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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.
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Burns: 'Sensational' raid on Dallas chancery was 'traumatic' and unnecessary

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 17:05

Dallas, Texas, May 21, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Dallas says that a May 15 police raid on diocesan offices was sensationalism, traumatic, and a waste of resources.

“This event was most traumatic for those who were present in the building at the time, as some of the approximate 40 law enforcement agents approached employees in ski masks and SWAT gear,” Dallas Bishop Edward Burns said in a statement.

Burns said that while a subpoena would have sufficed for obtaining documents from the diocese, “the Dallas Police Department chose the sensational action of conducting this unnecessary raid.”

“We find this week’s events to be most troubling and consuming of significant resources that could have been put to much better use.”

Investigators from the Dallas child exploitation unit arrived at the chancery the morning of May 15 to search for information and evidence in relation to five current or former clergy of the diocese.

According to a search warrant affidavit, the investigation focused on Fr. Edmundo Paredes, Fr. Richard Thomas Brown, Fr. Alejandro Buitrago, Fr. William Joseph Hughes, Jr., and Fr. Jeremy Myers.

Searches were also carried out at a warehouse storage facility and a nearby parish.

All five men were included in a list of names of clergy “credibly” accused of sexual abuse released by Texas’ dioceses in January. The Diocese of Dallas released the name of 31 accused clerics, including 24 incardinated in the diocese and seven priests either from other dioceses or religious orders who had worked in Dallas.

Burns said that the raid was executed because police falsely believed the diocese was hiding from police information that seemed to be missing from its files.

“But in reality, the Diocese cannot turn over what it does not have. All of the files for the names in the affidavit have been turned over, and the Diocese was working directly with Police on this, spending hours combing through thousands of files, some of which were decades old,” he wrote.

While some 51 pages were given to police well after initial documents were given to police, Burns said this was because they were discovered during an ongoing review of 221,855 pages of relevant documents in possession of the diocese.

“To imply that these documents were intentionally withheld in any capacity is to truly misrepresent the nature of our correspondence with the Dallas Police Department,” Burns added.

The raid, burned said, represented a breakdown in collaboration between police and the diocese.

“Despite months of working with members of the Dallas Police Department and civil officials with respect to the release of our list of credible allegations on January 31, 2019, some members of the Police Department still felt it necessary to write the affidavit and institute this raid,” the bishop lamented.

“In speaking to civil authorities, I say that the Catholic Church needs you; we do not want to feel as if we are your enemies, but that is precisely what we have been made to feel today. I will continue to work diligently in removing even the hint of sexual impropriety among the clerics in this Diocese, and I pray that the Dallas Police Department will help me to do this.”

Archbishop Gregory pledges openness at ‘defining moment’ in Washington archdiocese

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 14:51

Washington D.C., May 21, 2019 / 12:51 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Wilton Gregory expressed “deep gratitude and immeasurable joy” as he took charge of the nation’s capital see Tuesday.

“I want to be a welcoming shepherd who laughs with you whenever we can, who cries with you whenever we must, and who honestly confesses his faults and failings before you when I commit them, not when they are revealed,” Gregory said to applause during his May 21 installation Mass as Archbishop of Washington, D.C. in Washington’s National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“We stand at a defining moment for this local faith community,” Gregory said.

“Our recent sorrow and shame do not define us; rather, they serve to chasten and strengthen us to face tomorrow with spirits undeterred.”

Calling his installation as the seventh Archbishop of Washington an “indescribably humbling moment,” Gregory pledged himself to a new era of openness in Washington.

The archbishop’s installation Mass was presided over by apostolic nuncio Archbishop Christoph Pierre and attended by eight cardinals, more than 50 bishops, some 300 priests, and nearly 100 deacons.

U.S. bishops’ conference president Daniel DiNardo, reportedly still recovering from a March stroke, was not in attendance.

The celebration was held at the National Shrine instead of Washington’s St. Matthew’s Cathedral in order to accommodate the crowds, numbering about 3,000.

Members of the faithful from around the archdiocese gathered outside the basilica waving flags and banners of welcome before the Mass began.

A Gospel choir led the music during the Mass.

Acknowledging the scandals that have rocked the Church, both in Washington and around the world, Gregory said, “We have been tossed about by an unusually turbulent moment in our own faith journeys recently and for far too long.”

“We clerics and hierarchs have irrefutably been the source of the current tempest.”

Recalling the image of the apostles’ fear on stormy seas, Gregory told the assembly that true peace is found by remembering that Christ was in the apostles’ boat.

“He invites us to place our trust in Him - not in trite and easy programs - but in Him and Him alone.”

Despite the pressure of recent scandals, Gregory said he had already received an “affectionate and embarrassingly gracious welcome.”

“The example I wish to set forth for you is that of a man filled with the faith, hope and joy of knowing Jesus Christ is in the boat.”

Gregory thanked Pope Francis for the “righteous challenge - more an opportunity” to carry the Gospel message to the poor, the marginalized, and the neglected.

“Beginning today, that is my take here in the Archdiocese of Washington.”

Lourdes Rivera, a local mother of 14, told CNA after the Mass that she was “overjoyed” with Gregory’s homily.

“He spoke like a father - a father. I am so happy. He’s our new father here in Washington and our family now feels even bigger.”

DC resident Everett Jacobs added his hope that Gregory's arrival will bring fresh impetus to the new evangelization in the archdiocese.

“Bishop Gregory's pastoral spirit represents a reaffirmation of God's love for the Archiocese of Washington. I look forward to his fresh proclamation of the gospel,” Jacobs said.

Gregory’s appointment was first reported on May 28, and his installation has been eagerly anticipated. Technically, Washington has been without an archbishop since Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s resignation was accepted by the pope in October last year, though Wuerl himself has served as interim leader of the archdiocese since that time.

Gregory paid tribute to his predecessor during his homily, calling Wuerl a “cherished friend” and “above all, a true Christian gentleman.”

The presence of retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles at the Mass generated some controversy among Catholics in attendance. Mahony has been accused of impeding police investigations of clerical sexual abuse in the 1980s, and was in 2013 relieved of public and administrative duties in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The Archbishop of Washington is generally viewed as one of the most influential Churchmen in the United States; the five most recent archbishops were all created cardinals - including the now-laicized Theodore McCarrick. While Gregory, 71, is widely expected to be named a cardinal in the future, it is usual for the pope to wait until the previous cardinal archbishop from the same diocese turns 80 years old and becomes ineligible to vote in a conclave. Wuerl will turn 79 in November.

As a former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001 to 2004, Gregory was responsible for helping to lead the American hierarchy through the fallout of the Church’s 2002 sexual abuse scandals. He oversaw the formation and implementation of the “Dallas Charter” and USCCB’s “Essential Norms” in 2002.

Gregory’s appointment is also historic because he is the first African-American to be appointed archbishop in Washington, D.C.; the city itself is more than 50% African-American. Gregory is also the first convert to Catholicism to be appointed Archbishop of Washington.

With record number of seminarians, Phoenix diocese pledges support

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 02:00

Phoenix, Ariz., May 21, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- With a record-high number of seminarians, the Diocese of Phoenix has dedicated more funds to support the formation of the Arizona diocese’s future priests.

There are 40 men studying to become priests in the Diocese of Phoenix, according to the Catholic Sun. That is the highest number of seminarians in diocesan history, and double the number of seminarians the diocese had eight years ago.

The formation costs of seminarians are often met through private donations. However, the diocese has allocated an additional $4 million from an ongoing fundraising campaign to support the education and living expenses of future priests.

The Catholic Sun reported that it costs $40,000 to support each seminarian per year. This covers expenses including, tuition, board, and health insurance. Each seminarian undergoes at least five years of official formation.

The money will be taken from the “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante,” a campaign that began in 2017, and aims to raise $100 million in support of the area’s growing Catholic community. The money will help fund ministries, charities, schools, and churches.

Cande de Leon, director of the Office of Mission Advancement, told the Catholic Sun that a recent diocesan poll found that priestly development is a high priority for parishioners and Church leaders. The vocations aspect of the campaign, he said, will allow the laity to be directly involved with priestly formation by their donations.

“It is important to the Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix,” de Leon said. “It gives every Catholic an opportunity to help play a part in the formation of our priests by making a sacrificial gift. The seminarians are making great sacrifices for us — the ‘Together’ campaign is an opportunity to make a sacrifice to our seminarians before they are priests.”

Anthony Dang, a Phoenix seminarians, told the Catholic Sun that support from his family and the diocese has given him the opportunity to engage in his studies without stress about how to pay for them.

“I am appreciative of what the diocese has done to cover the high cost of seminary formation,” Dang said.

“I am very grateful for that …. I look forward to being with the people and meeting them where they are at and supporting them in their lives, in whatever situation they happen to be in - to be an instrument of God to bring the light of Christ to others.”

Trump insists abortion laws must allow exceptions for rape, incest

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 17:13

Washington D.C., May 20, 2019 / 03:13 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump over the weekend admonished pro-life advocates seeking to make abortion illegal in all cases. He called for pro-life Americans to be united around legislation that includes exemptions for cases of rape, incest, and when doctors deem the mother’s life to be at risk.

“I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan,” the president said on Twitter May 18.

“We must stick together and Win for Life in 2020. If we are foolish and do not stay UNITED as one, all of our hard fought gains for Life can, and will, rapidly disappear!”

Trump’s tweets come after Alabama recently passed a law to make abortion a felony. The law does not have exceptions for rape or incest. Similar legislation passed in Missouri last week, and the governor is expected to sign it into law soon.

Pro-life leaders responded to the president on Twitter. Former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson, who now runs a ministry helping abortion workers leave the industry, argued that the president’s comments had “divided the [pro-life] movement.”

She posted a picture of her adopted son on Twitter, saying, “My son was conceived in rape. I would love for you to meet him, @realDonaldTrump, and tell me how his life isn’t as valuable as my children conceived in love. He deserved to live and I’m so thankful that he does.”

Lila Rose, president of the investigative group Live Action, also responded to Trump’s tweet, saying, “Thank you for the great work your administration has done on behalf of life. If we are pro-life, we must be 100% pro-life. A child of rape or incest is not a 2nd-class citizen. No woman or girl is served by abortion or immune to its trauma, including survivors of rape and incest.”

The tweets reveal a divide within the pro-life movement. While overturning Roe v. Wade – the 1973 Supreme Court decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide – is one of the key goals of the movement, there are differing views on how best to achieve that goal.

Some pro-life advocates have emphasized the need to ban abortion in all cases. Others insist that a complete abortion ban without exceptions is much more likely to be struck down by the courts, while a more moderate law is more likely to be upheld, and would eliminate the vast majority of abortions in the United States.

Dozens of pro-life bills have been introduced in states across the country this year. Pro-life advocates are hopeful that one of them may make its way up the Supreme Court, where the current justices are considered more favorable to the pro-life cause than in previous decades.

A few cases have reached federal appeals courts - including a Texas ban on dismemberment abortions and a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

A Marist poll released in February recorded a sharp drop in the proportion of Democrats identifying as pro-choice, from 75% to 61% since the beginning of the year. The same poll found a 19-point jump in pro-life identification among people under 45 years old. Forty-seven percent of people under the age of 45 now say they are pro-life, compared to 48% who say they are pro-choice.

An April poll by Rasmussen showed that when voters are told that a fetal heartbeat can be detected after six weeks of pregnancy, 56% support banning abortion at that point.

Pittsburgh diocese announces first wave of parish mergers

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 16:35

Pittsburgh, Pa., May 20, 2019 / 02:35 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced the first results of a sweeping reorganization of its parishes, creating five new parishes and designating five former parish churches as shrines.

These changes are the first results of the “On Mission for The Church Alive” initiative, charged with reordering the parochial landscape of the diocese to accommodate fewer priests and shifting parish attendance. The plan, first announced in 2018, will eventually see the 188 parishes of the diocese consolidated into 58 new groupings.

The announced changes will go into effect on July 1, 2019.

In a letter to the clergy and parishioners of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Bishop David A. Zubik credited the soon-to-be-merged parishes for working “extremely hard” since October of last year to create strong relationships between the communities.

“These five parish groupings have worked extremely hard since last October to foster relationships and, after consultation in the groupings, were prepared to share with me their desire and readiness to form a new parish community,” the bishop wrote in the May 18 letter.

The parish grouping plan was approved unanimously by the diocesan college of consultors and does not include plans for the closure of any church buildings.

Zubik expressed his gratitude to everyone involved in the creation of these new parishes, as their work went “beyond the practical matters related to merging parishes, and highlights the work being done to encourage their respective parishioners to deepen their relationship with Jesus and with each other.”

This, said Zubik, “is the most important reason for On Mission.”

The five churches of Greene County will be combined into the single new parish of Saint Matthias Parish, and served by a pastoral team of two priests and two deacons. The new parish of Christ Our Savior will be made up of the four former parishes of Pittsburgh’s North Side, and will be led by four priests and a deacon.

Seven parish churches located in the New Castle area will collectively become the parish of the Holy Spirit Parish, and will have four priests and two deacons. The parishes of Saint Anne, in Castle Shannon and Saint Winifred, in Mount Lebanon, will merge under the new name of Saint Paul of the Cross. The clergy team for this parish is two priests and two deacons.

The newly created Saint Teresa of Kolkata Parish will consist of five parishes from Beechview and Brookline, and will be served by three priests and two deacons.

In addition to the groupings, five downtown parish buildings of historic and spiritual value will be designated as shrines, and served by a clergy team for the “Shrines of Pittsburgh Grouping.” The clergy team will consist of two full-time priests, one priest assisting on a part-time basis, and a deacon.

One parish building, the Corpus Christi Church building of Saint Charles Lwanga Parish in Pittsburgh’s East End, will close as part of this reorganization.

‘Mayor Pete’ backs no-limits abortion

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 15:30

Washington D.C., May 20, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg called abortion a “national freedom” on Sunday, and defended the practice of late term abortion.

The mayor of South Bend, In., made the comments during a “town hall” broadcast for Fox on May 19. In defending unrestricted abortion, Buttigieg appeared to put himself at odds with the majority of voters both in his own party and nationwide.

Asked if he believed there should be any limit on access to abortion, at any time during pregnancy, Buttigieg responded “I trust women to draw the line.”

Mayor Pete, as his campaign prefers him to be styled, was asked specifically about recent legislation at the state level to either expand or restrict abortion access.

In a tweet sent in response to the passage of a law to outlaw abortion in Alabama, Buttigieg said legislators were “ignoring science” in efforts to protect unborn life. Responding to the example of the New York Reproductive Health Act passed earlier this year, which effectively removed all limitations on abortion, Buttigieg said there is no place for the government in discussing limits on abortion.

Characterizing the decision to terminate a pregnancy during the final weeks before term as “an impossible, unthinkable choice,” he repeated that he believed there was no place for the law to intervene.

“That decision is not going to be made any better, medically or morally, because the government is dictating how that decision should be made.”

While Buttgieg’s comments drew applause from the crowd, consistent poll results show a trend in public opinion away from supporting abortion and especially against late-term abortions.

The New York law was passed in January of this year, making abortion a legal right up to the point of birth. Subsequent polling has shown that the vast majority of New Yorkers were opposed to late-term abortion.

A Marist poll published in March found that that 75% of New York residents are opposed to abortion after the 20th week of a pregnancy. Only 20% of those surveyed said they approved of late-term abortion.

Those opposed to abortion after 20 weeks included nearly 70 percent of surveyed Democrats, 73% of political independents and 89% of Republicans.

An earlier poll, released in February, recorded a sharp drop in the proportion of Democrats identifying as pro-choice, from 75% to 61% since the beginning of the year. The same poll found a 19-point jump in pro-life identification among people under 45 years old. Forty-seven percent of people under the age of 45 now say they are pro-life, compared to 48% who say they are pro-choice.

As legislators in New York and Vermont have moved to entrench access to abortion, other states have enacted measures to protect children in the womb. Four states – Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio – have so far this year passed laws to ban abortions after the unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected, often around 6 weeks of pregnancy. All four laws are already facing legal challenges.

An April poll by Rasmussen showed that while only 45% of voters supported banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, that number rose to 56% once they were told a fetal heartbeat can be detected at that point.

Other states have sought to outlaw particular abortion methods, or pass trigger laws which would ban abortion in the event the Supreme Court were to overturn its ruling in Roe v. Wade.

California confession bill amended, but still would require priests to violate seal

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 12:16

Sacramento, Calif., May 20, 2019 / 10:16 am (CNA).- California’s state senate will vote on a bill that would require priests to violate the seal of confession in certain limited circumstances. An amended text of the bill passed the Senate appropriations’ committee May 16.

The bill, as amended, would require priests to report to law enforcement knowledge or suspicion of child abuse gained from hearing the sacramental confessions of other priests or co-workers.

The bill originally would have required California priests to violate the seal of confession anytime they gained knowledge or suspicion of child abuse from hearing the confession of any penitent.

In a May 20 statement, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said the bill remains “an unacceptable violation of our religious freedoms that will do nothing to protect children.”
 
As amended, he said, “SB 360 still denies the sanctity of confession to every priest in the state and to thousands of Catholics who work with priests in parishes and other Church agencies and ministries.”

According to Angelus News, more than 1,300 people contacted California state senators before the May 16 hearing on the bill, encouraging senators not to require priests violate the confessional seal. Gomez expressed gratitude for those calls.

Clergy in California are already required to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse in most circumstances, though penitential conversations like sacramental confession are exempted, as are other kinds of privileged conversations, including those covered by attorney-client privilege.

The bill’s sponsor, California state Senator Jerry Hill (D-Calif. 13), has claimed that “the clergy-penitent privilege has been abused on a large scale, resulting in the unreported and systemic abuse of thousands of children across multiple denominations and faiths.”

The senator has claimed that such abuse has been revealed through “recent investigations by 14 attorneys general, the federal government, and other countries.”

In response to questions from CNA about those investigations, Hill’s office provided two resources to CNA. One was a news article from PBS, reporting that several states have undertaken investigations into clerical sexual abuse, but not explicitly mentioning abuse of the sacrament or seal of confession.

The other was a 2017 report from Australia’s Royal Commission, appointed to investigate child sexual abuse in that country.

The Royal Commission report suggests that there should be no exemption from abuse reporting for religious confession. While the commission's executive summary states that "the practice of the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) contributed... to inadequate institutional responses to abuse," it does not provide data detailing the frequency of that contribution.

Hill’s office did not respond to follow-up questions about that report, or about whether the senator considers attorney-client privilege, which is not challenged by the bill, to represent a potential problem of equal proportions.

Gomez, for his part, called Catholics and lawmakers to try other approaches to fighting the child abuse in California.

“Even as amended, SB 360 remains an unacceptable violation of our religious freedoms that will do nothing to protect children. As a Catholic community, let us continue to work with lawmakers for a bill that truly advances our shared goals of fighting the scourge of child sexual abuse in our society,” he wrote.

The bill could be subject to a Senate vote as early as May 21.
 

 

US bishops oppose Trump immigration plan, say families are foundational

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 05:09

Washington D.C., May 19, 2019 / 03:09 am (CNA).- Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference voiced concern over President Donald Trump’s new immigration plan, stressing that families should be strengthened and promoted in the immigration system.

“We oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely ‘merit-based’ immigration system,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, who heads the conference’s migration committee.

“Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system,” they said. “As Pope Francis notes: ‘Family is the place in which we are formed as persons’.”

DiNardo and Vásquez responded May 17 to the immigration plan announced by Trump the previous day. They said that although they appreciate the effort to address concerns in the current immigration system, the new plan falls short in several areas.

Trump said his plan prioritizes American values and workers, while attracting “the best and brightest from all around the world.”

The proposal would not seek to cut back on total annual legal immigration numbers, but would significantly reduce the current family-based portion of the immigration system, instead focusing on applicants with high education and skill levels.

The current system awards a majority of immigration visas based on family connections in the U.S. About 12% are approved based on skill level – a number that would be increased to more than 50% under Trump’s proposal.

According to the New York Times, officials said this would result in nearly 75% of immigrants to the United States holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, and would increase the average immigrant salary from $43,000 to $96,000.

Nuclear families would be prioritized under the proposal, while it would be harder for extended family members to immigrate based on family connections.

The plan also involves the completion of a border wall and new technology to monitor the southern border. It would “a permanent and self-sustaining border security trust fund,” financed by border crossing fees, Trump said.

Critics of the proposal argue that it fails to address the root causes of the migration crisis at the southern border and inhumanely turns away those in need. Democrats in Congress have indicated that they will oppose the plan.

The plan does not provide legal status for Dreamers, those brought to the United States illegally as children. Nor does it provide a clear path forward for Temporary Protected Status holders.

In their statement, DiNardo and Vásquez called these omissions deeply troubling.

They also said that “securing our borders and ensuring our safety is of the utmost importance, but this will not be achieved by heightening human misery and restricting access to lawful protection in an attempt to deter vulnerable asylum-seeking families and children.”

“Instead, we must confront the root causes of migration and look to humane and pragmatic solutions, such as improving our immigration courts, expanding alternatives to detention, and eradicating criminal networks,” they said. “We urge lawmakers to put aside differences and engage in meaningful action on humane and just comprehensive immigration reform.”

The ‘young man with a big, good heart’: STEM hero Kendrick Castillo laid to rest

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 17:35

Denver, Colo., May 17, 2019 / 03:35 pm (CNA).- On a warm Friday morning in May at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Littleton, Colorado, about 40 Knights of Columbus dressed in full regalia flanked the entrance of the church as friends and family of Kendrick Castillo filed in to commend him to God at his funeral.

Each attendee was handed a small card - on one side, Kendrick smiling, dressed in a Christmas sweater and sitting on a Jeep. On the other side, a simple tribute including his birth and death dates, funeral location, and the bible verse John 15:13 that seems to capture the way his life ended: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Kendrick was the lone casualty in the STEM high school shooting on May 7 in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. He died, witnesses say, after he jumped up in the line of fire and ran to stop one of the shooters with a couple other students.

His funeral was attended by relatives and friends that filled the large Catholic church, and included an honor guard of 80 Knights of Columbus, about half of whom dressed in the old feather-capped regalia, and half in the new uniform with a beret.

The Knights lined the aisles and drew their swords in tribute to Kendrick during the processional and recessional, honoring a young man who spent hundreds of hours volunteering for the Knights of Columbus with his dad. A group of Kendrick’s close friends from high school served as pallbearers.

Bishop Jorge Rodríguez, auxiliary bishop of Denver, and five other priests and deacons presided at the Mass.

In his homily, Rodriguez talked about how Kendrick imitated Christ and “pleased God” throughout his life as a selfless, loving person.

Kendrick was “a holy young man,” Rodriguez said. “A young man who was a good disciple of Jesus Christ. We call ‘saints’ those able to love to the end. Kendrick gave everything he is, and everything he had -family, a future, a degree, his life- so other young men and women could go back to their families, have a future, graduate and live.”

“Kendrick’s life is like the echo of Jesus’ words: ‘Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,’” he added, again referencing John 15:13.

The bishop referenced Scripture throughout his homily, noting how Kendrick was pleasing to and loved by God.

“Only a young man with God in his heart and possessing a big good heart can do what he did: to lay down his life to save his friends. I’m sure John and Maria, that you feel proud of your son: God too is very proud of his child, Kendrick,” Rodriguez said.

“The Book of Wisdom repeats: ‘His soul was pleasing to the Lord.’ The soul is the center of our consciousness, freedom, the seat of love and will; that self that makes us God’s image and touches who we really are. God loves Kendrick’s soul because he is a good young man,” he added.

He noted that Kendrick was only a few days from his high school graduation when he was killed, and could have accomplished many more things on earth with his “big good heart,” but that he was now with God, where “all the evil of this world will not be able to touch him again.”

Instead, Kendrick experienced a much more profound kind of graduation, Rodriguez said.

“Kendrick graduated not for an academic degree, but he graduated in humanity and in Christian life,” he said.

At the end of life, everyone will be examined not on their academic knowledge or worldly success, the bishop noted, but on how well they loved.

“Kendrick passed this test with honors,” he said. “He accomplished in a short time a great career in honorableness, love and holiness. As Scripture says, the greatness of a man ‘cannot be measured in terms of years.’”

Even though Kendrick was a good person and is loved and cared for by the Lord, his death still causes “unbearable” pain, especially for his family, Rodriguez said.

The bishop encouraged John and Maria, the parents of Kendrick, to hold fast to the Gospel of John 6:40: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.”

That passage, Rodriguez said, contains two promises for Kendrick: that he is enjoying eternal life in heaven, and that he will be raised with Jesus on the last day.

“Dream with that moment, when you will see Kendrick right in front of you, radiant, smiling and coming to you for a big hug,” he said.

He then encouraged everyone in attendance to follow the example of Kendrick’s faith and love, and thanked John and Maria for their son.

“John and Maria, Kendrick, your son, is a gift for all of us. And we all must commit to keep his legacy and to praise God for the gift of Kendrick’s years among us.”

“God loves your child. Now, he is with him. And he left, keeping you in his heart.”

Despite religious freedom concerns, House passes Equality Act

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 13:12

Washington D.C., May 17, 2019 / 11:12 am (CNA).- The House of Representatives passed the controversial Equality Act on Friday, amid heated opposition from those who argue it would pose serious threats to critical constitutional freedoms.

“This bill undermines human dignity by threatening the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience that the First Amendment guarantees for every citizen,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the U.S. legal division for Alliance Defending Freedom. “Americans deserve better than the profound inequality that this intolerant, deceptively titled legislation offers.”

In a May 17 statement, Waggoner said the legislation would harm women.

“It undermines women’s equality by denying female athletes fair competition in sports, depriving women of business opportunities designed for them, and forcing them to share private, intimate spaces with men who identify as female,” she said.

Waggoner added that the legislation would force Americans to participate in events and message that go against their deepest convictions.

“Many activists want to con Americans into believing that disagreement on important matters such as marriage and human sexuality is a form of discrimination that requires the government to enforce one view over another, but that is obviously wrong,” she said.

The House approved the bill by a 236-173 vote. Eight Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Seven Democrats refrained from voting for or against.

The legislation would add anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to existing protections for race, color, national origin, sex, disability and religion.

It would apply not just to employment, but other areas like housing, jury duty, credit, and education, as well as at retail stores, emergency shelters, banks, transit and pharmacies, among others. It would also specify facility access for self-identified transgender persons, such as access to male and female bathrooms.

Critics have argued that the bill’s concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity are too broad and would penalize the appropriate recognition of difference between the sexes or differences between married heterosexual couples and other couples.

Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had opposed the measure in a March 20 letter. They said that while they support efforts to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect, the legislation would fail to advance those goals and would instead harm society.

“The Act’s definitions alone would remove women and girls from protected legal existence,” they said. “Furthermore, the Act also fails to recognize the difference between the person – who has dignity and is entitled to recognition of it – and the actions of a person, which have ethical and social ramifications. Conflating the two will introduce a plethora of further legal complications.”

The bishops also warned that the Equality Act would harm free speech, conscience, and exercise of religion. It would require that homeless shelters place biological men with vulnerable women and adoption agencies place children with same-sex couples, even if this violates their beliefs and the birth mother’s wishes. It could threaten professionals in the wedding industry who will serve all customers but cannot express messages to which they object. And it would require health professionals to provide “gender transition” treatments and surgeries in violation of their medical and ethical judgments, they said.

Furthermore, the Equality Act would exempt itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a move that the bishops noted is “unprecedented.”

The Equality Act now moves to the GOP-led Senate. Supporters of the bill will need to pick up more than a dozen Republican votes to advance the legislation. President Donald Trump has said that he opposed the measure, but has not indicated whether he would veto it if it came to his desk.

‘Stand firm for life against the evil opposing it’ Kentucky governor says

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 12:15

Frankfort, Ky., May 17, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is urging his fellow governors to “be bold” on the issue of life.

The first-term governor made the call during an interview Thursday on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, as states across the country continue to debate abortion related legislation.



In recent weeks, Gov. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.), Gov. Tony Evers (D-Wisc.), and Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) all rejected their states’ versions of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Shortly after, Bullock launched a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. In contrast, Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.) and Gov. Kay Ivey (R-Ala.) signed major pro-life legislation.

Speaking to Pro-Life Weekly host Catherine Hadro, Bevin said that arguments against Born-Alive laws are “weak,” and that such measures are far from redundant.

“It would seemingly be the same argument you might say for ‘why have airbags in a car if we already have a seatbelt,’” Bevin argued.

“Not to protect a human life, and to ask a doctor to take responsibility for protecting that human life, and to hold them accountable if they do not—especially given that they have taken an oath to do so, and in fact are licensed to do so—would be irresponsible.”

Urging his fellow governors to stand in defense of unborn life, Bevin said, “Don’t be politically opportunistic, don’t be beholden to outside interests that are going to help you politically, but be bold and do the right thing.”

 

Alabama's Governor signed the Human Life Protection Act into law.
Georgia's Governor signed the Heartbeat Bill into law.

We speak with another pro-life governor on @EWTNProLife, @GovMattBevin, who says - while there is pressure - being pro-life is the right thing to do. pic.twitter.com/0BCxEIm8Mc

— Catherine Hadro (@CatSzeltner) May 16, 2019  



While discussing his work to pass pro-life legislation in Kentucky, Bevin called the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision a “travesty,” and said he believes the issue of abortion will ultimately be returned to the states.

“In the meantime, states like ours have passed very intentional laws related to things like informed consent and ultrasounds performed in advance,” Bevin said.

Bevin also pointed to a recent bill he signed into law prohibiting abortions based on the race, gender, or a disability diagnosis of an unborn child. He said that the “non-eugenics bill” might reach the Supreme Court and “may very well be involved in the ultimate decision making as it relates to Roe v Wade.”

“We passed a bill here in this past session in Kentucky that says you can’t kill a child based on its race, based on its gender, or based on some perceived disability. We used language very similar to what we find in the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal statutes that are already on on the books.”

After the anti-eugenics bill passed into law earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky promptly announced they would sue over the legislation, but the governor said he is undeterred.

 

We will see the state of Kentucky in court (again) after they attempt to ban abortion (again) #HB5 #stopthebans #kyga19 https://t.co/dJGMYRBCpc

— ACLU of Kentucky (@ACLUofKY) March 13, 2019  



Bring it!

Kentucky will always fight for life...

Always!#WeAreProLife #WeAreKY https://t.co/mFfqhGhAWe

— Matt Bevin (@MattBevin) March 13, 2019  



Critics of the discrimination abortion ban, Bevin said, “think that they’re defending folks when in fact they’re standing in the way of human life.”

“I’m grateful for the fact that ours is a strongly pro-life state, and that people are standing in the gap on the side of the vulnerable and those who cannot speak for themselves.”

The governor said he was bullish about the state’s prospects defending the law in court. “The gild is coming off the lily on the other side of this issue,” he said.

“We are standing firm and we will continue to do so regardless of the money, and the reasons, and just the evil, frankly, that is opposing us on the other side of the equation,” he said.  

Bevin acknowledged that “there is pressure of course, politically” on governors who sign pro-life legislation, “but here’s the thing, to do the right thing is the right thing.”

“Sometimes of course, in politics and in other areas, it’s easier for some to do the easy wrong than to do the difficult right,” Bevin continued. “But I think we have a moral obligation, and for many it’s maybe a religious obligation, but I think for those for whom it’s not religious based, it’s moral to save a human life.”

 

Kate Scanlon is a producer of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Pro-life doctors: Despite Ohio bill, there is no procedure to save ectopic pregnancies

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 02:32

Cincinnati, Ohio, May 17, 2019 / 12:32 am (CNA).- An Ohio bill seeking to limit insurance coverage of non-lifesaving abortions erroneously states that a procedure exists in which a doctor can reimplant an ectopic pregnancy in a woman’s uterus. No such procedure yet exists that has been proven safe and effective, two pro-life OB-GYNs told CNA.

“It astounds me that people would be writing law like this who don’t know the basics,” Dr. Lorna Cvetkovich, an OB-GYN with the pro-life medical practice Tepeyac Center, told CNA.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus - usually in a fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies cannot survive outside of the uterus and pose a serious threat to the mother’s life, Cvetkovich said.

The legislation in question in Ohio is HB182, a bill that was introduced in April by state Rep. John Becker (R), and was co-sponsored by 19 other state legislators.

The bill seeks to limit insurance coverage for “nontherapuetic abortions” - elective abortions that are not performed when a doctor determines that the mother’s life is at risk.

The legislation states that it would still allow insurance companies to cover certain exempted procedures, including: “A procedure for an ectopic pregnancy, that is intended to reimplant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus."

“I don’t know of any way that we can technologically, surgically put that embryo through the trauma (of reimplantation),” Cvetkovich said.

The doctor said the procedure has reportedly been tried three times, but it has not worked, and there is no approved, standard medical procedure for reimplantation that has undergone the appropriate steps to ensure it is safe and effective.

Journals reporting on two such cases are posted on John Becker’s Facebook page. One case occurred in 1915, before ultrasounds were invented, and another in 1980.

Cvetkovich said of the 1915 case that not enough documentation of the procedure exists to confirm its scientific validity, and that the 1980 case was found to have used falsified research.

The reason reimplantations have yet been impossible for doctors, Cvetkovich said, is that once an embryo implants into either the uterine or the tubal lining, it begins creating microscopic blood vessel connections with the mother.

“It’s like a microscopic heart-lung machine, and you can’t just disrupt that and redo it,” she said.

In rare cases, ectopic pregnancies have reimplanted themselves in the liver or bowel, causing an abdominal pregnancy, but there has not been a successful surgical reimplantation in a uterus, Cvetkovich noted.

Dr. Donna Harrison is an OB-GYN with the American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNs (AAPLOG).

Harrison told CNA that AAPLOG would support an ectopic transfer procedure if it “were scientifically validated through the usual channels of animal studies to prove safety and efficacy, and then human trials to prove safety and efficacy. If such a procedure followed that protocol, and if such a procedure were then validated to be safe and effective in a human being, AAPLOG would support that,” she said.

“We would love to be able to save the baby if we could,” she said.

But to date, an ectopic pregnancy transfer procedure does not yet exist that has gone through the required safety and efficacy procedures to Harrison’s knowledge, she said.

However, she added, Dr. Stephen Sammut at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio is currently investigating such a transfer in animal models.

“So there is research being conducted in animal models right now, but it is very preliminary right now and there are no conclusions of that research yet,” she said. “And as far as I know that is the only research being conducted so far in the animal model.”

Because ectopic pregnancies can pose a serious threat to the life of a mother, pro-life doctors can morally perform a procedure in which they remove the fallopian tube or other organ where an ectopic pregnancy has implanted, Cvetkovich said.

This allows doctors to remove a malfunctioning organ of the mother in order to save her life, which has the secondary but unintended effect of terminating the pregnancy, she added.

“It’s what we call the principle of double effect,” she said. “You can go in to do the procedure that will save the mother’s life. Your intent is not to destroy that pregnancy, your intent is to keep her healthy. In the process of doing that, you accept but do not want that there’s a fetal demise. So that’s how we would handle this rare, rare situation where you would have...a viable fetus with a heartbeat in the tube.”

This kind of procedure is permitted by the Catholic Church, she said, which states that abortion is never permissible, though a procedure to save a woman’s life that has the unintended effect of an unborn baby’s death is morally permissible.

“Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child,” the U.S. Catholic bishops state in the fifth edition of their Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

This kind of procedure would also be exempted under the Ohio bill, which states that insurance companies could still cover: “A procedure, in an emergency situation, that is medically necessary to save the pregnant woman's life.”

Cvetkovich added that it was concerning that the Ohio legislators apparently did not consult with medical experts or research before writing the bill.

Legislation that contains erroneous scientific statements makes the pro-life movement “look bad, it makes us look silly, it makes us look stupid,” she said.

“I wish these guys would do some consultation before they wrote this,” she added.

On the other hand, Harrison said the bill could spur further research into developing a scientifically valid transfer procedure.

“I think the bill could encourage the appropriate research needed to develop such a procedure,” she said.

 

Analysis: Which state pro-life laws could arrive at the Supreme Court

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 19:45

Washington D.C., May 16, 2019 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- Earlier this week, the state of Alabama passed legislation to make abortion a felony. The measure is the nation’s strongest prohibition on abortion. It directly contradicts Roe v. Wade and is intended as a challenge to the Supreme Court case that established a nationwide “right to abortion” in 1973.

The Alabama law has generated serious controversy, and the promise of an immediate legal challenge, but it is not the only state legislation taking aim at Roe.

With a Supreme Court considered favorable to the pro-life cause and a total of more than 100 Trump nominees in the federal court system, states have been flooding the books with pro-life legislation, in the hope of winning significant victories nationwide.
 
Heartbeat bills
 
Four states – Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio – have so far this year passed laws to ban abortions after the unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected, often around 6 weeks of pregnancy. All four laws are already facing legal challenges.

Nearly a dozen other states legislatures have considered similar legislation this year.

Heartbeat bills are often considered to openly contradict the jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade and subsequent court cases, which established a framework for abortion regulations – the closer an unborn baby is to viability, the more restrictions on abortion are generally deemed to be constitutional. In the earliest weeks of pregnancy, court precedent says, government cannot limit abortion in a way that places an “undue burden” on women.

Because of this, heartbeat bills have historically fared poorly in the court system. In January, an Iowa judge ruled against the state’s heartbeat law, which had passed last year. Similar laws in North Dakota and Arkansas were also struck down in recent years.

However, supporters of heartbeat bills plan to keep passing the legislation in state after state, hoping that it eventually ends up before the Supreme Court. Their wager is that the court, with its current makeup, will take the opportunity to deliver a fatal blow to Roe v. Wade.
 
Reason restrictions
 
Another category of legislation seeks to ban abortions performed for specified reasons, such as the sex or race of the baby, or a diagnosis of disability. Kentucky has signed into law one such a bill, which is currently being challenged by the ACLU in court.

While a ruling in favor of these laws would not necessarily eliminate legal abortion, pro-life advocates would view it as a step in the right direction and a powerful recognition of the humanity of the unborn child.
 
Safety standards for abortion clinics
 
In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down two key regulations on abortion clinics in Texas - a requirement that abortion doctors must have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and a rule that abortion clinics must meet the standards or ambulatory surgical centers. The vote in that case was 5-3.

Other cases are already in the court system. Next week, a court will hear a challenge to a Virginia law stating that only doctors may perform abortions, rather than nurses or other medical personnel.

One case to watch is June Medical Services v. Gee, which involves a 2014 Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The legislation closely mirrors the Texas law struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016. A district court initially ruled against the law, but its decision was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 5th Circuit. The Supreme Court was asked last month to hear an appeal in the case.
 
Dismemberment bans
 
Several states have introduced bans on Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) abortions. This abortion method, known by opponents as a “dismemberment abortion,” is most commonly performed in the second trimester. North Dakota signed a ban on these abortions into law earlier this year.

One case challenging a Texas ban on D&E abortions is currently before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Its placement in the court system means that it could have a shot at being taken up by the Supreme Court in the coming months.

Other restrictions
 
There is also a range of other legislation on the books in numerous states that does not ban abortions but enacts various requirements for those seeking them. These include mandatory 24-hour waiting periods before procuring an abortion, ultrasound requirements, and measures requiring parental notification or consent for a minor to obtain an abortion. 

Such restrictions could be upheld by the Supreme Court without completely overturning Roe v. Wade. Some pro-life strategists suggest that it more realistic to hope the nation’s highest court will affirm numerous pro-life laws in this category, in essence chipping away at Roe rather than reversing it in one fell swoop.

Of course, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the legality of abortion would not be immediately clear. A broad ruling on Roe could set a new national standard, but simply overturning Roe would send the question back to the individual states. Seven states have passed trigger laws, which would automatically ban abortion if Roe were to be overturned, while New York and Vermont have passed legislation affirming abortion as a “right” even if Roe were to be reversed.

Court cases take time, and it is likely that the question of abortion restrictions will remain prominent well into the 2020 election cycle. With several state laws taking the spotlight, and several others in the works, abortion may end up being a key issue in the upcoming presidential and congressional races.

 

‘Appeal-proof’ abortion ban advances in Missouri

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 18:15

Jefferson City, Mo., May 16, 2019 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- The Missouri Senate has passed a bill that would ban most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy. Legislators responsible for the bill have said that, unlike recent measures in other states, the bill is specifically designed to pass scrutiny under legal appeal.

After passing a senate vote on May 16, the measure now moves to the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 126 includes a ban on all abortions past eight weeks of pregnancy except in cases of a medical emergency. Doctors who perform abortions after that point could face a 15 year jail sentence, but women who recieve abortions would not be punished.

"I think we've crafted a bill that will win in the courts," state Senator Andrew Koenig, one of the bill's sponsors, told CNA after the senate vote on Friday.

According to Koenig, the bill’s provisions are justified by a 98.5% chance of an unborn child  surviving to term after eight weeks, compared to a 24% chance of a natural miscarriage at five weeks and under.

"We believe that the state of Missouri has an interest in protecting that viable pregnancy [after eight weeks]," the senator said.

State Representative Nick Schroer, the bill's sponsor in the House, told CNA in February that he worked with fellow lawyers to craft the bill so that it would stand up to judicial scrutiny.

"We looked at a bunch of case law and worked with attorneys on this," Schroer said.

Schroer said that should a district court rule against the bill’s eight-week ban coming into force, the law would still include a further ban at 14 weeks. Schroer said roughly two-thirds of abortions in Missouri take place before 10 weeks.

The bill invokes the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and argues that most abortions performed at 14 weeks gestation invovle in utero dismemberment, which the bill terms "cruel and unusual punishment."

While the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals has not previously struck down a 14 week ban, Koenig noted, even if it were to do so the bills contains additional bans at 18 and 20 weeks, when doctors are required to certify that the unborn child can feel pain.

"We call it the 'heartbeat bill,' but it actually operates a lot differently than any other heartbeat bill that's passed," Koenig explained.

Several states, including most recently Georgia, have passed so-called “heartbeat bills” which would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia currently have “heartbeat” laws waiting to come into force, while courts have struck down similar restrictions in North Dakota and Iowa.

The Missouri bill's sponsors say they knew that to avoid falling to similar legal challenges, they had to draft a bill not already covered by court precedent.

"We need to give the courts something that doesn't have precedent behind it, but accomplishes the same goals," Koenig said.  

“Ultimately I think other states can take our language and start really limiting abortion, because I think our law will, for the most part, get upheld."

The Missouri vote came hours after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a near-total ban on almost in that state. Unlike the Missouri bill, the Alabama law is intended to generate a court battle and challenge the 1073 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

"[Our law] is not a piece of legislation that is designed for a challenge," Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr told the Associated Press.

"This is the type of legislation that is designed to withstand a challenge and to actually save lives in our state."

The Missouri bill also provides for a 70% tax credit for donations Missourians make to pregnancy resource centers on or after January 1, 2021 to foster a "culture of life" in the state, Koenig said.

If passed, the law would also prohibit "selective" abortions following a medical diagnosis or disability such as Down syndrome, or on the basis of the race or sex of a baby.

"For me as a Catholic, for me being pro-life, this is common sense to me," Schroer said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that since peaking at more than 20,000 per year in the 1980s, in 2017 the annual number of abortions in Missouri had dropped to fewer than 7,000.

The bill would also require any abortion providers operating in the state to have at least $3 million in insurance to cover women in case of botched abortion procedures.  

"I think that's actually a huge provision we added in the Senate," Koenig said. "I think ultimately we'll be able to eliminate abortion in Missouri because of this bill, but I think also because Planned Parenthood would just say it's not worth doing business in the state of Missouri.”

Missouri has only one abortion provider in the state, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

A Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, MO has been blocked from performing abortions since October 2018, after the facility failed to adhere to state rules and license expired. No abortions have been performed there since.

Lowest-ever fertility rates have complicated causes, no easy solutions, experts say

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 15:05

Washington D.C., May 16, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- Fertility rates in the United States have fallen to an all-time low, according to provisional figures released by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics.

According to an early statistical release from the NCHS in May, the total fertility rate, or average number of children born per woman, stands at 1.7, the lowest ever and well below the demographic replacement bar of 2.1.

In 2018, less than 3.8 million children born in the country. Since a peak in 2007, birth rates have fallen in all but one of the last 11 years. The results also show a continued trend of lower fertility among younger women over the last decade.

The data comes amid warnings from experts about the economic and social consequences of the continued decline. At the same time, the same experts say that the complicated causes of ever-lower fertility mean there are no clear or easy ways of reversing the trend.

 

Causes and effects

While the statistics underline a stark trend, experts emphasize that there is no single root cause behind the general decline.

In the past, women in their 20s have had the highest birth rate. But since 1968, the average age of a first-time mother has increased by more than five years, from 21.4 to 26.8.

Last year, childbirth rates among women aged 20-24 dropped 4%, and 3% among women aged 25-29. In 2018, women aged 30-34 had a higher birthrate than those aged 25-29 – marking the first time women in their early thirties were the leading age demographic for the number of children born.

Johnathan V. Last, author of the book “What to Expect When No One is Expecting,” points to a complex of social factors which, he says, contribute to the numbers of women having fewer children later in life.

“Many of the reasons people are having children later are good and reasonable. Look at the drop in fertility among 20-24 year-olds: that’s in large part down to the number of people now attending college, and people just don’t tend to get married and start families while they are in college,” Last told CNA.

Last also pointed out that while the broader trends all point in a single direction, individual section of society had outsized influence. “What we are seeing is record fertility lows coming off of what is essentially a drop among a single cohort, which is Hispanic-Americans.”

“If you look at the data, among white and African-Americans the fertility rates are broadly constant in their decline. What we are seeing is that Hispanics are arriving in the US with higher fertility rates that are dropping much faster than many expected, even within a generation or two.”

Dr. Catherine Pakaluk, Assistant Professor of Social Research and Economic thought at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that changes in the use of contraception could also be a factor.

Since 2002, use of the contraceptive pill has declined in favor of implanted contraceptive devices. In 2002, 19% of women aged 15-44 reported using the pill, while only 1.3% used IUDs. By 2017, pill usage had dropped to less than 14%, and 8.6% of women were using IUDs.

This, Pakaluk said, could be contributing to the sharp drop in unplanned pregnancies.

“These long-acting contraceptives tend to be much more immune to behavioral screw-ups. Even with the pill people are prone to contracepting badly and have a higher error rate leading to accidental but not necessarily unwelcome births, and these are disappearing.”

“It’s not a negligible percent, I don’t think it is the whole story but I do think it could be enough to be dragging us down to the historic lows we are seeing.”

Pakaluk said that while it is difficult to study, a shift in the way women approach pregnancy and contraceptives means that birth rates are increasingly subject to the expectations and experiences of generations raised in smaller families.

“One thing that should give us pause, and which I am really interested in examining more closely, is the effect of being around babies on adolescent wellbeing and mental health,” Pakaluk said.

“If you live in a society in which the typical family has three or four children, the older children will be experiencing a young child into their teenage years. But if you move to an average of 1.5-2, no teenagers on average will live with babies – think what that means for their own likely fertility choices.”

Experts have long warned about the wider societal and economic problems associated with declining birth rates, especially below the population replacement rate.

Last told CNA that the wider aspirations of society and politics to sustain and grow social welfare programmes depends on a demographic model opposite to current trends.

“The things we take for granted, let alone the things we aspire to do, in welfare, healthcare and so on, just do not work when you have an inversion of the population growth” Last told CNA.

Pakaluk agreed that there is widespread consensus on the economic and social problems associated with the long-term trend of lower fertility.

“We see immediately that it is not socially optimal from any rational social planning perspective because you know you cannot support the generous social programs that we like to think are good for society,” Pakaluk said. “Things like a decent social security system, MediCare, MedicAid, you just cannot sustain them in the long run with a total fertility rate of 1.7.”

But if the wider problems associated with dropping fertility rates are well known, both Pakaluk and Last highlight widespread dissatisfaction at the personal level.

“While the wider societal problems are well known,” Pakaluk said, “what is fascinating is that is seems that it isn’t individually optimal either.”

“What we do know, which is not often raised in media coverage, is that over the last several decades every survey in a Western country that asks women to describe their ideal family size – every single one everywhere – gives you a number about one child more than women end up having.”

Last told CNA that these numbers need to be considered as a factor in the state of our society.

“What we are seeing is the constant ‘fertility gap’ between people’s stated desire to have more than two kids and the reality that they tend to have less,” Last said. “For a whole host of reasons, people aren’t meeting their own expectations, and that has wider societal impact.”

Pakaluk said that the connection between parenthood and individual happiness is well known but rarely considered in relation to the fertility gap.

“We do know that children are a tremendous source of satisfaction for both men and women and if you take the net effect of [available data] on happiness and wellbeing - even in very controlled studies - we know that children contribute a tremendous amount of happiness.”

“I would certainly say that we need to look at [how] we have the lowest birthrates on record and the highest rates of addiction and depression on record. I’m not ready to say that is causal, but I think we need to think about it,” Pakaluk said.

“We are living in a fascinating paradox. In the post-feminist age of women’s right and control of reproduction they are not getting what it is that they say they want.”

 

No easy answers

If the causes of long-term demographic decline are difficult to untangle, so too are efforts to reverse or mitigate the effects of the trend.

Last noted that the standard response to address the economic problems associated with declining fertility is to rely on immigration to supply the demographic difference. But, he cautioned, this offers an imperfect fix.

“Immigration offers a short-term solution to the problem of funding entitlement programs for governments, but it doesn’t solve the long-term problem,” Last told CNA.

“In a healthy model you want to see a kind of pyramid shape, with the largest cohort among the youngest people tapering up to the oldest. Relying on adult immigration creates a bulge around the middle, which doesn’t address the underlying problem or future effects of low fertility and an ageing population.”

Last said that various policy solutions had been tried in different parts of the world, but without significant effects.

“Governments in all different parts of the world have experimented with policies to try to get people to have more children, but there isn’t any example which demonstrates real success – even in Singapore where the government basically offered $20,000 for people to have a kid, that only goes so far,” Last said.

“The bottom line is that having a child is a heavy lift, and no policy is going to make up someone’s mind to do it.”

Pakaluk agreed, pointing out that most models and policies made assumptions about individual behavior which simply could not account for the full human condition.

“Economists like to model fertility choices as the product of a highly rational process,” she said. “But in reality, no economist will ever tell you that even their idealized agents are acting subconsciously.”

“My read is that if you talk to women in their early 20s, you will get a response that sound very conscious and deliberate. But the choices that ‘make sense’ to people seem to be highly informed by something in the [cultural] water,” said Pakaluk.

According to Last, there is a level or irreducible complexity to changes in the fertility rate, intended or otherwise.

“The causes of lower fertility are incredibly complicated, and there is no obvious or simple mechanism for moving those numbers in the other direction,” he said. “It isn’t a matter of simply pushing button A and pulling lever X, it’s everything.”

“Of course,” Last noted, “ consistently the single greatest tracker of higher fertility is church attendance: across all faith communities, people who regularly show up for religious services have more kids.”

“I think a big part of this is looking at your life as part of a linear continuum, understanding your place between what has come before and what will come after helps condition you to understanding the greater good of starting a family and having children,” said Last.

“If your worldview is primarily formed around personal fulfillment and self-actualization, where is the incentive to have a family? You might have one child for the experience, but not two or three or four.”

Detroit archdiocese cancels sporting events on Sundays

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 05:05

Detroit, Mich., May 16, 2019 / 03:05 am (CNA).- The Archdioceses of Detroit has announced that it will no longer hold required sporting events on Sundays, in an effort to refocus the day on prayer, family and rest.

In a reflection on his 2016 pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, Archbishop Allen Vigneron issued a pastoral note on Wednesday, emphasizing the importance of “the Lord’s Day.”

He said Sunday is ultimately a time for faith, family, and rest, announcing that Catholic grade and high schools in the archdiocese will cease sports practices and games on this day.

“Sunday [is] a day set apart for the Lord, for family and for works of mercy,” he said. “In our time, Sunday has slowly lost its pride of place. In the Archdiocese of Detroit, we are committed to setting aside this day as much as possible for God-centered pursuits.”

“In shifting away from the hustle of required sporting activities on Sunday, we will reclaim this holy day and create more time for families to choose activities that prioritize time spent with each other and our Lord,” he added.

The change in the archdiocesan sporting policy comes in response to a local synod in 2016, which included lay Catholics, religious, and clergy members. The archbishop’s pastoral letter soon followed, calling Catholics to embrace greater conversion and efforts of evangelization.

In his recent pastoral note, Archbishop Vigneron emphasized the importance of Sunday as a day of holy rest. He said it is a weekly celebration of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring on the disciples and Christ's resurrection, making it a mini-Easter and mini-Pentecost.

“First and foremost, Sunday is the day of the Resurrection of Jesus to new life. It is the day that definitively marked Jesus’ victory over sin and death, and it is the day that represents that in Jesus we too share in this same victory through our baptism,” he said.

“Finally, Sunday is the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out in power upon the disciples of Jesus. In fact, John Paul II called Sunday a ‘weekly Pentecost,’” he added.

He said the holiness of Sunday should, first, be exercised by participation in Mass. Beyond that, he said, it is appropriate for families to pursue other faith-based activities together, as well as “technology-free family time.”

“Eucharistic adoration, personal prayer, reciting the Rosary, time for catechesis and Bible studies, faith sharing groups and the like all are ways families and individuals honor the Lord’s Day beyond Sunday Mass,” he said.

The archbishop also noted the importance of rest, saying that society has a “cult of busyness,” which has created false identities. He warned that an overemphasis on work can accentuate what Pope Francis calls a “throwaway culture.”

“When work becomes the most important thing in our lives, we value ourselves and others by what they can contribute rather than by who they are,” he said.

“Instead our worth comes from what God has done for us: We are made in his image and likeness, and Christ has died for us. When we choose to make Sunday a day of rest, we choose to renounce these false cultures and live as part of Christ’s band of disciples.”

The new regulations will take place in the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. In upcoming months, the archdiocese will be issuing additional resources for families to embrace the Lord’s Day.

“Ultimately, by removing the requirement of sporting activities, we leave more time for families to choose activities that prioritize time spent with each other and our Lord,” the archdiocese said.

Several other local schools have held Sunday as a holy day of rest, including Calvinist schools and the Michigan High School Athletic Association. The Frankel Jewish Academy also does not host games from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.

Archbishop Vigneron said this time of “missionary conversion” requires radical opposition to the culture. He said setting aside Sunday as a Holy Day will be part of doing this and will be a source of additional graces.

“Living Sunday more radically and intentionally as God’s people will help us do this. It will help us to root our lives in prayer and the sacraments. It will create the space for us to demonstrate unusually gracious hospitality and to include those on the margins. And it will remind us of God’s presence even in difficult and stressful times, so that we can be Jesus’ band of joyful missionary disciples in Southeast Michigan,” he said.

 

'We all need to be a little more like Kendrick': Friends and family remember STEM hero

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 19:12

Denver, Colo., May 15, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A funny, selfless, and kind kid who loved tinkering with his car, goofing around with his friends, and above all, serving others, whether at Knights of Columbus pancake breakfasts or in robotics class - this was the Kendrick Castillo that friends and family gathered to remember at a celebration of his life on May 15 at Cherry Hills Community Church.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit,” Fr. Javier Nieva, pastor of St. Mary’s in Littleton, Colo., said at the ecumenical celebration. The quote, from Jesus, is in the Gospel of John.

“We celebrate fruits today,” Nieva said. “Not death (but the) fruits of his life.”

Kendrick laid down his life for others not only “in the moment of dying, but in his love for his family, his passion for service, his love for the truth” and helping others, Nieva said.

Kendrick Castillo, 18, gave his life to protect his friends when he jumped into the line of fire to stop a school shooter on May 7, according to witnesses. Castillo was the only casualty in the shooting at STEM high school in Highlands Ranch, Colo.; eight other students were injured in the incident.

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in May, friends and family packed Cherry Hills Community Church to remember a funny and kind friend, parishioner and son who was always smiling and helping others. On display at the church were some things representative of Kendrick’s hobbies and passions: a kayak, a red blazer he wore while ushering at Notre Dame parish, robotics and engineering paraphernalia.

Former teachers and friends from school took to the stage one by one to share a favorite memory of Kendrick, to extol his virtues and thank his parents.

Joseph Nguyen, a family friend of the Castillos and a member of the Catholic charitable group the Knights of Columbus, presented Kendrick’s parents, John and Maria Castillo, with a plaque that honored Kendrick as a full member of the Knights.

“Kendrick is forever a brother within the Knights of Columbus,” Nguyen said, presenting a plaque that came from members throughout the country and the world.

“His service with the Knights, in everything he did, there was a smile on his face,” Nguyen said, noting that Kendrick and his father John had logged  a combined 2,600 hours of community service with the Knights.

“I remember Kendrick for the just young man he was, the one who imitated Christ’s self-sacrificing love so that others might live and be safe,” he said. “Kendrick loved people, he loved his Church, and he loved his God.”

Charlene Molis, the principal of Notre Dame Catholic School, which Kendrick attended from pre-K to 8th grade, remembered a loving child who “is certainly proof that one person can make a difference.”

Molis said she saw Kendrick’s caring nature on the very first day of preschool, when he noticed a little boy crying across the room.

“The little boy was missing his mom,” Molis said. “Kendrick walked over, put his arm around him and told him it was going to be ok.”

She remembered a student who “respected everyone and always did his best.” She remembered that he liked to get dressed up for school plays as a cowboy or a pilgrim, but when it came to all-school Masses, he donned a three-piece suit.

She remembered his ability to figure out “anything technology related,” and how by the time he was a 6th grader, he became a sort of pseudo IT technician for his teachers, helping them with computer issues. She remembered his bright smile, quick wit, and willingness to collaborate with his teachers in playing jokes on his fellow classmates.

Most of all, she remembered how he served others.

“He seemed to be happiest serving others, and he did this humbly,” she said, whether it was working in the background to put on the school talent show, making and serving pancakes for the Knights of Columbus, DJing school dances, leading the computer club, or serving on the student council.

“He was the first to arrive and last to leave at school and church functions,” she said.

“He was the epitome of a young Christian man, and an inspiration to everyone who was lucky enough to know him,” Molis said. “We love you, Kendrick. We are all better people for having known him.”

Jordan Monk, Kendrick’s best friend, said they first met as freshmen in an engines class in high school. When it became clear that Kendrick knew the most about engines in the class, Monk jumped at the chance to become his lab partner.

“Our friendship started purely out of survival instincts,” Monk said. “I wanted an A in that class, and found the best way to do so.”

But after just one class period, “I like many others knew there was something special about Kendrick. I’d figured we’d get along just fine as lab partners, but I had no idea he’d have such a profound impact on my life.”

The two bonded over lab projects and mishaps, and soon became best friends.

“Teachers had a love-hate relationship with us,” Monk said. “They loved us because of the joy and laughter that we brought to class, but that joy and laughter was apparently distracting for some students.”

When they weren’t in school, Monk spent hours with Kendrick in his backyard, where they would tinker on mini-bikes or golf carts, and on their cars once they got their licenses.

“We changed brakes and oil...and detailed our cars almost religiously,” Monk said. “Whenever I was able to drag (Kendrick) to our school dances, we always had the two cleanest rides.”

Monk recalled a favorite memory with Kendrick, when they dressed up as the main characters from the movie Wayne’s World, and drove around with their car tops down, fake mullets flowing in the wind, and Queen blasting on the radio.

“The only sound you could hear over Bohemian Rhapsody was our laughter,” Monk recalled. He said he and Kendrick often were up to things that could be considered weird, but they didn’t care, “because we had the time of our lives doing it.”

At the end of the celebration, Kendrick’s father, John, addressed the crowd. He thanked the school and church communities and first responders for their care and support, and said he has “felt the love of thousands” in the days since his son’s death.

“If we had to describe him a certain way, first it would be love, the love for anybody he met,” John said. “I mean anybody. He was compassionate. If you were walking down the street and fell, he’d walk over to make sure you’re ok.”

“There’s risk in love,” he added. “There’s risk in being hurt, in rejection. Kendrick knew all of these things and he never wavered. He knew right from wrong, and we all do.”

John remembered Kendrick as a son who valued relationships over physical things, who cherished hunting trips with his dad and grandpa and loved going to animated movies with his mom.

“We all really really love Kendrick, and to carry on his life’s message, we need to be more like him,” John said, whether that’s helping someone who is struggling or including someone who is lonely.

“I always knew he was a gift and a hero, he was filled up with the good stuff” of life, he noted, like faith and love.

He encouraged those present to “walk your faith like Kendrick did,” recalling how his son would take off his hat and bless his food before eating at Taco Bell without caring what people might think.

“It’s not difficult,” he said. “We just have to love.”

Kendrick’s funeral and burial will be at the end of this week. The details are kept private at the request of the family.

Mom demands apology from state Rep. Brian Sims, who doxed her daughters outside Planned Parenthood

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 16:29

Philadelphia, Pa., May 15, 2019 / 02:29 pm (CNA).- A Pennsylvania mother of teenage daughters is demanding an apology from state representative Brian Sims, who shouted down and tried to dox the teens while they were quietly praying outside of a Planned Parenthood in late April.

Sims has been under fire recently after he livestreamed a video posted to Twitter May 2 in which he appears to harass and confront a woman who was praying the rosary quietly by herself outside of a Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood.

Ashley Garecht, the mother demanding an apology from Sims, said he treated her daughters similarly, shouting them down, calling them racists, and offering to donate $100 to Planned Parenthood if someone could reveal the girls’ identities and personal information online, a practice known as doxing, which is illegal in most jurisdictions.

“The three girls deserve your genuine, explicit apology. I believe you know that your actions toward them were inherently wrong. You accosted them and said that they should be ashamed of threatening and attacking young girls trying to enter the clinic,” Garecht said in an open letter to Sims, published in Philadelphia newspaper The Inquirer.

“You and I both know that the girls were peacefully standing at the far corner of the property line, praying in a barely audible voice. They were not threatening, and they certainly weren’t attacking anyone or preventing access to the building,” she added.

Garecht said she had brought her two daughters, along with one of their friends, to pray quietly at the Planned Parenthood. One of the girls is 13 years old, while the other two are 15. When Sims reportedly began shouting at the girls and pointing a camera at them, Garecht said she tried to intervene and asked Sims that he engage only with her, as the adult in the situation.

“...you looked over my shoulder and continued to scold the girls that they were white racists who shouldn’t dare tell women what to do with their bodies,” she wrote.

The friend that Garecht brought with her daughters isn’t white, Garecht noted.

“...our purpose there was to pray that women of all races would choose life for their babies because we believe that all human life is sacred and we know that our society is better off with more children of every color walking among us,” she said in the letter.

“These girls aren’t racist, Mr. Sims. You devalue the term and cheapen it by using it so egregiously and inappropriately.”

She called his attempts to dox her girls especially “dangerous”, and said that she and her family now live “in constant heightened alert” because of his actions.

Despite Sims’ harassment, Garecht said her daughters and their friend “were not intimidated by you. After we left, they saw you berating the kind young gentleman who respectfully removed his hat to speak with you. All three girls told me we should go back and stand with him. They didn’t want him to have to endure your bullying alone.”

Garecht said that as an elected official, Sims should support the girls’ “First Amendment right to express their faith through speech.”

“Those rights aren’t theories or hypotheticals. They are specifically enumerated guarantees. It’s your job to protect and uphold those rights for all citizens, including beautifully courageous and kind teenage girls,” she said.

On May 7, Sims said in a post to Twitter that he acknowledged his aggressive behavior toward the woman in his May 2 video.

“I will fiercely protect a woman’s right to make the best choices for her health & her body, unimpeded. I also know that two wrongs don’t make a right, especially on the front lines of a civil rights battle. I can do better, and I will do better, for the women of Pennsylvania,” he said.

Sims has since set his Twitter account to private.

On May 10, a “Pro-Life Rally Against Bullying” drew 1,000 people outside of that same Planned Parenthood where Sims had allegedly harassed numerous people. Pro-life speakers at the event called for Sims’ resignation. Leaders from local and national pro-life groups attended the rally, including the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Family Council, 40 Days for Life, Students for Life, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, Sidewalk Servants and the Susan B. Anthony List.

Garecht said in her letter that she believes Sims owes a specific apology to her teenage daughters.

“Mr. Sims, you said you wanted to do better for the women of Pennsylvania. I take you at your word, and I forgive you,” she wrote.

“I’m now asking you to do the right thing by being accountable for your actions and making a genuine, explicit apology to my daughters and their friend. They don’t need anything from you, but they certainly deserve it.”

 

 

Man who brought gasoline, lighter into New York cathedral deemed unfit to stand trial

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 15:54

New York City, N.Y., May 15, 2019 / 01:54 pm (CNA).- A man accused of attempting to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York last month carrying containers of gasoline and a lighter has been deemed unfit to stand trial due to his mental health.

Police arrested Marc Lamparello in April after he attempted to enter the cathedral. The 37-year-old is a New Jersey resident and Ph.D. student at City University of New York.

A court-appointed psychiatrist has now found him mentally unfit to stand trial, according to his lawyer Chris DiLorenzo, who also said May 14 that Lamparello suffers from schizophrenia and was off his medication on the day of the alleged arson attempt.

Assistant District Attorney David Stuart said his office would review the results and determine how to proceed with the case, the New York Post reports.

Manhattan prosecutors had that day indicted Lamparello on attempted arson and reckless endangerment charges. The suspect will remain in Bellevue Hospital Center’s prison ward pending a court hearing June 7, the North Jersey Record reports.

Lamparello’s apparent arson attempt took place two days after a major fire destroyed the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The cause of that fire has not yet been determined, but police suspect it was an accident.

Lamparello was also an adjunct professor of philosophy at Lehman College in the Bronx and also taught at Seton Hall University. He published a 400-plus page book on philosophy in 2016.

A friend of Lamparello’s family described them to the New York Post as “a good religious family” and as “strict Catholics.”

Lamparello was apprehended by cathedral security around 8 p.m. April 17 and taken into police custody by officers with the NYPD Critical Response Command. He attempted to start a fire using a lighter, police said, and he had a car nearby to escape the scene.

According to the NYPD, Lamparello had four gallons of gasoline, two cans of lighter fluid, and two lighters with him when he attempted to enter the cathedral. He was prevented from entering by cathedral security, but was able to spill some of the gasoline on the floor as he was leaving.

NYPD said that Lamparello’s story was “not consistent” and suspicious, though they have not yet determined any sort of motive. He claimed he cut through the cathedral as a shortcut, as his van had run out of gas. The minivan had in fact not run out of gas, which led to police taking him into custody.

He was charged initially with resisting arrest, defiant trespassing and interfering with the administration of law.

The attempted entry was the second time that week the man was arrested at a Catholic cathedral. Earlier in the week, Lamparello was arrested for refusing to leave the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.

Lamparello has been arrested previously for criminal trespass and public drunkenness.

NYPD have confirmed that Lamparello had recently purchased a one-way airplane ticket to Rome, scheduled to depart the next evening, and had already cancelled class. He had also booked a hotel room not far from St. Peter’s Basilica.

California confession bill won't stop abuse, but threatens religious liberty, critics say

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 12:47

Sacramento, Calif., May 15, 2019 / 10:47 am (CNA).- The appropriations committee of California’s state senate will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would require priests to violate the seal of confession if they became aware of allegations of child abuse or neglect while celebrating the sacrament of penance. Critics say the bill would deny Constitutional religious liberty protections, and that there is no evidence it would actually prevent child abuse.

The bill, California SB 360, requires clergy members to report to law enforcement knowledge or suspicion of child abuse or neglect, “including when the clergy member acquires the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a penitential communication.”

Clergy in California are already required to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse in most circumstances, though penitential conversations like sacramental confession are exempted, as are other kinds of privileged conversations, among them those covered by attorney-client privilege.

The bill’s sponsor, California state Senator Jerry Hill (D-Calif. 13), has claimed that “the clergy-penitent privilege has been abused on a large scale, resulting in the unreported and systemic abuse of thousands of children across multiple denominations and faiths.”

The senator has claimed that such abuse has been revealed through “recent investigations by 14 attorneys general, the federal government, and other countries.” Hill’s office declined to respond to requests from CNA for clarity or specific instances of the abuse cited.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said in a May 15 column that Hill’s claim is “simply not true. Hearings on the bill have not presented a single case — in California or anywhere else ­— where this kind of crime could have been prevented if a priest had disclosed information he had heard in confession.”

“SB 360 claims to solve a crisis that does not exist,” Gomez said.

While priests are forbidden from disclosing the contents of sacramental confessions under any circumstances, and face excommunication for doing so, few believe Hill’s bill would prevent child abuse.

California Catholic Conference executive director Andy Rivas told Angelus News May 15 that “there is no evidence that forcing priests to disclose what is learned in the confessional would prevent a single case of child abuse.”

If penitents report being abused, several priests told CNA, they are generally asked to discuss the matter with the priest-confessor immediately after confession has ended. When such conversations take place after confession, clergy members in California are already required by law to report them.

The bill is not the first time Hill has taken issue with internal Church practices. In 2015, he signed a letter urging San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to end an archdiocesan requirement that Catholic school teachers live in accord with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

The letter said the requirement had “a divisive tone, which stands in stark contrast to the values that define the Bay Area and its history.”

The right to confidential religious communications has been recognized in Western legal traditions for centuries. The sacrament of confession is understood within Catholic teaching to be a revelation to God of sins, and confession is kept absolutely confidential in order to ensure that no penitent is discouraged from making use of the sacrament.

California’s bill would be a striking reversal of long-standing legal precedent preceding even the foundation of the United States. The state would be the first to explicitly revoke religious confidentiality while keeping protection for other kinds of confidential conversations in place.

Gomez’ May 15 column noted directly that the proposed measure “only targets Catholic priests.”

While the bill’s sponsor insists that’s not true, the bill was introduced shortly after the release a Pennsylvania grand jury reporting detailing decades of clerical sexual abuse allegations, and after the scandal that began June 20, 218, when credible allegations of abuse against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick were made public.

Gomez also said this week that “from a public policy standpoint, if the goal is to prevent child sexual abuse, it does not make sense to single out Catholic priests and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, which is the formal name for confession.”

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California’s largest, has faced two allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the last ten years. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, there are seven allegations of clerical sexual abuse made each year, across the United States.

Although all educators in California, as in most states, are mandated reporters, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 10% of public school students in the U.S. will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee before graduating from high school. 6,220,413 students were enrolled in California public schools in 2017-2018, according to the state’s department of education. If California does not significantly deviate from national statistics, 622,041 of those students are likely to experience sexual misconduct by public school employees before graduation.

Hill, himself a licensed teacher, has not weighed in publicly on another California bill that would remove the civil statute of limitations for lawsuits involving sexual abuse claims against employees of public schools and other California institutions.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, along with five other California dioceses, established May 14 an independently managed compensation program, which would provide compensatory payment to those alleging to be victims of priestly sexual abuse, regardless of what that abuse is alleged to have happened.

Gomez, for his part, has called Catholics to oppose the confession bill, which he called “a mortal threat to the religious freedom of every Catholic.”

“The privacy of that intimate conversation — our ability to speak with total honesty from our lips to God’s ear — is absolutely vital to our relationship with God,” Gomez wrote.

At the same time, the archbishop encouraged Catholics to pray for the healing of abuse victims and their families.

“Let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us bring healing to every victim-survivor of abuse and help us build a society where every child is loved, protected, and safe.”

 

 

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