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Oakland diocese to release names of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 20:01

Oakland, Calif., Oct 9, 2018 / 06:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland has announced that the diocese will release the names of all clerics credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor.

“I hope and pray the publication of these names will help the innocent survivors and their families in their journey to wholeness and healing,” he wrote in a letter dated Oct. 2 and released Oct. 7.

The list will include the names of diocesan and religious priests, as well as extern priests. Anticipated to be released in roughly 45 days, the list is meant to be as accurate as possible, the bishop said, noting it will take some time to verify information on international and religious priests.

Aformer FBI official known for advocacy for justice in clercy sex abuse, Dr. Kathleen McChesney, will
assist in the review of clergy files and the audit of the diocese's process. Once the list is published, McChesney and her associates will fully review the files “to ensure our list is as accurate as possible,” Bishop Barber said. He said this second review will not be completed before Jan. 1, 2019.
Bishop Barber expressed hope that this list would help purify the Church and create a transparent environment.

“This is the latest step in the ongoing commitment of the Diocese of Oakland to stop the scourge of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults,” he wrote.

“This public accountability will allow you and others in our community to see we are keeping our promises. We have nothing to hide. It is the right thing to do.”

The bishop said the Diocese of Oakland has continually improved its accountability process, “utilizing background checks and mandatory safe environment training for all church employees and volunteers.” He also said the diocese welcomes regular audits from outside firms to guarantee all parishes and schools are compliant.

Bishop Barber expressed support for the mutual support group, No More Secrets Group, which has been meeting in the diocese since 2002, helping adult survivors through sexual abuses that occurred in childhood.

If anyone is aware of sexual misconduct by a clergy member or employee of the diocese, he asked them to make a report to the authorities or Stephen Wilcox, chancellor and victims assistance coordinator for the diocese.

“I realize other victims may step forward with new information. Any accusation will be fully investigated by our independent Diocesan Review Board. We intend to update our list as we receive new information.”

For transparency, San Bernardino diocese lists priests credibly accused of sex abuse

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 17:01

San Bernardino, Calif., Oct 9, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A list of 34 priests credibly accused of abuse in recent decades was released Monday by the Diocese of San Bernardino. The local bishop has apologized to victims and said the failure to protect children has led to “new awareness” about the “terrible scourge” of sex abuse.

“When we read this list we are pained to think of the many lives that were impacted by the sinful and unlawful acts of those priests who committed them,” Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino said. “Some will recognize names on this list, more will recognize the parish communities where they served. It makes this crisis more local to us, and may increase our feelings of sadness and outrage.”

He encouraged victims of sex abuse by a Church minister or those who know victims of such sex abuse to “please come forward and report it.” He offered his apologies and deepest regrets to the victims of those listed and to the Catholic faithful, “who have been scandalized by this shameful chapter in our Church’s history.”

“Apologies, at this point, can seem hollow and I regret that because I can imagine how painful this has been in the lives of many victims,” Bishop Barnes said. “Still, I do want to state my sincere apology.”

The list, released Oct. 8, draws from diocesan records and files documenting abuse reports made to diocesan personnel. The records include follow-up reports to priests and Diocesan Review Board discussions.

In the most recent cases, credibility of an accusation was determined by the Diocesan Review Board. In older cases, credibility was determined from facts reported by diocesan personnel at the time of the accusation, an admission from a priest, or from police or legal documents.

The diocese characterized the list as a “good faith effort” to “disclose the names of all priests with credible allegations.” Any additional credible allegations in the future will be added to the list. The latest allegation is from 2014, which was reported to child welfare authorities. Of those priests listed, 29 of the 34 names are “already in the public domain.”

John Andrews, communications director for the San Bernardino diocese, said those six not previously named had been reported to the police, but hadn’t been reported in the press nor were letters read to the faithful about these priests. He said the diocese had responded to the allegations responsibly.

Six of the priests on the list have been convicted in criminal court. All but one priest on the list have been dismissed from the clerical state, permanently banned from ministry in the diocese, or have died.

The whereabouts of the one priest who left the diocese in 1993, Paul Nguyen, are unknown. He had been incardinated in the Diocese of Oslo and served at St. Francis de Sales in Riverside from 1992-1993. The allegations against him were made known to the diocese in February 1993. He was also suspended and reported to the police.

Before 1978, the territory of the diocese was part of the Diocese of San Diego, which has released a similar list. Credibly accused priests who served in parishes of San Bernardino or Riverside counties from before that time are included on the San Bernardino diocese’s list.

There are presently about 1.6 million Catholics in the diocese out of a population of 4.9 million. About 1,900 priests have served in the diocese’s territory.

Andrews told CNA the list represents “a painful, tragic chapter in the history of the diocese.”

“We make no excuses for the actions of these men,” he said. “They are reprehensible actions and they are not consistent with what the Catholic faith is all about, about how we are to treat each other as human beings, especially as it relates to caring for children.”

He said the list’s release will create “raw, painful feelings,” especially for victims. “We stand ready to listen to them, to try to help them in their healing process with our action and our prayer.”

Bishop Barnes reflected on the effects of the sex abuse scandal.

“While we will always bear the mark of this scandal, our failure to protect children in earlier years has ultimately led us to a new awareness and an illumination of this terrible scourge on all of society,” he said, citing Christ's words in the Gospel of Luke: “there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”

The bishop noted that since 2002 six priests have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. Of these, three were alleged to have committed an act of abuse since that year, while the other three alleged abuse incidents took place before 2002.

The bishop emphasized the diocese’s work since 2002, including its adoption of a “zero tolerance” policy for clergy with credible allegations of abuse and its close work with law enforcement in “all reports of abuse.”

Fingerprinting and extensive background checks are now mandatory for all clergy and lay employees of the diocese, and all diocesan ministers must take part in training to recognize and prevent the sexual abuse of children.

The diocese also established the Diocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection to ensure safe environment policies and pastoral code of conduct are followed.

The list’s release was prompted by the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report covering a 70-year period across six dioceses in the state. The report alleged more than 300 priests had sexually abused over 1,000 children in that time frame.

Andrews said much of the abuse took place in the more distant past. He noted that only six credible cases had been reported in the last 16 years, compared to 28 cases in the previous 24 years. He said there has been more education about sex abuse and current diocesan response is “very solid.”

He said the diocese has adopted habits to encourage transparency and accountability, such as releasing the list of accused clergy.

“I think the Church is in a crisis that calls us to a greater level of openness, and we are hoping making the information public in this way will help the healing process for victims first and foremost and also for the Catholic faithful of our diocese as a whole,” he said.

“When we have an allegation that’s credible, we go to the parishes where that priest was, we announce that there is an allegation, and if anybody has been abused by this person, (ask them) to come forward,” he said.

Vast majority of private school blue-ribbon winners Catholic

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Oct 9, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The Department of Education has awarded the 2018 National Blue Ribbon to more than three dozen Catholic schools. Of the nearly 50 private schools to receive the designation, almost 90 percent were Catholic. The awards were made public Oct. 1 in an announcement by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

A total of 349 schools nationwide -- 300 public and 49 private -- received the honor in 2018.

Of the 49 private schools honored, 44 of them were Catholic institutions, including schools in Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. Most of the schools are administered by their respective dioceses.

“The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content,” said the Department of Education in a press release announcing the winners.

The schools will be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 7 and 8.

“We heartily congratulate the 44 Catholic schools that were recently designated 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the United States Department of Education,” Mary Pat Donoghue, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Catholic Education at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA. 

Catholic schools are by their nature “ordered to an integral formation of the human person which seeks wisdom and virtue through the development of faith and academics,” she said.

“The extraordinary work of these schools demonstrates their commitment to this mission and to the important role that Catholic schools play in American education today.”

"As Catholic schools work toward the common mission of integrating knowledge with faith in the lives of young people, the honor of being named a National Blue Ribbon School reaffirms their excellence and showcases these schools as extraordinary communities," said National Catholic Educational Association President and CEO Thomas W. Burnford in a press release published on the group’s website.

"It is with great joy that we celebrate and witness these schools’ noteworthy accomplishments."

Blue Ribbon Schools are either categorized as “Exemplary High Performing Schools,” which means they are among the highest-performing schools in their state on standardized tests, or “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools,” which are are among the highest-performing in a given state at closing achievement gaps between their student body and all students in the state over the past five years.

All of the Catholic schools were recognized by the Department of Education as “Exemplary High Performing Schools.”

Since the Blue Ribbon Schools program began in 1982, over 8,800 schools across all 50 states have been recognized.

Nikki Haley to leave role as UN ambassador

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 13:00

Washington D.C., Oct 9, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Nikki Haley will leave her post as the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year, it was announced Tuesday. Haley has been a vocal champion of religious freedom during her time at the UN.

Speaking during a joint announcement from the Oval Office Oct. 9, President Donald Trump said that Haley first told him six months ago that she would look to “take a break” after two years on the job. The president said that Ambassador Haley had done an “incredible job” during her time in post and was “very special.”

“She’s a fantastic person, very importantly, but she also is somebody that gets it,” said  Trump.

During her time at the United Nations, Haley spoke frequently in defense of persecuted Christian communities in the Middle East, and delivered the closing keynote at July’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

She also had a hand in the implementation of major policies, including the relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, fulfilling campaign promise made by successive presidential candidates.

“As Americans, we have been given a great set of tools with which to build a more perfect union. The protection of our religious freedom – our right to worship, and believe, and even instruct our children – in the manner in which we choose and to live our faith is first among these tools,” said Haley in July.

“We will continue to forcefully advocate for religious tolerance in the international arena. Not just because so many people are being denied this right, but because defending religious freedom makes for a safer and more peaceful world for all of us.”

During the announcement of her departure, Haley dismissed speculation that she would be seeking to challenge Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination. “No, I am not running for 2020,” she said while repeating her support for Trump’s reelection.

As former governor of South Carolina and a prominent member of the Trump administration’s foreign policy team, Haley has been widely tipped as a potential future presidential candidate.

She said it was an “honor of a lifetime” to serve in the United Nations, and that there was “no personal reason” for her choosing to step down at this time. Instead, she said that it was important for politicians to know when to step back from a particular role.

Trump expressed remorse at Haley’s departure, saying “We’re all happy for you in one way, but we hate to lose (you).” He also kept the door open for her return to the administration, “at some point but in a different capacity.”

If she were to do so, Trump said, she “can have (her) pick” of positions.

Prior to being appointed ambassador, Haley was the first female governor to be elected in South Carolina, and first Indian-American female governor in the country.

President Trump said he would announce Haley’s replacement within a few weeks. 

Senate votes to confirm Kavanaugh to Supreme Court

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 16:45

Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2018 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- The Senate voted 50-48 Saturday to confirm the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The vote follows a procedural decision Friday to invoke ‘cloture,’ ending the debate on whether or not to ratify the judge’s nomination.

The Oct. 6 vote followed weeks of hearing and debate over Kavanaugh’s record as a judge, and also allegations of sexual misconduct made against Kavanaugh dating back to the 1980s.

Both Judge Kavanaugh and his primary accuser, Christine Blassey Ford, appeared before a session of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 27. Following those appearances, a further FBI report was compiled and made available to senators Oct. 4.

The vote marks the end of one of the longer Supreme Court confirmation processes ever held.

The result hinged on four senators, three Republicans and one Democrat, who did not make their intentions clear until the final hours of deliberation.

Republican Senators Jeff Flake (AZ) and Susan Collins (ME)  were joined by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in voting in favor of ending the debate Friday. All three voted to confirm Kavanaugh on Saturday morning.

Sen. Flake had previously called for the additional vetting of Kavanaugh by the FBI and declared that the report given to the Senate Oct. 4 contained “no additional information yet—no additional corroborating information” on the allegations which had been made against the judge.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was the only Republican to break with her party and announce she would vote against both cloture and confirming the nomination. On Friday she announced she would be voting against Kavanaugh’s nomination, despite believing him to be “a good man.”

“In my view, he’s not the right man for the court at this time,” she said.

Murkowski actually voted “present,” neither for nor against Kavanaugh, so that Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) could attend his daughter’s wedding. This was an example of the parliamentary convention of “pairing,” where an absent member arranges for another member intending to vote the other way to abstain.

After voting in favor of ending debate and bringing the process to a head on Friday, Sen. Collins told reporters that she had still to make up her mind.

“I will be voting yes on proceeding to the final confirmation vote and I will announce my intentions on how to vote later today,” Collins told reporters. She later made a near 50 minute statement on the floor of the Senate in which she said that she would back Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Collins called the process of vetting the judge a “dysfunctional circus” and said that the allegations against him had failed to meet even a "more likely than not standard."

Along with Sen Murkowski, Collins is a supporter of abortion rights, and was thought at one time to be considering voting against Kavanaugh in the face of widespread pressure from abortion advocates who believe that his elevation to the Supreme Court might trigger a revisiting of the decision Roe v. Wade.

When confirmation hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination began before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the beginning of September, pro-abortion advocates mounted a public campaign to sway senate votes.

Rachel O’Leary Carmona, chief operating officer of the Women’s March, said at the time that the reason pro-abortion protestors had disrupted Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings was because their “lives are at risk” and that “women will die if Kavanaugh is confirmed.”

O’Leary Carmona also said that politicians who refused to stop Kavanaugh would be made to “pay” during the November midterm elections and in 2020, saying, “if you’re a Democrat, we’ll primary you - if you’re a Republican, your seat will be flipped.”

Sen. Collins did, however, publicly praise Kavanaugh’s judicial record and said she did not think his nomination posed a threat to the landmark abortion decision.

Sen. Manchin is facing a closely fought reelection campaign in West Virginia, a state President Donald Trump carried in 2016 with 68 percent of the vote. His status as a pro-life politician has come under increasing scrutiny following public statements in support of Planned Parenthood and an August vote in the Senate to reject a measure that would have blocked federal government funding to the abortion provider.

If the final vote in the Senate had ended in a 50-50 stalemate, Vice President Mike Pence would have cast the deciding vote.

Despite the controversy which has subsequently surrounded his nomination, following allegations of sexual misconduct in high school, Brett Kavanaugh was originally hailed as an uncontroversial selection by President Trump.

At the time of his nomination, friends of the judge described him to CNA as a sincere Catholic committed to living out his faith.

Brett Kavanaugh was nominated on July 9 to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he once worked as a clerk. Kennedy is also a practicing Catholic.

In July, friends of the nominee described him as a sincere and humble man. Shannen Coffin, an attorney in Washington, D.C., who has known him for 20 years, told CNA at the time that Kavanaugh was “a devoted father, and spouse,” and someone with a strong ethic of service.

“He's also the guy who after a day of long meetings with senators, you know, and without fanfare, was serving food to the homeless.”

Another long-time friend of Kavanaugh, Msgr. John Enzler, CEO and president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., told CNA that the judge was “a guy who's very friendly, very outgoing, very nice, lot of laughter, big smile, wonderful father, wonderful husband, man of faith, lives his faith, goes to church every week."

As he takes his seat on the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh brings the number of Catholics sitting on the bench back up to six out of the nine justices. Chief Justice John G. Roberts is a practicing Catholic, as are Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Neil Gorsuch was baptized Catholic and received the sacrament of Confirmation, though he has reportedly attended an Episcopalian church for a number of years.

Catholic Charities of Lubbock aids homeless youth

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 18:58

Lubbock, Texas, Oct 5, 2018 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Charities of Lubbock has increased its efforts to help combat the homeless youth crisis in the northwest Texas city.

“We want to respect the dignity of every single person and life throws everybody in different directions and situations,” said Cynthia Quintanilla, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Lubbock.

“I just think it’s important that we try to meet their needs and try to meet them where they’re at,” she told CNA.  

According to a recent poll by the city, more than 600 minors are homeless in Lubbock. Quintanilla said these kids, aged 10-17, will often rotate nights at different friends’ houses. She said some of the children will sleep in cars or actually live on the street.

“A lot of it has to do with problems they are facing at home – some of it is family conflict, some of [it] might be abuse, some of the problems might be lack of communication or parents just struggling to raise a number of children and the oldest child is left to fend for themselves,” she said.

Quintanilla expressed concern that these children not only lack family support, but are also at increased risk of dangers such as sex trafficking.

However, many homeless kids do not reach out for help, she further added, noting that these young people fear “they’re going to get caught up in a system that is not to their advantage.”

Catholic Charities has partnered with multiple groups, like law enforcement and schools, to increase their chances of being able to offer support. Quintanilla said the organization will often be notified by school districts, who use questionnaires to ask students on their living situations.

One of the new initiatives of Catholic Charities is putting up “safe place” signs in 192 sites, including libraries and grocery stores. The children are then able to talk to the employees at any of those sites and ask to be put in contact with the organization.

Quintanilla said the organization will help kids with food, clothing, and other basic necessities. She also said Catholic Charities will provide temporary housing, if the local shelters have space, and job training.

“We really try our best to meet them where they’re at. We just try to provide them with some of the basic needs that we can,” she said.

Federal judge strikes down St. Louis abortion law as unconsitutional

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 16:58

St. Louis, Mo., Oct 5, 2018 / 02:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge ruled Sept. 30 that a St. Louis ordinance banning discrimination based on reproductive health decisions violates both the U.S. Constitution and Missouri law.

The St. Louis ordinance, enacted in Feb. 2017, barred pro-life organizations from refusing to hire abortion proponents and rent to abortion clinics, and required non-religious employers to cover or pay for abortions through their employee health plans, according to a news release from the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.

“The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has now been made aware that it is unconstitutional to require pro-life organizations to hire or rent property to abortion proponents, and that it is illegal to require pro-life employers to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans,” Sarah Pitlyk, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, said in the statement.

Attorneys from the Thomas More Society represented several Catholic entities and the Catholic CEO of a for-profit company in a lawsuit against the City of St. Louis, filed during May 2017.

Judge Audrey Fleissig of the Eastern District of Missouri wrote that the ordinance violated the First Amendment rights of Our Lady’s Inn—a pro-life pregnancy center—and the Archdiocesan elementary schools of St. Louis by forcing them “to employ or house individuals who advocate for or perform abortions.”

The judge also ruled that the CEO of O’Brien Industrial Holdings, Frank O’Brien, was being forced to provide “health care benefits covering abortion, contraception, or sterilization” in violation of the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“I speak on behalf of the entire Archdiocese of St. Louis when I thank the Thomas More Society, and all who seek to protect the individual rights of all members of our society — both born and unborn,” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson wrote in a statement following the ruling.

“With this ruling, for which we are grateful, our great city follows in the footsteps of its patron, St. Louis King of France, in its protection of the weak from the strong.”

Archbishop Carlson said last year that the St. Louis ordinance would “force the people of St. Louis to be complicit in the profound evil of abortion.”

“This would be a flagrant violation of religious liberty and individual rights of conscience,” he said, urging St. Louis citizens to oppose the ordinance.

Alderman Megan-Ellyia Green, the original sponsor of the ordinance, said the amendment would clarify that women “should be free to make reproductive choices they want to make without consequences from their employer or landlord,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said.

According to Green, the ordinance would not limit a religious institution from firing an employee who advocates abortion.

Archbishop Carlson, however, was adamant, saying the Archdiocese of St. Louis “cannot and will not comply with any ordinance...that attempts to force the Church and others to become unwilling participants in the abortion business.”

“There is no room for compromise on such a matter. This is a matter of fundamental religious and moral beliefs,” he said.

The archbishop added that archdiocese would help provide spiritual and material assistance to all in need, “especially the poor and those women facing crisis pregnancies who feel they have no one else to turn to for help.”

Florida dioceses show support for investigation of abuse at institutions statewide

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 15:08

Tallahassee, Fla., Oct 5, 2018 / 01:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi launched a tip site Thursday for people to report allegations of past child sex abuse in Florida.

“We’re not limiting this to the Catholic Church,” Bondi said in an Oct. 4 news conference announcing the tip site. “If you’ve been abused in any group, in any school, we want you to come forward.”

The attorney general, along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is conducting a statewide investigation into the safeguarding procedures for minors of Florida’s seven Catholic diocese.

Bondi said she and her team plan to issue subpoenas to the dioceses immediately and that all of Florida’s Catholic bishops had assured her that they would cooperate fully. She said at least 15 victims have come forward so far.

The Archdiocese of Miami released a statement Oct. 4 expressing support for the attorney general’s statewide investigation.

“The archdiocese’s safe environment policy and procedures, established in 2002, state when an allegation of sexual abuse of a child or a vulnerable adult by a member of the clergy or church personnel is received, it is immediately reported to the appropriate county state attorney’s office,” the statement read.

It goes on to say that all clergy, seminarians, parents, employees, and volunteers in the archdiocese must undergo Virtus Training, a program that seeks to protect children and teach how to spot signs of abuse.

“Since 2002, the Archdiocese of Miami has background checked and Virtus trained almost 150,000 people, trained over 200 Virtus facilitators (teachers) and have 167 safe environment local coordinators in parishes and schools.”

Bishop John Noonan of Orlando said his diocese was also committed to cooperation with the attorney general.

“My prayer is that the Attorney General will agree that we all have met our commitments to safeguard the most vulnerable among us,” Bishop Noonan wrote. “As Christ is beside me, before me, I pray for your forgiveness for the wrongdoing that you may have experienced at the hand of someone within the Church, whether bishop, priest, religious or lay. We ask those who have been harmed to take courage and come forward because we will listen.”

Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach also expressed his willingness to cooperate.

“The Diocese of Palm Beach has been cooperating with the State Attorney even before the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, by directly reporting an allegation of abuse to that office, no matter how long ago it may have occurred,” the bishop stated.

The bishops of Pensacola-Tallahassee and St. Petersburg released similar statements of support.

The Diocese of St. Augustine did not release a statement by press time, but local media reported that Bishop Felipe Estévez had expressed support for the investigation in an email and was encouraging “victims and anyone with information about potential abuse to please report it to my office.”

The Diocese of Venice in Florida said it has met with a prosecutor “and welcomes the opportunity to cooperate with his investigation.”

“While this statewide inquiry is not based on any new allegations, upon the conclusion of this review it is hoped that all institutions (public schools, nursing homes, universities, etc.) who have access directly, or indirectly with children and vulnerable adults, will review and evaluate safe environment policies and procedures to ensure the safety of all,” the Venice diocese added.

Numerous state attorneys general have launched investigations into clergy sex abuse since the August release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on the matter.

There's only one abortion clinic left in Missouri

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 16:21

Jefferson City, Mo., Oct 4, 2018 / 02:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Abortions at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Missouri ended this week after the facility failed to adhere to state rules, and its state license to perform abortions expired Oct. 3. This leaves Missouri with one clinic licensed to perform abortions, located in St. Louis.

“I am just thrilled, and I give all the honor and glory to God for this,” Kathy Forck of Columbia 40 Days for Life told CNA. “We’re pretty confident that [Planned Parenthood] will never be able to recover from this latest blow.”

Forck said that her organization has been praying outside the Columbia clinic for nine years, and during that time abortions had ceased and resumed nine times.

“Even though they have stopped doing the abortions, they're still open to refer for abortions," she said. "And until that place actually closes its doors, we'll be out on the sidewalk offering help and hope to women and letting God use us to save babies by sending them across the street to MyLife Clinic [a pro-life pregnancy center]."

Missouri passed regulations in 2017 which granted the state attorney general more power to prosecute violations, and required stricter health codes and proper fetal tissue disposal. The new rules also required that doctors have surgical and admitting privileges to nearby hospitals, and that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs temporarily blocked the regulations in April 2017, with the rationale that the rules were denying Missouri women a constitutional right to abortion. However, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month to end the district judge’s injunction, with a three-judge panel writing that the district judge failed to weigh any of the “benefits” that could proceed from the state’s rules.

This sends the case back to the district court for further consideration and allowed the rules to take effect Oct. 1. The Missouri DHSS announced last month that they would begin enforcing the new rules immediately.

The appellate court ruling comes in a case filed by Planned Parenthood affiliates in 2016 after the US Supreme Court struck down similar abortion restrictions in Texas.

In addition to the regulations, the Columbia clinic also must pass an inspection from the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services. According to the Columbia Missourian, a September inspection by the department found that the facility failed to “ensure a sanitary environment,” and was using equipment on which rust and substances believed to be mold and bodily fluids were found.

Doctors performing abortions in Missouri have been required since 2005 to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. In 2015, University Hospital in Columbia revoked admitting privileges for a St. Louis-based doctor who had previously been performing abortions at the Columbia clinic.

"No one in Columbia wants to give [medical] privileges to the abortion industry," Forck commented. “They’ve tried and tried and they just can’t get it.”

She said 40 Days for Life attracts many members of the local medical community to their sidewalk prayer vigils, and that the Columbia clinic had lost seven abortion doctors in the three and a half years that it performed abortions.

Missouri law has held, since the 1980s, that life begins at conception. The state is now one of seven that has only one licensed abortion clinic.

Public life must turn business to the common good, conference hears

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Oct 4, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Human dignity and the common good are the essential aims of work, attendees heard at the 2018 Principled Entrepreneurship conference in Washington, D.C. The three-day conference is being cosponsored by the Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business and the Napa Institute.

The conference, which is organized around the theme of the Dignity of Work, opened Oct. 3 with Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew celebrated by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In his homily to attendees, Cardinal Müller outlined the essential question facing the conference.

“The question is--how to organize public life, the basis of democracy, to turn business for the common good?”

This, Müller said, is the Catholic Church’s social doctrine, which preaches the dignity of all people as created in the image of God.

The cardinal also warned against defining people by arbitrary categories, stressing the Church’s teachings on social justice underscores that all nations are one family under God. Similarly, he said, the principle of solidarity links communion to common endeavor and that while the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are common in politics, they do not belong as descriptors for ecclesiastical life.

“It is important to use the correct categories,” said Müller. “There is no ‘conservative baptism,’” he said, or conservative or liberal belief in the Triune God.

All people need to use their God-given gifts for the common good, the cardinal said, and this common good looks towards life after death, not just their life on earth.

Similar themes were developed during the afternoon sessions of the conference, held at the Museum of the Bible.

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and 2016 contender for the Republican presidential nomination, drew from her own experiences as she spoke on the subject of work and spirituality.

Fiorina told the conference that she was taught “what you make of yourself is your gift to God,” but that as a child she did not feel as though she had any particular gifts or talents.

She told the crowd that she came to realize that “regardless of circumstances, we’re capable and dignified” and that with this common dignity comes a mutual obligation, saying that everyone needs somebody to “lift us up, help us out.”

A person should not be judged by their circumstances, said Fiorina, reiterating the universal dignity of work and that “none of us is better than any other,” regardless of what their job may be. Everyone, said Fiorina, should be respected for their work, not their position.

Fiorina also spoke about her work with Opportunity International, an organization which provides microfinance loans to people in developing communities.

Recalling a trip to the impoverished outskirts of New Delhi, Fiorina said that it was there that she realized the true impact of the project, and the importance of having a job.

“I saw 10 women--they were all women--I saw 10 women who had pride in their faces, and hope in their eyes,” she said. “They were determined. They sat, erect.”

The women, she said, went on to explain to her that in their circumstances starting a business would have been beyond their ability to realize, but thanks to the microfinance program their situation had changed.

Linking the concepts of entrepreneurship and empowerment, Fiorina said that programs like Opportunity emphasized respect as well as financial support. “What they had done was look each of those women in the eye and say ‘you have value. You can live a life of dignity and purpose and meaning.’”

Echoing Cardinal Müller’s emphasis on the communion of a common humanity over other distinctions, Fiorina said “none of us as human souls are defined by the circumstances in which we find ourselves.”

The conference continues through Friday Oct. 5.

Each Catholic diocese in Michigan raided in abuse investigation

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 13:48

Lansing, Mich., Oct 4, 2018 / 11:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Police raided diocesan properties at all seven Catholic dioceses in Michigan this week as part of an ongoing investigation into cases of child sex abuse by clergy.

In the Archdiocese of Detroit, officials searched multiple diocesan properties, including the chancery, the Cardinal Mooney Building at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and the office of Msgr. Michael Bugarin, the archdiocesan Delegate for Clergy Misconduct, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The raids are part of an investigation launched last month by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, which will look into cases of clerical sex abuse of children in all seven of the dioceses in the state: Gaylord, Lansing, Marquette, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, and Detroit.

“The Archdiocese of Detroit cooperated fully with law enforcement officials executing a
search warrant for clergy files today,” the Archdiocese  said in an Oct. 3 statement.

The investigation followed the release of the Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania, which detailed decades of clergy sex abuse cases from six of the state’s dioceses. Several states, including Michigan, launched their own investigations into clergy sex abuse after the report was published.

The Archdiocese of Detroit stated that it welcomes the investigation as part of its “continuing commitment to transparency and healing.”

“We have worked closely with authorities from all six counties within our Archdiocese since 2002, when we shared past case files involving clergy misconduct and committed to turning over all new allegations regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. We remain committed to protecting everyone - especially children and vulnerable adults - and therefore look forward to working closely with officials to determine if there is more we can do to accomplish this goal,” the archdiocese stated.

The Diocese of Saginaw is included in the new investigation despite recently having undergone a local investigation earlier this year, after the diocese and authorities received multiple complaints of sexual misconduct by priests in the diocese.

Police in Saginaw raided the home of Bishop Joseph Cistone and the diocesan chancery and its cathedral rectory in March as part of the local investigation, citing a lack of cooperation with authorities on the part of the diocese. Two priests were placed on leave from their duties during that investigation; one was criminally charged.

In 2012, Cistone was accused of misleading a grand jury about his compliance in the destruction of documents containing the names of priests suspected of child molestation in 1994, while he was serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Cistone was not criminally charged in the incident. In February, Cistone announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

In an Oct. 3 statement, the Diocese of Saginaw emphasized their willingness to cooperate in the new investigation.

“The Diocese of Saginaw continues to cooperate with the Michigan Attorney General’s statewide investigation,” the statement said.

“We are thankful for the professionalism with which the warrant was executed, today, as well as the acknowledgment by the attorney general’s office of our desire to cooperate. Our cooperation, the attorney general’s office said, is appreciated. The Diocese is grateful for the work of law enforcement, and will continue to cooperate fully and meet all requests.”

The Saginaw diocese added that it hoped the new investigation will be another step toward healing for all survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

In a statement given to local media in September, Schuette’s office said that the investigation will cover accusations of "sexual abuse and assault of children and others by Catholic priests,” including priests from religious orders, in Michigan. The the investigation will cover a period of nearly 70 years, from 1950 until the present.

Spooky, scary, saintly? How Catholics can see Halloween at its best

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 05:01

Tulsa, Okla., Oct 4, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Whether you dress up as a ghoul, a hero, or a saint, Halloween has a Christian origin that should inspire us to remember our mortality and our redemption in Christ, Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa has said.

“In contrast to popular culture’s observance of Halloween, even the customary appeal to the ‘frightful’ has a devotional meaning in the Catholic tradition. Props such as skulls and scythes have historically recalled our mortality, reminding us to be holy because we are destined for judgment,” the bishop said, citing Hebrews 9:27 and Revelation 14:15. “Visible symbols of death thus represent a reminder of the last things – death, judgment, Heaven, and hell.”

Bishop Konderla discussed the upcoming holiday, which falls before the Nov. 1 feast of All Saints, in a Sept. 28 memorandum on the celebration of Halloween in the Diocese of Tulsa.

Halloween has origins in the Catholic liturgical calendar, he said, but the customs surrounding it have “drifted from the feast’s intended meaning and purpose.” The name itself derives from the archaic English phrase “All Hallows’ Evening,” referring to the Eve of All Saints. Since All Saints can begin with evening prayer the night before, Halloween is the feast’s “earliest possible celebration.”

“While the ‘Gothic’ aspect of Halloween reminds us of Christian teaching about the resurrection of the dead, our culture often represents this in a distorted manner, for when the dead are raised they will in truth be ‘clothed with incorruptibility’,” said Bishop Konderla.

When separated from Catholic teaching, the holiday’s grim, ghoulish, or “Gothic” costumes can be mistaken as “celebration or veneration of evil or of death itself, contradicting the full and authentic meaning of Halloween.”

“For the Christian, Christ has conquered death, as has been prophesied and fulfilled,” he said.  “Christ has conquered death by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, the Paschal Mystery whose graces are evident in the glory of all saints.”

The bishop also discussed the custom of dressing up as Christian saints.

“The custom of dressing up for Halloween is devotional in spirit,” he said. “By dressing up as the saints whom we most admire, we imagine ourselves following their example of Christian discipleship. This practice allows the lay faithful in festive celebration to become ‘living icons’ of the saints, who are themselves ‘icons’ or ‘windows’ offering real-life examples of the imitation of Christ.”

“In dressing up as saints we make Christian discipleship our own in a special way, following the exhortation of St. Paul: ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’,” he said, citing Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

Bishop Konderla invoked the imagery of the saints used in the Book of Revelation.

“Proper veneration of the saints naturally leads to adoration of the Lamb who was slain, whom the saints adore and follow wherever he goes,” he said. “True devotion to the saints, through our prayers and imitation of their witness, leads us sinners back to Christ.”

The bishop also voiced a few warnings. He said it is important to avoid Halloween popularizations of things that are contrary to the Catholic faith. These include the glamorization or celebration of “anything involving superstition, witches, witchcraft, sorcery, divinations, magic, and the occult.”

“We want to be good models of Christian virtue for those we serve and make clear distinctions between that which is good and that which is evil,” he added.

“Let us urge one another this Halloween to express in every detail of our observance the beauty and depth of the Feast of All Saints,” Bishop Konderla concluded.

“Let us make this year's celebration an act of true devotion to God, whose saints give us hope that we too may one day enter into the Kingdom prepared for God's holy ones from the beginning of time.”

US Catholics' confidence in Francis shaken

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 16:24

Washington D.C., Oct 3, 2018 / 02:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent poll has shown a drop in popularity for Pope Francis in the United States over the past year. The poll suggests that many Americans increasingly disapprove of how the pope has handled the abuse crisis.

According to a Pew Research Forum survey conducted in mid-September, fewer Americans, and specifically American Catholics, express favorable feelings about the Roman Pontiff.

The pope has enjoyed a very high favorability rating among Americans, and American Catholics, throughout his pontificate.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has had a net favorable rating among American Catholics of around 80 percent, spiking at a high of 90 percent in February 2015. According to the recent poll, this total stands at 72 percent, his lowest so far.

The sharpest drop in the pope’s numbers were among those who expressed “very favorable” views of him, rather than just “favorable.”

When Pope Francis was elected in March 2013, 43 percent of American Catholics had a “very favorable” view of his pontificate. That number rose to 62 percent in October of 2015, immediately after he visited the United States, but the most recent survey saw just 30 percent of American Catholics reporting a “very favorable” view of the pope.

American impressions of the pope appear to be tied to his percieved handling of the sexual abuse crisis. In February 2014, just under a year into his papacy, Pew found that 54 percent of American Catholics said that Pope Francis was either doing an “excellent” or “good” job of addressing the scandal. That figure stayed relatively the same through 2015, before dropping to just 31 percent last month.

Conversely, at the start of his papacy, 39 percent of American Catholics thought Pope Francis was doing an “only fair” or “poor” job at dealing with the scandal, with 15 percent saying that the pope was doing “poorly.” In September of 2018, that figure had jumped to 62 percent, with the number of people saying they believed the pope is doing “poorly” sitting at 36 percent.

The survey showed that American Catholics are also less positive about other aspects of Pope Francis’ performance, including his work spreading the Catholic faith, appointing new bishops and cardinals, and standing up for traditional values.

Since January 2018, the number of Catholics who think Pope Francis has done an “excellent” or “good” job at spreading the faith and standing up for traditional values has dropped sharply, from 81 percent to 55 percent.

When it comes to appointing bishops, only 43 percent of Americans think the pope is doing an excellent or good job at this, a 15-point drop since the beginning of the year. The percentage of people who think that Pope Francis is doing a “only fair” or “poor” job at this task has risen from 24 percent to 39 percent over the last nine months.

Villanova University Professor and Church historian Massimo Faggioli told CNA he believes there are “many factors” influencing American perceptions of the pope, including the “tragic moment of crisis” gripping the Church in the United States, as well as cultural, political, and ecclesiastical issues.

“There are expectations that the pope acts against bishops and cardinals quickly; but the pope cannot act on the basis of a grand jury report only or of media reports only,” Faggioli told CNA. “There must be a formal investigation or a process.”

Faggioli told CNA that for many people in the United States, used to a rolling newscycle, it was hard to understand why Pope Francis has taken so long to respond to emerging scadnals, such as the 11-page “testimony of former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, something Faggioli called “obviously frustrating” for many Catholics.

“The choice of not responding immediately to the Vigano’ report is hard or impossible to understand for many in the US media culture and for those who do not consider the long-term view of the Church in Pope Francis,” Faggioli said.

When faced with a large-scale crisis, it is normal for the leadership of any institution to suffer a backlash. “This is especially true for those who tend to see in the pope the CEO of the Catholic Church,” he told CNA.

“There is also an ecclesial factor: it seems that some US Catholics are blaming pope Francis for not doing what the US bishops should do to address the abuse crisis. The pope cannot act in total disregard of the local episcopate while the USCCB is putting together an action plan.”

Overall, Faggioli warned that the drop in popularity reflected a decline in confidence not only in Francis personally but in the office of pope.

“More importantly, pope Francis’ drop in popularity in the USA is here also a drop in the popularity of the papacy itself as an institution in the USA - also of his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI.”

While timing of the decline in papal popularity would seem correlated to the still-emerging global abuse crisis, Faggioli told CNA that Francis was the subject of “a systematic campaign of undermining coming from US conservatism.”

“The papacy has become now a partisan issue in the US Church like never before - there is an increasing political polarization in the views of US Catholics toward pope Francis, in which the abuse crisis is a very important element but that element must be seen in the context of a growing distance between Rome and US Catholicism.”

<a href=""><img width="640" height="401" src="" class="attachment-large size-large" alt="Increasing political polarization in U.S. Catholics’ views toward Pope Francis" /></a>

Priest in South Dakota charged with child sex abuse

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 14:21

Rapid City, S.D., Oct 3, 2018 / 12:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest in Rapid City, South Dakota has been arrested and charged with two counts of sexual contact with a child under 16, according to local police.

Authorities took Father John Praveen, 38, into custody Oct. 2 following a joint investigation conducted by the Rapid City Police Department and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation began Sept. 30 after a juvenile victim came forward to authorities, alleging two separate incidents, according to a city statement.

Father Praveen, also known as John Praveen Kumar Itukulapti, was born in India and served with the Sanjeev Sadana Society (Holy Spirit Fathers) in the state of Telangana. According to the Rapid City diocesan newsletter, Father Praveen was approved by his congregation to serve in South Dakota for ten years, beginning November 2017.

The Diocese of Rapid City said Church officials are “fully cooperating with law enforcement in this ongoing investigation...Bishop Robert Gruss has also removed him from all ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City.”

After being assigned originally to All Saints Church in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, Father Praveen most recently served as parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City, according to the diocesan website.

The Rapid City Journal reported that Bishop Gruss said the diocese conducted a background check on Praveen, but did not go into detail about the process.

San Diego bishop holds ‘listening sessions’ on abuse crisis

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 12:00

San Diego, Calif., Oct 3, 2018 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Bishop Robert McElroy told a crowd of more than 300 people that he was committed to increasing accountability for bishops and to maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to abuse in the diocese. The San Diego bishop spoke at the first of eight public meetings scheduled to provide a forum for feedback from the laity on recent abuse scandals.

The meeting was held Oct. 1 at Our Mother of Confidence parish in University City, San Diego.

“These meetings will focus on seeking input from people in the pews on the pathway to such reform, listening to those who have been victimized by clerical sexual abuse either directly or in their families, and praying for God's grace to be our only guide,” McElroy said in a statement announcing the fora which was distributed after weekend Masses in the diocese.

Bishop McElroy began the session Monday evening by acknowledging the “wrenching” effect that recent scandals had had on Catholics, and he invited the audience to help form the Church’s response to the crisis.   

The open forum proved to be a difficult event for the bishop, according to local media. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that McElroy fielded vocal criticism, including some booing, for his perceived “downplaying” of recent scandals, including the revelations about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the “testimony” of former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

McElroy has previously called Viganò’s initial public letter, released Aug. 22, a “distortion of the truth” and an attempt “to settle old personal scores.”

During the event, McElroy was asked about a number of topics related to the recent scandals, including increased accountability for bishops, the safety of seminarians from sexual abuse and coercion, and the existence of a “homosexual subculture” in some parts of the Church.

McElroy told those attending that there was no link between the sexuality of priests and instances of abuse. “Abuse is not about sex,” he said. “It is about power and domination.”

In an Aug. 27 statement on the crisis of sex abuse in the Church, Bishop McElroy wrote that “the bishops of our nation, in union with the Holy Father, should be focused solely on comprehensively revealing the truth about the patterns of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy in our Church, so that deep reform can be enacted.”

As part of the listening session, McElroy also explained the measures which the diocese has had in place since 2003 to enforce its policy of zero-tolerance for abuse.

“I think we’re in an OK place in the structures we have put in place for the protection of minors,” McElroy said.

According to the Union-Tribune, McElroy also said that the diocese had received no credible allegations of abuse against living priests in more than three years.

In March of this year, the Diocese of San Diego removed a religious priest from his position as associate pastor in the parish of St. Patrick in Carlsbad, CA, following an alleged sexual assault on a seminarian after a parish event.

While parishioners were not told why Fr. Juan Garcia Castillo was removed from his post, the diocese confirmed to CNA in September that they had suspended his priestly faculties. The priest is facing criminal charges of sexual battery.

Despite the sometimes aggravated tone of questions and contributions, loud bursts of applause did break out in appreciation of the priests of the diocese, of whom attendees spoke warmly.

A further seven “listening sessions” have been scheduled by the diocese, with the next taking place at 7pm, Oct. 3, at St. Joseph Cathedral.

Supreme Court rejects appeal of Tennessee pro-life amendment

Tue, 10/02/2018 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The United States Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to a pro-life amendment to the Tennessee state constitution.

Amendment 1 categorically excludes abortion rights from the state’s constitution. The Supreme Court declined to admit an appeal on the matter in a decision released on Oct.1, the first day of the court’s new session.

Without further avenues of appeal, the amendment - which explicitly states that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion" - will stand. 

State attorney general Herbert Slatery III released a statement Monday welcoming the news, saying that it "finally puts to rest any uncertainty surrounding the people’s 2014 approval and ratification of Amendment 1 by 72,000 votes."

The full text of the amendment reads:

“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives or state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

The amendment was adopted by voters in 2014, with 53 percent in favor. It was drafted to ensure the constitutionality of other state legislation restricting abortion access, including the imposition of a two-day waiting period.

Despite the clear margin by which the amendment passed at the ballot box, questions were raised over the wording of the Tennessee constitution’s provision for adopting amendments. The text says that amendments can be passed only by a "majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor voting in [the amendment’s] favor."

This phrasing was the subject of different interpretations and led to a legal challenge by eight “no” voters.

State election officials interpreted the wording of the constitution as requiring that in addition to receiving a majority of votes, the number of votes cast in favor of the amendment be at least equal to the number of votes which constitute a majority in the gubernatorial election.

Those opposed to Amendment 1 argued that the state’s constitution requires that the same people that voted for the amendment must also have concurrently voted in the gubernatorial election.

While the distinction may seem pedantic, at issue is a controversial campaign tactic deployed by some “yes” campaigners, in which they encouraged those in favor of the pro-life measure to vote for the amendment but abstain from the governor’s ballot.

The thinking behind this tactic was that by lowering the number of votes cast in the governor’s race the majority threshold for the passage of the amendment would be similarly lowered, but with a higher turnout.

The same tactic could not be deployed by abortion advocates, since they had no means of inflating turnout in the gubernatorial race. Opponents of the amendment said that this was a "fundamentally unfair voting scheme” that gave more consideration to a “yes” vote  than a “no” vote.

The legal challenge argued that “no” voters did not have the choice to abstain from voting for governor to make their vote possibly “count” more.

A federal court in Nashville ordered a recount in April of 2016, but in January of 2018, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the state’s interpretation of how the ballots should be tallied. The eight “no” voters then appealed to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

The amendment was conceived following a 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court decision which struck down various abortion restrictions, including a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, and a requirement that they receive in-person counseling by a doctor who had to give them specific information about the procedure as determined by the state.

That decision held the state restrictions to be unconstitutional under Tennessee law, and found for a “right to privacy” and greater protections for abortion than was recognized at the federal level. Amendment 1 effectively prevents such a finding from standing.

A new 48 hour waiting period law was passed by state legislators in 2015, but is currently being challenged in federal court.

Following the passage of tighter restrictions on abortion in neighboring states, Tennessee saw a increase in the number of abortions being performed for women from elsewhere.

Statistics from 2014 found that a quarter of abortions in the state were for non-Tennessee residents. At the time of the Amendment 1 vote, “yes” campaigners encouraged voters to stop Tennessee from becoming an “abortion destination.”

Underage and undocumented, young migrants confined to Texas tent city

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 20:01

El Paso, Texas, Oct 1, 2018 / 06:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Hundreds of undocumented migrant children and teens have been moved to a tent city in a Texas desert, months after Catholic leaders warned of the dangers of the plan.

In recent weeks, young immigrants in various states have been awakened in the middle of the night and loaded onto buses to be sent to the camp near the west Texas border town of Tornillo, about 35 miles southeast of El Paso.

Shelter workers, speaking anonymously to the New York Times, said children and teens are moved at night to help avoid escape attempts. They are given short notice before a move, in part to prevent them from panicking or trying to run away.

More than 1,600 of these undocumented migrants are moved to west Texas each week. The New York Times said the camp first opened in June for a 30-day period with a capacity for 400 children. In September the camp expanded to a capacity of 3,800, with plans to stay open through the end of the year. Those sheltered in Texas tend to be older children age 13 to 17 who are expected to be released sooner.

The children and teens are kept in groups of 20 and segregated by sex. They sleep in bunks. Instead of school, they are given workbooks but are not required to finish them. They have limited access to legal services.

The west Texas camp has portable toilets and air-conditioned tents provide space for housing, recreation, and medical care.

However, the tent city is not regulated. This is a contrast from other unaccompanied minors’ shelters that are licensed and monitored by state child welfare officials, with requirements for safety, education, and staff hiring and training.

Patricia Zapor, communications director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., had criticized the plan for the tent city in July remarks to CNA.

“Detaining children in any kind of setting is never a good idea for the children. It leads to all sorts of medical, emotional and developmental repercussions, even when they are detained with their parents,” Zapor said. “Detaining children away from their parents is an even worse idea, and in tents, in the harsh climate of Texas – that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Evelyn Stauffer, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department, discussed the west Texas camp.

“It is common to use influx shelters as done on military bases in the past, and the intent is to use these temporary facilities only as long as needed,” Stauffer, whose department is responsible for caring for these migrants, told the New York Times.

She said a “broken immigration system” is the larger problem that causes immigrant families and unaccompanied minors to be apprehended. Underage migrants in particular face a “hazardous journey” and are at risk of being trafficked or subjected to other exploitation and abuse.

There are over 13,000 detained migrant children in the U.S., a new record. Their numbers have increased 500 percent since last year. Some crossed illegally, while others are seeking asylum.

Shelters for underage migrants have been operating at 90 percent capacity since May. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that since last year the average time they spend in custody has increased from 34 days to 59.

Shelter capacity is further strained by the Trump administration’s decision to separate children from their parents. This increased the numbers in underage shelter care by 2,500.

In June remarks at the opening of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the conference president, criticized family separation at the border.

“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma,” he said. Calling families “the foundational element of our society,” he said they must be able to stay together.

Undocumented underage migrants are held in federal custody until they can be matched with sponsors, like relatives or family friends, until their legal cases can be resolved.

However, many sponsors are themselves undocumented migrants and they now fear that increased scrutiny from federal authorities will put at risk their ability to remain in the U.S.

In June, federal authorities said potential sponsors and other adults in their households must submit fingerprints, and this data would be shared with immigration authorities, the New York Times said.

The Holy Spirit can guide, heal nation, justices hear at DC Red Mass

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 18:42

Washington D.C., Oct 1, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Americans should call on the Holy Spirit to guide and heal the Church and nation, Msgr. Peter J. Vaghi said to attendees at Sunday’s annual Red Mass, celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC.

Vaghi, who is chaplain of the John Carroll Society as well as pastor at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Md., spoke at the Sept. 30 Mass of the Holy Spirit, which traditionally marks the beginning of the judicial year. The US Supreme Court's 2018-2019 session opened Oct. 1.

The name Red Mass is taken from the red vestments worn to symbolize the tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit.

It is this Holy Spirit whom people should call upon “to return and enlighten us, to enlighten in a special way each of you who serves the cause of justice and the common good,” said Vaghi.

“The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console, to renew, to heal,” he said. “Yes, to heal us.”

Vaghi noted that both the Church and country could benefit from this healing power, as “it is a power that treats the anger and divisions that so need the healing touch of our God if we are to continue our respective missions with love and effectiveness in our day.”

The Holy Spirit is a guide for those working in the legal profession and in government service, as the Holy Spirit helps people experience God’s wisdom and love as “the guiding principles and foundation of our very existence moving us to be men and women of justice, compassion, boundless mercy and joy” in their jobs.

Vaghi drew comparisons between the Holy Spirit as “the spirit of truth” and the words used in the Declaration of Independence.

“So we call upon the Holy Spirit to help us understand and deepen our understanding of these 'truths' referred to in our Declaration of Independence” – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Red Mass, he said, is “a most appropriate time” for one to think about these truths.

“In our day, these 'truths,' truths whose origin is the Holy Spirit, are sometimes seen in ways not always as self-evident – these truths that from the beginning of our national experiment helped define us as Americans – these truths of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. The country is divided, but Vaghi believes that the truths laid out in the Declaration of Independence are a solid base for rebuilding the American consensus.

The Red Mass is celebrated each year prior to the start of the Supreme Court’s new term, and stems from a tradition in the Middle Ages. It is meant for all members of the legal profession, including lawyers, judges, law students, and government officials, Catholic or otherwise. The Red Mass has been celebrated in D.C. for the past 66 years.

This year three Supreme Court Justices, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, and Clarence Thomas, attended the Mass, along with newly-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was also in attendance. Notably not present at the Mass was Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is currently in the midst of a heated confirmation process for the Supreme Court.

California governor vetoes campus ‘abortion pill’ law

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 16:00

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 1, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed a bill Sunday that would have mandated that public universities in the state offer abortion inducing “medication” through campus student health centers starting in 2022.

The bill, SB 320, was “not necessary,” Brown said in his veto message signed Sept. 30, as abortion services are already “widely available” off campus. Governor Brown is a public supporter of abortion rights.

Student health centers at California’s public universities do not provide abortions, but they do provide referrals to abortion facilities.  However, many of these centers do distribute the “morning-after pill,” which can block fertilization or prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a uterus.

Kathleen Buckley Domingo, senior director of the Office of Life, Justice & Peace for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said that she was “grateful” Brown vetoed the bill.

“He recognized that this bill was unnecessary for California and did not empower our college women, but only offered more abortion for our state,” said Domingo.

Instead, Domingo said she hoped the state would pass bills to assist college students who are already parents. Such legislation would “ensure women’s Title IX protections for pregnancy are known and understood, and to make childcare and family housing for student mothers and fathers readily available and accessible for California women.”

Her comments were echoed by executive director of the California Catholic Conference Andy Rivas, who said that “Hopefully next session we can convince legislators to pass a bill that students and universities really need, one that provides financial support for students with children.”

Rivas said he was not surprised by the veto, and that students “were not pushing for passage” of the bill and universities “did not want the responsibility of providing abortion pills to students.”

Pro-life advocates also applauded Brown’s move. Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee-turned-pro-life advocate, said that the veto was a “huge victory for not only the pro-life movement in California, but the students at these universities” as well.

“These drugs are dangerous and are often not discussed truthfully with women who decide to take them to end their pregnancy,” Johnson told CNA. 

“I took these same drugs to end one of my pregnancies and I thought I was dying. I was in a bathtub full of blood but the abortion clinic was unfazed by my reaction - it happens often but is hardly ever disclosed.”

Johnson’s group, And Then There Were None, provides assistance to abortion industry employees who are looking to leave their jobs.

Catherine Glenn Foster, President and CEO of Americans United For Life, agreed with Brown’s description of the bill as unnecessary, and said that the governor’s veto had “made California safer for women, and college campuses safer for their unborn children.”

“Governor Brown recognized that in a state where Medicaid already pays for elective abortions, there is no issue of access, since, as he said yesterday, ‘the average distance to abortion providers in campus communities varies from 5 to 7 miles, not an unreasonable distance,’” said Foster.

Foster also pointed out that “college health clinics are not equipped to handle the very serious risks of chemical abortion drugs,” which can include bleeding and infection.

Holy See-China agreement draws criticism from US religious freedom advocates

Sun, 09/30/2018 - 17:02

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2018 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See’s provisional agreement with China on the appointment of bishops has drawn criticism from some U.S. religious freedom leaders, who contend that it concedes too much to power to the government and undermines efforts to protect other suffering religious groups.

“I confess that I am skeptical, both as a Catholic, and as an advocate for the religious freedom of all religious communities in China,” Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute, said Sept. 27.

“Earlier this year the Vatican quite properly expressed grave concerns about China’s comprehensive anti-religion policy, and its apparent goal of altering Catholicism itself.”

Farr is a former American diplomat who was the first director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, from 1999-2003. He spoke before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. His comments addressed the state of religious freedom in China, especially for Catholics; the potential for further action from Congress and American diplomacy; and the Vatican-China agreement.

On Sept. 22 the Holy See announced that Pope Francis had recognized seven illicitly ordained bishops after the signing of a provisional deal with the Chinese government over the nomination of bishops. Under the deal, the Chinese government can propose candidates as part of the nomination process, but the Pope must give final approval.

The Pope explained his decision in a Sept. 26 letter to China’s Catholics, acknowledging the “deep and painful tensions” centered especially on the figure of the bishop as “the guardian of the authenticity of the faith and as guarantor of ecclesial communion.” He said it was “essential” to deal first with the issue of bishop appointments in order to support the continuation of the Gospel in China and to re-establish “full and visible unity in the Church.”

He acknowledged the different reactions to the provisional agreement, both from those who are hopeful and from those who might feel abandoned by the Holy See and question “the value of their sufferings endured out of fidelity to the Successor of Peter.”

Farr, speaking to the congressional subcommittee, said he is concerned the provisional agreement “will not improve the lot of Catholics in China, much less the status of religious freedom for non-Catholic religious communities.” It risks harming religious freedom and “inadvertently encouraging China’s policy of altering the fundamental nature of Catholic witness.”

“In my humble opinion as a Catholic, and an advocate for religious freedom, the Vatican’s charism is to support that witness, as Pope Saint John Paul II did in Communist Poland,” he said.

Farr thought the process for choosing Catholic bishops was comparable to “the way parliamentary candidates are approved in Iran” where theologians vet prospective candidates for their loyalty to the government.

“Is it likely that the Chinese government would forward to the Vatican the name of a bishop faithful to the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church?” Farr asked. “It seems far more likely that the bishop would be chosen at a minimum for his acquiescence to the regime, if not his fidelity to its anti-Catholic purposes.”

Johnnie Moore, a religious freedom advocate who now serves on the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom, told CNA he entirely supports “direct engagement with governments which have a checkered past when it comes to religious freedom, working together to find a better future.”

However, he thought many people outside of the Catholic community are “entirely confused by the timing and why the Holy Father agreed to – for all intents and purposes – demote faithful, persevering priests who had endured so much for so long.”

Moore, a past vice-president of communications at the evangelical Christian, Virginia-based Liberty University, is now CEO of communications firm The Kairos Company.

“Surely, (Pope Francis) could have found a way to have a meaningful relationship with the Chinese-appointed bishops without picking sides between his flock and those who’ve viciously opposed it for so long,” he said. “I’m also afraid that clever leaders in China will use this deal with the Vatican to distract the world from their resurgent, egregious mistreatment of other religious communities.”

Farr’s remarks tried to place China-Vatican relations in a historical context. In the centuries that Catholics have been in China, beginning even before missionary priest Matteo Ricci’s founding of a Jesuit mission in 1601, they have encountered “the assertion that Catholicism is incompatible with Chinese culture and must either be rooted out or adapted in ways that would change its fundamental nature.”

While Christianity became associated with European imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries, against which many Chinese rebelled, it also suffered intense persecution after the Cultural Revolution after communist forces took power in 1949 under Mao Zedong.

China’s government attempted to absorb or destroy all religion. It expelled the papal representative to China and over a decade’s time engaged in “brutal treatment” of Catholics, Protestants and other religious groups, Farr said. This intensified under the Cultural Revolution begun in the 1960s.

“Priests and nuns were tortured, murdered (some were burned alive), and imprisoned
in labor camps. Lay Christians were paraded in their towns and villages with cylindrical hats
detailing their ‘crimes’,” he said. Catholic clergy and laity were among the tens of millions who died “terrible deaths.”

“While Mao proved that a policy of eliminating religion is unrealistic, his successors have constantly experimented in finding the ‘correct’ way to control, co-opt, and absorb religion into the communist state,” Farr continued. Since the 1970s, China’s religious policies have had “ups and downs as new Chinese leaders adapted policies to achieve the objective of control.”

“Not all Chinese policy involves overt repression of religion,” he said. In recent decades, China’s leaders have at times supported “religious groups perceived to be capable of consolidating Beijing’s absolute power.” According to Farr, this has sometimes meant praise for non-Tibetan Chinese Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism as China’s “traditional cultures.”

“Clearly those three groups pose a lesser threat to Communist rule than do the Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Christians,” he said. “For the moment at least, it is the latter three religious communities that are the objects of continuing repression, especially the Uighurs.”

Citing State Department estimates of 70 million to 90 million Christians in China, with about 12 million Catholic, he said the growth of Chinese Christianity, especially through conversions to Protestant denominations, is “of great concern to the Chinese.”

Moving the State Administration for Religious Affairs to the United Front Work Department, which historically has been tasked with controlling China’s ethnic minorities, ensures “increased monitoring and control over the perceived threat posed by religion’s growth in China.”

Moore, a commissioner on the U.S. international religious freedom commission, had voiced astonishment that the Vatican would normalize its relationship with China “within one week of China so brazenly closing Beijing’s large Zion Church and just a few weeks after the United Nations, the New York Times and the U.S. State Department all revealed that China has forcibly placed as many as one million Muslims in re-education camps.”

“Honestly, I was in total disbelief. I said to myself, ‘not this, not now’ and then, I just prayed,” he continued.

Following a two-day review of China’s record in August, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has said that up to 1 million Uyghurs may be held against their will and without trial in extra-legal detention, on pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.

Farr voiced fear that the agreement reflects a “failed Cold War ‘realpolitik’ diplomacy” of the 1960s Vatican that was changed by St. John Paul II, a failure he blamed on a lack of realism about “the evil of communism.”

“It harmed the Church in parts of Eastern Europe,” he said. “The post-war Vatican was not then, and is not now, a secular power capable of changing the behavior of communist governments by dint of its political diplomacy.”

He contended that the Vatican is “the only authority in the world constituted precisely to address the root causes of totalitarian evil,” citing ST. John Paul II’s cooperation in the 1980s with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“The Holy See’s role should be now, as it was then, to press for human rights and, especially, for religious freedom for all religious communities in China,” he said, arguing that the Vatican’s charism is not diplomacy, but “witness to the truth about God and man.”

“As for China’s Catholics, the Vatican should demand nothing less than libertas ecclesiae, the freedom of the Church to witness to its adherents, to the public, and to the regime its teachings on human dignity and the common good.”

Farr suggested to Congress that the U.S. government should make the case to China that the growth of religion and religious communities is natural and inevitable in all societies. Efforts to kill it or blunt its growth are “impractical and self-defeating,” and persecution only slows economic development and increases social instability and violent extremism. Accommodating religious groups, by contrast, will help economic growth, social harmony, and stability.

China is a major force in the world and has enormous influence on global affairs and American interests, he said. U.S. policymakers do not typically address religious freedom in this context.
“Far more than a humanitarian issue, the way China handles its internal religious matters is of sufficient importance that the United States should make religious liberty a central element of its relationship with the East Asian nation,” he said.

The agreement between the Holy See and mainland China has met with varied reactions within China.

Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang of Macau wrote Sept. 24 that he was pleased to have learned of the agreement: “I thoroughly reckon that both parties have worked towards this provisional agreement after a long period of time with persistent effort of research and dialogue. This agreement is a positive move especially in favour of the communion of the Catholic Church in Chin and the Universal Church.”

Bishop Lee encouraged the faithful “to pray for the progress in Sino-Vatican relationship, with the hope that this provisional agreement may really be implemented, so as to contribute to and benefit the Chinese society and the Church's charitable, pastoral, social, and educational apostolates, striving to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide.”

But Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who has long been an opponent of rapprochement with the Chinese government, told Reuters just days before the agreement was reached that “they're giving the flock into the mouths of the wolves. It's an incredible betrayal.”

The Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong said the consequences of the deal “will be tragic and long lasting, not only for the Church in China but for the whole Church because it damages the credibility.”


Mary Rezac contributed to this report.