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Bishops in Illinois plan to work with attorney general on sex abuse inquiry

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 13:55

Springfield, Ill., Aug 27, 2018 / 11:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Several Illinois bishops have indicated their desire to discuss with the state attorney general their dioceses' sexual abuse policies, noting the steps they have taken against clergy misconduct.

Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan said Aug. 23 that the Church “has a moral obligation to provide its parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois.”

She indicated that the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sex abuse of minors identified “at least seven priests with connections to Illinois,” and that the Archdiocese of Chicago had already agreed to meet with her.

“I plan to reach out to the other dioceses in Illinois to have the same conversation and expect the bishops will agree and cooperate fully. If not, I will work with states' attorneys and law enforcement throughout Illinois to investigate,” Madigan wrote.

The following day, the Diocese of Rockford stated: “We look forward to discussing with the Attorney General’s office the Diocese’s sexual abuse policies and procedures.”

The diocese added that it has had policies for the proper handling of reports of sexual abuse since 1987, and that these are compliant “with the requirements of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, including notifying law enforcement and screening and training of our clergy, employees and volunteers, and the training of minors in the dignity of their bodies and how to resist and report inappropriate conduct. We have worked cooperatively with our law enforcement officials and the State’s Attorneys’ offices.”

The Rockford diocese also encouraged victims of sexual abuse by clerics, religious, or laity affiliated with the local Church to contact police and its own victims abuse hotline.

Also on Aug. 24, the Diocese of Joliet said, “we look forward to assisting the Attorney General’s office in answering questions about our policies and procedures regarding clergy misconduct with minors.”

The Joliet diocese noted its adoption of the policies of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and that since the charter's implementation in 2002, it “has been audited annually by a third party for our compliance with the Charter and has passed each year.”

It said it reports “all allegations of sexual abuse by clergy or other employees to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and State’s Attorney’s Offices,” and provided a link to its office for youth protection.

“The Diocese of Joliet is pleased to be a partner with state law enforcement officials to make every available effort to protect young people,” the local Church stated.

And Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois said Aug. 25 that “I certainly agree to speak with [Madigan] and pledge our diocese’s full cooperation with law enforcement officials to make every available effort to protect our people.”

“We welcome this opportunity to review the firm commitments we have made and the concrete steps we have taken to protect against clergy misconduct in our diocese.”

He said, “We are also willing to consider any additional actions that would be helpful in making our safe environment program more effective.”

Bishop Paprocki also provided information about the diocese's safe environment program and how to report abuse.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report which occasioned Madigan's statement was drafted by the office of the Pennsylvania attorney general. The report followed an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades in six of the state's dioceses. It identified more than 300 priests accused of abusing more than 1,000 victims.

The report's release has led to calls for similar investigations in other states.

The Missouri attorney general does not have the authority to convene a like grand jury, but the Archbishop of St. Louis nevertheless invited the state's attorney general Aug. 23 to conduct an inspection of its files related to allegations of sexual abuse and to produce an independent report.

A lawyer who has represented clerical sex abuse victims in Minnesota has called for a grand jury to investigate that state's dioceses.

After 95 years, NY rules end Catholic adoption and foster services in Buffalo

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 06:01

Buffalo, N.Y., Aug 27, 2018 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Adoption and foster services through Catholic Charities of Buffalo are ending because state rules do not allow the agency to maintain its practice of only placing children in homes with a mother and a father.

“Because Catholic Charities cannot simultaneously comply with state regulations and conform to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the nature of marriage, Catholic Charities will discontinue foster care and adoption services,” Catholic Charities of Buffalo said Aug. 23.

The Catholic Charities affiliate said it cannot follow state requirements that require contracting agencies to allow same-sex couples to foster and adopt children. It cited Catholic teaching recognizing marriage as a union of a woman and a man.

Adoption services were one of the first services provided by Catholic Charities when it was founded almost 95 years ago.

“It is with deep sadness we acknowledge that the legacy of the high quality, exceptional services which our staff provides to children and families through foster care and adoption will be lost,” said Dennis C. Walczyk, CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo.

At present the affiliate has 34 children in foster care in 24 of its 55 certified foster homes. These children will stay in these homes, but responsibility for them will eventually pass to another agency.

Monica Mahaffey, a spokeswoman for the New York Office of Children and Family Services, said state law is clear.

“Discrimination of any kind is illegal and in this case (Children and Family Services) will vigorously enforce the laws designed to protect the rights of children and same sex couples,” Mahaffey added.

“There is no place for providers that choose not to follow the law,” she said, according to the Buffalo News.

On average, Catholic Charities helps arrange adoptions for five children per year, mostly those who are released from foster care for adoption.

“We’re a Catholic organization, so we have to practice what we do consistent with the teaching of the Church,” Walczyk said.

The Catholic Charities CEO said the affiliate’s decision was prompted by a same-sex couple’s recent application to become adoptive foster parents.

Catholic Charities’ contract with the Erie County Department of Social Services expires in March 2019.

The affiliate is working with New York state and Erie County officials to support “a smooth transition for children in foster care and foster parents” and also support those who have applied to provide foster care or adoption, its statement said.

Sister Mary McCarrick, Catholic Charities diocesan director, told the Buffalo News that Catholic teaching on marriage is commonly known and it is important for children to have both a mother and a father.

Catholic adoption and foster care agencies in several states have shut down after anti-discrimination laws or funding restrictions barred participation from agencies that place children only with married mothers and fathers.

The Buffalo announcement cited the March 2006 end of adoption services for Catholic Charities of Boston and the end of adoption services of Catholic Charities affiliates in Illinois in November 2011.

Catholic Family Center in Rochester, which is a division of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester, is reviewing its own policies following the decision in Buffalo, the Rochester ABC affiliate WHAM reports.


Former nunciature official: 'Vigano said the truth'

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 00:17

Washington D.C., Aug 26, 2018 / 10:17 pm (CNA).- Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, the former first counsellor at the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C., has said that the former nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, told “the truth” in his explosive statement released to the press on Aug. 25.

The 11-page document contains specific allegations that senior bishops and cardinals have been aware of the allegations of sexual abuse against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick for more than a decade. Archbishop Viganò also states states that, in either 2009 or 2010, Pope Benedict XVI imposed sanctions on McCarrick “similar to those now imposed upon him by Pope Francis” and that McCarrick was forbidden from travelling and speaking in public.

In his statement, Viganò says that these were communicated to McCarrick in a stormy meeting at the nunciature in Washington D.C. by then-nuncio Pietro Sambi. Viganò directly cites Msgr. Lantheaume as having told him about the encounter, following his arrival in D.C to replace Sambi as nuncio in 2011.

“Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, then first Counsellor of the Nunciature in Washington and Chargé d'Affaires ad interim after the unexpected death of Nuncio Sambi in Baltimore, told me when I arrived in Washington —  and he is ready to testify to it —  about a stormy conversation, lasting over an hour, that Nuncio Sambi had with Cardinal McCarrick whom he had summoned to the  Nunciature. Monsignor Lantheaume told me that ‘the Nuncio’s voice could be heard all the way out in the corridor.’”
CNA contacted Msgr. Lantheaume and requested an interview with him to discuss the account attributed to him by Archbishop Viganò. Lantheaume, who has now left the Vatican diplomatic corps and serves in priestly ministry in France, declined to give an interview, and said he had no intentions of speaking further on the matter.

“Viganò said the truth. That’s all,” he wrote to CNA.

The full text of Viganò’s statement lists numerous senior curial cardinals, during the last three pontificates, as being aware of McCarrick’s alleged predatory behavior but either failing to act, or in some cases deliberately acting to cover-up McCarrick’s alleged crimes.

The former nuncio names three different Vatican Secretaries of State - Cardinals Angelo Sodano, Tarcissio Bertone, and Pietro Parolin - as having failed to curtail McCarrick’s behavior, or positively acting to support him.

“Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current Secretary of State, was also complicit in covering up the misdeeds of McCarrick who had, after the election of Pope Francis, boasted openly of his travels and missions to various continents,” Viganò wrote.

Most controversially, Archbishop Viganò alleges that Pope Francis acted to lift the restrictions on McCarrick shortly after his election as pope, in 2013.

Viganò says that he met McCarrick in June 2013 and was told by the then-cardinal, “The pope received me yesterday, tomorrow I am going to China.” In a subsequent meeting with Francis, Viganò says he warned the pope about the long list of allegations against McCarrick but that the Holy Father did not respond.

Archbishop McCarrick is believed to still be residing within the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., under conditions of “prayer, penance, and seclusion” imposed by Pope Francis.


How seminaries help men discern the call to chaste celibacy

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 18:01

Denver, Colo., Aug 26, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When seminaries aim to form Catholic men to live a chaste, celibate life, it’s a matter of both the right habits and the right perspective: choosing celibacy as a way to show God’s love.

“Celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God is a gift and as Scripture says, not all can accept this teaching, just as not all are called to live it out,” Dr. Christina Lynch, director of psychological services at the Archdiocese of Denver’s St. John Vianney Seminary, told CNA. “Seminary formation is a place of discerning this call and capacity to live it out. The man must discern with his spiritual director if he is called and the Church must also discern if she is calling this man to live this life.”

Father James Mason, President-Rector of the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, reflected on celibacy from the perspective of a priest.

“When someone asks me about celibacy and the priesthood my first response is quite simple: Jesus. My desire to conform myself completely to Jesus and to give my life as he did as a sacrifice for his bride the Church,” he told CNA.

In the academic year 2017-2018, over 3,300 seminarians in the US were enrolled in post-baccalaureate studies, also known as the theologate, for both diocesan and religious orders. There were just under 1,300 college-level seminarians, and 350 enrolled in the three remaining high school seminary programs, according to figures from the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

Father Paul Hoesing, who serves as Kenrick-Glennon Seminary’s dean of seminarians and human formation director, told CNA that celibacy is “choosing to be unmarried,” and there are good and bad reasons for making such a choice.

“Some may choose celibacy for the bad reason of disdaining or avoiding marriage,” he said. “The virtue of chastity does not necessarily accompany that choice.”

Citing Christ's words, Hoesing said that celibacy is “for the sake of the kingdom.” It is a response to God’s sacrificial, enduring love.

“The chaste celibate says: ‘I want to give my life as a gift.’ Both the chaste celibate and the chaste couple can say ‘This is my body given for you’ with undivided and very joyful hearts,” Hoesing said.

“The chaste celibate declares that God’s love is as concrete and satisfying as living a faithful married life. Moreover, because the chaste celibate and the married couple are choosing their way of life as a personal response to God’s love, there is no competition. “

Both celibacy and marriage “make God’s love as evident and fruitful ‘on earth as it is in heaven’,” he said. “Whether married or single, chastity ensures that our sexuality is deeply experienced as a gift and way of communicating free, total and faithful love.”

Lynch said that all people are called to live chastely.

“Living a chaste life enables the person to right order their sexual desires and more fully receive and give the gift of love,” she said. “God created man and woman to live chastely which means to be a self-gift to each other and not use each other for gratification.”

Lynch said Denver’s St. John Vianney Seminary has a “very integrated approach in forming men.”

“We have a program called ‘Formation in Priestly Identity’ that not only addresses living a chaste celibate life but helps form men to be healthy persons who will flourish in life no matter their calling, whether marriage or priesthood,” she said. “The program intentionally addresses many tough issues, and approaches each topic as a team approach incorporating each area of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral.”

“We begin by understanding what authentic manhood looks like and how one can grow into an authentic man given the distractions in today’s culture,” she said, adding, “chastity and celibacy are counter-cultural.”

The dangers of seminary life include thinking that men can “try to live as sexual beings,” rather than integrating their sexuality into their whole person, Lynch said. This comes amid other trends including excessive use of social media, lack of “real human contact” in face-to-face relationships, and “lack of involvement in communal settings.”

There are also some positive trends.

“Sexual psychology is becoming more aware of the addictive quality of certain sexual behaviors such as pornography, masturbation, and other online relationships,” said Lynch. “There is more of a trend to work on saving marriages rather than divorce.”

Hoesing said lay Christians can provide a model for seminarian formation.

“The healthy, holy, joy-filled married man provides a standard,” he said, resulting in questions like “Could I see this seminarian in a vibrant, life-giving marriage? Does the seminarian enjoy healthy friendships with married men? Does he have real friendships of any depth or maturity at all?”

He saw some danger in a seminary formation that creates a “bubble” between seminarians and families and couples who are developing their vocation. A seminary formation that is too “long and protective” might enable an unrealistic approach to parish life, making some seminarians, priests, and bishops seem removed from “real accountability and responsibility.”

Hoesing warned against an erroneous view of celibacy which sees it as simply a “bachelorhood” in which “marriage was never really considered or an option through circumstances or choice.”

In this case “celibacy is passively endured or drifted into, because marriage may be asking too much of the man’s personality or generosity,” he summarized. In other ways, celibacy is wrongly seen as “simply a discipline” that some rationalize by saying, “The Church requires it, so I imagine God can make it possible.”

Stresses on the “useful” or “practical” effects of celibacy can be “rationalizations for the painful absence of married life.” In Hoesing’s view, these include arguments that celibacy makes one better available to serve God’s people, that celibacy protects potential spouses and children from the difficulties of parish leadership, and that celibacy provides economic efficiencies and avoids practical difficulties for the Church.

“Availability, mobility, and efficiency do not mean intimacy,” he said. “Such negative justifications terminate in a kind of deadly disdain or ignorance for how to receive intimacy from God and others in chaste friendship.”

These errors, whether self-referential or pragmatic, have consequences, said Hoesing, who declared, “chastity is the first victim in the false views of celibacy.” These rationalizations will not promote “the integration of a man’s sexuality.”

Taking a too-practical approach to celibacy sees sexuality as something to be managed, which in turn fosters a false sense of self-reliance. Viewing sexuality as problematic risks playing into self-pity, while viewing it as “simply dangerous” traps a man into self-protection.

Church movements geared towards “intentional community living” or regular faith sharing are an aid to human formation, according to Hoesing.

“When young people learn how to share their faith in a small group or community, they can learn the art of living chastity,” he said. “The virtues, especially the chastity which governs our relational gifts, are best learned with others in a community.”

“Friendship is the school of virtue and chastity in particular,” he said. “While I may have a private life with rich friendships, I cannot have a secret life and real friendships. I will not have shared my heart. Too many unchaste people live in the misery of a self-made aloneness.”

The revival of sex abuse scandals has renewed concerns about seminary life. A Pennsylvania grand jury report, citing records from six diocese, said there were credible accusations against 300 priests for the sexual molestation, groping or rape of 1,000 minors in cases going back seven decades.

In June a New York archdiocesan board ruled credible a claim that Archbishop emeritus Theodore McCarrick of Washington had sexually abused a minor as a priest in the archdiocese. That report led to other accusations of sexual misconduct, including abuse of seminarians and young priests. Two New Jersey dioceses McCarrick had led agreed to make legal settlements in 2005 and 2007 with two men who said they had been sexually assaulted by McCarrick.

McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in late July, the first American cardinal to do so.

Lynch said a failure of chastity is one reason for the sex abuse crisis, but not the sole reason.

“Abusing another person is the result of being an underdeveloped personality, a disordered personality, it is the lack of development in emotional maturity, stunted in nature,” she said.

For Hoesing, the sex abuse crisis is “a terrific failure of faith.” He suggested the crisis in the Church resulted from “a perfect storm of factors,” including the sexual revolution, systemic fearfulness, and low accountability.

Churches tended to engage in worldly self-protection, seeking to avoid scandal, and ended up brushing off the victims, rather than taking a gospel approach. Legal advice at the time included a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement, which was intended to protect victims but ended up protecting abusers, he said. Abusers were sent to psychological facilities and repeatedly “treated and released.”

There is also the problem of dissenting theologians who, while rejecting abuse, “still blindly excuse or remain complicit in relativistic immorality,” Hoesing charged.

“Bad theology results in bad pastoral practices, and these can become a playground for perpetrating greater deviance,” he said.

Wuerl denies he was informed of Vatican restrictions on McCarrick

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 00:01

Washington D.C., Aug 25, 2018 / 10:01 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington has denied a report that he was informed about restrictions apparently placed by the Vatican upon his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

“Cardinal Wuerl did not receive documentation or information for the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Vigano,” the cardinal’s spokesman, Ed McFadden, told CNA.

On Aug. 25, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016, released a “testimony,” alleging that in 2009 or 2010, after receiving reports of habitual sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick, Pope Benedict XVI had ordered that “the Cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living, he was forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.”

Vigano wrote it was “absolutely unthinkable” that Archbishop Pietro Sambi, nuncio at the time the restrictions were imposed, would not have informed Wuerl about the restrictions placed upon McCarrick, who was living in Washington at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary.

“I myself brought up the subject with Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions, and I certainly didn’t need to go into detail because it was immediately clear to me that he was fully aware of it,” Vigano added. The archbishop mentioned one specific interaction, in which he raised with Wuerl a vocations promotional advertisement inviting young men to meet with McCarrick. Wuerl, he said, immediately said he would cancel the ad.

Wuerl does not dispute that he discussed with the archbishop a vocational promotion. However, according to McFadden, “Archbishop Vigano presumed that Wuerl had specific information that Wuerl did not have.”

While McCarrick reportedly did move from Redemptoris Mater Seminary in 2009 or 2010, McFadden said that “Cardinal Wuerl categorically denies that he was ever provided any information regarding the reasons for Cardinal McCarrick’s exit for the Redemptoris Mater Seminrary.”

A source close to the cardinal told CNA that Wuerl had the impression some issues had arisen when McCarrick left the seminary, but neither McCarrick nor the apostolic nuncio spoke with him about the matter.

Vigano offered a different account: “Cardinal Wuerl, well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict, transgressing the Pope’s order, also allowed him to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C. In doing so, he put other seminarians at risk.”

McCarrick was removed from ministry on June 20, after the Archdiocese of New York deemed credible an allegation that he had serially sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s. Since that time, allegations have been made that McCarrick serially sexually abused at least one other teenage boy, and that he sexually coerced and assaulted young priests and seminarians during his decades of priestly and episcopal ministry. On July 28, McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals was accepted, and he awaits a Vatican trial.

A source close to McCarrick’s case told CNA that when Wuerl was informed that McCarrick was being investigated for an allegation of sexual abuse, he requested that McCarrick withdraw from public ministry, and McCarrick refused. The source said that Wuerl was not permitted by canon law to forbid McCarrick from exercising ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, and that McCarrick has also refused requests from other Church leaders to avoid travel or ministry in their dioceses.

Archbishop Vigano’s “testimony” said that Wuerl’s “recent statements that he knew nothing about it, even though at first he cunningly referred to compensation for the two victims, are absolutely laughable. The Cardinal lies shamelessly.”

Vigano’s missive said that McCarrick has exercised influence over Vatican figures for decades, saying that the archbishop has had particular influence over Pope Francis. He said that McCarrick influenced several of the pope’s recent episcopal appointments, among them the 2014 appointment of Cardinal Blase Cupich to the Archdiocese of Chicago and the 2016 appointment of Cardinal Joseph Tobin to the Archdiocese of Newark.

The archbishop’s letter said that “Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses, and resign along with all of them.”

The Vatican has not yet responded to Vigano’s testimony.

World Youth Day Cross and Marian Icon tour US

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 18:09

Washington D.C., Aug 25, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has organized a tour of of the official World Youth Day Cross and Marian Icon to mark the 25th anniversary of the World Youth Day which was held in Denver.

“Each of the five locations will feature special events and liturgical celebrations in commemoration of this historic journey,” according an Aug. 23 statement from the USCCB.

The Aug. 19-27 tour includes stops in Chicago, Miami, Houston, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

“We want women and men of all ages to come out and encounter these important symbols of faith when they are here in our country," said Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, who serves as the USCCB's chief liaison for World Youth Day.

“In addition to those preparing to go to Panamá, we hope that young people and young adults who are unable to travel to World Youth Day next year will be part of these local celebrations. We also hope that veterans of past World Youth Days, including those who went to Denver in 1993, will have a chance to join us along the way.”

From the US, the World Youth Day Cross and Marian Icon will go to Panama in advance of the January 2019 World Youth Day being held there.

The USCCB stated that “at least ten U.S. bishops will be part of the pilgrimage”, listing Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Archbishop Wenski of Miami, Bishop Caggiano, Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond, Auxiliary Bishop Roy Campbell of Washington, Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville-Rodriguez of Washington, Auxiliary Bishop George Rassas of Chicago, Auxiliary Bishop George Sheltz of Galveston-Houston, and Auxiliary Bishop Marc Trudeau of Los Angeles.

Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama will be present at the events in Miami and Washington, D.C.

Senate amendment to defund Planned Parenthood fails

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 21:00

Washington D.C., Aug 24, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Senate on Thursday rejected a measure that would have blocked federal government funding to Planned Parenthood. The amendment, proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), was defeated 45-48, needing 60 votes to pass.


The amendment was proposed for attachment to an appropriations bill funding the department of Labor and Health and Human Services. Speaking after the vote, Paul said that the result showed many Republican lawmakers prioritized increased government spending over life issues.


“While I am disappointed in the outcome of this vote, I will never apologize for standing up for life. If it took exposing the preference of so many in my own party to continue reckless spending over protecting the innocent, it was a fight worth having,” the senator said.


Paul had previously blamed GOP leadership for filling up slots for potential amendments to the appropriations bill with empty placeholders in order to keep his proposal from making it into the final version. He said that they did so out of fears that an attempt to defund the controversial abortion provider could hold up other spending increases contained in the bill.


“One of the top priorities for a Republican Congress that professes pro-life values on the campaign trail should be to stop taxpayer funding for abortion providers,” the senator said when announcing the amendment. “This is our chance to turn our words into action, stand up for the sanctity of life, and speak out for the most innocent among us that have no voice.”


Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska both voted against the amendment and won public praise from Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens for “standing up and protecting access” to abortion.


While Paul blamed Republicans for the amendment’s failure, several Democrat senators facing closely contested reelection battles also voted against it.


Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana are all facing serious challenges in November and voted against Paul’s amendment.


The Democratic Party has become increasingly insistent on strong pro-abortion credentials for candidates. A committee of McCaskill’s own Missouri Democratic Party voted to remove language acknowledging different views of abortion from their party platform earlier this month, and Senator Manchin, though previously considered to be a pro-life Democrat, has been increasingly public in his support for Planned Parenthood and abortion.


Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said that the senate vote would have consequences in the mid-term election in November.


“Vulnerable Democratic Senators have betrayed their constituents yet again by voting to fund abortion giant Planned Parenthood, and will be held accountable at the ballot box,” she said.

Who might follow Cardinal Wuerl in DC?

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 18:56

Washington D.C., Aug 24, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- In the ten days since the publication of an Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse, newspapers around the country have run op-eds calling for Cardinal Donald Wuerl to resign as Archbishop of Washington.

His hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, even ran a guest column dubbing Wuerl the “con man in the cardinal’s cap.” Technically, of course, Wuerl resigned from his post in 2015, and is now only waiting for Pope Francis to accept that resignation. But, until recently, many expected Wuerl to stay in his post until 2020 or close to it. The popular movement calling for his resignation is a surprise even for many of those who watch episcopal appointments closely.

It was rumored last week that Wuerl would announce that his resignation had been accepted at an Aug. 20 meeting of his priests’ council. When that didn’t happen, rumors began to swirl that Wuerl’s tenure would come to an end Aug. 24, or that it would be announced Aug. 27.

Multiple sources close to the cardinal have told CNA that they have gotten no word that Wuerl’s resignation will be accepted imminently, and a few say that Wuerl could still be Archbishop of Washington when the U.S. bishops convene in November. But whenever it happens, it seems likely that Wuerl will leave his post in Washington sometime soon.

As the pope considers when to accept Wuerl’s resignation, he must also decide who should replace the cardinal as Archbishop of Washington.

The choice of Wuerl’s successor will be significant. In fact, the decision will likely set the tone for the Church’s ongoing response to the crisis that began June 20, when the Archdiocese of New York announced it had deemed credible an allegation that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick sexually abused a teenager in the 1970s.

There are three prongs to the present crisis.

The first is that occasioned by McCarrick’s situation directly- the concern that a man alleged to have sexually coerced and abused two minors and several seminarians and priests was able to occupy prominent positions of ecclesial responsibility without intervention by Church authorities, even after he was the subject of legal settlements negotiated by dioceses in New Jersey. That concern was exacerbated by allegations raised by Pennsylvania’s grand jury report, which alleged that Wuerl, among others, did not sufficiently address or disclose allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct on the part of priests.

The second prong is the perception, which has been expressed broadly, that bishops have not sufficiently taken responsibility for the Church’s failure to act appropriately when faced with some allegations or evidence of sexual abuse or coercion; that they have called for new policies or procedures without sufficiently understanding the disappointment experienced by Catholics, or the desire for sincere expressions of contrition, even on behalf of bishops now retired or dead, and evidence, not of a policy solution, but of a moral resolve for change- what might be called a “firm purpose of amendment.”

The third prong is the emerging concern about sexual immorality among clerics and seminarians- the perception that, as one bishop put it, that there is a “homosexual subculture” among Catholic clerics, and that institutional tolerance for licentiousness has enabled would-be abusers or the sexually coercive to go unnoticed and unpunished. The idea that there is a decided “homosexual subculture” among priests and bishops is controversial- it is not universally held, and it is an idea that warrants further investigation- but it has become a focal point of attention in recent weeks.

The next Archbishop of Washington will be expected, fairly or not, to lead the charge in addressing those concerns, because he will be successor to Wuerl and McCarrick, and because he will be seen to have a mandate from Pope Francis to lead the Church in the United States out of this crisis.

The selection process for the appointment of a new bishop generally involves a country’s apostolic nuncio- the pope’s representative in civil and ecclesiastical affairs- along with the outgoing bishop of a diocese, the metropolitan archbishop of a region, the country’s cardinals, and finally, the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops and the pope himself.

Identifying episcopal candidates is usually coordinated by the apostolic nuncio, who consults with bishops and other Catholic leaders when an appointment is pending, vets names, and prepares reports to be sent to the Congregation for Bishops. He usually gives special significance to the opinion of an outgoing bishop, and notes any other particular considerations.

When he has sent recommendations to the Vatican, they are considered by the members of the Congregation for Bishops, who meet regularly to consider open or soon-to-be open sees, and who prepare the terna, or list, of three candidates for each see, which is then sent to the pope for selection. Because the cardinal members of the congregation cannot be expected to know or understand every part of the world, members generally have the most significant influence on the nominations coming from their part of the world.  

In ordinary times, Wuerl would be expected to play an outsize role in the appointment of his successor. He is the metropolitan archbishop of his ecclesiastical province, a cardinal, and one of two American members of the Congregation for Bishops, along with Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

But these are not ordinary times. It is not clear how much influence Wuerl will wield with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., or with the Congregation for Bishops itself. Sources in Rome and Washington say that Wuerl expects to play a significant role in the appointment of his successor, but there is no way of knowing how this will play out. If Wuerl’s role in the selection is limited, this will likely mean that Cupich, as the other American on the Congregation for Bishops, will play a more significant role than he otherwise might have, or that Pope Francis will make a personal selection based on some other criteria or some other consultation.

There has been speculation about who will succeed Wuerl since he submitted his resignation in 2015. Though this summer seems to have changed a great deal, at least in public perception, some of those who have been rumored to follow the cardinal are still likely in consideration, along with some other possibilities.

Bishop George Murry, SJ, has been long-rumored as among Wuerl’s own top choices for the Washington job. Murry, the Bishop of Youngstown, has a doctorate in history from George Washington University in DC, and has worked in Washington for other stints. Murry served a term as secretary to the USCCB, was personally appointed by Pope Francis to attend the 2015 Synod on the Family, and was appointed to chair a USCCB committee on racism established shortly after the 2017 Charlottesville riot.

In April 2018, however, Murry announced that he had been diagnosed with acute leukemia. He reports that the treatment is going well, but he reported beginning a third round of chemotherapy in mid-August, and, even if he had been seriously considered, it is likely that his health would not now permit him to take on the demanding job.

For almost a year, there has been a great deal of speculation that Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego would succeed Wuerl in Washington; a Vatican official told CNA last October that McElroy’s appointment was a strong possibility. McElroy is a Harvard graduate, and a historian with an interest in the Jesuit John Courtney Murray; he was a secretary, and later vicar general, to the late Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco, before becoming an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco and then Bishop of San Diego in 2015.

McElroy is seen to be an outspoken, politically and theologically progressive bishop who is often said to represent some of Pope Francis’ intellectual currents. He is also said to be well regarded by Cardinal Blase Cupich, who was a longtime friend of McElroy’s friend and mentor, Archbishop Quinn.

McElroy, however, has recently faced controversy, after it was revealed that he was informed by psychotherapist Richard Sipe in 2016 of allegations that McCarrick was involved in sexually immoral behavior with seminarians. While McElroy said recently that he did not find Sipe to be credible, the controversy surrounding the report would likely be exacerbated if he were appointed to succeed Wuerl. Church watcher Rocco Palmo, for example, tweeted Aug. 10 that the revelation of Sipe’s report had “effectively imploded” the possibility that McElroy would be appointed to Washington.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington has also been among those rumored to be in consideration for the position. Coyne, originally a priest of Boston and a trained liturgist, became the Archdiocese of Boston’s spokesman in 2002, as it grappled with the fallout of the Boston Globe’s reporting of sexual abuse in that diocese. Coyne became an auxiliary bishop in Indianapolis in 2011, and led that diocese as apostolic administrator after the early retirement of Archbishop Daniel Buechlein. In 2014 he was appointed to lead Vermont’s sole Catholic diocese. Coyne was elected to a term as the USCCB’s communications committee chairman in 2014, which will conclude in November, and has often spoken in alignment with Cupich during USCCB’s deliberations. While those factors seem to favor the likelihood of his appointment, in question is whether Coyne’s close work and association with Cardinal Bernard Law, who left Boston in disgrace, would be considered a hindrance to his appointment in this sensitive environment.

Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has also been among those reported to be favored by Wuerl for the position. Wuerl himself served briefly as a kind of super-auxiliary in Seattle before being appointed Bishop of Pittsburgh; he was entrusted with broad swathes of governance in the diocese during the tumultuous period overseen by controversial Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. Sartain, regarded as doctrinally orthodox and pastorally gifted, served a term as secretary to the USCCB, and was appointed in 2012 to oversee an apostolic visitation for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization for many religious communities of women in the U.S. He is generally regarded as having handled that difficult task with aplomb, and forming positive relationships on all sides of an investigation, that, but for his involvement, might have been considerably more tense.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, who now serves as USCCB secretary, has also been mentioned for the position. Aymond has led the U.S. bishops’ child protection and worship committees, and is regarded as moderate and administratively competent. However, the archbishop has faced criticism for his handling of some sexual abuse issues, especially a 1999 case in which Aymond, then an auxiliary bishop, was apparently made aware of an allegation of sexual abuse against a high school coach, but did not immediately remove him from his position. While Aymond apologized for his handling of the matter, it would likely raise a red flag regarding his appointment in Washington.

There are two other bishops who, if not already in consideration, might be in contention, in light of the fallout from the McCarrick scandal and the grand jury report.

The first is Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the Archbishop of Saint Paul-Minneapolis. Hebda, a canon and civil lawyer who previously worked in the Vatican, was Bishop of Gaylord from from 2009-2013, before becoming coadjutor bishop of Newark. Hebda was well-regarded among priests and laity in Newark, but in 2015 became apostolic administrator in Minneapolis, after the sudden resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt. In Minnesota, Hebda arranged legal settlements and navigated difficult waters as the archdiocese prepared for a bankruptcy filing. At the same time, he is said to have won the trust of his priests and begun a period of spiritual renewal in the archdiocese, after the long difficulty of a protracted and local sexual abuse crisis.

Hebda, generally regarded as doctrinally orthodox but moderate, is affable, friendly, and has the trust of clerics in many parts of the United States. And he has the reputation of a reformer. While he has been in Minneapolis only a short time, sources in DC and Rome say that his appointment to follow Washington would send a strong signal that Pope Francis is serious about reform efforts.

There is a also less prominent archbishop who might be under consideration: George Lucas of Omaha. Lucas is known as a relatively soft-spoken and talented administrator, doctrinally orthodox, personally moderate, and capable of generating interest in priestly vocations. But Lucas has considerable experience that would assist him in Washington.

Lucas became Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, in 1999. His predecessor, Bishop Daniel Ryan, had been accused of engaging in homosexual relationships with young men, priests, and prostitutes. In 2002, Ryan faced the allegation that he had solicited a teenage boy for sex in 1984. Reports of homosexual activity among Springfield’s priests was widespread- in 2004, a priest was severely beaten in a Springfield park, after he allegedly propositioned two young men for sex.

Lucas called for an independent investigation into the activities of the diocese, and of his own leadership, organized lay involvement in reforms, saw to it that priests accused of malfeasance were removed from ministry, managed the difficulty posed by predecessor, and initiated a renewal of confidence in diocesan leadership. Shortly after arriving in Omaha, he addressed another problematic organization, the Intercessors of the Lamb, a movement rife with organizational and managerial improprieties, eventually suppressing the organization in 2010.

Those experiences seem the right kind of preparation for addressing the broader crisis now facing the Church.

The Church will not quickly recover from the crisis it now faces. It will take time to identify and address the constellation of factors that have converged this summer. That process might also include an apostolic visitation from Rome, new mechanisms of accountability and lay leadership, and a period of serious prayer and sacrifice, as Catholics try to understand what has happened, and what that means about their trust in the Church.

Predicting episcopal appointments is usually an exercise in being wrong, and this analysis may be no exception. But one thing is clear: Healthy institutions depend on many factors, but the virtue of their leaders is one of them.

Canon law says that bishops must be “outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues, and endowed with other qualities which make him suitable to fulfill the office in question.” As Pope Francis considers what to do about the crisis in the United States, that list will likely prove to be critical reading.


Catholic sisters host trivia night to support elderly religious

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 17:10

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 24, 2018 / 03:10 pm (CNA).- As part of a fundraiser to support elderly religious, Philadelphia sisters are challenging area Catholics to a battle of wits.

CBS 3 Philly reported that a team of religious sisters will host a trivia night at 7 p.m. Aug. 28 at Maggie’s Waterfront Cafe, along the Delaware River in northeast Philadelphia.

A variety of appetizers will be provided for free, and the drink special, “Sister Mary Margaritas,” will be available for purchase.

In addition to the trivia competition, the religious sisters will also share about their lives and ministries to attendees. Bonus questions will feature trivia on Catholic sisters. 

Organized by Supporting Our Aging Religious or SOAR, the sisters hope to raise awareness and funds for the needs of retired religious. The organization distributes grants to support the immediate needs of elderly religious sisters, brothers, and priests throughout the United States. Grants may go toward nurse call stations, hospital beds, handicap accessible renovations, and other necessities.

SOAR hosted a trivia night in Arlington, Virginia earlier this year, drawing a crowd of about 100.

The need for financial support for retired religious is significant, according to the U.S. bishops’ National Religious Retirement Office. A report commissioned by the office has predicted that 2034, religious organizations may face a $9.8 billion deficit in retirement funds.

'God saved my life through sports' - Catholics prepare for Ironman race

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 14:00

Dallas, Texas, Aug 24, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Competitors in an Ironman race swim 2.4 miles and bike 112 miles, and then run a marathon to complete more than 10 hours of racing that tests athletes’ highest levels of endurance. For some Catholics, preparing for an Ironman contest includes spiritual, as well as physical conditioning.

Karime Nevarez is a Catholic mother of two, who has not only competed in multiple Ironman races, but she is training to race the fastest endurance athletes in the world.

As she prepares to compete in the Ironman World Championship in South Africa on Sept. 1, Nevarez shared with CNA how faith has been the foundation of her training.

Nevarez wakes up at 4 a.m. six days a week to begin her triathlon workouts at 5 a.m., so that she can be home in time to take her children to school. However, lately she has been training at 11 p.m. to acclimate to the time change in Africa.

“If I did not have God in my life, I couldn’t be doing this,” she said, “Everything I do I offer to him. Everything for his glory. I’m sure that I couldn’t do this on my own. My own strength is not enough. I need spiritual help.”

Two years ago, Nevarez did not know how to swim. This proved to be her biggest challenge as she prepared to compete in her first half-Ironman race in Monterrey, Mexico in 2016.

“Before we started to swim, I prayed and asked God, ‘I know you are too busy, but you helped Peter walk on water. Allow me to finish swimming this 1.2 miles,’” she said.

Nevarez still prays the rosary as she swims. She also likes to meditate on Isaiah 40:31, “They who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings. They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”

When Nevarez has young, she struggled with her mental health, even contemplating suicide. She said that God lifted her out of this struggle by giving her an opportunity to participate in sports, like basketball and running, as a teenager in Mexico.

“God saved my life through sports,” she said.

Sports and faith have also been a positive outlet for her children.

One of her children, Sergio, has autism. “My son is really in love with Jesus,” said Nevarez, who shared that her eight-year old often asks her to go to the church to see Jesus and touch the crucifix.

It was her son who inspired Nevarez to create a triathlon race for children in her neighboring community across the border in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico last year. Eighty children signed up, and it has since become an annual community event. Sergio, loved it. He says that he wants to be an Ironman when he grows up.

Her Catholic faith will be apparent to anyone who sees her triathlon suit in the international event.  She designed it to have a cross and the word, “fiat,” for the annunciation, on the front, and “A.C.T.S.” on the back, which stands for adoration, community, theology, and service.

Navarez is dedicating her world championship race to her son and to other children with autism.

Another athlete training for the Ironman race is using the competition to raise money for pregnant mothers.

Henry Olivi has never competed in a triathlon before, let alone an Ironman. As he attempts his first full Ironman in Florida this fall, he is asking friends and family to support a local non-profit, “In My Shoes.”

“In My Shoes” offers women who are pregnant and homeless housing, counseling, and spiritual support.

“I’m very pro-life,” said Olivi, who is a parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas in Dallas, Texas.

“In the world we live in, with abortion being easily and readily available, ‘In My Shoes’ gives these women hope and encourages them to bring new life into the world, like God intended. That is near and dear to my heart,” he told CNA.

“I have always been a person who likes to do extreme things, a competitor, and God has given me the ability to have the endurance to keep going,” he explained.

“Anything that I want to do, I try to do it for the glory of God,” Olivi continued, “I thought that this would be a good way to use my gifts and give back.”

Questions raised about McElroy's response to 2016 McCarrick allegations

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 13:00

San Diego, Calif., Aug 24, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The Bishop of San Diego has explained why he did not respond to a 2016 letter alleging sexual misconduct on the part of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and other Catholic clerics.
The letter was sent to Bishop Robert McElroy by psychotherapist Richard Sipe.

McElroy has been reported as a frontrunner to succeed Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC. Calls in recent weeks for the cardinal’s resignation follow an Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse, which questions the cardinal’s handling of sexual abuse allegations during his tenure as Bishop of Pittsburgh.

McElroy now faces questions regarding accountability and transparency surrounding abuse reports.

A former Benedictine priest, Sipe left the priesthood in the 1970s and married a former nun. He then spent several decades studying clerical sex abuse and calling for reform, and was a source for the Boston Globe team of reporters who broke the story of the 2002 Church sex abuse scandal.

Sipe estimated that 50 percent of priests are living unchastely, and 6 percent of clergy are abusers, though those estimates have faced frequent challenges from other researchers, including a 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Sipe wrote to Bishop McElroy in 2016, listing allegations against half a dozen bishops – including then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – and warning of a broader problem of chastity violations among clergy.
“Sooner or later it will become broadly obvious that there is a systemic connection between the sexual activity by, among and between clerics in positions of authority and control, and the abuse of children,” Sipe wrote in the letter.
“When men in authority – cardinals, bishops, rectors, abbots, confessors, professors –are having or have had an unacknowledged-secret-active-sex life under the guise of celibacy an atmosphere of tolerance of behaviors within the system is made operative.”
The letter, which was published on Sipe’s website, drew media attention following the psychotherapist’s death earlier this month.

On Aug. 17, McElroy issued a public statement on the matter, noting Sipe’s death on Aug. 8. He said that Sipe had requested to meet with him about clergy sex abuse in 2016.
Over the course of “two long, substantive, cordial and frank discussions about the history of clergy sexual abuse in the United States,” McElroy said, Sipe made allegations against several bishops – including some who were then in ministry – and said that he was planning to approach the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, about the issue.
McElroy said he raised concerns that some of the Sipe information may be inaccurate.
“In two instances we discussed, I had certain knowledge of individuals being investigated and cleared yet he still leveled accusations against them,” the bishop said.
“Dr. Sipe stated that he was making many of his allegations against existing bishops based on information that he had received from his work in legal cases on behalf of survivors of abuse,” McElroy said, but asked if he could share specific corroborating documents, Sipe said he was unable to do so.
After Sipe requested a third meeting but was told by the McElroy’s assistant that the bishop could not meet with him that month, he hired a process server who came to the office, posing as a donor wishing to hand-deliver a check, McElroy said. The process server delivered a letter from Sipe.

McElroy said he did not respond to that letter because Sipe's use of a process server, and apparent dissemination of the letter, made him untrustworthy.

“After I read it, I wrote to Dr. Sipe and told him that his decision to engage a process server who operated under false pretenses, and his decision to copy his letter to me to a wide audience, made further conversations at a level of trust impossible.”
Sipe’s July 28, 2016 letter warned of a widespread culture of illicit sexual activity among clergy. Pointing to his time as a staff member at three major seminaries, he said that patterns of sexual behavior are often established “during seminary years or in early years after ordination when sexual experimentation is initiated or sustained.”

“A serious conflict arises when bishops who have had or are having sexually active lives with men or women defend their behavior with denial, cover up, and public pronouncements against those same behaviors in others,” he said. “Their own behavior threatens scandal of exposure when they try to curtail or discipline other clerics about their behavior even when it is criminal as in the case with rape and abuse of minors, rape, or power plays against the vulnerable.”
In the letter, Sipe listed allegations against several bishops, including reports of misconduct by Archbishop John Neinstedt and Bishop Robert Brom, abuse by Bishop Thomas Lyons and Bishop Raymond Boland, and cover-up by Cardinal Roger Mahony.
He also said that he had interviewed 12 priests and seminarians who described sexual advances and activity on the part of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Sipe referenced a settlement against McCarrick, which he said described the cardinal’s sexual behavior and included correspondence from him.
McCarrick’s sexual propositions and harassment were covered up by intimidation, Sipe said, with priests and seminarians unwilling to speak up about it, for fear of risking their reputation and facing retaliation.

In one case, he said, a priest was told by the chancery office, “if you speak with the press we will crush you.”

In a recent letter to diocesan clergy, responding to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Bishop McElroy lamented “the complicity of the leadership of the Church, which magnified abuse in so many instances by placing fear of scandal and a clerical culture above the foundational need to protect minors at all costs.”

He added that “(e)very bishop in our land bears a collective debt of guilt for these acts of abuse,” and called for cooperation in creating “not only a new structure, but also a new culture within the life of the Church.”

Ordained a priest in 1980, McElroy became the secretary of San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn two years later. He continued in graduate studies and parish work until he was appointed vicar general under Quinn in 1995.
Quinn would resign the following year, at age 66, amid complaints over his plan to close some of the city’s historic churches, and accusations that the archdiocese had failed to act on allegations of sexual abuse by two priests.
In 2017, McElroy delivered the homily at Quinn’s vigil. He praised the late archbishop as “a man who combined continuity and transformation, and in that identity lay his greatness as a leader in the church in the United States.”
McElroy remembered Quinn for his work in nuclear deterrence and outreach to AIDS victims, as well as his collaboration with laity and women religious, and his call for “a rearticulation of Catholic teaching on responsible parenthood.”
McElroy would go on in 2010 to become an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco, and was named Bishop of San Diego in 2015. In that role, he has echoed Pope Francis’ emphasis on poverty and care for the environment.

Reports that McElroy might succeed Wuerl in Washington first surfaced in the fall of 2017. Wuerl, 77, submitted a letter of resignation to Pope Francis in 2015, at the customary age of 75, though it has not yet been accepted by the pope.

Faith, life and learning: Catholics in Arkansas get a new high school

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 05:01

Little Rock, Ark., Aug 24, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Northwest Arkansas has its first independent Catholic school with the Aug. 16 opening of Ozark Catholic Academy.

“Our goal has not been to just open the doors, but to open them well,” John Rocha, the academy’s head of school, told the Arkansas Catholic newspaper.

Ozark Catholic Academy has enrolled 24 students for ninth and tenth grade in its first academic year, with its first senior class set to graduate in 2021.

It is temporarily based at St. Joseph Church in Tontitown, Ark., about 200 miles northwest of Little Rock. It is drawing students from the area, including some as far as Subiaco, a small town about a two-hour drive away.

One student, Matthew Moix, said his three older brothers attended Catholic grade school and junior high.

“But, nobody in my family has been through Catholic high school so I was the first one, and obviously, my parents were very excited,” Moix told the Fort Smith CBS television affiliate KFSM.

He said Ozark Catholic Academy “integrates the Catholic faith into everything.”

Beth McClinton of Fayetteville said her son would leave another private school to attend the school.

“We had hoped and prayed for a Catholic high school in northwest Arkansas since we experienced the fruits of having our children attend Catholic school in their primary years,” she said. “It has been 80 years since a new Catholic high school has opened its doors in Arkansas and northwest Arkansas has the highest number of registered Catholics in the state.”

Four of the state’s five largest Catholic parishes are in northwest Arkansas.

Ozark Catholic Academy has a college preparatory program with an emphasis on service and Catholic identity.

Its vision “aims to implement the Catholic Church’s mission of sanctification and evangelization through the Catholic intellectual tradition,” according to its website. Its mission is to engage students in “a rigorous, integrated education that enables them to behold the fullness of reality through both faith and reason and to live the virtues that make one fully human and truly free.”

The school's coat of arms includes, in Latin, four words: freedom, docility or openness, truth, and sanctification.

Rocha, the head of school, was a founding staff member of the independent Catholic liberal arts boys’ school Western Academy in Houston, Texas. He served the school as development director and as a member of its administrative council.

The school will run a student leadership trip to Auxier, Ky. Students there will work with Hand in Hand ministries, an immersion experience intended to teach them about real world needs and how to serve with compassion.

“This will provide a Catholic world view for those students in understanding social justice issues and the drug epidemic that plagues this part of the country,” said Rocha. “For teenagers it is easier to help others, but we will challenge them to come back and truly love those around them in small actions, as well.”

He also noted Ozark Catholic Academy’s advisory program, which is one-on-one mentoring between a faculty member and a student.

“Building this relationship will help build stronger relationships among staff and students,” he said. “We believe strong relationships both with faculty and other students will help build a strong culture for the school. We also want students to continue to build relationships at home.”

Rocha said the push to launch the school began four-and-a-half years ago through the work of two sisters, Ashley Menendez and Adriana Stacy. Community supporters worked about 20,000 volunteer hours to launch the school.

Norma Ascenscio of Rogers, Ark., the mother of a new student, told the Arkansas Catholic her daughter went to a Catholic elementary school, adding, “I want her to be sure of her faith.”

“In today’s world, so many things occupy first place in their lives, but I want my daughter to be a person who loves God and is loved by God,” Ascenscio said.

Mark Breden of Fayetteville, a retired Procter and Gamble employee who is acting president of the school’s board of governors, said the new school should help companies recruiting families to move to the area. He said the school would emphasize building wisdom and character through Catholic education.

While the school is not operated by a parish, religious order or diocese, its religious curriculum must be approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and it must follow the directives of the local bishop, Anthony Taylor of Little Rock.