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Spanish Opus Dei priest announced as new Helsinki bishop

Bishop-elect Raimo Ramón Goyarrola Belda of Helsinki, left, and Archbishop Julio Murat, apostolic nuncio to the Nordic countries. / Credit: Catholic Information Centre, Diocese of Helsinki

CNA Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 17:45 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday appointed Father Raimo Ramón Goyarrola Belda, a priest of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei, as the new bishop of Helsinki, Finland.

The apostolic nuncio to the Nordic countries, Archbishop Julio Murat, announced Goyarrola Belda’s appointment at the end of a Sept. 29 Mass he celebrated at St. Henry’s Cathedral in Helsinki.

Finland is home to a small Catholic community, with an estimated 17,000 members as of early 2023, many of whom are immigrants. The vast majority of Finns belong nominally to the Lutheran church, though many Finns are irreligious in practice.

The country of 5.5 million people has only one diocese, just eight Catholic churches, and about 30 priests, according to the diocesan website.

St. Henry's Cathedral in Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Jonah McKeown
St. Henry's Cathedral in Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Jonah McKeown

The Helsinki Diocese had been without a bishop since May 20, 2019, when the pope accepted the early resignation of Bishop Teemu Sippo, who had led the diocese since 2009 and resigned early for health reasons. Sippo was the first Finnish-born Catholic bishop to be appointed since the 16th century. Father Marco Pasinato had been serving as administrator of the diocese.

Goyarrola Belda, 54, most recently served as vicar general for the Helsinki Diocese and has served in Finland since 2006. Catholics in Finland are “very happy” to now have a bishop who is fluent in Finnish, EWTN Norge reported.

Left to right: Bishop emeritus of Helsinki, Teemu Sippo SCI; apostolic nuncio to the Nordic countries, Archbishop Julio Murat; and bishop-elect Raimo Ramón Goyarrola Belda of Helsinki; following a Mass at St. Henry's Cathedral on Sept. 29, 2023. Catholic Information Centre, Diocese of Helsinki
Left to right: Bishop emeritus of Helsinki, Teemu Sippo SCI; apostolic nuncio to the Nordic countries, Archbishop Julio Murat; and bishop-elect Raimo Ramón Goyarrola Belda of Helsinki; following a Mass at St. Henry's Cathedral on Sept. 29, 2023. Catholic Information Centre, Diocese of Helsinki

The bishop-elect was born on July 20, 1969, in Bilbao, Spain. In 1987 he entered the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei, the Vatican announcement stated. 

He studied medicine and surgery at the Universidad de Navarra and subsequently carried out his philosophical-theological studies at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, obtaining a doctorate in dogmatic theology.

He was ordained a priest of Opus Dei in September 2002. The date of his episcopal ordination has not yet been announced.

Left to right: Bishop-elect Raimo Ramón Goyarrola Belda of Helsinki; apostolic nuncio to the Nordic countries, Archbishop Julio Murat; and Father Marco Pasinato, who served as administrator of the diocese since 2019. Credit: Catholic Information Centre, Diocese of Helsinki
Left to right: Bishop-elect Raimo Ramón Goyarrola Belda of Helsinki; apostolic nuncio to the Nordic countries, Archbishop Julio Murat; and Father Marco Pasinato, who served as administrator of the diocese since 2019. Credit: Catholic Information Centre, Diocese of Helsinki

What is a consistory? Your questions answered

The extraordinary consistory of cardinals meets at the Vatican's Synod Hall, Aug. 29, 2022. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 17:25 pm (CNA).

On Saturday, Sept. 30, Pope Francis will create 21 new cardinals at a consistory in Rome. 

Here’s everything you need to know:

What’s a consistory?

Cardinals are the pope’s closest assistants and advisers, from all around the world. A consistory is a formal meeting of the College of Cardinals. The pope can convene them for a number of reasons.

One of the most common reasons for a consistory, as is the case here, is to create new cardinals. The ceremony in which the pope makes cardinals is known as an ordinary public consistory. 

Another consistory the pope may convene is an ordinary consistory to vote on the causes of new saints, the last step before a formal canonization can take place.

There are also extraordinary consistories, in which every cardinal is expected to take part, barring a serious reason.

The last ordinary public consistory took place on Aug. 27, 2022. The new cardinals created then included Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego and Cardinal Arthur Roche, prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Soon after, Pope Francis convened an extraordinary consistory, which took place Aug. 29–30, 2022, during which the world’s cardinals came to Rome to discuss the new constitution of the Roman Curia, Praedicate Evangelium.

Who is being made cardinal this weekend?

Twenty-one men from around the world will “receive the red hat” and become cardinals at the September consistory. 

Among them is Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ, bishop of Hong Kong; Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States; Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem; and Víctor Manuel Fernández, the new prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

A list along with an analysis of each cardinal-elect’s spiritual motto can be found here. 

What will actually happen at this consistory?

In addition to giving each new cardinal their hat, or biretta, Pope Francis at the Sept. 30 liturgy at St. Peter’s Basilica will place a ring on the hand of each new cardinal while saying: “Receive this ring from the hand of Peter and know that, with the love of the Prince of the Apostles, your love for the Church is strengthened.” They will also each receive the formal decree (or papal bull) announcing their creation as a cardinal.

The scarlet biretta is, as the pope will recite, a “sign of the dignity of the cardinalate, signifying your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of the Holy Roman Church.”

Immediately before, the new cardinals will make a profession of faith by reciting the Creed. They then pronounce an oath of fidelity and obedience to the pope and his successors.

The pope will also assign each new cardinal a church in the Diocese of Rome, called a “titular church.” This further links the cardinal to Rome and to the pope, who is the bishop of Rome.

The other members of the College of Cardinals, clergy, Catholics, and members of the public may all attend a consistory to create cardinals.

So, how many cardinals will there be, and why does it matter?

St. Paul VI established in 1970 that cardinals aged 80 and over cannot participate in the process of electing a pope — thus, cardinals who are younger than 80 are known as “electors.” Paul VI also established a numerical limit for the number of electors, capping it at 120, but the number occasionally has risen above that number.   

The number of cardinal electors — and indeed the number of cardinals in general — in the college is always changing, since at any time cardinals may be celebrating their 80th birthday or may have died. 

According to the Vatican, as of Sept. 29, there were 119 cardinal electors ahead of the consistory and 102 non-electors. After the consistory, the number will rise to 105 non-electors and 136 electors. 

Francis has shaped the college greatly during his 10 years as pope, appointing 98, or 72%, of the current electors after the conclave on Sept. 30. The rest were appointed by St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. In all, he has named cardinals from 66 countries, including several first-time nations, such as South Sudan, Singapore, and Mongolia.

That percentage becomes important given the current requirement that a candidate needs a two-thirds majority of the cardinals’ votes to be elected pope. This, however, is a provision that Pope Francis could change at any time. 

Pope Francis denounces ‘body-shaming,’ admits to bullying overweight friend as a child

Pope Francis speaks during a press conference aboard the papal plane from Marseille, France, to Rome on Sept. 23, 2023, at the conclusion of a two-day visit to the southern French port city to take part in the Mediterranean Encounter, a meeting of young people and bishops. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 29, 2023 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

In a Tuesday video call with university students from South Asia, Pope Francis highlighted the dignity and value of all human persons, denouncing “body-shaming,” and admitting to bullying an overweight boy as a child.

The pope’s comments were given during a livestreamed dialogue with students titled “Building Bridges Across South Asia,” which was hosted by Chicago’s Loyola University and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The full recorded conversation can be accessed here

Responding to a question raised by Merlin Rosemary, a student at St. Joseph’s University in Bengaluru, India, Francis said that body-shaming is “something artificial” that disrupts the ability to live “in harmony with your hearts.”

“It’s not only a question of measurements or sizes, it’s a harmonic beauty that every woman, every man, has, and we have to cherish that,” Francis said.

“I recall a friend of mine, who was a bit fat, and we would actually mock him, I daresay, bullying him,” the pope confessed to the students.

One day, Francis said that he and his friends “once hit him and he fell down.”

Upon learning of the incident, Francis said his father made him go to the bullied child’s home to apologize.

Years later, the pope said, he reconnected with the friend who had since become an evangelical pastor.

“It was beautiful,” Francis said, “he had overcome all his trauma, all his bullying, all his shame, all his body shame.”

Still responding to the student’s question, the pope also said that plastic surgery “serves no purpose,” because, he said, “this beauty is going to fade eventually.”

“There was a famous actress, Anna Magnani, and when talking about her wrinkles she said: ‘No, I won’t get rid of them. It costs me to get these wrinkles, they are my beauty,’” the pope said. “So, we all have our beauty, and we have to accept it and we have to live in harmony with it.”

“There’s the beauty of the harmony of the individual, regardless of you being fat, thin, short, tall, the important thing is to live in harmony, in harmony in your hearts,” Francis said. “So, beauty makes us grow, in terms of our mental health, every man, every woman have their own beauty. We only have to learn how to see it, how to recognize it.”

Social media and suicide

During the call with students, Francis also addressed high suicide rates among young people, anxiety, and what he called “digital manipulation” on social media.

“While this is a tragic reality, young people commit suicide because they are faced with closed doors, they were looking for something and they couldn’t find it,” the pope said. “There are countries where the suicide rate is incredibly high among young people because they can’t manage failure, especially when they can’t find a job, so they lose all hope.”

Francis said that failure “is actually a call, it’s an appeal.”

“We’re not angels because angels have fallen only once whereas we fell many times due to our limits. But God always gives us the reliance to stand up again, so he takes us by our hands and helps us stand up,” he went on. “The important thing is not to not fall, but not to stay, or lay, on the ground. That’s wisdom, I fall down but then I stand up again.” 

According to Francis, “digital manipulation” on social media is “altering our understanding of social and political reality.”

By this phrase, the pope explained that messaging young people are exposed to through social media, the media, and entertainment distracts from true beauty and harmony.

“So, what’s really pressing is being educated to a new form of communication to avoid this anxiety of digital manipulation,” Francis said. “So as professionals, as students, I’m asking you to take a critical stance towards the positions expressed by the media, by TV programs, you are university students, you must have some critical thinking.

The pope concluded this portion of his talk with young people by imploring them to “look for the true beauty and the true harmony of an individual.”

“A person that lives in harmony regardless of being fat, thin, skinny, is the most important thing,” Francis said, adding: “Don’t be afraid, don’t lose your sense of humor, because humor means mental health.”

Canadian bishops reject euthanasia, discuss Indigenous fund, synod at end of meeting

The 2023 Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) being held Sept. 25-28, 2023, outside of Toronto, Ontario. / Credit: CCCB/CECC

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 29, 2023 / 16:43 pm (CNA).

As the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (CCCB) annual meeting came to a close this week, the bishops firmly rejected the country’s expansion of euthanasia and discussed the upcoming Synod on Synodality in Rome as well as funding efforts for Indigenous reconciliation.

During a Thursday news conference, incoming CCCB President Bishop William McGrattan said the Church remains focused on “helping [people] in their suffering,” helping families, and respecting human dignity as Canada expands eligibility for euthanasia.

More than 30,000 Canadians died from euthanasia between 2016 and 2021, which has seen steady growth since the practice was legalized. In March 2024, Canada will expand its legal euthanasia program, known as Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), to include those suffering from mental illnesses, which will open up the process to significantly more people.

McGrattan said Church-affiliated organizations will focus on palliative care and will not support euthanasia.

“Catholic-sponsored health associations and organizations do not permit MAiD,” the bishop said.

Indigenous reconciliation 

The bishops intend to reach $14 million in the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund by the end of the year with an ultimate goal of reaching $30 million. The fund provides money for more than 60 programs or initiatives to assist Indigenous communities.

McGrattan said the funds are collected in various ways and the bishops submitted a schedule of commitment “on behalf of all of the bishops in Canada.” He said the goal should be reached because “my brother bishops have made that commitment.”

Synod in Rome

The bishops continued a discussion they began on Monday about the upcoming Synod on Synodality. McGrattan, who is one of four Canadian bishops who will take part in the synod, said it will be a prolonged opportunity “where we encounter Christ.” He said synod attendees, like himself, will focus on listening “to the Holy Spirit as to where the [it is guiding] the Church.”

The synod, which begins Oct. 4, will address questions such as how the Church can be an instrument of union between God and humanity; how to share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel; and on the processes, structures, and institutions in a missionary synodal Church.

Bishops from around the world will take part in the synod, which will have two assemblies: the one that begins next week and a second one in October 2024.

“I hope to be impacted in a way to influence my ministry [as] a bishop going forward,” McGrattan said. 

Incoming CCCB Vice President Bishop Pierre Goudreault will not attend the synod but expects it will have an impact on Canadian dioceses in helping them make decisions and be more synodal.

“I think we still remain a learning Church about synodality,” the bishop said.

Goudreault added that participants “will be really able to hear each other” and with the contribution of Pope Francis “discern about the needs of the mission today.”

Protection of minors and vulnerable persons, work in Honduras

Earlier in the week, the bishops took time to address the protection of minors and vulnerable adults. One of the focuses was to ensure that dioceses do not neglect protections for vulnerable adults within their codes of conduct. These protections are meant to prevent individuals in positions of authority from imposing themselves on someone under their care.

On the first day of their meeting, in addition to preparing for the upcoming synod, the bishops discussed humanitarian efforts in Honduras, specifically efforts to protect a river in Guapinol, which has been severely polluted, negatively impacting the village’s 45,000 inhabitants.

The 2023 Plenary Assembly of the CCCB began Monday, Sept. 25, and ended Thursday, Sept. 28. It took place in King City, Ontario, which is just outside of Toronto. The Canadian bishops gather every year to discuss issues facing the Church in Canada.

Archdiocese of Baltimore files for bankruptcy amid clergy sex abuse claims

Credit: Minerva Studio/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 29, 2023 / 15:49 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Baltimore declared bankruptcy on Friday several weeks after warning it might do so in response to a looming wave of sex-abuse-related lawsuits.

Archbishop William Lori said in a statement on Friday that ”after consulting with numerous lay leaders and the clergy of the archdiocese,” he had made the decision for the archdiocese to file “for Chapter 11 reorganization.”

“With an approved plan under Chapter 11, the archdiocese will be reorganized, victim-survivors will be equitably compensated, and the Church will continue its mission and ministries,” the archbishop said.

The process will “involve several steps over the next two to three years,” Lori said, including “accept[ing] claims from victim-survivors for a specified period of time” and then “enter[ing] negotiations” with those individuals.

The filing, Lori said, is “the best path forward to compensate equitably all victim-survivors, given the archdiocese’s limited financial resources, which would have otherwise been exhausted on litigation.” 

“Staggering legal fees and large settlements or jury awards for a few victim-survivors would have depleted our financial resources, leaving the vast majority of victim-survivors without compensation while ending ministries that families across Maryland rely on for material and spiritual support,” he said.

The prelate also made the announcement via a prerecorded video uploaded to YouTube on Friday afternoon.

Responding to a user question on its Facebook account, the archdiocese on Friday told members of the diocese that “the money you place in the collection basket or give to your parish online will continue to be used to fund your individual parish.”

“Archdiocesan parishes and schools are separate legal entities, distinct from the archdiocese,” the post said. “Charitable entities such as Catholic Charities are similarly separate legal entities. The ministries and operations of parishes, schools, and other entities, such as our Catholic Charities agencies, should not be directly affected by the archdiocese’s Chapter 11 proceeding.”

Lori had said earlier this month that the archdiocese was considering bankruptcy as one possible maneuver to deal with a potential wave of sex abuse lawsuits against Baltimore. A new law going into effect Oct. 1 will end the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits for negligence in relation to child sexual abuse, opening the local Church up to lawsuits over abuse from years past.  

The archdiocese will join more than two dozen other U.S. dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy in recent years. Behind Baltimore, the Archdiocese of San Francisco is the most recent, having filed in late August in response to numerous abuse lawsuits. 

In his public statement earlier this month, Lori said a bankruptcy filing would help establish “a reasonable and equitable method for compensation of victim-survivors while also preserving the many vital ministries of the archdiocese.”

“In this type of reorganization, the archdiocese would be required to provide resources which would be used to compensate victim-survivors while at the same time ensuring our mission can continue,” Lori said. 

If the archdiocese attempted to litigate each individual lawsuit, Lori said, it would “potentially lead to some very high damage awards for a very small number of victim-survivors while leaving almost nothing for the vast majority of them.” 

“The archdiocese simply does not have unlimited resources to satisfy such claims; its assets are indeed finite,” the prelate said at the time. 

The Maryland attorney general earlier in the week had released an unredacted report on child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, one that named most of the individuals accused there. A redacted version of the report had been released in April.

The report alleged more than 600 children were abused by 156 people in the diocese over a period beginning in the 1940s through 2002.

Pope calls for an end to global food waste

Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 13:54 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday commended a U.N. agency’s efforts to end what the Holy Father called “the scourge of food loss and waste” across the planet, with the pope calling for a “radical paradigm shift” in how the world deals with wasted food.

Francis in his letter to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization told FAO Director Qu Dongyu that the “prevailing culture” has “led to the denaturalization of the value of food, reducing it to a mere commodity to be exchanged.”

The letter was sent on the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, established by the FAO in 2020. The U.N. says on its website that the day is meant to help “prioritize actions and move ahead with innovation to reduce food loss and waste.”

In his letter on Friday, Pope Francis said the world must “be clear about the urgency of a radical paradigm shift,” because “we can no longer limit ourselves to interpreting reality in terms of economics or insatiable profit.” 

“Food has a spiritual basis and its proper management implies the need to adopt ethical behavior,” he wrote. “When we talk about food, we must consider the good that more than any other ensures the satisfaction of the fundamental right to life and the basis of the dignified sustenance of each person.”

Food waste, Francis said, “shows an arrogant disregard for everything that, in social and human terms, lies behind food production.” 

“Throwing food away means failing to value the sacrifice, labor, transport, and energy costs involved in bringing quality food to the table,” he wrote. “It means disregarding all those who work hard every day in the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors to provide food that was lost or wasted and did not achieve its laudable purpose.”

The pope said activists “cannot continue to cite world population growth as the cause of the earth's inability to feed everyone sufficiently.” The problems of global hunger, he claimed, lie with “the lack of concrete political will to redistribute the earth’s goods.”

Beyond investing financial resources and time to solve the food waste problem, Francis said the issue should be addressed by “strengthen[ing] our conviction that wasted food is an affront to the poor.”

“[I] would like to stress this,” Pope Francis added, “that the food we throw away is unjustly taken from the hands of those who lack it. From those who have a right to daily bread because of their inviolable human dignity.”

The Holy Father said he was “deeply grateful” to the U.N. and FAO for its food-related efforts. 

The FAO says on its website that the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for “halving per-capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along production and supply chains.”

Those reductions, the agency said, bring “tangible benefits for people and planet.”

German bishops conclude tense gathering with all eyes on Synod on Synodality in Rome

Bishop Georg Bätzing addresses journalists on Sept 28, 2023. / Credit: Martin Rothweiler/EWTN Germany

CNA Newsroom, Sep 29, 2023 / 10:45 am (CNA).

As German bishops wrapped up their plenary meeting on Thursday with a final press conference amid tensions over same-sex blessings and a whole host of underlying issues, the focus was clear: All eyes were turned toward the fraught relationship with Rome and the forthcoming Synod on Synodality. 

Bishop George Bätzing of Limburg, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, took public issue with the apostolic nuncio in Germany, Archbishop Nikola Eterović, for reminding the German bishops of statements by Pope Francis on anthropology, including gender ideology. 

Citing Pope Francis, the papal ambassador had addressed the German prelates at their plenary assembly with a reminder it was “necessary to reject ideological colonization, including gender ideology” while emphasizing “that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, should be respected in their dignity and welcomed with respect.”

When asked by CNA Deutsch about this reminder, Bätzing on Sept. 28 accused the pope’s envoy to Germany of engaging in a culture war with terms such as “gender ideology” or “ideological colonization.”

 “And when the Church engages in a culture war, it will always lose,” he said.

Bätzing used the German term for culture war — “Kulturkampf.” Given its bitter historical context, this is a loaded concept, amid the current concerns over the German Synodal Way, including its demand for blessing homosexual unions.

The alternative to a culture war, Bätzing added, was “not adaptation, not simply agreeing to everything and going along with everything,” but “the ecclesial principle” of “discernment of spirits.”

“This is precisely what we have tried to do in the Synodal Way,” the bishop claimed. 

“The spirit of the times — ‘Zeitgeist’ — is the spirit of the world. Signs of the times are signs that God gives to people through culture, through a current development [movement], so that we can better understand what the Gospel wants.”

The president of the German bishops’ conference added: “We have to differentiate.”

Asked by EWTN Germany program director Martin Rothweiler about irritation caused by individual bishops moving forward on issues such as the blessing of homosexual unions openly defying the Vatican, Bätzing said: “Many more believers are irritated that the Church is not moving on this issue.” 

Diversity, not division?

While Bätzing used the opportunity to double down on his approach, it is clear that not everyone in the Church in Germany shares his vision. For instance, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg has frequently sounded alarms over doctrinal drift. His concerns mirror those of a minority of other bishops.

Augsburg Bishop Bertram Meier, who will attend the synod in Rome, offered a nuanced view on Thursday, stressing the need for the “wealth of different positions, opinions, and creative ideas.” 

Yet, the prudent prelate warned that diversity should not become division. “I also wish that from the diversity of opinions no threats stand, but that we discover the richness of what catholicity means,” Meier remarked.

Amid this diverse cacophony, Bätzing doubled down on his stance, declaring: “We are in a phase in the Church where perhaps it is not security that is the unifying and stabilizing element but rather a dynamic in certain directions.”

Conscious of mounting tensions and open defiance around issues like the blessing of same-sex unions, the assembly in Wiesbaden served as a charged prelude to more significant debates on Church governance and hot-button issues.

With the Synod on Synodality on the immediate horizon, the Catholic world will watch how Germany’s controversial Synodal Way integrates — or collides — with the global Catholic event. Bätzing’s assertion that “a dynamic in certain directions” holds the Church together now casts its shadow onto the upcoming synod.

Celibacy is not a direct cause of sexual abuse, Jesuit expert says

Father Hans Zollner. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Father Hans Zollner, a German priest and an expert in the fight against sexual abuse in the Church, said in a Sept. 26 interview with Infovaticana that celibacy is not a direct cause of this evil.

Celibacy and homosexuality

The psychologist, who also holds a doctorate in theology, said that “celibacy is not a direct cause of abuse; what can become a risk factor is a ministry poorly lived and not fully accepted.” 

“All scientific reports, including those commissioned by non-Church institutions, conclude that celibacy in itself does not lead to abuse. Therefore, it is wrong to say that with the abolition of celibacy there would no longer be cases of abuse in the Catholic Church,” he emphasized.

The former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, from which he resigned in March, said that “sexual abuse arises above all from an abuse of power that someone takes advantage of.” 

“These reports conclude, and this is what I also maintain, that without a solid human formation or a healthy, integral life and working in community, a celibate life can lead to abuse,” he said. “If the priest does not have human, spiritual, and work equilibrium, inner emptiness and desires that are not well integrated can lead him to commit abuse.”

The priest and director of the Institute of Anthropology at the Gregorian University in Rome noted that “scientific studies indicate that it cannot be considered that there is a monocausal relationship that explains the relationship between homosexuality and abuse.”

“The human person is complex and many factors influence one’s behavior. Additionally, many male child molesters do not identify exclusively as homosexual,” he explained.

“The 2011 John Jay Report in the United States refers to them as ‘occasional abusers,’ that is, they abused those closest to them, who at that time were mostly boys. But the figures from recent years show that since there have been more altar girls and co-ed schools there has been more abuse of girls,” he noted.

In May 2011, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops presented the study “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010,” conducted by a team of researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice from the City University of New York.

The report concluded that “there was no single cause or predictor of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. The report added that situational factors and opportunity to abuse played a significant role in the onset and continuation of abusive acts.”

Abuser profile and seminary formation

Regarding the profile of the abuser, the Jesuit said that there is not only one “and there can be many different reasons that lead a person to commit abuse. We can say that there are behavioral and psychological patterns that are repeated in the profile of abusers within the Church. I would highlight four: the narcissistic abuser, the obsessive, the insecure, and the true pedophile in the sense of the psychiatric definition.”

Regarding seminary formation, the German priest noted that this “is key. It is necessary that at this very important stage of their lives they not only acquire knowledge but also skills. They must learn everything necessary to lead a healthy life at all levels and develop their future priestly ministry well.”

Victims and abusers

Regarding the impact of abuse on victims, Zollner commented that “it can have very serious consequences on a person’s faith. Abuse can also be of a spiritual nature and can cause the victim to question his relationship with God and the Church.”

“I believe that victims and survivors should surround themselves with those who listen to them and understand them, people who seek justice and who can put them in contact with professionals from different fields who can help them,” he recommended.

After emphasizing that financial compensation is important for the victims, the Jesuit said that this “is not the main desire. What many, or the vast majority of victims of sexual abuse and other types of abuse want, is for Church representatives to listen to them. They want to talk and express what happened to them, their rage and anxiety.”

As for abusers, the expert said that they should be judged in civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions and, “as Pope Francis has said in some instances, they should not return to their ministry or have contact with minors.”

“In any case, they must be helped to find a meaningful way of life that does not endanger others. They must be supervised, including psychological evaluation, therapy, and spiritual accompaniment,” he continued.

Zollner also emphasized that “the Church must be willing to do what is necessary to ensure that perpetrators of abuse and those that cover up for them are punished fairly and in a way that prevents further abuse in the future.”

After commenting that the institute he directs offers various programs for training in these issues, the German priest said that some emblematic cases involving Jesuits such as those in Barcelona and Bolivia or the former Jesuit Marko Rupnik “have had an impact on the Society of Jesus and on the credibility of the order, as happens in any case of abuse. I noticed it already in 2010 when the first news broke in Germany at a Jesuit school in Berlin which led to a great flood of news about abuse.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Celebrations planned for 30th anniversary of Vatican Observatory’s Arizona telescope

The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) on Mount Graham in southern Arizona. / Credit: Vatican Observatory

CNA Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) on Mount Graham in southern Arizona celebrated its 30th anniversary this month, and the observatory has several days worth of celebrations planned for this weekend. 

The VATT is a relatively recent extension of the Vatican Observatory, which has roots dating to 1582, making it one of the oldest active astronomical observatories in the world. The observatory was re-founded in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, who intended to reinforce the Catholic Church’s support of science. 

Originally located near St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Vatican Observatory moved to Castel Gandolfo under Pope Pius XI due to light pollution from the city. In 1981, again due to growing light pollution, the observatory launched another research center under the famously dark Arizona skies. 

The VATT, which is paid for by private donations, is today located on a mountaintop in rural Arizona about 200 miles southeast of Phoenix. The complex consists of the Alice P. Lennon Telescope and the Thomas J. Bannan Astrophysics Facility. The telescope saw “first light” on Sept. 18, 1993, the observatory said.

The observatory’s headquarters remain at Castel Gandolfo, a town just outside Rome and the location of the summer residence of the popes. 

Chris Graney, an adjunct scholar at the Vatican Observatory, previously told CNA that Catholics can take pride in the fact that their Church embraces science, and promotes and encourages the kind of research that gets published “in the best scientific journals.” 

He also noted that the priests working at the VATT are following in the footsteps of other Catholic scientists who have contributed to our knowledge about the universe, including Father Georges Lemaître, the originator of the Big Bang theory. 

The observatory’s facilities on Mount Graham have been involved in numerous scientific discoveries over its three decades of operation. Astronomers at the VATT continue to discover new heavenly bodies, many of which end up bearing the names of Catholics.

The featured guest and speaker for the VATT’s 2023 weekend of celebration is Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., who flew on four Space Shuttle missions, served as NASA administrator from 2009 to 2017, and has described himself as a “practicing Christian.” The event will be hosted by Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, Vatican Observatory director and Vatican Observatory Foundation president.

Celebration events include a reservation-only gala dinner at the Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, Tucson, at which Bolden will speak, on Sept. 29. On Sept. 30, Vatican Observatory astronomers Father Christopher Corbally, SJ, and Father Pavel Gabor, SJ, will give a tour of the observatory. 

Set for Oct. 1 is a memorial Mass for Father George V. Coyne, SJ, past director of the Vatican Observatory, at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Tucson. And finally, on Oct. 2, the VATT will be featured at the Public Evening Lecture Series of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, with panelists discussing the telescope’s history and future.

The observatory recently announced that thanks to a grant from the Thomas Lord Charitable Trust, the VATT will be fully robotized in 2024, enabling its remote operation from anywhere in the world.

Catholic gym trains members to become ‘warriors against the evil one’

Coach Joe Enabnit (far left) with members from the St. Michael Barbell Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. / Credit: Joe Enabnit

CNA Staff, Sep 29, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

In 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic and a storm wreaked damage on his town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Joe Enabnit opened St. Michael Barbell Club in what he calls “a leap of faith.”

The gym’s mission is “to make strength training accessible and compatible with Catholic life, to spread the practice of strength training as a means of spiritual growth,” all while integrating fitness and prayer life and offering the work done in the gym up to God.

The St. Michael Barbell Club located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: Joe Enabnit
The St. Michael Barbell Club located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: Joe Enabnit

Enabnit, an experienced fitness coach, spoke with CNA about how the gym runs, how faith is incorporated into its mission, and what he hopes his members are taking away from being a part of this community.

Enabnit explained that in 2020 he was working at a gym that closed due to the pandemic. Since he had a gym in his basement, he decided to start training people himself. Since all gyms were closed in the area, word quickly spread about what he was doing and his home gym soon became overcrowded.

Then, on Aug. 10, 2020, a “derecho” hit Cedar Rapids, causing catastrophic damage. A derecho is characterized by a widespread, long-lived wind storm, and for the city of Cedar Rapids, it brought 140 mph winds that lasted for more than 45 minutes.

Once the storm passed and people came outside, trees were uprooted, cars and fences were destroyed, every single traffic signal in the city was damaged, power was out for more than a week, and three people had lost their lives.

That was when Enabnit realized that being physically fit was not only beneficial for one’s own health, it could also be used to serve the community.

“Being physically fit meant that all day long, we could help people,” he said. “And that was what we did for three weeks after that, day in and day out, six, eight hours, cleaning up people’s yards, helping people get their stuff together, taking food and ice to people because there was no electricity for several weeks.”

Enabnit continued: “It clicked for me and a lot of guys that there was more to this working out gym thing than just … a hobby. It wasn’t just about looking good, feeling good. It was an opportunity to participate in the ministry of being a member of a community where people can help each other.”

On Sept. 29, the feast of the archangels, St. Michael Barbell Club officially opened in a new, rented space. It’s an open gym where members pay a monthly membership fee and can work out whenever they like. Enabnit explained that members receive a key so they can let themselves in to work out whenever is best for them. They also use an app to help track their progress and view their workout program. For those in need of a more hands-on approach or support, Enabnit offers personal training as needed. 

Members also have their spiritual needs met by praying the rosary and the Angelus together, plus there are several priests who are members of the gym who hear confessions at the gym and give blessings.

“It’s not a marketing gimmick. We’re all serious about this Catholic stuff,” Enabnit said.

The St. Michael Barbell Club located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: Joe Enabnit
The St. Michael Barbell Club located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: Joe Enabnit

The longtime trainer shared how he views the relationship between the spiritual life and the fitness life.

“For some people, maybe they’ve been addicted to food or they’ve been addicted to drugs or alcohol and they need to find some sort of outlet for their addictive personality that allows them to respect their body rather than destroy it.”

“Or it’s something where even though they absolutely hate exercising, they know that it’s going to make them a better husband and father, or mom and wife, and it gives them a chance to sort of deny their desire to be lazy and redirect it into something that is bigger than themselves, whether it’s just between them and God or between them and their family,” he said. 

Specifically for the men of the gym, Enabnit emphasizes the idea that it is their “moral obligation” to take care of their bodies and remain physically fit if they are otherwise healthy.

“If you’re otherwise a healthy guy, it is a moral obligation because it allows you to do so much more for your family, for your friends, for your community,” he said. “And if you allow your body to waste away unnecessarily, you’re making it so that you’re not capable and you’re not ready when your family needs you, such as when we have a giant storm that destroys the town.”

Enabnit added: “You don't have to be a gym addict to maintain a high level of physical readiness. All it takes is a few hours a week of taking care of your body. And if you’re not going to do it for yourself, do it for your kids, do it for your wife, do it for your community.”

However, he pointed out that people can use strength training in immoral ways and there can be many temptations.

“There are many temptations with strength training, whether it’s focusing too much on yourself, too much on your body, whether it’s taking drugs to get stronger,” he shared. “Or it can be directed toward positive ends, whether it’s being useful to your family and your community, or personal growth.”

“The spiritual life and the fitness life are very similar to each other. There are many areas of overlap. Just like a prayer life, if you want to be successful with fitness, you have to be consistent.”

“You have to sometimes do things you don’t want to do, whether it’s sticking to a diet or doing a workout when you don’t feel like it,” Enabnit said. “Or in your prayer life, maybe it’s praying a rosary when you’re distracted or when you don’t feel like it … And all of these things that we do with the gym, it’s like training for the spiritual life.”

Enabnit said he believes that “a properly ordered fitness lifestyle is not just compatible with the Catholic faith but can actually help you to grow in your Catholic faith if you direct it toward the proper purposes.”

And why is the gym named after St. Michael the Archangel?

In addition to the gym opening on the feast of the archangels, Enabnit believes every Catholic man and woman is called to be “a warrior against the temptations of the evil one.”

“I want to emphasize the idea that the spiritual life is an ongoing battle, and it’s a battle that we sometimes appear to lose, but that we have to trust that if we keep fighting, we ultimately win,” he explained. “And that’s kind of the spirit of St. Michael because at the end he casts Satan into hell.”

Enabnit hopes that his gym members are “learning useful skills — both for taking care of their bodies as well as the skills that transfer into other areas of life” — and that he can inspire them to step away from the TV screens and constant scrolling on their phones to instead interact with those around them.

“What greater calling is there for a Christian than to see Christ in the person standing right in front of you?” he asked.