Is a ‘vocation of friendship’ key to gay ministry in the Church?

This is a syndicated post from CNA Daily News - US. [Read the original article...]

Washington D.C., Oct 24, 2014 / 04:51 am (CNA).- Recovering an understanding of friendship as a vocation could be a way for the Church to help ease spiritual problems of isolation, especially for those who are gay, said one Catholic author who is both lesbian and celibate.

“Friendship is a vocation which can include lifelong devotion and commitment,” said Eve Tushnet, suggesting that Church leaders should “talk more about vocations outside of marriage and the priesthood.”

“That’s totally scriptural, and we should be ahead on this instead of letting the culture lead us around and act like friendship is relatively trivial in the scheme of things,” she told CNA.

Tushnet is a Catholic convert who has described herself as “an openly lesbian and celibate Catholic.” She has written frequently on living out her Catholic faith amid same-sex attraction and recently released a book, “Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith.”

Among the topics that Tushnet has covered is the sense of isolation that can come from the idea that one is called to neither marriage nor religious life, and therefore feeling abandoned to a life of loneliness.

In her interview with CNA, she suggested a “vocation of friendship” as one possible remedy to that problem.

Tushnet argued that modern culture does not respect and discuss friendships as it does sexual relationships “or the ones that have the potential to become sexual.” Instead, she said, society views friendships almost as a “relationship of convenience” instead of as “a relationship of commitment or devotion or sacrifice.”

“By contrast when you look at Christian history,” she explained, friendship had a prominent and public place in Christian life. She noted that the records of the early and medieval Church point to friends living together and supporting one another, as well as to the sacrificial love of “spiritual friendship.”

Tushnet also pointed to the life of Christ, who did not have children nor a spouse, but explained his sacrificial death as an act of laying down his life for friends.

“He singles out this relationship and says this is a sacrificial and devoted relationship,” she said of Christ’s emphasis on friendship.

Church outreach to homosexual persons garnered significant media attention during the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome.

But while much of the media coverage focused on Church teaching against homosexual acts and “gay marriage,” Tushnet said she believes there was a missed opportunity to discuss the concept of “vocation for gay people.”

She argued that the Church must “give some image of what your life would look like” for a practicing Catholic who experiences same-sex attraction, giving concrete help for people “trying to live out your sexuality in a way that’s fruitful.”

While perhaps well-intentioned, a general focus on what should be avoided rather than what should be embraced risks “pushing people into isolation,” she said.

“Being alone all the time is not a great idea for your spiritual life…it’s really easy to despair.”

To alleviate this problem, Tushnet continued, “there’s some elements that probably need to be explored a little more, such as what does friendship mean now.”

“Just letting people know that there is such a thing as intentional community life,” where celibate partners or groups of people take care of one another, would be helpful in putting forth another vision of vocation for Christians who are not married, she said.

She also warned against focusing solely on the question of sexuality when ministering to people who identify as gay.

“People think the thing we care about either positively or negatively is always going to be something related to our sexuality,” she said, but in reality, “there’s plenty of other stuff to struggle with,” including pride, sloth and other vices that can affect all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

Among Tushnet’s other suggestions were a normalization of spiritual direction and the promotion of artistic creation for people to “express the best part of themselves.”

Ultimately, she advised the laity to take a more active role in improving the Church’s response and options for individuals with same-sex attraction and others struggling with isolation and without clear vocational paths.

“We need to be more open to doing it ourselves,” she said. “There’s so much need, so look for the needs that you are willing to fill.”


Bishop Calls for Earnest Prayers for Conversion of England

This is a syndicated post from ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome. [Read the original article...]

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, is marking October, the month of the Rosary, by distributing free recordings of the devotion to every parishioner in his diocese. The bishop, who is to make the announcement in a pastoral letter due to be released on Sunday, says the CD will contain all the mysteries of …


Pregnancy centers, not politics – the future of the pro-life movement

This is a syndicated post from CNA Daily News. [Read the original article...]

Front Royal, Va., Oct 24, 2014 / 02:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid the chilling dark chaos of a woman’s unwanted and unexpected pregnancy, a group of pro-life Catholics try to be a light to both the mother and the unborn child.

Their mission is in an unassuming plot in a modest town well outside the sprawling Washington, D.C. suburbs. Not much car traffic passes through town other than tourists on their way to see the mountain leaves turn every October.

Seventy miles outside the nation’s capital in northern Virginia, there is no national pro-life headquarters, army of lobbyists, or melodramatic political battle being waged. The Front Royal Pregnancy Center is simply part of a national chain of crisis pregnancy centers, “the real future of the pro-life movement,” as board member Mary Brand put it.

And this future is carried out in a drab brick building on South Royal Avenue, ministering to pregnant women from town and from the surrounding area. Walk through the door, however, and one will meet a disarmingly festive atmosphere. Decorations festoon the ceiling and walls. A joyful, peaceful intoxication pervades the place.

“It’s liberating to work in a place like this where every life is precious. Every life is important. Planned or unplanned,” said head nurse Rosemary Antunes, RN.

If there’s any gravitas over a battle for the life of an unborn child, the volunteers aren’t showing it. There’s no grim reminder of what’s at stake, no guilt-trip ready for an anxious mother who is not sure what to do with her baby. The focus here is simply on the goodness of life and the Gospel.

“We work hard to be across-the-board life-affirming,” Antunes told CNA. “Not just the baby’s personhood. (The mother's) personhood. Oh, and their significant other’s personhood.”

Crisis pregnancy centers are sometimes criticized for existing solely to save babies. The staff flatly rejects that line of thought when treating expectant mothers.

If the mother’s needs aren’t taken care of, if she is not affirmed and cared for through and even after the pregnancy, than the child will suffer the consequences, explained outreach coordinator Maura McMahon. A healthy mother is necessary for a healthy child.

This includes a mother who freely chooses to carry the child to term. She may be feeling intense pressure, on multiple fronts, to abort or keep the child, but the volunteers will not pressure her to save the life of the baby. All the witness to life is done through gentle, patient affirmation and education, through an authentic personal care for the woman.

“You’re merely giving them all the tools that they need to make an educated choice. And they know it,” McMahon said. “We’re giving them the space and time to make the decision. And we obviously pray that they keep (the baby), for the baby’s sake but (also) for their own sake. For the sake of their health, their well-being, and their conscience.”

“We really work hard on our non-judgemental, cheerful attitude,” Antunes says. This welcoming atmosphere begins right when a mother walks in the door.

“It’s important to get someone to smile or laugh,” said executive director Kathy Clowes. And no judgement of the woman is even considered.

In fact, the staff admire the women who come through the door, knowing that many of them are under intense pressure to abort their child.

“I think that a lot of them have heroic virtue, according to where they’ve come from, the very little training they’ve had,” Clowes added.

From humble beginnings

The center was begun in 1991, and presently ministers to almost 400 women per year and provides $23,000 worth of material assistance to mothers.

A local Catholic businessman offered the building that is the current location, and once they saw the building, the staff then knew they had room for an ultrasound machine. They procured one with the fundraising help of the Knights of Columbus. The local Knights council, the John Carrell Jenkins Council at St. John the Baptist Church, raised $24,000.

The national Knights of Columbus covered half the cost of the ultrasound machine. Through a program begun in 2009, the Supreme Council matches the funds raised by local Knights councils for ultrasound machines for local pregnancy centers.

The staff acknowledge the machine has been a game-changer.

“It’s been transformative, really,” Clowes said of the ultrasound machine. “The most common thing that the women say is that it did not seem real until they saw the baby on the screen. And they might expect to see a motionless little figure, they don’t expect to see it moving. Sometimes they don’t expect a heartbeat.”

The staff recounted once how an unborn baby on the ultrasound screen waved with his hand and the two year-old in the room waved back.

“You just let it dawn on them,” Clowes said. “Let the beauty of it come to mind.”

The image of a baby on the screen is transformative for fathers as well.

“They’re frequently stunned,” Antunes remarked. “There’s a genuine disconnect in our society between having sex and having a child. It’s documentable with the advent of contraception and the proliferation of contraception devices and use.”

Caring for the woman, no matter what

However, the woman needs more than pre-natal care if she decides to bring her baby to term. For many women the journey to childbirth can be a lonely and scary one. Motherhood, said McMahon, is a “life-changing experience,” and the women and babies need to be cared for even after the birth.

Women can participate in the center’s “Earn While You Learn” program, where women can “earn” supplies for motherhood as they are educated about pregnancy and motherhood.

“We make what seems like an impossible feat possible to them,” said McMahon. “Like you’re taking something that’s so intangible and you’re saying look, we have these material things for you to help you through the rough patches.”

The program also brings women back to the center, where they can establish a relationship with one of the volunteers.

“That first 45 minutes, you’re creating the start of a relationship, and if they come to ‘Earn While You Learn,’ you have all these hours to build on that relationship,” said Clowes.

And it is especially though these personal one-on-one meetings that the center strives to “share the Gospel,” as Antunes put it.

“A lot of centers have a group class, and you have to sign up for the group class, you come for the group class, you’re in the group with all these other people that you don’t really know,” Clowes explained.

“And we do one-on-one individual lessons. You come, you come with your mom, you come with your boyfriend, whatever. And if we can, we’ll sit in with you, most of the time, sit in with you and spend that time with you one-on-one.”

And any judgements of the women walking through the door go out the window.

“If they’ve had a couple of kids, or something like that, we’re not looking down our noses that they’re pregnant again,” Antunes said. “We’re here to help you through this pregnancy. And we think your kids are cute, by the way.”

“There has to be a safe place where they can know that this baby is welcomed,” Clowes said.

“And their other kids are welcome,” Antunes chimed in.


Vatican reorganizes Montecassino, mother abbey of the Benedictines

This is a syndicated post from CNA Daily News. [Read the original article...]

Montecassino, Italy, Oct 24, 2014 / 12:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Thursday appointed a new Abbot of Montecassino – the first monastery built by St. Benedict – and at the same time reduced the territory for which the new abbot is responsible.

“The Monastic Community warmly welcomes Father Donato Ogliari as 192nd Ordinary Abbot of the territorial Abbey of Montecassino,” the abbey posted on Twitter Oct. 23.

Abbot Ogliari, O.S.B., who is 57, was professed as a member of the Consolata Missionaries in 1978, and ordained a priest of that institute in 1982. He later transferred to the Order of Saint Benedict, and was solemnly professed there in 1992. Before his appointment as Abbot of Montecassino, Abbot Ogliari had been abbot of Santa Maria della Scala Monastery in Noci, Italy.

The Territorial Abbey of Montecassino had been vacant since June 2013, when Abbot Pietro Vittorelli resigned.

Montecassino is one of the few remaining “territorial abbeys” in the world. This means that the abbey is independent of a diocese, and is in fact its own particular church.

The Code of Canon Law defines a territorial abbacy as “a certain portion of the people of God which is defined territorially and whose care, due to special circumstances, is entrusted to some prelate or abbot who governs it as its proper pastor just like a diocesan bishop.”

While they were more common in the past, a 1976 motu proprio of Bl. Paul VI, Catholica ecclesia, moved toward reordering territorial abbeys so that monks might focus on their proper charism rather than also being responsible for a portion of the people of God.

Many were suppressed, and only 11 remain. There are six in Italy, two in Switzerland, one in Hungary, and one in Austria. There is also one in North Korea, Tokwon, though it has been vacant since its abbot died in 1950.

The U.S. once had a territorial abbey: Belmont Abbey, in North Carolina. The abbey had been founded in 1876, and in 1910 was given the status of territorial abbey, with jurisdiction over the parishes in eight North Carolina counties. Belmont's territory was reduced twice, in 1944 and 1960, to the point that it retained jurisdiction over one parish. One year after Catholica ecclesia was issued, the territorial abbacy was suppressed and its territory transferred to the Diocese of Charlotte, though it remains an abbey.

Pope Francis' Oct. 23 decision applied Catholica ecclesia to Montecassino.

Prior to the reorganization, it had been responsible for a territory of 227 square miles, including 53 parishes, 37 priests, 50 women religious, a number of seminarians, and nearly 79,000 faithful total.

Though Montecassino retains the status of territorial abbey, Abbot Ogliari will no longer be responsible for the care of so many faithful.

They have now been transferred to the Diocese of Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo, which had previously been responsible for 551 square miles and included 91 parishes, 83 diocesan priests, and 175 women religious.

The diocese will now be known as Sora-Cassino-Aquino-Pontecorvo, according to Vatican Radio.

“To the entire diocesan community of Sora-Cassino-Aquino-Pontecorvo I extend my cordial greetings and I entrust my deep trepidation of soul,” Bishop Gerardo Antonazzao wrote to his newly-enlarged diocese Oct. 23.

“I invite all to prayer for one another, and in a particular way for my episcopal service, invested in an expanded pastoral responsibility. Along with the charity of prayer and of fraternal friendship of the entire diocesan community, I am comforted by the trust accorded by the Holy Father.”


Pope Francis: Christians Are Called to Build the Unity of the Church

This is a syndicated post from ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome. [Read the original article...]

The task of every Christian is to build “the unity of the Church”. This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta this morning. The Holy Father reflected on the first reading in which St. Paul calls on the Christian community of Ephesus “to preserve the unity of the…


Two Kinds of Questions

This is a syndicated post from The Daily Register. [Read the original article...]

By Mark Shea | When you spend your time talking about volatile stuff like politics or, in my case, religion (especially that unique species of religion called “the Catholic Faith”) you discover pretty quickly that conversations can move along two… (4)

Egyptian Christians feel safer, though Islamism still looms

This is a syndicated post from CNA Daily News. [Read the original article...]

Cairo, Egypt, Oct 23, 2014 / 08:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While problems still exist, Christians in Egypt feel “much safer” under the presidency of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a former military officer who played a key role in the coup that ousted Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013, a Catholic official said.

“The mood has improved considerably. The security situation is getting better. There is greater stability,” Father Rafik Greiche, press officer for the Egyptian bishops' conference, told Aid to the Church in Need Oct. 21.

“Christians feel a lot safer. They are going to church without feeling threatened as they did under President Morsi … In all, a more peaceful atmosphere is being created.”

A 2011 revolution, part of the Arab Spring, had overthrown Hosni Mubarak, a military officer who had been Egypt's president since 1981. The following year Morsi, of the Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, became the first democratically elected Egyptian president.

“Under the Muslim Brotherhood Molotov cocktails were hurled at churches or graffiti was sprayed on the walls,” Fr. Greiche recounted.

On July 3, 2013, Egypt's military ousted Morsi, and in August began a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Violence then spread across the country, with Islamists killing hundreds of people from August to October. Churches were vandalized, burned, and looted, as were the homes and businesses of Christians.

In January, the interim government approved a new constitution, and then el-Sisi won elections in May, which were boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood as well as other political groups.

Three journalists from Al Jazeera have been imprisoned in the country since December 2013, accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and of spreading false news; the three have an appeals hearing scheduled for Jan. 1, 2015.

“The number of acts of aggression has fallen to a low level, a minimum,” Fr. Greiche explained. “Sometimes there are still inter-religious tensions in some villages. It still happens that jihadists abduct Christian girls. But the situation has nevertheless improved considerably. The problems that exist are only a fraction of those that Christians experienced under Morsi.”

He added, though, “That does not mean that there are no incidents whatsoever. There continue to be Muslim-Christian difficulties of the kind we have been familiar with for more than 30 or 40 years.”

Fr. Greiche said that el-Sisi has received representatives from both the Orthodox and Catholics, as well as Protestants: “He told them that Christians have every right to have their churches and to pray.”

El-Sisi's government is working with Christians “to prepare a law governing the construction of churches,” the priest reported. “This is one of our most urgent problems here in Egypt – to-date it has been very difficult to build a new church.”

The drafted version of the law, Fr. Greiche said, would allow such symbols as crucifixes to “be mounted visibly on the exterior” and would “also stipulate that the construction of new places of worship is no longer subject to the approval of state security authorities.”

“The President himself will no longer himself have to grant permission to build a new church; instead this will be the responsibility of the provincial governor. If the latter has no objections after a period of 60 days after a proposal is submitted, the work can proceed.”

The proposed legislation, however, “is in limbo, as the country currently has no Parliament that could pass such a law.”

Fr. Greiche said parliamentary elections “are due to take place at year’s end,” but he fears that Islamists will play a major role in the new legislative body.

“The problem is that the civilian parties are very weak and lacking direction. They also don't have much backing. The Islamists will probably not have a majority, but they could form a substantial minority that is capable of upholding or delaying the passing of legislation.”

Egyptian Christians, he said, are threatened both by “jihadists based in neighbouring Libya, who are sending weaponry into Egypt” and by those on the Sinai Peninsula.

The priest added that when the Islamic State began to drive Christians from Mosul, “not a word was heard initially from the Sunni Al-Azhar University, for example.”

It was only when Copts gathered in Cairo and appealed to the university – the highest authority in Sunni Islam – to condemn the violence that “the school actually did publish a statement.”

“Unfortunately, the curriculum of the university and that of the schools managed by Al-Azhar feature many aspects that are pretty much in line with ISIS transgressions,” Fr. Greiche said.

“Fundamental changes must be made because such teachings have a big effect on people’s thinking.”


Pope Explains the Road to Reconciliation, Full Communion Among All Believers in Christ

This is a syndicated post from ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome. [Read the original article...]

Pope Francis is insisting that if one seeks to have true ecumenical dialogue, then he must allow himself to be renewed by the Lord and to be more faithful to Him and His will. Speaking to members of the Orientale Lumen Foundation of America, who visited the Vatican this morning, the Pope said, “Every Christian pi…


Cardinal Turkson: We’re Not Trying To Be the UN But Listen to Those on Peripheries

This is a syndicated post from ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome. [Read the original article...]

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson has said that while the Vatican is “not trying to be the UN,” it can and is determined to listen and respond to those in need “on the peripheries”. The cardinal from Ghana, who serves as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, made these observations to ZENIT…


Vatican Releases Pope Francis’ Liturgical Celebrations This November

This is a syndicated post from ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome. [Read the original article...]

The Vatican has released Pope Francis’ liturgical celebrations to take place this November. Here below is the Holy Father’s itinerary, published by the Vatican’s Office of Liturgical Celebrations Friday morning:
Saturday, 1: Solemnity of All Saints. At 4 p.m., Holy Mass at the Cemetery of Verano, Rome


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