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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 22 min ago

Praying for healing, Syracuse bishop releases names of accused priests

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 20:49

Syracuse, N.Y., Dec 3, 2018 / 06:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Syracuse has released a list of 57 priests credibly accused of abusing a minor, with some of the charges dating back to the 1950s.

“It is my fervent hope and prayer that this effort will bring some peace and healing to those who have been directly harmed and to all members of our community of faith,” Bishop Robert Cunningham of Syracuse said Dec. 1.

Stressing that no clergy credibly accused of abuse of a minor are in active ministry, he said the list includes both deceased priests and living priests removed from all ministry.

The accused priests were ordained as far back as 1911.

Some abuse victims have not wanted the names of their abusers released. While the diocese previously yielded to their wishes, Bishop Cunningham said, “upon serious reflection and prayer, I have concluded this practice has become a roadblock to moving our local Church forward.”

The 75-year-old bishop, who has submitted his resignation upon reaching retirement age under Church law, added that it was not fair to leave such a decision about abuse disclosure to his successor.

“The news over the past few months of the tragic failings of the Catholic Church has been deeply distressing and has caused many to lose faith and trust,” he said. “It continues to weigh heavily on our hearts. Personally for me, as your bishop, I have prayerfully considered what I can do to help rebuild trust and forge a path to restoring and strengthening the faith.”

A credible accusation, the diocese explained in documents accompanying the bishop’s letter, meets one of several criteria: the allegation is “natural, reasonable, plausible and probable”; the allegation is corroborated with other evidence or another source; or the allegation is acknowledged or admitted by the accused.

Some additional allegations have been reported to the appropriate district attorneys and will be added to the list if found credible, the diocese said.

A compensation program run by the diocese determined that there are 85 known abuse victims, as of September. A diocesan compliance officer works with accused priests and regularly monitors them.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick told Syracuse.com he has reviewed the list released by the diocese several times. His office and the diocese have taken steps to ensure that accused priests who are still alive do not pose any danger to children. There are 19 such priests in the diocese.

Bishop Cunningham told Syracuse.com that Catholic leaders had for a time taken the view that sex abusers were not criminals, but psychiatric patients suffering “a sickness that we thought was treatable.” Priests, including some in the Syracuse diocese, were sent to Catholic treatment centers like the Southdown Institute in Canada and St. Luke’s in Maryland.

The bishop also said previous generations had a poor understanding of the damage caused by sexual abuse.

“Not just in the Church, but in society at large, there's been an evolving understanding of child sexual abuse, the trauma it causes, the difficulty it causes,” Cunningham said in his letter.

“I don't think the church ever intended to cover anything up,” Cunningham continued. “They frequently handled situations as families wanted or as society was doing at that time. I think it's a slow awakening to realize how serious this issue is. And it covers much more than the Church.”

The 2002 approval of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People ended the practice of treating priests and returning them to active ministry.

The U.S. bishops had intended to address sex abuse again at their fall general assembly, but the Congregation for Bishops ordered them to postpone voting on resolutions until a special global meeting of the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences to address the sex abuse crisis, set for this February at the Vatican.

Starbucks and Tumblr to block porn

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 19:16

Seattle, Wash., Dec 3, 2018 / 05:16 pm (CNA).- Coffee giant Starbucks and microblogging website Tumblr have each announced they will be taking steps to prevent the online access of pornography.

Tumblr announced Monday that sexually explicit content and nudity will be banned on its blogging platform, effective Dec. 17.

The policy comes after the site was removed from Apple’s App Store in November. Images of child pornography had reportedly been uploaded on the website, after the filters had failed to block them.

According to the new ban, GIFs, videos, and images exposing genitalia, along with illustrated sexual acts, will be prohibited. Art featuring nudity will be permitted, as will nakedness in some photos of public events like political protests.

In a similar move, Starbucks announced last week it will block access to pornographic material viewed through WiFi networks at the company’s stores beginning next year. The coffee chain banned in-store pornography in 2016, but did not install filters to prevent customers from accessing pornography.

The recent decision comes after an internet-safety group, Enough is Enough, pressured Starbucks to restrict the pornography accessed on the café’s WiFi.

The coffee company said recently that it had been looking for a way to block pornography on its network without thwarting access to other websites.

Details on the new filters have not been released, but Starbucks has said it will introduce them sometime in 2019.

"We have identified a solution to prevent this content from being viewed within our stores and we will begin introducing it to our U.S. locations in 2019," the representative told NBC News.

Starbucks made the announcement shortly after Enough is Enough re-issued a petition Nov. 20 which has more than 26,000 signatures. The petition was a second attempt by the group to campaign against the lack of porn restriction on Starbucks’ WiFi.

In 2014, the non-profit pressured Starbucks and McDonald’s to create a porn-free environment on publicly accessible WiFi.

Donna Hughes, CEO of Enough is Enough, said McDonald’s quickly responded to fix the problem, while Starbucks promised to act but did not. At present, Starbucks has only filtered porn in its U.K. locations.

"Starbucks has had a tremendous opportunity to put its best foot forward in protecting its customers from images deemed obscene and illegal under the law, but they haven't budged, despite their promise two years ago,” Hughes said in a Nov. 26 statement.  

"We demand Starbucks do the right thing by keeping its promise of two and half years ago," she said. "We applaud Starbucks' commitment to protect children in its UK stores, but what about America's children? …There's no reason why Starbucks can't offer that same level of commitment of WiFi safety to its loyal customer base here in the United States.”

Hughes said that because Starbucks did not follow through with its 2016 commitment, the company has kept open an for child pornography to be accessed under the radar, and for teens to bypass parental controls.

Enough is Enough ran a thank-you campaign for Starbucks after it promised to block porn in 2016. Hughes told NBC News that, this time, the group will withhold applause and continue to apply pressure until the changes are seen.

"They won’t get an applause until they’ve actually implemented safe Wi-Fi filtering," Hughes said. "This time we’re going to wait and see, and we’re going to keep the pressure on."

Major porn websites have issued statements in response to the decision. The pornographic video-sharing site YouPorn, released a memo which banned the Starbucks’ products from the organization’s offices, beginning in January 2019.

A similar site, Pornhub, also issued a statement, noting it would be rolling out “Safe for Work” content – nudity-free videos. The category contains topics like video game reviews and advice from porn stars.

However, sexual and obscene advertisements may still be encountered in the "SFW" webpages. It is unclear if the new ban will block entire domains containing pornography, or allow access to parts of the websites which do not have sexually explicit material.

‘A man of faith and humility’ Catholics remember President George H.W. Bush

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 15:30

Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2018 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- George H.W. Bush, who died late Friday, served as a fighter pilot in World War II, head of the CIA, vice president under Ronald Reagan, and as the 41st president of the United States. But he maintained throughout his last years that his most important role was that of a father of six.

 

“I can honestly say that the three most rewarding titles bestowed upon me are the three that I’ve got left: a husband, a father and a granddad,” Bush said in 1997 at the opening of his presidential library in Houston.

 

In the days following the president’s death, Catholics around the country remembered the 41st president for his character and family values.

 

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, offered prayers for the former president and for his family, and praised Bush as a “courageous man, dedicated leader and selfless public servant.”

 

As a congressman, Bush represented Texas’ seventh congressional district, which is within DiNardo’s archdiocese.

 

“President Bush’s career in the public eye – from the Lone Star State to the global stage – was marked by incredible statesmanship and honor,” DiNardo said in a statement released by the archdiocese.

 

“His strong faith in God, devotion to his wife of 73 years, the late First Lady Barbara Bush, and his boundless love for the covenant of family served as a model for all to follow. The City of Houston was very proud to call him one of our own and one of our brightest points of light. We will forever be grateful for his presence and commitment to our community and to the people of Houston.”

 

Bush’s marriage to Barbara, who died earlier this year, was the longest marriage in the history of the American presidency.

 

In his speech at the 1992 Knights of Columbus convention, President Bush, an Episcopalian, spoke of the importance of character and morality in American society.

 

“I think my parents were like yours: They brought me up to understand that our fundamental moral standards were established by Almighty God. They taught me that if you have something for yourself, you should give half to a friend. They taught me to take the blame when things go wrong and share the credit when things go right. These ideas were supported by society,” he told the Knights.

 

Joseph Cullen, a spokesman for the Knights of Columbus, told CNA that Bush had “a wonderful feel for what makes America great: her people and their individual communities, including faith communities.”

 

“He knew that religious liberty produced varied and wonderful fruits, especially in the areas of charity and service. He knew us at the Knights. He encouraged us and did so personally at two of our conventions, including in 1992 as president. We are grateful to have known him and now pray for him and his family” Cullen said.

 

Bush noted in 1992 that there was a “disturbing trend” in “the rise of legal theories and practices that reject our Judeo-Christian tradition.”

 

“The President should set the moral tone for this nation,” Bush said.

 

Other bishops and Catholic voices have issued their own tributes to the 41st president.

 

“A gracious and humble man who lived a life of service to others, President George H.W. Bush is remembered as a man of character, a husband and father who did his best to bring about a kinder and gentler nation.  He guided our country during difficult times with grace, dignity and courage,” Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland said Dec. 1.

 

Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland, Maine, also extended his prayerful sympathy to the Bush family.

 

“He will be remembered for his integrity. A man of faith and humility, may he be at peace with the Lord he served in life,” Deeley said.

 

His presidency from 1988 to 1992 oversaw the fall of the Soviet Union. In Bush’s last State of the Union Address in 1992, he said, “By the grace of God, America won the Cold War."

 

Later that year, the president went on to say, “Saint Ignatius said, ‘Work as though all depended upon yourself,  and pray as though all depended on God.’ The practice of that motto conquered communism. Ceaseless prayer and tireless work halted the cold war and spared us from the catastrophe of a third world war. Believers behind the Iron Curtain defied persecution; believers in the West defied indifference.”

 

Bush met with Pope Saint John Paul II in Rome twice during his presidency. Though the two leaders disagreed over the U.S. military intervention in the Gulf War, Bush described his last presidential meeting with John Paul II as "major tour d'horizon, touching on all the trouble spots"  in the world.

 

When Bush first entered politics as a Republican Congressman, he supported funding for Planned Parenthood, however he went on to be an effective pro-life president. Bush used his power of veto to stop 10 bills with pro-abortion provisions, according to the National Right to Life Committee.

 

"President George H.W. Bush dedicated his administration to advancing pro-life policies to protect mothers and their unborn children," National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said Dec. 1. "He used his presidency to stop enactment of pro-abortion laws and promote life-affirming solutions.”

 

Bush’s funeral will be held at Washington’s National Cathedral on Wednesday, Dec. 5 with President Donald Trump and his wife in attendance.

Commentary: Advent is the remedy to our spiritual crisis

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 16:29

Denver, Colo., Dec 2, 2018 / 02:29 pm (CNA).- “Insincerity was an evil which sprang up within the Church from the first,” wrote Blessed John Henry Newman in 1839. “Ananias and Simon were not open opposers of the Apostles, but false brethren.”

Any of us, he said, can affect a certain kind of religiosity without sincerity, any of us can be tempted to put on the trappings of faith without the interior disposition. Any of us can be tempted to give the appearance of love when, in truth, we do not love.

Real faith grows when we have the humility and the honesty to profess what we really believe, to speak what we really know, and to stand before God and one another as we really are.

Jesus transforms us, Newman taught, when we come before him as we are.

That lesson resonates with many Catholics this year. The past six months have proven difficult. The Church faces a crisis that does not need ongoing enumeration. But it is a crisis in which sincerity has come into question, in which trust has been eroded, and in which many Catholics are no longer certain who they can believe, and what they can trust.

And, for at least some Catholics, it has occasioned a crisis of faith itself.

Advent is the spiritual remedy to that crisis.

Advent, Pope Benedict XVI taught, is an invitation to return “to the heart of our faith, which is the mystery of Christ, the Messiah who was expected for long centuries and was born in poverty, in Bethlehem.”

Christ came into the world because sin is real, and because he sets us free from sin. This Advent, we need to remember that.

“In coming among us, he brought us and continues to offer us the gift of his love and his salvation,” Benedict said.

Because Christ is present, Benedict said, we “may speak to him, presenting to him the suffering that afflicts us, our impatience, the questions that well up in our hearts. We may be sure that he always listens to us! And if Jesus is present...we may continue to hope, even when others can no longer assure us of any support, even when the present becomes trying.”

That we are marred by sin should be no surprise. Advent reminds us that sin is defeated, in the Messiah who came into the world at Christmas, and who will come again.

In fact, the trying afflictions of the present moment are exactly why Jesus has come- because sin exists in the world, even among members of the Church. It is Christ in whom we can place our trust- because Christ is the one who came into the world to defeat sin and death through his own Passion.

Advent also reminds us that the Church, the Body of Christ, is human and divine, just as Christ himself is. That the holiness of the Church does not depend on the holiness of her members or ministers. That even as she must follow a path of penance and renewal, she is more than what we can see, and especially more than the headlines of recent months.

There is a danger, amid the scandal of the moment, that we might reduce our vision of the Church to the sociological, that we might see only the scandal, and not the grace. Christ is present to us in and through his Church- even if actions undertaken in the Church's own name, set amid the disordering chaos of sin, are the source of our pain, or even of our despair. That is the scandalous proposition of the Gospel.

Advent reminds us that the Church is Christ’s Mystical Body, and that even as her fallen humanity is on full display, she is nonetheless the sacrament of our salvation. The Church, the Body of Christ, is a source of grace, even as she is in need of grace.

Jesus has come into the world, and he is coming again. He is present, even in our great difficulty. He loves as we are, and he wishes us to transform us. Advent is here.

Come Lord Jesus, come.  

 

How a 'messy family' can be a holy family

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 14:00

Steubenville, Ohio, Dec 2, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- When Mike and Alice Hernon started their podcast on marriage and family in 2015, they didn’t think anyone would listen, outside of their family and maybe a few close friends.

Both from big families - Alice the second of 10 siblings, and Mike one of six - and parents of 10 children themselves, the Hernons would often get asked for parenting advice at extended family gatherings.

At the urging of their siblings who were benefiting from their advice, the Hernons started a marriage and family podcast.

“At the beginning if you listen to our first two or three episodes, we kind of start off by saying something like, there are probably just like five of our brothers and sisters and their friends listening,” Alice told CNA.

But over the past three years, the podcast grew from a small fanbase of friends and family to 10,000 listeners per month.

“We literally did zero marketing! We didn't do anything” to promote the podcast, Alice said.

“We didn’t have time,” Mike added. They were too busy with work and with their own family life.

Sensing a growing need among parents and families for guidance and support, and with the support and partnership with Our Sunday Visitor Institute, Alice and Mike have decided to expand their podcast into a full-time marriage and family ministry called The Messy Family Project.

In addition to the podcast, the Hernons will now offer their advice, support and encouragement through videos, downloadable resources, and live events such as retreats and workshops.

“One of our taglines is: 'we're not experts' because neither of us have counseling degrees, we're not professors, we're not doctors,” Alice said. “We are really just older parents who are ahead of most of the people who are listening to us, so what we want to do is just kind of give that encouragement, that practical advice, but without being dogmatic.”

They’ve gained their wisdom from their own families of origin, from years of experience raising their own children (who are now ages 6-23), and from the teachings of the Catholic Church, and from interacting with families through various ministries over the years.  

Their mission: “to empower parents, strengthen marriages and bring families to Christ.”

This mission has been on the hearts of the Hernons for a while, Mike said, because “we believe it’s more challenging to raise children today than maybe it ever has been.”

They offer their wisdom as older siblings who have been there, rather than as parents of a different generation, Mike said.

“There are challenges that our parents didn't have,” he said, “everything from technology to all of the cultural issues that are bearing on our children and our family life.”

They wanted to offer their support and advice for Catholic families to build their own unique cultures instead, which will look different depending on the individual family, Mike said.

“We don't try to say - this is the perfect plan. We try to share experiences, also the principles from the Church, because we believe the Church is an expert in humanity, an expert in real living.”

Creating a strong, welcoming and unique family culture, built on a Catholic identity, is one of the best ways to combat the cultural messages that are antithetical to Catholicism and family life today, the Hernons said. “The best defense is a good offense,” Mike said.

“Our ‘offense’ is creating your own family culture,” Alice said.

“Families need to not allow their children to be influenced by the world's culture more than by their own family culture, because when you create your own family culture...that culture is a very powerful influence on our children because it’s an unspoken set of beliefs and expectations.”

A strong family culture also allows parents to enforce values without being judgmental of other families, Alice said.

“Because when a child says, ‘Oh well Susie is allowed to wear that dress to prom,’ you can say ‘Yeah, but Susie's not a Hernon, and this is who we are,’” she said.  

Family culture is communicated primarily through relationships, the Hernons said - the relationship of the parents with each other, the relationships parents have with individual children, and then the relationships children have with each other.

“The grace for your family flows from the sacrament of marriage,” Mike said.

“More is caught than taught, and kids need to see what that marriage looks like, and you model for them in so many ways what true love is, what it means to lay down your life, what it means to have a vocation, a mission of service.”

The Messy Family Project offers resources that cover a wide variety of topics related to family culture - including discipline, growing spiritually as a family, managing screen time, fostering sibling relationships, strengthening marriages, and building community with other like-minded families.

These resources include downloadable worksheets for parents to work through together, because spouses are each other’s own best parenting resource, the Hernons said.

“One of our themes is that parents need to work together and listen to each other as the experts,” Alice said. “More than they listen to us, more than they listen to anybody else out there, they need to listen to each other. So we have worksheets for parents to go through and have conversations with each other.”

Much of the Hernons' inspiration comes from Pope St. John Paul II, and his teachings on marriage and family.

“Each family finds within itself a summons that cannot be ignored and that specifies both its dignity and responsibility: family, become what you are!” Pope John Paul II said in his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio.

That quote “sums up the goal” of The Messy Family Project, Mike said in a press release.

The Hernons said they are also inspired by St. Mother Teresa and the Little Flower of Therese, who found joy and holiness even in the little things of life.

They are also inspired by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who said in a 2017 address: “When young people ask me how to change the world, I tell them to love each other, get married, stay faithful to one another, have lots of children, and raise those children to be men and women of Christian character. Faith is a seed. It doesn’t flower overnight. It takes time and love and effort.”

Alice said she hopes Catholic families can find inspiration and hope, even in troubling times in the Church and in the world, through The Messy Family Project.

“I think a lot of times, Catholics look at the (Church sex abuse) scandals and say - ‘How can we change the Church?’”

“That's important and we need to do that, but start with your family. That's the most influence you can have, is over your family, and I think that people forget that.”

Eucharistic procession for Hollywood homeless draws hundreds

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 17:56

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 1, 2018 / 03:56 pm (CNA).- Hundreds of Catholics processed through Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in a special Eucharistic procession for the poor this month.

The event was organized by the Beloved Movement, a forum that promotes discipleship and spiritual community.

An estimated 700 people attended the Hollywood Beloved Procession after Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church on Nov. 17.

As part of the event, volunteers on the walk sat and listened to some of the city’s homeless population on the boulevard.

Seminarians from St. John’s Seminary and Queen of the Angels led the procession. It was also attended by members of several religious orders, including the Friars and Sisters of the Poor Jesus and Daughters of St. Paul.

The procession concluded in the church parking lot with adoration, praise and worship, and silent prayer.

The Beloved Movement website says the procession seeks to remind people of the common dignity between those on the streets and those who are not. Since Christ bore the weaknesses of mankind, it says, there is no need to be afraid of each other.

“Jesus shared our weaknesses, wounds, and limitations so that we wouldn’t need to be afraid of them, in ourselves or in others,” the website reads. 

The Beloved Movement partners with various organizations to foster relationships between homeless people and non-homeless people in Los Angeles. Father Spencer Lewrenz, one of the primary organizers of the event, said those in poverty need more than just resources.

“There are more and more resources,” he told America Magazine when he was a seminarian in 2017. “And it isn’t helping.”

“My experience is there’s a lot of bitterness and despair among the homeless population because they feel like nobody cares,” he said. “If I can recognize where I feel a little homeless for whatever reason inside myself, then it kind of helps me be able to talk to that person.”

Suicide, drug overdose rates bring US life expectancy down

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 04:28

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2018 / 02:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The suicide rate in the United States is at its highest in at least 50 years, and is contributing to a decrease in the nation’s life expectancy, the federal government said Thursday.

Life expectancy for the U.S. population declined to 78.6 in 2017, down from 78.7 the previous year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a new report.

“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” said CDC director Robert Redfield in a Nov. 29 statement.

The United States saw more than 47,000 suicides in 2017, an increase of more than 2,000 from the previous year.

In addition, there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths last year, a 10 percent rise from 2016. Deaths from heroin and prescription opioids remained steady from the previous year, while fentanyl deaths drastically increased.

Other findings in the CDC report included an increase in gun deaths, totaling almost 40,000. Deaths from heart disease – the top killer in the U.S. – are no longer declining, while deaths from flu and pneumonia increased by 6 percent.

While U.S. life expectancy had been rising for decades, the country is now seeing its longest period of generally declining life expectancy since World War I, according to the Associated Press.

Iowa prisoners sue to get their pornography back

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 20:03

Des Moines, Iowa, Nov 30, 2018 / 06:03 pm (CNA).- Dozens of Iowa inmates have filed a lawsuit challenging a ban on pornography which has affected the state’s prisons in recent weeks.

The law, which took effect Nov. 14, prohibits pornographic material and puts an end to “pornography reading rooms” in all of Iowa’s nine state prisons.

A lawsuit filed by 58 inmates at Fort Dodge Correctional Institution claims the new state regulations are unconstitutional. The suit calls for an end to the ban and for $25,000 to be awarded to each inmate.

Thirty years ago, a similar ban was brought to court, where a federal judge found that the law’s language on “explicit material” was unconstitutionally ambiguous. The law was then revised to more closely match the Supreme Court’s ruling on obscenity laws.

The director of the Drake University Constitutional Law Center, Mark Kende, told CNA that the previous law’s specific description only banned incredibly hard-core pornography, but continued to allow for less extreme material.

Kende said the new law, however, is a little less specific than the edited law of 30 years ago, and uses a more general depiction of sexually explicit material that would also include what is generally considered soft-core porn.

“‘Sexually explicit’ means a pictorial depiction of actual or simulated sexual acts including sexual intercourse, oral sex, or masturbation,” reads the law.  

“Sexually explicit material does not include material of a news or information type. Publications concerning research or opinions on sexual, health, or reproductive issues should be admitted unless the publications are otherwise a threat to legitimate institutional interests,” the law says.

Further clarifications are needed, Kende said, pointing to example of magazines such as Playboy, which has both sexual content and non-sexual articles. Without more clarity in the law, it is uncertain where the courts would come down on the regulation, he said.

“You don’t have that assurance that it will be something that the court will say this is just a ban on obscenity,” he said. “[They] are trying to ban more than obscenity.”

However, he said the law may have enough “specificity in it and it is possible that it will be upheld because of that, but it is not perfect.”
 

Religious order petitions Supreme Court over gas pipeline

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- An order of religious sisters in Pennsylvania has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the drilling of a government-sanctioned gas pipeline through the religious order’s property. The Adorers of the Blood of Christ claim the plan is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

 

“These nuns have every right to tell the government and its corporate partners to stay off the convent’s land and respect the nuns’ right to exercise their religious beliefs about the sacredness of God’s creation,” John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, said in a statement Nov. 28. The institute has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the order.

 

In the petition to the Supreme Court, Adorers of the Blood of Christ et al. v Federal Energy Regulatory Commission et al., filed in October, the sisters asserted that the construction of a high-volume natural pas pipeline on their land by invoking eminent domain violates their religious beliefs and conscience by “forcing them to use their own land to facilitate a fossil fuel pipeline that will harm the earth.”

 

The religious sisters cited Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si in their press statement, “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an option or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience,” the quote the pope as saying.

 

Lawyers for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission objected that the sisters had not previously based their objections to the plan on religious freedom grounds, and the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company maintained that there is insufficient evidence that the pipeline violates the sisters’ religious beliefs.

 

The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline would run directly through the religious order’s land, which includes a nursing home, convent, and a chapel.

 

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ have opposed the construction of the pipeline accross their farmland since July 2017, when they dedicated an outdoor chapel on their property in the path of the fossil fuel pipeline.

 

“When the Adorers established a presence here in Columbia in the 1920s, working the land was part of their daily existence ... This ground is seeped with their love and their sacrifices. Our spirits and our hearts are permeated with their legacy of responsible stewardship for this land,” Sister Janet McCann said at the chapel’s dedication.

 

A priest was arrested for protesting the pipeline being built on the property in 2017. Father Bill Pickard was charged with defiant trespass along with five other Catholic participants in the peaceful protest.

 

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ were founded as a teaching order in Italy by Saint Maria De Mattias in 1834, and went on to found nearly 70 schools. The order expanded to the United States in the late 19th century, eventually establishing a ministry to assist the elderly in Pennsylvania in 1925.

 

St. Maria De Mattias was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2003.

 

“When St. Maria DeMattias founded our congregation in 1834, she spoke of our call to help ‘bring about that beautiful order of things,’” Sister McCann said.

 

“As Adorers, we believe that ‘beautiful order’ happens when we reverence and respect creation. We ‘bring about that beautiful order of things’ when our decision-making and our influence honor our interconnectedness and oneness with all creation.”

Farm Bill to pass without expanded SNAP work requirements

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 17:40

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2018 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- Congress looks set to pass a compromise version of the Farm Bill, which would reauthorize billions in government funds for nutrition assistance and agricultural support, but strike a plan to expand work and job-training requirements for food assistance programs.

A final version of the bill looks set to be approved during the current lame duck session of the 115th Congress.

The Senate and House of Representatives have both passed drafts of the bill, but negotiations on a final compromise version have stalled in recent months.

In the House, H.R. 2 passed in June with narrow, Republican-only support. The House version included provisions that would increase work and training requirements for access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

 

The proposed changes to SNAP, which had the support of House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump, would have required able-bodied beneficiaries between the ages of 18 and 59 to either hold a job or participate in a job training program for 20 hours each week to remain eligible for the program. Similar requirements apply now only to 18-49 year-olds.

 

Adults with disabilities or dependents under six years old would be exempt from this requirement.

 

In April, representatives from some Catholic groups wrote a joint letter to the House Agriculture Committee about the bill. The letter welcomed efforts to improve state workforce training programs, but cautioned that the bill do not appear to offer sufficient investment to fund job training programs.

 

The letter, signed by representatives from the U.S. bishops’ conference, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Rural Life, and the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul, also warned that members of rural communities could find it especially difficult to access training, which is often only available some distance away.

 

Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry told CNA Nov. 30 that as a Catholic legislator, he was comfortable supporting reasonable work and job-training requirements for SNAP beneficiaries.

 

“The decayed theology of the last 40 years has left little room for a reasoned approach to charity. Access to meaningful work is dignity. Work gives a person well-being, support, and societal participation. Those who suffer from severe incapacity should not be required, but a holistic approach to charity should integrate work when possible,” Fortenberry said.

 

“The Farm Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation for America. It provides risk stabilization for farmers and ranchers and protects those who have food insecurity. America enjoys some of the lowest food prices in the world. We pay less for our groceries then anyone else in the world. And this is the result of a smart legislative process that creates an abundance of food supply that actually helps feed the world’s poor as well,” he added.

 

“I am hopeful that we can quickly reach bipartisan consensus.”

 

SNAP benefits assist more than 38 million Americans each month to buy food in grocery stores. The proposed employment and job-training requirements were estimated to affect as many as 1.2 million recipients. Savings incurred by the changes would have been reinvested into job training programs and better administration.

 

The Senate version of the bill did not include the new training requirements, but contained some additional anti-fraud measures, and was able to pass with bipartisan support.

 

Congressional Republicans are now indicating that a final compromise bill along the lines of the Senate version can pass before the new Congress, with a Democratic majority in the House, is gaveled into session January 3.

 

Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts R-KAN said Thursday that the final version of the legislation will not include the tougher work rules contained in the House bill.

 

“We took a more comprehensive approach to provide program integrity, as opposed to extending age limits to moms that have kids,” Roberts told Huffington Post.

 

“We got to get the farm bill done,” Rep. Glenn Thompson said earlier this month. “If we could get this one done with some bad modifications, it will be so much better than what will be negotiated under the Democrat majority next year.”

Bishop of Greensburg recovering after Thanksgiving weekend heart attack

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 16:40

Greensburg, Pa., Nov 30, 2018 / 02:40 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Greensburg, Pennsylvania is in recovery after suffering a mild heart attack over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Bishop Edward C. Malesic, 58, underwent a cardiac catheterization Friday, a procedure that aims to diagnose cardiac conditions and arterial blockages.  

“After Bishop Malesic’s cardiac catheterization, doctors believe his heart attack was an isolated event. He is being admitted for observation and further testing to confirm that diagnosis,” the Diocese of Greensburg said in a statement Nov. 30.

Malesic, originally a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg, was appointed Bishop of Greensburg by Pope Francis in 2015. His diocese was among those examined in a grand jury report released Aug. 14, examining seven decades of sexual abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses.

In a homily played at all diocesan Masses subsequent to the report’s publication, Malesic, said that “the Church in the Diocese of Greensburg today has evolved far beyond the Church described in the Grand Jury report. One of the safest places to be as a young person today is the Catholic Church. This is not just a convenient saying; current statistics bear this out as a fact. The Grand Jury report describes the Church of thirty, fifty, even more than seventy years ago. It falls far short of describing the Church we love and support. It does not paint an accurate picture of the Church in which we pray and find comfort today.”

 

“Today’s Catholic Church is the center of prayer. In it, we celebrate the sacraments, raise our families and grow in holiness. Today’s church provides a place of spiritual comfort for those who are looking for deeper meaning and a personal relationship with God,” he added.

“Today’s Catholic Church does good work. God’s work.”

 

EWTN wins lawsuit over HHS contraception mandate

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 10:45

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2018 / 08:45 am (CNA).- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th circuit issued an order Thursday vacating a 2014 District Court decision against the Eternal Word Television Network in its lawsuit against the so-called contraceptive mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. The order follows a settlement between the network and the Department of Justice, reached Oct. 5.

Under the terms of the settlement, EWTN will not be required to provide contraception, sterilization, or abortifacients through its employee health care plan.

“This moment has been a long time coming,” said EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw.

“Almost seven years and two presidential administrations later, the government and the courts have now realized what EWTN has been saying all along, that the HHS mandate was an unconstitutional attempt to coerce us into violating our strongly held beliefs. This is the right outcome for EWTN and for all those who value religious liberty in America.”

The network originally filed suit in February 2012 in response to the mandate, which was introduced by the Obama administration following the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Under the provisions of the act, employer-provided health insurance plans are required to cover certain “preventative services.” These were defined by guidance issued by the Department of Health and Human Services to include all contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including abortifacient birth control pills, IUDs, and sterilization procedures.

The specifics of the contraception mandate were not included in the original bill, but were announced in January 2012 by then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

EWTN’s initial suit was dismissed in March 2013 by the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama, following an initial effort by the Obama administration to amend the regulations.

When the administration’s revisions failed to address EWTN’s moral objections, a second suit was filed by the network in October 2013. In June 2014, the U.S. District Court of Mobile, Alabama ruled against the network, though an injunction was granted while the decision was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

In February 2016, a panel of judges voted  2-1 against EWTN, but suspended that decision pending the outcome of the case Zubik v. Burwell, which also concerned the HHS mandate and was then pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Zubik, the Court of Appeals vacated its own negative order against EWTN on May 31, 2016.  The court’s order asked for further briefing on the matter while the parties worked toward a settlement.

Attorneys for EWTN and the Department of Justice negotiated terms of a settlement under which the government agreed not to enforce the contraceptive mandate against the network, and that EWTN would ask the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the District Court’s decision. The 11th Circuit granted that request on Nov. 29.

“I am confident this agreement will protect EWTN from such regulations, both now and in the future,” Warsaw told CNA.

EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 38th year, is the largest religious media network in the world. EWTN’s 11 TV channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 300 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories. EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international AM & FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; the largest Catholic website in the U.S.; electronic and print news services, including Catholic News Agency, “The National Catholic Register” newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.

In a statement released by the network, Warsaw also praised the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, saying “I am grateful to our team of attorneys from Becket who have represented us from the beginning. They have been a tremendous partner in this fight for religious liberty.”

Becket Senior Counsel Lori Windham stated “EWTN has fought long and hard to ensure that its basic freedoms would be protected, and this victory ensures that EWTN can continue to serve as a voice for religious liberty for many years to come.”

On Nov. 7, the Trump administration released two updated rules concerning conscience protections for organizations and individuals in relation to the HHS contraception mandate.

Under the new rules, organizations and individuals objecting to the controversial mandate’s provisions on either religious or moral grounds will be exempt.

What’s the difference between crystals and relics?

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 05:22

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2018 / 03:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- To the outside viewer, crystals are pretty rocks.

Perfectly curated pictures of the pretty stones pepper the social media feeds of scores of millennials, as they have become increasingly popular on necklaces and as part of a “wholistic”, wellness-minded life. But, more than just a fashion statement, crystals are believed by some to have healing properties, related to their energy or vibrations.

The Catholic Church rejects all things associated with New Age beliefs, including the trendy crystals, as heretical and dangerous.

At the same time, the Catholic Church embraces the veneration of relics.

To the outside viewer, relics are likely strange at best, and morbid at worst.

Relics are pieces of the body, clothing or other objects that have a direct association with a saint or with Jesus Christ. They may be pieces of bone or vials of blood collected after a saint has died, or a piece of their cassock, a book they used, or items that have been touched to these things.

Relics are venerated, often with a touch or a kiss, for the sake of the worship of God, and to ask the prayers of those saints.

So why is it ok for Catholics to kiss a vial of St. John Paul II’s blood and pray for his intercession, but not ok for Catholics to cure their negative energy by wearing a rock around their neck?

It’s all about who you want to establish a relationship with, explained Fr. Jim Orr, the director of St. Anthony’s Chapel in Pittsburgh, which is home to 5,000 relics.

“The importance of the relics is their association with the saint, because while the saints would be in the glory of heaven, their body is still their body, so it’s that association that makes the relics important, and, if you will, creates the connection,” Orr told CNA.

“When one venerates a relic, one is essentially making a connection with the saint in the glory of heaven. So what is going on spiritually is a kind of prayer to the saint, invoking their intercession.”

What makes a saint holy or worthy of veneration is not some kind of “spiritual radioactivity,” Orr noted, but their holiness, which is how well they loved God and neighbor.

“Holiness is the difference between the world and those who follow Jesus Christ, and it’s a difference of behavior,” Orr said.

“Look at God’s great commandments: love God with all your heart, mind and soul, love your neighbor as yourself, love one another as I have loved you. This is how they will know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.”

“And any of the great saints, if you look at them, (that love) is the characteristic of their lives. So when we look at relics, or blessed or consecrated objects, it’s about how they help us make the connection with those who have gone on into glory (in heaven),” he said.

In some ways, crystals are similar to relics, in that they are physical objects that can establish a spiritual connection. But it would be a mistake to think of them as anything but harmful, Orr said.

“It’s far from harmless. This is thinly-veiled so-called witchcraft, which really is playing with demons,” he said.

In the Vatican document “Jesus Christ: The bearer of the water of life”, the Church teaches that all things associated with New Age beliefs, including crystals, must be rejected, as they claim to offer an alternative to the Word of God: “From the point of view of Christian faith, it is not possible to isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Christians, while rejecting others. Since the New Age movement makes much of a communication with nature, of cosmic knowledge of a universal good – thereby negating the revealed contents of Christian faith – it cannot be viewed as positive or innocuous.”

Furthermore, the Catechism rejects New Age beliefs and the use of crystals: "All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone."

Father Gary Thomas, an exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose, told CNA that relics only obtain spiritual significance because they are associated with the saints. Saints are recognized as holy through the authority of the Church, which has its authority in God through apostolic succession, starting with the first Pope, St. Peter.

Crystals can have “perverted” spiritual energy through spells or pagan rituals that are performed with them, he said.

“Crystals can be used as conjuring objects for the demonic,” Thomas told CNA. “I have had people come to me for deliverance who have been involved in the practice of using crystals for demonic musterings.”

Orr, who has also been involved in exorcism ministry, said he too has seen people who have established connections with the demonic through their use of things like crystals.

“The demons go along until they can get their hooks into this person, and then they turn on them, and that’s when we in the ministry see them, when they finally realize what they’re dealing with, and they can’t disassociate themselves from the demons,” he said. That’s when they come seeking the help of exorcists.

“So in that sense, that’s how crystals are like relics. It’s who you’re creating a relationship with. The relics create a relationship with the saints and the glory of heaven; crystals create a relationship with demons.”

Pro-life, disability groups support Indiana abortion law at SCOTUS

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 02:28

Indianapolis, Ind., Nov 30, 2018 / 12:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Nineteen states and numerous pro-life and disability groups have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold an Indiana law prohibiting abortions based on race, sex or disability. The law had been blocked by a lower court in September.

In March 2016, Indiana’s then-governor Mike Pence signed the Dignity for the Unborn law, which would have prohibited elective abortions based on the conditions of race, sex or disability.

It also included a provision that would have required medical facilities to cremate or intern fetal remains of babies who died by abortion or miscarriage.

Supporters of the law have said the state has a compelling interest in preventing discriminatory eugenics practices, especially against children with Down syndrome, who are at high risk for abortion.

The Dignity for the Unborn law was set to go into effect on July 1, 2016, but its enforcement was temporarily blocked by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, after Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky filed for an injunction. It was permanently blocked by the same court in September, and the law ruled unconstitutional.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. told local newspaper IndyStar in September that the ruling of the anti-discrimination law as unconstitutional “has cleared the path for genetic discrimination that once seemed like science fiction.”

“This state has a compelling interest in protecting the dignity of the unborn and in ensuring they are not selected for termination simply because they lack preferred physical characteristics,” he added.  

In October of this year, Hill filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, requesting that they reassess and reverse the decision of the circuit court.

“Nothing in the Constitution prohibits states from requiring health facilities to provide an element of basic human dignity in disposing of fetuses,” Hill said in a statement at the time, posted on the government of Indiana’s website.

“These tiny bodies, after all, are in fact human remains. Further, states have every reason and right to prohibit abortions from being performed simply as a means of selecting the race, sex, or physical condition of a child. The right to abortion declared by our Supreme Court protects only the decision not to bear a child at all, not a right to decide which child to bear. Our nation knows only too well the bitter fruits of such discrimination.”

In his petition to the Supreme Court, Hill noted that the advancement of prenatal testing technology makes the case all the more urgent, as unborn babies who test positive for Down syndrome are at higher risk for abortion - at a rate of about 67 percent in the United States. Some other Western countries have near-100 percent abortion rates of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome.

“If the Court demurs, perhaps to wait years and years for a circuit conflict that may never come, then long before the Court takes up the matter the Nation may go the way of many European countries, where fewer and fewer babies with Down syndrome make it to term each year,” Hill wrote.

This month, numerous pro-life and disability rights groups filed friend of the court briefs with the Supreme Court in support of the law, and asking for a reversal of the circuit court decision.

In their brief, pro-life group Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List argued that the Constitutional right to an abortion does not supersede protections against discrimination, and that the Constitution can be upheld while also protecting vulnerable populations.

“The fate of thousands of children with Down syndrome depends on laws like Indiana’s that protect them from being targeted for destruction in the womb. Our nation has fought a long – but still incomplete – battle to expand legal protections and educational and social opportunities for people with disabilities,” President of SBA List Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement on the brief.

The brief also notes: “Research has shown that individuals with Down syndrome are among the happiest people in the world and bring tremendous joy to their families. In some Western nations, however, children diagnosed with Down syndrome are on the verge of being eliminated from society through selective abortion.”

The Bioethics Defense Fund, a legal group that advocates for the right to life, also filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the Indiana law.

Nikolas T. Nikas, president and general counsel of Bioethics Defense Fund, said in a statement that elective abortions on the basis of sex, race or disability constitute “eugenic discrimination.”

Dorinda C. Bordlee, lead counsel for the fund’s brief, noted in the brief’s argument that the government must protect people against discrimination “from the outset of that human being’s life or not at all.”

Attorney generals from 19 states also jointly filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the Indiana law.

“The Seventh Circuit invalidated this law by purporting to find within this Court’s case law a ‘categorical’ right to pre-viability abortion, a right that a State cannot infringe no matter how powerful its interest,” the brief states.

“That conclusion is legally wrong and would perversely place the unenumerated right to pre-viability abortion above even core protections of the Bill of Rights.”

“Surely a State that has the constitutional authority to protect members of the Down syndrome community from being discriminated against in employment or public accommodations can protect that same community from wholesale elimination by eugenic practices,” they added.

They also noted that the anti-discrimination law is seeking to avoid the “evil practices” of countries such as Iceland and Denmark, which have a near-100 percent abortion rate of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome.

The brief filing was led by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, with 18 other states joining.

In a statement about joining the brief, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said that the Constitution “gives every state the inherent authority to protect life. That authority extends to enacting laws that prohibit abortion from being used as a tool to eliminate any particular segment of the population.”

Other states joining the brief were attorney generals from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi.        

 

CA assisted suicide law remains in legal limbo

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 19:02

Sacramento, Calif., Nov 29, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- A California court of appeals overturned Tuesday a lower court’s ruling that had put the state’s assisted suicide law in jeopardy.

The 4th District Court of Appeals in Riverside, California overturned the lower court because it said that plaintiffs to a lawsuit opposing the law did not have sufficient standing to sue. The court said that the plaintiffs, doctors opposed to assisted suicide, did not show they were harmed by the law.

Because of its procedural decision, the court did not rule on the lawsuit’s substantive challenges to the constitutionality of the state’s assisted suicide law.

The End of Life Option Act was passed in 2015 during a special legislative session focused on health care funding. Assisted suicide had failed to pass in committee during the 2015 regular legislative session in California.

Under the law, adults able to make medical decisions are allowed to receive lethal prescriptions if two doctors confirm the patient is likely to die within six months from a terminal illness.

Judge Daniel Ottolia of the Riverside County Superior Court ruled in May that the legalization of assisted suicide was unconstitutional because it was passed during a special session intended to address only funding shortages resulted from Medi-Cal.

A legal challenge was filed by a group of doctors.

In May, plaintiffs’ attorney Stephen Larson told the Sacramento Bee that “The act itself was rushed through the special session of the legislature, and it does not have any of the safeguards one would expect to see in a law like this.”

This week, the appeal court sent the case back to the level of the lower court, where it is likely to be refiled by the plaintiffs, after being amended to address issues including the legal liability of doctors involved with assisted suicide.

Because the law does not clearly state that a doctor is not legally responsible for participating in the death of a patient, it conflicts with other California laws, and ambiguities could create legal liability.

Matt Valliere of the Patients Rights Action Fund lamented the court’s decision, noting the law lacks concern for vulnerable patients, like Stephanie Packer, who suffers from the lung cancer, scleroderma.

“Assisted suicide is not health care and places countless Californians at risk of deadly harm. Terminally ill Californian Stephanie Packer has firsthand experience of how this law has eliminated choice. Sadly the Court’s ruling in this case ignores this fact and fails to protect vulnerable patients whose care has been compromised by this dangerous public policy.”

Packer told Angelus News that insurance companies would not fund potentially life-saving treatments, but instead offered her assisted suicide drugs.

“The bill’s proponents tout dignity, choice, compassion, and painlessness. I am here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Choice is really an illusion for a very few,” she said.

“For too many, assisted suicide will be the only affordable ‘treatment’ that is offered them.”

While advocates for assisted suicide have expressed disappointment that litigation may last for years to come, Justice Marsha Slough said that courts should resolve challenges to the law quickly, and find for its constitutionality.

“We have a responsibility to expeditiously disperse the uncertainty this litigation has created for countless patients, family members, and loved ones, as well as physicians and workers in the health care sector,” Slough wrote, according to the Associated Press.

A report from the California Department of Public Health said 374 terminally ill patients ended their lives by assisted suicide in 2017 – the first full year that the law has been in effect.

The California Catholic Conference reiterated its opposition to assisted suicide in the beginning of 2018, criticizing the lack of data collected and a lack of transparency in the law’s implementation.

“There is far too much still not known about how this law is put into practice – especially as it pertains to disabled, elderly and other populations,” the conference said Jan. 24.

“California is failing to properly investigate some very fundamental questions such as whether patients were coerced into the procedure or somehow influenced and, especially for Medi-Cal patients, whether they had the option of good, effective palliative care.”

 

Santa Fe archdiocese to file for bankruptcy

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 18:51

Santa Fe, N.M., Nov 29, 2018 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Santa Fe announced Thursday it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

At a press conference Nov. 29, Archbishop John Wester said that filing for bankruptcy is an equitable way to meet its responsibility to sexual abuse victims.

Wester said there are between 35-40 active claims against the archdiocese, which is comprised of more than 300,000 Catholics in northwestern New Mexico.

The announcement came the day after New Mexico’s attorney general executed a search warrant on the archdiocesan chancery office in Albuquerque. The attorney general was seeking files related to two priests accused of sexual abuse, Marvin Archuleta and Sabine Griego.

Archuleta was named on a list published by the archdiocese last year of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse. According to the Albuquerque Journal, a lawsuit settled in 1994 accused the priest of sexually abusing a teenage boy in 1994.

Griego was forbidden in 1993 from priestly ministry, and laicized by the Vatican in 2005 at the request of Archbishop Michael Sheehan, who then led the Sante Fe archdiocese. Griego is alleged to have abused at least 32 children, KOB News reported.

After Wednesday’s search of the archdiocesan chancery, the archdiocese said that it had provided documents related to the two men.

“The archdiocese’s staff has worked cooperatively with the Attorney General’s agents, who have been courteous and professional throughout this process, to provide the requested documents.”
 
“The archdiocese continues in its commitment to cooperate with and assist law enforcement in the pursuit of justice for all victims of the terrible crime of clergy child sexual abuse. We look forward to continued cooperation with the Attorney General and other law enforcement agencies in these efforts, while ensuring compliance with existing court orders to ensure the privacy of victims and innocent parties is protected,” the statement added.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe was not available for comment after its announcement Thursday.

 

‘We must not hide from suffering,’ Iraqi archbishop says on Red Wednesday

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Nov 29, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Landmarks from London to Sydney were illuminated with red light Wednesday, in tribute to the modern martyrs around the world who have offered their lives for Christ and the Church.

In Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Catholics and Church leaders from four continents gathered inside the illuminated shrine to pray solemn vespers for the persecuted Church.

 

“For me, it's really a blessed moment where we have the whole Church praying for us persecuted churches around the world,” Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq told CNA at the event Nov. 28.

 

Red Wednesday shows “that we are one in Christ. If any part of the body of Christ is suffering, the whole body is suffering,” he continued.

 

The Iraqi archbishop also spoke of suffering in the context of the “purification” of the Catholic Church, describing not only the persecution of the faithful in his home country, but also touching on Catholics’ suffering due to the sex abuse crisis in the West.

 

“We feel the pain of the Church today because of the sins of its servants, and I believe that the Holy Spirit is working in the Church for its painful cleansing from within to become purified and to be the bride of Jesus Christ,” Warda said at the prayer vigil.

 

“Jesus gave up everything only to be holy to the Father,” he said. “Love, peace, and forgiveness will always remain and have the last word. He will achieve victory with his grace.”

 

“God gave us the grace to overcome ISIS,” Warda said.

 

Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio, and Bishop Oliver Doeme of Maiduguri, Nigeria were among the distinguished guests at the basilica event organized by Aid to the Church in Need.

 

“We must not hide from suffering when it comes. We must firmly address it in faith, love, and prayer,” Warda said.

 

The Iraqi bishop shared stories and statistics of the suffering that his people have endured. “Since 2003, 61 churches and shrines were burned, destroyed, or harmed. Over 55,000 homes seized, 150,000 Christians were displaced in 2015. Countless Christians have been kidnapped or murdered,” he said.

 

“The Church in Iraq is a martyr Church,” Warda said. “Our persecution continues to make us a church of peace and reconciliation, transforming us into an apostolic, missionary church.”

 

“Persecution brings us closer to Jesus … We are called upon to remain faithful to the Gospel” through “an invitation to the cross,” he continued.

 

Throughout the prayer vigil, the names of 20 martyrs killed between 2017 and 2018 were read aloud. Priests were among the martyrs from Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Venezuela, Madagascar, and Kenya.

 

Those gathered in the basilica prayed for Catholics who remain missing since being kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and Mali.

 

Specific attacks against large groups of Christians in Egypt, Pakistan, Central African Republic, and other countries were also remembered. On November 15, 42 people died in an attack on the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Alindao, Central African Republic.

 

Aid to the Church in Need began the “Red Wednesday” initiative in an effort to draw attention to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world today. On Nov. 28, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Westminster Cathedral in London, and more than a dozen other  buildings were lit red for the evening.

 

Warda told CNA, “This is really a time for prayer, a time to be with the persecuted one. It gives the Church a mission today … to be with those who have been persecuted for their faith, been neglected, been marginalized, to feel their pain, even when we are in distance.”

 

“I take this message back home and will tell them that the whole Church is praying for you,” he continued. “It makes us more strong in knowing that we are persecuted, but not forgotten.”

Analysis: How sexual misconduct reforms might begin in U.S. dioceses

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 16:19

Washington D.C., Nov 29, 2018 / 02:19 pm (CNA).- Before it began, many U.S. bishops expected their November general assembly in Baltimore to produce something tangible - a new policy, structure, or system – that would help them reassure Catholics that they were responding to months of sexual abuse scandals breaking across the Church.
 
But after a last-minute Vatican’s decision to suspend a vote on draft measures until after a Rome meeting of the heads of the world’s bishops’ conferences in February, it seems likely that no universal response to the crisis will emerge until at least the second half of 2019.
 
Some U.S. bishops have told CNA they now realize that if they want to initiate new reforms, they’ll have to do so in their own dioceses, using the ordinary prerogatives of a diocesan bishop.
 
As they wait for Rome to form its response to the crisis, there are several options available to bishops who are looking to improve diocesan mechanisms for handling clerical misconduct.

And as bishops begin to implement new policies at the diocesan level, their local action might provide useful examples for study and consideration ahead of the February meeting Rome.
 
The Promoter of Justice
 
One of the common threads across most proposals for responding to the abuse crisis is the call more independent, lay-led involvement in handling accusations of abuse or sexual misconduct.

Independent lay involvement is seen increasingly as a necessary aspect of transparent and accountable investigations. Bishops have suggested such involvement is the best defense against clericalism, and a defense against any the temptation for bishops to shirk from imposing justice on themselves or clerics they (rightly) view as their spiritual sons.
 
While U.S. dioceses already have independent lay review boards, concerns have been raised  about how such bodies fit within the Church’s structure and canonical processes,.
 
There is a fine line between independent accountability and “outsourcing” problems. The need to preserve canonical coherence in the handling of accusations is essential to a credible outcome.
 
One ready-made option for individual bishops to consider is the role of the promoter of justice. This is a position in canon law which functions as something akin to a public prosecutor or district attorney. Every diocese is to have one, and they are supposed to intervene in all cases concerning the public good.
 
In many dioceses, the promoter of justice is a priest who has to combine the role with other chancery or tribunal duties, leaving an important function as often little more than a name on paper. But this does not have to be the case.
 
Canon law provides that the promoter of justice can be either cleric or layman, with the only requirements for the role being an “unimpaired reputation,” a doctorate or license in canon law, and a proven “prudence and zeal for justice.”
 
Some observers have suggested that any diocesan bishop could, if he wished, appoint a lay expert in handling sexual abuse cases as his promoter of justice and empower that office with the independence and resources needed to deliver a truly credible, and canonically coherent response to allegations. This could include the use of experts in the fields of civil criminal law, psychology, and sexual abuse.
 
While cases of sexual abuse of minors are reserved to Rome, a sufficiently independent and well-resourced local promoter of justice could conduct the preliminary investigation into all accusations of sexual abuse – including against the local bishop – in a way which would be externally credible and canonically sound.
 
A serious and independent office of promoter of justice, run by a lay expert in canon law, could also help address the current confusion of terms which often clouds the handling of cases.  Canonical authorities in Rome and lay experts and civil lawyers in America often mean and understand very different things when using words like “credible” or “substantiated” to talk about accusations.
 
A well-resourced promoter of justice might also bring a renewed level of canonical formality and rigor to cases involving clerical misconduct with adults. To help this to happen, bishops could make use of another power available to them: they could make local laws.
 
Enhanced Local Law
 
While accusations of child sexual abuse have drawn the most attention, most of the allegations facing Archbishop Theodore McCarrick concern alleged sexual behavior with seminarians and priests.
 
While such behavior, either coercive or consensual, is certainly sinful, many have noted that there is no clear canonical crime with which to charge McCarrick, or other clerics similarly accused.
 
The 1917 Code of Canon Law contained a comprehensive list of illicit sexual behavior. Clerics who engaged in sexual activity, either with men or women, minors or adults, were subject to a range of penalties up to and including laicization.
 
The whole code was revised following Vatican Council II, and much of the Church’s long list of canonical crimes was simplified or removed from the new version, promulgated in 1983. Many were left with the impression that the Church was moving away from the idea penal law at all, seeing it as out of step with a modern, more pastoral approach.

However, the bishops charged with reforming the Church’s penal law had an entirely different motivation.
 
Universal penal law was not downscaled to create a disciplinary vacuum, but in order to clear space for individual bishops to pass local laws best suited to their own circumstances.
 
It is within the power of every bishop to pass particular canon law for his own diocese. Such legislation could be introduced relatively easily and could address illicit sexual behavior by clerics in the diocese with adults, consensual or otherwise. Such laws could also provide for aggravating factors, like public scandal caused and the abuse of pastoral or hierarchical relationships between parishioners, seminarians, priests, and bishops.
 
Bishops could also lay out clear and escalating penalties for priests who are unable or unwilling to live chastely. Depending on circumstances, an initial moral lapse by a priest could be met with a lesser punishment, enhanced supervision, and restricted ministry. Those who repeatedly offend could be subjected to increasingly punitive measures, including the possibility that a bishop might ask the Vatican to remove the priest from the clerical state altogether.
 
Misconduct and Mental Illness
 
With a clear canonical framework to work from, bishops could also bring a sense consistency and rigor to clerical disciplinary procedures often haphazardly applied.

Very often, the first instinct of a bishop when dealing with a priest who has engaged in sexual misconduct is to send him for psychological assessment and treatment.
 
While it is true that some priests can find themselves isolated in their ministry and living under enormous pressure, illicit sexual behavior – either with adults or minors – is not itself evidence of a mental disorder.

For years, some canonical experts have said that sending, for example, two priests found engaged in consensual homosexual acts for “a psychological assessment” is a step that begins a process from the presumption of moral irresponsibility, and therefore undermines the Church's penal law.

The current scandal might lead to a change in that practice.
 
Some bishops have also found that “medicalizing” canonically criminal behavior can tie their hands at the end of the process. If a priest who has committed a grave sexual offence is sent for treatment, the expectation is that he should be returned to ministry once therapists believe treatment has been effective - even if the bishop has his own doubts about the priest’s moral or personal aptitude for priestly ministry.

But in the wake of the McCarrick scandal and ensuing revelations, bishops may soon move away from the “therapeutic model,” and begin treating acts of grave immorality principally as matters of justice and mercy, punishment and reform. This move, if it happens, would leave them free to account for the damage to victims and to Church community caused by offending clerics, and allow them to make their own prudential judgment about a priest's future.
 
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To many Catholics, the crisis facing the Church in the United States, while caused by sexual abuse, has developed into a crisis of leadership. Earlier this week, JD Flynn wrote about the danger of a “paralysis of analysis.”  Some bishops have said they are frustrated with the pace of global reforms; as they wait, they might decide that it is time to act for themselves.

Senate moves to end U.S. support in Yemeni conflict

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 13:30

Washington D.C., Nov 29, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday in favor of a procedural motion to advance a resolution that could end U.S. involvement in the conflict in Yemen. By a margin of nearly two-to-one, senators backed a motion to advance a resolution to invoke the War Powers Act and subject U.S. support for Saudi Arabia to congressional authorization.

 

The war in Yemen involves government forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates battling Houthi rebels supported by Iran. It has been termed the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world” by UNICEF.

 

The United States has been supplying logistical and intelligence support to Saudi forces participating in the fighting, including offering mid-air refueling for military planes engaged in regular bombing missions.

 

In addition to logistical support, the United States accounts for 60 percent of arms imports to Saudi Arabia.

 

At least 6,500 civilians have been killed by fighting over the last three years, as have over 10,000 combatants. In October, Stephen Anderson, the U.N.’s World Food Program Yemen country director, said that over 500,000 people have fled their homes because of fighting since June.

 

The war has also led to severe food shortages in Yemen, with Catholic aid agencies estimating that more than 17 million people – sixty percent of the population – are now affected by hunger. Tens of thousands believed to have died of starvation. The country has also seen outbreaks of cholera, which have also claimed thousands of lives.

 

A January report to the United Nations Security Council concluded that Saudi-backed blockades on humanitarian and commercial goods entering Yemen were “essentially using the threat of starvation as a bargaining tool.”

 

The 63-37 Senate vote on Nov. 29 means that the bipartisan motion will likely come up for further debate in the senate next week. The motion would invoke the War Powers Resolution, asserting congress’s right to authorize the commitment of American forces to overseas conflicts.

 

The 1973 Act says that the president, as commander-in-chief, can only deploy U.S. forces into “hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated” without congressional authorization in cases of national emergency created by an attack on the United States.

 

Such involvement includes the use of U.S. forces “to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government when such military forces are engaged.”

 

While the United States has historically supported Saudi Arabia as a key strategic ally and a regional counter-balance to the institutionally anti-American Iranian regime, the escalating toll of the conflict has led to mounting criticism of U.S. involvement.

 

More recently, the apparent murder and dismemberment of dissident Saudi journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Many reports have suggests that Khashoggi’s death was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

 

Several senators said that their vote in favor of Wednesday’s motion was directly tied to a lack of credible accounts of the Saudi regime’s involvement in Khashoggi’s death, and the Trump administration’s refusal to confront the Saudi’s over the matter.

 

In addition to all the Democrat senators, fourteen Republicans backed the motion, which had failed to pass the senate just nine months ago.

 

Senator Linsey Graham R-SC voted in favor of the motion, despite telling reporters he did not agree with it and believed the War Powers Act was “unconstitutional.”

 

Graham said he was “pissed” with the lack of answers about Khashoggi, and that “the way the administration has handled the [situation with] Saudi Arabia is just not acceptable."

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefed senators on the situation before the vote, later telling press that "there is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi."

US Congress passes bill to relieve Christians, Yazidis in Iraq and Syria

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 19:01

Washington D.C., Nov 28, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The US House of Representatives passed Tuesday H.R. 390, a bill titled “Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act,” which seeks to assist with the rebuilding of the Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq and Syria.

Having also passed the Senate, the bill now will go to President Donald Trump, who has indicated he is willing to sign it.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 47 members of Congress. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) was the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the bill. The bill was passed unanimously in the House Nov. 27.

H.R. 390 would provide funding to entities, including those who are faith-based, that are assisting with the humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery efforts in Iraq and Syria to religious and ethnic minorities in the area.

It would also direct the Trump administration to “assess and address the humanitarian vulnerabilities, needs, and triggers that might force these survivors to flee” the area, as well as identify potential warning signs of violence against religious or ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria.

Additionally, the bill will support entities that are conducting criminal investigations into members of the Islamic State who committed “crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq,” and will encourage foreign governments to identify suspected Islamic State perpetrators in security databases and security screenings to assist with their capture and prosecution.

The Senate unanimously passed a slightly amended version of the bill Oct. 11.

“The fact that this bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously shows that the American response to genocide transcends partisanship and that there is enormous political will to protect and preserve religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians and Yazidis, who were targeted for extinction,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson upon the bill’s passage. Anderson testified at a congressional hearing about the bill.

“We thank Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), the bill’s author, and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), its lead cosponsor, for their leadership in partnership with Knights of Columbus on this important bill,” he said.

Smith noted that “over-stretched groups on the ground” have been “fill[ing] the gap” in providing aid to survivors of Islamic State. He said that so far, Aid to the Church in Need has contributed more than $60 million, and the Knights of Columbus more than $20 million, to the region's response.

The bill took 17 months to pass, Smith told CNA, and was introduced three separate years. Smith was able to visit Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, and he said he found the work the archbishop was doing there to be inspiring. The congressman said that it was important to include faith-based entities among those receiving funding under the bill.

Since Islamic State came to power in the region, the Christian and Yazidi populations have been decimated, Warda explained to CNA. And even though Islamic State is no longer in power and the area has been liberated, the region’s Christians are still struggling due to the conflict.

Many people have not been able to rebuild their homes, and a lack of job prospects cause
people to leave even though the situation is largely safe, said Warda. In order to provide long-term security for the region’s Christians, he said that there needs to be an emphasis on economic opportunities for young people.

“I'm a shepherd there. I have to really speak to my people there and tell them that it's safe. It's safe to be and to prosper at the same time,” he said. “So, providing jobs. Helping and really realizing some of the economical projects for the young people, to help them stay and prosper in the area."

Many of the area’s Christians fled to Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. While Warda said that he would love to work on luring them back to Iraq, he conceded that this task is “really difficult.”

Another effort to ensure long-term safety for religious minorities will require a cultural shift, Warda explained. The deaths or displacement of Christians and Yazidis are considered “collateral damage” by the government, said Warda. This mentality resulted in “the majority of the persecution” faced by those groups.

He laid blame on the public school curriculum used in Iraq, which provides no information at all about religious minority groups in the country.

“There’s nothing about Christians,” he explained, noting that non-Muslims are described as infidels, and conspiracy theories about these groups abound.

Warda was particularly pleased with the inclusion of support for the criminal prosecution of Islamic State members who committed genocide. This, he said, will ensure that "history will not be written by people like ISIS. For the first time, the victims of this genocide will be able to tell their story and to provide history from their side."

The ability for these groups to have their stories heard will be a way to ensure that this genocide and displacement does not happen again.

"Unless you tell Muslims that there's something wrong in the way that you teach Islam, the history will repeat itself,” the bishop explained. Even though Islamic State was defeated, “the ideology is still there.”

“Writing the history from the side of the victims; it would help the other (side) to realize 'okay, never again,” he said.

“Hopefully.”

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