Hello and welcome back!
I want to begin this week expressing my concern over new regulations released by the Department of Health and Human Services.
As part of the new federal health care reform law, all health plans will be required to fully cover certain preventative health services for women. The goal, on the surface, seems laudable. Unfortunately, the government has seen fit to include oral contraceptives, surgical sterilizations and so-called “morning-after” pills, which can cause abortions, among “preventive” services — as if pregnancy was a disease to be cured rather than the gift of new life. Obviously, this is not morally acceptable to Catholics.
The regulations do provide a conscience exemption for religious organizations, however, the criteria is so narrow that it could result in many Catholic institutions — such as schools, hospitals and Catholic charities — being forced to either cover these objectionable drugs and procedures or radically change the nature of their mission.
This, once again, points to the need for Congress to pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which has been introduced by Representatives Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Dan Boren of Oklahoma.
Cardinal DiNardo, as chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, recently spoke out on this issue and sent a letter to all the members of Congress, urging them to move the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act forward.
I urge all Catholics, and all those who respect the right of people to live according to their faith, to become educated on this issue and contact their U.S. Representative and let them know you support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.
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On Friday, I left for Denver for the Knights of Columbus annual Supreme Convention, where I spent much of the week. Before the convention started, however, I was happy to be able to catch up with family, friends and the local Capuchin communities.
Father John Lager, one of our Capuchin friars, picked me up at the airport and that day I was able to visit with Father Jim Goggins and Dorothy Leonard, who had been a student of mine back in 1970!
I was glad to also spend time with some of the O’Malley clan in the area. My brother Ted and his wife Sue live near Denver, and I was able to see some of the family and we had dinner.
They have a lovely community there. It serves as a foundation for the Mexican communities, where we have many Capuchin sisters.
The sisters will be celebrating their patronal feast — the Feast of St. Clare — on August 11. I was happy to be able to spend some time visiting with their community and they assured me of their prayers for me and for the Archdiocese of Boston. We are certainly very grateful for that.
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Then, on Sunday I concelebrated the Mass with Archbishop Charles Chaput at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
He was celebrating a special Mass for those who were going to participate in World Youth Day.
It was a beautiful event and, at the end of the Mass, the archbishop gave them a special blessing. Then afterwards I had dinner with Archbishop Chaput and Father Lager.
With Father Lager and Archbishop Chaput
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During the week, I also met up with the delegation of Knights of Columbus from Boston. There were about 57 of them who came to participate in the Supreme Convention. Three of our auxiliary bishops from Boston were there with us: Bishop Arthur Kennedy, Bishop Peter Uglietto, and Bishop Robert Hennessey. As I mentioned in my post last week, Bishop Hennessey is now the state chaplain for the Knights in Massachusetts.
Tuesday was the opening Mass of the convention, celebrated by Archbishop Chaput with 11 Cardinals and about 70 bishops as concelebrants. The theme of the convention was “So That The World May Know New Hope.”
There was a luncheon after the Mass at which Supreme Knight Carl Anderson introduced a film. It is going to come out in a few months and was given some support by the Knights of Columbus.
The film is called “Cristiada” and it stars Peter O’Toole and Andy Garcia. It is the story of the Cristero War in Mexico, which was an uprising of Catholics trying to defend the Church against the fierce persecution of the 1920’s.
Many people reading this blog will be acquainted with Graham Greene’s book “The Power and the Glory.” Graham Green went to Mexico after his conversion to report on the situation of the Church there. Out of his investigations, he wrote that beautiful book about the last priest in the province of Tabasco.
“Cristiada” is set in the same era in Mexican history; it was an era of many martyrdoms for the faith. The film centers on a couple of those martyrs who were members of the Knights of Columbus.
In addition to the preview of the film, they also showed us an interview with Andy Garcia, who gave a very interesting witness talk. He himself is Cuban and a Catholic, and he alluded to the persecution of the Church in his own country and how he identified with the themes of this film.
The theme of the film, of course, is religious liberty. In today’s world that is still very important for us, as we see that the great tolerance, which is always touted as such an American ideal, does not always extend to those who have religious convictions and faith. This movie will hopefully be a helpful tool in underscoring the importance of religious freedom and the great price that so many people have paid to live and defend our faith.
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Of the business sessions of the convention, the most important part is always the Annual Report by the Supreme Knight. Carl Anderson, who is certainly a great gift to the Church and the order of the Knight of Columbus — a man of great faith and talent and very articulate in expressing the faith of the Catholic Church — gave a very uplifting and positive report about the many accomplishments of the Knights of Columbus, which now has 1.8 million members throughout the world.
This past year he said The Knights of Columbus have contributed on the order of $155,000,000 and millions of volunteer hours to charitable works.
One example of these works highlighted at the convention was Healing Haiti’s Children, a program which aims to supply prosthetic limbs for every Haitian child who suffered amputation as a result of the earthquake in Haiti.
The Haitian national amputee soccer team, Team Zaryen, were there to highlight work of the program.
This year, they also announced four new initiatives. One is a program preparing local Knights councils to bring aid and support to communities that have suffered a natural disaster or other emergency.
They are also beginning an initiative to help the 15 million AIDS orphans in Africa. The Knights will be collaborating with the religious order called the Apostles of Jesus. The superior of that community was able to be present with us at the convention.
The third is a program to support our troops by offering a scholarship for seminarians who are willing to serve as military chaplains once they are ordained.
And, finally, the Supreme Knight announced they are going to purchase the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington D.C. and establish a shrine and museum to the late Holy Father.
Since it is very near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Catholic University of America, it will be a wonderful venue for this kind of initiative — one that will allow people to express their faith and devotion, and also to become more acquainted with the message and the teachings of Blessed John Paul II.
The Knights also talked about the councils that they have in the military, meeting over in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The young men who formed the color guard that brought in the flags were Air Force cadets and members of the council at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Of course, we’re very happy that our local campuses in Boston are beginning to get more councils formed for the Knights of Columbus.
We are very proud of the wonderful work that the Knights of Columbus do in our own archdiocese and we were delighted that so many were able to be part of the Supreme Convention. It’s always a sacrifice and an expense for delegates and their wives to be present, but it is so important for us to show our solidarity and support for this wonderful organization.
Until next week,