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As pandemic continues, some Catholic moms call the midwife

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 19:40

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2020 / 05:40 pm (CNA).- As hospitals continue to treat patients with COVID-19, many expectant women worry about exposing themselves and their babies to the virus while giving birth. Their concern has led to a surge in demand for at-home births, according to some midwives.

In 2018, about one percent of births occurred at home, according to a CDC study. That figure has been on the rise since 2004, according to a study published in the journal Birth, which reported that the figure for at-home births increased by 77% between 2004 and 2017. The study found that the increase may be due to increased coverage of home births by insurance.

But the surge in demand for home births during recent months is unprecedented, Catholic midwives told CNA.

Catholic midwife Tiara Rodgers, whose practice, Modern Miracle Birth serves women in central Texas, says she has seen demand for her services double.

“Because of covid, a lot of women and families are finding themselves considering home birth when they would've never thought otherwise to consider home birth,” Rodgers told CNA. “Midwives are busier than ever right now.”

Midwives, who are the traditional form of obstetrics in many countries, are licensed from the American Midwifery Certification Board or the North American registry of midwives. The United States also recognizes midwives who obtain a graduate degree after completing a nursing program.

In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized the value of midwives in a report, which stated that properly trained midwives could prevent 80% of deaths associated with childbirth, especially in developing nations. The WHO hopes to develop midwifery programs in both third-world and first-world countries by 2030.

Midwives are trained to deliver babies in low-risk pregnancies, often with the help of a doula, who offers emotional support for women during the birth itself. If a risk-factor develops during the pregnancy, midwives bring women to a hospital for further care. That, said Rodgers, will not change even in a pandemic.

Because of the virus, Rodgers said that women are doing their own research into home birth as a viable alternative to hospital care. And they are finding that for low-risk pregnancies, the outcomes are very good.

“Some moms who are due in a couple of weeks are calling us up and saying ‘do you have room for me? I’m 37 weeks… and I really don’t want to birth in a hospital,’” said Rodgers.

One mother contacted Modern Miracle Birth 38 weeks into her pregnancy. She was afraid of going to the hospital, although she admitted that she knew nothing about having a baby at home.

But after meeting Rodgers, she trusted her team and decided to have her baby at home. She gave birth to a nine-pound baby boy in her bathtub.

“You could see the fear melt away. That was really, really beautiful, because it was not what she expected at all,” said Rodgers.

Tracy Santangelo, a midwife whose practice, BirthPointe, serves the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said that she had to turn away seven or eight women every week at the peak of the pandemic.

“People are willing to do a lot to make sure that their birth desires are really something that they can be attained and will be respected,” Santangelo said.

But she could not get the supplies she needed to accept extra clients, although she went to great lengths to obtain supplies. She even bought a face shield from a Chinese food restaurant supplier.

“People were very panicked,” Santangelo said. Most of the women who called her were already late in their pregnancies. “I don’t know if they found somebody or not.”

Women are particularly concerned about a policy, implemented in many hospitals around the nation, that bars family members from being present at birth.

“They can’t even have their children come in to meet the new sibling,” said Santangelo. “And for me, this is really, by far, my favorite part of the birth.”

Santangelo said that one of her clients, a first-time mother, plans to give birth in a hotel room in order to allow her family to be present but also to be close to the hospital. It’s actually something Santangelo has done before.

Women’s concerns about not having family present at a birth go beyond sentimentality. Rodgers explained that in the case of a medical emergency, a husband makes decisions on behalf of his wife, if she is unable to do so.

“The woman doesn't have anyone to advocate for her,” if the husband is not present, said Rodgers. “If she has to have an emergency c-section, there’s nobody there to consent for her if she can’t consent for herself. So that is a big issue.”

Although many women did not plan to deliver their babies at home, Rodgers said that many say they end up preferring at-home births over hospital births.

“We’re seeing people have these wonderful birth outcomes, that are saying, I want to do this again. There’s no way I’d go back to the medical model of care,” said Rodgers.

As Catholic midwives, Rodgers and Santangelo serve women of all faiths with an understanding that birth is both physical and spiritual.

“It really is an opportunity to show people the grace that a woman of faith can give someone else,” said Santangelo. She has the opportunity to connect with the Catholic mothers she serves on matters of faith, but has also found that non-Catholic mothers are often looking for a sympathetic ear.

“To come from a non-judgmental place and to truly serve women because that’s the gift that God gave you, that’s my greatest joy,” she said.

“We are made body, mind and spirit by the Lord,” said Rodgers. “If you cut out one of those… then you will be missing part of the puzzle piece to caring and giving this mom and baby the best care possible.”


Catholic school superintendent aims to equip schools for special ed

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 18:40

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2020 / 04:40 pm (CNA).-  

An educator with years of experience in special education was recently named superintendent of a Chicago-area Catholic diocese. He aims to ensure that all kids can go to Catholic school who want to. 

“[Special education] is about being an advocate— getting support and services for individual students so that they can be successful regardless, whatever the disability or whatever the challenge might be,” Dr. Michael Boyle told CNA.

The Diocese of Joliet, Illinois announced last week that Boyle will be its diocesan superintendent of schools, beginning July 6.

The school system serves nearly 17,000 students in 42 elementary schools, eight high schools and two preschools, according to the diocese.

“I'm really excited to join Joliet. It is my home diocese,” Boyle told CNA.

“I think what I'm looking forward to doing as a superintendent is being able to kind of sit back, support, provide the kinds of supports to make sure that these wonderful people can continue to do the wonderful jobs that they're doing.”

Boyle is a member of the governing boards of the Journal of Catholic Education and the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, and a member of the Professional Development Advisory Board for the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA).

While the idea of special education in Catholic schools is nothing new, Boyle said he often seeks to “reintroduce” teachers and school administrators to the idea that inclusive education— working to allow any child to attend the school, regardless of disability— is not just a nice thing to do, but is in fact a mandate from the Church.

The bishops of the United State released a pastoral letter on persons with disabilities  back in 1978, he said, challenging Catholic schools, both elementary and secondary, to be inclusive.

“They recognized it wasn't going to be an easy battle. That in fact, we needed to build our skills. We need to build sort of that approach, but it's something that with support, that's something that we should be able to do,” Boyle said.

Boyle attended Catholic schools, and his wife is a Catholic school teacher; their five children also attended Catholic schools. But Boyle never set out to work in Catholic schools originally— he started his career as a school psychologist, and eventually worked as a district director of special education for a public school district in Chicago.

At that job, he created the district’s first inclusive preschool.

He later became principal of their parish’s Catholic school. Through that experience, he saw firsthand how important it was that the school make the effort to educate children with special needs in the same classrooms as children who learn typically.

“Even for kids with some significant disabilities or challenges, with an inclusive setting, it really not only benefited the kid, but— I saw with my own eyes— it also benefited other kids,” Boyle said.

Boyle most recently served as Director of the Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic Education at Loyola University Chicago, and as the Assistant Director of the University’s Center for Catholic School Effectiveness.

In a 2016 document for the NCEA, Boyle enumerates the layers of support a Catholic school system can provide in order to foster effective inclusive education across all its schools.

Most of the legwork in educating students with special needs is done by the teachers, so at the classroom level teachers need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills key to working with students with disabilities, and be inspired with the right dispositions toward those students.

“At the classroom level, how are we supporting teachers in terms of building the skills, the competencies and the dispositions to be able to really kind of approach that?” he said.

At the level of the school, Boyle wrote that school leaders need to equip themselves with knowledge and skills related to special education, develop policies and protocols for teachers to follow, and also should be prepared to model for teachers the disposition that serving those with disabilities “brings to life our obligations under Catholic Social Teaching.”

Finally, at the diocesan level, the bishop should be prepared to offer support and sharing of resources so that every school can offer a high level of inclusive education, Boyle wrote.

“We can't just do an inclusionary approach on a class by class basis, we also have to look at the school's system,” he added.

As Joliet’s new superintendent, Boyle’s work will include a focus on big-picture, system-wide approaches to expanding special education in the Catholic school system— giving schools the leadership and training they need in order that “all kids who want to avail themselves of a Catholic education, can.”

Boyle said it would be ideal if every diocese hired someone to manage their special education programs.

“As we all know the challenges— especially as we're coming back now from COVID-19— the economic challenges facing schools are going to be critical. And most dioceses, quite frankly, are not going to be in a position to be able to do that. So I think what we have to do is we have to think about ways to maximize resources,” he said.

“I think where people have a hard time is that when everything gets dumped on one person...and so building all the members of the school community to be able to do this kind of work is really critical.”

For those dioceses not in a position to hire someone new to oversee special education, he suggested a certificate program he helped to create, which aims to help educators learn how to build an inclusive school.

At the diocesan level, Boyle said the bishops of several dioceses across the country have worked to prioritize special education in recent years.

He pointed to the dioceses of Arlington, Virginia and Phoenix, Arizona, whose bishops have made inclusive education a priority for their schools.

His goal, he said, is to ensure that the excellent, inclusive practices of many Catholic schools across the country are replicated throughout each diocese.

“My concern always is that we might get a school that does a really great job, but it becomes a lighthouse school— it's the only school that does inclusion. When in reality, we're all, as Catholics, called to do this is a part of who we are as Catholics,” he said.

“We just don't want to just include to include, we also want it to be an excellent education because that's what a Catholic education should be, right? It should be academically excellent and identifiably Catholic.”

The National Catholic Educational Association recently warned that at least 100 Catholic elementary and high schools across the United States will not reopen for the fall semester, with many suffering from low enrollment and decreased donations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite this, Sister Dale MacDonald, NCEA public policy director, told CNA last week that about 2,000 Catholic schools across the country have not experienced massive enrollment declines, but instead have waiting lists.

For most Catholic schools, MacDonald said, about 80% of their operating budget comes from tuition. In addition, many Catholic schools hold major fundraisers in the spring, which had to be canceled or postponed after the pandemic hit.


Justice Department: NYC pandemic rules can't favor protests over religious services

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 18:18

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2020 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- New York City cannot enforce coronavirus restrictions strictly on religious gatherings and leave mass public protests untouched, leading U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Mayor de Blasio’s recent public statements and enforcement of COVID-19 orders have demonstrated a troubling preference for certain First Amendment rights over others,” said leading Justice Department officials June 22.

“The Justice Department is glad Mayor de Blasio will now permit greater religious exercise and will continue to monitor New York City’s reopening to ensure that New York City extends the same respect to the freedom of religion, both in terms of indoor and outdoor gatherings, as it does to the freedoms of speech and assembly.”

The statement came from Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband and U.S. Attorney General Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan. They are overseeing the U.S. Department of Justice’s monitoring of state and local policies related to the novel coronavirus epidemic.

“New York City had vigorously enforced restrictions on religious gatherings, including by sending police officers to disperse numerous gatherings of the Jewish community, including outdoor funerals,” said the Justice Department in its June 22 statement.

“At the same time, Mayor de Blasio marched in large in-person political gatherings concerning the recent tragic death of George Floyd and made statements suggesting — in a manner forbidden by the First Amendment — that religious exercise was less valued and protected by New York City than political exercise.”

The New York City mayor’s move to Phase 2 of the city’s reopening plan began June 21. This phase allows houses of worship to open to 25% of their indoor capacity, after allowing only 10 or fewer attendees under previous rules. This move provided “much-needed relief” for New Yorkers, the Justice Department said, noting that the department’s civil rights division had acted in response to the city’s treatment of religion.

The Justice Department said a letter to de Blasio from Dreiband last week objected that the city allowed large gatherings for political protest but did not permit in-person religious gatherings.

Dreiband’s June 19 letter said the demonstrations in New York raised “several civil rights concerns,” while de Blasio’s statements and actions “raised substantial concerns about New York City’s commitment to evenhanded application of robust First Amendment protections.”

The assistant attorney general commended the mayor’s support for peaceful public protest, saying “like the people of New York City, and all across our country, we are deeply troubled by the death of George Floyd.” At the same time, he said the Justice Department recognizes that the constitution requires “equal treatment under the laws, without regard to race, religion, or other protected traits.”

The mayor’s executive orders and emergency orders had barred all gatherings larger than 10 persons. At the same time, his June 1 press release voiced his commitment to “support and protect peaceful protest.” He allowed thousands of New Yorkers to demonstrate, and took part in a June 14 protest.

“The First Amendment protects religious observers against unequal treatment. Government may not discriminate against religious gatherings compared to other nonreligious gatherings that have the same effect on the government’s public health interest, absent compelling reasons,” said Dreiband’s letter.

Restrictions on places of worship may be consistent with the First Amendment when such restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, the letter said.

Initially, both New York State and city orders significantly restricted gatherings, including religious gatherings. By May 22, the mayor’s rules had allowed gatherings of 10 or fewer people, provided social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfection protocols were followed.

As of June 19, the orders still prohibited gatherings of thousands of people for political protest, the assistant attorney general said.

“In light of your support for and participation in recent protests in New York City, the message to the public from New York City’s government appears to favor certain secular gatherings and disfavor religious gatherings,” said Dreiband.

He encouraged the mayor to “reconsider your posture towards religious gatherings.” His letter voiced concern about de Blasio’s June 2 comment that the interests of those protesting “is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”

“Concerns, as you likely know, have been raised in the faith community that New York City is acting to protect certain First Amendment expression over others, which the Constitution forbids,” said Dreiband. Enforcement of executive orders or emergency orders should respect “both the right of your residents to assemble to express their views on a diverse spectrum of topics and the right to practice their faith.”

“Compliance with the First Amendment is not optional, and that amendment protects both free exercise of religion and assembly rights,” said the letter.

While the risk of coronavirus transmission is believed to be lower outdoors, and religious services are typically held indoors, the letter noted that New York City has not limited enforcement to restricting indoor religious gatherings.

Dreiband’s letter voiced gratitude for New York City officials’ respect for freedom of speech and assembly, and urged de Blasio “to do the same with the freedom of religion.”


Cross and graves vandalized at Catholic university cemetery

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 14:30

CNA Staff, Jun 23, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- A man has been arrested and charged with vandalism and assault after  swastikas were painted on the graves of several Dominican friars and a security guard was assualted at Catholic college on Monday evening. 

A statement from Fr. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., and Fr. Kenneth Sicard, O.P., the president and president-elect of Providence College, Rhode Island, said that around 9:30 p.m. on Monday, public safety officers were alerted to the presence of a “suspicious man” at the on-campus cemetery. The cemetery contains the gravesites of deceased Dominican friars who taught at the school. 

“Officers approached the individual to question what he was doing and to confirm the vandalism when they noticed the suspect had painted swastikas and anti-Catholic language on the cemetery’s central cross and on several of the headstones, and was actively burning American flags that stood at some of the gravesites,” said the statement from Shanley and Sicard. 

In total, seven headstones were defaced, along with the central cross in the cemetery. 

The man proceeded to hit the security officer in the head and run away. He was later discovered hiding in bushes on campus, where he was subsequently arrested. 

The paint was removed by Tuesday afternoon.

“We loudly and unequivocally condemn this racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic action, and the desecration of the gravestones of our beloved, deceased Dominicans who served Providence College so well and so faithfully for many years,” said the statement.

“In addition, we condemn this action in support and solidarity with the Jewish members of our community, many of whom enjoyed the friendship of those late Dominican friars. PC has a long and proud history of collaboration with the Jewish community in Rhode Island,” they added.

Providence College is home to the Jewish-Catholic Theological Exchange, and regularly hosts events aimed at interreligious dialogue and friendship. 

“Our community embraces love and mutual respect for all people; there is no place for hatred on our campus,” said Shanley and Sicard.

Providence Police Department identified the man on Tuesday as 26-year-old Keveon Gomera. Gomera was charged with vandalism and assault with intent to commit a felony. 

A man who believes he encountered Gomera before the assault told local NBC affiliate WJAR that Gomera was carrying a bucket of paint and accused Providence College of “being part of the slave plantations” and said he was going to light an American flag on fire. 

Providence College was founded in 1917, several decades after the Emancipation Proclamation, and nearly a century after the abolition of slavery in Rhode Island.

George Weigel: ‘Catholic lite’ and Vatican finances will top next pope’s agenda

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 13:00

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Evangelizing countries where the faith has been watered down and resolving the ongoing financial crisis in the Vatican are challenges which will extend past the reign of Pope Francis, author George Weigel said on Monday.

Weigel was discussing his new book “The Next Pope” with members of Catholic press in a webinar on June 22.

“The Church is living, vibrant, and effective in society where Catholics have embraced Catholicism in full and are joyfully living missionary discipleships,” said Weigel. In contrast, he said, places that have embraced a version of Catholicism which departs from aspects of the Church’s moral teaching, which he termed “Catholic lite,” have seen the faith have a waning influence on culture. 

Weigel referenced several European countries where Church leaders have proposed sweeping accommodations with secular culture. In German, the bishops have inaugurated a “binding synodal process” to examine various aspects of Church teaching and discipline, including consideration of the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of women, and the repeal of clerical celibacy. Local lay leaders in the process have also come under scrutiny for their open support for abortion providers.

In Belgium, which has brought in sweeping permissions for euthanasia, some Catholic bodies have been at the center of ethical healthcare provision, with some seeking to accommodate the practice and others insisting on adhering to the Church’s teching on the sanctity of life. 

“Catholic lite does not work,” he said. “It does not work in Germany; it doesn’t work in Switzerland, it doesn’t work in Belgium, it doesn’t work in the Netherlands, it doesn’t work anywhere.”

The next pope, he said, will have to negotiate both bringing these people back into the fold, as well as “encouraging those who have full confidence in the Gospel.” 

Weigel also said the next pope will be forced to confront the ongoing issue of financial reform in the Vatican. 

“The Holy See is in very serious financial trouble,” said Weigel, adding that there is a possibility that the Vatican could declare bankruptcy by the end of the year. The Holy See’s financial issues, he said, stem from a combination of “corruption,” “incompetence,” and “a culture of nepotism, in the broadest sense of the term.” 

In 2014, Pope Francis established the Secretariat for the Economy under Cardinal George Pell. In the years following its creation, the secretariat advanced a comprehensive vision for financial reform, insisting on a wholesale audit of Vatican assets and a review of procurement procedures, but many of those reforms were later stalled or reversed.

In May, Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, SJ, who succeeded Pell as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said that the Holy See expects a 30-80% income reduction in the coming year. And the Holy See has run large deficits for years; including a 70 million euro deficit on a 300 million euro budget for 2018.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis published new laws governing Vatican financial dealings, setting new standards for contracts awarded by the city state and curial departments, and aiming to inject transparency and accountability into the budgeting process of the Holy See and its institutions.

The next pope, Weigel said, must bring in “competent people,” including laymen and women, in order to complete the work of addressing the Church’s financial problems. Doing this will mean breaking with established hiring and promotion policies from within the curia, he added, pointing out that at present many career curial officials are appointed to jobs for which they have had little prior experience or expertise. 

“It means stopping this rather curious idea that just because someone has been a good nuncio somewhere, that they know anything about money and investing money and managing money,” said Weigel.  

“The Next Pope” is being published by Ignatius Press and will be released on July 7, 2020. 

After Black Lives Matter controversy, Catholic removed from Florida State student government

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 10:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 23, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- The Catholic former president of a Florida university’s student senate says he was removed from office for questioning controversial policy positions of the Black Lives Matter group in a text message thread with fellow Catholic students.

Denton, a member of Florida State University’s (FSU) Class of 2021, served in the FSU Student Government Association for three years, including service as the president of the student senate.

He says the student senate voted to remove him on June 5 “for simply stating Catholic doctrines in a private group chat” about policy positions of, Reclaim the Block, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on sexuality and the family, abortion, and policing.

In a GroupMe text messaging forum for members of the university’s Catholic Student Union, a conversation reportedly discussed the May 27 shooting of Tony McDade, a 38 year-old black biological female who identified as a transgender man, by Tallahassee Police.

In the discussion, which focused on the broader issues of racism, one member brought up causes that students could financially support to advance racial justice.

Denton intervened to point out what he felt were problematic positions taken by some of the groups mentioned. 

“As a devout Catholic and a college student, I felt that it was my responsibility to point out this discrepancy, to make sure that my fellow Catholics knew what they were partaking in,” he told CNA.

Screenshots of Denton’s texts show that he said “everyone should be aware that, Reclaim the Block, and the ACLU all advocate for things that are explicitly anti-Catholic.”

When asked by a member what specifically he was referring to, Denton replied in the thread that “ fosters ‘a queer-affirming network’ and defends transgenderism.”

The ACLU, he continued, “defends laws protecting abortion facilities and sued states that restrict access to abortion.” 

Reclaim the Block, he said, “claims less police will make our communities safer and advocates for cutting PD’s budgets. This is a little less explicit, but I think it’s contrary to the Church’s teaching on the common good.”

Denton says he was not operating in his official capacity as student senator in the forum, but a student in the thread sent screenshots of his texts to members of the student senate without his permission.

An initial student senate motion to bring up a vote of no-confidence in Denton failed on June 3. A petition had also circulated, calling for Denton’s removal from the student senate. Late on Friday, June 5, the senate did hold a vote and removed him from office.

Highlighting Denton’s concern about defending “transgenderism,” the petition said the student had made “transphobic and racist remarks.”

“Transphobic and racist behavior and comments will not be tolerated in any form at any level at FSU,” the petition said.

A June 4 column in Spire, a student-run magazine at the university, said that Denton “holds values which are antithetical to FSU’s anti-discrimination policy and could make our school’s most marginalized students feel unwelcome and unsafe.”

“Denton’s words are alarming for many reasons. Firstly, he interrupted a conversation about systemic racism and the murder of black Americans by police officers with his own fears of ‘anti-Catholic’ discrimination. Denton, a white man, centered himself in a discussion about racism, treating advocacy for ‘things that are explicitly anti-Catholic’ as equivalent to anti-black racism.”

“Like many, Denton is attempting to use his religious identification as a cover for bigotry and cannot be let off the hook,” the op-ed said.

A June 3 statement from the FSU College Democrats said that Denton’s messages “demonstrate a clear lack of respect for our Black and LGBTQ+ students at FSU.”

Denton told CNA his removal “is ludicrous, and is blatantly unconstitutional to discriminate against me for that.”

“I’m concerned for the future of students who hold religious views on college campuses, specifically students who are Catholic, devout Catholics,” he said. “This is clearly setting a bad precedent.”

Most concerning to Denton, he said, was that the student senate caved to the demands of the “mob,” he said.

“Quite frankly, the student senators, they didn’t uphold the oath that they took when they were sworn in to the student senate by disrespecting the Constitution of the United States of America and removing me from my position for being a Catholic and a student leader, simultaneously,” he said.

“They did this because of the outcry,” he said. “It was quite scary to witness how this mob could influence all these senators in two days to just switch their vote and remove me as president, for being Catholic.”

The “Black Lives Matter” social movement has gained international recognition with mass protests against racism and police brutality in recent weeks.

While demonstrations have been organized on the local level by smaller groups, the largest and most well-funded group is the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which operates the website It advocates for several policies apparently unrelated to racism, such as working to “dismantle cisgender privilege,” to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” and to “foster a queer‐affirming network.”

Smaller network affiliates often organize local protests, and other groups use the phrase “Black Lives Matter” but are not officially a part of the global network.

Catholics CNA spoke with last week affirmed that while the movement’s fight for racial justice is necessary, some of the Black Lives Matter Global Network’s policy positions on sexuality and the family cannot be supported by Catholics.

Denton said on Monday that, in drawing attention to those controversial positions of the network, he felt that Catholics would be funding these goals if they gave money to the organizations.

“Let me make it unequivocally clear that ‘Black Lives Matter,’ the statement, the sentiment, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said, noting that his concern was about financial support for a particular organization.

“They might advocate for good things, but you can’t separate the bad from the good when you’re financially supporting an organization,” he said.

Denton, represented by the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, has now filed an appeal to the supreme court of the university’s Student Government Association, challenging his removal as a violation of the student senate rules and university rules, as well as an infringement on his First Amendment rights. He is asking for his reinstatement as student senate president.

Longtime Catholic schools leader to head Seattle archdiocese task force

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 22:19

Denver Newsroom, Jun 22, 2020 / 08:19 pm (CNA).- Leading education expert Father Ronald Nuzzi will head a task force for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Seattle, with a special focus on the “ministerial covenant” that helps Catholic teachers witness to and pass on the Catholic faith.

“Catholic schools are rooted in the Catholic faith. It’s what makes them different from other private schools,” Nuzzi told CNA. “Therefore, our educators are asked to teach from this faith-based foundation.”

“At the core of the faith are the great mysteries, which root both parishes and schools in the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Paschal Mystery, and the Eucharist,” he said.

Nuzzi is a priest of the Diocese of Youngstown in Ohio and professor emeritus of the University of Notre Dame. He is senior director emeritus at the university’s Alliance for Catholic Education, which aims to support, improve and expand Catholic K-12 schools, especially schools lacking resources.

“Catholic schools had their origin in the immigrant Church, providing a safe and faith-filled place where newcomers to this country could learn, grow, and prosper,” Nuzzi said. “They served a vital social and religious purpose, providing waves of immigrants the opportunities to fully participate in American society. Today, Catholics are part of the mainstream, but schools are still providing a counter-cultural witness, addressing the secularization, consumerism, relativism, racism, and hyper-individualism that are so common today.”

“In some ways, a Catholic school education, rooted in Gospel values and the example of Jesus, are even more important today than they once were,” he continued.

Nuzzi’s task force is set up to secure three key goals. These include a review and study of Church documents about Catholic teaching and tradition, especially the formation of conscience, free will, and human social and sexual development. The task force will assess, analyze and summarize the convictions, beliefs and opinions of archdiocesan stakeholders about the ministerial covenant and its use in employment decisions.

They will make a recommendation based on “an informed and thoughtful approach” to renewal of the ministerial covenant in a way that respects both of the previous goals and “embraces the fullness of church teaching while honoring and appreciating the sense of the faithful,” the Seattle archdiocese said.

The archdiocese did not respond to CNA’s questions about the meaning of “the sense of the faithful,” or what would happen if public opinion conflicted with Church teaching.

“The Ministerial Covenant ensures that our 73 Catholic schools reflect our Catholic faith. How it is applied across our Catholic schools is of great interest not only to me, but to all our principals, teachers, parents and students,” Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle said in a June 16 statement from the Seattle archdiocese.

He voiced gratitude for Nuzzi’s leadership in “this important body of work.”

“He is a well-known leader in Catholic school administration and has a wealth of experience as well as a great passion for the faith and Catholic schools,” Etienne said.

Nuzzi will review nominees for task force membership. Nominees include principals, pastors, parents of children in Catholic schools, Catholic school teachers and members of the archdiocese’s Office for Catholic Schools. The nominees will be announced in July.

“The ministerial covenant is signed by all employees of the Archdiocese of Seattle. It hasn’t been updated in several years, so this taskforce will review its language and how it is applied at Catholic schools across the archdiocese,” Nuzzi told CNA. “What is important about the title ‘ministerial covenant’ is that every Catholic school in the country, including all in the Archdiocese of Seattle, considers teachers to be ministers of the Gospel and witnesses to the faith.”

Ministerial language is not intended to “clericalize” lay teachers or obscure the lay state, he said.

“Lay leaders not only help run our Catholic schools, they help run our entire archdiocese,” Nuzzi said. “This taskforce is focused on Catholic teaching and the Catholic faith – not on clericalization. In calling our teachers ministers, we are saying they are public, contractually committed, inspired examples, worthy of emulation, not clerics.”

The task force will meet 12 times from August 2020 to June 2021. Members are asked to maintain confidentiality about all deliberations.

In a statement from the archdiocese, Nuzzi described Catholic schools as a “vital part” of the Church’s mission. He said he was “enthusiastic” about the task force and “its potential to help shape a brighter future for youth, children, and families.”

The Seattle archdiocese covers the territory of western Washington State. Almost 580,000 Catholics are registered with a parish and make up over 15% of the area’s population.

The people of Washington state tend to be more secular than other Americans. Those without religious affiliation make up the largest group, about 32%, if small sections of atheists and agnostics are grouped with 22% who self-identify as “nothing-in-particular.” However, 61% self-identify as Christian. Evangelical Christians make up about 25% of Washingtonians, 17% identify as Catholic, and 13% as mainline Protestant, the Pew Research Center reported in 2019.

The task force was announced in February after the Seattle archdiocese saw a controversy in which the facts are disputed. Two teachers at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington either resigned voluntarily in order to contract same-sex civil marriages with different partners, or were forced out of their positions.

Michael Prato, president of Kennedy Catholic, said in a February statement that the two teachers approached him in November 2019 to share their desire to civilly marry their same-sex partners.

The teachers had voluntarily signed a covenant agreement to “live and model the Catholic faith in accord with Church teaching,” Prato said. In light of the agreement they signed, both chose to resign, he said. The school worked out a transition plan and financial package for the teachers.

“I hired these teachers and I care about them very much. I still do,” Prato said. “I wanted to make sure they felt supported, and so we discussed several options including the possibility of finishing out the school year.”

Groups of students staged protests in support of the teachers. Students, as well as parents and alumni of the school, also staged a protest outside the diocesan chancery in Seattle.

The two teachers’ attorney, Shannon McMinimee, said the teachers were forced out. She said they “were hoping to have a dialogue with the school about their desire to be their authentic selves and not hide that they were engaged and not hide who they were engaged to.”

"And that -- what they thought would be a conversation with their principal turned into being called into the presidents' office and being told that the superintendent of the archdiocese school system wanted their keys the minute they found out they were gay and engaged,” McMinimee said, according to KING 5 News Feb. 21.

Archbishop Etienne addressed the situation in a Feb. 19 statement.

“Pastors and church leaders need to be clear about the church’s teaching, while at the same time refraining from making judgments, taking into consideration the complexity of people’s lived situations,” he said, stressing that the end goal of accompanying people in faith is “to help people embrace the fullness of the Gospel message and integrate the faith more deeply into their lives.”

“Those who teach in our schools are required to uphold our teaching in the classroom and to model it in their personal lives,” he said. “We recognize and support the right of each individual to make choices. We also understand that some choices have particular consequences for those who represent the church in an official capacity.”

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexual inclinations are not sinful, homosexual acts “are contrary to the natural law... under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes on to say that people with these inclinations should be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

In 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “in those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.” It said Catholics must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation with such laws and, insofar as possible, any material cooperation.

“In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection,” the CDF said.

In the United States, various Catholic schools and dioceses have faced lawsuits from employees who have been fired after contracting civil same-sex marriages in violation of the diocesan or school policy.

Despite strong social pressure, the legal freedom of primary and secondary Catholic schools appears secure at present. In the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case Hosanna Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the court unanimously ruled that religious organizations do not need to follow federal anti-discrimination laws in what was characterized as a “ministerial exception.”

At the same time, religious freedom has become a target by some LGBT advocacy groups and politicians who say it wrongfully protects actions they consider discriminatory.


Catholic Charities steps in as NYC loosens eviction restrictions

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 21:30

CNA Staff, Jun 22, 2020 / 07:30 pm (CNA).- As New York City’s eviction moratorium expires for some people affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Catholic Charities has warned that many low-income residents may face risk of eviction.

New York City’s original moratorium on landlords evicting tenants for non-payment of rent concluded on June 20. It will be extended until August 20, but only for some people.

Antonio Garcia, director of the Preserving Housing program at Catholic Charities of New York, warned that many people in the city could be at risk of eviction. He said the evicted moratorium will be extended for those who have received unemployment benefits from the government, but not others who have been affected by the pandemic, without collecting unemployment benefits.

“Nobody knows the magnitude of the problem yet, what we could see is a spike in people facing eviction in New York City,” said Garcia, according to Net TV.

Every year, more 200,000 cases of non-payment are taken up in the New York Housing Court, and 9% of these cases result in evictions, according to Catholic Charities. Garcia thinks the number of evictions could double with the moratorium lifting.

Tatiana, a professional working with adults who have developmental disabilities, told Net TV that many of her clients will not qualify for the moratorium because they did not make enough money to apply for unemployment, even though the pandemic has left them jobless.

She called the system unfair, saying her clients “have to feed their families and they have bills that they can’t catch up on.”

Catholic Charities of New York said it will continue to be a resource for at-risk tenants and help seek long-term solutions to rent-payment concerns.

“We help clients find the resources to pay the rental arrears, we also mediate with landlords to find a solution, sometimes landlords are willing to abate some of those rental arrears,” said Garcia, according to Net TV.

“We have employment specialists who can help them, we also have a tenant education program that helps people with budget management.”


Toppling statues of Junipero Serra ‘fails test’ of history, California Catholic bishops say

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 20:40

CNA Staff, Jun 22, 2020 / 06:40 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of California have defended St. Junipero Serra, after statues of St. Junipero were torn down in both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The bishops said June 22 that the saint was “ahead of his time” in defending the rights of indigenous peoples and that those who have called for statues of him to be removed or torn down “failed the test” of history.

A statue of Serra was torn down in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park June 20, along with statues of Francis Scott Key and Ulysses S. Grant. In Los Angeles the same day, rioters pulled down a statue of Serra in the city’s downtown area.

“The movement to confront racism within our society during these past weeks has been, at times, challenging,” said a statement from the California Catholic Conference of Bishops on Monday, “but it has provided bold new hope for every American that our nation can begin to transform key elements of our racist past and present.”

The bishops said that they “vigorously and wholeheartedly support” efforts to identify, and repair historical instances of racism against members of the African-American and Native American communities, but that on the specific question of removing statues and other public images, the actual history of the individuals must be considered.

“If this process is to be truly effective as a remedy for racism, it must discern carefully the entire contribution that the historical figure in question made to American life, especially in advancing the rights of marginalized peoples,” they said.

“In calling for the removal of images of Saint Junipero Serra from public display in California, and in tearing down his statue in San Francisco and in Los Angeles, protesters have failed that test.”

Serra, who was canonized a saint by Pope Francis in 2015, was an eighteenth century Franciscan missionary who founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California; many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities.

The saint helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and taught them new agricultural technologies.

Some California activists view Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan missionary, as having contributed to the destruction of Native American way of life through his founding of the first nine of California’s mission churches. Many of the priest’s biographers dispute those claims.

Referring to a statement by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Saturday, the state’s bishops defended the saint’s life and mission.

“The historical truth is that Serra repeatedly pressed the Spanish authorities for better treatment of the Native American communities,” they said. 

“Serra was not simply a man of his times. In working with Native Americans, he was a man ahead of his times who made great sacrifices to defend and serve the indigenous population and work against an oppression that extends far beyond the mission era.”

If that is not enough to legitimate a public statue in the state that he did so much to create,” the bishops observed, “then virtually every historical figure from our nation's past will have to be removed for their failings measured in the light of today's standards.”

On Saturday, Archbishop Cordileone said that Serra made “heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors, especially the soldiers,” recalling how Serra, despite having an infirm leg, walked to Mexico City to obtain special authority from the Spanish viceroy to discipline the military who were abusing the indigenous people.

“Then he walked back to California,” the archbishop said.

Cordileone it is important not to “deny that historical wrongs have occurred, even by people of good will, and healing of memories and reparation is much needed. But just as historical wrongs cannot be righted by keeping them hidden, neither can they be righted by re-writing the history.”


President Trump talks statues, Archbishop Viganò in EWTN News interview

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 20:05

CNA Staff, Jun 22, 2020 / 06:05 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump on Monday said he will issue an executive order designed to protect public statuary, as statues around the country have been torn down or defaced amid protests in recent weeks.

The president spoke during an exclusive June 22 interview with Raymond Arroyo, host of EWTN’s “The World Over.” During the interview, Trump also spoke about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and an open letter written to him by former U.S. apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganò.

“We’re going to do something very soon,” Trump said. “We’re going to do an executive order. We’re going to make the cities guard their monuments, this is a disgrace.”

Amid protests that began after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, statues of historical figures have been torn down by some demonstrators.

While protesters against racism began by toppling statues of Confederate Civil War figures, demonstrators in recent days have toppled other figures: George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant among them, along with St. Junipero Serra, a Catholic missionary who founded nine missions in California.

Trump emphasized his claim that cities most dramatically impacted by protests, rioters, or looting are those in which Democrats are in power.

“It's all Democrats, usually liberal Democrats. Take a look. Whether it's Chicago, it's Democrat, Seattle, it's Democrat. The state of Washington. It's Democrat. Portland, it's Democrat. All of these places are run by Democrats. Twenty out 20 are Democrat-run,” the president said. “They don’t know what they’re doing. And if Biden got in, this country would be a disaster.”

“Take a look at the way we're running things, we’re running them good. And if I weren't president - talk about the statues - we wouldn't have any statues standing right now. Because I did things that you don't know about to save a lot of them,” the president added.

Arroyo asked Trump about whether presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is pro-life, noting that some Catholics claim Biden is a pro-life candidate because of his opposition to the death penalty and his efforts to end climate change, while claiming Trump is not.

“I am totally in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes, ok? That’s the way it is,” the president said.

“I’m pro-life, he’s not. And the Democrats -- look who he’s putting on the court.”

“They want to put people on the court- you have no chance. So I’m pro-life, the Democrats aren’t. Nobody can say that Biden is, look at his stance over the years,” the president added, saying that in his view Democratic party operatives will advance a pro-abortion agenda if Biden is elected to the White House.

“Look at the governor of Virginia, look at what he did. He did an execution after. You know, normally you talk about late-term, his wasn’t late-term, his was, the baby was born, and then you can execute the baby. That’s the Democrats. That’s Joe Biden.”

The president referenced a 2019 Virginia bill supported by Gov. Ralph Northam, which opponents said would permit abortion even while a woman was in active labor.

During dispute over the bill, Northam said on a talk radio show that that if a baby were sufficiently disabled at birth, it could be “kept comfortable” and might be resuscitated if the mother wished, and there could be a “conversation” between doctors and the mother regarding what should be done with the baby.

Trump also talked about a June 18 Supreme Court decision that keeps intact the DACA program, which Trump has made efforts to terminate.

On DACA, Trump said that “What we want to do is win the case and then work it out.”

“They’re not going to have anything to worry about,” Trump said of DACA recipients, immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

While the president has said he is willing to make a deal on immigration reform to preserve the DACA program, some U.S. bishops have said that approach amounts to using DACA recipients as leverage in a political debate.

On June 18, the U.S. bishops’ conference urged President Trump “to strongly reconsider terminating DACA,” citing the plight of immigrant families during the new coronavirus pandemic. To end the program “needlessly places many families into further anxiety and chaos,” they said.

Trump was also asked about allegations by former National Security Advisor John Bolton that the president approved of the construction of internment camps in which up to one million Uighur people have been detained in the Xinjiang region of China.

The allegations are contained in “The Room Where It Happened," a memoir by Bolton to be released June 23.

“The book is a total lie, or mostly a lie,” the president said, noting that in his view Bolton violated the law by including classified information in his book.

“Everybody was in the room and nobody heard what Bolton heard,” Trump said of the allegations concerning the internment of the Uighur people in forced labor and “reeducation” camps.

The president also spoke about his concerns that mail-in ballots in the upcoming presidential election could lead to a “rigged election,” and offered comments on police reform and his belief that states which have not reopened their economies amid the coronavirus are keeping health measures intact for partisan political purposes.

Commenting on the country’s racial strife, Trump told Arroyo that because of his efforts on criminal justice reform and other policy initiatives, “I did more for our black population than anybody other than Abraham Lincoln. And nobody’s even close.”

The president remarked on a June 6 open letter written to him by former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganò.

The letter said that “it appears that the children of darkness – whom we may easily identify with the deep state which you wisely oppose and which is fiercely waging war against you in these days – have decided to show their cards, so to speak, by now revealing their plans.”

Viganò added that some bishops are “subservient to the deep state, to globalism, to aligned thought, to the New World Order which they invoke ever more frequently in the name of a universal brotherhood which has nothing Christian about it, but which evokes the Masonic ideals of those want to dominate the world by driving God out of the courts, out of schools, out of families, and perhaps even out of churches.”

The president said that he thinks Vigano’s letter is accurate, calling it a ”tremendous letter of support from the Catholic Church.”

Viganò “is highly respected as you know. It was beautiful, it was really three pages long, it was a beautiful letter. Yeah, he’s right in what he says,” Trump said.

Pittsburgh diocese to open personal parish to serve black Catholics

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 18:41

CNA Staff, Jun 22, 2020 / 04:41 pm (CNA).- Black Catholics in Pittsburgh will have a personal parish to respond to their specific needs, Bishop David Zubik has said in response to local requests and a listening session held in early 2020.

“Along with their sincere enthusiasm and passion for their Catholic faith, I heard and felt their desire to have their unique spiritual and cultural needs met,” Zubik said of those who made the request. “I want to raise awareness of the need to walk with our black sisters and brothers as they continue to enrich and be an integral part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Catholic Church Universal.”

Bishop Zubik will celebrate Mass at Saint Benedict the Moor Church July 12, unless any restrictions related to the novel coronavirus prevent the event. The personal parish will be officially established July 13.

Most Catholic parishes are geographic in nature. A personal parish, however, aims to respond to specific spiritual needs, often to serve a particular culture or an extraordinary need. Anyone who desires may join a personal parish.

“I am committed to the needs of black Catholics in our community. I invite everyone to join me in this effort,” Zubik said June 19. “We need to work together to make sure that black citizens from all walks of life are treated with the same respect that God intends all of us to have.”

The parish will be based at a church named for Benedict the Moor, a 16th century saint born to African slaves in Sicily who became a Franciscan friar famous for his holiness, wisdom, and humility.

The church is across from Freedom Corner, a site with a history of local civil rights advocacy. A memorial was dedicated at the site in 2001.

The church was previously a geographic parish church with African-American roots, but this merged with two others in January to form Divine Mercy Parish as part of the diocese’s reorganization.

Zubik visited the church in February to celebrate Mass and to hold a listening session. Parishioners recounted the church’s 130 years of being present for ministry to black Catholics in Pittsburgh’s Hill District and around the city. They spoke of the systemic disadvantages black Americans have had to face in Pittsburgh, the U.S., and the Catholic Church, the Pittsburgh diocese said.

The bishop asked clergy and parishioners who worship at St. Benedict the Moor to form a task force to make recommendations to him. The task force proposed a personal parish.

“This is not a call for separatism but instead for a pledge of commitment to the Church and to share in her witnessing to the love of Christ,” said the task force.

Their report cited racial and economic disparity, “racial indifference,” disenfranchisement, gentrification, and “distrust of black people, especially black boys and men,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

“Clergy and staff must be able to translate their love for the people into culturally and spiritually appropriate care and action and be able to relate to local and national situations and concerns that impact those of African descent, especially the dynamics of racism and white privilege,” the report continued.

The report cited the need for a pastor “with a demonstrated sensitivity to and a strong understanding of black spirituality, inclusiveness, and community so that they may be more effective pastoral leaders.”

Requirements to establish this type of parish include the presentation of a formal petition by the pastor and members of the parish finance council, and approval by the diocesan priests council and the vicars general of the diocese.

In a June 19 letter to parishioners Zubik said, “I am nothing short of thrilled by your request and by confirming this new chapter in the faith journey of Saint Benedict the Moor Parish.”

The place of black Americans in the Catholic Church and in American life is in the spotlight with the rise of protests against police brutality, following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was detained and held by a Minnesota police officer who placed his knee on his neck to restrain him for nearly nine minutes.

Zubik said the timing of the parish launch is “providential” given the protests and focus on racism.

“It’s my hope that a move like this at this particular time is going to make an impact on all of us,” he said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m really hoping this time that all of us are going to take a look at what we need to do to root out racism.”

Who is St. Junipero Serra, anyway?

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 17:20

Denver Newsroom, Jun 22, 2020 / 03:20 pm (CNA).- In Los Angeles and San Francisco over the weekend, protestors tore down two statues of St. Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan priest and missionary who they accused of contributing to the destruction of Native American culture through his founding of the first nine of California’s mission churches.

Who is Junipero Serra, and why has he become such a lightning rod for controversy?

Born on the island of Petra Mallorca in Spain in 1713, Serra joined the Franciscans and quickly gained prominence as a scholar and professor.

He chose to give up his academic career to become a missionary in the territory of New Spain, in which Spanish colonizers had already been active for over two centuries.

A California archeologist, who has studied the missions for over 25 years, told CNA earlier this year that it is clear from Serra’s own writings that he was motivated by a missionary zeal to bring salvation to the Native people through the Catholic faith, rather than by genocidal, racist, or opportunistic motivations.

“Serra writes excitedly about how he had finally found his life’s calling, and that he would give his life to these people and their salvation,” Dr. Reuben Mendoza, an archeologist and professor at California State University-Monterey Bay, told CNA.

Traveling almost everywhere on foot and practicing various forms of self-mortification, Serra founded mission churches all along the coast— the first nine of the 21 missions in what is today California.

Many of the missions would form the cores of what are today the state’s biggest cities— such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

In many ways, the missions were a communal venture between the friars and Native leaders, Mendoza said. Soldiers were typically housed in a garrison just off-site from the compound. The compound itself would include work areas, such as a blacksmith’s shop and places for crafts and weaving.

The Europeans taught the Natives new agricultural techniques, as well as instruction in the faith, performing thousands of baptisms.

There were occasional conflicts, both between the Natives and the friars and between the friars and the Spanish soldiers. Although Serra did not explicitly ban the use of corporal punishment, such as beatings, for Native Americans at the missions, Mendoza said, there is little evidence that Serra ever carried it out himself.

Moreover, Serra specifically advocated for the rights of Native peoples, at one point drafting a 33 point "bill of rights" for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements and walking all the way from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

The territory of New Spain already encompassed all of present day Mexico, as well as a huge chunk of the present-day US, mostly in the West but also Florida, Cuba and even parts of Canada.

The Spanish would go on to construct some 100,000 churches in the New World, but the Catholic missionaries very often did not share the same goals, tactics, and values as the Spanish military.

Serra often took issue with the harsh methods of Don Pedro Fages, a Catalan military officer who had come to the area in 1769 as part of an expeditionary force. Fages was the founding governor of the presidio, or fortress, of Monterey, California.

Mendoza said the worst abuses against the Native Americans in California took place after the age of the missions ended, when the Spanish government ceased sending funding to the 21 sites and to the Spanish military.

The soldiers, without the support of their faraway benefactors, began to prey on the missionaries and the Natives. Many more Natives died during this time than had in the 60 years that the missions were operational.

Mendoza said there was a time during the transition to the American era when indigenous people were more vulnerable to attacks by settlers and white authorities if they were not Christian. The fact that the missions had converted many Native communities to Christianity actually helped them survive later European abuses, he said.

By the 1820s— nearly four decades after Serra’s death— friars at the now mostly destitute missions were writing letters of grievance to the American and Mexican governments, advocating for better treatment for the Natives, Mendoza said.

The California gold rush in the 1840s saw hundreds of thousands of European settlers come to the area, with little to no protections afforded to the Natives.

While the Native peoples did suffer instances of horrific abuse, Mendoza said many people conflate the abuses the Natives suffered long after Serra’s death with the period when Serra was alive and building the missions.

After California became a state in 1850, the state constitution for years deprived indigenous people of any legal protection, meaning a white person could kill one of them with no consequences.

One of the figures associated with well-documented atrocities against Native Americans was Governor Leland Stanford— the namesake of Stanford University— who while he was governor in the late 1800s had a specific militia to hunt down and slaughter Natives.

In light of this, Mendoza said it is especially ironic that there have been several successful efforts in recent years to expunge Serra’s name from campus buildings and landmarks at Stanford, but relatively few calls to rename the university itself.

The missions had a huge effect on modern-day California. Apart from bringing Catholicism to the area in a big way, the missions also brought California its wine industry, which— pre-pandemic, at least— pumped $50 billion into California’s economy and employed some 325,000 people.

Most importantly to Serra, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles today cares for more souls than any other diocese in the country, with nearly 300 parishes, and millions of Catholics.

“Unlike many of us today, Serra was a man on a mission,” Mendoza said.

“He was absolutely determined to engage the salvation of indigenous communities. And while for some that may be seen as an intrusion, for Serra in his time, that was seen as one of the most benevolent things one could do— to give one’s life over to others, and that’s what he did.”


California mission aims to preserve St. Junipero Serra statue

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 17:08

CNA Staff, Jun 22, 2020 / 03:08 pm (CNA).- While statues of St. Junipero Serra have been taken down by protestors in California cities, the mission church in Ventura, California, founded by the saint, has announced it will work with local officials and indigenous tribal leaders to see a Serra statue outside Ventura City Hall moved to “a non-public location.” 

The announcement came days before a statue of St. Serra was torn down in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park June 20, along with statues of Francis Scott Key and Ulysses S. Grant. In Los Angeles the same day, rioters pulled down a statue of Serra in the city’s downtown.

“Some people disagree with the way that I am handling this, and that’s ok. Some people agree. Some people have even asked that I should be pastor of a mission. Well, everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Father Tom Elewaut, pastor of the San Buenaventura mission church, said in a homily on June 21.

“The statue is up today, isn’t it? And that is due to not only the joint statement, but the strong position of the elders of the Chumash, who are local here. We want to see the statue preserved. It needs to be relocated— it could have very well been toppled yesterday,” the priest said.

Though protestors rallied at the bronze statue in Ventura on June 20 and reportedly called for it to be torn down, Chumash tribe elders have been adamant that they want a peaceful solution.

“We are going to become a model for the nation so it’s not this riot mob act and desecration, and even having a statue broken into pieces. That is our goal, and that we hope will come to fruition,”  Elewaut added.

Across the country, protestors and rioters this week have pulled down statues of historic figures— some depicting Confederate figures, as part of a call to end systemic racism, but others depicting such figures as George Washington and Grant.

Some California activists view Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan missionary, as having contributed to the destruction of Native American way of life through his founding of the first nine of California’s mission churches. Many of the priest’s biographers dispute those claims.

Elders of the Chumash Native American tribe met last week with Ventura Mayor Matt Lavere and Fr. Elewaut.

“The three of us are confident that a peaceful resolution regarding the Father Junipero Serra statue can be reached, without uncivil discourse and character assassination, much less vandalism of a designated landmark,” the parties said in a June 18 joint statement.

“We all believe that the removal of the statue should be accomplished without force, without anger, and through a collaborative, peaceful process. This process has already commenced through our initial meeting and we look forward to continuing the discussion with the community to help guide further action on this.”

The proposal to remove the statue, which was dedicated in 1989, will need to go before the city council, the parties said, and a formal removal decision has not yet been made.

A similar statue was beheaded at the Old Mission Santa Barbara in 2017, and red paint was used to graffiti the mission in 2018, Ventura’s ABC affiliate reported.

Pope Francis canonized Serra in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 23, 2015, saying that “Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,”

Father Elewaut, said in his Sunday homily that while it is true that many Native Americans died after contact with Europeans, “it wasn’t a purposeful or contrived death” because most of them died of disease, which no one at the time fully understood.

Father Elewaut was present at the June 20 rally, and said he hopes the peaceful dialogue in which he and the Chumash elders have so far been engaged can be a model for the nation, to show that controversial statues need not be torn down by force.

The idea that Serra created what were akin to “concentration camps” for the Natives is “categorically false,” Elewaut said.

"The blame cannot be put on one person, or one movement...but the hurt that they feel, the the pain that we should join with them in feeling is true, and it remains true, and it will remain true whether our statue stands or not,"

"But if [the removal] brings some healing, if that brings some peace of mind, then so be it...statues come and go, but the truth will be laid bare," the priest said, acknowledging that the statue will be removed from its current location, but the Church's mission will continue.

The mission will continue to be a sign of God's grace, regardless of the location of any particular statue, he said.

"Serra wanted to share what he truly believed to be the great gift of Christianity, of Catholicism, of sacramental life," the priest said.

Elewaut said he has been working with the elders of the Chumash tribe, for whom he has "profound respect." He hopes to continue to work with the Chumash, some of whom are parishioners at the mission.

Elewaut told Ventura’s ABC affiliate that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is open to moving the statue from City Hall to mission grounds. The LA Archdiocese did not confirm this by time of posting.

Serra was instrumental in founding the first nine of the 21 missions in California, many of which would form the cores of what are today the state’s biggest cities— such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

A native of Petra Mallorca in Spain, Serra was a renowned scholar who gave up his academic career to become a missionary in North America.

Serra arrived in Mexico City in 1750, entering the vast territory of New Spain. The Spanish had been in North America for over 200 years at that point, after Hernan Cortez’ conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1521.

While many activists today associate Serra with the abuses that the Native Americans suffered, biographies and historical records suggest that Serra actually advocated on behalf of the Natives against the Spanish military and against encroaching European settlement.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco decried “mob rule” that led to the tearing down of Serra’s statue in his city. 

Cordileone said in a statement June 20 that he did not want to “deny that historical wrongs have occurred, even by people of good will, and healing of memories and reparation is much needed. But just as historical wrongs cannot be righted by keeping them hidden, neither can they be righted by re-writing the history.”

The archbishop praised the saint’s missionary zeal: “St. Junipero Serra also offered them the best thing he had: the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, which he and his fellow Franciscan friars did through education, health care, and training in the agrarian arts.”

In 2018, San Francisco’s city government removed a statue of the saint from a prominent location outside City Hall. A statue of the saint remains on display in the U.S. Capitol.


Miami archbishop to lead US Catholic bishops on religious liberty

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 15:00

CNA Staff, Jun 22, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami has been appointed as the acting chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, following the death of Bishop George Murry, S.J., of Youngstown.

Bishop Murry died on June 5, following a relapse of leukemia. He was 71. 

Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the USCCB, thanked Wenski for accepting the position and described him as “an energetic leader with a truly strong commitment to religious liberty and a servant’s heart for ministry.” 

Shortly after the USCCB announced Wenski as the new acting chairman, the archbishop released a statement requesting prayers for Religious Freedom Week 2020. 

Religious Freedom Week began on Monday, June 22 and continues through June 29 under the theme “For the Good of All.”  

“Religious freedom is under stress throughout the world. Even in our Western liberal democracies, discrimination against religion in general and Catholic Christianity, in particular, is growing — albeit in perhaps more sophisticated and less violent ways,” said Wenski. 

“Political analysts and human rights advocates do include religion on their agenda. But most emphasize ‘tolerance’ as if religion were only a source of conflict. Or, they speak about religion in terms of ‘individual choices,’ as if religion were merely the concern of an individual’s conviction and were devoid of any social consequences,” he added.

Wenski said that protecting institutions of civil society, including libraries, newspapers, and universities is necessary for ensuring religious freedom. 

“Freedom of religion ‘for the good of all’ must also encompass protecting those institutions that nourish the individual’s free exercise of religion,” he said.

“The right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person. Religious freedom is the human right that guarantees all other rights — peace and creative living together will only be possible if freedom of religion is fully respected.”

During the 2019 USCCB Fall General Assembly, Wenski and Murry both ran for the position of committee chairman, and the two received the same number of votes from their brother bishops. The tie was broken by the fact that Murry was just under two years older than Wenski, making him the winner of the election by seniority.  

At the 2019 Fall General Assembly, Murry was himself elected to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville. Kurtz had stepped down from the committee due to ill health as he continues to battle with bladder cancer. 

Murry was elected for just one year, in order to keep the schedule of the committee elections and to finish out Kurtz’s term. In November he would have been eligible to pursue a full term as chairman of the committee had he wished. 

Wenski will now finish out the remaining five months of what was originally Kurtz’s term, and be able to run for a full three-year term at the 2020 Fall General Assembly. 

Previously, Wenski led the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development from 2013-2016, and in 2005-2008 he was the head of the Committee on International Justice and Peace. From 2002-2006, he was the chairman of the Committee on Migration, and chaired the board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network during 1998 through 2001. 

He has also been part of the Committee of Pro-Life Activities as well as the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America. 

Wenski was consecrated as the auxiliary bishop of Miami on June 21, 1997, and led the Diocese of Orlando from 2004-2010, before being installed as the Archbishop of Miami on June 1, 2010. 

Virtual conference to promote fatherhood as boon to society 

Sun, 06/21/2020 - 17:48

Denver Newsroom, Jun 21, 2020 / 03:48 pm (CNA).- A New Hampshire Catholic college is hosting a virtual conference this week on “Rediscovering Fatherhood” to help men fulfill their vocation at home.

Dr. William Fahey, president of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H., told CNA that good fathers are a major part of the solution to the pressing problems of society.

“I cannot think of a single social problem which does not have its origin in the failure of fatherhood, or is not exasperated by the deficiencies in society with respect to fatherhood,” said Fahey.

“Nor can I think of one single social problem that strong fathers will not help to resolve sooner and more dynamically.”

The free conference will include four short lectures and an opportunity for discussion. It will be available to watch live on Zoom on June 22, the day after Father’s Day, at 7:30 p.m. EST.

For those who register but are not able to watch the live stream, the content will also be available to watch afterward. More than 1,000 people are expected to participate.

In addition to a talk from Fahey on lessons from St. Thomas More, discussion topics will touch on virtue, strong marriages and work.

Speakers include C. R. Wiley, author of “Man of the House;” Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage; and John Cuddeback, founder of the blog and professor of philosophy at Christendom College.

A press release advertising the conference says it hopes to offer “advice and encouragement” from fathers “who approach their role with wisdom and experience.”

Fahey said the conference was developed by the college’s Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture, which was established several years ago. The center offers reading groups, workshops, and traditional conferences, as well as podcasts, videos and other resources.

This is the second virtual conference. It is “a natural outgrowth of fulfilling our mission in the ‘Age of COVID’,” said Fahey.

Over the past few months, he noted, American fathers have been required to work from home in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This situation may be stressful, but is also an opportunity for men to discover or rediscover their roles in the household, he said.

“Coronavirus has cooped parents up. Yet it has provided a rare opportunity to spend more time with children and spouses. The conference is meant to encourage Catholics, especially fathers, to reflect deeply on this opportunity and to follow Christ in their vocation of fatherhood,” Fahey said.

“The goal is to prompt reflection among adults, especially men, on the centrality of fatherhood; to consider the effects of bad or absent fathers in society; and to present positive models and ideas for implementation and imitation,” he added.

Bishop Olmsted: Fatherhood the 'mission of every man'

Sun, 06/21/2020 - 08:01

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- In a video message Thursday, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix urged prayers for fathers ahead of Father's Day, saying that fatherhood is the "mission of every man."

"In the time of the current pandemic and social unrest, in a society confused by moral relativism and misinformation, the need is great for men with humility and courage to embrace their God-given mission of fatherhood— so critical to the future of the family and of society,” he said in the June 18 message.

Olmsted's own father, who died only a few years ago, converted to Catholicism after falling in love with an Irish Catholic.

"Dad never had any regrets about making that decision, so I had the great blessing of growing up in a home where praying was as natural as grieving, where we experienced the mercy of God every two weeks as we went to confession as a family, and knelt down each night to pray evening prayers together."

Having his mother and father there throughout his upbringing brought Olmsted and his siblings a sense of security, he said.

"Never did we doubt his love for mom, and his love for each of us, even when we needed his fatherly correction, which happened quite a lot."

Fathers are called to be a "safe harbor" for their children, Olmsted said, adding that a father's love is manifested in his care and concern, as well as his correction and encouragement.

St. Joseph models these values for Catholics, though Olmsted pointed out that the Bible does not record any words that St. Joseph said.

"What mattered was that he was there, attentively present to Mary and Jesus," Olmsted said.

Joseph protected Mary and Christ from King Herod and taught his foster son the family trade; "It's no surprise that Jesus was happy to be called 'the son of the carpenter,'" he observed.

Every father is a "work in progress," a man in need of God's mercy, and thus we do well to pray for our fathers every day, Olmsted said.

Olmsted cited Pope Francis' words from Amoris laetitia: "God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of his masculinity he can be close to his wife and share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship. And to be close to his children as they grow – when they play and when they work, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they stray and when they get back on the right path. To be a father who is always present."

After St. Junipero Serra statue is torn down, San Francisco archbishop says protests being ‘hijacked’ by violence

Sat, 06/20/2020 - 22:55

CNA Staff, Jun 20, 2020 / 08:55 pm (CNA).- After the toppling of a saint’s statue in San Francisco, the city’s archbishop said Saturday that important protests over racial injustice have been “hijacked” by a mob bent on violence.

“What is happening to our society? A renewed national movement to heal memories and correct the injustices of racism and police brutality in our country has been hijacked by some into a movement of violence, looting and vandalism,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement June 20.

The archbishop’s statement came after a statue of St. Junipero Serra was torn down in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park Friday, along with statues of Francis Scott Key and Ulysses S. Grant.

“The toppling and defacing of statues in Golden Gate Park, including that of St. Junipero Serra, have become the latest example,” of that shift in the protest movement, the archbishop added.

“The memorialization of historic figures merits an honest and fair discussion as to how and to whom such honor should be given. But here, there was no such rational discussion; it was mob rule, a troubling phenomenon that seems to be repeating itself throughout the country.”

Cordileone emphasized the importance of calls for racial justice and an end to police brutality, which began after the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

“Everyone who works for justice and equality joins in the outrage of those who have been and continue to be oppressed,” the archbishop said.

“It is especially true that followers of Jesus Christ – Christians – are called to work tirelessly for the dignity of all human beings,” he added, noting that St. Francis of Assisi, for whom San Francisco was named, is “one of history’s most iconic figures of peace and goodwill.”

“For the past 800 years, the various Franciscan orders of brothers, sisters and priests that trace their inspiration back to him have been exemplary of not only serving, but identifying with, the poor and downtrodden and giving them their rightful dignity as children of God,“ Cordileone said.

“St. Junipero Serra is no exception.”

Serra, who was canonized a saint by Pope Francis in 2015, was an eighteenth century Franciscan missionary who founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California; many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities.

Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and taught them new agricultural technologies.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and have characterized the missions as engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans, sometimes claiming Bl. Serra himself was abusive.

But Serra’s defenders, including Cordileone, say that Serra was actually an advocate for native people and a champion of human rights.

“St. Serra made heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors, especially the soldiers. Even with his infirmed leg which caused him such pain, he walked all the way to Mexico City to obtain special faculties of governance from the Viceroy of Spain in order to discipline the military who were abusing the Indians.  And then he walked back to California,” the archbishop said Saturday.

 “And lest there be any doubt, we have a physical reminder to this day: everywhere there is a presidio (soldiers’ barracks) associated with a mission in the chain of 21 missions that he founded, the presidio is miles away from the mission itself and the school.”

Cordileone said he did not want to “deny that historical wrongs have occurred, even by people of good will, and healing of memories and reparation is much needed. But just as historical wrongs cannot be righted by keeping them hidden, neither can they be righted by re-writing the history.”

The archbishop praised the saint’s missionary zeal: “St. Junipero Serra also offered them the best thing he had: the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, which he and his fellow Franciscan friars did through education, health care, and training in the agrarian arts.”

“Anger against injustice can be a healthy response when it is that righteous indignation which moves a society forward. But as Christ himself teaches, and St. Francis modeled, love, and not rage, is the only answer,” the archbishop concluded.


Catholic leaders: Don’t forget refugees during pandemic

Sat, 06/20/2020 - 16:01

CNA Staff, Jun 20, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- People around the world have practiced solidarity during the pandemic, and they should do the same for refugees, Catholic humanitarian leaders said on World Refugee Day.

“COVID-19 has taught us an important lesson, the need for global solidarity to fight against any thing that affects humanity,” said Aloysius John, the secretary general for Caritas International, in advance of World Refugee Day on June 20.
“This year, 2020, must lead us to a new way of responding to the refugees and their plight,” he said.
While the U.S. has tightened its immigration policies during the new coronavirus pandemic, it should still be accepting refugees who are the most vulnerable, said Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of Jesuit Refugee Services/USA.
She noted that “with one in every 97 people displaced in our world, we must do more to respond.”
June 20 is annually observed as World Refugee Day. The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, was established in 1950 and has continued to operate through ongoing migration crises such as the decolonization of Africa, wars in Asia, Latin America, and the Balkans, and other conflicts and natural disasters.
The number of persons displaced around the world has reached a record high again at the end of 2019, with nearly 80 million people displaced from their homes around the world—an increase of almost 10 million from the previous year’s tally. The annual number of those displaced has nearly doubled in the last decade, when there were 41 million displaced in 2010.
Among these, 29.6 million are refugees, and 4.2 million are waiting on the outcome of their asylum claims, the UN says. Some of the displacement “hot spots” include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sahel, Yemen, and Syria, which has had an ongoing civil war since 2011 which accounts for one-sixth of the global number of displaced. The crisis in Venezuela has also been particularly acute, the UN said.
The causes of displacement vary, but include sectarian conflicts, violence by extremist groups, religious persecution, and natural disasters—some caused by climate change—are also causing people to leave their homes, the UN says.
However, two-thirds of those displaced come from just five countries, Catholic Relief Services says: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Burma.

And the current pandemic has only exacerbated the suffering of migrants and refugees, who are even more vulnerable due to a lack of access to proper housing, nutrition, and medical care, John said.
“On this day of the refugees, how can the international community turn deaf ears to the cries of these refugees and displaced who suffer in silence?” he asked.
With the number of displaced at an all-time high, he challenged Catholics to see the person behind the statistic.
“We seldom care about their stories of untold sufferings, of enduring pain, and above all stories of dehumanisation wherein they people live in very precarious conditions,” he said. John urged governments to receive refugees safely, ensure their basic needs are met, and provide access to safe living conditions during the pandemic.

St. Junipero Serra statue torn down in San Francisco Park

Sat, 06/20/2020 - 11:41

CNA Staff, Jun 20, 2020 / 09:41 am (CNA).- A statue of Catholic missionary St. Junipero Serra was toppled in a San Francisco park Friday, along with statues of Francis Scott Key and Ulysses S. Grant.

The statues were torn down Friday evening from Golden Gate Park, by a group of about 100 people.


Activists just toppled the Junipero Serra statue in Golden Gate Park here in San Francisco

Now they’re onto Francis Scott Key, slave owner and writer of the Star Spangled Banner

— Joe Rivano Barros (@jrivanob) June 20, 2020  

During the eighteenth century, the saint founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California, many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities.

Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and taught them new agricultural technologies. The statue in Golden Gate Park was first placed in 1907, and was crafted by well known American sculptor Douglas Tilden.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and said the missions engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans, sometimes claiming Bl. Serra himself was abusive.

But Serra’s defenders say that Serra was actually an advocate for native people and a champion of human rights. They note the many native people he helped during his life, and their outpouring of grief at his death.

Biographers note that Serra frequently intervened for native people when they faced persecution from Spanish authorities. In one case, the priest intervened to spare the lives of several California natives who had attacked a Spanish outpost.

In one letter urging fair treatment of native people, Serra wrote that “if the Indians were to kill me...they should be forgiven.”

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said in 2015 that Serra had “deep love for the native peoples he had come to evangelize.”

“In his appeals, he said some truly remarkable things about human dignity, human rights and the mercy of God,” the archbishop added.

In 2017, Gomez praised Serra as an overlooked American founder.

“Remembering St. Junípero and the first missionaries changes how we remember our national story. It reminds us that America’s first beginnings were not political. America’s first beginnings were spiritual,” Gomez said in a 2017 homily.
Pope Francis canonized the Franciscan missionary Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 23, 2015.

“Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,” the pope said in his homily at the Mass of canonization. “Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.”

“Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life,” the Pope continued. “He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters.”

In 2018, San Francisco’s city government removed a statue of the saint from a prominent location outside City Hall. A statue of the saint remains displayed in the U.S. Capitol.

Around the country, protestors and rioters this week have pulled down statues of historic figures. While some protests have torn down the statutes of Confederate figures, as part of a call to end systemic racism, other figures have also been turn down from prominent locations, including George Washington.

Grant, whose statue was removed, urged ratification of the 15th Amendment, which assures African-Americans the right to vote, and in 1870 created the federal Department of Justice in order to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan.


Two years since McCarrick allegations: A CNA timeline

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 21:00

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- June 20 marks two years since the announcement that credible allegations of sexual abuse had been raised against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In the months that followed, a major crisis of abuse and cover up within the Church in the U.S. was revealed, and Church officials have responded with new policies and pledges of transparency. Here is a timeline of major events in the last two year:



June 20
The Archdiocese of New York announces that an allegation of sexual abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been found to be “credible and substantiated.” In the following months, additional allegations will be raised against McCarrick, including claims that McCarrick had a widely-known reputation for sexual advances toward seminarians.

July 3
The Diocese of Cheyenne says Emeritus Bishop Joseph Hart has been credibly accused of sexually assaulting two boys after he became bishop of the diocese in 1976. A third credible allegation is confirmed a few weeks later.

July 28
Pope Francis accepts the resignation of McCarrick from the College of Cardinals and suspends him from the exercise of any public ministry. He directs McCarrick to observe a life of prayer and penance, pending the canonical process against him.

August 14
A grand jury report in Pennsylvania details allegations against some 300 priests, from more than 1,000 victims in six of the state’s Catholic dioceses over a 70-year period. The report was met with national outcry and prompted more than a dozen other states to follow suit.

August 16
The U.S. bishops’ conference calls for a Vatican-led investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up surrounding McCarrick.

August 25
Former apostolic nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano releases a “testament” claiming that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.

August 26
Asked during an in-flight interview about Vigano’s letter, Pope Francis says he “will not say a single word” on the subject and instructs journalists to use their “journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions.”

September 12
Pope Francis calls for all the presidents of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the world to meet at the Vatican Feb. 21-24 to address the protection of minors.

September 19
The administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announces new accountability measures, including a code of conduct for bishops and the creation of an independent reporting mechanism for complaints against bishops. The committee also calls for a full investigation into the allegations against McCarrick and the Church’s response to these allegations.

October 6
The Vatican announces that Pope Francis has ordered a review of all Holy See files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick. The results of that review have not, to date, been released.

November 12
U.S. bishops gather for an annual fall meeting in Baltimore; the Vatican instructs them to delay until after the February meeting a vote on two proposals intended to be the foundation of the U.S. Church’s response to the abuse crisis.

November 14
The U.S. bishops fail to pass a resolution that would have “encouraged” the Holy See to release all documents on the allegations of misconduct against McCarrick.



January 2-8
At the suggestion of Pope Francis, the U.S. bishops hold a retreat to consider how to respond to the still ongoing sexual abuse crises facing the Church.

January 11
McCarrick is laicized. Also known as dismissal from the clerical state, he no longer has the right to exercise sacred ministry in the Church, except in the extreme situation of encountering someone who is in immediate danger of death. In addition, he no longer has the canonical right to be financially supported by the Church. A statement from the Vatican announcing the laicization is released Feb. 16.

February 21 - 24
The Vatican holds a sex abuse summit with the heads of bishops’ conference from countries around the world. The summit’s stated purpose is to educate the world’s bishops on their responsibility for protecting minors from abuse within the Church.

April 4
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith upholds a 2018 verdict finding Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agana, Guam, guilty of several abuse related charges. Apuron is deprived of his office as archbishop and forbidden to use the insignia of a bishop or live within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese. He is not removed from ministry or the clerical state, and is not instructed to live in prayer and penance.

April 4

Archbishop Wilton Gregory is appointed to replace Cardinal Donald Wuerl in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where McCarrick had been archbishop and lived in retirement. Gregory promises “I will always tell you the truth.”

May 9
Pope Francis issues new experimental norms for the handling of some sex abuse allegations. The norms place seminarians and religious coerced into sexual activity through the abuse of authority in the same criminal category as abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. They also establish obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, require that every diocese has a mechanism for reporting abuse, and put the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations of abuse or negligence against suffragan bishops.

June 4
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, is accused of mishandling an allegation of sexual coercion made against his former vicar general by permitting the priest to transfer to another diocese and continue in ministry. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston disputes the claim, saying the priest underwent a rehabilitation process, and was recommended to be returned to ministry by the professionals who assessed him.

June 5
An investigation finds credible allegations of sexual harassment and coercion of adults by former Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, as well as the fostering of “a culture of fear of retaliation and retribution” that prevented his conduct from being discovered or reported. Pope Francis had accepted Bransfield’s resignation the previous September when he turned 75.

June 12-13
At their annual spring meeting, the U.S. bishops approve the creation of a national third-party reporting mechanism, directives to apply the pope’s new norms, protocol for a diocesan bishop to restrict the ministry his predecessor when needed, and a set of non-binding moral commitments pledging to hold themselves to the same standards applied to priests.

June 12

Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne announces that the Vatican has begun a penal process against Bishop Emeritus Joseph Hart of Cheynne amid allegations that he sexually abused minors and covered up sexual abuse.

July 19

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, bishop emeritus of Wheeling-Charleston, was barred by the Vatican from living within his former see and was banned from public ministry in response to reports of sexual and financial misconduct. The Vatican wrote that Bransfield has “the obligation to make personal amends for some of the harm he caused.”

July 23

Bishop Mark E. Brannan, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, is appointed to replace disgraced Bransfield in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. Brannan is installed on August 22.

August 15

A one-year window allowing for survivors of abuse to file claims against the institutions which enabled their abuse opens in New York. Over 400 lawsuits are filed on the first day, including many against the Church. Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston is named as a perpetrator in one of the lawsuits. Guglielmone denies all allegations, but dialed down his public appearances in the immediate aftermath. A similar window opened in New Jersey in December 2019.

September 3

 Slate publishes the first interview with McCarrick since he was laicized and removed from the clerical state. In the interview, McCarrick refuses to admit any wrongdoing and insisted that  he is “not as bad as they paint me,” and he stated that “I do not believe that I did the things that they accused me of.”

September 10

Archbishop Bernard Hebda authorizes the first investigation under the norms in Vos estis lux mundi, into Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston. Hebda told CNA at that time that he had “been authorized by the Congregation for Bishops to commence an investigation into allegations that the Most Reverend Michael Hoeppner, the Bishop of Crookston, carried out acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual misconduct in the Diocese of Crookston.”

November 11

Cardinal Sean O’Malley told his brother bishops at the USCCB Fall General Assembly in Boston that the McCarrick report would be released “if not before Christmas, soon in the new year.”

November 13

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn reveals that he has been accused of sexual abuse of a minor dating back to the 1970s.

November 26

Bishop Brennan orders Bishop Bransfield to apologize for his misdeeds and pay $792,638 in restitution for his financial misconduct.

December 4

Pope Francis accepts the resignation of Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo. Malone was accused of mishandling allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

December 10

Pope Francis told Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing that the McCarrick report would be published “probably after the beginning of the new year.”

December 23

The Washington Post makes public the report of the investigation into the financial and sexual misconduct of Bishop Bransfield.



January 7

Reports emerge that McCarrick has left the friary in Kansas where he had been staying. It is unclear where he currently resides.

January 18

The Archdiocese of New York confirmed that Cardinal Timothy Dolan had been asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to conduct an investigation into the allegations against DiMarzio.

February 4

The Vatican orders additional investigation into the actions of Bishop Hoeppner.

February 13

McCarrick’s coat of arms was removed from his former cathedral in Washington, DC. Previously, the coat of arms had been covered up.

May 7

Pope Francis accepts the resignation of Bishop Joseph R. Binzer, an auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati. Binzer had mishandled an abusive priest and did not properly report the situation to appropriate authorities.

June 4

Another man accuses Bishop DiMarzio of sexual abuse when he was a minor. DiMarzio referred to the new accusation as “outrageous and libelous” and mused filing suit against his accusers.  

June 9

Prosecutors announce that they will not be pursuing criminal charges against Hart due to insufficient evidence.