• Last week, I and the other Bishops of Indiana expressed our disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on October 6th not to review Indiana’s appeal of the court ruling that the prohibition of so-called “same-sex marriage” is unconstitutional.

    The Church continues to oppose the redefinition of marriage to include two persons of the same sex since such redefinition denies the truth and reality of what marriage is: the lifelong partnership between one man and one woman ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. In God’s plan, sexual difference is essential to marriage. Marriage is a unique form of love and commitment, a “communion” in which “the two become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

    The Church believes that homosexual persons are certainly equal in dignity to heterosexual persons. The Church teaches that “every sign of unjust discrimination in regard to homosexual persons should be avoided” (CCC 2358). Not allowing two persons of the same sex to marry is not unjust discrimination. The “right to marry” is the right to enter into a relationship that is unique and rooted in a nature that includes sexual difference.

    I and many others have been worried about the many possible threats to our religious freedom as a result of the redefinition of marriage. Changing the legal definition of marriage may threaten the liberty of the Church and our institutions in numerous ways. One example could be the government forcing religious institutions to extend any special spousal benefits they afford to actual marriage to “same-sex marriage” as well. This past week, the University of Notre Dame decided “to extend benefits to all legally married persons, including same-sex spouses,” since “the law in Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriages” (quotes from public statement issued by Notre Dame).

    Many have asked for my opinion on this decision of the University of Notre Dame. I must admit my uncertainty at this time about the legal implications of Indiana’s law for our Catholic institutions. Notre Dame believes that the law requires the university to extend the legal benefits of marriage to “same-sex married couples” in its employ. I would like to see further study of what the law requires as well as what religious liberty protections Notre Dame and our other Catholics institutions have so as not to be compelled to cooperate in the application of the law redefining marriage. Our Indiana Catholic Conference is studying these issues.

    In announcing its decision to extend benefits to “same-sex spouses,” I am glad that Notre Dame affirmed that as a Catholic university, it “endorses a Catholic view of marriage,” though I would say that Catholic teaching on the heterosexual nature of marriage is more than “a view.” The heterosexual nature of marriage is an objective truth known by (right) reason and revelation. As a Catholic university, it is important that Notre Dame continues to affirm its fidelity to Catholic teaching on the true nature of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. I have communicated to Notre Dame my conviction that this affirmation should also include efforts to defend the religious liberty of our religious institutions that is threatened in potentially numerous ways by the legal redefinition of marriage, including the government forcing our Catholic institutions to extend any special benefits we afford to actual marriage to same-sex “marriage” as well. I have asked the Notre Dame administration to work together with the Indiana Catholic Conference on these efforts.

    Living in conformity with our Catholic teaching that marriage by its nature is between one man and one woman needs religious liberty protection so we are not forced to treat same-sex unions as equivalent to marriage. Just as it is not unjust to limit the bond of marriage to the union of one man and one woman, the Church teaches that “it is not unjust to oppose granting to homosexual couples benefits that in justice belong to (true) marriage alone” (USCCB, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination”). It is important that this not be interpreted as an attitude of intolerance or bigotry against homosexual persons. The Church strongly upholds the human dignity of homosexual persons while also strongly upholding the truth about marriage. The Church affirms that “persons with a homosexual inclination have the same basic rights as all people” (ibid). The Bishops of the United States, in the Pastoral letter “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” stated the following:

    Basic human rights must be afforded to all people. This can and should be done without sacrificing the bedrock of society that is (true) marriage and the family, and without violating the religious liberty of persons and institutions.

    I wish to extend my own commitment as bishop to all persons in the Church with a homosexual inclination, especially to your pastoral care and growth in holiness. Our Courage groups in Fort Wayne and South Bend exist to help you in this growth. All of us have the vocation to love. This vocation is lived not only through the vocation of marriage, but also through chaste friendships. I hope you know the Church’s love for you. You are our brothers and sisters in Christ. I encourage you to persevere in your faith within the Catholic community as together we strive to be faithful disciples of Jesus.

    I hope and pray that all will work together, in a spirit of love and respect for all people, in the face of so many problems that arise from the redefinition of marriage. I recommend to all the excellent website (an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops): Marriage: Unique for a Reason. The internet address is www.marriageuniqueforareason.org.

    Posted on October 14, 2014, to:

  • “The Holy Family, the beacon of true love, is to be contemplated in every family situation so as to draw light, strength and consolation,” states the working document of the extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The Synod topic is “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” and will assemble Oct. 5-19. Above is the painting for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Shown in the painting is St. Anne and St. Joachim with Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus.

    In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis wrote: The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. 

    In light of this cultural crisis, the Holy Father has convoked an extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops to treat the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. The Synod Assembly will take place from October 5th to the 19th. It will be followed up by the Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops in October 2015, demonstrating Pope Francis’ deep concern for the challenges facing marriage and family throughout the world.

    The Preface of the working document for the Synod affirms that “the proclamation of the Gospel of the Family is an integral part of the mission of the Church.” The Church has the duty to proclaim the truth and beauty of God’s plan for marriage and the family. It has the duty to promote the dignity of marriage and the family. The Church faces much resistance in today’s culture to its teaching on moral issues related to the family. The bishops will be looking at ways to better present the Church’s teaching and to promote its wider acceptance. They will also be looking at how the Church can better support parents and families through its pastoral care.

    The Synod will also be addressing some difficult pastoral situations, including cohabitation and de facto unions. It will be devoting attention to the situation of separated and divorced persons as well as those who have divorced and remarried. The working document for the Synod states that “pastoral charity impels the Church to assist people who have suffered the breakdown of their marriage and are living with their situation relying on the grace of Christ. A more painful wound results when these people remarry and enter a state of life which does not allow them to receive Holy Communion.” The document states: “With patience and understanding, the Church must explain to these people that their not being able to celebrate the sacraments does not mean that they are excluded from the Christian life and a relationship with God.”

    The Synod will also be addressing the lack of acceptance by many of the Church’s teaching on openness to life, especially in a highly secularized society. In the face of a contraceptive mentality, the working document states that “the Church needs to reflect on how to encourage a mentality which is more open to life.”

    The bishops will also be discussing the challenges of the upbringing of children today, particularly their upbringing in the faith. They will be looking, for example, at the challenges faced when parents are living in irregular situations. We must be committed to transmitting the gift of faith to our children and young people.

    The challenges facing the Church regarding marriage and family may seem overwhelming. I can’t think of an area where the “new evangelization” is needed more. I am grateful for the priority that Pope Francis is giving to the proclamation of the Gospel of the Family, in continuity with Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. We must pray for “a new springtime for the family.”

    It is important that, in the face of so many challenges, we not lose hope. The source of our hope is God and His love. The working document of the Synod states in its last paragraph that “the love of God shines in a particular way in the Holy Family of Nazareth, the sure point of reference and comfort for every family. The Holy Family, the beacon of true love, is to be contemplated in every family situation so as to draw light, strength and consolation.” I, therefore, invite you during the month of October to pray the following Prayer to the Holy Family written by Pope Francis:

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

    in you we contemplate

    the splendor of true love,

    to you we turn with trust. 

     

    Holy Family of Nazareth,

    grant that our families too

    may be places of communion and prayer,

    authentic schools of the Gospel

    and small domestic Churches.

     

    Holy Family of Nazareth,

    may families never again

    experience violence, rejection and division:

    may all who have been hurt or scandalized

    find ready comfort and healing. 

     

    Holy Family of Nazareth,

    may the approaching Synod of Bishops

    make us once more mindful

    of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,

    and its beauty in God’s plan. 

     

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

    graciously hear our prayer.

     

    Posted on September 30, 2014, to:

  • Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio, painted this piece of artwork depicting The Calling of St. Matthew. It was completed in 1599-1600 for the Contarelli Chapel in the church of the French congregation, San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, where it remains today.

    The apostle and evangelist, Saint Matthew, is the secondary patron of our diocese. His feast day is September 21st. Though his feast is not celebrated this year since it falls on a Sunday, it will be celebrated at Saint Matthew Cathedral since, as titular patron of our co-cathedral, it is observed as a Solemnity there according to liturgical law. I will be celebrating Confirmations at Saint Matthew’s on Sunday, confirming the young people on their patronal feast day.

    I’ve been reflecting on the significance of our secondary patron. Matthew was one of the Twelve chosen by Jesus to preach the Gospel to the world. He did so not only orally, but also by writing. The tradition of the ancient Church attributes to him the authorship of the first Gospel. It was written to Christians of Jewish background.

    I think about some unique features of Saint Matthew’s Gospel. Thanks to Saint Matthew, we have the account of the visit of the Magi, showing the child Jesus adored even by Gentiles (chapter 2). Thanks to Saint Matthew, we have the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5 to 7). And thanks to Saint Matthew, we have an abundance of teaching on “the Kingdom of heaven.” Saint Matthew’s Gospel is even called the “Gospel of the Kingdom.” Saint Matthew shows how the Kingdom of God, predicted in the Old Testament, is now present in the life of Jesus and in the life of the messianic people He founded and convoked, the Church.

    In reflecting on our secondary patron himself, it is good to remember that he was a “publican,” that is, a tax collector. Tax collectors are often linked with sinners and prostitutes when mentioned in the Gospels. Jesus chose as one of the Twelve a man who was regarded as a public sinner. Matthew (also called Levi) was a collaborator with the Roman occupiers and their unjust and greedy treatment of the people of God. Tax collectors were also examples of being miserly and taking extra money from the people. Remember Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, who became rich by defrauding people.

    Pope Benedict XVI once said that Jesus’ choice of a tax collector to be an apostle demonstrates that Our Lord excludes no one from His friendship. Many were shocked that Jesus called Matthew to follow Him. They were further shocked when Jesus attended a large dinner that Matthew hosted in his house, a gathering that included other tax collectors and sinners in attendance. On that occasion, Jesus explained His rationale and mission: Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2: 17).

    The choice of Matthew reminds us of an important and fundamental truth of our faith. It is the good news of the Gospel: God offers His grace to sinners! He is rich in mercy!

    Pope Francis’ motto as a bishop and now as the pope hearkens back to the calling of Matthew, the tax collector. His motto is miserando atque eligendo (having mercy and choosing). These words comes from a homily of Saint Bede on the calling of Matthew where he wrote that Jesus saw a publican, looking upon him with mercy and choosing him, said to him: “Follow me.” The Vatican issued a statement after Pope Francis’ election explaining his choice of this motto. It said:

    “The Holy Father, Francis’ motto comes from a homily by the Venerable Bede, a priest, commenting on the Gospel passage of Saint Matthew’s call, where he writes Vidit ergo Iesus publicanum et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi: ‘Sequere me’ (Jesus saw a publican, looking upon him with mercy and choosing him, said to him: ‘Follow me’).

    The homily (of Saint Bede) is a tribute to Divine Mercy and can be found in the Liturgy of the Hours for Saint Matthew’s feast day. It takes on a special role in the spiritual life of the Pope. In fact, on the Feast of Saint Matthew, September 21, in the year 1953, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio experienced, at the age of seventeen years, in a very special way, the loving presence of God in his life. Following a confession, he felt his heart touched and sensed the descent of the mercy of God, who with a look of tender love, called him to the religious life, following the example of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

    When chosen as a Bishop, Bishop Bergoglio recalled this moment of the beginning of his special consecration in the Church and decided to choose Saint Bede’s expression as his motto and programme for life: Miserando atque eligendo (He showed mercy and called him), which is now in the Papal Coat of Arms.”

    When we think of our diocese’s secondary patron, we can be reminded of the Divine Mercy. Jesus looked upon Matthew the tax collector with great mercy and chose him to be an apostle. Pope Francis experienced this gaze of Jesus at the age of 17 and discovered his own vocation. God filled the young Jorge Bergoglio with His love on that day back in 1953, September 21, the feast of Saint Matthew. God touched his life and the future Pope found his vocation. Pope Francis says that on that day, he felt in a very special way “the loving presence of God in his life” and that God was gazing upon him “with a look of tender love.” He sensed the “descent of the mercy of God.” He felt what Saint Matthew felt when Jesus called him to be an apostle.

    It is in prayer and in the sacrament of Penance that we too can experience God’s loving presence and the descent of His mercy. There is another tax collector whom we read about in the Gospel of Luke, the one who went up to the temple to pray, along with a Pharisee. This anonymous tax collector humbly trusted in divine mercy while the Pharisee boasted about his own perfection. The humble tax collector would not even lift up his eyes to heaven. He beat his breast and said: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus said: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    Matthew got up from his station as a tax collector to follow Jesus. He became a great apostle and an evangelist. He teaches us God’s saving mercy. He gives us all hope. I invite you to pray the following prayer, the Collect from the Mass of the Feast of Saint Matthew, the secondary patron of our diocese:

    O God, who with untold mercy were pleased to choose as an Apostle Saint Matthew, the tax collector, grant that, sustained by his example and intercession, we may merit to hold firm in following you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


    Posted on September 16, 2014, to:

  • Our hearts are moved by the terrible suffering of Christians and other innocent victims of violence in Iraq and Syria.

    Several weeks ago, Pope Francis wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations urging the international community to do all they can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against these ethnic and religious minorities. He decried how “Christians and other religious minorities have been forced to flee from their homes and witness the destruction of their places of worship and religious patrimony.”

    Since January, about 1.2 million people have been displaced in Iraq as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has taken control of large areas of those countries. Christians and other religious minorities have been singled out for attack, simply for their faith. They were given a choice: abandon their Christian faith and convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant “infidel tax,” or die. Many have been killed. Over 100,000 have fled, refusing to renounce their Christian faith. What an example of faith and courage they are for us and for the world!

    It is tragic to see the destruction of the Church in Iraq, where the faith has been lived and the Church has been alive since the early centuries of Christianity. The Islamic State militants overtook the city of Mosul and have captured many of the Christian villages and cities in the surrounding area. The Christians have fled, leaving their homes and businesses. They had to leave behind their possessions, often escaping with only the clothes on their backs. But they left with something more valuable and precious: their faith in Christ.

    It is important that we stand in solidarity with these brothers and sisters in Christ through our prayers and financial support. Many of them are now living in community centers (churches, schools, parking lots) in the northern city of Irbil and in refugee camps elsewhere, like in Jordan, where they have been welcomed by King Abdullah and the Catholic community there. Our own Catholic Relief Services is among the organizations assisting the refugees with food, water, clothing, and shelter. CRS also is able to provide psychological and social support, trauma healing, education for the children, and help with longer-term resettlement.

    On the weekend of September 6th and 7th, we will be taking up a Special Collection for the Middle East in all of our parishes. These funds will be used by CRS and other Catholic agencies working in partnership with the local Church to meet the most urgent humanitarian needs facing the peoples in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and surrounding countries where refugees have fled. Collection funds will also be used to support Church programs to aid persecuted Christians and to respond to rebuilding needs of Catholic dioceses in the impacted areas. Thank you for your support of this special collection.

    We cannot abandon or ignore our suffering brothers and sisters. They need to know that we are with them and have not forgotten them. We need to pray for them and help them with their needs. We and the international community must not be silent in the face of the persecution and destruction that has taken place and continues to take place.

    The contempt for human life and religious liberty displayed by the Islamic State must be opposed. Their barbaric acts of terrorism must be condemned in the most absolute terms. Such acts strike at the heart of human dignity and are an offense against all humanity. The Church teaches the right to use force for purposes of legitimate defense as well as the duty to protect and help innocent victims who are not able to defend themselves from acts of aggression. The atrocities committed by the Islamic State must be condemned and their criminal activity stopped.

    We saw the cruelty of ISIS in the murder of 40-year old American journalist James Foley two weeks ago. After two years of captivity, this Catholic man was brutally executed by decapitation. By all accounts, James Foley was a strong, loving, and courageous man of faith. Looking at the photo of him in the video before the execution, his eyes showed strength and resolve. I could not help think that this strength came from his faith. I read that in captivity, he showed courage and hope. He would pray the rosary on his fingers. His cruel death might seem like a defeat. I don’t think so, not in the larger scheme. Our Lord’s death and resurrection teaches us the victory of life and love. We pray that James Foley and so many other innocent victims of the Islamic State are received into the joy and peace of heaven.

    We can be encouraged and inspired by the example of James Foley and the thousands of other Catholics who will not deny their faith, will not embrace hatred, and will not despair. Let us be spiritually close to them. Let us pray for those who are persecuted, those who are refugees, and for those who have died. Let us pray that our nation and the international community will stop the crimes against humanity being committed in the Middle East. And let us pray that the militants of ISIS will cease their terror campaign.

    Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

    Posted on September 2, 2014, to:

  • Amelia Martinez holds up a sign as she and members of her family gather July 15 in support of undocumented immigrants in Oracle, Ariz. Dozens in the small community are donating their time, talent and treasure to make sure children fleeing danger in their home countries are welcomed and supported.

    America is facing a humanitarian crisis: tens of thousands of children coming to the United States unaccompanied by a parent or guardian, a majority from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, where violence has permeated the fabric of their communities. They come here to escape desperate circumstances. They have faced new perils every step along the way.

    It is important to understand the root causes of this crisis, why these children are coming to the United States. Violence and poverty in their home communities has made life all but impossible. Gangs rule in many places and recruit children. They terrorize students and teachers in schools. They control whole neighborhoods, outnumbering the police. Many young people and their parents live in constant fear.

    Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world. El Salvador and Guatemala have the 4th and 5th highest murder rate in the world. Drug cartels have strengthened their hold on these countries as shipping routes for drugs to Mexico and the United States. Children are specifically targeted to join gangs and are threatened with death or rape or both. The governments of these countries are increasingly unable to protect these children and their citizens.

    Many Americans are concerned about the violation of our immigration laws. I urge you not to look at these children through an enforcement lens, but through a child protection lens. In fact, a number of these children could qualify for refugee protection, consistent with U.S. and international law. Most importantly, I urge you to look at this issue through the lens of the Gospel, with the eyes of faith, faith in the One who said: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35) and who also said: Whoever receives a child such as this in my name receives me (Matthew 18:5).

    This issue is not just a political one. It is a moral one. Sadly, there has been a lot of political posturing regarding this issue, forgetting or ignoring the fact that this issue involves at-risk children! Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called for the care and protection of these children. In a recent letter, he wrote: “Such an humanitarian emergency demands as its first measure the urgent protection and properly taking in of the children.” The Holy Father also said that the root causes of their flight should be addressed, such as violence and endemic poverty.

    I was thinking recently about the refugees taken in by other nations, such as Lebanon and Jordan, which each host one million Syrian refugees. We have 60,000 children who have entered our country since October, the majority of whom could qualify for international protection as refugees. It would be morally wrong to send them back to their home countries without due process, without the chance to go before an immigration judge. God forbid that they be forced to return to possible harm or even death at the hands of gangs and criminal networks! We need to protect these children who, without protection, are vulnerable to trafficking, kidnapping, extortion and other abuses.

    The Catholic Church continues to be at the forefront in efforts to help these children. Catholic Relief Services is working on behalf of these vulnerable children in tough neighborhoods in Central America. Catholic Charities USA is engaged in activities both at the national and local level responding to the needs of the thousands of children coming to the United States, working with government agencies to find shelter for the children, finding bilingual volunteers and certified social workers. Migration and Refugee Services (a department of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) is providing community-based services to support the reunification of unaccompanied children with their family members in the United States. This program serves as an alternative to detention, allowing children to live with their families while they undergo immigration proceedings. USCCB/MRS also provides community-based residential services to unaccompanied refugee and immigrant children through its network of 12 Unaccompanied Refugee Minor foster care programs.

    Many have asked me how they can help these children. Of course, we must keep them in our prayers. We can provide donations to Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, or the USCCB Migration and Refugee Services. Our own diocesan Catholic Charities is looking at the possibility of how we can help with caring for these children. I also invite you to contact our elected representatives in Washington, urging them to protect these children. We need to strengthen protections for unaccompanied, migrating children, focusing on the best interest of the children. We must continue to advocate for family reunification as an essential part of immigration reform. Resettlement in the United States should be allowed for those who cannot return safely to their countries of origin. And we should assist the Central American countries in protecting their own children from violence, gangs, and other criminal organizations, the root causes of their migration north.

    We must not look at these unaccompanied minors as mere numbers or statistics. These are real children, human beings created in the image and likeness of God. They are our young brothers and sisters in Christ. They are children of God and must be treated with dignity and respect, care and compassion.

    May our Lord bless them and our Blessed Mother watch over them! And may God forgive us and our nation if we turn our backs on them. To neglect to receive and to help these children is to neglect to receive and to help Jesus.

    Posted on August 5, 2014, to: