CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 11 min 59 sec ago

Will Trump's judicial appointments matter for abortion, religious freedom?

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 18:59

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2019 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- US President Donald Trump has nominated more than one-fourth of federal circuit court judges – but what, if anything, might that entail for jurisprudence on abortion and religious freedom?

In his remarks marking the milestone of 150 judicial nominations on Wednesday at the White House East Room, Trump did not bring up the life issue, nor did he mention religious freedom.

He stated his goal of nominating judges who would “halt judicial activism,” most notably on immigration, where he said, “judges are prohibiting us from enforcing the plain letter of the law.”

Trump’s milestone was marked by the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, which celebrated the fact that one-fourth of appellate court judges are Trump appointees in a statement on Tuesday, while also noting the two Supreme Court justices selected by Trump, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

“With more than 150 nominees confirmed, President Trump is transforming the American judiciary and has more than delivered on this key promise to pro-life voters who put their trust in him,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, stated.

It is unclear how exactly the judges will rule on abortion and religious freedom cases – or how often they may see such cases on the bench.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court, for instance, has 29 active judges; the Second Circuit, only 13. Yet it is no certainty that, if an abortion case or a religious liberty case makes it to one of those circuit courts, one of Trump’s nominees would hear it.

The case against David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress—the group that released undercover conversations with Planned Parenthood officials regarding potential fetal tissue transactions—featured only a three-judge panel.

Yet although the likelihood that a certain judge might see such a case is small, their fingerprint on a case can be significant. The administration’s rule protecting the conscience rights of health care professionals was thrown out by a district court judge in New York on Wednesday.

If the Department of Health and Human Services appealed the ruling, it would land in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, where one of the latest nominees confirmed, William Nardini, will be.

Nardini was one of four judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday and Thursday. The chamber voted on Wednesday 73 to 17 to confirm Danielle Hunsaker to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and on Thursday it voted 83 to 2 to confirm Nardini to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

For the district courts, the Senate also voted to confirm two new judges, Lee Rudofsky to the Eastern District of Arkansas and Jennifer Wilson to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The chamber voted 88 to 3 to confirm Wilson and 51 to 41 to confirm Rudofsky.

While three of the nominees saw their confirmations move smoothly through the Senate, Rudofsky was the only candidate of the four not elected by an overwhelming margin.

Rudofsky was a former Solicitor General of Arkansas and senior director of Walmart’s global anti-corruption compliance program, and served as deputy general counsel to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

Planned Parenthood warned about Rudofsky’s nomination in an October statement, saying that as Solicitor General of Arkansas he defended the state’s ban on abortions after 12 weeks gestation as well as the state’s effort to defund Planned Parenthood.

In October of 2015, Rudofsky – as Solicitor General of Arkansas – wrote a brief with the state’s attorneys general arguing that the states should be allowed greater legal authority to regulate abortions, such as in Arkansas’ ban on most abortions after 12 weeks gestation.

The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, and in subsequent decisions, legalized abortions before the “viability” of the baby, while excluding the states from the authority to determine a specific time when viability might occur before the accepted definition of 24 to 28 weeks.

The Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on “viability” should be reconsidered, the brief said.

“A State should be allowed to advance its profound interests in protecting the life of the unborn child, protecting the health of the mother, and upholding the integrity of the medical profession by enforcing a restriction on abortion prior to viability especially where, as here, a woman is given a reasonable amount of time to terminate her pregnancy and the State provides a safe haven statute allowing a woman to abandon an unwanted child carried to term,” the brief stated.

Trump, in his Wednesday remarks, did mention nominees being questioned for their religious beliefs.

“Nominees have been attacked in hearings for their religious beliefs,” he said, without mention of any specific cases. One nominee, Brian Buescher to the district court of Nebraska, was grilled by senators in 2018 over his membership in the Knights of Columbus, and how it would affect his jurisprudence on abortion.

“Every judge we have placed on the bench will hear thousands of cases over their careers. They will ensure equal justice for every party before them, regardless of age, race, income, religion, beliefs, or background,” Trump said.

US bishops counter narrative of resistance to Pope Francis

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 18:01

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops' conference issued Thursday a statement responding to a recent book which the conference says perpetuates a myth that it is resistant to Pope Francis.

Austen Ivereigh's “Wounded Shepherd” was published Nov. 5 by Henry Holt and Co.

The book “perpetuates an unfortunate and inaccurate myth that the Holy Father finds resistance among the leadership and staff of the U.S. Bishops Conference,” James Rogers, chief communications officer for the conference, said Nov. 7.

Ivereigh claims that Msgr. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the conference, and Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, dean of canon law at the Catholic University of America and a consultant to the conference, drafted proposals for a bishops' code of conduct and lay commissions in the wake of the McCarrick scandal that were subsequently rejected by Rome. Ivereigh said the proposals were meant to bypass Roman input.

Rogers called the claim disparaging of Bransfield and Jenkins, and said Ivereigh's account “is false and misleading.”

According to the conference, its president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, began in August 2018 to consult bishops on measures that would strengthen the Dallas Charter. Draft proposals were written by the next month “under the direction of the Executive Committee” and with the help of the committees on clergy, consecrated life, canonical affairs, and child protection, as well as the doctrinal secretariat and the general counsel's office.

“It was intended that the proposals stop short of where the authority of the Holy See began,” Rogers wrote.

“For example, like the Charter before it, the lay commission was based on the voluntary participation of bishops, compiling substantial reports of abuse to be delivered directly to the Apostolic Nuncio in the United States with due regard to civilly mandated reporting laws.”

Rogers added that “while informal consultations with the Holy See took place in October, it was envisioned that the Holy See would have an opportunity to review and offer adjustments only on those drafts benefiting from the input of the full body of U.S. bishops, recognizing that substantial amendments could yet take place.”

The proposals were to have been voted on at the US bishops' 2018 autumn general assembly, but upon the indication of Rome, Cardinal DiNardo delayed that vote.

The cardinal's decision “is a clear sign of his and his brother bishops’ collaboration with and obedience to the Holy Father,” Rogers wrote.

“When Pope Francis announced the new universal Church law establishing a worldwide program of protection, Cardinal DiNardo strongly supported the measures and moved quickly to ensure the Conference’s proposals would be both ready for votes in June of this year and would be complementary to the Holy Father’s own program. The June agenda moved forward without the objection of the Holy See.”

According to the conference, “Because of the decisive actions of Pope Francis and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church is a safer place for children and adults in vulnerable situations.”

Saginaw diocese buries the forgotten dead on All Souls' Day

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 17:01

Saginaw, Mich., Nov 7, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- On Saturday Bishop Robert Gruss of Saginaw said a Mass of All Souls' Day for 175 people whose mortal remains had been unclaimed, and which were then buried at one of the diocese's cemeteries.

“The Church invites us to pray in a very special way, give alms and do works of penance for all the deceased, for our loved ones and friends, but also for all those who have died whom we have never known. There are many who have no one to pray for them,” Bishop Gruss preached during the Nov. 2 Mass at Calvary Cemetery in Kawkawlin, Mich., about 20 miles north of Saginaw.

“This is why we gather today in this special way for this memorial service for these unclaimed cremains. These individuals have no one to pray for them. They have not received a burial proper to their human dignity. But we will doing this today, giving these men, women and children a proper burial.”

The cremated bodies of 175 people were entombed in a crypt at the cemetery. Their remains had been in a county medical examiner's office or funeral homes, and while some of the people had died quite recently, the oldest remains were of someone who died in 1972. Among those whose remains were entombed were 13 veterans, and military honors were presented by the Bay County Veterans Council Honor Guard.

“These individuals, these children of God, we know very little about. We know their names, but we know very little about them. But we do know that their lives have value; in the eyes of God and in our eyes, they belong to Him,” Bishop Gruss reflected.

“We are here today to show our love and care and concern for our brothers and sisters by upholding their God given dignity and providing them a final resting place where they will be remembered.”

The bishop noted that those who were being buried after the Mass “have all been part of a family. Why their cremains have been left behind is unknown to me. Though their lives remain a mystery to all of us, every aspect of their lives, every experience of their lives is known [to] God … And in the mystery of Christ’s love, they too have been offered salvation because it is God’s will that all people will be saved.”

Bishop Gruss began his homily saying, “the Church has always promoted the praying for our deceased loved ones and teaches the value of this practice. Oftentimes people make the assumption that their loved one is automatically going to heaven. We can never presume anything such as this.Yes, it is God’s will that all people are saved, but the ultimate judgment belongs to God and not to us. We can only live in hope that heaven becomes a reality for our loved onesand for us by the way we live our lives. If heaven were automatic, why would the Church need to pray for their deceased loved ones?”

He added that “we gather here today to pray for all of our loved ones who have gone before us. We gather here today to pray for these men, women and children whom we will lay rest.”

Alice Lefevre, Cemeteries Director for the Diocese of Saginaw, noted ahead of the interment that “Our Lord instructs us to bury the dead. It is a corporal work of mercy.”

The diocese reported that the students of St. Brigid of Kildare Catholic School in Midland held a “penn war” to raise money for expenses associated with the burials, raising more than $500, which was used for memorial flowers, among other things.

According to MLive, the diocese reached an agreement with Saginaw County in August that it will inter any cremated remains accumulated by the county.

The county controller, Robert Belleman, says he contacted the diocese to see if they could assist with proper burial of the cremated remains of 47 people which were held at the county medical examiner's office.

“We really appreciate that willingness by the Diocese of Saginaw to agree to properly bury these 47 cremains,” Belleman told MLive.

Bishops reject funding increase for USCCB, for now

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 16:00

Baltimore, Md., Nov 7, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A proposed increase in diocesan payments to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has failed to attract sufficient support among the bishops on Monday, the first day of their annual general assembly in Baltimore.

Diocesan and eparchial bishops voted 111 to 55 to approve a requested three percent increase to the annual diocesan assessment that will be sent to the USCCB in 2021, failing to receive the necessary two-thirds majority to pass, though the decision is not definitive. 

The bishops, gathered for their four-day meeting Nov. 11-14, were told that a number of economic factors in, and out of the Church had impacted the finances of the USCCB. Concerns over the cost of clergy sex abuse settlements in U.S. Catholic dioceses was particularly highlighted.

Although the proposed rate increase did not pass, the vote was declared inconclusive because 28 eligible bishops were not present on Monday. The conference hall was told that once their votes are counted, the final outcome will then be announced. The bishops from New York state are currently in Rome for their scheduled ad limina visit with Pope Francis but are reportedly following the proceedings in Baltimore and able to vote remotely.

“It caused me no surprise,” Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Budget and Finance, told CNA of the inconclusive vote. As a longtime staffer and member of the budget and finance committee, he said that “this is nothing new under the sun.”

The diocesan assessment goes to fund administrative, pastoral, and public policy programs at the USCCB, and a regular increase is necessary to maintain the reserves of the conference, Schnurr said.

The archbishop acknowledged the financial challenges of some dioceses facing a resurgence in clergy sex abuse claims from new openings in state statutes of limitations.

“There are a lot of dioceses in this country that are looking at bankruptcy,” Schnurr said.

The bishops voted on the first day their fall general assembly in Baltimore on Monday. In attendance were active and retired bishops from around the U.S. including Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., whose resignation was accepted by Pope Francis late in 2018 after persistent questions were raised over the extent of Wuerl’s knowledge of his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick’s, history of sexual abuse of minors and adults.

The bishops will also consider a slate of other action items, including election of a new president and vice president of the conference, approval of a letter and short video presentation of the bishops’ document on voting, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” and presentations on gun violence and evangelization.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the outgoing president of the conference, delivered his final presidential address to brother bishops on Monday morning, emphasizing the need to overcome deepening divisions and polarization in society, to promote a renewed evangelization, and to practice solidarity with migrants and immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Archbishop Schnurr addressed the bishops on the proposed 2020 budget for the conference as well as a proposed three percent increase in the annual diocesan assessment to the USCCB.

The three percent increase was last approved by the bishops in November of 2017, for the 2019 diocesan assessment. However, in November of 2018, no increase was approved for the 2020 assessment largely due to the costs dioceses were facing from a surge of new clergy sex abuse lawsuits.

Schnurr noted other problems facing the national conference’s budget including stricter federal immigration and refugee policies that have reduced the number of cases handled by Catholic organizations, and the trade war between the U.S. and China which could affect the overall U.S. economy and thus the amount of donations coming in to the conference.

The archbishop said that it was not “sustainable” to not increase the annual assessment to meet the conference’s estimated $25 million budget.

“We’re just kicking the can down the road,” he said. “The expenses are there.”

However, while the proposal fell 18 votes short of passage, Schnurr said, he expected the votes of absent bishops to push it over the finish line.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia stated his opposition to the assessment increase, saying that his archdiocese’s assessment amounts to $257,000 per year which, when paired with a matching donation to the Holy See, totals more than half a million dollars annually.

“I don’t have this kind of money to keep increasing it [the assessment],” Chaput said. “We have huge expenses because of the sexual abuse issue and related circumstances.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia had to pay more than $32 million in settlements to abuse victims, WHYY reported, after a window for new abuse claims closed on Sept. 30 in the wake of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on abuse that was released in August of 2018.

Chaput said that the USCCB also has more savings and investments in reserve than the archdiocese does.

“I don’t think that some of the work of the USCCB is essential to the mission of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” he said.

Cardinal Blase Cupich noted that a three percent increase for 2021 would arrive three years since the last increase to the assessment had been made. The requested increases would not even keep up with the rate of inflation, he said.

On Monday morning, the bishops also voted on “revised strategic priorities” for the conference’s Strategic Plan for the years 2021 through 2024. The priorities included evangelization to “form a joyful band of missionary disciples of Jesus Christ,” promoting “life and dignity of the human person,” working to “protect and heal God’s children,” and promoting vocations to marriage, priesthood and the religious life.

The priorities are all coequal, “much like bishops in the episcopal conference,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, who gave the presentation on the priorities, said.

The bishops voted 214 to 4 to pass the revised strategic priorities, with two abstentions.

Ohio Senate passes two pro-life laws despite legal challenges

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 16:00

Columbus, Ohio, Nov 7, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Ohio lawmakers have passed two pieces of new pro-life legislation while court battles challenging earlier pro-life laws continue. 

On Wednesday, the Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 155 by a vote of 22-10. The bill would require doctors to inform a mother that there are ways to possibly reverse a chemical abortion if they were to change their mind. The vote was almost entirely along party lines, with one Republican joining all Democratic senators in voting against the bill.

On Oct. 6, the senate also passed Senate Bill 208 along party lines. That bill would require abortionists to report to the state Department of Health if a child were to be born alive after an abortion, and provide appropriate medical care to keep the baby alive. All Democrats voted against this bill.

At present, Ohio law bans abortion after the 22nd week of a pregnancy, and has several other abortion laws on the books that are currently being challenged in federal courts. In April 2019, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed into a law a bill that would ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. That bill was blocked by a federal judge in early July. 

In December 2017, Ohio’s then-governor John Kasich (R) signed into law a bill that would ban abortion after a child was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. A federal court blocked that bill in March of 2018, eight days before it was due to go into effect.

Abortion pill reversal remains a controversial topic, with some doctors insisting that it simply is not possible and that it is irresponsible to inform a woman about reversal treatment options. It is considered unethical to perform experiments on pregnant women, and meaning no widespread studies on the available treatments have been undertaken. Limited data provided to CNA by the Abortion Pill Reveral Network shows that if a reversal is begun promptly, many women go on to deliver a healthy baby. 

A chemical abortion is a two-step process that involves the injestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug, mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the hormone progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

The abortion can be reversed after a woman takes mifepristone, but before she takes misoprostol. The Abortion Pill Reversal Network works to connect a woman seeking to reverse a chemical abortion to a doctor who can assist.

If an ultrasound confirms the unborn baby is still viable, the mother is given a large dose of progesterone to reverse the effects of mifepristone, with additional doses of progesterone needed throughout the first trimester.

As part of the process, APRN also refers all women to a help center for support throughout the remainder of the pregnancy.

In April, an employee who works with the APRN told CNA that there’s a “64-68% success rate” for women seeking to reverse their chemical abortions, with no increase in birth defects. The preterm delivery rate for these children was lower than the general population.

Since 2012, when the APRN was established, more than 500 babies have been born after their abortions were reversed.

Survey says: Most Catholics in US reject Church teaching on cohabitation

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 20:18

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2019 / 06:18 pm (CNA).- Nearly three quarters of Catholics in the United States are not opposed to couples cohabiting before marriage, despite the Church’s moral teaching.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center, released Nov. 6, reports that Americans as a whole are very accepting of unmarried couples living together, even if they have no plans to marry. Additionally, Pew found that a shrinking percentage of adults are getting married, and an increasing number of adults have decided to cohabit.

Only 14% of adults surveyed said they did not believe that it was ever acceptable for two unmarried adults in a romantic relationship to live together. An additional 16% said that they agreed with cohabitation only if there were plans for the couple to one day get married.

Of the people surveyed, 69% said they believed it was acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together, without any plans to eventually wed.

In 2002, the National Survey of Family Growth found that while 54% of adults between the ages of 18 and 44 had ever cohabited with a romantic partner, 60% had ever been married. By 2017, the number of adults who had ever been married dropped to 50%, while the number of adults who had cohabitated rose to 54%.

Pew found that race and religion played a role in whether or not a person was approving of the ideal of cohabitation. A total of 72% of white respondents said that cohabitation without a plan to get married was acceptable, with an additional 13% saying they approved of cohabitation without a plan to get married. Of black survey respondents, 23%, the largest of any ethnic group, said that they did not thing cohabitation was ever acceptable. Only 55% of black respondents said they approved of cohabitation without planning on getting married.

For Hispanics, only 10% of respondents said it was never acceptable to cohabitate. Slightly over one-fifth of Hispanic respondents – 21% – said they found cohabitation acceptable as long as there were wedding bells in the future.

Religion was a factor as well. Catholics and white mainline Protestants had nearly identical rates of approval of cohabitation--the survey found that 74% of Catholics and 76% of white Protestants who do not claim to be born-again or evangelical were okay with an unmarried couple cohabitating. Conversely, this figure dropped to 47% for blacked Protestants and 35% for white evangelical Protestants.

A full 90% of religiously unaffiliated people approved of cohabitation, and fewer than a third of this group said they believed society would be better off if more couples who cohabited got married.

White evangelical Christians were more likely than any other group to say that they believed increased marriage rates were better for society.

The survey also showed that married adults are more satisfied with their relationship than are those who cohabit, and they are more trustful of their partners.

The data for this survey came from the American Trends Panel, which was taken June 25- July 8. A total of 9,834 people were surveyed. Pew said the margin of error was about 1.5 points.

During the Fall 2013 USCCB General Assembly, Cardinal Sean O’Malley spoke to CNA about the reasons why couples are increasingly turning to cohabit. O’Malley cited financial instability--particularly student loans--as well as cultural norms as for why this was the case.

"Concerns about marriage – people not getting married, falloff in Mass attendance, (and the) challenge of catechizing the young Catholics" are some of the more troubling trends facing Catholicism in the U.S., the Archbishop of Boston said to CNA Nov. 11, during the general assembly of the national bishops' conference in Baltimore.

The cardinal noted that "the whole notion of family is so undercut by the cohabitation mentality," and that these social trends are having a tremendous impact on the working-class communities "who were once the backbone of the Church."

"Half of the children born to that demographic are born out of wedlock," a statistic that Cardinal O'Malley said would have been "inconceivable" a few decades ago.

Gallup diocese drops Zoom video conferencing app over abortion support

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 18:01

Gallup, N.M., Nov 6, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Gallup has chosen to stop using Zoom Video Communications for its internet meetings, citing the company's support of abortion rights.

Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of Zoom, was among the 187 executives who signed a letter that appeared a full-page ad in the New York Times June 10 criticizing regulations on abortion passed by state legislatures.

“Due to the company’s vocal support for abortion, the Diocese of Gallup has ceased all business with Zoom and will instead be seeking the use of an alternative platform for online meetings and presentations,” read a letter sent to the diocese's schools and parishes.

The diocese's education office had been utilizing Zoom for several years.

While acknowledging that “our monthly transactions with Zoom were not large,” the diocese said that “large or small, we cannot contribute to a company with anti-life policies.”

“It is distressing that the CEOs who paid for the ad call abortion restrictions 'bad for business', as if the life of a human being can be measured solely in monetary and economic value. We wholeheartedly reject this view.”

The Gallup diocese stated: “Each human, made in the image and likeness of God, is inherently worthy and has a right to life, from conception to natural death. We do not want to lose even a single future child, future student, future mother, father, sister or brother to abortion.”

“In providing the highest-quality Catholic education to our students, we must also strive to follow Christ and the teachings of his Church. We cannot truly be Christlike if we cooperate with evil or provide monetary support – even in the smallest amount - to other companies and institutions who promote and foster abortion, euthanasia, or other anti-life actions,” the diocese added.

The diocese has indicated that several Catholic companies and groups also use Zoom for video conferencing, and hopes that its decision may raise awareness of the company's stance on abortion.

Rape, incest exemptions restored to South Carolina abortion ban

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 17:14

Columbia, S.C., Nov 6, 2019 / 03:14 pm (CNA).- As the South Carolina legislature considers a bill that would ban most abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, a Senate committee vote has restored exemptions that would allow abortions in cases of rape or incest.

The bill will now head to the full state Senate for consideration. Gov. Henry McMaster has said he would sign the bill regardless of whether the exemption is present, the Associated Press reports.

The legislation would require doctors to test for an unborn baby’s heartbeat before an abortion is performed. The heartbeat is detectable about six weeks into pregnancy.

Doctors who fail to comply could face criminal penalties if the bill becomes law. Women seeking abortions would not be subject to criminal prosecution.

An amendment to add an exemption to the original abortion ban legislation in cases of rape and incest - Amendment H.3020 - was debated by the House of Representatives and passed in a 70-31 vote in April.

On Oct. 22 a subcommittee of the Senate’s Medical Affairs Committee voted 4-3 along party lines to remove the exceptions.

In the Senate Medical Affairs Committee on Nov. 5, three Republicans joined six Democrats to refuse to advance the bill in its current state. This restored the previous exceptions. The three Republicans then sided with six other Republicans to pass the updated bill by a vote of 9-6.

Both versions of bill allowed for abortion in cases determined to be medical emergencies.

Some Republicans have objected to the bill on the grounds that it could lead to a fight in the Senate. Some said they wanted to wait to see if similar laws in other states withstand legal challenges, the Associated Press said.

A similar bill has failed in South Carolina in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018.

Republican Rep. Tom Davis of Beaufort, a backer of the exceptions, said they were comparable to the exception allowing abortion where it is believed it would save the life of the pregnant mother. A woman’s mental health could be at stake if she were required to bear a child conceived during a crime, he argued. Davis also said he wanted to vote for legislation “that has a reasonable likelihood of being passed,” the Associated Press reports.

Sen. Richard Cash, who backed the previous amendment removing the exceptions, said incest and rape are horrible crimes but argued that protecting innocent life is part of the basic responsibility of government.

“You are in fact killing an innocent human being. Whether you mean to or not, you are punishing a person wrongfully for something he or she had nothing to do with,” Cash said, according to the South Carolina newspaper The State.

The fetal heartbeat bill was introduced last December by Rep. John McCravy and Sen. Larry Grooms.

In an Oct. 24 statement, after the exceptions had been removed, the Diocese of Charleston expressed hope that the bill would become law.

“The Church deeply believes in the humanity of the unborn and supports the Senate’s vote to move the Heartbeat bill further along in the legislative process,” the statement read.

Similar bans on abortion based on fetal heartbeat have passed in Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio. Missouri passed a ban on abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy, while Alabama passed a ban on all abortions except in cases of medical emergency.

These bans have not taken effect and are now in court, though the U.S. Supreme Court is believed to be favorable towards changing the current legal precedent that mandates broad legal abortion access nationwide.

In other states, pro-abortion legislators and judges have acted to strengthen legal abortion at the state level.

'You belong to Jesus' - The unlikely friendship of an abortionist and a pro-life Catholic

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 16:31

Fort Wayne, Ind., Nov 6, 2019 / 02:31 pm (CNA).- The unlikely friendship between a controversial abortion doctor and a local Catholic shows the impact of encounter and friendship in spreading the Gospel, an Indiana priest said after the abortionist’s death.

On Sept. 16, police launched an investigation after more than 2,000 remains of aborted children were found at the former home of abortion doctor Ulrich “George” Klopfer in Will County, Illinois.

Klopfer, 75, had died about a week before the fetal remains were discovered on his property. He had spent four decades performing abortions at clinics in Indiana and Illinois.

For years, Klopfer’s abortion practice had been criticized for a lack of safeguards. His license was suspended in 2016 because he failed to exercise reasonable care and violated documentation requirements, according to local reports.

In a homily on Sept. 15, Father Dan Scheidt of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Parish in Fort Wayne said that a parishioner from the church had befriended Klopfer while he was alive. The parishioner, who was not named in the homily, would routinely pray outside one of the clinics where Klopfer worked, and the two eventually got to know one another.

“Even after his [medical] license was taken away from the state, George Klopfer kept returning to his closed clinic so that he could get out of his car and sit in the passenger seat of the Saint Vincent’s parishioner's car and talk to his friend. Every single Thursday, George Klopfer drove from Chicago to be with his friend.”

Through the parishioner, Scheidt said he was also introduced to Klopfer.

“Twice I sat next to that man, who is responsible for the ending of over 30,000 human lives,” said Scheidt. “It became clear in our conversation that we were his only friends. It’s what prompted him to drive the distance and want to meet with the priest.”

Scheidt said he learned a great deal about Klopfer and the sufferings of his life. Klopfer was born in World War II Germany and witnessed “the neglect of human beings for each other,” he said. In one story, the abortion doctor recalled Russian soldiers machine-gunning small animals for their own cruel amusement.

Before Klopfer passed away, the priest said, the Catholic parishioner believed he saw the abortion doctor undergo a change of heart. At the time of their last meeting, the parishioner had challenged Klopfer, saying, “George, it’s not too late. You are like the thief on the cross next to Jesus. You belong to Jesus, George, accept that, even in the last hour, accept that.”

“The parishioner, who so many times left the Thursday meeting with frustration at the progress, he left that meeting believing that he’d actually reached George’s heart,” Scheidt said, emphasizing that God alone knows the condition of Klopfer’s soul at the moment of his death.

Scheidt encouraged members of his congregation to imitate the actions of the parishioner, seeing everyone as more than the sum of their sins, but as a child of God.

“My brothers and sisters, we must go in search of the divine image in every person. I saw in George Klopfer not simply one who slaughtered, but a lost sheep...Somebody who needed to know his sonship,” the priest said.

He encouraged parishioners to consider anyone they may have dismissed because of that person’s sin. He asked them to call on Christ for help in inviting those people into an encounter of love.

“God possesses the ability to transform and to heal human life,” he said. “This is our story and Jesus has given us everything, everything, for us to be part of the happy ending.”

Construction on Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine begins in OKC

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 15:55

Oklahoma City, Okla., Nov 6, 2019 / 01:55 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City broke ground Sunday on what will be the largest Catholic church in the state— the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine, meant to honor a late Oklahoma priest on the path to sainthood.

“What we are about to construct here we are building for the honor and glory of God whose goodness, whose holiness, whose faithfulness, whose mercy is shown through the life of Father Stanley Rother,” Archbishop Coakley said during his Nov. 3 homily.

Rother was born in 1935 in Okarche, Oklahoma, about 40 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. He graduated from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Maryland and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Oklahoma City and Tulsa in 1963.

Five years after his ordination, Fr. Rother accepted an invitation to join the mission team at Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous people.

Rother served the people of the parish during the Guatemalan civil war. He briefly returned to his home state of Oklahoma after a death threat, then returned knowing the dangers.

Rother was martyred in his rectory in the early morning hours of July 28, 1981 by men involved in the civil war who were attempting to kidnap him at gunpoint.

Coakley on Sunday blessed the cornerstone of the planned Spanish-style colonial shrine, the ground where the future main altar will be located, as well as the area where Blessed Rother will be entombed.

Most of Rother’s body is buried in Okarche, but his heart remained in Guatemala and became a relic upon his beatification.

Funds for the $40 million shrine come in large part from the archdiocese’s first ever capital campaign. The site will include a 2,000-seat church, a chapel where Rother’s body will be entombed, an education building, an event space and several areas designated for shrines and devotion, according to the archdiocese.

Also in attendance at the ceremony were Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran, Tulsa Bishop David Konderla and Little Rock Bishop Anthony Taylor, along with nearly 2,000 priests, deacons and laypeople.

The shrine will host many large diocesan events and will help accommodate the growing Hispanic population whose parishes are significantly overcrowded, the archdiocese says.

The Oklahoma City archdiocese opened Rother’s cause for canonization in 2007, and Pope Francis recognized Rother as a martyr in 2016. His Rite of Beatification took place Sept. 23, 2017, in downtown Oklahoma City with more than 20,000 people in attendance.

Rother is the first martyr from the United States and the first U.S.-born priest to be beatified, the archdiocese says.

Rother was, according to those who knew him, a quiet man who struggled with academics at times. He was well-suited for missionary life and was much-beloved by the Tz’utujil indigenous people he served, who called him “Padre Apla’s.”

The fruits of Rother’s service in Guatemala are still apparent, Coakley and others have told CNA.

Rother helped to translate the Bible into the native language, organizing a team to translate the New Testament so they could read it at Mass. That translation is still used to this day.

He also helped to build schools, hospitals, wells, and a Catholic radio station.

“The Catholic community in Santiago Atitlan is incredibly vibrant and active. I’ve never seen as many altar servers as they have at each Sunday Mass in Santiago – it’s incredible,” said Father Josh Mayer, a priest of the Diocese of Gallup who visited Rother’s mission in Guatemala for his feast day last summer.

“The Eucharistic Ministers and lectors and catechists and other ministry groups are all incredibly well organized and everyone takes their roles very seriously. The people are very proud of what they do for Jesus and His Church. Every time I visit the parish of Santiago Apostol [St. James the Apostle], I’m inspired with a vision of what we could do at our parishes back home.”

Federal judge blocks conscience protection rule for healthcare workers

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 15:00

New York City, N.Y., Nov 6, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A federal judge in New York overturned the Trump administration’s conscience protection rule for health care workers on Wednesday.

The “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care” rule was finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services in May and set to go into effect on Nov. 22. It required that federally-funded organizations be certified compliant with more than two dozen existing statutory conscience protections in health care. These protections would allow health care professionals to opt out of performing or assisting in procedures they are morally opposed to, such as abortions and gender-transition surgeries.

Judge Paul Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York vacated the HHS rule in a 146-page decision, issued Nov. 6, saying that while the provisions “recognize and protect undeniably important rights,” they do not comply with the U.S. Constitution and Administrative Procedure Act.

“The Court’s decision today leaves HHS at liberty to consider and promulgate rules governing these provisions,” Judge Engelmayer wrote.

Three sets of plaintiffs had sued the administration over the rule, including 19 states, the District of Columbia, three local governments, Planned Parenthood’s national federation and Northern New England affiliate, and National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association and Public Health Solutions, Inc.

“This decision leaves health care professionals across America vulnerable to being forced to perform, facilitate, or refer for procedures that violate their conscience,” said Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute, a legal organization that works to protect religious freedom. 

Planned Parenthood Action praised the decision on Wednesday, saying that the HHS rule gave health care workers “a license to discriminate” and that “all patients should be able to access the care they need without judgment or discrimination.”

The HHS rule was issued simply to give “enforcement tools” for conscience laws that were already in place, Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), said in a July statement.

“This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the healthcare field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life,” Severino said when the rule was finalized in May.

In August, the OCR said it had found a case at the University of Vermont Medical Center where a nurse had reportedly been coerced into assisting with an abortion against her conscientious beliefs. HHS had issued a notice of violation to the hospital.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized the district court judge’s decision on Wednesday, calling it “absurd mush” and saying that “In this country, government doesn’t get to tell you that your faith is fine on Sunday at church but not Monday at work.”

HHS is expected to appeal the decision. The rule will not go into effect as planned on Nov. 22.

State elections point to looming battles over abortion, LGBT, and gun rights

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 14:00

Richmond, Va., Nov 6, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Tuesday’s state election results suggest coming fights over abortion, religious freedom, and gun restrictions in Virginia and Kentucky.

In Virginia, Democrats won both chambers of the state legislature and will hold both the state house and governor’s mansion for the first time since 1994. The results have generated speculation over potential 2020 legislation on abortion, immigration, LGBTQ issues, and gun restrictions.

Earlier this year, the state was in the spotlight of the late-term abortion debate when Del. Kathy Tran (D) introduced one of the most radical abortion bills in the country. Tran’s bill would have removed most restrictions on second and third trimester abortions, including when the mother was in active labor.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D), when explaining the bill on the regional radio station WTOP, said that under Tran’s legislation, a baby that survived a botched abortion would be made “comfortable” while the mother and doctor would discuss whether or not it be allowed to survive, sparking a national uproar over his comments.

National pro-life groups rallied to make the election a referendum on abortion extremism. The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List in January announced a six-figure campaign to defeat pro-abortion candidates in the state, after Northam’s comments. One Catholic resident of northern Virginia, Nick Bell, challenged Del. Vivian Watts in the 39th district and credited his decision to run to Watts’ co-sponsorship of Tran’s abortion bill.

Planned Parenthood Virginia praised Tuesday’s election results, tweeting “Huge congratulations to the new pro-reproductive health majority in the legislature!”

The president of March for Life, Jeanne Mancini, called the results “are disappointing for those who value life.”

The LGBT campaign group the Human Rights Campaign also hailed the election of a “pro-equality majority” in the Virginia State Legislature, noting the victories of Joshua Cole in the 4th district and Dan Helmer to the 40th district, and the re-election of openly-transgender candidate Danica Roem in the 13th district of the House of Delegates. The group said it invested $250,000 into the legislative races in August.

One key development behind the Virginia elections is the state’s anticipated ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The amendment was originally approved by Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification by 1979, and states that “Equality of rights under law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

However, the language of the amendment is widely considered to be a vehicle for abortion rights, and the Virginia Catholic Conference has noted that it could be interpreted to require taxpayer-funded support for abortion, as similar amendments in other states have been so interpreted by state and federal courts.

The original deadline for ratification of the ERA was extended until 1982, but the amendment failed to receive the necessary approval by three-quarters of the states, and five states had rescinded their ratifications by then.

However, House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has proposed a majority vote in Congress to validate the original 35 state ratifications of the ERA, which, with Nevada and Illinois voting to ratify the ERA in 2017 and 2018, would supposedly require just the support of Virginia to amend the U.S. Constitution. Pro-life advocates have said that this action would be illegal, as the original deadline to ratify the ERA has long passed.

While some pro-life groups fought to make the election a referendum on abortion laws, the issue did not play a significant role in the election, Dr. Matthew Green, a professor of politics at the Catholic University of America, told CNA. Green noted that Virginia has been trending Democratic for years and thus the party’s success on Tuesday was not a surprise.

Gun violence and proposed gun restrictions, however, could have played a role, Green said. After a shooter killed 13 people, including himself, in Virginia Beach in May, Democrats proposed a slew of gun regulations but Republican leaders in the legislature ended a special session on gun laws after less than two hours.

Before the special session, the state’s Catholic bishops had called for “reasonable safety regulations for firearms and proper screening for those seeking to acquire a firearm.”

Nov. 18 was set as the date for the special session on gun laws to readjourn, just less than two weeks after the election. “It would not surprise me if Democrats took the election as a referendum on the issue of gun violence,” Green said.

A letter by Virginia’s Catholic bishops—Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, and Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond—was also circulated before the elections in September, and outlined key issues for Catholic voters to consider, including abortion, assisted suicide, religious freedom, immigration, and gun restrictions.

While “[m]any issues are important,” the bishops wrote, “[n]ot all issues have equal moral weight,” as “[s]ome actions, such as abortion and euthanasia, are ‘intrinsically evil’” and “[p]rotecting life is paramount.”

In a voter education resource, the conference warned of Tran’s proposed abortion bill, as well as legislation to require abortion coverage in private health plans and to allow for lawsuits against religious employers who abide by their religious mission.

The conference also praised some anticipated 2020 legislation, such as proposed gun restrictions, and bills to assist immigrants with transportation and education and to fight predatory lending.

Although Democrats will now control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state legislature, simple party control does not guarantee the passage of legislation such as abortion bills, Green said. Democrats have a narrow majority in the state senate, and some of the senators are “notoriously independent-minded,” Green said.

Also on Tuesday Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) was ousted after one term by Democratic candidate Andy Beshear who enjoyed the support of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. Bevin lost by a razor-thin margin of 49.2% to 48.9%, and as of Wednesday morning, Beshear reportedly had declared victory while Bevin had not yet conceded the race.

During his time in office, Bevin signed legislation requiring ultrasound screenings for women seeking abortions and bills banning abortions after 19 weeks, after a baby’s heartbeat is detected, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and banning any abortions based on the race, gender, or disability diagnosis of the unborn child. On EWTN Pro-Life Weekly he called for other state governors to “be bold” on pro-life legislation.

However, Bevin’s overall “brash” and “blunt” governing style did not win over voters, Green told CNA. Bevin challenged teachers’ unions and public universities while in office, and instituted work requirements for Medicaid recipients, possibly triggering his opponents to unite and mobilize against him.

In Mississippi, Republicans held onto the offices of governor and attorney general but the gubernatorial race was much closer than expected in a deep red state, Green said. This election showed that the Democratic voter base is highly-motivated, especially in traditionally Republican states, and is another “canary in the coal mine” for Republicans entering 2020.

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund praised the victory of Lynn Fitch in the attorney general race against Jennifer Collins who had the support of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

“Lynn is a staunch defender of life who worked hard to create a pro-life Republican platform as a member of the 2016 Republican National Convention platform committee. As Attorney General, Lynn will be a prolife, pro-woman leader and work to uphold laws protecting unborn children and their mothers in the Magnolia State,” Marilyn Musgrave, SBA List vice president of government affairs, said.

Rubio reviews Kanye’s new album, and talks about dignity of work

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 06:00

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- U.S. senator and noted hip-hop enthusiast Marco Rubio shared his thoughts on rapper Kanye West’s new gospel album in a recent interview with CNA.

“I don’t know if I like it or dislike it,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told CNA of the track “Selah” on West’s highly-anticipated album “Jesus is King.” Rubio said the track was the only one he had listened to on the album as of Monday.

The Florida senator has often spoken publicly about his fondness for rap, previously professing a preference for the West Coast rappers of the 1990s in their musical feud with New York East Coast artists. In a 2012 interview, Rubio described Eminem as “the only guy that speaks at any sort of depth” in the genre. 

“He's a guy that does music that talks about the struggles of addiction and before that violence, with growing up in a broken family, not being a good enough father,” Rubio said of Eminem in 2012, while noting it was harder to find time to play rap music with a growing family of children around.

Returning to West’s new offering, Rubio told CNA that “he’s an interesting artist, and obviously someone who is going through a lot positively, and potentially, I don’t know, negatively as well,” Rubio said of West. “I don’t mean to be judgmental, he’s doing it in the public eye,” he said, “and it’s not the first time that he has religious themes in his music.” 

West’s track “Jesus Walks” was featured on his 2004 album “College Dropout.”

“His faith is clearly something that calls to him, and obviously it’s a road he’s been on for a while and it’s interesting to see it cross over into his music,” Rubio said. “What’s most interesting, however, is to see the critical reaction to it.”

Rubio discussed the album with CNA, along with his vision for “common good economics” Nov. 4, ahead of a major speech on the same theme at the Catholic University of America on Tuesday morning. 

The senator addressed students at Catholic University’s Busch School of Business on “common good capitalism” and the dignity of work, during a Vocation of Business Class taught by Professor Andreas Widmer.

Rubio said that profit making has been prioritized over the dignity of workers, with the result of many Americans being “left behind” in an economy that, overall, has grown in recent decades. He cited Pope Francis’ warning that “finance overwhelms the real economy” when profit is prioritized above all else.

The political right, he said, upholds the rights of companies and shareholders to profits, but ignores the rights of workers. The political left, meanwhile, promotes “free everything” but will “rarely focus on our obligation to work.”

“When an economy stops providing dignified work for millions of people,” he said, parents no longer have time for their children and resources to volunteer and contribute to their communities.

Furthermore, when men in particular do not have dignified work to provide for their families, he said, “the impact is corrosive and devastating.” He pointed to evidence in declines in rates of marriage, childbirth, and life expectancy, and corresponding increases in drug abuse, drug overdose and suicide.

Yet as a solution, “socialism would be far worse” than the current challenges of working families in the U.S., Rubio said.

Instead, he said, Catholics should look to “restore ‘common good capitalism’” where people have dignified work and businesses can make a profit, while reinvesting in the company.

Professor Andrew Abela, founding dean of the Busch School, agreed with the importance of Rubio drawing attention to those “left behind” in today’s economy. While the Busch School emphasizes “entrepreneurial capitalism” that exists “to serve others,” today’s “crony capitalism” promotes greed, selfishness, and a utilitarian view of workers, he said.

“The moment it’s cheaper to move to China, you’re gone,” he said of the view of workers by corporations under “crony capitalism.”

Rubio pitched specific policies as an antidote to today’s economy, including preferences in the tax code for job creation, families with children, and higher wages for workers rather than company stock buybacks.

Rubio also said the U.S. should look to invest in whole industries such as aerospace, telecommunications, transportation and housing, “to retrofit past engines of productivity” for the new economy, and also revamp the Small Business Administration.

The proposal to reenergize the Small Business Administration was “music to my ears,” Widmer told CNA, as his class seeks to form principled entrepreneurs who will create dignified jobs.

“We’re not the business school you go to, to become the next president of GE,” he said. “Here you come to run your family business.”

Immigrant Catholics have had a storied tradition of running small businesses in the U.S., he said. “The Catholics aren’t the Bill Gateses of the world. The Catholics are the dry cleaners and the lawn care companies and all of that kind of stuff,” he said.

“We have a finance department and all of that, but the majority of our students are people who will go back and run Main Street, not Wall Street and not Silicon Valley,” he said.

Despite the hype, non-monogamy is far from common, researcher says

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 04:50

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2019 / 02:50 am (CNA).- On October 24, CBS published a 20-minute documentary following the lives of several different groups of people in polyamorous relationships, also called consensual non-monogamous relationships. In such relationships, three or more people in a group are sexually and emotionally involved with the other members of the group.

On the same day, ABC’s Nightline aired a segment on actor Nico Tortorella, whose open marriage with Bethany Meyers is documented in Tortorella’s new book, Space Between: Explorations of Love, Sex, and Fluidity.

The week prior, Congresswoman Katie Hill was reported to have been in a “throuple,” or a threesome relationship, with her estranged husband and a female staffer. She has subsequently announced her resignation from Congress.

To read the news, it would seem that consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is prolific. An oft-cited statistic in stories about CNM claims that one in five Americans has participated in such a relationship at some point in their lives.

“There is nothing with which modern relationship journalism seems so peculiarly infatuated as non-monogamy. Call it ‘polyamory,’ ‘swinging,’ or ‘consensual non-monogamy’ —if reporting is to be believed, it's everywhere,” Charles Fain Lehman, a staff writer for Washington Free Beacon, wrote in a recent analysis for the Institute of Family Studies.

But really, Lehman argues, polyamory is not everywhere. Or it is at least not as common as most media coverage, and the ubiquitous “one in five” statistic, would make it seem.

“Where does that number come from? Essentially all of the articles point to the same source, a 2016 study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy by a group of researchers at the Kinsey Institute. The abstract of the study does indeed confirm that ‘more than one in five (21.9% in Study 1; 21.2% in Study 2) participants report engaging in CNM at some point in their lifetime,’” Lehman said.

However, a closer look at the study reveals that the two surveys on which it is based rely only on information from single people - in the first study aged 21 and older, in the second study aged 18 and older. The first study surveyed people who were legally unmarried at the time, while the second study surveyed people who were either single or just casually dating.

Lehman said this means the conclusions of the survey can only apply to the single population and not to married people, even though all married people were at one time single.

“But, as decades of research have shown, married people vary systematically from their single peers. Among other factors, they are whiter, wealthier, and more religious,” Lehman noted.

“It is entirely plausible that a sample of entirely single people overrepresents a preference for polyamory—indeed, that they have not selected out of singlehood and into stable monogamy is one such indicator.”

Moreover, Lehman said he is not sure that the “one in five” statistic can even be accurately claimed for the single population, because of the phrasing of one of the questions in the survey and what may be a difference of definition.

“According to the study, ‘(a)ll participants were asked if they had ever had an open sexual relationship.’ What's an open sexual relationship? ‘An agreed-upon, sexually non-exclusive relationship,’” Lehman noted.

“This language could, of course, describe ‘swinging’ or ‘opening up.’ But it could also quite plausibly describe casual dating, in which singles knowingly date, and sleep with, multiple people at once,” Lehman said.

“Such relationships are perhaps, strictly speaking, a-traditional, but they do not meet most people's intuitive definitions of ‘polyamory,’ or even ‘open relationships’ (which connotes a degree of romantic, but not sexual, commitment—a nuance uncaptured by the question),” he added.

Even some CNM relationships would not fit this definition, if they are sexually exclusive relationships between three or more people, but are not open to others outside of the set group, Lehman wrote.

“There's at least one other reason to be suspicious of Haupert et al.'s finding,” Lehman added.  “Their methodology notes that they deliberately oversampled ‘homosexual men and women.’ In fact, 15.3% of study 1 and 14.3% of study 2 respondents self-identified as LGB (lesbian, gay, or bisexual). That's substantially higher than the population-wide prevalence of LGB people, which is generally pinned at 3 to 5%.”

“Previous research cited by the paper has shown, and Haupert et al. confirm, that identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is associated with a significantly higher likelihood of reporting engaging in consensual non-monogamy,” he said.

“In other words, the study substantially oversampled the very subpopulation they then find is far more likely to engage in CNM.”

Lehman said it is not explained in the study whether the researchers adjusted for this bias in the results, though he said it seems unlikely. But the frequently-cited statistic that at least 20% of all Americans have dabbled in CNM seems to be a product of sample selection instead of reality, he noted.

“As always, the reality is probably more boring. Some single people engage in non-exclusive relationships; a smaller, unmeasured share probably engage in more formal ‘polyamorous’ or ‘consensually non-monogamous’ relationships, and that share has probably risen slightly,” he wrote.

In fact, he noted, the 2018 “i-Fidelity” survey by YouGov for The Wheatley Institution at BYU found that roughly 12% of Americans had ever engaged in an “open sexual relationship,” defined as “an agreed-upon, sexually non-exclusive relationship with more than one partner.”

Millennials were more likely to have engaged in such relationships, but still at a rate of less than 20%, he added.

“Polyamory may sound fun and exotic, but most of us don't live such fun and exotic (and complicated) lives. By their 30s, most Americans (80%) are either married or single, with little evidence that ‘alternative’ structures are filling the gap for a significant share of adults. As Dr. Alan Hawkins recently put it, ‘the norm of marital monogamy is not crumbling’ after all.”

 

Catholic Relief Services dismayed over US intent to leave Paris Climate Accord

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 02:03

Baltimore, Md., Nov 6, 2019 / 12:03 am (CNA).- Catholic Relief Services, the official charitable arm of the U.S. bishops, is expressing strong opposition to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.

“With the planet warming at an alarming rate and the poorest of the poor left to withstand the consequences, there will undoubtedly be more global instability, forced migration and conflict,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ executive vice president of Mission, Mobilization and Advocacy.

“It is not too late to take meaningful steps to care for creation and mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change, which is why we hope our government reconsiders this misguided decision.”

On Monday, the United States gave its formal notification of its intent to exit the Paris Climate Accord.

The Dec. 2015 agreement, which 188 nations signed following the United Nations Climate Change Conference, came into force during Nov. 2016.

The coalition of nations agreed to attempt to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

Pope Francis hailed the agreement as “historic” and said that it would require “a concerted and generous commitment” from members of the international community. Since then, officials of the Holy See have reiterated its view that climate change is a moral issue and has an effect on human dignity.

At a UN climate change summit in Poland in Dec. 2018, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin urged the implementation of the Paris Climate Accord by “easing the impact of climate change through responsible mitigation and adaptation measures.”

“The scientific data at our disposal clearly show the urgent need for swift action, within a context of ethics, equity and social justice,” Parolin said.

Some 60 dioceses in the United States have so far pledged to continue to support action to mitigate climate change, along with close to 200 religious communities, more than 100 parishes, and other Catholic groups in an agreement affirming the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.

President Donald Trump had announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the agreement after he took office in 2017, citing economic downsides to the plan’s implementation.

The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China. Trump has previously said that the agreement put “no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters” like China.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a formal notification to the United Nations of its intention to withdraw on the first possible day to do so, the BBC reports. UN rules meant it was not possible for the U.S. to start the withdrawal process until Nov. 4, 2019.

The withdrawal will take effect on Nov. 4, 2020, one day after the 2020 presidential election.

According to the BBC, the Paris Climate Accord included efforts to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100, as well as a review of each country's contribution to cutting emissions every five years.

Pompeo said the U.S. would instead follow “a realistic and pragmatic model,” using “all energy sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently.”

CRS said in a Nov. 4 statement that the Paris Climate Accord signifies international recognition that climate change is especially threatening “the most vulnerable who contributed the least to it,” and asserted that the agreement would “secure the cooperation, action and resources needed to address the problem.”

The agency also quoted Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si on the environment: “Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.”

CRS noted that in Bangladesh, rising sea levels are encroaching on water tables and coastal homes. In Central America, CRS said in 2017, coffee farmers are losing their crops due to more frequent drought and because warmer temperatures help pests thrive.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the years 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 are the four warmest years in recorded history, with 2019 projected to be in the top three.

The next UN climate summit will begin in Madrid in December.

Texas bishops call for halt to Rodney Reed execution

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 20:00

Austin, Texas, Nov 5, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops have called on Gov. Greg Abbott to delay or cancel the execution of Rodney Reed, a convicted murderer who maintains his innocence. 

"The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops engages in advocacy efforts for every single Texas execution by urging the Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant reprieve as a matter of mercy based on our position that the death penalty is inadmissible in modern society,” said Jennifer Allmon, executive director of the Texas Conference for Catholic Bishops in a statement provided to CNA. 

But, Allmon said, Reed's case is different.

“In the case of Mr. Reed, we are engaging as a matter of justice rather than mercy because there is substantial evidence that he may not be guilty of this crime,” Allmon said. 

“It would be a tremendous miscarriage of justice to allow the actual killer to go free while taking Mr. Reed’s life when there is untested DNA and an allegation of a confession by an alternate suspect that has not yet been investigated,” she said. 

The Texas bishops will continue to pray for justice and for the family of Stacey Stites, who Reed was convicted of murdering.

Reed was sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of 20-year-old Stites in Bastrop County, Texas. After not showing up to work on the morning of April 23, 1996, Stites’ body was discovered in a wooded area that afternoon. She had been strangled by her own belt, and had unknown male DNA in and around her body. Officers believe that she had been sexually assaulted.

At the time of her murder, Stites was engaged to be married to a police officer named Jimmy Fennell. Fennell was considered to be the main suspect in her murder, but the DNA on her body did not match his and he was never charged. Years after Stites’ murder, Fennell was sentenced to 10 years in prison for charges related to sexual assault. 

Reed’s supporters allege that it was Fennell, not Reed, who killed Stites. DNA from the belt has not been tested and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will not approve of new DNA testing. 

A year after Stites’ murder, the DNA on her body was matched to that of Reed, who had a criminal history. Reed initially denied knowing Stites, but later changed his story and claimed they had a consensual sexual relationship and a secret affair. 

Reed is due to be executed on Nov. 20. 

Among those also calling for Gov. Abbott (R) to stop the execution are celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, Meek Mill, and Gigi Hadid. A petition organized by The Action PAC on “FreeRodneyReed.com” requesting that Abbott stop the execution has been signed by over 1.1 million people. 

Those who think Reed is innocent cite many concerns regarding his trial and the potential of a cover-up by the town’s police department. Reed, who is black, was convicted by an all-white jury. A man imprisoned with Fennell wrote in a sworn affidavit that Fennell had confessed to murdering Stites due to being angry that she had been in a relationship with a black man. 

The Catholic Church is opposed to the use of capital punishment. 

In a livestream conversation held on Oct. 10, the World Day Against the death penalty, Archbishops Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Wilton Gregory of Washington were joined by Bishop Frank DeWane of Venice (FL) discussed Church teaching on capital punishment and said that they believed the death penalty was outdated. 

“What the Church wants us to understand is that taking a life, even the life of one who may have been guilty of a horrendous crime, is itself a continuation of violence,” said Gregory.  

“It makes us violent to do violence against another human being” regardless of the circumstances, Gregory said. 

Catholics, said DeWane, have a moral obligation to “say something” when life is not being respected, especially in instances that involve people who cannot speak for themselves.

LGBT leader paid sex abuse victim not to testify, Oregon authorities say

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 19:21

Portland, Ore., Nov 5, 2019 / 05:21 pm (CNA).- Terry Bean, a leading investor, LGBT advocate and political fundraiser, has been arrested in Oregon following allegations that he and his lawyer unlawfully paid $200,000 to prevent court testimony from a man who accused Bean and his ex-boyfriend of sexually abusing him at the age of 15.

Terrence Patrick Bean, now age 71, posted bail Oct. 30 after Portland police arrested him on a charge of a felony computer crime, The Oregonian reports. Authorities allege he tried to pay off the alleged victim of sex abuse to prevent his testimony.

The charge relates to the revived criminal case against him alleging that in September 2013 he committed two felony counts of third-degree sodomy and a misdemeanor sexual abuse charge.

The previous trial had been postponed when the alleged victim disappeared, and later refused to testify when he reappeared. The charges had been dismissed without prejudice in 2015. Prosecutors revived the case earlier this year.

Bean is a co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign and of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. He has been a major fundraiser for Democratic Party candidates, including President Barack Obama’s campaign, the Oregonian reported.

Kiah Lawson, now 30, was Bean’s boyfriend at the time of the alleged crime, when both men were in Eugene, Ore. for an Oregon Ducks game. In September 2019 Lawson was found guilty on identical sex abuse charges and sentenced to two years in prison.

Bean’s lawyer, Derek Ashton, was also arrested on a felony computer crime for the alleged payoff and posted bail Oct. 30. The Oregon State Bar opened an ethics investigation against him in September.

Bean and Ashton are accused of arranging a $200,000 payment to the alleged victim, who was 15-years-old at the time of the alleged crime.

Steve Sherlag, Bean’s new criminal defense attorney, rejected the charges against his client.

“While we are shocked at the new charge and the state's apparent shotgun approach, Mr. Bean unequivocally denies all of the state's claims and their attendant innuendo,” Sherlag said, according to Williamette Week. “We look forward to exposing the full truth in open court and a full acquittal as justice requires.”

The Human Rights Campaign has many corporate partners in its LGBT activism. It has lobbied businesses to push for “LGBT equality” in legislation and corporate policy, to recruit self-identified LGBT employees and to give financial support for LGBT organizations through LGBT-targeted marketing or advertising and philanthropic support.

The organization has been critical of Catholic teaching and practice as well as leaders like Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops. It seeks to promote lay Catholic allies who oppose what the campaign characterizes as “the U.S. hierarchy's anti-LGBTQ actions,” according to the campaign website’s Catholic initiatives section.

In 2014, the Human Rights Campaign responded to the charges against Bean. It said that Bean is one of 80 board members of the organization and he has no daily oversight or responsibility for its programs. He had taken a voluntary leave of absence from the board “until his issues are resolved,” a spokesman told CNN.

CNA sought comment from the Human Rights Campaign but did not receive a response by deadline.

In Ashton and Bean’s initial response to the charges, they proposed a “civil compromise,” which under Oregon law can sometimes resolve criminal cases through an approved payment to an alleged victim. However, Lane County Judge Charles Zennache refused to allow it, Williamette Week reports.

August court filings from Lane County Deputy District Attorney Erik Hasselman claim to have evidence of possible criminal conduct showing Ashton used $220,000 to pay the alleged victim not to show up or testify during Bean’s 2015 trial, The Oregonian reports.

Portland Police Bureau Detective Jeff Myers said Bean’s lawyer Ashton and the alleged victim’s lawyer worked to reach a civil settlement, 2019 court records say. ​They report a detailed plan to prevent investigators from finding the boy and that the alleged victim’s own lawyer allegedly helped him hide.

A defense motion over the summer from one of Bean’s lawyers indicated that Deputy Lane County District Attorney Erik Hasselman claims to have evidence that Bean, Ashton, the boy’s lawyer, and another attorney for a prosecutor’s witness “committed the crimes of bribery, witness tampering and ‘possibly’ money laundering.”

Bean attorney Kimberlee Volm, who filed the motion, told a judge that the statute of limitations had probably run out and would prevent charging Bean or Ashton with such charges.

KOIN 6 News said that the new arrests show that prosecutors believe they can proceed with some charges.

Bean has filed a $2 million civil lawsuit against Myers, the investigating officer; the prosecutor Erik Hasselman; and the alleged victim’s civil attorney Sean Riddell. The lawsuit claims they colluded into coaxing the alleged victim into falsely claiming Bean had sexually abused him, The Oregonian reported in September.

Riddell has filed a $6.15 million civil lawsuit against Bean on behalf of the alleged victim.

Scientists call for 'gradually reduced' population to fight climate change

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A letter warning of a “climate emergency” signed by more than 11,000 scientists calls for a “gradual reduction” in the world’s population.  

The “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency” was published in the journal BioScience on Tuesday, and was signed by 11,258 scientists from 153 countries.

In the statement, the signatories listed both economic growth and a global population increase as “among the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.” The report called for “bold and drastic transformations regarding economic and population policies.”

The statement was published on Tuesday, after the U.S. formally declared that it was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, an international agreement set to go into effect in 2020 under which many UN member countries pledged to reduce their carbon emissions.

The Vatican has supported the Paris agreement, with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin stating last year that “climate change is an issue increasingly more moral than technical.”

On Tuesday, the warning issued by the scientists noted a “rapid rise in greenhouse gas emissions” in recent decades along with other factors such as rises in air transport, economic GDP, and energy consumption and a decrease in the size of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.

The global population is increasing by 80 million people per year, the statement claims, and is a key driver of climate change. “The world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity,” the scientists said.

Tuesday’s statement calls for “proven and effective policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates and lessening the impacts of population growth on GHG emissions and biodiversity loss.”

While the global population has continued to increase, fertility rates in many Western countries have already declined to replacement level or below.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the birth rate in the United States hit an all-time low in 2018 with the total fertility rate at 1.7—well below the replacement rate of 2.1. In South Korea in 2017, there were seven births per 1,000 people; Hungary saw its birth rate fall to 1.45 children per woman.

According to demographic prospects in the 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects, for the years 2015-2020, Western Europe was estimated at 1.68 live births per woman. Latin America and the Caribbean fell just under replacement level at 2.05 live births per woman. The African continent, by contrast, was estimated at 4.44 live births per woman.

Successful population control policies, the report noted, “make family-planning services available to all people, remove barriers to their access and achieve full gender equity, including primary and secondary education as a global norm for all, especially girls and young women.”

It cited another report by John Bongaarts and Brian C. O'Neill in Science Magazine that said efforts to slow population growth are being ignored as a legitimate solution to climate change.

Dr. Catherine Pakaluk, assistant professor of social research and economic thought at the Catholic University of America, told CNA in March that having children is a sign of optimism and that climate concerns should take a backseat to other factors.

"I think it takes a lot of courage to have a child, in any time," Pakaluk said. “Having children in general seems to require a lot of courage and optimism.”  

Pakaluk, whose primary research area is in demographics and families, told CNA that having a child is an intimidating task, but one that is made easier with what she called “spiritual resources.”

Pakaluk also said rhetoric about overpopulation should be tempered by experience, and that while many believe vital resources are becoming more scarce, the opposite is often true.

"As the world population has grown, together with research, industry, and innovation, in fact, most of those scarce resources have actually become less scarce,” she said.

The professor noted that while the world’s population had typically ebbed and flowed before steadily rising over the last century, the “golden age” of sustained population growth is coming to an end.

Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on ecology, “Laudato Si,” paragraph 50 states that despite calls for population control as a solution to poverty, “demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development”.

“To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues,” the encyclical states of population growth as a false answer to climate change.

Developed countries may propose population control as a means by which to continue consuming resources at an unsustainable rate, while burdening developing countries with abortion, contraception, and sterilizations as well as effects of climate change, the encyclical said.

“It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption,” the encyclical states.

Tuesday’s report was authored by William J. Ripple, professor of ecology at Oregon State University (OSU), and OSU associate research professor Christopher Wolf. It was signed by more than 11,000 scientists, ranging in disciplines and experience from biology professors to chemists, animal behaviorists, PhD candidates, research fellows, and heads of think tanks.

Minnesota bishop kept admitted child abuser in ministry, did not investigate allegation of abuse

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 16:05

Crookston, Minn., Nov 5, 2019 / 02:05 pm (CNA).- Depositions of Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner were released today, in which the bishop admits that he did not properly address an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest that an alleged victim brought to him in 2011. The depositions, released by attorney Jeff Anderson as part of a settlement agreement, also indicate that Hoeppner mishandled the cases of several priests, including one, presently in active ministry, who admitted to diocesan officials that he had sexually abused a 5-year-old while a teenager.

Hoeppner is the subject of a Vatican investigation into his administration of the Crookston diocese, conducted under the auspices of Vos estis lux mundi, 2018 norms from Pope Francis on investigating bishops accused of mishandling or obstructing allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

The first stage of the Vatican investigation was undertaken by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A Nov. 5 statement from the archdiocese said that Hebda sent to Rome last week his findings and recommendations in the case, and is now awaiting further instructions.

Hebda's report “includes all investigative information gathered, as well as summaries, analysis, findings of fact, and recommendations. Final resolution of this matter will be determined in Rome. The next step in the process is for the Congregation for Bishops to determine what other actions, if any, are necessary to reach that resolution,“ the archdiocese said.

“Several qualified lay persons, including experienced staff from the Archdiocese’s Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, conducted the investigation. Other outside lay experts, including a member of the Ministerial Review Board and a retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, assisted them,” the statement added.

The findings of the Vatican investigation are not expected to be released before the U.S. bishops’ conference meets next week, and Hoeppner is expected to attend the meeting.

However, the released depositions reveal details about Hoeppner’s leadership of the diocese.

The released depositions and documents show that Rev. Joseph Richards, a current pastor and the diocesan judicial vicar, admitted to diocesan authorities that he had sexually abused a child when he was a teenager, suffers from “sexual compulsivity,” and that he has had sexual fantasies involving minors while in ministry as a priest.

Confronted with those facts in a 2018 deposition, Hoeppner said that he had felt no need to re-examine his decision to assign the priest to active ministry.

In August, Hoeppner acknowledged that Richards had disclosed abusing a child while a teenager, but said that “after his successful completion and discharge from treatment, and having benefitted from the help he received, Father Richards was returned to priestly ministry and has served admirably now and without incident for a total of 29 years.”

The depositions also demonstrate that Hoeppner did not exercise oversight of a priest accused of “boundary violations,” and judged by mental health professional to be at risk of further violations, whom the bishop placed into priestly ministry without notifying parishioners of allegations made against the priest. In the depositions, the bishop said he could not recall whether expert recommendations to prevent the priest from committing boundary had been followed.

That priest, Fr. Patrick Sullivan, was placed on "administrative leave" in 2019 after a new allegation of boundary violations was made against him, reportedly similar to the cases in which he had previously been accused.

An August statement acknowledged that Sullivan has been accused of abusing a child, but said that allegation was not substantiated. It did not address the priest's reported history of grooming relationships.

Hoeppner was also asked in 2018 depositions asked about Fr. Don Braukmann, who died in July.

In 2014, the bishop had received complaints about Braukmann from the safe-environment coordinator in the Crookston diocese, who claimed that the priest had committed “as many as 15 to 20 code of conduct rules,” and had a questionable relationship with a young teenager.

While Braukmann was eventually sent for counseling and mental health treatment, the deposition suggests the bishop did not follow recommended protocols when the priest returned, and the priest reportedly resumed a grooming relationship with the teenager.

In the deposition, Hoeppner said he disputed the views of his own safe-environment coordinator and said he did not recall that treatment facility staff classified Braukmann as being at “high risk” of abusing and grooming minors.

The priest remained in ministry until shortly before his death.

The deposition also include Hoeppner's admission of failing to follow the Church’s protocols for addressing allegations of clerical sexual abuse against minors, in the case of an allegation that Msgr. Roger Grundhaus abused Ron Vasek, a former diaconal candidate in the diocese.

Vasek spoke at a Nov. 5 press conference.

“I was abused. I reported, I was told to be silent. I was coerced. I have been lied to, and I gave up my diaconate to tell the truth,” he said.

“It’s disturbing to see the Bishop of Crookston act like that.”

Vasek added that before the press conference, he had read depositions of both Hoeppner and the diocesan vicar general, Msgr. Michael Foltz.

“I had read their depositions and saw the blatant lies and the misuses of trust and power these men had perpetrated.  As I read them, I was sickened, as I hope you will be at the dishonesty of these men. The depositions will speak for themselves. These men will be caught in their own lies. Shame on you. You have betrayed our Lord,” Vasek added.

Vasek claimed initially that Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, a priest of the Diocese of Crookston, sexually assaulted him in a hotel room in approximately 1971 while the two of them were at a canon law convention in Columbus, Ohio. 

An August statement of the diocese disputes that account, saying there was a not canon law convention in Columbus that year, while Vasek was a minor.

In fact, the alleged abuse took place during the Midwest Regional Canon Law Convention in April 1972, shortly after Vasek had turned 17. According to the canon law in place at the time, the alleged assualt did not constitute the abuse of a minor.

The discrepency of dates seems to have led the diocese to return Grundhaus to ministry without notation of the allegation against him.

But in his deposition, Hoeppner admitted that at the time the abuse was reported to him, before he was aware of the details, he did not order an investigation into the allegation.

In his deposition, Hoeppner testified that Vasek came to him in September 2011 to report the abuse. The bishop alleges that he asked Vasek if he wanted it to be made public, and Vasek said “absolutely not.”

Canon law requires a bishop to investigate all allegations of sexual abuse of minors, and to involve the diocesan review board, regardless of whether the alleged victim asks for an investigation. Hoeppner said he did initially not do that because Vasek wanted the allegation to remain “confidential.”

Hoeppner admitted in the deposition he understood himself to be violating Church norms, but said he did so to maintain confidentiality. It is not clear whether the bishop also violated Minnesota statutes regarding the mandatory reporting of child abuse.

In addition to the bishop's failure to properly handle the allegation of abuse, Vasek alleges, Hoeppner coerced him into recanting his claim.

The bishop called Vasek to his residence a meeting in Oct. 2015, shortly before Vasek was scheduled to be ordained a deacon.

Vasek claims Hoeppner at that meeting ordered him to sign a letter, printed on diocesan stationary, recanting his allegations against Grundhaus.

The letter read: “I, Ron Vasek, regarding a trip I was on when I was 16 years old, and on which a priest of the Diocese of Crookston was also participating, clearly and freely state that I have no desire to nor do I make any accusation of sexual impropriety by the priest toward me.”

Hoeppner explained that the Fargo diocese had inquired about Vasek’s allegation against Grundhaus, and intended to forbid the priest from exercising ministry within its territory, Vasek told CNA last year.

“We want to have Grundhaus be able to do ministry,” Vasek said Hoeppner told him, “so we need to have you sign a letter recanting your allegation.”

Vasek said that also Hoeppner asked him, “If news of the scandal of Grundhaus gets out, how could I ordain you? Who would want you? Where would I put you? And besides, it would be very difficult on your son.”

Feeling coerced into doing so, Vasek signed the letter.

A priest in the Crookston diocese told CNA he believes Hoeppner coerced Vasek into recanting his claim against Grundhaus so that the priest would not need to included on a court-ordered list of  alleged to have abused children prior to 1985.

Hoeppner said in his deposition that he during the meeting he offered to let Vasek put down his accusation in writing for the vicar general, but denies the claim that Vasek was being coerced.

The bishop also testified that he didn’t have the letter prepared in advance, but rather he had Vasek come back the next morning to sign it. He admitted that it was his idea to have Vasek sign the letter, and claimed that he didn’t save the file for the letter on his computer because it was “confidential.” He then, when shown a copy of the letter, claimed that he had Vasek backdate it for the previous day because that was the date they allegedly had their meeting.

He testified that he left Grundhaus’ name off the list of accused priests because, in his mind, no accusation had yet been brought forth— the accusation he had heard from Vasek in 2011 was still “confidential,” he said.

He added that he didn’t have the court order in mind “at all” when he met with Vasek in Oct. 2015.

During the Nov. 5 press conference, attorney Jeff Anderson called for the removal of Hoeppner from his post as Bishop of Crookston.

In a Nov. 5 statement, the diocese said that Hoeppner has “fully cooperated” with the canonical investigation into his leadership, and with the conditions of its recent legal settlements.

Regarding the investigation, the diocese said that “we await a response and remain hopeful that justice will prevail for all impacted by this action.”

In July, after a legal settlement was reached, Hoeppner offered another statement.

“To all victims and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, as the Bishop of Crookston I apologize for the harm done to you by those entrusted with your spiritual care. Although you can never be fully compensated for your suffering, we are thankful this litigation has now come to a good end and are hopeful this settlement offers you justice and will be helpful for healing.”

For his part, Vasek called for broader reforms.

“There is a huge problem in the Church. Active homosexual activity by priests and the secrecy of this sin must be revealed, and the holy priesthood must be restored to what Jesus said it ought to be,” Vasek said.

“The dark secret coverup of homosexual behavior has been under the radar for many years. Now the darkness is coming to light,” he added.

Vasek also discussed the effects of the abuse he suffered.

For a long time, he said, “I was suffering from the disordered belief that it was my fault, what happened.” That belief led Vasek to struggles with alcohol and confusion about his own sexuality, and even to have insecurities about caring for his children.

“Not understanding the effects of my abuse prevented me from becoming the father I should have been.”

While Vasek promised prayers for his abuser and his bishop, he also had a message for them.

“To the priests who have caused this: shame on you.”

“All of you priests, bishops, and cardinals who have forgotten your sacred vows, and allowed this abuse to continue: shame on you.”

 

This story is developing and will be updated.

 

Oklahoma Supreme Court temporarily halts law banning D&E abortions

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 13:12

Oklahoma City, Okla., Nov 5, 2019 / 11:12 am (CNA).- The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday issued a temporary injunction against a law banning dilation-and-evacuation abortions. The injunction will stop the law from taking effect while a legal challenge to it progresses.

The “Unborn Child Protection-from-Dismemberment-Abortion Act,” passed in 2015, bars dilation-and-evacuation abortions after 14 weeks. Also called a “dismemberment abortion,” the procedure uses clamps, scissors, or similar medical tools to remove an unborn baby from the womb. It is the most common abortion procedure during the second trimester.

The legislation includes an exemption for cases when doctors determine that a woman’s life is at risk, or that her health is seriously threatened. It also allows for the use of the procedure intending to save an unborn child’s life, or to remove the body of a dead unborn child.

The law had been challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic in 2015, shortly after then-Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed the bill into law. On July 12, 2019, Judge Truong upheld the ban. Opponents of the law challenged the ruling.

In September, a district court had denied a motion to temporarily halt the law. Officials agreed to wait for the state Supreme Court’s decision before enforcing the ban. The intervention from the Supreme Court this week means that the ban will not go into effect while the case continues to be argued in court.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter voiced disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision, but noted that the injunction is temporary and maintains the status quo in the state.

“We look forward to showing the court why that appeal is meritless, and why an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the Legislature was well within its constitutional authority to outlaw the dismemberment of a living human being,” Hunter said, according to the Oklahoman.

Pages