February 6, 2024 // National

News Briefs: February 11, 2024

Dicastery Warns Changing Words in Sacraments Can Make Them Invalid

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Officials with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith said they continue to receive reports of Catholics, including priests, finding out all the sacraments they have received are invalid because they were baptized years earlier with a formula that was not approved. According to a note published by the dicastery on Saturday, February 3, when a priest or other minister changes the words, gestures, or material prescribed for the celebration of the sacraments, he can “rob” the faithful of what they deserve and make the sacrament invalid. The note, Gestis Verbisque (“Gestures and Words”), passed unanimously by members of the dicastery during their plenary assembly on Thursday, January 25, and was approved by Pope Francis on Wednesday, January 31. In 2020, the then-doctrinal congregation issued a note saying baptisms celebrated with the formula, “We baptize you …” instead of “I baptize you …” were invalid, setting off a large-scale effort in several dioceses, including some in the United States, to trace people who were invalidly baptized.

Pro-Life Activists Convicted of Civil Rights Charges

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (OSV News) – Six pro-life activists, including one already jailed and awaiting sentencing for a separate incident in Washington, D.C., were convicted on Tuesday, January 30, of federal civil rights offenses resulting from their blockade of an abortion clinic in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, on March 5, 2021. The guilty verdicts were announced after a six-day federal trial in Nashville. Sentencing is scheduled for July 2. They were each convicted of one felony count of engaging in a “conspiracy against rights” and one felony count of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act, and could be sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $260,000. The six are Chester Gallagher of Lebanon, Tennessee; Heather Idoni of Linden, Michigan; Calvin Zastrow of Kawkawlin, Michigan; Coleman Boyd of Bolton, Mississippi; Paul Vaughn of Centerville, Tennessee; and Dennis Green of Cumberland, Virginia. According to federal prosecutors, each engaged in a conspiracy to prevent the clinic employees from providing, and women from receiving, abortions, using a strategy known as a “lock and block.” In that, activists lock doors and gates, and, after entering the clinic, block doorways either with their bodies or furniture.

Bishop Seitz: End human Trafficking by Tackling Root Causes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – Ending human trafficking requires collective action in addressing the conditions that cause it, said Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration. “It is incumbent upon all of us to unite in promoting efforts that prevent the evil of human trafficking,” he said in a statement released on Thursday, February 1. The Catholic Church marks the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking annually on February 8. Bishop Seitz pointed to the importance of legislation in eradicating trafficking, which in 2021 alone saw some 50 million individuals worldwide in a form of modern slavery, according to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization. “It is incumbent upon all of us to unite in promoting efforts that prevent the evil of human trafficking,” said Bishop Seitz in his statement. Like Pope Francis, he invited all “to uphold and affirm human dignity” and show solidarity with all those impacted “by this terrible evil of modern-day slavery.”

Catholic Priest and His Sister Killed in Florida Shooting

PALM BAY, Florida (OSV News) – A retired Florida Catholic priest and his sister were killed in a multi-location rampage that also took the life of another man, left two police officers injured, and ended with the death of the suspect. Father Robert Hoeffner, age 76, and his sister, Sally Hoeffner, were found slain at their Palm Bay, Florida, residence on the evening of Sunday, January 28, as police were investigating a domestic disturbance at another area home that turned deadly. Their car had apparently been stolen by 24-year-old suspect Brandon William Kapas, who loaded the car with a cache of weapons and drove it to a family gathering nearby. Police were called to the home after Kapas became agitated and destructive, and in the course of his flight, Kapas killed his grandfather and injured two police officers before he was shot and killed. In a statement, Orlando Bishop John Noonan said the diocese is mourning the loss of life and will miss Father Hoeffner’s “grace-filled presence.” Father Hoeffner had celebrated his 50th jubilee in 2023, recalling decades that included becoming a founding pastor, celebrating Mass on television regularly, and establishing a multicultural parish council at his final assignment.

Report: Vocations to Religious Life Decline in U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSV News) – A new report shows a continued decrease in the number of permanent vocations to consecrated life in the U.S., but key factors such as family life, devotional practices, Catholic education, and personal encouragement can positively impact those numbers, authors of the report state. “Women and Men Professing Perpetual Vows in Religious Life: The Profession Class of 2023” was released on Friday, January 26, by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, ahead of the Church’s World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, which was celebrated on Friday, February 2. The study – annually commissioned since 2010 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations – found that of the participating religious superiors, 87 percent reported their orders had no member profess perpetual vows in 2023, up from the 82 percent noted in last year’s report. Two-parent married Catholic families, Catholic education, involvement in parish life, Eucharistic adoration, and the Rosary all helped to foster survey participants’ vocations, as did discernment events and personal encouragement from priests, family, and friends, according to the researchers.

First Black Catholic School Honors Foundress Mother Lange

BALTIMORE (OSV News) – The only known photograph ever taken of Mother Mary Lange held a place of prominence during a special Mass celebrated on Tuesday, January 30, by Archbishop William E. Lori at St. Frances Academy in East Baltimore. Resting at the foot of an altar set up inside the school’s gymnasium, the more than 140-year-old black-and-white image seemed to stare stoically at a congregation of more than 300 that had gathered to celebrate Mother Lange’s recent advancement along the path to canonization. Pope Francis declared the foundress of St. Frances Academy “venerable” on June 22, 2023, recognizing Mother Lange’s heroic virtues. Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori elicited applause when he said the recognition of Mother Lange as venerable is “something of great importance, not only for this school and not only for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, but for the Catholic Church throughout the United States.” St. Frances Academy was founded in 1828 as the first Catholic school in the country to educate Black students.

Pope Francis shakes hands with Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, during a meeting with the university’s board of trustees at the Vatican Feb. 1, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

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