IMAGE: CNS photo/Dave Crenshaw, Eastern Oklahoma CatholicBy OKLAHOMA CITY (CNS) -- If the martyrdom of Blessed Stanley Francis Rother "fills us with sadness," it also "gives us the joy of admiring the kindness, generosity and courage of a great man of
faith," Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints'
Causes, said Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.The 13 years Blessed Rother spent as a missionary in Guatemala "will always be remembered as the glorious epic of a martyr of Christ, an authentic
lighted torch of hope for the church and the world," the cardinal said in his homily during
the U.S. priest's beatification Mass. "Formed in the school of the Gospel, he saw even his enemies as fellow human beings. He did not hate, but loved. He did not
destroy, but built up," Cardinal Amato said. "This is the invitation that Blessed Stanley Francis Rother
extends to us today. To be like him as witnesses and missionaries of the Gospel.
Society needs these sowers of goodness," he said. "Thank you, Father Rother! Bless us from heaven!"
The cardinal was the main
celebrant of the beatification Mass, joined by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of
Oklahoma City and his predecessor, retired Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran, who
formally opened the Rother sainthood cause 10 years ago.
An overflow crowd of 20,000 packed the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City for the beatification of
Father Rother, murdered in 1981 as he served the faithful at a mission in
Guatemala sponsored by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. The evening before a prayer
service was held at St. Benedict Parish in Broken Arrow.
Before the Mass began,
the congregation was shown a documentary made about his life and ministry
titled "The Shepherd Cannot Run: Father Rother's Story." Then
Cardinal Amato, Archbishop Coakley, Archbishop Beltran and about 50 other U.S.
bishops, over 200 priests and about 200 deacons processed in for the start of
the beatification ceremony.
welcomed Catholics "from near and far" who traveled to Oklahoma
"to celebrate the life and witness of Father Rother. He acknowledged the
ecumenical, interfaith and civic leaders in attendance and those joining the
celebration by watching live coverage of it on the internet, TV and radio.
Before Cardinal Amato
read the apostolic letter declaring Father Rother "Blessed," Archbishop
Beltran gave some remarks, saying that little did Father Rother know that his
growing-up years on his family's farm near Okarche "would mold him into
the kind of man who would make great strides when he volunteered to go to
"He struggled in
seminary," the archbishop remarked, referring to the difficulty the priest
had with learning Latin. He was nearly expelled because he had such a hard
time, but he went on to be ordained for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City in
1963. Once in Guatemala to
serve in Santiago Atitlan, he learned Tz'utujil, the language of
the many Mayan descendants who were his parishioners. He helped translate the
Bible into Tz'utujil.
He worked side by side
with the people "teaching them many of the agricultural practices he
learned in Okarche," Archbishop Beltran said.
The mission was about 10
years old when Father Rother arrived in 1968 and had a staff of 10, but the number of
missionaries dwindled as Guatemala's civil war, which began in 1960 and lasted
until 1996, intensified. Eventually, Father Rother's name appeared on a death
list and he returned home.
"His ways were very
quiet and unassuming but eventually he began to receive death threats," the archbishop continued. "He made infrequent visits
(back to Oklahoma). On his last visit (in 1981) he felt the need to return to
his people no matter what the consequences."
Friends recalled him
saying, "The shepherd cannot run. I want to be with my people." Within
three days of his return, three men entered his rectory in the dead of night
and murdered him.
"His saintly life
has become well known beyond boundaries of Oklahoma and Guatemala and the faith
of those familiar with his life has been greatly strengthened. How grateful we
are to almighty God this day for the beatification of Father Rother," Archbishop Beltran said.
Cardinal Amato followed
the archbishop by reading the formal letter about the priest's beatification.
When he concluded, a huge colorful banner was unfurled above the altar with a
likeness of Blessed Rother and an image of his Guatemalan mission and the Oklahoma archdiocesan coat of arms at the bottom.
His feast day will be
celebrated July 28, the day when he was fatally shot in the head by masked men.
Relics of Blessed Rother,
including a piece from one of his rib bones, were brought to the altar in a golden
reliquary and set on a small table to left of the main altar. Cardinal Amato
venerated the relics and censed the reliquary.
Rother family members
then came up to the altar to greet the cardinal: his sister, Sister Marita
Rother, a member of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, who lives at her
community's motherhouse in Wichita, Kansas; and his brother Tom and his wife,
Marti, who live on the farm where the martyred priest and his siblings grew up,
located three miles from the center of Okarche.
In his remarks,
Archbishop Coakley said that on behalf of the local church in Oklahoma "and in
communion with my brother bishops in the United States and Guatemala,"
he felt "profound gratitude" for the opportunity to help celebrate the
beatification of a native son.
"We are grateful for
your (Pope Francis) recognition of the heroic witness of this good shepherd
(who) remained with his people. He gave his life in solidarity with so many
suffering individuals and family who endured persecution for the sake of the
Gospel. We pray the church will experience a new Pentecost and an abundance of
vocations to the priesthood inspired by the witness and aided by the
intercession of Blessed Stanley Rother."
He thanked Archbishop
Beltran for formally opening the Rother cause, as well as the postulator,
Andrea Ambrosi of Rome, who attended the Mass, and the many men and women who
worked diligently over many years to advance the cause and "make known
holiness and heroism of this ordinary priest."- - -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/Joshua Roberts, ReutersBy Julie AsherWASHINGTON (CNS) -- The latest version of a
Republican measure in the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act must be amended to
protect poor and vulnerable Americans, said the chairmen of four U.S. bishops'
"As you consider the Graham-Cassidy
legislation as a possible replacement for the Affordable Care Act, we urge you
to think of the harm that will be caused to poor and vulnerable people and
amend the legislation while retaining its positive features," the bishops
said in a letter to all senators released Sept. 22.
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and
Bill Cassidy of Louisiana have co-sponsored the legislation.
"Without significant improvement, this
bill does not meet the moral criteria for health care reform outlined in our
previous letters and must be changed," they said. That criteria includes
respect for life and dignity; honoring conscience rights; access for all; and a
high-quality plan that is affordable and comprehensive.
The bishops criticized the measure's Medicaid
"per capita cap" because it puts an "insufferable burden" on poor and
vulnerable Americans. They did praise the bill for correcting "a serious
flaw" in the ACA by ensuring "no federal funds are used for abortion
or go to plans that cover it." They called on senators to amend the bill
to address it flaws but retain the pro-life provisions.
The Graham-Cassidy bill would repeal the ACA and replace it with block grants
for the states to spend as they see fit. The block grants' size, though, would
shrink over time and disappear altogether in 2027. The Senate is working under
a Sept. 30 deadline to pass the bill.
letter was signed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities;
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Committee for
Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the
Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez
of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.The USCCB also launched an action alert -- http://bit.ly/2xvbHag -- urging Catholics to contact their senators to urge them "to protect health care for poor and vulnerable people."
Graham-Cassidy bill includes a Medicaid 'per capita cap' that was part of
previous bills, which have been rejected," the bishops wrote. "The
Medicaid caps will fundamentally restructure this vital program, which supports
the medical needs of those most in need. Over time, these modifications will
result in deep funding cuts and lost coverage for millions of people.
"The Senate should only proceed with a full report concerning just
how many people will be impacted," they said. "Our nation must not attempt to address its
fiscal concerns by placing an insufferable health care burden on the backs of
bishops said the proposal does "correct a serious flaw" flaw in the ACA
by making sure "no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that
improvement is praiseworthy, and it is essential that any improved final bill
retain these key provisions which would finally address grave moral problems in
our current health care system," they said. "We also applaud that
Graham-Cassidy redirects funds from organizations that provide abortion."
they took the bill to task for giving block grants to states "in place of
premium tax credits, cost-sharing subsidies and the Medicaid expansion," saying
that arrangement will only harm the poor.
flexibility can be good at times, these block grants will result in billions of
dollars in reductions for those in health care poverty," they said. "States
already face significant deficits each budget cycle, and these block grants
mean dollars intended for low income individuals and families will suddenly
face competition from many other state priorities."
country "can ill afford to put access to health care for those most in
need in jeopardy this way" because, the bishops continued, "the costs
to our communities, including public and private organizations at all levels,
will be too high."
about the health of our citizens -- a concern fundamental to each of us -- should
not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms," they
far-reaching implications of Congress' actions are too significant for that
kind of governance," the committee chairmen said.
told senators that "the common good should call you to come together in a
bi-partisan way to pass thoughtful legislation that addresses the life,
conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that
constituents, especially those with no voice of their own in this process,
deserve no less," they concluded.Earlier this year, as Senate Republicans
drafted and debated an ACA repeal measure, the U.S. bishops in letters and
statements repeatedly urged Congress to craft a bill meeting the moral criteria of respect for
life and dignity; honoring conscience rights; access for all; and a
high-quality plan that is affordable and comprehensive. When the Senate failed
to get enough votes to pass what was being called a "skinny" repeal
to remove parts of the Affordable Care Act in the early hours of July 28,
Bishop Dewane in a statement said the "task of reforming the health care
system still remains." The nation's health care system under the ACA "is
not financially sustainable" and "lacks full Hyde protections and
conscience rights," he said at the time. He also noted the health care
system "is inaccessible to many immigrants," he said in a statement.The
U.S. bishops have advocated for universal and affordable health care for
decades and they supported the general goal of the Affordable Care Act, which
was passed in 2010, but the bishops ultimately opposed the law because it
expanded the federal role in abortion and failed to expand health care
protections to immigrants.- - -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 Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has endorsed an
approach of "zero tolerance" toward all members of the church guilty
of sexually abusing minors or vulnerable adults.
Having listened to abuse survivors and having made what he described as
a mistake in approving a more lenient set of sanctions against an
Italian priest abuser, the pope said he has decided whoever has been proven guilty of abuse has no
right to an appeal, and he will never grant a papal pardon.
"Why? Simply because the person who does this (sexually
abuses minors) is sick. It is a sickness," he told his advisory commission
on child protection during an audience at the Vatican Sept. 21. Members of the
Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, including its president --
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston -- were meeting in Rome Sept. 21-23 for their plenary
Setting aside his prepared text, the pope said he wanted
to speak more informally to
the members, who include lay and religious experts in the fields of
psychology, sociology, theology and law in relation to abuse and protection.
The Catholic Church has been "late" in facing
and, therefore, properly addressing the sin of sexual abuse by its members, the
pope said, and the commission, which he established in 2014, has had to "swim against the
tide" because of a lack of awareness or understanding of the seriousness
of the problem.
"When consciousness comes late, the means for resolving the problem come late,"
he said. "I am aware of this difficulty. But it is the reality: We have
"Perhaps," he said, "the old practice of
moving people" from one place to another and not fully facing the problem "lulled consciences to
But, he said, "prophets in the church,"
including Cardinal O'Malley, have, with the help of God, come forward to shine
light on the problem of
abuse and to urge the church to face it.
Typically when the church has had to deal with new or
newly emerging problems, it has turned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith to address the issue, he said. And then, only when the problem has
been dealt with adequately does the process for dealing with future cases get
handed over to another dicastery, he added.
Because the problem of cases and allegations of abuse are
"grave" -- and because
it also is grave that some have not adequately taken
stock of the problem --
it is important the doctrinal congregation continue to handle the cases, rather
than turning them over directly to Vatican tribunals, as some have
However, he said, the doctrinal congregation will need
more personnel to work on cases of abuse in order to expedite the "many
cases that do not proceed" with the backlog.
Pope Francis told commission members he wants to better balance
the membership of the doctrinal team dealing with appeals filed by clergy
accused of abuse. He said the majority of members are canon lawyers, and he
would like to balance out their more legalistic approach with more
members who are diocesan bishops and have had to deal with abuse in their
He also said proof that an ordained minister has abused a
minor "is sufficient (reason) to receive no recourse" for an appeal.
"If there is proof. End of story," the pope said; the sentence
And, he added, he has never and would never grant a papal
pardon to a proven perpetrator.
The reasoning has nothing to do with being mean-spirited,
but because an abuser is sick and is suffering from "a
The pope told the commission he has been learning "on the job" better
ways to handle priests found guilty of abuse, and he recounted a decision he
has now come to regret: that of agreeing in an appeals process to a more lenient sanction against an
Italian priest, rather than laicizing him as the doctrinal team recommended.
said he has since learned "it's a terrible sickness" that requires a
different approach.- - -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 email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Archdiocese of Oklahoma City archivesBy Maria WieringST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Retired
Archbishop Harry J. Flynn was rector of Mount St. Mary's Seminary in
Emmitsburg, Maryland, when he got a call in 1979 from an old friend from the seminary,
asking if he could visit for a week.
That friend was Father Stanley
Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and a missionary in a
rural part of Guatemala.
He picked up Father Rother from
Dulles International Airport near Washington and was appalled by the horrific
situation the priest described in Guatemala. Members of his congregation had disappeared
and were presumed dead, victims of a civil war between the government and
"If they asked for a few more
cents for picking coffee beans, they were considered communists, and a truck
would come into the village that night, stop at the home of the man or woman
who asked for a few more cents, take them out to the country, torture them,
kill them, and then throw their bodies into a well to poison that well," said Archbishop
Flynn, who headed the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1995 to 2008.
Father Rother described the
situation "with a passion," Archbishop Flynn recalled. "It was haunting him. He
said, 'If I speak, they'll kill me, but if keep silent, what kind of a shepherd
would I be?'"
The friends shared meals
together that week, but Father Rother spent his days praying at the seminary's
historic Lourdes grotto, a place he had loved while he and Archbishop Flynn
were seminarians at "the Mount." At the end of the week, he told then-Father
Flynn, "I know what I must do. I must go back and speak."
"But," Archbishop Flynn
recalled, "he also said this: 'They're not going to take me out and kill me
somewhere in the country and then throw my body into a well.' He said, 'I'll
put up a fight like they've never seen before.'"
Archbishop Flynn took Father
Rother to the airport and said goodbye. He knew it would be the last time he
would see him alive. Two years later, in 1981, Archbishop Flynn opened a
newspaper to read that an American priest had been killed in Guatemala. He
didn't have to read further to know it was Father Rother.
Archbishop Flynn was to be among
others who knew the priest gathering in Oklahoma City's Cox Convention Center
Sept. 23 for Father Rother's beatification. In December 2016, Pope Francis
officially recognized Father Rother as a martyr, making him the first U.S.-born
martyr recognized by the Catholic Church. Also attending will be members of the
Rother family, including distant cousins from Minnesota.
Father Rother grew up on a farm
near Okarche, Oklahoma. He was a farm boy with a knack for fixing things. After
high school, he left home for seminary in Texas, but he was asked to leave
after struggling with Latin. Undeterred, he transferred to the Emmitsburg
seminary, where he met Archbishop Flynn, who was three classes ahead of him.
Archbishop Flynn noted his friend's deep prayer life.
"We could be downstairs in recreation,
laughing and carrying on, and then the bell would ring to go up to chapel for
night prayer and Stanley seemed to me to go right into prayer, which I found
enviable," Archbishop Flynn recalled in a recent interview with The Catholic
Spirit, newspaper of the Minnesota archdiocese.
The two were in the seminary
around the time that Pope John XXIII encouraged U.S. bishops to form
partnerships between their dioceses and those in Latin America. The
then-Diocese of Oklahoma City-Tulsa paired with the Diocese of Solola,
Guatemala. In 1968, Father Rother was asked to minister there in Santiago Atitlan,
a mission established by Franciscans. The Mayan people there had been without a
priest for nearly a century.
People who knew Father Rother
weren't surprised that he returned again and again to Guatemala after the
violence began, even with many opportunities to stay in the U.S. The Christmas
before he died, he famously wrote to his archbishop, "A shepherd cannot run at
the first sign of danger."
On July 28, 1981, three men
burst into the parish rectory, demanding Father Rother. He was hiding, but when
the men threatened the life of one of his protectors, he emerged. He was ultimately
gunned down in his rectory, his knuckles raw from the fight, his spattered
blood staining the wall. The Guatemalans left the stains, and to this day,
visitors -- many of them pilgrims -- can see the aftermath of what the gunmen
did to their priest. The fatal bullet remains lodged in the wall.
In 1999, Archbishop Flynn
traveled to Father Rother's church in Santiago Atitlan, visited the room where
he was shot to death and celebrated Mass in the parish church. Father Rother's
body returned to Oklahoma, but the missionary's heart was left behind with the
Guatemalans, who have since enshrined it as a relic.
Archbishop Flynn also prays for
his friend's intercession, keeping his photograph on his altar for Mass. He
feels that he had a graced opportunity to be with Father Rother that summer
while he was discerning his impending death.
"I'll always remember sitting in
the room where he was martyred, and sitting there and looking at his blood all
over the wall, splattered, and experiencing anger in my heart with the people
who did that to him -- this gentle, gentle shepherd," he said, "and then
realizing what he would have said -- something that Christ said, 'They don't
even know what they're doing,' and they probably didn't. ... They killed a man,
but they created a saint."- - -Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.- - -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/Francisco Guasco, EPABy MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop and a Caritas worker
in Mexico said the situation was extremely serious after the Sept. 19
earthquake, and much aid would be needed.
"The situation is complicated, because the first
earthquake (Sept. 7) had already affected thousands of people in Chiapas and
Oaxaca," Alberto Arciniega, head of communications for Caritas Mexico,
told Catholic News Service Sept. 20. "The church is continuing to assist
those dioceses, but with what happened yesterday, the emergency situation is
being re-evaluated to get a more exact assessment of the aid that is
The Vatican announced Sept. 21 that, through the Dicastery
for Promoting Human Development, Pope Francis is sending an initial $150,000 to
aid Mexico. Money will be distributed by the nuncio to dioceses most affected.
Arciniega said all the dioceses in Mexico were collecting
food, water and other necessities for victims of the quakes. He said they were
seeking economic support from inside and outside the country.
"We know it is a serious situation, and international
aid is being requested," Arciniega told Catholic News Service.
"Rehabilitation and reconstruction will take time and
will be expensive," he added. "Thousands of people have been left
homeless, and many churches have been damaged."
The magnitude 7.1 quake that hit Sept. 19 was not as strong
as the earlier magnitude 8.1 quake, but the second quake was centered in Puebla
state, just southeast of Mexico City, as opposed to in the Pacific Ocean.
Arciniega said Puebla and Morelos states and Mexico City were worst hit in the
second quake, which killed more than 230 people.
In Morelos, just to the south of Mexico City, damage was
widespread. Gov. Graco Ramirez put the death toll at 73.
President Enrique Pena Nieto has visited the municipality of
Jujutla, where houses were reduced to rubble.
Oscar Cruz, spokesman for the Diocese of Cuernavaca, based
in the Morelos state capital, told Catholic News service "the damage is
worse ... in many towns that are even poorer."
At least 89 parishes in Morelos state suffered damage or
were destroyed, according the National History and Anthropology Institute,
which is responsible for Mexico's older churches. The Cuernavaca cathedral,
which dates to the 1500s and been undergoing restoration activities, also
suffered damage and parts of it cannot be used, Cruz said.
Parish residences also were damaged, leaving priests
homeless, Cruz said. A pair of priests were injured by falling debris; one was
still hospitalized Sept. 21.
The diocese has started collecting goods for those left
"People have been extraordinary," Cruz said. "This
has been an extraordinary moment of solidarity. People are coming out and
saying, 'I want to help.'"
Bishop Ramon Castro of Cuernavaca has been touring the
hardest-hit towns of Morelos. The bishop and the state governor had been at
odds in recent years of social policies promoted by the governor and the bishop's
refusal to stop condemning violence and corruption in the state.
The pair have put aside their differences in the wake of
such a disaster, Cruz said.
"There's no working together" on the relief effort,
"but we're not getting in each other's way," Cruz said.
Mostly, priests and the bishop "have been trying to be
close to the people," he added.
Earlier, Arciniega shared audio of an interview with Bishop Castro,
who noted that parishes in his diocese had been collecting items to send to
victims of the Sept. 7 earthquake in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Now those items -- if
they were not destroyed in the Sept. 19 quake -- will be used locally, the
bishop said, adding, "but it will not be enough."
Arciniega was in Oaxaca when he spoke to CNS Sept. 20. He
said the Sept. 19 earthquake was felt there, but apparently did not cause
"People (in the south) are worried that the assistance
will stop because the cameras and newscasts are focusing on Mexico City. There
is fear that the aid will stop and the emphasis will be on the center of the
country," he said.
He added that it was raining in Tehuantepec, an area of
Oaxaca damaged in the first earthquake, which killed nearly 100 people.
"That makes the housing situation more complicated. Not
only did people's homes collapse, but now it's raining, so people are in
shelters, they need food. They are setting up community kitchens. We are
continuing to evaluate how much the diocese can do to help itself and
requesting aid from other dioceses and from outside the country."
- - -
Contributing to this story were David Agren in Mexico City;
Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru; and Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.
- - -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.