5 faith facts on Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch

By Kimberly Winston

(RNS) President Donald Trump has announced Neil Gorsuch of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as his Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last February.

Here are five faith facts about Gorsuch:

1. Gorsuch, 49, now attends an Episcopal church, but he attended Catholic schools.

He studied at the Jesuit-run Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Md., while his mother, Anne Gorsuch, served as President Ronald Reagan’s administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. After college and law school at Columbia and Harvard respectively, Gorsuch clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is Catholic. Gorsuch, his wife and two daughters attend St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder, Colo.

2. Gorsuch has supported religious groups against the U.S. government.

Two major religious liberty cases wound up before Denver’s 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, where Gorsuch has served since 2006: The Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell and Hobby Lobby v. Burwell. In both cases, religious organizations — a Catholic order of nuns and the evangelical owners of a craft store chain — sought exemptions from providing birth control under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. “All of us face the problem of complicity,” he wrote in support of Hobby Lobby. Government should not force those with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to comply with “conduct their religion teaches them to be gravely wrong.” The Supreme Court agreed in a 5-4 decision in 2014.  CONTINUE READING

Global Anglican Church Leaders wade in on US immigration row

By David Virtue

In an urgent message to Anglicans in North America, ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach called for prayer for immigrants, refugees and for government leaders as they make decisions about how to deal with a global problem where answers are few and problems are many.

“As a province that spans Canada, the United States, and Mexico we face unique challenges on issues affecting refugees and immigration. I am thankful for our congregations that are a part of the Anglican Immigrant Initiative. They have taken the lead in caring for those in our communities who are refugees and immigrants, showing the love of Christ to the most vulnerable.”

The Archbishop called on Anglicans to make a special effort to reach out to refugees and immigrants in their local communities. “In these divisive times, we have the opportunity to demonstrate a compassion that builds bridges, and overcomes fear.

“In our province we also have lawmakers who face a different, but related set of challenging moral issues. As public servants, they are called to carefully discern how best to respond to the global humanitarian need while also maintaining the appropriate role of government in protecting its citizens. There are no easy answers to how our nations should balance these priorities, and our leaders need your prayers.” CONTINUE READING

Thousands of Priests Worldwide Call for Clarification of Amoris Laetitia

By Edward Pentin

Confraternities representing thousands of priests from around the world have said a clarification of Amoris Laetitia is “clearly needed” in the wake of “widespread” differing interpretations of the apostolic exhortation.

In a statement published Feb. 1, the International Confraternities of Catholic Clergy write that “an authoritative interpretation” of Amoris Laetitia, in line with the constant teaching and practice of the Church, would be of “great value” in light of “continuing widespread divergence of understanding and growing divisions in practice.”

They also thank the four cardinals who last year sent Pope Francis the dubia — five questions aimed at obtaining such clarification, arguing that such action “is clearly needed to correct the misuse of the Apostolic Exhortation to undermine sacred Tradition.”

Since it was published in April last year, the Pope’s summary document on the Synods on the Family has elicited widely varying interpretations, some of which have been criticized as erroneous and representing a rupture with Church teaching. The most contentious of these concerns whether some civilly remarried divorcees not living in continence can receive Holy Communion after a period of discernment. CONTINUE READING

St. Ignatius, M

SAINT IGNATIUS of ANTIOCH
Bishop and Martyr
(†107)

Saint Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was the disciple of Saint John the Evangelist. Believing that the Church on earth should resemble that of the heavenly Jerusalem of which Saint John wrote in his Apocalypse, he established singing in choirs in his church at Antioch, after a vision of the celestial choirs who sang in that manner. When the emperor Domitian persecuted the Church, Saint Ignatius obtained peace for his own flock by fasting and prayer, although for his own part he desired to suffer with Christ, and to prove himself a perfect disciple.


The Roman emperors often visited Antioch, one of the cities of first importance of the empire. In 107, the eighth year of the reign of the emperor Trajan, he came to Antioch and forced the Christians to choose between apostasy and death. Saint Ignatius, who had already governed that church for forty years, continued to fortify it against apostasy, and did not flee. Arrested and brought before the emperor, the latter addressed him: “Who are you, poor devil, to set our commands at naught?” “Call not poor devil,” Ignatius answered, “one who bears God within him.” And when the emperor asked him what he meant by that, Ignatius explained that he bore in his heart Christ, crucified for his sake. “Change your ideas, and I will make you a priest of the great Jupiter, and you will be called ‘father’ by the Senate.” “What could such honors matter to me, a priest of Christ, who offer Him every day a sacrifice of praise, and am ready to offer myself to Him also?” “To whom? To that Jesus who was crucified by Pontius Pilate?” “Yes, and with whom sin was crucified, and the devil, its author, vanquished.”

The questions and the courageous replies continued for a time that day and also on the following one. Saint Ignatius said, “I will not sacrifice; I fear neither torments nor death, because I desire to go quickly to God.” Thereupon the emperor condemned him to be torn to pieces by wild beasts in Rome. Saint Ignatius blessed God, who had so honored him, “binding him in the same chains as Paul, His apostle.” When his people wept, he told them to place their hope in the sovereign Pastor, who never abandons His flock. On passing through the city of Smyrna, he exhorted the faithful, who were grieved at his fate, to remain true to Christ until death, and he gave some of them who were going to Rome a letter for the Christians of the capital of the Christian world. This letter is still extant. He writes: “I fear your charity, I fear you have an affection too human for me. You might prevent me from dying, but by so doing, you would oppose my happiness. Suffer me to be immolated while the altar is ready; give thanks to God… If when I arrive among you I should have the weakness to seem to have other sentiments, do not believe me; believe only what I am writing to you now.” This letter of Saint Ignatius has encouraged all generations of Christians in their combats.

He journeyed to Rome, guarded by soldiers, and with no fear but of losing the martyr’s crown. Three of his disciples, who accompanied him and were eyewitnesses of the spectacle, wrote the acts of his martyrdom: His face shining with joy, he reassured them as the lions were released, saying: “I am the wheat of Christ, I will be ground by the teeth of the beasts and made into flour to be a good bread for my Lord Jesus Christ!” He was devoured by lions in the Roman amphitheater. The wild beasts left nothing of his body except a few bones, which were reverently treasured at Antioch until their removal in the year 637 to the Church of Saint Clement in Rome. After the martyr’s death, several Christians saw him in vision, in prayer to Christ, and interceding for them.

Reflection. Ask Saint Ignatius to obtain for you the grace of profiting by all you have to suffer, and rejoicing in it as a means of likeness to your crucified Redeemer.

NYTimes: Trump creating Christian theocracy; Bishops: Trump against Christian faith

By Carl E. Olson, CWR

The New York Times and the U.S. bishops appear to have very different understandings of President Trump’s motivations, but do seem to arrive at an equally negative conclusion. First, here is Times’ editor David Leonhardt’s take, titled “Trump Flirts With Theocracy”:

Let’s not mince words. President Trump’s recent actions are an attempt to move the United States away from being the religiously free country that the founders created — and toward becoming an aggressively Christian country hostile to other religions. … On Friday afternoon, of course, Trump signed an executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States. It was his way of making good on a campaign promise to ban Muslims from the country.

The order also said it would eventually give priority to religious minorities from these countries. And if anyone doubted who that meant, Trump gave an interview Friday to the Christian Broadcasting Network, explaining that its goal was indeed to help Christians. Fortunately, many Christian leaders are opposing the policy.

I expect that Trump’s attempts to undermine the First Amendment will ultimately fail. But they’re not guaranteed to fail. He is the president, and he has tremendous power.

The attempts will fail only if Americans work to defeat the White House’s flirtations with theocracy — as so many people began to do this weekend. This passionate, creative opposition may help explain Trump’s weakening of the ban on Sunday. Yet the struggle to defend American values is clearly going to be a long and difficult one.

The USCCB has now released a joint statement, signed by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB, which states in part:

The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice. The Second Vatican Council in Nostra Aetate urged us to sincerely work toward a mutual understanding that would “promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.” The Church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors.

The refugees fleeing from ISIS and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom. Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors. They stand firm in their faith. Many are families, no different from yours or mine, seeking safety and security for their children. Our nation should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil. We must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm, but we must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends.

The Lord Jesus fled the tyranny of Herod, was falsely accused and then deserted by his friends. He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk. 9:58). Welcoming the stranger and those in flight is not one option among many in the Christian life. It is the very form of Christianity itself. Our actions must remind people of Jesus. The actions of our government must remind people of basic humanity. Where our brothers and sisters suffer rejection and abandonment we will lift our voice on their behalf. We will welcome them and receive them. They are Jesus and the Church will not turn away from Him. CONTINUE READING

Why St. Thomas Aquinas borders

by Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D.

Every nation has the right to distinguish, by country of origin, who can migrate to it and apply appropriate immigration policies, according to the great medieval scholar and saint Thomas Aquinas.

In a surprisingly contemporary passage of his Summa Theologica, Aquinas noted that the Jewish people of Old Testament times did not admit visitors from all nations equally, since those peoples closer to them were more quickly integrated into the population than those who were not as close.

Some antagonistic peoples were not admitted at all into Israel due to their hostility toward the Jewish people.

The Law “prescribed in respect of certain nations that had close relations with the Jews,” the scholar noted, such as the Egyptians and the Idumeans, “that they should be admitted to the fellowship of the people after the third generation.”

Citizens of other nations “with whom their relations had been hostile,” such as the Ammonites and Moabites, “were never to be admitted to citizenship.” CONTINUE READING

St. John Bosco, C

SAINT JOHN BOSCO
Founder
(1815-1888)

Saint John Bosco accomplished what many people considered an impossibility; he walked through the streets of Turin, Italy, looking for the dirtiest, roughest urchins he could find, then made good men of them. His extraordinary success can be summed up in the words of his patron Saint, Francis de Sales: “The measure of his love was that he loved without measure.”

John’s knowledge of poverty was firsthand. He was born in 1815 in the village of Becchi in the Piedmont district of northern Italy, and reared on his parents’ small farm. When his father died, Margaret Bosco and her three sons found it harder than ever to support themselves, and while John was still a small boy he had to join his brothers in the farm work. Although his life was hard, he was a happy, imaginative child. Even as a boy, John found innocent fun compatible with religion. To amuse his friends he learned how to juggle and walk a tightrope; but he would entertain them only on condition that each performance begin and end with a prayer.

As he grew older, John began to think of becoming a priest, but poverty and lack of education made this seem impossible. A kindly priest recognized his intelligence, however, and gave him his first encouragement, teaching him to read and write. By taking odd jobs in the village, and through the help of his mother and some charitable neighbors, John managed to get through school and find admittance to the diocesan seminary of nearby Turin. As a seminarian he devoted his spare time to looking after the ragamuffins who roamed the slums of the city. Every Sunday he taught them catechism, supervised their games and entertained them with stories and tricks; before long his kindness had won their confidence, and his “Sunday School” became a ritual with them.

After his ordination in 1841, he became assistant to the chaplain of an orphanage at Valocco, on the outskirts of Turin. This position was short-lived, for when he insisted that his Sunday-school boys be allowed to play on the orphanage grounds, they were turned away, and he resigned. He began looking for a permanent home for them, but no “decent” neighborhood would accept the noisy crowd. At last, in a rather tumbledown section of the city, where no one was likely to protest, the first oratory was established and named for Saint Francis de Sales. At first the boys attended school elsewhere, but as more teachers volunteered their time, classes were held at the house. Enrollment increased so rapidly that by 1849 there were three oratories in various places in the city.

For a long time Don Bosco had considered founding an Order to carry on his work, and this idea was supported by a notoriously anticlerical cabinet minister named Rattazzi. Rattazzi had seen the results of his work, and although an Italian law forbade the founding of religious communities at that time, he promised government support. The founder-priest went to Rome in 1858 and, at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, drew up a Rule for his community, the Society of Saint Francis de Sales (Salesians). Four years later he founded an Order for women, theDaughters of Mary, Help of Christians, to care for abandoned girls. Finally, to supplement the work of both congregations, he organized an association of lay people interested in aiding their work.

Exhausted from touring Europe to raise funds for a new church in Rome, Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888. He was canonized in 1934 by Pope Pius XI. The work of John Bosco continues today in over a thousand Salesian oratories throughout the world. No modern Saint has captured the heart of the world more rapidly than this smiling peasant-priest from Turin, who believed that to give complete trust and love is the most effective way to nourish virtue in others.

Why Koran readings in Anglican churches preoccupy the mighty

IS IT appropriate to read from the Koran during worship in a Christian church? This month, people close to America’s new head of state, and spiritual advisers to Britain’s long-standing one, have been forced to consider that question.
It started on January 6th at an Episcopal cathedral in Glasgow when a Muslim student was invited to read from her faith’s sacred text, and duly chanted verses from the Sura or chapter devoted to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The chapter has certain similarities with the Christian narrative and also some striking differences: it asserts that Jesus cannot be the son of God because the idea of God having progeny makes no sense.

Critics argued that the reading was supremely inappropriate at an important service marking the feast of Epiphany, which celebrates the appearance of the son of God to the world. Not all critics were polite. The cathedral’s provost, Kelvin Holdsworth, reported receiving a torrent of abusive emails, accusing him of betraying the faith; police said they were investigating a possible hate crime.

The Scottish Episcopalians’ senior prelate cautiously defended Mr Holdsworth’s freedom of action. But the bishop added that the church was “deeply distressed” both by the offence caused and by the abuse which the provost, who is also a leading gay-rights activist, received in response.

The Koran reading was denounced by Michael Nazir Ali, a retired, Pakistani-born bishop of the Church of England, and prompted, at least indirectly, the resignation of one of Queen Elizabeth’s personal chaplains, Gavin Ashenden. He said he wanted to be freer to speak out against such blurring of the boundaries between faiths.  Soon after stepping down he declared that the Church of England (historically the mother church of all Anglican churches, including the Scottish one) was “dying” demographically and financially. CONTINUE READING

Pope Francis has ordered a review of the new Mass translation

By Gerald O’Connell

Pope Francis has ordered a review of “Liturgiam Authenticam,” the controversial decree behind the most recent translations of liturgical texts from Latin into English and other languages. The commission, established by the pope just before Christmas, is also tasked with examining what level of decentralization is desirable in the church on matters such as this.

The mixed commission includes bishops from all the continents. Significantly, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Arthur Roche, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, to be its president. The English-born archbishop is the number two official at the congregation; he has more experience in the liturgical field and a more open approach to liturgical questions than its prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah.

The Vatican has not provided details on the commission, which is scheduled to hold its first meeting soon. Nor has it published the names of the commission’s members.  CONTINUE READING

St. John Chrysostom, ECD

SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Constantinople, Doctor of the Church
(344-407)

Saint John Chrysostom, born in Antioch in 344, was endowed with a superior genius strengthened by a brilliant education. In order to break with a world which admired and courted him, in 374 he retired for six years to a neighboring mountain, having found Christ through his friendship with Saint Basil. After acquiring the art of Christian silence, he returned to Antioch and there labored as a priest under the direction of its bishop. His eloquence was such that the entire city, up to a hundred thousand listeners, came to hear him, a young man not yet thirty years old. He fled this popularity and adopted the monastic life for fourteen years, until he was taken forcibly to Constantinople, to be consecrated Patriarch of the imperial city in 398.

The effect of his sermons was everywhere marvelous. He converted a large number of pagans and heretics by his eloquence, then in its most brilliant luster, and constantly exhorted his Catholic people to frequent the Holy Sacrifice. In order to remove all excuse for absence he abbreviated the long liturgy then in use. Saint Nilus relates that Saint John Chrysostom, when the priest began the Holy Sacrifice, very often saw “many of the Blessed coming down from heaven in shining garments, eyes intent, and bowed heads, in utter stillness and silence, assisting at the consummation of the tremendous mystery.”

Beloved as he was in Constantinople, his denunciations of vice made him numerous enemies. In 403 these procured his banishment; and although he was almost immediately recalled, it was not more than a reprieve. In 404 he was banished to Cucusus in the deserts of the Taurus mountains. His reply to the hostile empress was: “Chrysostom fears only one thing – not exile, prison, poverty or death – but sin.”

In 407, at sixty-three years old his strength was waning, but his enemies were impatient and transported him to Pytius on the Euxine, a rough journey of nearly 400 miles. He was assiduously exposed to every hardship – cold, wet clothing, and semi-starvation, but nothing could overcome his cheerfulness and his consideration for others. On the journey his sickness increased, and he was warned that his end was near. Thereupon, exchanging his travel-stained clothes for white garments, he received Viaticum, and with his customary words, “Glory be to God for all things. Amen,” passed to Christ. He does not have the title of martyrdom, but possesses all its merit and all its glory. He is the author of the famous words characterizing Saint Paul, object of his admiration and love: “The heart of Paul was the Heart of Christ.”