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Congressman tries to add 'Born Alive' protections to vaping bill

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 20:00

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The House of Representatives on Friday blocked an attempt to add legislation to protect infants who survive botched abortion attempts into a bill on e-cigarettes.

On Friday morning, House Republicans led by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) used a procedural move to force a vote on language protecting abortion survivors taken from a bill that has been blocked from consideration for a year.

Walden’s “motion to recommit” was defeated by a vote of 213 – 195. Only three Democrats voted in support of including Wagner’s language, Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Colin Peterson (D-Minn.), and Ben McAdams (D-Utah).

The chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, condemned the result.

“Just three days ago, the U.S. Senate tragically failed to advance the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” he said. “Americans should be outraged that our U.S. Congress cannot pass a law to ensure that newborn babies are not vulnerable to infanticide.”

Friday’s legislative session began with debate on a bill to regulate youth tobacco and e-cigarette consumption. Walden attempted to include language from Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Mo.) Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act into the bill.

“We all care deeply about the health of our children,” Walden said of tobacco regulations, adding that “the younger the child, the more vulnerable and defenseless they are.”

“That’s why we are offering a final amendment to the bill that literally would save the lives of the youngest children, the babies,” he said. “I hope that we can end the ghastly practice of letting die, children when they are born alive after an abortion.”

Wagner’s bill would mandate that babies who survive a botched abortion attempt be given the same standard of care as other infants born alive at the same gestational age, and be admitted to a hospital.

Under the legislation, doctors or health care workers who fail to provide this care could be liable to criminal penalties, but mothers would not only be not liable but could sue for damages if the care is not provided.

Although it was introduced a year ago, the bill has not yet received a vote because House Democrats have successfully blocked it from coming to the floor. A “discharge” petition—which requires the signatures of 218 members to force a vote—has received only 204 signatures so far.

“Congress has an opportunity to ensure that no baby is denied life-saving care, simply because he or she is allegedly unwanted,” Wagner said, noting that her bill has been blocked from consideration 80 times by Democratic leadership.

“Our constituents must know where we stand,” she said.

The Senate has voted on similar legislation, to consider Sen. Ben Sasse’s (R-Neb.) “Born-Alive” bill, this week, but it failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to advance.

Canadian hospice forced to close after refusing to offer assisted dying

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 19:00

Vancouver, Canada, Feb 28, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- A hospice in Canada has lost its funding and is being forced to close after refusing to offer and perform medically assisted suicides.

The Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, British Columbia, will lose $1.5 million in funding and will no longer be permitted to operate as a hospice as of February 25, 2021. Fraser Health Authority, one of the six public health care authorities in the province, announced on Tuesday that it would be ending its relationship with the hospice over its refusal to provide medically assisted deaths to its patients. 

Per Fraser Health’s contract with the Delta Hospice Society, which administers the Irene Thomas Hospice, a one-year notice had to be provided before funding could be withdrawn without cause.

"We have made every effort to support the board to come into compliance and they have been clear that they have no intention to," said British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix in a statement.

Dix said that the decision to pull funding was taken “reluctantly,” and that “when the role of the Delta Hospice Society concludes, patients in publicly funded hospice care will again be able to fully access their medical rights."

A press release from Delta Hospice said that while it is not affiliated with a religion, the board of the Delta Hospice Society is opposed to medically assisted death on moral and philosophical grounds. 

“Delta Hospice officials were shocked and outraged this week by the Fraser Health Authority’s blatant move to cut off all discussions and close the facility because it wants the hospice to provide MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) at every facility,” said the statement. 

“The Irene Thomas Hospice is dedicated to allowing patients access to expert symptom management for physical, emotional and spiritual distress. It provides comfort, meaning dignity and hope as one dies a natural death.” 

In September 2016, about three months after medically assissted suicide became legal in Canada, Fraser Health introduced a new policy which required all hospices receiving more than 50% of provincial funding for their beds to offer the procedure to their residents. The hospice receives $1.4 million of its $3 million operating budget from the Fraser Health Authority, and Fraser Health funds virtually all of the beds at Irene Thomas Hospice. 

Angelina Ireland, president of the Delta Hospice Society, said in the press release that Fraser Health ignored her request to lower the amount of funding to below the 50% threshold, and also forbade the hospice from finding another partner to work with. 

After the contract with Fraser Health ends, the public health authority intends to take over the buildings that currently compose the Irene Thomas Hospital and bring in medically assisted dying. 

“By refusing to allow us to find another partner, [Fraser Health is] basically forcing us to be in default of our lease--because in order to have our lease, we have to be a hospice,” Ireland said. 

“They feel that they can just come in and seize our assets.” 

Ireland told CNA that although the facilities are on land that is leased from the government, the buildings were constructed using donations from the community of Delta.

“We built this facility,” she said. “We built that 10 years ago, and we put $9 million into that of privately-raised money from donations.” 

“This didn’t come from the taxpayer. This came from private people.” 

The Delta Hospice Society wishes to provide patients with a peaceful natural death, not actively end patients’ lives, Ireland explained to CNA. 

“[The hospice] worked really hard to have the people to trust us that when they come to hospice they will not be killed,” she said. “We will take care of them, they will take care of their families. And now basically the government has said that any hospice that does not provide euthanasia, it's not allowed to exist.”

Ireland called this a “direct attack” on the medical specialty of palliative care. 

Faith-based healthcare organizations, as well as medical professionals opposed to MAiD, are not required to offer medically assisted suicide to patients in Canada. Doctors, however, must refer patients seeking an “assisted death” to a healthcare provider who is willing to euthanize them. 

Assisted dying is readily available at Delta Hospital, which is a one-minute drive from the Irene Thomas Hospice.

Justice Department weighs in on Kentucky religious freedom case

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Department of Justice on Thursday registered its support for the religious freedom case of a Kentucky photographer in a lawsuit over a city anti-discrimination ordinance.

“The central question presented in this case is whether the government can compel a wedding photographer to photograph, provide photography editing services for, and blog about weddings of which she does not approve, and does not wish to photograph or to promote,” the Justice Department (DOJ) said in a statement of interest in the case filed on Thursday. 

“The answer is no,” the Justice Department concluded.

The case of photographer Chelsey Nelson is currently before a federal district court in Kentucky. Nelson, a photographer with her own business, sued the city government of Louisville over an ordinance she says would compel her to violate her religious beliefs and serve certain types of weddings, including same-sex weddings.

“Ms. Nelson has a practice of ‘declin[ing] requests for wedding celebration and boutique editing services if the request required [her] to use [her] artistic talents to promote or positively portray anything immoral, dishonorable to God, or contrary to [her] religious beliefs’,” the DOJ stated.

Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Nelson, applauded the DOJ’s statement on Friday.

“Chelsey serves all people. But the Louisville government is trying to compel Chelsey’s speech, force her participation in ceremonies she objects to, and eliminate her editorial control over her photographs and blogs,” ADF senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs stated Feb. 28.

The “Metro Ordinance” in question, of Louisville city and Jefferson County, Kentucky, is an anti-discrimination ordinance for businesses and other places of “public accommodation, resort, or amusement.” Two of the protected categories under the law are “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Under the law, businesses cannot deny goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as other classes, nor can they post notices saying they could do so.

Nelson filed a complaint over the ordinance, saying that the city “is using the threat of limitless damages, compliance reports, posting of notices, and court orders” to compel business owners like her to “participate in solemn ceremonies she disagrees with—same-sex wedding ceremonies.”

The Metro Ordinance is an unconstitutional violation of free expression, DOJ argued.

“Photography,” the DOJ said, “is an expressive art form,” including at a wedding where the “photographer makes numerous artistic and viewpoint-based judgments” through which “to convey meaning and ideas through photography and editing.”

To compel a photographer “to create expression for and to participate in a ceremony that violates her sincerely held religious beliefs invades her First Amendment rights in a manner akin to the governmental intrusion in Hurley,” the DOJ said, referencing the 1995 case of Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc.

Scruggs said that he hopes the Supreme Court will take up the similar case of Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman in Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington as a companion to the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which concerns the city’s decision to sever ties with Catholic Social Services over access to foster placement for same-sex couples.

Stutzman has appealed to the Supreme Court for a second time after the Washington state supreme court again ruled against her early in 2019. She had been sued by the ACLU and the state for declining to serve a same-sex wedding.

“Without the Supreme Court’s intervention in Barronelle’s case,” Scruggs said, “state and local government officials will continue to threaten sincere people of faith like Barronelle and Chelsey with severe penalties for living out their beliefs in the public square.”

Last year, the Kentucky state Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian business owner who declined to serve an LGBT pride festival, and who was punished by a local government for discrimination.

Some Kansas nuns urge Medicaid expansion despite risk of taxpayer-funded abortions

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 16:41

Topeka, Kansas, Feb 28, 2020 / 02:41 pm (CNA).- Despite cautioning from the Kansas Catholic Conference that Medicaid expansion in the state could lead to more state-funded abortions, a group of 76 nuns in the state have signed a petition urging lawmakers to go ahead with the expansion as soon as possible.

“Expanding KanCare [Medicaid in Kansas] is a lifesaving measure,” the nuns wrote Feb. 25.

“Expansion increases access to high-quality care for those who would otherwise go without healthcare. We implore you to approve Medicaid expansion, because we cannot wait any longer to give Kansans the care they so desperately need.”

The nuns insisted that the Kansas legislature “listen to the will of the voters and pass Medicaid expansion without any strings attached.”

“It is morally unconscionable to play political games with the lives of Kansans, especially children, seniors, and people with disabilities,” the nuns wrote.

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, a national group and longtime supporter of Medicaid expansion, coordinated the letter.

There are currently an estimated 400,000 people enrolled in Medicaid in Kansas. The Medicaid expansion bill currently under consideration would extend eligibility to an additional 130,000 low-income adults and children, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Then-governor Sam Brownback vetoed Medicaid expansion in 2017, citing the budget crisis the state was experiencing at the time. The state’s new governor, Democrat Laura Kelly, made Medicaid expansion a key issue in her 2018 campaign.

The Kansas Catholic Conference, while supporting Medicaid expansion in the state, has expressly supported a constitutional amendment stating that abortion is not a “natural” constitutional right in Kansas – known as the “Value Them Both” amendment – as a precondition.

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, told CNA in an interview that she believes Kansas already has adequate protection against state funding for abortion without the proposed constitutional amendment. The letter makes no mention of abortion.

The impetus for the amendment is an April 2019 ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court blocking a law that would have banned dilation and evacuation abortions, which found that the state consitution protects a women’s right to have an abortion.

In light of the ruling, Republican lawmakers in the state are pushing for a constitutional amendment to ensure Medicaid funds do not go to elective abortions. The amendment has so far failed to garner the two-thirds majority support necessary in the state House.

The proposed amendment would condify that “the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.” Should the amendment gain support from two-thirds of the Kansas House, the subsequent referendum would take place during the state primaries in August.

Campbell pointed out that there is currently a Kansas statute on the books prohibiting state dollars being used for abortions.

While other states, such as California and Illinois, have chosen to use state dollars to fund abortions, "the state of Kansas hasn't chosen to do it."

"I'm not sure why they're so worried about this," she said.

"I think there's adequate protection already. Let's get Kansans the healthcare they need and stop the political posturing...Let's get people healthcare, and then let's see if there's even this risk that [the KCC] is afraid of.”

For his part, Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, remains adamant that the idea that Kansas could soon use state money to pay for elective abortions is not as far-fetched as Campell would have people believe.

The federal Hyde Amendment bars federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

At least 16 states,  not including Kansas, currently use their own funds to pay for additional abortions outside of those conditions.

According to records from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Medicaid in Kansas covered one abortion in 2014 and three in 2018, KCUR reported.

Despite this, pro-life advocates have noted that limits on publicly funded abortion through state Medicaid programs have been struck down by the state supreme courts of Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey, and overall, nine state Medicaid programs now cover elective abortions as the result of judicial rulings, according to National Review.

“It is disingenuous to put on political blinders and ignore the other elephant in the room so closely connected to this issue,” Weber said in an email to CNA.

“If Kansas passes Medicaid Expansion without the protection of the state constitutional amendment … then we are virtually assuring that taxpayer-funded abortion will become a reality in Kansas.”

The Special Committee on Medicaid Expansion, a joint House and Senate panel, held two days of hearings discussing an expansion of KanCare during November 2019.

Weber said in his Nov. 12 testimony that the conference cannot support Medicaid expansion unless it explicitly excludes the expansion of abortion coverage, includes conscience protections for healthcare organizations and individuals, and the state constitutional amendment is enacted to clarify that abortion is not a natural right.

Weber told CNA on Thursday that the KCC has contacted NETWORK to ask: “Why not help legislators to pass Value Them Both, which will then open the logjam to Medicaid Expansion in Kansas?”

“This is the authentically Catholic position, a classic win-win that helps save babies, protect women and provide healthcare to families,” Weber said.

For her part, Campbell reiterated to CNA that she sees the risk of Kansas taxpayer-funded abortions as small, and that for her “the urgency now is getting people healthcare."

"For me, what I see the Kansas [Catholic] Conference doing is stopping care for everybody else because they have a fear of what the Supreme Court might do. And this is anguish in my heart. We gotta care for the born, also. So let's deal with the born. Let's get 'em healthcare.”

Sr. Campbell has led the “Nuns on the Bus” advocacy campaign that has the support of the group Faith in Public Life and U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden. She also delivered a speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

NETWORK has, in the past, disagreed with the USCCB on support for various legislative efforts, including the extent to which the Affordable Care Act adequately forbade federal funding for abortion.

NETWORK also found itself at odds with the USCCB when it came out in support of the 2019 Equality Act, which has passed in the House, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the definition of "sex" in federal civil rights laws.

Klobuchar open to pro-life votes, not pro-life laws

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 15:00

Raleigh, N.C., Feb 28, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar would not say when she believes life begins when asked during a townhall event on Thursday evening. While repeating her openness to pro-life support, the senator explained that she is against proposed restrictions on abortion.

Sen. Klobuchar (D-Minn.), appearing at a townhall hosted by Fox News in Raleigh, North Carolina, was asked by moderator Martha MacCallum “At what point do you believe that life begins?” The senator had just explained her opposition to a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, proposed in the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which failed in the Senate this week.

“Again, I follow Roe v. Wade,” Klobuchar responded to the question on when life begins. “And what Roe v. Wade allows for is the protection of a woman’s decision to make a decision about her own life, and then of course by the third trimester there’s some limits on it.”

The Thursday evening event was held ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic Primary, and next week’s “Super Tuesday” polls, in which more than a dozen states around the country will vote for the Democratic presidential nominee.

Klobuchar has a pro-abortion record in the U.S. Senate, and supports taxpayer-funded abortion and the codification of Roe v. Wade in federal law. Despite these positions, earlier this month the senator attempted to distance herself from other Democratic candidates and said there was a place in the Democratic party for pro-life voters. Klobuchar offered to collaborate with other pro-life supporters to reduce the number of abortions.

On Thursday, she reiterated that she would welcome pro-life Democrat support but emphasized that “I am strongly pro-choice” and “I always have been.” She also affirmed her support for taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.

In 2019, the Trump administration finalized a rule clarifying that recipients of federal Title X family planning funds could not co-locate with abortion clinics, nor could they refer for abortions. Rather than comply with the new regulations, Planned Parenthood—the nation’s largest abortion provider—announced its withdrawal from the program.

The initial question to Klobuchar during the townhall came from Suzanne Balik, a computer science professor at N.C. State University speaking in her personal capacity as a “Democrat who cares about all life, including the unborn.”

“There are 21 million Democratic voters like me who believe in protection for unborn children,” she said to Klobuchar. “Do you think the Democratic Party should allow pro-life candidates to run for office, and if so, what steps would you take to include pro-life Democrats in the party?”

Klobuchar answered that “there’s a place in our party for a pro-life Democrat, there’s also a place in my support for pro-choice Republicans.”

However, she clarified, “I [would] be a pro-choice president.”

MacCallum brought up the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a ban on most abortions after 20 weeks based on when the unborn child can feel pain. The bill, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) fell seven votes short of the 60-vote threshold to be considered for passage this week.

Klobuchar, who was not in Washington, D.C. for this week’s vote, said that she would have joined the Democrats in stopping the bill. Only two Democratic senators voted to allow the bill to progress: Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

“Roe v Wade is now the law of the land, and a lot of these bills are attempts to change that,” Klobuchar said. “If I was president, I would work with Congress to actually try to codify Roe v. Wade into law.”

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List criticized Klobuchar’s answer, in a series of tweets on Friday.

“You can’t have it both ways, AmyKlobuchar,” the group’s Twitter account stated. “You claim there *is* room in the Democratic Party for ProLife Americans. But you can’t/won’t say when life begins. You voted NO on medical care for living, breathing babies. Why would any ProLife American vote for you?”

The senator voted against legislation in 2019 that would require that babies who survive botched abortion attempts be given the same standard of care as any other infants born at the same gestational age, and be admitted to a hospital. The bill would also have levied penalties on a doctor or health care worker who failed to provide that care. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would not punish the mother. 

SBA List said Klobuchar “hid behind the smokescreen of Roe v. Wade” in “claiming that it restricts abortion in the 3rd trimester.”

“It does nothing of the sort, and she knows it,” the group said.

While the Supreme Court’s Roe ruling allowed for restrictions on abortions past the point of fetal “viability,” the court’s “companion” ruling to Roe, the 1973 Supreme Court decision Doe v. Bolton, said that psychological and emotional health exceptions for the mother must be part of any post-viability restriction on abortion.

“This huge loophole ensures that in reality there are no real enforceable bans on even 3rd trimester abortions allowed under Roe & subsequent cases,” the group stated.

“Here’s the bottom line on Klobuchar: she is no moderate. She supports abortion-on-demand, all the way to birth, paid for by the taxpayer. Unless she flip-flops again, she doesn’t think there’s any room for pro-life Dems in the Party,” SBA List stated.

Brownback points to Nigeria, China and global spread of religious persecution

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 13:00

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- U.S. Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback has warned that religious persecution is spreading worldwide, and highlighted the examples of anti-Christian violence in Nigeria and a growing religious surveillance state in China.

Speaking to CNA on Thursday, Feb. 27, Ambassador Brownback highlighted the ongoing violence in Nigeria, where local Christians have been the victims of violent attacks and abductions.

Brownback said he is concerned the situation in Nigeria will spread to nearby countries if nothing is done to crack down on religious persecution. 

“There's a lot of people getting killed in Nigeria, and we're afraid it is going to spread a great deal in that region,” he told CNA. “It is one that's really popped up on my radar screens -- in the last couple of years, but particularly this past year.” 

In January, a Nigerian seminarian was abducted and murdered by militants, and several priests and seminarians have been abducted in the country. Brownback expressed frustration that the Nigerian government was not doing enough to protect religious groups. 

“I think we’ve got to prod the [Nigerian President Muhammadu] Buhari government more. They can do more,” he said. “They’re not bringing these people to justice that are killing religious adherents. They don’t seem to have the sense of urgency to act.” 

While he acknowledged that there had been “some pretty good meetings recently,” he predicted that religious persecution in Nigeria will continue to worsen unless the government takes concerted action. 

“We really think that they’ve got to act more,” he said, calling for dialogue between Muslims and Christians in the country, “really try to get them working together instead of killing each other.” 

“We need to engage the religious leaders more, to see if we can really start to tamp that down,” he said. 

Later in the day, Brownback spoke during a panel event titled “Without Religious Freedom, What’s Left?”  The event took place at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. 

“The problem is that [religious persecution] still grows and grows,” said Brownback during the event. “Eighty percent of the world's population is in a country that has religious persecution,” he said. 

“It's the most deadly time in the history of Christendom for you to be a Christian. There's more Christian persecution than any time in the history of mankind.”

“The future of oppression isn't going to look like what it looks like now,” said Brownback, highlighting the crackdown on religious practice in China. 

“The past, you'd see people locked up, killed for being a minority faith or this or that. The future of oppression is you're going to be marginalized in the society, that people are going to have your face, and they're going to know your DNA and they're gonna know who you are and you're not going to be able to participate [in society].” 

He cited China’s development of a “social credit” system over the last 10 years; the system has been used to track and punish religious minorities. If a person has a low social credit score, said Brownback, they could be prohibited from obtaining an education or living in a certain area. 

“And it won’t just be you. It will be your friends with you, if anyone pings your cell phone, that will be tracked and they’ll get the same low social credit score that you get. And these are the systems being modeled and worked on and done now today in China,” he said. 

The ambassador said that Congressional action against China had established limits on what kind of technology can be sent from the United States to China, and that the Trump administration is “very concerned about the use of technology” in the country. 

“The technology is amoral; it’s neither good nor bad, it’s technology,” said Brownback. “But what you do with it has a big moral component to it. And these are things--this is why, on my radar screen, that area of oppression and that growth of oppression and that nature is one of the most fearful things I see coming in this space.”

“And we've got to be active and we are active. We just got to do more,” said Brownback. 

China, he said, is “best in the world” at religious persecution and surveillance of religious groups, and has been engaged in a “war with faith.”

In responde, he said, the Trump administration is defending religious freedom “more than any administration has previously.” 

“And we consider [religious freedom] a God-given human right, not one that’s given by governments,” he said. Brownback applauded the Trump administration for organizing two ministerials on religious freedom, held in 2018 and 2019, calling them the largest human rights events ever held at the State Department. The 2020 ministerial on religious freedom will be held in Poland.

Diocese of Buffalo files for bankruptcy

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 12:10

Buffalo, N.Y., Feb 28, 2020 / 10:10 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Buffalo announced on Friday that it is declaring bankruptcy as hundreds of abuse lawsuits have been filed against it in the last several months.

The diocese said it was formally filing for Chapter 11 reorganization under the U.S. bankruptcy code to provide the most compensation for victims of clergy sex abuse while continuing the day-to-day work of its Catholic mission.

"Our decision to pursue Chapter 11 reorganization - arrived at after much prayer, discernment and consultation with the College of Consultors and our Diocesan Finance Council - is based on our belief that this approach will enable the most number of victim-survivors of past sexual abuse in achieving fairness and a sense of restorative justice for the harm they have experienced,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, the diocese’s apostolic administrator, said on Friday.

“It will also allow the vital, mission-driven work of faith that is so essential to the residents of Western New York to continue uninterrupted,” Scharfenberger said.

The announcement follows a year in which allegations of a cover-up of clergy sex abuse were made against the diocese. Following the opening of a window in the state statute of limitation last summer, hundreds of abuse lawsuits filed against the diocese in New York courts. Bishop Joseph Malone, who led the diocese from 2012 until last year, resigned in December, following a Vatican-ordered investigation of the diocese by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.

Not included in the bankruptcy filing are diocesan parishes and parochial elementary and secondary schools, as well as Catholic Charities of Buffalo, the diocese said, since these are separate legal entities.

One whistleblower in the diocese said the filing is not enough for clergy abuse victims, who want more than just financial compensation.

After the diocese in 2018 released a list of 42 priests accused of “criminal, abusive or inappropriate behavior,” Bishop Malone’s former executive assistant Siobahn O’Connor published documents apparently showing the number of accused priests was actually more than 100.

Speaking to CNA on Friday, O’Conner said “For me, this is a bankruptcy failing.”

“This is yet another way in which the Diocese of Buffalo has failed survivors. For decades, survivors have been silenced while abusive priests were shuffled as statutes of limitation ran out. Survivors were denied the chance for criminal prosecution and the justice that process would have allowed,” O’Conner said.

“Now the Child Victims Act has granted survivors the opportunity for civil prosecution against the Diocese - the institution that protected their abusers, but that institution is still focused on protecting itself. While I can’t say I’m surprised at today’s announcement given all that has occurred up to this point, I am still deeply disappointed in my diocese.”

New York’s 2019 Child Victims Act created a one-year “lookback” window where abuse victims could file lawsuits long after their statute of limitations had ended. The window opened in August, and more than 200 lawsuits have since been filed against the diocese.

Buffalo is the latest in a series of American dioceses to file for bankruptcy. 

In September, 2019, the diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy after lawsuits were filed under the Child Victims Act. Four dioceses in Minnesota have also filed for bankruptcy after a state law there lifted the statute of limitations on old abuse cases for a three-year window. The bankruptcy filings would enable the dioceses to compensate victims while continuing their ministries, the dioceses said.

Friday’s news is the latest in an ongoing series of stories concerning the Buffalo diocese.

Before his resignation in December, Bishop Malone faced accusations that he kept priests in active ministry who had been credibly accused of abuse, and shielded abuse allegations from the public eye.

In August, Malone’s secretary Fr. Ryszard Biernat leaked audio of a confidential conversation where Malone appeared to believe accusations made against a diocesan priest concerning the grooming of a seminarian. Months later, the accused priest was still in active ministry and Malone was recorded expressing fear that, if allegations of a “love triangle” between the accused priest, the seminarian, and Fr. Biernat were made public, “this could be the end for me as bishop.”

A Vatican investigation into the diocese was conducted in October by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. Following Malone’s resignation, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany was appointed by Pope Francis to oversee the diocese until a replacement was named. Earlier this month, Scharfenberger announced the decision to close Buffalo’s Christ the King Seminary. The seminary was reportedly facing an annual $500 million average deficit over a period of a decade.

In its bankruptcy filing documents, reported by WKBW, the diocese estimated its assets to total between $10 and 50 million, with its liabilities exceeding $50 million.

Archbishop Hebda warns priests against voting in Super Tuesday primary

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 19:20

St. Paul, Minn., Feb 27, 2020 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- Catholic priests in Minnesota have been advised not to vote in the state’s March 3 Super Tuesday presidential primary, because there is no guarantee their partisan ballot choice will be kept private, and because primary voting in the state requires voters to express support for a party’s principles.

Minnesota Catholic Conference staff have told the state’s bishops that clerical participation in the primary election is “imprudent.”
“As priests are, generally, discouraged from participating in partisan political activities, Minnesota Catholic Conference staff advised the bishops of Minnesota that, in light of the possibility that the information related to a priest’s participation and ballot selection could be made public, that it would be imprudent to for them to participate in this particular primary process,” Catholic conference executive director Jason Adkins said in a statement sent to CNA Feb. 27.
Guidance from bishops to their priests on this matter is “within their purview,” said Adkins, whose organization represents the bishops of Minnesota on public policy initiatives.
Only ballots for the Republican Party and the Democratic-Farmer Labor Party, the state party affiliated with the national Democratic Party, are available for primary voters to choose from.
While the candidate a voter chooses in a Minnesota primary is secret, political party chairs are able to know which primary individual voters chose to vote in during the presidential primary.

Archbishop Bernie Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis warned in an email to priests and deacons that because of the state’s policies, “nothing prevents party affiliation from being made public.”
Hebda emphasized that there is no tax-related ban on clergy voting in primaries and clergy can endorse candidates in their individual capacities.
“But the possibility that the data may become public should discourage clergy from participating,” said Hebda. “If the law were different and protected privacy, maybe the calculus would change.”
“it could be seen as ‘partisan’ political activity to align oneself with a party and to vote in its primary, which the Church generally discourages clergy from doing for evangelical reasons, more so than tax ones,” said Hebda.
According to Adkins, “most of the clergy to whom we’ve spoken about the matter were grateful for the archbishop’s guidance because it apprised them about something to which they’d not given thought and also helpfully laid out important information and considerations.”
Katherine Cross, communications director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, told CNA that the state’s presidential primary process “requires participants to attest to a party’s principles” as a condition for voting.
This limits participation to “those who are willing to publicly attest general agreement with the platform of one of the major parties here in Minnesota,” Adkins’ statement said. The change aimed to separate the primary from the party caucus process and to protect both events’ integrity as partisan events.
Adkins noted that legislators are considering whether to change the process to ensure that a voter’s primary ballot choice remains private.
DFL Rep. Ray Dehn of Minneapolis has proposed a bill to restrict party access to voter data. The bill proposes that political parties may not use the data for any purposes beyond certifying that the primary elections are free of widespread interference.
“It absolutely is a legitimate concern,” Dehn told ABC News television affiliate KSTP. “We've heard from not just tax-exempt groups and nonprofits but clergy don't want that information available.”
The bill passed the DFL-controlled House of Representatives late Wednesday night.
DFL Gov. Tim Walz has said there is time to act before data is shared after the election.
“There’s folks that work really hard in positions where they're non-partisan judges, clergy and others that don't want to be in this position and I am with them on that,” he told reporters Feb. 26.

It is not clear whether the Republican-controlled State Senate will pass a bill to change the law and Minnesota Republican Party chair Jennifer Carnahan has opposed changes because voting is already underway, KSTP reported.
On March 3, Minnesota joins thirteen other states and the U.S. territory of American Samoa in what is commonly called the Super Tuesday primary. Primary victories in the contested race for the Democratic presidential nomination will determine how candidates will split 1,357 party delegates, a key prize towards securing the majority of about 4,000 delegates needed to win the nomination.
The Minnesota primary for other elected offices will be held in August.
Adkins’ statement elaborated on concerns about partisan activity by priests.
“Counseling the avoidance of partisan political activity helps ensure that the priest retains an identity as a credible witness of the Gospel,” said Adkins.

“Especially in light of the political polarization and identity politics of today, the ability of a priest to form consciences for faithful citizenship in light of the appropriate principles depends, in part, on his ability to transcend the partisan divide and not have his catechesis tainted by the suspicion of partisanship.”
“Inevitably, addressing particular moral questions and public debates will strike some as partisan regardless of intent, but it remains important to cast the Church’s social teaching as principled, and never partisan,” said Adkins.
Minnesota Catholic Conference staff are also barred from participating in partisan political activity, Adkins said.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law bars Catholic clerics from assuming public offices which entail the exercise of civil power. It bars priests from “an active part in political parties and in governing labor unions” unless ecclesiastical authority judges it necessary to protect the rights of the Church or to promote the common good.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the February 2020 digital edition of their document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” describes “complementary roles in public life” for clergy and lay people. Church leaders “avoid endorsing or opposing candidates” while fulfilling responsibilities to teach moral fundamentals, to help Catholics form their consciences, and to encourage the faithful to do their duties in political life.
“The Church is involved in the political process but is not partisan. The Church cannot champion any candidate or party. Our cause is the defense of human life and dignity and the protection of the weak and vulnerable,” the document said.
The U.S. bishops’ Office of General Counsel in August 2018 published guidelines for Catholic organizations on political activity and lobbying. The document runs to 45 pages.

Friend of Jean Vanier ‘heartbroken’ for abuse victims, but hopeful for the future of L’Arche

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 18:35

Denver, Colo., Feb 27, 2020 / 04:35 pm (CNA).- On the news that Jean Vanier, Catholic founder of L’Arche International, has been credibly accused of serially sexually abusing women, Professor Stanley Hauerwas said he is “devastated.”

“That is the way anyone must feel on hearing the news of Jean Vanier’s sexual misconduct,” Hauerwas said in comments to CNA. “Vanier was supposed to be different and in many ways he was. But the difference makes his behavior all the more devastating. He should have known better,” he added.

Hauerwas, a world renowned theologian with joint appointments at Duke Divinity School and Duke Law School, was a personal friend of Vanier, who died at the age of 90 on May 7, 2019.

Vanier was the once-revered founder of L’Arche, an international community of people with intellectual disabilities and their supporters, and of Faith and Light, an ecumenical Christian association of prayer and friendship for those with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Last April, L’Arche commissioned GCPS, an independent U.K. consultancy specializing in the reporting of exploitation and abuse to investigate allegations related to Fr. Thomas Philippe, an abusive Dominican priest sanctioned by Church authorities in 1956, whom Vanier described as his “spiritual mentor.”

On Feb. 22, 2020, L’Arche International published the results of the investigation, detailing “credible and consistent” accounts of sexual misconduct by Vanier against six adult women without disabilities in the context of spiritual direction.

Hauerwas said he considered Vanier a friend and mentor, and is “heartbroken by this revelation of his terrible misconduct and utterly condemn it as an abuse of power.”

Hauerwas noted that Vanier seems to have convinced himself the abuse was consensual, which he said was “some desperate attempt to justify his actions. Which is but a reminder that self-deception often is the result of trying to make sense of our lives and why we all need accountability, especially those held in high esteem.” 

“One suspects his gentleness allowed him to get away with anything but his actions involving the women were anything but gentle,” he said.

Still, Hauerwas said he is “indebted” to Vanier for what he taught him about how to love and care for disabled people, and he hopes that the good of L’Arche’s work will not be lost along with the revelations of abuse.

“So much of (Vanier’s) life was morally exemplary. That is one of the problems. How can we continue to learn from his witness with his intellectually disabled friends without excusing his predatory sexual behavior? At this time when we are trying to receive this devastating news the only advice I have is not to be in a hurry to answer that question,” he said.

Rather than rush to decisions, Hauerwas urged those effected by the report to pray.

“We must pray first for the women he betrayed,” he said. “We must pray for the members of the L’Arche movement. We must pray for ourselves that God will help us to carry on the work of L’Arche because that work is, in and of itself, independent of the actions of its founder.”

He added that the international L'Arche community “are proving to be quite extraordinary in terms of how they're responding and how they have responded.”

L’Arche International has set up an additional centralized reporting procedure for any further information that people may wish to report. Any such information will be received by a task force composed of people outside of L’Arche.

“I continue to believe that in those homes the glory of God is manifest for all to see.”

US Religious Freedom Commission calls India riots 'brutal and unchecked violence'

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called on the Indian government to halt ongoing anti-Muslim violence in Delhi, home of India's capital. 

Approximately 27 people have been killed and more than 200 were injured in a series of riots in northeastern Delhi that began on Sunday. The riots started over a new citizenship law which forbids Muslim immigrants from obtaining Indian citizenship. The BBC reported that Hindu mobs targeted unarmed people, and both Hindus and Muslims have been killed in the ensuing violence. 

“The brutal and unchecked violence growing across Delhi cannot continue. The Indian government must take swift action to ensure the safety of all its citizens,” said USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava in a statement released Wednesday. 

Bhargava cited reports that police in Delhi have allowed riots to continue and said that the Indian government “is failing in its duty to protect its citizens.” 

“These incidents are even more concerning in the context of efforts within India to target and potentially disenfranchise Muslims across the country, in clear violation of international human rights standards.” 

About 14% of India’s population is Muslim. The country is approximately 80% Hindu. 

Tony Perkins, chairman of the USCIRF, echoed Bhargava’s concerns, and said that the “reported attacks against Muslims, their homes and ships, and their houses of worship are greatly disturbing.” 

Perkins said the Indian government was facing a test of the basic functions of responsible leadership. 

“One of the essential duties of any responsible government is to provide protection and physical security for its citizens, regardless of faith. We urge the Indian government to take serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence,” he said Wednesday. 

President Donald Trump visited India this week. While in the country, he hosted a rally and met with the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Modi, the leader of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said in December, 2019, that the new citizenship bill was not anti-Muslim. 

In the USCIRF’s 2019 Annual Report, India was listed as a “Tier 2” country, designating it as a country with at least some “systemic, ongoing, egregious standard” of religious-based discrimination that would merit a country being labeled a “country of particular concern.” 

The commission’s report said India's “history of religious freedom has come under attack in recent years with the growth of exclusionary extremist narratives—including, at times, the government’s allowance and encouragement of mob violence against religious minorities—that have facilitated an egregious and ongoing campaign of violence, intimidation, and harassment against non-Hindu and lower-caste Hindu minorities. Both public and private actors have engaged in this campaign.”

Religious sisters back pro-abortion primary challenger to Lipinski

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 14:15

Chicago, Ill., Feb 27, 2020 / 12:15 pm (CNA).- Two Catholic religious sisters on Wednesday expressed their support for a pro-abortion primary challenger to one of the last remaining pro-life Democrats in Congress. 

The campaign of Marie Newman, a Democratic candidate running in a primary against Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois’ third congressional district, posted a video on Twitter Wednesday featuring two religious sisters—Sisters Patricia Murphy and JoAnn Persch of the Sisters of Mercy—endorsing Newman’s bid for Congress. 

In the video, Sister Patricia Murphy cited Newman’s “incredible power to listen to people” as a reason for her support.

JoAnn Persch and Pat Murphy are Sisters of Mercy, and have fought for social justice and human rights for decades. They are two more voices for Marie, a real Democrat with real solutions for #IL03. #NewDayInIL03

— Marie Newman (@Marie4Congress) February 26, 2020

In the video, Sister JoAnn Persch said that she first met Newman “in front of Congressman Lipinski’s office” and saw her again at a local “march against hate,” but had “never met Congressman Dan Lipinski personally” in her time working in the district.

“I will respond by voting for Marie Newman,” Persch said. Murphy said in the video that Newman “will make a great congresswoman and she has my vote.”

Newman is mounting her second consecutive primary challenge to Rep. Lipinski, opposing his views on life and marriage issues while boasting of her support from pro-abortion groups. 

Lipinski, a Catholic is an eight-term member of Congress and widely known as one of the few remaining pro-life Democrats in a federal office. He is supported by pro-life groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List and National Right to Life. 

Lipinski has worked across the aisle to support pro-life measures, including signing a petition to force a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act which would require medical care for infants who survive a botched abortion attempt. He cosponsored a “pain-capable” 20-week abortion ban in 2017, has voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and has voted against taxpayer funding of abortion. 

Newman, his challenger, has the support of several pro-abortion groups, including EMILYs List, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and Planned Parenthood. She supports taxpayer-funded abortion.

In a video during her 2018 campaign, Newman said she was “so proud, and pleased” to accept NARAL’s endorsement and thanked the group “for all the amazing work you do at the local level and at the national level.”

“For too long, my opponent, Mr. Lipinski, has thrown reproductive freedom and women’s rights under the bus,” Newman said, adding that she would work to promote “women’s rights, worker’s rights, working family’s rights, health care for all, immigrants and LGBTQ folks, and Americans.”

Newman narrowly lost to Lipinski in the 2018 Democratic primary for the third congressional district, which is a safely-Democratic district.

In May 2019, NARAL announced that it was once again endorsing Newman, along with Planned Parenthood Action Fund and EMILY’s List. Lipinski, the group said, was known for “siding with anti-choice activists and supporting a bigoted agenda.” Newman said in a statement that she was “honored” to receive their support.

On Monday, a coalition of pro-abortion groups including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and EMILY’s List, announced they would devote $1.4 million to advertising to target Lipinski’s pro-life record.

The coalition’s “independent expenditures” project would involve direct mail, television ad buys and digital ads, and would “highlight” Lipinski’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act and its contraceptive mandate, support for defunding Planned Parenthood, and support for overturning Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court, among other matters.

The sisters endorsing Newman are members of the Sisters of Mercy, which has a West/Midwest community with a “central administrative center” based in Omaha, Nebraska, and a satellite location in Chicago. According to the order’s website, Sister Patricia Murphy entered the order in 1947 and is a 70-year jubilarian. She has worked in education in Illinois and Wisconsin, and in Peru.

Persch and Murphy have been advocates for immigrants’ rights, starting the Su Casa Catholic Worker house for survivors of torture from Central America and holding regular prayer vigils outside the Chicago office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since 2007.

Their immigration advocacy took them to Washington, D.C. in 2019 when Sister Pat Murphy was among a group of demonstrators arrested at the Russell Senate Office Building. The group was protesting the treatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and the practice of child immigrant detention.

In a statement to CNA on Thursday, the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas said it “does not endorse any political candidates.”

“Political endorsements made by any individual sisters represent their own personal views,” the statement read.

The religious sisters’ endorsement of Newman is not the first prominent 2020 political endorsement by a priest or religious. Fr. Frank Pavone, a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, is the co-chair of President Trump’s 2020 pro-life campaign outreach.

Newman has drawn distinctions between herself and Lipinski on other issues apart from abortion. 

She has supported Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal, and opposed a 2017 tax law which Lipinski also voted against. She had attacked Lipinski for not supporting the Equality Act in 2019, a bill that would create protected classes in federal law for sexual orientation and gender identity and which forbade sex discrimination—a prohibition that pro-life groups warned would be interpreted by the courts to overturn abortion regulations.

Lipinski initially opposed the Equality Act but ultimately voted for it, saying that “all Americans deserve equal treatment under the law and should have these rights protected, including individuals in the LGBT community.”

The congressman has also said he still has religious freedom concerns about the bill, and that it could override the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Lipinski has said that “before [the Equality Act] becomes law, we must do more to ensure religious liberty.”

Relics of Ss. Louis, Zelie Martin find home in parish named for daughter Therese

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 05:01

Lansing, Mich., Feb 27, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Fr. John Fain is getting the 19th-century family of St. Therese back together.

Well, sort of.

First-class relics of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, the recently canonized parents of St. Therese, have found a new home in a parish named for their daughter in Lansing, Michigan.

Fr. John Fain of St. Therese parish told CNA that the relics will be encased in a display case along with a relic of St. Therese, and a print of the whole family. All five of the children who survived childhood became religious sisters.

Fain said he hopes the relics inspire greater devotion to St. Therese herself, along with devotion to her family.

“What St. Therese is known for is The Little Way, and it's doing small things with great love,” Fain said. “Her parents, I think, taught her that.”

“They were people who went to daily Mass, they practiced fasting, they regularly checked out for the neighbors, people in the neighborhood that were struggling. They would take them food and other things. They comforted the sick of their neighborhood and just lived a very joyful family life,” he added.

Fain said he was inspired to ask for relics of Louis and Zelie after ordering a print of an icon of the Martin family.

“I happened to buy a picture of the family of St. Therese of Lisieux and her parents and the entire family, including the children who had died. It just sort of occurred to me, 'Wow, this would be really neat to have the relics here too.'”

But obtaining relics is no easy process. Fain petitioned Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing to see if he could get relics of Louis and Zelie for the parish, thinking it would take several years.

Boyea put the chancellor of the diocese, Michael Andrews, on the task of obtaining the relics, Fain said. Andrews, who speaks several languages, contacted the head of Carmelite order in Rome to ask about obtaining relics of Louis and Zelie.

“That's the only place you could get the relics from. It's actually very hard to get relics anymore. It used to be somewhat easy, but there's been so many abuses and trafficking in relics that basically you can only get one,” Fain said.

Fain said he believes his parish is one of the only places in the world to have first-class relics of Louis and Zelie, as they are recently canonized saints, and relics are a rarity.

First-class relics are fragments of the body of the saint, such as bone, flesh, or hair. Fain said he thinks the relics of Zelie and Louis are pieces of bone.

Anything touched to a first-class relic of a saint, like a rosary or a holy card, becomes a third-class relic. Fain added, “I think that's pretty exciting in itself.”

Before they were married, both Louis and Zelie desired religious vocations. But both were turned away - Louis was rejected from seminary because he didn’t know Latin, and Zelie from a religious community because she had poor health. Louis then became a watchmaker, and Zelie a lacemaker. They had nine children, only five of whom survived childhood.

Zelie died from cancer at the age of 46, leaving Louis to care for the children alone, including Therese, who was four at the time. Louis died in 1894, after suffering two strokes in 1889.

The couple’s desire for holiness despite being turned down from religious vocations can be observed in the way they lived their family life, Fain said, and in a way, their home became “like a small convent in a lot of ways.”

“It's just obvious that that's what God's intention was for their vocation was to be a married couple who shared their family life with their children,” Fain said.

Sts. Louis and Zelie were canonized Oct. 18, 2015 by Pope Francis - the first-ever married couple to be canonized together. Another married couple, Bl. Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, were beatified together in October 2001.

Fain said he hopes the relics and life of the Martin family can show his parishioners that “spirituality doesn't have to be a complicated thing. A lot of people are overwhelmed by the great saints and sometimes have a hard time relating to them, but St. Therese is one that I think everyone can relate to.”

He said he also hoped that couples were inspired to see their marriages as holy vocations as well.

“I think a lot of times married couples don't see themselves as living a vocation. When they think of vocations, they think of priests or deacons or religious men and women, but they don't really consider being married a religious vocation,” Fain said.

“The state of marriage is definitely in crisis. It's in crisis in our country, but it's also in crisis in the Church itself. I think by looking at a couple such as Louis and Zélie and by learning from their merits and example...again that it doesn't have to be an extraordinary thing. It can just be living a good saintly life in a simple way. That's ultimately how they made it to heaven. I think that can be a great hope for married couples,” he said.

Fain added that Bishop Boyea plans to visit the parish on Corpus Christi to bless people individually with the relic. The relics can also be removed from their display case by request for those hoping to touch rosaries, holy cards, or other objects to the relics.

Denver archbishop requests fasting, prayer for victims of sexual abuse

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 20:01

Denver, Colo., Feb 26, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- For the second year, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver is inviting all the faithful of the local Church to offer prayers and fasting for victims of sexual abuse on the first Friday of Lent, Feb. 28.

“We have made significant progress in addressing this grave evil within the Church, but we cannot let that progress cause us to forget the psychological, physical and spiritual wounds it has caused,” Aquila wrote in a recent letter.

“On this designated day once per year, I would urge you to also fast and set aside some extra moments of prayer and penance.”

The Catholic bishops of Colorado announced during October 2019 an independent reparation and reconciliation program that will provide for victims of clerical abuse in the dioceses who were minors at the time the abuse occurred.

The program followed the release of a report issued after a seven-month investigation conducted by a former U.S. Attorney, Bob Troyer. Colorado’s bishops and the state’s attorney general decided mutually to support the investigation, which was funded by an anonymous donor.

In a letter to priests issued Oct. 22, Aquila wrote that after reading the report, “my feelings have ranged from deep sadness for the victims, to anger at the perpetrators, to compassion and solidarity for the victims, and profound sorrow for the Church and her clergy to have to experience this. It has led me to understand in a deeper way the reality of sin and evil, which can affect any one of us at any time.”

In a letter to Denver Catholics, Aquila praised “the courage of the survivors who have shared the stories of their abuse.”

The Catholic Bishops of Australia during February 2018 called on the Catholic community to make the first four days of Lent a period of fasting and reparation in sorrow for the “tragedy” of child sex abuse within the Church, Vatican News reported at the time.

Pope Francis called during 2018 for every member of the Catholic Church to pray and fast in penance for the evil of clerical sex abuse, and to be involved in needed change within the Church.

“The only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God,” Francis wrote Aug. 20, 2018.

Florida man tackles deacon during anticipated Mass

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 19:00

Miami, Fla., Feb 26, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- It took ten parishioners to restrain Thomas Eisel after he attacked a deacon during an anticipated Mass on Saturday.

Deacon George Labelle was tackled by Eisel, 28, while the clergyman offered a homily Feb. 22 at St. Coleman Catholic Church in Pompano Beach, about 40 miles north of Miami.

“The Archdiocese is grateful no one was seriously injured during this frightening incident. The immediate response from parishioners allowed the deacon to continue with the Mass,” the Archdiocese of Miami said, according to the Miami Herald.

“Hopefully, the young man receives the care and help he needs.”

According to security footage, Eisel stood up from a front-row pew and charged the deacon with his head down. It took at least 10 people to separate Eisel from Labelle and then subdue the attacker, the Miami Herald reported.

Eisel has been arrested and charged with an account of battery and disturbing the peace. Because of a probation violation in Volusia County, a Broward County judge has ordered that Eisel be held without bond. The attacker had previously been convicted of battery after attacking a 65-year-old in 2017.

The deacon is reportedly okay and only left with a few bruises. According to the Miami Herald, he said the attack “blind-sided” and surprised him, but that he was grateful for the parishioners’ intervention.

“It’s great, so comforting to know there were people there ... it was a relief,” he said.

According to the Miami Herald, deputies said that Eisel admitted to trying to hurt the deacon, but no information about an incentive behind the attack has been released.

Steve Feeley, an off-duty Broward County officer, was sitting a few rows behind the perpetrator. He told WSVN that Eisel had looked suspicious and agitated.

“You know, he was very [fidgety],” Feeley said. “He was giving thumbs up to people, giving thumbs up during the service to the priest on the altar. He was just rocking back and forth. He stood up and made a beeline for the deacon. I didn’t anticipate him going over and literally tackling the deacon right in the middle of the service, but that’s what he did, and myself and a bunch of other people from St. Coleman’s were able to get him down.”

After Eisel was separated from the deacon, the parishioners held down the 28-year-old man. Feeley, his wife, and Tim Gilmore, another parishioner attending the service, were a few of these men and women who provided help, WSVN reported.

“We were not going to let him up under any circumstances, and there were people that were sitting on him,” Feeley said. “My wife was sitting on his legs.”

“Naturally they want [to] try to defend him. You don’t know what’s going through the guy’s mind,” Gilmore said. “You don’t know whether he’s got a knife or something.”

ACLU lawsuit targets 'sanctuary cities' for the unborn

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 14:00

Austin, Texas, Feb 26, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday filed lawsuits against seven Texas cities that have declared themselves “sanctuary cities” for unborn children.

The cities of Waskom, Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, Rusk, Gary, and Wells have all passed ordinances declaring that abortion will be illegal in the cities if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, although no criminal punishments would be imposed upon the mother.

The ACLU complaint states that while the ordinances banning abortion cannot be enforced under Roe v. Wade, they go further and list pro-abortion organizations as “criminal organizations.”

The ordinance of the City of Naples states that “Organizations that perform abortions and assist others in obtaining abortions are declared to be criminal organizations.” It lists as criminal organizations Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equality, and Texas Equal Access Fund, among other groups.

The ACLU of Texas filed suit against the ordinances at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

“As a result of being designated criminal, Plaintiffs are prohibited from operating, speaking, and associating within these cities,” the ACLU’s complaint states.

In a statement to CNA, Pastor Mark Lee Dickson, the director of Right to Life of East Texas, called the legal action "a meritless lawsuit brought to deter and intimidate cities from enacting these ordinances, which are entirely constitutional and consistent with the laws of Texas."

"We have a legal team ready to defend these ordinances at no charge to the cities, and we are prepared to defend all other cities that enact these laws at no charge to the taxpayers," Dickson said.

"We are eager to defend these ordinances in court. With the new membership on the Supreme Court, we welcome court challenges to abortion laws that will weaken and lead to the eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade."

The pro-life “sanctuary city” movement began last June when the Waskom City Council voted 5-0 to ban surgical and medical abortions.

Since then, ten other cities in Texas have adopted similar ordinances, all of them banning surgical and medical abortions and some banning the sale of emergency contraception. Four of the cities—Colorado City, Westbrook, Gilmer, and Big Spring—are not mentioned in the ACLU lawsuit.

All of the ordinances include clauses protecting the mother of an aborted child from punishment.

The group Texas Right to Life said the lawsuit is “a hodgepodge of complaints” and is “selectively targeting smaller cities that have passed the ordinance.”

The seven cities “acted within their constitutional rights to self-governance and within the scope of current U.S. Supreme Court abortion jurisprudence,” the group stated.

In addition to the 11 “sanctuary cities,” 12 more Texas cities are considering similar ordinances.

Some of the ordinances include the sale of emergency contraception on the list of banned practices.

While not all Christians believe that the morning-after pill is an abortifacient, the Catholic Church recognizes the pill as an abortifacient if it prevents a fertilized embryo from implanting in the woman’s uterus.

The Church teaches that, for victims of rape, use of emergency contraception can be morally licit to prevent conception as a means of self-defense, if testing determines that conception has not occurred by the time of usage.

'Repent and accept the Gospel' Trumps say in Ash Wednesday statement

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 11:00

Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump issued a presidential message on Wednesday, Feb. 26, acknowledging Ash Wednesday and offering prayers for everyone observing Lent. 

The Trumps said in the message that they wished “everyone observing Ash Wednesday a peaceful and prayerful day.” 

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the liturgical season of Lent, during which Catholics observe a time of repentance and preparation for Easter through the practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 

“Today, millions of Christians will be marked on their foreheads with the sign of the cross. The imposition of ashes is an invitation to spend time during Lent fasting, praying, and engaging in acts of charity,” said the statement from the Trumps.

“This powerful and sacred tradition reminds us of our shared mortality, Christ’s saving love, and the need to repent and accept the Gospel more fully,” they said. 

The president and first lady offered prayers for everyone who is observing Ash Wednesday, and said they wished everyone a “prayerful Lenten journey.” 

“May you grow closer to God in your faith during this blessed season,” said the message. 

This is the first time the Trumps have issued a message concerning Ash Wednesday. The last presidential message on Ash Wednesday was released in 2016 by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. 

In addition to prayers for those observing Lent, the Obamas extended prayers to “all those who suffer, including those Christians who are subjected to unspeakable violence and persecution for their faith.”

Catholics must reject social media anti-Semitism, Indiana bishop says

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 22:00

Fort Wayne, Ind., Feb 25, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Church has “firmly condemned” anti-Semitism, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana said Feb. 19, warning against theological errors and “false and hateful” rhetoric against Jews on social media.

“Unfortunately, there has been a rise in recent years of anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic rhetoric in our society,” the bishop said in a statement published in the diocesan newspaper Today's Catholic. “Further, there have been incidents of violence incited by hateful speech about Jews. The Church has firmly condemned such rhetoric and violence. Those who speak of Jews as our enemies are mistaken.”

“Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have consistently referred to our Jewish brothers and sisters as 'friends' whom we love and esteem, not as enemies or adversaries whom we reject,” he said. “Language matters. Language that incites animosity is harmful.”

Bishop Rhoades did not mention specific incidents or personalities.

In October 2018, a gunman attacked the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh during morning Shabbat services. Shouting anti-Semitic slogans, the attacker killed eight men and three women. He also injured six others, including four policemen. He was wounded and surrendered to police. He had previously posted anti-Semitic comments and criticized Jewish aid for migrants, whom he denigrated as “invaders.”

In Poway, California in April 2019, a shooter attacked Chabad of Poway Synagogue on the last day of Passover. The attacker killed one woman and injured three people, including the rabbi. The attacker had published an anti-Semitic manifesto before the attack, and also claimed responsibility for an arson attack on a California mosque.

In December 2019 in Jersey City, New Jersey two gunmen shot and killed four people, including two Orthodox Jews, at a cemetery and kosher supermarket. Local authorities said preliminary evidence indicated the suspects held views that reflected hatred against Jews.

Bishop Rhoades' comments warned of errors and hateful rhetoric about Jews.

“Some writers today do not present Jews or Judaism in a respectful or theologically correct manner,” he said. “In this age of social media, people read or listen to all kinds of opinions expressed about Judaism and the Jewish people on internet blogs, websites, and the like. Some are filled with false and hateful rhetoric, opposed to the very spirit of Christianity. As Catholics, we must reject any that express, or can lead to, contempt for Jews.”

To this, Rhoades added “the Catholic Church offers no shelter to anti-Jewish bias, regardless of its content or expression. This applies to racist statements against Jews, to anti-Semitism, or to any religious opinion that denigrates Jews or Judaism.”

Rhoades acknowledged disagreement between Christians and Jews on matters of faith, “but such disagreements need not imply hostility,” he said.

“The only truly Christian attitude towards the Jewish people is an attitude of respect, esteem, and love,” Rhoades continued. “As members of God’s family, we are bound to one another in His plan of salvation.”

He described a November 2019 gathering at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Fort Wayne, where over 1,000 Jews and Christians gathered for the “Violins of Hope” event. The event's musical instruments included violins used by Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps and both Jewish and Catholic choirs sang. The audience prayed the Psalms together.

This event, said Rhoades, “brought us tears of both sadness and joy — sadness at the horrors of the Holocaust, and joy at the love we share as brothers and sisters, drawn together by a common spiritual patrimony.”

The bishop also delivered a theological and historical reflection.

“We recognize that the anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism of past centuries contributed to the rise of the Nazi project to exterminate Jews,” he said. He cited the Second Vatican Council's document Nostra Aetate, which condemned “all hatreds, persecutions, displays of antisemitism leveled at any time or from any source against the Jews.” The document urged careful catechesis and preaching about Jews.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches “The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Testament,” the bishop said.

“We must never forget that Judaism was the religion of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the apostles, and of the early disciples who spread the good news of Christ to the world,” said Rhoades. “The four gospels were written by Jews, about a Jew and originally for a Jewish readership. The Jewish people, then, are Jesus’ own family.”

“Though many Jews did not accept the Gospel or opposed its spreading, they were not thereby rejected by God,” said the bishop, who emphasized the Second Vatican Council's rejection of the claim that all Jews were “Christ-killers”

“Even though the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (cf. John 19:6), neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his passion,” Nostra Aetate said.

Rhoades noted that the Catholic Catechism teaches that all human beings are responsible for the death of Jesus.

“The Jews are not our enemies. We are bound together with them in friendship as brothers and sisters in the family of God,” said Rhoades.

He invoked the example of Pope Francis' 2016 visit to the synagogue of Rome. The pope's remarks stressed as fundamental to inter-religious dialogue the Christian and Jew's encounter of each other “as brothers and sisters before our Creator,” their praise for God, and their mutual respect, appreciation, and attempts at cooperation.

“This is especially important as the Church and the Jewish communities continue to address religious and ethical questions that both face in a world intent upon challenging religious freedom,” Rhoades said. “Jews and Christians can impact society profoundly when they stand together on key issues such as the sanctity of human life, immigration reform, health care, human trafficking and world peace.”

“Even as we Catholics profess our belief in Christ as the Messiah, the Son of God, and Savior of the world, we also recognize God’s unfailing, steadfast love for His chosen people, Israel,” the bishop said. In our mission of preaching Christ to the world, we do not dismiss or reject the spiritual treasures of the Jewish people.”

“Let us give thanks to God for the growth in trust and friendship established between Catholics and Jews since the Second Vatican Council,” the bishop's statement concluded. “May the Lord accompany us on our journey of friendship and bless us with His peace!”


US Supreme Court rules in favor of border patrol agent in cross-border shooting

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 21:19

Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2020 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- The US Supreme Court has issued a ruling in the case of a border patrol agent who shot and killed a Mexican boy across the border a decade ago. The court ruled 5-4 in favor of the agent, finding that court precedent allowing lawsuits against federal officers do not apply to cross-border shootings.

At the U.S.-Mexico border in 2010, three Mexican boys were playing a game of “chicken” by seeing who would run the closest to the border. Fifteen-year-old Sergio Hernandez crossed the border, and border patrol agent Jesus Mesa Jr. noticed him.

As Hernandez ran back into a culvert between the walls on either side of the border, the agent fired two shots, one of which struck Hernandez in the face and killed him.

Mesa claimed the boys were engaged in an illegal border-crossing attempt, and also that they were throwing rocks at him.

The Justice Department conducted an investigation of the incident and found that, while expressing regret over the boy’s death, Mesa had not violated policy or training, and the DOJ declined to bring charges against him.

Mexico requested that Mesa be extradited for the killing, but the Obama administration refused. Hernandez’s family sued for damages, claiming that the Fourth Amendment protects against such use of force on the border.

The Supreme Court had begun hearing oral arguments in the case during February 2017, and at that time declined to rule on the case. Oral arguments began again during November 2019.

The Fourth Circuit had dismissed the case, saying, “the plaintiffs fail to allege a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and that the Fifth Amendment right asserted by the plaintiffs was not clearly established at the time of the complained-of incident.” That court also ruled that as a Mexican citizen on Mexican soil, Hernandez was not entitled to Fourth Amendment protection.

In the 1971 opinion Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, the Supreme Court held that a person claiming to be the victim of an unlawful arrest and search could bring a Fourth Amendment claim for damages against the responsible agents even though no federal statute authorized such a claim.

However, the Supreme Court declined to extend that precedent to the current case for several reasons, one of which was the potential effect on foreign relations.

A “cross-border shooting is by definition an international incident,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion, adding that the executive and legislative branches, rather than the judicial branch, ought to be entrusted with matters related to foreign relations.

He also wrote that “since regulating the conduct of agents at the border unquestionably has national security implications, the risk of undermining border security provides reason to hesitate before extending Bivens into this field.”

Justice Clarence Thomas noted in a concurring opinion that the Bivens case may have been wrongly decided in the first place.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, writing that the parents’ lawsuit does not endanger border security or U.S. foreign policy, and opining that the majority rejected the family’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims only because Hernandez happened to be on the Mexican side when he died.

The Border Patrol drastically changed its use of force policies in the years after the shooting, following several complaints of excessive force, the Associated Press reports.

S. Dakota dioceses focus on healing, after statute of limitations bill fails

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 20:01

Pierre, S.D., Feb 25, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The South Dakota legislature has killed a bill that would have opened a two-year window for childhood victims of sexual abuse of all ages to sue the organizations in which their abuse took place.

The bill would have been an expansion of current South Dakota law on the statute of limitations for abuse cases, which allows victims of childhood abuse up to the age of 40 to sue organizations, such as Catholic dioceses.

According to the AP, the legislature heard testimony in favor of the bill from some of the surviving members of a group of nine biological sisters who allege that they were sexually abused by priests and nuns at an Indian mission school.

The Charbonneau sisters have been unsuccessfully lobbying to expand the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse in South Dakota for nearly 10 years, the AP reported. The sisters allege they were the victims of rape and abuse by clergy and nuns at St. Paul’s Indian Mission School on the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota while they attended during the 1950s and 1960s.

In the past year, following a new wave of Church sex abuse scandals in the United States and throughout the world, multiple states and countries have repealed or extended their statutes of limitations in order to allow more time for victims of childhood abuse to come forward.

Officials with the dioceses of Sioux Falls and Rapid City told CNA that regardless of the civil law, the dioceses were prepared to offer help to victims in the form of counseling and spiritual accompaniment.

“The Church recognizes God's law as superior to all other laws. And for that reason, if there's going to be any person coming forward that feels they've been harmed at the hand of the minister of the Church, out of her moral obligation we will respond and do all that we can to assist that person, regardless of what the statutes and civil law says,” Matt Althoff, chancellor of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, told CNA.

Althoff said that sexual abuse creates a “woundedness” in people’s souls, and that the diocese offers psychological counseling as well as spiritual direction in order to help victims heal. He said anyone who has been wounded by the Church is welcome to seek out those services regardless of when the abuse took place.

Father Michel Mulloy, administrator of the Diocese of Rapid City, told CNA he also hoped for “reconciliation and healing for anyone who has experienced any wrong. I believe that the one who can give that reconciliation and healing is Jesus Christ.”

“All I attempt to do in my ministry is to bring people to the cross of Jesus Christ and to accompany them in seeking and receiving the reconciliation and healing that Jesus can and, I believe, does want to give.”

Detroit Catholics say archdiocese fabricated rape charge against pastor

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 20:00

Detroit, Mich., Feb 25, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- A group of Detroit Catholics has filed a lawsuit claiming that the Archdiocese of Detroit fabricated an allegation of rape against their pastor in order to avoid media criticism about its handling of abuse allegations, and has mishandled the canonical case against him. 

The Archdiocese of Detroit said it can not speak on the specifics of the case, but that it takes allegations of clerical abuse very seriously.

The lawsuit alleges that an archdiocesan official “twisted...allegations and fabricated a rape charge against Fr. Perrone in order to force the AOD to remove Fr. Perrone, and, thereby, shield the AOD and [Msgr. Michael] Bugarin from a negative AP story.”

“Like Fr. Perrone, Plaintiffs are devout, traditional Roman Catholics. They were severely shocked, shamed, embarrassed, and humiliated by the accusations against their priest and friend, Fr. Perrone.”

In July 2019, Fr. Eduard Perrone was temporarily removed from ministry as pastor of Assumption Grotto Parish in Detroit, amid an allegation that he had groped a former altar boy. The priest denied the allegation.

After a preliminary investigation, the archdiocesan review board “found that there was a semblance of truth to the allegation,” Monsignor Mike Bugarin of the Detroit archdiocese told CNA July 9.

According to the Archdiocese of Detroit, “If the Review Board finds a complaint credible, it sends notice to Archbishop Vigneron, who forwards the case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which reviews and renders judgments in all cases involving the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy.”

In Perrone’s case, a July 7 statement from the archdiocese announced that the review board had deemed an allegation against him to be credible, and that “further determination on the matter now falls to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

But Brien Dux, the lead plaintiff in the case, told CNA Feb. 17 that he believes Perrone’s case “has not been sent to the Vatican.”

“Our complaint is not with the Vatican process,” Dux told CNA. “If the case was sent to the Vatican as we were told it would be, we probably would not be filing this lawsuit.”

A CDF official told CNA that the congregation already has an open file on the case. But Perrone’s attorney, Christopher Kolmjec, said that while aspects of the case might have been sent to the CDF, he believes that Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit has not yet sent to the Vatican his vota, an essential aspect of the case file that ordinarily is required before the CDF makes a decision about how the case should be handled.

For its part, the Archdiocese of Detroit declined repeatedly to comment on whether all or part of the case has been sent to the Vatican, citing confidentiality.

The Archdiocese of Detroit did tell CNA in July that the complaint which led to Perrone’s removal from ministry concerned the priest’s “earlier years of ministry,” and was the first received against the priest.

After receiving the complaint in 2018, Bugarin said the archdiocese “turned it over not only to the local prosecutor, but also to the Michigan Attorney General’s office.”

Initially, per an agreement between the archdiocese and the six county prosecutors covering the Archdiocese of Detroit’s territory, the complaint was given only to local law enforcement, who began to investigate the claim.

“They in turn continued to do the investigation, until the Michigan Attorney General came in and announced an investigation of the seven dioceses of the state of in the Michigan on the handling of clergy sex abuse crisis,” said Bugarin.

The lawsuit claims that in 2018, the wife of the former altar boy called an archdiocesan hotline to report that her husband had been abused by the priest in the late 1970s.

The alleged victim said that the priest had groped him during swim parties at a family lake house, the Detroit Free Press reported, served minors wine, and hosted boys on rectory and camping overnights.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the alleged victim initially claimed to have been raped, but later changed his story and said he was groped and fondled only. Police reports suggest that allegations changed because the accuser was struggling to tell a painful story, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The lawsuit, on the other hand, claims the alleged victim denied to police that he had ever been sexually abused by Perrone.

The parishioners say the accuser eventually conceded to make any allegation of misconduct only because he was manipulated by Church officials, especially Bugarin, who was determined to remove Perrone from his ministry.

The suit claims Bugarin “brow beat” the accuser “in an effort to force him to say that he was raped by Fr. Perrone.” When that was unsuccessful, the suit alleges, “Bugarin just fabricated a rape allegation out of desparation and wishful thinking.”

The parishioners claim that Bugarin is the accuser’s “spiritual advisor” and should not have been entrusted with investigating the allegation. For that reason, and others he declined to enumerate, Kolomjec told CNA that Bugarin has acted unethically in investigating and overseeing the case, and that Perrone’s legal team has “filed an ethics complaint against Msgr. Bugarin and a formal request for his removal as Delegate and investigator from the investigation with the archbishop.”

Parishioners say that Bugarin’s efforts to force an allegation of rape against Perrone “caused Plaintiffs to experience severe emotional distress.”

“Bugarin is not a traditional Catholic and is opposed to many of the Plaintiffs’ views and efforts to reform the Catholic Church. Bugarin knew that Plaintiffs would be especially harmed by the public repudiation of Fr. Perrone. Bugarin and the AOD’s conduct in creating false child-rape allegations against Plaintiffs’ long-time pastor and priest is the type of extreme and outrageous conduct Michigan law recognizes gives rise to a claim in tort,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also alleges that Perrone “was not provided an opportunity to answer or refute these allegations before the AOD summarily removed him” and announced publicly that it had found a “semblance of truth” to the allegation.

The Archdiocese of Detroit declined to comment on that charge.

After Perrone was removed from ministry, a second accuser came forward to claim that the priest had in 1981 sexually fondled him while the two were riding in a car. Perrone denied that allegation.

The lawsuit claims that the the second accuser “told his story several times but never in the same way, often confusing and contradicting the key facts.” The allegation “was not credible on its face,” the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs are seeking “damages in excess of $20,000,” Dux told CNA.

Dux said the plaintiffs based their lawsuit upon a lawsuit Perrone himself had filed in Dec. 2019 against a county investigator, who, he claims, defamed him in the course of the investigation.

He added that “the process being followed by Monsignor Bugarin and the Archbishop which is not transparent to us. They stated initially the reason Fr. Perrone was removed was due to a rape allegation, but have since changed their reason to ‘boundary violations.’"

“With Fr. Perrone so close to retirement, and with the duration of the Vatican process, this extensive delay and changing story from the Archdiocese has us concerned there will not be justice,” Dux said.

For his part, Perrone told the Detroit Free Press that he believes the matter is ideological.

“This is an attempt to get me out," the priest said.

Perrone counts among his supporters conservative internet figure Michael Voris, who leads the "Church Militant" website.

In a series of videos released by the site in July, Voris can be seen with Grotto parishioners asking questions of Bugarin. Voris told CNA that he is not now a parishioner at the parish; he said that “when I saw this issue developing into a Story that it was apparent I would have the lead on, I spoke with my associate pastor and officially withdrew from parish membership.”

In the first video, a parishioner asks what Catholics can do to support Perrone. Voris says, “you can’t do anything, that’s the point.”

After accusing the archdiocese of mishandling the announcement of Perrone’s removal, and attempting to engage Bugarin on several points, Voris can be seen walking away from Bugarin in frustration.

In the second video, in response to a remark by Bugarin about the process of investigating cases of clerical misconduct, Voris says that “the process was set up by Theodore McCarrick.”

“The process was set up by a homosexual predator cardinal,” Voris adds.

Asked whether he believes Perrone is being treated fairly, Bugarin says “yes.”

Voris told CNA by email Feb. 19 that he is a supporter of Perrone, both “in general,” and “with SPECIFIC regard to this SPECIFIC case because before it became public, we had done our due diligence and heavily suspected something was not ‘right’ about what we had been told about the ‘accusations.’”

“We KNOW what’s in the file, because we know the background of the case and have spoken with those ‘close’  to John Doe. In short - we know the entire story. The File that Vigneron Has desperately tried to keep hidden - even to the point of being potentially charged with contempt of court over Thanksgiving Day weekend - provides the AoDs own documentation that they know they are lying and this whole case is fraudulent,” Voris added.

“It is correct for these people to not trust the AoD - whatsoever. For example - seven months later, no case has yet been filed with the CDF at all,” Voris said. He told CNA he knows this through “sources in Rome AND AoD.”

Voris added that “IF such a case were to be filed, God knows what pack of lies it would contain. So it’s not really a question of ‘trusting the CDF per se,’ but rather, it depends on what they would believe in good faith is presented to them.”

The July 7 statement of the Detroit archdiocese does not specify the exact nature of the charge against Perrone, calling it “a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.”

The archdiocese declined to comment on the charges made by the lawsuit. But a statement provided to CNA said that “unlike legal cases in civil or criminal law, Church Law does not have or require degrees of sexual misconduct...thus, ‘any sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable person’ of ‘any nature or degree’ must – under Church Law – proceed through this process.”

“In this process, the Church respects the privacy and personal safety of all involved – those bringing the complaint forward and the accused priest or deacon. Other than public notification that the priest or deacon is currently restricted in his ministry because allegation(s) deemed neither manifestly false nor frivolous are under review, a (arch)diocese is not permitted to discuss any further details of the case.”

“The only process that can resolve a question about an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable person by a priest or deacon in accord with Church Law is a Church Law process, not the civil courts,” the archdiocese added.

Perrone is a co-founder of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a Michigan charity that in 2018 faced charges that it had misused donations. Two of the group’s founders were forced out of the group in response to the attorney general’s investigation. One was prohibited from ever again operating a non-profit in Michigan.

At the time, Perrone said that he never viewed himself as a director and had no knowledge of Opus Bono’s organizational structure; he considered himself a spiritual adviser to the group.

The group was founded to support priests accused of sexual misconduct and other disciplinary problems in the Church.