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Citing abuse lawsuits, California’s smallest diocese files for bankruptcy

Cathedral of St. Eugene in Santa Rosa, CA. / chrisw80/wikimedia. CC BY SA 4.0

Denver, Colo., Mar 14, 2023 / 09:47 am (CNA).

The Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in northern California said on Monday that it will file for bankruptcy, citing the number of child sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it in the last three years. Many alleged abuse incidents are more than three decades old.

“While I have been anticipating this action for more than a full year, it is most distressing to have the duty of actually proceeding with this filing,” Bishop Robert F. Vasa said in a March 10 statement. “Nevertheless, I remain convinced that it is a necessary step for the diocese and the only way to resolve the claims which have been presented against it.”

In December 2022 the diocese announced plans to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy following “careful and prayerful consideration” and seeking the advice of priests, the diocesan finance council, and professional counsel. Santa Rosa serves about 180,000 Catholics among about 950,000 residents, according to figures on the diocesan website. By population, it is California’s smallest Catholic diocese, with 41 parishes and 22 missions.

The State of California passed legislation allowing a three-year exemption to the statute of limitations on sexual abuse lawsuits. The window began Jan. 1, 2020, and ended Jan. 2, 2023.

A similar legal window was opened in 2003, but it did not allow for retrospective lawsuits against hospitals and schools where abuse was alleged.

“These cases are too numerous to settle individually and so they have accumulated until the closing of the three-year window,” Vasa said. “Now that the window is closed, we have received notice of at least 160 claims and we have information that perhaps more than 200 claims have been filed in total against the diocese.”

More than 115 cases date back more than 30 years, Vasa said. According to a diocesan question-and-answer briefing paper, some of the lawsuits involve alleged incidents from more than 60 years ago.

The bishop emphasized Catholic child protection and safe environment efforts in the last 20 years have sought to prevent abuse. All employees and volunteers now face background screenings.

The bishop said it is the diocese’s prayer “that children are actually kept safer now than in the past and that all in our pews are more aware and vigilant about potential risks.”

“Nevertheless, we are deeply saddened that so many have endured abuse in the past and that the scourge of child sexual abuse is a part of our diocesan history. The present action of the diocese is necessary and through this process we hope to provide for those who have come forward and who are yet to come forward at least some compensation for the harms they have endured.”

The Santa Rosa Diocese has about 200,000 Catholics out of a population of close to 1 million.

In 2003, the Santa Rosa Diocese faced “similar circumstances” but “many fewer cases.”

The diocese sold property, borrowed money, and paid about $12 million in settlements, with another $19 million from insurance. Since 2003, it has spent another $4 million in individual settlements.

“Now, facing at least 160 new cases, with excess property depleted, with insurance for many of the years either nonexistent or exhausted it is impossible to see any way forward without recourse to the bankruptcy protections our country makes available.”

Filing for bankruptcy will provide “a process to carefully evaluate and compensate, as fairly as possible, those who have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse.” It will allow all parties to resolve their claims under the bankruptcy court’s supervision, and the diocese may deal with these issues collectively rather than one by one.

“At the same time, the process provides a way for the diocese to continue the various charitable ministries in which it is engaged,” he said.

Bishop Vasa said only the diocese’s “corporation sole” known as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Santa Rosa is filing for bankruptcy. Parishes and schools are separate civil corporations or ecclesial entities and “should not be parties to this filing.”

The bankruptcy proceedings will determine whether any parish and school entities will take part in the process, he said.

The diocese provided a question-and-answer briefing that addressed several questions, including whether parishes or schools will be forced to close because of the bankruptcy process. The diocese noted that creditors have challenged the separate corporate status of Catholic parishes or schools in other dioceses’ filings.

“That is why our pastors and other religious entities of the diocese have sought independent legal counsel to represent parish interests in this process.”

The diocese noted that the Legislature could again change the law to create more “look-back windows” for lawsuits or eliminate statutes of limitations entirely. The most recent changes now allow an abuse victim to sue by the age of 40 years or five years after they realized the abuse caused harm to them. Previously, the statute of limitations barred lawsuits after the victim turned 28 years old.

A bankruptcy reorganization protects against any lawsuits in the future, it said.

“It is the only way to get all of the claimants to the table at once and negotiate an agreement that works for all parties,” the diocese said.

“A thorough process is required, and will be undertaken, to notify the public of this action and to assure that any survivors of child sexual assault have an opportunity to file claims.”

In February, Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego announced that his diocese could have to resort to a declaration of bankruptcy in 2023 to manage the cost of hundreds of new abuse claims.

More than two dozen U.S. dioceses, including two in U.S. overseas territories, have entered into bankruptcy proceedings, the vast majority in the past decade. California’s Diocese of Stockton went through a three-year bankruptcy period from 2014 to 2017.

Biden calls bans on transgender treatments for children ‘close to sinful’

Joe Biden / lev radin/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2023 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden criticized Florida’s regulation of transgender medical care for children and ban on gender ideology in the classroom, calling the measures “close to sinful.”

Biden said in an interview with Daily Show guest host Kal Penn: “What’s going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, close to sinful. I mean it’s just terrible what they’re doing.”

Although the president did not specify which laws he was referring to, Republican lawmakers in Florida and other states have introduced bills and regulations to protect children from transgender medical interventions and restrict classroom instruction in gender ideology.

During his interview, Biden added that federal legislation might be necessary to prevent states from adopting certain bills that affect transgender policies related to children. 

“It’s not like, you know, a kid wakes up one morning and says, ‘You know, I decided I want to become a man or I want to become a woman,” the president said. “I mean, what are they thinking about here? They’re human beings, they love and have feelings. … It’s cruel. We [should] make sure we pass [federal] legislation like we passed on same-sex marriage. You mess with that, you’re breaking the law and you’re going to be held accountable.”

In Florida, a ban on transgender surgeries and medications for children, issued by the state’s Board of Medicine, goes into effect March 16. Lawmakers have also proposed legislation banning transgender medical procedures. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation that prevents schools from promoting gender ideology through discussions of transgenderism and sexual orientation to young children in kindergarten through third grade. The legislation requires such discussions in later grades to be age appropriate. 

Other states, such as Mississippi, Utah, and South Dakota, have adopted similar legislation to ban sex change operations for children. Most states do not restrict sex change surgery for minors at this time.

Although Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, called the Florida bills “close to sinful,” his interpretation sets him on the opposite side of the issue from the Vatican and Pope Francis.

The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education on June 10, 2019, published a document titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” which rejects the idea that a person can choose his or her gender.

“There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated,” the 31-page document states. 

“The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be,’” the document continues, citing Pope Benedict’s Dec. 21, 2012, address to the Roman Curia. 

“Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him,” it continued.

Pope Francis has consistently voiced his opposition to what he calls gender ideology. 

In an interview on March 10 with the Argentine daily newspaper La Nación, just three days before Biden’s interview aired, the pontiff referred to gender ideology as “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations.” 

“Why is it dangerous?” Pope Francis said. “Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women. All humanity is the tension of differences. It is to grow through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike, and that is contrary to the human vocation.”

This is not the only issue on which Biden has strayed from the Catholic faith. During the president’s interview on the Daily Show, he reiterated his support for same-sex marriage and defended his support for the Respect for Marriage Act, which federally recognizes same-sex marriage. The president has also been a staunch supporter of abortion and urged Congress to codify the Roe v. Wade abortion rules into federal law.

Case that could stop half of U.S. abortions set for this Wednesday

null / ivanko80/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

The first hearing in what could be the most consequential abortion case since the overturning of Roe v. Wade is set for this Wednesday, March 15.

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM), along with several other medical organizations and doctors, is suing the Federal Drug Administration for its approval and expansion of the abortion drug mifepristone.

On Jan. 3, the FDA changed its policy to allow pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, to sell mifepristone. Previously, the FDA only allowed certified doctors, clinics, and some mail-order pharmacies to dispense the drug. After the FDA’s policy change, any patient with a prescription can obtain mifepristone from her local retail pharmacy.

Represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), AHM is alleging that the FDA has been recklessly endangering women and young girls for decades by ignoring its own research and testing standards and continuing to expand its mifepristone approval. 

The case is being heard by U.S. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk for the Northern District of Texas, a Trump appointee. 

The Wednesday court date was announced to lawyers involved with the case on Friday. 

Kacsmaryk reportedly planned to not announce the hearing date to the public until Tuesday evening and urged attorneys to not disclose the information to avoid any disruptions to the proceedings. 

According to the New York Times, Kacsmaryk said that court staff have “faced security issues, including death threats.” 

A high-stakes case, if Kacsmaryk rules against the FDA, the administration could be forced to rescind its approval of the drug, bringing its legal distribution to a halt across the country, even in states where abortion remains legal.

Mifepristone is the first of two drugs used in chemical abortions, which account for 53% of all abortions in the country, according to the Guttmacher Institute

The drug works by cutting off nutrients necessary for a fetus to continue developing. A second drug, misoprostol, is then ingested 24 to 48 hours later and induces contractions that expel the dead unborn child.

Mifepristone was first approved in 2000 and is commonly used throughout the country today.

“The abortion industry loves the chemical abortion regimen because it has such low overhead costs; the mother is the abortionist. The supplier of the lethal chemicals still gets paid, but the mother ingests the pills, expels the baby, and disposes of the body on her own,” California Right to Life director Mary Rose Short told CNA.

According to Short, “the abortion pill regimen [in California] is considered such a basic staple that the Democratic Legislature mandated that all state universities provide abortions in their campus health centers.” 

ADF argues that the FDA never conducted thorough tests on mifepristone’s effect on minors, directly harming young girls across the nation who use the drug to this day. 

Dr. Ingrid Skop, an OB-GYN and director of medical affairs at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA in February that “chemical abortion pills are far more dangerous than surgical abortion. They are far more dangerous than the abortion industry has told the American public.”

This is a developing story.

Catholic universities should do more to respond to environmental issues, Vatican cardinal says

Cardinal Michael Czerny. / Pablo Esparza/CNA

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 13, 2023 / 14:22 pm (CNA).

The cardinal who is seen as Pope Francis’ point man on the environment said in an address at Gonzaga University last week that universities, especially Catholic universities, have a major role to play in constructing a plan to “care for our common home.”

Canadian Jesuit Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, spoke at his alma mater in Spokane, Washington, on March 9. Noting that Catholics are called to celebrate nature as an “expression of the love of a personal God, who brought the universe into being,” Czerny said Pope Francis invites us to follow St. Francis of Assisi in “immersing ourselves in the wonder and awe of nature.”

He asserted that since the 2015 publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home), many people now accept that it is vital to recognize the interconnectedness of the world and the ways in which many of the actions of humans are harming the planet. 

In Laudato Si, Francis decried what he described as a “technocratic paradigm,” whereby humans use science and technology to use and exploit the natural world without a “development in human responsibility, values, and conscience.” He also spoke against a “throwaway culture” that does not take into account the connectedness of living things on earth. 

“We exist only within a web of relationships,” Czerny said, with God, with our neighbor, and with the earth itself. In promoting concern for our neighbors, Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan provides a model for breaking out of tribal attitudes and seeking to help other people. 

In his speech, Czerny quoted extensively from Pope Francis’ two encyclicals Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti, (On Fraternity and Social Friendship). “The poor” are mentioned 60 times in Laudato Si’, Czerny said. He called for universities to provide a “concrete, visionary, and courageous response” to the problem of environmental destruction, which he said disproportionately affects the poor. 

“The problem now isn’t ignorance ... the real problem, instead, is indifference and despair,” Czerny said, saying that a spate of climate-related disasters in recent years such as wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and droughts have helped to open people’s eyes to the issues at hand. 

“All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements, and talents,” Czerny said. “Dialogue and better politics ... are the only, only, only way out.”

He urged Catholic universities to take care to factor in concern for the poor in “research projects, educational curricula, public programming, institutional infrastructures, policies, and practices, and political and social involvements as colleges and universities.”

Czerny also promoted a publication on “Our Common Home” developed by the Vatican and the Stockholm Environment Institute, as well as the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, an initiative Pope Francis launched in 2021. The seven-year plan provides goals, projects, and ideas for implementing environmental sustainability in different sectors of the Church, from religious orders to Catholic schools and hospitals, as well as within individual families. More than 1,000 educational institutions have signed up for the plan, Czerny said.

Above all, he said, it is important for those working to combat environmental degradation to be able to say “our Church is with us.”

Police looking for man who vandalized Connecticut Catholic church

Police have released images from a surveillance camera of a suspect they say vandalized Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Gales Ferry, Connecticut, on March 11, 2023. / Ledyard Police Department

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 13, 2023 / 11:38 am (CNA).

Police are searching for a man who burglarized and vandalized Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Gales Ferry, Connecticut, early Saturday.

The Ledyard Police Department reported that the man broke into the church, smashing windows and attempting to break into rooms using a crowbar. The police reported that the man further vandalized the church by painting “hateful” messages on the floor of the church meeting hall with black paint and more “hateful speech” on a wall that displayed a large crucifix.

Based on security camera footage from inside the church, police allege the man entered the building at about 1 a.m. Saturday, March 11, and stayed in the building for about two and a half hours. The police believe the man first tried to enter the building by throwing bricks at the front door but was unsuccessful. The police believe the man then walked around the outside of the building and broke windows with bricks, rocks, and religious items before breaking into a window on the north side of the building and entering the church.

Officers were dispatched to the scene at 7:35 on Saturday morning after the church reported the vandalism. The police department obtained images of the man through security camera video. The department has notified the FBI Civil Rights Unit, the Connecticut State Police Hate Crimes Unit, and the New London Judicial District Attorney’s Office, all of which are assisting the police with the investigation.

The police describe the suspect as a male in his mid- to late-20s with dark thinning hair and a distinctive beard with no mustache. The police said the man appeared to be wearing jeans, dark work boots, and a dark-colored winter jacket and was carrying a light-colored military-style backpack.

While police were on scene at Our Lady of Lourdes, at about 7:40 a.m. Ledyard Police Emergency Communications Center received a report that Seabury Anglican Church had a broken window next to the entrance of its church. The police do not believe that the Anglican church had been entered or subjected to any further damage. They suspect the same individual was involved in both incidents.

‘The Office’ star, reacting to cannibal pastor in ‘The Last of Us,’ blasts ‘anti-Christian bias’ in Hollywood

Actor Rainn Wilson on Oct. 6, 2022, in Santa Monica, California. / Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 13, 2023 / 10:50 am (CNA).

Actor Rainn Wilson, best known for his role as Dwight in the hit TV series “The Office,” criticized Hollywood’s “anti-Christian bias” in a tweet this weekend.

Wilson’s tweet responded to a depiction of a cannibalistic Christian preacher in a new episode of HBO’s popular zombie series “The Last of Us,” starring Pedro Pascal. 

“I do think there is an anti-Christian bias in Hollywood,” Wilson said. “As soon as the David character in ‘The Last of Us’ started reading from the Bible I knew that he was going to be a horrific villain.” 

“Could there be a Bible-reading preacher on a show who is actually loving and kind?” Wilson asked.

Based on an award-winning video game of the same name, “The Last of Us” depicts a post-apocalyptic world in which the main characters are constantly on the run from hordes of zombies and crazed villains.

In one of the latest episodes, a Christian cult led by a preacher named David quotes Scripture to justify their cannibalism.

David the preacher also attempts to rape the show’s main female character, Ellie, who is 14.

Other Twitter users commenting on Wilson’s tweet pointed out that the show changed the character of David from the video game, intentionally making him a preacher to bash Christianity.

“As SOON as the pastor started reading from the Bible I knew he was going to be awful. I was like ‘watch that guy be David the creepy cannibal from the video game.’ And then it was David. Shocked. Surprised. Never seen it before. He wasn’t a pastor in the video game,” one Twitter user responded. 

A Twitter user replying to Wilson’s tweet attacked Catholic priests, saying, “Hey maybe they could do a show about Catholic priests and all their fine work with children. Oh wait…” In response to this tweet, Catholic podcaster Patrick Neve said: “You read ‘anti Christian bias’ and thought he was asking for a demonstration.”

As one of TV’s best-known actors, Wilson’s comments came as a surprise to many who are used to Hollywood’s attacks on Christianity. Wilson is a member of the Baha’i faith and describes himself as a “spiritual being.”

“Defamation of Christianity has become the most unoriginal and tired cliches in movie/TV series storylines. Its prevalence is much more than a bias against an entire people, it is meant to undermine faith and position the secular-minded as only ones with altruistic intentions,” another user responded to Wilson’s tweet.

EWTN CEO Michael Warsaw: Catholic journalists called to be ‘truth tellers’

EWTN CEO Michael P. Warsaw delivers the keynote address at conclusion of “Journalism in a Post-Truth World,” a conference held March 10-11, 2023, at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., co-sponsored by EWTN News and Franciscan University of Steubenville. / Shannon Mullen/CNA

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Catholic journalists are “called to do our part to be truth tellers,” even in the face of rising intolerance toward religious belief, traditional moral values, and the very idea that objective truth even exists, EWTN CEO Michael P. Warsaw said Saturday.

The head of the world’s largest religious media network, which includes CNA and the National Catholic Register, Warsaw delivered the keynote address at the conclusion of “Journalism in a Post-Truth World,” a conference held March 10-11 at the Museum of the Bible co-sponsored by EWTN News and Franciscan University of Steubenville.

His speech, titled “Communicating the Truth in a Post-Truth World,” touched on the problem of “fake news,” the public’s fixation with “echo chamber” news outlets that pander to their audiences’ preconceived opinions in the interest of ratings and “clicks” rather than truth, and efforts by Big Tech and others to silence those who speak out against abortion, gender ideology, and other media-driven causes that promote a relativistic, secularized worldview.

“Post-truth,” Warsaw explained, quoting from the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” 

“As Catholics, all of this presents us with great challenges,” Warsaw said.

“Whether it is the spread of fake news itself, the increasing secularization of our culture, the growing skepticism with facts and data, the increasing hostility among cultural elites toward Catholicism and religion in general, the challenges to preaching the Gospel in this current age are massive,” he said.

“For EWTN and our news division in particular, these days have been particularly difficult,” Warsaw acknowledged.

“Balancing our love for the Church, our mission to preach the Gospel, and our duty to help bring light to the darkness by accurate and truthful reporting has brought us much criticism, even from the highest levels of the Church,” he said.

“We have been attacked from both the left and the right,” he said. “We have been denounced as reporting ‘fake news’ when we indeed reported facts. We have been criticized for pointing to centuries of doctrine and tradition when calling into question statements by prelates — and even cardinals — and conferences of bishops abroad,” he said.

‘Cover yourself with prayer’

A variety of journalists addressed these challenges in panel discussions held over the two-day conference.

In one of the panels March 10, Carl Cannon from RealClearPolitics, Mary Margaret Olohan from The Daily Signal, and Clemente Lisi, a former newspaper editor and current journalism professor at King’s College, discussed media bias and the need for objectivity in reporting.

On Saturday, religion reporter Lauren Green of Fox News; Jeremiah Poff, an education reporter for the Washington Examiner; and Teresa Tomeo, a Catholic talk show host, continued that theme.

“What you see in secular media, they try to create an unoffensive Jesus, a Jesus who’s just a teacher of love, not the Jesus who says, ‘I’m the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.’ They don’t like that Jesus,” Green said.

The secular media, she added, “are very comfortable with people who are ‘spiritually searching’ … as if to say you can’t find the truth out there … [but] very uncomfortable with people who say, ‘I have found that truth, and it’s Jesus.’”

Jeremiah Poff, a reporter with the Washington Examiner (right), speaks on March 11, 2023, at “Journalism in a Post-Truth World,” a conference held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., as Fox News' Lauren Green (left) looks on. Shannon Mullen/CNA
Jeremiah Poff, a reporter with the Washington Examiner (right), speaks on March 11, 2023, at “Journalism in a Post-Truth World,” a conference held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., as Fox News' Lauren Green (left) looks on. Shannon Mullen/CNA

The three panelists also discussed the importance of a strong faith while working in the news media.

Tomeo related how her Catholic values put her at odds with her news editors at the Detroit television station where she worked, who espoused the view that “if it bleeds it leads.” Ultimately, she lost her job, she said, but she wound up with a much better one, and a much larger platform.

“There will be sacrifices,” she said, but “God does reward you for being faithful.”

Her advice to journalists: “You need to cover yourself in prayer, and have others cover you in prayer, as well” because a newsroom can be a very “toxic” and stressful place, and often hostile to people with deeply held religious convictions.

Poff, a 2019 Franciscan University graduate, agreed, saying he makes a point of saying a daily rosary and attending Mass regularly. 

“I cover a lot of spiritually taxing issues. I cover gender identity issues in schools and I’ve gotten plenty of nasty emails and tweets because of the things I write about, and I don’t think I’d be able to endure it to the extent that I do if it weren’t for my faith,” he said.

‘We press on’

In his keynote address, Warsaw said while recent trends in journalism and the wider society can be discouraging, “we also know … that God created the human heart to seek after beauty, truth, and goodness. And that is what the Church has to offer in this moment, even when the Church herself has challenges.”

What such times demand, especially of Catholic journalists, are courage and fortitude, Warsaw said, as well as a commitment to the highest standards of ethical journalism.

As Catholics, we must remember “that we have science and reason on our side,” he said.

“As with both abortion and the transgender movement, biology, medicine, and common sense are some of our greatest tools to educate, inform, and open the eyes of an increasingly bewildered and confused culture,” Warsaw said. The EWTN CEO also encouraged his audience to find common ground and build alliances with “unlikely allies.”

“So, what do we do in the face of these adversities? We press on,” Warsaw said.

“In these challenging times, amid our post-truth society, we should not allow ourselves to despair or to be discouraged. And as Catholics we know that it is the Good News which will prevail,” he emphasized. 

“In the end, amidst all the challenges of social media platforms and information chains, there is the human heart, ever in need of conversion, conversion to live out the Truth,” Warsaw concluded. “As Catholics, we will always have on our side the natural authenticity and attractiveness of the Truth — the Truth who is Our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

PHOTOS: A look back at 10 years of Pope Francis’ participation in World Youth Days

Pope Francis greets World Youth Day pilgrims in Panama. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Boston, Mass., Mar 11, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

In the 10 years of his papacy, the Holy Father has exhorted young people at World Youth Days (WYD) to answer the Gospel call and accept Jesus into their hearts. 

Below are 10 times Pope Francis spoke to young people at the gathering and encouraged them to answer Jesus’ call to discipleship.

WYD 2013: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations!’

For Pope Francis’ first World Youth Day, he took a seven-day apostolic journey to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he addressed millions of attendees. The theme that year was “Go and make disciples of all nations!” from the Gospel of Matthew.

In his homily at the waterfront of Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis told the young people present to preach the Gospel to everyone.

“Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all; he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love,” the Holy Father said on July 28, 2013.

Pope Francis waves an Argentine flag during World Youth Day 2013.  Alex Mazzullo/JMJ Rio 2013 via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
Pope Francis waves an Argentine flag during World Youth Day 2013. Alex Mazzullo/JMJ Rio 2013 via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
Pope Francis listens to confessions on July 26, 2013 during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. ANSA/OSSERVATORE ROMANO/POOL.
Pope Francis listens to confessions on July 26, 2013 during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. ANSA/OSSERVATORE ROMANO/POOL.

WYD 2014: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’

World Youth Day held local diocesan celebrations on Palm Sunday in 2014 and the theme was “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” words from the beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew.

In his message to young people that year, the Holy Father exhorted young people to “have the courage to be happy.”

Pope Francis said: “Young people who choose Christ are strong: They are fed by his word and they do not need to ‘stuff themselves’ with other things! Have the courage to swim against the tide. Have the courage to be truly happy! Say no to an ephemeral, superficial, and throwaway culture, a culture that assumes that you are incapable of taking on responsibility and facing the great challenges of life!”

WYD 2015: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’

In his 2015 message to young people for World Youth Day, which the Church celebrated in local dioceses, Pope Francis said that the “greatest good” in life is a relationship with God. The theme was “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” words from the Gospel of Matthew.

Pope Francis asked: “Where is your treasure? In what does your heart find its rest?”

“Our hearts can be attached to true or false treasures; they can find genuine rest or they can simply slumber, becoming lazy and lethargic. The greatest good we can have in life is our relationship with God,” he said.

Pope Francis with two World Youth Day volunteers looks over St. Peter's Square July 26, 2015.  L'Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis with two World Youth Day volunteers looks over St. Peter's Square July 26, 2015. L'Osservatore Romano

WYD 2016: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’

In his apostolic journey to Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day 2016, Pope Francis’ theme was from the beatitudes again: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Hundreds of thousands of young people were in attendance.

In his homily for the July 31 Sunday Mass, Pope Francis encouraged young people to bring their sins to the sacrament of reconciliation.

Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Poland, July 2016.  Marcin Kadziolka/Shutterstock.
Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Poland, July 2016. Marcin Kadziolka/Shutterstock.

“Dear young friends, don’t be ashamed to bring everything to the Lord in confession, especially your weaknesses, your struggles, and your sins. He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace,” Pope Francis said.

“Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love, which also demands sacrifice. Say a firm ‘no’ to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort,” he said.

Pope Francis speaks to World Youth Day participants from the balcony of the bishop's palace in Krakow, July 27, 2016.  Mariusz Cygan/World Youth Day Krakow 2016 via Flickr.
Pope Francis speaks to World Youth Day participants from the balcony of the bishop's palace in Krakow, July 27, 2016. Mariusz Cygan/World Youth Day Krakow 2016 via Flickr.
Pope Francis at the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony in Krakow's Blonia Park, July 28, 2016.  Jesus Huerta/World Youth Day Krakow 2016 via Flickr.
Pope Francis at the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony in Krakow's Blonia Park, July 28, 2016. Jesus Huerta/World Youth Day Krakow 2016 via Flickr.

WYD 2017: ‘The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name’

Catholics around the world celebrated in their dioceses for World Youth Day 2017. The theme was “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name,” Mary’s words from the Gospel of Luke.

In his message to young people, Pope Francis hailed the Blessed Virgin Mary’s magnificat as a “revolutionary prayer” that helps young people understand God’s mercy.

“Mary’s is a revolutionary prayer, the song of a faith-filled young woman conscious of her limits, yet confident in God’s mercy,” he said.

“She gives thanks to God for looking upon her lowliness and for the work of salvation that he has brought about for the people, the poor and the humble. Faith is at the heart of Mary’s entire story. Her song helps us to understand the mercy of the Lord as the driving force of history, the history of each of us and of all humanity,” he said.

WYD 2018: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God’

In Pope Francis’ message to young people for World Youth Day 2018, he encouraged them to face their fears. The theme that year was “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God,” words from the Gospel of Luke.

“Do not be afraid to face your fears honestly, to recognize them for what they are and to come to terms with them,” he said in the message for World Youth Day, which was celebrated on the diocesan level.

“In the sacred Scriptures the expression ‘do not be afraid’ is repeated 365 times with different variations, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year,” he said.

WYD 2019: ‘I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word’

Pope Francis embarked on an apostolic journey to Panama for World Youth Day in 2019.

There he spoke to hundreds of thousands of young people in a Jan. 26 vigil at Campo San Juan Pablo II in the Metro Park area and exhorted them to have no fear to “embrace life as it is.”

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at World Youth Day in Panama City, Jan. 24, 2019.  Vatican Media.
Pope Francis greets pilgrims at World Youth Day in Panama City, Jan. 24, 2019. Vatican Media.

“To embrace life as it comes. It means embracing our country, our families, and our friends as they are, with all their weak points and their flaws. Embracing life is also seen in accepting things that are not perfect, pure, or ‘distilled,’ yet no less worthy of love,” he said.

“So, the first step is not to be afraid to welcome life as it comes, not to be afraid to embrace life as it is!” Pope Francis said.

The theme in 2019 was “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word,” Mary’s response at the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke.

Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Panama Jan. 26, 2019.  Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Panama Jan. 26, 2019. Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Pope Francis says Mass at Campo San Juan Pablo II for World Youth Day Panama Jan. 27, 2019.  Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Pope Francis says Mass at Campo San Juan Pablo II for World Youth Day Panama Jan. 27, 2019. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Pope Francis addresses young people during the World Youth Day vigil in Panama City, Jan. 26, 2019. Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Pope Francis addresses young people during the World Youth Day vigil in Panama City, Jan. 26, 2019. Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Pope Francis preaches at the Via Crucis during World Youth Day in Panama City, Jan. 25, 2019.  Jonah McKeown/CNA.
Pope Francis preaches at the Via Crucis during World Youth Day in Panama City, Jan. 25, 2019. Jonah McKeown/CNA.
Pope Francis with teens at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day 2019 in Panama. Vatican Media
Pope Francis with teens at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day 2019 in Panama. Vatican Media

WYD 2020: ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’

In 2020, the Church celebrated World Youth Day in local dioceses. The theme that year was from the Gospel of Luke’s seventh chapter: “Young man, I say to you, arise!”

In his message to young people that year, Pope Francis encouraged young people to be compassionate toward suffering people.

“May you always be attentive to the plea of those who are suffering and be moved by those who weep and die in today’s world,” he said.

“So many of your contemporaries are disadvantaged and victims of violence and persecution. Let their wounds become your own, and you will be bearers of hope in this world,” Pope Francis said.

WYD 2021: ‘Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen’

World Youth Day 2021 was celebrated on the local level for dioceses around the world. The theme for 2021 was “Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen,” the message that God spoke to St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles.

In his message to young people, Pope Francis pointed to the importance of humility.

“Such humility — the awareness of our limitations — is essential! Those who are convinced that they know everything about themselves, other persons, and even religious truths, will find it hard to encounter Christ,” he said.

“Saul, once blinded, lost his reference points. Alone in darkness, the only clear things were the light he saw and the voice he heard. How paradoxical! Only when we are blinded do we start to see!” Pope Francis said.

WYD 2022: ‘Mary arose and went with haste’

In 2022, Catholics around the world celebrated World Youth Day in their local dioceses. The theme for 2022 was “Mary arose and went with haste,” taken from the Gospel of Luke’s first chapter.

In his message to young people, Pope Francis explained Jesus’ saving love.

“You cannot save a person, you cannot save a situation, if you do not love it. Only that which is loved can be saved,” he said.

“For this reason we’re saved by Jesus, because he loves us and can’t go against his nature. We can do any number of things against him, yet he loves us and he saves us. Because only that which is loved can be saved,” he said.

Have you ever wondered what vegans give up for Lent?

null / Foxys Forest Manufacture/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Mar 11, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Vegans are individuals who follow a diet in which they abstain from eating any animal products. This means they do not eat meat, eggs, dairy products, or any other products of animal origin. Essentially, they follow a plant-based diet.

During Lent, Catholics are called to abstain from eating meat on Fridays and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. But what is Lent like if you are Catholic and vegan?

KellyAnn Carpentier, 45, a historian and writer from New Haven, Connecticut, and Kailtin Essig, 25, a manager of a coffee shop in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, are both Catholic vegans. In an interview with CNA, they shared their experiences of being a Catholic while following a vegan lifestyle. 

Carpentier said that the decision to become vegan “was made after a considerable amount of prayer and contemplation. First and foremost, I had to make the lifestyle change for the right reasons.”

Essig echoed that “it was something I discerned on my own.”

How then does fasting and abstaining from certain foods impact this lifestyle?

“I was advised that I should take supplements if necessary to ensure that I am maintaining proper nutritional levels and that I should ensure that I consume enough of the appropriate [vegan] proteins,” Carpentier said about advice she received from a priest. 

She added: “As for fasting, I should not attempt to exceed what my body can handle. If, at any time, I become the slightest bit unwell during a [food-oriented] fast, I need to stop immediately and fast from something else.”

So, what do they give up for Lent? 

“Essentially, I do away with luxuries for the duration of Lent,” Carpentier said. 

“There are a plethora of vegan versions of mainstream items such as baked goods and ice cream. I abstain from these types of items all together, which is quite penitential given my sweet tooth,” she explained. “It requires you to be very disciplined and intentional not to seek out such items or to have the luxury of a cup of [vegan] hot cocoa.” 

Essig said that she abstains from “mock meats.” 

“I feel it is comparable to what Fridays were like before I was vegan,” she said. “Since mock meats are a treat and not a staple in my diet, I usually also abstain from all drinks except water so that I actually notice something is missing.”

While there are no official Church teachings on veganism, there are certain religious communities that will follow something similar to veganism as part of their way of life or during penitential seasons. Monastic orders such as the Carthusians and Cistercians follow a pescatarian diet, while Carmelites follow a vegetarian diet. 

Both women shared similar hardships that come with being vegan when interacting with those who are non-vegan. 

Essig shared her experience being teased at times or receiving negative remarks, while Carpentier has received comments from people that it is “extreme, radical, unnecessary, irrational, and something that they would never do.”

“While some family members try to accommodate me, it is not as easy for them and can be a source of frustration because they are sincere in their attempts to follow along,” Carpentier said. “In those moments, my heart is filled with compassion because they are trying so hard, but it results in being more of a challenge than anticipated.” 

Essig added: “There are definitely sacrificial and religious aspects to this lifestyle.”

The article was originally published on CNA on April 9, 2022, and was updated on March 10, 2023.

Journalists at EWTN/Franciscan conference discuss media bias in the internet age 

null / Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Pix4free

Washington D.C., Mar 10, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

“What is the nature of journalism? What are we getting right and what are we getting wrong?” Father Dave Pivonka, the president of Franciscan University, inquired during the opening speech at a conference jointly hosted by EWTN News and Franciscan University Friday.

Three speakers who work in the journalism industry — Carl Cannon from RealClearPolitics, Mary Margaret Olohan from The Daily Signal, and Clemente Lisi, a former newspaper editor and current journalism professor at King’s College — delved into those questions in a Friday morning panel discussion. The conference is being held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., from Friday, March 10 through Saturday, March 11. 

The event is open to the public. Those interested can register to attend in person or livestream the event here

Cannon, who has worked in journalism for more than 40 years, said when he first got into the industry, many reporters tried to write in a way that would interest Republicans, Democrats, and independents so “they’ll all want to read you.” At the time, he noted, newspapers made a lot of their money from advertisements that targeted a broad ideological audience.

“This ethos of being objective — it wasn’t just good citizenship,” Cannon said. “It was good business.”

As the news industry shifted toward the internet, Cannon noted, advertisements became more targeted and a lot of newspapers began to sell online subscriptions. If a news outlet failed to toe an ideological line, he said subscribers would “rant and rave and cancel their subscriptions. People wanted the culture war stuff: the slogans, instead of information.” 

“If you give people what they think they want, that might work economically,” Cannon added, “but that isn’t journalism.”

Lisi echoed many of Cannon’s concerns, saying “if you tell your audience [something] they don’t want to hear, they’re going to go somewhere else.” Along with the incentive structure, he said students are being taught activism and “they go into journalism because they want to be activists.” For these reasons, he said the “fly on the wall mindset [is] going away.” 

“They think this is the right way and the wrong way,” Lisi said. “It’s hard to put people in your story if you think they’re evil.”

Olohan noted that the bias in “mainstream outlets” all shifts one way because “the media is very ideologically bent.” She said mainstream outlets have taken sides on disputed topics, such as transgenderism, the right to worship, and abortion.

When speaking about the reporting on pro-life bills that ban abortion once a heartbeat can be detected, Olohan said, “you won’t see the word heart, you won’t see the word baby, [and] you won’t even see the word mother” even though “abortion ends the life of a human child.” She added: “That is activist reporting right there.”

On transgender issues, Olohan said media outlets will frame legislation as “an anti-trans bill” or as a “bill targeting transgender youth” while “not giving us all the information.” 

“You can literally get your outlet kicked off of a platform [if you do not use] the language of the regime,” Olohan added in reference to preferred gender pronouns.

All three panelists argued that journalists need to put more effort into presenting the news more objectively and ensuring more diversity of thought in their newsrooms and in their articles. 

“A journalist should be someone who sheds light on the truth ... in the most dignified and objective way possible,” Olohan said.

Lisi suggested a lot of people still want objective reporting and noted that the standard might change with the growth of nonprofit reporting. 

“It may boomerang back,” he said. 

Cannon argued that a diversity of opinion within the newsroom “would solve a lot of these problems” and suggested that nonprofit news outlets “have to get sponsors from both sides.” He said sponsors “should support journalism even that they don’t agree with.”

Although Cannon acknowledged that objectivity can be difficult, he reminded attendees of some of the difficult things Christ called on his followers to do, such as loving one’s enemies. 

“If we can aspire to that, we can aspire to objectivity,” Cannon said.