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Texas Senate race sparks debate in pro-life community  

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 18:11

Austin, Texas, Nov 5, 2018 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a pro-life leader said she is voting for a pro-choice Senate candidate because she believes he will best advance the cause of life, another pro-life advocate rejected this approach to fighting abortion.

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of New Wave Feminists, said in an Oct. 31 column for the Dallas Morning News that she is voting this year for Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who is challenging incumbent Republican Ted Cruz for his seat in the Senate. O’Rourke has gained traction in the normally red state, and polls show a tight race ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

Currently a U.S. Representative, O’Rourke has said that he opposes efforts to limit abortion access. He is endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, which gave him a “100% pro-choice” rating last year, noting his opposition to more than a dozen pro-life measures during that time.

Herndon-De La Rosa said that despite his voting record, she believes O’Rourke’s cooperative approach in seeking common-ground solutions will do the most to advance the pro-life cause.

She described O’Rourke as a “different” kind of candidate who “talked about working with Republicans and independents alike.”

Dr. Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said that he believes this line of thinking is “deeply flawed and very unfortunate.”

He told CNA that it is a “fallacy” to believe that voting for candidates who favor legal abortion will bring about an end to abortions.

In her Dallas Morning News column, Herndon-De La Rosa explained that she had long accepted the belief that being pro-life meant voting Republican.

“[F]or years I reluctantly supported candidates who talked about making the sand glow in other countries with bombs and who advocated taking children away from their mothers, simply because unlike us, they hadn't won the geographic lottery,” she said.

These votes often felt difficult for her as an independent who does not completely agree with either major political party, and as a “consistent life ethicist,” who opposes “all forms of violence against other human beings, including war, torture, the death penalty and abortion.” But she believed that compromise was necessary, because the right to life was so foundational.

However, Herndon-De La Rosa said the 2016 presidential election was eye-opening for her, showing her “just how deep the GOP had its hooks in the pro-life movement.” She stressed that “while I am 100 percent pro-life, I'm also 100 percent feminist, and I saw the way Trump treated women as an absolute deal-breaker.”

“I saw the way these politicians used unborn children's lives to get out the vote but then oftentimes forgot about those lives soon after,” she said. “I saw the way pro-lifers compromised so many of their own upstanding ethics and morals to elect a man thrice married, who bragged about his infidelities and predatory behavior. And why? So they could get their Supreme Court seats.”

She said the final straw was watching Republican Senator Susan Collins agree to vote in favor of confirming Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh only when he said that Roe v. Wade was “settled law.”

This convinced Herndon-De La Rosa that abortion must be eradicated on a cultural, rather than legal, level – “by creating a post-Roe culture while Roe still stands.”

O’Rourke’s proposed policies and willingness to work across party lines, she said, will help address the factors that lead women to feel that they must choose abortion.

“Abortion becomes unnecessary when women have so much support from within their community that the one violent choice never even becomes an option in their minds,” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “Abortion becomes unthinkable when women of color realize that having their children will not cost them their own lives because we have men like O'Rourke actually addressing the disproportionate number of minorities and children dying during childbirth.”

However, Pojman countered that Texas already “provides a tremendous amount of help for pregnant women” and does much to offer alternatives to abortion.

The state has more than 200 pregnancy resource centers that offer free to help to women in need, he said, and some half of these centers receive state funding. In addition, the state’s social service network provides health care for more than half of the minors in Texas, and the majority of childbirths in Texas are funded by Medicaid.

Rather than advancing the pro-life movement, Pojman argued, “O’Rourke would be a disaster.”

“He has shown himself to be entirely hostile to protecting unborn children from abortion. He has voted to allow late abortions, he has voted to support tax funding for abortions. If he became senator and had his way, he would eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which has been demonstrated to have saved some 2 million babies from abortion since it was first implemented in the ‘70s.”

Texas Alliance for Life has enthusiastically endorsed Ted Cruz for Senate. Pojman pointed to Cruz’s consistent record of voting for pro-life measures, including a ban on late-term abortions and an end to federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

The U.S. bishops’ guide to political engagement, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, stresses the importance of examining issues rather than voting automatically for any political party. The bishops emphasize the right to life as a foundational human right in evaluating candidates and issues.

“As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support,” the document says. “Yet if a candidate's position on a single issue promotes an intrinsically evil act, such as legal abortion, redefining marriage in a way that denies its essential meaning, or racist behavior, a voter may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”
 

 

U.S. will remain committed to protecting the unborn at the U.N., Haley says

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 18:00

New York City, N.Y., Nov 5, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- As negotiations begin on the annual United Nations humanitarian assistance omnibus resolution, the United States will remain committed to protecting the fundamental right to life for the unborn, a spokesperson for U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told CNA.

 

Each year, the United Nations drafts a resolution that outlines various priorities they would like to see member states promote or protect regarding humanitarian aid and human rights. Since 2015, this resolution has encouraged member states to ensure that women and girls had access to “sexual and reproductive health-care services.”

 

Included among the United Nations’ definition of “reproductive health-care services” are the promotion of safe abortions and access to contraceptives, which sit alongside treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, access to pre- and post-natal care, and the prevention of female genital mutilation.

 

These resolutions are not binding in international law, but do reflect internal United Nations priorities and policies. The repeated inclusion of “sexual and reproductive health” in resolutions could result, over a period of time, in the United Nations adopting abortion as a human right.

 

Some have speculated that Haley could move to strike the phrase from the resolution, which currently appears twice in draft copies.

 

When reached for comment, Haley’s press officer Andrea Stanford declined to comment on specific actions that the ambassador may take regarding the language of the resolution, citing the recent start of negotiations.

 

However, she told CNA that “in general the United States is a world leader in advancing the cause of human rights, the first and most fundamental of which is life.”

 

Stanford said that the United States would be “committed to advancing policies that protect the lives of the unborn,” in “all multilateral forums, including the United Nations” in which it is a member.

 

Haley, who served as United Nations ambassador since the beginning of the Trump presidency, announced in October that she will be stepping down from her position at the end of this year. During her resignation announcement, she denied rumors that she was considering a presidential run. President Trump praised the ambassador’s service, and said Haley was welcome back in his administration at any time.

 

Trump indicated on Monday that he is planning on announcing his new pick for U.N. ambassador at the end of this week.

Buffalo whisteblower says she leaked abuse documents 'out of love'

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 16:42

Buffalo, N.Y., Nov 5, 2018 / 02:42 pm (CNA).- The former Diocese of Buffalo employee who leaked internal diocesan documents to the press wrote in an op-ed Sunday that she shared the documents “out of love for the survivors, my diocese, my community and my Church.”

“What I was witnessing boggled my mind, broke my heart and burdened my soul. My conscience felt as though it were in a vise that was tightening at an alarming rate,” Siobhan O’Connor wrote Nov. 4th in the Buffalo News.

O’Connor wrote that while she was executive assistant to Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone, she would often field calls from survivors of sexual abuse.

“After hearing survivors’ accounts of the abuse they suffered and the trauma they are still enduring, I was overcome with the desire to assist them with more than a sympathetic ear and the promise of prayer.”
 
Some of the documents O’Connor leaked suggest that Malone worked with diocesan lawyers to avoid releasing publicly the names of some diocesan priests accused of misconduct.

Ultimately the diocese culled down a list of over one hundred clergy accused of “criminal, abusive or inappropriate behavior” to a final, publicly released list of just 42, the documents show.

O’Connor wrote that she was approached in late July by local reporter Charlie Specht from WKBW Channel 7. The local news station published an exhaustive investigative report Aug. 22-23, citing documents leaked by O’Connor indicating that Malone allowed priests to stay in ministry, despite multiple allegations against them.

O’Connor revealed her identity in the week leading up to her Oct. 28 interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” She said in her op-ed that she loved working for the diocese, and previously held the bishop “in the highest esteem,” as emails released by the diocese Oct. 30 showed.

“As I have stated publicly, I bear no ill will toward Bishop Malone...Indeed, I still care about him and pray for him with a sincere heart,” she wrote.

Malone said in a Nov. 2 interview on local radio station WBEN that he believed no laws were broken when the documents were leaked, and that he trusted O’Connor followed her conscience in doing what she did.

O’Connor thanked the diocese’ “many wonderful priests and deacons, who have suffered deeply throughout these long months...for their faithful fortitude” and expressed her wish to work with them to “rebuild our local church with courage and charity.”

She concluded by imploring Malone to live out his episcopal motto, “Live the Truth in Love;” while she reiterated her call for his resignation.

“Be truthful with us, Bishop Malone. Put an end to this toxic secrecy and painful silence,” she wrote.

“And, if you love us, begin the process of allowing new episcopal leadership to come to our diocese.”

Though Malone apologized to victims in his Nov. 3 radio interview, but said he does not plan to resign. He stated that while he admits he mishandled allegations of sexual abuse involving adults, he maintains that his “record handling misconduct allegations with children is good.”

Also on Nov. 3, the diocese placed two more priests, Msgr. Frederick R. Leising and Father Ronald P. Sajdak, on administrative leave after receiving abuse complaints against them. The investigation is ongoing, and the diocese did not specify whether the alleged abuse involved children.

‘Incredibles 2’ designer says God’s creation is his inspiration

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 15:30

Oakland, Calif., Nov 5, 2018 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- A Catholic designer has spoken about how God and his faith inform his work. As a visual set designer at Pixar Animation Studios, Philip Metschan helped create the environment of “Incredibles 2,” most notably, the superhero Parr family’s new home.

 

Metschan told CNA that one of his favorite parts of being an environment builder is getting to take inspiration from the real world, filtering it through his own experience “to produce a world that’s never existed – fantastic things that no one has ever seen before.”

 

“I am definitely someone who likes to be out in nature and out in the world and experiencing it, because I think there are strong narratives that are created just from the existence of these places,” he said, adding that for him it is not possible to separate creation from the Creator.

 

“In a sense, I feel like whenever I’m using [real-world environments] as inspiration, I’m using [God] as inspiration,” he explained.

 

“Incredibles 2,” a sequel to the 2004 “Incredibles” movie, follows the adventures of a family of superheroes living in a world which is losing faith in people with incredible abilities.

 

A feature he appreciates about the stories told by Pixar, he said, is the importance placed on very universal themes, such as family, friendship, and other core principles. “Though we use these fantastic characters to do it, universal emotions are all very central,” he stated.

 

Though the stories are secular, Metschan also said he thinks each person can bring his or her own faith background to the viewing and find something to take away.

 

In “Incredibles 2,” for example, the goal of the movie’s villain is to “get rid of superheroes, because of her notion that having special people among us makes us weak, that we rely on these people instead of relying on ourselves,” Metschan said.

 

“As it relates to our Catholic faith, I would say that [the world’s] current heroes are not made of the stuff we would want them to be made of,” he said. “They’re not heroes for the reasons that I think we as Catholics look to our ‘heroes’ for, and the reason we venerate them.”

 

Thankfully, “I think we still have the choice to choose our heroes,” he said.

 

As an artist, too, Metschen said it is easy to be aware of the existence of divine inspiration, and that this insight comes with a responsibility to create something which serves others.

 

As an artist, “you feel like you’ve been given some kind of special skill, or a special view of how to execute these new things and you also feel a responsibility that these things you create will be positive and enlightening.”

Peace Cross case headed to Supreme Court

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court will once again consider the legality of religious monuments on public land during the current session.

The Court announced November 2 that it had granted certiorari to Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. American Humanist Association.

The case concerns the so-called “Peace Cross” in Prince George’s County, Maryland, erected in honor of soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. In 2014, the American Humanist Association, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes “secular humanist” beliefs, filed suit against the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission because of the shape of the monument.

The monument was erected in 1925, and was paid for by mothers of soldiers killed in the war. It lists the names of 49 members of the local community who died in service, as well as the seal of the American Legion and the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion” on the four branches.

The American Legion regularly hosts secular, patriotic events around the monument, and there has not been any sort of religious ceremony involving the cross in 87 years.

The American Humanist Association, along with a few local residents who joined the suit, argue that the cross-monument is an endorsement of Christianity on public land, and thus a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from establishing a state religion or giving preference to one religious belief over another.  

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has performed regular maintenance around the monument since 1961, as it is located on a median in the middle of a public road. This, the American Humanist Association has argued, is entangling government unnecessarily with religion.

The American Humanist Association had also sued the American Legion regarding the cross, but the cases were consolidated into one when they were granted certiorari.

The lawsuit was originally brought in 2014 and rejected by the District Court, which held that it was “uncontroverted” that the maintenance and display of the memorial was not “driven by a religious purpose whatsoever.”

In 2017, after the District Court initially rejected the case, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the monument was, in fact, unconstitutional. This ruling was then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The upcoming decision would impact not only the “Peace Cross,” but also other religious-themed monuments on public land, including Arlington National Cemetery. Currently, the law is unclear as to what exactly constitutes a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when it concerns religious-themed monuments.

The last time the Supreme Court was presented with controversy over a religious monument on public grounds was in 2005, when they ruled that a 10 Commandments monument at the Texas State Capitol did not violate the Establishment Clause. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the plurality opinion.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that while the 10 Commandments certainly has a religious connection, the context and location of that specific monument played a role in its constitutionality. These factors, as well as the fact that in its 40-year history no one had complained about it until the plaintiff brought suit, it was part of the “broader moral and historical message reflective of a cultural heritage” on display at the Capitol.

Man issued trespassing warning after disturbance at EWTN Mass

Sun, 11/04/2018 - 18:12

Irondale, Ala., Nov 4, 2018 / 04:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- EWTN Global Catholic Network has called for prayers for a man who caused a disturbance during the network’s televised Mass Nov. 4.

“We ask that our EWTN family keep this individual in their prayers,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw in a Nov. 4 statement. 

The man reportedly caused a disturbance and attempted to approach the altar during the 7:00 a.m. live televised Mass on EWTN.

EWTN security personnel promptly removed the man from the chapel. Local police detained the man and issued him a warning for trespassing. 

No one was injured in the incident and the Mass continued without issue, said Warsaw. 

EWTN Global Catholic Network was launched in 1981 by Mother Angelica of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. The largest religious media network in the world, it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

In addition to 11 television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing in a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press. Catholic News Agency is also part of the EWTN family.

Trump declares National Adoption Month, says ‘every child is wanted’

Sun, 11/04/2018 - 15:30

Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2018 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation Oct. 31 declaring November 2018 to be “National Adoption Month.”

 

The president called adoption a “life-changing act” and a “blessing for all involved.”

 

In addition to assisting families who seek to adopt, Trump said, “we must also encourage all Americans to recognize that adoption is a powerful way to show women they are not alone in an unexpected pregnancy.”

 

“Adoption affirms the inherent value of human life and signals that every child ‑‑ born or unborn ‑‑ is wanted and loved,” read Trump’s proclamation.

 

“Children, regardless of race, sex, age, or disability, deserve a loving embrace into families they can call their own.”

 

National Adoption Month will honor the thousands of families in this country who chose to adopt, said Trump.

 

Trump also highlighted the plight of the nation’s growing foster-care system, and said that he appealed to “families, communities, and houses of worship across our great Nation to help these children find a permanent home.”

 

The president said it was “unfortunate” that many children in the foster system reach the age of 18 without being adopted, and that “these children deserve a permanent family” that will provide them with love and stability.

 

Trump’s inclusion of “houses of worship” was noteworthy. Currently, there are several cases ongoing in which faith-based foster agencies are suing localities after being denied contracts, or shut out entirely, from the foster-care process due to their religious beliefs.

 

This is the second year Trump has recognized National Adoption Month. The tradition of presidents promoting adoption began in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan declared one week in November to be “National Adoption Week.” In 1995, President Bill Clinton expanded the awareness campaign into a month.

 

National Adoption Day, a separate event first observed in 2000, is celebrated the Saturday before Thanksgiving. On this day, thousands of children throughout the country who are being adopted from foster care have their adoptions finalized. National Adoption Day also seeks to raise awareness of the more than 100,0000 American children living in the foster care system who are eligible for adoption.

 

In the United States, the average foster child waits for three years before being adopted. Each year, about 2,000 children age out of the system without being placed in a permanent home.

USCCB General Assembly: Committee elections preview

Sat, 11/03/2018 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- When the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop convenes next week, much of the attention with focus on how the bishops will address the recent clerical abuse scandals. But the bishops will also be electing new leadership for six of the conference committees.

 

The USCCB will gather in Baltimore for its general assembly Nov. 12-14. On the ballot will be candidates for the chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education Committee, as well as the chairmen-elect of five other committees: Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations; Divine Worship; Domestic Justice and Human Development; Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; and Migration.

 

The chairman-elect serves for one year shadowing the current chairman before assuming the role for a three-year term of office.

 

Conference members will also vote for a treasurer-elect for the USCCB. The office of treasurer manages the conference’s funds and sits as vice-chairman on the Committee on Priorities and Plans.

 

The current treasurer is Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati. Candidates to succeed him are Bishop Gregory Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida, who worked in the banking industry for several years before entering the seminary and being ordained, and Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis, who holds a bachelor's degree in accounting.

 

The current chairman for the Committee on Catholic Education is Bishop John Quinn of Winona. The committee seeks to guide the educational mission of the Catholic Church and advocates for public policies aligned with Catholic values.

 

The bishops nominated to follow him are Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, who has served as the Director of the School of Pastoral Leadership in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, who has degrees in biology, theology, and canon law.

 

The Committee on Clergy is currently headed by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark and produces and coordinates documents and resources for vocational promotion and discernment. The potential chairmen-elect are Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen, and Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth.

 

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta is entering his final year as the head of the Committee for Divine Worship, which is responsible for matters related to Latin rite liturgy in the U.S. The candidates for chairman-elect are Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, who has served on several conference committees, including those on evangelization and doctrine, and Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, who is a member of the Bishops’ Advisory Council for the Institute for Priestly Formation.

 

The Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, now led by Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, advises the U.S. bishops on national issues relating to human dignity, development, and poverty.

 

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe have been nominated to succeed him. Wester has previously served as a member on the bishops’ committee on migration.

 

Archbishop Charles Chaput is now in the final year of his term as chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, he will be replaced by either Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco or Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette.

 

Cordileone has served on the Governing Board of the International Theological Institute, while Doerfler has previously led the Marriage Research Committee of the Canon Law Society of America.

 

The Committee on Migration is currently chaired by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin. The committee seeks to provide awareness of and responses to the plight of immigrants, human trafficking, and refugees.

 

Washington, D.C. auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville-Rodriguez of Washington, who has served as the director of the Spanish Catholic Center in Washington, and Bishop John Stowe of Lexington are the candidates to succeed him.

Regis University provost encourages faculty to attend campus ‘drag show’

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., Nov 2, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The provost of Denver’s Regis University has encouraged faculty members to attend a student drag show on the university campus, and to take in-class measures intended to support the gender identity preferences of students.

An Oct. 29 letter from university provost Janet Houser and the university’s Queer Resource Alliance noted that “this week has been a challenging one for our LGBTQIA community at Regis, with recent reports indicating that the Trump administration is considering policy changes that would eliminate federal protections for transgender people.”

“Our Jesuit values call us to respect the human dignity of all individuals, to care for the whole person, and to serve the most marginalized members of our society.”

The letter referred to an October announcement that the Department of Health and Human Services would seek to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable,” for the purposes of the federal Title IX program.

In response, Regis faculty were encouraged to “remember that you may have students in your class classroom (including out queer students, students from queer families, queer students who are not out yet, and others) struggling with this news and its implications.”

To “support your LGBTQIA students, especially transgender students,” the provost suggested faculty members attend an on-campus “Drag Show featuring student performers,” along with other campus events commemorating the “Transgender Day of Remembrance,” on Nov. 15.

A Regis University spokesperson told CNA that “our Jesuit values call on us to respect the human dignity of all individuals, to care for the whole person, and to serve the most marginalized members of our society. Our faculty and staff strive to care for all our students with the respect, sensitivity and compassion they deserve, and to celebrate everyone’s gifts. We will continue to do so in manner that fulfills our mission and upholds our Catholic, Christian conviction that all lives are sacred.”

The Oct. 29 letter also encouraged professors to “avoid phrases that reinforce the gender binary, such as ‘ladies and gentlemen,’” “assign readings by queer, and especially transgender, authors,” and “add your preferred gender pronouns to your email signature (for example, "she/her/hers").”

Additionally, faculty members were encouraged to refer to students by their preferred names and gender pronouns, and to indicate their intention to do so on course syllabi.

“Ask students to give their names and preferred gender pronouns on the first day of class, and avoid reading from off the roster. You may read a student's ‘dead name’-a legal name that they no longer go by-which can be very upsetting for transgender students to hear,” the letter said.

The Queer Resource Alliance is a university-sponsored organization, that, according to the university’s website, “aims to create an inclusive, equitable, and supportive environment for community members of all orientations and gender identities by providing leadership, education, and advocacy related to challenges and issues faced by Regis LGBTQIA+ faculty, staff, students.”

The alliance offers a “Brave Space” training program, comprised of a “3-hour ‘Gender and Sexuality 101’ training meant to introduce Regis community members to issues and terminology relevant to LGBTQIA people, as well as how to be an ally to the queer community.”  

A university spokesperson told CNA that “young LGBTQIA people are among the most vulnerable in our society -- these youth seriously contemplate suicide at three times the rate of heterosexual youth; almost half of all transgender people have attempted suicide – thus compassion and welcoming arms to provide a safe, warm environment is an imperative for all educators.”

In the 2015 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis condemned an “ideology of gender” that “leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female.”

Although the letter’s recommendations are not officially university policy, Houser is the chief academic officer at Regis. The university’s website notes that Houser “serves as acting president in the extended absence of Father Fitzgibbons.”

“The provost shared the Queer Resource Alliance’s recommendations on how to advise all faculty on how they can best fulfill our mission. This includes being aware of readings that reflect a diversity of thought and lived experience whenever possible and appropriate. We are in the business of creating an environment in which all of our students can succeed academically, and support for LGBTQIA students is in line with this goal,” a Regis spokesperson told CNA.

Regis is a Catholic university sponsored by the Society of Jesus, and founded in 1877.

“Standing within the Catholic and United States traditions, we are inspired by the particular Jesuit vision of Ignatius Loyola. This vision challenges us to attain the inner freedom to make intelligent choices,” the university’s mission statement says.

 

Bishop Malone says he has never mishandled child abuse allegations

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 19:01

Buffalo, N.Y., Nov 2, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Buffalo said Friday that although he admits he mishandled allegations of sexual abuse involving adults, he maintains that his “record handling misconduct allegations with children is good.”

Bishop Richard Malone said the diocese has never failed an annual audit determining if the diocese is in compliance with the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Young People.

“I still will say until my dying day: I have not made that mistake in dealing with allegations with children...My mistakes were when [allegations] came in involving an adult,” the bishop said.

Malone spoke Nov. 2 on local radio station WBEN, apologizing to victims and telling radio hosts that he does not plan to resign, despite the presence this morning of several protestors outside diocesan headquarters calling for his resignation. Malone is more than two years away from submitting his resignation on his 75th birthday, as required by canon law.

“There have been times through this whole horrible scenario when I’ve been embarrassed to be a bishop,” Malone said.

“The leadership of the Church has often not responded adequately to this crisis, and in response to victims, and I do get it...I just tell people of faith to focus on Jesus, and count on that.”


Questions about past cases

Malone was questioned about the case of Fr. Art Smith, who was placed on leave in 2011 after the mother of a boy at St. Mary of the Lake school complained that the priest was sending inappropriate Facebook messages to her son.

While Malone’s predecessor suspended Smith, Malone reinstated him in 2012, after the accused priest spent time in a Philadelphia treatment center, according to an investigation by local news station WKBW.

“Maybe I could have looked at it in a different way,” Malone said.

“We had decided with Art Smith— because, again, the Facebook incident did not rise technically to be sexual abuse— to keep him in some limited ministry,” Malone told WBEN.

Malone pointed out that he did not again assign Smith to a parish setting. Despite this, the WKBW investigation revealed that while working in nursing home, Smith heard confessions at a diocesan Catholic youth conference attended by hundreds of teenagers in 2013. There were also reports of inappropriate conduct with adults in the nursing home.

“That backfired, too, because even sending him to work in a nursing home...nothing happened with children, but there were some inappropriate actions with adults. So we were dealing with him, but not in a way that I would do now. I admit my failure there,” the bishop said.

He also signed off for Smith to become a chaplain on a cruise ship in 2015, and the bishop said now he is “kicking [himself] for that.”

In another case discussed up by the WBEN hosts, Father Robert Yetter was accused of misconduct during 2017-18. After an allegation surfacted, he met with Buffalo auxiliary bishop Edward Grosz, who referred him for counseling.

After another allegation was leveled against Yetter in Aug. 2018, Malone placed him on administrative leave, but reportedly wrote in an email: “We have no obligation, I believe, to report to [the media] or anyone else on adult misconduct allegations.” Neither canon law nor the state law of New York would have required Malone formally to report an allegation of sexual contact with an adult by a cleric.

 

Responding to a whistleblower

During the Nov. 2 interview, Malone also was asked about a recent “60 Minutes” interview with  former diocesan employee Siobhan O’Connor, who leaked internal documents from the bishop’s office that purported to show that the diocese knowingly omitted some priests from a list it published in March of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Malone said he believed no laws were broken when the documents were leaked, and that he trusted O’Connor followed her conscience in doing what she did.  
Malone also responded to a specific claim made in the “60 Minutes” report, saying he does not know of any priests currently in ministry in the diocese who have “allegations of any sort of assault” against children.

“I will maintain with the clearest of consciences that there are not eight or nine priests [in the diocese] with allegations of abuse of a minor. “60 Minutes” reported that, and it is false,” Malone said.

“Tell us who they are. If they’re out there and they’re guilty of abuse, tell me and I’ll pull them out.”

 

Recent and current investigations

Malone did not specify whether he was considering allegations against currently active priests that had not been deemed credible.

The diocese conducted an investigation in June resulting in three priests being being placed on administrative leave, but allegations against Fr. Dennis Riter were found not to be credible, according to local media, and he was returned to ministry at a parish in Dunkirk, New York.

Independent investigator Scott Riordan and the diocesan review board conducted the investigation, but reportedly did not give a public explanation as to why the allegations were not found to be credible.

In June lawyers representing Riter's alleged victims called his reinstatement a "startling and dangerous decision" and the alleged victims filed a lawsuit against the bishop and the diocese, claiming the diocese was engaged in an effort to hide the names of accused priests from the public.

The diocese announced Oct. 31 that it had placed Fr. Michael Juran on administrative leave after receiving a credible allegation of sexual abuse against him. The current lay investigator for the diocese, Steven Halter, was an FBI special agent for more than 27 years and worked with the Buffalo FBI Evidence Response Team to investigate the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Malone said that since 2001, all diocese have been required to report all credible allegations of sexual abuse to the Vatican, but added that before he became bishop in 2012, that didn’t always happen in the Buffalo diocese. He said he wished to ask his predecessors why that was the case.

Before Nov. 2, the diocese was not required to report by local prosecutors to civil authorities any allegation of sexual abuse made more than five years after it happened, and more than five years after the victim's 18th birthday. The Erie County District Attorney has now changed changed a 2003 memorandum of understanding with the diocese, and it is  required to report those cases.

 

Clergy sex abuse on the rise again, and church leaders are ignoring why, sociologist says

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 17:13

Denver, Colo., Nov 2, 2018 / 03:13 pm (CNA).- After years in decline, Catholic clergy sex abuse could be on the rise again, warns a professor-priest’s analysis of relevant data.

The professor’s report sees a rising trend in abuse, and argues that the evidence strongly suggests links between sexual abuse of minors and two factors: a disproportionate number of homosexual clergy, and the manifestation of a “homosexual subculture” in seminaries.
 
“The thing we’ve been told about the sex abuse is that it is somehow very rare and declined to almost nothing today is really not true,” Father D. Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and retired Catholic University of America sociology professor, told a Nov. 2 press conference.
 
“I found that clergy sex abuse did drop to almost nothing after 2002, but then it started to creep up,” he continued. “It’s been increasing. And there are signs that the bishops or the dioceses have gotten complacent about that.”
 
“It’s not at the great heights that it was in the mid-1970s, but it’s rising. And it’s headed in that direction,” he added.
 
Clergy sex abuse incidence is today about one third as common as in the late 1980s. While sex abuse by clergy is “much lower” than 30 years ago, it has not declined “as much as is commonly thought.” Most of the decline since the 1990s is consistent with “a similar general decline in child sex abuse in America since that time,” Sullins’ report said.
 
The decline is not necessarily related to measures taken by the U.S. bishops. Sullins told the press conference he saw no link between a decline in abuse and the implementation of the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults.
 
“Recent experience calls into question whether the current understanding of the nature of the abuse and how to reduce it is accurate or sufficient,” said Sullins in his report.

Efforts to address clergy abuse must acknowledge both “the recent increase of abuse amid growing complacency” and the “very strong probability” that the surge in abuse in past and present is “a product, at least in part, of the past surge and present concentration of homosexual men in the Catholic priesthood.”
 
The report was released Nov. 2 by the Louisiana-based Ruth Institute, where Sullins is a senior research associate. It has been reviewed by several scholars, including four social scientists, and is planned to be included in an upcoming book.
 
His study aimed to address a common question: is the sex abuse related in any way to homosexual men in the priesthood?
 
“I hear on the one hand denial of that, almost without even thinking about it, and I also hear advocacy of that, almost without even thinking about it,” Sullins said Nov. 2. “The question comes up logically because the vast majority of victims were boys. Usually in sex abuse of minors, two-thirds of victims are girls.”
 
Sullins’ report is titled “Is Catholic clergy sex abuse related to homosexual priests?” and he does not avoid the sometimes controversial question. The report compares “previously unexamined measures of the share of homosexual Catholic priests” and the incidence and victim gender of minor sex abuse victims by Catholic priests from 1950 to 2001.
 
Sullins’ sources included a 2002 survey of 1,854 priests by the Los Angeles Times that included questions about respondents’ sexual orientation, age, year of ordination, and whether they thought there was a homosexual subculture in their seminary. He measured abuse using data provided by the authors of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice reports, which themselves used reports of abuse provided by Catholic dioceses.
 
“Although over 8 in 10 of victims have been boys, the idea that the abuse is related to homosexual men in the priesthood has not been widely accepted by Church leaders,” said Sullins.
 
“(T)he data show that more homosexual men in the priesthood was correlated with more overall abuse and more boys abused compared to girls,” he added.
 
The increase or decrease in the percent of male victims correlated “almost perfectly” with the increase or decrease of homosexual men in the priesthood, he said, citing a 0.98 correlation. While the correlation was lower among victims under age 8, it was “lower but still strong,” 0.77. The statistical association between homosexual priests and abuse incidence was “extremely strong,” given that this scale ranges from -1.0, an inverse correlation, to 1.0, an absolute positive correlation.
 
Such results were “as close as you can get to a perfect correlation as I have ever seen,” Sullins said Nov. 2, adding that researchers usually consider correlation association above 0.3 or 0.4 to be a strong effect.
 
He took care to say it is the disproportionate presence of homosexual men in the priesthood, not the simple presence of any homosexual men, that appears to be the major factor.
 
“What I say in the paper is that when homosexual men were represented in the priesthood at about the same rate as they were in the population, there was no measurable problem of child sex abuse,” Sullins said. “It was only when you had a preponderance of homosexual men.”
 
The percentage of homosexual men in the general population is estimated at two percent. In the 1950s, homosexual men in the priesthood were about twice their percentage in the general population, making up four percent. in the 1980s they were eight times the percentage in the general population, 16 percent, according to Sullins.
 
“When you get up to 16 percent of priests that are homosexual, and you’ve got eight times the proportion of homosexuals as you do in the general population, it’s as if the priesthood becomes a particularly welcoming and enabling and encouraging population for homosexual activity and behavior,” he said Nov. 2.
 
Sullins was clear he wanted to avoid recommending any particular action based on his research.
 
“I would certainly not recommend that we remove all homosexuals from the priesthood,” he said. “The reason for that is: the abuse is not necessarily related to someone’s sexual orientation.” He cited his knowledge of men with same-sex attraction who are “strong, faithful persons,” adding “I would hate to have some sort of litmus test for that.”
 
If the Catholic Church in the U.S. were like most institutions, where two-thirds of abuse victims were female, people would reject the suggestion to eliminate all heterosexual men from the priesthood. That suggestion would be an “ideological reaction,” he said.
 
He suggested the priesthood should reflect the general population, as a sign priests are selected for “holiness and commitment to Christ and the things that we would hope would make for a good priest.”
 
“When you start to get a larger proportion of homosexuals It looks like you are actually selecting for same-sex orientation,” he said.
 
Seminary candidates have reported about the problems this disproportion creates, he continued. According to Sullins, Donald Cozzens' 2000 book “The Changing Face of the Priesthood” discusses accounts of homosexual students being so prevalent at some seminaries that heterosexual men felt destabilized and disoriented and left.
 
“That’s not a positive outcome. I do not think we would want to have that proportion of a homosexual culture in the priesthood,” said Sullins.
 
There appear to be verifiable trends in increases and decreases in the ordinations of homosexual priests.
 
“From 1965 to 1995 an average of at least one in five priests ordained annually were homosexual, a concentration which drove the overall proportion of homosexual men in the priesthood up to 16 percent, or one in six priests, by the late 1990s,” said Sullins’ report.
 
“This trend was strongly correlated with increasing child sex abuse,” he said.
 
Drawing on his findings, Sullins predicted that if the proportion of homosexual priests remained at the 1950s level “at least 12,000 fewer children, mostly boys, would have suffered abuse,” he said. As a percentage, this means abuse would have been about 85 percent lower.
 
The presence of homosexual subcultures in seminaries, as reported by priests considering their own seminary life, accounts for about half the incidence of abuse, but apparently not among heterosexual men.
 
“Homosexual subcultures encouraged greater abuse, but not by heterosexual men, just by homosexual men,” Sullins said Nov. 2. He suggested these subcultures encourage those who may have been attracted to male victims to act out more than would have been the case otherwise.
 
Sullins, a former Episcopal priest, has been married for 30 years and has three children. He was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 2002 by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington.
 
“I was surprised and shocked, like most of us earlier this year, to hear about Cardinal McCarrick,” Sullins said. “I was particularly impressed by that because I was ordained by Cardinal McCarrick in 2002, and probably knew him better than most people would have.”
 
His report follows the June revelations that former Archbishop McCarrick was credibly abused of sex assault on a minor, revelations which prompted men to come forward saying he had sexually abused them as seminarians—and prompted Pope Francis to accept the archbishop’s almost unprecedented resignation from the cardinalate. McCarrick was deeply influential and had been a leading personality in the U.S. bishops’ response to the 2002 scandals.
 
In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury released its report on Catholic clergy sex abuse in six dioceses. It tallied over 1,000 credible accusations against hundreds of priests over decades, though many of these accusations had been reported in 2004.
 
“What was new in 2018 was not primarily the revelation of abuse by priests, but of a possible pattern of resistance, minimization, enablement and secrecy—a ‘cover-up’—on the part of bishops,” said Sullins, who used some of the grand jury report data for his study.
 
As part of the U.S. bishops’ response to the first sex abuse scandal in 2002, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice issued two bishop-commissioned reports: a 2004 report on the nature and scope of clergy sex abuse and a 2011 report on the causes and context of sex abuse.
 
Sullins criticized the 2011 report’s claim that sex abuse perpetrators are mainly “situational or opportunistic” and the sex of the victim is less relevant to them. In his view, multiple offenders “abused a higher proportion of male victims than did single offenders, and the proportion increased with higher numbers of victims.” If multiple offenders were better at acquiring victims, “they appear to have used their skills to obtain access to more boys, not fewer.”
 
Abuse of girls dropped off at the same rate in the 1980s and 1990s, and the data suggest that as girls became more prevalent in priestly life, such as in the introduction of altar girls, abusers of boys “responded to the presence of fewer younger boys primarily by turning to older boys, not to female victims.”
 
For clergy offenders who were “classic or fixated pedophiles,” targeting only victims under age eight, they still strongly preferred male victims, “conditional on higher proportions of homosexual men in the priesthood.”
 
Sex abuse by Catholic clergy is “substantially less” than in similar institutions or communities, but it is notable that underage victims of sex assault by Catholic priests in U.S. Catholic parishes and schools have been “overwhelmingly male,” said Sullins. Comparable reports in Germany indicate that up to 90 percent of abuse victims of Catholic clergy have been male, compared to about half of victims in Protestant or non-religious settings in that country.
 
Some Catholic commentators have blamed clericalism for the abuse. Pope Francis’ August 20 letter on sex abuse, which did not mention homosexuality, said communities where sexual abuse and “the abuse of power and conscience” have taken place are characterized by efforts to reduce the Catholic faithful to “small elites” or otherwise replace, silence or ignore them.
 
“To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism,” the Pope said.
 
In a May 21, 2018 audience with Italian bishops, the Pope said it is better not to let seminary candidates enter if they have “even the slightest doubt” about the fitness of individuals with homosexual “deep-seated tendencies” or who practice “homosexual acts,” but want to enter the seminary.
 
These acts or deep-seated tendencies can lead to scandals and can compromise the life of the seminary, as well as the man himself and his future priesthood, he said, according to Vatican Insider.
 
A 2016 document from the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” cites a 2005 Vatican document which says: “the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’.”
 
The bishops’ 2002 child protection charter drew criticism from Sullins. Its failure to acknowledge that bishops can commit abuse or cover up abuse “seemed to confirm the suggestion of a cover-up: indeed, to the extent bishops may have covered up priestly misbehavior, the charter itself may have covered up episcopal misbehavior.”
 
He faulted the 2011 John Jay report on the causes and context of clergy sex abuse, which said that a reported increase in homosexual men in seminaries in the 1980s did not correspond to the number of boys abused. Sullins noted that the authors acknowledged they did not collect or examine direct data on priests’ sexual identity and any changes in it over the years. They relied on “subjective clinical estimates and second-hand narrative reports of apparent homosexual activity in seminaries,” Sullins said.
 
The Ruth Institute, which published Sullins’ report, was founded in 2008 by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, an economics-trained author and writer on marriage, family and human sexuality. She served as spokesperson for Proposition 8, the California ballot measure which defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman. The institute was backed by the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund until 2013.
 
Groups including the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and the Southern Poverty Law Center have criticized the Ruth Institute’s stance against same-sex marriage and other LGBT causes.
 
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which originally monitored foes of the civil rights movement, in the 1980s began tracking neo-Nazi groups and Ku Klux Klan affiliates. In recent years it has listed mainstream groups like the Ruth Institute, the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom as “hate groups” for their “anti-LGBT” stance.
 
In an Aug. 23, 2017 response to the listing, the Ruth Institute said it “categorically condemns white supremacy, racism, Nazism, and all violent totalitarian political movements.”
 
“People who cannot defend their positions using reason and evidence resort to name-calling to change the subject away from their anemic arguments,” the institute said. “The ‘hate group’ label is a club such people invented to bludgeon their political opponents.”

 

NY's Bishop John Jenik abused others, alleged victim says

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 16:40

New York City, N.Y., Nov 2, 2018 / 02:40 pm (CNA).- The alleged victim of New York’s Bishop John Jenik spoke at a Nov. 1 press conference about his experiences with the bishop, which he said involved years of sexual abuse.

Jenik, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York, maintains his innocence.

Michael Meenan, 52, said that Jenik cultivated an inappropriate relationship with him during the 1980s that involved dozens of trips upstate to Jenik's country house, where he allegedly was groped while in bed with Jenik.

“[Jenik] began taking me on and spending time with me as a means of cultivating a relationship that was immoral, inappropriate, and in some instances illegal,” Meenan said, calling it “the greatest evil I have witnessed in my lifetime.”

Meenan, speaking to reporters outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, said the abuse took place roughly between the ages of 13 and 17. He claimed Jenik, who was then pastor of a Bronx parish, targeted him because the priest knew that family issues at home made Meenan vulnerable.

When asked why he chose to report the allegation after so many years, he said God told him in prayer that he should “tell the truth.”

Meenan described himself as “an Ivy League graduate living on food stamps” and said his life is “in a ditch.”

As a freelance journalist for the New York Times, Meenan said he occasionally wrote stories about clerical sexual abuse. He also said he would discourage fellow reporters from writing positive stories about Jenik’s work in the local community, adding that he had related his abuse experience in “informal conversations” with some reporters.

“I am John Jenik’s worst nightmare,” he said. “And I’m here to tell you I’m not the only [victim]. There are others.”

Meenan’s allegation was reviewed by the Lay Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York, which concluded “the evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated.”

“Jenik did nothing to make sure that I grew up as a proud gay man,” Meenan stated.

“He made sure to scramble my brain as much as possible with alcohol and immoral behavior, so I could not stand here today to tell you this story.”

He said Jenik celebrated the marriage of his sister and baptised two of his nieces.

This is Meenan’s second sex abuse case involving the Church; the first involved a religion teacher at Fordham Prep, who reportedly sexually assaulted him in 1984. The teacher, Fernand Beck, was dismissed in 2016 after the school determined that Meenan’s allegation was “credible.” Meenan said Thursday that case is “pretty much handled.”

The alleged victim is represented by Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney with experience representing Boston-area victims after the 2002 sexual abuse crisis. Garabedian also represented Meenan when he reported the Fordham Prep abuse in 2016.

Meenan claimed that there are Catholic priests who are “attracted to young boys” and become priests in order to have access to children. He called Jenik “a disturbed person who is a danger to young boys.”

He said Cardinal Timothy Dolan did the right thing by swiftly removing Jenik from ministry, while adding that in his view the cardinal has not yet done enough. He called for Dolan to work with the government of New York to pass new laws to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable.

“There are guys in bad shape that need help,” he said. “God has given you the dignity that you deserve to live by...what are we doing with the Church’s money if we are not going out and rescuing people’s lives?”

Jenik, who has served as pastor at Our Lady of Refuge parish since 1985, wrote in an Oct. 29 letter to his parishioners that he continues “to steadfastly deny that I have ever abused anyone at any time.”

The bishop asked parishioners to pray for the person who had accused him of abuse, and “for all those who are victim-survivors of abuse.”

The case will be reviewed by the Vatican, most likely at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sources say, before being passed to Pope Francis for judgment. Canon law establishes that only the pope may judge a penal matter involving a bishop, unless the pope delegates that responsibility elsewhere.

Jenik is the first active bishop to be accused of abusing a minor since more than a dozen states including New York opened investigations this fall of sex abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church.

How the Archdiocese of Detroit plans to 'Unleash the Gospel'

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 06:00

Detroit, Mich., Nov 2, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- A year after Detroit’s archbishop released a letter outlining a plan for his diocese’ revitalization, the diocese is working to put his words into action with a campaign called “Unleash the Gospel.”

The archdiocese held a year of prayer in 2014, asking the Holy Spirit to revitalize their diocese, which is facing a steady decline in practicing Catholics. In 2016 the diocese held a synod, a meeting of lay Catholics, priests, deacons, and religious, to discuss evangelization, the challenges facing the diocese, and potential solutions.

Communication director Edmundo Reyes told CNA that he hopes the archdiocese’ new initiative, which is primarily based around short videos, will encourage parishes, individuals and families to cultivate a missionary attitude.

Reyes said more than 550 volunteers plan to encourage parishioners at all 218 parishes Nov. 3-4 to sign up for the Archdiocese’ daily “Unleash the Gospel” emails. There will also be reflection booklets available for those without a smartphone or computer.

The initial goal, Reyes said, is to encourage parishioners to spend five minutes in reflection and prayer per day for six days, guided by short videos emailed to them the day after they sign up. Reyes hopes the videos will encourage parishioners to reflect on what it means to be a Church “on mission.”

He said the initiative is not primarily about “social justice,” although helping people, especially the poor, is a key part of the Archdiocese’ revitalization. Rather he hopes the videos and the initiative in general will refocus people on the “original issue” of Christianity, which is proclaiming the Gospel.

“It's about us understanding that the main mission of the Church is to share the Gospel with others. That's the wrong that need to be righted,” Reyes said. “The videos are trying to explain how to do that.”

Archbishop Allen Vigneron laid out some of the particular obstacles to evangelization in the Archdiocese of Detroit his 2017 letter. He wrote that these challenges have contributed to “a widespread pessimism of the possibility for authentic renewal.”

“For several decades the number of practicing Catholics has been in steady decline, a significant factor leading to many painful closings and mergings of parishes and schools, which has in turn caused more people to drift away in discouragement or frustration,” the Archbishop wrote.

“The number of active priests has also dropped considerably. In the last half century our metro area has suffered from urban blight, economic decline, racial tensions, family breakdown, substance abuse, and crime.”

Some solutions the archbishop offered in his letter had been discussed at the diocesan synod. They included an emphasis on repentance, personal testimonies, utilizing new media, and witnessing to faith within families.

In light of these challenges and using the archbishop’s letter as a guide, Reyes said the goal of the “Unleash the Gospel” initiative is to move from a focus maintenance of problems to an emphasis on outward-focused, mission oriented Church. He said a lot of archdiocesan parishes have already embraced the call to action, including Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Plymouth, which he described as a very vibrant parish that is already cultivating a missionary atmosphere.

"[Jesus is] asking us to step up and share the Gospel with others," Reyes said.

"It's about evangelization, it's about sharing the Gospel, it's about being joyful missionary disciples, and to do things in a different way."

Reyes said the diocese’ initiative was in the works before the current sexual abuse crisis began during summer 2018. He said his team made changes to at least one of the videos to emphasize the need for missionary renewal in the face of crisis in the Church.

“It is clear to us that we are called to “unleash the Gospel” not in spite of the crisis, but because of the crisis,” Reyes said.

“Sin is real, and it's present in our society. We can see that very clearly...there's sin in our Church as well. This is why the time to “unleash the Gospel” is now. This is why we should bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to people, to ourselves and to our Churches.”

Michigan’s Attorney General announced an investigation in September into all of Michigan’s eight diocese to look into any potential coverup of sexual abuse, which Vigneron said he welcomed.

The archdiocese will launch a new diocesan website in the coming days, and Reyes said other initiatives are in the works, including podcasts and training for all parishes to be "radically hospitable" to Catholics returning to the Church at Christmas. The archdiocese plans to launch a separate magazine and website for Unleash the Gospel in 2019.

 

Philadelphia foster families continue fight for Catholic Social Services

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 21:00

Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 1, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Foster parents in Philadelphia will be in court next week, asking a judge to allow a Catholic agency to continue placing kids in foster care during a lawsuit that charges the city has unjustly discriminated against the agency.

“This is an important question – can the city end the ministry of an organization that has provided foster care for a century all over a political disagreement because that agency will not provide written certifications for same sex couples?” Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, told CNA.

In March, city officials stated that Philadelphia would no longer allow Catholic Social Services (CSS) to place kids in foster care. The officials cited the group’s unwillingness to place foster children with same-sex couples due to its religious beliefs on traditional marriage.

However, “No same-sex couple had ever actually approached Catholic [Social Services] and asked them to provide this certification,” said Windham.

CSS asked the U.S. Supreme Court in July for an injunction that would allow the organization to continue placing children in foster care while the legal action was decided. The court declined, but three justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, agreed with the request. Five justices are needed to grant an injunction. That question will now be put to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in oral arguments Nov. 6.

The agency says if the court declines its request, it will be forced to discontinue foster care services.  

Several foster families, who rely on CSS to help foster children, are plaintiffs in the case, including Cecilia Paul, who has fostered more than 100 children, and Sharonell Fulton, the leading plaintiff who has worked with CSS for 25 years.

CSS has placed children in foster care for a century and has had a contract with the city for half that time. CSS typically serves about 120 foster children in 100 foster homes. Last year, the charity says it helped more than 2,200 children in the Philadelphia area.

Ten days before it announced it would not renew its CSS contract, the city announced it was 300 beds short of what it needed to help children.

“As of today, there are more than two dozen open homes available to take children in today, and the city will not place children in those homes,” said Windham.

She said the city council issued “a resolution condemning discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.” However, she said, the city had struggled to find the law which CSS has supposedly violated.

“They have pointed to a couple of different things that we’ve shown, either, don’t apply to foster care or are riddled with exceptions,” she said.

“The city allows agencies to refer couples elsewhere. Testimony was that referrals happen all the time and the city acknowledges that. At least in some cases, it’s allowed to refer a respected foster parent to another agency, who is a better fit for them, but they are refusing to allow Catholic to make referrals.”

This is not only a religious freedom issue but also a free speech issue, Windham said.

“The city wants Catholic to provide a written document that is endorsing these relationships; Catholic can’t do that and so they are happy to refer these couples elsewhere to someone who can provide them with that certification.”

Windham said this is similar to one decided in June, when the Supreme Court decided Jack Phillips had the right to refuse to provide a wedding cake for a gay marriage based on his religious beliefs.

“It makes this case similar to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case … where the Supreme Court said religious claims are entitled to neutral and respectful consideration.”

Trump’s plan for birthright citizenship flawed, says Catholic U law professor

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 18:44

Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2018 / 04:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A plan floated by President Donald Trump to end “birthright citizenship” through an executive order is likely unconstitutional, according to a law professor at The Catholic University of America.

"This idea that you can pass this kind of a fundamental change to the Constitution through the signing of a pen...does not comport with the Constitution," CUA law professor Stacy Brustin told CNA.

In a recent interview with news site Axios, Trump said that the U.S. is “the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States,” according to an Oct. 30 Axios report.

"It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. And it has to end," Trump added.

The president reportedly said that he would soon end “birthright citizenship” through an executive order.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is generally understood to establish that citizenship is conferred upon all children born in the United States, regardless of the legal status or citizenship of their parents.

Brustin told CNA that the president is not empowered to change the Constitution through an executive order.

“There are two very clear and established ways of changing the Constitution that are actually articulated in the Constitution,” she explained.

“Either two-thirds of both houses of Congress have to pass a proposed amendment, and then send that amendment to the states for ratification by three-quarters of the states,” or else a Constitutional convention must be held. Typically, the Congressional route has been used for the passage of previous amendments.

If Trump were to pursue an amendment to change the practice of birthright citizenship, Brustin said, it would likely be “extremely difficult,” pointing to the failed attempts at passing other amendments, such as the unratified Equal Rights Amendment.  

The practice of jus soli, or “birthright” citizenship is fairly common throughout North and South America, while no European country grants immediate citizenship to all those born on its soil. In most European countries, the conferral of citizenship depends upon the legal status of a child’s parents, regardless of where the child happens to be born. Some countries permit citizenship to be granted after a child has resided in the country for a set number of years, but this practice varies widely.

The Fourteenth Amendment was passed shortly after the Civil War, to ensure that former slaves could not be denied citizenship. The amendment says that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

Trump's remarks appeared to endorse a minority perspective on the amendment centered around the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” While some argue that this phrase is meant to exclude people who are in the country illegally, Brustin disagreed.

"’Subject to the jurisdiction’ has been interpreted by our court as meaning 'present in the United States,’” explained Brustin, with the sole exception being the children born to diplomats.

“But otherwise, those who are physically present are subject to the laws of the United States. That's generally that's what that means,” she said.

In addition to her work in the classroom, Bustin is the director of CUA’s Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Clinic. Brustin said that the president’s words have created fear among the immigrant community she works with at the clinic.

“Whether the law is changed or not, there will be fear among those in the immigrant community that children born in the United States to immigrant parents will not be able to become citizens,” she said.

Norbertines launch digital library from their California abbey

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 18:16

Orange, Calif., Nov 1, 2018 / 04:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On any typical weekend, the white cassock-clad priests of the Norbertine order from St. Michael’s Abbey in southern California preach in about 35 parishes, sharing the fruits of their contemplative and communal life with the Church.

As canons regular, they are religious priests who live in community and share a charism and common life of prayer. During the week, they are teachers and preachers in area schools, colleges, and catechetical programs.

But the order felt called to bring their preaching and formation beyond the bounds of their abbey and apostolates in the Orange County and Los Angeles areas, and so on All Saints' Day they launched a digital library called “The Abbot's Circle” which will provide video, audio, and written resources on the Catholic faith.

“Many people, after they’ve gone through Catechism or Catholic school, they lack further formation in their faith,” Father Justin Ramos, O.Praem., a priest of the order and a Latin teacher, told CNA.

“The Abbot’s Circle is really a great means for people to be able to hear homilies during the week, not just on Sunday, or read reflections and learn about their faith in the various ways in which we offer it.”

The Abbot’s Circle website includes video, podcasts and written reflections, as well as chant recordings and audio lectures and a documentary on the fathers called “City of Saints.”

The digital library, which is free for the first two weeks of its launch, will be a subscription service that donors will be able to access for a monthly donation of $10 a month or more.

Shane Giblin, chief advancement officer for the Norbertine Fathers at St. Michael’s, said the platform was a way to thank and spiritually feed the order’s benefactors, while contributing to the day-to-day costs of running the abbey.

“The guy in the pew on Sunday who’s just trying to make his life work, we want to reach that person and help him make sense of his life and help him grow spiritually,” Giblin told CNA.

“The beauty of the Norbertines is watching them meet people where they’re at...whether they’re highly engaged Catholics, or just very eager to learn more about the faith, or whether they’re just new to their faith and wanting to learn more, they’re able to reach them in a very unique way,” he said.

New content will be added to the platform will be added every week, Giblin said, and will answer such questions about the Catholic faith as: How do we attain salvation? Why do we pray to the saints? What role does Mary play in the life of a priest?

Giblin said the website allows users to submit their questions and prayer intentions, and the frequency of new content allows the priests to respond to the needs of the people using the platform.

The Norbertines also believe The Abbot’s Circle is one way their order is called to respond to the current crisis of abuse scandals in the Church.

“St. Norbert, a Catholic reformer, founded the Norbertines to lift up a demoralized clergy, preach to the lay faithful, and so renew the Church in difficult times,” Fr. Chrysostom Baer, prior of St. Michael’s Abbey, said in a statement about The Abbot’s Circle.

“We are fulfilling this very same mission today, in a time when both laity and clergy are demoralized by scandal, by using new media to connect with the faithful and offer support and guidance. While atypical for religious priests to use digital media in this way, we believe in the power of new media to reach out to the faithful and support them in their faith lives.”

Ramos said he thinks the digital library will offer Catholics hope at a dark time in the Church, particularly in knowing that there are orders of priests striving to live holy lives and to teach the faith in line with tradition and the magisterium of the Church.

“The message that we want to convey to people is that there is hope, and part of that hope is to know your faith well and to be able to live it out well, and it empowers the layperson to understand more about their faith and defend it,” he said.

“Our faith is always tried when things like this happen, and to strengthen it, it’s just one way to help,” he added.

Fr. Ambrose Criste, O.Praem., who serves as novice master and director of vocations and formation for the order, told CNA he thinks The Abbot’s Circle responds to Catholics who are “hungry” for good formation.

“They’re hungry for clear doctrine - what does the Church teach and what does the Church believe? I think there’s so much confusion that comes from the world and the mainstream media, and from to be honest from much of the Catholic media,” Criste told CNA.

“And so clarity of doctrine is something that the faithful really want. They also want priests and consecrated religious who are striving for holiness and who aren’t afraid to talk about it, because otherwise I think what the faithful hear is the spirit of the world, and how that has infected even people in the Church.”

Ramos said The Abbot's Circle is an “ingenious” way to live out the charism of the Norbertine order and to share the fruits of their contemplation, prayer, and community.

“What takes us away from prayer is our apostolic work, when we have to go into the parishes and we can’t be with the community. But now that we have this means to communicate and to proclaim the truth of our faith...and I think it reinforces our way of life because we don’t have to do as much exiting from the monastery as we would otherwise have to do in order to reach a greater audience.”

The launch of The Abbot’s Circle follows the end of a successful $120 million capital campaign by St. Michael’s Abbey to support the building of a new abbey, as the order is running out of space for its new members. It also follows a documentary series on the order called “City of Saints”, which was released last year.

“Holiness is attractive, young men don’t want to live their lives by halves,” Giblin said. “They want what the Norbertines at St. Michael’s have, and because of that we ran out of room.”

The abbey currently supports 38 seminarians, with three aspirants on a waitlist. Giblin said the community has become the “unsung heroes” of the Church in southern California, where they are renowned for their holiness, service and preaching, and that the new platform is another way to share their gifts with the world.

“Holiness is attractive, and people are looking for that in the modern world, and they invest money in it because they crave it, they want more of it,” Giblin said. “And we hope The Abbot Circle website is a larger platform to showcase the holiness of the men here, and I think the world is very much hungry for that.”

Archbishop McCarrick and 'Dallas 2'

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 16:15

Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2018 / 02:15 pm (CNA).- Nov. 13 will mark sixteen years since Cardinal Bernard Law and then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick addressed the U.S. bishops’ conference on the topic of sexual abuse. As it happens, on that day this year, the bishops’ conference will be meeting again, and again the topic will be sexual abuse.

In November 2002, while the Church reeled from a sex abuse scandal that Law helped to cause, the cardinal exhorted his brother bishops to “thank God that we are where we are today.”

“We are in a much better place than we were ten months ago,” Law said, praising the practical measures the bishops had just taken as “an exceedingly significant step for us to take.”

Law was followed at the microphone by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who noted that some of the bishops had hoped “there might be the possibility of a forgiveness” for abuser-priests if it concerned “a man who had done something” in the past but “had lived a great life and the people know about it and they still want to give him a chance.”

“We lost that in Dallas,” McCarrick lamented.

According to McCarrick, it was a necessary sacrifice. “We gave it up,” he said, because of a “real crisis of credibility with our people.”

McCarrick insisted that the bishops had “no choice” but to enact painful reforms because the Church could not endure another such scandal and expect future efforts to appear credible.

“We must move forward. We must put an end to this. We cannot have Dallas 2 and Dallas 3 and Dallas 4.”

As the bishops prepare now to address a sexual abuse crisis that looms at least as large in American consciousness as the one that preceded it, “Dallas 2” might be putting it too mildly for  some.

Some new practical measures have already been proposed, including a code of conduct for bishops. But the “longer process of restoring trust,” as Archbishop Lori of Baltimore has called it, remains tied to McCarrick and the past far more than it depends on the new measures the bishops will consider.

The American hierarchy is facing, in McCarrick’s own words, another “crisis of credibility” - this time with with him at the center.

Some bishops might have hoped that McCarrick’s assignment to a life of prayer and penance in a Kansas monastery would conclude the saga now bearing his name, but while he may be gone, in Baltimore he will not be forgotten.

Just this week, another former papal nuncio came forward to say he had received report of McCarrick’s behavior towards seminarians as early as 1994.

The impression has set in among the faithful that “everybody knew” and “nobody did anything.” While it is unlikely that “everybody” knew about McCarrick, it seems almost certain that some of the bishops who will gather in Baltimore did.

As a result, many Catholics are convinced that their leaders are still not being straight with them.

To date, nearly everything that has been made public about the McCarrick scandal has come from victims who have come forward, from the testimony of witnesses or involved parties, or from retired nuncios, especially Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, but also now Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan.

Few American bishops have come forward to publicly disclose what they might have known about McCarrick’s alleged abuse, least of all those who have served in McCarrick’s former dioceses of New York, Metuchen, Newark, and Washington.

At the same time, several prominent bishops, including the leadership cadre of the USCCB, have repeatedly called on Pope Francis to order an apostolic visitation, a Vatican investigation, to clear up what happened with McCarrick. Rome does not appear to favor the idea. But some observers have pointed out that no one is forcing American bishops to wait for an investigation to come forward about what they know.

There are questions that U.S. bishops could answer, and steps they could take to explain how McCarrick was allowed to move up the hierarchy, despite decades of apparent misconduct.

Taking those steps would be seen by many observers as a very “practical step” toward the transparency and accountability all sides insist that they want to see.
Earlier this week, Cardinal Cacciavillan said that in 1994 he was informed McCarrick sometimes shared a bed with seminarians, and that a proposed papal visit to Newark might cause a media scandal.

Cacciavillan said that he asked Cardinal O’Connor of New York to carry out an "investigation, an inquiry" into the stories. He said that it concluded that "there was no obstacle to the visit of the pope to Newark.

O’Connor died in 2000, shortly before McCarrick was named to the Archdiocese of Washington. While he cannot now speak to that investigation or its results, his successor, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, could at least publish a review of chancery files to show what, if anything, that investigation concluded.

Dolan was the first to investigate and announce a credible accusation against McCarrick, and as such he has a unique kind of credibility in this case. The cardinal now runs the risk that his credibility will expire if it seems that he is unable or unwilling to encourage his brother bishops toward meaningful transparency and personal accountability.

Similarly, the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark have confirmed that more than a decade ago they reached out-of-court settlements related to accusations against McCarrick. Without compromising the confidentiality of the alleged victims, there are several things that could be confirmed or explained by both dioceses, if their bishops chose to do so.

Bishop Paul Bootkoski retired as bishop of Metuchen in 2016, having previously served as McCarrick’s vicar general in Newark. In 2005, he was part of an out-of-court settlement reached with an alleged victim of McCarrick.

The diocese insists that then nuncio Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo Higuera was informed of the settlement in December 2005, and it has published what it says is the cover letter for that correspondence and a summary of the allegations it is said to have contained.

Neither the diocese or Bishop Bootkoski have spoken about what response - if any - they received and what, if anything they did to follow up on the matter.

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Newark also settled with an alleged victim of McCarrick. Cardinal Joseph Tobin has stated that he first heard rumors about McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct shortly after arriving in Newark in 2017, but said he never looked into them because he thought them too outlandish to be believed.

“Shame on me that I didn’t ask sooner,” Tobin told a reporter in August, while making clear that he was asking now. The cardinal said the he is investigating why he was not told about the McCarrick allegations and settlement sooner. He could also investigate what, if anything, was done to inform Rome of the matter and when.

Tobin may well share the frustrations of many of the faithful in his archdiocese, though he is in the unique position of being able to have a frank conversation with his predecessor, Archbishop John Myers, about the matter.

He could also seek some straight answers from Msgr. Michael Andreano, who served for years on Newark’s archdiocesan finance council, and as vicar general and chancellor under Myers, and whom Tobin removed from those positions a few weeks ago.

If he were to share what he learned from those investigations, it might make for some serious discomfort among his chancery staff, but it could go a long way to rebuild trust with Catholics in the pews.

Another cardinal who could help bring some clarity and closure to the McCarrick case is his successor in Washington, Donald Wuerl.

After McCarrick himself, Wuerl has perhaps been the bishop most affected by the scandal surrounding his processor.

Wuerl’s resignation as Archbishop of Washington was accepted last month, but he remains the interim leader of the archdiocese. It was no secret that Wuerl wanted to remain in his post at least until the USCCB meeting this month. His attendance as the interim administrator and archbishop emeritus of Washington will be, for him, a bitter asterisk on his presence there.

When it was announced that Wuerl was asking the pope to let him step down, his spokesman said that he “understands that healing from the abuse crisis requires a new beginning and this includes new leadership for the Archdiocese of Washington.” But many Catholics in Washington, as elsewhere, are looking to Wuerl for some answers before they can begin to move on.

Wuerl has thus far declined to give a frank account of when he first became aware of any shadow over his predecessor, or what actions he did or did not take in response.

While other points of the now famous Vigano testimony remain disputed, it seems clearly established that some action was taken by Rome to remove McCarrick from the Washington seminary where he was living. But even on that fact of the report, Wuerl has insisted that he took next to no interest in McCarrick’s living arrangements and had no reason to think he should.

Questions about the renovations of archdiocesan premises to accommodate McCarrick after that, and the circumstances of his arrival and departure from another seminary later on, have been met with partial answers; to date, the Archdiocese of Washington has not released a clear timeline for where McCarrick lived in the archdiocese during his retirement, despite regular requests from the media.

Even after he was informed of the New York investigation into McCarrick last year, Wuerl apparently did not think it proper to inform the DC-based religious house supplying McCarrick with seminarians as personal staff until the allegations were made public in June 2018.

Wuerl himself has conceded that he did intervene to cancel an event featuring McCarrick at the prompting of the nuncio’s office. But the cardinal insists that he did not have “specific information” Vigano alleges he knew.

When he accepted Wuerl’s resignation, Pope Francis praised the cardinal as a man with a “shepherd’s heart” who prized the “wellbeing and the unity of the People of God.” It is hard to find a member of Wuerl’s former flock who thinks their unity and wellbeing would not be best served by Wuerl offering some “specific information” on what he did know, and when.

Sixteen years after their interventions, Cardinal Law is dead and the no-longer-cardinal Theodore McCarrick is assuredly not invited to the USCCB’s autumn session.

But McCarrick’s name and presence will hang over the meeting, as it attempts to weather a storm perhaps even greater than the one it faced in 2002.
It seems unlikely that any corporate apology, new policy, or call for an investigation will bridge the credibility gap McCarrick has forced between the bishops and their flock.

Unless the bishops are willing to lead with some painful honesty and personal accountability, the faithful are likely to watch whatever “practical steps” they take in Baltimore and perhaps ask themselves: will there be a McCarrick 2 at Dallas 3?

Border dioceses prepare to aid migrants heading to U.S. in caravans

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 06:00

Denver, Colo., Nov 1, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Catholic agencies along the U.S.-Mexico border are bolstering refugee aid efforts as thousands of people in multiple migrant caravans continue to trek north through Mexico to the border.

Thousands of migrants, primarily from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, started multiple caravans to the United States border earlier this month in order to seek asylum. While the caravans are still weeks out, Catholic charities along the border are preparing for an increased influx of refugees.

Teresa Cavendish, director of operations for Catholic Community Services in Tucson, Arizona told CNA that while they are monitoring the caravans, the agency is accustomed to receiving and helping large numbers of migrants with food and clothing, and then connecting them to their family in the U.S.

“In Arizona and all along the southern border last week there have been large numbers of releases anyway,” Cavendish told CNA.

“They (ICE) released upwards of 1,100 people in Arizona within a week, and that was around the first weekend through the middle of the month here in October, so that kind of rapid response on a mass scale is something that we have experience with,” she said.

The largest of the migrant caravans currently en route started in Honduras mid-October with about 160 people, and peaked at about 7,000 people. At this point, an estimated 2,000 or more migrants have either fallen behind or have decided to stay in Mexico, which has offered some work and health care benefits.

The Honduras caravan sparked others, including a group of about 200 people from El Salvador who are now also making the trek north to the U.S.

Cavendish told CNA that when Catholic Community Services (CCS) receives refugees who have been released by ICE, the first thing they do is “reaffirm their human dignity, we make sure they understand that they’re safe and welcome and give them a hot meal and something to drink.”

These refugees then spend about 24 hours in a CCS-established shelter while they are provided with food, clothing and shelter while arrangements are made to get them to their families in the U.S.

“Everyone who comes to us has sponsors here in the United States, and so we help them to reach out to their families and we help make their travel arrangements,” she said.

Every asylum seeker has 15 days of what is called “humanitarian parole” during which they are expected to connect with their families and attend their first immigration hearing.

Cavendish said that CCS provides those in their care with information about their legal rights, as well as on resources available to them in their destination city.

The migrant caravans are still weeks away from reaching the United States, but Cavendish said that CCS plans to employ essentially the same efforts that they have used in the past when there have been large numbers of migrant releases from ICE.

“We’ve had to do things like work with large church groups, and open up gymnasiums,” she said. She recalled several occasions where ICE released several hundred people at a time, and CCS rented out hotel rooms and provided services for the migrants there.

“So for us as we’re considering something like a caravan and how you would respond to that, it’s going to be deploying those same types of efforts,” she said.

Tucson is located further north and west than the Diocese of Las Cruces in New Mexico, or the five border dioceses of Texas. Cavendish said while at first the Honduras caravan was expected to land in Arizona, now it seems it will head toward the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. ICE will transfer migrants to other locations as needed, if aid facilities become too overwhelmed, she said.

In the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Catholic Charities Executive Director Antonio Fernandez told local media that the agency is planning to take 200 refugees from detention centers in Laredo and El Paso in order to free up room for migrants from the caravans.

Fernandez also asked for increased donations of food, water and clothing as the agency prepares for the influx of refugees. "We help everybody, we are not here to judge," Fernandez told Channel 4 News of San Antonio.

Jordan McMorrough of the Archdiocese of San Antonio told CNA that the archdiocese plans to partner with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley based in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas to help with migrant caravan relief efforts.

McMorrough said the archdiocese is still monitoring the specifics of the situation to know how many people to expect and how that will affect their efforts, but he said the caravans are not unlike other surges of migrants that they’ve seen in the past.

Brenda Riojas, the media relations director for the Diocese of Brownsville, told CNA that Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley is also keeping an eye on the migrant caravan situation.

“Sister Norma Pimentel (the executive director of CCRGV) and hundreds of volunteers (Catholics and other faiths communities) are continuing their day to day efforts at the Respite Center that has been receiving up to 550 to 600 people a day,” she said.

“We are also in close contact with shelters on the Mexican side of the border and will be sending donations their way.”

Deacon Lonnie Briseno, director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico, told CNA that he is concerned the migrant caravan could overwhelm an already-full immigration relief system.

“Our hands are full right now with the overflow that are currently in our system,” he told CNA.

“Our ICE detention facilities on the border are completely full, you’re having double the people in a cell that was it was designed for, so we’re talking about parents with children, parents with infants,” he said.

“And so what ICE does then is they release them on their own recognizance, so we received an email, and today is the day we run a shelter. So they released 260 refugees, and the church I work with tonight will receive 40,” Briseno said.

Different parishes in the Las Cruces area volunteer to serve as a temporary 24-hour shelters for the migrants throughout the week. Like CCS in Tucson, the shelters in Las Cruces feed and clothe the migrants, and help connect them with family and transportation.

The parishes that trade off hosting the migrants are very active parishes, Briseno said, and so they can typically only house migrants for their allotted 24 hour period.

What concerns Briseno is what happens when both ICE and the parishes run out of room.

“On Friday they released 75 refugees in downtown El Paso, no money, no phone, no food, no shelter,” he said.

Briseno said that he had spent time in meetings with other diocesan leaders about the migrant caravans, and he said the diocese hopes to have three more temporary shelters available by the time the caravans arrive.

“I’m also hoping that other faith organizations and non-faith organizations will step forward and say hey, we want to shelter once a week,” he said.

Briseno said the diocese is also hoping for additional donations ahead of the migrant caravan.

“We’re always in need of donations to feed and clothe and provide toiletries,” he said.

Sometimes a migrant’s family in the U.S. will send money for transportation, he said, but won’t be able to provide money for meals or a phone while the migrants are travelling.

“I hate to send a single mom with two little kids on a bus without a phone, so those monetary donations are always needed,” he said.

In light of the likely increase of asylum seekers in coming weeks, “it’s really important that the Catholic churches practice the corporal works of mercy, Matthew 25,” Briseno added.

“It’s just so important that we rise to the challenge, regardless of what we believe individually politically or how we see the situation,” he said.

“The truth is that we have brothers and sisters who are in need of basic hospitality.”

Abortion still at issue in several midterm races

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Oct 31, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The issue of abortion has played a surprisingly limited role in campaigns for midterm and gubernatorial elections, this despite predictions by pro-abortion advocates that the Supreme Court could be poised to revisit the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade.

But while the issue has had a low profile in national campaigning, there have been several notable exceptions in individual races.

On Halloween, as parents/kids return home to enjoy the evening together, this is the mail piece that my opponent's campaign & @nydems thought was most fitting to greet them in their mailbox. It's the most disgusting mail piece I've ever seen in any campaign I have been a part of. pic.twitter.com/c3XPdKSmbB

— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) October 31, 2018 Incumbent Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who represents New York’s 1st district, was the subject of an especially pointed political attack for his pro-life views. The New York State Democratic Committee sent out a mailer containing a picture of a wire hanger, labeled as “Lee Zeldin’s plan for women’s healthcare.”

 

Zeldin called the campaign “the most disgusting mail piece I’ve ever seen in any campaign that I have been a part of.”

 

The second-term congressman has a pro-life record over his time in the House of Representatives, and responded angrily in a tweet.

 

Polls have shown Zeldin with a narrow lead over Democratic candidate Perry Gershon.

 

In New Hampshire, in a congressional debate for the state’s 2nd district, Republican challenger Steve Negron confronted incumbent Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D) about her pro-abortion views. Negron describes himself as pro-life without exceptions, and refused to say if he would permit an abortion to save the life of the mother.

 

Negron said that advances in prenatal care make it so that these situations are rare, and that “right now, we don’t get to this point where it’s so draconian that we have to make a decision that it’s the life of a mother or the life of a child.”

 

Kuster defended the legality of abortion by saying that she did not feel it was something for the government to decide, and that it was “one of the most personal decisions” someone could make. Kuster, who worked for over two decades as an adoption attorney, said that she had worked with more than 300 women facing unplanned pregnancies, said that “it’s not the government’s choice whether they would carry a baby to term, whether they would terminate a pregnancy or whether they would place a baby for adoption.”

 

Kuster is expected to be reelected for her fourth term in Congress, and is polling well above Negron and Libertarian candidate Justin O’Donnell.

 

Two Senate candidates in Indiana, incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) and Republican Mike Braun, clashed over abortion during an Oct. 30 debate in which both tried to paint their opponent as inconsistent in their opposition to abortion.

 

Both are running as pro-life candidates, with Donnelly one of the few-remaining pro-life Democrats in Congress. Donnelly was endorsed by Democrats for Life of America, but the National Right to Life Committee gave him a score of just 40 percent in their 2018 Senatorial scorecard.

 

In Donnelly’s last Senate election in 2012, his opponent, Richard Mourdock, sparked a national controversy after he said that a woman who became pregnant from rape was “carrying a gift from God.” That debate was widely credited with cemeting Donnelly’s election.

 

The latest polling indicates that Braun has a slim lead over Donnelly ahead of the election next week.  

Trump administration to revise exemptions to contraception mandate

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 17:29

Washington D.C., Oct 31, 2018 / 03:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration is modifying religious exemptions and accommodations against mandatory employer health care coverage of contraception, after federal judges blocked the administrations rules in December.

“The United States has a long history of providing conscience protections in the regulation of health care for entities and individuals with objections based on religious beliefs and moral convictions,” the Office of Management and Budget said. “These final rules expand exemptions to protect religious beliefs for certain entities and individuals whose health plans are subject to a mandate of contraceptive coverage through guidance issued pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

It added that the rules “leave the accommodation process in place as an optional process for certain exempt entities that wish to use it voluntarily.”

The New York Times reported Oct. 30 that the revised rules will be issued by the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury.

Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the Federal District Court in Philadelphia issued a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration's initial rules Dec. 15, 2017.

She said Pennsylvania could suffer “serious and irreparable harm” from the rules, because a lack of cost-effective contraception would mean that women would either forgo contraception or choose less effective methods and result in “individual choices which will result in an increase in unintended pregnancies.” This would create economic harm for the state because “unintended pregnancies are more likely to impose additional costs on Pennsylvania’s state-funded health programs.”

Shortly after Beetlestone's ruling, Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. of the Federal District Court in Oakland also blocked the Trump administration's rules, saying they would “transform contraceptive coverage from a legal entitlement to an essentially gratuitous benefit wholly subject to their employer’s discretion.”

Under Trump, the Justice Department has argued that “a woman who loses coverage of her chosen contraceptive method through her employer may still have access to such coverage through a spouse’s plan … or she may otherwise be able to pay out of pocket for contraceptive services.”

The 2010 Affordable Care Act, and resulting rules issued by the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services mandated that employer health plans cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that can cause abortion. The mandate drew opposition from Catholics and others.

The Trump administration established new rules in October 2017 allowing companies with religious or moral objections to contraception to opt out of the mandate.

The administration has appealed the rulings by Beetlestone and Gilliam, and other judges have issued rulings favorable to exemptions and accommodations to the contraception mandate.

In April, District Court Judge David Russell issued a permanent injunction and declaratory relief against the mandate for members of the Catholic Benefits Association.

Russell also ruled that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by attempting to force employers to provide contraception and sterilization in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.

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