Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick attends a Mass in Rome in this April 13, 2018, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

BOSTON (CNS) – The Boston Globe reported July 29 that police in the Boston suburb of Wellesley have charged former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 in a criminal complaint filed by Wellesley Police in a district court in nearby Dedham, Massachusetts.

A summons has been issued ordering McCarrick, now 91, to appear at the court for arraignment Aug. 26.

The Globe reported that McCarrick is now living in Missouri. The address listed for McCarrick in the court filings is the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri, located in Jefferson County, a suburban county of St. Louis on the eastern side of the state.

The Vianney Renewal Center is a treatment center for Catholic clergy with sexual or other disorders.

According to its website, it’s a ministry coordinated by the Servants of the Paraclete, which collaborates with sponsoring diocesan and religious communities “to provide a safe and supportive environment for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of priests and religious brothers.”

Last year, the Jefferson County Leader, a weekly newspaper, reported the Dallas police arrested an ex-priest at the center on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child in North Texas that took place in 1989. The ex-priest had been laicized in 2002.

The crimes for which McCarrick is charged allegedly took place in 1974, when he was a New York archdiocesan priest and secretary to Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York.

According to the Globe, the man told investigators that McCarrick was a family friend who began molesting him when he was a boy.

According to a report by Wellesley Police Detective Christopher Connelly that was filed in court with the complaint, he said McCarrick often went on trips with the then-teenager’s family and had sexually abused him in New Jersey, New York, California and Massachusetts.

On June 8, 1974, the alleged victim, then 16, said he was at his brother’s wedding reception at Wellesley College when McCarrick told him his father wanted the two of them to “have a talk” because the teenager was being mischievous at home and not attending church, according to the report. He said McCarrick groped his genitals when they were walking around the campus, and continued his assault after the walk was over.

The Globe said that during interviews with police, the man recounted later incidents where McCarrick sexually abused him in the Boston suburbs of Arlington and Newton. He also provided four photographs of postcards he had received from McCarrick when he was younger, and a photograph of McCarrick that predated the wedding reception in Wellesley.

The man, whose name was not released, is represented by Mitchell Garabedian, long known as an attorney for those who have made abuse accusations against Catholic clergy. Garabedian was portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight,” which chronicled the Globe’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston 20 and more years ago.

Because McCarrick was not a Massachusetts resident and “the statute of limitations stopped running when he left the state,” the Globe said, “he can be charged with alleged assault dating to the 1970s.”

McCarrick’s attorney, Barry Coburn of Washington, told the Globe: “We will look forward to addressing this issue in the courtroom.”

In 2018, the prelate resigned from the College of Cardinals after The New York Times published a series of stories detailing abuse episodes by the then-priest and bishop during assignments in New York and New Jersey, principally in the 1970s and ’80s.

A year later, Pope Francis laicized him after a canonical process found him guilty.

Last year, the Vatican released its own report detailing the McCarrick case. It said the now-disgraced former prelate was able to rise up the Catholic hierarchical structure based on personal contacts, protestations of his innocence and a lack of church officials reporting and investigating accusations made against him, according to the Vatican report on the matter.

The report said St. John Paul II “personally made the decision” to name McCarrick archbishop of Washington in 2000 and make him a cardinal.

Many commentators dispute critics that say the pope and his associates knew about McCarrick’s misdeeds and proceeded with his promotion anyway, because McCarrick was a “master at gaining the trust of others, including Pope John Paul II, and then betraying that trust.”

Prior to the Dittmer facility, McCarrick had lived at Kansas friary at the Washington Archdiocese’s request. He left there of his own accord after he was laicized.

CARBONDALE – After walking up 15 flights of scaffolding steps, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, reached the steeple atop of Saint Rose of Lima Church and took in the view.

“I’m actually really proud to be on top here,” Bishop Bambera said – standing 93 feet over the city sidewalk.

On Thursday, July 29, 2021, Bishop Bambera joined St. Rose’s pastor, Father Jeff Walsh, to offer a blessing on the church’s renovation project that nears completion. Several other parishioners who were instrumental in getting the work – literally – off the ground joined the bishop.

After raising $850,000 over the last year and a half, the church’s granite steps, steeple and façade have all been restored.

“It’s the oldest church in Lackawanna County and one of the earliest churches in the Diocese of Scranton,” Father Walsh said. “We know it was built on the backs of the coal miners and the immigrants who came to this area who took their faith seriously and it’s good to know that new generations are still doing that.”

The parish itself was founded in 1832 and the current church building dates back to 1873.

“This is probably the tallest building in Carbondale. The tower itself was put on in 1899 so it has been on over 100 years before now and it had some needed repair both inside and outside, spalling along the bluestone in the front, and all around the tower itself, so it was ready, it’s been in the works for two years,” project manager John Devine explained. “It was very urgent because some of it was peeling off the front of the building and we even had one of the pieces of metal up there flapping in the wind. Had it fallen, it was really a safety issue.”

The Saint Rose of Lima steeple is a focal point in the Pioneer City. Knowing its importance, both parishioners and the Carbondale business community embraced the renovation work.

“A lot of the people who are natives of Carbondale said this has always been a community that has stepped up when they needed to do what they were called to do. That has proven to be a true statement. We reached the $850,000 goal. We got the work on the steps done and the façade is going to be completed and the steeple is going to be restored to its original glory,” Father Walsh said.

While the project has taken a little longer than expected, the scaffolding around the church is expected to come down around Aug. 9. The total price tag of the restoration project has been a little more than expected as well – estimated to be $975,000 now – so anyone in the community is still encouraged to help.

Father Walsh also gave credit to the work of his predecessors, Father James Price and Father Seth Wasnock, who began the renovation project.

“It’s certainly a sign to the community that we’re here to stay and we’re going to be around another 100 years at least and it’s a sense of stability and pride that we do take in this building,” Father Walsh said. “But it’s always more than the building. The outside is meant to represent what’s on the inside.”

“It’s going to be stunning. People are going to look up and say ‘wow.’ You’re not even going to remember what it looked like before because it’s going to be new and clean and hopefully serve the community for another 100 years,” Devine added.

As he offered his blessing, Bishop Bambera marveled at the change that has taken place. His blessing was as follows:

“Lord, We thank you for the work that is being done on this incredible tower, this beacon of hope and promise and love and God’s mercy to this entire community. We pray that through the work that is done here, faith that has been given to so many people may grow and flourish. We thank you for the workers who have put this beautiful tower back in place and have restored it to its original beauty. We thank you for the good people – the parishioners and the friends of this parish – who have worked so hard to make this a reality, who have given of their time and their treasure to bring this church back to its beautiful state. Finally Lord, we just ask your blessing upon this community and this congregation – that it will always be a community filled with love, hope, working towards peace. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Children watch television at the Casa del Migrante shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Sept. 24, 2019. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) – With a surge in the first few months of 2021 of minors entering the United States without a parent or guardian, figures from fiscal year 2020 already have surpassed the total of unaccompanied minors who made border entries during the previous fiscal year.

Statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that over 76,000 minors entered the U.S. during fiscal year 2019, which for the government runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 1.

By July 6 of this year, the latest figures available from CBP show that entries for fiscal year 2020 already have surpassed that number, with the agency logging over 93,500 unaccompanied minors and with a little less than three months left to go in the fiscal year.

In a July 23 opinion article for United Press International, Randi Mandelbaum, a distinguished clinical professor of law at Rutgers University, said that while the U.S. is legally obligated to care for the minors until they reach adulthood, defined as age 18, “the government often struggles to do so, especially when the immigration system is overwhelmed by high numbers of children.”

Unaccompanied children detained by CPB are supposed to be transferred to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours of being detained and sent to facilities such as a shelter or a detention center, where many wait until they are reunited with family living in the U.S. or go to foster homes. But with little bed space available because of the surge, the government has set up tent cities at military bases, such as one at Fort Bliss, Texas.

It was a practice widely criticized during the Trump administration but has continued under the presidency of Joe Biden.

Migrant advocates have raised concerns about some of the large-scale facilities and whether they are appropriate in caring for the needs of the minors.

Many Catholic nonprofits throughout the United States, via organizations such as Catholic Charities and the U.S. Conference of Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services have been part of a network of faith groups active in caring for the minors in smaller, family-like settings and helping them until they eventually reach family.

But the ins and outs of caring for minors who are migrants and providing services they need, from legal to educational, are complex even as they leave the hands of the government.

“Once a child goes to live with a relative, the Office of Refugee Resettlement provides little, if any, oversight or assistance. Nor do they offer much support in such matters as enrolling the child in school, getting medical care or hiring an immigration attorney,” wrote Mandelbaum. “That burden falls on families and the states, cities or towns where the children land.”

Some localities, however, have shown reluctance in accepting the minors in their midst.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order in April to prevent foster care facilities and group care homes for immigrant children sent to South Carolina. He said that doing so would result in the “ultimate displacement of South Carolina’s most vulnerable children in an already-strained system.”

McMaster said that “allowing the federal government to place an unlimited number of unaccompanied migrant children into our state’s child welfare system for an unspecified length of time is an unacceptable proposition. We’ve been down this road with the federal government before and the state usually ends up ‘on the hook.'”

In early June, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, ordered child care regulators in Texas to take away licenses from facilities that provide shelter and other services to migrant children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Some facilities, such as Catholic Charities, have federal contracts with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to help care for them.

Two Catholic bishops in his state recently asked the governor to halt the order, which could result in shutting down, by the end of August, Catholic Charities facilities in Texas that care for these minors.

Whether the government or the system set up to care for them works, Mandelbaum said in the opinion piece, “the children are coming, whether the federal government and states are ready.”

A priest prepares to distribute Communion during Mass in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

(CNS) – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the middle of drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist, received words of advice from a panel convened July 28 to discuss the challenges facing the American church as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic and seeks to overcome divisions that threaten church unity.

They heard about the importance of bishops being pastors rather than “chaplains to factions,” the need to communicate church teaching clearly and without fear, and hearing from as many voices as possible in the weeks remaining before they consider the document during their fall general assembly in November.

The 75-minute discussion left Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, with ideas to share with the document’s drafters working to strengthen the foundation of the Eucharist being the source and summit of Catholic life.

Bishop Rhoades is chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, which is charged with drafting the document.

He acknowledged the path ahead poses challenges, but it is one the doctrine committee is prepared to address.

“The goal of the document is to contribute to the eucharistic revival,” he said, recapping the USCCB strategic plan for 2021-2024 that is focused on the Eucharist being the foundation of Christian life.

“We’re striving to write a document that will contribute to a real eucharistic revival in the church in our nation by highlighting the truth about the amazing gift that Jesus gave on the night before he died, the importance of beauty and reverence in our celebration of this great mystery, and the wonderful graces that we receive in the Eucharist to grow in our Christian lives,” he explained.

While the document will include a section focused on eucharistic coherence, the church’s teaching on the reception of Communion, there is no plan to adopt a national policy to prohibit anyone from receiving the Eucharist, the bishop said.

It’s a statement Bishop Rhoades has repeated several times since the bishops’ virtual spring general assembly in June during which the bishops approved drafting the document. In the vote, 75% of the bishops said “yes,” while 25% said “no.”

During long discussions on the document before the vote, several bishops specifically pointed to President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who are Catholic, for not actively seeking to end legal abortion and called for them to be denied Communion.

Work has begun on sections of the document that pertain to church teaching while the section on eucharistic coherence will not be drafted until after a series of regional meetings among the bishops concludes by the end of August, Bishop Rhoades said.

As the drafting process continues, the USCCB’s actions related to the Eucharist are being watched around the world, said panelist Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey. “The Eucharist is on everyone’s mind,” he said.

Cardinal Tobin was one of the minority of prelates who voted against drafting the document at the current time. “Having the bishops on a Zoom call is not an opportunity for discernment,” he said.

He called on the bishops to take up Pope Francis’ call to synodality to discuss and hear from many voices before reaching consensus on the issues and concerns facing the church.

The pandemic has left people separated from the Eucharist and Cardinal Tobin suggested that the bishops reach out and welcome people back to the church rather than restrict participation in church life.

The debate that showcased the wide disagreements among the bishops on drafting the document should not be one that causes the bishops to fear developing a document that stresses church teaching, explained panelist Gretchen Crowe, editorial director for periodicals at Our Sunday Visitor in Indiana.

The OSV Newsweekly published an editorial supporting the vote to draft the document. Explaining the reasoning behind the editorial, Crowe said it is vital for Catholics to better know church teaching on the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

“In my mind, a fear of division or a fear of anything else really, never should prevent the church from teaching what it professes about anything, much less what it teaches about the real presence (of) Jesus Christ in the Eucharist,” Crowe said.

However, Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, editor-at-large at Commonweal magazine, expressed concern that a document on the Eucharist would bolster an apparent connection the Catholic bishops have with the Republican Party.

She questioned why some bishops have been so outspoken against Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, when they failed to be as vocal about the transgressions of former President Donald Trump’s policies that also endangered lives.

Saying she agreed that Democratic politicians should be “pushed” for their support of abortion, Wilson O’Reilly said she believed that Catholics would flee in greater numbers because the document on the Eucharist will be perceived as political rather than genuine teaching.

Panelist John Carr, co-director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, which sponsored the panel, credited Bishop Rhoades for taking on a most difficult task in a time of divisiveness among the bishops and within the church.

“It’s important to be candid about the differences here,” said Carr, who formerly was executive director of the bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. “How did the Eucharist, which is the sign of unity at our parish and our lives and in our church, somehow become the thing we fight about in terms of politics? It seems to me like we’ve gotten ourselves in a terrible place.”

Carr said he disagrees with the bishops’ decision to move forward on the document.

“The pastoral dimensions are really serious,” he said. “This is terrible timing and, as people have said, in the midst of a pandemic, racial reckoning, let’s have a fight about whether the president ought to be ale to receive Communion. Publicly, this showcases our divisions and is a diversion.”

The program opened with a discussion between Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, and Kim Daniels, co-director of the Georgetown initiative. The archbishop recapped what he told the U.S. bishops during their spring general assembly in June.

The diplomat said in the discussion recorded July 27 that he had stressed that any work the conference undertakes must be rooted in synodality, as Pope Francis has invited the church to do. Synodality allows for discerning a path forward through thoughtful and respectful conversation that allows diverse voices to be heard and overcome misunderstanding, he said.

He also called on the bishops to remember that they are teachers and that the pope has invited them to teach about the sacraments “so we can receive the grace of God.” He also cautioned about the “instrumentalization” of the sacrament of the Eucharist lest it become a tool for ideologies to overtake.

“The sacraments of salvation are to be administered often to the people,” he said. “As such the church should remain united.”

Cardinal Tobin also called for synodality to be part of the bishops’ process as the document is drafted.

“What we need is a broader consultation with the American church on the mystery of the Eucharist, and not one, like or not, that is perceived as a political action,” Cardinal Tobin said. “We have a perfect invitation from the Holy Father to adopt a more synodal church, people who are talking together as we walk the same road.”

Nanda Gasperini, a pro-life graphic artist in São Paulo, Brazil, designed this pro-life flag, seen in this undated photo. It was selected in an online vote in mid-July 2021 as the international symbol of the pro-life movement. (CNS photo/courtesy Pro-Life Flag Project)

BALTIMORE (CNS) – The rainbow flag is an instantly recognized symbol of the LGBTQ movement, just as the Thin Blue Line flag is synonymous with support for law enforcement.

Now, leaders in the pro-life community hope a new flag featuring baby’s feet held in a mother’s hands will serve as the universal symbol for protecting the lives of the unborn.

The new flag was selected in an online vote organized by the Pro-Life Flag Project, a grassroots effort involving over 70 partners including the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, Students for Life of America, New Wave Feminists, Democrats for Life, Save the Storks, Maryland Right to Life and Focus on the Family.

James Chapman, spokesman for the Pro-Life Flag Project, said Will McFadden, the project’s founder, conceived the idea in 2017 while attending the March for Life in Washington, where he observed no unifying symbol.

The effort gathered steam as McFadden saw the rainbow flag become increasingly entrenched in the culture.

Chapman said there were “several thousand” entries in the international design contest for the pro-life flag. Two rounds of final online voting in mid-July resulted in nearly 6,000 votes cast, he said.

The winning flag, which features two stripes that highlight the two distinct lives present in a pregnancy, came out on top among three design finalists. It was designed by Nanda Gasperini, a pro-life graphic artist in São Paulo, Brazil.

Erin Younkins, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace in the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Institute for Evangelization, said she hopes the new flag will be a source of unity in what she sees as a sometimes fractious pro-life movement.

“There is a lot of division in the movement with different political ideologies and different religious backgrounds and motivations,” Younkins told the Catholic Review, the Baltimore Archdiocese’s news outlet. “Especially last year, we saw a lot of friendly fire and fighting among pro-life groups.”

Younkins, a parishioner of St. Peter in Libertytown, Maryland, said the flag clearly reminds all pro-life supporters that fighting to protect the lives of the unborn is what they share in common.

“Bringing the movement together as much as we can is an important goal for me,” she said. “I think the fact that it’s being done on a national and international level is really exciting.”

Some social media commentators have criticized the winning flag’s design because it focuses solely on the protection of the unborn and leaves out other pro-life concerns such as outlawing the death penalty and assisted suicide.

Chapman noted the message on abortion was the “singular issue” the Pro-Life Flag Project sought to represent.

“Throughout the course of the project, we received a few requests to broaden the scope of the flag to include different topics other than the anti-abortion, pro-life message,” he said. “These requests, however, varied significantly and were often at odds with each other.”

The winning flag includes a white background that symbolizes nonviolence in the womb as well as the innocence of the unborn child. A white heart in between baby’s feet symbolizes the pro-life movement’s love for both the mother and her child, according to the Pro-Life Flag Project’s website.

The featured pink and blue colors are associated with baby boys and girls, but also reemphasize the two lives of the mother and child. The stripes form an equal sign, which the Pro-Life Flag Project said emphasizes that the unborn child is “equally and fully human, and therefore deserving of equal human rights,” while also representing the role of both the father and mother in creating and raising a child.

If the flag is flown ubiquitously, Chapman said, it will raise awareness for the pro-life cause among both pro-life advocates and those who support choice on abortion.

“We think that the existence of a pro-life flag will allow the everyday pro-lifer to show support and stand in visible solidarity with the worldwide movement,” he said.

Chapman said he hopes the symbol gets used “in any possible way that it can be helpful to the pro-life movement.”

“We hope to see the pro-life symbol on clothing, lapel pins, magnets, yard signs, pro-life pictures, logos, banners and more,” he said. “We hope it becomes as prominent as the rainbow flag.”

The Pro-Life Flag Project is arranging flag licensing so that any pro-life, nonprofit organization may freely copy, reproduce, promote and sell any products containing the design. The design may not, however, be used as an organization’s official logo.


July 28, 2021

His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, announces the following appointments, effective as indicated:

Clergy Assignments: 

Reverend Robert J. Antonelli, from Senior Priest, Saint Joseph the Worker Parish, Williamsport, to Senior Priest, Saint Lawrence Parish, South Williamsport, and Saint Boniface Parish, Williamsport, effective August 7, 2021.

Reverend Anthony Dorsa, F.S.S.P., to Parochial Vicar, Saint Michael the Archangel Parish, Scranton, effective August 1, 2021.

Reverend Simon Harkins, F.S.S.P., from Pastor, Saint Michael the Archangel Parish, Scranton, effective August 1, 2021.

Reverend Sixtus Appiah Kyeremeh, to Parochial Vicar, Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish, Nanticoke, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Lake Silkworth, effective August 11, 2021.

Reverend Jonathan P. Kuhar, to Parochial Vicar, Saint Paul of the Cross Parish, Scranton, effective August 2, 2021.  Father Kuhar will continue to serve as Parochial Vicar, Saint John Neumann Parish, Scranton.

 Reverend Arun Lakra, from Parochial Vicar, Immaculate Conception Parish, Freeland, and Good Shepherd Parish, Drums, to Parochial Vicar, Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Carbondale, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Carbondale, effective August 2, 2021.

Reverend Christopher Mahowald, F.S.S.P., to Pastor, Saint Michael the Archangel Parish, Scranton, effective August 1, 2021.

Reverend Paul McDonnell, OSJ, to Sacramental Minister, Our Lady of the Eucharist Parish, Pittston, effective August 9, 2021.  Father McDonnell will continue his duties as Rector of the religious community, Oblates of Saint Joseph Residence, Laflin.

Reverend Dominic Sabi, to Parochial Vicar, Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Honesdale, effective August 2, 2021.

Reverend Shawn M. Simchock, from Parochial Vicar, Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish, Nanticoke, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Lake Silkworth, to Parochial Vicar, Saint Ignatius Loyola Parish, Kingston, effective August 11, 2021.

Reverend Christopher S. Sahd, S.T.L., from Senior Priest, Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Honesdale, to Leave of Absence for the discernment of a vocation to Consecrated Life, effective September 7, 2021.

 Reverend Fidelis Ticona, to Parochial Vicar, Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Wilkes Barre, effective August 2, 2021.  Father Ticona will continue to serve as Parochial Vicar, Saint Nicholas Parish, Wilkes Barre.


Joe Miller of South Bend, Ind., holds his two sons June 13, 2021. Natural Family Planning Awareness Week is July 25 – 31, 2021. (CNS photo/Jennifer Miller, via Today’s Catholic)

“To have … To hold … To honor: Supporting God’s gifts of love and life in marriage” is the theme of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week July 25-31.

The educational campaign of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will celebrate God’s vision for marriage and promote the methods of natural family planning through a social media presence at #NFPWeek and through NFP events scheduled in dioceses across the country.

The start of NFP week coincides with two other July 25 observances that underscore and celebrate the value and dignity of all human life: the anniversary of St. Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” articulating the church’s beliefs about human sexuality, marriage, conjugal love and responsible parenthood, and World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, instituted by Pope Francis earlier this year.

The development of NFP provider organizations is up sharply in recent years. NFP research continues to make relevant strides as well, according to Theresa Notare, assistant director of natural family planning in the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at the USCCB.

“But if you look at it from the perspective of user rates in the U.S., it looks like a failure,” she told Catholic News Service.

The Centers for Disease Control’s National Survey of Family Growth says less than 1% of Americans of reproductive age are currently using some type of natural method.

Although the rate is a little higher within the Catholic Church — usually among those who not only fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation but often attend weekday Masses as well, Notare noted – “there are layers of knowledge and acceptance.”

“I would think that among progressive people who are interested in protecting the environment, doing something healthy for their body and employing a holistic approach to living, that natural family planning would be well known, understood and beloved,” she said.

“But it’s not,” she added. “Actually, there are probably higher user rates of any natural method in countries that are not as well developed, where they’re focused on family, less in love with technology and not as immersed in the ‘me’ culture and ‘what I want.'”

Many Catholic couples aren’t necessarily rejecting the idea of natural family planning, Notare suggested, they simply haven’t given it much thought because what’s put in front of them at every turn are the culturally accepted alternatives.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, natural family planning is a general title for the ethical, natural, safe and effective methods for achieving or avoiding pregnancy in marriage.

Couples are taught how to observe and interpret their signs of fertility and infertility in a way that respects the bodies of the spouses, encourages tenderness between them and favors “the education of an authentic freedom.”

The sacred responsibility of being open to the possibility of children is intrinsic to the purpose of marriage and the complementarity of the man and woman who come together in the sacrament. This discernment, achieved through prayer and communication between the husband and wife about when and how many children the couple can nurture and support, is crucial to that call.

The Catholic Church supports the postponement or avoidance of pregnancy if the methods used to achieve it do not interfere with God’s gift of fertility.

By honoring God’s plan for marriage and preserving the dignity of both spouses, as well as the life that would be created, NFP bestows the grace of a deeper bond between the spouses and enriches family life. Couples learn how to create a “happy tension,” as Notare put it, between what they discern God wants for their lives, what they want and how many children they feel they can support.

In the U.S., the main methods of natural family planning fall into one of three categories: cervical mucus methods, sympto-hormonal methods and symptom-thermal methods. All three rely on daily observation, testing and recording (charting) to determine the couple’s most fertile time each month and therefore the period during which conception is most likely.

Cervical mucus methods hinge on a primary sign of the woman’s fertility, the characteristics of her cervical mucus, which is observed and charted daily.

Sympto-hormonal methods – sometimes referred to as the Marquette method – tracks several daily indicators of a woman’ fertility, including her levels of reproductive hormones. Symptom-thermal methods use at least two indicators of fertility, including the characteristics of cervical mucus and basal body temperature.

Lisa Everett, director of Marriage and Family Ministry for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, perceives that the number of Catholics couples using NFP is growing. Partly responsible, she believes, is the recent awareness and embrace among the general population of the gamut of fertility awareness-based methods of family planning, referred to as FABMs.

“While FABMS don’t have the same moral rules surround them, the fact is that this has become a much more popular option,” said Everett. “It means that there’s more acceptance and awareness of all things natural in our society.”

FABMs include barrier methods of pregnancy prevention, though, so care must be taken regarding blanket support of them, warned Notare. A cornerstone of NFP, on the other hand, is abstinence from sexual relations during fertile days in a woman’s cycle for couples trying to avoid pregnancy.

The initial reaction Deanna Johnston sometimes gets from engaged couples who are presented with information about natural family planning is a sentiment she understands all too well. The director of NFP and of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, readily acknowledges that NFP can sometimes be a cross.

“Abstinence is hard,” she affirmed. Still, she considers NFP to be a “gift of the Holy Spirit.”

A mother of four and NFP user herself, Johnston and her husband believe that first and foremost, a marriage should remain open to new life. But when it makes sense to postpone pregnancy, “there is a tool that Catholic can use in good conscience to do that.”

“What I see with couples is that sometimes they say, ‘We’re hesitant to begin, we’re nervous, we’re not actually sure this is going to work, but we just feel strongly that we need to try something different.'”

The modern, app-based lifestyle dovetails with NFP programs’ requirements, facilitating couples’ tracking and recording of data. That ease of access encourages Everett. “I think those two factors have made NFP more attractive to couples than it otherwise might have been.”

The FEMM app and Catholic digital fertility tracking programs are also helping to combat what Notare calls “fertility illiteracy.”

Indeed, the growth in the number, size and tenacity of NFP ministries, providers and other organizations has been “fabulous” in the last 20 years, Notare told CNS.

She hopes it will eventually combat one of the biggest challenges she sees to wider utilization of natural family planning methods: the general lack of awareness that they exist and that they constitute the church’s teaching regarding family planning as it enriches the sacrament of marriage.

NFP providers are doing their part, said Notare, teaching in parishes about the human person as God created him or her, the nature of human sexuality, the complementarity of men and women, the gift of human fertility, the sacredness of marriage, the morality and immorality of certain technological means of contraception and reproductive fertility, chastity and the theology of the body.

“They’re involved in all of these things,” she said. “They’re a small but mighty force” that are usually limited by a single factor: funding.

“The bishops understand NFP teachings and support them. The difficulty comes in regard to finances. When a bishop is able to put money behind an NFP ministry, it flourishes. With a dedicated staff person, the progress is visible.”


SCRANTON – The Diocese of Scranton is joining forces with Notre Dame University this summer to help develop the next generation of young adult leaders in the Catholic Church.

In August, three students from the McGrath Institute’s Echo Program at the University of Notre Dame will travel to northeastern Pennsylvania to begin serving in various parishes locally.

Kylie Ballinger, a 2020 graduate of Arizona State University; Cecilia Dietzler, a 2020 graduate of Marquette University; and Deirdre Drinkall, a 2021 graduation of Saint Mary’s College, will each begin working full-time in parishes focusing on a variety of catechetical ministries.

Each student has committed to two years of service. They will initially spend nine months in the Diocese of Scranton working directly in parishes. Next summer, the three will return to Notre Dame for more coursework, after which they will return for one more year at their assigned location.

Shannon Kowalski, Director for Service and Mission in the Diocesan Office for Parish Life, helped coordinate the Diocesan partnership with Notre Dame University. She is looking forward to its launch.

“This program is a win-win in many different ways,” Kowalski explained. “The apprentices who are coming to work in our Diocese have a passion for ministry and want to dive head-first into strengthening our parish communities. While we will benefit from their energy and enthusiasm, they will be working toward their Master of Arts in Theology.”

When they arrive locally, the apprentices may work with RCIA, religious education, youth ministry, adult faith formation, social justice ministry or other parish programs.

Kylie Ballinger, who is from Flower Mount, Texas, will be working at Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top and Our Lady of Help of Christians Parish in Dorrance.

“I am excited to work in a parish and want to learn more about what mission and evangelization, especially to families and children, can look like in a parish setting,” she said. “I want to learn how to make a parish a place in which parishioners can serve the Lord and one another and find a strong sense of community that pushes them in their faith and service.”

Ballinger is hoping this upcoming experience will help her grow deeper in her own faith journey. Saint Jude pastor, Father Joseph Evanko, will mentor her.

“I am excited for my parish ministry experience and faith journey and am thankful to have a mentor to turn to with new ideas I am unsure about, any problems I may face in ministry and to seek advice,” she added.

Cecilia Dietzler, who hails from the Archdiocese of Denver, is also looking forward to learning from her mentor in her parish placement at Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow.

“I applied to Echo because I want to strengthen my ministerial skills by being exposed to new settings in ministry and learning from those experiences,” Dietzler explained. “The ministers who have shaped me have had a strong intuition that allowed them to offer the support, knowledge and encouragement I needed to grow closer to Christ.”

Having previously served as a sacristan and retreat director at her home parish, the Littleton, Colo. native wants to share the power of her faith with people in the Diocese of Scranton.

“I bring a passion for the faith and gratitude for what God has blessed me with, as well as strong leadership skills and a desire to grow.”

The final Echo apprentice, Deirdre Drinkall, is also excited to get started. She will be serving the faithful of Saint Ignatius Loyola Parish in Kingston.

“I look forward to learning the tried-and-true methods in leading and ministering, with the Holy Spirit as the guide,” she said. “I hope to learn how to create a merciful, personal, and welcoming parish environment where each member is known and loved.”

Drinkall said she is passionate about sharing God’s true light in the Church and the world.

“My experience in youth ministry, children’s catechesis, and young women’s ministry has prepared me to dive head-first into a community with creativity, energy and warmth,” Drinkall added.

The three students who will arrive in the Diocese of Scranton as part of the Echo Program at the University of Notre Dame are among 31 students nationwide who have made the commitment to serve the Church for the next two years.

In addition to Scranton, Echo apprentices will also serve in the Arch/Dioceses of Atlanta, Camden, Fall River, Galveston-Houston, Kalamazoo, Knoxville, Milwaukee, Newark and Saint Petersburg.


On Friday, July 16, 2021, Pope Francis issued the Apostolic Letter, Traditionis Custodes, concerning the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. On the same day, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, encouraged the Bishops of our country to “work with care, patience, justice and charity” as the new norms are implemented.

Presently in the Diocese of Scranton, the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated at Saint Michael the Archangel Church in Scranton under the stewardship of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. That arrangement will continue until further study and guidance can inform the appropriate implementation of the motu proprio in accord with the directives of the Holy Father.  Diocesan priests who, in the past, have celebrated Mass according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 are to explicitly request from the diocesan Bishop authorization to continue to do so.

I ask all of you to join me in continuing to foster the unity among all Catholics throughout the world that Pope Francis desires in his latest teaching.

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton


Cardinal Walter Brandmuller elevates the Eucharist during a Tridentine Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican May 15, 2011. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Saying he was acting for the good of the unity of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has restored limits on the celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Missal in use before the Second Vatican Council, overturning or severely restricting permissions St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had given to celebrate the so-called Tridentine-rite Mass.

“An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences and encourage disagreements that injure the church, block her path and expose her to the peril of division,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter to bishops July 16.

The text accompanies his apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of the Tradition), declaring the liturgical books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council to be “the unique expression of the ‘lex orandi’ (law of worship) of the Roman Rite,” restoring the obligation of priests to have their bishops’ permission to celebrate according to the “extraordinary” or pre-Vatican II Mass and ordering bishops not to establish any new groups or parishes in their dioceses devoted to the old liturgy.

Priests currently celebrating Mass according to the old missal must request authorization from their bishop to continue doing so, Pope Francis ordered, and for any priest ordained after the document’s publication July 16, the bishop must consult with the Vatican before granting authorization.

Pope Francis also transferred to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the new rules.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued “Summorum Pontificum” on the use of the pre-Vatican II Roman liturgy. It said any priest of the Latin-rite church may, without any further permission from the Vatican or from his bishop, celebrate the “extraordinary form” of the Mass according to the rite published in 1962. The Roman Missal based on the revisions of the Second Vatican Council was published in 1969.

The conditions Pope Benedict set out for use of the old rite were that there was a desire for it, that the priest knows the rite and Latin well enough to celebrate in a worthy manner and that he ensures that the good of parishioners desiring the extraordinary form “is harmonized with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the bishop in accordance with Canon 392, avoiding discord and favoring the unity of the whole church.”

The now-retired pope also insisted that Catholics celebrating predominantly according to the old rite acknowledge the validity of the new Mass and accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

In his letter to bishops, Pope Francis said that responses to a survey of the world’s bishops carried out last year by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me and persuades me of the need to intervene. Regrettably, the pastoral objective of my predecessors, who had intended ‘to do everything possible to ensure that all those who truly possessed the desire for unity would find it possible to remain in this unity or to rediscover it anew,’ has often been seriously disregarded.”

“Ever more plain in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the church and her institutions in the name of what is called the ‘true church,'” Pope Francis wrote.

To promote the unity of the church, Pope Francis said, bishops should care for those Catholics “who are rooted in the previous form of celebration” while helping them “return in due time” to the celebration of Mass according to the new Missal.

The pope also indicated he believed that sometimes parishes and communities devoted to the older liturgy were the idea of the priests involved and not the result of a group of Catholic faithful desiring to celebrate that Mass.

Pope Francis asked bishops “to discontinue the erection of new personal parishes tied more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real need of the ‘holy people of God.'”

However, he also said that many people find nourishment in more solemn celebrations of Mass, so he asked bishops “to be vigilant in ensuring that every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses.”

The liturgical life of the church has changed and developed over the centuries, the pope noted.

“St. Paul VI, recalling that the work of adaptation of the Roman Missal had already been initiated by Pius XII, declared that the revision of the Roman Missal, carried out in the light of ancient liturgical sources, had the goal of permitting the church to raise up, in the variety of languages, ‘a single and identical prayer’ that expressed her unity,” Pope Francis said. “This unity I intend to re-establish throughout the church of the Roman Rite.”