Social media can be your friend

Image of Pope Benedict XVI on Vatican website as seen on iPod Touch. (CNS photo from Reuters)

Facebook, Twitter, podcasts and blogs are nothing to be afraid of, speakers told participants Nov. 12 at an overflow workshop at the annual convention of the National Council of Catholic Women.

The group of women and a few priests at the workshop in the Renaissance Hotel in Washington were urged to get on board with new social media as a way to evangelize and more effectively communicate especially with young people.

The speakers, Jeff Young and Lisa Hendey, certainly practice what they preach since they both have careers that use the social media tools to spread a Catholic message.

Young is a social media consultant who also produces a podcast and blog called the Catholic Foodie, which highlights food and faith. Hendey is the founder and editor of,  a website launched in 1999 that focuses on faith, parenting and family life. She also heads a home-based web design business and is webmaster for her parish website, St. Anthony of Padua in Fresno, Calif.

Emphasizing that today’s online tools can help people fulfill the Gospel mandate to spread the good news, the speakers urged participants to go home after the convention and branch out online and to consult a teenager in the family if they ran into any trouble.

Preparing to become a cardinal, German is ordained bishop

ROME — Cardinal-designate Walter Brandmuller was ordained a bishop Saturday, exactly one week before he was scheduled to be inducted into the College of Cardinals.

The 81-year-old retired president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences was ordained at the Church of Santa Maria dell’Anima, the home of Rome’s German-speaking Catholic community.

(CNS/Paul Haring)

The German historian was one of four churchmen over the age of 80 named cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI Oct. 20. The octogenarians were named to honor their contributions to the life and ministry of the church; they cannot vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.

Two of the four over-80s were already bishops when the pope named them cardinals: Italian Bishop Elio Sgreccia, retired president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, 82; and Spanish Archbishop Jose Manuel Estepa Llaurens, former military ordinary of Spain, 84.

The fourth is 93-year-old Italian Msgr. Domenico Bartolucci, retired director of the Sistine Chapel Choir. Since 1962 the Catholic Church has required all cardinals to be bishops, but Cardinal-designate Bartolucci asked Pope Benedict to exempt him from the rule, said an official at the College of Cardinals.

Cardinals-designate Brandmuller and Bartolucci are among 11 priests over the age of 80 who have been named cardinals since 2000. Seven of the 11 requested and received the exemption from episcopal ordination.

The consistory to create the new cardinals is scheduled for Saturday at the Vatican.

Bishop Kicanas responds to media reports on eve of bishops’ meeting

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.,  vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has responded to media reports that he supposedly ignored evidence of sexual abuse by a future Chicago priest, Daniel McCormack, now serving time in prison. McCormack was a seminarian when then-Father Kicanas was rector of Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in the Chicago Archdiocese.

The media reports — with one of the first being a blog by Tim Drake of the National Catholic Register — come on the eve of the U.S. bishops’ annual fall meeting in Baltimore, where they will elect a new president. If the conference follows past practice, Bishop Kicanas as vice president of the bishops will be elected to succeed Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George as USCCB president.

In one part of the response, Bishop Kicanas said:

I would never defend endorsing McCormack’s ordination if I had had any knowledge or concern that he might be a danger to anyone, and I had no such knowledge or concern. At no time while McCormack was a seminarian at Mundelein did I receive any allegation of pedophilia or child molestation against him. I never received any allegation, report or concern about McCormack during his seminary years at Mundelein that involved sexual abuse of anyone. Prior to ordination, each student’s readiness for ordination was discussed at length by seminary administrators, faculty and the diocesan bishop. Furthermore, McCormack was evaluated, as was every seminarian, each of his four years by faculty and students who were given an opportunity to endorse or not endorse his continuing in the seminary. No student nor faculty nor anyone ever negatively commented on McCormack in all the endorsements he received. With the harm that he has done to children and families, it is tragic that he was ordained. Would that he had never been ordained.

McCormack was ordained in 1994. By 2006 McCormack was suspended from active ministry when he was arrested on charges of molesting two boys; more charges were added as more victims came forward. In July 2007 he was sentenced to five years in prison immediately after he pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse stemming from charges he molested five boys between 2001 and 2005.

His arrest rocked the Chicago Archdiocese, because it came out that the priest, then pastor at St. Agatha Parish, had been arrested and questioned in late August 2005 about allegations made by the family of one boy stemming from incidents three years earlier. Police released him because of a lack of evidence. Chicago archdiocesan officials did not remove him initially because no formal allegations had been made against him by the boy or his family. In the aftermath Cardinal George repeatedly apologized for how the case was handled and he instituted a series of changes in procedures aimed at preventing similar situations.

A look at ‘Sparky’ Anderson’s legacy and ’96 CNS interview

George Lee 'Sparky' Anderson (CNS/Reuters)

The Nov. 4 death of George Lee “Sparky” Anderson is being mourned by baseball fans and countless others around the country, including in Detroit, where he managed the Tigers for 16 years and led the team to a World Series championship in 1984. “He was a remarkable person … a great human being and a man of faith,”  Cardinal Adam J. Maida, retired archbishop of Detroit, said in a statement. “The baseball world and our community have lost a great ambassador.” He met Anderson shortly after his arrival in Detroit as archbishop.

“His world was more than baseball,” added the cardinal. Anderson’s charitable works included helping children in southeast Michigan. 

Many news accounts say that Anderson earned the nickname “Sparky” to describe his “spirited play” when he was in the minors.

The news of his passing reminded us here at CNS of an interview our media editor, Mark Pattison, did with Anderson in Anaheim, Calif., in 1996, in which he talked about his baseball career, his decision to become a Catholic and how in 1987 he met Pope John Paul II during the pontiff’s visit to Detroit. “I shook his hand, and he said, ‘Bless you my son,’ And that’s probably one of the most memorable things that I’ll ever remember,” Anderson said. There’s a tribute page to the baseball great on with a guestbook that has 325 entries and counting.

Christian unity needed for survival, patriarch says

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, the Beirut-based patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, is a forceful speaker and a committed ecumenist who believes that theologians should continue dealing with the dogmatic differences keeping Christians apart. But even while they do that, he said, Christians leaders and their faithful must get on with the business of the full visible unity of the churches.

“One of our top priorities in the Middle East at this point of history is Christian unity,” he said today during a meeting with Catholic journalists visiting Lebanon with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. “Today our people don’t care” about highly theological, historically influenced differences. “They care about how we can be together.”

The Armenian Orthodox leader accepted Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to send a “fraternal delegate” to the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in October and he said he wrote to the pope expressing his opinion that the synod “should not be exclusively Catholic” since the issues it was dealing with were “Christian concerns” common throughout the Middle East.

Catholicos Aram of Cilicia (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Echoing a call made repeatedly at the synod, the catholicos said, “The first thing we must do is fix a common date for Easter. There is no theological problem — it’s a calendar problem,” depending on whether a church follows the older Julian calendar or the Gregorian calendar used in the West. Especially in the Middle East, when people see Christians celebrating the major feast of their year on different dates, he said, they wonder how they can all claim to share the same faith.

One of the big issues at the synod was what the churches could do to help stem the tide of Christian emigration from the region.

“Emigration is a pan-Christian concern,” the catholicos said. “The churches in the Middle East have a clear policy on emigration: we are against it. The Christians should not leave the region…. Christians belong here and they should stay firmly attached to our land and our tradition.”

At the same time, he said, Christians must work together more closely to educate their members on their rights and obligations as citizens and be more vocal in demanding respect for those rights.

“We have to be faithful to our traditions and history, but faithfulness to our roots doesn’t mean we have to stay away from each other because we all are the body of Christ,” he said. “We must identify the best ways so that that God-given togetherness (of faith in Jesus) is visible in the life of the people, especially in the Middle East where we are a minority.”

“We cannot live like small islands in the middle of a huge ocean,” he said.

While Haiti’s earthquake zone was largely spared by hurricane, other parts were not so fortunate

A Haitian woman walks in a flooded street Nov. 6 in Port-au-Prince after Hurricane Tomas brushed the island. Tomas left 6,000 families homeless. (CNS/Reuters)

Reports emerged over the weekend that areas of Haiti’s southern peninsula were hit hard by Hurricane Tomas as it moved west of the country without making landfall Nov. 5.

The storm’s toll was not as great as first anticipated. Twenty people died and seven remain missing, according to Haiti’s civil protection department.

Still, 30,000 remain in shelters after 6,000 families lost their homes. Some people whose homes were destroyed in the massive Jan. 12 earthquake had their tents washed away in the most recent storm.

Many towns and villages in the far southwest sustained serious wind and flood damage. Thousands of people fled to shelters. Relief workers were making their way to isolated communities in Grand Anse and South departments. Travel was difficult due to deep mud and washed-out roads and bridges.

Camillian Father Scott Binet, international coordinator of the Servants of St. Camillus Disaster Relief Services, said in a blog posted this morning that the storm ripped off roofs from homes, left tent communities flooded and crops ruined. Carcasse was among the most devastated communities.

Catholic Relief Services and the U.N. World Food Program reported providing water, ready-to-eat meals and high-energy biscuits to more than 4,000 people who sought refuge in temporary shelters throughout the southern peninsula.

In Port-au-Prince CRS workers visited 15 camps to assess needs and found little damage in the overcrowded conditions. Assistance with clean water and sanitation was being provided.

Some 1.3 million people remain in the camps across a large part of the country 10 months after the earthquake.

Meanwhile, one crew of volunteers is planning a weeklong mission trip to Haiti beginning Nov. 13. Among their supplies is anti-malarial and cholera medications.

The trip’s leader is Brent DeLand, a member of Christ the King Parish in Springfield, Ill. His Haitian Development Fund supports a medical clinic in a poor neighborhood in Sarthe near the capital of Port-au-Prince. He told Catholic News Service pools of water left behind by the storm are prime breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Aid agencies and health workers fear that floods in the central part of the country may expand the cholera epidemic beyond the Artibonite province. The outbreak, which has claimed more than 500 lives and hospitalized 7,000 more since Oct. 19, has been contained to a fairly small area in central Haiti. Without the ability to control the water, it’s feared that bacteria-laden cholera could find its way elsewhere.

A Lebanese archbishop’s practical argument for married priests

Archbishop George Bakhouni of Tyre. (Nancy Wiechec/CNS)

TYRE, Lebanon — Heading a southern Lebanese diocese that goes from the sea then east two-thirds of the way along the border with Israel, the one problem Melkite Archbishop George Bakhouni of Tyre says he doesn’t have is finding priests.

In fact, the archbishop said, he’s surprised bishops and other leaders of the Latin-rite church aren’t more interested in the Eastern Catholic churches’ experience with ordaining married men.

“Christianity survived in the Middle East because of the married priests,” the bishop said. Because they are married with families and homes, they tend to stay even when conflicts and hardship send many celibate priests fleeing to safety.

The archbishop met Saturday with a small group of Catholic journalists visiting Lebanon with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a North American agency supporting Christians in the region.

For the archdiocese’s 10 parishes, “I have 12 priests. Eight of them are married and four are single, but two of the singles are serving in Italy,” the archbishop said.

“We always propose this to the Latin church because you are Catholic and we are Catholic, but we always feel a lot of reticence when we mention this issue to the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t know, but I think it could be helpful to allow a married person to be a priest.”

A cross at the Melkite church in Yaroun, less than a mile from the Israeli border. (Nancy Wiechec/CNS)

The celibacy rule for priests in the Latin-rite church has always been defined as a church discipline, not a theologically or scripturally based dogma that is unchangeable.

The archbishop knows all the arguments against relaxing the celibacy requirement in the Latin church, but in his experience, ordaining married men is the most naturally pastoral response to every Catholic’s need for regular access to the sacraments.

In little villages where there may be only 20 or 30 families, he said, it would be hard to find a single, celibate priest who would be happy to live and minister there. And that handful of families would not be able to support him.

The Eastern tradition, he said, is “to choose someone who has his own work in the particular village, a good man, a faithful man, a Christian man. He will study a little bit, some theology and philosophy, and he will be ordained.”

The archbishop said it doesn’t matter that it’s impractical to send a married man to the seminary for six years. “We don’t want all of them to be doctors or theologians,” but witnesses. Priests don’t all have to be well spoken orators; they could even be fishermen, like the Apostles, he said.

The important thing, he said, is that they live exemplary lives among their fellow villagers, know a bit of theology and the Bible and that they are available to celebrate the sacraments.