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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 26 min ago

DOJ files brief in support of Ohio Down syndrome abortion ban

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 12:00

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The Department of Justice is officially supporting Ohio’s Down syndrome abortion ban before a federal circuit court.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed on Tuesday with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that Ohio’s law is constitutional, protects vulnerable individuals and mothers from coercive abortions, and upholds the integrity of the medical profession.

“The federal government has an interest in the equal dignity of those who live with disabilities,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division stated. “Nothing in the Constitution requires Ohio to authorize abortion providers to participate in abortions the providers know are based on Down syndrome.”

The law bans doctors from performing abortions in cases where a positive test or prenatal diagnosis indicates Down syndrome, or where there is “[a]ny other reason to believe that an unborn child has Down syndrome.” The bill was signed into law by former Gov. John Kasich in December of 2017.

Under the law’s provisions, mothers are explicitly excluded from prosecution for abortions in such cases, while doctors who knowingly performed the abortions could be charged with fourth-degree felony or could face the loss of their medical license or liability for damages.

After organizations including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU sued over the law, a district court judge blocked it from going into effect in March of 2018. Judge Timothy Black ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their argument that the law unconstitutionally blocked abortion access in cases of pre-viability of the baby.

A partial panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld that decision in October of 2019, in a 2-1 decision. The Sixth Circuit decided to rehear the case before the full court.

“This Ohio law prevents discrimination against individuals with Down syndrome,” said Justin E. Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. 

Federal law already prohibits disability discrimination in a variety of cases, the DOJ argued in its amicus brief, including through the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act expressly bars discrimination in health insurance and employment regarding an individual’s genetic information, the DOJ said, including that “of any fetus carried by [a] pregnant woman.” 

Ohio’s law does not pose an unlawful “undue burden” on women’s access to abortion, the brief argued.

“The law does not create a substantial obstacle to obtaining a pre-viability abortion. It certainly does not create a substantial obstacle for a large fraction of affected women—let alone all such women. And regardless, any burdens would be outweighed by the law’s substantial benefits,” the DOJ argued.

Supreme Court will not fast track new ACA appeal

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 11:00

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to fast-track hearing a new appeal of the Affordable Care Act. The decision comes after the act’s individual mandate was struck down by a federal circuit court.

In December, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and sent the case back to the district courts to decide if the rest of the law could still be enforced without the mandate.

In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld most of the law, ruling the individual mandate a “tax” that was within Congress’ authority to require. Once the Trump administration removed the penalty for not complying with the mandate, the state of Texas sued the Trump administration, arguing that the penalty was no longer a tax.

The Fifth Circuit’s decision was appealed to the Supreme Court. After the decision, members of the House of Representatives joined 19 states along with the District of Columbia and Democratic Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky, in asking the Supreme Court for expedited consideration of the appeal.

The 19 states were California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota (by and through its Department of Commerce), Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

“Because of the practical importance of the questions presented for review and the pressing need for their swift resolution by this Court, petitioners respectfully request that the Court consider the petition on an expedited schedule described below and, if the Court grants the petition, that it set an expedited merits briefing and oral argument schedule so that it may decide the case this Term,” the states argued.

The law was enacted in 2010, at which time the U.S. bishops’ conference supported its goals of expanding affordable health coverage, but ultimately opposed the law in part because it lacked safeguards against the coverage of abortions by taxpayer-funded health plans.

The current case of the ACA is related to, but distinct from, the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor who are back at the Supreme Court again.

Under the ACA’s preventative services mandate, the Obama administration interpreted the law to require coverage of contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-causing drugs in employee health plans.

The contraceptive mandate was at first written with narrow religious exemptions. A subsequent “accommodation” proposed by the Obama administration also failed to protect religious non-profits, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, who said they would still be culpable in the coverage of morally-objectionable procedures.

The sisters, along with hundreds of other non-profits and for-profit businesses and corporations, sued the administration. Although the Trump administration eventually offered expanded religious and moral exemptions to the sisters and other objecting groups, Pennsylvania and California then sued the administration over the broadened religious exemption.

In 2018, the Supreme Court allowed the Little Sisters to intervene in their own case, and last week the Court agreed to hear oral arguments in their case.

Pro-life group announces $52 million war chest for 2020 election

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 09:05

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 07:05 am (CNA).- A pro-life political group has announced its plans to support President Donald Trump and pro-life senatorial candidates in their 2020 election campaigns. The announcement comes after Planned Parenthood announced its own plans to spend an unprecedented amount during the 2020 elections.

The Susan B. Anthony List and Women Speak Out PAC, its partner super PAC, said Friday it has plans to spend $52 million in the 2020 election cycle. 

Mallory Quigley, national spokeswoman for the group, told CNA the amount is “the largest budget for any election cycle that we’ve ever had.”

News of the pro-life group’s campaign war chest followed an announcement last week that Planned Parenthood Votes will spend $45 million in a “We Decide 2020” campaign to support pro-abortion candidates at the presidential, congressional, and state levels—the largest election spending in Planned Parenthood’s history.

Spending by SBA List will focus on a strong “ground game” in battleground states. While the group will invest in digital media, mail and phone calls, it will prioritize door-knocking and face-to-face interaction, Quigley told CNA.

“The stakes are very high. We are up against a very well-funded opponent,” Quigley added. 

The $52 million budget of SBA List and Women Speak Out “still pales in comparison to the resources of the pro-abortion lobby and their allies,” she said.

“And so that’s why we prioritize face-to-face communication with voters, one-on-one conversations, and hopefully we will be successful.” 

The group plans a two-pronged strategy focused on turning out “unreliable pro-life voters” and reaching “persuadable voters” in swing states, by emphasizing the “radical” agenda of the pro-abortion lobby, according to a Jan. 16 memo released by SBA List’s national campaign director Tim Edson.

The group will hire state directors, regional field staff, and 100 to 200 pro-life canvassers “to expose the extremism of pro-abortion candidates, and identify the clear pro-life choice in the election, one door and one conversation at a time,” the memo says.

All candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination support taxpayer funding of abortions through a repeal of the Hyde Amendment. A majority of those candidates have said they would codify Roe v. Wade in federal law, appoint only pro-abortion judges, and push for over-the-counter availability of abortion pills. Some candidates have said they would support abortion access until birth.

Donor support of the efforts will come from pro-life activists around the country, Quigley said, and the campaign will target battleground states in the presidential election along with certain Senate races.

“The goal is very simple: re-elect the most pro-life president in our nation’s history, and safeguard the pro-life majority that we have in the U.S. Senate,” Quigley told CNA.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA List’s president, chaired Trump’s pro-life coalition in 2016 after, months before, signing a letter with other women leaders urging Iowa Republicans in advance of the state’s caucus to “support anyone but Donald Trump.”

In September 2016, however, Trump the GOP nominee made specific promises to the pro-life movement including that he would nominate pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, sign a 20-week “pain-capable” abortion ban, defund Planned Parenthood, and codify the Hyde Amendment.

Although Trump has not signed a “pain-capable” bill—one has not cleared both chambers of Congress to reach his desk—he has appointed two justices to the Supreme Court and more than a quarter of federal appeals court judges. In addition, his administration has started stripping abortion providers or promoters, both in the U.S. and overseas, of federal funding.

“President Trump’s been the first president to have an impact on Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding,” Quigley said. “They gave up $60 million when he issued the Protect Life Rule concerning Title X.”

Key Senate races—among them, the re-election of Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and the race of John James in Michigan—will form most of the rest of the 2020 campaign by SBA List and Women Speak Out.

While pro-abortion Democrats currently hold a clear majority in the House—the group Democrats for Life in 2018 only endorsed two sitting members of the House—pro-lifers hold a slim majority in the Senate.

SBA List has already begun knocking on doors in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, where the organization has been active for multiple years, reaching 460,000 voters.

The group plans to expand its efforts to Iowa, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, battleground states where the organization says it “could reach four million voters before election day” with its war chest.

For House and state-level races, the group will try to assist in states where it is already active on other campaigns, Quigley said, but Senate races and the presidential election will be the main focus of attention and spending.

As far as whether resources will be devoted to any pro-life Democratic candidates, Quigley said “What we’ve announced today is what we’ve announced today. It’s our plan to re-elect the President and safeguard our pro-life majority in the U.S. Senate.”

In a Jan. 10 interview with CNA, Quigley highlighted the group’s 2018 support for Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), a pro-life eight-term Catholic congressman who faced a primary challenge centered on his pro-life commitment. SBA List said it had mobilized 70 canvassers to visit 17,000 “pro-life Democrat households” in Lipinski’s Illinois third district, and the group spent more than $100,000 supporting his 2018 candidacy. 

Earlier this month, SBA List told CNA that it would again support Lipinski’s campaign. 

Although Lipinski again faces a primary challenge from pro-abortion candidate Marie Newman, Quigley said Friday that SBA plans to help bundle funds for Lipinski, but not to spend money from its war chest on his campaign. 

Bundling is the practice of organizing candidate support from a network or donor pool.

Support for particular campaigns has not yet been announced because, with ten months until election day, “this is still very early,” Quigley said. “A lot of these Senate races, we’re still in the primary.”

Trump administration considers travel bans on up to seven more countries

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 21:01

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- More travel bans and restrictions could be coming from the Trump administration, with up to seven countries targeted.

Citizens of Belarus, Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania could face more travel restrictions, as initially reported by the news site Politico. The restrictions could be announced Jan. 27, the third anniversary of the administration’s first travel bans.

The restrictions under consideration are not finalized and might not necessarily be a complete ban, but rather could apply only to certain government officials or certain types of visas, like business or visitor visas.

Some countries the Trump administration is considering for new travel restrictions have had good relations with the U.S. or have been the subjects of U.S. efforts to improve relations, Politico reports.

The administration has justified travel restrictions as an anti-terrorism measure, saying the travelers are not adequately vetted.

The original executive order was issued Jan. 27, 2017, prompting hundreds of demonstrators to gather at airports. The first order denied visas to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The order was modified and went through several court challenges. In its current form it restricts entry of some citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea. Chad was on the original list, but was removed.

Lawyers, advocates for Muslim immigrants, and other critics said the administration’s travel ban still constituted a “Muslim ban” since most of the countries under the ban are Muslim-majority.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the travel ban in June 2018, ruling that President Donald Trump was acting within the limits of his authority when he enacted the travel ban on nationals from seven countries.

At the time of the ruling, leaders of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee and religious freedom committee said the travel ban “targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country's core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith.” The Supreme Court “failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government,” the bishops said.
 
Most possible additions to the list do not have travel restrictions. The Wall Street Journal said people from Eritrea, Nigeria, and Sudan on business or visitor visas appeared much more likely to overstay their permits.

This week White House spokesman Hogan Gidley did not confirm to Politico any details about expanded ban or travel restrictions, but said the original order “has been profoundly successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world.”

“While there are no new announcements at this time, common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in U.S. immigration programs, they should also comply with all security and counter-terrorism measures — because we do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States,” Gidley said.

Trump first proposed a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. after a string of terrorist attacks, including a December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California that left 14 dead and 22 injured. The shooters were a married couple who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group shortly before the attack. One was a U.S. citizen and the other was a Pakistani national who moved to the U.S. on a fiancée visa.

His comments drew condemnation and concern from many who worried explicitly targeting migrants based on religion was wrong in itself and would enable U.S. laws and policies targeting other religious groups.

Opposition to death penalty growing among Republicans, activists say

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 20:00

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The number of Republican state lawmakers opposed to capital punishment is growing, a conservative group claims, as anti-death penalty activists look forward to continued momentum from the right on this issue in 2020. 

“The nation is down to only 25 states that still have an active death penalty system, of those, over a third have not used it in a decade or more,” Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, told CNA in a statement. 

“We anticipate the downward trends to continue around capital punishment and expect to see more states join those that have repealed their systems over the next year.”

At the national level, the parties are divided on the issue.

The 2016 Republican Party platform stated that “The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment,” and that “With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states.” 

Conversely, the 2016 Democratic Party platform called for the abolition of capital punishment, which was refered to as “arbitrary and unjust.” 

Despite the platform plank, Republican lawmakers seem relatively unafraid to introduce bills to repeal the practice. 

In the 2020 legislative season, five state legislatures are considering Republican-sponsored bills to overturn the death penalty: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Washington. Last year, repeal bills were introduced with Republican sponsors in 10 states. That is a two-state increase from 2018. 

Out of the 10 states that considered bills to abolish the death penalty, one, in New Hampshire, passed, and went into effect in 2019. Another, in Wyoming, failed in the Senate.

New Hampshire repealed the death penalty for anyone who was convicted of capital murder after May 30, 2019. Although the bill was initially vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, it was overruled by a two-thirds majority in both of the state’s legislative chambers. 

In the veto vote, about 40% of the state’s Republican senators voted to overturn the death penalty. 

With New Hampshire overturning the death penalty, there are now no states in New England where capital punishment is legal. There is, however, one man on the Granite State’s death row: Michael “Stix” Addison was convicted in 2008 after murdering a police officer, Michael Biggs. Addison is still eligible for the death penalty, unless his sentence is commuted to life in prison. 

The last person executed in New Hampshire was executed in 1939. Several previous efforts in the 21st century to repeal the death penalty had failed. 

In Wyoming, the bill to repeal the death penalty died in the state Senate, which is composed of 27 Republicans and three Democrats. The bill’s main sponsor was Republican Sen. Brian Boner. 

The bill failed on a vote of 18-12. Wyoming has only executed one person since the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the death penalty is a legal punishment. There is nobody presently on the state’s death row.

Trump declares Jan. 22 'National Sanctity of Human Life Day'

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 18:18

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump declared Jan. 22 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, in a proclamation signed Monday.

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our Nation proudly and strongly reaffirms our commitment to protect the precious gift of life at every stage, from conception to natural death,” Trump wrote in the proclamation.

“Every person -- the born and unborn, the poor, the downcast, the disabled, the infirm, and the elderly -- has inherent value. Although each journey is different, no life is without worth or is inconsequential; the rights of all people must be defended,” the president added.

The landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which declared a constitutional right to abortion, was decided Jan. 22, 1973.

President Ronald Reagan declared Jan. 22, 1984 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, and annually declared a similar day each year of his presidency. President George Bush did the same, as did President George W. Bush.

President Donald Trump declared a National Sanctity of Human Life Day in 2018 and 2019.

The president’s 2020 proclamation said that the U.S. “must remain steadfastly dedicated to the profound truth that all life is a gift from God, who endows every person with immeasurable worth and potential.”

“Countless Americans are tireless defenders of life and champions for the vulnerable among us. We are grateful for those who support women experiencing unexpected pregnancies, those who provide healing to women who have had abortions, and those who welcome children into their homes through foster care and adoption.”

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, we celebrate the wonderful gift of life and renew our resolve to build a culture where life is always revered,” the proclamation added.

The proclamation noted a decline in U.S. abortions and the abortion rate since 2007, and a decrease in teen pregnancies, which, Trump wrote, have contributed “to the lowest rate of abortions among adolescents since the legalization of abortion in 1973.”

“All Americans should celebrate this decline in the number and rate of abortions, which represents lives saved.  Still, there is more to be done, and, as President, I will continue to fight to protect the lives of the unborn,” Trump wrote.

The president also noted that his administration has introduced restrictions that impede recipients of federal Title X funds from providing abortions, along with conscience protections for healthcare workers and employers who object to contraceptive coverage in insurance plans.

“Additionally, I have called on the Congress to act to prohibit abortions of later-term babies who can feel pain,” the proclamation added.

Since 1973, nearly 45 million abortions in the U.S. have been reported to the CDC. Several state legislative efforts to restrict or prohibit abortion have been challenged in court in recent years, and some pro-life activists predict those judicial challenges could lead to a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Trump has said he believes laws regarding abortion should be decided at the state level, and that while he believes there should be exceptions to prohibitions on abortion, he considers himself to be pro-life.

 

 

Ruling against Trump executive order helps people flee danger, bishops say

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 16:01

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- A federal judge’s ruling has halted President Donald Trump’s executive order that allows states and localities to refuse permission for refugee resettlement. The ruling drew praise from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which stressed the need to help refugees to safety and to maintain a uniform refugee policy.

“Today’s ruling is a welcome step in our ongoing ministry to provide refugees, who are fleeing religious persecution, war, and other dangers, with safe haven here in the United States,” said Bishop Mario Dorsonville, an auxiliary bishop of Washington who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“Jesus Christ, who was part of a refugee family, calls us to welcome the stranger, and our pro-life commitment requires us to protect refugees,” he said Jan. 17, adding, “the Church looks forward to continue working with communities across America to welcome refugees as we uphold the dignity of all human life.”

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte temporarily blocked Executive Order 13888, issued Sept. 26, 2019, which requires written consent from states and local entities before groups may begin to resettle refugees within their boundaries.

The order “does not appear to serve the overall public interest,” said the judge. Messitte, citing a law review article, said there is a public interest in preventing the president from “slipping the boundaries of a statutory policy and acting based on irrelevant policy preferences,” CNN reports.

The judge said the order wrongfully gave to state and local government the power to veto refugee resettlement “in the face of clear statutory text and structure, purpose Congressional intent, executive practice, judicial holdings and Congressional doctrine to the contrary.”

In response, the Trump administration said, “This is a preposterous ruling, one more example of nationwide district court injunctions run amok, and we are expeditiously reviewing all options to protect our communities and preserve the integrity of the refugee resettlement process.”

Pending the outcome of the legal case, HIAS Inc., et al v. Trump, the order will not take effect. Resettlement programs will operate under the rules prior to the order.

Dorsonville noted the Catholic bishops’ previous “deep concerns” about the executive order.

“We feared the negative consequences for refugees and their families as this Executive Order would have created a confusing patchwork across America of some jurisdictions where refugees are welcomed, and others where they are not,” he said.

He said the injunction “helps to maintain a uniform national policy of welcome to refugees and serves to maintain reunification of refugee families as a primary factor for initial resettlement.”

Dorsonville cited “robust bipartisan support” for refugees in the wake of the order, noting 42 governors and many local officials said they would approve initial resettlement.

“Once more, we see the intention to act united as a nation in the effort to provide solidarity to those who need it most and are encouraged by the compassion that this nation has towards refugees,” Dorsonville said.

The U.S. bishops said that federal officials will “diligently engage” with state and local officials to ensure local concerns are taken into account, but federal officials will have the final decision over refugee resettlement.

Gov. Gregg Abbott of Texas said Jan. 10 that Texas will not participate in the refugee resettlement program this fiscal year.

“At this time, the state and nonprofit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless—indeed, all Texans,” he said in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He said Texas has already been forced to “deal with disproportionate migration issues,” which he blamed on federal inaction and a broken immigration system.

He cited May 2019 figures indicating about 100,000 migrants were detained crossing Texas’ southern border.

Refugee resettlement in Texas peaked in 2009, when about 8,212 people were resettled. About 7,500 people were resettled in Texas per year from 2012-2016, the Texas Tribune reports.

The Texas Catholic bishops said the governor’s decision was “deeply discouraging and disheartening.” They asked the governor to reconsider his decision, noting that refugees contribute a great deal to society.

“While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided,” they said. “It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans.”

“As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien,” said the Texas bishops.

In a Jan. 16 letter to the editor of the Miami Herald, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami criticized Abbott’s decision and noted the longtime work of Catholic Charities in Florida. The agency helped unaccompanied minors from Cuba in the 1960s, resettled refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s, and participated in the federal refugee resettlement program since it began in 1980.

He stressed the security of the vetting policies already conducted by the United States' government. He said refugees have to meet established criteria such as fleeing religious persecution or political violence.

“Often mentored by church volunteers and given resettlement support, refugees and their family quickly integrate into American society, finding work and making a positive contribution to their adopted country,” Wenski said.

The nuns who witnessed the life and death of Martin Luther King

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 18:17

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2020 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- Last year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day marked the first without Sister Mary Antona Ebo, the only black Catholic nun who marched with civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Ala in 1965.

“I'm here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness,” Sister Mary Antona Ebo said to fellow demonstrators at a March 10, 1965 protest attended by King. Ebo was, in fact, the only African-American nun at the protest.

The protest took place three days after the “Bloody Sunday” clash, where police attacked several hundred voting rights demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, causing some severe injuries among the non-violent marchers. 

She passed away Nov. 11, 2017 in Bridgeton, Missouri at the age of 93, the St. Louis Review reported at the time.

After the “Bloody Sunday” attacks, King had called on church leaders from around the country to go to Selma. Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter of St. Louis had asked his archdiocese’s human rights commission to send representatives, Ebo recounted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2015.

Ebo’s supervisor, also a religious sister, asked her whether she would join a 50-member delegation of laymen, Protestant ministers, rabbis, priests and five white nuns.

Just before she left for Alabama, she heard that a white minister who had traveled to Selma, James Reeb, had been severely attacked after he left a restaurant.

At the time, Ebo said, she wondered: “If they would beat a white minister to death on the streets of Selma, what are they going to do when I show up?”

In Selma on March 10, she went to Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, joining local leaders and the demonstrators who had been injured in the clash.

“They had bandages on their heads, teeth were knocked out, crutches, casts on their arms. You could tell that they were freshly injured,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “They had already been through the battle ground, and they were still wanting to go back and go back and finish the job.”

Many of the injured had been treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, run by Edmundite priests and the Sisters of St. Joseph, the only Selma hospital that served blacks. Since their arrival in 1937, the Edmundites had faced intimidation and threats from local officials, other whites, and even the Ku Klux Klan, CNN reported.

The injured demonstrators and their supporters left the Selma church, with Ebo in front. They marched towards the courthouse, then blocked by state troopers in riot gear. She and other demonstrators then knelt to pray the Our Father before they agreed to turn around.

Despite the violent interruption, the 57-mile march would draw 25,000 participants. It concluded on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, with King’s famous March 25 speech against racial prejudice.

“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” King said.

King would be dead within three years. On a fateful April 4, 1968, he was shot by an assassin at his Memphis hotel.

He had asked to be taken to a Catholic hospital should anything happen to him, and he was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis. At the time, it was a nursing school combined with a 400-bed hospital.

There, too, Catholic religious sisters played a role.

Sister Jane Marie Klein and Sister Anna Marie Hofmeyer recounted their story to The Paper of Montgomery County Online in January 2017.

The Franciscan nuns had been walking around the hospital grounds when they heard the sirens of an ambulance. One of the sisters was paged three times, and they discovered that King had been shot and taken to their hospital.

The National Guard and local police locked down the hospital for security reasons as doctors tried to save King.

“We were obviously not allowed to go in when they were working with him because they were feverishly working with him,” Sister Jane Marie said. “But after they pronounced him dead we did go back into the E.R. There was a gentleman as big as the door guarding the door and he looked at us and said ‘you want in?’ We said yes, we’d like to go pray with him. So he let the three of us in, closed the door behind us and gave us our time.”

Hofmeyer recounted the scene in the hospital room. “He had no chance,” she said.

Klein said authorities delayed the announcement of King’s death to prepare for riots they knew would result.

Three decades later, Klein met with King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, at a meeting of the Catholic Health Association Board in Atlanta where King was a keynote speaker. The Franciscan sister and the widow of the civil rights leader told each other how they had spent that night.

Klein said being present that night in 1968 was “indescribable.”

“You do what you got to do,” she said. What’s the right thing to do? Hindsight? It was a privilege to be able to take care of him that night and to pray with him. Who would have ever thought that we would be that privileged?”

She said King’s life shows “to some extent one person can make a difference.” She wondered “how anybody could listen to Dr. King and not be moved to work toward breaking down these barriers.”

Klein would serve as chairperson of the Franciscan Alliance Board of Trustees, overseeing support for health care. Hofmeyer would work in the alliance’s archives. Last year both were living at the Provinciate at St. Francis Convent in Mishawaka, Indiana.

For her part, after Selma, Ebo would go on to serve as a hospital administrator and a chaplain.

In 1968 she helped found the National Black Sisters’ Conference. The woman who had been rejected from several Catholic nursing schools because of her race would serve in her congregation’s leadership as it reunited with another Franciscan order, and she served as a director of social concerns for the Missouri Catholic Conference.

She frequently spoke on civil rights topics. When controversy over a Ferguson, Mo. police officer’s killing of Michael Brown, a black man, she led a prayer vigil. She thought the Ferguson protests were comparable to those of Selma.

“I mean, after all, if Mike Brown really did swipe the box of cigars, it’s not the policeman’s place to shoot him dead,” she said.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis presided at her requiem Mass in November, saying in a statement “We will miss her living example of working for justice in the context of our Catholic faith.”

 

A previous version of this article was originally published on CNA Jan. 14, 2018.

U.S. bishops say death row inmate likely innocent, call for new trial

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 14:30

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference and the bishops of Florida are calling for a Florida death row inmate to be given a new trial, in light of evidence the bishops say suggests the inmate is actually innocent.

“The deeply troubling facts of Mr. Dailey’s conviction and death sentence raise profound moral questions,” the bishops said in a brief submitted Jan. 17 to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The evidence of Mr. Dailey’s actual innocence is not only credible; it is overwhelming,” the bishops added.

“The only just and legal solution is to require a remand for a new trial.”  The brief was filed in support of a petition for a new trial from James Dailey, who was convicted of the brutal 1985 murder of a 14-year-old girl, Shelly Boggio.

Dailey was connected to the murder after he being named by Jack Pearcy, who was also convicted of killing Boggio. Pearcy was Dailey’s roommate in 1985. When Pearcy was apprehended for the murder of Boggio, he told police it was Dailey who had done the killing.

Although there was no physical evidence linking Daily to the crime, Pearcy’s testimony, along with that of jailhouse informants who claimed Dailey had incriminated himself, led to his conviction.

Dailey got the death penalty. Pearcy was sentenced to life in prison.

In the state of Florida’s “prosecution of Mr. Dailey for complicity in the murder, it adduced no physical, forensic, or eyewitness evidence implicating him. Rather, Mr. Dailey was convicted on the basis of testimony of three jailhouse informants, who each had every incentive to lie,” the bishops said in their brief.

Pearcy’s accusation formed the basis of Dailey’s conviction, and was supported by the testimony of the jailhouse informants, each of whom received please bargains on criminal charges in exchange for their testimony.

But years after Dailey was convicted, in 1993, Pearcy recanted his allegation. He said he’d lied about Dailey’s involvement.

“It was just a self-serving statement to exonerate myself,” Pearcy said in a sworn statement.

“I was in custody and they were going to charge me and I was just trying to get around it, that’s all," he added. In 1998, Pearcy again claimed he’d seen Dailey kill Boggio. In 2017, Pearcy again said that Dailey wasn’t there, and that he’d killed Boggio alone.

But in 2019, Pearcy gave contradictory statements, telling a Florida reporter that Dailey killed Boggio, and then making a sworn statement that he “committed the crime alone.”

The U.S. bishops’ brief noted that Dailey has produced evidence indicating that he was not with Pearcy the night that Boggio was killed. The bishops also noted that the jailhouse informants received plea deals on criminal charges in exchange for their testimony, and that there was additional evidence their testimony could have been manufactured.

Dailey, 73 and a Vietnam veteran, has consistently maintained his innocence.

He was due to be executed Nov. 7, 2019, but was granted a stay of execution. That stay expired Dec. 30, and Dailey could be executed anytime. He has petitioned the Supreme Court for the right to a new trial.

 

What the pope said when Martin Luther King was killed

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 13:35

Memphis, Tenn., Jan 20, 2020 / 11:35 am (CNA).- On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was fatally shot outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

King is remembered as the most visible leader of the civil rights movement, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and as the founding president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But he was first a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and remained active in pastoral leadership throughout his life.

On the day after King was killed, Pope Paul VI expressed remorse during his Angelus address, saying that the civil rights leader was “a Christian prophet for racial integration.”

Shortly after King’s death, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the Synagogue Council of America, and the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in the Americas released an interfaith statement, mourning their colleague in ministry.

We “bow together in grief before the shameful murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a unique apostle of the non-violent drive for justice, [and] affirm that no service of remembrance or local memorial is equal to the greatness of his labor or the vastness of our national need.”

The faith leaders also applauded the efforts of Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1968, encouraged Americans to support measures favoring integration, and pled with government officials to fund legislation aimed at fighting poverty.

We “affirm that only through massive contributions by the American people can this nation duly honor the life-offering of Martin Luther King, Jr. and responsibly lift up the burden of the poor and oppressed in our land.”

The statement also promised to implement coordinated efforts among religious communities to fight poverty.

We “declare our intention to take immediate steps to develop a coordinated sacrificial effort on the part of the American religious community to help the disadvantaged,” the statement read.

Faith leaders were not the only ones to pay tribute to King after his assassination.

On the night King was killed, Senator Robert Kennedy, a Catholic, spoke to the people of Indianapolis, urging them to greater compassion and a deterrence from violence. Kennedy spoke during a stop on his 1968 campaign for President, delivering the news to a multiracial crowd that King had been assassinated.

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black,” he said on April 4, 1968.

Kennedy referenced the assassination of his own brother, President John F. Kennedy, which had taken place in 1963.

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times,” Kennedy said.

The senator urged Americans to take up King’s efforts, pray for King’s family and the nation, and join in solidarity those longing for peace.  

“The vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land,” he added.

“I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love--a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.”

This article was originally published on CNA April 3, 2018.

MLK's Dream 'was about the bettering of humanity'

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 12:01

New Orleans, La., Jan 20, 2020 / 10:01 am (CNA).- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a time to reflect on King’s vision and his example for everyone as a Christian leader who engaged in effective social action, said a leader with a historically African-American Catholic fraternity.
 
“The dream that Dr. King so eloquently professed in his ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ was about the bettering of humanity,” Percy J. Marchand, an associate director of the Knights of Peter Claver, told CNA Jan. 17.

“As imperfect sons and daughters of the perfect Creator, we must each consistently do our best to live out the principles upon which Dr. King expounded.”
 
“As so many have unfortunately moved away from a sense and longing for unity, compassion, and a shared vision, income gaps have widened, drug abuse has increased, crime rates have risen, educational excellence has diminished, and contempt and hatred has replaced respect and love,” he said.
 
The Knights of Peter Claver was founded in Mobile, Ala., in 1909 and is now headquartered in New Orleans. The order is named for St. Peter Claver, the Jesuit missionary priest who ministered to African slaves in Colombia.
 
Its membership is historically African-American but is open to all practicing Catholics without regard to race or ethnicity. Many of its members played a role in the U.S. civil rights movement of the mid-20th century.
 
The organization has a presence in about 39 states and in South America. Its six divisions include a Ladies Auxiliary, two junior divisions for boys and girls, Fourth Degree Knights, and their companion group Ladies of Grace.
 
Marchand reflected on the impact of King, the African-American Baptist minister who was the most visible leader of the civil rights movement.
 
“An extremely intelligent and well-educated man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. represents the pillars of Christian values, virtues, and life,” he told CNA. “He stands as an example for all, particularly for African-Americans. He addressed the specific needs of African-Americans by encouraging unity, faith, respect, and organization. The results of his methodology were needed changes to society and to the world.”
 
For Marchand, King’s example and his “strategic and effective techniques” continue to be important “as we look for ways to address the issues still plaguing the African-American community.”
 
He reflected on the progress made by King and other African-Americans, but also continued difficulties.
 
“As economic, social, and educational gains are made, we must be certain to cling to the values that have kept our people strong and vibrant despite external and systemic forces doing their best to cause bedlam in our community,” said Marchand. “If we completely lose this perspective, we will only see the ills of society continue to repeat themselves.”
 
“When the government and society denied African-Americans the rights, freedoms, resources and even the classification of being a whole human, it was easier to identify common goals and objectives,” he said. “Being denied the rights to vote, work and be paid fairly, drink from any water fountain, sit at the front of the bus, and so many other basics of humanity rallied the African-American community to unify and stand for justice.”
 
“Today, the battle has changed,” Marchand continued. “Racism and bias are often clandestine. Political correctness blurs and distorts true hatred and despite. Small concessions have distracted from many African-Americans being able to optimally live and fulfill the lives God desires for them.”
 
The Knights of Peter Claver National Office has asked its subordinate jurisdictions to organize an MLK Day of Service to include activities such as hosting community forums, participating in a march, rally or parade, or volunteering at soup kitchens, tutoring youth, visiting the sick and shut-ins, or engaging in prison ministry.
 
“Our members continue to serve their communities as judges, teachers, lawyers, doctors, medical professionals, religious, laborers, and other professions,” said Marchand. “As members of the Knights of Peter Claver, their occupations and interactions within society are rooted in our mission of ‘Spreading Faith, Hope, and Love, through Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity.’ This is our new civil rights movement: leading our communities closer to the Dream through our social justice Initiatives and spiritual leadership.”

Catholic bishops: US still 'painfully' far from Martin Luther King’s dream

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 05:37

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2020 / 03:37 am (CNA).- The example of Martin Luther King, Jr., is still sorely needed in the United States, given continued injustices, racism and discrimination against minorities, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a message for MLK Day.

“As our nation prepares to commemorate the life and witness of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are grateful for his courageous stand in solidarity with all who suffer injustice and his witness of love and nonviolence in the struggle for social change,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Jan. 16.

“But we are once again painfully aware that we are still far off from his dream for America, the ‘beloved community’ for which he gave his life.”

King is remembered as an African-American Baptist minister and the most visible leader of the civil rights movement, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was the founding president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was assassinated in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 39.

The United States has celebrated a federal holiday in his memory since 1983. This year the holiday falls on Jan. 20.

Archbishop Gomez, writing on behalf of the U.S. bishops, warned of continuing “disturbing outbreaks of racism and prejudice” against minority groups in the U.S. today.

“Racism is a sin that denies the truth about God and his creation, and it is a scandal that disfigures the beauty of America’s founding vision,” he said.

“Too many hearts and minds are clouded by racist presumptions of privilege and too many injustices in our society are still rooted in racism and discrimination,” the archbishop continued.

“Too many young African American men are still being killed in our streets or spending their best years behind bars. Many minority neighborhoods in this country are still what they were in Rev. King’s time, what he called ‘lonely islands of poverty.’ Let us recommit ourselves to ensuring opportunity reaches every community,” he said.

The archbishop spoke in the wake of deadly racially motivated violence.

A mass shooting at an El Paso WalMart, not far from the U.S. border with Mexico, killed 22 people and injured 24 others in August 2019. Authorities believe the gunman authored an anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic manifesto that depicted immigrants as invaders. The gunman apparently took inspiration from a deadly attack on a New Zealand mosque.

In October 2018 a shooter killed 11 people at a synagogue in Philadelphia. In April 2019, a shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California left one dead and several wounded, including the congregation’s rabbi.

“There has been a rise of anti-Semitic attacks and also ugly displays of white nationalism, nativism, and violence targeting Hispanics and other immigrants. Such bigotry is not worthy of a great nation,” Gomez said. “As Catholics and as Americans, we must reject every form of racism and anti-Semitism.”

He cited the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Your Hearts.”

“What is needed, and what we are calling for, is a genuine conversion of heart, a conversion that will compel change and the reform of our institutions and society,” the letter said.
 

 

Planned Parenthood announces highest election spending in its history

Sun, 01/19/2020 - 18:55

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2020 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood announced this week that it plans to spend $45 million to support pro-abortion candidates at the presidential, congressional, and state levels in the 2020 election.

The campaign, entitled “We Decide 2020,” marks the largest election spending in Planned Parenthood’s history.

Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, told CBS News that “The stakes have never been higher.”

She pointed to the upcoming Supreme Court case involving a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital as “an indicator of [the Trump Administration’s] intention and they've never been so bold.”

The case marks the first major abortion decision that the Supreme Court will hand down since U.S. President Donald Trump’s two court appointments. Abortion advocates fear it could reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.

However, Lawson added that the Democratic hopefuls vying for an opportunity to challenge Trump also “have the boldest reproductive rights policies we've ever seen.”

This commitment to abortion policies among the Democratic candidates includes widespread opposition to the Hyde Amendment, an annual budget amendment since 1976 that prohibits federal tax dollars from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or when it is deemed necessary to save the life of the mother. The Hyde Amendment has enjoyed longstanding bipartisan support, and attempts to repeal it over the years have failed. Pro-life advocates estimate that more than 2 million unborn lives have been saved as a result of the policy.

Few of the Democratic candidates support restrictions on late-term abortions, and the majority have pledged to enshrine Roe v. Wade in federal law, appoint only pro-abortion judges, and advocate for abortion pills to be available without a prescription.

The Planned Parenthood Votes campaign will target Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, through digital, television, radio and mail ads, CBS News reports.

Planned Parenthood Votes is financially, structurally, and operationally independent from the group’s clinics, according to CBS News.

Still, the role that abortion plays in the non-profit’s overall work has been a subject of controversy. Last July, Planned Parenthood’s president, Dr. Leana Wen, was forced out after disagreements with board leaders over whether the organization should focus on health care or abortion advocacy.

Wen, who had been at the helm for eight months, said her goal had been to focus on health care for underserved women, while board leaders saw political advocacy in support of abortion as the organization’s priority.

Wen was replaced by Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood, who told CBS News last year that the organization is “not political by nature” but has been politicized and forced into focusing on political advocacy.

Meanwhile, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and its partner Women Speak Out PAC have announced a $52 million budget for the 2020 election cycle.

In addition to phone calls and digital and mail-based ads, the campaign plans to make 4 million visits to voters before the election, focusing on Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for the groups, said the campaign will focus on educating traditional Democratic voters about the “extreme pro-abortion policies” supported by Democratic presidential and Senate candidates.

“Polls confirm what our on-the-ground experience and message testing show to be true: Democrats’ abortion radicalism is a liability for them at the ballot box,” she said. “Our focused, battle-tested voter outreach method will ensure we reach the voters who can provide President Trump and pro-life Senate candidates the winning margin on Election Day.”
 

 

DiMarzio welcomes investigation, points to personal record fighting abuse

Sun, 01/19/2020 - 12:00

New York City, N.Y., Jan 19, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has issued a statement welcoming an investigation into an accusation of sexual abuse made against him last year.

In a statement released to CNA on Sunday Jan. 19, the Diocese of Brooklyn said that Bishop DiMarzio had done nothing wrong and had no intention of stepping aside during the Vatican-ordered enquiry into the allegation, which dates back to the 1970s and DiMarzio’s time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark.

“Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has categorically denied the allegation against him,” the statement said. “He will vigorously defend himself against this false claim and is confident the truth will prevail.”

On Jan. 18, the Archdiocese of New York confirmed that Cardinal Timothy Dolan had been asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to conduct an investigation into the allegations of 56-year-old Mark Matzek.

Matzek alleges that DiMarzio and another priest, now deceased, repeatedly abused him when he was an altar server at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Diocese of Newark in the 1970s.

Although lawyer Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark in November saying he was preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Matzek seeking $20 million, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn diocese told CNA on Sunday that no suit had yet been filed.

The investigation is being conducted under the norms of Vos estis lux mundi, the motu proprio issued by Pope Francis in May, 2019, which provided new mechanisms for handling accusations against bishops.

“As the Church investigation is a Vos estis lux mundi probe, it does not require that Bishop DiMarzio step aside during the preliminary investigation,” the statement from the Brooklyn diocese noted. “As such, his status has not changed.

The Diocese of Brooklyn also noted that in the two months since the accusation was made public, DiMarzio had received constant messages of support from Catholics in and out of the diocese.

“There has been a tremendous outpouring of support for Bishop DiMarzio, from here in the Diocese of Brooklyn and from the people he has served throughout his 50-year ministry, including parishioners from his time as parochial vicar at St. Nicholas Church in Jersey City,” the statement said.

The Diocese of Brooklyn also underscored DiMarzio’s reputation as a “recognized as a leader” in combatting sexual abuse in the Church.

“Even before the mandates of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Bishop DiMarzio created protocols when he was the bishop in the Diocese of Camden from 1999-2003 to ensure that children were protected and that victims received the care they need,” a spokesperson for the bishop said.

The statement also noted that DiMarzio’s policies for the Diocese of Brooklyn, issued in 2003, went beyond the requirements of the Dallas Charter agreed by the U.S. bishops, and included an independent hotline for reporting abuse through which complaints are automatically sent to the district attorney.

“His record in fighting sexual abuse is further evident in Pope Francis’ recent selection of him to conduct an investigation into the Diocese of Buffalo,” a spokesperson for the bishop said, referring to the Apostolic Visitation of that diocese conducted by DiMarzio in October and November last year.

DiMarzio is the second U.S. bishop to be investigated under the norms of Vos estis since its promulgation by Pope Francis in May last year.

In September 2019, the Vatican ordered St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda to conduct an investigation using the new laws into Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who is alleged to have knowing kept an abusive priest in ministry. Hebda sent his report to Rome in early November.

While the Archdiocese of New York has not released a timeline for the investigation into DiMarzio, the Diocese of Brooklyn said that the bishop “looks forward to the investigation of the allegation made against him and having his good name cleared and restored.”

Cardinal Dolan conducting 'Vos estis' investigation into Brooklyn's Bishop DiMarzio

Sat, 01/18/2020 - 23:05

New York City, N.Y., Jan 18, 2020 / 09:05 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan is conducting an investigation into Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, following an allegation of sexual abuse.

The investigation is being conducted under the provisions of Vos estis lux mundi, the Church law issued by Pope Francis last year on dealing with accusations against bishops.

In a statement released Jan. 18, Joseph Zwilling, director of communications in the Archdiocese of New York, confirmed the investigation.

“As directed by Vos estis, Cardinal Dolan earlier notified the Holy See of the allegation that was raised concerning Bishop DiMarzio from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark. On January 7, 2020, the Cardinal received instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that he is to begin an investigation.”

On Nov. 13, 2019, DiMarzio publicly announced that he was the subject of an allegation of sexually abusing a minor, dating back to his time as a priest in the 1970s in Jersey City.

According to the Associated Press, 56-year-old Mark Matzek says DiMarzio and another priest, who is now deceased, repeatedly abused him when he was an altar server at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Newark. DiMarzio was a priest there at the time.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark in November, notifying them that he was preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Matzek. The suit is reportedly seeking $20 million.

DiMarzio has strongly denied the allegations, calling sexual abuse a “despicable crime” and highlighting his own work to eradicate it from his own Diocese of Brooklyn. In November, the bishop said that he would vigorously defend himself.

“In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behavior and I categorically deny this allegation,” DiMarzio said.

The allegation was made shortly after DiMarzio himself concluded his own investigation into another bishop on behalf of the Vatican.

On instructions of the Congregation for Bishops, in October and November last year, DiMarzio conducted an apostolic visitation of the Diocese of Buffalo, which faced months of scandal surrounding Bishop Richard Malone, who was accused of mishandling sex abuse claims against a priest in his diocese.

Although that visitation was not conducted under the rules of Vos estis, Malone’s resignation was accepted by Pope Francis in December last year.

DiMarzio is the second U.S. bishop to be investigated under the norms of Vos estis since its promulgation by Pope Francis in May 2019.

In September 2019, the Vatican ordered St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda to conduct an investigation using the new laws into Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who is alleged to have knowingly kept an abusive priest in ministry, and pressured an alleged abuse victim to withdraw an allegation against a priest. Hebda sent his report to Rome in early November.

A spokesman for Cardinal Dolan said that the cardinal will be using experts to assist him in his task, but did not give a timeline for the enquiry into DiMarzio.

“As is our practice, the cardinal will rely on outside professional forensic investigators to assist him in this matter,” he said.

“The archdiocese will have no further comment on the matter while the investigation is undertaken.”

Miami archbishop promotes refugee resettlement

Sat, 01/18/2020 - 08:01

Miami, Fla., Jan 18, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Miami has emphasized the importance of welcoming refugees, and decried the decision of Texas Governor Greg Abbott not to participate in the federal refugee resettlement program.

“Often mentored by church volunteers and given resettlement support, refugees and their family quickly integrate into American society, finding work and making a positive contribution to their adopted country,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski in a Jan. 16 letter to the editor of the Miami Herald.

“Resettlement agencies are preparing to submit proposals to the Office of Refugee Resettlement on Jan. 21 to continue this ministry of ‘welcoming the stranger.’ Catholic Charities look forward to local governments continuing welcoming refugees in those communities where we already serve.”

The archbishop noted that Catholic Charities in Florida sponsored unaccompanied Cuban minors in the 1960s, resettled refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s, and has participated in the US Refugee Program since it began in 1980.

He stressed the security of the vetting policies already conducted by the United States' government. He said refugees have to meet established criteria such as fleeing religious persecution or political violence.

“Refugees are thoroughly vetted by agencies including the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, and the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and State,” he said.

A September 2019 executive order by President Trump requires written consent from states and local entities before they resettle refugees within their boundaries.

Archbishop Wenski expressed disappointment in Abbott for discontinuing Texas' participation in the refugee resettlement program.

“Forty two governors have gone on record supporting refugee services - 19 are Republican. Only the governor of Texas decided to discontinue resettlement - apparently without much public support.”

“Florida, and refugees, would lose if we were to follow Texas’ example,” he added.

Last week, the 16 bishops in Texas described Abbott’s move as “deeply discouraging and disheartening.” They asked the governor to reconsider his decision, noting that refugees contribute a great deal to society.

“While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided. It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans,” the bishops said in a Jan. 10 statement.

“As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien. We use this occasion to commit ourselves even more ardently to work with all people of good will, including our federal, state and local governments, to help refugees integrate and become productive members of our communities.”

Catholic family looks to honor late daughter with a dance

Sat, 01/18/2020 - 06:00

South Bend, Ind., Jan 18, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Raffaella Stroik loved beauty.

A devout Catholic and a talented professional ballerina, Raffaella felt she experienced the beatific vision when she was performing for others. She hoped her art could be transformative in their lives.

But Raffaella’s short life ended in tragedy. On Nov. 14, 2018, her body was found in a lake some 140 miles from St. Louis, where she was a member of the city’s ballet. She was 23 years old.

Authorities ruled that there seemed to have been neither foul play nor self-harm.

"...the only thing that seems to have happened, could have happened, is some kind of an accident," Duncan Stroik, Raffaella’s father, told WNDU News in South Bend, Indiana in November. "We don't know what could have happened."

In order to honor and continue their daughter’s legacy, Duncan and his family have decided to create a traditional ballet in honor of Rafaella, loosely based on her life and incorporating the elements of beauty and art that their daughter loved about ballet.

“We were trying to figure out how to remember her and how to memorialize her,” Stroik told CNA. “And I'm an architect, so I think buildings, monuments, tombstones, all kinds of things. And my wife actually had a dream that we would remember her through dance.”

“The goal was to continue her work, which was as a ballerina, in a way that we could, which is to create a new ballet,” he said.

Creating a new ballet is no easy feat, particularly a traditional ballet, which includes more in the way of sets and costumes and artistry than the minimalistic style of most contemporary ballets.

For help, the family set up an online fundraiser in order to raise the necessary money to hire professionals who could write the music and the choreography and help design the sets and costumes of the ballet.

“There's a lot of cooks in the kitchen,” Stroik said. “There's a lot of artists that are part of this. And I've been calling myself the impresario, the producer in movie terms, who's organizing all of it, but then trying to hire the best people that would share our vision for this ballet.”

Stroik said they went with a traditional ballet because that was Raffaella’s favorite style, and they believed it would be the best way to create a more timeless ballet that could endure through the ages. Raffaella was inspired by the romantic, fairy-tale style and themes of traditional ballets and believed it could do more to portray beauty than the style of contemporary ballet.

“Raffaella's passion was to bring beauty to the world in many ways,” Stroik added. “Her prime strength was in dance and she really was trying in her own way to do things that were glorifying to God through traditional ballet and the beauty of the human body and what it can do.”

Stroik and his wife are writing the story of the ballet, which will loosely follow their daughter’s life - friends and family of Raffaella will be able to recognize the similarities, he said.

The story takes place in Italy, one of Raffaella’s favorite places to visit and the language that she studied. The story will take place in the 18th century so that it can incorporate some of the elements of traditional ballets - kings and queens, princes and princesses, peasants and village life.

The character of Rafaella will be a princess who grows up wanting to be an artist like her parents, meets interesting people in her life, and interacts with both a good prince and a deceptive prince who vie for her attention.

“(She’s) really searching for the true prince, and she sees him from time to time in her life. And then the other prince who comes along sweeps her off her feet and is very attractive, and she's totally compelled by him but he turns out to be a deceptive prince,” Stroik said.

Stroik noted that the theme of superficial beauty and its deceptive power is a common one in other traditional ballets.

The ballet's ending, of course, cannot be given away.

“My hope is it's the kind of story with the kind of good and evil love, joy, hatred, fighting, peacemaking that will speak to people for generations. That's my goal,” Stroik said.

The desire for a ballet that transcends generations is an idea that comes from his Catholic faith, Stroik added.

“We want to do something that's timeless, that's universal. And I think that relates to our Catholic faith. We're not doing something just for today...but we also want it to - if it's really good - hopefully, it will speak to future generations as well. So we'll see, but that's our goal,” he said. 

Rafaella’s Catholic faith was always central to her life and her art, Stroik said, and he noticed it in how she interacted with others as well as in her passion for her art.

“It caused her to try to always put other people first, which we saw a lot in her life. It caused her to forgive...and she tried, as best she could, to live the Beatitudes,” he said.

“She told us that when she danced and danced really well, she felt like she was experiencing the beatific vision. She really felt that it was a very religious, spiritual experience, especially performing,” he said. “She was experiencing a taste of heaven.”

The Stroiks have raised $115,000 of their $250,000 goal, and Duncan said he has been surprised and touched by the way this project has touched the hearts of people who knew Raffaella and those who did not.

“One of the things that's really surprised me in a good way is how many notes I've gotten from people - people that I know, but also people that I don't know - telling me they love the idea. They said, ‘What a beautiful tribute to your daughter.’ And, again, people that I don't even know will write me notes and say, ‘This is fantastic that you're doing this.’”

Stroik said he hopes the ballet will be ready to premiere in spring or summer of 2022. He said they are still exploring options as to where it will debut, but they are hoping to recruit dancers from Rafaella’s life - from her time at the St. Louis ballet, her college ballet at Indiana University, and her high school ballet - who are professional dancers and friends of Rafaella to perform in it.

“I'm hoping that some of them will return to be part of this production,” he said.

Stroik added that he hopes people who come to see the “Raffaella” ballet will walk away with a new appreciation for the beauty of the art form and with a sense of hope.

“We want to do this ballet in order to bring a whole new audience to ballet, for a broader audience,” he said. “And because ballet can be very beautiful, very powerful, and it can speak to all the issues that concern our lives and give us...in this case, it's a tragedy, but the way we've written the story is it's also full of hope, because Raffaella was a girl with a lot of hope and a lot of faith.”

 

Buffalo administrator: Catholic Charities donations will not go to abuse settlements

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 21:19

Buffalo, N.Y., Jan 17, 2020 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- The apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo said this week that despite the possibility the diocese could file for bankruptcy protection to settle over 200 lawsuits related to sexual abuse, donations made to Catholic Charities this year will be used to help the needy rather than to pay for lawsuits.

“All of the money that we are collecting is going toward immediate goals. We’re not talking about years down the line. We’re talking about right now. They are immediate and must be met, so we continue the campaign to meet those goals...The last thing we want to do is in any way to curtail the services because the needs are real,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany said Tuesday as reported by the Buffalo News.

Catholic Charities of Buffalo announced Jan. 14 the launch of its 2020 appeal, with a goal of $10 million – $1 million less than last year’s goal. Programs and services provided by Catholic Charities benefited more than 160,000 people in 2019, the group reported.

Last year, Catholic Charities of Buffalo raised $9.5 million, $1.5 million short of their goal.

Buffalo's Bishop Richard Malone resigned in December 2019 after more than a year of calls for his resignation, amid accusations that he mishandled abuse cases in the diocese.

The recent enactment of the Child Victims Act in New York expanded the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors to file lawsuits and a one-year filing window for suits related to historical cases.

To date, the Buffalo diocese has been hit with more than 225 lawsuits, the Buffalo News reports. In the days following his appointment as apostolic administrator, Scharfenberger indicated that he would not rule out bankruptcy as an option to settle the lawsuits.

The Diocese of Buffalo shut down its credit cards last September, and although some have interpreted the move as a step towards bankruptcy, officials said the decision was unrelated to the scandals and lawsuits affecting the diocese.

Scharfenberger said Tuesday that even if the diocese does file for bankruptcy, contributions to the 2020 Catholic Charities appeal would not be affected because a Chapter 11 reorganization would take years to complete, the Buffalo News reported.

In addition, Catholic Charities is separately incorporated from the Buffalo Diocese, which means its assets would not be in play in the case of the diocese declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which would trigger an intense analysis of the diocese’s assets to determine what could be used to pay settlements, The Buffalo News reports.

In the past, about one-third of the funds raised during Catholic Charities’ appeal goes to Fund for the Faith, which is controlled by the diocese and is used for ministries such as diocese communications, seminary training, and campus ministry, the Buffalo News reports.

For the second year, donors to Catholic Charities will have the option to give to the Appeal as in previous years, which benefits Catholic Charities and the Fund for the Faith; give to Catholic Charities only; or give to the Fund for the Faith only.

In December, Catholic Charities announced Deacon Steve Schumer as the organization’s new President and CEO, effective Jan. 6, 2020.

“My understanding of the law is donor designated funds are donor designated. So, I tell people, in all honesty, yes, contribute your resources, and we’ll put them to work in the way you intend,” Schumer told the Buffalo News.

In November 2018, a former Buffalo chancery employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered-up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied.

Six months later, in April 2019, Malone apologized for his handling of some cases in the diocese, and said he would work to restore trust. The bishop particularly apologized for his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

In August 2019, a RICO lawsuit was filed against the diocese and the bishop, alleging that the response of the diocese was comparable to an organized crime syndicate.

Recordings of private conversations released in early September appeared to show that Malone believed sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the bishop removed the priest from ministry.

The contents of recordings of conversations between Malone and Fr. Ryszard Biernat, his secretary and diocesan vice chancellor, were reported in early September by WKBW in Buffalo.

In the conversations, Malone seemed to acknowledge the legitimacy of accusations of harassment and a violation of the seal of confession made against a diocesan priest, Fr. Jeffrey Nowak, by a seminarian, months before the diocese removed Nowak from active ministry.

In an Aug. 2 conversation, Malone can be heard saying, “We are in a true crisis situation. True crisis. And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop.”

The bishop is also heard to say that if the media reported on the Nowak situation, “it could force me to resign.”

On Oct. 3, the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC, announced that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn had been asked to lead an apostolic visitation – and canonical inspection – of the Buffalo diocese on behalf of the Congregation for Bishops.

That review concluded at the end of October, with DiMarzio having made three trips to Buffalo, and interviewing more than 80 people before submitting his report to Rome.

Scharfenberger has said that he was not given a clear mandate by the Vatican when he was appointed as apostolic administrator of the Buffalo diocese in December, and that he has not yet seen DiMarzio’s report.

Scharfenberger has emphasized that his position as apostolic administrator is by definition temporary, and the decision of who will ultimately lead the diocese is entirely up to the Holy See.

Supreme Court will hear Little Sisters of the Poor case, again

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Little Sisters of the Poor will have their case heard before the Supreme Court yet again in their years-long fight against the federal contraceptive mandate.

The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would hear oral arguments in the case of the sisters against the State of Pennsylvania, which challenged the order’s exemption from the contraceptive mandate.

“It is disappointing to think that as we enter a new decade we must still defend our ministry in court,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor, in a statement on Friday. 

“We are grateful the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in, and hopeful that the Justices will reinforce their previous decision and allow us to focus on our lifelong work of serving the elderly poor once and for all,” she said. 

“We are hopeful that this trip to the Supreme Court will be their last,” said Montse Alvarado, vice president and executive director of Becket, which represents the sisters in court.

The Little Sisters of the Poor is an order of religious founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan. Their mission is to care for the poor and the elderly in more than 30 countries.

Their case, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, stems from a lawsuit by the State of Pennsylvania against the exemption granted to the Little Sisters of the Poor to the contraceptive mandate.

The sisters originally sued the federal government over the mandate that employers provide contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-causing drugs in health plans. The religious exemption that the Obama administration originally granted was so narrow that the sisters, and many other religious non-profits were not eligible.

When the administration issued an accommodation for the objecting non-profits, the sisters and other religious entities, including Catholic dioceses and charities, still challenged it in court.

Under the revised procedure, the objecting parties would report their objection to the government, which in turn would notify the insurer or third-party administrator to provide the contraceptive coverage anyway. The sisters said they would still be cooperating with the provision of morally objectionable drugs and procedures.

In 2016, the Supreme Court sent the case of the sisters and others back to the circuit courts, ordering the government and the objecting parties to come to an agreement respecting both the administration’s goal of contraceptive coverage and the sisters’ wishes to be exempt from participation in it.

Then in October of 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a new rule protecting religious entities that objected to the mandate.

However, attorneys general for Pennsylvania and California challenged the rule in court, saying that the sisters and other objecting religious non-profits should not be exempt.

The Supreme Court held oral arguments in March of 2018 to determine if the sisters could intervene in the states’ lawsuits, which in April the Court said they could.

At the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the sisters lost their case against Pennsylvania in July of 2019, and appealed to the Supreme Court in October. The Court on Friday agreed to hear their case.

The sisters also lost their case against California’s lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court in October.

Catholic parish will not host Episcopalian consecration

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 13:30

Richmond, Va., Jan 17, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia will no longer hold an episcopal consecration and ordination at a Catholic parish in Williamsburg, following an internet petition signed by over 3,000 people objecting to the event. 

“It is with great sadness that I have received a letter from Bishop-Elect Susan Haynes stating that, due to the controversy of the proposed use of St. Bede Catholic Church for her consecration of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, she has decided to find another location for the ceremony to take place,” said a statement from Bishop Barry Knestout of the Catholic Richmond diocese on Friday, Jan. 17. St. Bede Catholic Church is located within the diocese. 

A statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia said that the consecration will now take place at Williamsburg Community Chapel. The Williamsburg Community Chapel’s website states that it is home to an “interdenominational family of faith.” 

“The decision to change the location from St. Bede Catholic Church in Williamsburg arose out of concern and respect for the ministries and leadership of both the Catholic parish and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond,” said the unsigned statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, released Friday. 

“Learning that its intended use of the building was causing dismay and distress, the Episcopal Diocese withdrew from its contract with St. Bede.”

The statement from the Episcopalian diocese cited 1 Corinthians 8, which warned against “pursuing behavior that might cause problems for others within their community.” 

Episcopal Bishop-Elect Haynes wrote a letter to Knestout and Msgr. Joseph Lehman, pastor of St. Bede, announcing the decision to change the location and thanking them for their prior willingness to host the event. 

“I am writing to withdraw from our contract to use the lovely, holy space of St. Bede for my upcoming consecration as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia,” said Haynes. “We have so appreciated and admired your grace and courage in extending this hospitality and abiding by your invitation even under fire from those within your own flocks.”

Knestout had defended the decision to grant permission to the Episcopal diocese to consecrate an Episcopalian bishop in the Catholic parish, citing various Vatican Council II documents on the importance of ecumenism and hospitality. Permission was first granted to host the event within the parish church in December 2018, well before Haynes was elected as bishop.

In the statement, Knestout said that his diocese “look(s) forward to continuing our ecumenical dialogue with the Episcopal community, and to working with Bishop-Elect Haynes in fortifying the long standing cordial relationship between our communities and our joint service to the poor.” 

Knestout said that he would be praying for Haynes and the Episcopalians of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, and encouraged the Catholics in his diocese to pray for them as well.

“Pray that the fruits of the Holy Spirit, along with humility, kindness, gentleness and joy, be expressed and strengthened in all our faith communities,” he said.

The Episcopal Dioceses of Southern Virginia, Southwestern Virginia do not have a cathedral, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which covers the northern part of the commonwealth, has only a “cathedral shrine.” Past episocpal ordinations for the Diocese of Southern Virginia have occurred either in Episcopal parishes or in other, non-Catholic locations.

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