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Theologians conclude evaluation of synod reports after Rome meeting

Delegates vote to approve a synthesis report at the conclusion of the Synod on Synodality on Oct. 28, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 14, 2024 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

A group of 20 theologians concluded an evaluation of 107 synod reports from national bishops’ conferences and Eastern Catholic Churches following nearly two weeks of meetings in Rome, according to a news release from the general secretariat of the synod.

The theologians, who met from June 4 through June 14, were asked to provide an analysis of the reports, which will help synod officials draft the Synod on Synodality’s “Instrumentum Laboris 2” — the document that will guide the work of the second session of the synod in October. The analysis from the theologians has not been made public.

The ongoing Synod on Synodality is focused on studying various questions about how the Church should operate. Some of the questions focus on the role of women, inclusion, women deacons, and outreach to those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Parishes held listening sessions this past Lent that were consolidated into the national reports analyzed by the theologians.

According to the news release, the themes most frequently mentioned are the formation of synodality, the functioning of participatory bodies, the role of women, outreach to young people, attention to the poor, inculturation, transparency, and a culture of accountability. Additional themes are catechesis, Christian initiation, and collaboration among churches.

“The reports often recount the experience of people who have made a real personal conversion,” Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Synod Cardinal Mario Grech said in a statement following the conclusion of the theologians’ analysis. 

“Others, however, are of people who continue to experience confusion, worry, or anxiety,” the cardinal continued. “In particular, there is a fear that what is sent is not taken seriously or that ideologies and lobbies of the faithful may exploit the synodal path to impose their own agenda.”

Grech said the October session will not be “about this or that issue” but focused on “synodality” and “about how to be a missionary Church on the way.” The session, he added, “will invoke the help of the Holy Spirit and that of his brothers and sisters to discern God’s will for his Church and not an opportunity to impose one’s own vision of Church."

The group of theologians included bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and laypeople. Eight of the theologians were European, including five Italians. There were three theologians from Africa and three from South America. Two theologians were from North America, including one from the United States; two were from Asia; and two were from Australia. 

“The holy people of God has been set in motion for mission thanks to the synodal experience,” Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, who is the general rapporteur of the synod, said in a statement.

“In the reports there were enthusiastic and creative responses offered as well as some with resistance and concern,” the cardinal said. “Most reports, however, show the joy of the journey that has given new life to many local communities and also provoked significant changes on their way of living and being Church. The seeds of the synodal Church are already sprouting!"

After the ordinal council evaluates the analysis from the theologians, the members will draft the Instrumentum Laboris document itself and provide the draft to Pope Francis for final approval.

Monsignor Riccardo Battocchio, the special secretary of the assembly, said in a statement that the document “will look different from the previous one,” which guided the prior synod meeting, because it will be more focused. 

“If for the first session it was important to bring out the wide-ranging themes to be addressed; the working document for the October session intends instead to highlight some knots to be unraveled in order to answer the question ‘How to be a synodal Church in mission,’ taking in the path made so far and proposing theologically grounded arguments together with some concrete proposals to help the discernment entrusted to the members of the assembly,” Battocchio said.

Top European human rights court rules countries can’t be forced to introduce assisted suicide

null / Credit: HQuality/Shutterstock

Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jun 14, 2024 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

The European Court of Human Rights on June 13 ruled in favor of Hungary’s right to uphold its laws prohibiting assisted suicide, thus affirming the laws of 46 countries of the Council of Europe that protect human life.

The Council of Europe is the broadest coalition in Europe and is larger than the 26-member European Union. The United Kingdom is a member of the European Council, for example, but is not a member of the European Union.

ADF International, a global alliance of law firms defending human life, intervened in the case Karsai v. Hungary, arguing that Hungary’s prohibition of assisted suicide should be upheld because Hungary is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, which upholds the right to life. ADF argued that while states have an obligation to protect the right to life, there is no right to die.

Jean-Paul Van De Walle, an attorney for ADF, said: “Instead of abandoning our most vulnerable citizens, society should do all it can to provide the best standards of care.”

“Worldwide, only a tiny minority of countries allow assisted suicide. Wherever the practice is allowed, legal ‘safeguards’ are insufficient to prevent abuses, proving most harmful to vulnerable members of society, including the elderly, the disabled, and those suffering from mental illness or depression. Suicide is something society rightly considers a tragedy to be prevented, and the same must apply to assisted suicide. Care, not killing, must be the goal we all strive towards,” Van De Walle said.

Hungarian lawyer Daniel Karsai, diagnosed with a neurodegenerative condition, argued that criminalizing physician-assisted suicide violates the European Convention on Human Rights,  which protects private and family life and prohibits discrimination. Hungarian law would make those assisting his suicide liable to prosecution, and he argued that prohibiting PAS/E (physician-assisted suicide/euthanasia) was discriminatory because terminally ill patients are able to ask for treatment to be withdrawn.

ADF warned that abuses inevitably follow when the right to life is abolished.

“Removing such provisions from law creates a dangerous scenario where pressure is placed on vulnerable people to end their lives in fear (whether or not justified) of being a burden upon relatives, carers, or a state that is short of resources,” the brief stated.

The court concurred with ADF on June 13, finding “no basis for concluding that the member states are thereby advised, let alone required, to provide access” to assisted suicide. The court said there are risks of error and abuse in providing physician-assisted dying, and huge societal implications

The court also found that Hungary’s law prohibiting PAS/E protects the disabled and terminally ill. 

“Hungarian society did not encourage the sick to seek death but sought instead to provide them with care and support,” it said, affirming the right of patients to refuse unwanted treatment, which is recognized by the Council of Europe and connected to the right to free and informed consent. The court found no discrimination in Karsai’s case.

Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Spain are the only Council of Europe members with legalized assisted suicide. This is despite a 2012 resolution by the Council of Europe assembly that stated that euthanasia, “the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit, must always be prohibited.”

Critics of PAS/E fear that redefining terminal illness, and the growing number of jurisdictions allowing PAS/E, will further jeopardize the infirm and mentally ill.

While nonvoluntary euthanasia is illegal in all 50 states of the United States, physician-assisted suicide/euthanasia is legal in the District of Columbia, California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Washington, and Hawaii.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center clarifies: “Euthanasia is categorized in different ways …Voluntary euthanasia is when a person wishes to have their life ended and is legal in a growing number of countries. Nonvoluntary euthanasia occurs when a patient’s consent is unavailable and is legal in some countries … in both active and passive forms. Involuntary euthanasia, which is done without asking for consent or against the patient’s will, is illegal in all countries and is usually considered murder.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator” (No. 2324).

Vatican appoints new administrator of Steubenville Diocese amid possible merger

Bishop Edward M. Lohse. / Credit: Diocese of Kalamazoo

CNA Staff, Jun 14, 2024 / 14:05 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has removed Bishop Paul Bradley as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, the bishop revealed on Friday, with Pope Francis appointing a new administrator to take his place. 

Bradley said in a letter to the diocese on Friday that the Holy Father had “informed me that my service as apostolic administrator of the diocese has been completed,” with Francis having “thanked me for my leadership over these last nine months.” 

The Vatican has appointed Kalamazoo Bishop Edward Lohse as the new apostolic administrator of the Ohio diocese, Bradley said. The appointment was effective immediately. 

Bradley had retired from the bishopric in Kalamazoo last July before being appointed by the pope as apostolic administrator of Steubenville on Sept. 28. 

The prelate was appointed to that role after the departure of prior Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, whom Pope Francis transferred to the Archdiocese of Detroit at the same time. 

While serving in the Steubenville Diocese, Monforton had proposed a merger between Steubenville and the Diocese of Columbus. That plan drew negative feedback and disappointment from many within Steubenville, including clergy who said they had not been consulted about the proposal. 

Monforton ultimately put a hold on the plan one week before the U.S. bishops’ conference planned to vote on the merger at its 2022 meeting in Baltimore.

Bradley and Columbus Bishop Earl Fernandes said in December of last year that the two dioceses were back into talks about a possible merger. 

The Steubenville Diocese was created in November 1944 out of territory previously part of the Diocese of Columbus. The diocese has seen a marked decline in population in the subsequent 80 years as the region has suffered from economic struggles stemming from losses in the coal and steel industries. 

In March of this year the two dioceses said in a press release that they had “submitted a summary of findings on how both dioceses could be affected by a potential merger” to Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr as well as the apostolic nunciature. 

“No decision on a merger has been made,” the bishops said at the time. “The final decision will be made by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.” 

“This process of discernment is distinct from the process of implementation should a merger occur,” the bishops said. 

In his letter on Friday, meanwhile, Bradley said he was “so very grateful to the Holy Father” for the Steubenville appointment. 

He said Lohse, who will continue to serve as bishop of Kalmazoo, would “complete the current process of discernment” underway in the diocese.

“I am confident that Bishop Lohse will provide excellent leadership to the diocese throughout the remainder of this process,” the bishop said.

San Diego Diocese files for bankruptcy to address sexual abuse claims

Cardinal Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego, celebrates Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Rome Aug. 28, 2022. / Credit: Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

CNA Staff, Jun 14, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of San Diego filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, the latest U.S. diocese to do so in response to hundreds of sexual abuse allegations leveled against it. 

San Diego bishop Cardinal Robert McElroy said in February 2023 that the diocese was considering declaring bankruptcy due to the “staggering” legal costs of responding to 400 new lawsuits brought during a three-year statewide expansion of the statute of limitations for child abuse cases.

In a letter to the diocese on Thursday, McElroy said that diocesan leaders have spent the past 16 months reviewing the abuse cases and that the diocese has “come to the conclusion that this is the moment to enter formally into bankruptcy and continue negotiations as part of the bankruptcy process.”

The bankruptcy filing, the cardinal said, was motivated by “the need for just compensation for victims of sexual abuse” as well as “the need to continue the Church’s mission of education, pastoral service, and outreach to the poor and the marginalized.”

McElroy pointed out that the diocese has already paid out a major sum stemming from a 2007 bankruptcy filing over other sex abuse cases. 

The diocese’s Chapter 11 filing this week “will achieve a definite conclusion to its legal liability for past claims of sexual abuse in the settlement we hope to reach in bankruptcy,” the prelate said. 

San Diego joins numerous other Catholic dioceses in filing for bankruptcy to address voluminous sexual abuse claims. Most recently, the Diocese of Fresno, also in California, filed for bankruptcy in May.

Numerous instances of diocesan bankruptcy have occurred after civil authorities have temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases, allowing alleged victims to file lawsuits against Church authorities for abuses that reportedly occurred decades ago. 

As has been the case with other diocesan bankruptcy proceedings, McElroy noted this week that, for San Diego, “only the diocese will be filing for bankruptcy.” 

“The parishes, parochial schools, and high schools will not,” the bishop said. 

“But it is clear that as part of providing appropriate compensation to past victims of the sexual abuse of minors, both the parishes and high schools will have to contribute substantially to the ultimate settlement in order to bring finality to the liability they face,” he said.

Efforts over the last few decades to address the sex abuse crisis in the Church “cannot begin to mitigate the enormous moral responsibility that I, as your bishop, and the entire Catholic community continue to bear,” McElroy said in his letter. 

“May God never let this shame pass from our sight, and may God’s tenderness envelop the innocent children and teenagers who were victimized,” he said.

Update: U.S. bishops apologize to Indigenous Catholics, vow to address ‘unique cultural needs’

Interior view of a stained-glass window of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. / Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 14, 2024 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops approved on Friday a document at their spring meeting that apologizes to Catholic Indigenous communities for a “history of trauma” caused in part by their “abandonment” by the Church and proposes a way forward that takes into account the “unique cultural needs” of these communities. 

The document, “Keeping Christ’s Sacred Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry,” provides an updated pastoral plan to address the concerns of Catholic Indigenous communities. The preface notes the last time the bishops formally addressed these communities was 1977.

The USCCB vote approving the text took place at the conference’s annual spring meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 14. 

In the document, the bishops note the contributions of Catholic missionaries and the impact on Native people, stating: “Today, many North American Indigenous Catholics trace their faith to the decision of their ancestors to embrace Catholicism hundreds of years ago.” 

But the bishops continue with an apologetic tone, writing: “Sadly, many Indigenous Catholics have felt a sense of abandonment in their relationship with Church leaders due to a lack of understanding of their unique cultural needs. We apologize for the failure to nurture, strengthen, honor, recognize, and appreciate those entrusted to our pastoral care.”

The document takes into consideration insights from a previous listening session with bishops and Native leaders in 2019 and aims “to lift the major topics and concerns that emerged from those conversations, and to encourage local bishops to engage and deepen the dialogue with the local Native communities.”

The text first recalls a history of trauma experienced among Indigenous communities, starting in the 15th century with the arrival of Europeans in North America. Among the major sources of trauma the text lists “epidemics, national policies, and Native boarding schools, which stand out because of their profound effect on family life.”

It states: “The family systems of many Indigenous peoples never fully recovered from these tragedies, which often led to broken homes harmed by addiction, domestic abuse, abandonment, and neglect. The Church recognizes that it has played a part in traumas experienced by Native children.”

The text also notes that “European and Eurocentric world powers” exploited the language of papal letters from the 14th and 15th centuries, and developed “justifications to enslave, mistreat, and remove Indigenous peoples from their lands.” The draft document states: “Let us be very clear here: The Catholic Church does not espouse these ideologies.”

The text states: “Historical traumas are a significant contributor to the breakdown of family life among many Indigenous peoples. In response, youth and young adults are disaffiliating from the institutional authorities such as the Church, community, and their Elders. Many have rejected Christianity and turned to pre-Christian Indigenous religious practices. Many long for belonging and acceptance and might find solace in social media and other outlets.”

The draft calls for more listening sessions with Native American Catholics and partnerships “with ministries such as Catholic Charities and others that provide counseling and support groups for Indigenous peoples who struggle with woundedness from trauma.” 

The draft document also states a desire to support Indigenous Catholic communities as they unite to the sacramental life of the Church. The text says: “Let us not forget that the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, also serve as a prime opportunity for the Church to help heal past wounds.”

A connection is also made to traditional Native practices.

“For many Native communities, both healing rituals and those honoring the dead are meaningful,” it says. “The Church can use these beliefs to deepen Indigenous understanding of how Christ is present and active in the sacraments. Through embracing the sacraments, many communities have experienced the profound hope of reconciliation, healing, and eternal life.”

The text emphasizes the need for “authentic inculturation in the liturgy to deepen our relationship with Christ.” For Native Catholics, it notes “traditional rituals that complement and are compatible with Catholic doctrine and liturgical practices enhance the prayer life and religious experience of the people.”

Looking at some of the prevalent social issues, the draft says: “The Church in the United States must discern how best to allocate resources to support Indigenous communities in need.” The social concerns listed include an abuse of natural resources on Native lands, a lack of quality education, health disparities, racism, and inadequate housing.

Notably, the document mentions the importance of the USCCB anti-poverty program known as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in addressing some of these concerns. The bishops will be discussing the future of this program at their spring meeting.

The U.S. bishops hope the document will “be used by dioceses, parishes, regions, Native Catholic leaders, Catholic schools, and other Catholic institutions serving Indigenous populations to develop specific priorities, initiatives, and programs, tailored to the needs, concerns, and aspirations of the local Native populations.”

In the document’s conclusion, the bishops note: “An unfortunate tension exists today for many Indigenous Catholics, who feel they are presented with a false choice: Be Native or be Catholic…For Native Catholics who feel this tension, we assure you, as the Catholic bishops of the United States, that you do not have to be one or the other. You are both. Your cultural embodiment of the faith is a gift to the Church.”

This article was first published on June 11, 2024, and updated on June 14, 2024.

Pope Francis’ ambassador conveys Holy Father’s enthusiasm for Eucharistic revival

Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the Vatican's nuncio to the United States, speaks to the U.S. bishops at their annual fall assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 14, 2023. / Credit: Screenshot of USCCB livestream

Louisville, Ky., Jun 14, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ ambassador to the United States conveyed the Holy Father’s support for the National Eucharistic Revival in a speech Thursday at the spring gathering of the U.S. bishops held in Louisville, Kentucky.

Cardinal Christophe Pierre, who has served as the apostolic nuncio to the United States since 2016 in addition to being the Vatican’s top diplomat in Washington, D.C., is tasked with representing the pope in his dealings with the U.S. bishops. 

“Pope Francis is united with us in his desire that people rediscover the power of the Eucharist,” Pierre said.

The National Eucharistic Revival, which launched on the feast of Corpus Christi in 2022, has a mission to “renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist,” as stated on its website. Sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops, the revival aims to inspire people to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist. 

In his speech, Pierre said that Pope Francis has embraced this goal as a means to conversion of heart, a commitment to evangelization, service, and community.

“We have set out on this Eucharistic Revival because we want our people to come to a renewed and deeper appreciation of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist,” he said.

“We want them to know that Christ is there for them in the Eucharist: to receive their adoration, to accompany them in their earthly journey, and to feed them with the Bread of Life,” Pierre told the assembled bishops.

“We want them also to know the implications of encountering Christ in this way: how it calls them to an ongoing journey of conversion, and also how it commits them to a life of evangelization — of being people who offer an openhearted welcome of mercy to everyone who seeks a place in God’s Church,” Pierre said.

Synodality of Eucharistic pilgrimages

The apostolic nuncio also conveyed the Vatican’s support for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages underway across the country, connecting them to the theme of synodality. 

“The Eucharistic processions that are going on right now, and which will converge on Indianapolis next month, are an outward symbol of what we want to happen on a spiritual level. We want people to turn to the Eucharistic Lord, to walk with him, and to be led by him. We also want this to happen in the context of community,” Pierre told the bishops.

“Our people need to experience that a journey with the Lord is also a journey with others who seek the Lord. That this journey is a true synod,” he said.

Bishops as wounded healers

He also called on the bishops to seek the fruits of a Eucharistic revival in their own lives.

“Let us not forget: We need Eucharistic revival too! Let’s be attentive in our own hearts to what the Lord is saying and doing among us,” he said. 

“The lesson is: The Eucharistic encounter with the risen Lord affords a new personal and ecclesial experience, one in which the wounds suffered in the body of Christ become signs of his victory over death,” he said.

He then suggested that the “woundedness” of the Church can similarly be a pathway forward to healing and listed those wounds.

“We are painfully aware of the most glaring wounds in today’s Church. The scandal of abuse and of failed oversight. The plague of indifference toward the poor and suffering, which can affect us all. Skepticism toward God and religion in a secularized culture. And an agitating temptation toward polarization and division, even among those of us who are committed to Christ and his Church,” he said.

“We find the answer in Christ. By showing the apostles his hands, feet, and side, the Lord is saying to them, and to us: ‘I choose to make your sin and failure a part of the story of my victory. If the marks of my crucifixion can exist on my resurrected body, then the marks of your own suffering and failures can exist in the body of my resurrected Church,” Pierre said.

Notre Dame religious liberty clinic backs lawsuit against church grant discrimination

The University of Notre Dame School of Law. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

CNA Staff, Jun 14, 2024 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The University of Notre Dame School of Law’s religious liberty initiative announced its support of a federal lawsuit challenging the exclusion of houses of worship from a state historic grant program. 

The amicus brief, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in the case Mendham Methodist Church v. Morris County, argues that “excluding religious organizations from generally available grant programs” both “violates the law and harms congregations and their surrounding communities,” according to a press release from the school’s Religious Liberty Clinic. 

The lawsuit, originally filed last year, concerns a “Historic Preservation Trust Fund” run by Morris County, New Jersey. The county through that fund “distributes money to eligible organizations for the repair, restoration, and preservation of historic local buildings and resources,” the lawsuit indicates. 

For more than a decade after the fund was originally launched in 2003, churches were eligible for — and often received — funding from the trust, according to the plaintiffs. Yet the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the state constitution “bars the use of taxpayer funds to repair and restore churches” there. 

The lawsuit seeks to challenge that rule and open the grant funding up to churches. In its amicus brief, meanwhile, the Notre Dame law clinic argues that the U.S. Constitution “squarely prohibits the county from excluding groups who are otherwise qualified for [public aid] merely because they happen to be religious.”

In addition to violating the law, the exclusionary grant program “threatens significant harms that can never be undone through litigation,” the brief argues. 

Facing major budgetary shortfalls, many houses of worship around the country “have been unable to adequately preserve their historic buildings or had to abandon them altogether,” the brief states. 

Religious institutions “offer irreplaceable cultural and historic value to their communities,” the filing continues. Religious communities “often anchor community life itself,” the brief states.

The law clinic cited one study that indicated the closure of Catholic schools has been shown to “lead to less socially cohesive, and more disorderly, neighborhoods.” 

Meredith Holland Kessler, a staff attorney for the Religious Liberty Clinic, said in the group’s press release that the court should “recognize the vital contributions that communities from a variety of faith traditions have made to their neighbors for centuries.”

The filing asked the court to enter a preliminary injunction against the New Jersey county to halt the denial of the grant funds.

Boston Celtics head coach, now in NBA finals, treasures his Catholic faith

Head coach of the Boston Celtics Joe Mazzulla (left) and forward Jayson Tatum. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Boston, Mass., Jun 14, 2024 / 11:30 am (CNA).

The Boston Celtics are just one game away from clinching their first NBA title since 2008 — and their head coach Joe Mazzulla has already decided what he will do if they win.

“If we win the championship this year, we’re flying to Jerusalem and we’re walking from Jericho to Jerusalem,” Mazzulla said in an NBC Sports Boston docuseries released in May. 

“And it will be kind of like just our reconnect. But we went last year and we stopped right along this mountain side of the Kidron Valley and you could see a path in between the mountains… [and] during the time, the only way that [Jesus] could have gotten from Jericho to Jerusalem was through this valley. And right there I was like, ‘We have to walk that,’” he said.

“Most people go to Disney World or whatever but ... I think [the Holy Land is] the most important place to go back and recenter yourself,” the 35-year-old said.

A devout Catholic, Mazzulla is in his second season as head coach for the Boston franchise. 

Growing up in Rhode Island, he attended the Catholic-affiliated Bishop Hendricken High School, where in 2018 he was inducted into the athletics hall of fame and called “one of the best multi-sport athletes” in school history.

Although he’s a recent head-coaching addition to the league, Mazzulla has been catching the attention of basketball fans for taking his team deep into the NBA playoffs two years in a row.

But some who don’t follow the sport as closely still may recognize Mazzulla from a viral November 2022 postgame interview in which he was asked about the presence of Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton at the TD Garden, the Celtics’ home court.

The reporter asked Mazzulla: “A non-basketball question: Did you get a chance to meet with the royal family and if not how was it having them there in the building?”

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph?” Mazzulla responded, with a perplexed look on his face. The reporter responded, chuckling, and clarifying who she was referring to: “The prince and princess of Wales.”

“Oh no, I did not,” Mazzulla said. “I’m only familiar with one royal family. I don’t know too much about that one.”

Outspoken about his Catholic faith

That wasn’t the only time Mazzulla offered a candid response about faith to a question from the media. 

Following Boston’s first win against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA finals, Mazzulla was asked by a reporter in a press conference about this matchup being the first time since 1975 that two black head coaches have faced off in the championship.

“Given the plight, sometimes, of black coaches in the NBA, do you think this is a significant moment? Do you take pride in this? How do you view this or do you not see it at all?” the reporter asked.

“I wonder how many of those have been Christian coaches?” Mazzulla answered, followed by a long moment of silence. That exchange, too, received heavy media attention. 

In the recent NBC docuseries, Mazzulla — who often dons a small gold cross pinned on his shirt while he coaches — said that he likes to get to the basketball facility around noon and do a “prayer walk,” seeming to reference his arrival time and ritual before games.

“I like to do a prayer walk around the court at the Garden. I like to be in the Garden when there’s not a lot of people there, just because it’s the Garden. So I get there at like 11-12, do a 20-minute walk around the court and just kind of take in how cold it is. I love that, the smell of it, just the banners obviously, taking all that in,” he said.

Shown during his “prayer walk,” Mazzulla can be seen holding a green and gold wooden rosary.

That rosary was a gift given to him made from the original floor of the now-vanished Boston Garden, Mazzulla said.

“And so it just ties two of the three most important things in my life, [which] is the job that I have for the Celtics, my faith, and the tradition of the Celtics, it’s just a really cool gift,” he said.

“I also love collecting rosary beads just because it tells a story of kind of where you were at,” he said.

Home chapel

In the docuseries, Mazzulla introduces viewers to his private home chapel in which he said he tries to begin and end his days in.

“So when Camai [his wife] came to look at the place, she walked in this room first and she was like, ‘This is the room for the chapel.’ So I always made a promise that we were going to have that. So it’s important,” he said.

“We try to start our day and end our day in here,” he added. 

The chapel has religious candles, statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, other icons, an altar, kneelers, a holy water font, rosaries, a bookshelf, and a crucifix. 

Mazzulla also pointed to a photo of him and his childhood priest Father Marcel Taillon at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. 

“He’s the guy that blessed the crowd when we were down nine to Minnesota. He’s been my priest since I’ve been in eighth grade, so we’ve known each other now for almost 20 years,” Mazzulla said. Taillon was the former chaplain at Bishop Hendricken High School when Mazzulla attended from 2002 to 2006. 

The crowd blessing occurred on Jan. 10 when the Celtics were facing off with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter. The Celtics were down by nine points with just over four minutes left when Taillon, wearing his clerics, was shown on the jumbotron. Taillon began to bless the crowd and the assembly began to cheer. 

At that moment, “God’s Plan” by the hip-hop artist Drake began to play over the loudspeakers. The Celtics ended the game with a phenomenal comeback, pushing the game into overtime and clinching a win. 

When Mazzulla was appointed to the Celtics’ head coaching position in 2023, the priest said in a Hendricken press release that “Coach Mazzulla is right for the job, not only because of the Celtics’ record but [also] his ability to form the whole person whom he leads.”

“His faith life, his family life, and his deep gratitude for all he has received makes his life a response instead of a job.”

‘I’m not a basketball coach’

Mazzulla, who was a star athlete in college, said in the docuseries that when he was younger, his identity was “in being a basketball player.”

“All my affirmation and everything I was seeking I put into basketball, I put into being a basketball player. And I lost that identity when I got hurt and missed a season. And then I lost it again when I thought I was going to play overseas and I lost the game of basketball and it made me ask myself like who am I?” he said.

“Like who is Joe Mazzulla the basketball player versus Joe Mazzulla the person. And as I got into coaching I had to reinvent myself because my identity had been in something that is fleeting,” he added.

Mazzulla offered similar comments in a pregame interview last year when he was asked how he handles “life-altering world events” while also being a basketball coach and preparing for a game. 

“I’m not a basketball coach,” he responded. “I’m just a person that shows up to work everyday to help people.”

Faith is an ‘anchor’

Prior to Game 3 of the NBA finals, Mazzulla was asked in a press conference how he leans on his faith when coaching.

Mazzulla said his faith is “the most important thing.”

“I think the ability to handle the ebbs and flows, the humility to understand that there’s a plan that’s much bigger than just who you are individually and have an impact on other people and then using the gifts that God has given you to try to impact those people,” he said.

“So it’s my anchor and it’s been the most important thing, and I’ve enjoyed just the challenge of having to stick with that even when it’s difficult at times,” he said.

Pope Francis at G7: AI must not replace human decision-making

Pope Francis participates in his first G7 Summit on June 14, 2024. In his remarks, the pontiff stressed that human dignity requires that the decisions of artificial intelligence (AI) be under the control of human beings. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 14, 2024 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis stressed that human dignity requires that the decisions of artificial intelligence (AI) be under the control of human beings as he participated for the first time in a G7 summit on Friday.

“Faced with the marvels of machines, which seem to know how to choose independently, we should be very clear that decision-making, even when we are confronted with its sometimes dramatic and urgent aspects, must always be left to the human person,” he said in front of world leaders June 14.

“We would condemn humanity to a future without hope if we took away people’s ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives by dooming them to depend on the choices of machines,” the pope added. “We need to ensure and safeguard a space for proper human control over the choices made by artificial intelligence programs: human dignity itself depends on it.”

The Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations summit is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia.

Pope Francis is greeted by Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni as he arrives at the Borgo Egnazia resort in Italy's Puglia region on June 14, 2024, to participate for the first time in a G7 Summit. In his remarks, the pontiff stressed that human dignity requires that the decisions of artificial intelligence (AI) be under the control of human beings. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis is greeted by Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni as he arrives at the Borgo Egnazia resort in Italy's Puglia region on June 14, 2024, to participate for the first time in a G7 Summit. In his remarks, the pontiff stressed that human dignity requires that the decisions of artificial intelligence (AI) be under the control of human beings. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis participated in the June 14 “outreach” session, which also included invited nations and international organizations and was on the topics of artificial intelligence, energy, and the Africa and Mediterranean regions.

The pope held bilateral meetings with several notable leaders before the session, including Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. After the session he will hold a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and others.

Calling AI “an exciting and fearsome tool,” the pontiff said artificial intelligence must be used for good and for building a better tomorrow, and aimed at the good of people.

“It is up to everyone to make good use of [AI technology], but the onus is on politics to create the conditions for such good use to be possible and fruitful,” he underlined.

Pope Francis addresses the G7 Summit for the first time on June 14, 2024. In his remarks, he stressed that human dignity requires that the decisions of artificial intelligence (AI) be under the control of human beings. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis addresses the G7 Summit for the first time on June 14, 2024. In his remarks, he stressed that human dignity requires that the decisions of artificial intelligence (AI) be under the control of human beings. Credit: Vatican Media

Copies of the pope’s full speech, which were read in a slightly abridged version, were handed out to attendees, the Vatican said.

Francis drew attention to the complexity of artificial intelligence as a tool, warning that “if in the past, men and women who fashioned simple tools saw their lives shaped by them — the knife enabled them to survive the cold but also to develop the art of warfare — now that human beings have fashioned complex tools they will see their lives shaped by them all the more.”

He also urged leaders to reconsider the development of so-called “lethal autonomous weapons” and to ban their use.

“This starts,” he said, “from an effective and concrete commitment to introduce ever greater and proper human control. No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being.”

He warned that the good use of advanced forms of artificial intelligence will not remain fully under the control of its users or original designers, given that in the future, AI programs will even be able to communicate directly with one another to improve performance.

After an already full morning, including audiences with the president of Cape Verde and more than 100 comedians from around the world, Pope Francis flew by helicopter to Borgo Egnazia, the luxury resort where the G7 meeting is being held.

Pope Francis participates in his first G7 Summit on June 14, 2024. In his remarks, the pontiff stressed that human dignity requires that the decisions of artificial intelligence (AI) be under the control of human beings. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis participates in his first G7 Summit on June 14, 2024. In his remarks, the pontiff stressed that human dignity requires that the decisions of artificial intelligence (AI) be under the control of human beings. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis will arrive back at the Vatican around 9 p.m. local time after a helicopter ride of about an hour and a half.

The Vatican has been heavily involved in the conversation on artificial intelligence ethics, hosting high-level discussions with scientists and tech executives on the ethics of artificial intelligence in 2016 and 2020.

In his remarks at the G7 on Friday, Francis also highlighted some specific limitations of AI, including the ability to predict human behavior.

He described the use of artificial intelligence in the judicial system to analyze data about a prisoner’s ethnicity, type of offense, behavior in prison, and more to judge their suitability for house arrest over imprisonment.

“Human beings are always developing and are capable of surprising us by their actions. This is something that a machine cannot take into account,” he said.

He criticized “generative artificial intelligence,” which he said can be especially appealing to students today, who may even use it to compose papers.

“Yet they forget that, strictly speaking, so-called generative artificial intelligence is not really ‘generative.’ Instead, it searches big data for information and puts it together in the style required of it. It does not develop new analyses or concepts but repeats those that it finds, giving them an appealing form,” the pontiff said.

“Then, the more it finds a repeated notion or hypothesis, the more it considers it legitimate and valid. Rather than being ‘generative,’ then, it is instead ‘reinforcing’ in the sense that it rearranges existing content, helping to consolidate it, often without checking whether it contains errors or preconceptions.”

This runs the risk of undermining culture and the educational process by reinforcing “fake news” or a dominant narrative, he continued, noting that “education should provide students with the possibility of authentic reflection, yet it runs the risk of being reduced to a repetition of notions, which will increasingly be evaluated as unobjectionable, simply because of their constant repetition.”

He also pointed out the increasing use of AI programs, like chatbots, that interact directly with people in ways that can even be pleasant and reassuring, since they are designed to respond to the psychological needs of human beings.

“It is a frequent and serious mistake to forget that artificial intelligence is not another human being,” he underlined.

Archbishop Broglio reminds bishops about Church teaching on transgenderism

USCCB president Archbishop Timothy Broglio speaks at the bishops' spring meeting, Thursday, June 13, 2024. / Credit: USCCB

Louisville, Ky., Jun 14, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference in a speech to his fellow bishops gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, for their spring meeting discoursed on the subject of the incompatibility of “sex change” with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

In his speech to kick off the meeting, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who serves as archbishop for the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA, and is president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), reflected on the war in the Holy Land, the migrant crisis, the National Eucharistic Congress, and the persecution of the Church in Nicaragua, among other issues. 

The largest portion of his address, however, was devoted to a catechesis on the subject of the dignity of the body, with the prelate citing Pope Francis’ recent declaration on gender ideology and referring specifically to the issue of “sex change.”

Broglio’s remarks come less than a month after news broke that a woman identifying as a man had attended seminary and was living a religious vocation as a male hermit in Kentucky, with the apparent approval of Bishop John Stowe, who leads the Diocese of Lexington.

In his speech to the bishops, Broglio quoted heavily from Pope Francis and his recent document on gender theory.

“We are grateful for the recent declaration Dignitas Infinita from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. There we read a clear message about many issues that plague our times. In particular, ‘Regarding gender theory, whose scientific coherence is the subject of considerable debate among experts, the Church recalls that human life in all its dimensions, both physical and spiritual, is a gift from God,’” he said.

“‘This gift is to be accepted with gratitude and placed at the service of the good. Desiring a personal self-determination, as gender theory prescribes, apart from this fundamental truth that human life is a gift, amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God, entering into competition with the true God of love revealed to us in the Gospel,’” Broglio quoted from the Vatican document.

Broglio also cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church, saying it “expressly invites us to recognize that ‘the human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God.’”

“Such a truth deserves to be remembered, especially when it comes to sex change, for humans are inseparably composed of both body and soul,” Broglio said.

He concluded his discourse quoting from Pope Francis again on the dignity of the human body.

“Teaching about the need to respect the natural order of the human person, Pope Francis affirmed that ‘creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”

At a press conference at the conclusion of the first day of the meeting, Broglio fielded a question about his speech. 

Asked whether the closed-door sessions during the bishops’ meeting had included any discussions of the transgender hermit in the Diocese of Lexington and possible implications for action by the conference, Broglio said the subject had come up at the “committee levels.”

“There certainly hasn’t been any discussion in the general assembly of the bishops. There is concern that has been expressed at some of the committee levels because of the nature of what hermetic life is in the Church and also the preparation necessary for that,” Broglio said.

“And also it’s just the general honesty that should be a part of that whole process of determining a vocation and responding to that vocation. At this point, that’s basically where the discussion is,” he said.