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Vatican City, Feb 18, 2020 / 01:26 pm (CNA).- The Vatican announced Feb. 17 that Pope Francis had approved changes to Caritas Internationalis’ governing statutes and internal rules.
The new statutes had been in effect since May 2019 after a decree from the Vatican Secretariat of State approved changes made by the general assembly of Caritas.
Pope Francis approved the amended statutes and internal rules for Caritas Internationalis in a Jan. 13 meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The meeting considered “the need to redefine the purpose and order of Caritas Internationalis,” according to the Vatican statement.
The changes include moving the oversight of Caritas Internationalis to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The international charity had been a part of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which was absorbed by the development dicastery in 2017.
Caritas Internationalis did not disclose the changes to its internal rules. According to ACI Stampa, Caritas has encouraged women’s leadership and the presence of young people with a representative council within the organization.
As the the umbrella organization for 165 Catholic relief services throughout the world, Caritas Internationalis is the largest Catholic global aid network.
Cardinal Luis Tagle continues to serve as president of Caritas Internationalis in his new post as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Aloysius John was elected secretary general of Caritas in May.
John said last week that Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia will serve as a “road map” for Caritas Internationalis to follow.
“Querida Amazonia clearly shows that caring for the environment and caring for the poor are ‘inseparable,’” John said in a press release that highlighted the organization’s accompaniment of indigenous communities’ “fight for their rights” in Brazil.
Lagos, Nigeria, Feb 18, 2020 / 01:25 pm (CNA).- The Nigerian priest who was abducted by gunmen last week has been freed. Fr. Nicholas Oboh was kidnapped last week in the southwest region of Nigeria and was freed Tuesday evening, his diocese reported.
“I am pleased to inform this house that our priest who was kidnapped last week Thursday, Rev. Fr. Nicolas Oboh, has regained his freedom,” a spokesman for the Diocese of Uromi told Nigerian Catholic leaders in a WhatsApp message Feb. 18.
“He was released this evening,” the spokesman said. ““Many thanks for your prayers and goodwill.”
The Uromi diocese is expected to release additional details about the priest’s release.
Nigerian media reported that several children were kidnapped at the same time Oboh was abducted Feb. 13. The condition and circumstances of those children are not yet known.
Oboh’s kidnapping is the latest in a series of abductions and killings in Nigeria which have involved Catholics and other Christians; clergy, seminarians, and lay people.
Earlier this week, suspected Islamist militants in Borno state staged an arson attack which killed 30 people, including a pregnant mother and her baby. The attack also destroyed 18 vehicles filled with food supplies for the region.
Seminarian Michael Nnadi, 18, was killed in late January, weeks after he and three other seminarians were abducted from their seminary in Nigeria. The seminarians kidnapped with Nnadi have been released, but one is facing life-threatening injuries.
Also in January, Rev. Lawan Andima, a local Government Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria and the married father of nine children, was beheaded by Boko Haram.
Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City said Andima was killed “simply because he was a Christian.”
In a Feb. 7 interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Akubeze, who is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, warned that “The current situation in Nigeria reflects an unnecessary, unwarranted and self-inflicted tension. A politically polarized nation.”
“The President of Nigeria recently stated that he was shocked at the unabated killing of Nigerians, who are mostly Christians. Many Nigerians wonder whether the president lives in a parallel universe,” Akubeze stated.
“How can he be surprised at this time? After some of us have attended mass burials of Christians killed by Boko Haram? The government is certainly not doing enough to protect both Christians and Muslims.”
Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group that has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, has been active in Nigeria for years. While the group has attacked both Muslims and Christians in the past, the archbishop said that recent attacks have focused on the killing and kidnapping of Christians.
Akubeze said that the situation is dire and getting worse.
“One area that I think the Western nations and the media can be of great help is to cover the stories of these atrocities in Nigeria,” Akubeze reflected.
“The number of killings is just mind boggling. Maybe with significant Western coverage, the Government of Nigeria may be put under pressure to act.”
A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA's African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.
Vatican City, Feb 18, 2020 / 09:06 am (CNA).- Vatican authorities have seized documents and computers belonging to a senior curial official as part of an investigation into financial misconduct, the Holy See announced on Tuesday.
In a statement issued Feb. 18, the Vatican press office confirmed that investigators had raided the office and home of Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, the former head of the administrative office at the First Section of the Secretariat of State. The raid is part of an ongoing investigation into financial misconduct by officials at the secretariat.
“This morning, as part of a search ordered by the Promoter of Justice, Gian Piero Milano, and the deputy, Alessandro Diddi, documents and computer equipment were seized at the office and home of Msgr. Alberto Perlasca,” the Vatican statement said.
Perlasca was the head of the Secretariat of State’s administrative office from 2009 until July 2019, when Pope Francis appointed him Promoter of Justice at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature; chief prosecutor of the Church’s highest ecclesiastical court.
The statement confirmed that “the measure was taken in the context of the investigation into financial investments and the work of the Secretariat of State.”
Vatican authorities have been investigating financial activities at the Secretariat of State since October, when Gendarmes staged similar raids at the offices of the secretariat and the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority. Those raids resulted in the suspension of four staff at the Secretariat of State as well as the director of the AIF.
The raid on Perlasca’s home and office was in connection with “interrogations” of the five suspended officials, the statement said.
The investigation involves a complicated series of financial transactions through which the Secretariat of State acquired a luxury property development in London for hundreds of millions of euros. Two of the four suspended officials at the Secretariat of State were registered directors of a London holding company controlled by the secretariat.
CNA has reported that the property was acquired by the Secretariat of State in a staggered series of purchases financed through loans by two Swiss banks, Credit Suisse and BSI. BSI was subsequently closed by financial authorities for systematic failures to prevent money laundering activity.
The building, at 60 Sloane Avenue in west London, was bought from Italian financier Raffaele Mincione, who arranged the Vatican’s purchase through a string of his own companies and investment funds, making hundreds of millions of euros in profit from the deal.
The principle vehicle for the Secretariat of State’s investment in the property was Mincione’s Athena Global Fund, which was used by Mincione to make no-strings-attached loans to another of his companies, Time & Life SA, through which he made high-risk speculative investments for himself, and helped an Italian bank illegally evade financial regulations.
CNA has also reported that another fund in which the Secretariat of State invested tens of millions of euros has links to two Swiss banks investigated or implicated in bribery and money laundering scandals involving more than one billion dollars.
The raid on Msgr. Perlasca comes one day after Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former sostituto at the Secretariat of State, told Italian media that "not everything was clear" about the London investment.
“So, I mean, did everything go well? No, there was something that didn't go well,” Becciu told Huffington Post’s Italian edition.
Although he commented on the details of the project’s financing, the cardinal insisted that he is not personally not under investigation, pointing instead to two suspended members of his former staff at the Secretariat of State, Msgr. Mauro Carlino and Dr. Caterina Sansone, both of whom reported to Becciu during his time as sostituto and were registered as directors at the London holding company responsible for the development.
Milan, Italy, Feb 18, 2020 / 12:01 am (CNA).- Evidence to be presented in an upcoming criminal trial suggests an elaborate cover-up of sexual abuse allegations against a former priest of the Legionaries of Christ whom an Italian court has convicted of sexual abuse of a minor.
The case, set to begin in March, names four Legion priests and a Legion lawyer who are accused of attempting to obstruct justice and extort the family of a sex abuse victim, according to reporting by the Associated Press.
The names of the priests and lawyer in question have not been released, and the Legion did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.
The Legion of Christ, a religious congregation consisting of fewer than 1,000 priests worldwide, was long the subject of critical reports and rumors before it was rocked by Vatican acknowledgment that its charismatic founder, Father Marcial Maciel, lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children. Maciel abused at least 60 minors.
In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Benedict XVI, removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age, and he died in 2008.
Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Valasio De Paolis, a highly respected canon lawyer, to lead the religious order in 2010.
De Paolis, who died in 2017, has faced criticism for leaving much of the leadership of the congregation from Maciel’s time in place and failing to investigate claims of cover-up.
The present case chiefly concerns Mexico native Vladimir Reséndiz Gutiérrez, who was ordained a priest in 2006 and immediately was sent to oversee young boys at the Gozzano youth seminary near Italy's border with Switzerland, the AP reports.
The Legion has said it first recieved allegations of sexual abuse against Reséndiz during March 2011. An Austrain boy reported the allegation to a church ombudsman’s office in Austria that receives abuse complaints, according to the AP.
In addition, the son of Yolanda Martinez, a church employee in Milan, revealed in 2013 during sessions with his psychologist that Reséndiz had abused him at the Gozzano youth seminary in 2008.
In October 2013, the Legion offered a settlement of 15,000 euros to Martinez, but in return, her son would have to recant the testimony he gave to prosecutors that Reséndiz had repeatedly assaulted him, the AP reports.
Martinez called De Paolis to complain about the proposal. According to their wiretapped Jan. 7, 2014 conversation, De Paolis told Martinez not to sign the deal and to negotiate a different deal, without lawyers.
Authorities obtained the tape of the conversation, as well as numerous documents to be presented at the trial, during a 2014 raid of the Legion’s headquarters in Rome.
Documents obtained during the 2014 raid suggest that Reséndiz was known to the Legion as a risk to children even when he was a teenage seminarian in 1994, with his novice director writing that he believed Reséndiz to be “a boy with strong sexual impulses and low capacity to control them.”
A lawyer for the Legion is accused of recommending various schemes to Legion leaders aimed at covering up Reséndiz abuses.
The lawyer recommended in a March 2011 email that Father Gabriel Sotres, a Legion priest who was tasked with revising the congregation’s constitution a decade ago, go to Austria to convince the alleged victim not to tell their parents or the authorities.
Documents also suggest that Legion knew about another possible victim in Venezuela, where Reséndiz had been moved in 2008. The lawyer proposed a plan to report only Reséndiz’s name to Venezuelan police to comply with local reporting laws, leaving out that he was a priest, that he was accused of a sex crime against a child, and the name of the Legion, as well as noting that he no longer lived in Venezuela, the AP reported.
All of this would be done in order to mitigate the possible damage to the order.
That same month, Reséndiz was removed from priestly ministry after his religious superior questioned him, but documents suggest he hearing confessions in schools and celebrating Mass in Colombia while he was supposedly suspended, and later assigned to an administrative position.
Evidence to be presented at the trial suggests that although De Paolis opened a canonical investigation of Reséndiz within the congregation, he did not alert the police.
Authorities in Milan did not learn of the abuse allegations against Reséndiz until March 2013, when Martinez’s son’s psychologist reported them.
Reséndiz eventually confessed to his crimes in a letter to Cardinal Gerhard Mueller in 2012. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dismissed Reséndiz from the clerical state during April 2013, the Legion says.
An Italian court convicted Reséndiz in absentia during March 2019, and during Jan. 2020 an appeals court confirmed the conviction. Reséndiz faces a sentence of six and a half years in jail. He is believed to be living in Mexico.
The Legion reported in December 2019 that since its founding in 1941, 33 priests of the Legionaries of Christ have been found to have committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children, according to the 2019 report.
The preliminary hearing for the present criminal trial in Milan is scheduled for March 12.
Geneva, Switzerland, Feb 17, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The first Catholic Mass in nearly five hundred years will be celebrated at a cathedral in Geneva later this month. Mass will be said in the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre de Genève on Feb. 29, in a decision announced by the Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg’s episcopal vicariate for the city.
The cathedral was the seat of the Catholic bishops of Geneva from the fourth century until the Protestant Reformation. The last Mass celebrated at the cathedral took place in 1535. After the Reformation, the building was taken over by John Calvin’s Reformed Protestant Church, which destroyed the cathedral’s statues and paintings, and banned Catholic worship.
Fr. Pascal Desthieux, the Catholic episcopal vicar for Geneva, described the cathedral as the “central and symbolic location of Geneva’s Christian history” in a letter published on the vicariate’s website.
Following the reformation, the cathedral became a location “emblematic of the Calvinist reform,” he said.
John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, lived in Geneva, and the city was a destination for French Protestants who were forced to flee France due to persecution. Saint-Pierre de Genève was Calvin’s home church and his chair is displayed next to the cathedral’s pulpit.
The Diocese of Geneva was eventually absorbed into the Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg. Today, just under 40% of Switzerland is Catholic.
At the request of Geneva’s Protestant population, Desthieux will celebrate the Mass and not Bishop Charles Morerod of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg. But, Desthieux said, Bishop Morerod views the Mass as an historic “local event.”
While acknowledging that the return of Catholic Mass to the cathedral is a cause for rejoicing, Desthieux warned against any “triumphalism,” as well as any language suggesting the Catholics are looking to “take over” the building.
“With our Protestant brothers and sisters, who welcome us in their cathedral, we want simply to make a strong ecumenical gesture, a sign that we all live together in Geneva,” he said. The Mass is a “gesture of hospitality” within the Christian community of the city, said the priest.
“Our Protestant brothers will welcome us, and we will let ourselves be welcomed,” Desthieux said.
The date and timing of the Mass was chosen to coincide with the beginning of the penitential season of Lent. The Mass will be celebrated at 6:30 p.m., making it the vigil Mass of the first Sunday of Lent.
“We have chosen to have this historic Mass at the beginning of Lent, to include a penitential process where we ask forgiveness for our sins against unity,” he said in the letter.
All other Saturday vigil Masses in the city of Geneva will be cancelled on Feb. 29, in order to encourage all of the city’s Catholics to attend the Mass at the cathedral.
Some media reports have suggested that Protestant attendees at the Mass will be invited to receive Communion, though this is prohibited by canon law.
According to Daniel Pilly, president of the Saint-Pierre de Genève parish council, it is common in Geneva for Protestants to receive Communion during ecumenical services.
“Protestants receiving Communion is already done locally in many parishes during ecumenical celebrations, where Protestants and Catholics invite each other to the Lord’s Supper and to Communion,” said Pilly to Protest Info, a Swiss press agency that reports on news related to the Reformed Churches.
In the Catholic Church, only baptized Catholics in a state of grace are permitted to receive Communion.
According to an article in the Geneva Tribune, a Swiss newspaper, Protestants who attend the Mass on Feb. 29 will not be encouraged to receive Communion.
“People of a faith other than Catholic will not be formally invited to Eucharist, the sharing of bread and wine,” said the paper in a news article about the Mass published on February 12.
Speaking to the Geneva Tribue, Desthieux quoted Redemptionis Sacramentum, the 2004 document published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments regarding the proper practices regarding the Eucharist, and explained that Protestants who attend Mass are not generally permitted to receive Communion.
“However, in such special circumstances, we practice what we call eucharistic hospitality by welcoming all people who come forward to receive the Body of Christ,” he said. Desthieux did not explain what “eucharistic hospitality” means in this case, or if and on what basis Communion would be knowingly distributed to Protestants.
“And anyway,” Desthieux said, “everyone is welcome to this Mass.”
Yaoundé, Cameroon, Feb 17, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Bishops from around the world have signed an open letter to the Cameroonian president asking that he participate in proposed peace talks meant to bring an end to conflict between the government and Anglophone separatists.
“We are motivated by our concern about the suffering of unarmed civilians, and the stability and prosperity of Cameroon,” 16 bishops from outside Cameroon wrote in a Feb. 17 letter coordinated by the Global Campaign for Peace and Justice in Cameroon. Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport was among the signatories.
“We believe the proposed Swiss-led talks offer the best path to an appropriate political solution through inclusive negotiations,” the bishops continued. “The success of these talks will be critical in Cameroon’s journey towards ensuring peace and your legacy as an effective leader in a troubled region. It is our sincere hope that all interested stakeholders will join these talks and show a spirit of cooperation, pragmatism, and realism to ensure these negotiations succeed.”
They added that “only true peace will allow Catholic dioceses, clinics, and schools to once again minister safely to the blessed congregants and citizens of Anglophone Cameroon.”
The Cameroon crisis is rooted in conflict between the English- and French-speaking areas of Cameroon. Unrest has been ongoing since 2016, when the country’s Anglophone community began protests to demand the return of federalism after the government increased the use of French in schools and courts.
Some 3,000 people have died since the fighting began. According to the UN, there are an estimated 679,000 internally displaced people in Cameroon, and 60,000 Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria.
At least 600,000 children have been unable to attend school in the Anglophone Southwest and Northwest Regions, with most schools having been shut down.
The bishops told president Paul Biya, who has ruled Cameroon for 37 years, that “there will be no military victory for any side. A lasting solution to Cameroon’s problems must come from a mediated process that includes Anglophone armed-separatist groups and non-violent civil-society leaders. If all parties treat each other as they wish to be treated, a solution is possible.”
They noted that a Major National Dialogue held in October 2019 was laudable, but had not stopped the violence.
The dialogue had proposed that the Anglophone regions be given greater self-government, and the elction of local governors. In addition, Biya had ordered that charges against some 300 people held in connection with the Anglophone conflict be dropped, and opposition leader Maurice Kamto was released after nine months of imprisonment.
At least 22 people were killed in an attack on Ntumbo, a village in the Northwest Region, Feb. 14. Separatists blamed the government for the attack, but the government has denied involvement.
The area that is now Cameroon was a German colony in the late 19th century, but the territory was divided into British and French mandates after the German Empire's defeat in World War I. The mandates were united in an independent Cameroon in 1961.
There is now a separatist movement in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, which were formerly the British Southern Cameroons.
Cameroon held parliamentary elections Feb. 9, which the local bishops noted took place in a calm atmosphere, but with low turnout.
The Cameroonian bishops noted that “four months after the holding of the Major National Dialogue, which proposed solutions for ending the crisis” in the Anglophone reigions, “we are still not satisfied with the situation in these regions.”
They added that “insecurity persists in spite of everything and has prevented many citizens living in these areas from exercising their civil rights.”
Beijing, China, Feb 17, 2020 / 05:50 pm (CNA).- While the coronavirus outbreak continues, Catholics have sought to provide aid and pastoral care to those threatened by its spread.
In mainland China, the death toll of coronavirus has reached 1,771, and more than 70,600 have been infected in the country.
Jinde Charities, a government-recognized Catholic group in China, has provided $132 million worth of aid to support medical treatment by additional protective clothing, emergency masks, goggles, and disinfectants.
“Given the continuing severity of the epidemic, the provision of medical supplies such as protective clothing and masks to designated hospitals remains a top priority,” the charity said, according to a Feb. 12 statement.
“At present, the entire society, including the Chinese Catholic Church, is fighting the epidemic to save people,” the statement further read.
Father John Baptist Zhang, head of Jinde Charities, said there is more work to be done and urged the universal Church to provide more aid.
“We need brothers and sisters from the universal Church to join us in the fight against the plague of the human race by making use of the universal strength of the Catholic Church and by donating funds or medical supplies,” he said, according to UCA News.
The Vatican also donated 700,000 disposable respirator masks earlier this month.
Originating in Wuhan in China's Hubei province, the new strain of coronavirus can cause fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, it can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure, and severe acute respiratory syndrome.
Most of the reported cases of COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by coronavirus, are in China, but it has spread to 26 countries, with about 600 cases outside China. There have been four deaths outside mainland China, in Hong Kong, France, the Philippines, and Japan.
Numerous governments have imposed heavy travel restrictions in response to the outbreak. More than 780 million people in China are facing some form of travel restraints.
Several countries have also refused entry to tourists who have been in China.
The Westerdam cruiser stayed at sea for almost two additional weeks after visiting Hong Kong, a city with about 50 cases of coronavirus.
They could finally disembarked in Cambodia on Friday after the ship had been denied entrance in Taiwan, Guam, Thailand, and the Philippines. No one on board the ship was reported to have contracted the virus.
Among the 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, a priest of the Apostolate of the Sea of the United States of America was also stuck on board. The priest, who has asked to remain anonymous, provided both spiritual and counseling services to the passengers.
Doreen M. Badeaux, secretary-general of the Apostolate of the Sea of the United States of America, told ACI Prensa that the passengers were very frightened so the priest decided to "write a novena for the Coronavirus and those who attended Mass daily on board began to pray it every day.”
Besides saying daily Mass and hearing confessions, the priest also offered counseling services and pastoral care to any passenger regardless of their faith.
“During a time of such tension, it is very important to have a priest on board. The crew on board always has to be professional and not show their own stress or concern for passengers. But with the priest, the staff can relax and speak frankly, knowing that he will not share what they say,” Badeaux said.
"I think it reminded people to relax, pray and think about the people around them, realize that everyone was literally 'in the same boat', and be patient with the process," he further added.
Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 17, 2020 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Charles Chaput has been a diocesan bishop for 31 years. For most of that time, his people have known where to find him on Sunday afternoon or evening: hearing confessions and offering Mass in his cathedral.
Chaput celebrated this weekend his last Sunday Mass as a diocesan bishop.
At the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Chaput told his parishioners he is grateful to them, and pointed following Jesus Christ as the pathway to truth and happiness.
“I’ll still be around, I’m not dying, I’m just retiring,” Chaput said Feb. 16, just days before the Tuesday installation of his successor, Archbishop-designate Nelson Perez.
In a homily that stayed tied to the Mass readings, characteristic of Chaput’s preaching style, the archbishop cited the second reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, saying it captures his experience of ministry to the Church in Philadelphia.
“What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and what has not entered the human heart: what God has prepared for those who love him,” St. Paul wrote. “This, God has revealed to us, through the Spirit.”
Chaput thanked the congregation for “the gift of your presence in my life.”
“God bless you,” he concluded.
The archbishop described his successor Perez, until recently the Bishop of Cleveland, as “a very good man” who “will serve you well as archbishop.”
“I am very grateful to those who have supported me at this Mass,” he said, thanking the choir, cathedral rector Father Gerald Gill, and the cathedral community.
“Some of you are regular Mass attenders at this Sunday night Mass,” he said. “I’m very grateful for your presence. It really is the highlight of my week.”
“It’s hard for you to believe, isn’t it? Looking at you is the highlight of my week. I must have a very bad week,” he joked, before turning serious. “It’s been a very important part of my life, I’m very grateful to you.”
In his homily, Chaput reflected on divine law and God’s revelation.
“One of the problems with the commandments is we think of them as laws or rules. What they really are is a pattern of life,” Chaput said. “They’re not there to test us to see if we’re good, because we know we’re not, right? The commandments are there to show us how to be good.”
“God is telling us if you want to be happy, then don’t steal. If you want to be successful, you won’t bear false witness. If you want to have successful marriages, you won’t commit adultery,” the archbishop explained.
“We have freedom to choose whether or not to be good,” he said. At the same time, he emphasized that Christians can’t keep the commandments on their own, but must depend on God’s grace. Some struggle and sin again and again, “sometimes because we depend on ourselves rather than God.”
“Think about the most difficult (sins) for you: gossip, adultery, not to kill, not to anger,” Chaput said, stressing the importance of the commandments.
“What’s at stake here is our salvation, our eternal life, or our eternal damnation,” he added. stressing the importance of the commandments. “You and I determine our future by what we choose: life--following the commandments—or death. Good or evil.”
On Sunday’s gospel, the archbishop warned of the “danger of scandal.”
“One of the biggest sins that you and I can commit is leading someone else into sin,” he said. “It’s bad enough we lead ourselves into sin. But it’s much worse if we lead ourselves into sin, and through that lead someone else into sin.”
Chaput said he couldn’t state it any clearer than Jesus himself in the Gospel of Matthew: “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Archbishop Chaput asked the congregation: “When’s the last time you led somebody into sin by your sin?”
As an example, he mentioned the sexual temptations facing young people who are dating, temptations through which they can lead one another into serious sin.
“It’s really awful because they’re leading somebody they love into serious sin, as well as committing it themselves,” he said. Others teach children to use foul language by their example, or lead people into “patterns of selfishness” shown by their own lives.
Not following the commandments has an impact on the lives of people who are very important to us, and can lead them away from God.
The reading from Gospel of Matthew also teaches us how Jesus sees himself, Chaput said. While the law given to Moses stresses “you shall not kill,” Jesus elevates this to say that whoever is angry with his brother will also be under God’s judgment.
“Jesus is telling us that he has authority over the commandments, and that he calls us to a greater level of obeying them than Moses called the Jewish people to,” Chaput said.
“That’s what he means when he says your righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees. Because he calls us not only to follow the commandments literally but to apply them across the board in our lives.”
“Even though most of us don’t kill other people, all of us here are angry with others. And we can’t curse them, or say, ‘go to hell,’ and really mean it,” the archbishop said. “Jesus ratchets it up and calls us to a greater intensity in following (the commandments).”
When Jesus says a man looking at a woman with lust commits adultery, Chaput said the conclusion “isn’t that we shouldn’t go ‘that far,’ we shouldn’t go down that path at all.”
Jesus’ use of exaggerated language, such as recommending someone cut off his hand rather than sin, makes the point of the seriousness of the matter.
“It would be better for us, really, that we don’t have a hand than that we sin,” said Chaput. “And we take sin so casually in our life.”
“Does Jesus really mean we can’t divorce and remarry? Is it all that bad?” he asked, referring to Jesus’ own teaching that remarriage after divorce is adultery.
“Jesus’ words are very clear and it really seems that he doesn’t allow exceptions for any of us,” said Chaput.
Jesus does not only reject false oaths, but his call to “let your ‘yes’ mean yes” is something that “calls us to integrity and truth in our ordinary relationships, and not just when we make vows and solemn promises.”
“Jesus was very serious about the Ten Commandments and invites us to do the same,” said Chaput. “We ask the Lord to give us a love for the commandments. We don’t see them as a burden, but as a pathway to joy and peace and great happiness in our lives.”
Pope Francis accepted Chaput’s retirement and appointed his months after the archbishop turned 75, when bishops customarily submit letters of resignation to the pope.