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Full text: Pope Francis’ message to families at the World Meeting of Families 2022

Pope Francis at Mass for the World Meeting of Families 2022 in St. Peter's Square. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 25, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday delivered a message to families after a Mass in St. Peter’s Square for the World Meeting of Families 2022.

A copy of the message, a “Missionary Sending of Families,” will also be handed out to people in St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s Angelus address on Sunday.

The 10th World Meeting of Families is taking place in Rome from June 22-26. The gathering was attended by around 2,000 families from around the world.

Missionary Sending of Families

Dear families,

I invite you to continue your journey by listening to the Father who calls you: become missionaries in the ways of the world! Do not walk alone! You, young families, be guided by those who know the way, you who are further along, be companions on the journey for others. You who are lost because of difficulties, do not be overcome by sadness, trust the Love God has placed in you, plead daily with the Spirit to revive it.

Announce with joy the beauty of being family! Announce to children and young people the grace of Christian marriage. Give hope to those who have none. Act as if everything depends on you, knowing that everything must be entrusted to God. Be you who "sew" the fabric of society and of a synodal Church, creating relationships, multiplying love and life. Be a sign of the living Christ, do not be afraid of what the Lord asks of you, nor be generous with Him. Open yourselves to Christ, listen to Him in the silence of prayer. Accompany those who are most fragile, take charge of those who are alone, refugees, abandoned.

Be the seed of a more fraternal world! Be families with big hearts! Be the welcoming face of the Church! And please pray, always pray!

May Mary, our Mother, come to your aid when there is no more wine, be a companion in the time of silence and trial, help you to walk together with her Risen Son.


Next World Meeting of Families to be held in 2028

Cardinal Kevin Farrell celebrated Mass for the World Meeting of Families 2022 on June 25, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 25, 2022 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

The next World Meeting of Families will be held in 2028, Cardinal Kevin Farrell announced on Saturday in St. Peter’s Square.

The prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, made the announcement at the end of Mass for the 10th World Meeting of Families, which will end on June 26.

He also said a “Jubilee of Families” will take place with Pope Francis in 2025, the Catholic Church’s next Jubilee Year.

The cardinal, whose office helps organize the international event, did not say which city will host the 11th edition of the gathering in six years’ time.

He said: “I am also pleased to announce that the next gathering of families with Pope Francis will be the ‘Jubilee of Families,’ which will be celebrated here in Rome as part of the 2025 Jubilee, while the 11th World Meeting of Families will take place in 2028.”

“Let us pray from now that these will also be great events of grace that touch the hearts of thousands of families,” he said.

The first World Meeting of Families was held in Rome in 1994. The meeting of Catholic families from around the world typically takes place in a different city every three years.

The latest edition of the World Meeting of Families was first scheduled for 2021, but postponed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendance at the June 22-26 gathering was also limited to around 2,000 families because of the pandemic.

Pope Francis: Christ frees families from the slavery of selfishness

Pope Francis greets families in St. Peter's Square before Mass for the World Meeting of Families 2022 on June 25, 2022 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 25, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Christ, through his passion and death, has set us free from the slavery of self-centeredness, so that we can better love others, Pope Francis said at Mass for the World Meeting of Families on Saturday.

“Freedom is something we receive. All of us are born with many forms of interior and exterior conditioning, and especially with a tendency to selfishness, to making ourselves the center of everything and being concerned only with our own interests,” the pope said on June 25. “This is the slavery from which Christ has set us free.”

Pope Francis delivered the homily at a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, the Vatican office which co-organized the 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families with the Diocese of Rome.

Mass for the World Meeting of Families 2022 on June 25, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Mass for the World Meeting of Families 2022 on June 25, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The gathering, attended by around 2,000 families, had the theme: “Family Love: A Vocation and a Path to Holiness.”

In his homily, Francis reflected on a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: “Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.”

“Freedom,” the pope said, “is one of the most cherished ideals and goals of the people of our time. Everyone wants to be free, free of conditioning and limitations, free of every kind of ‘prison,’ cultural prison, social or economic. Yet, how many people lack the greatest freedom of all, which is interior freedom.”

He also noted that the freedom given by God, as St. Paul says, is not the self-indulgent freedom of the world, but freedom “directed to love, so that — as the Apostle tells us again today — ‘through love you may become slaves of one another.’”

Pope Francis kisses a baby before Mass for the World Meeting of Families 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis kisses a baby before Mass for the World Meeting of Families 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“All of you married couples, in building your family, made, with the help of Christ’s grace, a courageous decision: to use freedom not for yourselves, but to love the persons that God has put at your side,” Pope Francis said.

He advised parents “not to shield our children from the slightest hardship and suffering, but to try to communicate to them a passion for life, the passion to arouse in them the desire to discover their vocation and embrace the great mission that God has in mind for them.”

“Nothing,” he said, “can be more encouraging for children than to see their parents experiencing marriage and family life as a mission, demonstrating fidelity and patience despite difficulties, moments of sadness and times of trial.

“Don’t ever forget this: the family is the first place where you learn to love,” he emphasized.

“In praising the beauty of the family, we also feel compelled, today more than ever, to defend the family,” Pope Francis said. “Let us not allow the family to be poisoned by the toxins of selfishness, individualism, today’s culture of indifference and culture of waste, and as a result lose its very DNA, which is the spirit of acceptance and service.”

Why was Roe v. Wade overturned? Here's a look at some of the reasons given

Demonstrators on both sides of the abortion debate outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the court released its decision in Dobbs, June 24, 2022. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jun 25, 2022 / 11:32 am (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 issued an opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, returning the question of abortion policy to the states and to the people’s elected representatives. 

Why did the Court make this decision? Here are some of the reasons that the justices gave in the majority opinion for overturning Roe:

1. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion.

The opinion points out that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, nor, the opinion says, is such a right “implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

2. Abortion is not “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”

Supreme Court precedent had held that any right not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” 

“The right to abortion does not fall within this category,” the court concluded. 

3. Abortion is “fundamentally different” than the subjects of related court decisions because it involves the taking of a life.

Abortion is “fundamentally different” from other decisions related to sexual relations, contraception, and marriage, the justices wrote, because it destroys what other court decisions call “fetal life” and what the Mississippi law in question describes as an “unborn human being.”

“None of the other decisions cited by Roe and Casey involved the critical moral question posed by abortion,” the opinion says. 

4. Thanks to Roe, women’s voices on abortion have not been heard.

By preventing the people’s elected representatives at the state and local levels from regulating abortion, the court argues that women’s voices — both pro- and anti-abortion — were silenced under Roe. 

“Our decision…allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to seek to affect the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying legislators, voting, and running for office,” said the Dobbs decision.

“Women are not without electoral or political power. It is noteworthy that the percentage of women who register to vote and cast ballots is consistently higher than the percentage of men who do so.”

5. States have “legitimate interests” in regulating abortion.

A law regulating abortion, like other health and welfare laws, is entitled to a “strong presumption of validity” if there is “a rational basis on which the legislature could have thought that it would serve legitimate state interests.”

“These legitimate interests include respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development; the protection of maternal health and safety; the elimination of particularly gruesome or barbaric medical procedures; the preservation of the integrity of the medical profession; the mitigation of fetal pain; and the prevention of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or disability,” the decision explains.

6. Roe’s reasoning was “exceedingly weak.”

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” said Alito’s decision.

7. State consensus on abortion existed before Roe. 

The right to abortion was “entirely unknown in American law” until the latter part of the 20th century, said Alito’s decision. 

“Indeed, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, three quarters of the States made abortion a crime at all stages of pregnancy.”

8. The Supreme Court can’t settle the abortion debate, but legislators may. 

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” the decision says. 

“This Court’s inability to end debate on the issue should not have been surprising. This Court cannot bring about the permanent resolution of a rancorous national controversy simply by dictating a settlement and telling the people to move on. Whatever influence the Court may have on public attitudes must stem from the strength of our opinions, not an attempt to exercise ‘raw judicial power’.”

Bishops call for dialogue, offer help amid Ecuador protests

Demonstrators clash with riot police, nearby El Ejido park, in Quito, on June 24, 2022, in the framework of indigenous-led protests against the government. - Ecuador's government and Indigenous protesters accused each other of intransigence as thousands gathered for a 12th day of a fuel price revolt that has claimed six lives and injured dozens. After the most violent day of the campaign so far -- with police firing tear gas to disperse thousands storming Congress -- the government accused protesters of shunning a peaceful outcome. / Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

Lima, Peru, Jun 24, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The bishops of Ecuador have called for dialogue in order to reach an agreement between the government and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which is leading nationwide protests that have left six dead.

“On behalf of the Ecuadorian Bishops’ Conference, I wish to reaffirm our heartfelt call for the parties involved, setting aside any extreme position, to sit down to dialogue, to listen to each other, to reflect together and make decisions that benefit the entire country and not just small groups,” said Archbishop Luis Gerardo Cabrera Herrera of Guayaquil, president of the Ecuadorian Bishops’ Conference, in a June 22 video message.

“At the same time, we want to commit our participation to what the parties also see fit. The only thing we really want is for the much longed for peace to become a reality between us, a peace always based on justice, freedom and truth,” he added.

Beginning June 13, indigenous organizations have called for an indefinite national strike to demand the reduction of fuel prices and price caps for farm products. The marches have turned violent and protesters have clashed with the police and closed several roads.

Ecuador has recently faced high levels of inflation, unemployment, and poverty.

The initially peaceful protest resulted in a wave of violence and clashes between civilians and security forces that has so far left six dead, 74 injured, and 87 detained. In addition, the highway blockades have exacerbated the economic crisis in the country.

Meanwhile, the leader of Conaie, Leonidas Iza, opposes participating in the talks that Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso had already agreed to attend, pointing out that certain conditions must be met, such as lifting the state of emergency in force in six provinces of the country.

Iza was briefly arrested June 14. He is barred from leaving the country, and must appear before an attorney general twice weekly.

The Minister of the Interior, Patricio Carrillo, reported June 22 that an attack by indigenous people against police facilities in the city of Puyo left six policemen injured, 18 missing, and 18 police vehicles damaged.

Conaie also denounced abusive tactics used in cracking down against the protests by the police and the military.

Archbishop Alfredo José Espinoza Mateus of Quito also spoke out about the national strike, recalling the words of Pope Francis.

“Pope Francis tells us that it’s not easy to build dialogue, especially if you are divided by rancor. Dialogue is the only possible path, we have told the bishops of Ecuador. Dialogue, as the Pope affirms, must be marked by listening and meekness. It must be a path that is built together,” he explained.

The prelate reminded that "hate and rancor through violence build walls, but assuming this attitude of listening, humility, meekness, builds bridges that unite us."

“I again invite us as archbishop of Quito to take this path of dialogue; that we may know how to listen to each other, because it’s a common goal, the goal is the good of our country. And let's build those bridges to be able to achieve an Ecuador of peace and a better Ecuador,” he concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Roe v. Wade overturned: The scene outside the Supreme Court

Anna Lulis from Moneta, Virginia, (left) who works for the pro-life group Students for Life of America, stands beside an abortion rights demonstrator outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022, after the court's decision in the Dobbs abortion case was announced. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2022 / 17:21 pm (CNA).

Hundreds of people — both pro-life advocates and abortion supporters — descended upon the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., Friday following the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. 

The decision leaves abortion up to the states.

While emotions ran high and some pro-abortion chants were obscene, the demonstrations outside the court on Friday afternoon appeared orderly. Authorities were preparing for the possibility of unrest Friday night.

Multiple layers of barriers and fencing — along with uniformed police officers — separated protesters from the court itself. Gathered under bright sunshine on a hot, summer day, some abortion supporters and pro-life advocates engaged in conversations with one another in the street in front of the court that was closed to traffic. Media cameras stood ready to capture any dramatic moments.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” 24-year-old Anna Lulis from Moneta, Virginia, told CNA of the lives she believes the decision will save. “I think this is a huge step forward for human rights.”

Working for the pro-life group Students for Life of America, Lulis estimated that more than 200 pro-life students were outside the court when it issued its historic 6-3 decision. But, as the day progressed, abortion activists gradually made up a large majority of the crowd.

The scene outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the court released its decision in the Dobbs abortion case on June 24, 2022. Pro-abortion demonstrators gradually made up a decided majority of the crowd as the day wore on. Katie Yoder/CNA
The scene outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the court released its decision in the Dobbs abortion case on June 24, 2022. Pro-abortion demonstrators gradually made up a decided majority of the crowd as the day wore on. Katie Yoder/CNA

Lulis carried a sign declaring, “Women don’t need Roe!” As she spoke, abortion activists led various chants with megaphones. Among the refrains: “Legal abortion on demand right f*ing now!” and “f* you, SCOTUS," using the acronym for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Colorful signs with colorful language flooded the street. “F*** SCOTUS we’re doing it anyway” one pro-abortion poster read. “You will never control my body,” said another. Some women demonstrators outraged by Friday's decision shook hangers at the court, referencing the view that overturning Roe will mean a return to illegal abortions in some parts of the country.

Abortion activists, at one point, directed their middle fingers in unison at the court building. Others took a calmer approach.

Pierrerasha Goodwin, an abortion rights supporter, stands outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022. She intervened on behalf of a pro-life activist when a conversation between that activist and abortion supporter became heated. Katie Yoder/CNA
Pierrerasha Goodwin, an abortion rights supporter, stands outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022. She intervened on behalf of a pro-life activist when a conversation between that activist and abortion supporter became heated. Katie Yoder/CNA

Pierrerasha Goodwin, 22, intervened on behalf of a pro-life activist when a conversation between that activist and abortion supporter became heated. An abortion supporter herself, Goodwin is originally from Chicago. Her first encounter with abortion came when she helped her 15-year-old sister to obtain an abortion. After that experience, she said, watching the country argue about abortion prompted her to learn more about the issue. 

“If you're going to stand for everyone else’s rights, and making sure that everyone is treated equal, you have to treat people with respect,” Goodwin said. “In doing that, fostering those important conversations, you get to actually listen to somebody and say, 'OK, I may disagree with you, but at least now I know why people think like that.’” 

Joseph Little, a 32-year-old Washington, D.C. native who supports legalized abortion, holds a sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Joseph Little, a 32-year-old Washington, D.C. native who supports legalized abortion, holds a sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

Joseph Little, a 32-year-old Washington, D.C. native, was another abortion supporter who spoke with CNA. Disheartened by the Supreme Court ruling, Little’s sign read, “Forced Birth is Enslavement.”

Little spoke about the “need” for women to be able to choose abortion, comparing their inability to get an abortion to Black enslavement. 

On the other side of the issue was 22-year-old Edwin Garcia-Arzola from Lumberton, North Carolina, who wore a shirt that said “Young pro-life Democrat.” As a Catholic, he said, he was “proud” of the court’s decision. 

“For us, and especially for pro-life Democrats, it is very important for us because now we can take this battle to all of our states,” he said, adding that he is affiliated with the group Democrats for Life.

Kara Zupkus, the 25-year-old spokeswoman for the conservative group, Young America’s Foundation (second from left), standing with other pro-life supporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022, after the court released its decision in the Dobbs abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Kara Zupkus, the 25-year-old spokeswoman for the conservative group, Young America’s Foundation (second from left), standing with other pro-life supporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022, after the court released its decision in the Dobbs abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA

Another pro-life supporter in the crowd was Kara Zupkus, 25, a spokeswoman for the conservative group Young America’s Foundation. Members of the group were there to celebrate the court’s decision.

“We work with high school and college students to bring pro-life speakers to their campuses and host activism initiatives on campus,” Zupkas said. “To finally see our hard work pay off …. It has been just amazing.”

What is a Catholic priest? A new documentary asks the question.

A Mass of priestly ordination in St. Peter's Basilica, May 7, 2017. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 24, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A new documentary about the Catholic priesthood asks priests what kind of life they are supposed to live as they reflect on their vocations and the role of the priest in Catholic theology and spiritual life.

“I am what I do and I do what I am,” Father Hugh Allan, O.Praem., said in the film. “I am my life as a priest, and I live that life as a priest, and you can’t be anything other.”

“So priesthood is not a 9 to 5 job, where you can finish at the end of the day… it is your whole being,” he said in the documentary “In Persona Christi: The Catholic Priesthood.”

The documentary takes its name from the Latin phrase for the Catholic concept that an ordained priest acts “in the person of Christ.” The movie was produced by the Wales-based St. Anthony Communications.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury and several U.K. priests provide commentary in the movie, reflecting on the nature of the priestly vocation and the life of a priest.

Davies cited St. John Vianney, who described the priesthood as “the love of the heart of Jesus.”

“It is in the heart of Christ that we will understand the priest, his mission and his total consecration,” he said.

In the movie, commentators trace the Catholic priesthood’s origins from the Old Testament through the ministry of Christ, his sacrifice on the Cross, and his institution of the ministerial priesthood to preach, teach, baptize, and celebrate the Eucharist.

Several priests talk about their vocation stories.

Father Pascal Uche said his own discernment of a vocation began after family difficulties and tragedies in his family life helped him see “the fragility of life” and made him ask questions.

“I guess my heart and my mind sought a place of stability: ‘what doesn’t change? Where will my happiness come from?’ and those questions opened me up to God in a new way,” said Uche.

He said that prayer, the examples of others, and the lives of the saints made him feel “a deeper fire for God” who desired to give him happiness. He could listen anew to a call to the priesthood.

For Fr. Toby Lees, a vocation to the priesthood “didn’t come as a thunderbolt from the sky.”

“I didn’t have a certainty from a young age,” Lees said. “What I had was a growing dissatisfaction with the life I was in. I knew the life I was in, as a lawyer with a lovely girlfriend, wasn’t bad. But I was searching for something more.”

Lees’ encounter with the Dominicans, sisters and friars, led him to see “this joy and these elements of life I was trying to live in my own life.” Prayer, preaching, community and study had been integrated into “one holy way of life.”

“I started to be excited by the possibility of that,” said Lees.

Bishop Davies said every priest will hear the question “why did you want to become a priest?”

“It’s not a simple question to answer. The priesthood is not a personal project… or ambition or career direction,” he said. “It is always something unexpected and wonderful: that a priest has been called from all eternity, with his limitations and weaknesses, to share in the ministerial priesthood of Christ himself.”

This leaves a priest with “an abiding sense of wonder” which he experiences his whole life.

In the movie, priests discuss topics like priestly fatherhood, celibacy, and the need for a “missionary zeal.” The documentary talks about the nature and theology of the priesthood and the importance of prayer, the centrality of the Mass, and devotion to the Virgin Mary in the life of priests.

“In Persona Christi: The Catholic Priesthood” was released June 15, with a runtime of 52 minutes. It is available for purchase on the video streaming site Vimeo or may be purchased on DVD in the U.K. through St. Anthony Communications.

Puerto Rican Senate passes bill banning abortion after 22 weeks

null / Credit: Unsplash

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jun 24, 2022 / 16:40 pm (CNA).

On June 22, the Puerto Rican Senate passed Bill 693, which bans abortion on the island after 22 weeks, with several exceptions.

"Passed! Senate Bill 693 has just been approved with 16 votes in favor, nine against, one abstention, and one absent,” Sen. Joanne Rodríguez Veve, president of the Puerto Rican Senate’s Committee on Life and Family Affairs, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency.

Rodríguez was one of the main authors of the bill, which now goes to the House of Representatives. If passed there, it will go to the desk of the governor of Puerto Rico for his signature. 

The text of the legislation’s Article 2 states that “the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico declares that a licensed medical professional will not carry out a termination of pregnancy where the one conceived is in the gestational stage of viability, as defined in this law.”

Since Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in 1973, was still in effect the day the bill was passed, a situation that has now changed with the overturning of Roe on June 24. Abortion has been legal on the island throughout pregnancy.

In her June 22 speech before the Senate, the senator said that as a woman she identifies “with the vast majority of Puerto Rican women who, if they could, would be here, in front of this microphone, as the voice of babies in the womb, over five and a half months in gestation, which the Senate Bill 693 wants to protect.”

The senator stressed that although she believes "in the defense of life from conception," she supports Bill 693 because "it recognizes that the right to privacy of women is not absolute, but rather finds limits compared to other rights, such as the right to life expressly recognized in our Constitution.”

After noting that in some places in Puerto Rico babies of up to 24 weeks' gestation are aborted, Rodríguez said that the bill contains several exceptions in which an abortion could be obtained: if the life of mother is in danger; if the baby has a severe disability; if a fetal anomaly “incompatible” with life is diagnosed; or if the doctor determines that the conceived child of 22 weeks or more "is not viable, that is, that it could not survive outside the womb."

After noting that people born at 22, 23, 24, and 27 weeks were present during the debate, the senator stressed that she was speaking as a "woman rooted in the moral fiber of this people who sows life in the earth and protects life in the womb. Today I speak as a woman who mourns death and celebrates life.”

“Democracy must never be at the service of death. And today it is up to us, through the democratic exercise of the vote, but above all, from the breadth of our hearts, to defend the lives of those who cannot do it for themselves,” she concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Should the Church require a year of marriage prep? Catholic formators weigh in

Michael and Deanna Johnston of Tyler, Texas, hold hands during an interview. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2022 / 15:38 pm (CNA).

The Vatican last week released a document with recommendations for a year-long “marriage catechumenate” to prepare Catholic couples for the sacrament of matrimony.

In the document’s preface, Pope Francis called adequate marriage preparation a matter of justice, since it precedes a life-long commitment.

But a couple’s experience of sacramental preparation before their wedding can vary widely from place to place.

On June 15, the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life published a booklet called “Catechumenal Itineraries for Married Life,” currently available in Italian and Spanish, which suggested three stages of Catholic marriage formation.

The first phase, called “proximate preparation,” should last “about one year,” according to the dicastery’s recommendations. The second phase would take place in the final months before the wedding, and the third part would follow the couple through the first 2-3 years of married life. 

The idea of a marriage catechumenate, the document said, is analogous to the preparation for baptism in the early Church: “a faith formation and accompaniment in the acquisition of a Christian lifestyle, specifically aimed at couples.”

The Vatican said: “It is generally suggested that the upcoming preparation should last approximately one year depending on the couple’s previous experience of faith and ecclesial involvement.”

“Having made the decision to marry — a moment that could be sealed by the rite of betrothal — one could begin the immediate preparation for marriage, lasting a few months, to be set up as an actual initiation into the nuptial sacrament,” it explained.

“The duration of these stages should be adapted, we repeat, taking into account the religious, cultural, and social aspects of the environment in which one lives and even the personal situations of each couple,” the document said. “What is essential is to safeguard the regularity of the meetings in order to accustom couples to take care of their vocation and marriage responsibly.”

Deanna Johnston, the director of family life for the Diocese of Tyler, said she is in favor of a longer marriage preparation, but emphasized that it cannot just be the diocese handing couples a checklist of things to do for 12 months.

“It gives us a challenge, I think, as family life directors,” she told CNA during an interview in Rome, where she traveled with her husband, Michael, and the oldest of her four children, 7-year-old Alexandria, to take part in the World Meeting of Families.

“We can’t just send couples through a program and expect that to be the thing that gives them a happy, healthy, holy marriage,” she said.

At a time when many couples are afraid of divorcing, or come from families of divorce, she emphasized that the Church needs to present the idea of a “marriage catechumenate” as a way to achieve a good marriage, and not just another heavy task to fulfill. 

Part of this, she said, is building relationships with engaged couples that continue even after the wedding day.

“I know for us, we’ve been married for only nine years, and so much life has happened,” Johnston said. “I remember going to Engaged Encounter and some of the things that they had us discuss, but life is very different than I think we thought it would be back in 2013.”

Johnston said she thinks the engagement period is also an opportunity to grow as a person and in virtues such as chastity, even for practicing Catholics.

“That’s one pushback that I’ve heard is like, well, if you have two really well-formed Catholics, why would you make them wait for the sacrament of marriage? But even as well-formed Catholics — Michael is a former seminarian, I am a deacon’s daughter, like we were good Catholics, right? — but we’d never been married before,” she said.

“So, recognizing that these two individuals have never experienced married life together, that it’s so worthwhile for us to invest that time and relationship building to make sure that they have a strong foundation.”

Sheila Reineke, a Natural Family Planning program coordinator for the Diocese of St. Cloud, told CNA she thinks extending marriage preparation from the standard 4-6 months to an 8-12 month program “would allow for relationships to form with the other couples that the couples are meeting with. I think that they could really become a small community.”

Vince and Sheila Reineke have been an NFP witness couple for more than 30 years. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Vince and Sheila Reineke have been an NFP witness couple for more than 30 years. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Sheila and her husband Vince have been married for 34 years and have four adult children.

Finding community and friendship with other Catholic couples in a Bible study was something that helped strengthen their own marriage early on, they said.

Reineke said she knows some people already find the current standard requirements to marry in the Catholic Church burdensome, and there are always necessary exceptions, such as for military couples.

“I would start by listening” to couples’ concerns, she said. “But again, I think if we speak to them with love and explain the reasons for it, many couples really enjoy the process when they get to the end of it.”

Deanna Johnston’s husband, Michael, is the director of the theology department at a Catholic high school. He said a year of formation for a life-long commitment does not seem unreasonable. 

He and his colleagues try to start even earlier, by setting teenagers up for a successful marriage relationship in the future by “forming them in moral theology and Church history and ethics just so that they have an orientation towards what marriage actually is at a very young age, or a relatively young age.”

He noted that focusing on forming good Catholic families now will have a positive influence on the children from those marriages, and who will be walking into the doors of a high school in a dozen years.

The Johnstons and Reinekes agreed that having mentor couples is a helpful approach to engaged formation.

Bishop John Doerfler told CNA that his Diocese of Marquette also follows the mentor couple model.

One difficulty new married couples often face is a sense of loneliness or isolation, “especially when problems may arise,” he said. “It’s our hope over time that by fostering mentor couples, they know that there’s someone there they can reach out to, so they don’t have to go through difficulties or struggles alone.” 

With the idea of a 12-month preparation, “there needs to be some kind of flexibility,” he said, “because often people will approach us when they have already set a date for their marriage and we want to be able to work with them as best we can.”

“But I think in general, trying to look at preparation for a whole year is a good idea, with some flexibility depending on the circumstances in which people find themselves,” the bishop said. 

Deanna Johnston noted that those preparing engaged couples “won’t have every single answer for them when they’re going through marriage formation in the very beginning, but if we can set it up so that the Church is there to walk with them through all of these different changes and challenges in life — maybe that’s very idealistic but I think it’s very worthwhile.”

Biden calls Dobbs decision a 'tragic error', calls on Congress to codify abortion rights

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade June 24, 2022 in Cross Hall at the White House in Washington, DC. / Alex Wong/Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, Jun 24, 2022 / 13:55 pm (CNA).

In a Friday press conference, U.S. President Joe Biden called on Congress to codify abortion access into federal law, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade that morning. The court’s decision returned the question of abortion policy to the states, which Biden labeled a “tragic error.” 

He also said he had that day directed the Department of Health and Human Services to make abortion pills more widely available, and that he would do “everything in my power” to protect women traveling to obtain abortions.  

“It's a sad day for the court and for the country,” Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, said June 24.

Calling abortion an “intensely personal decision,” Biden went on to lament that the decision had taken away women’s “right to choose” and the “power to control their own destiny.” He claimed that with Roe gone, the “life and health” of women in the United States is now “at risk.” 

Biden has repeatedly expressed support for Roe v. Wade — which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 — despite the teaching of his Catholic faith that abortion is a “grave evil.” 

“I believe Roe v. Wade was the correct decision,” Biden stated, claiming that Roe represented a “broad national consensus” relating to the “fundamental right to privacy” that “most Americans of faith…found acceptable.” 

This is despite evidence suggesting that more than 60% of all Americans disagreed with the central holding of Roe v. Wade, according to a January Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll survey.

“This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law,” Biden continued, claiming that “the court has done what it has never done before, expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans and had already been recognized. The court's decision to do so will have real and immediate consequences.”

“It's a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court, in my view.”

The only way to “secure a women’s right to choose,” Biden said, is for Congress to restore Roe as federal law, adding that “executive action can’t do that.” He urged the election of pro-choice legislators in the fall midterm elections.

Biden stated that he intends to provide aid to women living in pro-life states who want to travel to pro-abortion states. “If any state or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman's exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack,” Biden said. 

The president also said he had directed the Department of Health and Human Services to “take steps” to ensure that mifepristone, the first drug in medical abortion regimen, is “available to the fullest extent possible.” Abortion supporters have pointed to medical abortions — which have been linked to numerous health risks — as a kind of workaround or backup plan for women to access abortion as states restrict abortion. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's most recent Abortion Surveillance report, for the year 2019, “early medical abortions” made up 42.3% of abortions that year.

Biden requested that people upset by the decision remain peaceful in their response. This comes after numerous recent incidents of vandalism of pro-life pregnancy centers across the country, which the White House condemned via a spokesperson June 15. 

“I call on everyone no matter how deeply they care about this decision to keep all protests peaceful. Peaceful. Peaceful. Peaceful. No intimidation. Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech. We must stand against violence in any form regardless of your rationale,” Biden said Friday. 

Biden concluded by claiming that the decision to overturn Roe had “made the United States an outlier among developed nations in the world,” despite the fact that the U.S. was previously one of only a handful of countries — including China and North Korea — that permitted elective abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation. Forty-seven out of 50 European countries, independent states, and regions analyzed in 2014 either do not allow elective abortion or limit elective abortion to 15 weeks or earlier.