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U.S. bishops hope Wuerl’s resignation is a step toward healing

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several U.S. bishops responding to the official resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. expressed hope Friday that the decision would bring healing for survivors of clerical abuse.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Wuerl Oct. 12, while asking the cardinal to continue leading the Archdiocese of Washington on an interim basis until a permanent successor is appointed.

The Pope received a personal request from Wuerl to accept his resignation on Sept. 21, and officially accepted it during the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Cardinal Wuerl has been the subject of criticism since late June, when revelations about alleged sexual misconduct on the part of his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, raised questions about what Wuerl knew about McCarrick, and how he responded to that knowledge.

Though Wuerl has denied wrongdoing, he said in September that he would ask Francis to accept his resignation “so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.”

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh issued a statement expressing hope that the Cardinal’s resignation would bring healing to victims of abuse.

“For as long as I have known Cardinal Wuerl, he has advocated for those within the church [sic] and beyond who need the opportunity for a better life,” Bishop Zubik wrote. “I pray that the acceptance of his resignation today by Pope Francis will continue to bring about healing in the hearts and lives of victims of abuse and all those in the Church.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington thanked Wuerl for his nearly 52 years of service as a priest and offered prayers for the Archdiocese of Washington.

“I convey my prayerful support to His Eminence and to all the clergy, consecrated religious and lay faithful in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Burbidge wrote in a statement.

“At this time in the life of our Church, all bishops are called, as Cardinal Wuerl has done, to acknowledge any failure to protect God’s children, to express deepest apologies to victims of sexual abuse and to renew our commitment to assist them in their healing process in any way possible,” he added.

Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles was asked about Wuerl’s resignation at an Oct. 12 Vatican press conference.

“I know Cardinal Wuerl; I think he discerned something in good conscience...I'm sure he did what he felt was right for the good of the Church, and I'm sure that the Pope saw it from that perspective too,” Barron said. “So that is all I can really say at the moment.”

The Aug. 14 release of a grand jury report detailing decades of abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses put Wuerl’s record as Bishop of Pittsburgh, where he served from 1988 to 2006, under close scrutiny.

Some cases in the report raised concerns that Wuerl had allowed priests accused of abuse to remain in ministry after allegations had been made against them.

Wuerl, 77, originally submitted his resignation on Nov. 12, 2015, when he turned 75 years old, as required by canon law.

 

A synod summary from the Polish synod fathers – Oct 12

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The synod of bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment is being held at the Vatican Oct. 3-28.

CNA plans to provide a brief daily summary of the sessions, provided by the synodal fathers from Poland.

Please find below the Polish fathers' summary of the Oct. 12 session:

The themes discussed today were oriented by the search for general concepts that could give a new meaning to the entire document. Among them, that of the family appeared.

“It is necessary to write a new document, based on the Instrumentum Laboris,”  said the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, summing up this day of the Synod’s work in discussion groups.

“The family is an institution that resembles the Church. The Church as a family must constantly accompany Her children. Just as no two vocations are ever exactly alike, but all are different, so too parents, in relation to their children, have to ask each day what they should do to bring them up well, to lead them to the fullness of the life towards which faith is advancing,” emphasized Archbishop Gądecki.

The family’s role in the life and the discernment of the young person’s vocation was also highlighted by Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś, who recalled that, according to the values declared by Polish youth, it is precisely the family which is the most important factor.

“Young people esteem the family in itself and if they are helped to understand the family’s value, then starting from it, one can lead them to faith, to God, who is the Creator of the family. We want to lead young people not only to truly live their youth but to discover Jesus Christ. In order to reach Him, one must first meet them in places that are important to them. Such places are friendship, work, freedom, and the family, which comes first,” said Archbishop Ryś.

Archbishop Ryś also spoke about the question of vocations.

“A vocation, in the broad sense, touches the eternal design of God in relation to every human being. Speaking about vocations, we want to say, first of all, that every person is needed and is eternally wanted by God, that God needs everyone. The fact of coming into being is accompanied by a call, that is a vocation.”

The head of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Gądecki, also noted that, in the course of today’s work, attention was drawn to the fact that the document lacks an acknowledgement that in order for it to be Christian, a young person’s calling must necessarily be connected with the cross.

Too often an excessively light vision of the lives of young people is presented, one which omits their worries and their engagement with the transcendental.

Eastern European bishops want a focus on Eucharist, fatherhood in Youth Synod

Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2018 / 03:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two Eastern European bishops asked the Synod of Bishops in Rome for a greater focus on the importance of the Eucharist, the liturgy and fatherhood in the final Synod document during their interventions this week. 

These issues were raised by Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk Belarus and Archbishop Zbignevs Stankevics of Riga, Latvia at the synod of bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment being held at the Vatican Oct. 3-28. Synod fathers periodically have the opportunity to give interventions lasting 3-5 minutes. 

In his prepared intervention on Oct. 10, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz asked the Synod fathers to emphasize the importance and centrality of the Eucharist in the final document.
 
Referencing the the Instrumentum Laboris (working document) of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz noted that though the document has “great pastoral value,” it mentions the Eucharist only twice and the sacraments only eight times.
 
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said that Eucharist is fundamental to the Catholic faith, and gave an example of how the Eucharist has drawn Belarusian youth deeper into their faith.  

Because Belarus borders the Baltic States, Belarusan youth traveled to Lithuania and Latvia to take part in the recent Papal visit on Sept. 22-25. 
 
The Archbishop recalled that 2,000 Belarusian faithful, half of them young people, traveled to Pope Francis’ Mass in Kaunas Sep. 23, while only 500 took part to the meeting with the youth scheduled in Vilnius Sep. 22.
 
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said that those young people recognized the importance of the Mass, as well as of meeting the Holy Father. 
 
He added that the Church needs not just “horizontal efforts...we need vertical efforts,” meaning that the Church must not only be “a comfortable place for everyone, it must above all be a place of strong spiritual formation.”
 
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz also remarked on the need to give more value to spiritual things in the final document, and backed those who raised the issue of the importance of liturgy.
 
“We should always remember that liturgy is source and climax of Christian life, and at the same time we must recognize that we lost this truth, and celebrations of Eucharist are turned into theater,” he said. 
 
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz underscored that “our duty, as shepherds, is to revive the true spirit and beauty of liturgy,” and voiced his support for the proposal that the Congregation for the Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments draft a new document on the importance of adherence to liturgical norms.

“Young people admire good liturgy, and our duty is to fulfil their wish,” he said. 
 
Fatherhood was the center of Archbishop Zbignevs Stankevics’ intervention during the first week of the Synod. Though his intervention received much consensus, the issue was not included in the minor circles reports.
 
Archbishop Stankevics noted that fathers are crucial for the transmission of the faith, as “data show that when a father is seriously involved in faith issue, there is a 75 percent probability that (his) children will follow him, while when only the mother is involved in the faith, there is just a 15 percent chance that (her) children will follow.”
 
Likewise, “when a mother converts, the family converts after her in 17 percent of cases, while when a father converts, the family will convert in 93 percent of cases.”
 
Archbishop Stankevics said that Catholics must look past the “stereotype that education to faith must be entrusted to mother,” as “in God’s plan, man defends (his family) not only from concrete dangers, but also from spiritual and ideological dangers.”

Therefore, he said, “it is the father’s task to care for his family’s relationship with God and encourage (his) wife and children in practicing the faith.

Supreme Court rejects appeal in Tennessee death row case

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A previously delayed execution in Tennessee will likely go ahead after the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a convicted murderer currently on death row. The decision was made Oct. 11.

The appeal argued that Tennessee’s lethal injection program was inhumane and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Writing in opposition to the decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the failure to take the case amounted to “complicity in state-sponsored brutality.”

The appeal by Edmund Zagorski followed an unsuccessful application for executive clemency which he presented to Gov. Bill Haslam in September. In that application, he requested that his sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole, expressing regret for his crimes and sorrow to the victim’s families. That application was denied.

Edmund Zagorski, 63, was sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of two men who had met him to buy drugs.

The Catholic bishops of Tennessee had previously spoken out against Zagoski’s planned execution.

“We recognize that the pain, suffering, and loss of life caused by Mr. Zagorski more than thirty years ago has negatively impacted many people, and we agree that the state has a right to expect punishment for those crimes,” Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville and Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville wrote in an Oct. 10 statement, released before the Supreme Court’s decision.

“However,” the bishops underscored, “we remain firmly opposed to the use of the death penalty in all cases.”

The bishops cited the teaching of the Church and the statements of several popes, particularly Pope Francis’ August change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which now teaches that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that the death penalty is simply not necessary when society has other means to protect itself and provide a just punishment for those who break civil laws. Rather than serving as a path to justice, the death penalty contributes to the growing disrespect for human life,” the two Tennessee bishops wrote.

Zagorski’s clemency application included sworn statements from six of the jurors from his trial in 1984, who said that had the option been available to them, they would have given Zagorski life in prison without parole.

Today, all 30 states that impose the death penalty give jurors the option of life without parole; in Tennessee life without parole can now be imposed at the request of just one juror. Zagorski’s attorneys argue that he would have been given that sentence rather than death if it had been an option in 1984.

At that time, the only sentencing options available to the jury were life in prison with the possibility of parole, or death, according to the Nashville Scene.

The wife of one of Zagorski’s victims has stated that she did not oppose clemency being granted. In addition, his application included a statement from a prison correctional officer detailing Zagorski’s apparent improvement of character while in prison. The counselor described a notable occasion when Zagorski helped to break up a fight between other inmates.

Governor Haslam said in a statement denying the clemency petition that Zagorski’s good behavior in prison did not excuse the murder of the two victims.

Zagorski was originally scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Oct. 11. Just three hours before the execution was scheduled to take place, Governor Haslam issued a ten-day delay for the state to consider his request to die by electric chair rather than lethal injection.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had granted a stay of his execution the day before, Oct. 10, after the Zagorski’s lawyers argued that he had been given ineffective legal counsel during his trial.

Later in the evening of Oct. 11, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision and declined to hear Zagorski’s case, which would have considered the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection protocol.

Justices Sotomayor and Breyer disagreed with the court’s opinion, citing evidence that the drugs used in lethal injections caused severe pain and led to “inhumane” executions.

“Capital prisoners are not entitled to pleasant deaths under the Eighth Amendment, but they are entitled to humane deaths,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “The longer we stand silent amid growing evidence of inhumanity in execution methods like Tennessee’s, the longer we extend our own complicity in state-sponsored brutality.”

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Zagorski’s execution is likely to go ahead at the end of the ten-day delay imposed by Gov. Haslam, during which the state will consider the inmate’s request to be put to death by electrocution. Once that decision is made, the state Supreme Court will then issue a new execution date for Zagorski.

Tennessee last carried out a three-drug lethal injection execution in August, the state’s first since 2009, after Governor Haslam denied a clemency request from Billy Ray Irick. The drug used in that execution, midazolam, has widely been reported to cause extreme pain during execution.

In July, ahead of Irick’s execution, Bishop Spalding and Bishop Stika were joined by Bishop Martin Holley of Memphis and wrote a joint letter to Gov. Haslam asking him to put an end to the death penalty in the state.

Film tells story of Irish chaplain on frontlines of World War I

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2018 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- A new film tells the story of Irish Jesuit Fr. William “Willie” Doyle, who during World War I brought the sacraments to dying soldiers on the battlefield, before he himself died in action on the frontline.
 
Just over an hour in length, the docudrama, “Bravery Under Fire,” screened at the Vatican’s “filmoteca” theater Oct. 12. It was written, produced, and directed by EWTN Ireland employee Campbell Miller, a native of Northern Ireland.

Miller presented a copy of the film to Pope Francis Oct. 10 after the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
 
Among those present at the screening were Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh; UK Ambassador to the Holy See Sally Axworthy; Fr. John Dardis, an Irish priest working in the Jesuit General Curia in Rome; and Aidan Gallagher, CEO of EWTN Ireland.
 
The film combines interviews with family members and historians with dramatic depictions of episodes in Doyle’s life, particularly those on the battlefield, as known through the many letters he wrote to his family and others throughout his life.
 
Fr. Willie Doyle grew up in a devout Catholic family in Ireland, and inspired by two older brothers, decided to become a Jesuit priest. After formation and ordination, and serving as a missionary priest in parts of Dublin, he volunteered as a chaplain for the British army at the outbreak of World War I.
 
As a chaplain, Doyle served at the frontlines as “a soldier without arms,” the film said. He did not spare himself in any way and did not accept the privileges afforded to a chaplain. Instead, he walked among the men of his brigade, even among shellfire, to hear confessions and deliver last rites to the dying.
 
The film also recalled the Jesuit’s dedication to helping not only his own men, but dying captured German soldiers, to whom he brought comfort and the sacraments.
 
The priest spent his days in the fields and would often spend his nights praying or writing letters to the anxious families of soldiers from both sides of the war.
 
Night is also when the priest most often could find the time to bury the dead, moving the bloody and dismembered bodies into graves.
 
In one letter home, Doyle recalled with special poignancy a Mass he offered on the battlefield for the dead, whose bodies were lying all around him, since there had not yet had time to bury them.
 
The documentary credits the priest’s many sacrifices on the frontlines to his strong spiritual life, in particular the severe physical penances and deep prayer he engaged in prior to the start of the war. He was killed in action in Belgium in 1917.