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‘The most welcoming place’ - How the Church can reach out to the LGBT community

Vatican City, May 23, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Daniel Mattson is accustomed to talking about same-sex attraction.

He’s written a book on the subject, and he speaks to audiences often about his experience as a Catholic striving to follow the Church’s teaching about chastity. In a recent interview with CNA, Mattson offered some lessons the Church can learn about engagement with the LGBT community.

The first of these, he told CNA May 23, is having "the confidence that what the Church has is truly good news for the LGBT community.”

“That is what is lacking, and I just wish that we would not be afraid of it,” he said, encouraging Catholics to be open in talking about Church teaching.

The goal is not to proselytize, he said but to explain the truth and beauty of Church teaching on the issue - “not what you think it is, but what it really is,” he said.

Mattson mentioned the Gospel scene when in Jesus stops the execution by stoning of a woman caught in adultery.

“We cannot be more compassionate than Jesus,” he said, explaining that he often identifies with the woman in the story, who, though broken, meets Jesus and is invited to something more for her life.

The Church, Mattson said, must have “that welcoming message of Christ that says 'I do not have any condemnation for you, but go and sin no more.'” And part of sinning no more, he said, is an invitation “to a richer life.”

“I want to get the Church excited to talk about this,” Mattson said.

Mattson is the author of the 2017 book “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” which describes his experience with same-sex attraction and his decision to live according to Catholic moral teaching.

Visiting Rome for the launch of the Italian-language version of his book, Mattson gave a speech May 23 at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, during which he offered his testimony, sharing that he was raised in a Christian family, his experiences being bullied as a child, and the experience of sexual confusion during his childhood and teenage years.

He also spoke about an addiction to pornography and an anger towards God over his same-sex feelings, prompting him to leave his faith later in life, and live out his same-sex desires in partnerships. Mattson said doing so only made him feel unhappy and lonely, and said it wasn't until he turned to the Church that he found true fulfillment, by living out her teachings.

In his comments to CNA after, Mattson said personal witness is the key to reaching out to people experiencing same-sex attraction.

In this sense, he said, the Church needs to give more visibility to the people with same-sex attraction who have opted to live celibate lives. He pointed to Courage International, an organization that counsels individuals with same-sex attraction who chose to live according to Church teaching.

“We're just sitting over here quietly abiding by every word of the Catholic Church and finding it to be the recipe for happiness, and we don't get much attention,” Mattson said.

The people who have tried living the LGBT lifestyle and “found it empty,” he said, “want to share what we found with the LGBT community and invite them into the full community of the family of God.”

Mattson said that while he has been called “crazy” or “internally homophobic” for speaking out, “I just have to laugh that off.”

Mattson said those who describe Catholicism as “homophobic” usually imply that the Church is somehow a “hateful place” with no room for people with same-sex attraction.

However, “the opposite is exactly the case for me. I have never felt more welcomed in my life than in the arms of Holy Mother Church.”

“It's the most welcoming place,” he said, “and it's sad if people want to use the language of the world to say that, to use that word and say that the Church doesn't have a place or that it isn't welcoming. For me, it's been the exact opposite.”

When asked by a priest in the audience how pastors ought to react to people who come to them and confide having same-sex attraction and feelings, Mattson stressed the importance of creating “an environment that is safe,” since many of these people already carry many wounds.

The fact that a person feels they can open up to begin with is a positive sign, he said, explaining that most people with same-sex attraction are afraid that “they will be treated with disgust” if they open up about it, so knowing they have a safe space to talk is key.

Mattson also mentioned Pope Francis, telling CNA Pope Francis has been clear about the Church's teaching, and explaining his belief that Francis' message is often manipulated by the media “to serve their own agenda.”

Mattson said he always remembers the pope's comments on his flight back from Rio de Janeiro in 2013 when he said that he is “a son of the Church.”

“If you really look at what he's said, he's been very clear about same-sex marriage over the years, he's been very clear that chastity is an important virtue,” he added.

“He's said he's a son of the Church and I'm confident in that,” Mattson said, and voiced his hope that one day he would be able to meet the pope and tell him “how the Church has been a mother to me and has guided me to happiness and freedom.”

Mattson also expressed support for the view that sexuality doesn't define a person's life, and stressed that using labels such as “gay” or “straight” reduce a person to their sexuality, since in the end everyone is ultimately a child of God.

“The truth is that my sexual identity is (that of) a man, just like Adam, just like Abraham, David, just like every other man that has walked the face of the earth, I'm not a different sort of sexual person than they were,” he told journalists.

“The Church's teaching is that you are identified as a beloved son of God, that has been the experience for me.”

 

Humanae Vitae needs no update, commission chair says

Vatican City, May 23, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The professor who chaired a Vatican study group on Humanae Vitae stressed that the Bl. Paul VI’s encyclical “needs no updating.”
 
Professor Gilfredo Marengo, of the Pontifical Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, spoke with CNA at the presentation of his latest book, “Chiesa senza storia, storia senza Chiesa” (Church without history, history without the Church), which explores the implications and consequences of Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world.
 
Professor Marengo told CNA that, according to his studies, “one of the biggest knots in drafting Humanae Vitae was really that of going beyond the polarization between doctrine and pastoral issues.”
 
Professor Marengo added that Blessed Pope Paul VI “focused on this knowledge, and worked a lot to take the encyclical out of that polarization.”
 
Unfortunately, he said, polarization has increased in recent years, but, added that “the question cannot be solved by imagining a new doctrine or a new pastoral activity, but by going beyond the polarization.”
 
Professor Marengo stressed that “Humanae Vitae is an authoritative document of the Catholic Church, and it is part of the tradition. We are called to welcome it as it is, and to apply it with an intelligent pastoral plan.”
 
However, despite being “the most discussed encyclical in the last 50 years,” there is “no need to update it,” Professor Marengo stressed.
 
In the end, all that discussion might be framed into a general debate that took place after the Second Vatican Council, he said.

Professor Marengo heads a study group undertaking a historical-critical investigation into the drafting of Humanae Vitae. The aim is to reconstruct, as well as possible, the whole process of drafting the document.
 
As is widely known, the drafting of Humanae Vitae endured several pressures before its publication and even after its publication.

Beyond Professor Marengo, the study group on Humanae Vitae is reportedly composed of Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, head of the John Paul II Institute, Philippe Chenaux, a professor of Church history at the Pontifical Lateran University, and Msgr. Angelo Maffeis, head of the Paul VI Institute in Brescia.

In 2017, Professor Marengo told reporters that the group was given access to the Vatican Secret Archives for mid-1960s, the time of Humanae Vitae's drafting.
 
Professor Marengo told CNA that “the Second Vatican Council has facilitated the resolution of polarization between pastoral and doctrinal issues.”
 
He added that Pope Francis “is investing a lot in this resolution,” as “one of the most meaningful aspects of Pope Francis’ biography is that he is the first post-conciliar pope: all the [recent] previous popes participated to the Council, but this pope did not, and so he can look at the Council with a less emotional viewpoint.”

 

Update: Pope to meet with second group of abuse survivors from Chile

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will meet with five priests who suffered abuse by Chilean Father Fernando Karadima or his followers, the Vatican said.

The pope will meet June 1-3 with "five priests who were victims of abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse," the Vatican said in a statement May 22.

Two priests who have accompanied the survivors "in their juridical and spiritual journey" and "two laypeople involved in this suffering" also were invited by Pope Francis, the statement said. They will all be guests at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where Pope Francis lives.

The pope will celebrate a private Mass with the group June 2 and will meet with members of the group together and individually, the statement said. In late April, Pope Francis had hosted three laymen who were sexually abused by Father Karadima.

"With this new meeting, planned a month ago, Pope Francis wants to show his closeness to abused priests, accompany them in their pain and listen to their valuable opinion to improve the current preventative measures and the fight against abuses in the church," the statement said.

The day after the Vatican's announcement, three Chilean priests who will take part in the meeting read a statement on behalf of all nine, confirming their participation in the meetings with Pope Francis.

At a May 23 news conference in Santiago, Chilean Fathers Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa, Alejandro Vial Amunategui and Eugenio de la Fuente Lora thanked the pope for his invitation, which they said they hope would "re-establish justice and communion, particularly within our Archdiocese of Santiago and its presbyteries."

The statement was signed by the three priests, as well as Fathers Javier Barros Bascunan and Sergio Cobo Montalva.

The four other members of the group, the statement said, wished to remain anonymous.

They also expressed the "hope that our experience may give a voice to many others who have suffered abuses or have accompanied abused persons."

The Chilean priests also asked journalists to respect the "confidentiality and the privacy" of the meetings and that there will be "no more public statements until our return to Santiago."

The Vatican said the priests were abused by Father Karadima and his followers in the parish of Sagrado Corazon de Providencia, also known as the community of "El Bosque" ("The Forest").

Known as an influential and charismatic priest, Father Karadima founded a Catholic Action group in the wealthy Santiago parish and drew hundreds of young men to the priesthood. Four of Father Karadima's proteges went on to become bishops, including Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno.  

However, several former seminarians of "El Bosque" revealed in 2010 that the Chilean priest sexually abused them and other members of the parish community for years. One year later, Father Karadima was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance after he was found guilty of sexual abuse.

Chilean survivors have also alleged that Bishop Barros -- then a priest -- as well as other members of Father Karadima's inner circle had witnessed their abuse by his mentor.

The pope, who initially defended his 2015 appointment of Bishop Barros as head of the Diocese of Osorno, apologized after receiving a 2,300-page report from Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta.

In a letter released April 11, Pope Francis said he had been mistaken in his assessment of the situation in Chile, and he begged the forgiveness of the survivors and others he offended. He invited three survivors -- Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo -- to Rome in late April and called all of the Chilean bishops to the Vatican for meetings May 15-17.

In a document leaked by Chilean news channel Tele 13 before the meeting with the bishops, Pope Francis said he was concerned by reports regarding "the attitude with which some of you bishops have reacted in the face of present and past events."

The document's footnotes included several details from the investigation made by Archbishop Scicluna, which confirmed that, in some instances, the bishops deemed accusations of abuse as "implausible."

But Pope Francis said he was "perplexed and ashamed" after he received confirmation that undue pressure by church officials was placed on "those who carry out criminal proceedings" and that church officials had destroyed compromising documents.

Those actions, he said, "give evidence to an absolute lack of respect for the canonical procedure and, even more so, are reprehensible practices that must be avoided in the future."

After the three-day meeting, most of the Chilean bishops offered their resignations to the pope.

Back in Chile, bishops -- including Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, president of the Chilean bishops' commission for abuse prevention -- continue to face a backlash over their handling of cases of abuse.

Bishop Goic suspended 14 of the diocese's 68 priests May 19 after an investigative report by Tele 13 alleged there was a sex-abuse ring made up of clergy and known as "La Cofradia" ("The Brotherhood").

According to the report, "La Cofradia" had its own hierarchical structure and carried out, as well as covered up, the sexual abuse of minors by members of the group.

The report also alleged that although Bishop Goic was informed and presented with evidence of the group's existence by Elsa Fernandez, a local youth minister, he refused to act.

Fernandez said she contacted the Chilean bishops' conference in January to inform them of the abuses committed by "La Cofradia." However, she said, she was informed in an email that the conference "does not formally receive complaints."

In an interview published on the Tele 13 website May 22, Bishop Goic said he had thought people talking about "La Cofradia" were speaking "in jest" and said he "never received a formal complaint that seriously said this was happening."

After the report's broadcast, Bishop Goic acknowledged that he had met with Fernandez, and he apologized for his failure to act "with the appropriate agility in the investigation" of the priests allegedly involved in the sex abuse ring.

"I must admit that personally, as a Christian and a pastor, I find myself very affected by this difficult situation that hurts and embarrasses me," the bishop said. "I pray that the truth, the whole truth, may come to light in these cases and in any other situations that threaten the Gospel of Christ's love."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Pope to meet with second group of abuse survivors from Chile

Chicago priest's effort to build community earns CCHD leadership award

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Natalie Battaglia

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A year into his priesthood, Father Matt O'Donnell was named a pastor.

Days before his 27th birthday in 2013, Father O'Donnell arrived at St. Columbanus Parish in Chicago's South Side Park Manor neighborhood and since then has embraced his ministry to the African-American community.

It didn't take long for the young priest who grew up at St. Fabian Parish in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview to become a leading figure in the neighborhood.

Father O'Donnell, now 31, went about getting to know residents and parishioners and learning what they thought the community needed. From that, Father O'Donnell recruited volunteers in spearheading the creation of a variety of services and ministries that has cemented St. Columbanus as an anchor in Park Manor.

For starters, there's the parish food pantry that serves more than 500 people 49 of 52 Wednesdays a year, the building of a new playground that gives kids a safe space to be kids and an athletic center that gives older kids an alternative to gang life. The parish also is the site of Augustus Tolton Catholic Academy, an acclaimed elementary school focusing on science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math.

The parish opens its doors to the wider community, hosting its popular "Pop Up Clergy" program from time to time in front of the church, complete with a grill for barbecuing. The event brings neighbors and police together to foster friendship and understanding. The most recent in early May attracted 150 people.

"The people (at the parish) are very grateful that I'm young and have inexhaustible energy," he told Catholic News Service.

For his efforts, Father O'Donnell was named the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the U.S. bishops' domestic anti-poverty and social justice program.

The award is to be presented June 13 at a reception during the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich in a statement called Father O'Donnell's work of building a parish "a living example of Pope Francis's vision of a field hospital church that exists to serve humankind and spread the Gospel of a loving God."

"By his caring presence, his limitless energy for good works and his compassionate ministry, he has made St. Columbanus a beacon of hope in its community and an example of faith in action far beyond its borders," he said.

In nominating Father O'Donnell for the award, Olivia Silver said she wanted to call attention to the "good things that were happening at the parish and the good things that Father Matt was doing."

Silver, a member of Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral and a St. Columbanus volunteer, called the priest an "innovative pastor who gives his entire heart to his parish, his community and his loved ones."

"He is doing such great stuff there," she said.

Father O'Donnell takes little credit for the parish's accomplishments, citing instead parish staff for the success of the many ministries. He said he strives to "empower the people in the parish to take the responsibility to run the different aspects of the ministry that we have."

And he thanked parishioners for being "forgiving and patient with me."

Father O'Donnell also credited the "good priests around me to give me on-the-job training" in the work of a pastor.

The young priest has long held an interested in serving in the African-American community. His internships before ordination were in other South Side parishes where he "fell in love with the liturgy, the music, the preaching" and discovered that the hospitality of the neighborhoods was "very giving."

A period spent at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans strengthened his desire for his chosen ministry.

That interest convinced then-Cardinal Francis E. George to appoint Father O'Donnell as pastor. "Cardinal George said he would rather have me because I have the desire to serve the black community than to have somebody who had more experience but didn't have the desire," Father O'Donnell recalled.

As for the future, Father O'Donnell has eyes on opening a community service center to help residents prepare for the GED test and apply for work. He has even thought of opening a coffee shop "to create some jobs in the area."

The priest acknowledged Park Manor is going through changes, like many other Chicago neighborhoods: longtime residents have either moved away or died; violence has increased; locally owned businesses have closed; and poverty is growing.

Such factors motivate Father O'Donnell to do his best while partnering with others interested in building an inclusive, welcoming community.

"St. Columbanus has been here since 1909 and has been an anchor in in Park Manor," he said. "We're trying to figure out what more we can be doing to better the life of the neighborhood."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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Pope prays that Catholics in China may live their faith in peace

IMAGE: CNS photo/Roman Pilipey, EPA

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis asked people to pray for Catholics in China so that they may be able to live their faith with serenity and in full communion with the pope.

The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians May 24. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI established the feast as a world day of prayer for the church in China because Mary is venerated under that title at the Marian shrine in Sheshan, outside Shanghai, China.

At the end of his general audience talk in St. Peter's Square May 23, Pope Francis said the feast day "invites us to be united spiritually with all the Catholic faithful who live in China."

He asked people pray to Our Lady so that Catholics there would be able "to live the faith with generosity and serenity" and so that they would know how to carry out "concrete gestures of fraternity, harmony and reconciliation, in full communion with the successor of Peter."

"Dear disciples of the Lord in China, the universal church prays with you and for you so that even in the midst of difficulties you may continue to trust in God's will," he said.

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Editors: Here is the prayer in English that Pope Benedict XVI released in 2008 on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China: https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/prayers/documents/hf_ben-xvi_20080515_prayer-sheshan.html

In Chinese: https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/zh_tw/prayers/documents/hf_ben-xvi_20080515_prayer-sheshan.html

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope prays that Catholics in China may live their faith in peace