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Amid lawsuit, firm publishes list of California priests accused of abuse

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 02:00

San Francisco, Calif., Oct 25, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A Minnesota-based law firm released a report Tuesday compiling the names of over 200 priests from the San Francisco Bay area it says have been publicly accused of sexual abuse. At least one California diocese has questioned the sources for the list.

The law firm, Jeff Anderson & Associates, filed a lawsuit Oct. 1 against all of California’s dioceses, along with as the California Catholic Conference and the Archdiocese of Chicago, alleging a sexual abuse cover-up.  

The Oct. 23 report lists the names and parish assignments of 212 priests from the San Francisco Bay area. The report says it is an effort to compile “information already available to the public from various sources in the public media,” and to raise awareness of the issue of clerical sexual abuse.

“The vast majority of the claims against these individuals have been settled or have not been fully evaluated in a civil court,” the report reads.

“Accordingly, the allegations should be considered just allegations and should not be considered proved or substantiated in a court of law. All individuals should be considered innocent until proven guilty.”

The statute of limitations for trying the alleged crimes has passed in some cases, the report notes.

Mike Brown, spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said although the diocese plans to take the accusations in the report very seriously, he said it is not entirely clear what sources and criteria Jeff Anderson & Associates used to compile their list.

“[Jeff Anderson’s] already taken some names off his list since two days ago,” Brown said.

He said the diocese is in the process of reviewing its files, but cannot announce when or if the diocese will release its own list of accused clergy.

The law firm said that information on the accused came from publicly available documents, such as lawsuits, diocesan statements, and the website, a Massachusetts based non-profit that tracks allegations of sexual abuse.

The law firm’s report lists the names of 95 priests in Oakland, 135 in Los Angeles, and 33 in San Jose, although 51 of the names are duplicates because those priests operated in more than one diocese over the years.

The Diocese of San Jose released a list of accused priests Oct. 18 that included 15 names. The disclosure revealed that at least two priests returned to ministry after being convicted of sexual abuse, but were both later banned from ministry.

The San Jose diocese said Tuesday that they were reviewing the 18 additional names put forth and would publicly comment today, but no response was received by press time.  

Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland said Oct. 7 that his diocese plans to release a list of publicly accused clergy within 45 days.

New York friar’s new album says life is a pilgrimage made 'poco a poco'

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 19:06

New York City, N.Y., Oct 24, 2018 / 05:06 pm (CNA).- Musical inspiration can come from unexpected places - like a Franciscan friar’s struggle to learn Spanish.

The inspiration for the title and theme of “Poco a Poco,” a new CD from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, came from a friar living in Honduras, who worked at a hospital that serves the poorest of the poor.

Although he was having a hard time learning Spanish, the friar wanted to encourage people as they waited to for medical attention - some of whom had walked for miles to receive care - so he memorized a simple but encouraging phrase in Spanish: “Somos peregrinos caminamos al Señor; poco a poco, vamos al llegar,” which translates to: “We are pilgrims walking to the Lord, little by little, we will arrive.”

“It was just this little way of like encouraging people...little by little, step by step, I can get through another day,” said another Franciscan, Fr. Mark-Mary, CFR, who heard the friar’s phrase for the first time when he was also living and working in Honduras.

“But it ends with this hope of ‘vamos a llegar’, we’re going to make it, our hope is in Christ and we do not hope in vain,” he told CNA.

Fr. Mark-Mary shared the phrase and story with friend and fellow friar Br. Isaiah, CFR, who found that it resonated with him so personally that he chose “Poco a Poco” for the title of his first full-length musical album.

“Every time I heard it I just lit up because there was something about it that just grabbed my heart” Br. Isaiah said in a video about the CD for Ascension Press.

“Little by little, there’s something about that that my heart just says ok yeah, I can handle that...its become a chorus for me when facing life’s difficulties,” he said. “It’s become a rallying phrase for whatever the moment calls for.”  

The biblical theme of life as a pilgrimage journeying to the Lord, and with the Lord, is something that permeates the whole CD, Br. Isaiah said in email comments to CNA.

“The Book of Exodus recounts how God led Israel ‘little by little’ through the desert in their pilgrimage to the Promised Land and so He does with us,” he said.

“‘Poco a poco,’ God guides us along our journey, encouraging the heart to set out each day to a land it knows not, by paths it has not known, all with the promised accompaniment of an ever-present and unwearied Love, capable of carrying us beyond the familiar lands of our habits and capacities to frontiers of growth, transformation, and ever-deepening peace as we come to behold the God of love, in the face of Christ Jesus, whose peace (and love for us) ‘passes all understanding,’” he said.

The theme of life as pilgrimage also fits perfectly with the charism of the friars, as stated on their recently-received Pontifical Decree from Rome: "In imitation of St. Francis of Assisi, the friars seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, as a prophetic witness that life is a pilgrimage to the Father, of faith, hope and love of God and neighbor, made possible by the Holy Spirit."

The album is the fruit of prayer and brotherhood, said Fr. Mark-Mary, who is the CD’s executive producer.

“There’s this really popular line from St. Irenaeus, that ‘the glory of God is man fully alive,’ but man fully alive is man in communion,” Fr. Mark-Mary said.  

“There’s something about this album that’s the fruit of our Franciscan brotherhood, it’s not the fruit of Brother Isaiah being a superstar, it’s listening to one of our simple, older brother’s prayer and the way he’s speaking to the poor in Honduras, and then sharing that and putting my gifts at the service of Brother Isaiah, and Brother Isaiah receiving that gift,” he said.

“This (album) wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for our Franciscan brotherhood, which we take very seriously, we’re really proud of it,” he said.

Using music as a way to evangelize is deeply embedded in the Franciscan charism, Fr. Mark-Mary noted, and goes all the way back to St. Francis of Assisi, who had a talented musical friend and follower.

“So St. Francis would have him come and play in the market square and he’d get people’s attention, and then the musician would take a break and then they’d preach, so its very much a part of the Franciscan charism,” he said.

It’s also particularly a part of the CFR charism - one of the founding members of the order is the rapping Fr. Stan Fortuna (of ‘Everybody Got 2 Suffer’ fame), and many other musically talented brothers who have joined the order over the years.

The music adds, rather than detracts, from the friars’ primary mission of serving the poor and evangelizing, Fr. Mark-Mary noted.

“I thought it was really beautiful that on the night when (the CD) was released, Br. Isaiah came down to our homeless shelter in the Bronx, and he’s playing music and giving a word to the homeless in the shelter,” he said.

“There’s something beautiful about being able to do this but in a way that doesn’t take us away from our first call.”

Something else that Fr. Mark-Mary said he appreciated about being involved in the project was the opportunity to add something positive to the culture.

“I have a chance to lead the way again with some of the friars’ work with media evangelization,” he said.

“What it comes down to is that we’re in a battle for minds, and can we be speaking goodness into the world? Because so much of the culture these days...its not morally neutral, a lot of the stuff out there, it’s really like poison.”

But it’s not enough to tell people “don’t watch this, don’t listen to that,” Fr. Mark-Mary noted, there has to be something else to take its place.

“The full work is saying - watch this instead, listen to this instead. So we’re trying to do that and finding that music is one way to get into people’s personal cultures, to get on their phones get in their car radios,” he said.  

So far the album has been received very well, Fr. Mark-Mary said. It was at one point the fourth best-selling Christian album according to Amazon, and the number 23 best-selling album for all music on Amazon.

The album “Poco a Poco” is available on iTunes and Amazon, and CDs and merchandise can also be ordered through Ascension Press.

One of Fr. Mark-Mary's favorite parts of the experience has been watching the comments that people have made on a music video for one of the tracks, “Struggler”, produced by Spirit Juice Productions and posted on Ascension Press’ website.

“I think one of my favorite comments has been ‘I regret underestimating this,’” Fr. Mark-Mary said.

He said he has found that people often expect “church stuff” to be mediocre or lower in quality, and he likes breaking those stereotypes.

“I’m very much committed to speaking a message in a way where the means doesn’t undermine what you’re trying to say.”

How a new study says premarital sex affects marital happiness

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 12:08

Denver, Colo., Oct 24, 2018 / 10:08 am (CNA).- People who have had only one lifetime sexual partner have happier marriages than people with two or more lifetime partners, according to a new report from the Institute for Family Studies.

The study’s author, Dr. Nicholas Wolfinger of the University of Utah, found that women who have been sexually intimate only with their spouses are most likely to report having “very happy” marriages, at 65 percent. Among women with between six and ten lifetime sexual partners, only 52% reported being “very happy” in their marriage, the lowest in the study.

Among men, 71% with one partner reported being very happy with their marriage, according the study. For men who report two or more sexual partners, the number drops to 65 percent.

In addition, 40% of the study’s respondents reported having had only one or zero sexual partners before getting married. Wolfinger pointed out that the rate among younger Americans, who have married since 2000, is closer to 27 percent. The median American woman born in the 1980s has had three sex partners in her lifetime, and the median man six; just five percent of all women marrying in the 2010s were virgins.

“The surprisingly large number of Americans reporting one lifetime sex partner have the happiest marriages,” the study reads. “Past one partner, it doesn’t make as much of a difference. The overall disparity isn’t huge, but neither is it trivial.”

The study controlled for the religiosity of its subjects, which Wolfinger said has been shown by other studies to be a major factor in happy marriages, but not the only explanation. He said the data he has is not conclusive on this point.

"Coming into this beforehand, I would have expected religion to be one reason why people who don't have a lot of sex partners would have happier marriages," Wolfinger told CNA.

"Church attendance, in itself, produces happier marriages...but be that as it may, controlling for [denomination and church attendance] did not substantially affect the relationship between how many premarital sex partners you have and whether you're in a very happy marriage."

What this means, Wolfinger clarified, is that people are more likely to have a happy marriage if they have fewer premarital sexual partners whether they are religious or not.

One major factor affecting this result, he said, is the fact that premarital sex can often result in children born out of wedlock, which unfortunately tend to strain future relationships. Moreover, people who have had previous sexual partners before marriage may later compare their spouse to those previous partners, leading to a decline in the happiness of their marriage.

In a similar 2016 study, Wolfinger examined the divorce rate in relation to the number of sexual partners a woman has had in her lifetime. He found that survey respondents who had not had sexual partners before marriage had the lowest divorce rates, and those with ten or more partners in their lifetime were the most likely to spit up, with a 30% chance of divorce in the first 5 years of marriage.

Of those women who married in the 2000s without having first had sex, nearly 70% reported regularly attending some kind of church services, while less than 30% of women with ten or more partners were churchgoers.

“Everything should be on the table”

Father Brian O’Brien, a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa in Oklahoma, told CNA that the statistics presented in the IFS study are confirmed by his experience working in marriage preparation for 11 years. He said he often presents statistics to the couples he counsels, to try to help explain how premarital cohabitation and premarital sex can negatively affect the happiness of their marriage.

"Ultimately it comes down to: we're not meant to be used," O’Brien told CNA.

"I think what happens in a lot of cases is [people think]: 'I'll just sleep with a whole bunch of people, and maybe one of them will work out.' And that's exactly what happens in the movies...but the idea that you can just use somebody and move on as if that didn't happen, I think is where the unhappiness sets in."

People will remember the sexual partners that they had "along the way," because sex bonds people together, he said. A bond with a person who is no longer in a person's life will remain with them even if they start a new relationship, leaving a "lingering guilt," "unresolved issues," and “baggage” that makes new relationships that much more difficult.

"Marriage is hard enough, and it's even harder if you're bringing in a bunch of baggage," he said. “For couples that are going to enter into a marriage covenant, everything should be on the table.”

O’Brien said that the broader trend in society of couples coming into marriage with multiple sexual partners, as evidenced by statistics cited in the IFS study, has also manifested itself among the couples he counsels.

"I go into [marriage prep] assuming, until I talk to them, that the couple is probably living together, and I assume that they are sexually active," O’Brien said.

"I tell [couples] that I want their marriage to be as happy and holy as possible, and your marriage will be happier and holier if you abstain from sex and if you don't live together.”

O'Brien said he thinks most couples who are living together know what they're doing is wrong, especially when it comes to being sexually active. He said he suspects that there are many couples that don't see anything wrong with cohabitation before marriage, viewing the move primarily as an economic decision.

"It's not that they're sort of 'trying each other out,' it's that 'we don't want to pay two rents,'" O'Brien explained. "So I think in that way they're not really flaunting Church teaching, they're trying to make good economic decisions."

He said he takes a pastoral approach to the couple’s situation, affirming them in their good decisions and “meeting them where they are.”

"If they're not living together, and they're not sexually active, it's my chance to say: "Awesome! Great job!" and to really affirm them in those decisions," he said.

He said generally in the second or third marriage prep meeting, he'll ask some basic information such as the couple's home address. If the couple is already living together, they will often admit it at that point, if reluctantly.

"They'll look at each other like: 'Oh no. Should we give him the same address?' And as soon as they do that, I'll ask 'So do you guys live at the same place?' And they have this guilty look on their face, and they'll say yes," O'Brien said.

"And I’ll say: 'Ok, I'm not yelling at you, but obviously you guys feel bad about it.' So then we'll kind of take that and discuss it as we go."

O'Brien said despite popular opinion that may suggest that fewer people are seeking marriage in the Catholic Church, he and his fellow priests in Oklahoma are engaged in marriage prep and presiding at weddings "all the time."

"I'm not ready to throw in the towel on the young people of the Church," he said. "Because I think there really is a desire to have God as part of their marriage, and they're not finding that in other places."

Father Zach Swantek, a chaplain at Seton Hall University, offered his thoughts about his experience with modern marriage prep in an email to CNA.

“Often priests are afraid to discuss issues such as pre-marital sex, chastity, cohabitation, contraception and even participation in the Church with [couples], for fear that they will be offended or scared off,” Swantek wrote.

“On the other hand, some priests boast about how they refuse to marry couples that fail to live in strict adherence to the teachings of the Church, yet do not help these couples to understand and live these teachings,” he added.

“Marriage preparation must be viewed as an opportunity to accompany the couple, gradually leading them to the fullness of truth about faith, sacraments and marriage. This requires patience and work, but it is well worth the effort.”

Why Christians believe in resurrection, not reincarnation

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 05:01

Denver, Colo., Oct 24, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Every time Christians recite the Apostles’ Creed, they affirm their belief in what will happen to them after death: “'I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”

The belief in the resurrection of one’s physical body at the end of time is central to Christian theology, and finds its basis in the resurrection of Christ, who rose in body and soul three days after his passion and death.

But according to a new Pew survey, 29 percent of Christians in the US hold the New Age belief of reincarnation - the belief that when one’s body dies, one’s soul lives on in a new and different body, unrelated to the first.

The percentage of Catholics in the US who said they believe in reincarnation was even higher - 36 percent; just shy of the 38 percent of religiously unaffiliated people who said they believe the same.

However, according to Catholic teaching, belief in anything other than the resurrection of the body is completely incompatible with a Christian theology and anthropology of the human person.

Where did the belief in resurrection come from?

Even before Christ, the belief that the body would rise at the end of time was becoming a more common, though not universally held, belief among certain groups of Jews, such as the Pharisees.

The Sadducees, for example, “were dubious about the authority to be given to the Prophets and other writings…(which included) skepticism about spiritual realities like the soul or even angels,”  said Deacon Joel Barstad, who serves as Academic Dean and associate professor of theology at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado.

“From New Testament evidence it would seem they were particularly hostile to the idea of a future resurrection of the dead,” he told CNA.  

“The Pharisees on the other hand believed in angels and spiritual souls and the general resurrection of the dead,” he said.

As they became more convinced of the “radical faithfulness of God,” he noted, belief in bodily resurrection took root, paving the way for the acceptance of the resurrection of Christ.

“The resurrection of Jesus from the dead confirmed that belief, but it also gave it a deep and solid foundation,” he said.
What does belief in resurrection mean for Christians?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The ‘resurrection of the flesh’ (the literal formulation of the Apostles' Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our ‘mortal body’ will come to life again. Belief in the resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from its beginnings. ‘The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live.’ How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.... But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The Christian confidence in bodily resurrection comes from Christ himself, and the New Testament promise that salvation comes through follow Christ in everything, including his death and resurrection, Michael Root, a professor of Systematic Theology at The Catholic University of America, told CNA.

“Salvation is unity with Christ, Christ brings the kingdom of God, and that kingdom is realized in the resurrection,” Root said.

There is a great deal of “fuzziness of thinking” regarding death that many Christians hold besides reincarnation, Barstad added, such as believing that after death one dies and goes to heaven and stays there forever, rather than joining with their resurrected body at the end of time. “The vague notion that something called a soul or a spirit or a shade lingers after death in some kind of place or condition where it can be more or less happy is not Christian,” Barstad said. “A human soul without a body is a tragedy. Think about what a body is to the soul. It is the instrument, the nexus, the node, the vessel through which, by which, in which a soul establishes and sustains contact with reality,” he added.

A body, he said, has concretely experienced everything that a soul has gone through in its lifetime. It is the actual mode through which the soul has related to others. It makes that person who they are - the father of a particular son, or the daughter of a particular mother, the wife of a particular husband, or the friend of a particular person.
“A soul stripped completely of its body is literally nobody. Who cares whether such a nobody lives forever! A Christian is someone who wants to be this and after death and unto the ages of ages. But for that to be possible, I'll need my body resurrected along with the bodies of everyone and everything I have a relationship with,” he said. “I have to die completely and be dissolved back into the dust from which I came; and then I have to be put back together again in a new kind of life,” he said. “The trouble is I would cease to exist at the midpoint of this process. Someone else has to hold me in being as I pass over from death to new life. Only because Christ loves me am I held in being, not just my soul, the nobody, but the somebody I am because I have this body.”

Why Christians should reject reincarnation

The two main reasons that a Christian should reject reincarnation is that it is opposed to the way of salvation offered by Christ, and because it goes against the nature of the human person, Root said.
“It contradicts the picture of salvation that we have in the New Testament, where our participation in Christ’s resurrection is what salvation is all about,” Root said, “and it gives us quite a different picture of what it is to be a human being - a disembodied self that isn’t related to any particular time.”

“Christianity takes very seriously that we are embodied beings, and any notion of reincarnation means that the real self only has a kind of accidental connection to any specific body, because you’ll go on to another body and another body and another body, and bodiliness ends up being kind of at best side point about who you are,” he said.

The belief in the resurrection is bound up with a Christian view of the human person, Root said, which is that a person will only ever have on particular body, and what happens in that particular body matters.

“There’s very little formal Catholic dogma about the resurrection details, but one that there is is that we will rise in the same body we now have. There’s no official definition of what ‘same’ is here, and there’s a big transformation, but nevertheless it is official Catholic dogma that we will rise in the body we now have,” he said.

The transformation of the body can be seen in the resurrected Christ who, once resurrected, was able to walk through walls, appear or disappear suddenly, and seemingly control who was able to recognize him, though he maintained his body, Root noted.

The Christian view of the human person also means that what happens with each person’s body matters. In the document “Jesus Christ: The Bearer of the Water of Life” by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and for Interreligious Dialogue, the Vatican said that belief in reincarnation is incompatible with Christianity because it denies the freedom and responsibility of persons who act through their bodies.

Reincarnation is “irreconcilable with the Christian belief that a human person is a distinct being, who lives one life, for which he or she is fully responsible: this understanding of the person puts into question both responsibility and freedom,” the document states. A Christian occupies a body, which is able to be judged for its sins, but is also able to participate in Christ’s redemptive work through its suffering, the Vatican noted.

“In bringing about the redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the redemption. Thus each man in his suffering can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ,” the document states.
Barstad noted that the New Age belief in reincarnation as something positive even contradicts most traditional religions that believe in reincarnation, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, which ultimately view reincarnation as something to be escaped.

“I am not aware of any robust doctrine of reincarnation, whether that of Western Platonists or Eastern Buddhists, that regards reincarnation of a soul as a good thing; maybe certain Hindus or a Stoic could see it as a benign cosmic necessity, like the physical laws governing the conservation of energy,” he said. “But certainly the deepest aspiration of Platonists and Buddhists is to dissolve the nexus of temporal, bodily relationships once and for all; that is, to dissolve the relationship to body so completely that no further embodiment is possible for that soul. The goal is for the soul to become completely and permanently nobody.”
The hope of the resurrection

Christian hope lies in the belief that Christ has conquered death, and Christians will be able to be known and loved fully as themselves in eternal life, which will include their resurrected bodies, Barstad said.

“(A) Christian wants to continue to exist as himself. He knows that he is loved by his Creator and Redeemer who wants him to exist always. Consequently, he can have the courage to love himself enough to want that self, this somebody, to exist forever,” Barstad said.
While Christians may experience wrongs and sufferings in this life, they can have the hope of knowing that “they have been loved by Christ who through his own divine-human dying and rising can take them apart, to the very dust, and refashion them, making something beautiful out of the tangled mess,” he added.
Christians also have the hope that not only will they be resurrected individually, but that they will rejoin their loves ones, “living in a renewed and refashioned heaven and earth,” Barstad said.

“This is why we evangelize, this is why we repent and make amends for our wrongs and forgive those who wrong us, this is why we pray for the dead, and this is why the saints who already enjoy the (beatific) vision of God nonetheless still pray for us. They are still invested in this world and await with us the final revelation of Christ that will bring about the resurrection of everybody.”

In this cemetery, after dark, students pray for the dead

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 02:00

Denver, Colo., Oct 24, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- An after-dark walk through a cemetery in late October seems like a night pulled straight from a Halloween movie or a scary novel.

But when Colorado teens make nighttime visits to Mount Olivet Cemetery this week, it won’t be for ghost stories or a haunted house. Instead, they’ll learn about saints, pray together for the dead, and celebrate Mass.

Mount Olivet’s “Night at the Cemetery” is an annual event for middle and high schoolers, designed to teach them about the intercession of the saints, and the importance of praying for the repose of souls.

John Miller, Outreach Coordinator for Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services, told CNA that the “Night at the Cemetery” will have a “catechesis on cemeteries and why we pray for the dead.”

He said the students will be able to meet reenactors portraying saints and well-remembered Denver Catholics, who will give the youth “a little bit of their life story [and] weave in some points to remember to pray for the dead, and to pray to the saints in heaven.”

“Night at the Cemetery” will be held at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, CO. The first night will take place Oct. 25, followed by Mass at the Gallagher Chapel, and the second night will be Oct. 27, followed by evening prayer.

Students will also be able to meet a mortician and a gravedigger, to learn more about the workings of a Catholic cemetery.

The students will “meet” three people: Therese of Lisieux, a French nun who became a Doctor of the Church; Servant of God Julia Greeley, a freed slave who gave generously to Denver’s poor; and Bishop Joseph Machebeuf, a French Catholic missionary who was the first bishop of Denver.

Miller said the reenactors will emphasize the importance of praying for the souls of the deceased, especially in preparation of All Souls Day.

“It’s probably one of the things people don’t think about a lot when they commit their loved one to the grave,” he said.

“As Catholics, it doesn’t stop at the funeral. You have to constantly pray for our beloved dead, by either having Mass said for them or praying prayers for the souls in purgatory.”

Miller said the reenacted saints will also emphasize the importance of intercessory prayer. He said the saints are able to help people in need grow closer to Christ.

“It’s very important to have a good relation with the saints, to pray to them to help us to grow in love with the Lord each and every day, to grow in holiness, to ask them to especially intercede for us before almighty God.”

Miller said the event also serves to stress the importance of cemeteries, noting these areas are sacred and beautiful. He said they are places of prayer and community.

“Graveyards next to churches are blessed and a majority are consecrated as a sacred place,” he said. “It’s also a place of solace and peace. It has beautiful scenery. It’s a places where some cultures still come on Sunday and have picnics, have barbeques, hang out with their loved ones, pray for them, but also reminisce – share memories, stories.”

“It’s really a place of encounter within community, not only with each other, but also that encounter with God in such a beautiful sacred place.”


Supreme Court may hear another wedding cake case

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 21:00

Portland, Ore., Oct 23, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein have appealed to the Supreme Court Oct. 23 after being fined $135,000 for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian wedding.


The Kleins, who are practicing Christians, owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon.


In January 2013, the couple declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, citing their religious views. The women who had attempted to commission the cake filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, claiming discrimination based on their sexual orientation.


While the matter was pending, Aaron Klein posted the first page of the couple’s complaint--which contained their names and contact information--on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page. The women say they received death threats as a result of the posting, which was taken down after one day.


The business shuttered in September 2013.


In April 2015, the Oregon labor bureau ordered the Kleins to pay damages to the plaintiffs. The couple initially attempted to raise the cost of the fine on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, but their effort was taken down by the site, which cited a violation of their terms of service.


Lawyers in the case, Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari on Monday, having exhausted all appeal options in Oregon. The Kleins claim that their First Amendment right to free speech was violated by the state’s decision.


Their prior appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court was rejected in June 2018.


Also in June, the Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of the bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not respected Phillips’ sincerely-held religious beliefs when it ordered him to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple. Philips refuses to make custom cakes for other occasions he disagrees with, such as Halloween, bachelor parties, and divorce celebrations.


However, the narrow ruling applied only to Philips’ particular case, limiting its applicability to other religious liberty cases. Philips maintained he was willing and happy to sell a cake to any customer, but was not willing to custom-design a cake for an event that would violate his conscience.


Unlike Masterpiece Cakeshop, Sweet Cakes by Melissa only made customized cakes.


The Supreme Court has one month to respond to the Klein’s petition for certiorari, but they can extend this by 30 days if they need additional time. If the case were to be heard by the Supreme Court, a decision could be reached by the middle of next year.

Parma eparchy says Aug. attack didn’t happen, places priest on leave

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 16:01

Parma, Ohio, Oct 23, 2018 / 02:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma has announced that a priest who was reportedly attacked in August has been placed on administrative leave due to a credible accusation of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Fr. Basil Hutsko is accused of misconduct alleged to have occurred 35 years ago (or in 1983), the eparchy stated.

“Though Father Basil Hutsko denies the accusation, Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, having heard from the priest, the Review Board, and the Promotor [sic] of Justice, has found the accusation to be credible,” the eparchy said. “A finding that the accusation is credible is not a finding of guilt,” it added.

In August, Hutsko had been reported to have been attacked at his parish. The eparchy’s statement said that attack did not take take place.

The eparchy “has recently verified with a member of Father Basil Hutsko’s immediate family that the incident Father Basil Hutsko reported on Aug. 20, 2018, did not occur,” the statement said.

An August statement attributed to the eparchial chancery which was widely shared on Facebook said Fr. Hutsko “was attacked and knocked unconscious” in the altar server's sacristy at his parish after celebrating the Divine Liturgy.

That statement said the priest was choked and his head slammed to the ground, making him lose consciousness. According to the statement, the attacker said, “This is for all the kids.”

Fr. Hutsko, 64, was serving as pastor of St. Michael parish in Merrillville, Ind., immediately south of Gary.

The August statement was signed by Fr. Thomas J. Loya, who is pastor of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Ill.

A source close to Fr. Hutsko confirmed that the priest was hospitalized in August, but did not have additional knowledge about the incident.

Jeff Rice, spokesman for the Merrillville police, told the Chicago Tribune Fr. Hutsko had been “definitely bruised and banged up.”

The police department alerted the FBI about the supposed incident.

Later in August, the eparchy said that an abuse complaint had been made against Fr. Hutsko in 2004, but it was not deemed credible. The complaint was made by a woman who said the priest had abused her as a child between 1979 and 1983.

Fr. Hutsko has also served at parishes in Cleveland, Dayton, and Marblehead, Ohio, and Sterling Heights, Michigan.

The Parma eparchy has also placed on administrative leave Fr. Stephen Muth, in response to a recent credible accusation of sexual misconduct involving a vulnerable adult.

“The Eparchy of Parma is committed to protecting children and helping to heal victims of abuse,” the chancery stated. “We are deeply sorry for the pain suffered by survivors of abuse due to actions of some members of the clergy.”

Congressman asks House to protect religious minorities in Iraq

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Congressman Jeff Fortenberry introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Oct. 5 a security resolution intended to protect religious minorities in northern Iraq.

“Much is at stake. Iraq and the region risk losing entire minority communities and, with them, the centuries-old healthy pluralism that played the quiet but essential role of holding people of diverse faiths together,” Fortenberry said in an Oct. 17 statement.

Assistance for Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, and other communities victimized by the Islamic State must be combined with a plan for local security to facilitate the safe return of these minorities to their homelands, the resolution says.

The Christian and Yazidi minorities of northern Iraq were decimated by the Islamic State in 2014. Iraq’s Christian community once numbered 1.5 million, but today less than 200,000 Christians remain.

Fortenberry called on the U.S. government to “develop a coordinated and implementable plan for a stabilization and security mission in the region,” which incorporates local security forces and police units with “regularized national military structures.”

“Re-securitization is necessary to ensure the success of our humanitarian support for restoring the once-rich tapestry of ethnic and religious diversity that existed in the region,” he continued.

The Nebraska congressman traveled to northern Iraq last summer with USAID Administrator Mark Green and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, on a trip evaluating how U.S. aid money is being applied through multilateral organizations, such as the U.N., and assessing the situation of Iraqi minorities on the ground.

“Without a new security apparatus,” economic aid “will not be sustainable,” Fortenberry told CNA after that trip.

Christian and Yazidi communities in northern Iraq need security as they rebuild, he said.

USAID announced Oct. 16 that it is increasing assistance to religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq by around $45 million. This new commitment brings the total amount in planned and active efforts in support of minority communities in northern Iraq to more than $239 million.

Last week USAID leader Mark Green met with Vatican officials to discuss development and recovery efforts in Iraq.

During the Rome visit, Green told CNA that he hopes USAID’s efforts are “strengthening the capacity of organizations on the ground for the long run.”

The hope, Green said, is to “continue to build up this part of Iraq, so that families say, ‘my future is here, I can live here, my children can go to school here, there will be the kinds of jobs that keep them here.’”

A young Iraqi Catholic, Safa al Abbia, participated in the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment as an auditor.

Al Abbia told the Synod bishops that the main challenge facing young people in Iraq is “peace and stability and their right to live in dignity.”

In his intervention, Al Abbia said that he will never forget the face of his friends who told him, ‘See you next week,’ after Mass. He never saw again because they were “burned under the fire of the bombed car.”

He asked for prayers for Iraq and said, “Don’t forget us because we have a wonderful group of young people that are steadfast in their faith, salt to the earth as Jesus said.”


US bishops to hold retreat following abuse scandals

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States will meet for a week-long retreat to reflect upon the current situation facing the Church in America. The meeting will take place early next year.


In a statement issued by the US bishops’ conference Oct. 23, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, USCCB president and Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, said that Pope Francis had offered the services of his personal preacher to direct the retreat.


“The Holy Father has kindly offered the preacher to the Papal Household, Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., to serve as the retreat director as we come together to pray on the intense matters before us. For this, I am grateful,” DiNardo said.


The bishops will gather and at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois, from January 2-8. The university houses the primary seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago, often referred to simply as the Mundelein Seminary.


DiNardo also expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago for offering to host the event.


It was Pope Francis who first suggested that American bishops hold a retreat as they consider how to respond to the still ongoing sexual abuse crises facing the Church.


On Sept. 13, Cardinal DiNardo met with Pope Francis in Rome, together with other leaders from the USCCB, to discuss the various scandals unfolding in the United States. DiNardo also met with the pope earlier this month in what the US bishops’ conference described as a “regularly scheduled visit” to the Curia.


The announcement of the retreat comes as the American bishops prepare to meet in Baltimore in November for the general assembly of the US bishops’ conference. That meeting is widely expected to focus on how the Church can respond to the fallout of the scandal surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the growing number of investigations into allegations of clerical sexual abuse in different states.


Authorities in 14 different states, including the District of Columbia, have either announced or already begun investigations into the abuse of minors. Federal authorities in Pennsylvania have also opened an investigation into the dioceses of that state.


In September, the USCCB Administrative Committee announced a series of policies aimed at both addressing the sexual abuse crisis and increasing accountability and transparency in how bishops dealt with allegations, including against themselves. These included a proposed  third-party reporting mechanism for accusations, a code of conduct for bishops, and new protocols for bishops who either resign or are removed from office following abuse allegations.

DC attorney general announces abuse investigation

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 11:47

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2018 / 09:47 am (CNA).- The District of Columbia's attorney general has opened an investigation into clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Washington. The announcement was made during a Mayor-Council breakfast meeting on Oct. 23.


A statement released by DC attorney general Karl Racinev said that “while we generally don’t talk publicly about our confidential enforcement activity, I can report that our office has launched a civil investigation into whether the Archdiocese – which is a nonprofit institution – violated the District’s Nonprofit Act by potentially covering up allegations of sexual abuse of minors.”


Racine told the breakfast meeting that “according to the law, nonprofits are required to work for a public purpose; if they are in fact covering up child sex abuse, that is clearly not in the public interest.”


CNA contacted the attorney general’s office and asked if the investigation was in response to allegations it had received, or if it was a proactive step being taken on the AG’s own initiative. A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office declined to comment and said they were not prepared to answer “detailed questions” about the announcement.  


Racine previously stated in a radio interview in August that he had received considerable pressure from the public to open such an investigation.


The Archdiocese of Washington is currently led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl as interim-administrator pending the appointment of a successor by Pope Francis.


A spokesman for the archdiocese told CNA that archdiocesan officials met with the attorney general last month and stressed their eagerness to engage in a collaborative and cooperative process.


The spokesman also said that the archdiocese encouraged the attorney general to consider a wider investigation into all bodies with a child protection mandate, including other charities and public schools, in the interests of the public good. “Clearly the attorney general has decided to go another way,” the spokesman said.


On Oct. 15, the Archdiocese of Washington released a list of clergy who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. At the time of that release, the archdiocese stressed that no priest currently in ministry had been accused of sexual abuse, and that no credible allegations had been received concerning the abuse of minors in nearly twenty years.


News of the attorney general’s investigation comes only one day after the opening of a special hotline for residents of the district to report allegations of clerical sexual abuse. That line was announced Monday, Oct. 22 by federal prosecutors at the Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.


Following the publication of the Pennsylvania grand jury report in July, attorneys general in several states have announced similar inquiries, including in Michigan, Missouri, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. Last week, federal prosecutors served subpoenas to the dioceses of Pennsylvania, opening a new investigation into clerical sexual abuse in that state.


The Washington attorney general specifically emphasised the trend, saying in his remarks Tuesday that “our investigation brings the count of states with open investigations to 14.”


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to nearly 700,000 Catholics, six Catholic colleges and universities, and 93 Catholic schools.


As the last archdiocese to be led by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Washington has been the subject of considerable attention and scrutiny during a summer in which several different sexual abuse scandals have unfolded at once.


Despite accusations of sexual abuse or harassment against McCarrick concerning his time in several dioceses in New York and New Jersey, no public accusations have been made concerning his time in Washington, either while archbishop or in retirement.

U.S. attorney for D.C. announces federal hotline for victims of clergy sex abuse

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 18:40

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2018 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- Following the launch of a federal investigation into several Catholic dioceses last week, federal prosecutor Jessie K. Liu has announced the opening of a hotline for victims of sexual abuse by clergy in the District of Columbia.

The hotline, announced Monday, is being launched in collaboration with the Superior Court Division’s Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section and the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

There is both an email address and a phone number where “survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy who wish to share their experiences and/or those who have knowledge of such abuse” can make incident reports “for potential criminal investigation and prosecution,” said an announcement published by Liu’s office.

Survivors of child sexual abuse by a clergy member that took place in the District of Columbia “in a house of worship, school, or other location” can make reports to the Clergy Abuse Reporting Line at 202-252-7008 or by e-mail at

“All reports will be reviewed and a team of experienced criminal investigators, prosecutors, and victim advocates from the Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office will determine whether any criminal charges can be brought or victim services provided,” the announcement states. “The victim advocates, who are part of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit, are available to offer support and guidance to survivors who wish to report.”

The creation of such a hotline comes at the end of the so-called “summer of scandal” during which numerous accusations of abuse surfaced against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a grand jury report from Pennsylvania detailed decades of clerical abuse, and former Vatican nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused Vatican officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to sufficiently respond to reports of misconduct on McCarrick’s part.

It also comes about a week after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who has been the subject of criticism since late June, when revelations about alleged sexual misconduct on the part of his predecessor, McCarrick, raised questions about what Wuerl knew about McCarrick, and how he responded to that knowledge.

The announcement of the hotline also shortly followed the federal government’s launch of an investigation into seven of the eight Catholic dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, as well as the Diocese of Buffalo in New York, which is also being investigated by its State Attorney General's Office.

According to documents obtained by local media, the Diocese of Buffalo appears to have been served with the a subpoena from the U.S. attorney’s office in late May or early June of this year, though it was only made public last week.

Emails between Buffalo’s Bishop Richard J. Malone, his staff and attorney mention the words “subpoena” and “Grand Jury” as early as May 31 of this year, Channel 7 Eyewitness News WKBW in Buffalo, an ABC affiliate, reported.

In those emails, Malone said he found it “encouraging” that the scope of the investigation would likely be small, based on the criteria of the probe. He also said that he hoped any prosecutable cases would be “all men (already) removed from ministry.”

A source told WKBW that the subpoena was related “to pornography, taking victims across state lines and use of cell phones/social media.”

On Oct. 18, the Diocese of Buffalo released a statement acknowledging that a federal subpoena was served to the diocese “several months ago.”

“A subpoena was provided and after some discussion, an agreement was reached to produce documents. We have heard nothing since early June. As far as we know, our response has nothing to do with the current Pennsylvania investigation that has just begun."


Nikki Haley praises ‘everyday miracles’ of Church despite abuse crisis

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 17:30

New York City, N.Y., Oct 22, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Ambassador Nikki Haley used her speech at the annual Al Smith dinner in New York City to acknowledge the Church’s efforts to address the sexual abuse scandal while continuing its “incredible work” helping “millions of desperate people” around the world.

The outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations was the guest of honor at the fundraising dinner for the Archdiocese of New York, held Oct. 18. While the dinner raises millions of dollars for the Church’s charitable outreach in the city, Haley said that the efforts she had seen went “way beyond that.”

In the course of her time as ambassador, Haley said that she had been to some “truly dark places” where the suffering endured by many people would be “hard for most Americans to imagine.”

“I’ve been to the border between Colombia and Venezuela, where people walk 3 hours each way in the blazing sun to get the only meal that they will have that day. Who’s giving that meal? The Catholic Church,” she said.

“I’ve been to refugee camps in Central Africa where young boys are kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers and young girls are raped as a matter of routine. Who was in the forefront of changing this culture of corruption and violence? The Catholic Church.”

Haley also acknowledged the sexual abuse crises which have rocked the Church, both in the United States and globally, saying that she would “be remiss” if she did not mention the recent scandals. Noting that sexual abuse and assault was not a problem limited to the Church but one which “deeply touches the American family,” she said that the Church had an obligation to victims.

“The church’s place must be with the victims that carry the pain with them. I know the church leaders recognize its deep responsibility to address this moral failing, and it is taking action,” she said. At the same time, the ambassador said that it would be “tragic” if the abuse scandal made the world blind to “the amazing good works the Catholic Church does every single day.”

Haley called the Church’s global works of charity, education, and healthcare “everyday miracles” and said that “those miracles are the way of the Church.”

The annual event raises money for the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, which serves the “neediest children of the Archdiocese of New York, regardless of race, creed, or color.” Each year, the dinner features a prominent politician; during presidential election years, the two main candidates are invited together.

Smith was the first Catholic to be nominated as a presidential candidate by one of the two leading U.S. political parties.

Speakers at the dinner traditionally deliver irreverent and light hearted political humor, and Haley offered good natured jokes at the expense of prominent Democrats and Republicans, including the president.

But she was also quick to place American political strife in context, criticizing the growing tendency to term political opponents as “evil.”

“In the last two years, I’ve seen true evil. We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil. They’re just our opponents,” she said.

“We are blessed with a political system that allows us to resolve our differences peacefully. In the end, we must recognize that we are all Americans, and we are stronger and healthier when we are united.”

Haley’s appearance at the dinner came a little over a week after she announced that she will be stepping down from her role at the UN at the end of 2018. Haley had served as the UN Ambassador since the beginning of President Trump’s term, having previously been the governor of South Carolina.

The dinner raised nearly $4 million.

HHS considers defining sex based on birth, genetics

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 13:30

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Trump administration is considering reshaping some federal policies to define gender according to a person’s biology and genitalia, according to a new memo from the Department of Health and Human Services.


The department is seeking a definition based “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”


If adopted, the changed definition would clarify the application of Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law prohibiting gender-based discrimination in educational programs that receive government funding.


This change would be a departure from practices developed during the Obama administration, which recognize a person’s gender based on their own interpretation or identity rather than their chromosomal makeup or birth sex.  


A 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights noted that “gender based harassment” could include harassment based upon the “actual or perceived” “gender identity” of a person. A question-and-answer document from the same office, issued in 2014, stated that sex-based discrimination under Title IX extended to discrimination based on “gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity."


If the proposed changes come into effect, sex would be defined as “a person’s status as male or female based on the immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”


The sex on a person’s original birth certificate would serve as “definitive proof” of their sex, with exceptions for those who can provide “reliable genetic evidence” that states otherwise.


Approximately 1 out of every 1,500 to 2,000 births have abnormal sex chromosomes other than the typical XX for females and XY for males. The most common of these is Klinefelter Syndrome, which means that a male has two X chromosomes in addition to a Y chromosome. Many men with Klinefelter Syndrome are unaware they have the condition.


In the United States, an estimated 1.4 million people identify as “transgender,” self-identifying as a gender other than the one recorded at birth. Some such people have undergone surgery or hormonal treatments to physically resemble their gender of self-identification.


Critics of the proposed changes have argued that they would exclude those identifying as “transgender” from protection by Title IX and other anti-discrimination measures. Supporters of the proposal contend that it merely ensures such laws are applied to the whole population based on objective criteria and not subjective self-identification.


The Department of Health and Human Services is expected to present a version of the new policy to the Department of Justice before the end of the year. If the Justice Department considers the revised definition legally viable and enforceable, HHS can then approve and implement it as policy across a range of government agencies involved with Title IX enforcement.

Church needs fewer and better seminaries, says seminary prof

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- In the wake of recent reports concerning widespread sexual harassment and sexual abuse at seminaries, a seminary professor has suggestions for how the seminary process could improve.

Fr. Thomas Berg, a professor of moral theology and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York, suggested in an Oct. 18 Washington Post column six ways the formation process of seminarians could be changed to ensure that they would be properly formed both spiritually and emotionally.

Berg criticized the current seminary system for an “overemphasis on academics” that leaves seminarians lesser formed emotionally and personally. He warned that those kinds of deficits do not form priests who are ready to effectively serve their parishes, and could result in additional misbehavior.

“Where focus on personal psychological integration is lacking, space opens for disordered living of precisely the type that has made headlines in recent months,” he said. Seminaries in several U.S. cities announced investigations into misconduct this summer.

Next, Berg said that there needs to be increased trust and transparency betweens seminarians and formation teams. He said it “pained [him] to hear” that some seminarians had felt as though they could not discuss recent abuse stories. This censorship was “utterly wrongheaded.”

He said that seminarians should be able to “freely, frankly and confidently express to the formation team their concerns about the seminary community, their opinions about the formation process and any other honest apprehension or contribution they want to make in the spirit of honest dialogue.”

Additionally, he called for seminaries to have clear sexual harassment policies and protocols, and said that a person associated with the seminary, lay or otherwise, should be appointed to contact the diocese regarding sexual harassment or abuse.

Berg additionally called for a possible minimum age for seminarians, and said that “bishops need to slow down the rush to ordination.” He suggested that an age of 22 may be an appropriate time to begin seminary studies, which would allow the seminarian to acquire a college degree and work experience before entering.

While the current seminary process takes about seven years, Berg suggested that the process be extended by another year. An initial year of formation would consist of “detoxing from the culture and social media,” and would result in “growth in self-knowledge, prayer, and a secure masculine identity.” The final year prior to ordination could consist of “intensive fieldwork” in pastoral ministry.

Bishops may not appreciate this idea, he said, but he believes it is necessary, as the Church cannot be well served by priests who are ordained before they are actually ready for the position. This spiritual immaturity could result in mental health crises or other issues among clergy.

“When years later some of them falter, with addictions or other personal struggles, we all pay a heavy price,” he explained.

Berg also expressed concern at what he described as “priests who lack the skill set and drive to become mentors, role models and moral guides” being assigned to seminaries as formators.

“A doctorate in theology does not render a priest automatically suitable for such ministry,” he said. Bishops need to require that the formators themselves undergo ongoing professional formation to better serve the seminarians.

For his final points, Berg addressed the number and quality of seminaries in the United States. He said that steps should be taken to identify which seminaries are successful in the formation of priests, and those that are failing at this task. He suggested that bishops should form a panel of “seasoned seminary formators” who will visit each seminary to review their processes.

Seminaries that are “failing in their mission” should be reformed or closed.

Finally, Berg said that the current number of seminaries in the United States--70--is far too high and that number needs to be consolidated. A third of those seminaries, according to a recent report, have fewer than 50 seminarians, whereas 11 of them have more than 100 men in formation.

Instead of this glut of seminaries that are clearly not needed, Berg suggested making “15 or 20” regional seminaries, staffed by the best-of-the-best formators from seminaries around the country who would work in teams.

The current times require a “radical rethinking” of seminaries, one that must be started by the bishops, he said.


Having kids won’t doom your country, says #PostcardsForMacron creator

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 06:00

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2018 / 04:00 am (ACI Prensa).- The idea that high fertility rates are a barrier to economic success is a contemporary myth, Catholic University of America economics professor, mother of eight, and viral hashtag creator Dr. Catherine Pakulak told CNA.

Pakulak started the viral “#PostcardsForMacron” hashtag on Monday in response to French President Emanuel Macron’s comment at a Gates Foundation event.

Macron suggested that educated women would not choose to have a large number of children if they had a choice. While Pakulak thinks the comment was taken partly out of context, and tried to give Macron the benefit of the doubt, she still thought it was “so ridiculous.”

Pakulak’s academic research area focuses in part on the effects of fertility on economic development.

“High fertility is not the product of ignorance,” Pakulak told CNA. She said Macron’s comments represent an “underlying view” common in contemporary culture.

This attitude prevails both in Africa, and in other places such as the United States, she said. Women like herself who chose to have many children face a “pejorative attitude” from other people about their decisions to have lots of children.

“That's what I pop into, and say 'Hey, look, this is silly. Lots of women do choose this,’” she explained.

And while Pakulak said most college-educated women do not choose to have that many children, “there are some.”

“So that was my main impetus to pick that [line of Macron’s speech] out."

Pakulak was critical of Macron’s take that families with large number of children are holding Africa back developmentally. She described this mentality as “kind of a contemporary myth” that is not backed up with statistics.  

“There is no evidence that says countries cannot grow quickly, or steadily, with high levels of fertility,” she explained. “There are a lot of people, in response to this [...] out there kind of crunching the numbers on African fertility. And some have pointed out 'look, actually African fertility is not especially high relative to its income.'"

Across the continent, the average fertility rate does not climb to seven, eight, or nine, she said. In reality, the total fertility rate (TFR) throughout Africa is closer to the world’s median rate, “in the four range.”

"There simply is not mountains and mountains of evidence to say that if countries get their fertility rates down to the twos and the threes, all of the sudden you're going to just explode [economically]," she said.  

Nigeria, the country in Africa with the highest GDP, has the 12th-highest fertility rate in the world, with a TFR of 5.07. South Africa, which has the second-highest GDP on the continent, has a much lower fertility rate of 2.29.

Pakulak told CNA that she was unhappy that Macron compared forced child marriage, which is “not something Christians could get behind or agree with,” to having large families.

She theorized that Macron’s views were similar to those of the Gates Foundation, which considers population growth to be a barrier to economic growth.

She expressed concern that this viewpoint could be used to force contraception on African women, “regardless of whether they are asking for this.”

“And I think that’s false, because other countries have grown quickly with a TFR in the range that [African countries] are in.”

While most social conservatives do not oppose the availability of contraception, she said, “what they’re against is kind of an aggressive policy” that wastes time and money that could be spent on other developmental programs.

Additionally, Pakulak said that providing contraception to girls who were forced into marriage in their preteens “isn’t going to help” their situations. Instead, she suggested that more efforts be focused on opposing the cultural norms that approve of these situations.

She is also concerned that “an era of cheap and widely-available contraception,” in which it is easy for people to pick the size of their families, people are choosing to have fewer and fewer children.

Pakulak lamented declining fertility rates in other parts of the world, mentioning especially Europe.

While France is home to Europe’s highest TFR at 1.96, it is still below the population replacement-level rate of 2.1. This is cause for concern for Pakulak, who warned that the low birth rates would spell disaster for the continent’s extensive social programs.

She is also concerned that the anti-child mentality is a sign of bigger problems.

"People don't have kids to save their countries from demographic winter,” she said.

“They have kids because of a certain attitude towards meaning and the meaning of life and what it means to live a good human life."


Are you ready for the March for Life? Organizers announce 2019 theme

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The theme of the 2019 March for Life will be “Unique From Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini announced at an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

The theme was chosen as science is inherently pro-life, Mancini explained Oct. 18. Science has continued to “reaffirm the scientific fact, and the truth, that life begins at fertilization/conception.”

“Our DNA is present at the moment of fertilization, and no fingerprint, ever--past, present, future--is like yours. And that’s what it means to be unique from day one,” said Mancini.

She pointed out that “society often ignores or tries to block these facts,” and reminded the crowd that in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama refused to provide an answer when asked when he believed life began, saying it was “above his pay grade”

Mancini said that while remarks like these provide “cover” for someone who is in favor of abortion rights, “scientifically, it’s not factual.”

Fetal development, she said, is “astonishing.” She noted that the heart begins to beat just three weeks after fertilization, and that the fetus is capable of movement at eight weeks. At 13 weeks, the fetus has fingerprints, “just like our logo.”

Science, said Mancini, “should always be at the service of life, not the reverse.”  

"Science makes it clear that human life, our uniqueness as individuals, is true from the moment of conception or fertilization,” she said.

This meshes with the mission of the March for Life, she explained, which is to “protect the baby in its earliest stages.”

“So we exist, our very reason for being is to protect and defend life from the moment of fertilization."

Also announced on Thursday were that commentator Ben Shapiro and former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson will be speaking at the upcoming March for Life.

The 2019 March for Life will be held on January 19, in Washington DC. It has been held each year near the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade declared a legal right to abortion in 1973.

How a Panama City parish is helping after Hurricane Michael

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 18:00

Panama City, Fla., Oct 19, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- This is the story of a hurricane. Or, at least, the story of one Catholic parish trying to help, in the wake of one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. in decades.

Hurricane Michael made landfall in northwest Florida Oct. 10. The hurricane has claimed 50 lives in the U.S. and Central America, caused an estimated $8 billion in damage, and displaced thousands of people.

After Hurricane Michael overwhelmed local hospitals, St. John the Evangelist parish in Panama City has become a hub for medical services and emergency supplies.

Father Kevin McQuone, pastor of St. John Evangelist Catholic Church, told CNA that many of his parishioners’ homes are damaged and that some areas are still without power.

“Many people have lost part or all of their home. Many people [who] are displaced are looking for other places to live,” McQuone said. “A handful, I have been informed have moved on, they have lost their jobs because their business were destroyed so they have already found other jobs and moved permanently.”

St. John’s parish school has been heavily damaged, he said. The roof for the middle school building was ripped off and other school buildings have severe water damage. The priest said the school has set up a satellite campus at another parish.

He said two local hospitals in the Panama City have nearly shut down completely aside from their emergency rooms. The hurricane, he said, also destroyed a medical warehouse, which held all of the hospital’s sterile supplies.

The parish has stepped up to offer basic medical supplies and help, relying on Catholic Charities and volunteer medical professionals.

“Bringing in any sort of triage or medical clinic is welcome just to help the whole community to get the care that they need,” he said.

“We also have a mobile medical clinic that was here for part of the day yesterday and was here today as well,” he said. “Next week, we will have a group of 8-12 doctors from around the country who volunteer, and they will be here for a whole week.”

He said people have come in for basic medical help, like tetanus shots. While patients are there, they can also receive supplies – water, toiletries, and food.

The priest said a majority of the aid has been provided and organized by Catholic Charities. Noting that the Catholic population in Florida’s panhandle is only about five percent, he said the parish is helping an entire community, many of whom might have otherwise not visited a Catholic Church.

“Catholic Charities has been really great,” he said. “Immediately, we have been in connection with them. They have been sending people are way and helping us to be of service not just to our parishioners, but really to the whole community. By and large, the far majority of people that we have been serving here I’ve never met before.”

Father McQuone said that more volunteers are still needed in the area.

“Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” he said.

For people in distress, we are “doing all we can to serve the needs of their body and the need of their soul - by prayer and by sacrificial giving.”

Neutrality on assisted suicide is the wrong prescription, Catholic doctors say

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 16:50

New Orleans, La., Oct 19, 2018 / 02:50 pm (CNA).- The American Academy of Family Physicians has taken a neutral position on assisted suicide and will lobby the American Medical Association to do the same, drawing criticism from Catholics but praise from assisted suicide advocates.
Leaders of the physicians’ academy gathered for its Congress of Delegates, which met Oct. 8-10 in New Orleans, approved the resolution of “engaged neutrality,” MedPage Today reports.

The organization represents over 130,000 doctors across the U.S. and is the second-largest constituent body within the AMA.

The resolution passed by a two-thirds vote, which is required for votes that differ from AMA ethical policies, the physicians’ academy said.
The resolution called on the medical academy to reject use of the phrases “assisted suicide” or “physician-assisted suicide” in its formal communications and directed the academy’s delegation to the AMA to promote similar action in that association’s governing body.
Dr. Michael Munger, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said his group took a neutral position so it can advocate on the matter at future meetings of the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates. Munger said family physicians are “well-positioned to counsel patients on end-of-life care” and added “we are engaged in creating change in the best interest of our patients.”

The American Medical Association’s code of ethics rejects physician-assisted suicide as “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” Such a practice would be “difficult or impossible to control” and would “pose serious societal risks.”
“Instead of engaging in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life,” it adds.
Critical of the AAFP’s move was Dr. Barbara Golder, M.D., a board member of the Catholic Medical Association and editor-in-chief of its Linacre Quarterly, who said the move was “very, very disappointing” but should not necessarily be considered a full victory for backers of assisted suicide.
“Some people will want to look on this as a great achievement in terms of advancing physician-assisted suicide, and it certainly puts us on a slippery slope, but I think it’s also important to recognize that the AAFP did not endorse it,” Golder told CNA.
“That tells me that even within their own organization there’s a great deal of discussion and there’s got to be a fairly significant group of physicians within that group itself that understands the dangers of physician-assisted suicide and how it runs contrary to medicine as practiced.”
Backers of assisted suicide, such as the group formerly known as the Hemlock Society, welcomed the change and saw it as grounds for more.
“I believe many AMA constituent societies will follow suit, so it is only a matter of time before the AMA does as well,” said Dr. David Grube, national medical director of the pro-assisted suicide group Compassion and Choices and a former delegate within the physicians’ academy.
In response, Golder facetiously wondered whether Grube has a crystal ball to see the future.
“I don’t know that it’s ‘just a matter of time’,” she said. “Certainly, it’s a worrisome idea that medicine would shift from healing to killing. That’s a fundamental change the likes of which medicine has not encountered, at least in our lifetimes.
“When we find medicine going away from healing towards killing, we in the past have been very repulsed by it. Now suddenly we are not,” she added, warning that it is potentially a “tremendous slippery slope.”
For Golder, assisted suicide is against natural law and “the Catholic notion that life ought to be respected from conception to natural death.”
Golder said opponents of assisted suicide should consider joining medical groups and “being vocal.” She suggested doctors can leverage their patients, because they “have a voice in this as well.”
“The whole point of associations like this is to serve doctors and their patients,” she said. For Golder, assisted suicide disrupts the doctor-patient relationship because it means “as well as an agent of healing, the doctor can also be an agent of death.”
Advocacy and awareness-raising about good palliative care are also needed “so that physician-assisted suicide doesn’t look like an attractive alternative to people who are alone, in great pain, don’t have anybody to care for them,” added Golder.
Dr. Peter T. Morrow, M.D., president of the Catholic Medical Association, said the move ran contrary to “the medical communities’ historical and long-standing opposition against physician-assisted suicide.”
“It is in direct violation of the ‘do no harm’ Hippocratic Oath,” Morrow said in an Oct. 17 statement. “We at the CMA are dedicated to preserving life from conception to natural death and will continue to remain staunchly opposed to any form of assisted suicide. It goes against natural law.”
The Catholic Medical Association has over 2,300 healthcare professionals in 104 local guilds across the U.S. Several of its members had testified against doctor-assisted suicide at AMA’s last House of Delegates meeting in June.

The AMA has about 240,000 members in the U.S., with membership including medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, and medical students. Its 2018 interim meeting will be held in National Harbor, Maryland this November.
The group’s House of Delegates, meeting in Chicago in June, narrowly voted not to accept a report recommending that they continue their stance of opposing physician assisted suicide. About 56 percent of delegates voted for the report to undergo further review.
At the time, Morrow said that decision was “hugely disappointing.”
Golder told CNA that the AMA “has so far held the line, saying assisted suicide is not appropriate, and we congratulate them for that.”
The seven states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized assisted suicide.
Other AAFP resolutions included a failed vote in support of an elective abortion ban from 20 weeks into gestational age. The body passed resolutions opposing “fetal personhood” language. It recommended that medication abortion drug Mifeprex be removed from the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy. Such restrictions create an unnecessary burden on physicians who want to offer medication abortion, backers of the decision said.
The delegates passed a resolution calling on the academy to create educational materials about institutional racism and segregated care within the health care system as a cause of racial disparities in patient outcomes.

With city support, Baltimore parish will issue IDs to undocumented parishioners

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 13:06

Baltimore, Md., Oct 19, 2018 / 11:06 am (CNA).- A Baltimore Catholic parish announced that it will begin issuing parish identification cards, with the goal of making undocumented immigrants and members of other vulnerable populations in the city more comfortable reporting crimes and cooperating with the Baltimore Police Department.

“If this identification helps one person pick up the phone and call the police, it’s done what it’s supposed to do,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said during an Oct. 10 press conference announcing the parish initiative.

The cards will be issued by Baltimore’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, with the support of Archbishop William Lori and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Applicants will need to show a form of picture ID, even if it is expired; proof of address; and have their identity confirmed in a sworn statement by a third party.

Each ID card will include a picture of the holder, as well as the parish’s contact information and logo. The parish is waiting for permission from the police department to start issuing the IDs; the city’s interim police commissioner has begun introducing the card to officers and trains them to recognize it.

The parish worked directly with the mayor’s office and the police department to develop a uniform version of the ID.

“It's really a pastoral response," said Father Bruce Lewandowski of Sacred Heart parish, who was one of the main proponents of the program.

"A lot of immigrants and other people in vulnerable communities don't interact with the police because of mistrust, for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it's fear of racism, sometimes it's fear....that somehow the police are connected with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], and it’s ‘if I call the police then I'm setting myself up for detention and deportation’ for people who are undocumented."

The Baltimore Police department does not handle immigration directly, which is a federal matter. Rather, the goal of the parish ID program is to better relationships between the community and the police.  

"At our meetings with [interim police commissioner Gary Tuggle], as the commissioners did before him, he assured us that there is no immigration enforcement that is done by the Baltimore city police department, that's not their job,” Father Lewandowski stated.

“Their job is to keep Baltimore citizens safe and fight crime. So in order to help them do that, that's why we're promoting the [parish ID] program."

Interim Baltimore police commissioner Tuggle said he planned to introduce the card to his command staff Oct. 11, and would train the entire department to recognize the card within two weeks.

The parish ID cards will explicitly state that they are not government-issued forms of identification.

Each recipient of the card will go through a two-hour group orientation session of 30-40 people, Father Lewandowski said, to train them on “basic civics” so they understand what the card can and cannot be used for.

“We want people to be very clear about the use of the card,” he said. “"Basically what it means is: if I call 911...I can show them the parish ID that says I'm known in the community, this is my city, I belong here—that the mayor supports me, in a certain sense; that the archbishop supports me; that my parish [supports me].”

Father Lewandowski emphasized that the relationship between some city residents and the Baltimore Police Department is very tense, and the police department has had recent issues with stability; three police commissioners have come and gone in the past 3 years, and the current interim commissioner will not be seeking a permanent position.

To mitigate any potential changes in attitude toward the program when a new police commissioner arrives, Father Lewandowski said that Mayor Catherine Pugh has publicly committed to continue to support the parish ID program under the new police commissioner, whenever he or she begins work. Pugh will be up for re-election in 2020.

Maryland already allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver's license or identification card, as does D.C. and 11 other states. Among other requirements, the applicant must show proof of having paid Maryland income tax for two years.

In addition, Baltimore voted to create a program in 2016 that would issue city ID cards to residents, but the program has yet to be rolled out. Father Lewandowski said the makers of the parish ID decided they couldn't wait for the city to act.

He said the parish ID is a both/and solution that will likely supplement the municipal ID in the future, but the parish ID has the added advantage of not requiring applicants to provide personal information to the City of Baltimore.

The first person to call the church ask for a parish ID, Father Lewandowski said, was an 85-year-old parishioner at Sacred Heart, born and raised in Baltimore, who no longer drives, and thus had no current form of ID.

"So the ID really is for everybody," he said. "In our very difficult circumstances here [in Baltimore], this is a way to help people feel safe.”

A broader perspective

Baltimore is not the first city to pilot church-issued ID cards; several Dallas-area churches began issuing ID cards to undocumented immigrants in May. The Texas church IDs include a person’s name, address and home parish.

Texas is one of several states that does not allow illegal immigrants to obtain a state-issued ID, Texas law enforcement officers are permitted, but not required, to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they have detained or arrested, and are required to comply with federal guidelines to hold undocumented criminal suspects for possible deportation.

Dallas law enforcement are prohibited, however, from asking the immigration status of those who are witnesses, victims, or reporters of crimes except in special circumstances. Individuals with a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license are presumed to have lawful immigration status.

Though the Texas IDs, like the ones in Baltimore, lack legal recognition, police in the cities of Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch were reportedly told in May that they are allowed to accept the church cards as a form of identification.

CNA asked Dallas Police Department whether there were any documented cases of the church-issued ID being accepted in lieu of state-issued identification. The police department said that they did not have any such cases on record, and that only identifications allowed by law could be accepted.

A representative from the Farmers Branch Police Department told CNA that their police department could choose to recognize a non-government issued forms of ID in some cases, such as a school ID for minors, if a person simply needs to let the police know who they are. If a person is accused of a crime, however, government issued IDs are typically the only form that are acceptable.



How diapers impact the bottom line, and how an NYC law can help

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 21:00

New York City, N.Y., Oct 18, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The New York City council passed a law Wednesday that will require many centers serving women and children in the city to provide diapers and baby wipes free of charge. The bill had no opposing votes in the council.

The new law covers child care centers, domestic violence shelters, youth shelters, and homeless shelters that are contracted with the city to provide services. Each location must have clear signage or a written notice informing mothers that diapers and wipes are available to them for children three years old and younger.

The provision also includes family justice centers, which provide legal, counseling and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence, elder abuse and sex trafficking; and LYFE centers, an NYC Department of Education program that provides free early childhood education to children of student parents.

In an Oct. 16 committee report, the New York City council laid out the need for the new law, noting that an infant will use over 3,000 diapers in their first year of life at a cost of more than $500.

The report also noted that the Women, Infants, and Children assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cannot be used to purchase diapers, and that Medicaid will only reimburse diapers purchased for individuals older than 3 years.

Alison Weir, Chief of Policy at the National Diaper Bank Network, testified to the city council that the provision of free diapers to low-income families in Connecticut resulted in a decrease in the spread of disease and in decrease in rashes and other skin irritations among babies.

The New York Daily News reported that the sponsor of the bill estimates that the new provision will cost the city $1.1 million in fiscal year 2019, increasing to nearly $5 million in 2020 because of increasing demand. New York’s total budget for FY2019 is over $88 billion.
The law is set to take effect within four months of its passage. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services will provide the supply of diapers and wipes to the appropriate city entities, or to independent organizations contracting with the city.

The Connecticut Diaper Bank, which provides free diapers to women in that state, testified before the city council that: “Access to a reliable supply of clean diapers affects families in significant ways, like enabling parents to maintain employment, complete their education, and improve the health and well-being of their children.”