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  • August 13, 2017

    WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, are calling on all people of goodwill to join in prayer and unity today in response to yesterday's violent protest and deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

    Full statement follows: 

     "As we learn more about the horrible events of yesterday, our prayer turns today, on the Lord's Day, to the people of Charlottesville who offered a counter example to the hate marching in the streets. Let us unite ourselves in the spirit of hope offered by the clergy, people of faith, and all people of good will who peacefully defended their city and country. 

    We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love's victory over every form of evil is assured.  At Mass, let us offer a special prayer of gratitude for the brave souls who sought to protect us from the violent ideology displayed yesterday. Let us especially remember those who lost their lives.  Let us join their witness and stand against every form of oppression." 

  • August 12, 2017

    WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement in response to the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia that has left one person dead and at least 19 injured. Cardinal DiNardo's full statement follows: "On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I join leaders from around the nation in condemning the violence and hatred that have now led to one death and multiple injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia. We offer our prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed and for all those who have been injured. We join our voices to all those calling for calm. The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation and therefore summon us all to fervent prayer and peaceful action. The bishops stand with all who are oppressed by evil ideology and entrust all who suffer to the prayers of St.Peter Claver as we approach his feast day. We also stand ready to work with all people of goodwill for an end to racial violence and for the building of peace in our communities. Last year a Task Force of our Bishops Conference under Archbishop Wilton Gregory proposed prayers and resources to work for unity and harmony in our country and in our Church. I am encouraging the bishops to continue that work especially as the Feast of St. Peter Claver approaches."
  • August 11, 2017

    The 2017 Sally Landram Excellence in Education Award was presented to Anita Slanina, a kindergarten teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Hitchcock. Slanina, second from left, is seen here with (left) Debra Haney, interim superintendent of Catholic Schools; Cathy Stephen, assistant superintendent of Excellence; Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston; and Charles Landram husband and founder of Sally Landram award. Photo by James Ramos/Herald.

    HOUSTON - On Friday, August 11, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo celebrated the beginning of a new school year with more than 1,400 teachers and school administrators from the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.  The Mass, held at 9:30 a.m. at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1111 St. Joseph Pkwy., Houston, was followed by an awards ceremony.

    “The Opening Schools Mass is an opportunity for our Catholic schools to come together and begin the year with a focus on Christ and our mission, which is to transform the world by forming disciples of Jesus Christ,” said Debra Haney, Interim Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese.  “Each year, we look forward to the words of Daniel Cardinal DiNardo’s motivational homily as well as the acknowledgment of the numerous years of service that has been so selflessly shared by our principals and teachers.

    “Let the identity of Jesus Christ be our strength and be our joy,” said Cardinal DiNardo in his homily. “There's lots of education in Catholic schools: the social sciences, physical education, the beauties of English and mathematics, and the religious thread that indeed ties them together.”


    PHOTOS: Thousands gather to start new school year off in faith


    He also reflected on the life of St. Clare of Assis, whose feast day is Aug. 11, sharing her story of clarity in truth of Jesus Christ with the education community.

    “Sisters and brothers from all our Catholic schools, thank you for your witness, and thank you for your teaching. Parents, thank you for your witness to your children,” he said. “Students we are praying for you, we think the best of you. Everything that happens is because of you and Jesus.”

    Haney, who welcomed the community before presenting the awards, said while the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese range widely – some have 45 students, while others have 700 – the diversity of the Archdiocese thrives within the 59 Catholic schools: at least 30 languages are spoken in the homes of Catholic school students, coming from nearly every continent in the world.

    “During this time together, we see the bigger picture for Catholic education in our Archdiocese and are able to rededicate ourselves to that purpose...This year, we are focusing on being ‘called’ to our vocation, and this opportunity for worship and collegiality with others who have been called to the same vocation is a unique and uplifting experience,” Haney added.  

    After the Mass, Cardinal DiNardo and Ms. Haney presented awards to 115 educators who are celebrating milestone years of service in Catholic education. The number of years of service range from 5 to 45 years.

    The celebration closed with the presentation of the Sally Landram Excellence in Education Award to a Catholic school educator who exemplifies excellence and professional dedication

    The 2017 Sally Landram Excellence in Education Award was presented to Anita Slanina, a kindergarten teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Hitchcock. The award is made possible by the generosity of the John W. and Alida Considine Foundation. 

    Teachers and staff began their back-to-school in-service the first week in August; most students start classes the second or third week of August.

     


    About the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Catholic Schools
    The Archdiocese has the largest private school system in Texas and welcomes students of all faiths. There are currently 59 schools throughout the 10 counties of the Archdiocese with more than 19,500 students enrolled. The schools serve students PreK-3 through 12th grade. All schools offer need- based tuition assistance for students. 
    The Archdiocese of Galveston- Houston serves 1.7 million Catholics in 10 counties. It is the largest Roman Catholic diocese in Texas and the 5th largest in the United States.

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Texas Catholic Herald

  • August 16, 2017

    Adultos jóvenes hispanos que fueron seleccionados por sus parroquias se reunirán el 16 de septiembre en el Quinto Encuentro Nacional de la Arquidiócesis para analizar lo que ellos necesitan de su Iglesia y lo que ellos pueden aportar a la Iglesia y a la comunidad.

    Cerca de 800 fieles asistiendo al Encuentro nacional de Cursillo en San Antonio Julio 27 a 30 celebró Misa con Obispo Auxiliar Michael J. Boulette de la Arquidiócesis de San Antonio. Foto cortesia de Norma Vasquez.

     

    HOUSTON —Adultos jóvenes hispanos que fueron seleccionados por sus parroquias se reunirán el 16 de septiembre en el Quinto Encuentro Nacional de la Arquidiócesis para analizar lo que ellos necesitan de su Iglesia y lo que ellos pueden aportar a la Iglesia y a la comunidad.


    El director interino del Ministerio Hispano, Joe Castro, dijo, “que lo que se quiere lograr es que nuestros jóvenes, se comuniquiqen tanto en español como en ingles y que hablen y se escuchen las ideas de unos con otros con el proposito de invitar a los que estan alejados de la Iglesia a regresar”.


    El Papa Francisco explicó, en una carta apoyando la iniciativa de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos (USCCB), “el objetivo principal del Quinto Encuentro es discernir las formas en que la Iglesia en los Estados Unidos puede responder mejor a la presencia hispana/latina, y fortalecer las formas en que los hispanos/latinos responden al llamado de la nueva evangelización como discípulos misioneros sirviendo a toda la Iglesia”.


    Castro dijo que la Arquidiócesis tiene un equipo que hizó sesiones de capacitación para parroquias y capacitación para jóvenes adultos menores de 35 años. El Encuentro parroquial terminó en junio y los seleccionados como delegados asistirán a el Quinto Encuentro de la Arquidiócesis en el centro de St. Dominic.

    Daniel Cardenal DiNardo hablará brevemente para apoyar y a dar las gracias a los jóvenes por su tiempo y dedicación. El obispo auxiliar George A. Sheltz celebrará la Misa de la tarde para los delegados.


    “Alrededor de 30 parroquias han seleccionado 10 o más delegados cada uno, por lo que estamos esperando alrededor de 350 personas. De ellos, los delegados serán elegidos para asistir al Encuentro regional y nacional en 2018”, anadio el senor Castro.

    El tema para de el Quinto Encuentro es “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del Amor de Dios”. Entre los objetivos está “promover una visión de la Iglesia en la misión de desarrollar vías efectivas para invitar, involucrar y formar jóvenes católicos hispanos, adultos jóvenes, familias y movimientos de laico ecleseales para vivir su vocación bautismal”.

    Esto incluye la promoción de la vocación al sacerdocio y la vida consagrada.

    Para más información, vea la pagina web vencuentro.org que contiene parroquias y otros recursos.

  • August 16, 2017

    A closer look at the issues involved in the viral story of baby Charlie Gard.

    Charlie Gard, the British child at the center of an international debate about legal and medical ethics, died July 28 from a rare genetic condition.

    Commentators on the case have been quick to take sides with one of the parties (Charlie’s parents, Charlie’s hospital or the British court system) against the others.

    Media outlets attempted to link Charlie’s case to larger political issues such as trends toward legalizing euthanasia or “physician-assisted suicide” or to the use of an improper “quality of life” ethic in medical decisions.

    While these issues are very real — and while there are troubling aspects to this case from a policy and ethical perspective — such efforts ignore many of the nuances involved in treating real patients and that are essential to any discussion of Catholic health care principles.

    What follows is not an attempt to exhaust all aspects of the case, but to discuss aspects that have not been covered prominently in the media.

    Decision-making authority

    Many commentators believed Charlie’s doctors (and the British court system) had improperly usurped the authority of Charlie’s parents in seeking to discontinue life-support during the final stages of his illness. One editorial asserted, “the once-assumed principle of medical ethics — that parents decide what is in the best interests of their minor child — is under threat.”

    From a Catholic moral perspective, it is true that parents have authority to determine what health care is in their child’s best interests. But this fact alone does not end the inquiry.

    The Church does not envision a doctor-patient relationship in which one party holds all decision-making authority and the other must accept those decisions without question.

    Rather, the Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs), promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and applicable to Catholic health care institutions and providers, envision the relationship as one of partnership and mutual decision-making.

    The aim of the relationship should be the maintenance or restoration of health or, where this is not possible, the provision of comfort and support.

    Should a physician have the right to refuse a requested treatment, especially in light of a parent’s request? As Catholics, there are many instances in which we desire our physicians to have just such rights. Significant legislative and legal battles have taken place throughout the U.S. and elsewhere concerning the healthcare provider’s right to refuse treatments such as prescribing contraceptives, performing abortions and sterilizations, and participation in “sex-reassignment” procedures and therapies.

    We inherently feel that physicians have a right and a responsibility to treat their patients ethically and with compassion, which right must include not providing treatment in some instances.

    Ethics of discontinuing treatment

    What can be said about the ethics of Charlie’s physicians’ request to discontinue treatment? A common assertion equated the request to discontinue life-support with euthanasia.

    To evaluate the doctor’s actions, we must examine the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary (or proportionate/disproportionate) medical care. Catholic principles hold that individuals (or, in the case of children, their parents) have an obligation to use ordinary means to preserve life and health. Ordinary means are defined as those treatments offering a reasonable hope of benefit and which are not excessively burdensome (painful, expensive, etc.).

    Contrariwise, a person (or his guardian) has no moral obligation to undergo disproportionate treatments to preserve life (i.e., those that have little or no hope of benefit or which are particularly painful or expensive).

    Catholic medical ethics follow neither utilitarian principles (allowing withdrawal of treatment for those deemed to have a low quality of life) nor principles of vitalism (the insistence on maintaining life even when the care used is futile or potentially harmful).

    Instead, a middle ground is to be followed that recognizes both the inherent dignity of each human life as well as the finite nature of that life. It is possible then that both Charlie’s physicians and his parents were acting from legitimate moral considerations, though their conclusions were opposed.

    Ethics of experimental treatment

    U.S. physicians offered an experimental treatment, nucleoside bypass therapy, which purportedly carried a slim chance of improving Charlie’s condition. Despite media commentators’ speculation, the fact remains that almost no one — perhaps not even those who would have administered the experimental treatment — can say with certainty whether the treatment would have helped Charlie.

    Are there ethical considerations in attempting an experimental treatment? Experimental treatments for therapeutic purposes (as in Charlie’s case) are generally licit. However, from the perspective of Catholic medical ethics, two caveats are essential. First, in experimental settings, the preference is to choose those subjects that are least vulnerable (e.g., those that can voice their own preferences).

    Second, while it would nonetheless be ethical to prescribe experimental therapies for Charlie (again, assuming some possibility of success), it is also true that, according to principles of extraordinary care, it would also be ethical to decline to prescribe, or to undergo, such therapies.

    The need for prudence

    The number of unknowns in Charlie’s case is significant. Our limited access to information through media sources renders impossible a full understanding of the parties’ motives. 

    A central concern of Catholic medical ethics is the evaluation and care for each individual, as an individual, which generally precludes broad generalizations. Many have been quick to pass judgment on Charlie’s physicians, his hospital, the British Court system, or even his parents.

    While it is true that there are trends toward euthanasia and a utilitarian disregard of the weakest human lives, there is — by and large — little evidence that the players in this case had bad motives and, instead, that all involved struggled to do the best for Charlie.

    In such a situation, perhaps the best course is to remain mindful and vigilant, but also to exercise prudence and withhold judgment, especially in the absence of good evidence. 

    And, most important, to keep in prayer those patients and medical professionals charged with navigating these complex issues daily. 

    Julie Fritsch is the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities.

  • August 16, 2017

    It seems appropriate to reflect on the underlying teaching of the Church on which Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary rests and to ponder its implications for us in our day-to-day lives as Catholic Christians.

    The Blessed Virgin Mary at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Houston. Photo by James Ramos/Herald.

    The date of publication of this issue coincides with the celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    It seems appropriate to reflect on the underlying teaching of the Church on which this liturgical celebration rests and to ponder its implications for us in our day-to-day lives as Catholic Christians.

    First we need to be clear about what is meant by the teaching itself.

    Blessed Pope Pius XII, in his apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus, puts it this way, “Christ overcame sin and death by his own death, and one who through Baptism has been born again in a supernatural way has conquered sin and death through the same Christ. Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul. Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body” (no.4-5).

     


    The celebration of the Assumption of Mary is a celebration that articulates in clear and certain terms our belief in the Resurrection of the Body.


     

    That is to say, despite sharing in Christ’s victory over death by means of our Baptism, we all still die and our bodies undergo the corruption of the grave. We await the resurrection of our bodies on the last day. For Mary, things were different.

    By a singular grace of God, because of her Immaculate Conception, her body did not undergo the corruption of the grave. Rather, she, in her now glorified body, as a union of body and soul, was assumed into heaven.

    It was Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus, issued on Nov. 1, 1950, who gave the Church the formal dogmatic definition, “we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (no. 44).

    As a consequence of this dogmatic definition, Pius XII states further, “Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith” (no. 45).

    Despite the fact that this dogmatic definition was declared in the 20th century, it should not be thought that it was the result of some new idea dreamed up by the Pope. Rather, the numerous paragraphs preceding the definition are largely a catalogue of the many great thinkers in the history of the Church who, grounded in considerations beginning in Sacred Scripture, reached this conclusion.

    Liturgical celebrations of this teaching date back at least to the fourth century. Pius himself relates that he issued this definitive definition in part as a result of the many petitions he and his predecessors had received to do so and only after consulting with the world-wide order of bishops on the appropriateness and helpfulness of issuing such a definition.

    Thus this 20th century definition is to be understood as a reflection of the constant teaching tradition of the Church.

    Understanding clearly what the Church teaches is only preliminary to understanding the significance of it in our lives today. One can rightly ask, “Who cares, or why does it matter, that Mary was, at the end of her earthly life, assumed body and soul into heaven?” I submit that it matters to us precisely because of what it teaches us about us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way, “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is … an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians” (no. 966).

    The Church’s Liturgy, in the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer on this feast, prays, “For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people.” What God has uniquely done for Mary now is what God promises for all of the baptized.

    We, who know that we will die, find both comfort and hope in the sure and certain knowledge that death is not the end. We need look no further than the Mother of God to see our true destiny.

    Death is not the victor. It is not even enough to believe that our souls survive death, as though we are destined to become like angels. No, God in Christ will do for us what He has already done for Mary. We, in our existence as an essential unity of both body and soul, are destined for eternal life

    We are pilgrims, journeying to a destination at which she has already arrived. Seeing her there helps us to continue on our way.

    The celebration of the Assumption of Mary is a celebration that articulates in clear and certain terms our belief in the Resurrection of the Body. And this belief is the basis for our hope. This hope matters. Now-emeritus Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical on hope, Spe Salvi, writes, “Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a ‘not yet’.


    We live, or at least are called to live, differently now because of our hope.


    The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future” (no. 7). We live, or at least are called to live, differently now because of our hope.

    Our pilgrim journey in the here and now is affected by our destination, a destination made clear in our contemplation of the Assumption of Mary.

    Brian Garcia-Luense is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

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