Catholic News

USCCB News News from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

  • Pope clarifies remarks about homosexuality and sin
    by PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE on January 30, 2023 at 9:30 am

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis reaffirmed that homosexuality is not a crime, and that any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin, in a written response to a request for clarification about his remarks during a recent interview with the Associated Press. In an interview with the agency televised and published in Spanish Jan. 25, the pope had said that "being homosexual is not a crime. It is not a crime." He defined as "unjust" laws that criminalize homosexuality or homosexual activity and urged church members, including bishops, to show "tenderness" as God does with each of his children. In the interview the pope said, "We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity. Being homosexual is not a crime. It is not a crime." Then, he voiced an objection to that statement, followed by how he would respond to that objection, saying, "'Yes, but it is a sin.' Fine, but first let us distinguish between a sin and a crime." "It's also a sin to lack charity with one another," he added. U.S. Jesuit Father James Martin, who is editor of Outreach.faith, which provides news and resources for LGBTQ Catholics, wrote to the pope asking him to clarify his statement, which some media outlets had reported as the pope saying being gay is a sin. Father Martin published the pope's written reply in Spanish Jan. 27. The pope acknowledged, "In a televised interview, where we spoke with natural and conversational language, it is understandable that there would not be such precise definitions." "It is not the first time that I speak of homosexuality and of homosexual persons. And I wanted to clarify that it is not a crime, in order to stress that criminalization is neither good nor just," the pope wrote. "When I said it is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin. Of course, one must also consider the circumstances, which may decrease or eliminate fault," he wrote. "As you can see, I was repeating something in general. I should have said, 'It is a sin, as is any sexual act outside of marriage,'" he wrote. "This is to speak of 'the matter' of sin, but we know well that Catholic morality not only takes into consideration the matter, but also evaluates freedom and intention; and this, for every kind of sin." "And I would tell whoever wants to criminalize homosexuality that they are wrong," the pope wrote.  

  • U.S. Bishops’ Pro-Life Chairman Expresses Support for “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion”
    by PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE on January 27, 2023 at 9:30 am

    WASHINGTON - Earlier today, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’  (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities sent a letter to House and Senate sponsors of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act” (H.R.7 and S.62), in support of the legislation. “Protecting taxpayers from being forced to pay for abortion in violation of their conscience is a principle that has enjoyed historically broad support among Americans, regardless of their otherwise passionately divided views on the topic. It has also been life-saving,” said Bishop Burbidge in his letter. Rather than funding abortion, he continued, “Congress can better serve the common good by prioritizing policies that comprehensively assist women, children, and families in need in ways that will not only encourage childbirth but make it easier to welcome and raise a new child.” The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which has also been supported by the USCCB in previous sessions of Congress, would make long-standing prohibitions on federal funding of elective abortion permanent and government-wide, rather than having to depend on various appropriations, which can put these funding protections or other programs for those in need at risk.  The full letter is available here. Additional information and resources on taxpayer funding of abortion are available at the following:  https://www.notaxpayerabortion.com/learn and https://www.respectlife.org/no-taxpayer-abortion. ###

  • Preaching peace amid violence: Pope heads back to Africa
    by PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE on January 27, 2023 at 9:30 am

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' fifth trip to the African continent will highlight gestures of peace and reconciliation, consoling the victims of violence but also emphasizing the importance of each person sowing peace in the family, the neighborhood and the nation. The pope is scheduled to travel to Kinshasa, Congo, Jan. 31-Feb. 3 before making an ecumenical pilgrimage to Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 3-5 with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. "It is enough, or it should be enough, that the pope is going to support the peace process; but the fact that he and his colleagues have committed to doing this as a joint visit should be understood to be a spectacular commitment to the peace process itself," said Chris Trott, the British ambassador to the Holy See and former British envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. Although the civil wars in both Congo and South Sudan officially have ended, the people continue to suffer from horrific acts of violence, which force the large-scale displacement of communities and keep much of the population in poverty. Both countries are rich in natural resources, which makes the poverty even more glaring, but also gives the powerful or the disgruntled something else to fight over. Pope Francis frequently decries the notion that "Africa is to be exploited." As he told the Comboni Missionaries' magazine in an interview published Jan. 14, the world's powerful nations gave Africa "independence halfway: they give them economic independence from the ground up, but they keep the subsoil to exploit," extracting oil or minerals and paying only a pittance. Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, the nuncio to Congo, told reporters in Kinshasa Jan. 10 that Pope Francis' plan to visit the country is an acknowledgement of Congo as the African nation with the most Catholics -- close to 50 million faithful -- and "the country of the first black bishop of the African continent," Nzingo Mpemba, also known as Bishop Henrique de Portugal, the son of the ruler of Kongo who was ordained a bishop in the early 1500s. The theme of the pope's visit, "All reconciled in Jesus Christ," he said, is a call to the Congolese to set aside grudges and unite to end the great suffering of their compatriots who live under the constant threat of violence, particularly in the eastern part of the country. Pope Francis will stay in Kinshasa, the capital, but his original itinerary for Congo included a day trip east to North Kivu province for Mass and a meeting with the survivors of the conflicts there. But the violence in North Kivu has flared up again, canceling that part of the papal trip. In early December Catholics and other Christians took to the streets in a protest supported by the Congolese bishops. In a message read at the rally, the bishops accused Rwanda, and to some extent Uganda, of perpetrating the violence in the East through the M23 rebel militia. The Congolese government also has blamed Rwanda and Uganda for sponsoring the rebel movement and using the rebels as cover to steal minerals that are abundant in eastern Congo. But M23 is one of only dozens of armed groups operating in the area. The Allied Democratic Forces, a group affiliated with Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Pentecostal church in Kasindi Jan. 15, which killed at least 14 people. In November Bishop Placide Lubamba Ndjibu of Kasongo issued a public appeal to the government to restore order in the East. People need lasting solutions to the disputes over gold mining in eastern Congo, which, he said, are "sowing a climate of terror and desolation, accompanied by deaths, rapes, school closures, the destruction of food reserves and looting of livestock." Looting livestock is a major problem in South Sudan as well and is related to the problem of forcing young women into early marriage, a problem Irish Loreto Sister Orla Treacy has been fighting for decades. In 2005, six years before South Sudan achieved its independence from Sudan after 50 years of war, Sister Treacy and two other Irish sisters arrived in Rumbek to open a school for girls. The students were accepted only if their parents signed a promise to allow the girls to complete high school and not marry them off in exchange for cattle, which is the most stable currency in the land and the chief sign of wealth. Sister Treacy told Catholic News Service Jan. 15 that so far, "we have had a good year in Rumbek, the best, I can say" in terms of peace and of keeping students in school. "We have a new, strong governor who has worked with the different communities to try and help to build peace. He has also passed a bill against early and forced marriage. We still get troubles but at least now we can quote the governor and tell families to go to him if they don't like our answer!" The Irish sister and some 50 students and members of justice and peace committees in the Diocese of Rumbek were in training in mid-January. They are planning a nine-day, 200-mile walk to Juba to join Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby and the Rev. Greenshields for an ecumenical prayer service for peace. The visit, she said, can "help to shine a spotlight on South Sudan. We hope that it will generate world interest and also help push our leaders to keep working for peace and development." Ambassador Trott, who was involved in negotiating the 2018 peace agreement among the major actors in South Sudan's civil war, said the ongoing conflicts have an ethnic element because they are regional, but "at its heart is about access and control of resources," including oil, minerals, water and rich farmland. "This fight has always been about who benefits from those resources and who controls them." "This is where the churches come in," he said, because a peace process can address power and resource sharing, but the success of an agreement depends on a willingness to implement it and to reconcile with former enemies for the good of the nation. "Diplomats can only talk to their heads or about their pockets," the ambassador said. "But I think the three ecumenical leaders can really appeal to people's sense of responsibility" and what they want their legacy to be. - - - Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden  

  • God 'suffers' when believers injure, ignore those God loves, pope says
    by PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE on January 26, 2023 at 9:30 am

    ROME (CNS) -- God suffers and grieves when those who profess to believe in him do not love the people he loves and do not work for the justice he desires, Pope Francis said. "God suffers when we, who call ourselves his faithful ones, put our own ways of seeing things before his, when we follow the judgments of the world rather than those of heaven, when we are content with exterior rituals yet remain indifferent to those for whom he cares the most," the pope said in his homily Jan. 25 at an ecumenical evening prayer service. Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant representatives joined the pope at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls for vespers closing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religions joined the mostly Rome-based religious leaders for the service. The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches entrusted the preparations of the 2023 week of prayer to a group convened by the Minnesota Council of Churches. Acknowledging "the injustices perpetrated in the past against native peoples and in our own day against African Americans," Pope Francis said, the group chose as the theme for the week "Do good; seek justice" from Isaiah 1:17. In the face of "various forms of contempt and racism, before indifference, lack of understanding and sacrilegious violence, the word of God admonishes us: 'Learn to do good, seek justice,'" the pope said. "It is not enough to denounce, we need also to renounce evil, to pass from evil to good." "In other words," he said, God's "admonishment is meant to change us." In Isaiah's time -- and even today, the pope said, "it was generally thought that the rich, who made great offerings and looked down upon the poor, were blessed in God's eyes. Yet this was, and is, completely to misunderstand the Lord. It is the poor that Jesus proclaims blessed, and in the parable of the final judgment, he identifies himself with those who hunger and thirst, the stranger, the needy, the sick and those in prison." Even more, Pope Francis said, God is offended by "sacrilegious violence," the violence of destroying another person, made in God's image and likeness. "We can imagine with what suffering he must witness wars and acts of violence perpetrated by those who call themselves Christians," the pope said. With all the knowledge people have of spirituality and theology, he said, "we have no excuses" to believe that God would want faith to be used to harm another. "Still, there are those who appear to feel encouraged or at least permitted by their faith to support varieties of narrow and violent nationalism, xenophobia and contempt, and even the mistreatment of those who are different," the pope said. In fidelity to God, he said, "we must be opposed to war, to violence and to injustice wherever they begin to appear." Pope Francis prayed that St. Paul would "help us to change, to be converted; may he obtain for us something of his own indomitable courage." Such courage is needed to continue on the path to full Christian unity, he said, and to overcome the temptations to be impatient or to focus only on the needs of one's own church. Pope: Defeat racism with Christian unity Pope Francis said that Christian unity can defeat nationalism and xenophobia.

  • Mission begins by meeting Jesus in the Scriptures and Eucharist, pope says
    by PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE on January 25, 2023 at 9:30 am

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Having come to know Jesus through the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, Catholics are called to share with others the hope and joy that come from faith and that endure even when life gets difficult, Pope Francis said. "What the world needs is the love of God, to encounter Christ and believe in him. For this reason, the Eucharist is not only the source and summit of the life of the church, it is also the source and summit of her mission," Pope Francis wrote, quoting the late Pope Benedict XVI. The connection between the missionary call of every disciple and the gift of Jesus present in the Eucharist was at the center of Pope Francis' message for World Mission Sunday, which will be celebrated Oct. 22. The Vatican released the text of the message Jan. 25. The theme the pope chose for the 2023 celebration is "Hearts on fire, feet on the move," which he said was inspired by the story of Jesus and the disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection. The Bible says the disciples' hearts "burned within them" as Jesus explained the Scriptures and how they recognized him when he broke bread with them, and they set off to share the good news with others. World Mission Sunday 2023 will be celebrated during the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, and Pope Francis also used his message to talk about the missionary profile of the synod. "The urgency of the church's missionary activity naturally calls for an ever-closer missionary cooperation on the part of all her members and at every level. This is an essential goal of the synodal journey that the church has undertaken, guided by the key words: communion, participation, mission." The synodal process, he said, is "not a turning of the church in upon herself, nor is it a referendum about what we ought to believe and practice, nor a matter of human preferences. Rather, it is a process of setting out on the way and, like the disciples of Emmaus, listening to the risen Lord. For he always comes among us to explain the meaning of the Scriptures and to break bread for us, so that we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, carry out his mission in the world." While Pope Francis often warns against proselytism -- using pressure or coercion to get someone to convert -- he insisted that the church exists for mission and that every person in the world has the right to hear the Gospel. "Today more than ever, our human family, wounded by so many situations of injustice, so many divisions and wars, is in need of the good news of peace and salvation in Christ," he said. "I take this opportunity to reiterate that 'everyone has the right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to announce it without excluding anyone, not as one who imposes a new obligation, but as one who shares a joy, signals a beautiful horizon, offers a desirable banquet.'" A person who has truly encountered the risen Lord necessarily will be "set on fire with enthusiasm to tell everyone about him," the pope said. So, for the Catholic Church, "the primary and principal resource of the mission are those persons who have come to know the risen Christ in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, who carry his fire in their heart and his light in their gaze. They can bear witness to the life that never dies, even in the most difficult of situations and in the darkest of moments." Just like the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus immediately went to tell others about their encounter with him, the pope said, "our proclamation will be a joyful telling of Christ the Lord, his life, his passion, his death and resurrection, and the wonders that his love has accomplished in our lives." Pope Francis thanked those who have dedicated their lives to sharing the Gospel with people far from their homelands and thanked all Catholics who pray for and donate to the church's missionary outreach. "Let us set out again with burning hearts, with our eyes open and our feet in motion," the pope said. "Let us set out to make other hearts burn with the word of God, to open the eyes of others to Jesus in the Eucharist, and to invite everyone to walk together on the path of peace and salvation that God, in Christ, has bestowed upon all humanity."