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Retired archbishop disciplined after calling Pope Francis a ‘heretic’

Wloclawek, Poland, Feb 27, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- A retired archbishop who accused Pope Francis of heresy has been ordered to cease celebrating Mass in public.

Archbishop Jan Paweł Lenga, the 69-year-old former Archbishop of Karaganda in Kazakhstan, has also been forbidden to preach at Masses or speak to the media.

The sanctions were imposed by the Diocese of Włocławek in central Poland, where the archbishop retired after serving in Kazakhstan.

Archbishop Lenga immediately defied the ruling by giving an interview to WRealu24.tv, in which he insisted that he would continue to speak out.

Fr Artur Niemira, chancellor of Włocławek diocese, told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI  that local Bishop Wiesław Mering had decided to impose the disciplinary measures in order to prevent the spread of scandal among the faithful.

KAI said the archbishop had refused to mention Pope Francis’s name when celebrating Masses. It added that the measures would remain in effect until the Holy See issues a judgment on the case.

The archbishop has repeatedly criticised Pope Francis. Last year the Polish journal Więź reported that he had called Francis a “usurper and heretic.”

Więź said the archbishop had given a book-length interview to the author Stanisław Krajski. The journal quoted the archbishop as saying: "Bergoglio preaches untruth, preaches sin, and does not preach a tradition that lasted so many years, 2,000 years... He proclaims the truth of this world and this is the truth of the devil."

In January, the archbishop appeared on the Polish television show Warto rozmawiać, prompting criticism from the Polish bishops’ conference. The bishops’ spokesman Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik noted that the archbishop is not a member of the Polish bishops’ conference.

“Therefore the statements of Archbishop Lenga cannot be identified in any way with the Polish episcopal conference,” he said. “They cannot be treated as positions of Polish bishops.”

In June 2019, Archbishop Lenga was among of the signatories of the 40-point "Declaration of Truths."

The declaration claimed to address “the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time,” reaffirming Church teaching on topics such as the Eucharist, marriage and clerical celibacy.

Jan Paweł Lenga was born in present-day Ukraine in 1950. He was ordained secretly in 1980 due to Soviet persecution of the Catholic Church. A member of the Marian Fathers, he was appointed apostolic administrator of Kazakhstan in 1991, the year that Kazakhstan became the last Soviet republic to declare independence.

He was appointed to Karaganda in 1998, where he remained until 2011, when Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation under canon 401 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that diocesan bishops may resign “because of ill health or some other grave cause”.

Archbishop Lenga retired to a community of Marian Fathers in Licheń Stary, a village that is home to Poland's largest church, in the Diocese of Włocławek.

Fr Niemira, chancellor of Włocławek diocese, said the bishop had imposed the measures on Archbishop Lenga in accordance with canons 392 and 763 of the Code of Canon Law.

Canon 392 states that, in order to protect Church unity, “a bishop is bound to promote the common discipline of the whole Church and therefore to urge the observance of all ecclesiastical laws”. Canon 763 says that bishops have the right to preach everywhere unless forbidden to do so by a local bishop.
 

 

Archbishop Hebda warns priests against voting in Super Tuesday primary

St. Paul, Minn., Feb 27, 2020 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- Catholic priests in Minnesota have been advised not to vote in the state’s March 3 Super Tuesday presidential primary, because there is no guarantee their partisan ballot choice will be kept private, and because primary voting in the state requires voters to express support for a party’s principles.

Minnesota Catholic Conference staff have told the state’s bishops that clerical participation in the primary election is “imprudent.”
 
“As priests are, generally, discouraged from participating in partisan political activities, Minnesota Catholic Conference staff advised the bishops of Minnesota that, in light of the possibility that the information related to a priest’s participation and ballot selection could be made public, that it would be imprudent to for them to participate in this particular primary process,” Catholic conference executive director Jason Adkins said in a statement sent to CNA Feb. 27.
 
Guidance from bishops to their priests on this matter is “within their purview,” said Adkins, whose organization represents the bishops of Minnesota on public policy initiatives.
 
Only ballots for the Republican Party and the Democratic-Farmer Labor Party, the state party affiliated with the national Democratic Party, are available for primary voters to choose from.
 
While the candidate a voter chooses in a Minnesota primary is secret, political party chairs are able to know which primary individual voters chose to vote in during the presidential primary.

Archbishop Bernie Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis warned in an email to priests and deacons that because of the state’s policies, “nothing prevents party affiliation from being made public.”
 
Hebda emphasized that there is no tax-related ban on clergy voting in primaries and clergy can endorse candidates in their individual capacities.
 
“But the possibility that the data may become public should discourage clergy from participating,” said Hebda. “If the law were different and protected privacy, maybe the calculus would change.”
 
“it could be seen as ‘partisan’ political activity to align oneself with a party and to vote in its primary, which the Church generally discourages clergy from doing for evangelical reasons, more so than tax ones,” said Hebda.
 
According to Adkins, “most of the clergy to whom we’ve spoken about the matter were grateful for the archbishop’s guidance because it apprised them about something to which they’d not given thought and also helpfully laid out important information and considerations.”
 
Katherine Cross, communications director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, told CNA that the state’s presidential primary process “requires participants to attest to a party’s principles” as a condition for voting.
 
This limits participation to “those who are willing to publicly attest general agreement with the platform of one of the major parties here in Minnesota,” Adkins’ statement said. The change aimed to separate the primary from the party caucus process and to protect both events’ integrity as partisan events.
 
Adkins noted that legislators are considering whether to change the process to ensure that a voter’s primary ballot choice remains private.
 
DFL Rep. Ray Dehn of Minneapolis has proposed a bill to restrict party access to voter data. The bill proposes that political parties may not use the data for any purposes beyond certifying that the primary elections are free of widespread interference.
 
“It absolutely is a legitimate concern,” Dehn told ABC News television affiliate KSTP. “We've heard from not just tax-exempt groups and nonprofits but clergy don't want that information available.”
 
The bill passed the DFL-controlled House of Representatives late Wednesday night.
 
DFL Gov. Tim Walz has said there is time to act before data is shared after the election.
 
“There’s folks that work really hard in positions where they're non-partisan judges, clergy and others that don't want to be in this position and I am with them on that,” he told reporters Feb. 26.

It is not clear whether the Republican-controlled State Senate will pass a bill to change the law and Minnesota Republican Party chair Jennifer Carnahan has opposed changes because voting is already underway, KSTP reported.
 
On March 3, Minnesota joins thirteen other states and the U.S. territory of American Samoa in what is commonly called the Super Tuesday primary. Primary victories in the contested race for the Democratic presidential nomination will determine how candidates will split 1,357 party delegates, a key prize towards securing the majority of about 4,000 delegates needed to win the nomination.
 
The Minnesota primary for other elected offices will be held in August.
 
Adkins’ statement elaborated on concerns about partisan activity by priests.
 
“Counseling the avoidance of partisan political activity helps ensure that the priest retains an identity as a credible witness of the Gospel,” said Adkins.

“Especially in light of the political polarization and identity politics of today, the ability of a priest to form consciences for faithful citizenship in light of the appropriate principles depends, in part, on his ability to transcend the partisan divide and not have his catechesis tainted by the suspicion of partisanship.”
 
“Inevitably, addressing particular moral questions and public debates will strike some as partisan regardless of intent, but it remains important to cast the Church’s social teaching as principled, and never partisan,” said Adkins.
 
Minnesota Catholic Conference staff are also barred from participating in partisan political activity, Adkins said.
 
The 1983 Code of Canon Law bars Catholic clerics from assuming public offices which entail the exercise of civil power. It bars priests from “an active part in political parties and in governing labor unions” unless ecclesiastical authority judges it necessary to protect the rights of the Church or to promote the common good.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the February 2020 digital edition of their document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” describes “complementary roles in public life” for clergy and lay people. Church leaders “avoid endorsing or opposing candidates” while fulfilling responsibilities to teach moral fundamentals, to help Catholics form their consciences, and to encourage the faithful to do their duties in political life.
 
“The Church is involved in the political process but is not partisan. The Church cannot champion any candidate or party. Our cause is the defense of human life and dignity and the protection of the weak and vulnerable,” the document said.
 
The U.S. bishops’ Office of General Counsel in August 2018 published guidelines for Catholic organizations on political activity and lobbying. The document runs to 45 pages.

Catholic parish hosts ecumenical Ash Wednesday service in N Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Feb 27, 2020 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- While Northern Ireland has long faced religious disputes, an ecumenical celebration of Ash Wednesday was held at a Catholic church in Belfast this year, in which Presbyterian, Anglican, and Methodist ministers participated.

Ken Newell, a former Presbyterian Moderator; Elizabeth Hanna, a retired Church of Ireland minister; and Robin Waugh, a Methodist minister, all received ashes at the Feb. 26 service at St. Mary's Church.

Fr. Tim Bartlett led the service. Afterwards, he said it was a “deeply moving” experience.

Fr. Martin Magill, pastor of St. John’s parish, helped to organize the event.

Ahead of time, he said that "In this inclusive service, people from all backgrounds will be offered the ashes, but no one will be pressured to take them.”

"In other parts of the world Christians come together every year to mark Ash Wednesday in this way, so in many other places what we are marking together tomorrow would be a common practice."

Hanna commented, "I thoroughly enjoyed being here, and history has been made. It was great being a part of it.”

Newell noted his joy in participating “in this special service” and emphasized the value of Lent.

He stressed the symbolic value of this event in bringing people together. He said it is also an opportunity to make “space for God,” according to the Belfast Telegraph.

"This will be a symbolic service of healing and reconciliation, of togetherness and not of division,” he said. "It is another opportunity for the churches to walk side by side, and to move on towards a better future for everyone.”

Religious disputes have long been part of the history of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom and has been predominantly Protestant, while the majority-Catholic Republic of Ireland declared its independence in 1916.

The region has had ongoing religiously and politically based conflicts, most notably “the Troubles”, which included violent clashes that lasted from the late 1960s until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was struck.

Since 1998, there has been only sporadic sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, though there have been several incidents in recent years.

Friend of Jean Vanier ‘heartbroken’ for abuse victims, but hopeful for the future of L’Arche

Denver, Colo., Feb 27, 2020 / 04:35 pm (CNA).- On the news that Jean Vanier, Catholic founder of L’Arche International, has been credibly accused of serially sexually abusing women, Professor Stanley Hauerwas said he is “devastated.”

“That is the way anyone must feel on hearing the news of Jean Vanier’s sexual misconduct,” Hauerwas said in comments to CNA. “Vanier was supposed to be different and in many ways he was. But the difference makes his behavior all the more devastating. He should have known better,” he added.

Hauerwas, a world renowned theologian with joint appointments at Duke Divinity School and Duke Law School, was a personal friend of Vanier, who died at the age of 90 on May 7, 2019.

Vanier was the once-revered founder of L’Arche, an international community of people with intellectual disabilities and their supporters, and of Faith and Light, an ecumenical Christian association of prayer and friendship for those with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Last April, L’Arche commissioned GCPS, an independent U.K. consultancy specializing in the reporting of exploitation and abuse to investigate allegations related to Fr. Thomas Philippe, an abusive Dominican priest sanctioned by Church authorities in 1956, whom Vanier described as his “spiritual mentor.”

On Feb. 22, 2020, L’Arche International published the results of the investigation, detailing “credible and consistent” accounts of sexual misconduct by Vanier against six adult women without disabilities in the context of spiritual direction.

Hauerwas said he considered Vanier a friend and mentor, and is “heartbroken by this revelation of his terrible misconduct and utterly condemn it as an abuse of power.”

Hauerwas noted that Vanier seems to have convinced himself the abuse was consensual, which he said was “some desperate attempt to justify his actions. Which is but a reminder that self-deception often is the result of trying to make sense of our lives and why we all need accountability, especially those held in high esteem.” 

“One suspects his gentleness allowed him to get away with anything but his actions involving the women were anything but gentle,” he said.

Still, Hauerwas said he is “indebted” to Vanier for what he taught him about how to love and care for disabled people, and he hopes that the good of L’Arche’s work will not be lost along with the revelations of abuse.

“So much of (Vanier’s) life was morally exemplary. That is one of the problems. How can we continue to learn from his witness with his intellectually disabled friends without excusing his predatory sexual behavior? At this time when we are trying to receive this devastating news the only advice I have is not to be in a hurry to answer that question,” he said.

Rather than rush to decisions, Hauerwas urged those effected by the report to pray.

“We must pray first for the women he betrayed,” he said. “We must pray for the members of the L’Arche movement. We must pray for ourselves that God will help us to carry on the work of L’Arche because that work is, in and of itself, independent of the actions of its founder.”

He added that the international L'Arche community “are proving to be quite extraordinary in terms of how they're responding and how they have responded.”

L’Arche International has set up an additional centralized reporting procedure for any further information that people may wish to report. Any such information will be received by a task force composed of people outside of L’Arche.

“I continue to believe that in those homes the glory of God is manifest for all to see.”

Vatican City implements health measures over coronavirus

Vatican City, Feb 27, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican has implemented special health measures and canceled some events as more than 500 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Italy.

Hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed in Vatican City offices, and there is a nurse and a doctor on call at a Vatican clinic to give immediate assistance, Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni told Vatican News. 

While there have been no diagnosed cases of the coronavirus in Vatican City, Bruni said Feb. 24 that Vatican health staff have worked with the Italian Ministry of Health on procedures which can be brought into action, and are in close contact with the regional authorities in Lazio.

“In compliance with the provisions of the Italian authorities, some events scheduled for the next few days in indoor places and with an important influx of public have been postponed," Bruni said.

With Pope Francis’ Lenten retreat scheduled for March 1-6, there are no papal audiences scheduled for next week, but conferences in Rome and other indoor events have been canceled. 

A conference schedule to take place March 5-6 at the Pontifical Gregorian University on the opening of Vatican archives of Pope Pius XII has been canceled, as has a March 2-7 communications workshop at the Pontifical Urbaniana University for global representatives of the Pontifical Missions Societies.

An event for a book on Cardinal Celso Costantini Feb. 25, at which Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Luis Antonio Tagle, and Fernando Filoni were expected to speak, was canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

As of Feb. 27, Pope Francis is still scheduled to give his Sunday Angelus address on March 1 before leaving for his Lenten retreat. 

Pope Francis did not cancel his Wednesday general audience Feb. 26, but he was later seen coughing during his Ash Wednesday Mass. 

The pope chose not to attend a scheduled liturgy with priests in Rome Feb. 27 “due to a slight indisposition,” according to the Holy See press office. However, the pope’s other appointments, such as Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, took place as usual.

Italian authorities reported 528 cases of the coronavirus Feb. 27 with 14 deaths. Nearly all of the reported cases are in northern Italy. In response to the outbreak, Italian officials have also imposed quarantine restrictions on several towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions, where most of the infections have occurred.

The Archdiocese of Milan suspended Masses beginning on the evening Feb. 23 until further notice. The Patriarch of Venice, Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, suspended Masses and other liturgical celebrations, including baptisms and Stations of the Cross, until Sunday March 1.

In Rome’s region of Lazio there have been just three reported cases: an Italian, who has recovered, and two Chinese tourists, who are being treated in a hospital.

“I wish to express again my closeness to the coronavirus patients and the health workers who treat them, as well as to the civil authorities and all those who are working to assist the patients and stop the infection,” Pope Francis said Feb. 26.