TCA Radio Podcast – “Conversations with Consequences”

Episode 15: Nourishing a parish through traditional liturgy, with Father Christopher Pollard

Are we a suffering Church? A Church in crisis? Yes. But we are also a Church deeply alive. Parishes across the U.S. are vibrant and energetic, filled with luminous men and women who are busily doing their part to bring about the Kingdom. Our new series “The Church on the Ground: Going forward in Joy” will highlight some of these ordinary, extraordinary people and their marvelous work.

Our inaugural show of this series features Father Christopher Pollard of McLean, Virginia, pastor of St. John the Beloved, where both the ordinary form of the Mass and the Latin Mass are celebrated. The solemnity of both forms has a transformative effect and inspires both reverence and enthusiasm both in this priest and among the faithful.

Rather than foment distinct “Catholic communities,” Father Pollard has a secret for keeping his parish united. We also talk about the continuous stream of young men responding to their priestly vocations in the diocese of Arlington, Virginia and one priest’s reaction to the clergy abuse crisis.

1. Rural Mexico a gut check for Catholic Church on religious freedom.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, August 2, 2019

Recently – and, many observers would say, belatedly – the Catholic Church has awoken to the reality of anti-Christian persecution around the world. The emblematic case is the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq, where Catholic organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need have meant the difference between life and death for a resilient Christian minority struggling to rebuild post-ISIS.

Pope Francis routinely talks about anti-Christian persecution as a fact of life in the early 21st century, invoking an “ecumenism of blood” to express the reality that oppressors don’t generally make distinctions among the types of Christianity practiced by their victims.

And that, by a short route, brings us to the small town of Cuamontax Huazalingo, Mexico, population around 700 souls, located in Hidalgo State in the central part of the country just north of Mexico City.

Last Sunday, four Protestants were kicked out of town by village leaders in Cuamontax Huazalingo, apparently in retaliation for their refusal to sign an agreement barring Protestants from entering the community and also for a press conference held by their lawyer accusing the Mexican government of failing to defend religious freedom.

It’s understandable that religious freedom advocates appear to be focused mostly on cajoling the government to act, since police intervention in these cases is obviously required. Equally, however, it would seem reasonable to demand that the Catholic bishops of Mexico step in, beginning with publicly disowning these perpetrators, and from there perhaps devising a campaign to educate Mexico’s rural communities in the actual teaching of the Catholic Church on religious freedom.

Mexico is the second-largest Catholic country in the world after Brazil, and if the Church can’t insist on respect for religious freedom from its own members there, it’s hard to imagine what success it’ll have anywhere else.

2. Cardinal defends Nigeria’s Shia Muslim minority after crackdown.

By Charles Collins, Crux, August 2, 2019

One of Nigeria’s leading prelates has warned that the president’s recent actions against the African nation’s small Shi’ite minority is a threat to religious freedom for all believers in the country.

On July 26, a Nigerian court banned the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), accusing it of “terrorism and illegality.”

Nigeria’s 182 million people are nearly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims; however, the vast majority of the Muslims are members of the Sunni branch of Islam.

Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of Abuja, said the actions against the country’s Shi’ites is a worrying development.

“From my own understanding, the protests were always peaceful, and we never saw them armed,” he told Vatican Radio on July 30.

“Personally, my own position is that we cannot keep quiet and allow this kind of thing to keep going on,” the cardinal said. “If the Shi’ites break the law of the land they should be held accountable … but to simply proscribe them, it is going too far.”

The Catholic bishops have accused the president of not doing enough to combat Muslim herdsmen from attacking mostly Christian farmers in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” – where the Muslim north meets the Christian south.

3. Cuban Migrants Are Thwarted in Mexico by New Asylum Rules, Asylum seekers from Cuba, long accustomed to preferential treatment under U.S. migration policies, now join other Central Americans seeking entry.

By Santiago Pérez, Wall Street Journal Online, August 2, 2019, 5:30 AM

A surge of Cuban asylum seekers, long accustomed to preferential treatment under U.S. migration policies, are being stopped by U.S. government efforts to contain a tide of Central Americans migrating north.

Thousands of Cuban migrants have been stranded for months in violent towns along the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to request asylum in the U.S. even as the Trump administration imposes more restrictions on asylum seekers. 

More than 5,500 Cuban migrants have been detained by Mexican authorities so far this year, most of them near Mexico’s southern border, reaching levels not seen since 2015, government officials say. Cubans rank among the top four nationalities in apprehensions, after Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans.

“Cubans didn’t expect to be returned like other migrants, and they are very hurt,” said the Rev. Jesús Mendoza, a Catholic priest who runs the church-backed Casa del Migrante, the largest shelter in Ciudad Juárez.

4. In his first public statement, Washington’s new Catholic archbishop slams Trump for ‘diminishing our national life’

By Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post Online, August 1, 2019, 6:22 PM

Washington’s new Catholic leader — the country’s lone black archbishop — on Thursday issued his first public statement since his installation, accusing President Trump of “diminishing our national life” with his recent tweets about lawmakers of color.

Wilton Gregory, who came to Washington in May, is known through his long, prominent career for being nonconfrontational on hot-button issues in public while working quietly behind the scenes — a model similar to that of the man he replaced, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. But on Thursday, Gregory signaled that he wants to use his higher-profile perch in the nation’s capital to challenge the use of identity — by race, national origin or otherwise — as a tool of attack.

Stephen Schneck, the former director of the Institute for Policy Research at Catholic University and an adviser to President Barack Obama on Catholic issues, said Thursday that while Wuerl and several other bishops have made recent public comments about a lack of civility, Gregory’s statement means more because he’s an African American speaking in the U.S. capital.

Asked whether it is possible to separate the morality of Trump’s comments with policies many religious conservatives like — such as his call to overturn Roe v. Wade — Gregory said it is not.

“I don’t see how one can pursue a conversation with an individual that degenerates into character assassination and say, ‘Oh, that’s acceptable because we agree with their message’ ” he said.

5. Update: Gregory: Offensive speech, actions ‘growing plague’ and ‘must end’

Catholic News Service, August 1, 2019, 1:00 PM

Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said recent public comments by President Donald Trump and others about Baltimore and the responses those remarks have generated “have deepened divisions and diminished our national life.”

“We must all take responsibility to reject language that ridicules, condemns, or vilifies another person because of their race, religion, gender, age, culture or ethnic background,” the archbishop said. “Such discourse has no place on the lips of those who confess Christ or who claim to be civilized members of society.”

6. Vatican envoy: Nicaraguan government says talks ‘concluded’

By Gabriela Selser, The Associated Press, August 1, 2019

The Vatican’s diplomatic envoy to Nicaragua said Thursday he has received a letter from President Daniel Ortega’s government apparently saying talks with the opposition on resolving the country’s more than year-old political standoff are over.

Apostolic Nuncio Waldemar Somertag told The Associated Press that this week’s letter said the government’s position is that the dialogue “concluded with the definitive absence of the other side.”

Sommertag declined to share the letter’s full contents, but said it was dated July 30 and addressed to the Vatican. He added that his understanding was a similar letter was sent to the Organization of American States. The nuncio and OAS representative Luis Rosadilla had served as witnesses and observers to the February-May negotiations.

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