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Mobile Mercy Shelter celebrates its first anniversary

Concepción, Chile, May 21, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic “Mobile Mercy Shelter” celebrated its first anniversary in service to the poor and homeless in the city of Concepción, Chile.

The modified bus is an outreach of the Archdiocese of  Concepción. Various organizations contributed to the effort from the design of the bus to its completely remodeled interior.

When launched in 2017, Archbishop Fernando Chomali told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, that “there are a lot of needy people, that's true, but there are also a lot of people that want to help, who don't want to be idle bystanders in life, but rather make a real commitment to those most in need.”

“The ideal would be that there would be no more need for this, that everyone would have a family where they could live in dignity, but unfortunately this has not happened yet, and so we have to assume our responsibility to work together in the name of Christ,” he said.

Volunteers receive training in tasks which “help Jesus through these people,” according to project coordinator  Gustave de Pennart. Four volunteers are required per night,  and include a social worker and a nurse's aid.

The bus is usually stationed in Concepción's main square and operates overnight Monday through Saturday. It has four beds, two bathrooms with showers, and offers food and clothing. It also has solar panels to light the bus at night.

To celebrate the May 15 anniversary, volunteers organized a dinner with the people that benefit from the mobile shelter. The event took place in front of Concepción's cathedral, where attendees had a meal, sang “Happy Birthday mobile shelter!” and shared a cake.

So far the mobile shelter has provided 650 overnight stays and served more than 5,000 street people who for various reasons do not want to go to the traditional shelters.

This winter, the mobile shelter added flu shots to its services.

Although there are mobile showers in the United States, and Spain has mobile barber shops, organizers believe the “Mobile Mercy Shelter” is the first of its kind in the world. The project has received the formal blessing of Pope Francis.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Chilean bishop suspends 12 priests, apologizes for not acting sooner

Rancagua, Chile, May 21, 2018 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Over the weekend, Chilean Bishop Alejandro Goić Karmelić suspended several priests after allegations of sexual misconduct were raised against them. He apologized for not following up when the accusations were first brought to his attention.

“I would like to ask forgiveness for my actions in this case,” the bishop said in a May 19 statement.

Goić, who heads the diocese of Rancagua, said he “acted without the proper swiftness” when a woman came to him nearly a year ago with concerns regarding the conduct of Fr. Luis Rubio and other priests.

Goić's apology came the day after a program detailing accusations against Rubio was aired on Chile's TV13 channel, the same station that leaked Pope Francis' 10-page letter to Chilean bishops chastising them for a systematic cover-up of clerical abuse and calling them to institute deep changes.

The program was aired May 18, the day after Goić returned from the May 15-17 meeting with Pope Francis. It focuses on the testimony of Eliza Fernandez, a youth minister in the parish of Paredones who approached the bishop last year with concerns about Fr. Rubio's behavior, particularly with minors.

Rubio had been part of a priestly fraternity referred to as “La Familia,” several of whose members have been accused of sexual misconduct, including the abuse of minors.

“I do not know whether to call it a brotherhood, a sect, or a group of priests who have practices that do not conform to their status as clerics; and with respect to young people,” Fernandez said in the program, adding that the confraternity had shown an unnatural interest in youth who were 'between 15 and 29 years old,' and that some publicly joked about being homosexual.

In the program, Rubio admitted to sending nude photos of himself to a Facebook account he thought belonged to a 16-year-old named Pablo, but which was a fake profile Fernandez had set up to catch the priest.

“I'm not asking for saints, but for a person who is dignified,” Fernandez said in the program, adding that she cannot imagine how a priest would be able to hear her confession and then send naked photos to a minor via social media.

Having been approached by TV13 reporters after celebrating Mass May 12, Rubio in the footage admitted to sending the pictures, saying “it was my mistake, I acknowledge that,” and calling the act “a horrible shame.”

When asked if he would remain a priest, Rubio said “it's a decision that I need to make in my conscience.” He said the day was one “of great sadness for me, and I regret what I have done...I recognize what I have done, that it is horrible, but I cannot say anything more.”

In a previous statement, aired on the program, Bishop Goić had said, “I did not study to be a detective, I studied to be a pastor.” He said that no one had come to him with a “formal accusation,” and that while Fernandez had reached out regarding personal concerns, she had not lodged an official complaint and had not given him any proof, so he could not investigate.

In his statement, Goić said he values the reporting done by TV13, “because they have delivered aspects that I did not know, and which have affected me greatly and caused me great suffering, as well as the community.”

The bishop said he had already submitted a formal complaint to Rancagua's prosecutor, which contained background on Rubio from the program, and that he will send all the information they have available to the Holy See this week.

Goić also suspended several diocesan priests mentioned in the TV13 program, asking them to halt their ministry until a full investigation can be done.

“I deeply regret any action or situation that violates the values and principles that underpin our Catholic Church and I want to express my clear availability to collaborate in any type of procedure which derives from the knowledge of these facts,” he said.

He asked anyone with information about actions which “do not coincide with the priesthood” to inform their dioceses, and provided the email addresses for the diocese of Rancagua.

“I must admit that, personally, as a Christian and as a pastor, I find myself deeply affected by this difficult situation, which hurts and embarrasses me,” he said, and prayed that “the truth will be revealed, the whole truth, in these cases and in any other situation which threatens the Gospel of the love of Christ.”

Goić, along with every other active bishop in Chile, submitted a written resignation to Pope Francis Thursday, the last day of their meeting with Pope Francis.

The meeting was called by Pope Francis himself last month following an in-depth investigation of abuse cover-up by Chilean Church hierarchy. The investigation, carried out by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu, resulted in a 2,300-page report, which has not been made public.

The investigation was initially centered around Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, appointed to the diocese in 2015 and accused by at least one victim of covering up abuses of Chilean priest Fernando Karadima.

In 2011, Karadima was convicted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of abusing minors and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude. Allegations of cover-up were also made against three other bishops – Andrés Arteaga, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela – whom Karadima's victims accuse of knowing about Karadima’s crimes and failing to act.

Pope Francis initially defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. However, after receiving Scicluna's report, Francis apologized, said that he had been seriously mistaken, and asked to meet the bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.

As of now, no decisions have been made regarding the bishops' fate, and it will be up to Francis whether to accept or reject their resignations.

Church in Venezuela rejects snap presidential election

Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2018 / 02:38 pm (Aid to the Church in Need).- According to the latest report by Caritas Venezuela, the inflation of food prices exceeded 1,300 percent in the country in 2017. The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation in Venezuela will reach 13,000 percent in 2018, the highest rate in the world. On May 1, 2018 the minimum monthly wage was increased from 1.3 million bolivars to 2.5 million bolivars, the ninth increase since January 2017 and the third this year alone – and still most everyday purchases are beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.

Now this economic crisis has been exacerbated by a political crisis, the government having suddenly decided to hold presidential elections on May 20, 2018, rather than in October or December as originally planned.

In its most recent communiqué, the Venezuelan bishops’ conference declared that these elections lack legitimacy, because, the statement said, “as conceived, and without the necessary guarantees common to every free, trustworthy and transparent electoral process, and with the innumerable disqualifications of potential candidates, such an election, far from bringing about a solution to the crisis the country is facing, may even aggravate this crisis and lead to a humanitarian catastrophe without precedent.”

Aid to the Church in Need spoke with Cardinal Jorge Urosa, Archbishop of Caracas, about the situation.

Members of the opposition, arguing that there is no time to organize a campaign on such short notice, have called on people to boycott the elections.

This bringing forward of the presidential elections to May 20 is an affront to the political rights of the Venezuelan people. We have the right to elect our leaders in freedom and in an appropriate manner, with the possibility of achieving a viable democratic outcome. This is like playing a game of football, where one team moves up the date of the match by 10 days from the date agreed on, without giving the other team the chance to gather its best players. These elections should be organized for the last quarter of the year, as established in the Constitution.

The press release by the episcopal conference also speaks of the elections as having no legitimacy.

These elections will not resolve the problem of the social crisis, and for that reason they are without legitimacy. These elections should be postponed, because in reality they are neither legal nor democratic.

It appears that the opposition is not very active. There appears to be no real mobilization ahead of the elections. It seems as though Venezuela is in shock. Is that the case?

Last year, 140 people died in the repression of the protest marches. Some victims had absolutely nothing to do with the protests. I saw a video of a woman who was walking down the street; she wasn’t part of the marches, she was in fact walking away from the crowd, and then “bang”—a shot rang out and she fell down, dead. That really shook me. We are all in shock. It seems as though evil is getting the upper hand, and that it doesn’t matter if children die or if someone surrenders and still gets murdered. In the face of so much suffering and without any answer, the people are despairing and discouraged.

Is the Church the only institution in Venezuela to raise its voice in protest?

No. There are many other groups that are not in agreement, and which are speaking out, for example political groups, the National Assembly. But these are very fragmented and weakened, and they are all heavily threatened. The Church is not the only voice, not in the least, but perhaps we have more impact because confidence in the bishops within Venezuelan society is very high. And not just now; this has been the case for many years already.

Some suggest that the elections were moved forward because of the grave economic situation of the country. Is that one of the reasons?

I cannot say. What I do know is that the reality of life in Venezuela is deplorable. The shortage of medicines and medical supplies is extremely serious, including medical care in hospitals; the shortage of basic foodstuffs and the high cost of food, the problem of transport, and the lack of ready cash. A kilogram [2.2 pounds] of meat costs the equivalent monthly minimum wage; the same goes for a 1 kilogram of powdered milk. Who can afford it? How can it be that there is no money available in a country? That’s enough to kill any economy. We in the Venezuelan bishops’ conference have raised our voices to denounce the social emergency and humanitarian crisis which exist in our country. The lack of electricity and water. No one has bothered to look after these structures or maintain the supply systems. It is desperate; it is terrible to see the country in ruins.

Venezuela seems to be bleeding to death. Caritas International speaks in terms of more than 4 million people who having left the country. That is 10 percent of the population!

There is an exodus because there is no future. There are people walking all the way across the border into Cúcuta (Colombia). The situation is critical. At the present time, practically every Venezuelan family has a member who has left the country. This exodus is also affecting the Church; for example, here in the Archdiocese of Caracas, we have already lost four of our permanent deacons. And there are also many religious congregations that are taking their sisters out of the country because they don’t have the resources to feed them or give them medical care.

What needs to be done to get Venezuela out of this crisis?

The situation is difficult to change. How can there be change when the government has occupied every position on the public institutions? There is no one to turn to. We have the National Assembly, but it is practically paralyzed, just as political parties have been effectively side-lined. At the same time, it could be said that Venezuela has been “mortgaged” away in the grand international geo-political game. The country has abandoned cooperation with some nations and established strategic partnerships with others, for example in the exploitation of oil and mineral reserves.

In the south of Venezuela there are diamond mines, gold and coltan reserves. It’s like the famous Eldorado. Certainly, the damage to the environment as a result of the uncontrolled mineral exploitation poses other worrying issues. Today we can say that any conflict in Venezuela is not merely a conflict among Venezuelans. The country is a pawn in the international geo-political and economic game. This makes everything even more difficult. But we must not cease to pray for our country or hoping for a peaceful solution.



Maria Lozano writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international papal charity providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries.

Mexican bishops unveil pastoral plan to prepare for major anniversaries

Mexico City, Mexico, May 17, 2018 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of Mexico have announced a pastoral project to strengthen the country’s Christian identity in preparation for significant anniversaries of Christ’s Paschal mystery and of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“The grace of the redeeming work illuminates…our conscience, which also encourages us to hope confidently in the progress of the reign of justice and peace of Jesus Christ, Son of the Mother of the true God,” stated the Episcopal Conference of Mexico.

“We believe that the Church in Mexico needs to sit at the feet of the Virgin Mother to encourage the hope of being one people… She invites us to contemplate, believe, live and announce the mystery of the redemption realized by Jesus.”

The pastoral project aims to prepare the people of Mexico for the 500th anniversary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which will take place in 2031, and the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s death and resurrection, which will occur in 2033.

With this goal in mind, a three-part pastoral plan has been constructed: to see the world through the eyes of the Father, to best determine a response to the problems in this world that mutilate human life, and to encourage people to conversion from self-destruction toward authentic human life.

Part one is meant to “look at reality as a people redeemed by Jesus Christ and loved by Our Lady of Guadalupe,” the bishops said. The current era is marked by incredible advancements in society, human sciences, and technology, the bishops said, but also includes challenges detrimental to human flourishing.

With this cultural change has come “scientific development, amazing technological innovations and their rapid applications in different fields of nature and life,” the conference said.

“But we are concerned about the arrival of this new culture that blurs and mutilates the human figure, and this is where the heart of this profound transformation is taking place and what we identify as the fundamental cultural nucleus: the negation of the primacy of the human being!”

The next step will be to determine the best response to strengthen the good aspects of society, while rejecting the negative ones.

“We focus on specifying and responding to the problematic core that brought together all the reality expressed in what we call the anthropological-cultural problem,” the bishops wrote.

The third part of the plan is evangelization to help strengthen a desire for fuller human life among the Mexican people.

“God is calling us to generate hope and to strengthen and rebuild a fuller human life for all of his children, especially those discarded by these new phenomena,” the bishops said. “A life that reflects in each person Christ the perfect man and is manifested in decent conditions for each one.”

Church-mediated dialogue to overcome Nicaraguan crisis begins

Managua, Nicaragua, May 16, 2018 / 04:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- Talks to overcome several weeks of anti-government protests and riots in Nicaragua which have been met harshly by security forces began Wednesday under the mediation of the Catholic Church.

President Daniel Ortega and his vice-president and wife, Rosario Murillo, attended the dialogue May 16 at Our Lady of Fatima national seminary in Managua. Other stakeholders present included business owners, students, and farmers.

Protests began April 18 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests have only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces.

Demonstrators have called for freedom of expression, an end to violent repression, and for Ortega to step down from office.

The Nicaraguan bishops' conference issued a statement May 15 saying: “We hope that the dialogue will structurally address the issue of  the country's institutions with the aim of paving the way for its democratization. Through the good will of the parties, attentively listening to one other, and the proposals to be made, we hope to reach important agreements which will translate into concrete decisions.”

The prelates asked that all sectors of society, including the government, “strive to maintain an atmosphere conducive to tolerance, respect and especially when peaceful demonstrations are held.”

The Church is acting as a mediator in the dialogue “after listening to the outcry of a large majority of society and conscious of the gravity of the situation we are undergoing in the country,” while acknowledging that “the circumstances for this dialogue are not the most suitable.”

Nicaragua's bishops asked the faithful to “persevere in prayer so that the Lord may grant to us all, as we approach the feast of Pentecost, the assistance of the Holy Spirit 'who leads us into all truth.'”

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints.

Bishop Silvio José Baez Ortega, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, thanked a group of some 2,000 students taking refuge in the Managua cathedral April 21 for being “the moral reservoir” of the Church and assured them of the Church’s support for their cause. “You have woken the nation up,” he said.

Bishop Baez has continued to voice his support for the protestors.

The AP's Christopher Sherman reported that during a more recent homily, the bishop said that “to denounce and publicly demonstrate against the actions, historic processes, political decisions that go against the great majority is also to love,” and that, moreover, for those whose presence causes instability, “to relinquish, to leave can be an act of love.”

Bishop Rolando José Alvarez Lagos of Matagalpa has said, “We hope there would be a series of electoral reforms, structural changes to the electoral authority – free, just and transparent elections, international observation without conditions … Effectively the democratization of the country.”

According to the AP, a priest of the Diocese of Matagalpa was wounded by shrapnel May 15 while trying to separate protestors and security forces.

The bishops' conference has asked that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights be allowed to enter Nicaragua and investigate the violence.

They have also called on the government “to hear the cry of the young Nicaraguans,” adding: “There are social sins that no human being can ignore, but rather must denounce, above all if they desire to restore the violated rights of the most vulnerable: our retirees.”

The reforms which triggered the protests were modest – the plan would have required retirees to pay 5 percent of their pension into a medical expenses fund, the social security withdrawal from employees' salaries would have increased from 6.25 to 7 percent, and employers would have had to increase contributions as well – but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Homeless woman says 'miracle' allowed her to come to Rome

Vatican City, May 16, 2018 / 10:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Marina “Nina” Vela learned that she had been selected from the community of homeless people on the streets of Denver to go on an annual pilgrimage to Rome, she did not believe the trip would actually happen.

The process was stressful, and she had some stuff to take care of. Not only did she need to get her documents in order – including a passport and finding a missing birth certificate – but she also needed to clear up some trouble with the law.

Vela, 23, is the 5th person selected to go on pilgrimage to Rome through Denver Homeless Ministries (DHM), an organization working to provide opportunities to serve the homeless as both “equals and friends.” They offer the pilgrimage as a way to encourage those who have made difficult steps to change their lives.

When fundraising started for the May 4-14 trip to Paris and Rome last fall, Vela was on probation for domestic violence. In order to go on the trip, she had to go to court to determine if she would have to serve jail time in order to waive the probation, allowing her to leave the country.

“I have a bad record,” Vela told CNA in an interview, explaining that in general, law enforcement “don't like when you don't do probation,” especially when the person has a history.

“If you've ever been in the system and you know anything about anything, they don't like that.”

Vela was selected in autumn of 2017, just months before thet trip was scheduled; it was a gamble as to when a hearing could be scheduled and how close of a margin it would be between when she got out and and when she got on the plane.

However, when the day of her April hearing came, Vela said what happened in the courtroom was nothing short of miraculous.

Instead of sending her behind bars, the judge decided to drop the whole case against her and let her walk completely free, after hearing the testimony of Tanya Cangelosi, who has led homeless ministries for years and has organized the past five pilgrimages taking someone from the streets to Rome.

The judge, after hearing Cangelosi's conviction that an opportunity like the pilgrimage would inspire real change, began talking about people who changed his own life. Before tossing the case, he said the people he tried to make proud set the direction of his life, and told Nina to never let Cangelosi down.

“It was unbelievable at first. I was totally blown away. I almost started crying,” Vela said, explaining that she had been prepared to go to jail, and was shocked by the judge's decision. “They let me go. They never do that.”

In comments to CNA, Cangelosi said Vela was chosen for the pilgrimage by God’s providence. “The Lord picked her, whether you believe in him or not, he picked her 100 percent.”

“I knew on that level of the heart that she was supposed to go, so I had to do whatever it took,” she said, voicing her conviction that Nina's life would change as a result of the pilgrimage.

Vela, she said, “didn't need all of that garbage in her record holding onto her and pulling her down. I thought that if she got off of all this, it would free her. And it did.”

Vela was born in an apartment in Dallas and raised by her grandmother in Colorado, who has Alzheimer's. She started couchsurfing when she was a teenager, and eventually ended up on the streets, where she began experimenting with drugs and found herself in and out of jail.

Despite finding friends who valued her for who she was, Vela said she was consistently “oppressed” by men.

However, in a testimony she provided to fund-raise for the trip, Vela said she wanted to change her life and get off the streets. She said that she wanted to travel and eventually go to art school and start a family.

As an art lover, Vela told CNA that her favorite part about the trip to Rome was just walking through the streets and seeing the city.

“I think the city is so beautiful. I love how the ruins in the forum are combined with these old looking buildings. It's nothing like the United States. And the people are so interesting. It's a beautiful place.”

She was also a big fan of St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums, especially the Sistine Chapel. “That church was beautiful, so beautiful,” she said, referring to St. Peter's.

Vela and Cangelosi also had front row tickets to the May 9 general audience with Pope Francis, meaning they got to shake his hand after the event ended.

Although she is not a believer, Vela said the pope is “a really nice guy” and “really sweet.” He listened as she told him about her father, who considers himself spiritual but not religious, but who loves Pope Francis. Vela said she got a blessing and a rosary from the pope that she will give to her father.

This year the Denver Homeless Ministry pilgrimage was joined by Paul Spotts, who runs Catholic Young Adult Sports (CYAS), and 10 young adults from Colorado.

Cangelosi, who met Spotts through some of the CYAS events, said he approached her last fall saying he wanted to take a group to Rome, and that he wanted to invite a homeless person to travel with them. Cangelosi told CNA that she said yes because “I wanted Nina to experience being around people her age who are working and have graduated from college.”

“Hopefully that is something that will stick in her mind in the future,” she said, adding that having Vela with them was also “a life-changing experience” for the other young adults who came, since they had never really spent time with a homeless person before.

In her comments to CNA, Vela said that while the group dynamic was hard, she bonded with some of the people in the group, and felt respected.

Now working at a coffee roaster, and with housing lined up for the future, Vela said she doesn't know what the future will hold, but is grateful to have had the opportunity to come to Rome.

Priest says baby with Down syndrome is a 'gift from God'

Lima, Peru, May 15, 2018 / 05:00 pm (ACI Prensa).- A priest who recently welcomed a newborn with Down syndrome into the children’s home he runs says that child is a gift from God.

The priest is Fr. Omar Sanchez Portillo, the director of the Home of the Association of the Beatitudes, located in the Lurín district of Lima, Peru. On his 51st birthday, Portillo was contacted by a social worker about a two-month-old baby with Down syndrome who was in need of a home. The child’s mother, only a teenager herself, was unable to care for him.  

Portillo named the child Ismael.

“Thank you Jesus for the gift you have given me for my birthday! You never cease to surprise me, my Jesus. Welcome Ismael! Bringing you from Cusco has been a complete adventure, the first of many we're going to share together. Chromosome of love, Downs Syndrome,” the priest posted on his Facebook page.

In an interview with ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, Portillo related that Ismael’s mother was an alcoholic, schizophrenic  17-year-old from a city in southern Peru.

“She went to the hospital to give birth. Apparently she had a difficult pregnancy, she gave birth and left him at the hospital. The Department for Women and Vulnerable Populations knows about our work, the profile of the kids we take in, and called us to receive him. I accepted that responsibility myself,” the priest said.

“He arrived on a very special day, May 5, my birthday, as a special gift from God in my priestly life, as its fruitfulness, as a spiritual father, as a human being. He is a very particular gift from God,” he added.  

The Association of the Beatitudes, founded by Portillo, welcomes and provides comprehensive care—nutrition, healthcare, the sacramental life—for children, adolescents, and adults who suffer from physical or psychiatric disabilities, who have been abandoned on the streets or in garbage dumps or who live in extreme poverty.

The Home of the Beatitudes takes in about 60 people every year and currently houses 217 people. They also have a team of about 80 lay people that serve in this work of charity.

“Of the people that live there 98 percent have some disability, a different ability, or a psychiatric or physical illness. We have children who are visually impaired, have multiple disabilities (blind, deaf, mute), children with Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, autism, adults and young people with mental illness, picked up off the streets,” the priest said.

Fr. Portillo told ACI Prensa that he is an admirer of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, from whom he borrowed the phrase: “Don't abort the child, give the child to me,” and says he does his own “March for Life” because the shelter he runs maintains “a commitment to life from conception to natural death.”

The priest said that those who criticize and accuse the Church of not caring about abandoned children “are either unaware or do it maliciously,” because “the work of the Church in all circumstances is evident.”

Noting that abortion is allowed in some countries when there is a fetal deformity or a genetic disorder is detected, Fr. Omar responded that “the world is losing an extraordinary treasure.”

“What these people really create is solidarity, leading others to open up their hearts and to be detached, it's a treasure the world cannot do without. They help us to come out of ourselves,” he added.

The priest said that he thanks God every day for the work with which he has been entrusted.

“For having given this priest who is a sinner such a huge, important and meaningful responsibility, and that through the work that God has entrusted to my heart and my hands, so many people have drawn close to God, so many people have converted and have returned to the Church. That is the significance,” he said.

This ‘pilgrim grandmother’ walked 570 miles to pray for families

Mexico City, Mexico, May 14, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Emma Morosini has been called the “pilgrim grandmother.”  Earlier this month, at the age of 94, she earned that nickname by concluding a 570-mile walking pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Her 40 day pilgrimage took Morosini from Monterrey, in northeastern Mexico, to Mexico City, where she prayed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, before the tilma of Saint Juan Diego.


Emma Moronsini. 91 años. Camina hace 1 mes. Salió de Tucumán. Quiere llegar a la Basílica (Luján). Ya está en Córdoba

— Sebastián Volterri (@SebaVolte) February 13, 2015


Morosini, a native of Italy who for more than 25 years has made pilgrimages to shrines around the world, arrived the afternoon of May 12 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, to pray for families, young people, and “world peace.”

The “pilgrim grandmother” has visited shrines in Portugal, Spain, Poland, Israel, Brazil and Argentina.

During this pilgrimage, Morosini began walking each day at 6:30 am, carrying a small suitcase and an umbrella, and wearing a reflective vest as a safety precaution.

For food, Morosini carried milk, juice, bread, and water, receiving along the way some donations of fruits and vegetables.

At various points on her way she was accompanied by medical and civil defense personnel or by Mexico’s Federal Police. She was often housed by municipal authorities along her route.

During a 2015 pilgrimage in Argentina, when she was 91, Morosini told reporters that she was praying for “peace in the world, for young people, for all these families that are divided. Many are separated, some live together but aren't spouses, or they don't have children. It's very sad.”

The “pilgrim grandmother” was applauded by fellow pilgrims when she arrived at the the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Before entering the church, she woman knelt down, kissed the ground, made the sign of the cross and prayed silently for a few moments.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


Argentine bishops call for prayer as congress considers expanded abortion access

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 14, 2018 / 05:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- As the Argentine congress debates legalizing abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, the country's bishops called for a special time of prayer for life, especially for the unborn child.

“Prayer has a transformational power which will aid the discernment of those who have the responsibility to make a decision of such magnitude,” the Argentine bishop's conference stated.

The nation's legislature is considering a bill that would give women legal access to abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The current law in Argentina prohibits abortion, except when the mother’s life or health is determined to be in danger, or in cases of rape.

President Mauricio Macri has encouraged “responsible” debate over the topic, while remaining personally opposed to the legislation, according to the Associated Press. He has said he would not veto the bill if it is passed by congress.

The congress' lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, is expected to vote on the bill in June.

The time of prayer began May 13 and will conclude June 3.

The bishops asked Catholics to “pray unceasingly” as individuals and in community in parishes, at Mass, as families, among friends, or at work.

The bishops' call for prayer is part of the #ValeTodaVida (every life matters) campaign.

To support this effort, they sent each parish suggestions to encourage prayer, including the prayer for life composed by Saint John Paul II, which will be prayed at all church services during this time.

“Prayer inspired and animated by the Spirit will allow us to confess with our understanding and our hearts that Every Life Matters,” the bishop's conference stated.

Finally, regarding the various pro-life marches, the bishops renewed their desire to accompany  those who participate and encouraged them to exercise “the right to freedom of speech proper to a democracy.”

They also expressed their strong desire that “every public demonstration be an opportunity to bear witness respectfully to love for life.”

Annually, between 370,000 and 522,000 Argentine women receive illegal abortions, the country's health ministry has estimated. Both procuring and performing abortions are criminal offenses in the country.

On March 25, around 150,000 people across Argentina marched for the “Day of the Unborn Child,” which honors the sanctity of all human life.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Book Review: Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life

Vancouver, Canada, May 14, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The meteoric rise of Jordan B. Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has resulted in a popular book, 12 Rules for Life, published by Random House Canada in January. Peterson’s book has been praised by many as heroic, even by a popular US Catholic bishop. He calls out today’s corrupt University, he encourages men and boys to take pride in themselves, he brings intellectual life into the public square, his defenders say. Well, William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale supposedly did some of that in 1951, and Alan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind did some of it, too, in 1987. The genre of these books is nothing particularly new, nor are their claims of social decline and cultural devastation. But the book deserves a close reading and analysis, to get at its exact weaknesses on their own terms.

In the introduction, he offers two histories of how this book came to be. In the first, Peterson describes the book as the outcome of his “procrastination-induced musing” on the Quora question-and-answer website, where he has been posting since 2012. In the second account, he cites his more specialized 1999 book, Maps of Meaning, as the source material for his 12 Rules. The combined popularity of Peterson’s Quora replies and YouTube videos of him teaching the content of Maps of Meaning at Harvard and the University of Toronto resulted, he claims, in the release of this self-help rulebook.

This is difficult to take at face value. Peterson’s rise to international popularity had little to do with his Quora profile, his dense 1999 book, or his YouTube channel. Peterson’s rise to fame began in earnest in 2016, after his vocal opposition to the C-16 bill proposed by the Canadian parliament to add “gender identity or expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Act. Peterson took a very public stand against this at the University of Toronto and quickly ascended into international fame, especially among social conservatives and libertarians, overlapping with the political rise of Donald Trump in the United States.

In 12 Rules for Life, Peterson makes a number of claims that obliquely relate to his opposition to the C-16 bill and to the points he has raised in his media appearances since then, but he does not credit any of this as contributing directly to this book. Instead, he cites his hero, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, as articulating Peterson’s core idea for the book: an opposition to the view that human beings are created for happiness. In this respect, Peterson unwittingly picks a fight with Aristotle’s ancient and enduring ideas of human flourishing and the good life within the first three pages of his 2018 book about how to live.

Peterson also provides an early footnote explaining his usage of the capitalized word “Being,” a term he uses throughout the book’s nearly 400 pages. Peterson credits his repeated usage of this term to Martin Heidegger. Anyone who has read Heidegger’s Being and Time, however, will find no resemblance between Heidegger’s and Peterson’s notions of Being, including the undifferentiated spelling (Heidegger distinguished between Being and the beings). Peterson’s reference to Heidegger is ultimately an appeal to authority, attempting to justify his use of the term “Being” as an abstract neologism. But it is not remotely true that Heidegger was using Being as a neologism. After all, Heidegger did make up an abstract neologism, Dasein, to explain the way in which Being is experienced through our particular existence. Peterson’s repetition of the word “Being” throughout the book is impossible to understand on Heideggerian terms, and Peterson provides no explanation for it but this one, in his footnote. This example is par for the course: Peterson employs a litany of big names without substantive engagement, while missing the sources that his own ideas are in passive dialogue and conflict with.

In other words, Peterson’s book begins with an oddly incomplete account of its origins and motivations, followed by an unconscious dismissal of Aristotle’s most compelling account of the purpose of life, followed by a lazy attempt to justify using a specialized term as a mystical buzzword for the rest of the book. Yet in some respects, these are the most reasonable eight pages of the book.

As we will see, once his rules begin outright, Peterson wades into a muck of assertions without argument; disconnected similes and examples that insult reason; arbitrary and happenstance judgments; and implications that are dangerous in their banality.

The first rule is really more of an order than a rule: “Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back.” In the first five pages of that chapter, Peterson talks about lobsters, songbirds, wrens, chickens, wolves, bearded dragons, and dolphins, but his main archetypal creature is the lobster. He psychologizes the lives of these lobsters ad nauseum, narrating their desires and intentions, and tells us that we have a direct relation to these ancient crustaceans.

At first glance, Peterson’s attention to animals may make his ideas appear to be Franciscan. Well, he’s a far cry from the Poverello. In his first rule, he advocates for the determinism of dominance hierarchies. He writes, “All that matters, from a Darwinian perspective, is permanence—and the dominance hierarchy, however social or cultural it might appear, has been around for half a billion years,” and continues, saying, “[d]ominance hierarchies are older than trees.”

This determinism supports his first rule about standing up straight with broad shoulders. Posture is an expression of dominance. What is ironic about this rule is that Peterson doesn’t show intellectual dominance; he is unable to make a powerful, upright argument. Instead, he repeats hunched-over Darwinian cliches through lazy analogies and silly deterministic narratives.

The second rule is “Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping.” Peterson opens by puzzling over examples where people fail to take their own medication or, far worse, giving medication to their pets more frequently than taking their own. This is what Aristotle called akrasia, the weakness of will present when we act against our best judgments. For the second time, Peterson fails to see that he is in dialogue with Aristotle. Peterson eventually turns to a psychoanalytic reading of Genesis to understand this akratic problem.

He repeats his major preoccupation in Maps of Meaning: the Carl Jung-inspired ying yang of chaos and order. Peterson’s method here is iterative. He repeats “chaos is X” and “order is Y”, or makes similes about them. For instance: “Chaos is freedom, dreadful freedom, too. Order, by contrast, is explored territory.” Or, on taxes: “When your tax return has been filed, that’s order. When you’re audited, that’s chaos.” On Tolkien: “Order is the Shire of Tolkien’s hobbits… Chaos is underground kingdom of the dwarves, usurped by Smaug.” If you don’t follow his points, neither do I.

Elsewhere in the book Peterson occasionally promises that he is not a dualist or a Manichean. But it is impossible to see anything else in this series of disconnected assertions. There are no reasons, evidence, or arguments presented; just chaos is this, order is that.

The closest thing to evidence for chaos and order may be when Peterson returns to his cognitive Darwinism, assuring us that “[o]ur brains respond instantly when chaos appears, with simple, hyper-fast circuits maintained from the ancient days, when our ancestors dwelled in trees, and snakes struck in a flash.” From there, he recovers his social Darwinism, too, claiming that the evolution of the human skull created “an evolutionary arms race between the fetal head and female pelvis.” This all links, he feels, to the archetypal feminine character of chaos and the masculinity of order; but even the simple idea of an archetype is left unexplained. He ends by psychoanalyzing his reader, or perhaps himself, by accusing anyone who has not wished for the annihilation of humanity of being out of touch with their own memory and “darkest fantasies.” The second rule ends in a search for “meaning with a capital M” to “justify your miserable existence”, which, somehow, bears out the meaning of his tortuously phrased rule about “treating yourself as if you were someone you were responsible for helping.”

The rules that follow are shorter, and rely on roughly the same method of generalization and assertions. The sixth rule, “Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World,” is spectacularly ironic for a book so disorganized in its reasons. If Peterson wants to defend order against chaos and suggest that we clean up our rooms, he must lead by example.

Rule number seven sounds fairly unobjectionable—“Pursue What is Meaningful (Not What is Expedient)”—and is the most interesting part of the book. This chapter includes a lengthy section on “Christianity and its Problems,” where Peterson sympathetically outlines Friedrich Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity, but turns to Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov ultimately to reject Nietzsche’s solution and endorse “Jung’s great discovery” that values cannot be invented. Here Peterson echoes the pessimism of Rod Dreher when Peterson says that Christian “dogma is dead, at least to the modern West.” Unlike the fatalistic Christianity of Dreher, Peterson the post-Christian somehow sees a pairing of Jung’s neo-pagan psychoanalysis with Social Darwinism as a productive way out.

In the section that immediately follows the one on Christianity, Peterson shares his personal testimony, knotted in an excursus on Rene Descartes’ modern doubt. This story mirrors his confessional preface in Maps of Meaning. In 1984, Peterson “had outgrown the shallow Christianity of [his] youth by the time [he] could understand the fundamental of Darwinian theory” because, “[a]fter that, [he] could not distinguish the basic elements of Christian belief from wishful thinking.” After this conversion from Christ to Darwin, he flirted with socialism. But all too soon socialism, like Christianity, failed Peterson and he fell back into his doubt. The horrors of the aftermath of World War II and the Cold War—more specifically, the ability for humans to torment each other—eventually led Peterson out of his doubt. “What can I not doubt?”, Peterson ponders rhetorically: “The reality of suffering.” This becomes Peterson’s firm foundation. This foundation does not match his previous claims about Darwinism, but consistency is not valued in Peterson’s approach. He chiefly relies on unargued conviction, without seeming to notice it.

This reveals the deeper reason why Peterson rejects happiness as the proper end of human life. Instead of happiness, flourishing, or the good life, suffering and evil create a negative notion of the good for Peterson, in another unfortunate dip into Manichaeism. Without realizing it, Peterson here touches on Augustine’s notion of perversity in his Confessions, where he famously steals pears with his friends for the sheer pleasure of evil. Unlike Augustine, Peterson’s realization of suffering allows evil to determine the conditions of being for the good. He writes, “The good is whatever stops such things [i.e., tormenting others for the sole sake of making them suffer] from happening.” For Peterson, goodness is the relative cure for present evil.

From this point on, Peterson relies heavily on his ideas on Meaning with a capital M, where the ontological dualism of chaos and order are mediated by Meaning. Peterson’s method is, again, a series of assertions about what Meaning is, and he still provides no arguments or evidence for them. The basic idea seems to be that Peterson’s notion of Being is a dominance hierarchy of chaos and order, rooted in the reality of suffering and evil, and Meaning intervenes morally as the “ultimate balance.” Peterson here repeats the anti-metaphysical orientation of Maps of Meaning, in which Meaning chastens and regulates Being.

Peterson’s Darwinism and psychoanalysis, mixed with his postmodern-sounding theories of goodness and meaning, brings us to rule number eleven, “Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding.” This chapter rails against “Postmodernism and the Long Arm of Marx”. I will save the reader from a close reading, because Peterson’s treatment of postmodernism as an evolutionary adaptation of Marxism is highly simplistic. Peterson mentions French intellectuals like Jacques Derrida (despite the inconvenient fact that Derrida wrote a whole book, Spectres of Marx, outlining a critique of Marx) and also brings up the Frankfurt School, but his formula is that Marxism of any kind equals killing fields in Cambodia and, above all, Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, and somehow gets from there to the present day Academy and University. Terrifying.

Peterson’s own sources do not agree with his account. He unwittingly makes constructive use of Theodor Adorno’s essay “After Auschwitz” earlier in the book, and Adorno is a member of the Marxist Frankfurt School and absolutely not a postmodernist. Furthermore, Peterson’s overt reliance on Nietzsche and Jung, a follower of Sigmund Freud, shows that Peterson’s own ideas are built upon two of Derrida’s three “masters of suspicion”: Nietzsche and Freud (the third is Marx). Furthermore, Peterson seems quite unaware of the fact that Marxists and postmodernists do not get along in the Academy. Many Leftists, like Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek, agree with Peterson’s dismissal of postmodernism despite not agreeing with each other on anything else. When Peterson warns his reader to “[b]eware of a single cause interpretation—and beware the people who purvey them” he again fails to take his own advice in his single-cause interpretation of Marxism and postmodernism.

A few final notes: One thing about quickly gained popularity is that one is not always submitted to just scrutiny. That testing over time is, after all, a major measure of value. Conservatives used to be the ones who defended this traditional idea, clinging to their Aristotle, Augustine, and liberal arts, unsoiled by social science and psychobabble. Now, with the rise of Peterson, even this virtue of conservatism has been lost. I pray that some day it will be found. For now, the defenders of Peterson have been unable to defend his actual claims and ideas, opting instead to praise the effects they project in him or the affects they feel in their hearts. They say that he represents strength; but his ideas are weak and brittle. If this is what conservatism has become—unable to defend itself through tradition, substance, and argument—then maybe conservatives deserve a pop-psychology rulebook more then the classics.

For my part, if this is what it takes for men to feel proud about themselves, then maybe they should feel embarrassed instead. If viral popularity is the measure of insight, then any serious thinking person ought to abandon all hope. If simply helping people is a good unto itself, then let the gurus and life coaches take over, managing your diet, your sex life, and your finances.

If anything characterizes this book, it is banality. You will find in it neither bold transgression nor a genius gone bad. Peterson is not an anti-hero or a misguided scoundrel. He is a tenured full professor of psychology at a major research university, who decided to write a self-help book to profit from his newfound fame. His book is opportunistic. There was nothing spectacular about reading it; the experience was mostly boring and tedious. I predict it will be stocked in thrift stores everywhere within a few years.



Sam Rocha is assistant professor in the department of educational studies at the University of British Columbia. He earned a Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 2010, and is the author of Tell Them Something Beautiful, Folk Phenomenology, and A Primer for Philosophy and Education.