By WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairmen
of two U.S. bishops' committees Feb. 24 praised President Donald Trump's repeal
of the Obama administration's directive on transgender access to bathrooms.
The guidance, issued last May by
the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education, "indicated
that public pre-K through 12 schools, as well as all colleges and universities,
should treat 'a student's gender identity as the student's sex,'" said the bishops'
The document "sought to impose a
one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with sensitive issues involving
individual students," said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia,
chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Laity,
Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio,
chairman of the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education.
"Such issues are best handled
with care and compassion at the local level, respecting the privacy and safety
concerns of all students," they said.
In rescinding the directive, the
Trump administration said that addressing of transgender access to bathrooms is
best left to the states and local school districts, not the federal government.
The Obama administration said it
applied to all public schools as well as colleges and universities that
received federal funding. The directive "summarizes a school's Title IX
obligations regarding transgender students," administration officials said,
and that it also explained how the Education and Justice departments will
"evaluate a school's compliance with these obligations."
The federal Title IX statute
prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities, like
sports. Some months before issuing the directive, Obama administration had
warned schools that denying transgender students access to the facilities and
activities of their choice was illegal under its interpretation of federal sex
Officials at the Justice and
Education departments in the Trump administration rejected the previous administration's
position that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender
students to use the bathrooms of their choice.
That directive, they said, was
arbitrary and devised "without due regard for the primary role of the states
and local school districts in establishing educational policy."
"Pope Francis has taught that 'biological
sex and the sociocultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not
separated," said Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Murry, quoting from "Amoris
Laetitia," the papal document on marriage and family.
"The Catholic Church
consistently affirms the inherent dignity of each and every human person and
advocates for the well-being of all people, particularly the most vulnerable,"
the two prelates said. "Children, youth and parents in these difficult
situations deserve compassion sensitivity, and respect. All of these can be
expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security
on the part of all young students and parents."- - -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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore RomanoBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN
CITY (CNS) -- For decades, the visits bishops are required to make to the Vatican were known for their formality
and routine style, but Pope Francis launched "a whole new style of 'ad
limina' visits," a Chilean bishop said.
were expecting "to have a long meeting with a speech and then individual
meetings," as in the past, Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos of Santiago,
secretary of the Chilean bishops' conference, told Catholic News Service Feb.
the Vatican informed the prelates before their departure from Chile that they were going to have a group
meeting with the pope and the prefects of several Vatican congregations
were told that this was going to be a new way of doing things that was
beginning with us, that looks for a more fruitful, more incisive dialogue
between the representatives of the local churches and the pope with his main
collaborators," Bishop Ramos said.
After spending three hours with the pope Feb. 20,
the Chilean bishops met again with Pope Francis Feb. 23. At the second meeting,
the pope and Chilean bishops were joined by several top officials, including: Cardinal Pietro
Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the
Vatican Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for
Latin America; and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith.
present at the meeting
were: Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect for the Dicastery for Laity, Family and
Life; Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic
Education; Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy;
and Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of
Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Ramos told CNS that Cardinal Ouellet began the discussions, which focused on four
principal themes: communion and collegiality within the church; the mission of
the church in Chile; how to help clergy, religious men and women as well as the
laity "in their Christian lives and in their pastoral service"; and
pastoral guidelines for the future.
wasn't about speaking about little things or a little problem over here," he said. "This
was more of a way of looking at everything together, for them to listen to our
opinions and (we to listen to theirs) on these principal themes."
was something completely different," Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez of San
Bernardo, member of the permanent committee of the Chilean bishops' conference, told CNS.
was truly something wonderful from the perspective of collegiality, of
synodality, of the
church walking together. This doesn't just respond to the realities in Chile, it's a whole new (approach)
that begins now."
Ramos told CNS that although the bishops knew about the meeting with the pope
and Vatican officials before they left Chile, they found out only when they
arrived in Rome that Pope Francis wanted to meet with them privately as well.
celebrating Mass at the tomb of St. Peter Feb. 20, the bishops were welcomed to the library in the Apostolic Palace
by the pope.
were seated around him," Bishop Gonzalez said, "the pope -- in his
Argentine manner of speaking -- told us: 'Well, the soccer ball is in the
center. Whoever wants to and is brave enough, give it a kick." (The
Argentine phrase is: "El que quiera y que tiene la cara mas dura, que le
pegue una patada.")
added that several bishops would speak and the pope would respond. "It was
like talking after dinner while drinking some Bacardi, in a manner of
speaking," he said.
Gonzalez said at a certain point, a bishop said, "'Holy Father, it's a
little bit hot in here, can we open a window?' The pope said, 'Yes, of course'
and stood up. The bishop said, 'No, no don't worry, Holy Father, I'll open it."
Ramos and Bishop Gonzalez said that the sincere discussion was "a turning
point" that led to a more open dialogue at their second meeting with the
pope and Vatican officials.
like that Scripture reading. Paul, after preaching, went to Jerusalem to speak
with Peter and tell him what he had done. This is the same. We come to
Jerusalem to tell Peter this is what happened and he guides us to see what else
we can do," Bishop Gonzalez said.
- - -
Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -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 email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/NASA handout via ReutersBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The quest to find life on other planets got a boost when astronomers confirmed the existence of at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a red dwarf star just 40 light years away.Three of the planets are located in the so-called "habitable" zone, a kind of "Goldilocks" sweet spot in that their distance from the sun makes them not too hot, not too cold, but just right for having liquid water -- an essential ingredient for life.The pope's own astronomers applauded the new discovery around the dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1, named after one of the many telescopes that detected the planets. The study's results were published in Nature magazine Feb. 22."The discovery is important because, to date, it has revealed the highest number of Earth-sized planets revolving around a single parent star," U.S. Jesuit Father David Brown told Catholic News Service."Depending on different factors, all of the planets could potentially harbor conditions for the possible existence of life on them," he said in an email response to questions Feb. 24."It is also significant because it shows the existence of such exoplanets -- planets outside of our solar system -- around low-mass -- smaller than the Sun -- cool, red, dim stars, which are the most common types of stars in galaxies and which have long lifetimes," said the astrophysicist, who studies stellar evolution at the Vatican Observatory.He said scientists and astronomers will now want to use newer and more powerful telescopes to learn more about the TRAPPIST-1 solar system, such as the planets' atmospheres."The aim is to look for signs of the presence of chemicals like water, methane, oxygen and others by looking at the spectra of the light observed from those atmospheres, and as well to try to examine other atmospheric properties," Father Brown said.The name TRAPPIST is an acronym for the "Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope," which is located in Chile, but the name also reflects the exploration project's Belgian roots by honoring Belgium's famous Trappist beers, made by Trappist monks."The use of religious names in space discoveries is not rare," the astrophysicist priest said, because religious men have been among the many scientists contributing to human knowledge of the world and universe throughout history.For example, he said, several craters on the moon are named after Jesuit priests and brothers and the SECCHI (Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation) instruments being used for solar research are named after Jesuit Father Angelo Secchi, one of the founding fathers of modern astrophysics.Father Brown said the human fascination with the possibility of life on other planets "speaks to one of the most basic questions that confronts humanity as it contemplates its place in this cosmos: 'Are we alone, or are there others in the universe?'""An answer to that question would have a profound impact on humanity in this world as well as confronting us with the question of how we would interact with our cosmic neighbors," said the Louisiana native.Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, said the question of life beyond Earth is "a question of faith."While there is no definitive proof yet that extraterrestrial life exists, "our faith in the fact that life exists is strong enough to make us willing to make an effort in looking for it," he said in an article in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Feb. 24.Brother Consolmagno, a planetary scientist, told the Italian bishops' news agency, SIR, that when it comes to discoveries about the universe, he always expects them to be surprising."God speaks to us through what he has created," he said, and creation has been created "by a God of love, joy and surprises."God made the universe, and "it is up to us scientists and faithful to learn more about what he has created and how he created it.""Every new surprise is a tiny burst of joy before his creative greatness," he said.- - -Follow Glatz on Twitter @CarolGlatz. - - -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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore RomanoBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Access to clean drinking water is a
basic human right and a key component in protecting human life, Pope Francis
"The right to water is essential for the survival of
persons and decisive for the future of humanity," the pope said Feb. 24
during a meeting with 90 international experts participating in a
"Dialogue on Water" at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Looking at all the conflicts around the globe, Pope Francis
said, "I ask myself if we are not moving toward a great world war over
Access to water is a basic and urgent matter, he said.
"Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for
societies to arise and advance. Urgent, because our common home needs to be
Citing "troubling" statistics from the United
Nations, the pope said, "each day -- each day! -- a thousand children die
from water-related illnesses and millions of persons consume polluted water."
While the situation is urgent, it is not insurmountable, he
said. "Our commitment to giving water its proper place calls for
developing a culture of care -- that may sound poetic, but that is fine because
creation is a poem."
Scientists, business leaders, religious believers and politicians
must work together to educate people on the need to protect water resources and
to find more ways to ensure greater access to clean water "so that others
can live," he said.
A lack of clean and safe drinking water "is a source of
great suffering in our common home," the pope said. "It also cries
out for practical solutions capable of surmounting the selfish concerns that
prevent everyone from exercising this fundamental right."
"We need to unite our voices in a single cause; then it
will no longer be a case of hearing individual or isolated voices, but rather
the plea of our brothers and sisters echoed in our own, and the cry of the
earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all,"
If each person contributes, he said, "we will be
helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none
are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in
dignity."- - -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 email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Siegfried Modola, ReutersBy Simon CaldwellMANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- South
Sudan's Catholic bishops asked for the world's help to prevent mass starvation that
threatens the lives of more than 5 million people.
In a separate statement, they
also said the looming famine was a man-made catastrophe. They denounced
government and rebel troops for attacking the civilian population and at times
operating "scorched-earth" policies in defiance of international law.
In a Feb. 23 appeal for
humanitarian assistance, the bishops said farmers have fled lands without
planting crops as civilians are targeted by both sides in the country's
increasingly bloody three-year civil war. Food shortages have been compounded
by problems of unemployment, soaring inflation and poor rains, meaning that the
country had now entered a critical time, the bishops said.
Citing government predictions,
they estimated that about 4.9 million people would be facing famine by April
and about 5.5 million people by July.
Among the most vulnerable are
more than 3 million refugees and people internally displaced by fighting
between the supporters of President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek
"We anticipate difficult
times ahead in 2017 as our people are likely to witness mass starvation by
virtue of their multiple displacements, especially (because) the states that
traditionally produced cereals in surplus will be missing the planting season,
and that will, in turn, lead to further food insecurity in 2017," the bishops said.
They called for "immediate
and unconditional concrete intervention and action ... before it is too late."
In a message sent to churches
around the world, the bishops asked Caritas Internationalis and the
international community to press for "an immediate stop to the violence
and (for) free movement of population."
They also demanded safe access for
aid agencies to reach people in remote areas and secure delivery of
humanitarian aid to places where it was needed most urgently.
The bishops also collectively
directly addressed the Catholics of the predominantly Christian country in a
pastoral letter Feb. 23, telling them that any soldiers who killed, tortured
and raped civilians were guilty of war crimes.
"There seems to be a
perception that people in certain locations or from certain ethnic groups are
with the other side, and thus they are targeted by armed forces," the
bishops said. "They are killed, raped, tortured, burned, beaten, looted,
harassed, detained, displaced from their homes and prevented from harvesting
"Some towns have become 'ghost
towns,' empty except for security forces and perhaps members of one faction or
tribe," they added. "Even when they have fled to our churches or to U.N.
camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces. Many have
been forced to flee to neighboring countries for protection."
The bishops said hatred had
become so intense that the victims of such violence were being mutilated and
burned even after they were killed.
"People have been herded
into their houses, which were then set on fire to burn the occupants. Bodies
have been dumped in sewage-filled septic tanks. There is a general lack of
respect for human life," the bishops said.
The church, they said, was
increasingly being accused of taking sides in the conflict, but they stressed
"We are for all good things
-- peace, justice, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, the rule of
law, good governance -- and we are against evil -- violence, killing, rape,
torture, looting, corruption, arbitrary detention, tribalism, discrimination,
oppression -- regardless of where they are and who is practicing them,"
the bishops said.
They concluded their letter by
expressing their joy at the prospect of a visit by Pope Francis to South Sudan
in 2017, saying he was "deeply concerned" by the suffering in the
"It would draw the
attention of the world to the situation here," the bishops said.
On Feb. 22, Pope Francis used
his general audience to appeal for food aid to Sudan, warning the international
community that starvation might condemn to death "millions of people,
In a Feb. 23 statement emailed
to Catholic News Service, Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham,
England, said that "the world must wake up to this man-made humanitarian
"The violence must stop and
the international community must intervene," said Bishop Kenney, a former
president of Caritas Europa who has visited South Sudan on several occasions.- - -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 firstname.lastname@example.org.