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At pro-life Mass, Naumann calls for mercy

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 23:00

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 09:00 pm (CNA).- The pro-life movement must be one of mercy, said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City Thursday night, at the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

 

“The pro-life ethic challenges us to care about the sacredness of every human being throughout the life spectrum. We are called always and everywhere to promote the dignity of the human person,” Naumann said in his homily at the Mass, which preceded the nation’s annual March for Life Friday.

 

Attending the Mass were pro-life supporters, seminarians, priests and bishops from across the country ahead of tomorrow’s March for Life, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands from across the country.

 

The archbishop said the idea that pro-lifers care only about the unborn is “simply not true.” He pointed to the care and work of volunteers who give their time and money to support pregnancy centers and other programs to support pregnant women in difficult circumstances.

 

“We are concerned about the life and dignity of the human person wherever it is threatened or diminished,” said Naumann, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference pro-life committee.

 

“Anyone whose life is threatened and anyone whose human dignity is disrespected have a claim on our hearts.”

 

Mercy is a force that permeates the entirety of the pro-life movement, said Naumann. Pro-lifers should have mercy not only for an unborn child or for a frightened expectant mother, but also for post-abortive parents who “deeply regret authorizing the killing of their own child,” for abortion advocates “who verbally attack (pro-lifers) and label us extremists,” and for those who work in the abortion industry.

 

It was this mercy that led to “amazing Paul-like conversions of abortion advocates,” who have gone on to “become the powerful pro-life apologists,” said Naumann.

 

Naumann highlighted the examples of Norma McCorvey, who was the “Jane Roe” plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, NARAL co-founder and former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, and former Planned Parenthood employee of the year Abby Johnson. All three had been staunch defenders of abortion until they experienced a change of heart, discovered Jesus’ love, and re-dedicated their lives to ending abortion.

 

“Pray that through God’s grace there will be many more Norma McCorveys, Bernard Nathansons, Beverly McMillans, Carroll Everetts, Ramona Trevinos, Abby Johnsons, who will come to know they are made in the Divine Image and that they are of such worth that Jesus died for them,” said Naumann.

 

“May our advocacy awaken the hearts of others to know Jesus’ desire for them to experience abundant life in this world and to share with him eternal life in paradise.”

 

Among the bishops concelebrating the Mass were Cardinal Séan O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

New birth control patch would administer contraception via self-injecting needles

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 19:01

Atlanta, Ga., Jan 17, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Scientists and researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta are working on a birth control patch that would inject a contraceptive drug into women’s skin through biodegradable microneedles.

The quarter-sized patch would be applied to the skin for five seconds, allowing the needles “painlessly” to pierce the skin and break away, remaining in the body to slowly administer the contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel.

Currently, the needles are designed slowly to release the contraceptive hormone over the course of one month, though the team of scientists has said that the goal would be to develop a six-month patch.

In an article on the patch recently published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the authors said it could eventually be used instead of the birth control pill, or other forms of long-term birth control such as hormone shots or implantable devices such as IUDs.

“Non-hormonal contraceptive methods, such as condoms and diaphragms, provide physical barriers for pregnancy protection, but these barrier methods, even when accompanied by spermicide, usually have high failure rates due in part to poor patient acceptance and compliance with correct use,” the study, authored by Dr. Mark Prausnitz and team, states.

“Hormonal contraceptives, such as oral pills, vaginal rings, intrauterine devices, subdermal injections and implants, generally provide a better level of effectiveness, but either require frequent dosing, which has significant compliance problems, or delivery by healthcare professionals, which can be especially problematic in low-income countries,” it adds.

“Hence, there has been tremendous interest in a contraceptive that is safe and effective, enables long-term contraception, facilitates good patient access and compliance through self-administration, and has low cost suitable for use globally.”

In the study, the scientists expressed hope that the patch could make long-term contraceptives more widely available, especially in developing countries, since women will be able to apply the patch themselves.

“To provide greater access to contraception, we developed a delivery system for contraception based on a microneedle patch designed to enable self-administration of a long-acting contraceptive that is safe, effective and low cost,” they said.

The study, which was received by Nature Biomedical Engineering in March 2018, was made possible through funding from the United States Agency for International Development.

The Western push to increase access to contraceptives and abortion has been denounced by critics as ideological colonization.

“By what moral right do Westerners send the message that the world would be a better place with fewer Africans in it?” Mary Eberstadt, senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, told CNA in 2018. She was responding to a report from the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission, which declared a need for universal access to contraception and birth control within the next 12 years, particularly in the developing world.

“Such campaigns are going to look as ugly in history's rearview mirror as the twentieth-century eugenics movement does today,” she said at the time.

Nigerian Catholic Obianuju Ekeocha, the author of “Target Africa,” has also been an outspoken pro-life advocate who has opposed bringing contraceptives to Africa and other developing places.

“Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI’s Humanae vitae. For these African women, in all humility have heard, understood, and accepted the precious words of the prophetic pope,” Ekeocha wrote in a 2012 open letter to Melinda Gates.

The patch is still in development, and has only been tested on rats thus far. Scientists cited concerns about skin irritation at the site of the patch and the need for more clinical trials before the patch could be released to the general public.

The microneedle patch technology could also potentially be used to deliver vaccines throughout remote and underdeveloped areas as well, the study noted.

Indiana Catholic school opens 'adoration club'

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 18:15

South Bend, Ind., Jan 17, 2019 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- It’s not unusual for a school to offer an after school drama or Spanish club. Some schools even offer a robotics club. But few schools offer a club dedicated to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Joseph Grade School in South Bend, Indiana does just that.

“Our main purpose for starting the adoration club is for students in Kindergarten all the way up to eighth grade to have time to spend time in Eucharistic adoration, to teach them how to use their time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and [to] really deepen their relationship with Christ,” Katherine Soper, a second grade teacher at the school told CNA.

Sober said she is excited to offer students an opportunity to pray weekly in the presence of the exposed Eucharistic host. There are now 22 students enrolled in the club, Soper said, but more are expected to join.
 
The club, which will launch on Jan. 31, will start each after-school meeting  with a mini lesson and snacks.

The first few lessons will discuss reverence, proper manners in adoration, and expectations. The next series of lessons will review adoration history and miracles.
 
Afterward, the students will head to the chapel for an hour of adoration. During adoration,  students will be led in a rosary, the Gospel, and reflections on scripture. Music will also be incorporated into club, using contemporary and Latin hymns.
 
“We will be praying a guided rosary where it will walk you through the mysteries and then we will have time for reflection. We will have a Gospel reading with a Gospel reflection and then more silence for students to pray.”
 
“The goal for the Eucharistic adoration time is to give the students a time to reflect and silence. We see a need for students to have a time for silence [and] prayer.”
 
Soper was involved with a similar club in a prior teaching position, at St. Anthony of Padua’s School in South Bend. Having started at St. Joseph Grade School this year, she decided to bring adoration club to the new school.
 
She said many of the students in her second grade class have shown excitement for the club.

“One of my students leaned over to me and said ‘when are we going back? I really want to go back,’ and when she said that to me I know I couldn’t give up on my idea on starting the Eucharistic adoration,” she said.

“These students have a burning desire to deepen their relationship with Christ and her little statement of ‘when are we going back,’ even though she was kind of distracted, I took that as a sign that she felt God’s peace and she felt God’s comfort in Eucharistic adoration.”

Amid shutdown, DC Catholic Charities aids furloughed workers

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- It is a crowded-but-calm scene on Thursday morning, just before 9 a.m., in the lobby of the James Cardinal Hickey Center in downtown Washington, DC. About 50 people, including a woman with a seven-month-old baby girl, are packed in chairs against the walls, waiting for Catholic Charities of Washington, DC to officially open for the day.

 

A little after 9 a.m., people are asked to check in with a receptionist before they are led downstairs to begin meeting with Catholic Charities workers.

 

Unlike the majority of the people serviced by Catholic Charities, these people are not homeless, or even jobless: they’re furloughed government workers facing a partial government shutdown which has already lasted 26 days.

 

"We don't normally serve people who are government workers. That's not our normal population; (which is) people who are homeless, or have lost their jobs or don't have the ability to feed their families,” Catholic Charities President and CEO Fr. John Enzler explained to CNA.

 

“So this is a different group, and we want to be there for them as well, because this is a shock to their system to have no income, to have no paycheck."

 

This is the first time anyone can recall Catholic Charities of Washington being asked to provide assistance for furloughed workers.

 

For three days, at a set time and location, any furloughed government worker or federal contractor is eligible to receive up to $500 to help with rent, medical needs, or “essential home supplies.” Catholic Charities writes a check directly to the service provider. Catholic Charities explained on their website that they are not currently assisting with water, gas, or electricity bills because companies that service the Washington area have already established programs to help furloughed workers.

 

While the first two distribution days saw a “decent crowd” according to Enzler, Thursday’s was by far the largest. He told CNA that he suspected this was due to the location of the office, which is near all of the city’s metro lines. The first two locations were accessible only by car.

 

Catholic Charities of Washington got involved through a partnership with United Way of the National Capital Area. The President and CEO of United Way, Rosie Allen-Herring, reached out to Catholic Charities, and asked them to be one of the three charities to receive money to assist furloughed workers. Catholic Charities was picked because they have a "pretty broad spectrum of services," Enzler said, and are present throughout the southern Potomac area.

 

"It's a chance for us to become a player in trying to help people who have been affected by the shutdown," he added.

 

Catholic Charities COO Pat Dunne told CNA that he “didn’t know what to expect” when it came to assisting furloughed workers. He said that it was “a question of getting the word out, and our communications folks worked really hard to get the word out to everyone."

 

One of the people who received word that Catholic Charities would be providing assistance to federal employees was a woman named Zenola.

 

Zenola told CNA that she has worked for Housing and Urban Development for nearly 20 years. She has been furloughed the entire length of the shutdown.

 

She said that her daughter saw a notice about the program on Facebook, and she called Catholic Charities to ensure she would be able to receive assistance.

 

“They told me to come on down,” she said.

 

This past month without pay has been tough for Zenola and her family.

 

“We’ve been hit pretty hard as far as our January bills,” she said, and although she has tried to save money, she’s “exhausted” her savings account trying to keep up with bills for her mortgage, car, and other expenses.

 

Zenola was grateful to Catholic Charities for the assistance, and said she and her family “really, really, really” appreciates it.

 

Catholic Charities received $36,000 to allocate on a first-come, first-served basis, and Enzler expected that money would be exhausted on Thursday. His prediction looked to be accurate: by 9:45 a.m., the lobby was full once again.

He's walked 2,800 miles to the March for Life

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 14:01

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Last weekend, John Moore arrived at the Washington Monument in the US capital, after a walking pilgrimage from San Francisco that began in April 2018, in time to attend Friday's March for Life.

Moore has been accompanied in his 2,800 mile pilgrimage by Laura, one his six children, who drove and gave him assistance along the way.

The Moores are from Gallup, N.M., where they own a business renting space to RVs and campers, and John is a member of the Knights of Columbus.

“It’s from the site of the March for Life West Coast in San Francisco to the National Mall in Washington DC,” John told Voice of the Southwest. “I’ll end on January 18th of 2019 – that’s the March for Life there in Washington DC.”

Speaking to the Gallup diocese's paper in May, Laura said, “Usually if we’re close to the town we’re staying in, we settle in to a hotel and then [I] pick him up at the end of his walk, but today he’s going down a dirt road that doesn’t show up very clearly on maps, so every 20 minutes I’m driving up.”

Laura has been scouting the route for her father, making sure he has food and water throughout his day of walking, and picking up at the conclusion of each day's journey.

Once they got out of San Francisco, Laura said, they received a lot of support from people along the way.

“In San Francisco there were a lot of people who got in my dad’s face and were screaming at him pretty vulgarly. And then the further away we get from San Francisco the more support he gets. Not that he didn’t expect the bad stuff. He just kept his mouth shut and kept walking.”

“It actually surprises me how many non-religious people are intrigued by what he does. We’ve had a couple people stop to talk to us and they’re not religious at all. They don’t know anything about the March for Life,” said Laura. “People will stop and give my dad water, some people will walk with him for as long as they can, some people will give him money. A lot of people tell him how cool they think it is.”

John intends to donate the money he's received along the way to the Knights of Columbus for its effort to provide ultrasound machines to pro-life pregnancy centers; the project recently donated its 1,000th machine to the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in the Diocese of Arlington.

He's been making walking pilgrimages for some time: he's walked at least 13 times to the shrine of Chimayo; made a Kansas pilgrimage in honor of Fr. Emil Kapaun, an army chaplain who died in a prisoner of war camp during the Korean war; and walked to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta in Las Cruces, and to Mount Cristo Rey outside El Paso.

As he walks, John carries one of two wooden crosses: one displaying the Divine Mercy, and a chaplain's cross and barbed wire in honor of Fr. Kapaun, and another with the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Laura told Voice of the Southwest it would be an opportunity for spiritual growth for her, and a chance to grow even closer to her father.

“I think that God’s been preparing me to learn how to be alone, and I feel like that’s what this road trip is – gonna help me ultimately be alone with myself and be friends with myself and get closer to God in that aspect,” she said. “I feel like I’m really blessed with this opportunity to spend all day focusing on it instead of having to make time for it.”

John spoke recently to Columbia magazine about his cross-country pilgrimage, saying he walks “to humble myself before God, to be a witness for Christ and to pray for others … It’s a walk of faith.”

“If I’m out in the middle of nowhere on a trail, I’ll pray the rosary. But when you’re walking a pilgrimage like this, it’s very dangerous. You can’t be listening to music. You always have to pay attention and stay focused.”

He said his devotion to Fr. Kapaun is rooted in the fact that “his faith was greater than his fears. I’ll tell you what: I’m kind of a big chicken. I hate heights and have to go over big bridges. And the farther east we go, all this traffic makes you anxious.”

“It’s a daily grind and sometimes I don’t want to walk, but you just have to go and not do anything stupid. It takes a lot of faith. Faith has to be greater than your fears,” John told Columbia.

“This not a matter of me being successful. It’s a matter of keeping a promise – a promise I made to the Knights, to the people at the March for Life, to the unborn and to God.”

Senate passes ‘religious test’ resolution on Knights of Columbus

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 12:45

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 10:45 am (CNA).- The Senate yesterday passed a resolution saying it would be "unconstitutional" to consider membership in the Knights of Columbus a disqualifying criteria for public office. The resolution passed by unanimous consent, meaning it went unopposed by senators of either party.

 

The Jan. 16 resolution was drafted and introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) in response to recent questions put to a judicial nominee, which suggested membership in the Knights could prevent someone serving impartially as a judge.

 

Citing the protection of religious liberty in the Constitution, the resolution noted that past candidates, including President John F. Kennedy, had suffered from “significant anti Catholic bigotry.”

 

“It is the sense of the Senate that disqualifying a nominee to Federal office on the basis of membership in the Knights of Columbus violates clause 3 of article VI of the Constitution of the United States,” the resolution states.

 

Article VI includes the provision that “no religious test shall ever be required as qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

 

On Dec. 5, Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) raised concerns about membership in the Knights of Columbus while the Senate Judiciary Committee reviewed the candidacy of Brian C. Buescher, an Omaha-based lawyer nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.

 

In her questions to Buescher, Hirono said that the Knights have “taken a number of extreme positions.” Harris used her questions to label the organization as “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and against “marriage equality,” and suggested that Buescher could be unable to give a fair hearing to cases on these issues.

 

In his speech introducing the resolution, Sasse said that the anti-Catholic lines of questioning were "the same kind of garbage" which faced President Kennedy in 1960.

 

At least six other judicial nominees have faced scrutiny from Democratic senators over their Christian faith or membership in the Knights of Columbus since the 2016 election.

 

The Knights of Columbus are a Catholic fraternal organization with approximately 2 million members. Last year they carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. As a Catholic organization, it holds views that are in line with Church teaching.

 

A recent Marist Poll survey, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, found high levels of  support for religiously committed candidates for the federal bench.

 

The poll found that 59 percent of Democrats supported people for whom “religion is important” serving as federal judges. The same poll found 60 percent of independents and more than 7 in 10 Republicans (73 percent) also supported religiously committed judges.

 

“Americans rightly support religious freedom and reject religious tests for public office,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson in a statement.

 

Anderson said that the Constitutional bar against religious tests “continues to strongly resonate with the overwhelming majority of Americans” and that the Marist Poll results showed a clear majority for those who “believe that faith should not be a barrier to someone’s appointment to public service.”

 

The resolution was passed by the Senate the day after William Barr went before the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation hearings on his nomination for the post of Attorney General.

 

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) asked Barr, who is a member of the Knights of Columbus, if he thought his religion disqualified him from serving in office, observing that “some of my colleagues think it might.”

 

Spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus Kathleen Blomquist welcomed the passage of the Senate resolution.

 

“The Knights of Columbus is grateful that the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed that membership in a religious organization does not make a person unfit for public office,” she told CNA.

 

“We have also been gratified by the reaction of people of different faiths—including Senator Sasse — who never want to see a litmus test imposed on individuals based of their faith, a position that the vast majority of Americans support.”

Bill to ban revenge porn introduced in Montana

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 02:04

Helena, Mont., Jan 17, 2019 / 12:04 am (CNA).- The state of Montana is considering a bill that would criminalize revenge porn - the circulation of nude photos of another person without their permission.

Montana is one of nine states in the U.S. that does not have a revenge porn law. The state failed to pass a bill banning revenge porn in 2017.

House Bill 192 has been sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Ryan, (D-Missoula), with help from Rep. Kimberly Dudik, (D-Missoula). A public hearing will be held at the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 24.

Unlike the 2017 attempt, this bill would add a clause to the state’s statute on privacy in communications. The law would make it a felony to publish or distribute any type of nude or sexualized photos or videos without the consent of the person depicted.

Violators would face up to six months in jail or $500 in fines for a first offense, with repeat offenses being punished by up to five years in jail or $10,000 in fines.

“It’s pretty cut and dried as to, if you distribute those without the person’s consent, then you’re guilty. We don’t have to show that you also intended to cause fear in them or anything like that. Just the fact that you did it on purpose is enough,” said Dudik, according to the Missoula Current.

The bill allows for some exceptions, such as images published for work purposes by law enforcement officials, medical analysts, and news reporters.

Victim and activist Kristine Hamill will testify about her experience with revenge porn at the hearing at the end of this month. Her ex-husband had shared sexually explicit images of Hamill without her consent.

Last November, a court granted a forensic review of her ex-husband’s laptop, which had been used to spread the photos. The only way for the images to be removed from the internet at this point would be to copyright the original images.  

According to Missoula Current, Dudik expressed hope that the bill will pass, unlike the 2017 attempt that was unexpectedly killed on a final vote.

“I’m hopeful that our Legislature this time will understand that this isn’t a game, that this detrimentally impacts too many people’s lives and that people shouldn’t be allowed to act that way toward others and terrify them by the use of these images,” Dudik said.

 

‘Unfathomable’ Wuerl forgot allegations, Ciolek says

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 19:12

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- The man who made a 2004 accusation of misconduct against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick said Wednesday he is in disbelief after Cardinal Donald Wuerl told him he forgot about the allegation sometime after becoming Washington’s archbishop in 2006.

In a Jan. 15 letter, Wuerl wrote to Washington, DC priests that “when I was asked if I had any previous knowledge of allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, I said I did not. Only afterwards was I reminded of the 14-year-old accusation of inappropriate conduct which, by that time, I had forgotten.”

In a previous letter to priests, sent Jan. 12, Wuerl did not mention forgetting the allegation, instead he said he was bound by confidentiality not to mention it, and that when he denied hearing rumors about McCarrick’s misconduct, he meant only that he had not heard rumors that McCarrick had sexually abused minors.

The 2004 complaint was made by laicized priest Robert Ciolek.

In 2004, Ciolek went to Wuerl, who was then Bishop of Pittsburgh, to relay an accusation of sexual abuse at the hands of a Pittsburgh priest. At the same time, he reported to Wuerl that McCarrick had, as Bishop of Metuchen, shared a bed with seminarians at a New Jersey beach house, pressuring Ciolek to do the same. Wuerl presented those accusations to the apostolic nuncio in Washington.

Ciolek told CNA he spoke with Wuerl by telephone on Jan. 15, and that the cardinal told him personally what he later said in his letter: that he had had “a lapse of memory” regarding the 2004 allegation.

When Wuerl told him that, Ciolek said, he asked the cardinal if he had already forgotten the accusations by the time he arrived in Washington as McCarrick’s successor in 2006, only two years after he reported the allegation. He told CNA that he also asked Wuerl if he had taken any steps to see whether the same behavior was being repeated in Washington.

He said that Wuerl told him: “I did think about that when I arrived in Washington, but because I had never heard any other allegation or rumor, or heard back from the nuncio, I didn’t feel it was something I needed to concern myself with in Washington at that time.”

Ciolek said he found it difficult to understand how Wuerl could have forgotten the substance of his accusations in the ensuing years, especially after recalling them as he arrived in Washington to replace McCarrick.

“It’s unfathomable to me that he has forgotten, I don’t believe it for one second.”

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington declined to comment on Ciolek’s account of the conversation between him and Cardinal Wuerl, telling CNA that “the cardinal considers this a private conversation and will be respecting that.”

Ciolek told CNA that during their Jan. 15 telephone call, Wuerl also offered personal apologies for the abuse he had suffered, along with an apology for a “lapse of memory” regarding his 2004 allegation.

“I did not believe him when he said he did not remember,” Ciolek said, adding that the apology  “wasn’t making sense to me in the light of his statement last week.”
 
In his Jan. 12 letter to Washington, DC priests, Wuerl wrote that when he offered multiple denials about hearing rumors regarding McCarrick, he meant them more narrowly than they were perceived, saying he spoke “in the context of the charges of sexual abuse of minors, which at the time was the focus of discussion and media attention.”

“While one may interpret my statement in a different context, the discussion around and adjudication of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior concern his abuse of minors,” Wuerl added last week.

Ciolek also told CNA he felt that Wuerl’s recent statements have sought to “minimize” the allegations by referring to them as “inappropriate conduct.

He also told CNA that he disliked having to discuss his abuse and experiences publicly, but considered it a necessary contribution towards reform.

“I saw this conversation as an opportunity for Wuerl to say ‘enough is enough,’ and finally own his own actions. Sadly that hasn’t happened yet.”

He said he told the cardinal Tuesday “while it was nice to hear all you’ve expressed, your last comments about your own forgetfulness about these things is actually causing me more pain than I’ve already endured.”

“I don't want any seminarian to endure what I did at the hands of a bishop again. I think the only way anyone can have hope that will happen is not just needed process changes, but ripping the band-aid off and exposing the wounds. People will be more willing to trust and believe [in reforms] if real honestly is part of the process,” Ciolek said.

“I’m sorry, if Cardinal Wuerl says he can’t remember..., there is only one conclusion [I can draw] and that is he is not being honest. He knew, he knew.”

Guam archdiocese files for bankruptcy following sex abuse lawsuits

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 19:01

Hagatna, Guam, Jan 16, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Agaña has filed for bankruptcy in federal court in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. The move, decided upon in November, allows the archdiocese to avoid trial and to begin to reach settlements in millions of dollars' worth of abuse lawsuits.

"This path will bring the greatest measure of justice to the greatest number of victims," Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes said in November. "That's the heart of what we're doing."

The bankruptcy decision was made following mediation efforts.

Leander James, an attorney working with alleged victims in the territory, also said in November that filing for bankruptcy would provide “the only realistic path to settlement of pending and future claims."

There are approximately $115 million in lawsuits from more than 180 abuse claims pending against the Agaña archdiocese.

Some of these claims were brought against the archdiocese’s former leader, Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who has been found guilty of certain unspecified accusations by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Among those who have accused Archbishop Apuron of sex abuse is his nephew, Mark Apuron. This week, Mark named the Holy See as a defendant in a $5 million abuse lawsuit filed in local court. According to Kuam News, the suit states that the Vatican failed to implement recommendations from a 1985 report entitled: "The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner."

The archdiocese has announced plans to sell its chancery property and move offices, as part of a broader move to liquidate and sell property to settle sex abuse cases.

In 2016, Guam's territorial legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse.

Coadjutor Archbishop Byrnes has implemented new child protection policies in the archdiocese, including a safe environment program that he said will “help to instigate a change of culture in our Archdiocese.”

Byrnes adopted in February 2017 the US bishops' conference's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its essential norms on dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.

The Archdiocese of Agaña serves Catholics in Guam, a U.S. island territory in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

Pro-life Congress members ask Trump to veto any bills that expand abortion

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 18:38

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life members of Congress this week sent U.S. President Donald Trump two companion letters requesting that he veto any legislation that would weaken current federal pro-life policies and promising to sustain any such veto.

A total of 169 members of the House of Representatives and 49 Senators signed the respective letters.

“We ask President Donald Trump to continue to his work in defense of life. My colleagues and I are also committed to protecting both unborn children and their mothers from the violence of abortion,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who led the House letter, in a statement.

Smith added that he was “deeply encouraged” that there were 169 members of the House of Representatives who signed the letter willing to sustain a veto “on the grounds that any pro-life provision has been weakened or removed.”

“We will not allow hard fought protections for the unborn to be undone,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT). “I stand strongly in defense of the President’s pro-life victories and will continue to work with my colleagues to advance our pro-life agenda.”

Daines was the leader of the Senate letter.

While both letters offered praise for Trump’s various pro-life policies throughout his time in office, the House letter emphasized the importance of the Hyde Amendment and the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, both of which restrict taxpayer funding for abortions domestically and abroad.

Recently, House Democrats passed a spending bill containing language that would overturn the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy. They have also pledged to work to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which prevents taxpayer funding of abortion in most cases.

The Senate letter focused on conscience rights for healthcare professionals, and requested that taxpayer funding under Title X (family planning) not go to “facilities that perform or refer for abortion.”

In May, the Trump administration instituted new policies that forbade Title X funds from going to organizations like Planned Parenthood. This move was touted as a “major victory” by pro-life advocates.

Similar pro-life letters were sent to Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush when they were in office. President H.W. Bush then proceeded to issue three pro-life vetoes, and all three were upheld by the House of Representatives.

Religious liberty innate to every human person, Trump says

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 16:17

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 02:17 pm (CNA).- Religious freeom is innate and must be protected, US president Donald Trump said in his proclamation for Religious Freedom Day, which is observed Wednesday.

“On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate our Nation’s long-standing commitment to freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own faith,” Trump said in his proclamation for the Jan. 16 observance. “The right to religious freedom is innate to the dignity of every human person and is foundational to the pursuit of truth.”

He said many of America's settlers, including the Pilgrims, “fled their home countries to escape religious persecution. Aware of this history, our Nation’s Founding Fathers readily understood that a just government must respect the deep yearning for truth and openness to the transcendent that are part of the human spirit. For this reason, from the beginning, our constitutional republic has endeavored to protect a robust understanding of religious freedom.”

Trump noted that Virginia enacted a Statute for Religious Freedom Jan. 16, 1786, “to protect the right of individual conscience and religious exercise and to prohibit the compulsory support of any church.”

The statute “set forth the principle that religious liberty is an inherent right and not a gift of the state,” and was the model for religious freedom clauses of the First Amendment, the president stated.

“Unfortunately, the fundamental human right to religious freedom is under attack,” he said. “Efforts to circumscribe religious freedom — or to separate it from adjoining civil liberties, like property rights or free speech — are on the rise.”

Trump added that legislative attacks on religious liberty “have given way to actual violence,” citing the October 2018 attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and saying that “attacks on people of faith and their houses of worship have increased in frequency in recent years.”

He said his administration is acting “to protect religious liberty and to seek justice against those who seek to abridge it.”

The president noted that the Department of Justice “is aggressively prosecuting those who use violence or threats to interfere with the religious freedom of their fellow Americans”; and that last January the department raised the profile of religious liberty cases in its Justice Manual, and the Health and Human Services department adopted more robust conscience protection regulations.

Trump also noted international religious freedom problems, saying his Secretary of State convened a Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in July 2018 to “[listen] to the voices of those risking their lives for their religious beliefs, and … to the families of people who have died fighting for their fundamental right of conscience.”

“Our Nation was founded on the premise that a just government abides by the 'Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.' As the Founders recognized, the Constitution protects religious freedom to secure the rights endowed to man by his very nature,” he concluded.

“On this day, we recognize this history and affirm our commitment to the preservation of religious freedom.”

Apostolic nuncio, not Wuerl, will celebrate Mass for Life

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 13:20

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 11:20 am (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl will not celebrate the Jan. 18 Mass for Life, to be held at a youth rally before the annual March for Life. Wuerl was until today scheduled to be the principal celebrant of the Mass.

 

In his stead will be Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, the Archdiocese of Washington announced on Wednesday.

 

Pierre will be joined by Washington auxiliary bishops Mario Dorsonville and Roy Campbell, who will represent the archdiocese.

 

The Youth Rally and Mass for Life takes place the morning of the annual March for Life, at which thousands of pro-life supporters are expected to process up the National Mall towards the Supreme Court. The march is held in January each year to mark the Supreme Court decision in the case Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion in the United States.

 

The Mass for Life is organized by the Archdiocese of Washington and in previous years has been celebrated by Wuerl.

 

The archdiocese declined to comment on the reasons for Wuerl’s decision not to participate in this year’s event.

 

Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation as the archbishop of Washington in October, and has not yet named his replacement. In the meantime, he continues to lead the archdiocese on an interim basis.

 

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, there had been a growing call for Wuerl to step aside from celebrating the Mass, following criticism of the cardinal for his response to the allegations sexual abuse and misconduct made against his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

 

More than 300 people signed a petition requesting that Wuerl not celebrate the Mass, and others threatened to walk out in protest if he were present.

 

The Archdiocese of Washington has hosted a large youth rally and Mass before the March for Life for the last 25 years. The 2019 event will be held in the Capital One Arena, and 20,000 pilgrims from across the country are expected to attend. In addition to the Mass, there will be testimonies from pro-life leaders and musical performances.

March for Life works to maintain unity in a time of division

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 05:06

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 03:06 am (CNA).- Barring an unexpected resolution, the federal government shutdown will have hit the four-week mark when pro-lifers descend upon the nation’s capital for the March for Life on Friday.

The ongoing government shutdown is, for some pro-lifers, a reminder that this year’s march comes amid tense political division in the country.

For Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, this division requires a careful balancing act, one that welcomes pro-lifers of all political stripes while avoiding debates over other policy questions and personalities and keeping participants focused on the issue at hand.

In an interview with CNA last month, Mancini said she tries to navigate Washington’s political tensions “with a great deal of prayer and discernment.”

Striking the right balance is not always easy. Last year, organizers drew criticism for welcoming a speech from U.S. President Donald Trump, who became the first sitting president to address the march via live video.

The move led prominent pro-life Democrat Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) to cancel his appearance at the March for Life rally, saying he was uncomfortable being associated with Trump.

Mancini respects Lipinski’s decision and called him “one of my heroes,” saying, “He’s just such a great man and truly a statesman in the real sense of the world, and that’s unusual on Capitol Hill these days.”

She stressed that the march tries to include speakers from both sides of the political aisle.

Lipinski will return to speak this year, along with Louisiana state representative Katrina Jackson (D) and two Republican lawmakers. But the 2019 slate of speakers is not without controversy, particularly headliner Ben Shapiro, editor in chief of The Daily Wire and host of a popular conservative podcast.

In a Washington Post op-ed last month, Fordham University professor and Democrats for Life board member Charles Camosy called the inclusion of Shapiro as keynote speaker “a serious mistake,” saying the 34-year-old’s heavily partisan leanings will further isolate pro-lifers who already do not feel at home within the Republican Party.

In a tweet to Camosy, Mancini responded that the march strives to reflect the diversity of the pro-life movement. But the discussion surrounding Shapiro strikes at a deeper question regarding the identity of the pro-life movement as a whole. In recent years, a number of “whole-life” organizations have challenged the idea of what it means to be pro-life, arguing that the label should cover not only abortion, but other human rights issues as well.

The rise of nontraditional groups – such as New Wave Feminists, Rehumanize International, and Secular Pro-Life – has raised questions about whether the pro-life movement must also take a definitive stance on immigration, health care, gun control, and other policy issues regarding human dignity in other walks of life.

Mancini, who says she comes from a “leftward-leaning Catholic family” and has a background with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, says she sees abortion as a matter of social justice. But she has emphasized the need for unity around the abortion issue, which she says is foundational, because without it, no other rights could exist. Under Mancini’s leadership, the March for Life is not only bipartisan, but open to all peaceful pro-lifers, regardless of their views on other policy questions.

While Trump may have shortcomings in his personal life and other issues relating to human dignity, Mancini told CNA, his administration has been solid in its work to protect the unborn, and his efforts should be recognized.

In the first two years of his presidency, Trump’s administration has removed federal funding from overseas abortion groups, increased transparency around abortion coverage in insurance plans, proposed a rule to cut Title X taxpayer funding from any facility that performs or refers for abortions, and made strides to protect medical professionals who object to cooperating with abortion.

Trump has also upheld his promise to appoint judges with pro-life records, naming Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

With the Roe decision approaching 50 years old, Mancini is hopeful that this generation will see an end to abortion. The pro-life movement, she stressed, is not only political, but also cultural. Trying to change hearts and minds can often seem like an uphill battle, she acknowledged, but there are also signs of good news.

For example, she said, “There were maybe 500 pregnancy care centers in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, and there were 2,000 abortion clinics, and now that’s swapped. Now there are about 700 abortion clinics in our country and nearly 3,000 pregnancy care centers around the country.”

Other good news: The number of abortions has decreased in the U.S. in recent years, and polls show that Americans want abortion limited more than it currently is, while advances in technology increasingly make it apparent that life begins at conception.

“There are all sorts of great signs that we’re building a culture of life,” Mancini said. “But do we have our work cut out for us? You bet.”

 

How the Knights of Columbus save lives: 1,000 ultrasound machine donations

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 17:31

Arlington, Va., Jan 15, 2019 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A program to donate ultrasound machines to U.S. pregnancy centers has passed the 1,000 mark, thanks to the charitable work of the Knights of Columbus and its members.

“Building a culture of life requires all of us to strive for the just treatment of innocent unborn children and to accompany with compassionate concern women facing crisis pregnancies,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said in the January 2019 issue of Columbia magazine, which is published by the charitable organization.

“This program is saving hundreds of thousands of lives.”

The 1,000th machine was donated to the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in Manassas, which has already expanded since its December 2017 opening.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, and officials of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington joined local Knights of Columbus members at the Jan. 14 celebration marking the milestone.

The ultrasound program has put a Knights-sponsored ultrasound machine in every U.S. state and in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, Jamaica, and Peru, as well as places in Africa.

Anderson said the 1,000th machine marked “a historic milestone,” adding, “there are still many more milestones ahead of us in the lives of thousands of vulnerable unborn children.”

“Our Ultrasound Initiative must continue to expand into every community where it is needed,” he said.

One woman who benefitted from the program is Lauren, from South Bend, Ind.

She told Columbia magazine that when she was pregnant two years ago she wasn’t sure what decision she should make and didn’t know what to expect from an ultrasound procedure. She went to Women’s Care Center in South Bend, which had received an ultrasound machine through the program.

“The only way I can describe it is that it changed me in the blink of an eye,” Lauren said. “The moment I saw my child on the big screen in front of me, I knew I was going to be a mom. It did not matter what I had thought before — all that mattered was loving my child and caring about her safety. I saw her little feet and little arms. I heard her heartbeat as I watched her in front of me. I still have the pictures of the ultrasound that were given to me that day — the day that changed my life forever.”

Lauren is still attending college and working “to make a great life for my daughter.” She said pregnant women in similar circumstances should know “Do not be afraid to ask for help. You are never alone.”

The ultrasound program was launched in 2009 with the goal of donating 1,000 machines. State or local knights’ councils raise funds half of the ultrasound machine expenses, which is matched from the Supreme Council’s Culture of Life Fund. On average, the machines cost about $30,000 each.

According to program details on the Knights of Columbus website, councils must first identify qualified pregnancy centers and have these centers evaluated by the local diocese’s Culture of Life director.

Evaluation criteria include whether the proposed beneficiary has the staffing, finances and other resources to justify the purchase of an ultrasound; whether the center’s location, client load and hours of operation justifies the “major expenditure,” ongoing costs, and staffing commitments; whether the center’s practices, policies and history are consistent with Catholic ethics; and whether the pregnancy center is welcoming of Catholics as employees, volunteers and clients.

The Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic opened in December 2017 with support from the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

It aims to provide free medical care to uninsured or underinsured adults living in northern Virginia. Many of its patients are recently arrived immigrants. Its new expansion has rooms for prenatal care, offices for adoption services, space for the Gabriel Project service for pregnant mothers in need, and space for the Project Rachael ministry to post-abortive women, the Arlington Catholic Herald reports.

The clinic is presently open 24 to 36 hours per week for no-cost patient care. It averages 65-70 patients a week and 209 registered volunteers, including five primary care physicians, four nurse practitioners, two cardiologists, an obstetrician, a pulmonologist, an orthopedic doctor, a chiropractor, and a pharmacist. The clinic also gives referrals for other services.

Bishop Burbidge blessed the ultrasound machine, the new expansion, and those gathered at the clinic on Monday.

“We want to do everything we can to promote the gospel of life, but ultimately it’s entrusting our work and our intentions to the Lord,” he said, according to the Arlington Catholic Herald. “It’s ultimately his work and upon his grace that we must depend.”

The clinic is located in a medical office formerly occupied by one of the area’s largest abortion clinics, Amethyst Health Center for Women, which closed in September 2015 when its owner retired.

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization founded in 1882 by Connecticut priest Ven. Michael J. McGivney, have close to 2 million members worldwide.

It recently made the news when two Democratic U.S. senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned a Catholic judicial nominee about his membership in the group, citing its stands against abortion and same-sex marriage. They asked whether membership could prevent judges from serving “fairly and impartially.” The questioning drew strong objections from many Catholics and other public figures.

AG nominee says Catholic faith not an issue

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 17:30

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general William Barr said Tuesday that he does not think his Catholic faith is an impediment to leading the Department of Justice.

 

Barr, a practicing Catholic and a member of the Knights of Columbus, was asked by Sen. Joe Kennedy (R-LA) if he were Catholic and what this meant.

 

“You’re a Roman Catholic, are you not?” asked Kennedy. After Barr confirmed that he was, Kennedy then asked him if he thought that this “disqualified” him from having a position in the U.S. government.

 

“Some of my colleagues think it might,” Kennedy added. Barr replied that if he were the attorney general, he would “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

 

Kennedy’s question appeared to reference the recent controversy that erupted following a CNA report that Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned judicial nominee Brian Buescher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, which they described as an organization with “extreme views” that are “opposed to marriage equality” and “women’s reproductive rights.”

 

If confirmed, Barr will replace Matthew Whitaker, who has served in the role on an acting basis since the resignation of Jeff Sessions in early November.

 

Barr previously held the post of attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from November of 1991 until January 20, 1993. Prior to that, he served as deputy attorney general and assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.

 

After leaving the White House in 1993, Barr worked in private practice. Most recently, he was with the firm Kirkland & Ellis. A practicing Catholic, he a graduate of Columbia University and George Washington University law school.

 

The Knights of Columbus are a Catholic fraternal organization with approximately 2 million members. Last year they carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. As a Catholic organization, it holds views that are in line with Church teaching.

 

Buescher said that he would not be leaving the Knights of Columbus if he were to be confirmed to the district court, and that he joined the organization because of its charitable work. He said that it was the “role and obligation” of a judge to “apply the law without regard to any personal beliefs regarding the law.”

 

At least six other judicial nominees have faced scrutiny from Democratic senators over their Christian faith or membership in the Knights of Columbus since President Donald Trump took office. Last May, District Judge Peter J. Phipps was asked by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) during his confirmation hearing about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, and if he stood by the group’s pro-life mission.

 

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who now sits on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, was questioned about her Catholic faith by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

 

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” said Feinstein, adding, “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”

 

Feinstein also pressed Judge Michael Scudder, who is now on the Seventh Circuit Court, if he had been involved through his local parish in the creation of a home for women facing crisis pregnancies. Scudder said he did not know if the home had ever even been built.

 

Last November, Feinstein asked Third Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Paul Matey about his involvement in the Knights of Columbus, and if he intended on either leaving the organization or recusing himself from any case if the Knights had taken a position.

 

Similar to Buescher, Matey said that his involvement in the Knights was limited to “participation in charitable and community events in local parishes,” and that he was not involved in any policy work with the organization.  

Pro-choice and pro-life majorities want more abortion restrictions, poll shows

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 15:15

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2019 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- A new poll shows that while most Americans identify themselves as pro-choice, the vast majority of the same group support increased restrictions on abortion.

 

The poll found that overwhelming majorities of people, even those who identify as “pro-choice” in theory, support major restrictions on abortion. The poll also found only minority support for late term abortion.

 

The poll, conducted by Marist Poll and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, surveyed 1,066 American adults between January 8th and 10th.

 

While the headline number showing a majority of Americans calling themselves pro-choice would suggest a similar number would oppose abortion restrictions, they do not tell the whole story, Marist Poll Director Barbara Carvalho and Knights of Columbus Vice President Andrew Walther explained in a call with members of the media.

 

“We actually have an enormous amount of support [for restricting abortion] from Americans of all political stripes,” said Walther.

 

“We’re not really looking at a lot of people at the extremes, as we often hear in the debate in Washington,” said Carvalho. “But we actually see one where there is a good deal of common ground on a whole host of policy positions.”

 

Only 25 percent of those who identified themselves as pro-choice said they believed abortion should be available to a woman at any time during a pregnancy, the current law in the United States. Conversely, 42 percent of pro-choice respondents said that they believed abortion should only be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy.

 

In total, 55 percent of those surveyed said they identified as pro-choice, compared to 38 percent who claimed to be pro-life, and seven percent who were unsure.

 

When further broken down by political parties, 20 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of Republicans, and 38 percent of independents said they were pro-life; 75 percent of Democrats, 25 percent of Republicans, and 55 percent were pro-choice.

 

Among those who identify as pro-life, 24 percent said that abortion should never be legal, and another 22 percent said that it should be legal only to save the life of the mother.

 

Slightly more than four out of 10 people who called themselves pro-life said that abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

 

When specifically asked if abortion should be banned after 20 weeks gestation, when fetuses are capable of feeling pain, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they would support or strongly support a ban. Slightly under one third of respondents said they would be opposed or strongly opposed to a ban.

 

For the first time, Marist surveyed what respondents would like to see the Supreme Court do if Roe v. Wade were to be reconsidered.

 

Three out of 10 respondents said that they would like to see the Supreme Court hold abortion to be legal without restriction, as Roe decided.

 

Nearly half of respondents--49 percent--said they would like the Supreme Court to allow states to make certain restrictions, similar to the legal framework pre-Roe.

 

Only 16 percent said that they would like the Supreme Court to make abortion illegal in all circumstances.

 

The poll did show that Americans largely disagree with the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion, both in the United States and abroad.

 

Three out of four people surveyed said that they were opposed or strongly opposed to the use of public money to pay for abortion abroad, 54 percent said they were opposed to tax dollars being used to pay for abortion at all.

 

In the United States, the Mexico City Policy prevents the use of U.S. funds from being given to organizations that provide or promote abortion abroad, and the Hyde Amendment prevents the use of taxpayer money from being spent on abortions domestically.

 

The Democratic Party has made the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and overturning the Mexico City Policy part of its party platform.

 

This is the 11th year Marist and the Knights of Columbus have polled abortion and pro-life attitudes in the United States.

Lori announces whistleblower system for allegations against Baltimore bishops

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 15:13

Baltimore, Md., Jan 15, 2019 / 01:13 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Baltimore introduced Tuesday a third-party system for reporting allegations of abuse or misconduct against its archbishop and other bishops serving in the archdiocese.

“I pray this step and our continued commitment to child protection will send a clear message to the faithful of this local Church that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated and that those in positions of authority, namely bishops, will be held accountable for keeping the Church safe, especially for children and others who may be vulnerable,” Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori told reporters Jan. 15.

“In this we hope to begin rebuilding the confidence of trust of those we serve, and the wider community.”

Lori is one of four bishops active in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Bishops Adam Parker and Mark Brennan are auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese, and Bishop William Madden is a retired auxiliary bishop who is still active in the archdiocese, an archdiocesan spokesman told CNA.

The third-party reporting system is administered by Ethics Point, which also facilitates third-party whistleblower reporting in the Archdiocese of Baltimore for fraud, theft, workplace and school safety and harassment issues, and allegations of sexual misconduct by diocesan priests, deacons, employees, or volunteers.

Complaints made through the Ethics Point systems about bishops will be routed to Baltimore’s diocesan review board, a lay led panel that will be charged with reporting allegation to civil authorities and the apostolic nuncio, the pope’s diplomatic and administrative representative to the U.S.

The system does not facilitate complaints against bishops other than those active in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Lori told reporters that in 2002, when the U.S. bishops’ conference developed policies to address child sexual abuse by priests or deacons, “the nation’s bishops drew a line in the sand by establishing clear and consistent standards of accountability and transparency for priests, deacons and others working in the Church. Those standards are working and have contributed to increased scrutiny and accountability.

“Now it is time for the Church to establish similar consistent standards for bishops. Therefore, I have asked that the lay Independent Review Board serve as the direct recipient for any allegations of abuse or misconduct by a bishop serving in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”

The archbishop said he had also asked the diocesan review to issue an annual report on the the archdiocese has handled abuse allegations.

“There must be a ‘zero tolerance’ policy and approach for dealing with any priest, bishop, employee or volunteer who violates their office and harms in any way a young person or adult.  Moreover, the high-profile case of former Cardinal McCarrick makes clear that utmost accountability must be required of all, regardless of rank,” Lori said.

The announcement of the third-party reporting system comes one month before the Vatican will hold a summit on the sexual abuse of minors for bishops’ conference leaders from around the world. That meeting is not expected to produce specific policies on sexual abuse, but is expected to charge bishops to create policy on the national level.

The announcement comes two months after the U.S. bishops’ conference was stopped by the Vatican from voting on proposals that would have created a nationalized third-party whistleblower system for reporting allegations against bishops, and a lay-led independent commission for investigating those allegations. The Vatican said it had not had sufficient time to review the proposals ahead of the scheduled vote.

The Baltimore policy resembles some aspects of those proposed policies, although the diocesan review board would apparently not be charged with investigation allegations independently, and would instead forward them directly to Church authorities. The possibility of lay investigations of bishops has raised concern among some Catholics, who note that only the pope is empowered to investigate bishops regarding potential canonical offenses.

Lori, 67, has led the Archdiocese of Baltimore since 2012. In September 2018, the archbishop was also assigned to lead temporarily the neighboring Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, and to investigate allegations of “sexual harassment of adults” against Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned from the diocese at that time.

The archbishop has for months called for lay involvement in addressing the Church’s sexual abuse crisis.

In August, he said that the anger, disillusion, or frustration of Catholics over the sexual abuse crisis “must be met with more than prayers and promises. They must also be met with action by any and all with responsibility for ensuring the safety of children and others in our care."

Laity must be a part of the solution to the Church’s sexual abuse crisis, he said, “for no longer can we expect the faithful to entrust this to the hierarchy, alone."

 

 

Should Catholic health plans cover transgender surgeries? Settlement raises questions

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 02:03

Seattle, Wash., Jan 15, 2019 / 12:03 am (CNA).- A Catholic healthcare network has settled an ACLU lawsuit over transgender surgeries, saying that it has covered these procedures in its employee medical plan since January 2017.

Plaintiffs in the suit said they want Catholic employers to cover minors’ transition surgeries as well, though one leading Catholic ethicist says Catholic institutions can’t ethically provide these health plan options for anyone, adults or minors.

“People who suffer from gender dysphoria exhibit great anguish. We can acknowledge this and should accompany them on a personal level and try to offer effective interventions,” John F. Brehany, director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA.

“However, just because someone requests some intervention doesn't mean it should be provided. Sometimes people who are depressed request assistance in suicide, but no one, including Catholics, should provide such assistance.”

Brehany said such coverage falls short on Catholic ethical grounds and the medical evidence for the benefits of these surgeries is lacking.

“There is no clear and compelling evidence that gender transitioning interventions ‘cure’ or resolve the anguish of people suffering extreme distress from gender dysphoria. In fact, there is some evidence that those who complete sex reassignment surgery are more likely to commit suicide than those who do not.”

In October 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a federal lawsuit against PeaceHealth on behalf of an employee claiming it was “discriminatory and illegal” for the medical plan not to cover a mastectomy and chest reconstruction for a 16-year-old child who identifies as transgender.

The ACLU affiliate said the minor, Paxton Enstad, was born female and has “a male gender identity.” A doctor had prescribed the mastectomy and chest reconstruction but the health plan declined to cover it, citing a lack of coverage for “transgender services.”

PeaceHealth and the plaintiffs “reached a mutually agreeable settlement of the litigation,” the ACLU affiliate said Jan. 2.

“We applaud PeaceHealth’s decision to include coverage for transition-related care in their employee medical plan, and hope it will set a good example for other employers to follow suit,” said Lisa Nowlin, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Washington.

The lawsuit charged that not including these services in the medical plan coverage constituted discrimination under the Affordable Care Act and Washington state anti-discrimination law, the Bellingham Herald reports.

“PeaceHealth was telling me my son was undeserving of medical care simply because he’s transgender. It’s heartbreaking. It is not fair,” Cheryl Enstad, the mother of the young patient, said at a press conference after the lawsuit was filed.

From 1996 to 2017, Cheryl was a medical social worker at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash., a coastal city near the Canadian border.

PeaceHealth is based in Vancouver, with over 15,000 employees and 10 medical centers in Oregon, Washington and Alaska. It traces its history to the institution founded in 1890 by the Sisters of St. Joseph. On its website it describes itself as “the legacy of the founding Sisters” that “continues with a spirit of respect, stewardship, collaboration and social justice in fulfilling its mission.”

Its system’s Dec. 21, 2018 announcement described its history of employee health care coverage for transgender care.

“In 2016, prior to the filing of the Enstad lawsuit, PeaceHealth began the process of updating its employee medical plan,” the healthcare network said. “Effective January 1, 2017, PeaceHealth’s employee medical plan was changed to cover medically necessary transgender surgery as determined under Aetna’s Gender Reassignment Surgery policy, a nationally-recognized guideline.”

Brehany said Catholic institutions should not cover such services because “they are often provided based on the mistaken belief that one can and may change his or her outward bodily appearance in a significant manner to match an inner belief about ‘true gender identity’.”

Catholic ethics includes principles like “respect for the body as created” and “the inadmissibility of mutilating or destroying one’s body or parts,” he said.

Brehany’s organization, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, does not provide medical or legal advice, but “ethical discernment” about bioethical issues based on Church teaching and the Catholic moral tradition.

For Cheryl Enstad, the result was “bittersweet” because the policy change did not go far enough.

“Our number one priority in bringing this case was to ensure access to gender-affirming care for transgender people, and we are pleased PeaceHealth changed its policy,” she said. But we hope that PeaceHealth eventually removes the age-related limitation on coverage.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit still objected to the amended policy because Aetna’s gender reassignment coverage does not include mastectomies and chest reconstruction surgery as a treatment for gender dysphoria

Because Paxton is no longer a minor, the lawsuit cannot challenge the amended plan.

The PeaceHealth statement stressed its commitment to “an inclusive healthcare environment for all” and said it “does not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis prohibited by applicable federal, state, or local law.”

In its over 100 years of service, it said, “we have been dedicated to embracing and celebrating the diversity of our communities, our caregivers and the individuals we are privileged to serve.”

Paxton’s problems reportedly began around puberty, with poor functioning and withdrawal from activities. Attempts to treat depression had little effect, the northwestern U.S. news site Crosscut said.

Paxton claimed to have self-diagnosed gender dysphoria through self-research.

Paxton’s doctor suggested the surgery, which took place in 2016. The family took out a second mortgage and used college fund money, but also paid $11,000 out of pocket for the operation.

Brehany said there is a need for caution in accepting minors’ claims about their identity.

“Minors in particular should be protected from their own immaturity and from advocacy organizations who claim to have their best interests at heart,” he told CNA. “The vast majority of minors resolve doubts about their gender identity by age 18. Interventions, such as puberty blockers, provided early in life make it harder to accept that biological sexual identity and can cause major health and developmental issues, including sterility.”

The ACLU cited standards of care from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, saying these standards are recognized as authoritative by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

These standards mean “it may be medically necessary for some transgender people to undergo treatment to affirm their gender identity and transition from living as one gender to another.” This treatment may include hormone therapy, surgery and other medical services that “align individuals’ bodies with their gender identities.”

According to Brehany, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health is “comprised significantly of people committed to using the full resources of medicine to support people in their mistaken beliefs.”

“Most secular standard medical societies have gone along because their leadership complies with the demands of activists,” he said. “Their position statements or guidelines often do not represent the beliefs of most of their members.”

The ACLU of Washington is in legal action against another Catholic non-profit hospital network, Providence Health and Services, and its affiliate Swedish Health Services. Providence is the largest healthcare provider in the state.

That lawsuit, filed in December 2017, concerns a 30-year-old law student’s claims that his chest reconstruction surgery was abruptly canceled.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney with the LGBT legal group Lambda Legal, said that employer plans appear to be changing to include transgender services, many individual hospitals and doctors, especially Catholic ones, decline such services on the grounds of religious exemptions.

“It is a growing problem that we are seeing nationally because of the consolidation of hospitals,” he told Crosscut, noting that most hospitals in Washington state are Catholic-affiliated.

For several decades the national ACLU has been charging that Catholic hospitals wrongly refuse certain medical procedures, like sterilization and abortion, that the legal group says are necessary to ensure reproductive rights.

There is also a growing effort, based out of social change funders and strategists like the New York-based Arcus Foundation and the Massachusetts-based Proteus Fund, to limit religious freedom they consider to be discriminatory and in violation of what they consider to be LGBT or reproductive rights.

 

Analysis: The fall of Cardinal Wuerl

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 19:30

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- For the last six months, Cardinal Donald Wuerl has managed to keep his head above water amid dogged and persistent criticism of his leadership. The cardinal managed to draw praise from the pope even while his priests and parishioners called for his ouster from Washington, DC, and he managed to remain in a leadership position in Washington’s archdiocese even amid a growing body of concern about his ability to lead a diocese at all.

 

But this week, Wuerl seems to have reached the end of whatever combination of luck and skill has kept him on his feet.

 

It now seems clear that Wuerl’s mandate to lead, and whatever was left of his legacy as a reformer, are gone. All that is left now seems for the pope to announce his successor, and for Wuerl to make his quiet exit from public life.

 

Last week, CNA reported that in 2004 Cardinal Donald Wuerl was made aware of an allegation that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick had engaged in inappropriate behavior with seminarians. This was a surprise to some, since Wuerl has denied for months that he had ever heard even rumors about McCarrick’s alleged sexual behavior.

 

Set against last week’s revelation, Wuerl’s seven months of denial appear to undercut completely his decades-long career, which until the events of the last year was marked by a reputation for competence and reliability.

 

After months of repeated and increasingly narrow denials, news that Wuerl forwarded 14 years ago a direct accusation against McCarrick to Rome is seen nearly everywhere as the final blow to the cardinal’s credibility.

 

Wuerl is the Archdiocese of Washington’s apostolic administrator, essentially a placeholder for his own successor. His resignation as Washington’s archbishop was accepted by Pope Francis in October 2018. At that time, the move was widely understood as a response to the cumulative weight of scandal following the McCarrick revelations and the July release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse, in which he was named more than 200 times.

 

Francis seemed to accept Wuerl’s resignation as archbishop with reluctance, and he heaped  praise on the cardinal while he did so.

 

“You have sufficient elements to ‘justify’ your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes. However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you,” the pope wrote in October.

 

In the light of last week’s revelations, that praise now looks, to many Catholics, to have been seriously misplaced.

 

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When the first accusation against McCarrick was made public in June last year, involving the abuse of a minor, Wuerl spoke of his “shock and sadness.”

 

In the following weeks, numerous accusations surfaced about McCarrick’s conduct with seminarians in the now-famous beach house, and even in the cathedral rectory in Newark.

 

Wuerl was repeatedly asked what he knew about McCarrick’s apparently serial misconduct with minors, priests, and seminarians. The cardinal responded, on camera, that he had never even heard rumors about his predecessor.

 

In a private address to Washington priests about the subject last summer, Wuerl joked that bishops are “often the last to know” about widespread rumors.

 

His tone shifted after it was discovered that he had known for more than a decade that McCarrick was accused of sexual improprieties with seminarians.

 

In a letter to Washington priests sent Saturday, Wuerl said that when he “stated publicly that I was never aware of any such allegation or rumors [about McCarrick],” his denial “was in the context of the charges of sexual abuse of minors, which at the time was the focus of discussion and media attention.”

 

“While one may interpret my statement in a different context,” he wrote, “the discussion around and adjudication of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior concern his abuse of minors.”

 

On several occasions last year, a spokesman for Wuerl told CNA that the cardinal took “no particular interest” in where McCarrick lived or ministered during his retirement - especially as it pertained to his contact with seminarians. CNA was told Wuerl was unaware of any reason he should be concerned about McCarrick’s seminary domicile.

 

Wuerl told priests this weekend that his words were being placed in a “different context” than one in which he said them. The effect of his denials seems to be that his entire life of ministry is now being evaluated in a “different context” than the one he would have preferred.

 

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In August 2018, former nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano released his first “testimony,” a letter that alleged, among many other accusations, that McCarrick’s life and ministry had been restricted in his retirement by order of Pope Benedict XVI.

 

Vigano charged that McCarrick had been ordered out of the seminary where he lived, and that Wuerl was well aware of both his predecessor’s situation and of Rome’s efforts to curtail his ministry. Wuerl denied ever receiving specific “documents or information” about any such restrictions, despite conceding that he had intervened to cancel an event at which McCarrick was due to address aspiring seminarians.

 

In the weeks and months following Vigano’s intervention, as some of Vigano’s assertions were confirmed, Cardinal Wuerl’s denials about what he knew and when about McCarrick appeared to many to become markedly more narrow and carefully worded.

 

CNA also discovered that, even after Wuerl had first been informed of the New York allegation against McCarrick in 2017, he declined to warn the religious order providing McCarrick with seminarians to serve as his personal staff - much to their frequent discomfort.

 

Despite that, Wuerl’s supporters have been willing to believe, until now, that his apparent inaction in Washington must be the result of some misunderstanding.

 

Just a few months ago, Wuerl still enjoyed support from Church watchers who felt he was being unfairly singled out, and his quiet support for a new phase of reforms held weight in Rome.

 

In the light of last week’s revelation, many are now saying that Wuerl’s failure to act on or acknowledge what he now says he learned in 2004 marks the final landslide in the erosion of his reputation as a credible reformer on the issue of sexual abuse.

 

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As the bishops of the United States gathered at Mundelein Seminary for a retreat earlier this month, they received a letter from Pope Francis underscoring the “crisis of credibility” facing the US hierarchy.

 

During the 2018 U.S. bishops’ conference meeting in Baltimore last November, Wuerl spoke from the floor, recalling that in 2002 St. John Paul II invited the U.S. bishops to begin “a time of profound purification, not just personal but institutional.”

 

“That frame of reference has to be with us today,” he told the bishops.

 

“Transparency on the level of a diocese but [also] transparency on the level of all of us working together: I think that is going to be a very significant factor,” he said.

 

“We’ve come a long way since 2002, but we still have some way to go.”

 

“Part of purification is [that] sometimes we simply have to take personal responsibility,” Wuerl told the bishops.

 

The conclusion now being drawn by many commentators is that, by his own measure, Wuerl cannot now continue even as administrator of the archdiocese he once led.

 

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For decades, Wuerl was known for advancing policies and systems to deal quickly and efficiently with accusations of abuse against priests. But, many now observe, when asked about McCarrick in June 2018,r his first instinct - conscious or otherwise - was to dissemble. In that, it has been observed, he appears now to embody the cause of, not the solution to, the “crisis of credibility” the pope identified.

 

Wuerl’s eventual departure from Washington is a coming certainty. But the mere appointment of a successor is in itself unlikely to quiet those outraged by last week’s revelation.

 

Wuerl’s “precision of language” in recent months, some say, has effectively salted the earth behind him.

 

Increasingly, many prominent Catholics are voicing their concern that Wuerl’s response to questions about McCarrick betrays a culture of evasion, even among those bishops with the strongest reforming credentials.

 

Wuerl’s example, they say, demonstrates that no bishop armed only with policies can bring systemic change to an episcopal culture which turns inwards in the face of hard truths. Individuals, many are saying, not policies create and sustain that culture, and it is they that need systemic change - beginning with Wuerl. As Pope Francis has argued to the U.S. bishops, integrity must precede policy if policy is to have any effect.

 

Facing a diocese and a city hardened against him even before he arrives, Wuerl’s eventual successor is likely to need near heroic reserves of sincerity and humility in the face of the Church’s failings.

 

Washington Catholics are saying they want a bishop with the courage to make decisions rooted in truth and justice, not policy and procedure, and one with the mind and heart to explain those decisions patiently, and without reservation, to a world which may not understand or accept them.

 

They are praying they receive such a shepherd, and soon.

Judges block Little Sisters' religious exemption from contraception mandate

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 18:00

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 14, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Judges in California and Pennsylvania have issued injunctions against a Trump administration rule that would allow the Little Sisters of the Poor and similar groups to claim a religious exemption against the Department of Health and Human Services so-called Contraception Mandate.

Judge Haywood Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for Northern California issued a preliminary injunction Jan. 13 that affects 13 states plus the District of Columbia in the case State of California v. HHS. Gillam declined to issue the nationwide injunction requested by the plaintiffs, the attorneys general of several states led by California.

Responding to the ruling, Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said Sunday’s decision “will allow politicians to threaten the rights of religious women like the Little Sisters of the Poor,” whom the Becket Fund represents.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a nationwide injunction blocking the same rule in her decision for the case Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump.

“We never wanted this fight, and we regret that after a long legal battle it is still not over,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“We pray that we can once again devote our lives to our ministry of serving the elderly poor as we have for over 175 years without being forced to violate our faith.”

In October 2017, the Trump administration issued a new rule that would expand the eligibility of groups to claim religious exemptions to the contraceptive mandate. The new rule was set to go into effect on Monday.

California attorney general Xavier Becerra filed suit against the Trump administration over the new rule shortly after it was announced, and was joined by 12 other states and the District of Columbia.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, and many other religious-based organizations, were not eligible under previous religious exemptions to the mandate since they do not exclusively employ or serve people of their religion.

The Sisters argue that forcing them to offer an insurance plan that provides birth control pills and devices to their employees would violate their religious beliefs.

Rienzi said in a statement Monday that the Little Sisters will return to court to fight the injunctions.

“Now the nuns are forced to keep fighting this unnecessary lawsuit to protect their ability to focus on caring for the poor,” said Rienzi.

“We are confident these decisions will be overturned.”

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