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The Holy Spirit can guide, heal nation, justices hear at DC Red Mass

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 18:42

Washington D.C., Oct 1, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Americans should call on the Holy Spirit to guide and heal the Church and nation, Msgr. Peter J. Vaghi said to attendees at Sunday’s annual Red Mass, celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC.

Vaghi, who is chaplain of the John Carroll Society as well as pastor at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Md., spoke at the Sept. 30 Mass of the Holy Spirit, which traditionally marks the beginning of the judicial year. The US Supreme Court's 2018-2019 session opened Oct. 1.

The name Red Mass is taken from the red vestments worn to symbolize the tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit.

It is this Holy Spirit whom people should call upon “to return and enlighten us, to enlighten in a special way each of you who serves the cause of justice and the common good,” said Vaghi.

“The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console, to renew, to heal,” he said. “Yes, to heal us.”

Vaghi noted that both the Church and country could benefit from this healing power, as “it is a power that treats the anger and divisions that so need the healing touch of our God if we are to continue our respective missions with love and effectiveness in our day.”

The Holy Spirit is a guide for those working in the legal profession and in government service, as the Holy Spirit helps people experience God’s wisdom and love as “the guiding principles and foundation of our very existence moving us to be men and women of justice, compassion, boundless mercy and joy” in their jobs.

Vaghi drew comparisons between the Holy Spirit as “the spirit of truth” and the words used in the Declaration of Independence.

“So we call upon the Holy Spirit to help us understand and deepen our understanding of these 'truths' referred to in our Declaration of Independence” – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Red Mass, he said, is “a most appropriate time” for one to think about these truths.

“In our day, these 'truths,' truths whose origin is the Holy Spirit, are sometimes seen in ways not always as self-evident – these truths that from the beginning of our national experiment helped define us as Americans – these truths of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. The country is divided, but Vaghi believes that the truths laid out in the Declaration of Independence are a solid base for rebuilding the American consensus.

The Red Mass is celebrated each year prior to the start of the Supreme Court’s new term, and stems from a tradition in the Middle Ages. It is meant for all members of the legal profession, including lawyers, judges, law students, and government officials, Catholic or otherwise. The Red Mass has been celebrated in D.C. for the past 66 years.

This year three Supreme Court Justices, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, and Clarence Thomas, attended the Mass, along with newly-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was also in attendance. Notably not present at the Mass was Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is currently in the midst of a heated confirmation process for the Supreme Court.

California governor vetoes campus ‘abortion pill’ law

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 16:00

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 1, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed a bill Sunday that would have mandated that public universities in the state offer abortion inducing “medication” through campus student health centers starting in 2022.

The bill, SB 320, was “not necessary,” Brown said in his veto message signed Sept. 30, as abortion services are already “widely available” off campus. Governor Brown is a public supporter of abortion rights.

Student health centers at California’s public universities do not provide abortions, but they do provide referrals to abortion facilities.  However, many of these centers do distribute the “morning-after pill,” which can block fertilization or prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a uterus.

Kathleen Buckley Domingo, senior director of the Office of Life, Justice & Peace for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said that she was “grateful” Brown vetoed the bill.

“He recognized that this bill was unnecessary for California and did not empower our college women, but only offered more abortion for our state,” said Domingo.

Instead, Domingo said she hoped the state would pass bills to assist college students who are already parents. Such legislation would “ensure women’s Title IX protections for pregnancy are known and understood, and to make childcare and family housing for student mothers and fathers readily available and accessible for California women.”

Her comments were echoed by executive director of the California Catholic Conference Andy Rivas, who said that “Hopefully next session we can convince legislators to pass a bill that students and universities really need, one that provides financial support for students with children.”

Rivas said he was not surprised by the veto, and that students “were not pushing for passage” of the bill and universities “did not want the responsibility of providing abortion pills to students.”

Pro-life advocates also applauded Brown’s move. Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee-turned-pro-life advocate, said that the veto was a “huge victory for not only the pro-life movement in California, but the students at these universities” as well.

“These drugs are dangerous and are often not discussed truthfully with women who decide to take them to end their pregnancy,” Johnson told CNA. 

“I took these same drugs to end one of my pregnancies and I thought I was dying. I was in a bathtub full of blood but the abortion clinic was unfazed by my reaction - it happens often but is hardly ever disclosed.”

Johnson’s group, And Then There Were None, provides assistance to abortion industry employees who are looking to leave their jobs.

Catherine Glenn Foster, President and CEO of Americans United For Life, agreed with Brown’s description of the bill as unnecessary, and said that the governor’s veto had “made California safer for women, and college campuses safer for their unborn children.”

“Governor Brown recognized that in a state where Medicaid already pays for elective abortions, there is no issue of access, since, as he said yesterday, ‘the average distance to abortion providers in campus communities varies from 5 to 7 miles, not an unreasonable distance,’” said Foster.

Foster also pointed out that “college health clinics are not equipped to handle the very serious risks of chemical abortion drugs,” which can include bleeding and infection.

Holy See-China agreement draws criticism from US religious freedom advocates

Sun, 09/30/2018 - 17:02

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2018 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See’s provisional agreement with China on the appointment of bishops has drawn criticism from some U.S. religious freedom leaders, who contend that it concedes too much to power to the government and undermines efforts to protect other suffering religious groups.

“I confess that I am skeptical, both as a Catholic, and as an advocate for the religious freedom of all religious communities in China,” Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute, said Sept. 27.

“Earlier this year the Vatican quite properly expressed grave concerns about China’s comprehensive anti-religion policy, and its apparent goal of altering Catholicism itself.”

Farr is a former American diplomat who was the first director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, from 1999-2003. He spoke before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. His comments addressed the state of religious freedom in China, especially for Catholics; the potential for further action from Congress and American diplomacy; and the Vatican-China agreement.

On Sept. 22 the Holy See announced that Pope Francis had recognized seven illicitly ordained bishops after the signing of a provisional deal with the Chinese government over the nomination of bishops. Under the deal, the Chinese government can propose candidates as part of the nomination process, but the Pope must give final approval.

The Pope explained his decision in a Sept. 26 letter to China’s Catholics, acknowledging the “deep and painful tensions” centered especially on the figure of the bishop as “the guardian of the authenticity of the faith and as guarantor of ecclesial communion.” He said it was “essential” to deal first with the issue of bishop appointments in order to support the continuation of the Gospel in China and to re-establish “full and visible unity in the Church.”

He acknowledged the different reactions to the provisional agreement, both from those who are hopeful and from those who might feel abandoned by the Holy See and question “the value of their sufferings endured out of fidelity to the Successor of Peter.”

Farr, speaking to the congressional subcommittee, said he is concerned the provisional agreement “will not improve the lot of Catholics in China, much less the status of religious freedom for non-Catholic religious communities.” It risks harming religious freedom and “inadvertently encouraging China’s policy of altering the fundamental nature of Catholic witness.”

“In my humble opinion as a Catholic, and an advocate for religious freedom, the Vatican’s charism is to support that witness, as Pope Saint John Paul II did in Communist Poland,” he said.

Farr thought the process for choosing Catholic bishops was comparable to “the way parliamentary candidates are approved in Iran” where theologians vet prospective candidates for their loyalty to the government.

“Is it likely that the Chinese government would forward to the Vatican the name of a bishop faithful to the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church?” Farr asked. “It seems far more likely that the bishop would be chosen at a minimum for his acquiescence to the regime, if not his fidelity to its anti-Catholic purposes.”

Johnnie Moore, a religious freedom advocate who now serves on the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom, told CNA he entirely supports “direct engagement with governments which have a checkered past when it comes to religious freedom, working together to find a better future.”

However, he thought many people outside of the Catholic community are “entirely confused by the timing and why the Holy Father agreed to – for all intents and purposes – demote faithful, persevering priests who had endured so much for so long.”

Moore, a past vice-president of communications at the evangelical Christian, Virginia-based Liberty University, is now CEO of communications firm The Kairos Company.

“Surely, (Pope Francis) could have found a way to have a meaningful relationship with the Chinese-appointed bishops without picking sides between his flock and those who’ve viciously opposed it for so long,” he said. “I’m also afraid that clever leaders in China will use this deal with the Vatican to distract the world from their resurgent, egregious mistreatment of other religious communities.”

Farr’s remarks tried to place China-Vatican relations in a historical context. In the centuries that Catholics have been in China, beginning even before missionary priest Matteo Ricci’s founding of a Jesuit mission in 1601, they have encountered “the assertion that Catholicism is incompatible with Chinese culture and must either be rooted out or adapted in ways that would change its fundamental nature.”

While Christianity became associated with European imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries, against which many Chinese rebelled, it also suffered intense persecution after the Cultural Revolution after communist forces took power in 1949 under Mao Zedong.

China’s government attempted to absorb or destroy all religion. It expelled the papal representative to China and over a decade’s time engaged in “brutal treatment” of Catholics, Protestants and other religious groups, Farr said. This intensified under the Cultural Revolution begun in the 1960s.

“Priests and nuns were tortured, murdered (some were burned alive), and imprisoned
in labor camps. Lay Christians were paraded in their towns and villages with cylindrical hats
detailing their ‘crimes’,” he said. Catholic clergy and laity were among the tens of millions who died “terrible deaths.”

“While Mao proved that a policy of eliminating religion is unrealistic, his successors have constantly experimented in finding the ‘correct’ way to control, co-opt, and absorb religion into the communist state,” Farr continued. Since the 1970s, China’s religious policies have had “ups and downs as new Chinese leaders adapted policies to achieve the objective of control.”

“Not all Chinese policy involves overt repression of religion,” he said. In recent decades, China’s leaders have at times supported “religious groups perceived to be capable of consolidating Beijing’s absolute power.” According to Farr, this has sometimes meant praise for non-Tibetan Chinese Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism as China’s “traditional cultures.”

“Clearly those three groups pose a lesser threat to Communist rule than do the Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Christians,” he said. “For the moment at least, it is the latter three religious communities that are the objects of continuing repression, especially the Uighurs.”

Citing State Department estimates of 70 million to 90 million Christians in China, with about 12 million Catholic, he said the growth of Chinese Christianity, especially through conversions to Protestant denominations, is “of great concern to the Chinese.”

Moving the State Administration for Religious Affairs to the United Front Work Department, which historically has been tasked with controlling China’s ethnic minorities, ensures “increased monitoring and control over the perceived threat posed by religion’s growth in China.”

Moore, a commissioner on the U.S. international religious freedom commission, had voiced astonishment that the Vatican would normalize its relationship with China “within one week of China so brazenly closing Beijing’s large Zion Church and just a few weeks after the United Nations, the New York Times and the U.S. State Department all revealed that China has forcibly placed as many as one million Muslims in re-education camps.”

“Honestly, I was in total disbelief. I said to myself, ‘not this, not now’ and then, I just prayed,” he continued.

Following a two-day review of China’s record in August, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has said that up to 1 million Uyghurs may be held against their will and without trial in extra-legal detention, on pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.

Farr voiced fear that the agreement reflects a “failed Cold War ‘realpolitik’ diplomacy” of the 1960s Vatican that was changed by St. John Paul II, a failure he blamed on a lack of realism about “the evil of communism.”

“It harmed the Church in parts of Eastern Europe,” he said. “The post-war Vatican was not then, and is not now, a secular power capable of changing the behavior of communist governments by dint of its political diplomacy.”

He contended that the Vatican is “the only authority in the world constituted precisely to address the root causes of totalitarian evil,” citing ST. John Paul II’s cooperation in the 1980s with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“The Holy See’s role should be now, as it was then, to press for human rights and, especially, for religious freedom for all religious communities in China,” he said, arguing that the Vatican’s charism is not diplomacy, but “witness to the truth about God and man.”

“As for China’s Catholics, the Vatican should demand nothing less than libertas ecclesiae, the freedom of the Church to witness to its adherents, to the public, and to the regime its teachings on human dignity and the common good.”

Farr suggested to Congress that the U.S. government should make the case to China that the growth of religion and religious communities is natural and inevitable in all societies. Efforts to kill it or blunt its growth are “impractical and self-defeating,” and persecution only slows economic development and increases social instability and violent extremism. Accommodating religious groups, by contrast, will help economic growth, social harmony, and stability.

China is a major force in the world and has enormous influence on global affairs and American interests, he said. U.S. policymakers do not typically address religious freedom in this context.
“Far more than a humanitarian issue, the way China handles its internal religious matters is of sufficient importance that the United States should make religious liberty a central element of its relationship with the East Asian nation,” he said.

The agreement between the Holy See and mainland China has met with varied reactions within China.

Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang of Macau wrote Sept. 24 that he was pleased to have learned of the agreement: “I thoroughly reckon that both parties have worked towards this provisional agreement after a long period of time with persistent effort of research and dialogue. This agreement is a positive move especially in favour of the communion of the Catholic Church in Chin and the Universal Church.”

Bishop Lee encouraged the faithful “to pray for the progress in Sino-Vatican relationship, with the hope that this provisional agreement may really be implemented, so as to contribute to and benefit the Chinese society and the Church's charitable, pastoral, social, and educational apostolates, striving to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide.”

But Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who has long been an opponent of rapprochement with the Chinese government, told Reuters just days before the agreement was reached that “they're giving the flock into the mouths of the wolves. It's an incredible betrayal.”

The Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong said the consequences of the deal “will be tragic and long lasting, not only for the Church in China but for the whole Church because it damages the credibility.”


Mary Rezac contributed to this report.

CNA Explainer: What rights does a pastor have?

Sat, 09/29/2018 - 11:30

Chicago, Ill., Sep 29, 2018 / 09:30 am (CNA).- The recent case of Chicago's Fr. Paul Kalchik has generated considerable publicity, and left more than a few questions unanswered.
Kalchik was “temporarily” removed from his post at Resurrection Parish in northwestern Chicago last week, following a Sept. 14 incident in which a rainbow banner which had previously hung in the church building was burned by parishioners, with Kalchik in attendance.
Kalchik had previously announced that he planned to burn the flag publicly on Sept. 29. He acknowledged recently that the archdiocese had instructed him not to proceed with that plan.

Almost everything else about the case remains disputed.
The Archdiocese of Chicago told CNA recently that Fr. Kalchik had agreed not to burn the banner. Kalchik, in a recent interview, claimed that he merely was told not to conduct the specific Sept. 29 public event he had previously announced.
An archdiocesan spokesperson also told CNA that Kalchik’s departure from the parish – which the archdiocese says is temporary – was not linked to the banner burning at all, but had been “in the works” for some weeks. Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich was apparently concerned about “a number of issues” at the parish. The archdiocese added that Kalchik’s departure was arranged by “mutual agreement” and that he is presently receiving “pastoral support” for unspecified needs.
Kalchik says his departure was anything but a mutual decision.
The priest says that two diocesan officials, priests, arrived at his rectory and ordered him off the premises, threatening to call the police if he refused to comply. According to Kalchik, the priests said that he would be sent to St. Luke’s Institute, a Maryland psychiatric assessment and treatment center for priests.

The Archdiocese of Chicago declined CNA’s request for confirmation or denial of those claims.
Amid the conflicting narratives surrounding Kalchik, a question emerges: what canonical rights does a parish priest actually have?

While a priest’s ministry is dependent upon that of his bishop, and every priest promises respect and obedience to the bishop at ordination, it is a common mistake to think of a pastor as a kind of branch manager or tenant farmer of the bishop. The pastor’s canonical role is much different than that.
Canon law treats the subject of a parochus -  the pastor of a parish - very explicitly.
Canon 515 §1 of the Code of Canon Law says that each parish is to be entrusted to the care of a parochus, who serves as the shepherd of the community under the authority of the bishop.
The same canon makes clear that the parish itself is not a piece of land, a church, or any other collection of buildings. A parish is properly understood as a group of the faithful, usually defined as those living in a particular area.
The relationship between the pastor and his parish is, in a technical sense, personal: a relationship between persons, defined and circumscribed by law.  
In canon law, every parish has its own “juridic personality,” meaning that is a freestanding legal entity, with its own property, and its own rights and obligations.
The Code clarifies that the pastor represents the parish “in all juridic affairs,” and it is his responsibility to lead the community and decides what is in its best interests. Of course, the bishop is free to establish policies for all parishes in his diocese- called particular laws- provided that they do not conflict with universal canon law or divine law. But within the boundaries established by canon law, divine law, and civil law, it is the pastor’s job to lead the parish, and to determine, prayerfully and consultatively, how best to govern the community with which has has been entrusted.

There have been cases where the pastor and the bishop disagree about parish needs, and canon law provides mechanisms to address such conflicts, including processes of appeal from episcopal decisions and directions, and canonical courts in which they can be adjudicated.
A bishop and pastor might disagree, for example, about parish property. A bishop may direct a pastor to sell a piece of property, or to give it over to meet a diocesan need, and the pastor may judge that to be a bad idea. Such a dispute could become a matter of “hierarchical recourse,” if the pastor appeals a decision he does not support. When disputes over such matters are appealed to Rome, the Congregation for Clergy is often obliged to remind the bishop to respect the rights of the pastor.
Similarly, within the scope of universal and particular canon law and the teachings of the Church, a pastor also has the autonomy to teach and preach in a way he believes is best suited to the needs of the people.

This does not mean, of course, that bishops have no authority over parish pastors. In addition to establishing particular laws for his diocese, a bishop has the authority to oblige any priest or member of the faithful to do, or not do, a particular thing he may determine to be detrimental to the wider community. He can do this through a precept- a kind of canonical induction directed at a specific person or situation.

Since a precept is a formal legal action, a pastor has the right to appeal it, provided he does so according to the procedures established by canon law. But he does not have the right to simply ignore a legitimately issued precept.

Bishops also have the authority to appoint pastors. Except for very exceptional cases, canon law gives the diocesan bishop a free choice to appoint whatever priest he thinks is most suitable for the job. This is understandable, since the pastor carries out his role “under the authority of the diocesan bishop in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share.”

A bishop is not free, however, to remove or transfer a pastor from his office without following a detailed and non-negotiable process defined by canon law. This procedure can only be initiated if a priest has met one or more conditions for removal outlined in the law, which include actions “gravely detrimental or disturbing to ecclesiastical communion,” along with permanent infirmity of mind or body, a loss of good reputation among his flock, and neglect of his duties in the parish.

Even if a priest has met those conditions, before he can be removed from the office of pastor, the bishop must formally consult with certain priests appointed by the diocesan priests’ council, he must allow the pastor the opportunity to see the evidence against him and make a defense, and he must discuss that defense with the priests appointed to consult with him.

During this whole process, the bishop can neither remove the pastor, nor appoint a replacement.
If the bishop does issue a decree of removal, the priest has the right to appeal his case to Rome, where the Congregation for Clergy, or eventually the Apostolic Signatura, can examine the decision and the process used to reach it.

A bishop also has the prerogative, in certain limited circumstances, to declare that a priest is impeded from exercising priestly ministry, but that must be done through a delineated process as well. A bishop could also withdraw certain faculties for ministry from a priest, but only if he has good reasons, and only if he has followed the procedural requirements of canon law.

In short, while no priest has a right to an assignment or to ministry, once a priest is appointed a pastor, he cannot be removed from his office, or from his ministry, without serious cause, and without observation of the law’s procedural requirements. Similarly, prohibiting a priest from residing in a certain place can only be done in the limited circumstances allowed by canon law.

This also means that, except in very limited and unusual circumstances, a bishop is not within his rights to attempt to remove the legitimate pastor of a parish from its property, or to threaten to have the police do so. Were a bishop to do such a thing without observing canonical requirements, and the priest appeal to Rome, it is likely that the Vatican would order the pastor to be reinstated.

Neither can a bishop compel any priest to undergo a psychological evaluation or engage in psychological treatment. While a bishop might condition future assignments on a “clean bill of mental health,” he can not force a priest to be diagnosed or treated against his will, or to disclose the details of his mental health if he does not wish to do so.

Canon 519 says that the pastor exercises “the pastoral care of the community committed to the pastor under the authority of the diocesan bishop in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share, so that for that same community he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing.”

The authority of the diocesan bishop is not absolute. Nor is the autonomy of the pastor. But both exist, as defined by canon law, for the service of the Church, and the salvation of souls. Understanding the authority of bishops, and the rights of pastors, is important at a moment in the Church’s life when so much seems unclear, and when many questions remain unanswered.


Prolife Democrat laments ‘homogenization’ within parties

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 17:30

Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), one of the few prolife members of the Deomcratic Party with a seat in Congress, has spoken about his commitment to life issues and his concern at the increasing divide between the two major parties.

The congressman spoke at an event entitled Being a Faithful Catholic as a Public Servant on Sept. 27. The event was hosted at the Catholic University of America and sponsored by the university's Institute for Human Ecology.

Lipinski, along with CUA Professor Joseph Capizzi, discussed what life is like in Washington for one of the last remaining Blue Dog Democrats, and how his party has shifted to the point of effectively trying to force people like him out. He has represented Illinois’ 3rd district for the last 14 years, a time in which he says divisiveness and polarization has gotten worse.

Although voting as a committed Democrat, with a 91 percent rating from the AFL-CIO and a 100 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters--- Lipinski also calls himself a strong and proud pro-life legislator, something which can leave him isolated from his party colleagues.

"The parties have really gotten more homogeneous," he said. "It used to be that you had conservative Democrats, largely southerners but not all, and you had some more liberal Republicans. The parties have really sorted out."

His constituents, he explained, are largely the “old-fashioned Democrats”--a phrase that he himself identifies himself with.

Over his nearly decade and a half in Congress, "things have changed. There's less bipartisanship, but things have really gotten so much worse."

The two major parties are generally found on opposite sides of the abortion debate. The Democratic Party’s platform has support for the public funding of abortion as one of its planks, while the Republican Party’s platform states that all Americans have an “unalienable right to life.”

In addition to being a relative rarity in his party, his pro-life views have made him something of a target.

This past March, Lipinski barely survived a primary challenge in his Illinois constituency. His challenger, Marie Newman, made abortion the central issue of that campaign, and received considerable support and money from numerous pro-abortion groups.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee initially declined to endorse Lipinski, but finally endorsed the sitting congressman about two weeks before the primary election.

Lipinski said that while he is hopeful about the future of the pro-life movement, he was not comfortable with how the movement had “embraced” President Donald Trump. He explained that he pulled out of speaking at the annual March for Life when he learned that Trump would also be addressing the event.

"It very much concerns me,” said Lipinski about Trump. “I understand he's done some very good things when it comes to protecting life, but I'm scared that getting too close is going to hurt the movement in the long run."

Those who attended the talk were impressed with what Lipinski had to say, even if they were not necessarily on board with all of his policy positions. Many of the attendees at the Catholic University told CNA that they appreciated the stance he was taking for life.

"It's wonderful to hear a pro-life politician who remains firm in his stance and is willing to speak out publicly in defense of life,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SV, told CNA.

Nick Swanson, a freshman at Catholic University who described himself as a Republican, said that he thought it was interesting how blunt Lipinski was about his time in Congress.

“It wasn't as if he was playing to a political audience, he just wanted to be honest about the struggles he faced in making his decisions. It's almost like he, when he approaches these decisions he takes them seriously. It's not as if he just follows the party line,” said Swanson.

John Dashe, another freshman, told CNA that he thought it was refreshing to find ideological diversity within a party.

“Being from (Massachusetts), we have a lot of Democrats, but none of them are pro-life,” said Dashe.

“Coming from a perspective where I thought they all had a sort-of uniform view, it’s interesting to see that he was different in that way.”

Vermont AG investigates abuse allegations at Catholic institutions

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 16:21

Montpelier, Vt., Sep 28, 2018 / 02:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the attorney general of Vermont investigates allegations of abuses at Catholic institutions, the state's bishop has announced that the diocese is waiving nondisclosure agreements for abuse victims.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced Sept. 11 an investigation of allegations surrounding St. Joseph's Orphanage in Burlington.

“The allegations include murder, for which there is no statute of limitations, as well as abuse and sexual abuse,” the attorney general's office stated. “The Burlington Catholic Diocese, which operated St. Joseph’s Orphanage, has expressed willingness to fully cooperate with the investigation.”

The orphanage, founded in the mid-1800s, was operated by the Sisters of Providence, and overseen by Vermont Catholic Charities. It closed in 1974.

The allegations were described by Christine Kenneally in an Aug. 27 article in BuzzFeed News.

“I wish to inform all survivors of abuse who entered into a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA) with the Diocese of Burlington as part of a legal settlement that the Diocese waives that agreement and they are now free to tell the story of what happened to them as they see fit,” Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington said Sept. 28.

He noted that this applies only “to NDAs that were signed with the Diocese and not any other Church entity such as a religious community or school.”

“Out of respect for those who asked for an NDA so as to maintain their own personal privacy in these matters, the Diocese will continue to maintain the agreement.”

The bishop added that the Diocese of Burlington has not required nondisclosure agreements on the part of survivors since 2002.

“It is my hope that this past action as well as the present one will allow the truth of what happened to survivors and their families to be heard,” Bishop Coyne wrote. “I pledge to you, as the bishop of Burlington, that I will do everything that I can to make sure this never happens again and to work for healing and reconciliation with those who were so badly abused by clergy.”

Alleged abuses at St. Joseph's Orphanage were the subject of lawsuits brought by former residents in the 1990s. Some of the cases were dismissed, and some reached settlements.

VTDigger reported Sept. 26 that Donovan's investigation will include Weston Priory, a Benedictine monastery. Michael Veitch has said he was sexually abused by a visiting priest at the priory around 1970, when he was 15 years old.

Msgr. John McDermott, vicar general of the Burlington diocese, told VTDigger that the diocese will cooperate with Donovan “in any way … If the Vermont Attorney General decides to expand the investigation we will cooperate to the best of our ability.”

Veitch has said that memories of his alleged abuse were triggered by reports of sexual abuse of minors in Pennsylvania.

In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury report found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials.

The report has prompted questions nationwide on the Church’s response to abuse claims.

Since then, numerous state attorneys general have announced investigations into abuse by clerics, including those in Michigan, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, New Mexico, and Illinois.

Denver archbishop releases letter responding to claims by priest

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 14:30

Denver, Colo., Sep 28, 2018 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Denver has released a letter in response to accusations posted online by one of its priests. Fr. David Nix alleged in a blog post that he had been left homeless by the archdiocese. The letter, signed by Archbishop Samuel Aquila, said that Fr. Nix’s account made a number of false claims, and called the situation “unfortunate.”

In a post published on his own website Sept. 27, Nix alleged that earlier this year he relayed allegations of sexual misconduct to archdiocesan authorities and in response was left without an assignment or a residence.

Aqulia responded strongly to this accusation, writing to all the priests of Denver Sept. 28 saying that Fr. Nix had effectively tried to blackmail the archdiocese.

“The truth is that in an email he wrote on May 24, Fr. Nix made threats that if he couldn’t dictate his own assignment, he would pursue civil litigation, embarrass me personally, or make known to the media supposed harmful information about two historical situations,” Aquila wrote to his priests.

“This approach of using a threat to obtain his desired outcome raises serious civil and canonical implications, which is exactly what he was told, and frankly it is offensive to any right-thinking person.”

Nix alleged that in May he relayed a “third-hand” account about a “high-power priest” concerning an event in the 1980s. Since reporting the allegations, he claimed, he has been left “homeless” by the archdiocese.

The online post also said that the priest knew of a case from five years ago concerning misconduct by a seminarian. In the latter case, Nix said the seminary reported the matter to the police at the time.

The Archdiocese of Denver responded strongly to Nix’s accusations.

“To be clear, the two allegations Fr. Nix was using to try to control his assignment are not dark secrets that somehow make Fr. Nix a “whistle blower.” One involved a seminarian and the matter was fully reported to law enforcement in 2012 and the seminarian involved was dismissed from the seminary,” Aquila’s letter said.

“The second allegation involves a third-hand report from the 1980s, and Fr. Nix confirmed in writing, and then in person to both an official of the curia and a member of the Conduct Response Team, that there was absolutely no allegation of any sexual contact or abuse.”

Aquila made it clear in his letter that there was no question of suppressing any allegation of misconduct against anyone.

“In all of our dealings with Fr. Nix, we have been clear that if there is information about a crime, it must be reported to law enforcement… Most importantly, I have always been direct that in no event would I allow any wrongdoing to be “covered up,” for his benefit or for any other reason.”

In the narrative posted online, Nix claimed that since relaying the allegations he had frequently requested an assignment and a residence from the archdiocese over the last few months but that he has not received either. Instead, he maintains, he has nowhere to live and has been left to stay in motels or in his car.

The letter from Aquila called this “just another sad chapter” in the “long saga” of Nix’s dealing with the chancery dating back to before his installation as archbishop.

“Rest assured that contrary to Fr. Nix’s claims, he has been paid the full salary due to him, which of course is a documented fact,” Aquila said. “We have tried to speak with Fr. Nix, but he fails to show up for scheduled meetings, is hard to get ahold of, and even just yesterday he rebuked [Denver auxiliary] Bishop Rodriguez.”

“We will continue to try to help Fr. Nix, if he will let us.”

Nix was ordained eight years ago for the Archdiocese of Denver. In the first four years of his ministry he had four parochial assignments in what he refers to on his website as “novus ordo parishes.” According both to his own blog and to the archdiocese of Denver, Nix found it difficult to settle in any of these parishes.

Aquila’s letter explained that “It reached a point where, after four failed parish assignments, it became very difficult to find a pastor who would receive Fr. Nix as a parochial vicar. In the face of this difficulty, my staff and I have continued to work hard to find an assignment for him, including with various groups outside of the Archdiocese.”

In 2014, Nix was permitted to seek ministry in other dioceses and with religious orders, often asking to celebrate the sacraments according to the extraordinary form of the liturgy. In each case, he was eventually asked by the other dioceses to return to Denver. More recently, Nix said he had asked the Archdiocese of Denver to allow him live as a hermit in the archdiocese.

Nix’s website contains numerous postings on his travels, reflections on liturgy, and other Church related matters. In some posts, he writes about what he sees as the infiltration of the priesthood by “communists, gays, and freemasons.”

Several priests in the archdiocese told CNA that they remembered Nix from his time in parish ministry, but didn’t not wish to have their names made public.

One such priest told CNA that the behavior detailed in Aquila’s letter was familiar.

“When I read Archbishop’s letter, I was not surprised to hear Fr. Nix had threatened him in that way. Years ago, Fr. David made a similar threat to undermine me in my ministry if I didn’t accede to demands he made,” the priest told CNA.

Another priest told CNA that Nix had told him he was initially held back from ordination because of “psychological issues.”

For his part, Nix insists that he is a priest “in good standing” and noted in his post online that the archdiocese have not restricted his faculties in any way. The Archdiocese of Denver also stressed that no disciplinary action had been taken against him.

CNA attempted to reach Fr. Nix for comment, but calls to his phone went unanswered.

Aqulia stressed to the priests of Denver that he did not wish for the situation to become either public or acrimonious, telling them that in priest personnel matters “it is the Archdiocese’s and my practice to honor confidentiality.”

In this situation, he said, “because Fr. Nix is attacking the Church, my staff, and me, and is speaking about these things in a very public way, it is necessary to be clear with you about this matter.”

The letter concluded with the archbishop asking the priests of Denver “not to be mad or upset with Fr. Nix, but instead we must always act with compassion and caring.”

Archbishop McCarrick to lead life of prayer, penance at Kansas friary

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 12:01

Salina, Kan., Sep 28, 2018 / 10:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Theodore McCarrick has begun his life of prayer and penance at St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas, according to statements from the Diocese of Salina and the Archdiocese of Washington.

McCarrick was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by Pope Francis July 28, pending the completion of a canonical process against him, after he was credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. After the accusation became public, he then resigned from the College of Cardinals in July, becoming the first American cardinal ever to step down.

It also came to light that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen had previously reached out-of-court settlements with several adult men who alleged they were sexually abused by McCarrick during their time as seminarians.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Bishop Gerald L. Vincke of Salina, and Father Christopher Popravek, the provincial of the Capuchin Friary in Denver, made the arrangements to house McCarrick for his potentially indefinite stay.

While living in prayer and penance, McCarrick will be forbidden from any sort of public appearances or ministry. Bishop Vincke said that the diocese will not be incurring any costs for housing McCarrick, and that he requests privacy “out of consideration for the peace of the community” at the friary.

The Archdiocese of Washington, in a separate statement from spokesperson Ed McFadden, echoed Vincke’s request for privacy.

In a letter to the Diocese of Salina entitled “Why I said ‘Yes’,” Vincke explained that he received a phone call from Cardinal Wuerl Sept. 13 asking if McCarrick could be moved to St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary. At this point, Wuerl had already received the agreement of the Capuchin provincial superior.

“I realize this decision will be offensive and hurtful to many people,” said Vincke.

“Archbishop McCarrick is, in many ways, at the forefront of the recent firestorm in the Church. Many of us are confused and angry by what Archbishop McCarrick is alleged to have done several decades ago.”

Vincke said that he agreed to allow McCarrick into his diocese knowing that he would be prohibited from making public appearances, and that the diocese would not be paying for any of the costs.

“I believe in justice,” said the bishop, noting that the USCCB is in support of a full investigation by lay experts into the allegations against McCarrick. The timeline for this proposed investigation is unclear. McCarrick is 88 years old.

The decision to host McCarrick was neither taken lightly nor was it easy, Vincke said.

“I also believe in mercy. In saying ‘yes,’ I had to reconcile my own feelings of disappointment, anger and even resentment toward Archbishop McCarrick,” he explained.

“I had to turn to Christ for guidance. Jesus is rich in mercy. He did not come to give us permission to sin, he came to forgive our sins.”

Vincke said he was “deeply sorry” for all victims of abuse, and that his “heart aches for you and your families.”

“This purification of the Church by God is painful, but much needed. We need the eyes of faith as we suffer through this.”

How the L.A. archdiocese is supporting separated immigrant families

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 05:01

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 28, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Through Guadalupe Radio the Archdiocese of Los Angeles raised more than $90,000 last month to help reunited separated immigrant families in southern California.

“It was Archbishop [Jose] Gomez’s vision to have us be the leaders in treating immigration not as a political topic, but that it was important for the human dignity of people, first and foremost,” said Isaac Cuevas, the archdiocese’s director of immigration affairs.

A two-day campaign was held on Guadalupe Radio at the end of August, raising $92,000 in support of humanitarian efforts by Catholic Charities. Then, Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles approved a virtual collection plate for the same efforts, which went into effect this week.

Cuevas told CNA that the money will be used to help families with a three-month transitional process and legal fees.

The families were affected by the Trump administration's “zero tolerance” policy: immigrants found illegally crossing the border would be held in a federal jail until they go before a federal judge, who must determine whether immigrants will receive prison sentences for crossing the border illegally.

This shift lead to family separation, because children cannot be held legally in a federal jail for more than 20 days per the 1997 Flores Settlement. These children were placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services while their parents’ cases were processed.

Cuevas said he received a call in August by the USCCB stating that 20 reunited families would be coming to the Los Angeles. He said these people came to the city with “literally nothing.”

“These families were arriving in the city - some didn’t have any connections, some did have connections but they were arriving with zero resources,” he said.

The radio fundraiser was a small miracle, he said, noting the money raised far exceeded the original goal. The diocese first sought to support 20 reunited families, but raised enough money to support 56 families throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

“I consider it a small miracle that even though we were modest with our $30,000-50,000 goal with the radio efforts alone we reached $92,000 in two days.”

Cuevas said the money would be used to help the families with basic necessities, including food, clothing, and school supplies. While the families find places to live and the children get placed in schools, the funds will also contribute to mental health services and proposals for self-sufficiency.

The other part of the project will aid Esperanza Legal Services, a legal non-profit underneath Catholic Charities. According to Angelus News, the money will be used to hire more legal staff for Esperanza to serve these families.

Angelus reported that a majority of the families are still undergoing deportation proceedings and require attorneys to fight their cases, which may allow them to apply for asylum status.

Cuevas gave CNA an example of one of the families the agency has been able to help - a mother and her two sons, ages 15 and 7. He said that after their detention, the eldest expressed doubts that he would see his mother again and the youngest still struggles with separation issues.

“They assumed that the two boys would be kept together, even though they were being separated from their mom. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and the three of them were separated individually. The eldest talks about … [that] he believed he would never get to see his mom again because he saw her go be taken away in handcuffs,” he said.

“The three were reunited. [But,] the youngest has a really hard time of even being away from his mom, like just having her be in another room makes him panic.”

Cuevas said the immigration system in United States is broken and needs to be addressed. He added that immigration policy needs to be seen foremost as a responsibility toward vulnerable persons.

“Before you get into the politics of any topic, it’s identifying with the necessities from a humanistic standpoint. The topic of immigration is exactly that – it’s people in need,” he said.

“As the Church, obviously, we believe in the country and the responsibility for us to protect its borders, but we also believe that people deserve human dignity. And that is where we would push and remind people to start with that first.”

Curtis Martin focused on 'Making Missionary Disciples'

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 18:41

Denver, Colo., Sep 27, 2018 / 04:41 pm (CNA).- In a new book, evangelist Curtis Martin offers a plan to help equip the next "generation" of Christian disciples for evangelization.

Curtis Martin, co-founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, has spent 21 years working to build an organization that brings the message of the Gospel to students on college campuses.

"Making Missionary Disciples: How to Live the Method Modeled by the Master," offers the lessons Martin says he’s learned from Jesus Christ over those years.

"Really what we're trying to do is to invite people to learn the art of spiritual conversations," Martin told CNA. "We hear homilies, but we seldom, as Catholics, discuss our faith over lunch. And I don't mean discuss scandals...I mean [discuss] the great life of Jesus Christ, the great life of the saints, the great life of the heroes of the Old Testament."

"If we learn the art of that conversation, we will become infectious, radiant Catholics who will radiate love and joy and mercy into the culture."

This model presented in the book, he said, is not "novel" in the Church, but rather has been duplicated over and over again throughout the years, and is especially present in religious communities. St. Paul teaches in Corinthians that people were meant to learn by imitation, Martin said, and people need a human person in front of them setting an example.

"The purpose in creating missionary disciples is the very thing we’ve been doing in FOCUS for the last 21 years; that we could share that with people in other organizations, in families, in businesses, in parishes, in diocese, et cetera, because we think it's going to bear great fruit there, and that's what we're seeing already."

"We really believe that this book, and what we're talking about, actually applies to [parents and professionals in diocese] maybe even more than it does the college campus," Martin said. "The alumni are actually bearing more fruit than our full-time missionaries...We're doing a second round of research to validate that."

Martin highlights three main habits in the book that are "simple, but hard," because they involve changing behavior to make evangelization possible. These three habits are Divine Intimacy, Authentic Friendship, and Clarity and Conviction about Spiritual Multiplication, which Martin calls "The Method Modeled by the Master."

The first habit, Divine Intimacy, boils down to the fact that anyone who wants to teach others about the Catholic faith should, Martin said, have experienced the love of God in a personal way. Love of others, Martin said, should stem from a total love for God, as well as a foundation of the teachings of the Church, the Sacraments, fellowship with other believers, and of course, prayer.

"If I'm cold, or just lukewarm, I'm not going to able to communicate fire, the only way I can do that is to be on fire," he said. "So Divine Intimacy is the foundation stone for everything else."

The second habit, Authentic Friendship, comes when we cooperate with the grace God gives us for evangelization, Martin wrote in the book.

"I am willing to love you because I've already been love infinitely by God," he said. "I don't need you to fill me up; God is already doing that."

The third habit is Clarity and Conviction about Spiritual Multiplication.

“I'm going to work with a few people, get very intentional about knowing about Christ, following Christ, living for Christ, and then inviting them to go out and invite others to do the same,” Martin explained. “You impart not only faithfulness, as essential as faithfulness is, you impart fruitfulness, which is exactly what Jesus did."

On the theme of investing deeply in a few close friends, Martin again drew the conversation back to the methods Jesus used to proclaim God's Kingdom. Martin said Jesus taught his apostles, first and foremost, to love by investing deeply in them and sometimes only them.  

"The Savior of the entire world...His methodology was to find twelve guys and go camping for three years," Martin reflected. "He invested profoundly, deeply, in twelve guys in order to reach the whole world, but he imparted not just faithfulness, He imparted fruitfulness. And those twelve men, by the power of Christ, changed the world. And we can do the same by returning to the Method Modeled by the Master."

Jesus, Martin said, regularly rendered the extraordinary as ordinary, by performing miracles on a daily basis. However, Jesus also rendered the ordinary extraordinary by "loving beautifully" in the Holy Family, with Mary and Joseph, for the first 30 years of His life. Martin said no one since Adam and Eve have been able to love each other as much as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did.

The Church has that capacity for love, Martin said, and saints "come in groups."

"It's really hard to become a saint by yourself," he said. "To be able to walk toward Christ with others allows us to fulfill that great command to love God and love neighbor."

Martin said his organization conducted research on FOCUS alumni, who are now no longer college students or full-time missionaries, but rather full-time parents or full-time professionals. Martin said they're now living the "normal life," but they're "living the normal life extraordinarily well."

In a certain sense, Martin said, this makes sense: college students are at the height of frivolity in their lives, distracted by such things as video games, alcohol, and even recreational drugs. As a result, as a group, college campuses are often not receptive to the Gospel.

"[College students] also happen to be at one of the most pivotal times in their lives," Martin said. "Whereas when you move a few years down your life, and all of a sudden you're a married [person], maybe you've got a few kids, and you meet someone who's living for Christ."

Martin argued that a father or mother, or a husband and wife, who are struggling with communication, balancing their budget, raising their children, or praying, will be more likely to seek the advice and companionship of a radiant Christian person.

For this reason, the "ground is much more fertile," Martin said, in a parish than it is at a university.

The book, "Making Missionary Disciples: How to Live the Method Modeled by the Master" is available this week from and from Amazon.


Governors’ elections pose moral dilemma for Catholic voters

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Catholics living in a state where both of the major party’s gubernatorial candidates oppose key Church teachings have a difficult choices to make on Election Day, a theologian told CNA.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear that “the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation.” Issues such as abortion and assisted suicide are, therefore, of special concern to Catholics in deciding who they want to shape a state’s laws.

This November, 36 states will be holding gubernatorial elections--and some states do not have a pro-life candidate on the ballot. In this scenario, what should guide a Catholic’s conscience?

Catholic University of America Professor Chad Pecknold told CNA that while this can be a challenge for Catholics, they “must vote for candidates who aim at the common good, and whose policies do not contradict Catholic teaching.”

Life issues outweigh other social issues, Pecknold explained, because “the gift of life is the basis for all human rights and responsibilities,” meaning that Catholics cannot vote for candidates who would support the destruction of any vulnerable life.

When presented with two candidates who both are in favor of abortion rights, for example, Pecknold told CNA that Catholics can find themselves wondering where to turn.

“With the major parties contradicting various aspects of Catholic teaching, and very often working against the common good, Catholic voters have difficult choices to make at the ballot box.”

In some cases, he told CNA, it may not be clear exactly were a candidate stands on life issues, or if their election might advance the moral good in spite of their personal equivocations.

“Hard cases are exactly that,” Pecknold said. “For example, two pro-abortion candidates may differ substantially on policy, with one perhaps favoring legal restrictions which could save lives,” Pecknold noted.

“In such cases voters should follow their conscience and Church teaching on the sanctity of life in voting for the candidate they believe will advance the common good, and protect the dignity of all human life, born and unborn.”

Alternatively, in states where candidates appear to have equal support of abortion, the moral option for Catholics may be to either stay home, or write in a different candidate, “one who would legislate in defense of human life,” said Pecknold.

There are several states where Catholics are wrestling with these questions before heading to the voting booth.

In Oregon, both of the major parties are fielding candidates in favor of abortion rights.

Republican Knute Buehler is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Kate Brown. Buehler has said that abortion is “a decision between a woman and her physician and should not be political or government-influenced.” Brown has described abortion as a “fundamental” right for women.

Incumbent Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) is also pro-abortion, and last year signed a controversial bill that expanded taxpayer-subsidized abortions for low-income women throughout the state. His opponent, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, has signed a pledge to maintain the current abortion law.

Voters in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont face the same conundrum.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) recently signed the NASTY Women Act, which enshrined a right to abortion in Massachusetts law. He has said numerous times that he supports a woman’s “right to choose” abortion. He is running against Jay Gonzalez, a Democrat who is firmly in support of abortion access, and has spoken out in support of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.

Gov. Chris Sununu (R) of New Hampshire has a long record of supporting abortion rights, as does his Democratic challenger, Molly Kelly.

In Vermont, moderate Republican incumbent Gov. Phil Scott is running against Democrat Christine Hallquist. Hallquist has called for every Vermonter to have access to both birth control and abortion, regardless of their ability to pay. Scott calls himself “pro-choice, with restrictions,” and does not support the taxpayer funding of abortion.

Other states have candidates who describes themselves as “personally pro-life,” but unwilling to fight to repeal pro-abortion laws or introduce new restrictions on the procedure.

There is, however, one state where Catholics have a different choice to make.

In a relatively unusual circumstance, both the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor in South Dakota describe themselves as pro-life.

Republican Kristi Noem, who is currently a member of the House of Representatives, has a 100 percent rating from National Right to Life. She is running against Billie Sutton, a self-described “pro-life and pro-Second Amendment” Democrat. Noem has the support of President Donald Trump. South Dakota is a solidly Republican state, and has not had a Democratic governor in nearly four decades.

Pro-life momentum? 40 Days for Life campaign begins in over 400 cities

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 09:00

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- The 40 Days for Life 2018 fall campaign began on Wednesday, claiming groups in a record 415 cities are taking part.
“The momentum in the pro-life movement is ours to keep or lose,” Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days for Life, said Sept. 23. “We are going all in this fall.”
“We have received more media coverage, conducted more leader training, and offered more free materials to local campaigns than ever before,” he added.
The outreach campaign, launched in 2007, takes place in both the spring and the fall. It aims to use prayer, fasting and peaceful vigils to end abortion and to ask God to “turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion,” the campaign website says.
According to its own figures, 40 Days for Life outreach has helped save over 14,600 lives from abortion. Its volunteers have held over 5,600 campaigns in 769 cities in 50 countries, with about 750,000 total participants.
During these campaigns, 96 abortion facilities have closed and 178 abortion workers have quit their jobs, the group says.
One group in the eastern U.S. began the fall 2018 campaign a week and a half early, and learned that one abortion worker quit during their sidewalk witness.
The campaign explicitly encourages a “positive, prayerful presence” and participants avoid shouting, confrontations with patients and employees, and the use of graphic images of abortion.
In Birmingham, England the fall campaign began with 150 people at its launch event.
Speakers included a grandfather whose grandchild would have been aborted if the child’s pregnant mother hadn’t encountered participants in a 40 Days for Life vigil. Also speaking was a woman who had an abortion after she became pregnant through assault.
A couple whose baby was saved from abortion during a previous campaign appeared with their child.
The campaign has been underway in Boston, Mass. for 10 years where Rita, a retired obstetrics nurse, is now a local leader. She told 40 Days for Life she is normally a homebody, but years ago she mentioned the possibility of leading the campaign to her husband.
“I wanted to run it by him because I knew he would tell me no, and then I’d be off the hook. Instead he said, ‘I think we should do it!’ We’ve been leading here ever since and have no plans to stop,” she said.
40 Days for Life is testing a billboard campaign near some abortion facilities. One Green Bay billboard next to a Planned Parenthood clinic bears a picture of a smiling woman. It says “Women deserve better than Planned Parenthood,” followed by a smaller tagline that reads: “the beginning of the end of abortion.”
Local campaign locations and more information is available at the 40 Days for Life website at

Toronto cardinal exhorts priests to 'become fire'

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 05:01

Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 27, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Canadian cardinal has a provocative message for priests, bishops, and seminarians struggling to attain holiness: “You must become fire.”

“If the flame entrusted to us at Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination flickers and dies, or is abruptly extinguished, and the darkness of evil envelops the priest or bishop, then havoc is wrought upon the most vulnerable, and the splendor of the Holy Priesthood is sullied,” Cardinal Thomas Collins said Sept. 18.

The Archbishop of Toronto delivered the keynote address at the 55th Annual National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, which took place Sept. 17-21 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The theme of fire, in many forms, was integral to his talk.

“If we who are bishops and priests do not become fire, and if those preparing for the priesthood do not, but instead become trapped in the dark and cold embrace of the world, the flesh, and the devil, then we are bound for destruction...and we fail those entrusted to our pastoral care,” Cardinal Collins said.

Cardinal Collins proposed four facets of the scriptural theme of fire and applied them to the priestly life and the ministry of guiding men to the priesthood.

First, the Fire of Sacrificial Love. In the same way that a sacrificial offering is totally consumed by fire, so too should a priest be consumed by his mission, giving his life fully to Christ and his people, and not merely giving his “leftovers.”

“When the sacrificial fire goes out in a priest or bishop, then he begins to put first his own wants – not his needs, but his wants. He wants control, or adulation, or a comfortable life, or worldly success, or popularity, or satisfaction of his lusts. Outwardly going through the motions of priestly or episcopal service, and saying all the right things, his actual conviction is that Christ must decrease, but I must increase.”

“If priests or bishops lead self-indulgent lives, then we should not be surprised if shocking instances of abuse occur. Self-indulgence is the culture in which both sexual and financial corruption flourish,” Cardinal Collins said.

Rather than think himself a “narcissistic star” around whom the parish revolves, a priest should engage in selfless ministry, always hoping at the end of his life to hear the Lord’s words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Cardinal Collins recommended that vocation directors “watch out for signs of self-indulgence and narcissim” in seminarians, and for “positive signs of humble service, concern for others, and unassuming hard work.”

He said the process of discernment and formation to cultivate this attitude takes many years, and the process ought not be “sped up.”

“Because it takes time for signs both positive and negative to become evident, it is good to have a lengthy period of discernment and formation, to allow hidden problems to surface before ordination …  in my own diocese and seminary I have lengthened the process: more time before entry into the formation community: a year or two in the associates program, four years of College Seminary for some, plus a propaedeutic year, and four years of theology, and a parish internship too.”

Collins’ second facet, Purification by Fire, is a frequent theme in both the Old and New Testaments. Cardinal Collins tied this theme back to the various ongoing sexual abuse scandals in the Church, and emphasized that the revelation of hidden evils is a “great and life-giving purification in the Church.”

“Disastrously, a toxic sentimentality, in which both the call to repentance and the vision of judgment are obscured, has entered into the Church, and never more so than in the few decades following Vatican II, from the seventies to the mid-nineties,” the cardinal reflected.

“There was a blurring of the clear lines of morality, and the creation of a distorted and highly subjective concept of conscience. It is no coincidence at all that this was the very period, we now clearly realize, in which most of the devastating incidents of priestly and episcopal abuse that are now in the news took place.”

He said that policies to deal with abuse are “surely necessary,” but added, “we surely do not need a policy to stop us from engaging in self-indulgent evil that leads to the Lake of Fire. All Christians, but especially bishops and priests, need to listen to and act on these simple words of Jesus: Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near at hand.”

“It is also true that when the moral and spiritual demands of Christianity, or of the priesthood, become no more than an ideal, much to be praised in honeyed words, but with no practical relevance, and held to be impossible to actually live, then individually and as a Church we have become gnostics,” Cardinal Collins stated.

“But neither Christianity nor the priesthood is an abstract ideal; God does not play with us, holding out to us an ideal that it is impossible for us to live. By God's grace, and only by God's grace, every single one of us can actually become a saint. Vatican II spoke of the universal call to holiness, not the universal call to mediocrity. With a vision of the purifying refiner's fire to keep us honest, we are challenged every day to be happy, healthy, holy priests. Nothing less than that. That is the reality of the priesthood.”

Collins emphasized the need for repentance, and suggested that priests recite quietly  the “Jesus Prayer”  during the elevation of the Host and Chalice at Mass, as well as frequently making use of the sacrament of confession.

“If we are to serve the Lord, and to invite others to do so, we must experience constant purification, and live in a spirit of repentance. Let the weeds and chaff within our hearts be thrown into the fire,” he said.

Third, the fire of Pentecostal Zeal is a boldness granted to the apostles that inspired them to be “on fire” for the Gospel, which Collins said all disciples of Christ should be.

This zeal is different, Collins said, from how “lively” or “quiet” a seminarian or priest’s personality might be, but rather, deep within, “profoundly committed to the life of holiness, that the fire will burn steadily and quietly throughout their priestly life.”

“There are two times when a priest or bishop is horizontal in Church: face down at his ordination and face up at his funeral,” Collins said. “In every moment between those two points, he must be on fire with sacrificial love and priestly zeal.”

Finally, the fire of “Majesty and Mystery” is the spirit of the Burning Bush found in the Book of Exodus; a captivating and personal call that comes when a person experiences the presence of God, and ultimately discerns their “glorious” vocation.

“Priests are not branch managers, and bishops are not CEOs,” Collins warned. “Woe to those who think in those terms, or who think of a priestly or episcopal career. We are unworthy servants and messengers of the living God.”

The priesthood is a tremendous privilege that most be treated with reverence, he said, and reminded the audience that the priesthood has always been and always will be “entrusted to frail and sinful men.”

He noted that “the priesthood, not the priest … must be treated with reverence.”

“Clericalism is not too high an estimation of the priesthood, but too low an estimation: it is using the holy priesthood to advance one's personal desires,” the cardinal said. “If bishops or priests use their sacred office to dominate others, to take advantage of people's quite appropriate reverence for the priestly office, or to manipulate that reverence to satisfy the cleric's self-indulgent desires, then that is not simply evil; it is sacrilegious evil.  

“Profound awareness of the majesty of the Lord who calls us must penetrate to the depths of our souls,” Cardinal Collins said. “If it does not, then priesthood and episcopate can become worldly, and can be corrupted.”

Oregon ballot initiative would curtail taxpayer funding of abortion

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 22:01

Salem, Ore., Sep 26, 2018 / 08:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A ballot initiative in the state of Oregon could, if passed, ban the use of public funds for abortion on demand, which has directly cost taxpayers nearly $25 million since 2002.

If Measure 106 passes, it would amend the state constitution to allow funds for abortion only in cases where it is required under federal law, or if a woman is in danger of death due to her physical condition.

It would also allow public funds to pay for the termination of a clinically diagnosed ectopic pregnancy, in which the fetus grows outside the uterus, causing the potential for complications.

Current Oregon law provides no protection from abortion for the unborn child for any reason and at any stage in pregnancy. Those eligible for Medicaid can obtain an unlimited number of abortions, for any reason, according to the “Yes on 106” campaign.

Jeff Jimerson, an Oregon graphic designer, spent two years gathering enough signatures to win his proposal a spot on the November ballot.

Opponents of the measure have cited studies, including a 2009 report from the Planned Parenthood-aligned Guttmacher Institute, that suggest that women seeking an abortion are more likely to seek other options when public funds are not available to pay for the procedure.

The federal government and about two-thirds of all U.S. states already have partial bans on the use of public funds for abortion, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. The federal government bans the use of federal funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life.

But Oregon is one of 17 states which offers abortions paid for by state funds to women eligible for Medicaid, who are typically low-income. According to the Oregon Health Authority, about 3,600 abortions were paid for in fiscal year 17-18 alone by the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s version of Medicaid, at a cost of nearly $2 million to taxpayers.

Oregon’s governor signed a law last summer requiring Oregon insurers to cover abortion on demand and increasing taxpayer funding for abortion, drawing strong criticism from Catholic leaders. At the time of its passage, the law provided for about $500,000 over the next two years to expand free reproductive health coverage, including abortion, to immigrants.

While some religious exemptions were provided for, such as in the case of churches and some religious non-profits per federal law, the law provided that the government would step in to pay for coverage in the case of such gaps.

“By insisting on complete insurance coverage of abortion, including late-term and sex-selective abortions, the legislature shows itself intolerant of widely-held opposing views and will compel thousands of Oregonians to support what their conscience rejects,” the Oregon Catholic Conference said in July 2017.

Archbishop Lori: Investigative team is already working in WV diocese

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 18:45

Wheeling, W.V., Sep 26, 2018 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has begun an investigation into the alleged misconduct of Bishop Michael Bransfield, who until recently led the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

Lori was appointed apostolic administrator of West Virginia’s only diocese Sept. 13, and was charged by Pope Francis with undertaking an investigation in allegations of “sexual harassment of adults” against Bransfield.

Bransfield’s resignation as diocesan bishop was accepted by the pope on the same day as Lori’s appointment.

In a Sept. 25 letter to clergy of the diocese, Lori reported that he had formed a five-member investigative team “comprised of three men and two women, including one non-Catholic, who bring a breadth of investigative expertise and experience to the their work.”

Lori said that the team was already reviewing “more than three dozen calls to the hotline I established on the day of my appointment as Administrator.”

“I have asked for a thorough, independent, and expeditious investigation,” he added.

While Lori was instructed to investigate charges that Bransfield had sexually harassed adults, Bransfield has faced other allegations in the past.

During the 2012 Philadelphia trial of two priests, one charged with sexual abuse and the other with enabling him, witnesses and a prosecutor alleged that Bransfield “may have known about sexual misconduct by [another priest] or abused minors himself,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Bransfield denied those allegations.

Lori also announced that Msgr. Fred Annie, formerly vicar general and moderator of the curia in the diocese, would “step away from his duties in the Chancery during the entirety of the investigation into the allegations concerning Bishop Bransfield.”

Lori appointed Bryan Minor, until now Wheeling-Charleston’s human resources director, to serve as his “Delegate for Administrative Affairs.”

Minor, Lori said, “will assist me in overseeing the daily operations of the Diocese and will serve as the diocesan point person for the administrative issues that heretofore were the responsibility of the Vicar General.”

Minor has worked for the Catholic Church in West Virginia since 1996, serving in a variety of executive and development positions.

Lori’s expressed his intention to serve as an active leader in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, despite his obligations to his own Archdiocese of Baltimore. He asked for prayers, and said that he would continue praying for the diocese.

“My primary concern remains the spiritual welfare of the clergy and laity of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. To that end, I intend to make regular pastoral visits to the Diocese, meeting with priests and celebrating Mass with and for the people.”


Millennials staying married at a higher rate

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 18:30

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- A recent study from the University of Maryland has shown that members of the generation born in and after the mid 1980s are divorcing at a lower rate than older cohorts.

Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, released an analysis Sept. 15 which drew on census data to show that the divorce rate in the United States had dropped by 18 percent between the years 2008 and 2016. The drop was credited in large part to millennials staying married--even if they are marrying at lower rates than previous generations did at the same age.

Dr. John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that he believes the report is “kind of good news and bad news.”

“The good news is: the divorce rate is falling, particularly among millennials. The bad news is less people are getting married, especially poorer people. Many people are just choosing to cohabit."

While it had been thought that a drop in the divorce rate could be credited to an aging population less likely to divorce, the study showed that even when controlling for age the divorce rate still dropped by 8 percent, and that the millennials who do marry tend to stay married more than older demographics.

Slightly more than 10 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 are divorced, a number which has stayed relatively stable since 1980. In contrast, over a quarter of people over the age of 44 are divorced, a 10 percent rise since 1980.

According to a separate study from Bowling Green’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the divorce rate for people aged 55 to 64 almost doubled between 1990 and 2015.

In calculating the divorce rate, Cohen compared the number of divorces to the number of married women so that the divorce rate would not be positively impacted by fewer marriages overall.

Grabowski hypothesized that the lower divorce rates among millennials could be partly explained by marriage no longer being considered a social an expectation or requirement among their generation.

This means that those who do marry are being “much more intentional” about the process, he said. “In some ways they're swimming against the tide a bit culturally by doing that.”

Additionally, Grabowski suggested that the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s had led to an increased exposure to the negative effects of divorce on men, women, and children.

“People are more aware now of the resources and practices that they need to have a healthy marriage--in other words, to keep a marriage working,” he explained. It also helps, he said, that people are better informed about what it takes to keep a marriage working, and that there are more resources available to aid a troubled marriage. 

While the news that millennials are increasingly shunning divorce can be read as a positive development, the decreasing number of millennials who marry at all may indicate cause for concern, Grabowski said.

Cohabiting couples often cite disincentives to marry--such as the high cost of a “fairytale wedding”--but Grabowski told CNA that he believes the benefits of married life clearly outweigh any cost. 

“We have decades of social scientific research that shows that people who do get married do better economically, health-wise, and emotionally than people who remain unmarried or who simply cohabit or serially cohabit with different people,” he said.

The largest group of people living in poverty in the United States are single-parent households with children, “usually headed by women,” Grabowski added.

“People who remain unmarried but have children are at a huge economic disadvantage compared to their married counterparts.”

Many millennials, Grabowski theorized, may be afraid of entering a marriage after watching their parents or relatives divorce. Still, he said that the analysis showed “a little bit of good news” about marriage as a whole.

“And if the millennials kill divorce, or kill the divorce rate, well, that's a good thing. If only we could convince maybe more of them to enter into marriage, we'd be doing really well.”

Diocese of Arlington annouces review of all clergy files

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 15:30

Arlington, Va., Sep 26, 2018 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Arlington has announced that it is conducting a review of all clergy personnel files and that it will publish a list priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. The review was announced Sept. 26 in the diocesan newspaper. 

“Our prayer is that publishing the names of those credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors will bring victims healing and consolation in the Lord and inspire those who have not yet come forward to tell their story,” diocesan head of communication Billy Atwell said in the statement.

The review, which is already underway, includes all priests and deacons who have served or are currently serving in the diocese. On its release, the list of those clergy who have been credibly accused will include those who are no longer in active ministry, as well as those who are currently serving, should there be any.

“It is our hope that this decision will help assure the faithful of the diocese’s commitment to accountability,” Atwell said.

The Diocese of Arlington conducted similar reviews of its files in 2003, covering the years dating back to the founding of the diocese in 1974. A further review was carried out in 2011 to ensure that nothing had been overlooked and to check that all appropriate reports had been made to law enforcement.

According to Atwell, the diocese reported “a number of credible accusations” as part of the John Jay Study in 2003. This study, which led to the publication of the John Jay Report, was commissioned by the National Review Board, a body created to advise the U.S. bishops’ conference in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis of the early 2000’s. The study analyzed allegations of sexual abuse in Catholic dioceses in United States.

Since his installation as the fourth Bishop of Arlington in October 2016, Bishop Michael Burbidge has regularly met with survivors of sexual abuse both in individual appointments and as part of a support group run by the diocese.

The diocese said that Burbidge had taken a number of other steps in response to the allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report earlier this summer.  In late August he celebrated a public Mass for the victims of sexual abuse and for their healing, and sent out a letter to the entire diocese reiterating the process for handling allegations of sexual abuse.

In early September, Burbidge met with the seminarians of the diocese to express his commitment to their well-being. At that event, according to the diocese, the bishop had a “frank, open and respectful dialogue” regarding the recent scandals.

After that meeting, Burbidge sent a letter to the parents of the seminarians, stating his commitment to their sons’ protection and his personal confidence in the seminaries to which they were being sent.

In addition to working with the Diocesan Review Board, Atwell said the bishop was committed to an ongoing schedule of meetings with priests, religious, and lay people in the diocese to discuss what further measures can be taken to improve safeguarding policies.

The Diocese of Arlington has about 600,000 Catholics across 70 parishes.

Minn. archbishop affirms abuse victims' courage as settlement approved

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 14:09

St. Paul, Minn., Sep 26, 2018 / 12:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At a hearing in US bankruptcy court Tuesday, Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis told clergy abuse victims their persistence and courage have made children more safe.

At the Sept. 25 hearing, a judge approved a $210 million bankruptcy settlement between the Saint Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese and about 450 victims of clergy sex abuse.

“I need to once again say that I am truly sorry,” Archbishop Hebda told the victims. “I know that those words – as well as my promise of prayers - might ring hollow for many and will never be enough. Still, I am so very sorry for the horrific things done to you by people you should have been able to trust – and as a bishop, as a priest, as a Cathoilc, and as a human being - my heart aches when I think about the resulting harm to you, your families and so many others.”

He also affirmed “that your persistence and courage have made a huge difference. You have been the catalyst for needed change.”

“The practices, procedures and audits we have adopted to stop future abuse may not be enough to restore your trust or belief in the Church – understandably so – but the changes you insisted upon are keeping kids safer right now. Thank you for that.”

Archbishop Hebda added that “as we gratefully anticipate finalization of the settlement, I hope this resolution brings some measure of justice to you. Yet, I know that no amount of money will make up for the horrors you experienced and for the far-too-frequent failures by priests and bishops. Inexcusable failures that went on for way too long.”

“Many of you have told me how difficult it is to believe. I find that devastating. I personally feel such strength in my belief in a God for whom nothing is impossible,” the archbishop stated.

Referring to his pectoral cross, he said it serves as a reminder “rhat the greatest good can come from the greatest evil.”

“It gives me hope that it is indeed possible for hearts to mend, suffering to ease and trust to return. As we all take next steps, be assured that that will be my hope and prayer for each of you who are survivors. I would welcome your assistance as we work to keep our children safe. I thank you for helping our Church change for the better.”

The Star Tribune reports that the $210 million will be put in a trust fund, the trustee of which will allocate funds to victims, with minimum payments of $50,000.

The fund will also pay for about half of the $20 million attorney fees for the archdiocese; Jeff Anderson and Associates, who represented victims, “is expected to take an average of about 30 percent from the individual settlements of its clients.”

The $210 million settlement was agreed upon by the victims and the local Church in May. It will bring the archdiocese out of bankruptcy, for which it filed in January 2015.

The amount is an increase of more than $50 million from the proposal originally submitted by the archdiocese. A federal bankruptcy judge had ordered the parties to return to mediation in January 2018, after that original submission.

The majority of the $210 million settlement, about $170 million, comes from archdiocesan and parochial insurers. The other $40 million is from diocesan and parish sources, such as cash-on-hand and the sale of interests in land.

There are no plans for additional parish appeals to fund the settlement.

When the settlement was agreed to in May, sex abuse victim Jim Keenan called it “an absolute triumph,” and added, “I do believe we have made the world safer in terms of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.”

The settlement brings resolution to all pending abuse litigation against the archdiocese, parishes, and other Church entities.

Archbishop Hebda has noted that the archdiocese has improved the way in which it addresses allegations, including the establishment of a review board that includes members who have survived past clergy abuse.

Alleged abuse victim searches for justice in the Diocese of Crookston

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 06:00

Crookston, Minn., Sep 26, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- In 1971, when Ron Vasek was 16 years old, a priest invited him to take a trip. The priest, Fr. Roger Grundhaus, was a family friend, and Ron’s parents supported the idea.

Fr. Grundhaus, a priest of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, was going to a canon law convention in Columbus, Ohio. He said he wanted Vasek to come along to help with the drive.

Vasek had looked forward to the trip. “I’d never been off the farm, basically,” he told CNA.

Vasek said that on the first day of the trip, Grundhaus bought him a beer, and continued to buy him alcohol during the trip.

On the second day of the trip, Vasek recalled, Grundhaus attended meetings in the morning, and then spent time drinking with friends. Vasek and Grundhaus went to dinner together in the hotel’s restaurant, where the priest continued to drink as they ate their meal.  

After dinner, Vasek said, the priest sexually assaulted him in their hotel room.

Vasek told CNA he fought the priest off, and then “I just kinda stared at him and then he moved back away and never said anything, didn’t do a thing. And then a little later we went to bed and it was kind of uncomfortable, but I just didn’t know what to think of it.”

“I was 16 years old, off the farm, I didn’t have a clue what was going on,” he said.

“We left there, and we drove home like nothing happened, and he never, ever, ever, said anything to me about it, for a long time, and I kinda just buried it in the back of my head. I just didn’t know what to do.”

“I never said anything to my parents,” Vasek told CNA. “Ever.”

The next year Grundhaus invited him to attend another convention, and his parents, who knew nothing about the abuse, “thought it was a great idea.”  

A blizzard stopped them along the way. There were no hotel rooms in the small town where they were stopped, but an armory had been opened as a makeshift shelter to accommodate stranded travelers. They spent the night in the armory along with families and other motorists stopped by the snow.

“So that was-- I guess God was watching out for me.”

Grundhaus took him on one more trip, again with encouragement from his parents. The priest tried to get him to drink scotch, he said, but he refused and felt uncomfortable being with Grundhaus, although he said he was not assaulted on that trip.

A few years later, when Vasek's brother died, Grundhaus grew closer to his family. “He became really an instrumental part of the family, because he counseled mom and dad. He was there all the time.”

Vasek told CNA that he never raised the issue of his assault with his family, although he saw Grundhaus frequently as he became an adult, as they often worked together on retreat teams and other ministry initiatives.

He told CNA the abuse took a heavy toll on his life. He said that he drank often, and struggled in other areas of his life.
“I didn’t know how much that abuse affected me until I can look back on it now with a clear mind.”

Vasek said that even while the abuse had a serious impact on him, he tried not to think about it often. In fact, he told CNA, “I just kind of quit thinking about it until one day, probably ten years ago.”

Vasek was in a parish sacristy during a retreat in 2008 when Grundhaus approached him, he told CNA.

He said that Grundhaus “said he wanted to apologize for what he did in Columbus, Ohio. And he said he went to confession for it. But he said, ‘if you need any help with anything, if you made bad business decisions or if you’re struggling with anything,’ he said, ‘I have money, I can help pay for therapy or I can help you out.’”

“You know, he kind of shocked me,” Vasek said.

Vasek didn't understand why, after decades, “all of the sudden he’s apologizing. I just said ‘Ok, I accept your apology,’ and kind of just left it at that.”

A few days later, Vasek went to the priest’s office, asking him to swear there had been no other victims. He said Grundhaus told him he hadn’t abused anyone else.

“And then he tells me, ‘if this ever comes up, I’ll always deny it.’”

Vasek had no idea how to respond to what Grundhaus told him. “I really struggled with that, but I didn’t say anything because of the family stuff.”

In 2010, Vasek decided to say something. At the time, he had applied to become a deacon in the Diocese of Crookston, where he still lived. His son had just become a priest in the diocese.

He said he first told a priest in the neighboring Diocese of Fargo. That diocese sent the allegation to Bishop Michael Hoeppner, Crookston’s bishop. Hoeppner then asked Vasek for an appointment. 

(Vasek said this meeting took place in 2010, while the Diocese of Crookston claims it took place in 2011.)

“When I went into the bishop’s office, there was nobody there, it was just him and I.”

“So the bishop, he just kind of, he just chews on me for five minutes,” Vasek told CNA, adding that the bishop told him that Grundhaus was a great priest, and that a “claim” about the matter could be very expensive. After a while, Vasek recalled, the bishop asked him if he intended to make a formal complaint.

“By this time,” Vasek said, “I didn’t know what the hell to think. I just put my hands up and I said ‘I just want to know if I can get through the diaconate program, knowing this information.”

Vasek said that Hoeppner told him he believed the story, before adding that he shouldn’t say anything about the matter.

Vasek told CNA he agreed to keep silent. “That was the first time I had revealed my abuse in 40 years, so I was still kind of numb.”

He began the diaconal program in the diocese soon after the meeting. His allegation did not come up again until October 2015.

On Oct. 21, 2015, Vasek said he was summoned to meet with Bishop Hoeppner at the bishop’s home. There, he told CNA, Hoeppner told him to sign a letter recanting his allegation against Grundhaus.

He said the bishop explained that the Fargo diocese had inquired about Vasek’s 2010 allegation against Grundhaus, and intended to forbid the priest from exercising ministry within its territory.

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

The letter had already been printed on diocesan stationary.

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

“When he said that, I knew exactly what he meant,” Vasek told CNA. “I was sickened. Absolutely sickened.”

Vasek signed the letter.

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

In August of that year, months before that meeting, the diocese had been ordered by a court to release the names of all priests alleged to have abused children prior to 1985. A priest of the diocese told CNA that he believes Hoeppner asked Vasek to retract his claim in order to avoid naming Grundhaus on that list.

Vasek told CNA he was stunned.

He couldn’t believe what he had experienced. He had struggled for decades to grapple with the abuse he experienced. When he told his bishop about it, he was ordered to keep silent. And now he was being asked to deny it had ever happened.

It felt, he said, “like being abused all over again.”

He thought of words he says Hoeppner said to him in 2010: “This is a cross you’re just going to have to carry.”

For two years, Vasek did not mention the letter to his wife or family.

In February 2017 Vasek’s pastor, Fr. Xavier Ilango, recommended him for ordination as a deacon. Vasek was measured for vestments. The Diocese of Crookston mailed invitations for its upcoming diaconal ordination; Vasek’s name was listed among those who would be ordained on June 10, 2017.

But in March 2017, Vasek told CNA, he was abruptly told that his ordination might be delayed by at least a year. With almost everything prepared, he was told his pastor had raised previously unmentioned concerns, and that he might not be ordained with his class.  

CNA has obtained a copy of a letter reportedly from Vasek’s pastor, which said that Vasek had strained relationships with some parishioners and needed to learn to take direction better. The letter, unsigned and undated, suggested that Vasek’s ordination could be delayed a year.

CNA attempted to contact Ilango, but was told by the Diocese of Crookston that he is on sabbatical. His parish bulletin reports that he traveled to India on July 1.

On April 6, 2017, Vasek and his wife met with Hoeppner, who told them he would give more thought to the possibility of Vasek’s ordination. He seemed non-committal.

Vasek told CNA he believed his ordination was being threatened as a reminder to keep silent about the abuse he had endured, and the letter he had signed.  

Vasek decided he had had enough. He decided that he could not trust Hoeppner, and could not promise to be obedient to him, which would be required at the time of his ordination. He told his story to two priests of the diocese, Fr. Robert Schreiner and Msgr. David Baumgartner.  

Schreiner told CNA that he remembers Vasek saying to him, “I’ve been abused for 41 years, and now I’m still being abused.”

Schreiner and Vasek had been friends for decades. He described Vasek as a man of “integrity and honesty.” Although he was director of the diocesan diaconal program, and had previously been Hoeppner’s chancellor, he resolved to help.

Baumgartner, a canon lawyer who had previously been Hoeppner’s vicar general- the chief advisor to the bishop- also decided that he would do whatever he could to help Vasek.

Both priests told CNA they believed that Hoeppner had forced Vasek to sign the 2015 letter, and both believed that the bishop was unjustly punishing and threatening Vasek in 2017.

“I believed him," Schreiner told Minnesota Public Radio in 2017.

"As the account unfolded with each horrifying revelation and event and name, my heart would sink lower and my mind would flinch, not wanting to believe it. But at no point during his testament that night, nor since, did my intuition click with the thought that 'that doesn't ring true' or 'that just doesn't sound right.'"

In fact, CNA spoke with several priests and former diocesan employees in the Diocese of Crookston; none questioned the integrity of Vasek’s story.

“This was bad on so many levels,” Schreiner told CNA.

Baumgartner told CNA that Vasek wanted to address Hoeppner’s conduct with Church authorities. Vasek hoped he could still be ordained a deacon.

But Baumgartner, Schreiner, and Vasek were uncertain how to make a complaint against their own bishop. After prayer, they decided to try the apostolic nunciature- the Vatican embassy in Washington, DC.

Baumgartner called the apostolic nunciature in March 2017, asking for direction about how to proceed. He said that initially, the nuncio’s office seemed “eager to get to the know the story,” and promised to provide him soon with further instructions.

He said that after weeks passed with no response, he called the nunciature again in early April, and was surprised when a staffer told him that he should not make any accusation unless he had “solid proof.”

“The attitude of the nunciature changed,” Baumgartner said. “They went from being eager to help to saying that we can’t do anything unless we had proof.”

After that conversation, Baumgartner decided the Vatican was unlikely to respond quickly.

“Ron’s ordination was pending. I presumed that the fact that this was a man called to orders mattered, and that the Holy See would respond appropriately, given the timeline that we found ourselves in. That expectation was completely unfounded on my part.”

“We don’t have proof,” Baumgartner added. “We have a story. But we wanted the Church to investigate that story.”

Baumgartner sent a letter to the nunciature explaining the allegation against Hoeppner on April 11, 2017. He asked for advice about how to proceed. Then he waited for a response.

In the meantime, Vasek sent a letter directly to Hoeppner, on April 29, 2017.

“It is my deepest desire to serve in the Diocese of Crookston as a deacon,” Vasek wrote.

“In October of 2015, you asked me to sign a letter to renounce my accusation of sexual abuse against Msgr. Roger Grundhaus....Before I signed it I declared to you that the letter was a lie, and you determined that I should sign it.”

“I renounce that letter as a lie,” Vasek added.

“In another conversation, you asked if I intended to file a law suit regarding my sexual abuse. I would like you to know that I retain the right to seek justice in this matter by legal and canonical means.”

Vasek doubted that he would ever be ordained a deacon in Crookston after that letter was sent. But he wanted the truth to come out.  

On May 13, 2017, Baumgartner sent packets to several Vatican offices, including the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formally alleging misconduct on the part of Hoeppner. He reports that he received a response to those complaints in late June of that year, when the nunciature wrote to him, saying that his complaint to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had been forwarded to the Congregation for Clergy. The letter offered no other information.

“Msgr. Baumgartner sent letters to four offices of the Vatican,” Vasek told CNA.

“The only that happened was that the nuncio told Bishop Hoeppner to investigate Grundhaus,” Vasek said, adding that there was no acknowledgement of the complaint about Hoeppner.

Vasek was looking for justice. By the time the Vatican responded to say his complaint had been transferred from one office to another, Vasek had already begun a different process.

On May 9, Vasek sued Bishop Hoeppner and the Diocese of Crookston. On the same day, Grundhaus was suspended from ministry.

If he’d felt that Church authorities would work toward justice, Vasek would not have sued, several sources told CNA.

“Our preference was to have the Church respond,” Baumgartner said. But when the nunciature did not seem willing to respond quickly, they decided to proceed with a lawsuit.

The lawsuit is a controversial matter for many sources CNA spoke with. Vasek’s lawyer is Jeffrey Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who has led litigation against dioceses in several states, and advocated for changes to statutes of limitation for clergy sexual abuse victims. Critics have called Anderson an opportunist, and argued that his tactics have aimed to bankrupt the Church even when dioceses are willing to help victims of sexual abuse, all while he has collected attorney’s fees for his work.

Anderson has also been accused of paying kickbacks to victims’ advocacy groups that refer potential clients to him, although he denies that allegation.

Vasek was unsure about Anderson. So were his friends. The priests had worked in the curia while Anderson sued their own diocese. But they said that no other qualified lawyer would take their case.

CNA attempted to contact two law firms Vasek says he approached. One said it would not comment on clients or potential clients, and the other did not respond to requests for comment.

Schreiner said Vasek reluctantly went to Anderson, and was clear from the beginning that he did not want his lawsuit to harm the Church. He said Vasek insisted he wanted justice, and for the truth to come out.

Some aspects of the lawsuit have been settled. The letter Vasek signed was returned to him, after being recovered from the diocese by Crookston police.

Vasek also reached a financial settlement with the diocese, the amount of which is undisclosed. He told CNA the settlement was modest, and that he would save it for his retirement.

Other parts of the lawsuit continue, some of which pertain to Grundhaus himself, and the abuse Vasek alleges took place in 1971. Some have to do with the diocesan response to abuse.

The goal of the lawsuit, Vasek emphasized, “is to get to the truth.”

“The money means crap to me,” he said. “I want the truth to come out.”

“To expose these guys for covering up an abuse that happened. The bishop has admitted breaking the rules that Pope Francis laid down,” Vasek said.

“And just to clean up the diocese, period.”

“The homosexual subculture of the priesthood is well and vibrant in this diocese and has been for years,” Vasek said. “That culture has been in our diocese for a long time.”

Vasek and his supporters told CNA they hoped that Church authorities would intervene to help with the situation, even after the lawsuit was underway.

On March 28, 2018, a year after Ron Vasek’s ordination was delayed, his son Fr. Craig Vasek sent a letter to the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

CNA obtained a copy of that letter.

Fr. Vasek, who declined to be interviewed for this story, wrote that Hoeppner was “prepared to do avoid addressing this matter.”

“All we want is the truth,” Fr. Vasek wrote, adding that “if you give me the chance, you can be the judge of our situation.”

“To be fair, we are pursuing the regular course of action, but the systems in place are not going to help,” he wrote.

“I am writing to you because you are good, trustworthy, and just. And we are in grave need, now.”

The priest asked O’Malley for a brief meeting, offering to fly to Boston, or arrange a phone call or video conference.

On May 2, 2018, the Archdiocese of Boston sent Fr. Vasek a reply to his letter.

“We are sorry to know of the difficulties currently presented to you, your family, and the Diocese of Crookston. Although the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, of which Cardinal O’Malley serves as President, does not have oversights or jurisdiction for any allegations or cases concerning sexual abuse by clergy, we are aware that these are very difficult matters.”

“Thank you for understanding that with regard to any matters concerning clergy personnel in the Diocese of Crookston or any civil or canonical complaints concerning the diocese, we must necessarily respect the jurisdiction and oversight of the Diocesan Bishop and those diocesan officials appointed to assist with such matters. We hope that this information may be helpful for you.”

The letter, which concluded with a promise of prayers, was signed by Fr. Robert Kickham, secretary to Cardinal O’Malley.

On Aug. 20, after reports surfaced about a 2015 letter sent to him by Fr. Boniface Ramsey, a priest concerned with the behavior of now-disgraced Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, O’Malley issued a public apology for failing to personally review Ramsey’s letter, and pledged to modify the procedures of his office.

A source in the Archdiocese of Boston told CNA that the cardinal’s office contacted Fr. Vasek shortly after that apology was issued, inviting the priest to meet with O’Malley.

CNA requested to interview Hoeppner, but the Diocese of Crookston declined that request. Instead, CNA was referred to four statements released by the diocese.

The first statement, issued May 9, 2017, said that “Bishop Hoeppner categorically denies that he in any way forced, coerced or encouraged Mr. Vasek not to pursue his allegations regarding Msgr. Grundhaus.”

“Msgr. Vasek’s allegations of abuse regarding Msgr. Grundhaus were reported to law enforcement in 2011.” Multiple sources told CNA that it was the Fargo diocese, and not the Diocese of Crookston, that reported the allegations to law enforcement in that year.

The next statement, a May 14, 2017 letter addressed to Catholics in the Diocese of Crookston, reiterated Hoopner’s denial, adding that “there are two sides to every story and there is another, a very different side to the story reported last week.”

CNA supplied specific questions to the Diocese of Crookston, asking for the other side of the story, but the diocese declined to answer those questions.

The third statement, issued September 20, 2017, after the first aspects of the lawsuit were settled, said that the settlement reached “avoids costly attorney fees and a drawn out legal process. The settlement agreement does not constitute any admission of unlawful conduct or wrong doing by Bishop Hoeppner. No diocesan funds were used to pay the settlement. The Diocese is now seeking dismissal of the remaining claims related to this matter.”

The fourth statement, issued September 27, 2017, in Hoeppner’s name, said that the bishop “did not pressure Mr. Vasek to remain quiet when we met in 2011 or when we met again in 2015. Mr. Vasek had indicated to me that he wanted the alleged incident to remain confidential. I attempted to abide by his wishes.”
“I was willing to ordain Mr. Vasek as a permanent deacon. He attended the final deacon formation weekend in late April, along with the other deacon candidates. Mr. Vasek chose not to be ordained for diaconal ministry. I respect his decision.”

“Looking back and knowing what I do now, I believe I would have handled my conversations with Mr. Vasek differently. However, please know that I did not pressure Mr. Vasek into making any decision with which he was not comfortable,” Hoeppner’s statement added.

“I continue to pray for all those involved in this matter. No one should ever be subject to inappropriate sexual conduct. I ask all Catholics and people of good will to pray for healing for all those who have suffered abuse.” 

CNA was unable to reach Grundhaus.

Hoeppner, 69, was ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI in 1975, after studies at the Pontifical North American College. After earning a licentiate in canon law, and serving as a teacher, educational administrator, and director of vocations, he became the Diocese of Winona’s judicial vicar in 1988, and the vicar general of that diocese in 1997.

He was appointed Bishop of Crookston Sept. 28, 2007.

On Aug. 22, after the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing sexual abuse in six dioceses of that state, Hoeppner wrote in a pastoral letter that “All victims are owed sincere apologies for what those entrusted with leadership in the Church have done and have failed to do.”

“It is important that we promise to continue, with renewed effort, our commitment to build in the Church, as Pope Francis puts it, ‘a culture of care that says `never again’ to any form of abuse.’”

“Changes are necessary so that sins and failures of the past are not repeated,” he added.

CNA contacted the press office of the Holy See for comment on the status of any canonical investigation against Hoeppner, but received no response before press time.

Vasek told CNA that, through everything he has experienced, his faith has not been shaken.

“I know that these men are not what Christ envisioned for his Church. Judas betrayed the Lord. People will betray the Lord all the time. I know what the Church teaches.”

“I encourage people to keep going to Church,” Vasek added.

“I tell everybody, don’t leave the Church because of these rotten men. That’s just what the devil wants. The devil wants to destroy from within. I say keep going to Church. Keep up with the sacraments. Keep praying. Because Christ’s Church is good. Some of the men in it aren’t.”

“I know who Christ is. He hasn’t done anything to me, other than give me hope.”


Don’t cut vital services to immigrants with new DHS rule, bishops plead

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 21:00

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Immigrants and their families will suffer great harm if long-standing policies are changed by the Department of Homeland Security to further limit access to public benefits, the U.S. bishops have said.
The rule would consider whether applicants for legal permanent resident status are likely to become a burden to public services.
For the U.S. bishops, the rule is “likely to prevent families from accessing important medical and social services vital to public health and welfare.”
“This further compounds strict eligibility guidelines already in place preventing many immigrants from receiving federal aid,” the bishops added.
The bishops’ Sept. 23 statement came from Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, the respective chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and the Committee on Domestic and Social Development.
The initial analysis by the bishops’ conference suggests the rule will be “very harmful to families” and cause fear among immigrant families who are “already struggling to fulfill the American Dream,” they said.
On Sept. 22 the Department of Homeland Security announced a proposed rule it said would “clearly define long-standing law” to ensure that those who seek to enter and remain in the U.S. “can support themselves financially and will not be reliant on public benefits.”
“The Department takes seriously its responsibility to be transparent in its rulemaking and is welcoming public comment on the proposed rule,” said Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

“This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”
The changes will not affect immigrants who already have green cards, but they could force millions of other immigrants to choose between accepting public assistance and seeking a green card to live and work legally in the U.S., the New York Times reports. It could also force older immigrants to stop participating in low-cost prescription drug programs lest they be considered ineligible for resident status.
Some immigrants who do not understand the new rule may avoid seeking legal status for fear of losing benefits, Charles Wheeler, a legal expert at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, told the New York Times.
The Department of Homeland Security cited a historic standard that considers whether an alien seeking admission to the U.S. would become a “public charge.” Such a person is defined by whether he or she will receive certain public benefits above a defined threshold or for longer than a defined period of time. This was the most common reason for refusing admission at ports of entry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the announcement said.
The U.S. bishops, however, said the notice “undercuts decades of administrative policies and guidelines on how immigrants are treated by the United States government.”
While federal law has always required people seeking green cards to prove they will not be a burden, the government has never previously considered food assistance and some other public benefits to be such a burden, the New York Times reported.
Potential permanent immigrants to the U.S. will be affected by the law, as will students, workers and others with temporary visas who seek to stay permanently. Some immigrants could be asked to post cash bonds of at least $10,000 to secure their green cards under the new rule.
The Trump administration said the rule could affect 382,000 people per year.
The Department of Homeland Security stressed that the determination of whether someone would be a public charge is “prospective” based on the totality of a person’s circumstances. These legal factors include age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills.
The public benefits to be considered include federal, state, local or tribal cash assistance; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Supplemental Security Income; Medicaid, with limited exceptions for emergency benefits and some education-related disability services; Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy; food stamps; government-funded institutionalization for long-term care; public housing; and Section 8 housing choice vouchers and rental assistance.

Asylees, refugees, and other recognized vulnerable individuals are not impacted by the rule. In considering eligibility for admission, the Department of Homeland Security will not consider public benefits received by immigrants serving in active duty or reserve U.S. armed forces, or by their spouse or children.
Other categories excluded from consideration include disaster relief, emergency medical assistance, benefits received by an immigrant’s U.S. citizen children, and Medicaid benefits for children or potential adopted children of U.S. citizens. Families earning under 15 percent of the federal poverty line will also be exempt.
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, there will be a public comment period of 60 days.