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Lay advisers urge US bishops to press for release of McCarrick documents

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 12:24

Baltimore, Md., Jun 11, 2019 / 10:24 am (CNA).- Advisory bodies to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called Tuesday for the bishops to urge the Holy See to make public all documentation related to the misconduct of Theodore McCarrick, in accord with canon and civil law.

“We once again present a resolution related to the McCarrick scandal,” stated retired Army Col. Anita Raines, Chair of the National Advisory Council to the U.S. Bishops (NAC), in her report to the U.S. Bishops’ Spring General Assembly in Baltimore, Md., June 11.

“The NAC unanimously requests that the U.S. bishops exhort the Holy See to make public the results of diocesan and archdiocesan investigations of Theodore McCarrick.”

Immediately afterward, the Chair of the National Review Board (NRB), a lay advisory group to the U.S. bishops on protecting minors from abuse, also asked the bishops to request the release of all documents relevant to the McCarrick investigation.

Referencing a resolution of the bishops at their annual fall meeting in November 2018 that called for the release of the documents – one that was ultimately rejected with concerns that it could be seen as opposing the Holy See – Cesario urged the bishops to press for the release of the documentation anyhow, stating that “the salvation of souls is the supreme law of the Church,” and that “care for your people must be at the forefront when dealing with this issue.”

The 13-member NRB was constituted by the USCCB in 2002, after revelations of the sexual abuse of minors by clerics that spanned decades and which occurred around the country. The board advises the USCCB Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The NAC meets ahead of the bishops’ biannual meetings and considers their agenda for the meetings, offering support or criticism of each agenda item.

The chairs of both the NRB and the NAC addressed the Spring General Assembly of the U.S. Bishops, being held in Baltimore June 11-13.

In addition to calling for the publication of documents related to the Holy See’s investigation of McCarrick, both advisory bodies expressed concern over the proposed USCCB directives for the implementation of Pope Francis’ motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi as a response to the abuse crisis.

In particular, Raines said that the directives encourage the involvement of the laity by metropolitans in the investigations of sexual abuse allegations of bishops, but do not require such involvement of lay experts. In addition to the possibility of leaving out qualified experts from investigations, it would give the “perception of bishops investigating bishops,” Raines said.

Cesario expressed similar concerns. “While the NRB commends the Holy See for taking such a strong step forward in terms of holding all clerics accountable for abuse,” he said, the board “remains uncomfortable” with the model of metropolitans overseeing the investigations of abuse allegations against other bishops.

“This essentially remains bishops policing bishops,” he said.

“Lay involvement is key to restoring the credibility of the Church,” he emphasized. Leaving them out of the investigation process “would signal a continuation of a culture of self-preservation that would suggest complicity.”

Among other requests of the NRB, Cesario cited the need for improvements and expansion of the audit process related to the Dallas Charter, and ensuring that it is truly independent.

The Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was drafted in 2002 as a response to the national revelations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics. The annual audit measures compliance with the charter’s protective and preventative measures by Catholic dioceses and eparchies.

The current audit process is almost 10 years old, and needs to be more thorough, Cesario said.

“Any delay in revising the Charter or implementing an advanced audit would not only put children at risk,” he said, but it “would signal a step backward.”

“Now is the time to raise the bar on compliance to ensure the mistakes of the past are not completed,” he said, while insisting that a new process “would not be a ‘gotcha’ audit.”

Historically, bishops have expressed concerns about the expansion of the audit process, warning that “audit creep” could pose privacy risks and step on their authority as bishops to oversee the implementation of the charter.

Catholic 'gender theory' document: clarity for a wounded, oversexed culture?

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 05:01

Washington D.C., Jun 11, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Catholic commentators have welcomed a Vatican document warning that gender theory is a cultural and ideological revolution that undermines both human dignity and the right understandings of sexual difference and complementarity, though the document was not without its critics.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there right now in regards to gender theory in education and this document provides much-needed clarity about the truth of the human person,” said Dr. Joan Kingsland, a moral theologian and curriculum advisor for Ruah Woods, an Ohio-based organization focused on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

The Congregation for Catholic Education’s “Male and Female He Created Them” was released June 10.

“In the mainstream media no doubt there will be the typical ideological reaction against the Church for imposing an antiquated view of sexuality on its members; but others will be relieved that the Church is providing clarity about such an important aspect of the human person,” Kingsland told CNA.

The American response to the document, she said, takes place in “the overall context of an over-sexualized culture that leaves many wounded and on the defensive,” she added. “There are lifestyles which enslave the person and leave the person in darkness about the true good and real happiness.”

The document comes as many parts of the country celebrate LGBT Pride Month activities. Many cities in the U.S. and Western Europe as well as corporate and NGO sponsors mark the month with a campaign of LGBT advocacy. Some Pride events and parades notoriously attract people who engage in public nudity, lewdness, and other acts. Many countries have increasingly embraced LGBT causes, and advocacy on behalf of self-identified transgender people has resulted in many controversial changes.

The new document also follows several years in which the Church in the US has once again come under fire for clergy sex abuse scandals that victimized minors of both sexes as well as adult men and women.

The document cited the need to reaffirm “the metaphysical roots of sexual difference” to help refute “attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated.”

Such a negation “erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation” and “creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be’.”

The text is signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. It outlines the philosophical origins of the gender theory movement and notes the broad movement to enshrine its distinct view of human nature in policy and law.

Theories of gender, whether moderate or radical, agree that “one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex,” according to the document, which also reflects on the role of gender theory in education and speaks of a “crisis” in any alliance between the school and the family.

“Although ideologically-driven approaches to the delicate questions around gender proclaim their respect for diversity, they actually run the risk of viewing such difference as static realities and end up leaving them isolated and disconnected from each other,” it said.

The document said that despite the challenges, dialogue remains possible. It also called for protection of human and family rights, decried unjust discrimination, and noted points of unity among people with different perspectives on gender ideology.

Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International, told CNA the document deserves “careful study and reflection.” On an initial reading, he said, “it is already clear to me that it is both insightful and useful for our constant efforts to ‘speak the truth in love’ (Eph 4:15) to the world about the Good News of God's plan for our lives.”

Courage International is an apostolate for people with same-sex attractions who commit to strive for chastity.

Bochanski praised the document’s structure of “listening, reasoning, proposing” for providing “a clear and solid framework for ministry” that accords with Pope Francis’ advice that those in ministry “must accompany people starting from their situation.”

“The document then lays out succinctly and clearly the anthropological and moral principles that are the foundation of our understanding of human sexuality, so that such a dialogue can assist each person to view his or her own desires and experience in light of the plan of God,” he said. “And it courageously confronts trends of secular thought that are confusing or opposed to that plan, calling all people to conform their lives more completely to Christ.”

According to Kingsland, the proper context for speaking about sexuality is “love and the call of the human person to communion.”

“We are made in the image of God who is a communion of love,” she said.

Father James Martin, S.J., a media commentator and editor-at-large for the Society of Jesus’ magazine America, criticized the document in a June 10 tweet.

“It rightly calls for ‘dialogue’ and ‘listening,’ but sets aside the real-life experiences of LGBT people. Sadly, it will be used as a cudgel against transgender people, and an excuse to argue that they shouldn't even exist,” he said.

“The document is mainly a dialogue with philosophers and theologians, and with other church documents; but not with scientists and biologists, not with psychologists, and certainly not with LGBT people, whose experiences are given little if any weight.”

Martin then shared with his 246,000 Twitter followers a New Ways Ministry Tweet which linked to its blog post and said:

“The Vatican’s new document on gender will be used to oppress and harm LGBT people. It perpetuates false stereotypes that encourage hatred, bigotry, and violence.”

U.S. bishops’ statements have said New Ways Ministry is not approved of or recognized by the Catholic Church and it is misleading to claim that it “provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice,” then-U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Cardinal George said in a 2010 statement.

Kingsland said the Congregation for Catholic Education’s document acknowledges confusion about the concepts of human nature and human freedom and sees the need to clarify these for “a correct and full vision of the human person.” It is also important for concepts like “natural inclinations” to be understood rightly, and important to express a concept of human rights that does not undermine “the true good of the human person.”

Kingsland noted the document’s “clear continuity” between the past and present teaching of the Church. The document cites the teaching of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis, she noted.
She welcomed the document’s call to form individual teachers and to build up “an entire educational community,” saying, “they are called to be witnesses above all.”

Bishops to return 'gifts' from West Virginia's Bishop Bransfield

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 01:00

Baltimore, Md., Jun 10, 2019 / 11:00 pm (CNA).- Several bishops and other Church leaders have said they will return money given to them by retired West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield, who is accused of serially sexually harassing or coercing seminarians and young priests, while misusing diocesan funds on a lavish lifestyle and five-figure “gifts” to Churchmen in leadership positions.

The Washington Post reported June 7 that Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, will return $29,000 to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, after that amount was given to him by Bransfield.

Archbishop William Lori, apostolic administrator of Wheeling-Charleston and the bishop charged with overseeing an investigation into Bransfield, will return to the diocese $7,500 given to him by Bransfield.

Lori has faced criticism after removing from a draft report to the Vatican the names of those bishops who received large checks from Bransfield.

On Friday, Lori said that he should have left the names on the report, but removed them because he thought their inclusion would be a distraction, or imply that those who had received checks had been influenced by them.

“If I had to do it over again, especially at a time when we’re trying to create greater transparency and accountability, the report would have included the names of those bishops who received gifts, including my own, with some notation that there was no evidence to suggest that those who received gifts reciprocated in any way that was inappropriate,” Lori said.

A source close to Cardinal Donald Wuerl, emeritus Archbishop of Washington, told CNA that Wuerl would also return the gifts he had been given by Bransfield.

Archbishop Carlo Vigano, former apostolic nuncio to the U.S., told the Washington Post that the $6,000 he had received from Bransfield had been given to charity.

Bransfield’s resignation was accepted by Pope Francis last September, eight days after he turned 75, the age at which diocesan bishops are required by canon law to submit a letter of resignation to the pope. Lori subsequently barred him from public ministry in both Wheeling-Charleston and Baltimore.

In a June 5 letter, Lori stated that accusations of sexual and financial misconduct by Bransfield had been determined to be “credible” by an independent investigation. Investigators discovered that Bransfield had managed to erode and evade oversight and policy controls by fostering “a culture of fear of retaliation and retribution” in the diocese.

Lori said that while there was no “conclusive evidence” of sexual misconduct with minors, the investigation – led by five lay experts – had found indications of consistent sexual misconduct and harassment by Bransfield against adults.

“The team uncovered a consistent pattern of sexual innuendo, and overt suggestive comments and actions toward those over whom the former bishop exercised authority,” Lori said.

Lori also confirmed that investigators had established a pattern of serious financial misconduct by Bransfield throughout his tenure as bishop.

“The investigative report determined that during his tenure as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, Bishop Bransfield engaged in a pattern of excessive and inappropriate spending,” Lori said, citing renovations to multiple residences and the misuse of Church funds “for personal benefit on such things as personal travel, dining, liquor, gifts and luxury items.”


Southern Baptists convene to discuss handling of sex abuse allegations

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 23:01

Birmingham, Ala., Jun 10, 2019 / 09:01 pm (CNA).- While the Catholic bishops of the United States convene in Baltimore this week, with the addressing of clergy sex abuse scandals high on their list of priorities, another religious group will convene to discuss the same issue, from their side of the pew - the Southern Baptist Convention.

In their annual convention, which begins this week in Birmingham, Ala., leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention will discuss policies, such as the expelling of churches that fail to report abuse, for handling sex abuse allegations against leaders in the ecclesial community, the AP reported.

In February, in the wake of nearly a year of high-profile Catholic clergy abuse scandals, two Texas newspapers published a three-part investigation into the SBC, uncovering at least 700 cases of child sexual abuse at the hands of church leaders and volunteers.

The joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News revealed that since 1998, around 380 SBC leaders and volunteers have been accused of sexual misconduct – some resulting in lawsuits and convictions, others in personal confessions and resignations.

“For years, there were people who assumed abuse was simply a Roman Catholic problem,” Russell Moore, who heads the SBC’s public policy arm, told the AP. “I see that mentality dissipating. There seems to be a growing sense of vulnerability and a willingness to address this crisis.”

According to the AP, clerical abuse within the SBC was already a priority at the annual convention in 2018, but the recent investigative report has made the topic all the more urgent.

While the sex abuse scandals in the SBC resemble those within the Catholic Church in many ways, there is one notable difference - a lack of centralized authority, which makes the handling of abuse across the 47,000-some churches that belong to the community all the more difficult, as multiple SBC members have noted.

"It's a perfect profession for a con artist, because all he has to do is talk a good talk and convince people that he's been called by God, and bingo, he gets to be a Southern Baptist minister," Christa Brown, an activist who wrote about her own experience being molested by an SBC pastor, told the Houston Chronicle in February.

In an essay about the abuse scandal published on his website, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called for a third-party investigation of all cases of abuse within the SBC. He also lamented that “the SBC ecclesial structure directly contrasts with the edifice of the Roman Catholic Church,” making reforms difficult to enforce. SBC churches are united only by “friendly cooperation with and contributing to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention,” he noted.

In response to the abuse crisis, J. D. Greear, President of the SBC, commissioned a Sexual Abuse Advisory Group, which last weekend released a report after examining how the SBC can “at every level can take discernable action to respond swiftly and compassionately to incidents of abuse, as well as to foster safe environments within churches and institutions.”

The 52-page document includes testimonies from survivors of abuse by SBC leaders, as well as recommended protocols for the handling of abuse allegations within congregations, which includes establishing “care teams” that will accompany sex abuse victims through steps such as reporting abuse and seeking psychological help.

“We must filter every decision with this question: How does this decision protect and care for the alleged victim?” the report states.

“Only when sin is exposed to the light of truth, true repentance, healing, and change can begin,” Greear told the AP.

According to the AP, the SBC anticipates several protestors at their annual convention, in part due to the sex abuse crisis, and in part because of an ongoing debate about the all-male leadership of the ecclesial community.

Archbishop Chaput: Abortion a perverse ‘sacrament' for Democratic Party leaders

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 20:01

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 10, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Joe Biden, the former senator and vice president and now a Democratic presidential hopeful, once represented a more moderate position on abortion for the Democratic party.

In the years immediately following Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the U.S., then-senator Biden was critical of the law.

“(W)hen it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I’m about as liberal as your grandmother,” he said in 1974. “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far.”

Biden was among several legislators - many of them Democrats - who attended the first pro-life marches in Washington, D.C. But as his party shifted staunchly to the hard left on abortion, so did Biden.

Last month, he announced that he would work to protect federally abortion rights from state laws “should it become necessary.”

Last week, facing criticism from fellow party members, Biden announced that he no longer supports the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds for abortions, with exceptions for rape, incest, and in cases that an abortion saves the life of the mother.

In his June 10 column, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia slammed Biden, a Catholic, for kowtowing to party politics rather than defending his religious beliefs.

“The unborn child means exactly zero in the calculus of power for Democratic Party leaders, and the right to an abortion, once described as a tragic necessity, is now a perverse kind of ‘sacrament most holy,’” Chaput said. “It will have a candidate’s allegiance and full-throated reverence...or else.”

In his column, Chaput also referenced a talk he gave at Notre Dame in October 2016, just prior to a presidential election that “seemed sure to put a second Clinton in the White House.” In that talk, Chaput noted that the “price” of entry into elite political classes for Catholics has, in many cases, “been the transfer of our real loyalties and convictions from the old Church of our baptism to the new ‘Church’ of our ambitions and appetites.”

While he pointed to examples such as Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Kennedy, Joe Biden, and Tim Kaine, Chaput noted that those people “are not anomalies. They’re part of a very large crowd that cuts across all professions and both major political parties.”

Those who forsake their beliefs, and what is right, commit what Pope Benedict XVI called a “silent apostasy,” a Greek term for “a means to revolt or desert; literally ‘to stand away from,’” Chaput noted.

“For Benedict, laypeople and priests don’t need to publicly renounce their baptism to be apostates. They simply need to be silent when their Catholic faith demands that they speak out; to be cowards when Jesus asks them to have courage; to ‘stand away’ from the truth when they need to work for it and fight for it,” Chaput said.

Chaput wrote that his talk in 2016 angered some who defended Biden as a moderate Democrat and “a well-intentioned, decent man” who supported several social positions of the Church, including supporting several pro-life protections such as the Hyde Amendment and bans on late-term abortions, “all admirable positions.”

But now, Biden seems to be increasingly bending to his party’s will, rather than defending the teachings of the Church, Chaput said.

“There’s a remark by Thomas More in the film ‘A Man for All Seasons’ that’s worth remembering in the months ahead: ‘When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their own public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos,’” Chaput said.

“We can’t say we weren’t warned.”

Katy Perry convent real estate drama reignites

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 17:28

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 10, 2019 / 03:28 pm (CNA).- Sister Rita Callanan, the last surviving member of the Order of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, has spoken out against Katy Perry following their extended legal battle over the sale of Callanan’s former convent.

“I really didn’t like Katy Perry. I’m sure she doesn’t like me,” Callanan told the New York Post in an interview published June 8. She also stated that she believes Perry has “blood on her hands” following the sudden death of another sister of the community.

Last year, Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, Callanan’s best friend, suddenly collapsed and died in a Los Angeles courtroom. She was 89. Her final words were a plea to Perry to “please stop” the court case.

In 2015, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles approved the sale of the convent to Perry, nee Katheryn Hudson. The sisters have protested, saying they did not want the “Bon Appetit” singer to buy their house, and that the archdiocese did not have the rights to sell their property.

The sisters said that only they could sell their convent, which they purchased in 1972. In 2011, the sisters moved out of the convent after they said the archdiocese ordered them out. The sisters attempted to sell the home in 2015 to a businesswoman named Dana Hollister, but the archdiocese blocked the sale.

Callanan claims she has suffered much since the court case, and now is without money and has serious health problems. She now lives in a rehabilitation facility.

In the Post interview, Callanan admitted that she may have illegally sold the property to avoid seeing it in Perry’s hands.

“We asked Dana to buy our property as we didn’t want it to go to Katy Perry. Yes, we put the wheels in motion to sell our property,” said Callanan.

“Was it legal? Probably not entirely,” she added. Callanan does not believe it was legal for Perry to buy it either. She told the Post that she will continue to battle for the rights to sell the property.

“I intend to fight – but how long I can do that, I don’t know,” she said. Callanan is 81.

The property was subsequently sold to Perry. In 2016, a judge sided with Perry and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, although Perry no longer lives there.

The convent is now for sale for $25 million, $11 million more than Perry paid for it.

Peoria bishop 'overjoyed' that Venerable Sheen's body will be transferred

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 16:51

Peoria, Ill., Jun 10, 2019 / 02:51 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Peoria has confirmed that the Archdiocese of New York has “indicated their willingness” to cooperate with the transfer of Venerable Fulton Sheen’s remains to Peoria, potentially clearing the way for the Illinois-born archbishop’s beatification.

“Bishop Jenky is overjoyed and elated that, for the fifth time, the New York courts have upheld Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition,” the diocese said June 9.

Sheen’s will had declared his wish to be buried in the Archdiocese of New York Calvary Cemetery. Soon after Sheen died, Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York asked Joan Sheen Cunningham, Sheen’s niece and closest living relative, if his remains could be placed in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, and she consented.

However, Cunningham has since said that Sheen would have wanted to have been interred in Peoria if he knew that he would be considered for sainthood. In 2016, she filed a legal complaint seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria.

“Bishop Jenky is also grateful to hear reports that the New York Archdiocese has indicated their willingness to cooperate with Joan Sheen Cunningham and the Diocese of Peoria to transfer the remains of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. The Diocese of Peoria will be contacting the New York Archdiocese in order to facilitate this transfer.”

The New York Court of Appeals denied the Archdiocese of New York’s appeal to keep his remains there June 7. The appeals court had dismissed New York’s previous appeal in May.

The appeals court first unanimously ruled that Sheen’s remains be transferred to Peoria in March 2019. The Superior Court of New York had issued a similar ruling in June 2018.

The Peoria diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s canonization in 2002, after the Archdiocese of New York said it would not explore the case. In 2012, Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtues of the archbishop.

However, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria suspended the beatification cause in September 2014 on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese.

The New York archdiocese, however, has previously said that Vatican officials have said the Peoria diocese can pursue Sheen’s canonization regardless of whether his body is at rest there.

Sheen was born in Illinois in 1895, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria at the age of 24. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, and he remained there until his appointment as Bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.

An initial court ruling had sided with Cunningham, but a state appeals court overturned that ruling, saying it had failed to give sufficient attention to a sworn statement from a colleague of Archbishop Sheen, Monsignor Hilary C. Franco, a witness for the New York archdiocese.

Msgr. Franco had said that Sheen told him he wanted to be buried in New York and that Cardinal Cooke had offered him a space in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The appeals court ordered “a full exploration” of the archbishop’s desires.

“The Trustees of St. Patrick’s and the Archdiocese believed that it was not simply their duty, but a solemn obligation, to seek to uphold Archbishop Sheen’s last wishes, as directed in his Will, to be buried in New York – a position held until recently by Joan Cunningham herself,” Joseph Zwilling, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA June 8.

“In light of the court’s denial of further appeal, the Trustees of St. Patrick and the Archdiocese will work cooperatively with Mrs. Cunningham and the Diocese of Peoria to arrange for the respectful transfer of Archbishop Sheen’s mortal remains.”

Bishop Jenky thanked Patricia Gibson, the diocese's chancellor and attorney, for her work on the case, and asked for prayers for the advancement of the sainthood cause of Venerable Sheen.

USCCB to discuss abuse crisis and future priorities at Baltimore meeting

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 09:33

Baltimore, Md., Jun 10, 2019 / 07:33 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference will convene in Baltimore this week, to discuss the ongoing clerical sexual abuse crisis, and to conduct the ongoing regular business of the organization. The meeting begins June 11.

The bishops are expected to debate and vote on a set of implementation guidelines for Pope Francis’ Vos estis lux mundi, a May document that establishes a process for investigations of sexual misconduct or negligence in office on the part of bishops. The process entrusts to the “metropolitan” - the archbishop in each ecclesiastical ‘province’ - the task of investigating allegations made against bishops, and calls for both the involvement of lay experts and the establishment of third-party reporting mechanisms and other whistleblower protections.

The USCCB’s implementation guidelines do not deviate dramatically from the norms established by Pope Francis, leaving most details of the process to metropolitans. While the document makes no direct reference to lay review boards, sources close to the USCCB have told CNA that bishops are expected to debate the degree to which their guidelines should call for the use of such boards during investigative processes.

The bishops are also expected to vote on a document of episcopal standards - a kind of non-binding episcopal code of conduct - and on a set of guidelines for how they should treat bishops who have been removed from office because of misconduct or negligence.

None of the documents under consideration related to abuse or sexual misconduct are potentially normative; all three would be intended as either guidelines or non-binding agreements among the bishops. The bishops are also expected to vote to establish a nationwide third-party

The debate over those documents will take place shortly after revelations that West Virginia’s retired Bishop Michael Bransfield is accused of serially sexually harassing or assaulting seminarians and young priests, and that he may have attempted to cover up the misconduct through large gifts of diocesan funds to Vatican officials and brother bishops, including some in attendance at the meeting. Some of those bishops have said they intend to return those gifts.

USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, has also faced scrutiny in recent weeks, amid charges that the cardinal reassigned a priest accused of sexually coercing an adult female parishioner, after officials in his archdiocese

The bishops will also vote on a revised version of the national directory on the formation and ministry of permanent deacons, and a revision to the “U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults,” designed to reflect recent changes to the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.

In addition to reports on the bishops’ working group for immigration, and their evangelization committee, the bishops will hear a report from the drafting committee of the USCCB’s 2021-2024 Strategic Plan, which guides the allocation of resources and personnel, and vote upon the “Strategic Priorities” that will shape that plan.

The bishops will also be consulted on the cause for the possible canonization of Irving C. Houle, a lay mystic from Michigan.


Fulton Sheen remains will move to Peoria, NY archdiocese says

Sat, 06/08/2019 - 17:14

Peoria, Ill., Jun 8, 2019 / 03:14 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York will work to help transfer the remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, a spokesman for the archdiocese told CNA Saturday. The decision is the conclusion of a long legal battle over the late archbishop's burial place.

“We have been informed that the New York Court of Appeals has denied further appeal of the New York Supreme Court decision upholding Joan Cunningham’s petition to disinter Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s mortal remains from under the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where they have rested for nearly 40 years,” Joseph Zwilling, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA.

The denial of the archdiocese’s appeal to keep Sheen’s remains in New York was delivered by the New York Court of Appeals on Friday, June 7.
“While we did not initiate this matter, the Trustees of St. Patrick’s and the Archdiocese believed that it was not simply their duty, but a solemn obligation, to seek to uphold Archbishop Sheen’s last wishes, as directed in his Will, to be buried in New York – a position held until recently by Joan Cunningham herself,” Zwilling said.

Cunningham is Sheen’s niece and closest living relative. Cunningham has said in the past that although her uncle’s will states that his wish was to be buried in New York, she believes he would have wanted to have been interred in Peoria if he knew it would help advance his cause for sainthood.

The Peoria diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s canonization (the process to become an officially recognized saint in the Catholic Church) in 2002, after Archdiocese of New York said it would not explore the case. In 2012, Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtues of the archbishop.

In September 2014, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria suspended Sheen’s cause on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese.

In 2016, Cunningham filed a legal complaint seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria.

The Archdiocese of New York has repeatedly appealed the attempt to transfer Sheen’s remains to Peoria, arguing that Vatican officials have said the Peoria diocese can pursue Sheen’s canonization regardless of whether his body is buried there.

Archbishop Sheen was a beloved television catechist during the 1950s and 60s in the United States. Sheen was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois at the age of 24, and was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, where he remained until his appointment as Bishop of Rochester, New York in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.

On June 8, the Archdiocese of New York confirmed to CNA their cooperation in the transfer Sheen’s remains.
“In light of the court’s denial of further appeal, the Trustees of St. Patrick and the Archdiocese will work cooperatively with Mrs. Cunningham and the Diocese of Peoria to arrange for the respectful transfer of Archbishop Sheen’s mortal remains.”

Everything you need to know about Pentecost

Sat, 06/08/2019 - 04:52

Denver, Colo., Jun 8, 2019 / 02:52 am (CNA).- This weekend, the Church celebrates Pentecost, one of the most important feast days of the year that concludes the Easter season and celebrates the beginning of the Church.  

Here’s what you need to know about the feast day:

The timing and origins of Pentecost

Pentecost always occurs 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and ten days after his ascension into heaven. Because Easter is a moveable feast without a fixed date, and Pentecost depends on the timing of Easter, Pentecost can fall anywhere between May 10 and June 13.

The timing of these feasts is also where Catholics get the concept of the Novena - nine days of prayer - because in Acts 1, Mary and the Apostles prayed together “continuously” for nine days after the Ascension leading up to Pentecost. Traditionally, the Church prays the Novena to the Holy Spirit in the days before Pentecost.

The name of the day itself is derived from the Greek word "pentecoste," meaning 50th.

There is a parallel Jewish holiday, Shavu`ot, which falls 50 days after Passover. Shavu’ot is sometimes called the festival of weeks, referring to the seven weeks since Passover.

Originally a harvest feast, Shavu`ot now commemorates the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai, when the Lord revealed the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Every year, the Jewish people renew their acceptance of the gift of the Torah on this feast.  

What happens at Pentecost?

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the Upper Room.

A “strong, driving” wind filled the room where they were gathered, and tongues of fire came to rest on their heads, allowing them to speak in different languages so that they could understand each other. It was such a strange phenomenon that some people thought the Christians were just drunk - but Peter pointed out that it was only the morning, and that the phenomenon was caused by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit also gave the apostles the other gifts and fruits necessary to fulfill the great commission - to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations. It fulfills the New Testament promise from Christ (Luke 24:46-49) that the Apostles would be “clothed with power” before they would be sent out to spread the Gospel.

Where’s that in the bible?

The main event of Pentecost (the strong driving wind and tongues of fire) takes place in Acts 2:13, though the events immediately following (Peter’s homily, the baptism of thousands) continue through verse 41.

Happy Birthday, Church

It was right after Pentecost that Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preached his first homily to Jews and other non-believers, in which he opened the scriptures of the Old Testament, showing how the prophet Joel prophesied events and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

He also told the people that the Jesus they crucified is the Lord and was raised from the dead, which “cut them to the heart.” When they asked what they should do, Peter exhorted them to repent of their sins and to be baptised. According to the account in Acts, about 3,000 people were baptised following Peter’s sermon.

For this reason, Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church - Peter, the first Pope, preaches for the first time and converts thousands of new believers. The apostles and believers, for the first time, were united by a common language, and a common zeal and purpose to go and preach the Gospel.

Pentecost vestments and customs around the world

Typically, priests will wear red vestments on Pentecost, symbolic of the burning fire of God’s love and the tongues of fire that descended on the apostles.

However, in some parts of the world, Pentecost is also referred to as “WhitSunday”, or White Sunday, referring to the white vestments that are typically worn in Britain and Ireland. The white is symbolic of the dove of the Holy Spirit, and typical of the vestments that catechumens desiring baptism wear on that day.

An Italian Pentecost tradition is to scatter rose leaves from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues, and so in some places in Italy, Pentecost is sometimes called Pascha Rosatum (Easter roses).

In France, it is tradition to blow trumpets during Mass to recall the sound of the driving wind of the Holy Spirit.

In Asia, it is typical to have an extra service, called genuflexion, during which long poems and prayers are recited. In Russia, Mass goers often carry flowers or green branches during Pentecost services.

This article was originally published on CNA June 2, 2017.

Alabama plans chemical castration for pedophiles seeking parole. Ethicists raise concerns

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 21:00

Montgomery, Ala., Jun 7, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic ethicist raised concerns over a bill that would mandate “chemical castration” as a condition of parole for incarcerated pedophiles. The issue is at the crux of an Alabama bill that has passed the state’s legislature and now is awaiting the governor’s signature.

The bill, HB379, would mandate so-called “chemical castration” as a condition for granting parole to convicted sex offenders who offended against children 13 years of age or younger. The treatment would be provided and supervised by the Department of Public Health, and would be paid for by the parolees, unless they could demonstrate the inability to pay, the bill states.

The bill defines the chemical castration treatment as: “The receiving of medication, including, but not limited to, medroxyprogesterone acetate treatment or its chemical equivalent, that, among other things, reduces, inhibits, or blocks the production of testosterone, hormones, or other chemicals in a person's body.” Medical experts have raised multiple concerns about the bill including the fact that a judge, rather than a doctor, would inform parolees about the possible and serious side-effects of the treatment, according to the Washington Post.

In comments to CNA, Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, an ethicist with The National Catholic Bioethics Center, said that blanket mandates of medical interventions “can raise more problems" than they solve."

Pacholczyk said a case-by-case approach would be more appropriate.

“If testosterone-reducing agents are to be employed in a sensible fashion, it should be on a case-by-case, medically-indicated (and rehabilitation-oriented) basis, rather than as a universal requirement for every situation of establishing parole for convicted pedophiles,” Pacholczyk said in email comments.

A proponent of the bill responded to questions about whether the bill is inhumane, stating that he believes the “punishment should fit the crime."

Rep. Steve Hurst, who introduced the bill, told local media that convicted pedophiles "have marked this child for life and the punishment should fit the crime."

"I had people call me in the past when I introduced it and said, 'Don't you think this is inhumane?'" Hurst told CBS affiliate WIAT-TV.

"I asked them what's more inhumane than when you take a little infant child, and you sexually molest that infant child when the child cannot defend themselves or get away, and they have to go through all the things they have to go through. If you want to talk about inhumane, that's inhumane."

According to Catholic ethical principles, punitive measures should always be ordered toward “rehabilitation and repentance, not towards the inflicting of unreasonable or disproportionate harm upon an individual who has committed an offense,” Pacholczyk added. For example, he said, the Catholic Church would not condone chopping off the hands of a repeatedly-offending thief.

Likewise, “chemically castrating” a person so as to “actively strip away any vestige of an offender’s personal sexuality and render him sterile, androgynous, and/or inert, this could raise legitimate ethical concerns about violating that person's bodily and personal integrity,” he said.

“This would be a moral concern particularly if other means of treating these individuals were not exhaustively pursued, such as incarceration, directed treatments and therapies, counseling, spiritual support, etc.,” he added.

In some cases, the priest noted, it could be morally and ethically licit for a sex offender to take drugs that would lower their testosterone levels and overall libido “to more manageable levels” if it were found to be medically appropriate for that specific person, and if it were part of a broader therapetic regimen involving “extensive psychological and other supportive counseling aimed at helping them order their sexual impulses so as not to re-offend,” he said.

In those particular cases, the term “chemical castration” may be an improper term, Pacholczyk noted, if the goal is the overall healing and restoration of normal, baseline hormone levels in a person.

Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis announces synod

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 20:04

St. Paul, Minn., Jun 7, 2019 / 06:04 pm (CNA).- Minnesota’s largest diocese will hold a synod— a meeting designed to help the bishop shepherd his local flock— during Pentecost Weekend 2021, Archbishop Bernard Hebda announced yesterday.

It will be the first synod for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis since 1939.

“In the time that I have served in this archdiocese, I have come to believe that our local Church is particularly ripe for a synod,” Hebda said in a June 6 letter. The archbishop said he plans to formally announce the synod process at the Vigil of Pentecost this weekend.

“We are blessed here with a particularly well-educated and articulate laity with a strong tradition of service to the Church, who along with their clergy and consecrated brothers and sisters, want to be involved in shaping her future, seeing that appropriately as both their right and their responsibility.”

St. Pope John Paul II, with the 1983 Code of Canon Law, emphasized the “threefold priestly, prophetic and kingly office” of all people in the Church and expressed a need for greater prominence for a “traditional structure for consultation and governance in the Church”: the diocesan synod.

Several U.S. dioceses have held diocesan synods in the past decade, including Detroit, Michigan; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Burlington, Vermont; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; San Diego, California; and Washington, D.C., the Catholic Spirit reports.

“After the listening sessions that were held in 2015 when I was still serving as the temporary administrator, I drew up suggestions for the next archbishop, never thinking it would be me. At the top of that list was the convoking of an archdiocesan synod,” Hebda explained.

The pre-synodal process will involve 20 “prayer and listening events” throughout the archdiocese that will “shape our future discussion and deliberations...grounded in prayer and in God’s Word,” Hebda said. The synod will help to shape the next 5-10 years of pastoral priorities in the archdiocese.

In March, the archdiocese announced the creation of a lay advisory board designed to “create a flow of information back and forth from parishes to archbishop, and archbishop back to parishes,” the archdiocesan liaison told CNA. The board will include a lay representative from each deanery in the archdiocese.

“I have sensed that many of you seem to be ready to roll up your sleeves to address some of the pastoral needs that had been placed on the back burner. The enthusiasm surrounding the new Lay Advisory Board would seem to confirm that,” Hebda commented.

“Without losing sight of either the critical importance of our Catholic schools or the urgency of creating safe environments and engaging in outreach to those who have in any way been harmed by the Church, we now need to be deliberate in moving forward on other fronts.”

Father Michael Tix, archdiocesan liaison for the effort and vicar for clergy and parish services, told CNA in March that discussions with the archbishop, facilitated through the new lay advisory board, will mainly be about the “particular needs” of parishes or areas of deaneries in order to move forward and promote healing after “four years of bankruptcy, civil and criminal charges, [and] resignations.”

The discussions will also be a chance for the archdiocese to inform the lay representatives about what has been going on in the local Church regarding sexual abuse, and what steps the archdiocese is taking to addess it, Tix said.

The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January 2015 amid many abuse claims that had been made possible under Minnesota legislation that opened a temporary window for older claims to be heard in civil court. In addition, former Archbishop John Nienstedt stepped down in 2015 after the diocese was charged with mishandling cases of child sexual abuse.

Archbishop Hebda announced in May of last year a $210 million settlement package for victims of sexual abuse. He has said there are no plans for additional parish appeals to help to fund the settlements, saying last June that most of the settlement money – $170 million – would come from the archdiocese’s insurance and from money already collected from parish appeals.

The settlement, announced after more than two years’ deliberation, includes a plan for abuse compensation as well as for bringing the archdiocese out of bankruptcy. The amount is an increase of more than $50 million from the proposal that the archdiocese had originally submitted.

“It's been a tough time to be Catholic in the Twin Cities because of a lot of stuff that's come out that we've had to deal with and that we continue to deal with. So I think the first thing that we're going to talk about is about healing. How do we bring healing to folks? There's a range of need that's there. And so in order to move forward we have to address that healing,” Tix said.

Suspect in shooting death of former New Jersey priest answered a Craigslist ad

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 19:01

Las Vegas, Nev., Jun 7, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The man suspected in the March shooting death of a former priest who was credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors had responded to a Craigslist ad looking for young men to wrestle, according to Nevada police.

John Capparelli, 70, was found dead in the kitchen of his Henderson, Nev., home March 9 with a gunshot wound to the neck. He had been a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, and was accused of groping, abusing, and photographing underage males, often in the context of wrestling.

Henderson police issued a warrant April 4 for the arrest of Derrick Decoste, 25, on charges of murder and robbery with a deadly weapon in connection with Capparelli's death.

Police discovered phone records demonstrating that Capperelli exchanged calls and texts with a number linked to Decoste between Feb. 21 and March 6.

Decoste's girlfriend told police he was “eager to make money” and so had responded to Capparelli's post seeking wrestlers, Mike Shoro of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported June 4.

She indicated that Decoste said he had robbed Capparelli after his second visit to his home. She turned over to police a bag with several wristwatches, at least one of which was identifiable as Capparelli's, and Decoste's handgun. Capparelli was shot with that handgun, according to the warrant.

The warrant said that investigators found in Capparelli's home hundreds of homemade films with “nearly-nude men wrestling inside of the home, presumably while the victim filmed them,” and indications he “often kept the company of prostitutes or paid entertainers.”

They also found a hard copy of a Craigslist ad from Capparelli seeking “young and good looking men” willing to wrestle or to compete in “submission matches.”

During a March 26 interview with Henderson detectives “Decoste clearly intended to deceive investigators to include providing misleading information,” according to the warrant.

Decoste is in a county jail in Michigan on unrelated charges of credit card fraud and impersonating a police officer, and is awaiting extradition to Nevada.

Capparelli was removed from parish ministry in 1989, suspended from any ministry in 1992, and was dismissed from the clerical state around 2013.

He was never prosecuted or convicted of a crime, but he was at the center of lawsuits against himself, the Newark archdiocese, Theodore McCarrick, and the Boy Scouts of America. At least one suit resulted in a settlement.

At one time he ran a website which sold videos of adult men wrestling in very little clothing.

Capparelli was ordained in 1980, and was assigned at three parishes, a prep school, and as a temporary chaplain at a hospital.

According to the Newark archdiocese's list of credibly accused clerics, Capparelli had multiple victims, and had been “Permanently removed from ministry/Laicized”. Accusations against him date from the 1970s through the early 1990s.

In 1993, one year after being suspended from ministry, Capparelli became a public school teacher in Newark. In 2011 he was teaching math to ninth graders, according to The Star-Ledger.

The Newark school district learned of the allegations from the The Star-Ledger in 2011, and reviewed his record, but said there were no allegations against his time as a teacher. He was soon after removed from the classroom and given an administrative position at the school district’s headquarters. Spokeswoman Renee Harper said that “he has not been demoted and remains an employee in good standing.”

He also served as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University from 1990 to 2009, The Star-Ledger found.

Capparelli was sent to a treatment center in Jemez Springs, N.M., for several months in 1989 on the recommendation of Theodore McCarrick, who was then the Archbisop of Newark.

Study finds nearly 30% spike in male teen suicide following Netflix release of ‘13 Reasons Why’

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 18:00

Denver, Colo., Jun 7, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- When the Netflix series ‘13 Reasons Why’, which features teen suicide, first aired in 2017, mental health professionals expressed concerns that the show could have a contagion effect, triggering an increase in suicides among teens inspired by the show.

A new study suggests these fears were not unfounded. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, United States youth ages 10-17 had a 28.9% increase in suicide rates in young males in the month (April 2017) following the debut of the show.

“The number of deaths by suicide recorded in April 2017 was greater than the number seen in any single month during the five-year period examined by the researchers,” the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported. Increases in suicide rates among youth were also found in the month leading up to the shows release, and through December 2017, nine months after its release.

“The findings highlight the necessity of using best practices when portraying suicide in popular entertainment and in the media,” NIMH stated in a press release on the study.

The study was conducted by multiple researchers from several different universities, hospitals, and the NIMH, which also funded the study. The study found that the increase in suicides was statistically significant among young males. The increase in suicides among young females in association with the show was not statistically significant.

For the study, researchers analyzed death rates due to suicide based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s web-based Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research.

Researchers found the increase in suicide rates even after adjusting for otherwise expected suicide rates during that time period, based on ongoing suicide trends. They also found that suicide rates did not increase during the studied time period for people ages 18-64.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to the CDC. Studies show that publicized suicides may also trigger a ripple effect of additional suicides within communities.

“The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media,” one author of the study, Lisa Horowitz, Ph.D., M.P.H., a clinical scientist in the NIMH Intramural Research Program, said in a statement. “All disciplines, including the media, need to take good care to be constructive and thoughtful about topics that intersect with public health crises.”

The Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” developed by Brian Yorkey, is based on a young adult novel with the same title by author Jay Asher. The series examines the suicide of 17 year-old Hannah Baker, who made 13 cassette tapes prior to her death. Each tape is addressed to a different person at her school, and details how and why they contributed to her desire to take her own life. It also graphically depicts Baker’s suicide in a scene in which she slits her wrists and lets her blood spill into her bathtub at home.

Mental health experts and other critics have raised concerns that the show portrays suicide as an act of revenge and a power play, rather than as an irreversible tragedy.

"There was a kind of romanticization, and at the core of the story was this idea that you can kill yourself and be dead and yet not really be dead," Don Mordecai, Kaiser Permanente's national leader for mental health, told Business Insider. "Because, of course, (Baker) continues to be a character - she's in scenes, and she's still there in many ways."

The creators of the Netflix original series insisted in a follow-up video that 13 Reasons was meant to be helpful - to bring up important conversations about serious topics like suicide, bullying and assault, and to get viewers talking about solutions to suicidal thoughts. The second season of the show includes a disclaimer, telling teenagers to watch the show with a trusted adult and to seek help if they experience suicidal thoughts.

But even prior to this recent study, the show faced much backlash from mental health experts, who said it failed to follow several of the “Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide,” a list of guidelines for media outlets developed by suicide prevention experts and journalists. Experts advise against sensational headlines or depicting the method of suicide, which studies have shown can lead to suicide contagion, or “copycat” suicides.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, a U.S. non-profit suicide prevention group, said at the show’s release that it may do “more harm than good.”

A Florida schools superintendent warned parents in April 2017 that the show was inspiring an increase in self-harming and suicidal threats among elementary and middle school students, according to the Washington Post.

A survey published in November 2018 also found that of 87 suicidal teenagers aged 13 to 17 who were taken to the emergency department, 43 of them said that they had watched at least one episode of “13 Reasons Why”. Of those who had seen the show, 21 reported that they believe it had increased their risk for suicide.

In the press release for the NIMH study, the authors concluded that the findings “should serve as a reminder to be mindful of the possible unintended impacts of the portrayal of suicide, and as a call to the entertainment industry and the media to use best practices when engaging with this topic.”


Under pressure, Biden now supports federal abortion funding

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 13:00

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The 1976 Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of Medicaid funds for most abortions. Biden, who voted as a senator in favor of the Hyde Amendment when it was first written, had reaffirmed his support for the law often, most recently on Wednesday.

Biden’s former support for the Hyde Amendment had prompted many other Democratic candidates for president to announce their support for federally-funded abortions. The Democratic Party’s 2016 platform includes a call for the public funding of abortions.

Before Thursday evening’s switch, Biden had supported some aspects of pro-life legislation during his political career. In addition to his Senate vote in favor of the Hyde amendment, he also supported the Mexico City Policy in 1984, voted again in favor of Hyde in 1993, and voted to ban partial-birth abortion in 1995 and 1997.

In an interview shortly after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Biden refused to support unrestricted access to abortion and said that he thought the Supreme Court “went too far” in their decision. In 1981, he lent his name to the “Biden Amendment,” which bans the use of federal funds for biomedical research involving abortion or involuntary sterilization.

By 2012, in the vice presidential debate against then-Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Biden described himself as being personally pro-life, though he also expressed his support for legally protecting abortion.
Biden is Catholic and has spoken publicly about his faith.

At the time the Hyde Amendment was signed into law in 1977, it had the support of nearly half of Congressional Democrats. Nationally, more than half of Americans say they do not support federal funding of abortions.

While three out of four women who undergo abortions are living in poverty, the Hyde Amendment is actually far less popular among low-income voters. A 2016 poll found that only 24 percent of people making under $25,000 a year said they were in favor of the public funding of abortion services, compared to 45 percent of people making over $75,000.

Biden’s abrupt about-face on the Hyde Amendment has let down pro-life Democrats, who were once hopeful that Biden would break the party mould on abortion.

“We are extremely disappointed that Vice President Biden choose to cave to the pressure of the abortion lobby instead of standing with a majority of Americans who support the Hyde Amendment,” Kristen Day, the executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told CNA.

“With all the major candidates fighting to be the most extreme on abortion, there is a wide open lane for a candidate to bring an alternative position to the discussion and to unify Democrats around common ground principles,” she added.

Day said that Democrats should instead work for equal opportunity and equality, instead of paying for abortions for poorer women.

“Poor women don’t want money for abortions; they want the same opportunities to parent as their rich counterparts.”


From a dumpster to the head of a procession: The story of 'Broken Mary'

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 05:08

Chicago, Ill., Jun 7, 2019 / 03:08 am (CNA).- On Friday, May 31, four lanes of traffic on a major thoroughfare in the city of Chicago shut down for an hour and a half, while 3,200 people marched past.

Instead of political banners, they held candles. Instead of shouting, they quietly prayed the rosary and sang Ave Maria. Instead of a politician or city official, they were led by ‘Broken Mary,’ a statue of the Virgin Mary rescued from a dumpster, who still bears the scars of her past - a crack in the middle where she was broken in half, chipped hands, faded paint with scratches.

The procession event, called “There is Hope for the Broken,” was organized by Chicago parish St. John Cantius, and by Kevin Matthews, who rescued Mary from the garbage in 2010.

But really, Matthews told CNA, the procession was all Mary’s idea.

Matthews first spotted what is now known as ‘Broken Mary’ outside of a dumpster at a flower shop, covered in trash and cracked in half. Mortified, he picked up the heavy concrete statue, brought her home and cleaned her up.

He had her restored to one piece again, but asked that her chips and scratches be left as they were: “No, she is broken, just like me. We all are broken and in need of repair. She represents the broken,” he told the repairman.

After finding Mary, Matthews experienced a profound new devotion to the Mother of God. Although born a Catholic, Matthews had strayed from his faith for many years, and had never learned how to pray the rosary. After finding ‘Broken Mary,’ it became his top priority: praying the rosary and encouraging others to do the same.

On his website, Matthews recites the rosary every day, and anyone can tune in. He has two rosary apps, and he also travels with ‘Broken Mary’, giving talks on her love for the broken, and how she can lead them to her son, Jesus.

Although Matthews now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Chicago procession was something he had been praying about for a while, he said. Matthews was a radio DJ in the city for years, and in many ways it’s his second home, he said.

“I love Chicago, I love the city,” he said. “There’s just so many people that wanted to pray for the city, and still do.”

Matthews connected with Fr. Joshua Caswell, S.J.C., an associate pastor at St. John Cantius in Chicago, because of ‘Broken Mary’ - Matthews was on a Relevant Radio show to talk about his ministry, and Fr. Joshua was a guest on Relevant Radio that same day.

After much prayer between the two of them, they decided to start organizing a Chicago procession with ‘Broken Mary’ in February.

“Kevin had said, ‘We need to bring Our Lady into the city, we need to bring her into the streets, she needs to be carried and be honored by people,’” Andrea Eisenberg, who served on the procession planning committee, told CNA.

But planning a large procession through the busy streets of Chicago is no small task, and shutting down four lanes of traffic on a busy street on a Friday night is a big ask.

“We knew it would only succeed if it were (Mary’s) plans and how she wanted it to go and how she wanted it to be,” Eisenberg said.

When Fr. Joshua applied for the permit, a city official saw the title of the event, “Hope for the Broken,” and said: “Oh, I really hope so Father, because we could really use some hope around here in this city,” Eisenberg recalled. Two days later, the permit came through.

The procession was the result of a combined effort of multiple police units and fire departments, Eisenberg said, as well as collaboration with Relevant Radio, Shalom T.V., the World Apostolate of Fatima, and other city officials.

“It was a combined effort by everyone to take our faith to the streets, and it was important to everyone to be a visible sign to people that hey, there’s hope, and it comes from our Lord, and our Lady will always bring us closer to him,” Eisenberg said.

On the day of the event, more than 2,000 people filled St. John Cantius Church and spilled out into the streets during a talk on Mary and the rosary by Kevin Matthews. Afterwards, an estimated 3,200 people joined in the procession.

“We marched from St. John Cantius to the city, and the closer we got to the old water tower,  more and more people were stopping on either side of Chicago Ave, to stop what they were doing, open their iPhones and take pictures and notice,” Matthews said.

“It was a very peaceful prayer walk that we were doing,” he added. “We recited four rosaries, sang Ave Maria. It was a beautiful prayer, you could feel Mary’s grace, and people...they took notice, and for the first time the city kind of just stopped for a moment and said a prayer for itself.”

Eisenberg said that she thinks ‘Broken Mary’ appeals to so many people because brokenness is something to which nearly everyone can relate.

“I think that people really resonate with brokenness, there isn’t anyone who can say, ‘Oh well, I’ve reached perfection, I’m not broken, this doesn’t apply to me’,” she said.

It also makes holiness seem “attainable,” she added.

“I think when people look at saints, they look at a beautiful picture and think, ‘Wow, this person must have lived a holy life all along...I could never do that.’ But something that’s holy, that’s broken? It’s like oh, I could be called to that, I’m broken, maybe this is for me too.”

Throughout his ministry, Matthews said he has witnessed many people come back to their faith through ‘Broken Mary.’

“It’s just a concrete statue, but where that statue is, Mary is, and where Mary is there’s Christ, and where there’s Christ, there’s God,” Matthews said, “and I’ve seen a lot of people literally cry and empty themselves in front of Mary.”

“She loves us so much that she will immediately embrace us in her Immaculate Heart. Mary, she’s our mother, and people just go to her,” he said.

“If you haven’t been in church for a while or you feel ashamed, just go to Mary. And try to go to Mary through the rosary. Just hold that rosary and just say any prayer you’d like. Hold that rosary, be dedicated to that rosary,” he added.

The statue of ‘Broken Mary’ will be at St. John Cantius Church through June 9, where people can pray before the statue. Those unable to visit in person can also submit prayer intentions online, which are printed out every day and set at the feet of ‘Broken Mary.’

'Absolutely nuts' to grill judicial nominees over KofC membership, Sasse says

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 02:34

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2019 / 12:34 am (CNA).- In his opening question for Peter J. Phipps, a judicial nominee for the United States Third Circuit court, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) started with what he called “a hard question.”

“Are you now or have you ever been involved in the organization of a fish fry?”

Laughing, Phipps responded that he had been involved in fish fries as a “consumer,” one who usually brings a few other consumers with him, he added.

The question was a poke at other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who have in recent years grilled potential judges over their membership in the Knights of Columbus, well-known for its fish fries and other philanthropic activities in the Catholic Church.

Phipps confirmed to Sasse that he had also fielded questions about being a member of the Knights during his district court nomination in May 2018.

“Do you know why?” Sasse asked. “Because I’m confused. This is a new tradition around here evidently, trying to figure out if people are members of religious organizations. Do you know what the point of the questions for the record about your membership in the Knights of Columbus was?”

“No sir, I do not,” Phipps responded.

It is not the first time a judicial nominee has been questioned by the Senate committee over their membership in the Catholic organization. Brian C. Buescher, a nominee for United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, was questioned in December about whether being a member of the Knights of Columbus would prevent him from hearing cases “fairly and impartially.”

In responses to Sasse on Wednesday, June 5, Phipps described the Knights of Columbus as a Catholic charitable organization that was founded not just to encourage community among church goers, but to “ensure that if a father had died, that the Knights would provide for their family.”

“So, it’s much more the stuff of community service, love of neighbor, fish fries, and pool parties than some kind of Da Vinci Code stuff, I just want to be clear that I understand this scary organization that you’re a member of,” Sasse added.

“That’s exactly right,” Phipps said. “It’s a charitable organization. It’s an organization that has social and recreational activities that many members of my family have really enjoyed and really benefited from.”

Sasse then noted some facts about the Knights, “so we have them as shared information for the next time a Catholic nominee comes before us.”

Sasse noted that the Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic fraternal service organization in the world, with more than $185 million dollars and 75,600,000 hours contributed to charities in the United States in the year 2017.

The Knights also have a history of standing against “prejudice and oppression such as the KKK and the Nazi party in Germany.”

“And what’s happening in this committee is absolutely nuts, that we’re asking people why they’re members of the largest Catholic fraternal organization in America, and this is becoming common practice on the committee,” Sasse said Wednesday.  

In January, Sasse put forth a resolution approved by the Senate, which stated that disqualifying a judicial nominee on the basis of their membership in the Knights of Columbus would violate the Constitution, which states that ‘‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

“I really hope we reconsider this new tradition on this committee of asking people about their religious commitments,” Sasse added on Wednesday. “We should ask them about their oath of office to a Constitution and whether they can do that free from bias.”


Arson suspected in fire at Florida cathedral

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 21:34

Tallahassee, Fla., Jun 6, 2019 / 07:34 pm (CNA).- The co-cathedral of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee was damaged by fire Wednesday, with several of the chairs in the sanctuary set ablaze using an accelerant. The church’s rector has said he suspects arson.

According to the diocese, the cathedra and presiders’ chairs were set on fire and were destroyed, while the flames charred the walls of the sanctuary and the building suffered smoke damage. No one was hurt and an investigation is underway, the diocese said.

Father John Cayer, rector of the Co-Cathedral of Saint Thomas More, told WCTV that a Florida State University student first noticed the smoke and called authorities. Mass was scheduled for 5:15pm on Wednesday, so the church was unlocked, he said.

The co-cathedral also houses the Catholic Student Center for Florida State University.

"We have no idea who has done this," Cayer told WCTV yesterday.

"This is an obvious case of arson. We are very upset. The community is becoming very upset and we hope that there is some resolution to this."

“I am saddened to hear of an apparently intentional fire set at the St. Thomas More Co-Cathedral in Tallahassee yesterday,” CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said in a statement today.

“My arson detectives responded immediately to assist local authorities in determining the cause. Arson is a costly and dangerous crime, and my arson detectives will continue to assist authorities in any way to bring those responsible to justice.”

The diocese said they are hoping to be able to celebrate weekend Masses in the church.

“We are hurt, upset, and deeply saddened, but we continue to place our hope in Christ during this Easter season in which we celebrate His resurrection,” the statement concluded.

Catholic veteran who took part in D-Day buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 19:01

Arlington, Va., Jun 6, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Sgt. Carl Mann, Sr. died March 30 at the age of 96, almost a month after his son, Fr. Gordon Mann, died of leukemia at the age of 59.

Both of the Manns' lives were changed forever on June 6, decades apart.

For the patriarch of the Mann family, his life-altering June 6 came in 1944, when he was part of the second wave of soldiers who stormed Omaha Beach as part of the D-Day invasion. Gordon’s was in 1992, when he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Evansville.

According to Miles and Carl Mann II, two of Carl Sr.’s sons, nobody realized the significance of the overlapped dates until they began planning their father’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery – which was also held June 6.

The brothers do not believe this happened by chance.

“It's not a coincidence, I promise you,” Miles told CNA. “I'm not good enough to try to coordinate anything like this and put all these pieces together. But God's perfect and that's how it happens.”

Their father lived his life by a simple motto: “God, country, and family.”

While in the army, Mann would take time to pray and evangelize, even in the face of death and in the midst of bloodshed.

Mann would baptize soldiers in the middle of battle. Miles said he “was basically just the hands and feet of Jesus to do that.”

Carl II said that his father was willing and able to baptize on the battlefield as he knew that he was “spiritually ready” to die, and wanted to make sure others were as well.

“He just knew there was nothing in the world more important than (baptism),” said Miles. “Not even his own life.”

Some soldiers came to know Christ in their dying moments because of Mann’s battlefield prayers.

“His buddies would ask him was he was doing because they saw him kneeling down praying in the middle of the battle. And, a lot of those men didn't know who Jesus was,” said Miles. They would ask Mann to teach them how to pray, and he would reply, “just listen.”

“He'd finish the prayer and then they would finish whatever skirmish or battle or event they were in the middle of. Some of them made it, some of them didn't, but the ones that did not make it, they got to meet Jesus through him.”

Initially, Sgt. Mann was reluctant to discuss his military experience, and would often make jokes relating to his service.

“He would say, ‘Boy, I couldn't wait to get off that (Omaha) beach. We were out of hotdogs and the ice cream was melting,'” said Miles. That all changed about a decade ago, after he was asked by a grandchild on which side of World War II he had fought.

Realizing that history was at risk of being forgotten, he began to open up more about his service, and shared his story at high schools and to his family. In addition to Normandy, Mann also served in the Battle of the Bulge and assisted in the liberation of two concentration camps. He was awarded three Purple Hearts and seven Bronze Stars, which enabled him to be buried at Arlington.

Sgt. Mann's priorities of God, country, and family will leave a lasting legacy after his death.

“I think that I could give one perspective on it. It's Dad's statement was this: You know, my brother is him,” said Carl II, gesturing around.

“My brothers were willing to die for freedom. He said, ‘but there was only one who died for our sins.’ And that was his faith.”

Analysis: Bp. Bransfield, the USCCB, and the Holy Spirit

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 19:01

Washington D.C., Jun 6, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- When the U.S. bishops arrive in Baltimore next week for their second plenary meeting since a year of serious crisis began last June, they will do so under the specter of another demoralizing scandal. This one involves a well-connected bishop, a ledger of extravagant gifts, and allegations of abuse from priests and seminarians subject to the bishop’s authority.

The Washington Post reported June 5 that a months-long ecclesiastical investigation of Bishop Michael Bransfield, formerly of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, had uncovered evidence that the bishop had a reputation for being sexually inappropriate with seminarians and young priests, that he may have had a substance-abuse problem, and that he used diocesan funds generated from its Texas oil fields to support a lifestyle of luxury, and to give $350,000 in cash gifts to Vatican officials, fellow bishops, and other clerics.

More troubling, the Post’s report suggests that when seminarians and young priests raised concerns about Bransfield’s behavior, they were met with either indifference or an unwillingness of authorities to intervene.

Some Catholics have already noted that Bransfield’s gift-giving habit likely gives some indication of how Theodore McCarrick’s ecclesial career prospered during his decades of sexual abuse.

The former cardinal is also reputed to have given large cash gifts to brother bishops and to Vatican officials, which might have contributed to his apparent ability to escape the consequences of his actions, and to navigate curial back channels with ease.

Catholics have also asked whether there is any evidence that an apparent culture of clubby loyalties cultivated through “personal gifts” has actually come to an end.

The revelation of Bransfield's gift-giving habit has infuriated many Catholics, who wonder whether bishops can ever really be expected to hold one another to accountability, if five-figure checks are exchanged between some of them with a certain degree of regularity.

It might be difficult, some Catholics note, to tell someone to change his ways after he has given you $29,000 to renovate your apartment.

Is this, those Catholics have asked, what Pope Francis means when he condemns clericalism?

Several bishops who will be present in Baltimore have received large gifts from Bransfield. But of course, the apparent malfeasance of Bishop Bransfield does not impugn all U.S. bishops, or even those bishops who received significant gifts from him.

In fact, some of those bishops have demonstrable track records of acting with integrity. And bustarella culture - the customs of giving cash or checks to visiting bishops or dignitaries - is so common in the Church that it would be unreasonable to conclude that every person who has received gifts, even large gifts, from figures like Bransfield or McCarrick bears some personal culpability for their ecclesiastical careers. Indeed, some bishops maintain charity accounts with the financial gifts they’re given, and use that money to help struggling families and others.

But what now seems clear is that in a culture in which large cash gifts are distributed with some regularity, the appearance of impropriety is everywhere, and the probability of cover-ups and corruption is quite high. Such a culture, many Catholics are likely to conclude, is, at the very least, systemically deficient at preventing a kind of laissez faire tolerance for malfeasance

For that reason, the report on Bransfield does further damage to the credibility of the U.S. bishops, at a moment when, for many practicing Catholics, their credit is already running quite low.

It is especially worth noting that the credibility of bishops is not suffering only among the usual crowd of doctrinal dissenters and social libertines. While it is clear that this crisis has been exploited by some for political or person gain, for profit, and to advance ideological agendas, U.S. bishops would be mistaken to underestimate the despondence this crisis has occasioned among their most ardent supporters, and their most orthodox parishioners.

It is faithful, practicing, engaged Catholics - chancery staffers and parish priests among them - who, at this moment, are struggling mightily to gauge, and come to terms with, a problem that might be much larger in scale than they had initially envisioned.

The initial McCarrick scandal raised questions about a particular situation: “Who knew what, and when, about this man’s sexual abuse?”

The Bransfield report forces much broader questions: “Are there are other bishops living like this? How many people knew and did nothing? How many bishops are buying silence with ‘gifts?’”

The breadth of those questions, for some Catholics, has led to a new level of discouragement.

Of course, Catholics - bishops, priests, religious, and laity alike - most likely are suffering from a kind of crisis fatigue. But the Bransfield report has been a sign to most observers that the Church has not yet turned a corner. In fact, to many, the scandal itself is still unfolding.

Pragmatically, the U.S. bishops have made concrete progress in addressing the substantive issues that have emerged in the scandal, as has Pope Francis.

The bishops in Baltimore will vote on a set of guidelines to accompany the pope’s Vos estis lux mundi. They will likely debate the degree to which lay review boards should be featured more prominently in the draft text, and some bishops are likely to call for a much more explicit call for their use by metropolitans in the investigation of bishops accused of misconduct or neglect.

By most expert accounts, the norms of Vos estis lux mundi represent a manageable and practical approach to addressing the issue of episcopal misconduct and neglect.

At the same time, the bishops will vote on a document of episcopal standards - a kind of episcopal code of conduct - and on a set of guidelines for how they should treat bishops who have been removed from office because of misconduct or negligence.

The measures the bishops have developed this year, in an often rocky partnership with the Roman Curia and Pope Francis, are, despite the challenges in the process, widely considered to be good tools, and many experts have told CNA they expect they will bear positive effect at managing the problems of episcopal misconduct and coverup.

But the neat efficiency of those measures is likely to be seen, by some Catholics, as a symbol of a broader problem.

Writing this week in National Review, Kevin Williamson observed that “conservatives believe ...that most problems are to be managed rather than solved, that we should aim at mitigation rather than transformation, that we are better positioned to assuage than to conquer, that things are what they are and must be dealt with on that basis.”

As a result, he said, conservatives very often are a disappointment to “the utopians of the Left and the utopians of the Right.” The observation might well apply to the situation of the Church. Bishops, very often, and especially when working through the episcopal conference, seem to be more inclined to manage problems, especially those they believe to be tied up with the intractable reality of evil.

Bishops, at least contemporary American bishops, tend to address problems through new policies or processes, which are unlikely to have dramatic or immediately visible effect.

It seems clear that their approach has advantages. Few would dispute that the policies advanced after the abuse crisis of 2002 have fostered a cultural change in the U.S. Church on the issue of child and youth protection. Many argue that over time, they’ve made the Catholic Church one of the safest places for children in America. But they are wonky, technical, bureaucratic, and the cultural shift they foster takes time.

But angry and discouraged American Catholics have not spent the last year calling for policies. They’ve spent that time calling for dramatic symbols of contrition and resolution for change. They’ve called for prophetic voices, and maligned their bishops for not seeming to measure up.

Catholics of all backgrounds, viewpoints, and perspectives have demanded a sign that things in the U.S. Church really will be different, and they don’t feel they’ve been heard.

The issue is that the bishops are working toward reform, and most of the Church is calling for renewal.

Reform comes often through new disciplines, policies, processes, and agreements. Renewal rushes in like fire, bringing new energy and vitality, bringing new freedom and hope. Both are important, and both are needed now.

The U.S. bishops can’t make a renewal happen. At least not in their committee meetings and floor debates. To win the trust of Catholics, it seems they would do well to acknowledge that.

If the bishops in Baltimore express that their efforts at reform are intended to address specific problems, and will have limited effectiveness, Catholics may be comforted by their candor. And if they express that in an ecclesial culture that seems, to many, fundamentally broken, the renewal that’s needed can come only through the Holy Spirit, their humility might help them to reestablish bonds of solidarity with their flocks.

And if the bishops spend their time praying for the Holy Spirit to bring renewal to the Church, and inviting other Catholics to do the same, they might be surprised by the results.

Renewal doesn’t usually come from the top. It doesn’t usually come in familiar shapes, or recognizable programs. It often comes through outsiders- through eccentric prophets or weird ascetics. Figures like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Hildegard of Bingen, Blessed John Henry Newman, or Dorothy Day.

Reform can gradually shift culture. Renewal can upend it. And the bishops, if they wish to be candid with U.S. Catholics, might consider admitting the limitations of their reforms, and then beg the Holy Spirit to renew the Church.

On Sunday, the Church will celebrate Pentecost.

In the year since last Pentecost, the Church has faced the McCarrick revelations, the Pennsylvania grand report, the specter federal and state investigations, allegations of abuse or neglect on the part of more bishops and cardinals, police raids in chanceries, the Vigano letters, the disappointing November USCCB meeting, the Zanchetta scandal, the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, allegations of grave negligence on the part of USCCB president Daniel DiNardo, and now the Bransfield report.

There has not yet been any substantive release of information on McCarrick. There have not yet been answers to the straightforward questions about his finances, his allies, and his protectors.

Those things have demoralized faithful, practicing, sincere Catholics. They point to the need for reform. But they also point to the need for divine intervention.

As the bishops begin their meeting, there may be no more important plea on their lips than: “Come, Holy Spirit!”