Thursday, August 31, 2023

Is this what's coming to America? Finnish politician on trial for quoting the Bible and defending traditional marriage


Finnish politician on trial for ‘hate speech’ for defending traditional marriage

Finnish politician Päivi Räsänen is on trial this week for “hate speech” and “ethnic agitation” after publicly sharing in 2019 her biblical, religious views on marriage as between one man and one woman. 

Räsänen, 63, is being tried for violating Finland’s hate speech laws by using Bible verses to express her support for traditional marriage. 

Her trial takes place today, August 31 and tomorrow, September 1. 

In the 2019 tweet that brought about Räsänen’s current legal troubles, she criticised her denomination for embracing LGBTQ+ ideology, asking how these views could be reconciled with Scripture. In the tweet, she referenced Romans 1:24-27, which clearly states that homosexual activity is against God’s will. 

Along with Räsänen, a Finnish Lutheran bishop named Juhana Pohjola is also being tried for hate speech for publishing a pamphlet written by Räsänen that advocated for the biblical understanding of sexuality and marriage. 

Though they were unanimously acquitted by a Finnish District Court in 2022, prosecutors appealed their acquittal to the Helsinki Court of Appeal. 

Now, the two are facing tens of thousands of Euros in fines and possibly two years in prison if they are found guilty. Additionally, the court could also rule to censor Räsänen’s publications.

Räsänen and Pohjola are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF). 

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, said in a press release last week that “the relentless prosecution” of Räsänen has not only consumed four years of her life but “also intimidates others into silence”. 

“In a democratic society, everyone should be free to share their beliefs without fear of state prosecution,” Coleman said. “Criminalising speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and endangers democracy.

“State authorities have no business silencing ideas they dislike. That’s why this case is not just about Päivi, it is about everyone’s right to speak freely.”

Räsänen, who is a mother of five and grandmother of 10 as well as a member of Finland’s Parliament, told EWTN’s Tracy Sabol in a Monday interview that despite facing renewed persecution, she trusts “that this whole process is in God’s hands” and that she is confident that she will once again be acquitted of the hate speech charges.  

According to a statement from ADF International to the media, “Christian teachings [are] on trial” in Finland. 

ADF said that “core Christian teachings” were attacked during the district trial in early 2022 and that “finding Räsänen guilty would be a grave violation of human rights, significantly damaging free speech in Finland.” 

Tony Perkins, president of one of the U.S.’s leading religious advocacy groups, Family Research Council, also said in a Tuesday tweet that “it is not just Päivi and Bishop Pohjola on trial” but that “the Bible and the ability to live by the word is on trial”. 

In her Monday “EWTN News Nightly” interview, Räsänen said her trial directly challenges the rights of Christians to freely express deeply held religious beliefs and that “if something like that could happen in Finland it can happen in any country”.

First Saint of the Day for September


St. Giles, Abbot

Feastday: September 1
Patron: of beggars; blacksmiths; breast cancer; breast feeding; cancer patients; disabled people; Edinburgh (Scotland); epilepsy; fear of night; noctiphobics; forests; hermits; horses; lepers; mental illness; outcasts; poor peoples; rams; spur makers; sterility
Birth: 650
Death: 710

St. Giles, Abbot (Patron of Physically Disabled) Feast day - September 1

St. Giles is said to have been a seventh century Athenian of noble birth. His piety and learning made him so conspicuous and an object of such admiration in his own country that, dreading praise and longing for a hidden life, he left his home and sailed for France. At first he took up his abode in a wilderness near the mouth of the Rhone river, afterward near the river Gard, and, finally, in the diocese of Nimes.

He spend many years in solitude conversing only with God. The fame of his miracles became so great that his reputation spread throughout France. He was highly esteemed by the French king, but he could not be prevailed upon to forsake his solitude. He admitted several disciples, however, to share it with him. He founded a monastery, and established an excellent discipline therein. In succeeding ages it embraced the rule of St. Benedict. St. Giles died probably in the beginning of the eighth century, about the year 724.

Oh these German Bishops; blessing same-sex couples


Berlin archbishop permits same-sex blessings with impunity

A German archbishop has told priests they can confer blessings on same-sex couples without fear of punishment.

The move by Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin opens the gates to church services for the blessings of couples who “cannot or do not want to marry sacramentally”.

In a five-page, 2,000-word letter, the archbishop told the priest of his archdiocese that “it is no longer possible to say that all who are in any so-called irregular situation are in a state of mortal sin and have lost sanctifying grace”.

“Acknowledging the goodness of a relationship is a way of speaking well of God to those people,” he wrote, according to reports.

He quoted Amoris Laetitia, the 2016 apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis on the pastoral care of families, to emphasise however that a blessing did not infer approval or legitimisation but the acknowledgement that “we all remain guilty people who need the edifying grace of God for our path in life”.

“Pope Francis emphatically calls for pastoral discernment,” wrote Archbishop Koch, adding that the Pontiff “gives the local churches, the pastors, a lot of leeway in dealing with people in so-called ‘irregular’ situations”.

He urged priests to use their judgement in deciding who was eligible for such blessings and said he hoped the archdiocese would succeed in “preserving unity in diversity”.

The archbishop also reminded priests that Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, the Argentine prefect-designate of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, whom the Pope will make a cardinal next month, is open to same-sex blessings as long as they remain distinctive from marriage.

Archbishop Koch said such blessings would not be “a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”.

But at the same time as he permitted priests to confer same-sex blessings, he said he would not perform such ceremonies in person until the Pope had explicitly permitted them to take place.

Instead, he said he would continue to personally abide by the 2021 decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that prohibited such blessings.

Italian Archbishop Giacomo Morandi was understood to have been the driving force behind the publication of the responsum ad dubium that upheld the illegitimacy of liturgical blessings for same-sex couples. 

Pope Francis subsequently removed Archbishop Morandi from his post as secretary of the CDF and demoted him to diocesan Bishop of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, Italy, but the decree remains in force.

Archbishop of Berlin said in his letter that the German bishops are seeking to intensify their talks with the Vatican about the official prohibition of same-sex blessings.

Last year, the Belgian bishops published an order of service for the blessings of same-sex couple without sanction from the Vatican.

It is expected the subject of same-sex blessings will emerge during the Synod on Synodality in Rome this October. 

Among the personal guests of Pope Francis is the U.S. Jesuit Fr James Martin, one of the foremost apologists for the global gay rights agenda in the Catholic Church.

The synod was this month criticised by Cardinal Raymond Burke, former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, in a foreword to new book called The Synodal Process Is a Pandora’s Box: 100 Questions & Answers by Julio Loredo de Izcue and José Antonio Ureta, because it could open the door to ideology and schism within the Church.

Speaking to Jesuits in Portugal earlier this month, the Holy Father accused American conservative Catholics, however, of choosing ideology over their faith.

On the subject of homosexuality, Francis said: “Everyone has their own space in the Church”, and added that priests must “help people live so that they can occupy that place with maturity, and this applies to all kinds of people.”

Pope Francis said he disliked it when people “look at the so-called ‘sins of the flesh’ with a magnifying glass, just as we have done for so long for the sixth commandment”.

“If you exploited workers, if you lied or cheated, it didn’t matter, and instead sins below the waist were relevant,” he said.

Fears of a schism resulting from the redefinition of Church teaching extend beyond American conservatives, however, since many Catholics are likely to reject such changes.

They include Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, who attended the Second Vatican Council and who served under both Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

In an interview last year with The Catholic Herald, Cardinal Arinze warned Catholics of the dangers of parting company with traditional moral teachings.

Cardinal Arinze said: “If two men unite to run a legal or lawyers’ chamber, they can be blessed.  If two women unite to run a shop to sell rice or clothes, they can be blessed.

“But if two men or two women form a union which they call a same-sex union, then their motive is presumed to involve acts which are an offence against God’s natural ordering and so should not be blessed.”

Divine law – encompassed in the Ten Commandments – can never be redefined or changed by anyone in the Church, he explained.

Nor would attempting to dispense with Church teachings to align with contemporary secular mores result in greater popularity, he said. 

Instead, it could produce a schism, which would be extremely damaging for the Church and societies.

Rather, the antidote to the challenges of the age is, for Cardinal Arinze, in the first place greater faithfulness to the Gospel.

“Our effort has to be, with God’s grace, to strive each day to live with greater fidelity to the Gospel,” he said.

“St Paul wrote in Romans 12:2, ‘Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind’.

“When the Lord Jesus sent the Twelve Apostles he didn’t give them directives entirely agreeing with the world of their time – the Greek world and the Roman world. 

“If the Church agreed with the world on everything we wouldn’t have martyrs at all, beginning from the Apostles – and St Stephen, St Lawrence, St Thomas More, St Maria Goretti. 

“They wouldn’t give their lives if they had agreed with the world on all the details of suggestions put in front of them. 

“No-one likes to be killed but they valued their faith more than human life … if we live in that faith evangelisation will continue.”

Disgraced McCarrick found not competent to stand trial; outrage and disappointment follows


Bishop accountability group: Dismissal of charges against McCarrick ‘hugely disappointing’

A group known as, which tracks sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, condemned a Massachusetts district judge’s Wednesday decision to dismiss criminal charges against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The criminal charges involving the sexual assault and abuse of a minor were dismissed Wednesday after a judge ruled McCarrick, 93, was not mentally competent to stand trial.

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the bishops accountability group, told CNA that “the dismissal of the case against McCarrick is hugely disappointing” and that “our hearts go out to the courageous victim who brought this case, and to all of McCarrick’s victims.”

McCarrick, the disgraced former archbishop of Washington, D.C., was facing three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14 relating to allegations that he sexually abused a teenager who was a family friend at a wedding ceremony in the 1970s at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. 

That teenager was identified by in February as James Grein, a now-64-year-old former New Jersey resident.

The charges in Massachusetts were the first criminal charges that McCarrick has ever faced following several accusations of sexual abuse of minors and seminarians. 

Doyle asserted that Wednesday’s dismissal “is a reminder of the Catholic hierarchy’s cynical strategy of cover-up.”

“McCarrick’s predations were an open secret,” Doyle said. “Many of his fellow cardinals and bishops knew, and they did nothing. They didn’t report him to law enforcement, they didn’t go public with the information, and they didn’t reach out to those he assaulted.” 

According to Doyle, “McCarrick might have been prosecuted years ago if even one of his brother bishops had called the police.” 

“Instead,” she said, “yet again, a predator has evaded accountability. While the institution may have been spared the embarrassment of an ex-cardinal on trial, the disgrace of its complicity with McCarrick remains.” 

Despite the group’s frustration over the dismissal, Doyle said the case remains an important milestone. 

“McCarrick was the first U.S. cardinal and only second U.S. bishop ever to be charged with abuse,” Doyle said. “Two years ago, the world witnessed what was unimaginable 20 years ago, when the Catholic abuse crisis first broke in Boston: a former U.S. cardinal in a courtroom answering to criminal charges of child sexual abuse.”

Once a powerful figure in ecclesiastical, diplomatic, and political circles in the U.S. and around the world, McCarrick was formally removed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019. 

Criminal sexual assault charges filed against McCarrick in Wisconsin in April are still pending, as are several civil lawsuits.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Thursday Saint of the Day


St. Raymond Nonnatus

Raymond was born at Portella, Catalonia, Spain. He was delivered by caesarean operation when his mother died in childbirth. Hence his name non natus (not born). He joined the Mercedarians under St. Peter Nolasco at Barcelona. He succeeded Peter as chief ransomer and went to Algeria to ransom slaves. He remained as hostage for several slaves when his money ran out and was sentenced to be impaled when the governor learned that he had converted several Mohammedans. He escaped the death sentence because of the ransom he would bring, but was forced to run the gauntlet. He was then tortured for continuing his evangelizing activities but was ransomed eight months later by Peter Nolasco. On his return to Barcelona in 1239, he was appointed Cardinal by Pope Gregory IX, but died at Cardona a short distance from Barcelona the next year while on the way to Rome. He was canonized in 1657. He is the patron saint of expectant mothers and midwives because of the nature of his own birth. Although his mother died in labor, Raymond miraculously survived the ordeal. His feast day is August 31.

Pope Francis asks for Our Lady's intercession for his apostolic trip to Mongolia


Pope Francis in prayerPope Francis in prayer  (Vatican Media)

Pope entrusts Apostolic Journey to Mongolia to Our Lady

Pope Francis makes a visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to entrust his upcoming Apostolic Journey to Mongolia to the protection of Our Lady.

By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis traveled across Rome on Wednesday afternoon to make a brief stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Major. This is the 111th time the Holy Father visits the Basilica to pray at the icon before, or upon his return from, an Apostolic Journey. 

The Pope took a moment to pray before the ancient icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani, according to the Holy See Press Office. 

He entrusted his upcoming Apostolic Journey to Mongolia to the protection of Our Lady.

The Holy Father departs on the afternoon of Thursday, 31 August, for Ulaanbaatar and returns to Rome on Monday, 4 September.

A look at the Catholic Church/faith in Mongolia as Pope prepares to visit


Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in UlaanbaatarSaints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Ulaanbaatar 

An overview of the Catholic Church in Mongolia

As Pope Francis prepares for his 43rd Apostolic Journey abroad, which takes him to Mongolia on 31 August to 4 September, we offer an overview of the Catholic Church in the Asian nation.

By Lisa Zengarini

Christianity first arrived in Mongolia through Nestorian Christians of ancient Syriac tradition between the 7th-10th century. Over the course of the following centuries, however, the presence of Christianity was discontinuous.

A discontinuous presence

Roman Catholicism was introduced in the 13th century, during the Mongol Empire. According to the testimony of the Italian Franciscan friar Giovanni di Pian del Carpine, who was sent by Pope Innocent IV to the court of the Khan in 1245, the ancient imperial capital Karakorum was a cosmopolitan and multi-religious city, and Nestorians were present there.

The first Catholic missionary allowed to enter the territory was the French Dominican priest Barthélémy de Crèmone, who arrived in Karakorum in 1253 during a diplomatic mission on behalf of the King of France.

Christianity disappeared with the ending of Mongol dominance in the Far East, and reappeared when missionary activity began in China in the mid-19th century.

In 1922, Pope Pius XI erected the Mission “sui iuris” (“Mission in its own right”) of Outer Mongolia. Its territory covered the current Republic of Mongolia, and was taken in part from the territory of the Apostolic Vicariate of Central Mongolia, in China (currently, Diocese of Chongli-Xiwanzi), renamed in 1924 as the Mission “sui iuris” of Urga.

The return of Catholic missionaries to Mongolia in 1992

After the establishment, in that same year, of the pro-Soviet Mongolian People's Republic, all Christian presence was completely eliminated.

Following the end of the Communist regime and Mongolia’s transition to democracy in the early 1990s, religious freedom was established, allowing for the return of Catholic missionaries to the country.

In 1992, the newly-created Republic of Mongolia, born from the Democratic Revolution of 1990, established diplomatic relations with the Holy See, and the Mission sui iuris of Ulan Bator was created and entrusted to the Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM, known as Missionaries of Scheut).

The mission was led from the beginning by late Filipino CICM missionary Wenceslao Padilla (who died in 2018), appointed by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2002 as Apostolic Vicar and then Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar in 2003.

A small but vital Church

When the first three missionaries of the Scheut community arrived in the Mongolian capital in 1992, not even a single Catholic resided in Mongolia, and the work for the "implantatio Ecclesiae" (“establishment of the Church”) had to start from nothing, amidst language and cultural difficulties.

Their apostolic work, and that of the other religious congregations that followed, was supported financially by the Korean Church, and has borne fruit, as indicated by the slow but constant increase of converts to Catholicism in the majority Buddhist country, and by the interest shown by a growing number of young Catholic Mongolians for the priesthood and consecrated life.

In 1995, there were only 14 Mongolian Catholics. The most recent data from 2023 puts the current number of Catholics at around 1,500 distributed in eight parishes and a chapel, out of an overall population of some 3,5 million inhabitants.

They are served by one bishop, 25 priests, including two Mongolians, six seminarians, 30 women religious, five non-priestly religious men, 35 catechists, all belonging to some 30 different nationalities.

As explained by the current Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Italian Cardinal Giorgio Marengo of the Consolata Missionaries, the history of the Church in Mongolia in these three decades can be roughly divided into three phases.

The first period, from 1992 to 2002 (when the Mission was elevated by Pope Saint John Paul II to Apostolic Vicariate), was marked by small but significant progress, above all in the field of human development.

The second decade saw the formation of the first local Christian communities, while the third decade was marked by the ordination of the first ethnic Mongolian priest, Father Joseph Enkhee-Baatar, in 2016.

The work of the Church in Mongolia

The Church's missionary work in Mongolia continues to focus on the social, health and education fields.

In 2020, there was a Catholic technical institute, two elementary schools and two nursery schools, a medical clinic that offers treatment and medicines to the destitute, a centre for the disabled and two institutes hosting abandoned and poor elderly people.

Each parish has also started charitable projects that add to those of Caritas Mongolia, by opening soup kitchens and washing facilities, and running vocational courses for women.

Good relations with the Mongolian authorities and other religions

The Church’s work is appreciated by local authorities, and has contributed to consolidating the good relations between Ulaanbataar and the Holy See.

Their good relations were confirmed by an agreement signed by the Mongolian Ambassador to the Holy See and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, to intensify their collaboration in the cultural field by opening the Vatican Secret Archives to Mongolian researchers.

Interreligious relations

Relations with other religions are also good, in particular with the Buddhist religious authorities, who have a longstanding tradition of tolerance dating back to the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan. The first official to the Vatican by a delegation of Mongolian Buddhist officials took place on 28 May 2022, who were accompanied by Cardinal Giorgio Marengo.

According to Aid to the Church in Need, Buddhists make up a little more than half the population, 3 percent of which is Muslim, 3 percent Shaman, and 2 percent Protestant.

Pastoral challenges

In this context, the main pastoral challenge for the Mongolian Church is that of helping the Mongolian faithful to deepen their faith and make it more relevant for their daily lives.

The second challenge is to promote communion and fraternity among the missionaries of the various congregations, and with the other Christian communities in the country, mostly Protestants. 

Last but not least, the Church in Mongolia has the challenge to proclaim the Gospel to the Mongolian society, where 40 percent of the population says they are atheist.

The liturgical calendar for the Pope for the next 2 months includes the much discussed Synod


File photo of Pope Francis presiding over Mass during Apostolic Journey to Portugal this AugustFile photo of Pope Francis presiding over Mass during Apostolic Journey to Portugal this August 

Pope's liturgical celebrations in September - October

The Holy See Press Office releases the official calendar of Pope Francis' Liturgical Celebrations for September and October 2023, which includes Masses during the Apostolic Journey to Marseille, France; the Consistory; and for the opening and closing of the Synod in October.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

The Holy See Press Office has released the Calendar of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations for the months of September and October.

The liturgical calendar published on Tuesday highlights that Pope Francis will preside over various liturgical celebrations, including during his Apostolic Visit to Marseille, France, the Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals, and for the opening and closing of the Synod on Synodality in the Vatican.

In late September, the Pope will travel to the southern French city of Marseille to close the “Mediterranean Meetings” (Rencontres Méditerranéennes), which will gather bishops and young people from the Mediterranean on 17-24 September.

On the 22nd at 5:15 p.m., the Holy Father will preside over a Marian prayer with the diocesan clergy in the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, followed by a moment of reflection with religious leaders near a memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost at sea.

The afternoon of the 23rd, the Pope will preside over Mass  at the Vélodrome Stadium before departing from Marseille's International Airport for Rome.

The calendar also reflects that the afternoon of the 30 September Consistory, the Pope will also preside over an ecumenical prayer vigil.

Below is the full liturgical calendar for September and October:

Sept. 22-23 Apostolic Journey to Marseille
for the conclusion of the "Rencontres Méditerranéennes"

Sept. 30
St. Peter's Basilica, 10 a.m.
Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new cardinals

Sept. 30
St. Peter's Square, 6 p.m.
Ecumenical prayer vigil

Oct. 4
St. Francis of Assisi St. Peter's Square, 9 a.m.
Holy Mass with the new cardinals and the College of Cardinals
Opening of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

October 29
XXX Sunday of Ordinary Time
St. Peter's Basilica, 10 a.m.
Holy Mass
Conclusion of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops