This 2016 file photo shows the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Through the intercession of “Virgen de Guadalupe,” plans for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe are proceeding with the hopes of providing as much celebration as possible amid a global pandemic and a world of social unrest.

Particularly in the areas of large Latino populations in the Diocese of Scranton, the annual observance commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to a Mexican Indian peasant — now venerated as Saint Juan Diego — in December 1531 in Tepeyac, near present-day Mexico City.

The Blessed Mother’s appearance is believed to have resulted in millions of conversions to Catholicism, and her message of hope continues to inspire those of Hispanic descent, especially natives of Mexico.

In 1946, Pope Pius XII declared Our Lady of Guadalupe as Patroness of the Americas.

The Our Lady of Guadalupe feast on Dec. 12 will culminate a host of celebrations being planned throughout the Diocese, especially in those parishes made up of significant Hispanic/Latino communities.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will celebrate the feast day Mass on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 11 a.m. at Saint John Neumann Parish at Nativity of Our Lord Church, 633 Orchard St., in South Scranton.

According to Father Jonathan Kuhar, who is serving as assistant pastor at Saint John Neumann following his ordination in June, traditional plans that normally mark the celebration have been scaled back due to safety concerns.

“Although it is unfortunate we are unable to have so many traditional aspects of our celebration,” Father Kuhar said, “the silver lining for us must be that more of our attention will be directed toward the Mass, which will be celebrated in Spanish. We hope all people will discover the beauty of the Spanish language and find value in celebrating this special feast day.”

To maintain proper social distancing, reservations are required to attend the Mass — the first 150 reserving a place will be seated in the upper church of the Nativity worship site; the following 140 will view the livestream video of the feast day liturgy. The Mass will also be livestream on their Facebook page.

Registration may be found on the parish website at www.stjnparish.org or on Facebook @stjnparish.

Later in the day on Dec. 12, Bishop Bambera will preside at the Eucharistic liturgy for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at 6 p.m. at Saint Nicholas Parish in Wilkes-Barre. The Mass will be livestream on Facebook and YouTube.

With social distancing guidelines in effect, seating is limited and reservations are required to attend. Registration can be made by visiting the parish website: www.stnicholasrc.com.

For the past ten years, Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg has received the “Virgen de Guadalupe Torch,” a burning symbol marking the annual Marian feast and originating from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

As it passes through the United States, accompanied by images of Our Lady and Saint Juan Diego, Saint Matthew’s has been the only church in Pennsylvania which actively participates along the torch’s celebratory route.

A Mass heralding the Guadalupe Torch’s arrival will be hosted at Saint Matthew Church on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m.

On Friday, Dec. 11, the Vigil liturgy for Our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated at 6:30 p.m., followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Rosary recitation, and a teaching. The Virgin of Guadalupe will be venerated in music with “Serenata” (serenade) and “Mañanitas” — traditional singing to honor a loved one — at 8:30 p.m.

Saint Matthew’s will host the Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 1 p.m.

Holy Annunciation Parish in Hazleton will host their traditional Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, leading up to the feast, from Dec. 3-11. The Novena is customarily hosted each evening at nine different homes during the devotion; however, the tradition has been suspended this year due to the pandemic.

On Saturday, Dec. 12, Annunciation Parish will host Very Rev. Matthew Spencer, OSJ, provincial superior of the Oblates of Saint Joseph in America, who will preside at the Feast Mass at 7 p.m. The celebration will be highlighted by Mariachi singers.

Father John Ruth, pastor of Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary Parish in Jermyn, will be principal celebrant for the Spanish Mass commemorating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. in Sacred Heart of Mary Church, 624 Madison Ave. Father Ruth will also preach the homily in Spanish.

“I love the Hispanic culture, traditions and language, praying and reading each day in Spanish,” the pastor said, noting he has enjoyed a sizable following of Latino faithful since actively serving in Hispanic ministry during his Scranton assignments at Saint John Neumann and Saint Patrick parishes.

Father Ruth further shared that a parish pilgrimage to Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico a few years ago returned with replicas of the miraculous image that now adorn Nativity Church (in Scranton) and the parish church in Jermyn.

“Every time I look at Mary’s image (as Our Lady of Guadalupe), I am very moved,” he remarked.

Father Ruth added that the feast day celebration will be complete with Mariachi accompaniment for the procession with the Marian image of Guadalupe, which will be presented by a young parishioner portraying Juan Diego. Fiesta with a light dinner will follow the Mass, with social distancing and masks required.

Leydi Rodriguez of Scranton, a member of Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary, said, “We know that Mary, as the Mother of Jesus and also our Mother, is a great intercessor. It is an honor to call her ‘Mother.’”

Fellow parishioner Danielle Muñoz Heras of Carbondale concurred.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe came to Mexico where there had been worship of pagan gods,” she remarked. “You can see in her miraculous image the darkened moon at her feet and the rays of the sun and stars around her mantle. This clearly said to the people that she was from the One True God. She helps us, as well, to believe in Jesus and to abandon false gods in own lives.”

 

 

Pope Francis leads his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Nov. 11, 2020. A day after the Vatican released its extensive report on former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the pope renewed the Catholic Church’s pledge to uproot the scourge of sexual abuse. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After the Vatican released its extensive report on Theodore E. McCarrick, Pope Francis renewed the Catholic Church’s pledge to uproot the scourge of sexual abuse.

Before concluding his weekly general audience Nov. 11, the pope made his first public statement on the release of the report regarding the “painful case” of the former cardinal.

“I renew my closeness to all victims of every form of abuse and the church’s commitment to eradicate this evil,” he said.

After reading his brief comment on the report, the pope bowed his head and closed his eyes in silent prayer.

The 460-page report, which was published by the Vatican Nov. 10, chronicled McCarrick’s rise through the church’s hierarchal ranks despite decades of accusations of sexual abuse and abuse of power.

Before his comment on the report, the pope continued his series of audience talks on prayer, reflecting on the importance of perseverance.

He began by saying he was told by someone that he “speaks too much about prayer” and that it was unnecessary.

However, he said, “it is necessary, because if we do not pray, we will not have the strength to go forward in life. Prayer is like the oxygen of life; prayer draws upon us the Holy Spirit who always carries us forward. That is why I speak so much about prayer.”

Jesus taught people to engage in “constant dialogue” with God not only with the example of his own prayer, but also with parables that highlighted the importance of perseverance in prayer.

Reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the tenacious person who knocks unceasingly at his friend’s door asking for bread, the pope said that unlike the friend who relents after constant insistence, God “is more patient with us and the person who knocks with faith and perseverance on the door of his heart will not be disappointed.”

“Our Father knows well what we need; insistence is necessary not to inform him or to convince him, but it is necessary to nurture the desire and expectation in us,” the pope said.

Jesus’ parable of the widow who persistently sought and eventually obtained justice from an unscrupulous judge, he continued, serves as a reminder that faith “is not a momentary choice but a courageous disposition to call on God, even to ‘argue’ with him, without resigning oneself to evil and injustice.”

Finally, the parable of the Pharisee who boasted his merits during prayer while the publican feels unworthy to enter the temple reveals that “there is no true prayer without humility,” he said.

Pope Francis said the Gospel encourages Christians to pray always, “even when everything seems in vain, when God appears to be deaf and mute and it seems we are wasting time.”

“There are many days of our life when faith seems to be an illusion, a sterile exertion,” the pope said. “But the practice of prayer means accepting even this exertion. Many saints experienced the night of faith and God’s silence, and they were persevering.”

True Christians, the pope added, do not fear anything but instead “entrust themselves to the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us a gift and who prays with us.”

 

Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington faces the press in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 24, 2002. U.S cardinals met for a summit with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican April 23-24, 2002, as the sex abuse crisis unfolded in the United States. Cardinal McCarrick was a key spokesman for the bishops during the summit. (CNS photo/Paolo Cocco, Reuters)

Archbishop Jose Gomez called the just-released McCarrick report “another tragic chapter in the church’s long struggle to confront the crimes of sexual abuse by clergy.” It is indeed that, but it is also an unprecedented effort at transparency and openness on the part of the church.

For two years U.S. Catholics have waited for this accounting. It is a painful, at times graphic story of moral corruption and institutional mistakes. Yet this report is an important moment in the life of the church, following Pope Francis’ lead to bring the truth to light without fear or favor.

The McCarrick Report:
A Tragic Chapter, A Full Accounting

Two years after Pope Francis called for a full accounting of how Theodore McCarrick was able to rise through church ranks and promised to make the report public, the McCarrick Report, issued Nov. 10, is a devastating portrait of  personal deception and institutional blindness, of opportunities missed and faith shattered.

At the same time, it is also the story of an unparalleled effort at transparency, revealing a church that is committed to the accountability of its leaders at all levels. Today and in the week ahead, Catholic News Service is examining all aspects of the report. It is also reminding readers of the vulnerability of victims who will suffer further pain as incidents of abuse are brought to light.

REPORT ON THE HOLY SEE’S INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE AND DECISION-MAKING
RELATED TO FORMER CARDINAL THEODORE EDGAR MCCARRICK (1930 TO 2017)

Overview of the investigation’s findings, including St. John Paul II’s reluctance to believe allegations against Theodore McCarrick.

Leaders of Catholic communities where McCarrick served welcome the report.

McCarrick investigation includes unprecedented interviews with both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict.

Pope Francis has taken a series of ground-breaking initiatives to address abuse and the toleration of abusers and is holding bishops and cardinals accountable.

Victim survivors acknowledge that while a recurrence of PTSD can occur when high- profile news about clergy abusers breaks, such news does raise awareness.

Video report considers reasons St. John Paul II did not heed warnings regarding McCarrick’s suitability for heading the Washington Archdiocese.

 

Pope Francis speaks with Valentina Alazraki of the Mexican television station Televisa during an interview that aired in May 2019. The Vatican Secretariat of State has sent a note to nuncios around the world explaining the pope’s comments about civil unions in the documentary “Francesco” by Evgeny Afineevsky. (CNS screenshot/Noticieros Televisa via YouTube)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican Secretariat of State has sent an explanatory note to nuncios around the world insisting that when Pope Francis spoke about civil unions, he was not changing or challenging “the doctrine of the church, which he has reaffirmed numerous times over the years.”

The note, which was not signed, explained that the pope’s remarks about gay people in the recent film, “Francesco,” come from his responses to two separate questions in a 2019 interview for Mexico’s Televisa network.

The pope’s comments were “edited and published as a single answer without the necessary contextualization,” the note said.

As Catholic News Service reported Oct. 26, when Pope Francis said gay people have a right to be in a family and that gay couples needed some form of civil law to protect their rights, he was not advocating any form of “marriage” or marriage rights for gay couples.

Yet, in his documentary “Francesco,” director Evgeny Afineevsky presented the statements as if Pope Francis had been talking about the right of gay couples to form a family, including with children.

Afineevsky, who a Vatican official said was never granted an on-camera interview with the pope, pulled the quotes about families and the quote about civil unions from the interview by Valentina Alazraki, correspondent Televisa, CNS had reported.

The clips used in Afineevsky’s film put together quotes from three separate moments of the Televisa interview, so the pope appears to say: “They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”

The note from the Secretariat of State also noted that Pope Francis repeatedly has insisted that gay unions cannot be equated to marriage, pointing to a 2014 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

In the interview six years ago, Pope Francis was asked about moves across Europe to legalize gay marriage or adopt civil union laws.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “Secular states want to validate civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, driven by the need to regulate economic aspects between people, such as ensuring health care. These are cohabitation pacts of various kinds, of which I could not list the different forms.”

“It is necessary to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety,” he said, implying that some forms of civil unions would be acceptable.

From the unedited interview with Televisa, the pope’s remarks to Corriere della Sera and similar distinctions he has made on other occasions, the Secretariat of State’s note said, “It is clear that Pope Francis was referring to particular state regulations, certainly not the doctrine of the church, which he has reaffirmed numerous times over the years.”

 

 

Pope Francis celebrates a private Mass in the church of the Pontifical Teutonic College at the Vatican on All Souls’ Day, Nov. 2, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When life is difficult and when one is mourning the passing of a loved one, it is time to pray for the gift of hope and the ability to say with the prophet Job, “I know that my redeemer lives,” Pope Francis said.

Celebrating Mass on the feast of All Souls, Nov. 2, the pope said that remembering loved ones who have died is a particularly important time to “hold tightly to the rope” of the anchor of hope, which is Christ.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced Pope Francis to forego his usual practice of celebrating Mass on the feast of All Souls in a cemetery — in Rome or nearby — with people who were visiting the graves of their loved ones.

Instead, he presided over a private Mass inside the Vatican, in the chapel of the Pontifical Teutonic College, then visited and blessed graves in the Teutonic Cemetery, which has existed since the Middle Ages and now is reserved mainly for the burial of German-speaking priests and members of religious orders.

Pope Francis prays at the tomb of St. Paul VI in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on All Souls’ Day, Nov. 2, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Later, he went into the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica to pray at the tombs of deceased popes.

The pope began his homily at the Mass by describing the hope demonstrated in the Book of Job, when the prophet is “defeated” and on the point of death. Job says, “I know that my vindicator lives” and “my own eyes, not another’s, will behold him.”

“This certainty at almost the last moment of life, this is Christian hope,” the pope said. “It’s a hope that is a gift.”

“So many things lead us to despair, to think that everything will end up in defeat and that after death there is nothing,” he said. But the voice of Job should resound in the hearts of Christians, saying, “I know that my redeemer lives.”

Pope Francis prays at tombs in the cemetery of the Pontifical Teutonic College at the Vatican on All Souls’ Day, Nov. 2, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

St. Paul, in the Letter to the Romans, says “hope does not disappoint,” he said; “hope attracts us and gives meaning to life. I don’t see in the beyond, but hope is a gift of God that draws us to life, toward the joy of eternal life.”

“Hope is an anchor,” the pope said, and believers must cling to the rope that leads to it “in moments of joy and in terrible moments.”

The kind of certainty Job exhibited is “a gift of God,” something that people cannot simply muster up for themselves without God’s help, he said. It is a gift that must be requested from God.

Jesus confirms the promise that hope will not disappoint in the Gospel of St. John, when he says, “Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day,” the pope said.

Knowing that Jesus is the anchor, he said, living in Christian hope means hanging on to the anchor’s rope; “it will not disappoint.”

 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis often has expressed openness to the idea of laws recognizing civil unions, including for gay couples, to protect their rights.

The pope’s comments in a brief passage in the documentary film, “Francesco,” are similar to the position he took while archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and echo remarks he has made in several interviews during his pontificate: “Marriage” is only between a man and a woman, but civil union laws could provide legal protection for couples in long-term, committed relationships.

Speaking in Spanish in the film, Pope Francis says, “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”

The film premiered in Rome Oct. 21.

Pope Francis repeatedly has said publicly that parents should not and must not disown a child who is gay, and, on several occasions, he has spoken about the rights all people have to have a family.

In a 2019 interview on Mexican television, he was asked about his opposition to gay marriage in Argentina and his openness to LGBT people as pope.

“I have always defended doctrine,” he said. “It is a contradiction to speak of homosexual marriage.”

But he also told the interviewer, “Homosexual persons have a right to be in the family; persons with a homosexual orientation have a right to be in the family and parents have the right to recognize a son or daughter as homosexual; you cannot throw anyone out of the family, nor make life impossible for them.”

In “A Future of Faith: The Path of Change in Politics and Society,” a book-length series of conversations with the French sociologist Dominique Wolton, the two spoke about gay marriage and civil unions in the context of a discussion about tradition, modernity and truth.

“‘Marriage’ is a historical word,” the pope said, in the book published in French in 2017. “Forever, throughout humanity and not only in the church, it’s been between a man and a woman. You can’t change it just like that. It’s the nature of things. That’s how they are. So, let’s call them ‘civil unions.'”

In a 2014 interview published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis was asked about moves across Europe to legalize gay marriage or adopt civil union laws.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “Secular states want to validate civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, driven by the need to regulate economic aspects between people, such as ensuring health care. These are cohabitation pacts of various kinds, of which I could not list the different forms.”

“It is necessary to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety,” he said, implying that some forms of civil unions would be acceptable.

According to “The Great Reformer,” a biography of Pope Francis by Austen Ivereigh, then-Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio went head-to-head with the government in 2010 when it began a drive to legalize gay marriage.

“He told a Catholic gay activist, a former theology professor named Marcelo Marquez, that he favored gay rights as well as legal recognition for civil unions,” Ivereigh wrote. “But he was utterly opposed to any attempt to redefine marriage in law.”

The future pope, the book continued, “had not raised strong objections to a 2002 civil unions law that applied only to Buenos Aires and that granted rights to any two people cohabitating for more than two years, independent of their gender or sexual orientation. He regarded it as a purely civic, legal arrangement that left marriage unaffected.”

In 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had issued a document urging Catholics to oppose giving “legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons,” particularly when such recognition would equate the unions with marriage and would allow the couple to adopt children.

 

 

Pope Francis uses hand sanitizer after greeting a few clerics during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Oct. 14, 2020. A few days after four Swiss Guards tested positive for COVID-19, the pope broke from his normal pattern and did not personally greet people in the crowd. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

 VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The purpose of crying out to the Lord in prayer is not to get used to suffering, but to remember that God, and not humankind, is the only source of salvation and consolation, Pope Francis said.

The Book of Psalms, with its many prayers of supplication, teaches Christians how to ask “God to intervene where all human efforts are in vain. That is why prayer, in and of itself, is the way of salvation and the beginning of salvation,” the pope said Oct. 14 during his weekly general audience at the Paul VI audience hall.

“The prayer of the psalms is the testimony of this cry: a multiple cry because in life, pain takes a thousand forms and takes the name of sickness, hatred, war, persecution, distrust; until the supreme ‘scandal,’ that of death,” he said.

Prior to the pope’s arrival, participants were told that he would not be greeting them from up close and that they were to maintain proper distance from each other.

With a steady increase in COVID-19 infections prompting fears of a second wave of the pandemic, the Italian government issued a series of new decrees, including extending mandatory use of masks indoors, except in private homes, to requiring masks be worn outdoors, as well as the early closing of bars and restaurants.

Religious and civil ceremonies were also limited to no more than 30 guests. According to the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, the Italian National Institute of Health reported that 77% of new infections occurred among family members.

Before concluding the audience, the pope apologized to those present and explained that with the new safety regulations in place, “it is better if we keep distant.”

“You are sitting prudently distant as it should be,” the pope said. “But it often happens that when I go down, everyone gets close and piles up. And it’s a problem because there is a risk of infection.”

“I’m sorry that I greet you from afar, but I think that if we, as good citizens, fulfill the regulations from the authorities, this will be a help to end this pandemic,” he said.

During the audience, the pope continued his series of talks on prayer, reflecting on the Book of Psalms, which “communicates ‘knowing how to pray’ through the experience of dialogue with God.”

“In this book, we do not encounter ethereal, abstract people, those who confuse prayer with an aesthetic or alienating experience,” he explained. “The psalms are not texts created on paper, but rather they are invocations, often dramatic, that spring from lived existence.”

The Book of Psalms, he continued, is where Christians can “hear the voice of men and women of prayer in flesh and blood, whose life, like that of us all, is fraught with problems, hardships and uncertainties.”

In the psalms, the pain, suffering and sorrow are not “meaningless, without purpose,” but instead it “becomes a relationship, a cry for help waiting to intercept a listening ear.”

“Even the pains we suffer cannot be merely specific cases of a universal law: they are always ‘my’ tears, which no one has ever shed before me. All human pains for God are sacred,” he said.

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope said he met earlier with the parents of Father Roberto Malgesini, a priest from the Diocese of Como who was stabbed to death Sept. 15 by a mentally ill homeless man he was helping.

“The tears of those parents are ‘their’ tears and each one of them knows how much they suffered to see their son who gave his life in the service of the poor,” the pope said.

“When we want to console someone, we do not find the words. Why? Because we cannot get to ‘their’ pain, because ‘their’ pain is theirs, ‘their’ tears are theirs. The same, with us: the tears, ‘my’ pain is mine, the tears are ‘mine’ and with these tears, with this pain, I turn to the Lord,” he said.

Pope Francis said that while not all problems are solved in prayer, sometimes, it is enough for one to know that “the Lord listens.”

“Those who pray are not deluded,” the pope said. “They know that many questions of life down here remain unresolved, with no way out; suffering will accompany us and, after one battle, others will await us. But if we are listened to, everything becomes more bearable.”

The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington Aug. 29, 2020. The Supreme Court begins hearing cases for the new term Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Andrew Kelly, Reuters)

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although the Supreme Court began its new term Oct. 5, it is hardly business as usual since the court only has eight members on the bench and it is continuing to hear oral arguments by teleconference due to heath concerns.

The nation’s high court moves right into action though with two high profile cases in November: a religious freedom exception to anti-discrimination laws and a review, for the third time, of the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s health care law.

The court also could be called upon to decide election disputes if the presidential race is close.

And hovering over all of its current work is the ongoing Senate preparation to move forward with President Donald Trump’s nomination of federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18.

Cases not on the docket this term also have the court’s attention. For example, the court has been asked by the Trump administration and several states to issue an emergency stay of a federal district court ruling this summer that suspended the in-person requirement during the pandemic for women who want to receive the abortion-inducing drug, mifepristone.

And the court also has gained some notice for what it isn’t taking up.

On the first day of its new term, the justices declined to take a case from Kim Davis, the former Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The court’s decision lets the lower court ruling stand, allowing a lawsuit filed against her to proceed.

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, agreed with the court’s decision but also showed displeasure saying: “Davis may have been one of the first victims of this court’s cavalier treatment of religion in its Obergefell decision, but she will not be the last.” Obergefell was the court’s 2015 decision that struck down state bans on same-sex marriage.

Back to the court’s fall schedule, on Nov. 4, it will hear oral arguments in Fulton v. Philadelphia, a religious freedom case that centers on a Catholic social services agency that had been excluded from Philadelphia’s foster care program for not accepting same-sex couples as foster parents.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and a few Catholic Charities agencies joined more than 30 other religious groups, states and a group of Congress members filed amicus briefs urging the court to protect the faith-based foster care program under its First Amendment religious exercise rights.

At a September webinar sponsored by Georgetown University’s law school, Paul Clementi, a partner at the Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, who was solicitor general of the United States from 2005 to 2008, said the court has a lot of “off ramps” with this case, allowing it to address parts of the issue.

He pointed out that Catholic Social Services of the Philadelphia Archdiocese was not seeking damages but simply wanted to take part in the program on its own terms. He also said the court may find a way for Philadelphia to give the faith-based agency an exemption to the anti-discrimination law.

A decision that looms over the court here is the 1990 Employment Division v Smith decision, which involved two American Indians denied unemployment benefits in Oregon after they were fired for using peyote, a hallucinogenic drug, in a religious ceremony.

The court ruled in favor of Oregon, saying its right to legislate against drug use superseded a religious group’s right to use a drug as part of a spiritual ritual. The ruling has been interpreted as giving state and local governments broad powers over religious practices.

Clementi said he would be shocked if the Smith decision would be overruled in this case.

In its petition, Catholic Social Services urged the court to overturn Smith, saying that even though the agency’s program should be allowed under that ruling, the decision “has confused rather than clarified the law and should be reconsidered.”

Six days after the foster parent case, the court will hear oral arguments challenging the nation’s health care law in a case brought by 18 Republican state attorneys general and supported by the Trump administration.

The ACA, which became law in 2010 and was fully implemented in 2015, has been before the nation’s high court twice before, in 2012 and 2015, and survived, but this time its fate is more uncertain particularly with the possible confirmation of Barrett.

This case goes back to the court’s 2012 decision that upheld the law’s individual coverage requirement under Congress’ taxing power and the 2017 tax law that zeroed out that tax penalty. Without that tax in place the state leaders claim the ACA’s coverage requirement is unconstitutional.

As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Barrett has not heard any cases dealing with the ACA. But court watchers have been quick to bring up her 2017 paper in the Notre Dame Law School journal where she criticized Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion in the 2012 ruling, saying he “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”

Although the article has raised red flags for those concerned that Barrett could vote to dismantle the law — if she is confirmed to the court in time to hear the case — some legal scholars have said this doesn’t necessarily reveal how she would vote since this case centers on a different legal question.

The Catholic Church has had a complicated relationship with the health care law. Catholic hospitals have long emphasized the poor and vulnerable must have access to health care, but church leaders have objected to the law’s contraceptive mandate, requiring that employee health insurance plans provide contraceptive coverage.

 

This is a movie poster for the 2020 documentary “Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (CNS photo/courtesy Family Theater Productions)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Father Patrick Peyton may have been a child of God, but he also was a force of nature.

His relentless quest to encourage family prayer, which became the hallmark of his priestly ministry and led to the formation of Family Theater Productions, is highlighted in a new documentary of his life titled, simply, “Pray.”

“I’m for prayer, for peace, for mercy, for justice, for faith, for truth, for love. I’m for racial harmony,” the Irish-born Father Peyton — who popularized the adage “The family that prays together stays together” — told one interviewer. “The things I’m for crowd out the things I’m against. But first of all I’m for prayer,” he added. “The world hasn’t got a prayer without yours.”

“We’re really excited about it finally getting out to the world,” said Holy Cross Father David Guffey, the current executive director of Family Theater Productions.

“Pray,” subtitled “The Story of Patrick Peyton,” will make its debut on a limited number of movie screens Oct. 9; for those who can’t catch it at their local multiplex, it will be available for streaming in January.

Father Guffey, in a Sept. 25 phone interview with Catholic News Service, said he started digitizing material from old Family Theater footage 10 years ago, and that work on “Pray” began in earnest in 2017.

Like any film production, there are the inevitable stumbling blocks. But in the case of “Pray,” it was “picking which parts of the story” to include. “There are so many stories that people had told us.”

One of those stories features Mike Sweeney, a former first baseman and catcher who spent 13 of his 16 big-league seasons with baseball’s Kansas City Royals, and his wife, Shara. When they experienced difficulties in their marriage, they decided to give daily family prayer a try. And it has worked.

“Without prayer,” Mike Sweeney said in the documentary, “we would be like empty shells.” Other first-person testimonials adorn the movie.

The story of Father Peyton, who was declared venerable by Pope Francis in 2017, is itself remarkable. He was the sixth of nine children — four girls and five boys. A working-class Irish family, the Peytons engaged in family prayer every night. Young Patrick Peyton felt he had a vocation to the priesthood, but at a time when Ireland had a surplus of vocations, his poor grades kept him from being accepted as a seminarian.

Patrick convinced his brother Tom to head for the United States, where three of their sisters preceded them. Getting a job as the janitor at the cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Patrick felt the call to a vocation grow — and both he and his brother were accepted into the Holy Cross order’s seminary on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

While still a seminarian, Father Peyton was hospitalized with tuberculosis. His favorite seminary professor told him to pray for Mary’s intercession: “If you’re a 50 percenter, she’ll be a 50 percenter. If you’re a 100 percenter, she’ll be a 100 percenter.”

After continuous prayer, he felt a change within his body, and had to convince the doctors he had been cured. After they conducted further tests, according to Holy Cross Father Willy Raymond, Father Guffey’s predecessor at Family Theater Productions, and found their young patient’s claims to be true, they told him: “Nobody should be living after what you’ve been through.”

After being ordained, along with his brother Tom, in 1941, Father Peyton kept looking for ways to repay Mary. At his first assignment in Albany, New York, he started the Crusade for Family Prayer and started a letter-writing campaign that resulted in 20,000 “circular letters” being written — that era’s equivalent to reply-all email — on the crusade’s behalf.

He also secured an hour on an Albany radio station to pray the rosary, which received a favorable response among listeners. This led to interviews with executives at the nation’s second-largest radio network at the time, the Mutual Broadcasting System, in New York City. But to get network radio time, he had to think big. So on Good Friday 1945, he cold-called one of the entertainment world’s biggest stars, Bing Crosby, asking him to lead a family prayer broadcast.

Crosby agreed, and the resultant program on Mother’s Day that year “was celebrated for the emotional impact on the whole country,” Father Raymond says in “Pray.”

But to get more top-caliber stars, Father Peyton had to go to Hollywood, where most of them worked and lived. His success rate was tremendous, and the number of “Family Theater” radio, TV and film episodes in the ensuing years totaled more than 1,000.

When entertainment wasn’t enough, Father Peyton himself led family-rosary crusades that drew hundreds of thousands. Father Peyton did more than 500 crusades himself during his life, Father Guffey said.

“It’s more difficult to imagine the massiveness of them,” he told CNS. “You cannot imagine what 2 million (people) look like in Manila when you get them together, and 500,000 in Golden Gate Park (in San Francisco) when you get them together. It’s mind-blowing.”

Father Peyton led such a public life that few things would seem to have been overlooked. But in the Family Theater’s vaults lie episodes of a talk show called “A Matter of Faith” in which Father Peyton had guests the likes of Rose Kennedy, Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan, plus Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens and other figures of the Second Vatican Council.

“We think of Father Peyton as someone who was quite pious,” Father Guffey said, “but there was an intellectual foundation to what he did.”

 

 

 

Pope Francis signs his new encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship” after celebrating Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 3, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Calling all people of goodwill to care for one another as brothers and sisters, Pope Francis urged people not to despair of making the world a better place, but to start creating the world they want through personal action and political lobbying.

Pope Francis signed his new social encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” at the end of Mass Oct. 3 in Assisi. The Vatican released the text the following day.

“A worldwide tragedy like the COVID-19 pandemic momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all,” the pope said. “Once more we realized that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together.”

At the same time, he said, responses to the pandemic, and especially to its economic devastation, shined a light on the inequalities existing within nations and among nations.

“For all our hyperconnectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all,” he said. “Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality.”

“Fratelli Tutti,” which literally means “all brothers and sisters” or “all brothers,” are the words with which St. Francis “addressed his brothers and sisters

The front page of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano shows Pope Francis with his latest encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2020. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel,” the pope wrote.

That flavor, explained throughout the document, involves welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, listening to and giving a hand up to the poor, defending the rights of all and ensuring that each person, at every stage of life, is valued and invited to contribute to the community, he said. It also means supporting public policies that do so on a larger scale.

At the heart of the new encyclical’s appeal to Catholics is a meditation on Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan and particularly on how Jesus takes a legal scholar’s question, “Who is my neighbor,” and turns it into a lesson on being called not to identify one’s neighbors but to become a neighbor to all, especially those most in need of aid.

“The parable eloquently presents the basic decision we need to make in order to rebuild our wounded world. In the face of so much pain and suffering, our only course is to imitate the good Samaritan,” he said. “Any other decision would make us either one of the robbers or one of those who walked by without showing compassion for the sufferings of the man on the roadside.”

“The parable,” he continued, “shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbors, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good.”

Doing that, he said, would mean recognizing and taking concrete action against “certain trends in our world that hinder the development of universal fraternity” and acting as a neighbor to one another, including racism, extremism, “aggressive nationalism,” closing borders to migrants and refugees, polarization, politics as a power grab rather than a service to the common good, mistreatment of women, modern slavery and economic policies that allow the rich to get richer but do not create jobs and do not help the poor.