Log in
    
Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

'Zita the Spacegirl'

As many parents know, all kids come into the world ready to draw, but as the years pass, each child reaches a point where they make a choice -- to draw or not to draw.
 
It was never a question for comic artist and arrow enthusiast Ben Hatke, who doodled his way through many a grade school and high school class, filling the margins with grand adventures.
 
His dad was an architect at Purdue University in Indiana and his mom took him and his two sisters to the library regularly. When the young boy discovered newspaper comics such as Calvin and Hobbes, it was love at first sight.
 
Now, many pounds of pencil lead and paper later, the Christendom College graduate and father of five has made a career out of "drawing in class." For nearly two decades, he has illustrated comics, Seton Home Study School textbooks, children's books and graphic novels.
 
The rights to his first graphic novel, "Zita the Spacegirl," was picked up recently by Fox for a movie, and there is hope that one day Hatke's brave characters will make it to the big screen.
 
"Zita the Spacegirl" chronicles the adventures of young Zita as she braves the unknown in pursuit of her friend who vanished after pushing a mysterious red button. The story, and subsequent trilogy, became a hit with readers who have become big fans of Hatke's work. What many of the fans don't know, however, is that Zita was not Hatke's idea.
 
"I feel like I'm always coming clean when I tell this story," said Hatke, as he sat next to his desk, covered with pens, paper, tiny action figures and a Madonna and Child statue.
 
"I stole the idea from this cute girl I met at Christendom College," he told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington. "She had done these series of short little comics when she was in high school about this future girl named Zita so I was like, 'I'm going to develop this character.'"
 
The admirer from Indiana gave Zita a new outfit and added a green cape. He then presented his crush with a whole Zita comic book.
 
"This plan of impressing this girl totally worked because she married me, and here I am with my five daughters; and Anna is still putting up with my crazy artistic ways," he said.
 
According to Hatke, Anna chose the name Zita after St. Zita, who was the patroness of the region where Anna's father grew up in a village in Italy.
 
"(St. Zita) is a beautiful saint because she is not dramatic. She was a serving girl to a wealthy family, and she was just known for being kind to poor people and baking really great bread and giving it away," Hatke said. "In a time period when many of the saints were priests or religious, she was a lay saint. She just lived a really good life."
 
From the very beginning of Hatke's career, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have been favorite storytelling influences. But while his style is similar to "The Chronicles of Narnia" by Lewis, Hatke tends to favor the storytelling philosophy of Tolkien, who was against making a story too message driven.
 
"The most important thing is that you are telling a good story, and if you are being honest in your good storytelling then what you think and feel and believe about the world will come out in that story and become apparent."
 
One thing that's become more apparent in Hatke's work is the influence of his family.
 
"I had a reason to look back in my stack of books, and it was shocking just how much of my interior life and psychology life comes out, especially in the Jack books," he said. In his latest graphic novel "Mighty Jack," released in 2016, the main character's house is identical to Hatke's, and the similarities do not stop there.
 
"I grew up with sisters. I now have daughters, and Jack also is surrounded by these different feminine characters who are pulling him in different directions," he explained. "I didn't even notice I was doing it until I read it in a review and then I was like, 'Oh man, this is me.'"
 
Anna and the girls play an important role as his first line of editorial support. The girls like to check on their dad at work and sometimes he will test a joke on them. If it goes over their heads he knows to try again.
 
His book "Little Robot" started out as a series of comic strips that he made during a time when he definitely had more important things to do. It turned into a book and won the 2016 Eisner Award for best publication for early readers.
 
"It has ended up being one of the books that is so important to me and it came because I was just 'goofing-off,'" he said.
 
The rising popularity of his books and the possible movie has reminded Hatke about the responsibility writers have to their young audience. "I'm so thankful and so grateful that I've wandered into this position that I really can share stories with people in this way," he said. "Having a voice and a young audience comes with a lot of responsibility, but also a lot of joy and a lot of excitement. The harder and more contentious times are, the more serious the role of the artist is in the world."
 
 
  • Published in Nation

Baby Charlie Gard

The national director of Priests for Life in New York welcomed a London court's decision allowing a U.S. doctor to go to England to examine a 10-month-old terminally ill British infant at the center of a medical and ethical debate.
 
The baby, Charlie Gard, was born with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness, brain damage and respiratory or liver failure; it is typically fatal.
 
The baby's parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, lost their legal battle to keep Charlie on life support and to then take him home to die. They also were denied permission to take the baby to the United States for evaluation and possible treatment. The couple had raised $1.8 million through crowdfunding to cover the cost.
 
Doctors at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital said transferring the baby to a U.S. hospital would prolong his suffering. On July 14, England's High Court ruled he could be examined by Dr. Michio Hirano of Columbia University.
 
"News that an American doctor with experience in treating Charlie's disease will travel to the U.K. to examine him is certainly welcome," Father Frank Pavone said.
 
News reports July 17 said Hirano, a neuorologist, had arrived in London and a second U.S. physician, who has not been identified, also will be allowed to examine the infant.
 
Hirano has treated other children suffering from the same extremely rare condition that Charlie has, and he has stated he thinks there's a 10 percent chance that Charlie's condition could improve.
 
"Ultimately, the decision about further treatment should be made by Charlie's parents in consultation with the doctors they choose, and not by any court," Father Pavone said in a statement.
 
"Where there's life, there's hope," the priest said, "and we will continue praying for Charlie and his parents."
 
Pope Francis called for respecting the wishes of a terminally ill child's parents to accompany and care for their child "until the end." A Vatican spokesman said July 2 that the pope has been following "with affection and emotion" the events concerning the baby.
 
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a July 6 statement that Charlie's parents "understand that the odds are against him, but like all great parents, they are not only willing but are anxious to take those odds and fight for the life of their child."
 
The parents "want to truly care for their child in the way only parents can. They love him in a way an institution -- a hospital and government -- cannot," Dannenfelser said.
 
She called it "dangerous utilitarianism" for Charlie's parents not being allowed to put their baby in the care of those who do not see such "parental love in action as an act of futility."
 
A petition urging the hospital to allow the baby to be taken to the United States was signed by more than 350,000 people.
 
  • Published in World

Bread and wine for the Eucharist

The Vatican recently published a circular letter, "On the bread and wine for the Eucharist," sent to diocesan bishops at the request of Pope Francis. Dated June 15 -- the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ -- the letter was made public by the Vatican July 8.
 
Because bread and wine for the Eucharist are no longer supplied just by religious communities, but "are also sold in supermarkets and other stores and even over the internet," bishops should set up guidelines, an oversight body and/or even a form of certification to help "remove any doubt about the validity of the matter for the Eucharist," the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments said.
 
In response to the Vatican statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Divine Worship has answered some of these frequently asked questions.
 
Q: Why is the Vatican worried about what makes up a Communion host? Doesn't it have more important things to focus on?
A: To say that the Eucharist is important to Catholics is an understatement; the bishops at the Second Vatican Council referred to it as the "source of and summit of the Christian life." On the night before he died, Jesus considered it important enough to spend time with his apostles at the Last Supper, telling them to continue to celebrate the Eucharist, instructing them to "do this in memory of me." So the Vatican is naturally interested in making sure that this instruction is carried out properly, and this requires not only a priest who says the correct words, but also the use of the correct material. Therefore, the Catholic Church has strict requirements for the bread and wine used at Mass.
 
Q: Has the validity of the materials used for the Eucharist been a problem in the United States?
A: The circular letter is addressed to the entire Church, to bishops all over the world. Circumstances are very different in various places around the globe, so it's difficult to know whether the Holy See's letter is a response to particular problems in certain places. It's important to note that the letter does not introduce any new teachings or regulations -- it simply reminds bishops of their important duty to ensure that the correct materials are used in the celebration of the Mass. We're fortunate in our country, insofar as it's not difficult to find bread and wine that are clearly suitable for the Mass.
 
Q: Concerning low-gluten hosts, how much gluten is in them? Are they safe for someone with celiac disease?
A: The gluten content in low-gluten hosts can vary by producer, but they typically contain less than 0.32 percent gluten. Foods with less than 20 parts per million gluten can be marketed as "gluten-free," and some low-gluten hosts -- while containing enough gluten to satisfy the Church's requirements for Mass -- would even fall into that category. The amount of gluten present in low-gluten hosts is considered safe for the vast majority of people with gluten-related health difficulties.
 
Q: For someone who does not want any exposure to gluten, the Church says that Communion may be received under the species of wine alone. What happens if a diocese does not offer Communion under both species?
A: Parishes are more than willing to make special arrangements to assist people who need to receive the Precious Blood instead of the host for medical reasons, even if the parish doesn't normally offer Communion under both kinds. It can take a little advanced planning to organize the procedures, but pastors are happy to do this. If for some reason a person in this situation runs into difficulties at the parish level, he or she should contact the bishop's office for assistance.
 
Q: What about someone, especially a priest, who has alcoholism? Is grape juice allowed?
A: Grape juice is not allowed for the Catholic Mass, but the use of "mustum" can be permitted. Mustum is a kind of wine that has an extremely low alcohol content. It's made by beginning the fermentation process in grape juice, but then suspending the process such that the alcohol content generally remains below 1 percent, far lower than the levels found in most table wines.
 
Q: I understand other faiths have gluten-free substitutes. With the Church's insistence on the presence of wheat in the Communion wafer, has this caused any problems in ecumenical dialogue?
A: No, this has not been an issue in ecumenical dialogue.
 
Q: Who do I talk with if these issues are a concern of mine? Must my pastor accommodate my needs?
A: Someone who suffers in this way should talk to his or her pastor. Naturally, if someone arrives with this kind of request at the last second before Mass is set to begin, the pastor might not be able to accommodate his or her needs. But if someone reaches out in a reasonable manner, pastors are happy to help. Again, if someone runs into difficulties in this regard, he or she should contact the bishop's office for assistance. One of the greatest duties and privileges of bishops and priests is making the Eucharist available to the Catholic faithful, and they do their best to make this possible.
 
  • Published in Nation

Violent incidents involving controversial speakers

In the wake of several violent incidents involving controversial speakers at universities this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing June 20 on free speech on college campuses.
 
Earlier this year in Vermont, Middlebury College student protesters shut down a talk by controversial conservative social scientist Charles Murray and injured a Middlebury professor who was with him.
 
This issue of violent incidents involving controversial speakers at universities also prompted Catholic News Service to interview several Catholic observers and leaders in higher education who emphasized the importance of civility and dialogue in a time of violence and intolerance.
 
The hearing was titled "Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses" and centered on the topics of free speech, intellectual freedom and the dangers they face on college campuses. Several people gave testimony, including two current students.
 
Zachary R. Wood, a senior at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., described his efforts to invite speakers who advocate challenging or controversial views in his work as president of Uncomfortable Learning at Williams College. Often his efforts were met with verbal attacks and violent language.
 
"I adamantly believe that students should be encouraged to engage with people and ideas they vehemently disagree with," Wood said in his written testimony.
 
Wood warned of the dangers of a campus that is an echo chamber, in which one view dominates and dictates the intellectual climate of the university.
 
Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran is no stranger to higher education. He is president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, based in Washington, and before that was at Regis University in Denver for 40 years, serving as president the last 19 years of his tenure there.
 
Tracing the tradition of civility in education from Aristotle and Cicero's classical works through Cardinal John Henry Newman's "Idea of a University," Father Sheeran explained that Aristotle's conception of man as a social creature complements Cardinal Newman's conception of a gentleman as one who never inflicts pain upon another. In the last half of the 20th century, however, Father Sheeran described a diverging trend in conduct.
 
"Thanks, I think, to the media and the internet, it has become OK to exaggerate, to lie, to insult, to provoke, all justified under free speech," Father Sheeran told CNS in a phone interview.
 
To counter this, Father Sheeran advocates for a return to the civility of tradition.
"Universities need to teach students the tradition that has been destroyed over the period since the 20th Century," Father Sheeran said. "Faculty need to model civility in the classroom, not to belittle approaches to their academic discipline that they disagree with."
 
Gerard Powers, director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies for the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, also emphasized the importance of listening to opinions that may contradict one's own and acknowledged the problem of echo chambers.
 
"You look for the facts that enforce your beliefs," Powers told CNS in a phone interview.
 
"I think all of us have a problem with being in our little echo chambers and silos," said Powers, who also is coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network based at Notre Dame.
 
Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, agreed. "I don't think it's healthy, honestly, to just be engaged with people who think like you, or who only believe in what you believe in," the Sister of Notre Dame de Namur told CNS. "I think that's myopic."
 
To escape these echo chambers, Powers proposes both having confidence in one's own moral values and being willing to dialogue with those with whom one disagrees.
 
"It's a combination of rootedness, a deep sense of who you are and what you believe in, your own moral compass, as well as a cultivation of your own humility," Powers said.
 
John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, joked that people should delete their friends on Facebook in order to exit their echo chambers. Carr further stressed the universal nature of Catholicism, indicating that being an active member of the Church should involve an open-minded approach to dialogue.
 
"We're called to renew the Earth, to change society, and I don't think you do that from an island," Carr told CNS.
 
It is important, Carr said, to try to anticipate the concerns that others hold rather than giving into the temptation to view them as bigoted, dangerous or disrespectful.

"That's the antithesis of what a college education and a college campus could be," Carr said.
 
 
 
  • Published in Nation
Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal