Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Church’s Teaching on Contraception: Renewed Witness is Needed


By Most Reverend Richard J. Malone

What do men and women want? What do all of us yearn for? Certainly, love and happiness would be at the top of the list. We were made to love and to be loved. Unfortunately, today our culture is awash with multiple false messages on love and happiness, especially when it comes to sex and marriage. This confusion is not only present in our society, but has taken a toll within the Church for numerous decades. Catholics need help to understand and live the full Gospel of Christ.

This is why it is so encouraging to see a broad group of Catholic scholars standing up to promote and defend the Church’s teaching on married love and responsible parenthood and the fact that contraception and sterilization are morally unacceptable and cannot lead a couple to the happiness they desire. On September 20, 2016, at The Catholic University of America (view press conference here), the scholars released a statement entitled, Affirmation of the Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality. Among other things, the statement is a resounding affirmation of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical On Human Life (Humanae Vitae) issued in 1968.

The Church’s teaching in this area is sometimes caricatured and maligned—more often, though, it is simply unknown or not understood well. The Affirmation statement beautifully and clearly summarizes the Church’s teaching. I encourage you to read the statement, to learn more about the Church’s teaching, and to pray about where the Lord might be calling you to witness further to His truth.

Sexual relations belong to marriage. Marriage is a unique and total gift of self between one man and one woman. By its very nature it speaks a language of love that is life-long, exclusive, and fruitful. In marriage, a husband and a wife give themselves totally to each other, not partially. This is the reality of married love, which is also a constant call to spouses to grow deeper in their love, as Pope Francis has taught so eloquently in The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia).

Couples who use contraception or resort to sterilization may not realize that such actions contradict the very nature of their marital love and God’s plan for them. They may not realize that, in addition to spiritual and relational consequences, such actions can be accompanied by harmful and unhealthy side effects to the body. They may also not realize that the birth control pill can at times operate as an abortifacient.

The so-called sexual revolution—erupting particularly in the 1960s by means of wide access to contraception through the birth control pill—was promised as a panacea to the challenges faced by men and women in marriages and relationships, especially women. But has it really made the world better? Do men and women truly see each other as gifts? The surge of sex outside of marriage, the proliferation of the “hook-up” culture, broken marriages, pornography use, ever increasing numbers of STDs in the U.S., absent fathers, relational wounds—all of these are signs pointing to the failure of the sexual revolution.

Another revolution is called for, one which has already been underway and given renewed impetus by the prophetic teaching of Blessed Pope Paul VI and Pope Saint John Paul II and the recent, incisive teaching of Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. This is the revolution of authentic love. Here, we need look no further than Christ on the Cross, who has given us the enduring meaning of true love—unselfish and seeking the true good of others, that they might have life. Love and life were inseparable on the Cross, and they are inseparable in marriage, which itself has become the very sign of the mystery of Christ and the Church.

All of us can grow in our witness to the love which Christ has poured out upon us through His Church.

To any Catholics who have chosen to contracept, I invite you to reconsider the Church’s teaching, to pray for light and mercy, and to meet with a priest and someone trained in the methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP) (or Fertility-Based Awareness Methods) to discuss what steps can be taken to follow God’s plan for your marriage. Your parish or diocese should have information on NFP contacts and education opportunities in your area. If you are unable to find information, please contact the bishops’ NFP Program at nfp@usccb.org, and staff will be happy to help you.

To Catholics who have embraced the Church’s teachings, even when difficult, I thank you for being—and encourage you to remain as—joyful and merciful witnesses who invite others to the fullness of the truth. Your witness is an inspiring light for your brothers and sisters and is needed now more than ever.

Lastly, to all those in positions of leadership in the Church, especially those with responsibility for catechesis, education and ongoing formation, thank you for all you do. May our efforts truly help all we encounter to embrace the full truth of the Gospel, which includes the Church’s teachings on human sexuality, marriage, and family life.

Even when following the Church’s teaching on married love may be difficult, no couple should feel alone. The Lord Jesus is here to carry our burdens and the Church is here to accompany us in our struggles. May our renewed witness to the Church’s teaching on human love in the divine plan help bring greater peace and joy to our families, parishes, communities, and nation.

For more information on the Church’s teaching and other resources, see the following:

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Bishop Malone is Bishop of Buffalo and Chairman, Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.















 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Faithful Witness to Marriage



By Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Bishop Richard J. Malone and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski

Questions revolving around marriage and human sexuality are deeply felt in our homes and communities. We join with our Holy Father Pope Francis in affirming the inviolable dignity of all people and the Church’s important role in accompanying all those in need. In doing so, we also stand with Pope Francis in preserving the dignity and meaning of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The two strands of the dignity of the person and the dignity of marriage and the family are interwoven. To pull apart one is to unravel the whole fabric.

When a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same-sex, confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligations of Catholics. What we see is a counter witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth.

Pope Francis has been very clear in affirming the truth and constant teaching of the Church that same-sex relationships cannot be considered “in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”1 Laws that redefine marriage to deny its essential meaning are among those that Catholics must oppose, including in their application after they are passed.2 Such witness is always for the sake of the common good.

During our Holy Father’s remarkable visit to us last year, he reminded us that all politicians “are called to defend and preserve the dignity of [their] fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.”3 Catholic politicians in particular are called to “a heroic commitment” on behalf of the common good and to “recognize their grave responsibility in society to support laws shaped by these fundamental human values and oppose laws and policies that violate [them].”4

Faithful witness can be challenging—and it will only grow more challenging in the years to come—but it is also the joy and responsibility of all Catholics, especially those who have embraced positions of leadership and public service.

Let us pray for our Catholic leaders in public life, that they may fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to them with grace and courage and offer a faithful witness that will bring much needed light to the world. And may all of us as Catholics help each other be faithful and joyful witnesses wherever we are called.
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Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. 

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1 Amoris Laetitia (2016), no. 251.
2 USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2015), no. 23; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (2003), no. 5 
3 Address to Congress, September 24, 2015. 
4 Faithful Citizenship, no. 39.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Count Down to World Youth Day: Lay Ecclesial Ministers Nurturing our Lives


By Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona, Minnesota

As preparations are underway for attending World Youth Day, I am wondering –how many vocations will be inspired during this year’s event? How many who attend will be ready to follow the Lord’s call.  For Bishops the time is an inspiration as we realize the many youth and young adults who truly care for their faith and for the Church who brought it them.

In my own role as chair of the Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, I wonder, how many participants will realize the role that lay ecclesial ministers, religious and priests have had in their faith formation and participation in this event?

How many will be inspired to follow their own call of the Lord through this event? Perhaps some will also meet and discover their vocation to marriage. Others will be inspired to consider leadership roles the Church – as priests, permanent deacons, religious and yes – lay ecclesial ministers.

What is a lay ecclesial minister?  The average person in the pew may honestly not know how to answer this question. However, many experience your parish lay ecclesial ministers every day. For example, have you been a participant in religious education? Then you have encountered your parish director of religious education – a lay ecclesial minister. Are you coming to World Youth day with your parish youth minister? If you so you are coming with a lay ecclesial minister?  Are you in college and coming with a group through campus ministry?  If so, you are likely coming with your Campus Minister – who may also be a lay ecclesial minister.

The term “lay ecclesial minister” is used to include many possible roles in Church leadership. In parish life—to cite only one sphere of involvement—the pastoral associate, parish catechetical leader, youth ministry leader, school principal, and director of liturgy or pastoral music are examples of such roles.  

Did you know that the U.S. Bishop’s Conference – the USCCB - has a document about lay ecclesial ministers?  It’s called Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord and offers a good description of what a lay ecclesial minister is:

The term lay ecclesial minister is a general term to describe those men and women, many whose roles, I mentioned above, whose ecclesial service is characterized by:
·         Authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local church
·         Leadership in a particular area of ministry
·         Close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons
·         Preparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them

I am sure that Pope Francis will remind us all to be enthusiastic be missionary disciples while we are gathered in Kraków.   I’m hoping that many of you who are gathered with us will consider what is God calling you to do. Perhaps you will talk with the trained leaders who came with you. Perhaps you will be inspired to follow them and consider offering your gifts and talents and become a priest, permanent deacon,  consecrated religious or yes – even a lay ecclesial minister!

If so I am grateful to know that, as chair of the conference, Subcommittee on certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, I have the opportunity to help see that you will be well prepared.

After World Youth Day, I hope to encourage members of our subcommittee and lay ecclesial ministers to share the stories of their call. Until our next update, if you would like to learn more – about the subcommittee, you might go to: www.usccb/certification   If you would like to learn more about lay ecclesial ministry in general, and current questions as we discern this development in the Church, see the USCCB web page on the Summit held last year.  www.usccb.org/lay-ecclesial-ministry-summit.cfm


Until then please let’s together join in prayer that many may be inspired to follow God’s call during their experience at Kraków. I look forward to seeing you there! May the Holy Spirit move you to discover what God is calling you to do, whatever your vocation may be. We all have one. The harvest is great!

Count Down to World Youth Day: Lay Ecclesial Ministers Nurturing our Lives


By Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona, Minnesota

As preparations are underway for attending World Youth Day, I am wondering –how many vocations will be inspired during this year’s event? How many who attend will be ready to follow the Lord’s call.  For Bishops the time is an inspiration as we realize the many youth and young adults who truly care for their faith and for the Church who brought it them.

In my own role as chair of the Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, I wonder, how many participants will realize the role that lay ecclesial ministers, religious and priests have had in their faith formation and participation in this event?

How many will be inspired to follow their own call of the Lord through this event? Perhaps some will also meet and discover their vocation to marriage. Others will be inspired to consider leadership roles the Church – as priests, permanent deacons, religious and yes – lay ecclesial ministers.

What is a lay ecclesial minister?  The average person in the pew may honestly not know how to answer this question. However, many experience your parish lay ecclesial ministers every day. For example, have you been a participant in religious education? Then you have encountered your parish director of religious education – a lay ecclesial minister. Are you coming to World Youth day with your parish youth minister? If you so you are coming with a lay ecclesial minister?  Are you in college and coming with a group through campus ministry?  If so, you are likely coming with your Campus Minister – who may also be a lay ecclesial minister.

The term “lay ecclesial minister” is used to include many possible roles in Church leadership. In parish life—to cite only one sphere of involvement—the pastoral associate, parish catechetical leader, youth ministry leader, school principal, and director of liturgy or pastoral music are examples of such roles.  

Did you know that the U.S. Bishop’s Conference – the USCCB - has a document about lay ecclesial ministers?  It’s called Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord and offers a good description of what a lay ecclesial minister is:

The term lay ecclesial minister is a general term to describe those men and women, many whose roles, I mentioned above, whose ecclesial service is characterized by:
·         Authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local church
·         Leadership in a particular area of ministry
·         Close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons
·         Preparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them

I am sure that Pope Francis will remind us all to be enthusiastic be missionary disciples while we are gathered in Kraków.   I’m hoping that many of you who are gathered with us will consider what is God calling you to do. Perhaps you will talk with the trained leaders who came with you. Perhaps you will be inspired to follow them and consider offering your gifts and talents and become a priest, permanent deacon,  consecrated religious or yes – even a lay ecclesial minister!

If so I am grateful to know that, as chair of the conference, Subcommittee on certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, I have the opportunity to help see that you will be well prepared.

After World Youth Day, I hope to encourage members of our subcommittee and lay ecclesial ministers to share the stories of their call. Until our next update, if you would like to learn more – about the subcommittee, you might go to: www.usccb/certification   If you would like to learn more about lay ecclesial ministry in general, and current questions as we discern this development in the Church, see the USCCB web page on the Summit held last year.  www.usccb.org/lay-ecclesial-ministry-summit.cfm


Until then please let’s together join in prayer that many may be inspired to follow God’s call during their experience at Kraków. I look forward to seeing you there! May the Holy Spirit move you to discover what God is calling you to do, whatever your vocation may be. We all have one. The harvest is great!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Countdown to World Youth Day: Moved By The Holy Spirit


By Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln

The sun rose over Copacabana beach in Brazil, on a warm Sunday morning in July 2013. Three million young people assembled along the water’s edge. I was on the beach with them that day. We were preparing for the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2013, celebrated by Pope Francis, less than six months into his pontificate.

The previous night we’d shared in Eucharistic adoration and Benediction with Pope Francis. The vigil lasted well into the night. I’ll never forget that night. I’ll never forget the presence of God in those moments.

Every World Youth Day has left a lasting impression for me. And they all hold a unique place in my memory – Denver, Paris, Rio. I’ll never forget the heat in Rome in 1999, and the heroic figure of Pope Saint John Paul II. I’ll never forget the beauty of Sydney in 2008, and Pope Benedict’s serene witness. I’ll never forget the rugged splendor Madrid in 2011. And I will never forget, as young priest, my first World Youth Day in 1993, in Denver.

I’ve been to World Youth Day many times, but Denver will always stand out. John Paul stood among millions of young people here in the United States, and told us not to be afraid. He told us to go out into the streets and proclaim the Gospel. He told us to defend life. He told us to become saints. He called us to the New Evangelization.

World Youth in Denver was a transformative moment in my priesthood, and my spiritual life. And every single time I go to World Youth Day, the Lord moves in my life. I am moved by the teaching of the Holy Father. I am moved by the joy of young Catholics from around the world. I am moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, alive in the hearts of young people.

I look forward to traveling to Krakow in 2016. With young people from the Diocese of Lincoln, I’ll travel as a pilgrim to the homeland of Pope St. John Paul II. We pilgrims will rely on the Providence of God as we travel, and we’ll look forward to gathering with the Holy Father, and with young people from countries around the world. We’ll pray together for St. John Paul’s intercession. We’ll celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We will journey to Krakow to experience the universality of the Church’s life.

The theme of World Youth Day 2016, is “blessed are the merciful.” Each one of us is called to be merciful. We’re called to imitate the mercy of Jesus Christ. And we travel to Krakow to visit the country where the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ was revealed in a special way to St. Faustina Kowalska.

I’ll never forget the experiences I’ve had at World Youth Day. I’m sure that Poland will be an unforgettable experience as well. I’ll travel there as a pilgrim, seeking a deeper union with Christ and His Church. I pray that you will be a World Youth Day pilgrim, too.