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‘Follow me:’ How John Paul II and Benedict XVI led a Catholic back to the faith

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- “Follow me.”

Angelo Ciappelloni heard those words while he stood in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo on April 8, 2005.

With hundreds of thousands of people in the Eternal City, and millions more around the world, he was watching the Requiem Mass of Pope John Paul II.

“‘Follow me’ – this lapidary saying of Christ can be taken as the key to understanding the message which comes to us from the life of our late beloved Pope John Paul II,” then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in his homily from St. Peter’s Square.

“I was so touched by the profundity and, at the same time, the simplicity of the words,” Ciappelloni said.

“And from there I started down the right path.”

In fact, Ciappelloni’s return to the Catholic faith had its beginning some days prior, on the day of St. John Paul II’s death, he told CNA.

At the beginning of 2005, Ciappelloni, then 47 years old, thought he was “missing nothing” in his life, from a material point of view, he said.

“I had work, a house, friends, loved ones… but nothing that gave me meaning.”

Like many Italians, Ciappelloni had grown up Catholic, but he had abandoned the sacraments and the faith. He had no disrespect for the Catholic Church, but the faith did not interest him, he explained.

“I was not participating in the life of the Church.”

“Among other things, I was also using light narcotics, and I was living a fun life, going out, dancing at clubs with friends, and living a libertine life from the sexual perspective,” he stated. “But I was not content, I was not happy. I did not feel peaceful, calm.”

And then, he said, Pope John Paul II fell ill. Ciappelloni was surprised to find himself paying attention.

“The illness of Pope John Paul II upset me greatly, because I was 20 years old when he became pope, and so he was, a little bit, the pope of my youth.”

“Living in Rome in the last period of his life and seeing on television that this pope was suffering moved me a lot.”

Then, the news came that the pope had died.

“When I heard the news, when they gave the news that he had died... I burst into tears,” Ciappelloni recounted, adding that his unexpected tears at the death of the pope touched him.

He said, “there was already something that was happening [inside of me].”

A salesman at a clothing store, Ciappelloni returned to his life and work. One evening that first week of April, he was riding his bicycle home from work, when he passed the Church of Santa Maria in Via Lata in the center of Rome.

Inside a group of religious sisters were holding Eucharistic adoration. “That evening, as I was passing the church, I felt the need to stop,” Ciappelloni recalled. “I locked up my bicycle, entered the church – it had been years since I had entered a church – I got on my knees because there was the Blessed Sacrament, and I burst into tears.”

“From one day to the next I changed my life.”

He said he returned to the sacrament of reconciliation, started going to Mass, and began praying, something he said he had not done for nearly four decades.

“It was something I could not resist, because even if I didn’t understand exactly what had happened, I understood that it was a good thing,” Ciappelloni said.

After visiting the body of John Paul II laid out in state in St. Peter’s Basilica, Ciappelloni saw a rare shooting star in the night sky. He said it felt like another sign to him.

“I can say with certainty that St. John Paul II practically took me, brought me, grabbed me by the hand and placed me in the arms of Christ and in the arms of the Church,” he reflected.

Then, at the funeral Mass, he heard Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, speak for the first time.

Soon after, he signed up for a three-year weekly theology course for lay people.

“Let’s say that if John Paul II brought me inside the Church, Pope Benedict XVI made me fall in love with the Word of God,” Ciappelloni explained. “He helped me a lot, because his teachings were clear, logical, with a coherence of life…simply living as a Christian, a Catholic.”

“And then with attendance at Church for some time, with Pope Francis I understood the mercy of God.”

He remembers his old life, he said, but he knows he belongs in the Church. Thinking of his old life, he told CNA: “I haven’t thought once about going back.”

 

Saint Marianne Cope

Photograph of Mother Marianne Cope | anonymous
Image: Photograph of Mother Marianne Cope | anonymous

Saint Marianne Cope

Saint of the Day for January 23

(January 23, 1838 – August 9, 1918)

Saint Marianne Cope’s Story

Though leprosy scared off most people in 19th-century Hawaii, that disease sparked great generosity in the woman who came to be known as Mother Marianne of Molokai. Her courage helped tremendously to improve the lives of its victims in Hawaii, a territory annexed to the United States during her lifetime (1898).

Mother Marianne’s generosity and courage were celebrated at her May 14, 2005, beatification in Rome. She was a woman who spoke “the language of truth and love” to the world, said Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. Cardinal Martins, who presided at the beatification Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, called her life “a wonderful work of divine grace.” Speaking of her special love for persons suffering from leprosy, he said, “She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus. Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother.”

On January 23, 1838, a daughter was born to Peter and Barbara Cope of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany. The girl was named after her mother. Two years later the Cope family emigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York. Young Barbara worked in a factory until August 1862, when she went to the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York. After profession in November of the next year, she began teaching at Assumption parish school.

Marianne held the post of superior in several places and was twice the novice mistress of her congregation. A natural leader, three different times she was superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, where she learned much that would be useful during her years in Hawaii.

Elected provincial in 1877, Mother Marianne was unanimously re-elected in 1881. Two years later the Hawaiian government was searching for someone to run the Kakaako Receiving Station for people suspected of having leprosy. More than 50 religious communities in the United States and Canada were asked. When the request was put to the Syracuse sisters, 35 of them volunteered immediately. On October 22, 1883, Mother Marianne and six other sisters left for Hawaii where they took charge of the Kakaako Receiving Station outside Honolulu; on the island of Maui they also opened a hospital and a school for girls.

In 1888, Mother Marianne and two sisters went to Molokai to open a home for “unprotected women and girls” there. The Hawaiian government was quite hesitant to send women for this difficult assignment; they need not have worried about Mother Marianne! On Molokai she took charge of the home that Saint Damien de Veuster had established for men and boys. Mother Marianne changed life on Molokai by introducing cleanliness, pride, and fun to the colony. Bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women were part of her approach.

Awarded the Royal Order of Kapiolani by the Hawaiian government and celebrated in a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mother Marianne continued her work faithfully. Her sisters have attracted vocations among the Hawaiian people and still work on Molokai.

Mother Marianne died on August 9, 1918 and was beatified in 2005 and canonized seven years later.


Reflection

The government authorities were reluctant to allow Mother Marianne to be a mother on Molokai. Thirty years of dedication proved their fears unfounded. God grants gifts regardless of human shortsightedness and allows those gifts to flower for the sake of the kingdom.


Click here for more on Saint Marianne Cope and 13 other saints inspired by Francis of Assisi!


Faith and Family

The post Saint Marianne Cope appeared first on Franciscan Media.

Minnesota abuse survivors to speak at 'restorative justice' conference

St. Paul, Minn., Jan 22, 2020 / 09:05 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is set to open a conference for survivors of clerical sexual abuse on Thursday, with the goal of bringing healing and “restorative justice” to survivors.

The archdiocese, in conjunction with the Office of the Ramsey County Attorney, is set to open the first annual Restorative Justice and Reconciliation Conference Jan. 23.

The conference will include presentations from key figures in the archdiocese, including Archbishop Bernard Hebda, alongside the Minnesota director of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, who will discuss how the Church has responded to cases of sexual abuse in the past five years, according to diocesan outreach coordinator Paula Kaempffer.

Kaempffer, herself a survivor of clergy abuse, told CNA that as of Wednesday organizers expect at least 82 attendees, and the conference is open to the public.

In addition to the presentations, there is set to be a 5-person panel of the survivors of sexual abuse, who will take questions from the audience.

Kaempffer, as emcee of the conference, told CNA that she plans to ask the panelists first: "What has been the effect of clergy sexual abuse on your life?" and secondly "What steps have you taken to heal from this trauma?"

Gina Barthel, a hospice nurse and victim-survivor of clerical sexual abuse, is set to be one of the panelists.

“I hope that anyone in the Church who has felt the great sorrow and pain and impact of clergy abuse would be encouraged to attend this event, so they can see where the Church is, at least in our archdiocese today, and see how much we've grown and changed and are promoting a culture that is victim-friendly, and also that is really working hard to prevent further clergy abuse," Barthel told CNA in an interview Wednesday.

Barthel said she has seen marked improvement in the archdiocese’ response to abuse cases since she first came forward with her story of abuse in 2007.

"Initially, when I came forward back in 2007, the archdiocese at that time did a horrible job. And it caused me greater pain than healing, and was very, very frustrating,” Barthel told CNA.

“And so the beauty is, now, that same office is staffed with people who are very competent, intelligent, caring, and really working to help bring victims to healing, which is very beautiful."

Barthel said that the archdiocesan safe environment office, in contrast to 2007, is today very victim-survivor focused. She said when she originally came forward, it seemed that the office was focused on protecting the Church, rather than helping survivors.

With the current administration, she said, she never gets the feeling that they're trying unfairly to protect or defend the Church, nor give “lip service” to survivors. 

"It's often the case that the victims are the ones that end up suffering more if they come forward. And with the current administration in our archdiocese, I think that's just not the case,” Barthel said.

“They want you to come forward, they want you to share your story, and they're going to walk with you through that journey. And that's really powerful as a victim, because we don't always experience that. And that's just very beautiful."

Barthel said one of the first people she called to tell about her story of abuse was the mother superior of the religious community she was a part of at the time.

"Her immediate response, the first words off of her lips were 'I believe you,'" Barthel recalled.

"And for a victim, I think that's very healing and affirming. Let the victim of any type of abuse know that you believe them. Make sure, especially for clergy, I think it's important for clergy to recognize that they're not therapists. And to make sure that they help direct the person to get professional therapeutic help as well."

Barthel has previously told CNA about the help offered her by Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who first met with Barthel in 2014 after she contacted him telling him she was a victim of clerical abuse and asking to meet with him.

Barthel said the main thing that Bishop Cozzens did right was that he listened.

"I think what he did right was first, he listened. He believed me, he listened,” she said.

“And he has been very patient in walking with my journey back to living a life of faith, and that's been really helpful because I've never felt pressured.”

She also said the most comforting thing Cozzens often would say to her is “Jesus understands.”

“And so when I'm struggling— and living the life of faith sometimes is difficult for me— his response will be 'Jesus understands.' And that's always been very freeing for me, actually, and healing," she said.

Barthel said she hopes to be able to give advice and support to fellow victim-survivors at the conference, especially if they have not yet managed to tell the Church or law enforcement about their abuse.

"The very first thing that I tell people is that I believe them," Barthel advised.

"Because it's not my place to try and find out if they're telling the truth or not. So the very first thing I do is to tell them that I believe them, and to reassure them that they're not alone.”

She said she will then encourage the person to go to the police, offering to go with them if they don't feel comfortable. She said she will also offer to reach out to the Archdiocesan Victim Advocate Office, again offering to go with them.

“In addition to that, I encourage them to find a therapist, and if they need that we have resources in our diocese for finding therapists that work with victims," she said.

Despite the improvements in the Church’s response in Minnesota that Barthel has witnessed, she remains critical of the response in many areas of the Church to sexual abuse of adults by clergy— which is what happened to her.

Barthel was abused by a now-laicized priest as an adult, in the context of a spiritual direction relationship. Her abuser, Jim Montanaro— who admitted to abusing other adult women— is now working as a photographer in Massachusetts.

"Where I think the Church in our archdiocese and across the world is failing is how we deal with victims who are adults who have been abused,” Barthel said.

“With a child, it's always very clear-cut that it's illegal, and it's immoral, and it's wrong. With an adult, in not every state is it illegal for a priest to have sexual relations with an adult."

His former religious order, the Oblates of the Blessed Virgin Mary, have declined to name Montanaro as a sexual abuser. Barthel worries that he remains a risk to women.

“It seems that his religious community that he was a part of has a moral obligation, an ethical obligation, to make that public for the good of society, not just for the good of the Church, but for the good of society.”

By the time Barthel had mustered the courage to go to the police with her abuse story, she missed the statute of limitations by less than a month.

"In my case, the only way that it was able to be made public was by my voice, and that doesn't seem right to me...If there's no criminal charges, then the person's name will never be made public, unless the Church does the right thing and makes it public,” she said.
Barthel emphasized the importance of victim-survivors supporting each other.

"Walking with a victim of abuse, any type of abuse, is not for the faint of heart. There's lots of challenges that go along with that, and having good boundaries for someone who's been abused is very important," she advised.

In addition to the speakers, the Restorative Justice and Reconciliation Conference is also set to include “healing circles,” in which participants sit at round tables and speak, one at a time, on a prompt offered by a moderator.

Often times, Barthel said, the leader will ask a single question, such as "What has been the effect of clergy sexual abuse on your life?" and each participant will answer without interruption or discussion.

Barthel said the wide range of participants, all in different stages of healing, make the experience of healing circles, for her, “actually very powerful and very beautiful.”

"We're all together in our pain, but we can be together in our healing as well," she commented.

Barthel said beyond the networks of friends and supporters who have helped her along her journey of healing, a huge part of her recovery— in her words, 90%— has been accomplished through time spent in Adoration.

"The large majority of my healing, especially the deep spiritual healing that I needed...the deepest healing has just come from sitting with Jesus in adoration, in the silence, and having conversations with Him, just in my heart, heart-to-heart with Him,” she said.

“Mostly just sitting in the silence and letting the power of the Eucharist and His presence in the Eucharist heal and transform my wounded heart."

 

Survey finds significant 'pro-choice' support for abortion regulations

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Americans favor returning abortion restrictions to the states, favor a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and are favorable to voting for politicians who would restrict abortion. This is according to a survey that finds unexpected support for these policies among those who self-identify as pro-choice.

The results come from a January 2020 Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the U.S.

The survey weighs American opinion as observers speculate the U.S. Supreme Court will revisit the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and other precedents mandating legal abortion nationwide.

“Most Americans want the court to reinterpret Roe either by stopping legalized abortion or by returning the issue to the states,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said Jan. 22.

According to the survey, 55% of Americans back a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 45% of pro-choice respondents backed such a ban, as did 69% of self-identified pro-life respondents.

41% of respondents who identified as pro-choice said they are more likely to vote for candidates who support abortion restrictions. More than 90% of those who identified as pro-life said the same.

Anderson said the support for abortion restrictions among pro-choice Americans “shows how misleading it is to conflate the term ‘pro-choice’ with support for radically pro-abortion position that calls for unrestricted abortion.”

About 65% of respondents said they are more likely to vote for candidates who would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy, at most. Broken down by party affiliation, 88% of Republicans, 62% of unaffiliated voters, and 44% of Democrats said this.

At the same time, the survey indicated that 55% of Americans self-identify as pro-choice, while 40% identify as pro-life.

The survey indicated Americans would be favorable to changes in the abortion status quo if the Supreme Court revisits Roe v. Wade: 46% of respondents said the Supreme Court should allow states to determine abortion restrictions. Another 16% wanted the high court to make abortion illegal, while 33% said the court should allow unrestricted legal abortion at any time in pregnancy.

When considering voter dedication to their views of abortion and legal protections for unborn children, “intensity is stronger on the pro-life side,” the Knights of Columbus summary of the survey said. About 45% of self-identified pro-life respondents said abortion is a “major factor” in their vote for president, compared to 35% of self-identified pro-choice respondents.

Asked if laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child, 80% of respondents said they could.

An “overwhelming majority” of respondents, 75% vs. 21%, opposed taxpayer funding of abortion overseas. About 60% oppose taxpayer funding of abortion in the U.S. Another 52% of Americans back requiring ultrasounds for women before they have abortions.

The Marist Poll survey of 1,237 adults was conducted Jan. 7 to Jan. 12. It claims a statistical significance of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. Among the 1,070 registered voters who responded, the survey claims statistical significance of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

President Donald Trump to attend March for Life on Friday 

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 04:53 pm (CNA).- U.S. President Donald Trump will address the national March for Life in person on Friday, making him the first president in the event’s 47-year history to do so, organizers announced.

“See you on Friday...Big Crowd!” the president said Wednesday in a retweet of a video from last year’s march, posted by the national March for Life account.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said in a statement that the organizers of the Washington, D.C., event are “deeply honored” to welcome Trump to the march.

“He will be the first president in history to attend and we are so excited for him to experience in person how passionate our marchers are about life and protecting the unborn,” she said.

She also praised the efforts Trump and his administration have made in increasing legal protections for the unborn.

“From the appointment of pro-life judges and federal workers, to cutting taxpayer funding for abortions here and abroad, to calling for an end to late-term abortions, President Trump and his Administration have been consistent champions for life and their support for the March for Life has been unwavering,” Mancini said. “We are grateful for all these pro-life accomplishments and look forward to gaining more victories for life in the future.”

Many of Trump’s pro-life policies - such as the restoration and expansion of the Mexico City Policy, which bars U.S. aid to foreign organizations that perform or promote abortions as a means of family planning - have been praised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, while his crackdowns on immigration have frequently drawn criticism from the bishops.

Other political speakers at the March for Life this year will include First Lady of Louisiana Donna Hutto Edwards, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), state senator Katrina Jackson (D-LA), and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).

While Trump will be the first U.S. president to address the March in person, President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush also delivered messages to the March for Life remotely via telephone in previous years.

In his 2004 message, Bush thanked the marchers for their “devotion to such a noble cause” and encouraged them to “continue with civility and respect to remind our fellow citizens that all life is sacred and worthy of protection,” the New York Times reported.

In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence became the highest-ranking politician to address the March for Life in person. He encouraged attendees to let the pro-life movement be known “for love, not anger...let it be known for compassion, not confrontation.”

In 2018, U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan spoke at the March for Life while President Trump addressed attendees of the march via a videocast from the White House Rose Garden.

Last year, Trump also addressed the March via a pre-recorded message, which was introduced in person by Vice President Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence.

“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child we see the beauty of the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation, we know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting,” the president said last year. “I will always protect the first right in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life.”

US bishops speak up on school choice as Supreme Court hears case

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- States should not deny tax credit programs to families who choose religious private schools, said members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case addressing the issue of school choice.

“The case before the Supreme Court today concerns whether the Constitution offers states a license to discriminate against religion,” said Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, head of the Committee on Catholic Education.

“Our country’s tradition of non-establishment of religion does not mean that governments can deny otherwise available benefits on the basis of religious status,” they said in a Jan. 22 statement.

“Indeed, religious persons and organizations should, like everyone else, be allowed to participate in government programs that are open to all. This is an issue of justice for people of all faith communities.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Kendra Espinoza, a mother of two daughters attending a Christian school in Kalispell, Montana, is the lead plaintiff in the case.

An 1889 amendment to the Montana state constitution, known as a Blaine Amendment, prohibits both direct and indirect state aid to religious institutions. The amendment was passed a second time when the state constitution was revised and rewritten in 1972.

The Montana Supreme Court originally decided the case 5-2 during late 2018.

That ruling found that the state’s tax credit program, which began in 2015 and provided for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for a person’s donation to nonprofit student scholarship organizations, was allowing the Montana legislature to “indirectly pay tuition at private, religiously-affiliated schools” in violation of state law.

The Supreme Court granted cert to the case June 28, 2019.

Montana is just one of 38 states with similar “no-aid” provisions in its constitution, NPR reports.

So-called Blaine Amendments have their roots in anti-Catholic sentiment of the late 19th century, according to historians and religious liberty advocates.

In the years following the Civil War, there was widespread suspicion and even open hostility toward Catholics in the U.S., especially toward immigrant Catholic populations from Europe.

Public schools at the time were largely Protestant, with no single Christian denomination in charge, and many Catholics attended parochial schools which were seen as “sectarian” by prominent public figures, historian John T. McGreevy explained in his book “Catholicism and American Freedom.”

Public figures, he notes, including one current and one future U.S. president at the time, pushed against taxpayer funding of Catholic schools and even advocated for an increase in the taxation of Catholic Church property in the U.S.

President Ulysses S. Grant pushed for a 1875 federal amendment by Sen. James Blaine of Maine that prohibited taxpayer funding of “sectarian” schools – the original “Blaine Amendment.” It failed in the Senate, but the federal amendment took form at the state level and many states eventually passed versions of the bill barring state funding of Catholic schools.

In the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision Mitchell v. Helms, a four-justice plurality insisted that the Blaine Amendment’s motive to deny public funding of “sectarian” institutions was bigoted, particularly against Catholics. The court ruled that a religious school could receive a federal grant under certain conditions.

In 2017, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer that a church property couldn’t be barred from a state renovation program simply on account of its religious affiliation.

“This case [Espinoza] is not only about constitutional law. It is about whether our nation will continue to tolerate this strain of anti-Catholic bigotry,” the bishops continued.

“Blaine Amendments...were never meant to ensure government neutrality towards religion, but were expressions of hostility toward the Catholic Church. We hope that the Supreme Court will take this opportunity to bring an end to this shameful legacy.”

The Second Vatican Council's 1965 declaration on Christian education, Gravissimum educationis, said that parents “must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools.”

“Consequently, the public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children,” the document states.

President Donald Trump on Jan. 16 issued new rules for nine federal agencies. The rules seek to ensure that federal government social service programs are administered in line with the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, so that religious groups are not barred simply on account of their religious status.

The National Catholic Educational Association, which includes more than 150,000 educators serving 1.9 million Catholic school students across the U.S., is supportive of a proposed plan to create a federal tax credit-based scholarship program that could provide a boost for parents who want to send their children to Catholic school. The proposed scheme, which the U.S. Department of Education calls Education Freedom Scholarships, would be funded through taxpayers’ voluntary contributions to state-identified Scholarship Granting Organizations.

Should the proposal become law, donors will receive a federal tax credit equal to their contribution.