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Cardinal Dolan slams DNC pledge to support only pro-abortion candidates

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan described the recent pledge from the Democratic National Committee's chair to support only pro-abortion candidates "disturbing" and "intolerant."

The cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the Democratic party to "challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position."

The cardinal's April 26 statement was in reaction to recent comments by DNC chair Tom Perez who said: "Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state."

Perez went on to say in an April 21 statement: "At a time when women's rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country, we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice."

Perez's statement came after a DNC "unity tour" rally in Nebraska, where another DNC leader and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, appeared April 20 with a former state senator, Heath Mello, the Democratic mayoral candidate in Omaha. The DNC tour was sharply criticized by pro-abortion groups for joining forces with Mello, who sponsored a 2009 state Senate bill requiring that women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before having an abortion.

"The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women -- one of the most critical constituencies for the party -- of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid," NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in an April 20 statement.

Sanders responded to the criticism by saying different views on abortion within the party were natural. Perez took this a step further saying he fundamentally disagreed with "Mello's personal beliefs about women's reproductive health."

On NBC's "Meet the Press," April 23, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was asked if a Democratic politician could be pro-life.

"Of course," she said, adding that she has "served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive -- my family would say aggressive -- position on promoting a woman's right to choose."

Dolan, who offered prayers at the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 2012, had strong words for the Democratic party in his April 26 statement saying the party's "platform already endorses abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, even forcing taxpayers to fund it; and now the DNC says that to be a Democrat -- indeed to be an American -- requires supporting that extreme agenda."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Church needs missionaries, not 'clericalized' laity, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church needs laypeople with a missionary spirit, which means Catholics do not have to try to force members into a vocation that is the Holy Spirit's to give, Pope Francis said.

The temptation to impose a vocation on laypeople as some kind of validation of their service in the church "worries me," the pope said April 27 during a meeting with members of Catholic Action.

"What has happened many times in dioceses?" the pope asked. "A priest comes and says, 'I have a phenomenal layman who does this, this and that; he is a good organizer. What if we make him a deacon?' Stop! Don't give him a vocation that is up to the Holy Spirit to give him. Do not clericalize!"

Catholic Action's meeting with Pope Francis kicked off a three-day forum designed to reflect on the theme "Catholic Action in mission with all and for all."

Warmly greeted by some 300 participants from around the world, Pope Francis was presented with several meaningful gifts. Two members from Lampedusa, Italy, where thousands of refugees arrive each year, gave the pope an English copy of the Psalms and the New Testament found in one of the fishing boats used by migrants.

After being told that the book was found with a folded page marking Psalm 55, a song of supplication in times of need, the pope reverently took the gift and kissed it.

He was also greeted by a family from Bethlehem. The children, the pope was told, wanted to teach Pope Francis the Sign of the Cross in Arabic to prepare him for his visit to Egypt the following day.

Bending over and attentively listening to the instruction of the twin siblings, Pope Francis placed his hands above their heads and thanked them.

In his speech, the pope told members that a true missionary apostolate involves "going out" to those in need or who are far away from the church.

However, in calling others to conversion, the pope said Christians must avoid the practice of proselytism or coercion, "which goes against the Gospel."

"It makes me really sad to see people who are in ministry -- lay, consecrated, priests, bishops -- who are still playing the proselytism card. No! It is done through attraction. That is the genius phrase of Pope Benedict XVI," he said.

The pope also called on laymen and laywomen to be agents of mercy to those who are far from the church rather than acting like "border control" agents.

"You cannot be more restrictive than the church nor more papist than the pope," he said. "Please, open the doors, don't administer Christian perfection tests because you will only promote a hypocritical phariseeism."

Prayer, formation and sacrifice are also crucial in preparing laypeople to become missionaries, otherwise, "there is no fruit," the pope added.

Groups and movements like Catholic Action, he continued, must "take flesh" and be willing to serve within their dioceses while avoiding the temptation to become self-serving, which would otherwise remove them from their true calling.  

"A Catholic Action that only pretends and does not take flesh isn't Catholic. It is action, but it is not Catholic. To take flesh doesn't mean what I want, it means what the church wants," Pope Francis said.

Instead, he said, members of the international lay organization must continue to make their presence known in all areas of life, from the world of politics and business to prisons, hospitals and factories.

"Do not become an institution of exclusives that doesn't say anything to anyone nor to the church. Everyone has a right to be evangelized," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Between election rounds, French cardinal deplores 'democracy gone mad'

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Jonathan Luxmoore

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- France's Catholic primate has condemned the current presidential campaign as his country's "worst ever" and urged Christians to help prevent democracy from "losing its sense."

"Left and right rivaled each other and had their radical wings, but there was also a center. Now, left and right have stepped back, and the main candidates are divided by other unclear criteria. I have the impression our voters are totally lost," said Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon.

In an interview with Poland's Catholic Information Agency (KAI), published April 26, Cardinal Barbarin said France was witnessing "the twilight of its existing political system" as citizens sought out "leaders closer to the people in their economic and social realities."

"Democracy seems to be losing its sense and being cast adrift by media shabbiness," Cardinal Barbarin added. "This has been our worst-ever election campaign, characterized by the unforgivable accusations, total critiques, violence, chaos and the misleading of voters."

In the first round of French elections April 23, Emmanuel Macron, founder of En Marche!, a center-left political movement, and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, emerged as the two top vote-getters. They will face off May 7, when voters will choose who will be president for the next five years. Candidates from the mainstream Socialist and Republican parties will not be in the final round.

Cardinal Barbarin said the success of Le Pen, who has vowed to take France out of the European Union and give French nationals priority over foreigners in jobs, welfare, housing and education, reflected a "destabilizing trend" also visible in other parts of Europe and the United States. He spoke of a "form of democratic terrorism," which stripped candidates of their dignity by establishing a right "to know everything, whether proved or unproved" about them.

"It seems we're dealing with a democracy gone mad," the cardinal said. "Although statesmen still exist, they're unable to get through today's campaign mechanisms, where everything is decided by the art of winning. Those who win are just electoral animals, not competent, rational politicians."

Catholics traditionally make up two-thirds of France's 67 million inhabitants, although only a small proportion attends Mass.

In a book-length message last October, "Recovering the sense of politics," the bishops' conference said "weariness, frustration, fear and anger" in the country had fueled "profound hopes and expectations of change," but also cautioned against "a search for facile, emotive options."

Cardinal Barbarin told KAI the Catholic Church should appeal to citizens not to vote "for people with pretty eyes, who can make stars of themselves with media support."

"This is a time of decadence, and decadence means certain forms and structures are nearing their end," he said.

"As Christians, we yearn for social order, peace and harmony -- a state based on principles of welfare and participation, where all can make contributions and citizens are subjects of the political community," he said. "But the problem in today's France is the rising disappointment and anger of those who feel ill-treated, rejected and forgotten."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Practical Christianity: Pope emphasizes real help for those in need

IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert Duncan

By Keanine Griggs

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' unique approach to teaching the faithful combines speaking clearly and simply with showing people what steps -- even small steps -- they can take to make a difference, a Vatican official said.

"He is showing us a practical agenda for being a Catholic and being a Christian in the 21st century," said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, whom Pope Francis chose as one of two undersecretaries of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

"We need programs and possibilities of action in order to live our faith," Father Czerny said. The conversion Pope Francis wants people to undergo involves getting them to ask, "What is the next step that I could take to help our church and people to respond" to the needs of people and the demands of the Gospel?

"He's not proposing a program or organization," the Jesuit said, but he is asking "how can you contribute to people being a little less marginalized and a little more integrated?"

Father Czerny knows something about the experience of being a refugee and integrating into a new land. Born in 1946 in the former Czechoslovakia, he immigrated with his family to Canada. He entered the Jesuits in 1963 and in 1979 co-founded the Jesuit Center for Social Faith and Justice in Toronto. He directed the center until 1989 when he moved to El Salvador to help continue the work of six Jesuits murdered at the Central American University there.

From 1992 to 2002, he served as the social justice secretary at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome before moving to Africa as founding director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network. In 2010, he came back to Rome to serve as an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. In January, the council became the foundation of the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The statutes for the new office specify that, at least temporarily, Pope Francis will lead the Section for Migrants and Refugees with the assistance of the undersecretaries, Father Czerny and Italian Scalabrinian Father Fabio Baggio.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, Father Czerny said it is always tempting to look at big political and social problems like the refugee crisis and try to find "a formula or pattern that solves everything."

But Pope Francis' personal style and his insistence on the importance of encounters between individuals send a strong message that human problems require human solutions.

"Small steps do add up and they are the ones that touch us and transform us," so that individuals who set out to help a person in need end up realizing they were given an opportunity to grow in their faith, Father Czerny said.

Pope Francis does not hesitate to name the issues and causes that individuals should place on their "moral agenda," he added. The pope's commitment to the poor and to the pressing migration and refugee scenario highlights his pastoral style, which shows us "how God is calling us to live the Gospel," Father Czerny said.

Pope Francis' impact is so great because his approach speaks to the individual, the Jesuit said. The pope's words and actions focus on the "human element," speaking to and interacting with people "personally and individually."

"Human problems don't seem to respond well to huge solutions," he added. Individuals, parishes and dioceses need to look for small steps they can take to promote "a real encounter and real integration" of anyone in need.

Ultimately, those little steps help Christians "to rediscover our faith and to live it with greater joy."

While Pope Francis is innovative in many ways, it is important to note the continuity of between Pope Francis and his predecessors, Father Czerny said. "All you have to do is visit the footnotes, and you'll see that some of his most striking phrases are quotations from Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II."

Father Czerny said he hopes the legacy of Pope Francis will be that he "found a way of helping the church be both worldwide and very local" by using an approach that inspires individuals to live their faith "intensely and practically in a real way in so many different places."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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