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Catholic Studies founder Don Briel remembered for his fidelity to Christ

Bismarck, N.D., Feb 16, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Dr. Don Briel, who held a chair in liberal arts at the University of Mary and who had founded the first Catholic Studies program, at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, died Thursday night.

The University of Mary has confirmed to CNA the news of Briel's Feb. 15 death.

Briel was 71, and had been diagnosed with two untreatable acute leukemias Jan. 19. He had been in hospice care at his home.

In recent weeks he has been the subject of tributes for his contribution to the renewal of Catholic higher education in the US, most notably through this founding, in 1993, of the Catholic Studies Program at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn. That program was the inspiration for similar programs at both Catholic and public universities across the country.

Briel remained at the University of St. Thomas for 20 years, and in 2014 he was given the Blessed John Henry Newman Chair of Liberal Arts at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.

At the University of Mary, he helped develop a Catholic Studies program, developed its Gregorian Scholars Honors Program, and taught at its Rome campus.

Briel's doctoral work focused on Bl. John Henry Newman, “whose vision of university education had a profound impact on my vision of what was necessary in our own time, [through] his insistence that the purpose of university was to form the mind and habit of students, which enables them to see things in relation and make judgments about reality,” as he told The Catholic Spirit in the weeks preceding his death.

In a Jan. 24 homage to Briel at First Things, George Weigel included his founding the Catholic Studies program among the three seminal moments for Catholic higher education in the US since World War II.

Weigel described Briel's work as, in part, an effort “to repair the damage that was done to institutions of Catholic higher learning in the aftermath of Land O’ Lakes.”

At the Land O'Lake conference in 1967, Catholic universities also began to distance themselves from the hierarchy of the Church, insisting on their “true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of any kind, lay or clerical.”

“But there was, and is, far more to Don Briel’s vision, and achievement, than damage-repair,” Weigel wrote. “Nourished intellectually by John Henry Newman and Christopher Dawson, Briel has aimed at nothing less than creating, in twenty-first-century circumstances, the 'idea of a university' that animated his two English intellectual and spiritual heroes.”

Weigel characterized conversion “to the truth of Christ and the love of Christ as manifest in the Catholic Church,” and thereby the conversion of culture, as what “Don Briel’s life-project [is] all about.”

John and Madelyn Dinkel, who studied under Briel in Rome, wrote to him after his illness that “Your course taught us that following Christ through truth, beauty, and goodness is something always to strive for. You taught us that being a saint will not be easy, but that it truly is the only way worth living. Dr. Briel, your course did teach us this, but most importantly, your character, your virtue, and your Holy Christian example, taught us this during our time abroad.”

Briel is the subject of a recently published festschrift, Renewal of Catholic Higher Education: Essays on Catholic Studies in Honor of Don J. Briel. Edited by Matthew Gerlach, the book includes reflections from Catholic Studies professors, alumni, and scholars.

In the weeks preceding his death, Briel exhibited a profound peace and a sense of gratitude.

In an interview with Maria Weiring of The Catholic Spirit conducted Feb. 8, he said that when told he had a month to live, “I felt great peace about this. I had always prayed that I would have some advance knowledge of dying, and my ideal time frame was actually one month. It’s time enough to focus on the reality of death; it’s not too short, and it’s not too long.”

“The thing is, that if I hadn’t had this incidental appointment with this surgeon, I wouldn’t have known, and therefore I wouldn’t have had this knowledge, which I had always prayed for. So there seems to be providence in it, on every aspect of the diagnosis and my experience of it.”

He characterized his time as spent primarily in prayer and in greeting friends: “I do read, but it’s more [a] time of this combination of prayer – an intensification of prayer – and seeing so many former students and colleagues.”

“I have to say that I look forward to death, not with a sense a great success, but a sense of the privilege, again, of having been invited into the work that has had these remarkable results … This is not my work, it’s not our work, it’s God’s work, and to have been given this possibility to assist in realizing this great educational vision has been the great privilege of my life.”

Youth look forward to sharing hopes, concerns in pre-synod meeting

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2018 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of the pre-synod meeting set to take place next month, several young participants voiced excitement to meet with peers from all over the world to exchange ideas and talk about life's major questions.

“This is a step the Church is making to listen to all youth,” said Stella Marilene Nishimwe, a participant in the pre-synod gathering. “It will give us an opportunity to say everything that we think. This is an opportunity that we must really take.”

A young Burundi woman living in Italy, Nishimwe told journalists that she believes the March gathering is “something that God wants from the Church, to do something new for all the youth of the world.”

“Because youth from all over the world, whether they are Catholics or from other religions, we have the same questions,” she said, adding that she thinks it is important that the Church wants to walk with youth “in this world with so much pain, with so many questions that don't have answers.”

She said that what she mainly wants to share is the experience of “the life that we live.” Namely, “we want to find happiness, like everyone in the world, we want to live in unity, we want to feel at home in all parts of the world. We want to really find a path together...in this synod, I really want this.”

Nishimwe was one of four panelists at a Feb. 16 news conference on the upcoming pre-synod meeting, which will be held March 19-24 in Rome with some 300 youth from various backgrounds and countries throughout the world.

The event is a precursor to the October Synod of Bishops on “Faith, Young People and the Discernment of Vocation,” and will include youth in different states of life and from different vocations. Priests, seminarians and consecrated persons will also participate, as well as non-Catholics.

Special attention will also be given to youth from both global and existential “peripheries,” including people with disabilities, and some who have struggled with drug use or who have been in prison.

At the end of the gathering, notes of the various discussions will be gathered into one comprehensive concluding document, which will be presented to Pope Francis and used as part of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or “working document,” of the October synod.

Alongside Nishimwe at the news conference were Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops; Bishop Fabio Fabene, the synod dicastery’s undersecretary; and Italian youth Filippo Passantino.

In comments to journalists, Passantino said participants are expecting to hear “an echo of their requests, of their needs, of their proposals” in the meeting, not only in the synod hall, “but also on social media, so that social media can become [a] great and luminous reflection to shine on their problems.”

Social media will also play a key role in the pre-synod gathering, which is being promoted on various platforms such as Facebook and Twitter with 15 special hashtags.

Passantino, who has helped to promote the event on social media, said many young people have shared their experiences, and that so far, most of the testimonies and questions posted have been related to problems such as finding work and building meaningful relationships in an increasingly superficial world.

He stressed the importance of youth being able to listen to one another and share their experiences, saying that “we will be listened to, but we must and we want to listen to all those situations of difficulty.”

The pre-synod meeting will kick off Monday, March 19, with an audience with Pope Francis, marking the 5th anniversary of the start of his papal ministry. True to form, Francis during the audience will take questions from young people from all five continents.

In the afternoon, participants will be divided into language groups, which throughout the week will discuss different themes outlined in the preparatory document for the synod, which was released Jan. 13, 2017.

Each session will include five questions to help guide discussion. The questions will focus on various topics, such as the search for meaning, technology, vocational discernment, politics and volunteer work.

Entertainment and moments of prayer will also be included. On Friday, April 23, participants will pray the Way of the Cross while walking to the Roman catacombs of San Callisto. On Saturday, they will spend the morning at the Pontifical Villa in Castel Gandolfo and in the evening will have a celebration with youth from the Diocese of Albano.

The event will conclude with Palm Sunday Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, which also marks the diocesan celebration of World Youth Day, this year dedicated to the theme: “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Participants in the gathering were selected by local bishops conferences for both the Roman and Eastern rites, and for those involved in movements, associations and ecclesial movements. Students at Catholic schools and universities will also attend.

In comments to journalists, Cardinal Baldisseri said the pre-synod gathering is not “an isolated event,” but is rather “a phase on the journey of preparation for the Synod of Bishops in October.”

The first step was the questionnaire that was sent out to bishops’ conferences worldwide, and which was also posted online in order to make it more accessible to young people. It was released in June 2017 for people ages 16 to 29, of all faiths and backgrounds, asking about lives, attitudes and concerns about the world.

According to Baldisseri, some 221,000 youth participated, with the majority being in the younger age bracket. Europe was the continent most highly represented, with Central and South America coming in second, and Africa in third.

The answers to the questionnaire will be one of four key ingredients in the October synod, he said, with the other three being the website for the questionnaire and social media accounts where youth can leave testimonies and answer questions; a September 2017 seminar on youth that took place in Rome; and the final document of the pre-synod meeting.

The pre-synod gathering will be “very, very important for the synod,” Baldisseri said. It aims to ensure that young people are heard and understood, so that the synod is not just an event “about” youth, but “with” them.

The meeting will seek to define specific pastoral projects and outreach plans. Parents, educators and priests will also be present to listen to what the youth are saying and be better equipped to address the problems and situations they encounter.

An exchange of cultural experiences and different religious backgrounds will also be encouraged.

In order to help young people unable to participate in the Rome gathering to have a voice in the discussion, special Facebook groups have been created based on language, which Bishop Baldisseri said will allow those not present to follow the discussion and interact with their peers from around the world.

Links to all social media pages, as well as the hashtags that will be used, can be found on the synod website: www.synod2018.va

Priesthood isn't an assignment – it's a mission, Pope tells seminarians

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2018 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis met with the community of the Pontifical Maronite College, explaining how their seminary formation isn’t about them or even for them, but for the people they will eventually serve in their parishes and dioceses.

“The human, intellectual and spiritual enrichment you receive in these years is not a reward for you, much less a good to be earned for your career, but a treasure for the faithful who await you in your Eparchies and to whom your life looks forward to being donated,” the Pope said Feb. 16.

“You will not be called to exercise, even well, an assignment – it is not enough! – but to live a mission, without savings, without many calculations, without limits of availability.”

Pope Francis held an audience at the Vatican with around 45 seminarians and priests of the Pontifical Maronite College in Rome, which was founded in 1584 by Pope Gregory XIII as a place of study for Catholic seminarians of the Maronite rite.

The Maronite Catholic Church traces its roots to the early Christians of Antioch, the first believers to be called Christian. In its liturgy, the rite still uses the Syriac language, which is a dialect of Aramaic, the same language Jesus spoke.

The rite takes its name from the fourth century hermit St. Maron, whose way of life inspired many monks and laity to follow him, eventually resulting in the distinctive Maronite rite.

During the encounter, Pope Francis told the priests and seminarians that as pastors, they will need to listen to people a lot, and that God will “confirm you through their lives, through many encounters, through its unpredictable surprises.”

“And you, as pastors in close contact with the flock, will savor the most genuine joy when you bend over them, making yours their joys and their sufferings, and when, at the end of the day, you can tell the Lord the love you have received and given,” he said.

Pointing to the Maronite Church’s recent Feb. 9 celebration of St. Maron, the Pope praised the monastic life of the saint, saying it shows a proper discontent with living only a moderate or mediocre faith, but wants “to love with all its heart.”

“It is by drawing on these pure sources that your ministry will be good water for today's thirsty people,” he explained.

Our heart is like a compass: It orients and directs itself toward what it loves, Francis said, quoting the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.”

He explained that these years of study, spiritual formation, and community life in Rome are a good time to “arrange the heart well.”

“All this you are called to live in a time not without suffering and dangers, but also pregnant with hope,” he said, pointing out how the people they will be called to serve will be unsettled by the instability which continues to plague the Middle East.

They “will search for, in you, pastors that console them: pastors with the word of Jesus on their lips, with their hands ready to wipe away their tears and caress suffering faces,” he continued.

“Pastors forgetful of themselves and their own interests; pastors who are never discouraged, because they draw every day, from the Eucharistic Bread, the sweet power of love that satisfies; pastors who are not afraid to ‘be eaten’ by the people, as good bread offered to brothers.”

Senator: Extreme EEOC nominee puts religious liberty at risk

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2018 / 03:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration’s re-nomination of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission puts religious liberty and marriage in danger and should be withdrawn, one U.S. Senator said this week.

“If Feldblum were a typical Democrat, it might make sense to let her nomination proceed through the Senate along with her two Republican colleagues,” U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote in a Feb. 14 commentary at The Daily Signal.

“But Feldblum is no typical Democrat. Her radical views on marriage and the appropriate use of government power place her far outside even the liberal mainstream.”

Lee objected that Feldblum, a former law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center appointed to the EEOC by President Barack Obama, opposes religious exemptions where they would conflict with LGBT advocates’ goals.

In 2006, writer Maggie Gallagher reported in the Weekly Standard that, in Feldblum’s words, “there can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

In Lee’s view, this differs from the Supreme Court’s view of an all-embracing tradition of religious freedom.

“Rather than a ‘zero-sum game’ that pits Americans against each other, we should work to build an America where ‘all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship’, as George Washington wrote in 1790,” the senator said.

He contended that Feldblum’s position contrasts with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision mandating the legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. In that decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the First Amendment “ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

In 2009, President Barack Obama named Feldblum to the EEOC as a recess appointment, later confirmed by the U.S. Senate. She was re-appointed in 2013.

In December 2017, the Trump White House said Feldblum’s nomination had been forwarded to the Senate. Feldblum’s current term expires in July 2018. If confirmed, she would serve until 2023, Reuters reports.

Lee said President Donald Trump and Senate Democrats should find “a more mainstream candidate” who “respects the institution of marriage and religious freedom for all Americans.”

Senator Lee’s commentary cited Feldblum’s doubts that marriage is “a normatively good institution” and her support, which she later withdrew, for the 2006 manifesto “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships.” That document advocated the equality of polygamy and monogamy, praising “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.”

Current EEOC publications have held that “sex stereotypes” like “the belief that men should only date women or that women should only marry men” constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex. They say that the 1964 civil rights legislation against sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination “based on an applicant or employee's gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Lee noted that Feldblum has said that even though the EEOC only has jurisdiction over employment, other federal agencies that enforce sex discrimination provisions look to the EEOC for guidance.

 

Priest in Idaho faces drug, child pornography charges

Boise, Idaho, Feb 15, 2018 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A retired priest of the Diocese of Boise is facing multiple charges involving child pornography and drug possession, which has sparked a feeling of shock and betrayal in the local bishop.

“When I heard the news for the first time, certainly sadness entered my heart, followed by shock and a sense of betrayal,” said Bishop Peter Christensen in a Feb. 11 announcement from the Diocese of Boise.

“I wish I could take away the pain that follows such horrific stories, but I cannot,” Bishop Christensen continued, saying that “we live in troubled times.”

The allegations were brought against Fr. W. Thomas Faucher, a 72-year old retired priest, who spent 20 years as the spiritual head of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School in Boise. Fr. Faucher retired three years ago, and is now facing charges for allegedly possessing or distributing child pornography, as well as being in possession of marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy.

According to the Idaho Statesman, there had been no previous complaints against Fr. Faucher, who was arrested after authorities had received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last week.

As Faucher faces court, Bishop Christensen said the Diocese of Boise will not be funding Faucher’s legal defense or financially contributing to a bond for the priest's release, which is currently set at $250,000.

Christensen also said that the diocese will not be paying for Faucher’s housing, further noting that the church is working towards evicting Faucher from his church-owned home for the safety of the surrounding neighbors.

Faucher’s preliminary hearing will take place on Thursday at the Ada County Courthouse.

According to local reports, Christensen addressed the scandal at St. Mary’s parish last Sunday, where he thanked the current priest, principal of the school, law enforcement, and media. The bishop also called child pornography “the work of the devil,” and lamented the alleged crime.  

Christensen also noted how the alleged scandal affects the universal Church, saying that such crimes “breaks the morale for the priests.”

“I do not know what the eventual outcome of Fr. Faucher’s legal case will be. Regardless, damage has been done to so many who have put their trust in his past leadership and friendship,” Christensen said.

“I encourage our Catholic community to seek God’s healing presence in each of our lives, placing our dependence and trust in Him. Let us pray for all children who are victimized by all forms of abuse and exploitation. Let us also pray for each other, and for our Church.”

Vatican denies rumors that Benedict XVI has degenerative nerve disorder

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 01:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After rumors spread in German media that Benedict XVI has a paralyzing nerve disease, the Vatican debunked the story, saying the retired Pope is experiencing nothing more than the normal aches and pains of aging.

“The recent news of a paralyzing or degenerative illness are false,” the Vatican said Feb. 15.

The statement was in response to a story published in German tabloid Neue Post Feb. 14, which quoted Benedict’s older brother Georg Ratzinger as saying that the Pope Emeritus had a degenerative nerve disease which left him increasingly in need of a wheelchair.

Benedict XVI recently sent a letter to Italian daily Corriere della Sera saying he is in the last phase of his life, and that while his physical strength might be waning, he is surrounded by love and consolation.

“I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home,” he said in the letter, published Feb. 7 on the front page of Corriere della Sera.

He said that “it's a great grace for me to be to be surrounded in this last piece of the road, which is at times a bit tiring, by a love and goodness that I could never have imagined.”

Benedict addressed the letter to Italian journalist Massimo Franco of Corriere della Sera, who was charged with the task of presenting the retired pontiff with letters expressing concern and asking about his well-being five years after resigning from the papacy.

Despite the recent report on Benedict's health in Neue Post, the Vatican in their statement said that “in two months Benedict will turn 91 years old and, as he himself recently said, he feels the weight of these years, as is normal at this age.”

 

Pope says he prays for those who call him a heretic

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told Jesuits in Chile last month that he’s willing to have discussions with people who disagree with him, but that when people just shout ‘heretic’, he prays for them instead.

“When I perceive resistance, I try to dialogue, when dialogue is possible; but some resistance comes from people who believe they have the true doctrine and they accuse you of being a heretic.”

“When in these people, for what they say or write, I do not find spiritual goodness, I simply pray for them. I feel sorry, but I do not dwell on this feeling…” the Pope said in a conversation with Jesuits in Chile, published in the Jesuit journal La Civilta’ Cattolica Feb. 15.

Francis’ comment was part of a Jan. 16 conversation with around 90 Jesuits in Chile. The private encounter took place on the first full day of his apostolic visit to Chile and Peru Jan. 15-21.

In the meeting Francis answered a question about what resistance he’s encountered during his pontificate and how he’s responded to it.

“Faced with difficulty I never say that it is a ‘resistance,’ because it would mean giving up [the process of] discernment,” he said, pointing out that to do so is to dismiss the “shred of truth” that is often at the heart of conflict.

To help with this in discussions, he said he often asks a person, “What do you think?” This helps him to put into context things that at first seem “like resistance, but in reality, are a reaction that arises from a misunderstanding, from the fact that some things must be repeated, explained better...” he said.

The Pope also noted that misunderstandings or conflict are sometimes his own fault, as when he considers something to be obvious, or makes a logical leap without explaining the process well, thinking the other person has understood his reasoning.

“I realize that, if I go back and explain it better, then at that point the other says, ‘Ah, yes, all right…’ In short, it is very helpful to examine well the sense of the conflict,” he stated.

Francis acknowledged that when there is real resistance, he feels sorry, noting that the temptation to resist change is something we’ve all experienced at one point or another.

Nothing new, resistance to the Second Vatican Council is real, he said, trying to “relativize” or “water down the Council.”

He said he’s aware of the “campaigns” against Vatican II, but he does not read the websites “of this so-called ‘resistance.’”

“I know who I am, I know the groups, but I do not read them, simply for my mental health. If there's something very serious, they inform me so that I know it,” he said. “It’s a disappointment but we have to move on.”

Catholic institutions aim for mission fidelity, not discrimination, defenders say

Denver, Colo., Feb 15, 2018 / 12:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Reports that Catholic institutions exercise unfair employment biases are undeserved, some defenders have said.

Benedict Nguyen, chancellor of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, told CNA that Catholic institutions are “really just institutions that seek to live out the Catholic faith in a concrete way, whether it be in charity work, education, or some other endeavor."

“As faith-based institutions, these have the duty, according to Catholic identity and mission, to live out our deeply-held beliefs and morals in everyday functioning,” he continued.

“When an employee publicly lives or advocate things contrary to Catholic faith and morals and makes no movements to correct the situation,” he said, “the institution should have the right to determine whether their continued employment is an inconsistency with the integrity of the mission of the institution.”

Some cases of Catholic church or school employees fired for conduct violations attract negative media coverage and even prompt protests and lawsuits, especially on charged subjects.

In recent years, legal cases and media controversies have involved a Montana Catholic school teacher who become pregnant out of wedlock; a Wisconsin coach who spent the night with a girlfriend, an Ohio schoolteacher fired after becoming pregnant via in-vitro fertilization; or couples who contract a same-sex union or live in a same-sex relationship.

One of the latest cases involves a school in the Archdiocese of Miami, Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School, which fired first-grade teacher Jocelyn Morffi on Feb. 8 after she contracted a same-sex marriage in the Florida Keys.

“As a teacher in a Catholic school their responsibility is partly for the spiritual growth of the children,” Archdiocese of Miami spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta told the Associated Press. “One has to understand that in any corporation, institution or organization there are policies and procedures and teachings and traditions that are adhered to. If something along the way does not continue to stay within that contract, then we have no other choice.”

Morffi objected to her firing in a social media post, saying “in their eyes I'm not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in partner,” the Associated Press reports.

The firing drew protests from some parents, about 20 of whom attended a meeting at the school for an explanation. Morffi had been an employee for close to seven years, coaching basketball and running a volunteer organization that took students to downtown Miami to distribute meals to the homeless.

The action also drew criticism from New Ways Ministry, an LGBT activist group that the U.S. bishops have said confuses the faithful on Church teaching.

“With each new firing, the injustice of these actions becomes clearer and clearer to Catholic people in the pews,” New Ways' director Francis DeBernardo told the Jesuit-run America Magazine.

DeBarnardo contended LGBT employees were being singled out as “the only group whose lives must be in full accordance with the hierarchy’s sexual ethics” and so they faced “blatant discrimination.”

“Differing enforcement of a religious policy based on the person who violates the policy has not been my experience,” Scott Browning, an attorney and partner with the law firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, told CNA.

Browning said that in his experience representing a significant number of bishops and religious superiors, Catholic administrators “act in good faith” to ensure their institutions are faithful to their mission.

“They apply their moral teaching and the policies that implement those teachings uniformly,” Browning said. “They are not focused on any particular circumstance or group; they are focused on being true to their beliefs.”

New Ways Ministry, which has charged that enforcement is unfairly focused on Church employees in same-sex partnerships, is part of the Equally Blessed Coalition, whose member Dignity USA is being funded by the Arcus Foundation. The foundation’s June 2016 grant announcement said the coalition’s work to “combat the firing of LGBT staff and allies, who support marriage equality, at Catholic institutions” is part of the foundation's focus on limiting religious freedom exemptions it considers discriminatory.

Speaking generally, Nguyen said that in his experience conduct codes aren’t enforced “in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner.”

“If anything, I find that most Catholic institutions go out of their way to rectify the situation in a fair way,” he said.

While Browning said he could not speak to every circumstance around the country, he commented, “what I can say is that in the many situations and cases I have been involved with, charges of discriminatory application of the policy simply don’t hold up.“

He said Catholic bishops and administrators he has worked with have tried to make sure that such situations are handled fairly.

“They do this by having a policy so people know the rules, and then they apply those rules to any violation,” he said. “I’ve seen no animus towards any particular group.   I’ve seen no focus on homosexuality. To the contrary, the focus starts with the religious teachings and making sure people stay true to those teachings.”

“For instance, I’ve been charged with enforcing policies inside the civil legal system in circumstances where couples were living out of wedlock and making that fact publicly known, in circumstances where a teacher is teaching concepts that are contrary to the gospel and many other instances that don’t have anything to do with homosexuality,” he said.

“My experience is that the bishops and other administrators whom I’ve worked for are focused on applying the policies as they are written and as their faith requires.”

Browning said such policies are “clearly protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” He noted that one relevant U.S. Supreme Court case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, was issued unanimously in 2012.

“The First Amendment allows religious people to live their faith free from being controlled by the government. This freedom of religion is at the core of the American system,” he said.

Parents who do not like these policies in their schools have secular alternatives, he noted.

Nguyen said that not allowing Catholic institutions the right to such policies would allow the state, courts and judges to “determine arbitrarily who can serve as a representative of a Catholic institution.”

“This would be a serious blow to the heart of religious liberty,” he said.

According to Nguyen, codes of conduct should be “applied fairly to all employees,” with clear expectations for employees when they accept a position.

“If the person finds that in conscience this is not possible, he or she should have the integrity to seek employment elsewhere,” he said.

Francis modifies norms for the resignation of bishops

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 10:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis tweaked the Church’s policies on bishops and Curial officials reaching the age of retirement, indicating that they should accept what God wants, whether accepting retirement or accepting continued service.

The changes were made through a motu proprio entitled Imparare a congedarsi, meaning “Learning to take your leave,” published Feb. 15.

Previous norms stated that the appointment of most bishops serving as curial officials and papal diplomats lapsed after the officials had reached the Vatican’s usual age of retirement of 75. Now, like diocesan bishops, they are requested to resign at 75, and will continue in their positions unless the Pope accepts their resignation. He may also request them to stay on, at his discretion.  

In the motu proprio, signed Feb. 12, Pope Francis cited the generous commitment and experience of many bishops in dioceses or working in the Curia, as a reason for the update in norms.
 
He noted that the period of transition, whether a resignation is accepted or not, can require an interior attitude of acceptance, and that even the conclusion of an ecclesial office itself is a service and requires “a new form of availability.”
 
“This interior attitude is necessary both when, for reasons of age, one must prepare oneself to leave office, and when asked to continue that service for a longer period, even though the age of seventy-five has been reached,” he said.

The Pope also provided some examples of reasons he might choose to extend a Curial bishop’s service in an ecclesial office past the age of 75.

The reasons could include, he said, the importance of continuity and the adequate completion of important projects, the difficulties associated with changing leadership of a dicastery already in a period of transition, and the contribution of the person in the application of new directives or new magisterial guidelines from the Holy See.

Francis explained that the transition from active service to retirement requires adequate internal preparation, which includes stripping oneself of the desire for power and or the need to be indispensable to others.
 
Such preparation will help to make the transition full of peace and confidence, rather than pain and conflict, he said.

As much as possible, this new “project of life,” should include austerity, humility, intercessory prayer, and time dedicated to reading and providing simple pastoral services, he said, noting that prayer is also a powerful tool for discerning how to live out this time.

On the other hand, if a bishop’s resignation is not accepted, and he is asked to continue his service for a longer period, this requires that he abandon his personal desires and projects “with generosity,” the Pope said.

He also emphasized that such a request of the Pope should not be considered a “privilege, or a personal triumph,” a favor between friends, or even an act of gratitude for the service he has provided.
 
“Any possible extension can be understood only for certain reasons always linked to the ecclesial common good,” he said, and is not an “automatic act, but an act of government.”

The Pope said that the virtue of prudence is applied, along with adequate discernment, in order to make the appropriate decision in these cases.

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Today's news dispatch: Jan. 14, 2016

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