Posted on 10/27/2020 13:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 27, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- On October 23, CNA interviewed HE Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, about the religious order’s international work and ongoing process of constitutional reform. This is part two of that interview.
On November 7, the professed knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta are scheduled to gather in Rome for a Council Complete of State, the gathering at which they will elect a new Grand Master to lead an ongoing constitutional reform effort of the nearly one-thousand-year-old order.
In normal times, the election of a new Grand Master would be a fascinating enough event. The religious order is also a major international health and aid organization, and a sovereign entity under international law – with its own passports, diplomatic relationships, and permanent observer status at the United Nations.
But these are not normal times for the order.
This week, CNA spoke to the order’s Grand Chancellor – effectively its chief operating officer - Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, about a crucial period for the historic order and its work.
The order has been in a slow-moving constitutional crisis since Pope Francis compelled the resignation of a previous Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing in 2017. That decision came after Festing himself had compelled the resignation of Boeselager in 2016, after it became known that an aid project of the order in Myanmar had distributed thousands of condoms. Boselager insisted that he had not known about the distribution of condoms, and that he had put a stop to it as soon as he became aware.
In 2017, Boeselager was reinstated as Grand Chancellor. At the same time, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Angelo Becciu to serve as his personal delegate to oversee the “spiritual and moral” reform of the order, effectively supplanting the role of the order’s Cardinal Patron, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who remains in post only nominally.
Becciu was to work with Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre, who was elected to succeed Festing, first on an interim basis and later permanently, as the order moved towards a revision of its governing code and constitution, including a revision of the roles and rights of its three levels of knights from around the world.
Dalla Torre died in May, and, on Sept. 24, Pope Francis commanded the resignation of Becciu from the rights and privileges of a cardinal, as well as his position as head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, leaving the order without a Grand Master, papal delegate, or Cardinal Patron.
This month, Boeselager told CNA that the present vacuum at the top of the order’s leadership needed to be addressed, and soon, but the charitable work of the order remained uninterrupted.
“The papal delegate is not part of the structure of the order,” Boeselager said. “He is a representative of the Holy Father, but he is not involved directly in the governance or work of the order.”
“In the intermediate phase, the order is led by a Lieutenant ad interim, which is normally the order’s Grand Commander, who chairs the Council Complete of State.”
That council, due to be held in two weeks’ time, will elect the new Grand Master, who is likely to play a determining role in the future direction and structure of the order, and the way in which it is governed.
Key among the proposed reforms are changes to the office of Grand Master itself, and the role of the 1st degree of professed knights – those who make perpetual religious vows – in the governance of the order, as opposed to the second and third degrees, who do not.
“The old Grand Master had named a small commission of experts on canon law to make proposals for changes which are necessary to the order’s constitution and code,” Boeselager said.
“In early 2018, we organized an international seminar to collect different ideas for the reform of the order, we had working groups on different topics, these presented to the seminar which made recommendations to the specialist commission as well.”
But, Boeselager said, “regarding the professed, the Holy Father has demanded especially that the regulations dealing with the first class of the order are revisited.”
He noted to CNA that the order’s current constitution and code, while revised in 1997, substantially date back to 1961, before Vatican Council II. “All the new elements which came in canon law regarding religious life [since the council] have not yet made it into the constitution of the order.”
Reform of the professed religious is a sensitive issue for the order, since it is the knights of the first degree who form the Council Complete of State and are eligible to serve as Grand Master and other senior governing roles.
Changing the nature and function of the order’s religious life is, Boeselager conceded, inseparable from reforming its governance. “These are two sides of the same coin,” he said.
After the 2018 seminar, a draft of a new constitution was prepared and sent to Cardinal Becciu to be presented to the pope. That process, Boeselager said, is now on hold until there is a new Grand Master and papal delegate.
The most contentious aspect of reform concerns the role of professed religious in the governance of the order. The professed, first degree knights number fewer than 50, and are advancing in age as a group. Some voices in the order favor allowing other members from different ranks to assume more duties, in order to secure the order’s future.
Another possible reform under discussion is the abolition of a requirement that certain high offices in the order be held only by knights of noble descent, in keeping with the order’s tradition of drawing membership from the ranks of European nobility. Today, the majority of members of the order, albeit those of the lower degree, do not come from noble families, or even countries with an aristocracy.
“There is great consensus that the requirement of nobility for the Grand Master should be abolished,” Boeselager said, noting that the order’s transition away from its strictly aristocratic history was part of its evolving character.
“How the order deals with the nobility in its history shows how we adapt in steps, not in revolution,” pointing to a 1997 reforms which opened the second class of knights to non-nobles.
However, despite apparent consensus around opening up the role of Grand Master, Boeselager was more hesitant about similar reforms for other offices, including his own, at least in the immediate term.
“I think there will be changes,” he said, “but, without specifying certain offices, perhaps there will be a quorum for noble members, but this is under discussion.”
Discussion on the direction of reform remains a tense topic within the order, especially among the professed knights of the first class. In September, 25 of the most senior professed knights circulated a letter to the order’s leadership and the Holy See, which objected to the direction of the proposed reforms. The knights said they felt they were being marginalized from the process and the governance of the order.
“The future of the first class is of great concern,” Boeselager said. “It is not a question of removing them from leading offices, it is a question of having enough to fill the offices reserved to them.”
Boeselager noted that many priories – national and regional branches of the order – were in special administrative measures because of a lack of professed members to fill leadership roles.
In their September letter, the 25 professed knights suggested 10 principles to guide the reform of the order. Key among their recommendations was that the professed religious give the final approval to their own reform, as a safeguard against “the undue influence of those who are not [professed] knights” on the process.
Asked directly if the professed religious would have the final say on the reforms of the order, Boeselager said that “we have to distinguish between the final decision and the way to approach this decision.”
“We have to, of course, seek, as far as possible, consent – we will never have total consent because there will always be different opinions – at the end it has to be decided and compromises have to be found.”
In the interim, the selection of the new Grand Master may prove to be the single most important indicator of the direction reforms will take, and according to whose principles. But how many of the professed knights will make it to Rome for the election remains an open question.
The council to elect the new Grand Master next month comes as Italy appears to be entering a new wave of coronavirus infections – and restrictions – bringing an added layer of uncertainty to an already tumultuous time for the knights.
Boeselager told CNA that it was important to proceed with the election if at all possible, noting that the council had already been delayed once, and the order had been without a Grand Master for six months and unable to pass a budget.
“We have to adapt to the situation,” said Boeselager, to “ensure the proper governance of the order in the current circumstances.” But he warned that the council could and would go ahead, even if many of the delegates were unable to attend.
“We still hope we will be able to hold the Council Complete of State [as planned], for the moment it still looks possible. It may be that some delegates cannot come, but the constitution does not foresee a quorum,” he said.
The constitution and code of the order does not permit for proxy or absentee voting during the council, so those unable to travel would be effectively excluded from participation.
“Legally its not in danger [of not going ahead]. Of course, if we were much less than half of the normal delegates, we would have to reconsider, but we have already postponed. I would not feel well [about it] if we had to postpone again.”
“We cannot continue in extraordinary administration,” Boeselager said.
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Posted on 10/27/2020 03:01 AM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso has called for prayer and a small capacity of attendees at Mass, as a coronavirus case surge in the area has overwhelmed local hospitals.
“Our entire community ought to be very concerned about the unprecedented number of positive cases that were reported today. Clearly this virus, which is a mortal threat to many, is spreading unchecked at this time,” Seitz said in a video statement Oct. 22.
According to the AP, El Paso County health officials reported that as of Oct. 25 the county had 772 new coronavirus cases, one day after 1,216 new cases were reported. El Paso county now comprises 20% of the total new coronavirus cases in Texas.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said Oct. 25 that area hospitals had been “stretched to capacity” and issued a stay at home order for El Paso residents, with a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Overwhelmed local hospitals have reported sending overflow patients to San Antonio area hospitals, and the governor has authorized the city’s civic center to be used for at least 50 additional hospital beds.
Seitz noted in his statement that, according to health officials, the main sources of the spread of the coronavirus have been stores and restaurants.
“If any good news came out of the mayor’s press conference today, it is that no cases are known to have originated in any of our Catholic churches,” Seitz said. “We believe our limits to the capacity that may gather in churches, plus the careful safety protocols that are in place will continue to ensure that people can be present for Mass without serious risk.” However, he noted, those who have chronic illnesses or are older and therefore in higher risk categories should “refrain at this time from attending.” The bishop also recommended that pastors consider lowering the capacity of people they allow in their churches from 25% to 15% “if they choose, given the circumstances of their particular church.”
“I urge you to continue to pray for our entire community and especially for those who are ill at this time, and for our leaders. You are in my prayers as well. United in love for one another, we will come through these difficult times. God bless you,” Seitz concluded.
As the U.S. economy slowly reopened this summer, public Masses also resumed in most dioceses, following weeks to months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Masses reopened with limited capacity and social distancing among other safety protocols, though nearly all dioceses have maintained the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days.
Bishops have grappled with the ever-changing status of coronavirus outbreaks, as the fall months have brought about spikes in cases in states such as Texas, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana.
Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay had initially lifted the dispensation from Sunday Mass attendance the weekend of Sept. 19-20, only to reinstate it two weeks later after cases spiked in the area.
On Oct. 19, the five bishops of Indiana announced that they were extending the dispensation from Sunday Mass until further notice. “While commending our pastors and pastoral life coordinators who have gone to great lengths to assure safe worship spaces in our churches, given the continued increase of COVID-19 cases in our state, the Indiana bishops hereby extend the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation beyond Nov.1, 2020, until further notice,” the bishops stated. “The Indiana bishops will continue to monitor the situation to determine when it might be advisable to modify or lift the dispensation,” they added.
Deacon Rob Lanciotti is a permanent deacon in Colorado who holds a doctoral degree in Microbiology. He was employed as a virologist for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention for 29 years.
In an Oct. 16 column for the Denver Catholic, Lanciotti said he encouraged Catholics in low-risk coronavirus categories to continue attending Mass, as it has shown to be a relatively safe activity, particularly given the safety protocols that most churches have put in place.
“Back in June as we began returning to Mass, I wrote from my perspective as a virologist with experience in public health that attending Mass for most people was a relatively low risk event.
The past several months have convinced me that this is still the case,” he wrote.
“Overall, the public health response and the media focus has been disproportionate to the threat,” he added. “Catholics should focus on the facts and not be manipulated by the press.”
Lanciotti noted that tests of the rate of infection, done in ten U.S. cities, have shown a low infection rate of 5%, with the exception of New York City at 20%.
Furthermore, he said, “there is a clear age and health relationship between COVID-19 infection and serious outcomes. Coronavirus infection is significantly less serious than annual flu for those in the 0-24 age category, about the same as annual flu for the 25-45 category, more serious than flu for those in the 45-64, and significantly more serious in those over 65; especially with pre-existing health conditions.”
People in lower risk categories, such as young people in good health, should therefore still feel safe attending Mass, he said.
Individuals and families, rather than the government, should be the ones trusted to make decisions about whether to attend church or other activities, he added, following the principle of subsidiarity, which “teaches us that those closest to the situation under consideration are best suited to make correct decisions.”
“For example, a healthy couple with young children should approach returning to Mass differently than an elderly couple with pre-existing health conditions, because the risk is objectively different for the two categories,” Lanciotti wrote.
However, he added, their risk assessment should also take into consideration their potential to infect higher risk populations.
“I can attest from my 30 years of experience in public health that government and public health officials detest subsidiarity, because they believe that it is their role to inform and guide your decisions. Unfortunately, they are unable to assess every situation and therefore generally overreact.”
“Without hesitation, I can say that for the majority of individuals, attending Mass at this time is a low-risk endeavor. Finally, as should be obvious to us, Mass attendance is of paramount importance for our salvation and therefore we should do all we reasonably can to participate in this great liturgy!”
Posted on 10/27/2020 02:26 AM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 06:26 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is helping Catholic students and their families celebrate Día de los Muertos amid the pandemic this year, with online videos and craft kids for Catholic students.
Instead of the usual in-person cultural events, the archdiocese’s Office of Religious Education and Catholic Cemeteries & Mortuaries will offer pandemic-friendly initiatives to help school children and their families learn about Día de los Muertos.
Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is a primarily Mexican way of celebrating the feasts of All Souls Day and All Saints Day.
The celebration is an expression of Latin American culture and Catholic beliefs, which makes use of some familiar symbols to teach and celebrate the Church’s teaching on the communion of the saints and the souls in purgatory.
Annual celebrations typically involve skeletal costumes and face makeup, parades and processions, as well as traditional foods such as “pan de muerte” (bread of the dead) and sugar skulls (calaveras).
Over the past 6 years, the archdiocese has hosted special catechetical programs for local Catholic school students on this day. Normally, about 15 local Catholic schools send over 350 third-grade students to Calvary Cemetery & Mortuary in East Los Angeles to learn more about the celebration.
Plans for this year are different, due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Oct. 26, Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries provided 12 local Catholic schools with special Día de los Muertos crafts kits, containing materials for students to create art projects teaching them about the day.
Day of the Dead celebrations traditionally include sugar skulls, picture frames, and paper flowers to decorate shrines for deceased relatives.
This year, the archdiocese will also offer a series of education videos online, so students can learn about the meaning and history of Día de los Muertos with their families. The video will cover topics including the final resurrection, treatment of the dead, and the faith and cultural traditions associated with the Day of the Dead.
“The videos will guide students on creating a sacred space, or altar, in their home to pray and remember family and friends who have passed,” the archdiocese said in an Oct. 26 statement.
Among the schools participating this year will be Our Lady of Guadalupe in East LA, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rose Hill, Our Lady of Miraculous Medal in Montebello, and Sacred Heart in Lincoln Heights.
Last year, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Alex Aclan told CNA that the day is a powerful reminder about the communion of saints and a way to help parishioners remember their dead loved ones.
“For Mexicans to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, my experience is the remembering of the dead is really the most important part of it. Making sure that the dead are remembered, that their deceased are remembered, and that we really are one with them even though they're on the other side and we're still here,” the bishop said.
“And that's basically our teaching on the communion of saints. The different parts of the Church: the ones in Heaven, the ones that are still on their way trying to find their way to the gates of Heaven, and us here on Earth, and we are still together as one. We are still one Church.”
Posted on 10/27/2020 02:08 AM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 26, 2020 / 06:08 pm (CNA).- This story has been updated.
The Senate on Monday voted to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Barrett was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice in a White House ceremony shortly after the vote Monday evening.
The 52-48 vote, which fell largely along party lines, came shortly before 8pm Monday evening and after a rare Sunday session day for the chamber in which senators voted to clear the way for Barrett’s confirmation vote on Oct. 26.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins joined Democrats in opposing Barrett’s confirmation. Following the vote, a formal resolution of confirmation is sent to the White House for President Trump’s signature.
Justice Clarence Thomas administered the official Constitutional Oath to Barrett at the White House on Monday night.
Barrett will be the sixth practicing Catholic justice at the Supreme court, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Brett Kavanaugh. In addition, Barrett will join Sotomayor as the only two Catholic female Supreme Court Justices in U.S. history.
Born in New Orleans, Barrett attended the University of Notre Dame Law School before clerking for D.C. Circuit Court Judge Laurence Silberman and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. She then entered private practice, returned to Notre Dame Law School to teach classes in 2002, and became a professor in 2010.
Barrett is a Catholic mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti. She is a member of the ecumenical charismatic group People of Praise, and her membership in the group was the subject of some scrutiny in the press during her confirmation process. Some have called the group a “cult” and criticized its former practice of referring to husbands and wives as “heads” and “handmaidens,” both Scriptural references.
However, Bishop Peter Smith, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Portland, is a member of a group of priests associated with People of Praise. He explained to CNA that the group was one of many lay charismatic movements that emerged in the Church after the Second Vatican Council, and presented an opportunity for Catholic families to live their faith more intentionally.
In 2017, Barrett was nominated to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and faced hostile questions from senators concerning the influence her Catholic beliefs might exert on her judicial reasoning.
During Barrett’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) questioned Barrett on her personal faith and values, saying that “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”
Barrett in 1998 co-authored an article with law professor John Garvey on the possibility of Catholic judges recusing themselves in capital cases, due to the Church’s teaching on the death penalty.
In 2017 and again in 2020, Democratic senators brought up the article. Barrett said in her 2017 written responses that “I cannot think of any cases or category of cases, including capital cases, in which I would feel obliged to recuse on grounds of conscience if confirmed as a judge on the Seventh Circuit.”
Barrett also told committee chair Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that her faith would not influence her rulings on the Court.
During Barrett’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee largely stayed away from references to her faith, instead asking her to opine on existing Supreme Court rulings including those that legalized contraception and abortion.
Barrett clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia and has previously spoken of his influence on her judicial philosophy. Notre Dame law professor Paolo Carozza told CNA that Barrett’s legal philosophy is one of “judicial restraint.”
However, Barrett repeatedly told senators during her confirmation hearing that while she clerked for Scalia and shared his judicial philosophy, she was not the same person as the late justice and would rule on cases based on how she saw fit.
Barrett did consider multiple abortion cases while on the Seventh Circuit.
She joined the court’s majority in upholding Chicago’s eight-foot “buffer zone” rule that prohibited pro-life sidewalk counselors from approaching within eight feet of an abortion facility. The majority opinion cited the “binding” Supreme Court ruling in Hill v. Colorado, another “buffer zone” case.
The group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to Pittsburgh’s 15-foot “buffer zone” rule; the Court has yet to accept or refuse the case of Nikki Bruni and other pro-life sidewalk counselors.
Barrett will join the Court a week before oral arguments are scheduled in a key religious freedom case, Fulton v. Philadelphia; the case could decide other court battles where local governments have required faith-based adoption agencies to match children with same-sex couples
The Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia saw its contract for foster care placements halted by the city of Philadelphia in 2018 because of its faith-based stance on marriage.
The city had told Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian, another group providing foster care placements, that they had to work with same-sex couples on foster care placements in order to continue their contracts. While Bethany Christian maintained its organizational support of traditional marriage, it agreed to work with same-sex couples on foster care placement; Catholic Social Services would not, and has had no new placements through the city.
Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, who have fostered more than 40 children and who partnered with Catholic Social Services, brought the case against the city that is currently before the Supreme Court.