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What Catholics can learn from ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’

Denver, Colo., Jan 20, 2019 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- “Does it spark joy?”

That question has become a rallying cry for fans of Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo, whose 2012 book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has become a New York Times bestseller and sold more than 3 million copies.

Adherents of the KonMari Method, as it is known, are instructed to gather every piece of clothing in their house and put them all together in a pile. One-by-one, they take each item in their hands, asking themselves, “Does this spark joy?” as a way of determining which items to keep and which to discard or donate. The process is repeated with all of their books, papers, miscellaneous items, and sentimental belongings, in that order.

The bestselling book was recently turned into a popular Netflix reality show, in which Kondo visits the houses of people living in various situations – a family with young children whose home feels chaotic and cluttered, a recently retired couple who have spent decades collecting clothes and baseball cards, a widow who cannot bring herself to get rid of any of her late husband’s possessions. Kondo works through the process with them, showing the dramatic results that can be achieved by decluttering.

The KonMari tidying ritual bears some striking similarities to the annual purging of possessions undertaken by the Companions of Christ in Denver.

An association of diocesan priests and deacons who live a common life of prayer and fraternity, the Denver Companions of Christ emphasize the observance of poverty, chastity and obedience in their ordained ministry.

As part of this commitment, they annually purge their possessions, on or around Ash Wednesday. If they are living in a community, they purge as a household.

They begin by physically laying out all of their belongings, a practice that Kondo also promotes, as it allows people to see how much they actually own, and to recognize where they have excess in their lives.

Following a series of guiding principles, the Companions then question each item as they make decisions about what to keep and what to discard.

“It kind of pushes you to admit whether or not you really need things,” says Fr. Mike Rapp, a member of the Denver community.

In an interview with CNA, Rapp said that taking a simple approach to material goods is something that can benefit all of the faithful – not just priests.

“For the Christian, this is a way of taking away those things that nickel-and-dime our lives, so that we can really have what we need and value that, and then have the space in our life, that sort of openness, that quietness, to really follow the Lord – to hear his voice, to pay attention to God…serving other people and loving them.”

He noted that one of the instructions given by John the Baptist to prepare people for the coming of Christ was, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”

“You don’t need anything excessive,” Rapp said. “If you have excess in your life, it can be a distraction. Just get rid of it.”

The Catholic Church teaches that the evangelical counsel of poverty – along with chastity and obedience – is proposed by Christ to all disciples, as a way of growing in the Christian life and cooperating with grace.

Rapp pointed to Mark 10, in which a rich young man asks Christ what he must do to inherit eternal life. In addition to following the commandments, Christ instructs him to “Go sell what you have, give to the poor…then come, follow me.” But Scripture says the young man went away sad, “for he had many possessions.”

Material possessions are not inherently evil, Rapp clarified. But when we become attached to them, they go from being necessary items that help us in life to becoming “a real detriment, a distraction from the priorities” we should have.

Members of religious orders take a vow of poverty, which is generally lived in a very radical way, while canon law suggests that diocesan priests should live a simple life and give away any excess that they have to the poor, Rapp said.

“I think that’s a pretty good general rule for everybody.”

Determining what is excess in one’s life is a matter of personal discernment, the priest said. In his community, members are guided by the principle, “Start with nothing, and keep only what you really need.”

Other guidelines include trying to limit belongings to what can be packed in a car – fitting for the life of mobility to which priests are called – and asking the question, “Have I used this within the last year?”

“If you haven’t, you might not need it. You might not use it in the next 20 years,” Rapp said.

While they are purging, the Denver Companions pray in gratitude to God. This is a key part of the process – acknowledging that everything they possess is a gift from God and asking him to help them see what they should be letting go of and detaching themselves from.

“We do the purge communally, so you show everybody what you have. There’s a certain accountability to it,” Rapp added. Their fellow priests can also challenge them on specific belongings, inviting them to reflect on whether they actually need a certain item.

“We don’t actually need what we think we need,” he said.

For lay people, especially families with children, the criteria for what to keep may look different.

“It is really difficult when you have children of various ages to keep possessions simple, because there are various needs in the home happening all at the same time!” said Alicia Hernon, a mother of 10 children and the co-director, alongside her husband, of The Messy Family project and podcast.

“It’s hard for moms to give away clothes when you know you will have a child who will wear those clothes or play with those toys in just a few years,” she told CNA. “Yes, I would love to get rid of all the extra toys and clothes, but not if I will have to replace them for the next child hitting that stage just a short time from now.”

“For us, living simply means that I had to have an effective storage system for clothes and a set time to take them out when needed. It also means that we had to do the same with certain toys.”  

But while simplicity may look different for families – especially large ones – Hernon said there are still benefits to a simple lifestyle, especially because it helps family members “focus on the people around us.”  

“The fewer possessions we have, the less there is to clean, maintain and manage,” she said. “The fewer possessions children have, the more they will be encouraged to play outside and play with each other.”  

Catholics seeking to implement Kondo’s methods may notice that some of her practices display a sense of animism, the idea that inanimate objects have spirits. Kondo, who served for several years at a Shinto shrine in Japan, greets the houses that she enters before tidying them. She encourages people to talk to their possessions, thanking them for the role they have played in their lives. She suggests that the used items that one has discarded “will come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now.”

While Catholics should not take part in practices that do not align with the Catholic faith, this does not mean they need to reject the KonMari Method of tidying altogether, Rapp said. Catholicism has long understood how to embrace what is good in other cultures, without accepting ideas that are problematic.

Some of Kondo’s ideas can be adapted to a more Catholic worldview, the priest said. For example, rather than thanking a book or piece of clothing for its usefulness, Catholics can offer prayers of thanks to God, who is the true source of all material blessings.

“Thank you, Lord, for giving me this. It’s been very valuable for my life in these ways. I’m going to let go of it now,” he suggested as a prayer to offer while purging.

Recognizing everything as a blessing from God makes it easier to be detached, he noted. “Because God has given me all of these things, I can let go of them. I can give them away.”

Ultimately, Rapp said, simplicity in possessions is about building gratitude, detachment, and trust.

“If you want to follow Jesus’ way of simplicity, you have to accept that it’s a bit radical, and you have to be willing to detach. I think that’s the big key, this attitude of detachment.”

“You have to sort of trust that ‘I can let go of things, and my needs will be taken care of’,” he said, pointing to the passage in the Sermon on the Mount in which Christ reminds his followers of how God clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air, instructing them to trust that God will also take care of their material needs.

“We as human beings feel a need to provide for ourselves,” Rapp said. “Letting go of things is an invitation to really trust in the Lord, and to celebrate and feel the providence of God, that God really does provide for us, that God has provided for us in remarkable ways.”

For the Denver Companions, purging physical things is a reminder to reflect on spiritual poverty, which is more important than material poverty.

Rapp said the community undergoes a similar process of seeking to identify excesses or unhealthy attachments in the spiritual life, asking themselves, “What do I cling to? My time, my energy, my friendships, my talent, my opinions?”

This helps them recognize all of these things as gifts from God, and opportunities to give thanks and practice detachment, fostering spiritual poverty, since God promises his kingdom to the “poor in spirit.”

“That’s what we’re really looking for,” Rapp said. “We don’t find our peace and happiness in things.”

Former vicar: Vatican already knew about sexual abuse allegations against Argentine bishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 20, 2019 / 12:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an exclusive report from the Associated Press, the former vicar to Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta said that the Vatican had had information about sexual abuse allegations against Zanchetta for several years.

This contradicts a Vatican statement made just weeks ago in which they said that they had only gained knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against Zanchetta a few months ago.

Bishop Zanchetta resigned as Bishop of Orán, Argentina on Aug. 1, 2017, slightly more than four years after his appointment there. At the time, he cited health problems and “difficulty in managing relations with the diocesan clergy and in very tense relations with the priests of the diocese,” and “an incapacity to govern the clergy.”

About four months after his resignation, Zanchetta was appointed by Francis to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) in December 2017. The APSA manages the Holy See's assets and real estate holdings.

On January 3, 2019, the Vatican announced that they had first received accusations of alleged sexual misconduct against Zanchetta only a few months ago, in the fall of 2018.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim Holy See press officer, said Jan. 3 that “at the time of his resignation there had been against (Bishop Zanchetta) accusations of authoritarianism, but there had been against him no accusation of sexual abuse…the accusations of sexual abuse date to this autumn.”

But Rev. Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar, told the AP that the Vatican received complaints against Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017 for alleged “obscene behavior”, misconduct and sexual harassment of adult seminarians, and naked selfies found on his phone.

Manzano, who now is a parish priest in Argentina, told the AP that he and several other diocesan officials alerted the Vatican in 2015 of Zanchetta’s concerning behavior. He said he sent the Vatican the naked selfies and other compromising images that had been found on the bishop’s phones.

"In 2015, we just sent a 'digital support' with selfie photos of the previous bishop in obscene or out of place behavior that seemed inappropriate and dangerous," he told the AP. The 2015 complaint against Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint, Manzano noted.

"It was an alarm that we made to the Holy See via some friendly bishops. The nunciature didn't intervene directly, but the Holy Father summoned Zanchetta and he justified himself saying that his cellphone had been hacked, and that there were people who were out to damage the image of the pope."

Manzano said that for a time after being summoned to the Vatican, Zanchetta’s behavior seemed to improve. But then it worsened, and he would allegedly visit the seminary “at all hours,” get drunk with seminarians, and travel with them alone often without the permission of the rector of the seminary.

Again in May or June of 2017, Manzano told the AP that he and the rector of the seminary made a second complaint against Zanchetta to the Vatican's nuncio in Buenos Aires, who forwarded it along to the Vatican. At that time, the situation had become “much more serious, not just because there had been a question about sexual abuses, but because the diocese was increasingly heading into the abyss," Manzano said.

Shortly thereafter, in July 2017, Zanchetta announced his resignation from his position as Bishop of Oran. After spending some time in Spain, Zanchetta took up his position in the Vatican in December 2017.

Manzano said part of the reason the allegations against Zanchetta may have not been taken seriously by the Vatican was because of the bishop’s close relationship with Pope Francis.

Francis had appointed Zanchetta as Bishop of Oran in 2013. Zanchetta had also been the executive undersecretary of the Argentine bishops conference which was headed by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from 2005-2011.

Still, Manzano said he didn’t believe the Vatican meant to lie or hide anything about Zanchetta. He said he believed Francis and other Vatican officials had also been victims of the bishop’s "manipulation." He said the recent Vatican statement may have been making a distinction between informally filed allegations and a formal complaint against Zanchetta.

"There was never any intent to hide anything. There was never any intent of the Holy Father to defend him against anything," Manzano said.

According to Gisotti’s Jan. 3 statement, the current Bishop of Oran is in the process of collecting testimonies regarding allegations against Zanchetta, which will be sent to the Congregation for Bishops.

“If the elements needed to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission for bishops,” Gisotti said.

Zanchetta has been placed on a temporary leave from his APSA position while the investigation is ongoing.

 

Pope’s app 'Click to Pray' connects Catholics to a smartphone prayer network

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2019 / 06:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis launched an app Sunday called  “Click to Pray,” which connects Catholics to a global network to share prayer intentions via their smartphones.

The pope opened the new app using an iPad during his Angelus address Jan. 20 and encouraged young Catholics, in particular, to download the smartphone app to pray the “Rosary of Peace” ahead of World Youth Day.

“Click to Pray” allows users to post prayer intentions and view other prayer requests in six languages. After posting on the social network, one can track how many Catholics around the world have prayed for their request.

The Android and iOS app includes the pope’s monthly prayer intentions, all of the mysteries of the rosary, and daily prayers for morning, afternoon, and night. In each of these sections, users can click a box to indicate that they have completed the prayer and view how many others also prayed.

This month’s prayer intention is “for young people and the example of Mary.” In his Angelus address, Pope Francis reflected on Mary’s role in Sunday’s Gospel narrative of the wedding feast at Cana.

“Let us look at Mary: the words that Mary addresses to the servants come to crown the spousal framework of Cana, ‘Do whatever he tells you,’” Francis said. “These words are a precious inheritance that our Mother has left us.”

“To serve the Lord means to listen and practice His word. It is the simple, essential recommendation of the Mother of Jesus, it is the program of life of the Christian,” he continued.

Pope Francis explained that “it is not accidental that at the beginning of Jesus' public life there is a wedding ceremony, because in Him God has married humanity.”

Jesus’ transformation of water into wine was also symbolic, Francis noted, “Water is necessary to live, but the wine expresses the abundance of the banquet and the joy of the party.”

He joked, “It would have been bad to continue the party with water! ... A party without wine? I don’t know.”

The pope encouraged Catholics to turn to Our Lady when facing difficult situations, and to echo her words, “They have no wine.”

Francis explained, “When problems occur that we do not know how to solve, when we often feel anxiety and anguish, when we lack the joy, go to Our Lady and say, ‘We have no wine. The wine is finished: look how I am, look at my heart, look at my soul.’ Tell Mother, and she will go to Jesus to say, ‘Look at this, look at this: they have no wine.’ And then, she will come back to us and tell us, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

In a prayer to Mary after the Angelus, the pope expressed his grief and continued prayers for the Colombian people after the terrorist attack last Thursday at the National Police Academy, which killed 21 people.

The pope said that it “pained his heart” that an estimated 170 migrants are missing after two shipwrecks in the Mediterranean this weekend.

“They were looking for a future for their lives. Victims, perhaps, of human traffickers. We pray for them, and for those who are responsible for what happened,” he said.

The cheers at the end of the Angelus prayer were louder than usual as young people in St. Peter’s square waved Panamanian flags and raised a large banner reading, “Buon Viaggio.” The pope will depart Rome for Panama on January 23 for World Youth Day 2019.

 

'I survived my mom’s abortion appointment:' Voices from the March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Attendees at the 2019 March for Life saw an unannounced appearance from Vice President Mike Pence, a video message from President Trump, a strong bipartisan speaker line-up, and a secular science theme. But the most surprising sight of the day, at least for one 12-year-old first-time marcher, was the number of children.

“There are more kids here than adults!” said Angela from Rockville, Maryland.

A crowd of 100,000 people marching on the politically divisive issue of abortion, in the middle of the country’s longest-ever government shutdown no less, might not seem like the place for kids. But Robin Diller was one of thousands of mothers present who would enthusiastically tell you otherwise: “It’s such a positive environment, a happy and joyful place.”

The March, held Friday, traced the annual route along the National Mall in Washington, DC. It was the Dillers’ second march as a family. Their group of 14 included the Diller brothers, their wives Robin and Lisa, and their collective ten children. The crowd did not intimidate even the smallest Diller, a 10-month-old blinking out from Mr. Diller’s chest, zipped into his dad’s jacket for warmth.

In addition to the fun, Mr. Diller said he sees the March as a lesson in civic responsibility: “It’s important to show our kids what positive activism looks like.”

High school history teacher James Flannery loves the March for a similar reason. He said that his biggest concern for his students is apathy. “That’s why it’s so reassuring to see so many of them here, to see them stand for something.”

Though often labeled “anti-abortion,” people like Mary Bonk from Lexington Park, Maryland, think of themselves as marching for many different life issues-- not just against abortion.

Bonk adheres to the consistent life ethic, which opposes all forms of violence against the human person, including things like war, torture, embryonic stem cell research, and the death penalty.

Bonk acknowledged that her anti-death penalty views put her at odds with many right-leaning pro-lifers. This does not phase her: “I don’t think that being pro-life is a right-wing position.”

Plus, she added, “I feel welcomed here.”

Krista Corbello and Alex Seghers, 26-year-olds from Pro-Life Louisiana, shared Bonk’s expansive sense of what it means to be pro-life.

Corbello agreed that it takes humility to welcome diversity into the movement. But in her experience, the spirit of “welcoming hospitality” is always present “when change is really happening.”

One such change is the growth of “pro-life feminism.” Seghers identified herself and her unborn daughter as pro-life feminists: “She’s marching before she’s even born.” To them, pro-life feminism means advocating nonviolence and nondiscrimination for all people, including those in the womb.

“It’s inclusive of anyone from any background.”

These women appear to have struck a nerve with their inclusive message: their group brought 1,500 young people to D.C. for the March this year.

“Consistency is key for young people,” Corbello said, adding that young people from Louisiana are lucky to have a legislature that is bipartisan on life, including Democrat Rep. Katrina R. Jackson, who spoke at the March this year. Seghers attributes the bipartisanship to Louisiana’s diversity and “culture of family values.”

Though “family values” often connotes religion, Pro-life Louisiana’s events are mostly secular in tone. “Abortion is wrong because it is violent,” Corbello said. “That’s not a religious belief.”

Family is a common theme among young people at the March. Though many of them march for religious, political, and educational reasons, almost all point to their families first when asked about their interest in pro-life issues.

Mother and daughter Claudia and Taylor Turcott did this in a literal way, carrying signs with arrows drawn toward each other. Claudia’s reads: “25 years ago, I thought abortion was the only way, but I walked out of that clinic with my baby that day.” Taylor’s read: “October 1994: I survived my mom’s abortion appointment.”

Taylor began volunteering at a crisis pregnancy clinic in college after learning about her mother’s near decision to abort her. The Turcotts see their advocacy, especially the March, as an opportunity to share their gratitude.

Although many people who saw Claudia’s sign thanked her for choosing life, she simply said: “I just feel so, so grateful. I don’t think I’m unusually brave.” Claudia wants to encourage young women facing unplanned pregnancies: “You will be amazed by how many resources there are to help you.”

Friday’s crowd was full of extraordinary stories like the Turcotts.

One woman, Francis Reciniello, has attended the March for over 30 years. As an immigrant from Honduras, she said she had never supported abortion because it was antithetical to her culture and upbringing. So when a friend got pregnant in college, Reciniello offered help and begged her to choose life.

It worked. “She told her boyfriend and he married her, and they named their child ‘Francois,’ after me” Reciniello said.

Though Reciniello’s own children are active pro-lifers, most years she marches with her friend, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. “She’s a cancer survivor, and every year we say: ‘Can we make it?’ And we do. Even though we go at our own pace now.”

The two expressed their amazement at how young the March has become. “Young people are really stepping up!”

Perhaps the most extraordinary part of the March for Life was that the thousands of people who attend each year think of their peaceful activism, loving families, and joyful sacrifices as ordinary.

“This is just, like, normal,” said Garrett, a high school student from Philadelphia, about being young and pro-life. “It’s how we grew up.” His classmates Evan, Miguel, and Charlie nodded.

“It’s normal to respect each other, to have respect for other human beings.”

NY bishops lament bill to expand abortion in state

Albany, N.Y., Jan 19, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of New York decried Thursday the likely passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which would expand abortion access throughout the state, noting it will only increase family suffering.

The bill was first introduced in 2007, but was often blocked by a Republican-led state senate.

The New York state senate recently returned to Democrat-majority control for the first time since 2010, and the bill is widely expected to become law.

The Reproductive Health Act would allow health care professionals like nurse practicioners and physicians assistants to perform abortions, and permit late- abortion at any time throughout pregnancy in case of fetal inviability or “when necessary to protect a patient's life or health.”

Under current New York law, abortion past 24 weeks is illegal except when necessary to save the life of the mother.

The bill would also decriminalize abortion, transferring it to the health code from the criminal code.

“Words are insufficient to describe the profound sadness we feel at the contemplated passage of New York State’s new proposed abortion policy. We mourn the unborn infants who will lose their lives, and the many mothers and fathers who will suffer remorse and heartbreak as a result,” the bishops of New York state said Jan. 17.

“The so-called 'Reproductive Health Act' will expand our state’s already radically permissive law, by empowering more health practitioners to provide abortion and removing all state restrictions on late-term procedures. With an abortion rate that is already double the national average, New York law is moving in the wrong direction.”

The bishops recalled their pledge “to offer the resources and services of our charitable agencies and health services to any woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, to support her in bearing her infant, raising her family or placing her child for adoption. There are life-affirming choices available, and we aim to make them more widely known and accessible.”

They noted that Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators “hail this new abortion law as progress.”

“This is not progress,” the bishops countered. “Progress will be achieved when our laws and our culture once again value and respect each unrepeatable gift of human life, from the first moment of creation to natural death. Would that not make us truly the most enlightened and progressive state in the nation?”

Americans United for Life CEO Catherine Glenn Foster told CNA earlier this month that the bill would not protect women’s health, but rather trip away health and safety regulations on abortion providers.

“Under Gov. Cuomo's leadership, New York nail salons will be more regulated than abortion facilities,” Foster stated.

Cuomo has also called for the addition of a provision to the state constitution “protecting a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health.” Such an amendment could not be passed before 2021.

When a baby dies, faith and medicine aim for compassion

Denver, Colo., Jan 19, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Grieving a miscarriage or stillbirth can be heart-wrenching. As awareness of that difficulty grows, medical professionals and clergy strive to offer meaningful ways to help parents mourn.

Frequently periods of mourning after a stillbirth or miscarriage are quiet, and perhaps too quick. Now, new medical devices allow parents of stillborn babies to spend more time with a stillborn baby’s earthly remains, possibly giving new ways to aid grieving families.

“To God, no life is lost, no life is insignificant,” Fr. Christopher Zelonis, a priest of the Diocese of Allentown in Virginia, told CNA. “Parents who have suffered miscarriages are parents and have every right and, we would say, need, to regard themselves as such.”

“The community around them, in doing the same, would create greater reverence and respect for the life that those parents have carried. Certainly, no parent wants to bury a child or wants to grieve that loss,” said Zelonis.

The priest spoke about the significance of stillbirths and miscarriages in the life of parents, community, and the Church. He has been a priest for 15 years and a part-time hospital chaplain for the last four years, in addition to his current duties as a parish pastor.

Newly developed cooling cots, also called cold cots, aim to help parents of stillborns. The New York Times profiled an eight-pound device called the CuddleCot, a describing it as a “kind of refrigerated baby bed that helps preserve the body of a deceased newborn for days.”

“The device gives parents a chance to bond with their babies — to love and hold them, take pictures, even take them home and take them for walks, creating memories to last a lifetime,” the New York Times personal health columnist Jane E. Brody wrote Jan. 14.

The twin babies of Chris and Emily Fricker of Pingree Grove, Ill., were born too early to live longer than 90 minutes. The Frickers said the CuddleCot helped them so much they donated one to an Illinois hospital.

“I can’t imagine not having one, it helped us so much,” Emily Fricker told the New York Times.

“Brittany, our labor and delivery nurse, told us we could spend as much time as we wanted with our babies,” Chris Fricker said. “We held them, told them how much we loved them and had them baptized. We got to choose when to say goodbye to them, about 12 hours later.”

The bodies of babies who die in utero or during delivery are often quickly placed in hospital morgues, and parents cannot spend much time with them. Parents are sometimes discouraged from seeing their babies.

“When women find out that they’re pregnant, they immediately begin making plans for the baby,” Dr. Tracy Arghavani, obstetrician-gynecologist at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, told the New York Times. “When they lose that baby, it’s like someone stole their dreams. The loss of an unborn child can be just as heart-wrenching as the loss of a born child.”

For Fr. Zelonis, parents’ various responses to grief and loss “just reflect the variety of people.”

“I don’t know if there’s any right or wrong or better or worse about it,” he said.

Physical contact with the baby is considered important at a “crucial bonding time” that happens with mothers and fathers after a typical birth, and the new devices could help.

“That could certainly make the actual humanity of that child, which was always present at every stage, more palpable to the parents,” he said.

The U.K.-based manufacturer of the CuddleCot, Flexmort, says 92 percent of British hospitals have at least one device. The device costs about $2,700. It is designed to be cleaned and sterilized for reuse.

“Dealing with the death of a baby is clearly an incredibly difficult event for parents and bereaved parents should be given the option of spending time with their baby,” the CuddleCot website said. “This is usually in the hospital maternity/labor ward or hospice but increasingly babies are also being allowed home.”

This time helps the family bond with the baby and helps them deal with the loss, the manufacturer claimed.

The CuddleCot site cited a testimonial from Sutton Jones of South Carolina: “I can’t even explain how helpful the cuddle cot was to us. We have memories with our daughter that we never would have had. We got to hold her, kiss her, change her, take pictures with her, spend the night with her, just love her as our child.”

Zelonis said that after the loss of an expected child, parents can react in any number of ways. The loss of a child is grievous in itself, and grief over lost dreams and expectations for the child also follow. Feelings of guilt are also possible, with parents’ thoughts focusing on “anything they may or may not have contributed to the death of the child.”

“There can be anger at God for allowing it to happen,” he said. “You might hear sometimes the phrase ‘taking away their baby,’ as you might hear from any loved ones who died regardless of age.”

“I tell people who are grieving that God is big enough to handle it,” the priest told CNA. “I think people get angry with God and then get ashamed or afraid for being angry with God.”

Parents who miscarry should show “compassion towards themselves.” The should also respond with “candor with God.”

“Regarding miscarriage, no life is lost in the sight of God, though a life might not have reached full maturity,” Zelonis said. “No life is lost. God knows. In heaven, that child may for all we know come to possess full understanding and insight in the presence of God, with God completing any defects or any deficits in understanding and freedom.”

“And if not, either way, this is a person loved into existence by God and by his or her parents.”

Zelonis said Catholics should respond to the loss of a baby with compassion, understanding and “respect for the life that was and is present to God, even if it is no longer present to the world.”

Medical professionals also have guidance in responding to stillbirth or miscarriage. The CuddleCot website links to a copy of the National Health Service Scotland and Children’s Hospice Association Scotland January 2016 document “Collaborative guidance for staff to support families who wish to take their baby home after death.”

The document aims to make parents aware of their choices following their baby’s death and to “support their decision-making.” It aims to “ensure that the baby and their family are treated
with dignity and respect.”

Staff should advise parents that their baby’s body will undergo changes after death, and should reassure them and instruct them on how to minimize these changes.

It notes that taking a baby home after his or her death is “not the right choice for every family” and this should be respected. To ensure a dignified, respectful treatment for the baby and his or her family, the guidelines said, “the use of the baby’s name acknowledges their baby as a person and affirms them as parents.” Parents have a role in caring for their baby and hospital staff should remember “to respect their choices at this difficult time.

Zelonis said the Church has “prescribed rites and proper prayers” for infants who pass away.

“Catholic cemeteries have plots for infant and fetal remains, with some people who assist in donating resources the space and services,” he said.

Those who suffer the loss of a baby in miscarriage “should certainly allow themselves to give voice to any feelings,” he continued.

“Certainly, they should have patience and be willing to, in an appropriate time, not according to a timeline, work through those emotions.”

Insensitive responses from clergy or lay Catholics can have such severe effect as to drive people away from religious practice, warned Zelonis, saying this happened in his own family history.

There is also a temptation for both the chaplain and the lay person to “default to platitudes.”

“I think of the friends of Job who before opening their mouths first sat with him and said nothing,” he said. “They were just there.”

Even though it can be uncomfortable to be in the presence of such loss, he encouraged people to resist the temptation “to speak too much or not enough.”

“Well-meaning people might rush to rationales, presuming the mind and will of God,” said Zelonis. “As a chaplain I try to steer clear of that… Better, I say little or nothing, except to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of life—our own or the child’s—asking the Lord of the living and dead to receive the child as His beloved and to receive us in all our emotions, and unfulfilled expectations.”

 

Vatican transfers task of Ecclesia Dei to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2019 / 06:02 am (CNA).- Pope Francis issued a motu proprio Saturday ending the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei and creating an office within the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to focus on doctrinal dialogue with traditionalist groups.

For over thirty years, the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei has “facilitated the full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, communities or individual religious linked to Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre’s fraternity, who wished to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church, preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions,” Pope Francis wrote in the apostolic letter published Jan. 19.

“The institutes and religious communities that usually celebrate in extraordinary form have found today their own stability of number and life,” the pope noted.

Pope Francis stated that the issues dealt with today by the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei are of  “a predominantly doctrinal nature,” and therefore the complete transfer of the pontifical commission’s task to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith is with the desire that “these aims become more and more evident to the conscience of the ecclesial communities.”

Established in 1988 by St. John Paul II in order to carry on a dialogue with traditionalist parties, Ecclesia Dei was reformed by Benedict XVI in 2009 with the instruction Universae Ecclesiae, linking the commission to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

The closing of Ecclesia Dei is the latest step in the pope’s wider project of reform of the Roman Curia. Administrative matters, including the pontifical commission's budget, will now be included in the ordinary accounts of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

The Ordinary Session of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith on November 15, 2017 requested that “the dialogue between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X be conducted directly” by their congregation, the apostolic letter explained.

In November 2018, Fr. Davide Pagliarani, the superior general of the SSPX, met with CDF Prefect Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer and Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei.

During the meeting “it was recalled that the fundamental problem is actually doctrinal … Because of this irreducible doctrinal divergence, for the past seven years no attempt to compose a draft of a doctrinal statement acceptable to both parties has succeeded. This is why the doctrinal question remains absolutely essential,” according to a SSPX statement.

The SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church after the Second Vatican Council. Its relations with the Holy See became particularly strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer consecrated four bishops without the permission of St. John Paul II.

The illicit episcopal consecrations resulted in the excommunication of the bishops involved. The excommunications of the surviving bishops were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI, and since then negotiations “to rediscover full communion with the Church” have continued between the SSPX and the Vatican.

There were indications in recent years of movement towards regularization of the priestly society, which has some 600 priest-members.

In March 2017, Pope Francis gave diocesan bishops or other local ordinaries the authorization to grant priests of the SSPX the ability to celebrate licitly and validly the marriages of the faithful who follow the Society's pastoral activity.

And in September 2015, the pope announced that the faithful would be able to validly and licitly receive absolution from priests of the SSPX during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This ability was later extended indefinitely by Francis in his 2016 apostolic letter Misericordia et misera.

Terror cannot be the seed of peace, Bogota cardinal says after car bomb

Bogotá, Colombia, Jan 19, 2019 / 06:01 am (ACI Prensa).- Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota said that terror can never be the seed of justice and peace, following Thursday's car bomb attack at a police academy in the Colombian capital.

The Jan. 17 attack which killed 21 has been attributed to the National Liberation Army (ELN), a left-wing guerilla group. Dozens more were injured, but most have been released from hospital.

“Death, violence and terror can never be the seed of justice and peace,” Cardinal Salazar said in a message posted on the Archdiocese of Bogota's Twitter account.

“We reject this and every attack that violates the dignity of persons and society,” he added. Cardinal Salazar also expressed his “solidarity with the nation, the police, the victims and their families, and we implore the Lord for forgiveness and peace.”

A vehicle carrying 175 pounds of pentolite, a military-grade explosive, accelerated into the General Santander police academy after being stopped at a checkpoint. The pentolite detonated when the SUV struck a wall. The academy was holding a promotion ceremony for cadets.

Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez reported that the vehicle's driver was José Aldemar Rojas Rodríguez, the ELN's top explosives expert, and that an accomplice had been arrested in Bogota.

Miguel Ceballos, High Commissioner for Peace, said the government will not dialogue with the ELN “until they hand over all the kidnapped people and completely renounce their criminal acts.”

Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega of Villavicencio, president of the Colombian bishops' conference, stated that “every act of violence engenders more violence, which is why we reiterate the call to continue to work for reconciliation in the country. We pray for the victims. We stand in solidarity with their families and the national police.”

“I ask you to not lose heart in working to overcome enmities and creating bridges that lead us to fraternity in the family and in the various social environments,” he added.

The Military diocese also offered prayers for the victims, their families, and the officer training school.

In a telegram to Cardinal Salazar from Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis expressed his “deep sorrow for the victims who lost their lives in such an inhuman act.”

On the scene of the blast, the president of Colombia, Ivan Duque, said that the attack was “not just against young people, or the police, but against all of society.”

He said that what happened “was a demented terrorist attack which will not go unpunished,” and that
“we will act with unbending determination.”

Car bombings were once not uncommon in the Colombian conflict, which has been ongoing among the government, right-wing paramilitaries, and left-wing guerillas since 1964.

The conflict has abated since a 2016 peace deal between the government and the largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Duque has not taken up peace talks with the ELN.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Appeals court rules in Texas' favor over effort to defund Planned Parenthood

New Orleans, La., Jan 18, 2019 / 06:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated Thursday a previous injunction barring Texas from stripping Planned Parenthood affiliates of Medicaid funding.

The injunction was based largely on undercover videos released by the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) during the summer of 2015 which show Planned Parenthood workers negotiating the sale of body parts from aborted children.

“The [Texas Office of Inspector General]...concluded, based on the videos, that [Planned Parenthood affiliates] at a minimum violated federal standards regarding fetal tissue research and standards of medical ethics by allowing doctors to alter abortion procedures to retrieve tissue for research purposes or allowing the researchers themselves to perform the procedures,” Circuit Judge Edith Jones wrote in the court’s Jan. 17 opinion.

Many media reports since 2015 have characterized CMP’s undercover videos as “deceptively” or “heavily” edited, undercutting their credibility.

“The district court stated, inaccurately, that the CMP video had not been authenticated and suggested that it may have been edited...In fact, the record reflects that OIG had submitted a report from a forensic firm concluding that the video was authentic and not deceptively edited,” Jones wrote. “And the plaintiffs did not identify any particular omission or addition in the video footage.”

In the videos in question, two individuals including journalist David Daleiden posed as representatives from a fetal tissue procurement company, and claimed to be interested in purchasing liver, thymus, and neural tissue from fetuses aborted during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Melissa Farrell, Research Director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, is shown in the videos discussing the possibility of a research partnership, providing a tour of her clinic’s surgical facilities, and displaying tissue samples from recently aborted fetuses, according to the court ruling.

An Aug. 2016 grant proposal attributed to George Soros’ Open Society Foundations indicated at least $7-$8 million would be spent in a campaign to counter the CMP videos and “transform the narrative, charging that the videos were doctored.”

Following the release of the videos, the Texas Office of the Inspector General (OIG) subsequently informed Planned Parenthood’s affiliates in October 2015 that they were “no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, and legal manner” and their funding would be terminated, and sent final notice of the decision during December 2016.

Planned Parenthood’s 30 affiliates in Texas currently receive $3.4 million in Medicaid funds.

The affiliates sued in federal court to block the termination of funding, and the district court granted an injunction for the plaintiffs in part because, in the February 2017 opinion of district judge Sam Sparks, the undercover videos had not been authenticated and appeared to have been edited.

The district court also discounted statements from Farrell because she claimed on the witness stand that she had no personal knowledge of the medical aspects of abortion procedures and “had never even been in the room when an abortion was performed.”

Jones affirmed that the state has the right to exclude a healthcare provider from Medicaid funds, and criticized the Planned Parenthood affiliates’ argument that the OIG has insufficient expertise to determine the qualifications of abortion providers.

“That the Chief Medical Officer is a surgeon – and not himself an abortion provider – does not mean that he deserves no deference when deciding whether a provider has failed to meet the medical and ethical standards the state requires,” Jones wrote.

“It is even odder to claim that federal judges, who have no experience in the regulations and ethics applicable to Medicaid or medical practice, much less in regard to harvesting fetal organs for research, should claim superior expertise.”

The case is now remanded to the district court for further review, which has been ordered to apply a different legal standard to determine the final outcome.

The Texas House of Representatives first passed a budget that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of its state funding in April 2017. Texas’ Inspector General had sought to strip the abortion provider of state funding because the videos “indicated noncompliance with accepted medical and ethical standards,” according to the lawsuit.

“Planned Parenthood’s reprehensible conduct, captured in undercover videos, proves that it is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, so we are confident we will ultimately prevail,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in a Jan. 17 statement.

Sister resigns from Detroit seminary after sex abuse allegations

Detroit, Mich., Jan 18, 2019 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit announced this week the resignation of Sr. Mary Finn, 84, a long-time faculty member and assistant professor of theology, after allegations surfaced that she had sexual contact with young adult novices under her charge in the 1970s.

“In recent days, information came to my attention regarding inappropriate conduct over fifty years ago by Sr. Mary Finn,” Msgr. Todd J. Lajiness, the rector and president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said in a statement published Wednesday.

“After a series of conversations with her, her superior, Archbishop Vigneron and members of the Archbishop’s team, I have accepted her resignation from the faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, effective today.”

In a story reported by Deadline Detroit, Theresa Camden, a former novice with the Home Visitors of Mary, recalled “confusing” experiences with Finn, then the novice director for the order, such as being made to lie very close to her on exclusive retreats.

Camden told Deadline Detroit that in hindsight, she knew something felt wrong. After Camden and another novice, who has remained anonymous, were suddenly kicked out of the order in 1972, they sought therapy for their experiences with Finn. The anonymous novice confirmed to Camden that she had had a sexual relationship with Finn.

Michael Betzold with Deadline Detroit reported that Finn’s resignation was announced by the seminary as his story on the allegations was being prepared.

In her resignation letter, posted to the seminary’s website, Finn admits to having “misused my position of authority as a director of novices in the Home Visitors of Mary (HVM) Order, engaging in inappropriate conduct with two adult novices. I regret that behavior, have repented of my actions, and sincerely apologize for the harm I have caused.”

The Home Visitors of Mary hung up the phone when CNA attempted to contact the order about Finn. Subsequent attempts to contact the order went unanswered.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, chairman of the board of trustees at Sacred Heart, was quoted in the seminary statement supporting Finn’s resignation, citing “additional information and what we have come to learn about how best to respond to these situations.”

He said that “While serving as rector of Sacred Heart in the late 1990s, I was given partial details about Sr. Mary's inappropriate conduct that had occurred in the early 1970s. At the time, I thought the matter had been resolved. I regret this was not the case.”

In a Jan. 18 statement, Archbishop Vigneron went on to say: “It is only in recent days that I have come to know new and additional details and context regarding Sr. Mary's misconduct. Based on this information, the current rector, Msgr. Lajiness, accepted Sister Finn's resignation and I endorse this action.”

In 1969, three years before Camden and the other novice were expelled from Finn’s order, Finn began working at Sacred Heart Seminary, where she has served in various positions ever since.

Most recently, Finn was an assistant professor of theology and served on the Priestly Formation Team for the College of Liberal Arts, among other roles, according to a cached website of her seminary page, which had been removed from the school’s website by Friday, Jan. 18.

Edward Mischel, director of community psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, was in the seminary at Sacred Heart about 10 years after Finn started there, in the late 1970s.

Mischel, who completed four years of college at the seminary before discerning that he was not called to the priesthood, told CNA that he chose Finn for his spiritual director and remembers her fondly. They still maintain contact to this day.

“She’s been this quiet, spiritual, loving, easy-going person,” Mischel told CNA. “The guys in the seminary, they adore her.”

News of the allegations of sexual misconduct in the early 1970s was “disheartening,” Mischel said, but he rejected any insinuations that Finn “was dominant or in this old boy’s club, that’s like the antithesis of her. I’ve never seen that in the 30, 40 years I’ve known her, nothing like that at all.”

Mischel said he knows Finn to be a staunch advocate for the people of Detroit, and a very kind and forgiving person.

When asked if he had any concerns that she was placed in charge of young seminarians, after having been accused of sexual misconduct with young women, Mischel said he was not concerned, because he had seen “nothing like that at all” by Finn against the seminarians.

But not all former seminarians of Sacred Heart remember Finn as fondly, and the news of her resignation and the allegations against her as a novice master have also raised serious questions and concerns about her conduct at the seminary.

Two former seminarians at Sacred Heart seminary have told CNA that Finn had a reputation for being overly “handsy” with seminarians - extended hugs, smooches, squeezes and generally unwanted contact were to be expected from Finn.

“In legal terms, it was unwelcomed touching. But if a seminarian reported it, they became a problem,” one former seminarian, who asked for anonymity, told CNA.

Another former seminarian, who also asked for anonymity, told CNA that Finn had become such a “fixture” of the seminary and was so well-liked and considered so holy that she became “untouchable” - any complaints against her were promptly dismissed.

This same seminarian told CNA that Finn was always “touching people,” and while he doesn’t know of any explicitly sexual touching, he said her behavior was “grossly inappropriate.” He recalled on instance where Finn almost pushed a seminarian over a balcony, only to pull him back at the last second, as a joke. When the seminarian turned to throw a punch, assuming it had been a fellow seminarian, he instead saw Sr. Mary.

“She had no sense of boundaries,” the former seminarian said. Her meetings would often run late, and seminarians were expected to listen to her for hours, in what felt like “indoctrination lectures,” he said.

In another example of boundary violation, both former seminarians told CNA separately that Finn was known for wandering the residence wing of the seminary late at night unannounced, and would often walk past seminarians who were in their towels or boxers, coming to and from the communal showers.

One time, Finn wandered in on a priest in the shower, but that issue was “promptly addressed,” one of the former seminarians said.

At some point after the late 1970s, Finn had been moved from her community to live at the seminary. While she would wander the wing belonging to the seminarians, her room was in the faculty wing.

Mischel told CNA that Finn was still living with her community during his time at Sacred Heart. He said he suspects she may have been moved to the seminary due to health problems - she eventually developed Parkinson’s disease, which may have made it difficult for her to drive.

Mischel said he had never had any experience of Finn intentionally walking past half-dressed seminarians, and said he wondered whether it could have been a sign that Finn was entering stages of dementia.

One of the former seminarians who spoke to CNA also said Finn seemed to be “detached from reality” at times, and had difficulty remembering dates. Both of the anonymous former seminarians included in this article were at Sacred Heart in the early and mid-2000s.

When asked why Finn had been moved from her community to live at the seminary, Mary Henige, Strategic Communications Director for Sacred Heart Major Seminary, told CNA that “We do not know when and why Sr. Mary Finn moved to the seminary.”

Both former seminarians also told CNA that Finn’s theology was “unsound.” Part of her theology classes, they said, included “feelings lists” where seminarians were asked to recall an experience from their lives and describe their feelings. The lists, provided by Finn, included “feeling words” such as “sexy”, “hot,” or “horny”, they recalled.

One of the former seminarians told CNA that multiple men had attempted to register complaints against Finn’s conduct, but they were ignored because of the reputation she enjoyed. Many of the faculty at Sacred Heart had been formed by Finn during their time in seminary, and believed her to be saintly. He said at one point, he had heard a faculty member refer to Finn as the “Holy Spirit Incarnate.”

He said on the one hand, she did seem to have a genuine love and concern for people. She saw Christ in people in a way that was “beautiful,” he said.

But she acted like she “was everyone’s mom, but she wasn’t and she’s not,” he said. “There were clear boundary issues. She was very emotionally manipulative of people, very passive aggressive.”

“She had a cult-following, so this is devastating to a lot of people,” he added.

When CNA asked the archdiocese about these claims about Finn’s conduct at Sacred Heart seminary, the archdiocese referred all questions to Sacred Heart.

When asked whether the faculty at Sacred Heart were aware of Finn’s alleged reputation for unwanted touching, inappropriate contact or for allegedly wandering by seminarians in towels, Henige told CNA that “We’re not going to respond to character allegations, nor would that be our role. Sr. Mary’s resignation letter outlines the reasons why she resigned.”