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Catholic Studies founder Don Briel remembered for his fidelity to Christ

Bismarck, N.D., Feb 16, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Dr. Don Briel, who held a chair in liberal arts at the University of Mary and who had founded the first Catholic Studies program, at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, died Thursday night.

The University of Mary has confirmed to CNA the news of Briel's Feb. 15 death.

Briel was 71, and had been diagnosed with two untreatable acute leukemias Jan. 19. He had been in hospice care at his home.

In recent weeks he has been the subject of tributes for his contribution to the renewal of Catholic higher education in the US, most notably through this founding, in 1993, of the Catholic Studies Program at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn. That program was the inspiration for similar programs at both Catholic and public universities across the country.

Briel remained at the University of St. Thomas for 20 years, and in 2014 he was given the Blessed John Henry Newman Chair of Liberal Arts at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.

At the University of Mary, he helped develop a Catholic Studies program, developed its Gregorian Scholars Honors Program, and taught at its Rome campus.

Briel's doctoral work focused on Bl. John Henry Newman, “whose vision of university education had a profound impact on my vision of what was necessary in our own time, [through] his insistence that the purpose of university was to form the mind and habit of students, which enables them to see things in relation and make judgments about reality,” as he told The Catholic Spirit in the weeks preceding his death.

In a Jan. 24 homage to Briel at First Things, George Weigel included his founding the Catholic Studies program among the three seminal moments for Catholic higher education in the US since World War II.

Weigel described Briel's work as, in part, an effort “to repair the damage that was done to institutions of Catholic higher learning in the aftermath of Land O’ Lakes.”

At the Land O'Lake conference in 1967, Catholic universities also began to distance themselves from the hierarchy of the Church, insisting on their “true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of any kind, lay or clerical.”

“But there was, and is, far more to Don Briel’s vision, and achievement, than damage-repair,” Weigel wrote. “Nourished intellectually by John Henry Newman and Christopher Dawson, Briel has aimed at nothing less than creating, in twenty-first-century circumstances, the 'idea of a university' that animated his two English intellectual and spiritual heroes.”

Weigel characterized conversion “to the truth of Christ and the love of Christ as manifest in the Catholic Church,” and thereby the conversion of culture, as what “Don Briel’s life-project [is] all about.”

John and Madelyn Dinkel, who studied under Briel in Rome, wrote to him after his illness that “Your course taught us that following Christ through truth, beauty, and goodness is something always to strive for. You taught us that being a saint will not be easy, but that it truly is the only way worth living. Dr. Briel, your course did teach us this, but most importantly, your character, your virtue, and your Holy Christian example, taught us this during our time abroad.”

Briel is the subject of a recently published festschrift, Renewal of Catholic Higher Education: Essays on Catholic Studies in Honor of Don J. Briel. Edited by Matthew Gerlach, the book includes reflections from Catholic Studies professors, alumni, and scholars.

In the weeks preceding his death, Briel exhibited a profound peace and a sense of gratitude.

In an interview with Maria Weiring of The Catholic Spirit conducted Feb. 8, he said that when told he had a month to live, “I felt great peace about this. I had always prayed that I would have some advance knowledge of dying, and my ideal time frame was actually one month. It’s time enough to focus on the reality of death; it’s not too short, and it’s not too long.”

“The thing is, that if I hadn’t had this incidental appointment with this surgeon, I wouldn’t have known, and therefore I wouldn’t have had this knowledge, which I had always prayed for. So there seems to be providence in it, on every aspect of the diagnosis and my experience of it.”

He characterized his time as spent primarily in prayer and in greeting friends: “I do read, but it’s more [a] time of this combination of prayer – an intensification of prayer – and seeing so many former students and colleagues.”

“I have to say that I look forward to death, not with a sense a great success, but a sense of the privilege, again, of having been invited into the work that has had these remarkable results … This is not my work, it’s not our work, it’s God’s work, and to have been given this possibility to assist in realizing this great educational vision has been the great privilege of my life.”

Senator: Extreme EEOC nominee puts religious liberty at risk

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2018 / 03:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration’s re-nomination of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission puts religious liberty and marriage in danger and should be withdrawn, one U.S. Senator said this week.

“If Feldblum were a typical Democrat, it might make sense to let her nomination proceed through the Senate along with her two Republican colleagues,” U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote in a Feb. 14 commentary at The Daily Signal.

“But Feldblum is no typical Democrat. Her radical views on marriage and the appropriate use of government power place her far outside even the liberal mainstream.”

Lee objected that Feldblum, a former law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center appointed to the EEOC by President Barack Obama, opposes religious exemptions where they would conflict with LGBT advocates’ goals.

In 2006, writer Maggie Gallagher reported in the Weekly Standard that, in Feldblum’s words, “there can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

In Lee’s view, this differs from the Supreme Court’s view of an all-embracing tradition of religious freedom.

“Rather than a ‘zero-sum game’ that pits Americans against each other, we should work to build an America where ‘all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship’, as George Washington wrote in 1790,” the senator said.

He contended that Feldblum’s position contrasts with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision mandating the legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. In that decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the First Amendment “ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

In 2009, President Barack Obama named Feldblum to the EEOC as a recess appointment, later confirmed by the U.S. Senate. She was re-appointed in 2013.

In December 2017, the Trump White House said Feldblum’s nomination had been forwarded to the Senate. Feldblum’s current term expires in July 2018. If confirmed, she would serve until 2023, Reuters reports.

Lee said President Donald Trump and Senate Democrats should find “a more mainstream candidate” who “respects the institution of marriage and religious freedom for all Americans.”

Senator Lee’s commentary cited Feldblum’s doubts that marriage is “a normatively good institution” and her support, which she later withdrew, for the 2006 manifesto “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships.” That document advocated the equality of polygamy and monogamy, praising “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.”

Current EEOC publications have held that “sex stereotypes” like “the belief that men should only date women or that women should only marry men” constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex. They say that the 1964 civil rights legislation against sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination “based on an applicant or employee's gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Lee noted that Feldblum has said that even though the EEOC only has jurisdiction over employment, other federal agencies that enforce sex discrimination provisions look to the EEOC for guidance.

 

Priest in Idaho faces drug, child pornography charges

Boise, Idaho, Feb 15, 2018 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A retired priest of the Diocese of Boise is facing multiple charges involving child pornography and drug possession, which has sparked a feeling of shock and betrayal in the local bishop.

“When I heard the news for the first time, certainly sadness entered my heart, followed by shock and a sense of betrayal,” said Bishop Peter Christensen in a Feb. 11 announcement from the Diocese of Boise.

“I wish I could take away the pain that follows such horrific stories, but I cannot,” Bishop Christensen continued, saying that “we live in troubled times.”

The allegations were brought against Fr. W. Thomas Faucher, a 72-year old retired priest, who spent 20 years as the spiritual head of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School in Boise. Fr. Faucher retired three years ago, and is now facing charges for allegedly possessing or distributing child pornography, as well as being in possession of marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy.

According to the Idaho Statesman, there had been no previous complaints against Fr. Faucher, who was arrested after authorities had received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last week.

As Faucher faces court, Bishop Christensen said the Diocese of Boise will not be funding Faucher’s legal defense or financially contributing to a bond for the priest's release, which is currently set at $250,000.

Christensen also said that the diocese will not be paying for Faucher’s housing, further noting that the church is working towards evicting Faucher from his church-owned home for the safety of the surrounding neighbors.

Faucher’s preliminary hearing will take place on Thursday at the Ada County Courthouse.

According to local reports, Christensen addressed the scandal at St. Mary’s parish last Sunday, where he thanked the current priest, principal of the school, law enforcement, and media. The bishop also called child pornography “the work of the devil,” and lamented the alleged crime.  

Christensen also noted how the alleged scandal affects the universal Church, saying that such crimes “breaks the morale for the priests.”

“I do not know what the eventual outcome of Fr. Faucher’s legal case will be. Regardless, damage has been done to so many who have put their trust in his past leadership and friendship,” Christensen said.

“I encourage our Catholic community to seek God’s healing presence in each of our lives, placing our dependence and trust in Him. Let us pray for all children who are victimized by all forms of abuse and exploitation. Let us also pray for each other, and for our Church.”

Catholic institutions aim for mission fidelity, not discrimination, defenders say

Denver, Colo., Feb 15, 2018 / 12:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Reports that Catholic institutions exercise unfair employment biases are undeserved, some defenders have said.

Benedict Nguyen, chancellor of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, told CNA that Catholic institutions are “really just institutions that seek to live out the Catholic faith in a concrete way, whether it be in charity work, education, or some other endeavor."

“As faith-based institutions, these have the duty, according to Catholic identity and mission, to live out our deeply-held beliefs and morals in everyday functioning,” he continued.

“When an employee publicly lives or advocate things contrary to Catholic faith and morals and makes no movements to correct the situation,” he said, “the institution should have the right to determine whether their continued employment is an inconsistency with the integrity of the mission of the institution.”

Some cases of Catholic church or school employees fired for conduct violations attract negative media coverage and even prompt protests and lawsuits, especially on charged subjects.

In recent years, legal cases and media controversies have involved a Montana Catholic school teacher who become pregnant out of wedlock; a Wisconsin coach who spent the night with a girlfriend, an Ohio schoolteacher fired after becoming pregnant via in-vitro fertilization; or couples who contract a same-sex union or live in a same-sex relationship.

One of the latest cases involves a school in the Archdiocese of Miami, Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School, which fired first-grade teacher Jocelyn Morffi on Feb. 8 after she contracted a same-sex marriage in the Florida Keys.

“As a teacher in a Catholic school their responsibility is partly for the spiritual growth of the children,” Archdiocese of Miami spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta told the Associated Press. “One has to understand that in any corporation, institution or organization there are policies and procedures and teachings and traditions that are adhered to. If something along the way does not continue to stay within that contract, then we have no other choice.”

Morffi objected to her firing in a social media post, saying “in their eyes I'm not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in partner,” the Associated Press reports.

The firing drew protests from some parents, about 20 of whom attended a meeting at the school for an explanation. Morffi had been an employee for close to seven years, coaching basketball and running a volunteer organization that took students to downtown Miami to distribute meals to the homeless.

The action also drew criticism from New Ways Ministry, an LGBT activist group that the U.S. bishops have said confuses the faithful on Church teaching.

“With each new firing, the injustice of these actions becomes clearer and clearer to Catholic people in the pews,” New Ways' director Francis DeBernardo told the Jesuit-run America Magazine.

DeBarnardo contended LGBT employees were being singled out as “the only group whose lives must be in full accordance with the hierarchy’s sexual ethics” and so they faced “blatant discrimination.”

“Differing enforcement of a religious policy based on the person who violates the policy has not been my experience,” Scott Browning, an attorney and partner with the law firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, told CNA.

Browning said that in his experience representing a significant number of bishops and religious superiors, Catholic administrators “act in good faith” to ensure their institutions are faithful to their mission.

“They apply their moral teaching and the policies that implement those teachings uniformly,” Browning said. “They are not focused on any particular circumstance or group; they are focused on being true to their beliefs.”

New Ways Ministry, which has charged that enforcement is unfairly focused on Church employees in same-sex partnerships, is part of the Equally Blessed Coalition, whose member Dignity USA is being funded by the Arcus Foundation. The foundation’s June 2016 grant announcement said the coalition’s work to “combat the firing of LGBT staff and allies, who support marriage equality, at Catholic institutions” is part of the foundation's focus on limiting religious freedom exemptions it considers discriminatory.

Speaking generally, Nguyen said that in his experience conduct codes aren’t enforced “in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner.”

“If anything, I find that most Catholic institutions go out of their way to rectify the situation in a fair way,” he said.

While Browning said he could not speak to every circumstance around the country, he commented, “what I can say is that in the many situations and cases I have been involved with, charges of discriminatory application of the policy simply don’t hold up.“

He said Catholic bishops and administrators he has worked with have tried to make sure that such situations are handled fairly.

“They do this by having a policy so people know the rules, and then they apply those rules to any violation,” he said. “I’ve seen no animus towards any particular group.   I’ve seen no focus on homosexuality. To the contrary, the focus starts with the religious teachings and making sure people stay true to those teachings.”

“For instance, I’ve been charged with enforcing policies inside the civil legal system in circumstances where couples were living out of wedlock and making that fact publicly known, in circumstances where a teacher is teaching concepts that are contrary to the gospel and many other instances that don’t have anything to do with homosexuality,” he said.

“My experience is that the bishops and other administrators whom I’ve worked for are focused on applying the policies as they are written and as their faith requires.”

Browning said such policies are “clearly protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” He noted that one relevant U.S. Supreme Court case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, was issued unanimously in 2012.

“The First Amendment allows religious people to live their faith free from being controlled by the government. This freedom of religion is at the core of the American system,” he said.

Parents who do not like these policies in their schools have secular alternatives, he noted.

Nguyen said that not allowing Catholic institutions the right to such policies would allow the state, courts and judges to “determine arbitrarily who can serve as a representative of a Catholic institution.”

“This would be a serious blow to the heart of religious liberty,” he said.

According to Nguyen, codes of conduct should be “applied fairly to all employees,” with clear expectations for employees when they accept a position.

“If the person finds that in conscience this is not possible, he or she should have the integrity to seek employment elsewhere,” he said.

'Senseless violence and horrifying evil'—Archbishop Wenski urges prayers for Parkland

Miami, Fla., Feb 14, 2018 / 09:20 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami urged Broward County to unity, mutual support, and strength after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland killed at least 17 students and teachers and injured dozens more. Parkland is in the Archdiocese of Miami.

In a statement published on the diocesan website, Wenski said he offered his prayers as well as those of the Catholic community for everyone affected by this “senseless tragedy.”

“We pray for the deceased and wounded, for their families and loved ones, for our first responders and our entire South Florida community,” said Wenski.

Wenski urged Floridians to rise above their “understandable outrage,” and “come together as a community to support one another” in the aftermath of the shooting. With the Lord’s help, Wenski said, “we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations.”

“May God heal the broken hearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil.”

USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston echoed Wenski’s sentiment, and issued a call Wednesday evening for Christians to “unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence...and for a conversation of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace.”

DiNardo said the USCCB was “deeply saddened” by Wednesday’s shooting, and would be praying for an end to gun violence. “I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence,” he said.

A 19-year-old former student of the school, who had been expelled for “disciplinary reasons,” stormed Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday afternoon and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle. The alleged shooter has a history of violence and has been treated for mental illness.

Students at the school posted videos and photos of the shooting and its aftermath as it unfolded. The shooter was arrested by police about an hour after the attack and remains in custody.

This is the third-deadliest school shooting in American history.

US bishops urge day of prayer and fasting for peace in DRC, S Sudan

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2018 / 02:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged Catholics to join Pope Francis Feb. 23 in a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

“Let us answer the Holy Father’s call to pray and fast for peace, especially for the Church and peoples of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the USCCB.

“And let us turn our fasting into almsgiving and support the work of Catholic Relief Services in both countries.”  

Both countries have suffered corruption, violent ethnic clashes, and poor economic conditions. Reflecting on those affected by the violence, Pope Francis encouraged individuals to ask how they may be able to promote peace.

“I make a heartfelt appeal so that we also listen to this cry and, each one of us in his/her own conscience before God, ask ourselves, ‘What can I do for peace?’” said Pope Francis.

In preparation of day of prayer, the USCCB has listed three means Catholics may promote peace – to learn, pray, and share.

“Tragically, violent conflict rages in both nations. South Sudan won its independence in 2011 only to find itself a victim to corruption and a bloody civil war. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government fails to honor the constitution as the Catholic Church courageously promotes a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the ruling and opposition parties. In both countries, innocent families suffer,” said Cardinal DiNardo.

Additionally, the bishops asked Catholics to share the message of peace by hosting community prayers at local parishes, educating others about the conflict by means of social media, and donating to charities such as Catholic Relief Services.

Archbishop Lori: MLK’s principles of nonviolence have 'enduring power'

Baltimore, Md., Feb 14, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new pastoral letter, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s "principles of nonviolence" are the keys to “address and resist injustice” in the Baltimore area.

“The wisdom of Dr. King’s teaching is both timely and important for our family of faith, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and indeed for our whole society,” wrote Archbishop Lori in his February letter.

“We urgently need to retrieve, understand, embrace and put into practice his teaching and legacy,” he continued.

Archbishop Lori’s letter comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. The civil rights leader was fatally shot April 4, 1968, on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn.

“Now is the time for all of us to reconnect with Dr. King and his teaching,” Archbishop Lori said, noting that “Dr. King’s wisdom is more necessary than ever in our violent and fragmented society.”

“Violence, racism and a host of social problems exist in different forms and degrees…no family, no neighborhood, no community is immune from violent crime, domestic violence, drug abuse, racism and many other social problems,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Lori pointed to a surge of gun violence in Baltimore in 2017, a year in which the Baltimore Police reported that 301 people in the city were killed with guns.

He also noted that “the sin of racism” has “has tarnished the soul of our society.”

Lori said that “lack of education, unemployment, a dearth of decent and affordable housing; a proliferation of illegal weapons; drug abuse and gangs; the disintegration of the family; homelessness” are among conditions which “create despair and spawn violence in our neighborhoods.”

“In this stark environment, Dr. King’s principles of nonviolence are more necessary than ever: they are prophetic words of hope that can light the path forward,” the archbishop said.

According to the archbishop, the principles of nonviolence advanced by Dr. King are “meant to change us” by addressing every person’s heart with a call to conversion.

Lori explained King’s six principles of nonviolence, which were the foundation of his pastoral letter.

First, he said that nonviolence was a way of life for “courageous people,” who bear “witness to the truth by living it and seeks not to coerce others into conformity, but rather to persuade them in love.” The archbishop said the sacraments of baptism and confirmation are crucial for this kind of courage.

Secondly, nonviolence seeks to “win friendship and understanding.” This means, according to Lori, that every person’s common humanity “is the basis for friendship that crosses the lines of race, ethnicity, politics and culture.”

Nonviolence also seeks to “defeat injustice, not people.” The archbishop said this principle seeks to deter “those who would harm the innocent and defenseless,” while also persuading individuals against the evils of racism.

Nonviolence also teaches that “suffering can educate and transform.” This means that suffering is a means to purification, out of which a “pure and peaceful heart flows.” The letter pointed to the witness of the early Christian martyrs who showed love in the face of violence.

The fifth principle of nonviolence rules that individuals should choose “love instead of hate.” Lori encouraged a “radical form of love that refuses to engage in any form of violence.” He noted that selfless love always seeks the good of the other in every relationship, which, he said, can powerfully transform society.

Nonviolence also believes that “justice will ultimately triumph.” This means that hope rules every action, despite suffering and injustice, Lori said.

“These principles took shape as Dr. King held up the experience of his people to the light of the Gospel and the Christian Tradition. Thus, they constitute not an abstract philosophy, but an applied theology of liberation,” he said.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s principles of nonviolence call for a change of heart. However, they also call for action,” said Archbishop Lori.

The archbishop said the archdiocese would use King’s principles to actively challenge the local community through information, education, personal commitment, negotiations, direct action, and reconciliation.

To that end, the archdiocese has created a website to springboard discussions.

“I cannot do this alone. This is something we must do together,” urged the archbishop.

The letter’s plan of action includes four efforts: building the local network of services to more effectively serve the community; forming cooperative relationships among the parishes within the archdiocese; reaching out to people on the peripheries to personally walk with them; and promoting stronger efforts towards ecumenical and interfaith partnerships that will build lasting community.

Lori also encouraged Catholics to work for the re-evangelization of each parish community in the archdiocese.

“For so many reasons, we do well to heed the prophetic teaching of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to put it into practice,” Archbishop Lori said.

“Guided by his principles, we will take a further step in being ‘a light brightly visible,’ a Church that brilliantly reflects the light of Christ.”

 

Where do Ash Wednesday ashes come from?

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2018 / 01:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Or, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

On Ash Wednesday, millions of Catholics throughout the English-speaking world will hear one of these two blessings as a priest applies ashes to their forehead in the sign of the cross.

But where exactly do the black or grey powdery ashes come from?

Per the instructions of the Roman Missal, ashes are typically supposed to be made from last year’s Palm Sunday palm branches.

These branches are then burned down into a fine powder and, in the United States, are mixed with holy water or chrism oil to create a light paste. In other parts of the world, sometimes dry ashes are sprinkled on the head rather than made into a paste.

BYOA - Burn Your Own Ashes

Fr. Dan Folwaczny is a priest with the Archdiocese of Chicago and serves as associate pastor at St. Norbert and Our Lady of the Brook parish.

He told CNA that the parish burns their own palms from previous Palm Sundays.

“We have an order of palms that comes in, and some of them are handed out on Palm Sunday but some are leftover, and those we usually store away in the garage until the following year,” he told CNA.

“And then also we have some that people bring back, so people have had them in their houses in the lead-up to Lent, and we’ll tell people to bring them in to the church,” he said.

Then on the day before Ash Wednesday, all of the old palms are placed in a fire pit on the church steps.

“And then the school kids come out and we have a little prayer service and light it on fire,” Folwaczny said.

While some priests order palms from religious goods suppliers, Folwaczny said he has always had plenty of palms and ashes to spare.

“We actually still have plenty in reserve from previous years,” he said. “We could actually not [burn additional palms] for a couple of years and still be fine.”

A similar procedure for the burning of ashes is followed in many parishes and dioceses, including the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.

 

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The ashes you receive on your forehead come from burning the palm branches that were blessed last Palm Sunday. Students from Saint Benedict Catholic School in Richmond are with their Pastor, Rev. Anthony Marques. pic.twitter.com/w4nBSpljTu

— Diocese of Richmond (@RichmondDiocese) February 13, 2018


 

Fr. Harrison Ayre, with the Diocese of Victoria, British Columbia, told CNA on Twitter that he burns his own ashes for Ash Wednesday in a metal garbage bin “and they reduce to ashes quite nicely.”

Ash buyers

While many parishes use Ash Wednesday as an opportunity to use up last year’s palms, the Church also allows for the buying of ashes from religious goods suppliers.

Fr. Joseph Faulkner, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., told CNA on Twitter that he buys his ashes from religious goods suppliers to avoid sub-par or “stabby” ashes.

For Catholic parishes in Colorado, one of the most-used such suppliers is Gerken’s Religious Supplies.

“There is quite an art to (burning ashes),” Mike Gerken, the co-owner, told the Denver Catholic last year.

“To get the good ash, you can’t just burn them. You have to let them smolder with no oxygen, and that’s where it gets the real charcoal black.”

Religious goods suppliers such as Gerken’s typically get their Palm Sunday palms, and sometimes the palm ashes as well, from palm suppliers in the warmer parts of the United States, such as California, Texas, Florida and other parts of the South.

Why Palm Sunday palms?

There is liturgical significance in the use of the palms from Palm Sunday, as opposed to other materials, to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday.

Father Randy Stice, associate director for the Secretariat of Divine Worship for the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, told CNA that the ashes made from palms remind us of what Lent is all about.

“Those branches herald Holy Week, the suffering death and resurrection of Christ,” Stice said. The feast of Palm Sunday occurs the beginning of Holy Week, which leads up to Easter. “Then that helps us identity with (Jesus) in Lent...it connects us with events in Christ’s own life,” he said.

Ashes have also long been a symbol of repentance and conversion, even in the Old Testament, Stice added.

“It’s an Old Testament and a New Testament symbol of repentance and conversion, sorrow for our sins, awareness of our frailty and mortality - [symbols] that have been taken up by the Church from the earliest stages.”  

 

 

Florida bishop supports bill to limit criminally charging minors as adults

Tallahassee, Fla., Feb 13, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Under current legislation, in the state of Florida there is no minimum age requirement for an individual to be criminally indicted as an adult.

However, Bishop William Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee wants to change that.

This week, Bishop Wack urged support for House Bill 509 and Senate Bill 936, which would reform the current system and prevent youths under the age of 14 from entering the adult criminal system.

“Placing children in adult jails is a sign of failure, not a solution,” Bishop Wack wrote in a Feb. 12 opinion piece at the Tallahassee Democrat.

“While there is no question that violent and dangerous youth need to be confined for their safety and that of society, children should not be treated as though they are equal to adults,” he continued.

Wack pointed to the story of a Florida boy, named Tim Kane. He was 14-years old when his friends killed two people. Because he was a witness to the crime, he was indicted for felony murder and charged as an adult.

While Kane had no previous criminal record, he will serve life in prison for being “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Wack.

The Florida bishop pointed to the numerous dangers involved with charging a youth as an adult. Wack said this process creates a “threat to public safety because it creates more crime,” since “recidivism rates for children prosecuted as adults are higher than rates for children whose cases are resolved in the juvenile justice system.”

“Adult facilities are not equipped with the appropriate education and transition services for children,” Wack said, also noting that children experience a higher risk of “sexual abuse and suicide” in the adult criminal system.

When youth are charged as adults, they will also carry the label of “felony conviction” with them for the rest of their lives, which would bar them from partaking in various opportunities, such as serving in the military, receiving financial aid, and voting.

Because of these various downsides, Wack encouraged state legislators to support House Bill 509 and Senate Bill 936 in the upcoming session. These bills would make it impossible for a youth under the age of 14 to be transferred into the adult criminal system. It would also offer other juvenile justice protections and make changes to the current law.

“Present scientific knowledge of the adolescent brain and the development of children demonstrates that children are different from adults,” Wack said.

“It is time to establish a minimum age for indictment.”

LA Archbishop calls for compromise and compassion in Senate immigration debate

Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2018 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the US Senate begins a debate on immigration, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said that “Dreamers” should not be used as “bargaining chips” in the political process.

In a column published in Angelus, the archbishop wrote that although he’s “encouraged” the government is considering a path to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, he thinks their future should not be “tied to broader, more complicated questions about how to fix our broken immigration system.”  

“To me, it would be unconscionable to allow this moment to pass and risk the humanitarian nightmare of more than a million young people being deported and their families broken up. There is no political goal that could justify such an outcome,” Gomez wrote.

The Senate will debate several immigration reform proposals this week.

The plan supported by the Trump Administration ties funding for increased border security--including the construction of a wall--to the creation of a path for citizenship for “Dreamers,” as well as the elimination of the diversity visa lottery and restrictions on family-sponsored migration, commonly known as “chain migration.”

A bipartisan proposal offered last week does not include funding for a border wall, but would increase border security in other ways while creating a path to citizenship for “Dreamers.”

In his column, Archbishop Gomez called the current immigration system in the United States “broken,” and suggested three areas “essential to fixing our broken system:” securing the border, modernizing the visa process, and creating a way for the undocumented people living in the country to obtain legal status.

“I hope that members of Congress and advocates are willing to at least engage this plan in a spirit of seeking compromise and trying to extend compassion to those who have come here seeking a better life,” said Gomez.

The archbishop himself is an immigrant to the United States, having been born in Mexico and becoming a US citizen in 1995.

Gomez accused both major political parties of trying to exploit the immigration issue, and said that the only thing this has accomplished is “further dividing our nation and polarizing our politics.”

The archbishop offered a mixed review of President Donald Trump’s immigration proposal, saying that while he’s “encouraged” about a path for “Dreamers” to citizenship, “I disagree with the Administration..in the area of visa reform.”

The Trump Administration’s proposal would limit family-sponsored migration to the spouse and minor children of an immigrant, and would not include grandparents, cousins, or any other relatives.

“Family-based immigration has served our country beautifully. Immigrant families have built vibrant neighborhoods, churches and civic institutions in every part of America.” Gomez wrote.  

He continued, “(...)Family means more than just mother and father and sister and brother. It also means grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.”

Gomez also argued that the United States shouldn’t shift to a singularly merit-based system, as the country needs a “realistic” system that allows in both skilled and unskilled workers.

“We have never had an immigration policy that only looks at people for the skills they have to offer or the economic contributions they can make,” he added.

The debate on immigration is scheduled to last for a week, and both sides of the aisle are scrambling to come up with a proposal that will garner the necessary 60 votes in order to pass the Senate. That proposal will then go to the House of Representatives and on to President Trump.