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Review of Canadian Caritas is hurting its credibility, says ex-president

IMAGE: CNS photo/Francois Gloutnay, Presence

By Francois Gloutnay

MONTREAL (CNS) -- The former president of Development and Peace, the Canadian member of the international Caritas organization, said the Catholic bishops' attitude toward their charitable agency is hurting its membership and credibility.

Development and Peace is being criticized by a handful of Canadian bishops who suspect the organization might be supporting partners that do not conform with the church's moral values, especially regarding women's sexuality and abortion. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Development and Peace are conducting a joint review of these partnerships; their conclusions regarding 52 of the 180 partners are expected to be made public by the end of September.

Some expect the information to be released during the CCCB's annual plenary assembly in Cornwall, Ontario, Sept. 23-27.

In 2018, these doubts led a dozen bishops to freeze Lenten donations collected in their dioceses for Development and Peace. The donations have since being given to the organization, which promised they would not be used to support the 52 partners being studied.

"If a negative decision is taken on Development and Peace and its partners, the bishops and the church will have to live with it," warned Jean-Denis Lampron, who was president of the organization's National Council from 2015 to 2018, when cancer forced him to step down. "Will they destroy Development and Peace? Will they commit to continuing their work? I don't know.

"I'm not saying Development and Peace is perfect. Far from it. But it seems to me they're (bishops) trying to kill a fly by using an atomic bomb. It's discouraging, it's demotivating, it's even criminal. The word is hard, but we're touching the very integrity of people here," said Lampron.

No document in the dispute was made public. However, documents leaked last November showed a deep disagreement between the CCCB and Development and Peace about whether or not these partners might adhere entirely to the church's moral teachings.

Lampron said the CCCB seemed more prone to listen to pro-life lobbies such as LifeSiteNews than to trust its own charitable aid agency.

"This whole story will have an impact on members and donors. We already feel a demobilization among the members. And people stopped giving. An irreparable harm has been done," said the former president.

These past months, as part of the review process, some of Development and Peace's partners received letters from leaders of the agency and the CCCB, expressing some "concerns" about their work. Some partners felt insulted.

"It certainly wasn't a letter of solidarity with our work," wrote Jesuit Father Ismael Moreno, known as Padre Melo, director of Radio Progreso and a Jesuit center for reflection, research and communications in Honduras. "And even less a note of compassion for the threats we face all the time -- including the death threats received by our team members because of their defense of human rights and environmental rights."

On July 30, the Canadian Jesuits voiced their support for Padre Melo's work in a public letter.

"We are concerned that the allegations currently circulating and a potential loss of support from certain groups and leaders in our church may put their lives at even greater risk," wrote the Canadian Jesuits.

"What information we have about the 2018 CCCB research findings on (Development and Peace) partners is of great concern to us. Our hope is that the criteria being used in the current process of review is comprehensive in its understanding of the church's social teaching and its defense of life in all of its dimensions, at every stage, and in all its diversity; denouncing poverty as an affront to the dignity of women and men, promoting peace, protecting human rights as well as the environment," they wrote.

On Aug. 1, Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, Peru, president of the Latin American bishops' council, or CELAM, expressed his support in a letter to Development and Peace, thanking the organization for its work with partners in Latin America, even with those who are not necessarily Catholic.

Also in August, the CCCB explained in an email sent to the Canadian agency Presence info that "since the launch of the joint review initiated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP)-Caritas Canada, the object of the exercise has remained clear: to ensure that the work of CCODP, and that of its direct international partners, do in fact adhere to the principles and values of Catholic social and ethical teaching."

CCCB communications coordinator Lisa Gall said Canadian bishops see themselves as "stewards of the funds collected in Catholic parishes or from individual Canadian Catholics" for Development and Peace.

"The partnership review is, therefore, only seen correctly when it is understood in terms of fiduciary responsibility; it represents the kind of accountability, transparency and responsibility donors expect of any organization like (Development and Peace) ... consistent with the highest expectations of best practices in international development work today," said Gall.

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Contributing to this story was Philippe Vaillancourt.

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Gloutnay is a reporter for Presence info in Montreal. Vaillancourt is editor of Presence info.


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'They have lost absolutely everything,' say volunteers back from Bahamas

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tom Tracy

By Tom Tracy

PORT OF PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) -- An expert in disaster search and rescue who recently concluded a 13-day post-Hurricane Dorian operation in the Bahamas said that if there are scores of undiscovered fatalities there, their bodies were likely claimed by the sea.

The government of the Bahamas says that the official death toll following Dorian has reached 50, and hundreds remain officially listed as missing while search-and-rescue teams continue to comb through widespread wreckage.

"An old man was looking for his grandchild, but we couldn't find the boy and the fishermen say that the water was so high that many of the bodies went into the ocean," said Hector Mendez, one of Mexico City's famous Los Topos ("the Moles"), which formed spontaneously in response to the deadly 1985 earthquake that flattened 30,000 buildings in Mexico City and killed thousands.

"Our specialty is to go inside the buildings when they fall down, and working in the sun and swamp was very hard on us, but we stayed there and we did find one (deceased) lady inside the middle of a building," said Mendez, who spoke with the Florida Catholic diocesan newspaper, after he caught a ride to Florida courtesy of the Florida-based Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line.

The company, through its Mission Resolve program formed after Dorian, concluded its second humanitarian round-trip mission by providing the transportation from Florida to Freeport, Grand Bahama, carrying some 400 volunteers and 200 visa-carrying Bahamas evacuees.

Mendez added that his team of four Central Americans had arrived in the Bahamas by yacht and airplanes to join a larger group of 20 rescue professionals working on the east side of Grand Bahama Island. He said the 2010 Haiti earthquake was a more devastating situation to work in but that Hurricane Dorian was significantly devastating for key parts of the Bahamas.

"The east side (of Grand Bahama) was completely destroyed; the hurricane was there for 40 hours smashing everything," Mendez said. He was heading back to Mexico City for a three-day training event but said his organization was likely to send a fresh team and search dogs back to the Bahamas, probably to the hard-hit Abaco Islands.

Mendez said his instincts tell him there may not be much to discover in the rubble there.

"We had the dogs with us, and I am 35 years working on this all over the world and I know how it smells and we couldn't smell it," Mendez said of the search for the deceased.

Also returning from the Bahamas on the cruise ship was Richard Raines, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force and recently retired from the City of Margate Fire Rescue Services northwest of Fort Lauderdale. He said his team helped clear debris from wrecked homes, provide medical support and compassionate outreach with a Christian-based team of disaster volunteers.

"I have been through all the hurricanes locally, including Hurricane Andrew (in 1992), and it was just as bad," Raines said. "The water line was up high and there were a lot of tragic stories, but I have to say that the people were the most positive."

Raines noted that long-term relief and rebuilding coordination is what is most needed in the Bahamas now.

"You can give somebody water and you give them food, but they will be hungry again and they will be thirsty again, but we can give them living water and they won't thirst again and they will have hope for tomorrow," he said, adding that the Florida cruise ship transportation provided a good point of reference for coordinating team efforts.

"As you are going over on the ship, you are able to talk to other people and find out other groups that are helping out and you find other ways you can help as well," Raines said. "You aren't standing around talking, you can actually do something."

John Marshall, an electrical engineer from Mobile, Alabama, went with a team of Christian volunteers from around the U.S. He drew some comparisons of the situation to his firsthand experience in working in the post-Hurricane Maria disaster in Puerto Rico in 2017.

Marshall said he felt called to be on the ground after seeing the post-Dorian images in the Bahamas.

"We meet basic needs first including solar lights, water filtration, food," he said. "The electrical system on the Bahamas is in much better shape than in Puerto Rico -- except for east of the canal in Grand Bahama, where it was just total devastation. Freeport is coming online very quickly."

Water filtration is a huge need in the Bahamas, he noted.

But the devastation in the Bahamas -- because it was contained to a much smaller area than in Puerto Rico and because it is so close to Florida -- will recover much quickly, according to Marshall.

"Three weeks from now when the Bahamas is off the news, that is when it will get critical for the Bahamas: People forget about it and it falls off the press radar screen, but they will still need food and still need water and so many people have lost absolutely everything," he said. "They are sleeping in cars, friends have taken them. Repairing houses is going to be huge.

"What impressed me about these people is that they started self-help and cleaning out their houses but they do need their electrical systems fixed."

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Palm Beach and the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Priesthood is a gift, not a job, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being a priest is not a job or fulfilling an employment contract but is a gift from God that should be contemplated and treasured as such, Pope Francis said.

Those who turn ordained ministry into an occupation "lose the heart of the ministry, lose the gaze of Jesus who looked upon all of us and told us, 'Follow me,'" he said Sept. 19 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope focused his homily on the day's first reading in which St. Paul writes to Timothy (1 Tim 4:12-16), "Do not neglect the gift you have."

Ordination is a freely given gift from the Lord, the pope said; it is not "a job" or "an employment contract" in which one "must do" something.

"Doing is secondary," he said. First and foremost, "I must receive this gift and safeguard it as a gift and from that -- in the contemplation of the gift -- everything else springs."

When ordained ministry is not seen and treasured as a gift, he said, "deviations" emerge, starting with "the worst ones, which are terrible, to the more everyday ones that makes us base our ministry on ourselves and not on the gratitude of gift and love for he who gave us this gift, the gift of ministry."

Effort, intelligence and "also a bit of shrewdness" are needed to safeguard this gift properly, he added.

The pope also briefly commented on the day's Gospel reading, Luke 7:36-50, in which Jesus corrects his host who has forgotten to perform the customary rituals associated with welcoming a guest. Jesus instead praises the "sinful woman" who showed Jesus "great love," including by using her tears and hair to bathe and dry Jesus' feet.

The pope said the Pharisee hosting Jesus was a good man, "but he had forgotten the gift of kindness, the gift of coexistence, which is also a gift. These gifts are always forgotten when there are some underlying motives, when I want to do" or achieve something.

It is true that priests have things they must do, "and the first task is proclaiming the Gospel," Pope Francis said, "but it is necessary to take care of the core, the source from which this mission springs, the gift we have freely received from the Lord."

The pope concluded by praying priests see their ministry first as a gift then as a service and that they not become "businessmen ministers, fixers" or adopt other attitudes that make them stray from the Lord.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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 [email protected]


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Jenky: Real Presence not 'opinion,' but 'foundational' to Catholic faith

IMAGE: CNS photo/Daniel Sone

By Tom Dermody

PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- Acknowledging evidence that "for several generations" the Catholic Church has not sufficiently taught its core truths, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky has called for all ministries of the Diocese of Peoria to be "intentionally centered" on the Real Presence in the holy Eucharist.

The bishop's 2,100-word teaching document, titled "The Real Presence," was released Sept. 16, six weeks after the publication of a Pew Research Center survey showing that a majority of Catholics in the United States do not believe that the bread and wine used at Mass become the body and blood of Christ.

"This failure in faith and conviction has happened despite the fact that the received teaching goes back to apostolic times and has always been held as foundational to our Catholic identity," wrote Bishop Jenky. "So as your bishop, I believe it is a grave personal obligation for me to try to state as clearly as I am able some basic truths about the Blessed Sacrament."

Bishop Jenky outlined "persistent evidence" of the Real Presence found in Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the witness of the saints.

"It is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church, revealed by the Holy Spirit and preserved from any possibility of error, that the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ are truly and substantially present in the most holy Eucharist," he wrote. "This is not an opinion to be measured against any opinion poll, but rather divine revelation as expressed by the absolute authority of Scripture and tradition."

Bishop Jenky also had strong words for Catholics who would deny the teaching.

"The Lord once said: 'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood shall live forever, and I will raise him up on the last day,'" he said, quoting the Gospel of St. John. "So for any Catholic to deny the Real Presence is in a certain sense to deny Jesus and place themselves outside of the convictions of our faith."

Since his installation as bishop of Peoria in 2002, Bishop Jenky has issued an annual teaching document called a "Festival Letter," usually near the start of the calendar year. In an introductory letter to "The Real Presence," the bishop said his 2020 Festival Letter was being released early to set the tone for the diocese's various ministries as programs resume this fall.

The full text will be printed in the Sept. 29 issue of The Catholic Post, Peoria's diocesan newspaper, and a downloadable version will be posted at

"While every doctrine of our faith is important, faith in the Eucharist is clearly foundational for Catholic Christianity," Bishop Jenky wrote in the introductory letter. "I therefore ask that this year and in coming years ... our entire local church look for ways to reinforce our teaching and witness regarding the Blessed Sacrament."

In the main document, Bishop Jenky said Catholics share "a perennial responsibility before Almighty God" to pass on divine truth "in season and out of season, uncompromised and undiminished."

And while the church's teaching on the Real Presence hasn't changed, Bishop Jenky pointed to a "noticeable decline in our ritual reverence and recognition" in recent decades.

"How we pray is certainly integral to how we believe," he wrote. Attentive silence in church -- as well as rituals including genuflecting, blessing with holy water, and prayers before and after Mass -- "encouraged a kind of shared awe before something experienced as numinous and wondrous."

But contemporary American culture tends to be "relentlessly informal," said the bishop, and "sometimes our churches may seem more like hotel lobbies than an awesome House of God."

In addition to regular instruction, Bishop Jenky listed several ways that reverence for the Real Presence can be enhanced, including eucharistic devotions such as Holy Hours, Benediction, processions and quiet times of personal prayer.

He said Masses at weddings and funerals provide "great opportunities to witness to our faith in the Eucharist as a pastoral gift to those who may have been poorly catechized or even have fallen away." And he encouraged that holy Communion be offered under the forms of both bread and wine when possible "for the sake of the fullness of the sign instituted by Christ.

Listing the benefits to individual and community faith that take place at every Mass, Bishop Jenky asked: "How could we ever dare to neglect Sunday Mass or fail to share with future generations the infinite treasure of the Real Presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament?"

"We are a Eucharistic Church, whose life and service revolve around the gift of the Eucharist," wrote Bishop Jenky.

Explaining how the Eucharist empowers Catholics to appreciate and live all the other sacraments, he added that "just as truly as Christ ascended into heaven, so truly he descended into the sacraments, until he comes again in glory."

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Dermody is editor of The Catholic Post, newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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 [email protected]