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Texas chapel fenced off from border wall funding

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A congressional budget compromise that would fund the construction of physical barriers along parts of the southern border of the United States includes an explicit provision that excludes La Lomita Park from the funding. The park is the site of a chapel at the center of a court case between the Diocese of Brownsville and the government.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, the text of which was released Feb. 13, would provide $1.3 billion in funding for the construction of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border but contains a list of five specific places where these funds cannot be used to build a wall, the third of which is the site of La Lomita Chapel. 

According to section 231 of the bill, “None of the funds made available by this Act or prior Acts are available for the construction of pedestrian fencing [...] (3) within La Lomita Historical park.” 

The bill is slated to be considered by the House of Representatives on February 14.

La Lomita Park in Mission, TX, is home to La Lomita Chapel. Constructed in 1865 by missionaries, the chapel is located close to the U.S. border with Mexico. While there are no regularly scheduled religious services held at the chapel, it is used for weddings, funerals, and other cultural events. 

The chapel is maintained partly by the city of Mission, as it is located in a park, and is affiliated with Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, located a 10-minute drive away.

If the border wall were to be built as planned, the chapel would be on the southern side of the wall, limiting parishioner access to it from the north.

The Diocese of Brownsville, which includes Mission, filed suit against the federal government arguing that the construction of a border wall restricting access to the chapel would be a violation of religious freedom.

Last week, a District Court decision cleared the way for the land to be surveyed. 

On Feb. 6, Judge Randy Crane ruled that allowing the federal government to survey the land surrounding the chapel to determine if a wall could be built would not interfere with the exercise of religious freedom rights. 

An attorney representing the diocese told CNA that she was pleased La Lomita Park was included in the compromise bill, and that she hoped the bill would be passed by Congress.

“We are of course glad that the authors of this bill have recognized the significance of La Lomita Chapel to the Catholic community in the Rio Grande Valley, and we hope that Congress and the president pass the spending bill with these protections for La Lomita and other local landmarks,” Amy Marshak, an attorney at Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP), told CNA.

ICAP is representing the Diocese of Brownsville in its suit against the government.

It is not yet clear if the compromise bill will be accepted by President Donald Trump, who had requested $5.7 billion to build a wall along parts of the U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump indicated Thursday that he was pleased with parts of the compromise, and congressional leaders have expressed cautious optimism that the president could sign the bill and avoid another partial government shutdown.

On Thursday afternoon, the president tweeted that he was reviewing the bill with his staff. 

In addition to funding the border wall, the bill also includes funds for international aid to Central America, and a reduction in the number of beds available to detain undocumented immigrants away from the border. 

Offices for the Diocese of Brownsville were closed on Thursday for an all-staff retreat. 

If passed, the Consolidated Appropriations Act would also prevent funds from going to construction of a border barrier within the National Butterfly Center or within the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge.

Liturgy is not 'styles, recipes, trends,' pope tells Divine Worship congregation

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2019 / 11:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The liturgy, Pope Francis said Thursday, cannot be reduced to a matter of taste, becoming the subject of ideological polarization, because it is a primary way Catholics encounter the Lord.

There is a risk with the liturgy of falling into a “past that no longer exists or of escaping into a presumed future,” the pope told members of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Feb. 14.

“The starting point is instead to recognize the reality of the sacred liturgy, a living treasure that cannot be reduced to styles, recipes and trends, but should be welcomed with docility and promoted with love, as irreplaceable nourishment for the organic growth of the People of God,” he continued.

Francis also emphasized that the liturgy is not a “do-it-yourself” zone and urged the Vatican officials, “as in other areas of ecclesial life,” to avoid “ideological polarizations” and an attitude of “perpetual dialectics” against those with differing ideas about the liturgy.

He also recalled his statement in Evangelii gaudium “that reality is more important than the idea.”

“When we look back to nostalgic past tendencies or wish to impose them again, there is the risk of placing the part before the whole, the 'I' before the People of God, the abstract before the concrete, ideology before communion and, fundamentally, the worldly before the spiritual,” Francis asserted.

Meeting the congregation during their Feb. 12-15 plenary assembly, Pope Francis addressed the importance of the Church’s liturgy, of having good collaboration between the Vatican congregation and bishops’ conferences, and of developing a proper liturgical sense in Catholics.

“The liturgy is in fact the main road through which Christian life passes through every phase of its growth,” Francis said. “You therefore have before you a great and beautiful task: to work so that the People of God rediscovers the beauty of meeting the Lord in the celebration of his mysteries.”

The pope noted that the plenary falls 50 years since St. Paul VI reorganized Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments “in order to give shape to the renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council. It was a matter of publishing the liturgical books according to the criteria and decisions of the Council Fathers, with a view to fostering, in the People of God, 'active, conscious and pious' participation in the mysteries of Christ.”

He asserted that “the praying tradition of the Church needed renewed expressions, without losing anything of its millennial wealth, even rediscovering the treasures of its origins,” and noted that it was also in 1969 that the General Roman Calendar was changed and the new Roman Missal was promulgated, calling them “the first steps of a journey, to be continued with wise constancy.”

Francis added that “it it is not enough to change the liturgical books to improve the quality of the liturgy.”

He argued that proper liturgical formation of both clergy and laity is fundamental, and quoted from Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council's 1963 constitution on the sacred liturgy.

Though necessary, just providing information about liturgical books is not an adequate liturgical education, he continued, even with a view toward preserving the dutiful fulfillment of the ritual disciplines.

“In order for the liturgy to fulfill its formative and transforming function, it is necessary that pastors and the laity be brought to grasp its meaning and symbolic language, including art, song and music at the service of the celebrated mystery, even silence,” he stated.

He pointed to mystagogy as a suitable way to enter into the mystery of the liturgy, “in the living encounter with the crucified and risen Lord”; he pointed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an example of a book that illustrates the liturgy in this manner.

Referencing the title of the congregation’s plenary assembly, “the liturgical formation of the People of God,” he said the task awaiting them is “essentially that of spreading the splendor of the living mystery of the Lord, manifested in the liturgy, in the People of God.”

“To speak of the liturgical formation of the People of God means first of all to become aware of the irreplaceable role that the liturgy plays in the Church and for the Church,” he stated.

“And then concretely help the People of God to better internalize the prayer of the Church, to love it as an experience of meeting with the Lord and with the brothers and, in light of this, to rediscover its contents and observe its rites.”

Pope Francis names Cardinal Kevin Farrell camerlengo

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2019 / 05:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Thursday nominated a new camerlengo, Irish-American Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, and a former bishop of Dallas.

The responsibilities of camerlengo include overseeing the preparations for a papal conclave and managing the administration of the Holy See in the period between a pope's death or renunciation and the election of a new pope.

Farrell was one of several bishops about whom questions were raised last summer regarding prior knowledge of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick's misdeeds in the dioceses of Metuchen and Newark.

Farrell had served as an auxilary bishop under the former cardinal in Washington, DC, as well as moderator of the curia and vicar general, a chief advisory role to the disgraced archbishop.

Farrell lived together with McCarrick in a renovated parish building in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood for six years, and many have characterized McCarrick as a mentor to the cardinal.

Last July, Farrell denied having any knowledge of accusations of sexual abuse or harassment against McCarrick.

A former member of the Legion of Christ, Farrell had also previously denied having prior knowledge of sexual abuse on the part of the Legion of Christ's founder and former general director, Marcial Maciel.

Farrell also caused controversy last summer after he suggested in an interview with the Irish Catholic magazine Intercom that priests lack the necessary experience to provide adequate marriage preparation to engaged couples, saying, "priests are not the best people to train others for marriage." The comment echoed a statement of his from September 2017, that priests have "no credibility when it comes to living the reality of marriage."

The office of camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, which is situated within the pontifical household, has been vacant since the death of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran last July.

To take office, Farrell, 71, will take an oath before Pope Francis, who will give him a scepter, a symbol of the authority of the camerlengo. The current scepter, covered in red velvet, dates to the papacy of Benedict XV.

Born in Ireland and ordained a priest in 1978 as a member of the Legion of Christ, Farrell eventually relocated to Washington, DC, serving as director of Washington’s Spanish Catholic Center, before becoming the archdiocese’s finance officer in 1989.

In 2002, he became an auxiliary bishop of Washington, serving as moderator of the curia and vicar general, a chief advisory role, to then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

He was named Bishop of Dallas in 2007, where he served until his appointment as the first prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life in August 2016, which put him in charge of the planning of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018 and World Youth Day in Panama in January 2019.

Farrell became a cardinal in November 2016.

The camerlengo is one of two head officials of the Roman Curia who do not lose their office while the papacy is vacant. The position of camerlengo, which is regulated by the apostolic constitutions Pastor bonus and Universi dominici gregis, administers Church finances and property during the interregnum.

Paragraph 17 of Universi dominici gregis establishes that “the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church must officially ascertain the Pope’s death” and “must also place seals on the Pope’s study and bedroom,” and later “the entire papal apartment.”

The camerlengo is also responsible for notifying the cardinal vicar for Rome of the pope’s death, who then notifies the people of Rome by special announcement. He takes possession of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican and Palaces of the Lateran and of Castel Gandolfo and manages their administration.

“During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church has the duty of safeguarding and administering the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See, with the help of the three Cardinal Assistants, having sought the views of the College of Cardinals, once only for less important matters, and on each occasion when more serious matters arise,” the constitution states.

Only the pope may choose the cardinal to fill the position of camerlengo, though he may also leave it vacant, in which case, the College of Cardinals would hold an election to fill the office at the start of a sede vacante.

 

This story was updated at 8:03 am MST.

A bloody secret still haunts the diamond industry

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2019 / 03:26 am (CNA).- Imagine being woken up in the middle of the night by a dark figure in your room. He presses a gun to your head and demands that you get up. You and your family are dragged out of bed and led to a mining field, where you are forced to dig for hours on end.

They may be the proverbial “girl’s best friend,” but diamonds are far from friendly for many of those involved in the mining process.

With abuses ranging from forced labor to the funding of child soldiers, many diamonds still carry the shadow of blood and conflict, even decades after the first attempts to address some of the more troubling practices in getting the stones from their rocky deposits to a glittering setting.

What – if anything – can Catholics do to counter the immense human cost still attached to some of these gems?

Plenty, according to Max Torres, director of management and professor at The Catholic University of America's business school.

“In this economy, the consumer is king,” he told CNA. “The day that consumers want to get worked up over diamonds, this will stop, whatever abuse it is we’re trying to eradicate, it will stop.”

While there are many steps in the process and levels of moral responsibility from consumers to the diamond exporters themselves, Torres maintained that ordinary people can still work to change large-scale moral problems in the industry.

“Do not underestimate the power of the consumer to move supply-chain decisions throughout the economy,” he stressed.

Clear stones; Blood-red controversies

Despite the 2006 hit film “Blood Diamond,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, many consumers are still unaware of the controversy surrounding the diamond industry. Meanwhile, the need for accountability and higher ethical standards is still sorely felt by many working to mine the precious gems.

In recent decades, the conversation surrounding diamond mining has focused on the so-called “blood diamonds” – those mined in conflict areas whose profits are used to fund the bloody war efforts.  Also called “conflict diamonds,” these previous stones are most associated with the illicit industries backing of civil wars in Angola, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Liberia.

These countries all now have, at least in theory, legitimate diamond mining industries subject to international standards.

The most well-known international standard, the Kimberley Process, was set up in 2003 following a United Nations resolution against the sale of blood diamonds, to ensure that any given shipment of diamonds does not finance rebel groups. Certified shipments of rough diamonds must be transported in tamper-resistant containers and must be accompanied by a government certificate verifying their compliance.

But many advocates say the process is inadequate at addressing the problems underlying the diamond industry. For starters, there is no guarantee beside the exporting government’s assurance that a given shipment of diamonds is, in fact, conflict-free. Issues of corruption and bribery surrounding some governments’ certification, and a lack of transparency has led some key groups to pull out of the process altogether.

The 2003 National Geographic special “Diamonds of War” found that despite the early efforts of the Kimberley Process to regulate the industry, illegal transactions at the time were still rampant in some areas. A Sierra Leone official said that some 60 percent of the diamonds exported from the country were smuggled rather than going through officially regulated channels. One expert in the documentary estimated that 20-40 percent of the global rough diamond trade at the time was done illicitly.

Another complaint about the Kimberley Process is that while it works to combat funding of conflicts, it does not deal with other issues in the diamond industry, including forced labor and violence against workerssubstandard and exploitative working conditions, the use of child labor and environmental concerns.

These problems show that the current definition of “conflict-free” is “far too limited in scope,” said Jaimie Herrmann, director of marketing for Brilliant Earth, a San Francisco-based jeweler that focuses specifically on providing ethically-sourced diamonds, gemstones and metals.

What the Kimberley Process “doesn’t include is human rights abuses, violence, sexual abuses, and severe environmental degradation, as well as corruption,” Herrmann continued.

“For that reason, we go above and beyond the Kimberley Process’s definition of conflict free,” she said. Brilliant Earth gets its diamonds from select sources in Canada, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Russia. “We feel like those diamonds really do go above and beyond that guarantee and they are untainted by human rights abuses.”

The chance to establish a legitimate and ethical source of diamonds has also been an economic opportunity for some countries. In Botsawna, the government and DeBeers diamond company each own half of the Debswana mining company, and the nation has seen a rapidly growing economy and increasing economic freedom thanks in part to its booming mining industry and trusted industry standards.

Canada too has invested heavily in its mining infrastructure and increased production, quickly becoming a key diamond-producing country since the discovery of large diamond deposits in the 1990s.

Synthetic diamonds too offer promise for more ethically-produced diamonds, though currently the lab-produced stones comprise only two percent of the diamond gemstone market, with the remainder of the synthetic stones used in industrial settings.

The Ethics of Luxury and Necessity

Dr. Christopher Brugger, professor of moral theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado, told CNA that in the diamond industry, as in any other work, Catholic social teaching instructs employers that “people come before profit.”

For businesses, he said, this means “pay employees a fair wage; respect the integrity of the marriages and families of employees; respect the faith of employees; permit labor to organize in socially constructive ways; work for fair access for all to goods and services necessary to living a dignified life.”

“Do producers who use their profits to fund conflicts or who use forced labor fulfill those duties?” he asked. “Emphatically no.”

Sustained abuses ranging from the funding of bloody conflicts to mining practices that exploit and demean workers not only fail to fulfill the moral duties of employers, Brugger said. The unjust practices also affirm that the high profits coupled with neglect for moral obligations have been “attracting scoundrels” to the industry.

But business leaders are not the only people with moral stakes in the diamond industry, he continued.

“It seems to me that morally conscientious people have an increasing responsibility to ‘shop ethically,’ i.e., to keep in mind where things come from, the conditions of those who supply things, the processes by which they are supplied,” Brugger suggested.

While it may not be possible to know the sourcing behind every product in every store, he said, it could be easier to find information on larger suppliers and specific industries.

Furthermore, he elaborated, there is a “greater responsibility on a person who is buying luxury items not to cooperate in the immoral actions of suppliers than there is on persons who are purchasing products for basic subsistence.”

“Ordinarily I do not need diamonds or chocolate,” Brugger said. “If we are dealing with luxuries, I think our obligations are still pretty strong to avoid purchasing from sources that do really bad things.”

“As one becomes aware of the ethical conditions surrounding an industry, one's duty to factor that knowledge into one's moral decision making becomes greater,” he added, noting that not everyone has the same access to the facts on abuses in a given industry.

“As knowledge of the ethical deficiencies become more widely known and the knowledge becomes easily available, our responsibility to use that knowledge in our shopping becomes greater,” he said. Knowledgeable customers should “inquire into the origins of the diamond they purchase; if shopkeepers are coy and not forthcoming about their sources, consumers ordinarily should look elsewhere.”

A Good Place to Start

Lack of information is “a big part of the problem,” according to Herrmann. She recommended that jewelers seek to trace the origin of their diamonds to countries and mines known for more ethical practices.

“Most jewelers know that their diamond is certified as conflict-free by the Kimberley Process, but do not know any more information about where their diamond is coming from,” she said.

Stephen Hilbert, a foreign policy adviser specializing in Africa and Global Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, seconded the suggestion that people looking at diamonds ask where they come from. He added that customers should also ask electronics dealers to check for conflict minerals, which face many of the same concerns as the diamond mining industry. 

“Dealers may not be able to tell you whether their devices have been checked, but at least this raises the profile of the issue and this may trickle up,” he told CNA.

Consumer instance could be the force that leads to tighter standards and improved processes aimed at preventing abuse.

Still, Torres insisted, “no process is perfect.”

The Kimberley Process is a reputable starting point that could “be broadened and be brought more into line with human rights,” he said, and asking about the origin of diamonds “seems to be a rather painless method of at least garnering some amount of accountability.”

But in the end, the moral issues surrounding the industry are fundamentally a problem of human sin, which no process or regulations can erase.

“The only thing that can ensure moral behavior is the heart is human beings,” Torres said. Ultimately, “Jesus Christ is the answer.”

This article was originally published on CNA July 5, 2015.

In Haiti, bishops say country must ‘wake up’ to solve national problems

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb 14, 2019 / 12:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following deadly protests against Haiti’s president and the drowning deaths of at least 28 people in an illegal crossing to the Bahamas, the country’s Catholic bishops have said all Haitians must come together for a wise solution to the country’s dangers.

“We must wake up to take together the full measure of the danger that threatens us all. This is the moment to join our forces and our intelligence to save our common boat, Haiti, which is our pride,” the Catholic Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti said Feb. 11.

They cited the Gospel of Matthew passage in which the seaborne disciples cry out to Christ as their boat starts to sink: “Lord, save us, we are perishing!”

“The hour is serious because there is violence against life. We deplore the losses in both human lives and property recorded recently in illegal travel and demonstrations,” they added. “We take this opportunity to present our sympathies to the victims and relatives of the victims.”

Four days of political demonstrations against President Jovenel Moise drew thousands of people, but also led to unrest that contributed to four deaths and dozens of injuries, BBC News reports.

Opponents accuse Moise and other leaders of corruption after a court report alleged that Haitian officials and former ministers misappropriated loans from Venezuela made to Haiti after 2008. The report suggested the president had a role in the irregularities.

The protesters have called on Moise to step down. He has been president since 2017.

Haiti’s Catholic bishops stressed the urgency of the country’s situation.

“The hour is serious, the misery is increasing, the common good is threatened. The country is on the edge of the abyss! This situation cannot be prolonged,” they said. “Let us wake up to listen to God, Master of wisdom and Principle of all life. Let us listen to the people he loves so much.”

Migrants leaving Haiti by boat have sometimes risked their lives to enter other countries.

In early February, a boat of migrants sank six miles off the coast of Marsh Harbour in the Abaco Islands in the north of the Bahamas, BBC News reports.

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force rescued 17 people, but the bodies of 28 migrants were recovered, BBC News reports.

About 300 people from Haiti have been caught attempting illegal entry into the Bahamas.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Caribbean. Sixty percent of people there live on less than $2 per day. The deadly boat sinking happened nearest to the island of Fowl Cay, where luxury villas cost as much as $4,300 per night.

People from Haiti who attempt illegal crossings also attempt to reach the Turks and Caicos Islands. Most migrants are intercepted at sea and deported back to Haiti.

The bishops’ Feb. 11 message fell on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Sick.

“We must find a solution of wisdom that takes into account the best interests of the nation and the defense of the common good,” the bishops said. “In this sense, we appeal to the citizen conscience of the various parties for a patriotic decision, even if only at the cost of great sacrifices.”

They asked for prayers for Haiti and for the country to turn towards God.