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Arson charges for man who carried gasoline into NYC’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral

New York City, N.Y., Apr 18, 2019 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- The man who attempted to enter New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral carrying gasoline, lighter fluid, and a lighter will face criminal charges. The attempted entry was the second time this week the man was arrested at a Catholic cathedral.

Marc Lamparello, 37, was apprehended April 17 by St. Patrick’s Cathedral security around 8 p.m. and taken into police custody by officers with the NYPD Critical Response Command. He apparently intended to start a fire, and police said he had a car nearby to escape the scene.

Lamparello was charged Thursday with attempted arson, reckless endangerment, and illegally transporting flammable materials in public places.

Earlier this week, Lamparello was arrested for refusing to leave the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.

On Monday evening, Lamparello refused to leave the Newark cathedral when it was closing. He was seated in a pew, and told a sheriff’s deputy that he would only leave the cathedral in handcuffs.

“If you want me to leave tonight, you’re gonna have to handcuff me and arrest me tonight and take me to jail,” he told the officer.

According to the Daily Beast, Lamparello resisted attempts by two officers to take him into custody, apparently throwing himself on the church floor and telling them “I’m not leaving. God wants me here. I know all the sins the priests have committed.”

He was charged April 15 with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.

NYPD have also confirmed that Lamparello had recently purchased a one-way airplane ticket to Rome, scheduled to depart Thursday evening.

According to the NYPD, Lamparello had four gallons of gasoline, two cans of lighter fluid, and two lighters with him when he attempted to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral Wednesday night. He was prevented from entering by cathedral security, but was able to spill some of the gasoline on the floor as he was leaving.

About 90 minutes before he attempted to enter the cathedral, Lamparello pulled up to the church in a minivan. He then wandered around for about an hour, before taking the gasoline, lighter fluid, and lighters out of his car. He tried to go into St. Patrick’s around 8 p.m. and was apprehended shortly thereafter.

NYPD said that Lamparello’s story was “not consistent” and suspicious, though they have not yet determined any sort of motive. He claimed he cut through the cathedral as a shortcut, as his van had run out of gas. The minivan had in fact not run out of gas, which led to police taking him into custody. Lamparello was reportedly cooperative and conversational with police.

Police do not suspect terrorism, and have described Laparello as “emotionally disturbed.”

Lamparello graduated from Boston College, a Jesuit school, in 2004. Since then, he has been a philosophy instructor at several universities, including Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Seton Hall is a diocesean Catholic school administered by the Archdiocese of Newark. He previously worked as a music director for a Catholic parish in New Jersey.

His brother, Adam Lamparello, told the Daily Beast that he was “shocked” to hear of his arrest, and said that “this is something that is so not him.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio praised NYPD for their quick action in apprehending the suspect.

“We are all focused on keeping our congregations and houses of worship safe as they celebrate this Holy Week,” tweeted de Blasio.

 

‘Nones’ rise amid declining church attendance, survey shows

Washington D.C., Apr 18, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Church membership in the United States has dropped considerably in the last two decades, and the number of people who say they have no religion has increased, a new report from Gallup shows.

The decline in “membership” of a specific church or parish community appears especially pronounced among Catholics and young people.

Nearly one out of three millennials, defined as people born between 1980 and 2000, describe themselves as having no religion. Of the 68% who said they do have a religious faith, only 57% said they belong to a church.

Twenty years ago, when members of “Generation X” were the same age as millennials, 62% --nearly two out of three--were members of a church. Today, 54% of Generation X members belong to a church, and 79% said they have a religious belief of some sort.

Those born in 1945 or earlier were the most religious age group surveyed. Only nine percent said they did not have a religion, and nearly three out of four believers consider themselves to “belong” to a church.

Since 1998-2000, the percentage of Catholics who say they belong to a church has dropped by 13 points. In 1998-2000, 76% of Catholics said they were members of a church. By 2016-2018, this figure had dropped to 63%.

Church “membership” is difficult to tabulate among Catholics. Parish membership is primarily defined in canon law according to residence in the territory of a parish.

While many parishes operate registration programs for sacramental or pastoral purposes, “registration” does not actually define or confirm belonging to the parish community, which is conferred de facto by domicile within the territory of the parish.

In Catholic theology, Church “membership” is not ordinarily defined by registration or self-identity.

Even without taking this into account, according to the data American Catholics still appear belong to churches at higher rates than nondenominational Protestants. Only 57 percent of Americans who call themselves “nondenominational” are members of a church.

Both of these figures lag behind Protestants affiliated with a denomination, as well as Mormons. Seventy percent of denominational Protestants, and 90 percent of Mormons say they belong to churches. Mormons, unlike Catholics and Protestants, have kept relatively stable church membership numbers of the past 20 years.

Women were considerably more likely than men to say they belong to churches, with 58 percent of women and 47 percent of men identifying themselves as church members. Membership among men and women experienced a large decline in the last 20 years, with men dropping by 17 points, and women by 15.

All demographic categories now say they belong to churches at a lower rate than they did 20 years ago.

The demographics that experienced the smallest decline were Protestants (which Gallup combined with people who identify simply as “Christian”) and Republicans, who dropped six points and eight points, respectively.

Conversely, Hispanics and Democrats both dropped 23 percentage points in church membership over the last 20 years. Democrats dropped from 71 percent to 48 percent, and Hispanics from 68 to 45. Those between the ages of 18 and 29 were not far behind, declining by 22 points from 1998.

Supreme Court hears petition to overturn Louisiana abortion law

Washington D.C., Apr 18, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Louisiana abortion providers presented arguments to the Supreme Court Wednesday, asking the court to strike down a state law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The Center for Reproductive Rights formally presented its petition April 17, after the court granted a stay in February which blocked the law from coming into effect while lower courts heard the case.

The District Court found against the law in 2016, preventing it from coming into effect, but the decision was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 5th Circuit.

The abortion providers argue that the Louisiana law would, if allowed to come into effect, leave the state with only one doctor qualified to perform abortions. They also contend that the law is near-identical to a Texas statute struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016, calling the similarities “crystal clear.”

The law requires that any abortion doctor have “active admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility.

The appeal filed Wednesday argued that the result of the law would be to deny the vast majority of Louisiana women access to their constitutionally protected right to an abortion.

The 2016 decision was rendered 5-3 before the appointment of a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia.

Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold the Texas law, but also agreed to grant the stay in February. The case is expected to be heard by the court during its next session after the summer.

Since the 2016 case was decided, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch have joined the court. Both opposed the granting of the February stay, with Kavanaugh issuing a widely read dissenting opinion.

Speaking in February, Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry vowed to continue the legal fight, and pointed out that the law was passed by the state legislature with nearly unanimous consent.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has put enforcement of this pro-woman law on hold for the time being,” said Landry.

“We remain hopeful that if the Supreme Court grants certiorari in this case, it will to be to re-affirm that court's rule in fact-specific cases; because the facts in our case show [the law] is constitutional and consistent with our overall regulatory scheme for surgical procedures.”

Jesuit Father James Schall has died at age 91

San Jose, Calif., Apr 18, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- Father James Schall, S.J., a longtime professor of philosophy at Georgetown University and the author of numerous books and essays, died Holy Wednesday aged 91.

Schall was born Jan. 28, 1928 in Pocahontas, Iowa, and after high school spent time at the University of Santa Clara and in the U.S. Army.

He entered the California Province of the Society of Jesus in 1948, receiving a masters in philosophy from Gonzaga University in 1955 and a doctorate in political philosophy from Georgetown in 1960.

Schall was ordained a priest in 1963, and earned a masters in theology from Santa Clara the following year.

Before his appointment as a professor at Georgetown in 1978, he taught at the University of San Francisco and at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He taught in Georgetown's Department of Government until his 2012 retirement.

Schall served on the National Endowment for the Humanities' National Council on the Humanities from 1984-90, and was part of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace from 1977-82.

He spent his last years at the Jesuit retirement home in Los Gatos, Calif., where he had lived as a novice more than 60 years earlier. He continued to write during his retirement. He died April 17 after a short hospitalization.

Perhaps his best-known book is Another Sort of Learning, published in 1988.

Schall spoke to CNA in 2013 about some of his recent books, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, and Reasonable Pleasures: The Strange Coherences of Catholicism, which were guided by the thought of Plato and Aristotle, respectively.

The priest told CNA that in “all the dialogues that Plato wrote, he asked the question, 'was it necessary that Socrates be executed by the best city?',” which question he called “the foundation of political philosophy.”

Schall explained that a Christian reading Plato will be struck by the fact “that the death of Christ and the death of Socrates are paradigmatic to each other: … they are both in a trial, both are in the best cities of their time.”

“So the question” central to political philosophy is: “how is it possible that the two best men were killed by a trial?”

“That enigma of the similarity in their deaths has always been in my mind the link between reason and revelation, and why (the two deaths) must be considered both together, and uniquely in themselves.”

The deaths of these just men raise this problem, Fr. Schall explained: “the just man will be persecuted, and the unjust will have rewards in this life.”

“The question (of injustice in the world) is unanswerable without revelation, but revelation's idea of the resurrection of the body brings to completion several strands of thought.”

Christianity “says the resurrection of the body, once it is revealed to you by the source of intelligence, is understandable to you, if you are asking the right questions.”

Easter: The Significance of Sunday Morning

“She hears, upon that water without a sound, a voice that cries, ‘The tomb in Palestine is not the porch of spirits lingering. It is the grave of Jesus where he lay…’” Somber words. One should say, inappropriate words for Easter Sunday. They come from the American poet Wallace Stevens, and they are an excerpt from his poem “Sunday Morning.” The poem is about a loss and lack of faith in the meaning of not only Easter but every Sunday since then, for Sunday is enshrined with significance—not because it is a casual day of leisure but because it is the day when Christ rose from the dead. In Wallace Stevens’ poem, faith in what the event of Christ’s resurrection accomplished in history has been lost. The modern mind is content with the distractions of the news of the day, willing to accept that the frame of reference for life’s…

Pope Francis urges inmates to be at service to one another

Rome, Italy, Apr 18, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a prison in the suburbs of Rome Thursday, urging the inmates to reflect on how they can treat each other with servants’ hearts.

“It is true that in life there are problems: we quarrel among ourselves,” the pope said April 18, “but this must be a thing that passes, a passing thing, because in our hearts there must always be this love of serving the other, of being at the service of the other.”

“This is the rule of Jesus and the rule of the Gospel,” he said, “the rule of service, not of dominating, of doing evil, of humiliating others. Service.”

Recalling the moment when Jesus’ apostles were arguing among themselves about who was the most important, Pope Francis said: “Jesus took a child and said, ‘The child. If your heart is not a child’s heart, you will not be my disciples.’ The heart of a child – simple, humble, but a servant.”

Pope Francis said the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Velletri men’s prison, located about one hour south of the Vatican on the outskirts of Rome.

This was the fifth time in his pontificate Pope Francis celebrated Maundy Thursday Mass at a prison. The first was in 2013, just after becoming pope, when he visited the Casal del Marmo youth detention center.

Subsequent Maundy Thursday Masses have been held at the historic Regina Coeli prison, a center for asylum seekers, Rebibbia prison, and Paliano prison.

In 2014, the pope said Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled.

After his brief homily, Francis washed the feet of 12 prisoners: one Moroccan, one Ivorian, one Brazilian, and nine Italians. After washing the men’s feet, he kissed each one.

In his homily, the pope explained that Jesus’ gesture of washing the feet of his disciples was that of a servant, because at the time, streets were not paved, and people’s feet would get covered in dust.

Therefore, when they entered a house to visit or share a meal, a servant would wash the feet of the guest, he said. “And Jesus makes this gesture: he washes their feet. He makes the servant’s gesture: He, who had all the power, He, who was the Lord.”

Francis emphasized what happens next in the Gospel: that Jesus turns to his disciples and advises them to do the same to each other.

“In other words, serve one another, be brothers in service, not in ambition, as someone who dominates the other or who tramples on the other, no, be brothers in service,” he urged. “Do you need something, a service? I’ll do it for you.”

This is what real fraternity is like, he said, explaining that the Church asks the bishop to imitate Jesus in the washing of the feet every year on Holy Thursday.

This is because, he said, “the bishop is not the most important, but must be the best servant.”

 

Making Ready for the Holy: “A Man Will Meet You . . .“

A short fiction inspired by Luke 22:10. She guided the tiny mouse out of its corner with a gentle nudge of her broom, laughing as she teased it this way and that, helping the frightened creature find its way out the door, down the steps and into a street teeming with merchants hawking apples and herbs, with shoppers, and those hurrying to the temple. She didn’t mind mice very much, but not in this room, and not today. No space being made ready for Passover and the seder meal could be permitted faithless intruders, even helpless little grey ones with adorable pink noses. Moving on to gather dust and cobwebs from the corners, she began, all unconsciously, to hum under her breath—a joyful little melody learned from her mother, who would quietly sing it over and over in rhythm with her movements as she would grind flour: “O praise him,…

Robots and the Resurrection

The conversations happening today in the field of artificial intelligence, known as AI, are completely mind-blowing. Aside from AI robots using 3D printing to build bridges in the Netherlands or cars in Los Angeles with digital nervous systems, the crucial topic of discussion is the unknown potentialities which AI technology could precipitate. The central question which belabors not only scientists and engineers but also economists, politicians, and Christians is ultimately: “What will happen once AI is let out of the box?” Despite the wide variety of speculation within AI scholarship and social media, everyone agrees that the future of AI is a frightening yet seductive mystery from which no one can look away. “AI could be terrible, and it could be great,” remarked Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors. “Only one thing is for sure,” he says. “We will not control it.” The big idea within AI circles is the…

Notre Dame Cathedral: The Embodiment of the Christian Thing

After the devastating fires at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, we thought we would share a few of Bishop Barron’s personal and spiritual insights on this incredible masterpiece of architecture, beauty, and culture. May Our Lady intercede for the church of Paris, and for the universal Church, as we lament this loss. Bishop Barron on Cathedral of Notre Dame Rose Window Friends, as we grieve the fire still engulfing the Cathedral of Notre Dame, here's a short clip from a talk I recently gave on "Catholicism and Beauty" in which I reflect on my first visit to the Cathedral, gazing on its majestic rose window. Notre Dame, Our Lady, pray for us! Posted by Bishop Robert Barron on Monday, April 15, 2019  …

The Hollow Promises of Secular Humanism

In a lot of ways the modern world, to me, is a Christian heresy because many of these extraordinary ideas—the rights of man, the idea that everybody should be free—[these ideas from] Locke and Hume and all these people were informed by Christianity so their ideas didn’t simply come out of some kind of philosophical vacuum. —Sheikh Hamza Yusuf One of the lasting images I have from my repeated readings of C.S. Lewis is the metaphor he offers about the relationship between Christianity and the modern Western world: inoculation. According to Lewis, we can distance ourselves from Christianity because we constantly receive small doses of it. Enough Christian-ness makes us immune to Christianity. Take, for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted by the UN in the wake of World War II, the Declaration was a landmark international statement on the dignity of human life and…