Browsing News Entries

Chicago priest removed 'temporarily' following rainbow flag burning

Chicago, Ill., Sep 25, 2018 / 07:15 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Chicago has confirmed the temporary removal of the parish priest at the center of a controversy over the burning of a rainbow banner. According to the archdiocese, Fr. Paul Kalchik has “left willingly” from his Chicago parish “to receive pastoral care.”

In a letter released Sept. 21, Cardinal Blase Cupich told parishioners that the decision was “not taken lightly” but that he had “become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish” over a period of several weeks.

In the same letter, Cupich appointed a temporary administrator for the parish, while an archdiocesan spokesperson told CNA that Kalchik officially remains the pastor. 

Kalchik received considerable media attention following an announcement that he would publicly burn a rainbow banner belonging to the parish.

In a Sept. 2 notice in the parish newsletter, Kalchik said that he would burn the banner, which he believed to symbolize a homosexual agenda contrary to Church teaching, in front of the church building. The event was scheduled to be held Sept. 29, the Feast of the Archangels.

The banner had previously been displayed in the parish church, beginning in 1991, but had been in storage for a number of years. According to a Resurrection Parish newsletter distributed Sept. 23, it was found “just when the news of the gay predation of Cardinal McCarrick broke.”

The newsletter said that its previous display had been “sacrilegious.” 

When news of the announcement spread the following week, the archdiocese contacted Kalchik and instructed him to cancel the event.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese told CNA that the archdiocesan vicar for clergy telephoned Kalchik, instructing him not to proceed, and the two had “mutually agreed that the event would not take place.”

While Kalchik told the Chicago Sun-Times Sept. 18 that the archdiocese threatened him with “canonical penalties,” the archdiocese told CNA that there was no discussion of potential consequences for burning the flag because Kalchik voluntarily agreed to comply with the instruction.

Despite this apparent agreement, the banner was burned Sept. 14 in the fire pit ordinarily used by the parish during the Easter Vigil liturgy. While the event was reportedly attended by Kalchik and only a handful of parishioners, images of the flag burning were circulated on the internet and generated strong reactions.

Some groups labeled Kalchik as homophobic and said the burning was a deliberately provocative act. A group called the Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism and Hate organized a demonstration Sept. 19 condemning the priest’s action.

Others have treated the priest’s apparent act of defiance as a stand against what they see as pro-homosexual agenda in some parts of the Church.

Kalchik told NBC News last week that he had disposed of the banner “in a quiet way” but insisted that the banner belonged to the parish, and that the parish had the “full right to destroy it.” 

Kalchik said that it had been done “privately because the archdiocese was breathing on our back.”

Fr. Thomas Petri, OP, academic dean of the Dominican-run Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., told CNA that it is common for church decorations, vestments, and altar cloths to be burned when they became “worn, old, or simply artifacts from a bygone era in terms of style and taste,” but he stressed that they must be disposed of reverently.

“The usual method is to burn these items, or to bury them in a place where they will not be disturbed,” Petri said. 

“Items dedicated for the worship of God cannot be used for any other use. This is why they are burned or buried; they are given to God completely and so rendered unusable to us. I presume the same is true for banners and hangings used in the sanctuary of a Church but I don’t know that this has ever been stated.”

In this case, it is not clear if the Archdiocese of Chicago objected to the burning itself, or to the public nature of the action and the apparent symbolism it was intended to convey.

In an interview after the flag was burned, Fr. Kalchik appeared to criticize openly his archbishop, Cardinal Cupich, whom he accused of downplaying the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and of rejecting a link between homosexuality and sexual abuse by clergy.

“I can’t sit well with people like Cardinal Cupich, who minimizes all of this,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Excuse me, but almost all of the [abuse] cases are, with respect to priests, bishops and whatnot, taking and using other young men sexually. It’s definitely a gay thing.”

Some Church commentators have suggested that Kalchik was right to go against Cupich’s instruction. But Petri said priestly obedience to his bishop is not a light matter. 

“We priests promise obedience to the bishop when we are ordained,” he said.

“Clearly, no bishop could command a priest to do something against the divine law, but, short of that, every priest, in my view, needs to give his bishop the benefit of the doubt and be obedient upon first request.”

Petri also pointed out that in serious cases, if the matter in grave and the priest disagrees, he should reason with his bishop about the request and, if necessary, appeal to the Holy See.

He told CNA that while the banner itself may have symbolized a wider agenda to some, it was important to consider both the potential effects of making the burning a public event, and the discernment of the bishop - in this case Cardinal Cupich.

“I think it’s sad that the rainbow has become the symbol of a movement and a lifestyle that very much flaunts a disordered sexuality and is opposed to the virtue of chastity,” Petri said.

“Yet, I know there are many homosexual men and women living a secular gay lifestyle, who wave the rainbow flag and identify with it, but who are, at the same time, already questioning the so-called gay scene, the pitfalls of the gay culture, and who are open, by the grace of God, to the healing and virtue that the Church can offer them.”

“I do not see how a priest who openly burns the symbol of a secular gay culture can hope to minister to or reach out to those men and women,” Petri told CNA. Instead, he said, the emphasis should remain on pastoral concern, not alienation. 

“Regardless of intent, when publicly announced it cannot but be viewed as a provocative and acrimonious gesture.”

“I suspect this is why the Archbishop of Chicago requested Fr. Kalchik not burn the banner publicly himself or be present when parishioners did so. It creates a spectacle that makes the priest an enemy of people he may one day need to shepherd.”

Despite the ongoing controversy, the Archdiocese of Chicago told CNA that Kalchik’s removal from the parish was not a direct consequence of his decision to go ahead with burning the banner, or his subsequent comments to the media.

Instead, the archdiocese reiterated that the cardinal had been concerned about “several issues in the parish” and that Kalchik’s break from ministry had “been in the works” prior to the emergence of the flag issue.

The archdiocese declined to comment on what issues specifically had drawn the cardinal’s attention to the parish, or what prompted him to decide that the pastor be asked to step aside.  

Fr. Kalchik has spoken publicly about his personal experience as a victim of sexual abuse, first as a child at the hands of a neighbor, and also by a priest when he was a young man and seminarian.

At least some parishioners at Resurrection suggested that his recent actions and statements should be viewed in that context, even if they did not agree with them personally. The most recent parish newsletter asked that those objecting to Kalchik’s actions  to “at least ask yourself what the banner represented to him as a victim [of sexual abuse].”

Fr. Petri added that Kalchik’s status as a victim merited concern and prayer, as does all abuse survivors.

“I understand that Fr. Kalchik was abused. I’ll pray for him as my brother priest who is also a victim. I do not stand in judgment and cannot presume to comment on his intentions or motivations.”

The circumstances of Kalchik’s absence from the parish remain unclear and have been the subject of considerable speculation, along with his current whereabouts.

Newsweek cited reports that there had been a heated exchange between Kalchik and two archdiocesan representatives, who allegedly threatened to have him sent to the St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, a mental health care facility. 

The archdiocese declined to comment on the report that Kalchik was instructed to present himself at the St. Luke’s Institute for psychiatric evaluation.

The archdiocese also declined to comment on a Chicago Sun-Times report that Cupich has blocked a recent request from Kalchik to move to a diocese in Michigan in order to be closer to his family.

Several questions about the temporary removal of Fr. Kalchik from the parish also remain unanswered.

Despite assurances from the Archdiocese of Chicago that Kalchik’s break from ministry was by mutual agreement, accounts have surfaced that chancery representatives threatened to call the police if he refused to leave the parish. When asked about this report specifically, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese would only repeat that “Fr. Kalchik left willingly to receive pastoral support.”

Although the archdiocese  insists that it was unrelated to the controversy surrounding the banner, no indication has been given to local parishioners - many of whom say they support Kalchik - as to exactly why their pastor was removed.

An archdiocesan spokesman did tell CNA that Kalchik was now “working with the vicar for clergy to get the support he needs.”

Pope: The Church hears the outrage of young people at scandal

Tallinn, Estonia, Sep 25, 2018 / 06:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said in Estonia Tuesday he is aware of the negative feelings many young people have toward the Catholic Church and their disappointment in a lack of clear denunciation of sexual scandals.

Young people are outraged “by sexual and economic scandals that do not meet with clear condemnation,” he said Sept. 25, and by the Church’s “unpreparedness to really appreciate the lives and sensibilities of the young,” assigning them passive roles.

Addressing youth at an ecumenical gathering in Kaarli Lutheran Church in Tallinn, he said the Church knows “that many young people do not turn to us for anything because they don’t feel we have anything meaningful to say to them.”

He pointed to the Instrumentum Laboris of the upcoming Synod and what it says young people want from the Church. He said the Church has heard these complaints and wants to be a “transparent, welcoming, honest” community.

Francis met youth on the final day of a four-day trip to the three Baltic states. In Estonia, more than 50 percent of the population of 1.3 million identify as non-religious. Eastern Orthodox make up about 16 percent and the Lutheran church 10 percent. According to recent estimates, there are only around 5,000 Catholics in Estonia.

Every religion at times finds it easier to talk than to listen and be challenged by what young people are experiencing, he said. “Today, I am here to tell you that we want to mourn with you when you mourn, to accompany and support you, to share in your joys, and to help you to be followers of the Lord.”

He urged young people to be fearless and to not believe the messages that say love is dead. “Jesus is still the reason for our being here,” he stated. “We know no greater peace of mind can be found than by letting Jesus carry our burdens.”

“We are united by our faith in Jesus, and he is waiting for us to bring him to all those young people whose lives are no longer meaningful. Let us accept together that newness that God brings to our life, that newness that impels us to set out anew to all those places where humanity is most wounded,” he encouraged.

Before meeting with youth, Francis addressed Estonia’s president, civil authorities, and diplomatic corps, highlighting the fact that in the Middle Ages, the area was called the “Terra Mariana,” or “Land of Mary.”

This name, he said, is “not simply a part of your history, but also part of your culture,” and like Mary, the land recalls ideas of memory and fruitfulness.

The pope also reflected on the use of technology and warned against placing too much “trust” in technological progress, which can erode the capacity for “interpersonal, intergenerational and intercultural bonds.”

Consequently, building these bonds is one of the most important obligations; and for those who have power in the political, social, educational, and religious spheres, there is a responsibility to combat alienation and foster community and a sense of belonging, he said.

“In this effort, dear friends, I wish to assure you that you can count always on the support and help of Catholic Church, a small community in your midst, yet one most desirous of contributing to the fruitfulness of this land.”

Next step toward artificial reproduction violates human fundamentals, ethicist warns

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Artificial human reproduction appears to be on the horizon with Japanese scientists’ claim to have created immature human eggs from stem cells, but the technique could result in power that would cross the bounds of ethics and serve as a “profound violation” of marriage and marital love, a bioethicist has warned.

John Brehany, a Catholic bioethicist and director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that stem cell research has its positives.

“Such knowledge and power could be used for good ends, achieved with ethical means. For example, scientists could build on this sophisticated expertise in stem cell science to create human organs for transplantation or to cure major diseases or injuries,” he said.

“However, given the significance of the human desire for procreation, (and) the lust for power, it appears likely that scientists will try to use this technology to engage in truly artificial human reproduction.”

The reported development is “evidence of a major advance in biotechnology prowess” and show the potential for scientists “to exert control over the most fundamental and complex building blocks of biology and life,” he said.

The team of Japanese scientists used a common method to transform adult human blood cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, which have the capacity to become other human cells, National Public Radio reports. They then placed these cells into miniature ovaries created in the lab from mouse embryonic cells. As reported in the journal Science, this triggered the human stem cells’ transformation into immature human egg cells.

The scientists said they next plan to make mature human eggs and produce human sperm using this method.

“It’s the beginning of a paradigm change,” Kyle Orwig, a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told NPR.

Brehany thought it correct that the technique might change how humans reproduce.

“This would be a major change even if practiced only by a small group of individuals. In principle, this would be a profound violation of marriage and marital love,” he said.

The technique might be a choice for those who are infertile, NPR reported. It might allow babies to be conceived from the cells of children, grandmothers, the deceased, or cells stolen from unwitting celebrities. It could make DNA scanning of human embryos routine.

According to Brehany, it is important to note that the proposed techniques’ use for infertile couples or individuals is not a cure for infertility, just as surrogacy is not. “Rather, it would allow people to procreate through other means,” he added.

He suggested that news reports on the new development do not sufficiently acknowledge how many human embryos would be “killed by being discarded or would be subject to additional assaults on their dignity by being made the subject of lab testing.”

Dartmouth bioethicist Ronald Green told NPR there are “some very weird possibilities emerging,” such as babies conceived using cells from the blood, hair, or skin cells of children, grandmothers or the deceased. Unwitting celebrities could have their cells stolen from a used soda can or hair clippings at the salon, from which egg or sperm cells could in theory be cultivated and used to conceive babies.

“A woman might want to have George Clooney’s baby,” Green said. “And his hairdresser could start selling his hair follicles online. So we suddenly could see many, many progeny of George Clooney without his consent.”

Hank Greeley, a Stanford bioethicist, said that making human eggs and sperm from stem cells “opens up an enormous number of possibilities for changing how humans reproduce.”

Brehany said Catholic teaching holds that the “greatest goods” of human persons, like marriage, marital love, and procreation, must be “treated with the greatest respect.”

“How we respect such goods is a matter of significant principle,” he said. “Once we violate or misuse them, then it is harder to treat them as they deserve, and the negative impacts on the innocent human beings are immense.”

Brehany cited the 1987 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document Donum vitae, which criticizes the separation of the desire to procreate from the conjugal act between married spouses. He suggested that such a violation results in decreased respect for “the dignity of the human persons brought into being this way” and for their suffering “as they struggle to know their own identity and dignity.”

The 2008 CDF document Dignitas personae also addresses bioethical questions related to human life and procreation. It said: “The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family, where it is generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman… human procreation is a personal act of a husband and wife, which is not capable of substitution.”

While recognizing the legitimacy of the desire for a child, and voicing understanding for the suffering of infertile couples, the document adds “such a desire, however, should not override the dignity of every human life to the point of absolute supremacy.”

Cardinal calls for respect for bodies found stored in trailers

Guadalajara, Mexico, Sep 25, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The president of the Mexican bishops’ conference has demanded that the dignity of human bodies be respected, after two trailers were found in Mexico’s Jalisco state, containing 157 corpses.

In a statement published Sept. 21, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega responded to the discovery, which he said “has caused outrage in society.”

On Sept. 18, locals in the municipality of Tlajomulco alerted authorities to the presence of a trailer emitting foul odors. The trailer contained corpses reported to be murder victims connected to organized crime, which apparently could not be kept in a morgue due to lack of space.

The former director of the Jalisco Forensic Sciences Institute, Luis Octavio Cotero Bernal, is presumably responsible for the scandal. He was dismissed from his position shortly after the bodies were discovered. There has not yet been an official statement on the discovery of the bodies.

The bodies from the trailer and a second one are now in a warehouse belonging to the Jalisco state prosecutor's office.

In his statement, Cardinall Robles said that believing in the “resurrection of the dead is to affirm something essential to the Christian faith.”

“Human existence does not come to an end  with the years lived in this world, since Jesus Christ by rising has made us sharers in eternity,” he added.

For this reason, the cardinal emphasized, “the dignity of every individual is not lost even after death, human remains require the respect due to those who in life were persons, made in the 'image and likeness of God,' who await, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to be redeemed and saved for eternal life.”

“Death is not the end, the annihilation,  the elimination, much less the extinction of a human person,” the archbishop said.

Burying the dead, he continued, “is a way of expressing faith in the Resurrection, since by so doing it is understood that the person reposes with the firm hope of one day being awakened by the eternal light of Heaven.”

“Besides belonging to a very ancient tradition of burying the dead, we know that it has been considered a corporal work of mercy. Societies of all times and cultures have set aside suitable places for the interment of their deceased, places that express compassion, respect and veneration toward those who shared our same pilgrim journey.”

Robles lamented undignified storage of human corpses, and explained that it “makes evident a process of the lamentable and gradual dehumanization of our society which has been permeating us and makes us deduce that government institutions have been overrun.”

“With the lack of care and attention to the bodies that have not been identified, the discouragement of people hoping to find their loved ones grows,” he wrote.

Robles, who is Archbishop of Guadalajara wrote that “for social, humanitarian, religious and public health reasons, it is urgent to follow the proper procedures to obtain and carefully archive genetic information which could lead in the future to the identification of the remains of those who now remain in anonymity.”

“We call then for the respect due honor due to human beings in whatever their circumstances, from the most vulnerable and defenseless to the most obscure and ignored. Any human breath is a sign of the goodness of the Creator,” he concluded.

Mexican officials are now seeking a long-term solution to the body storage problem presented by the victims of organized crime.

The BBC reported that in 2017 Mexico experienced its most violent year with more that 25,000 murders, according to official figures.

Since 1990 one cardinal, 47 priests, one deacon, four men religious, nine laypersons and one Catholic journalist have been killed in Mexico according to a report by the Catholic Multimedia Center of Mexico.

It is also estimated that since 2000, 105 journalists have been murdered in Mexico.

 

This article was originally published CNA's Spanish-language sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

What Catholics learned at V Encuentro, and what they hope their bishops heard

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 24, 2018 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- It’s a difficult time for the Catholic Church, a fact much-discussed at the National V Encuentro conference, a gathering of Hispanic and Latino Catholics from throughout the U.S. that took place Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.

The bishops have failed their people and ask for forgiveness, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said in his address at the V Encuentro.

But even at the close of this ‘summer of scandals’, the 3,000-some Hispanic and Latino Catholics present for the gathering seemed to relish their time with and attention from the leaders of the Church.

Selfies were snapped, hugs were exchanged, and chants of “We Love You!” were signs of support and appreciation shown to the bishops present for the conference.

Ruby Fuentes, a young adult delegate from the Diocese of Brownsville “in deep south Texas, right above the Mexican border,” said she especially appreciated the bishops’ dinner and encounter night with young people, where a bishop sat at every table to listen to the needs and concerns of the young delegates.

The issues discussed varied from table to table, Fuentes said, but her particular concerns included suicide and mental health in young people, and immigration issues.

“I thought it was a really good way to be transparent within the Church and try to understand what young people are thinking about, what their concerns are,” Fuentes told CNA.

“It was really a pleasant surprise to see that bishops were the ones organizing the dinner and wanted to talk to us and see what we had to say, because oftentimes as young folks we’re cast aside, we’re not really taken seriously,” she said.

Sr. Mary Johanna of the Nashville Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia told CNA that the closeness of the bishops was the thing most-remarked on by the delegates in her group.

“It’s been great to have so many Hispanics and Anglos here together, and it’s beautiful to see so many bishops here with us and to see the attention that they’re giving, how deeply they’re listening, and just coming together as a Church,” she said.

Besides DiNardo, some of the bishops at the V Encuentro included Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, M.Sp.S. of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Archbishop José H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archbishop William E. Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap, of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Alfredo Portillo, a delegate from Las Vegas, told CNA that the Encuentro was a “heartwarming” experience and “for the bishops to reunite us, to bring us together, to celebrate our Hispanic inheritances, I think it’s really great, I’m really proud to be here.”

Guadalupe Alba, a delegate from St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Huntington Park, California, told CNA that it was encouraging for him to see Catholic leaders, including bishops and non-Hispanic Catholics, attending the conference and listening to what the delegates had to say.

“Even though there’s a lot of Hispanics in the United States, we’re still a minority, you know?” he told CNA.

What the bishops are communicating to Hispanic and Latino Catholics through the Encuentro is that “we know that you’re here, we accept you, and we’re on the same team. Everything in the faith,” Alba said.

Juan Carlos Reyes, a delegate from the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA that hoped that the bishops have a renewal of a pastoral rather than a political spirit following the Encuentro.

“I feel like many times our Church, the conversation gets framed by the political aspects in the nation, and I think many of our bishops are worried about saying the right thing, being on the right side of things, they’re worried about the politics and they are detached from the people,” he said.

“And they are not congressmen, they’re pastors, so if they could take from this a renewal of a pastoral approach that would be wonderful,” he said. Another concern of Reyes was that there be a more holistic approach within the pro-life movement to the issue of immigration.

“The pro-life movement is all about the abortion issue, and that is urgent and continues to be needed,” he said. “But we march and we pray outside of abortion clinics, but we don’t march and we don’t pray outside of detention centers.”

Evangelization and bridging the cultural divide that exists in some parishes between Hispanic and Anglo Catholics were other frequently-discussed topics of conversation at the V Encuentro.

“We are failing our Church ourselves because we are not bringing people in,” Carlos Mendez from Huntington Park, California told CNA. “But first we have to go and be taught by others how to do it, we have to find the love within us and go with the Holy Spirit and take charge and be there for the ones who feel marginalized.”

Joanne Reinhardt, a delegate from Toledo Ohio, said she was leaving Encuentro with a renewed desire to “build bridges” between Hispanic and Anglo Catholics.

She said some things that her parish has done to help bridge the cultural divide is to host bilingual Masses, celebrations for Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day, and food and diaper drives for immigrants in the parish.

“Sometimes we want to separate ourselves,” she said. “But we’re one people and when we come together, things will happen.”