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Supreme Court Ruling Does Not Change the Facts about Abortion Pills, says Bishop Burbidge

WASHINGTON - “The Court’s ruling late last week on procedural grounds does not change the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] repeatedly and unlawfully cut corners to put chemical abortion pills on the market and then to reduce the safety protocols around them – putting the health of women and girls at risk,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine.

In its decision on Thursday, the Court determined that the pro-life health care professionals who brought the lawsuit did not have the legally required standing to challenge the FDA’s actions that have now made the abortion drug, mifepristone (previously known as RU-486), widely available.

Bishop Burbidge continued, “From my heart, I thank all of the faithful who joined Archbishop Broglio and myself in prayer regarding this important case. We will continue to pray, to advocate for the health and safety of women and the preborn, and to lovingly serve mothers in need so that they may feel prepared to welcome their children.”

The USCCB had joined an amicus curiae brief in the case in February. On the eve of oral arguments in March, Bishop Burbidge and Archbishop Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA and president of the USCCB, offered a nationwide invitation to prayer for the case and for the lives of women and their children. For more information on chemical abortion (sometimes called “medical abortion” or “medication abortion” by its proponents), the USCCB has multiple fact sheets available online.

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Angels or aliens? Some researchers say Vatican archives hold UFO secrets

    
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A group of scientists and researchers are seeking access to the Vatican Apostolic Archives to uncover information about UFOs and the paranormal, believing there may be traces amid the 50 miles of shelves holding everything from handwritten papal notes to presidential missives. 

grusch
A screen grab shows former U.S. intelligence official David Grusch giving sworn testimony before Congress in this file photo from July 26, 2023. (CNS photo/House Committee on Oversight and Accountability)

The decades-long effort gained momentum in 2023 following former U.S. intelligence official David Grusch's congressional testimony alleging the Vatican's involvement in an international cover-up of alien secrets. Grusch claimed Pope Pius XII "backchanneled" information to the United States about a crashed UFO recovered by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

"I don't know where (Grusch) got this information," Marco Grilli, secretary to the prefect of the archives, told Catholic News Service June 11.

Grilli said the archives had received emails inquiring about the veracity of Grusch's claims but likened them to requests to read the personal letters of Pontius Pilate or the Virgin Mary.

"One can laugh at it," he said. 

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Diana Walsh Pasulka, author of the 2019 book "American Cosmic," and a religious studies professor, is seen working in a library in this undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Diana Walsh Pasulka)

However, findings like those reported in Diana Walsh Pasulka's 2019 book "American Cosmic" suggest to UFO believers that the archives hold more than meets the eye. 

Pasulka, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, said the archives are full of reports about paranormal events, such as nuns witnessing orbs entering their cells, flying houses and other aerial phenomena. She argues that these events might be better understood as UFO-type occurrences rather than miracles as Catholics traditionally understand them.

"The historical record is filled with these kinds of events," she told CNS May 30; "the people at the Vatican, they don't even know where to look; it's in their basements." 

vatican archives
The Vatican Apostolic Archives, pictured in this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, houses over 50 miles of papal letters, presidential missives and historical records. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Vatican's archivists are in a "mad rush to digitize what they have; they have to prioritize what they think is most important," she explained. "They aren't really prioritizing orbs that are bothering nuns in the 1800s."

The interest in the Vatican's holdings extends beyond the realm of scholars of religion. Scientists like Garry Nolan, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, view the Vatican archives as a potential treasure trove for understanding UFOs.

"The Vatican is probably the oldest library system of paranormal or supernatural knowledge still extant," Nolan said. The archive "has an aura of both mysticism and a feeling of deep truth that if you just know how to read it, you can pull that information out."

Nolan believes that if an advanced species is showing up on earth, it means it might be possible for humans to survive threats like climate change, the energy crisis and war. 

Garry Nolan
Garry Nolan, a professor of medicine at Stanford University in California, is pictured in this undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Garry Nolan)

"The very fact that we think we see something, to me, is hope," Nolan said of UFO sightings. "It says something has made it past the cliff, past the decision point that we feel we are on the edge of right now." 

Nolan co-founded the Sol Foundation in 2023 to spearhead scientific research into UFOs -- now called UAPs or unidentified anomalous phenomena -- and to initiate dialogue with religious institutions like the Vatican about the spiritual implications of discovering alien life.

The foundation is confident that at least some UFOs are genuine vehicles of non-human origin. Consequently, one of its primary objectives has been to initiate an interfaith dialogue to assess the potential impact on world religions.

Because the Vatican "facilitates interfaith dialogue and engages religious pluralism, it's always been in our mind that it's an entity we want to engage," Peter Skafish, the foundation's director, told CNS.

Interest among non-Catholic researchers in uncovering paranormal secrets in the Vatican has spanned decades and has roots in a culturally influential retreat center in California. 

Father Francis Tiso, an expert on interreligious dialogue, said he discussed a plan to conduct paranormal research in the Vatican archives with the founder of the Esalen Institute over 20 years ago.

Esalen is a retreat center in California known for its progressive and countercultural influence, particularly during the 1960s and 70s. It continues to play a significant cultural role in the United States by attracting Silicon Valley technologists, spiritual leaders and innovators to explore new ideas in psychology, spirituality and personal growth.

Father Tiso
U.S. Father Francis Tiso poses for a photo in his home in Isernia, Italy, in this file photo from Dec. 5, 2022. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

Father Tiso said that Michael Murphy, Esalen's co-founder, told him that someone should go to the Vatican archives, "do research, examine the documentation and try to classify it in ways that would be accessible to the scientific community."

Studying miracles attributed to the intercession of saints as possible paranormal activity, Father Tiso said, could help "build another bridge in the direction of paranormal phenomena connected with the idea of (the UFO) narrative, that somehow we human beings are in some way in contact with other civilizations, other conscious beings in the universe."

Jeffrey Kripal, a member of the board at Esalen and professor of religion at Rice University in Houston, said the stories of Catholic miracles are of interest to UFO researchers because telepathic communication, levitation and other paranormal events often coincide with "close encounters."

"The whole gamut of religious phenomena appears in the abduction or the encounter experience," Kripal said.

Carlos Eire, a professor of history at Yale University, has studied the types of miracles that captivate researchers like Pasulka and Nolan. He published his findings in the 2023 book, "They Flew: A History of the Impossible."

Levitations, UFOs and miracles are all on the "spectrum of, let's call it the impossible; things that are considered impossible or highly unlikely," he said.

The Vatican archives have a high value for paranormal researchers, he said, especially because, since the Renaissance, the church has applied more rigor to alleged miracles by requiring witnesses to swear oaths that they are not lying.

While the staff at the Vatican archives acknowledge that their vast shelves contain accounts of miracles, they deny that any of their holdings pertain to aliens.

"The prefect wants to affirm that there is no document in the archives that regards extraterrestrial life," and scholars seeking such material at the Vatican should be "dissuaded from undertaking futile and unproductive attempts in this Apostolic Archive," Grilli said.

U.S. Bishops Approve New Guidelines for Pastoral Ministries with Youth and Young Adults

WASHINGTON – Last week at their annual June Plenary Assembly in Louisville, Ky., the bishops of the United States took up a vote on a national pastoral framework to guide ministries with youth and young adults. The document, “Listen, Teach, Send” is intended for use by pastors, ministry leaders, and families pastors.

While an overwhelming number of bishops voted in favor of approving the framework at the time of the vote during the plenary, the measure fell two votes short of meeting the threshold of two-thirds of the Conference membership to pass. Therefore, the bishops eligible to vote who were not present at the time the vote were contacted this week with the opportunity to cast their vote. As of the close of business on Monday, June 17, ten additional votes were secured for the measure to pass with 188 in favor of, 4 against, and 4 abstentions.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, chaired by Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, developed the framework in response to “Christus vivit,” issued by Pope Francis in 2019 following the Synod on Young People. The framework is the fruit of an extensive listening and dialogue process with youth, young adults, and ministry leaders, with care taken to address the realities impacting youth and young adults across the United States.

Bishop Barron cited the Emmaus story (Lk 24: 13-35) as the inspiration and guide to the development of the framework. “Jesus gave us a wonderful example of how to accompany youth and young adults on their paths of life through the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. This well-known and often cited biblical story has been emphasized by Pope Francis as a model for what happens in ministry work, and we also used it as our guide.

“Like the Lord on the road to Emmaus, we first listen to the stories, joys, and concerns of those we encounter along the way. We respond with dynamic, kerygmatic, and heartfelt teaching that shares the light of Christ and seeks to bring about a conversion of heart. And finally, we set the conditions in our ministries and families to send the young forth to follow God’s call for their lives, so that they might transform the world with love. This triptych of ‘listen, teach, and send’ serves as a solid foundation in our homes and churches from which we can build and engage young people.”

The primary audiences for the national framework are pastors, ministry leaders, and families. Two key goals are a revitalization of ministries with youth (teenagers) and young adults (those ages 18 to 30s) in Catholic faith communities and a renewal of intergenerational accompaniment in families.

In addition to the framework, the bishops also affirmed an introductory letter addressed directly to youth and young adults, assuring them of the love of God and the Church and encouraging them to engage more deeply with the Catholic faith.

The promulgation of “Listen, Teach, Send” comes on the fifth anniversary of Christus vivit, yet it is not the first time the U.S. bishops have spoken collectively on ministries with young people. Past documents addressing ministry with adolescents and/or youth have included: “A Vision for Youth Ministry” (1976); “Empowered by the Spirit” (1985) on college campus ministry; “Sons and Daughters of the Light” (1996) on ministry with young adults; and “Renewing the Vision” (1997). The USCCB also shared particular insights on pastoral juvenil hispana (Hispanic/Latino youth and young adult ministries) in “Missionary Disciples Going Forth with Joy: National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry” (2023).

The full text of Listen, Teach, Send, as well as many accompanying pastoral resources, will be posted to the USCCB website: https://www.usccb.org/topics/youth-and-young-adult-ministries. Resources will include bulletin inserts, prayer materials, webinars and workshops, background information on youth, young adults, and ministries with young people, and implementation guides for church and family settings.

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Middle Knowledge and “The Good Place”

Justin Kalan

The show "The Good Place" demonstrates an important truth about God’s knowledge as it relates to human free will—an age old question.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Bishop Robert Barron

DGR Eng

Friends, today, in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord commands us to love our enemies.

Annual Survey Provides Insight into the State of the Permanent Diaconate in the Church

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations has released its annual survey, A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate in 2023: A Study for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Since 2005, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University has conducted this survey which provides important statistics and forecasting trends on the state of the permanent diaconate in the Church in the United States. 

Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations expressed his gratitude for the service of permanent deacons in the Church: “An important part of the life of deacons has been their service of the poor or vulnerable by bringing them the love of Christ and guidance. The faithful and tireless witness of deacons is greatly appreciated, and it challenges each of us to strive to serve our neighbor better. I invite the faithful to pray and support deacons in their efforts to spread the Word of God and serve those who are many times the least, the last and the lost. 

The survey utilized contact information from the National Association of Diaconate Directors (NADD) and was sent to the Office of the Permanent Diaconate in the Latin and Eastern Rite (arch)dioceses and eparchies. In total, CARA received responses from 128 of the 185 (arch)dioceses/eparchies whose bishops are members of the USCCB and have an active Office of Deacons, for a 69% response rate. 

  • The estimated number of permanent deacons in active ministry was 13,718 in 2023, roughly 69% of all permanent deacons in the Latin Church. 
  • The Archdiocese of Chicago had the greatest number of permanent deacons (827) followed by Galveston-Houston (346), New York (357), and Joliet in Illinois (307). 
  • There were 587 men ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2023. Since 2014, the estimated number of ordinations averaged 613. 
  • Most active deacons are between 60-69 years old (42%) followed by deacons 70 and older (36%). 
  • Most permanent deacons are Caucasian/white (73%) followed by Hispanic/Latino (20%), Asian/Pacific Islander (3%), African American/black (3%), and Native American/other (1%). 
  • Active permanent deacons most commonly serve in a parish ministerial position, such as a DRE or youth minister (23%), followed by a parish non-ministerial position, such as administration or business (20%), diocesan non-ministerial positions (12%). Additionally, 9% were entrusted with the pastoral care of one or more parishes, 8% serve in prison ministry and hospital ministry. 

The full survey conducted by CARA may be accessed here.

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Lasting peace requires all warring parties in dialogue, cardinal says

The only way to achieve true, stable and just peace is by having all sides of a conflict involved in dialogue, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said at a peace summit in Switzerland.

"The Holy See expresses its hope that the diplomatic effort currently being promoted by Ukraine and supported by so many countries will be improved, in order to achieve the results that the victims deserve and that the entire world is hoping for," he said in his speech June 16.

Upon Ukraine's request, Switzerland organized a Summit on Peace in Ukraine, which was held at a resort overlooking Lake Lucerne in the Canton of Nidwalden June 15-16. Switzerland invited more than 160 heads of state and other government leaders to kick-start a peace process by developing "a common understanding of a path towards a just and lasting peace in Ukraine." 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gestures as he speaks at a press conference during a summit on peace in Ukraine held in Stansstad, Switzerland, June 16, 2024. (CNS photo/KEYSTONE/EDA/POOL/Michael Buholzer)

About 100 delegations, including 57 heads of state and governments, attended the conference. Russia, which escalated its attacks on Ukraine with a full-scale assault in 2022, was not invited after it had indicated multiple times it had no interest in participating, and China, repeatedly called on by international leaders to use its leverage to bring Russia to the negotiating table, was also absent.

Cardinal Parolin, who led the Vatican delegation, said, "It is important to reiterate that the only means capable of achieving true, stable and just peace is dialogue between all the parties involved."

"In the face of war and its tragic consequences, it is important never to give up, but to continue to seek ways to end the conflict with good intentions, trust and creativity," he said, praising Ukraine for working "continuously on the diplomatic front, eager to achieve a just and lasting peace" all while it is "making enormous efforts to defend itself from aggression."

The Vatican is deeply concerned about "the tragic humanitarian consequences" of the war "and is especially committed to facilitating the repatriation of children and encouraging the release of prisoners, especially seriously wounded soldiers and civilians" by maintaining direct contact and communication with both Ukrainian and Russian authorities, he said.

"The reunification of minors with their families or legal guardians must be a paramount concern for all parties, and any exploitation of their situation is unacceptable. It is therefore imperative that every available channel is strengthened to facilitate this process," he said. 

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About 100 delegations, including 57 heads of state and governments, attend a plenary session of a summit on peace in Ukraine held in Stansstad, Switzerland, June 16, 2024. (CNS photo/KEYSTONE/EDA/POOL/Urs Flueeler)

The Vatican "remains prepared to assist in the implementation of potential mediation initiatives that are acceptable to all parties and benefit those who have been affected," he said, encouraging all nations and members of the international community "to explore ways of providing assistance and facilitating mediation, whether of a humanitarian or political nature."

"We trust that by supporting these efforts, we can help to find consensus and ensure the timely implementation of these projects," he said.

The Vatican participated in the summit as an observer state and, as such, did not sign the final joint communiqué on a peace framework meant to be the basis for a peace agreement to end Russia's two-year war.

Innovate to care for the environment, the excluded, pope tells CEOs

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Today's businesses must focus their innovation in caring for the environment, Pope Francis told a group of leaders of major companies and banks.

"It is no longer enough merely to comply with the laws of states, which are proceeding too slowly: we need to innovate by anticipating the future, with courageous and forward-looking choices that can be imitated," he said.

"We are living in a time of serious environmental crisis that depends on many individuals and factors, among which are the economic and business choices of the past and present," he told the group during an audience at the Vatican June 15.

The group included 25 CEOs who are part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative. Established in 2020 by King Charles III, the initiative brings together leaders from different sectors to commit to concrete action that supports sustainable economic growth and caring for the environment.

The pope urged the leaders to pay attention to and critically discern the impact of their businesses so as to "fully exercise responsibility for the direct and indirect effects of your choices."

Pope Francis rides the popemobile in St. Peter's Square.
Pope Francis smiles as he rides the popemobile around St. Peter's Square before his weekly general audience at the Vatican June 12, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

He gave them three tasks: to help care for the environment, the poor and young people.

"I urge you to place the environment and the earth at the center of your attention and responsibility," he said, adding that "the innovation of the entrepreneur nowadays must first and foremost be innovation in caring for our common home."

"Do not forget the poorest and the discarded," he said. Just as people seek to recycle materials and waste, "we have not yet learned -- allow me to use the expression -- to 'recycle' and not discard people and workers, especially the most vulnerable, to whom the culture of waste often applies."

He warned against a kind of "meritocracy" that is used to legitimize excluding the poor, "who are judged as undeserving, even to the point of viewing poverty itself as their fault."

"And let us not settle for merely a little philanthropy, that would be insufficient. The challenge is to include the poor in businesses, to make them resources for the benefit of all," he said.

"I dream of a world in which the discarded can become protagonists of change," he said, pointing to Jesus as someone who did just that.

Lastly, he said, young people are often among today's poor, in that they may lack resources, opportunities and a future.

He urged them to practice "corporate hospitality, which means generously welcoming young people even when they lack the required experience and skills, for every job is learned only by doing it."

A Parable from the Science Textbook: The Water Cycle of Creation and Redemption

Vanessa Lopez

waves of water

We enter the water cycle of redemption in our baptism. We choose to stay in it through prayer, the sacraments, discipline, and obedience.

WOF 442: Dante Ascends the Paradiso

Dr. Matthew Petrusek

Dante sketch

Dante ascends the Paradiso and in the highest heaven beholds the divine glory of the beatific vision: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.