Catholic World News

Catholic World News

Violent marriages: A woman’s quest to help synod bishops grasp the issue

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2015 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christauria Welland is a clinical psychologist who’s worked with both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence – and with one in three women worldwide suffering from abuse at the hands of a partner, her goal is to make sure bishops know about the problem.

Often kept secret through shame or fear of stigma, the scourge of physical and emotional violence between couples is something the Catholics are anything but immune from, and Welland says she hopes to bring about healing and change through awareness and education.

After raising the issue with Vatican officials during last year’s extraordinary synod of bishops on the family, she’s seeking to push the issue even further onto radar of this month’s event by distributing booklets to all of the synod participants.

This year’s Synod on the Family runs from Oct. 4-25, is the second and larger of two such gatherings to take place in the course of a year. Like its 2014 precursor, the focus of this year’s synod is the family, this time with the theme: “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.”

A professor and author, Welland began working in the field of domestic violence 45 years ago, and has extensive experience working in Catholic communities.

She works in private practice in Solana Beach, Calif., with a hospital practice in the rehabilitation unit at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas and Paradise Valley Hospital in National City. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Alliant International University in San Diego, where she teaches a licensure course on domestic violence.

For the first 25 years of her career, Welland focused on victims of domestic violence, however, for the past 20 years she has concentrated on abusive men.

She was in Rome during last year’s extraordinary synod of bishops on the family, where she met for the second time with the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Jean Laffitte, to discuss possible initiatives designed to bring greater attention to the issue of domestic violence.

At the council’s request, Welland drafted a 100-page booklet titled “How Can We Help to End Violence in Catholic Families: A Guide for Clergy, Religious and Laity,” for the Philadelphia World Meeting of Families, where she was the only speaker to present on violence inside the home.

Addressing ways in which Catholics can both respond to and prevent domestic violence, as well as how to educate Catholic youth and couples on how to avoid it, the booklet is available in six languages and as of last week was distributed to all synod participants.

In an Oct. 13 interview with CNA, Welland said that domestic violence is “such a common problem that there’s probably at least one person in every extended family who’s gone through that experience.”

Although she said the issue has been gaining greater awareness in the public eye, it’s still a major problem, and that the numbers tend to be higher “in countries where women have fewer rights, where their legal rights are not equal to men’s rights.”

In terms of statistics, Welland said that worldwide one in three women are effected by some sort of physical or sexual abuse from their partners, while the number effected by emotional or other types of abuse could be higher.

While most countries don’t have stats on men, in the U.S. 28 percent are affected. So it’s “a very big problem worldwide,” she said, noting that, depending on the country, the lowest statistics read one in five women, whereas the highest are one in two.

She defined domestic violence – frequently referred to by research professionals as “Intimate Partner Violence” (IPV) to distinguish from other types of domestic abuse – as any “physical, sexual, emotional, economic abuse, isolation” and in general “the kind of control that one partner exerts over the other.”

Even though there are no specific studies exploring the frequency of IPV within Catholic families, Welland said that it still happens, and that Catholics “aren’t immune” from the phenomenon.

“I hear it every single day, from my Catholic and my non-Catholic patients, so I think it’s something we need to be really aware of,” she said.

Welland said she intentionally made her booklet short and easy to read so that people would actually take an interest, and expressed her hope that synod would “focus on this issue because it is so common in Catholic families.”

A recent example can be seen in a heart-wrenching open letter one Catholic woman wrote to the synod fathers, in which she tells the story of her husband’s dramatic anger problems and the failure of those around her – priests included – to provide adequate help.

One of the synod participants, Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu and president of the Ugandan Episcopal Conference, has already spoken up about the issue.

Archbishop Odama told CNA that in his intervention during last week’s first round of general congregation discussions, he “defended the rights of women against violence whether it be in their homes or in society in general.”

“Violence done to women, or done to children or to anybody is a violence done to the family,” he said, adding that he knows well the toll that violence can take, since his area for 20 years was “bedeviled by internal insecurity and insurgency.”

What he saw during that time was “children suffering, but more the mothers who had given life to these children being put in a situation of stress and of pain.”

“I lived with it and I wouldn’t wish it to happen again, not only in our area but it shouldn’t happen again in any part of the world, in a society of humanity as a whole,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Odama explained that his intervention at the synod was aimed not just at changing the situation in the specific context of Africa, but of humanity as a whole.

“In other parts (of the world), wherever it may be women suffer. So I’m addressing with a small local experience, but with a global issue…we live local but our vision of life should be global.”

Before speaking at the World Meeting of Families Welland spent a month in Africa promoting her booklet and other information surrounding IPV.

She said that after presenting information to various priests, religious, catechists and several bishops in Kampala, Uganda, she got “a very positive response,” and published the booklet there in both English and French.

In terms of African “there’s a very great interest,” she said. “I would say priests and bishops, sisters, anybody who is a pastoral worker is really looking for answers.”

“How do I deal with this, because it is so common and it does show up in your parish office, it shows up in the confessional, it shows up in your school, in your Catechism class.”

In terms of best practices in handling situations of violence in the home, even from a pastoral standpoint, the most important things are not to blame victim and to focus on the person who needs help.

“The first thing is don’t blame the victim. You don’t want to make trite comments, cliché’s like ‘you have to forgive and forget,’” Welland said, because when those comments are made “you can really put someone in danger and you don’t really help them process…you’re kind of discounting what their issue is.”

On the other hand, working with the person who is violent is crucial, because “that’s the person who has the power to change. He or she is the one who needs to make changes so the family will change.”

If a person has any sort of desire to change then the change is possible, she said, noting that the percentage of people who want no change at all is normally very low.

Welland said that while she’s not working with the Church directly, she leads a program in Latin America in Spanish that she developed while working with abusers in San Diego, and that most men have found her program “very effective.”

She voiced her hope that the synod fathers would give the issue the attention it needs and deserves during the synod, and that they would find her booklet helpful in terms of knowing how to handle situations of IPV on a pastoral level.

“If we want to have good marriages in the Church and happy families, if you take that through domestic violence you’re not going to get that goal, that’s never going to happen,” she said.

“So it’s really important to know how to be aware of it and help people prevent it, and if it shows up to know how to treat it and how to respond to it.”

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Catholic World News

Are those who strive for virtue the new minority? Cardinal Dolan thinks so

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2015 / 01:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Married couples who endure hardships together; gay men and women trying to live chastely; engaged couples who choose not to cohabitate. What do all these people have in common?

They’re all striving for holiness and, according to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, they’re the “new minority” to whom it is important to extend inclusion in the Church.

“…these wonderful people today often feel themselves a minority, certainly in culture, but even, at times in the Church!” the Archbishop of New York said in his Oct. 12 blog post. “I believe there are many more of them than we think, but, given today’s pressure, they often feel excluded.”

The cardinal, who is currently in Rome for the Synod on the Family, said that inclusion has emerged as a “very refreshing, consistent” theme discussed at this year’s synod.

He listed immigrants; those with same-sex attraction; single people; those with disabilities; racial minorities; the divorced or widowed; the elderly and homebound, all as being essential to the life of the Church.

“We in the family of the Church love them, welcome them, and need them,” he said.

However, there is another group of people that should be remembered when discussing those who feel excluded from modern society – and even the Church – he said.

“I am thinking of those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity,” Cardinal Dolan said.

This includes couples who choose not to cohabitate before marriage; spouses who endure hardships in marriage; gay men or women who embrace chastity; a mother who sacrifices her career for her children; and spouses who lovingly welcome children into their marriage.

“They are looking to the Church, to us, for support and encouragement, a warm sense of inclusion,” he said. “We cannot let them down!”

Cardinal Dolan’s comments came shortly after Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput addressed the synod assembly, calling for precise language, especially when speaking about inclusion and “unity in diversity.”

“Brothers, we need to be very cautious in devolving important disciplinary and doctrinal issues to national and regional episcopal conferences – especially when pressure in that direction is accompanied by an implicit spirit of self-assertion and resistance,” Archbishop Chaput had said.

Catholic World News

Synod letter leak was intended ‘to sow strife’, says Cardinal Müller

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2015 / 11:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Gerhard Müller spoke with an Italian daily on Tuesday about the synod and about a letter allegedly sent to Pope Francis from a number of cardinals abouts its process, calling the leak of a private document scandalous.

“I’m not saying whether I signed or not. The scandal is that it makes public a private letter of the Pope,” the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told Corriere della Sera Oct. 13. “This is a new Vatileaks: the Pope’s private documents are private property of the Pope and no one else. No one can publish it, I do not know how that could happen.”

“The intention of those who willed its publication is to sow strife, to create tensions. I think that’s clear.”

The text of a letter, and a list of 13 cardinal signatories, were published by Vaticanista Sandro Magister the day before. Several of the prelates listed have denied having signed the document, and others have contested the text published by Magister.

Cardinal Müller is among the list of signatories published by Magister, as well as an alternate version published by Jesuit-run America magazine.

After discussing the letter with Corriere della Sera, the cardinal turned to larger issues of the synod, and Francis’ papacy.

He took umbrage at “those who sustain that in the Roman Curia there is opposition to the Pope. Those who say and write that there are wolves, that Francis is surrounded by wolves. This is an offensive expression, and criminal. I am not a wolf against the Pope.”

“I know who is the Pope and what is meant by his primacy a thousand times better than those who say these things. As prefect of the Congregation, I am the first collaborator of the Holy Father; not only myself but all those who are part of it. I will let no one put in doubt my obedience and my service to the Pope and the Church.”

Pope Francis had cautioned last week against a ‘hermeneutic of conspiracy’ surrounding the synod, and Cardinal Müller reflected that the ‘conspiracy’ would be “To say we are friends of the Pope, and they are the enemy!”

“I do not know anyone here who is against the Pope,” he affirmed.

Acknowledging that there has been concern expressed over the synod’s regulations, he said it “always discusses how to improve procedures, everyone has the freedom to say their opinion on this: the regulations are a human, not a divine law!”

Cardinal Müller spoke positively about the use of small groups for discussion at the synod, saying that “everyone has the freedom to express themselves more fully,” and that “in the [synod] hall there are only three minutes for each intervention, and a synthesis of all aspects cannot be done.”

“There was tension between doctrine and pastoral approach,” the cardinal said, “but it is the task of the synod to see these two aspects together. Every Catholic bishop, in his person, is a teacher of the faith and also shepherd of the flock.”

Regarding the link between doctrine and mercy, Cardinal Müller said, “Orthodoxy must be realized in pastoral care, and there is not a healthy pastoral care without doctrine: that is the teaching of Jesus, not an academic doctrine of theologians.”

He added that the debates should not be characterized as between “liberals” who are approved by the masses, and unpopular “conservatives” who defend the doctrine revealed by Christ.

“It is not as if one [bishop] is of the Ten Commandments, and another is of mercy. And the Gospel requires also the conversion of our lives. The door is narrow.”

Cardinal Müller then turned to the divorced-and-remarried.

“Persons are suffering because their marriage is broken, not because they cannot receive Communion. For us the center of the Eucharist is the consecration: each Christian has the obligation to attend Mass, but not to receive Communion. Concentrating only on this one point resolves nothing.”

He added that “a general rule” in this regard “is not possible.”

“Marriage is a sacrament, and the Church has not authority over a sacrament.”

Catholic World News

After break-in, Bishop Conley prays for burglar’s conversion

Lincoln, Neb., Oct 13, 2015 / 10:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Bishop James Conley’s residence in Lincoln, Nebraska was invaded and burglarized this weekend, he offered a message of forgiveness and called on the faithful to pray that the thief will discover Christ and return the stolen items.

“One of Christ’s last acts on the Cross was forgiveness of a repentant thief,” Bishop Conley said in a statement, adding that “certainly, the Church forgives the person responsible for this crime. God offers his mercy well.”

“I ask all Catholics to join me in praying that the thief will experience a conversion of heart, and seek the mercy of God,” the Lincoln bishop continued.

Around 1:30 P.M. on Saturday, Oct. 10, the alarm in Bishop Conley’s residence was set off, notifying local diocesan officials and the Lincoln police. The bishop was not at home at the time of the break-in.

Among the items stolen were pectoral crosses, one of which is believed to contain a relic of the cross of Jesus. However, no additional items of value were taken from the bishop’s home, and local law enforcement has opened an investigation into the burglary.

Pectoral crosses, usually large and ornamental, are worn by Catholic bishops, cardinals, and popes around their chest as a symbol of their distinctive seat within the Church.

“These crosses belong to the whole Diocese of Lincoln. They signify the unity of our Church in Christ. Let us pray together that they might be returned,” Bishop Conley said.

The Diocese of Lincoln is fully cooperating with the investigation of the burglary, according to diocesan spokesman J.D. Flynn.

“Forgiveness does not exclude accountability,” Flynn said in a recent press release, urging the burglar to give back the crosses. He also stated that the return of the stolen items would be accepted – even anonymously – at any Catholic Church.

Bishop Conley underscored the various outreaches that the Diocese of Lincoln provides, including shelter, food, counseling, training for employment, and crisis assistance. The bishop voiced hope that the local Church would be able to help the burglar, if he or she is in need.

“We care a great deal about the poor, because Jesus Christ was poor. I hope no one will resort to stealing because of some poverty,” Bishop Conley noted, saying, “I hope people, including this thief, will know that the Catholic Church stands eager to help in whatever way we can.”

“I pray, quite sincerely, that the thief will discover that Christ died for him, loves him, and desires to bring him to eternal joy.”

Catholic World News

Prelate Named for Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Pope Francis has named Monsignor Justin Bernard Gnanapragasam as bishop of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. 

Gnanapragasam was born in Karampon, Sri Lanka, in 1948 and ordained a priest in 1974. He has served in a number of roles in the Diocese of Jaffna and is currently vicar general. 

He succeeds Bishop Thomas Savundaran…

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