate.

« Today, the court said that Idaho will be able to enforce its law to save lives in the vast majority of circumstances while the case proceeds, » Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador told reporters on a June 27 press call.

Labrador argued the state’s law does contain exceptions for emergencies, and the Idaho Supreme Court previously « made it really clear that the life-threatening condition does not have to be immediate, and so there were no immediacy requirements. »

« So as long as (doctors are) exercising a good faith judgment that the condition could lead to death, the Idaho Supreme Court, the Legislature, and I have all said that as long as they have a good faith belief that the that their life could be in jeopardy, even if it’s not immediate, that they can perform the abortion, » Labrador said. « And this is where I think some people in bad faith have actually tried to confuse these doctors, and that’s why they’re confused because they somehow think that the state and local prosecutors are not going to abide by what the law says. And I just categorically dismiss and reject those arguments by the left. »

In a statement, President Joe Biden said, « Today’s Supreme Court order ensures that women in Idaho can access the emergency medical care they need while this case returns to the lower courts. »

« No woman should be denied care, made to wait until she’s near death, or forced to flee her home state just to receive the health care she needs, » he said. « This should never happen in America. Yet, this is exactly what is happening in states across the country since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. »

In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, said, « While this litigation continues, it’s a reminder and a wake-up call that the stakes of the coming election are higher than ever for unborn children and their mothers. »

The case returns to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Pope calls drug traffickers ‘murderers,’ pushes against legalization

While Christians must treat addicts with care and comprehension, drug traffickers who push their products on the vulnerable are « murderers » who are called to conversion, Pope Francis said.

Breaking from his catechetical series centered on the Holy Spirit, the pope addressed the issue of drug abuse and trafficking during his general audience June 26, marking World Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

« Drug abuse impoverishes every community it touches, » he said, echoing the words of St. John Paul II. « It diminishes human strength and moral fiber, undermines valued principles, and destroys the desire to live and contribute to a better society. »

Francis emphasized that each drug addict has « a different personal story, which must be listened to, understood, loved and, as much as possible, healed and purified. »

« However, » he added, « we cannot ignore the evil intentions and actions of drug dealers and traffickers. They are murderers. »

Established by the United Nations in 1987, the international day is observed every June 26. This year’s theme is: « The evidence is clear: Invest in prevention. »

Francis criticized the loosening of restrictions on drug usage as a means to reduce dependence on drugs, calling it a « fantasy, » and noted that some countries have proposed or already enacted more liberal drug policies.

« Having known so many tragic stories of drug addicts and their families, I am convinced that it is a moral duty to put an end to the production and trafficking of these dangerous substances, » the pope said. « How many traffickers of death, because drug traffickers are traffickers of death, exist, driven by the logic of power and money at any cost. »

Francis described the « scourge » of drug trafficking as one that « produces violence and sows suffering and death, » and called on society to act courageously and together to combat it.

Just as Jesus drew near to the afflicted to heal their wounds, « we are also called to act, to stop before situations of frailty and pain, to know how to listen to the cry of loneliness and anguish, to bend down to lift up and restore to new life those who fall into the bondage of drugs, » he said.

In a nod to the theme for the international day, the pope stressed that prevention must be a priority when combating drug abuse and trafficking, which, he said, is achieved by promoting justice in society, educating young people in personal and communal values and accompanying those in need.

He also spoke about visiting several recovery centers run by faith-based institutions during his travels as pope. He praised the hopeful witness offered by priests, consecrated and lay people in caring for drug addicts as well as the efforts of bishops’ conferences to promote just drug legislation.

Francis ended his speech by departing from his prepared remarks to ask the visitors in St. Peter’s Square to « pray for the criminals that give drugs to young people, they are criminals, they are murderers. »

« Let us pray for their conversion, » he said.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Public funds for religious charter school would be unconstitutional, Oklahoma high court says

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped what would have been the first publicly funded religious charter school in the U.S., turning back conservatives and the state’s GOP governor who have welcomed religious groups into public education.

The high court determined the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board’s 3-2 vote last year to approve an application by the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma for the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School violates the Establishment Clause, which prohibits government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” The ruling also says both the Oklahoma and U.S. constitutions, as well as state law, were violated.

The case is being closely watched because supporters of the school believe recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have indicated the court is more open to public funds going to religious entities.

Conservative-led states have targeted public schools: Louisiana required them to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms, while others are under pressure to teach the Bible and ban books and lessons about race, sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Under Oklahoma law, a charter school is a public school,” Justice James Winchester, an appointee of former Republican Gov. Frank Keating, wrote in the court’s majority opinion. « As such, a charter school must be nonsectarian.

“However, St. Isidore will evangelize the Catholic school curriculum while sponsored by the state.”

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Diocese of Tulsa said in a statement they will “consider all legal options” in response to the court’s ruling.

The court’s decision was 7-1, with one member concurring in part and one member, Chief Justice John Kane IV, recusing himself. Justice Dana Kuehn dissented.

Five of Oklahoma’s nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republicans, four by Democrats.

In her dissent, Kuehn wrote that excluding St. Isidore from operating a charter school based solely on its religious affiliation would violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Oklahoma Constitution does not bar Oklahoma from contracting with religious schools as long as state-funded, nonreligious options are available, Kuehn wrote.

Oklahoma’s Republican Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who urged the board not to approve the contract, had asked the state’s high court to intervene and rule on the case. He praised the court’s decision.

“The framers of the U.S. Constitution and those who drafted Oklahoma’s Constitution clearly understood how best to protect religious freedom: by preventing the state from sponsoring any religion at all,” Drummond said in a statement.

The K-12 online public charter school was set to start classes for its first 200 enrollees in the fall, with part of its mission to evangelize its students in the Catholic faith. The archdiocese is seeking guidance from attorneys on whether to open, said Brett Farley, the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma.

A group of Oklahoma parents, faith leaders and a public education nonprofit sued to stop the establishment of the school.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who supported the board’s decision, said he was disappointed Drummond challenged it and remained hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court would consider the case.

“I’m concerned we’ve sent a troubling message that religious groups are second-class participants in our education system,” Stitt said in a statement. “Charter schools are incredibly popular in Oklahoma – and all we’re saying is: we can’t choose who gets state dollars based on a private entity’s religious status.”

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Peace must be a priority, say Catholic leaders on anniversary of priests’ violent deaths in Mexico

Two years have passed since a leader of one of Mexico’s organized crime gangs stormed into a Catholic church in the remote Tarahumara mountains and fatally shot two Jesuit priests.

Among many faith leaders nationwide, the pain unleashed on June 20, 2022 — when the Revs. Javier Campos Morales, 79, and Joaquín César Mora Salazar, 80, were murdered by a local gang leader — has not faded. Nor their quest for peace.

« The murders of Fathers Javier and Joaquín has allowed us to redefine the pain that lives in the hearts of many corners of the country, » the Catholic bishops conference of Mexico said in a news release Thursday. « To build a shared movement that has peace as its horizon and the victims of violence as its starting point. »

The bells at Jesuit churches and neighboring Catholic parishes tolled for the slain priests on Thursday afternoon. Later, dozens gathered at a church in Mexico City for a Mass in their honor. It was followed by the inauguration of a nearby mural depicting Campos and Mora called « Cerocahui Memory. »

« With them, we remember all of those who have died due to violence and indifference, » said the Rev. Javier Acero, standing next to a portrait of his murdered Jesuit brothers during the service. « Today we ask for peace, we scream for it. »

« We denounce that people still disappear in our country, that those who are responsible for safeguarding our security remain indifferent, » Acero said. « And we know that denouncing this means shedding blood, sweat and tears, but we will keep doing it. »

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, since he took office in 2018, has avoided direct confrontation with cartels and violent gangs controlling and terrorizing local communities. His « hugs, not bullets » policy has drawn extensive criticism from faith leaders, human rights organizations and journalists who have echoed victims’ fears and anger.

Organized crime has long controlled swaths of territory in states such as Guerrero, Guanajuato and Michoacan. Many people have been displaced from rural villages in Chiapas by warring cartels.

Some two dozen candidates were killed ahead of June 2 elections, when Mexicans elected Claudia Sheinbaum as their first female president.

Both Sheinbaum and López Obrador have rejected any criticism of the government’s security strategies, claiming that homicide levels were reduced during the last administration. In contrast, church leaders have repeatedly said that Mexico suffers from a « deep crisis of violence and social decomposition. »

In remembrance of the 2022 murders, the bishops conference, Jesuits of Mexico and some other national religious organizations announced Thursday a third stage of the « National Peace Dialogue. » They demanded concrete actions to address nationwide violence.

For the past two years, the initiative has brought together civil society, academics, violence victims and businesspeople who search for solutions to achieve justice, security and peace. More than 60.000 testimonies have been gathered.

The relationship between López Obrador and the Catholic Church has been tense ever since the murder of the Jesuits priests. Bishop Ramón Castro, secretary general of the bishops conference, said ahead of June elections that he wished for a deeper dialogue between the government and the church.

Lopez Obrador has said that religious leaders are « cynical » and « hypocrites » for criticizing him but not his predecessors.

« It’s a shame that the President ignores history, » the Rev. Javier Ávila, a Jesuit who worked close to the murdered priests in the Sierra Tarahumara, said in a recent interview. « So I need to remind him that we, the Jesuits, were expelled from America for having shouted in favor of the Indigenous people. »

« One cannot be indifferent when one has hit rock bottom, when blood has splashed on you, when you have shared tears. »

In its news release Thursday, the bishops’ conference announced the start of the « Local Peace Projects, » which will include various actions in schools, neighborhoods, companies and family environments.

The peace proposal from the Catholic Church addresses seven topics: reconstruction of the social fabric, security, justice, prisons, youth, governance and human rights.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer


Voice of the Creator

(Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year B; This homily was given on June 22 & 23, 2024 at Saint Augustine Church in Providence, Rhode Island; See Job 38:1-11 and Mark 4:35-41)  

Seeking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through prayer

Vie de l'église

NCR, Global Sisters Report and EarthBeat win 44 Catholic Media Awards

National Catholic Reporter, Global Sisters Report and EarthBeat won 44 honors in 33 categories at the 2024 Catholic Media Awards, including a first place for Global Sisters Report’s Spanish language edition in the best Spanish-language website category and second place for NCR for best national newspaper. NCR swept the « best investigative news writing » category, with Brian Fraga winning first and third place and Katie Collins Scott getting a second-place award. NCR also won first place for best editorial on a national or international issue and first place for a column by Michael Sean Winters. EarthBeat won in several categories, including first place for electronic newsletter.

GSR international correspondent Chris Herlinger and Latin America correspondent Rhina Guidos were honored with second place and honorable mention, respectively, as writers of the year. GSR’s signature series, « Hope Amid Turmoil: Sisters in Conflict Areas, » was recognized with three separate awards. GSR’s Spanish website, launched May 1, 2023, was honored for work in its first year.

The awards for work done in 2023, were presented June 21 at the Catholic Media Association conference in Atlanta.

In the sweep of investigative news writing, Fraga’s story « Lingering Vatican investigation of Tennessee bishop leaves diocese demoralized, » won first place. Judges commented that « the piece is deserving of all the recognition for its breadth of research and interviews with those involved, particularly the bishop. The reporter does an excellent job balancing the subject matter’s responses with the various issues. »

Judges said « Catholic clergy abuse survivors of color endure compounded trauma, » Scott’s second-place story, « fulfills its goal to draw a wide-ranging picture of specific clergy abuse in Black and brown communities and the additional hardships endured, » noting that the many interviews were « particularly heart-wrenching. » Fraga’s « Group promoting author GK Chesterton faces turmoil over right-wing connections earned third place.

GSR’s special series, « Hope Amid Turmoil: Sisters in Conflict Areas » won in four categories, including first place for best online feature content not published in print, first place in best story and photo package by two individuals or more; second place for best news writing series for an international event and third place for best coverage – disaster or crisis. 

The first story in the series, « In spite of a year of war, Ukrainians endure and religious ministry continues, » published on the eve of the second year of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, by Chris Herlinger and photojournalist Gregg Brekke, prompted this comment by judges: « fantastic color brought to life by amazing photos … The story on the work of sisters such as Lydia Timkova was particularly moving and very enterprising. Videos helped bring all of this coverage to life. Outstanding work. » Other parts of the series won first place for best online content not published in print, feature category. Other parts of the series by Africa regional correspondent Doreen Ajiambo, Herlinger and freelance writers Patrick Egwu and Thomas Scaria were recognized.

GSR’s in-depth look at sisters’ reconciliation efforts in the Canadian boarding schools controversy by Sandrine Rastello won first place in the best analysis/background/round-up news writing category and third place in the best in-depth/special reporting category. « An outstanding examination of this heartbreaking subject with vivid imagery and compelling details, » the judges said with the first place award. « The writing is lucid and impossible to stop reading. »

NCR’s editorial « Air quality is a justice issue — and not just when it hurts NYC » won first place in the best editorial on a national or international issue. Judges commented, « the lead-in graphs are written with an evocative language and imagery that capture the reader’s attention. Statistics are sprinkled throughout to great effect in building the writer’s argument. »

NCR’s Michael Sean Winters won first place in best regular column – political issues with the entry « Burke at Bedminster and Pence at Napa: The GOP at prayer? » Judges wrote: « The overall tone and style of this column made it stand out. Current issues with a bit of flair to the details and insights makes this piece a winner. »

EarthBeat Weekly won first place for best electronic newsletter and placed high among the coverage of social justice issues. Judges praised the newsletter’s layout, clarity and content, adding « Most notably, the newsletter presents a cohesive narrative, with text and images seamlessly connecting and multiple pieces contributing to larger, emerging issues. Overall, everything is exceptionally well-done. » 

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Vatican communications prefect on using Rupnik art: ‘I don’t think we have to throw stones’

On the final day of the Catholic Media Conference in Atlanta, the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication addressed questions posed by journalists about the dicastery’s regular practice of posting art by Fr. Marko Rupnik — a Rome-based priest accused of sexually abusing multiple women — on the Vatican News website and social media, especially to illustrate church feast days.

« As Christian(s), we are asked not to judge, » Paolo Ruffini said to a room full of communications professionals after giving an address at the CMC June 21. He explained that while the process of a Vatican investigation into Rupnik is still ongoing, « an anticipation of a decision is something that is not, in our opinion, is not good. »

« There are things we don’t understand, » he said. Ruffini also added they « did not put in any new photos » of Father Rupnik’s art, but rather have been using what they had. « We didn’t decide what was not on our charge to decide, » he said.

In December 2022, Rome’s Jesuit headquarters disclosed it had suspended the Rome-based priest and famous mosaic artist from membership after sexual abuse claims, but Jesuit officials said the claims had been dismissed by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith because of the church’s 20-year statute of limitations.

In June 2023, the order said it had expelled Rupnik for disobedience after it compiled a 150-page dossier of credible accusations against him, believed to involve 20 to 40 women.

However, on Oct. 27, 2023, Pope Francis waived the statute of limitations and instructed the doctrinal dicastery to initiate a new investigation after the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors had highlighted « serious problems » in handling his case.

Mentioning « civilization, » and « humanity along the centuries, » Ruffini spoke directly to the question some have raised about removing or destroying Rupnik’s art.

« Removing, deleting, destroying art has not ever been a good choice, » Ruffini said, mentioning legendary Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, known widely as simply Caravaggio, who in the course of his life killed a man.

Removing Rupnik’s art from public space « is not a Christian response, » Ruffini said.

Responding to the question first posed by Colleen Dulle of the Jesuit-published America magazine, Ruffini mentioned that the Jesuit curia in Rome did not remove Rupnik’s art from their chapel.

« I think this is also something that can be inspiring in terms of being Christian, » Ruffini said, encouraging patience toward the decision of the Vatican bodies investigating the case.

In a follow-up question, OSV News asked Ruffini how communion through communications, which the prefect mentioned in his address to the journalists gathered there, corresponds to the communion with victims of abuse regarding posting Rupnik’s images to the Vatican News website, and what he would like to say specifically to victims regarding his comments.

« The closeness of the church to any victims is clear, » Ruffini replied.

He added, « But it’s clear also that there is a procedure going on. So we have to wait (for) the procedure. »

« We are not talking about abuse of minors, » Ruffini said. « We are talking (about) a story that we don’t know. »

« And I think that as Christians, we have to understand that the closeness to the victims is important. But I don’t know that this is the way of healing, » Ruffini added, saying that « there are people that (are) praying in sanctuaries of many churches all around the world » in front of mosaics Rupnik created.

« I don’t think we have to throw stones thinking that this is the way of healing, » he said.

« Do you think that if I put away a photo of an art (away) from … our website, I will be more close to the victims? Do you think so? » he pressed journalists at the end of his answer. When an answer was given in the affirmative, Ruffini responded: « I think you’re wrong. »

Born at Zadlog, Slovenia, Rupnik was ordained in 1985 and became famous for his large-scale mosaics, which are displayed at over 200 Catholic centers worldwide, including the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel and the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington.

After accusations of spiritual and sexual abuse from dozens of women, including former sisters of the Loyola Community, the calls for the removal of the priest’s artworks have since come from advocacy groups.

The alleged victims of Rupnik told OSV News in April that his art cannot be separated from abuse claims.

The close link between Rupnik’s artistic work and the abuses he allegedly committed was confirmed to OSV News by Gloria Branciani, a former religious of the Loyola Community in Slovenia who alleged Rupnik abused her for nine years when the Jesuit was the spiritual director of the Loyola Community.

« In Rupnik, the sexual dimension cannot be separated from the creative experience, » Branciani told OSV News.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer