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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: 49 min 41 sec ago

Louisiana Catholic church vandalized with graffiti

Wed, 01/08/2020 - 15:47

Lafayette, La., Jan 8, 2020 / 01:47 pm (CNA).- Last weekend, the property of a Catholic church in Louisiana was vandalized with black spray paint, including symbols of a satanic nature.

The graffiti was found on a statue, Marian grotto, and prayer altar outside of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Catholic Church in Abbeville, La., just over 20 miles southwest of Lafayette.

One of the vandalized objects was a 70-year-old statue of Saint Therese of Lisieux. The symbols spray-painted on the statue included an upside-down cross, the word satan, and a pentagram. The police were called Jan. 4.

"Vandals came and defaced our statue of [St. Therese]. It's sad that it's not a random act of graffiti that some kids did. These are cult paintings, satanic cult, 666, an upside down cross," said Trustee John T. Landry, according to KATC.

The damage to the grotto and prayer altar, which includes similar graffiti, was found this week when a parishioner came to pray at the Marian shrine. It is unsure if this vandalism occurred on the same night, and it had been overlooked when the police conducted their report.

Landry expressed sorrow for the attack, claiming the site as a place of peace and contemplation.

"Churches are places of peace and solitude and prayer. To see someone that malicious to not only put graffiti, but to put the devil's work and signature on a Christian statue, is horrible," he said, according to KATC.

While the property does have security cameras, the cameras were not pointed at the statue. Abbeville police department said the perpetrators are unknown and have offered a cash reward for information.

FBI interviewed Papal Foundation staff about McCarrick

Wed, 01/08/2020 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Jan 8, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Law enforcement officials have conducted interviews with several senior figures at the Papal Foundation, a U.S. based charity which supports the charitable works of the Holy Father.

Officers from the FBI have spoken to at least three foundation staff members over last several months, with enquiries focused on the role of Theodore McCarrick, who served as a board member until his removal from the College of Cardinals in 2018, following charges of sexual abuse of minors. Last year, McCarrick was laicized following a Vatican investigation and his conviction by a canonical process.

“There were questions on how the foundation operates,” one person contacted by the FBI told CNA, though they declined to be named citing confidentiality concerns. “It seemed to be linked to [McCarrick’s] sexual abuse.”

As a cardinal and one of the most senior figures in the U.S. Catholic hierarchy, McCarrick was known to wield considerable influence across the Church, both in America and in Rome. He was also a prolific fundraiser, securing millions of dollars in donations for various causes, sitting on the board of several grant making bodies, and running his own private charitable fund.

Pressing questions remain unanswered about McCarrick’s ability to buy influence and insulate himself from rumors and allegations, and a Vatican report on McCarrick’s career, and how he was able to rise so high despite decades of apparent sexual misconduct and abuse, is due to be released in early 2020.

One person interviewed by the FBI told CNA that foundation staff members do not believe McCarrick had the opportunity to misappropriate Papal Foundation funds directly, but the FBI is uncertain.

“There’s no question at the foundation [of McCarrick abusing funds], but I think, at least for the authorities, McCarrick’s ability to have abused his position is an open question,” the person told CNA.

At least one member of the Papal Foundation’s staff has also been interviewed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

The Philadelphia-based Papal Foundation gives grants in support of projects and proposals recommended by the Holy See. Since 1990, the foundation has given over $100 million in grants in service to the Catholic Church.

The foundation is managed by a three-tiered board of trustees. American cardinals residing in the U.S. serve as ex officio members, and bishops and elected laity serve as second and third tier trustees.

McCarrick’s last known intervention with the Papal Foundation occurred in 2017, when he circulated a letter to a lay member of the board of trustees rebuking him for opposing a controversial grant request from the Vatican, which asked the foundation for $25 million for a bankrupt Italian hospital, the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI). 

While the Papal Foundation board was told the money was intended to inject liquidity into the hospital, which had amassed debts of more than 800 million euros following years of fraud and embezzlement by senior administrators, CNA reported that the grant funds were actually intended to offset and illicit loan by APSA, the Holy See’s sovereign bank, made to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State to fund the purchase of the hospital out of government-controlled insolvency.

CNA has reported that shortly after accusations of sexual abuse of minors were first presented to Church authorities against McCarrick, APSA’s secretary flew to Washington to meet privately with McCarrick before the then-cardinal intervened in favor of the $25 million grant at the Papal Foundation.

In autumn 2017, several board members objected to the grant request because they had discovered that the hospital was financially insolvent, and not merely in a short-term cash crunch, as they had been led to believe.

McCarrick wrote to one lay trustee, copying in the foundation’s board, that raising concerns was “irresponsible, and seriously harmful to The Papal Foundation.”

Eventually, $13 million was sent to Rome by the foundation, with Wuerl later signing a letter to donors insisting that the Holy See, not the hospital, was always the intended beneficiary.

In November, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, told CNA that he arranged the grant request to the Papal Foundation. 

If a full-fledged federal or state investigation is underway, Vatican and American Church leaders could find themselves facing questions that extend in scope beyond McCarrick’s role at the Foundation.

One outstanding question Church officials might face is the final use and destination of the $13 million that was sent to Rome from Papal Foundation funds.

Last year, APSA conceded that 30 million of the 50 million euro loan for the IDI purchase had to be written off, wiping out the Vatican’s profitability for the year.

Also last year, senior figures at the Papal Foundation told CNA that the Secretariat of State had reclassified the grant as a loan but, rather than be repaid, the $13 million will be “discounted” against future grant requests made by the Secretariat.

Meanwhile, the IDI president has said that $13 million dollars received in “financing” from the Secretariat of State “appeared” to be from the Papal Foundation and would be repaid in cash to the Secretariat - if and when the hospital returned to profitability.

Archbishop calls for prayer, solidarity after Puerto Rico earthquakes

Wed, 01/08/2020 - 02:59

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jan 8, 2020 / 12:59 am (CNA).- In the wake of a series of earthquakes that left at least one dead, multiple injured and some 300,000 without water in Puerto Rico, Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves called for prayer and solidarity among his people.

“A 6.7-point earthquake has just shaken all of Puerto Rico that is now without (electricity),” Nieves, Archbishop of San Juan Puerto Rico, said in a Jan. 7 tweet. “Prayer, serenity, solidarity and charity are important. We are one family!”

Since Dec. 28, Puerto Rico has been struck by a series of earthquakes of increasing strength, including a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that hit on Monday. The largest and most destructive thus far struck the country early Tuesday morning, measuring in at 6.4 in magnitude.

The region experienced multiple earthquakes and aftershocks in the following hours, including a 6.0 magnitude earthquake. Hundreds more are expected in the weeks ahead, the Miami Herald reported, prompting Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez to extend holiday breaks for schools, shut down public agency offices, and declare a state of emergency.

“We’re talking about a situation that never happens in Puerto Rico,” Vázquez said, according to the Miami Herald. “It’s not like a hurricane where we can prepare, that we can see it coming... you have to be prepared.”

Puerto Rico suffered devastating damages from Hurricane Maria in September 2017, and some regions of the island are still recovering from that destruction more than two years later.

In a statement Jan. 7, president of the U.S. bishop’s conference Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles offered his prayers of solidarity for the people of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

“I wish to express my prayerful solidarity on behalf of the bishops of the United States to the people of Puerto Rico and all those in regions effected by the terrible earthquake that took place today. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those who are suffering from this disaster,” he said.

“The Church in the United States stands with you. In our prayer, we recall in trust that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, offering Himself to us and calling us to Himself even in our hardest hour,” he added.

The 6.4 earthquake on Tuesday struck the southern part of the main island of Puerto Rico the hardest. Among the damage of that earthquake was the partial collapse of Inmaculada Concepción church in Guayanilla, a Catholic church built in 1841. Punta Ventana rock formation and arch, a popular tourist destination along the coast of Guayanilla, collapsed in the earthquake.

In the city of Ponce, some 15 miles to the east of Guayanilla, a 77 year-old man was killed by the earthquake while at least 8 others were injured. More than 250 people seeking temporary shelter in the town of Guánica in southern Puerto Rico were going to be placed in tents outside until the danger of further earthquakes and aftershocks subsided, officials told CNN.

Riko Gonzalez, a Puerto Rico resident, told CNN that “people are afraid to go to bed, to then be woken up to worse earthquakes than the day before.”

Donations for disaster relief in Puerto Rico can be made through Catholic Charities USA at: https://app.mobilecause.com/form/8yhFCg?vid=3ya34

 

Wyoming legislator seeks to repeal death penalty

Wed, 01/08/2020 - 00:01

Cheyenne, Wyo., Jan 7, 2020 / 10:01 pm (CNA).- A Wyoming lawmaker intends to introduce a bill to repeal capital punishment in the state when the legislative session begins next month.

Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, said the death penalty does not align with conservative principles.

“I oppose the death penalty because I believe in limited government over life and liberty matters concerning our citizens, fiscal responsibility in how we spend our justice dollars, and because executing our own citizens is immoral and a violation of God's natural law,” he told CNA.

“If we’re taking a person’s life because we believe that it was unjust for that person to take another’s life, then that seems paradoxical. We ought to be consistent with our morals and our principles. Life is either precious or it’s not.”

In 2019, Olsen sponsored Senate Bill 145, which was defeated 18-12. He announced last week the decision to sponsor a similar bill again this year.

The Republican party holds 50 of the 60 seats in Wyoming's House of Representatives, and 27 of the 30 Senate seats.

Wyoming has not executed anyone since 1992.

Olsen is working with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. Introduced to Wyoming in 2017, CCATDP states that small government and the death penalty are not compatible.

“Conservatives have a hard time trusting the government to fix pot holes, to deliver the mail, to decide which businesses to support. Conservatives would rather the government stay out of the business of picking winners and losers in corporations,” Olsen said, according to Oil City News.

“They want the government outside of all these areas in their lives. So why then would we concede that the government should be such an integral part of our justice system? It makes absolutely no sense.”

Kylie Taylor, Coordinator of CCATDP in Wyoming, expressed concern that because the justice system has the potential for error, capital punishment puts innocent people at risk of being executed.

“Since 1973 at least one-hundred and sixty-five inmates have been exonerated. That comes to about one in ten inmates on Death Row that are exonerated and that is huge,” she said, according to Oil City News.

“We know that the system isn’t perfect and that one mistake with a life is one too many,” Taylor further added.

Deacon Mike Leman, the Diocese of Cheyenne's legislative liaison, told CNA that “For us as a diocese, it’s been about connecting life issues. One of the things I’ve done recently is researching comments from popes in the past and you realize they’ve been for a number of years calling for repeal on the death penalty.”

“It’s important to highlight and connect the life issues because until we do that it’s really hard to highlight for people our responsibility toward any other marginalized population if we turn right around and say, in certain circumstances, life really isn’t an inalienable right.”

He said the Church has emphasized a need for public safety and the responsibility of the government to defend its citizens from dangerous people. However, through the advancement in technology, this does not require the death penalty.

“Pope John Paul II said back in '99 that through the development of our prison systems and our technology and all of these things, society can protect its citizens.”

He also drew attention to the importance of recognizing the system’s potential for failure and told a story about a man he met who was exonerated from death row.

“I’ve actually met a person who was on death row for 12 years. His father died while he was in prison, his mother, because he was on his last appeal, bought a plot for his grave, and then they found out that the process was completely wrong,” he said.

“When you actually meet someone who has been in that position, it makes you think a little bit more deeply about it.”

The Church has consistently taught that the state has the authority to use the death penalty, in cases of “absolute necessity,” though with the qualification that the Church considered such situations to be extremely rare.

Both Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors have condemned the practice of capital punishment in the West.

St. John Paul II called on Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” He also spoke of his desire for a consensus to end the death penalty, which he called “cruel and unnecessary.”

And Benedict XVI exhorted world leaders to make “every effort to eliminate the death penalty” and told Catholics that ending capital punishment was an essential part of “conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”

In August 2018, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a new draft of the catechism's paragraph regarding capital punishment.

Quoting Pope Francis’ words in a speech of Oct. 11, 2017, the new paragraph states, in part, that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

Reasons for changing the teaching, the paragraph says, include: the increasing effectiveness of detention systems, growing understanding of the unchanging dignity of the person, and leaving open the possibility of conversion.

Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., a moral theologian at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., told CNA at the time that he thinks this change “further absolutizes the pastoral conclusion made by John Paul II.”

“Nothing in the new wording of paragraph 2267 suggests the death penalty is intrinsically evil. Indeed, nothing could suggest that because it would contradict the firm teaching of the Church,” Fr. Petri continued.

Will 2020 bring pro-life momentum to state legislatures?

Tue, 01/07/2020 - 18:52

Washington D.C., Jan 7, 2020 / 04:52 pm (CNA).- Pro-life advocates are hopeful that 2020 will see the pro-life movement building on its victories from the past year, despite court challenges and efforts by pro-abortion lawmakers to loosen abortion restrictions.

“In 2019, life-related bills were introduced in every state and we hope to see this momentum carry into 2020,” Katie Glenn, government affairs counsel for Americans United for Life, told CNA Jan. 6.

She cited the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear a challenge to a Kentucky law that requires abortion doctors to present and describe an ultrasound image of an unborn child to a mother seeking an abortion, and to play audio of the baby’s heartbeat. Advocate of the law say it helps ensure informed consent before an abortion.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to let Kentucky’s informed consent law go into effect will likely encourage other states to consider similar laws focused on patient protection, health and safety, and informed consent,” Glenn said.

The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute reported 58 abortion restrictions and bans enacted in 2019, CNN reports.

Eight states in 2019 passed abortion bans after the unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. The legislation in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio bans abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, while Missouri’s legislation bans it eight weeks into pregnancy, CNN reports.

In the upcoming year, more states are planning to consider heartbeat-based abortion legislation, although such laws often face legal challenges.

The South Carolina Senate will consider a heartbeat ban this year, after the House of Representatives passed the legislation last year. In Pennsylvania, Republican legislators have introduced a heartbeat-based abortion ban but Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has pledged to veto it.

The Tennessee legislature could consider a ban on abortion based on whether a pregnancy hormone is detectable, as early as 10 days from conception.

Citizen action is also changing abortion law.

In December, Michigan Right to Life delivered over 379,000 petition signatures on a citizen-led initiative to ban “dismemberment abortion,” formally known as dilation and extraction, an abortion technique in which the unborn baby is removed from the mother’s uterus with a clamp.

State law requires just over 340,000 signatures for the initiative to advance.

State records indicate that 1,777 dilation and extraction abortions were performed in Michigan in 2017, out of 26,594 total abortions.

If the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections certifies the petition signatures, the legislature has 40 days to consider the initiative.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate separately passed their own versions of a similar ban on a vote split along party lines. However, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, had promised to veto the bill.

If the legislature supports the proposal, the initiative would bypass the veto threat and automatically become law, the Detroit Free Press reports. If the legislature does nothing, it would go on the ballot for the 2020 general election.

In Colorado, the group Due Date Too Late has organized a petition drive to put on the 2020 ballot a 22-week abortion ban. The ban exempts abortions that in a doctor’s judgement are an immediate threat to a woman’s life.

The group must collect over 124,000 signatures distributed across the state’s 35 state senate districts by March 4 in order to qualify for the ballot. They must then secure 55% of the vote in the general election in order to be successful.

The initiative has the support of Catholic bishops in Colorado, who have granted permission to pastors in every Catholic church in Colorado to allow trained petitioners to ask for signatures at their church.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver in his Oct. 9, 2019 column lamented that Colorado has “some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country.” He urged all Catholics to become involved in the effort to limit abortion in the state.

Pennsylvania legislators have also proposed a new regulation requiring medical facilities to “cremate or inter the fetal remains” from miscarriages or abortions.

Such rules have new prominence after authorities discovered more than 2,400 fetal remains kept at the properties of a deceased retired abortionist who worked at three Indiana clinics.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, a Republican, said in a December 2019 report that the case “exemplifies the need for strong laws to ensure the dignified disposition of fetal remains.”

Glenn said the average citizen can advance pro-life legislation by calling their local legislators and Members of Congress to express support for these issues.

“If you are able, show up in person and testify on a bill. You do not have to be a lawyer, and some of the most moving testimony I have ever heard is from people who just care deeply about their community.”

Success in state and federal courts is also imperative to the progress of pro-life initiatives.

There are currently dozens of pending court cases on abortion-related issues including medical safety standards and free speech rights of pro-life advocates. There are also direct challenges to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 precedent which helped mandate legal abortion nationwide.

Glenn said the biggest legal case in 2020 is June Medical Services v. Gee, which the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear in March. The case concerns Louisiana requirements that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their abortion facility.

“The Gee decision may impact some of these, but we expect that the Supreme Court and the lower courts will keep regularly hearing abortion lawsuits in the near future,” she said.

Amid speculation that the U.S. Supreme Court could change federal precedent on abortion, backers of legal abortion are working to defend their position at the state level.

In 2019 California, Illinois, Maine, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont passed legislation to strengthen and expand protections for legal abortion, and this trend could continue in the coming year as well.

“Already states like Massachusetts and Virginia have begun pushing extreme ‘Roe’ Acts that would allow abortion throughout the entire pregnancy,” Glenn commented.

“These bills expand abortion well past viability and remove health and safety protections for women and girls,” Glenn said. “These bills place the financial interests of the abortion industry ahead of the wellbeing of women, and in a state like Massachusetts where the legislation seeks to remove any parental involvement, ahead of the wellbeing of young girls and their families.”

The Massachusetts legislature is set to consider the Roe Act, which would remove parental consent requirements for underage girls seeking to procure an abortion. It would allow third-trimester abortion if a doctor diagnoses the unborn baby with a fatal condition.

It would establish a right to an abortion under state law, securing legal abortion if federal court precedents are modified or overturned, National Public Radio reports.

However, the bill has not yet passed through legislative committees and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who generally favors legal abortion, has said he does not back the bill’s expansions of abortion legality.

In Virginia, lawmakers have introduced legislation to remove parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortions, to eliminate requirements that a pregnant woman must have an ultrasound before an abortion, and to amend the Virginia constitution to make access to abortion a permanent legal right.

 

Bishop Scharfenberger says he was given no 'particular mission' in Buffalo

Tue, 01/07/2020 - 18:00

Buffalo, N.Y., Jan 7, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo, has said he was not given the results of a Vatican-ordered investigation into the scandal-hit diocese.

“I was not given that,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger told local news station WKBW in an interview on Monday, regarding the Vatican’s report of the investigation. “I don’t know what it contains,” he said.

Scharfenberger also told WKBW that he was not given a clear mandate by the Vatican when he was appointed as apostolic administrator of the Buffalo diocese in December after the resignation of Bishop Richard Malone.

“I was not sent with a particular mission,” Scharfenberger said of his temporary appointment to Buffalo, emphasizing that Malone resigned and was not “forced out.”

“I was not given any documentation or any marching orders that ‘you’re here to clean things up,’ or anything. I was just told to be the administrator of the diocese.”

After more than a year of successive scandals concerning sexual abuse and cover-up in the diocese, in October the Vatican appointed Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn to conduct an Apostolic Visitation of Buffalo, resulting in a report submitted to the Vatican in November. 

Although he said he had not seen the conclusions of that report, Scharfenberger did address the climate of suspicion and cynicism which had set in across large parts of the diocese.  

“Criminality is not entitled to secrecy,” he said on Monday. “So anything that our files that would contain that would hint at criminal behavior, if that’s the case, I want to be transparent and expose.”

“Christ says ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life,’ that we have nothing to fear from that truth,” he said.

Bishop Malone’s resignation was accepted in December after sustained criticism and scrutiny beginning in November of 2018, when his former executive assistant Siobahn O’Connor leaked confidential diocesan documents showing that the diocese had drastically underreported to the public the number of priests with abuse accusations made against them. The documents showed that Malone worked with diocesan lawyers to limit the list of accused priests that would be released to the public.

In August, Malone’s then-secretary Fr. Rishard Biernat leaked audio of conversations between him, Malone, and diocesan lawyers and staff. In the audio of the conversations, Malone admitted that accusations of grooming and violation of the Seal of Confession made by a then-seminarian against one diocesan priest were probably true, but months later the priest still remained in active ministry.

“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,” Malone said, noting that if the matter—which could appear to be a “love triangle” between the seminarian, priest, and Biernat—were leaked the public, “it could force me to resign.”

Although no successor has yet been chosen, some have speculated that Scharfenberger could be a candidate. The Diocese of Buffalo has nearly 600,000 Catholics spread across eight counties, larger than Scharfenberger’s own diocese of Albany, which has 400,000 Catholics.

After Archbishop Bernard Hebda was initially appointed apostolic administrator of the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis in 2015 after the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt following an abuse cover-up scandal. Hebda was later confirmed as the next archbishop, despite being in line to replace Archbishop John Myers in Newark, where he was also serving as coadjutor.

On Monday, Scharfenberger insisted that his stay in Buffalo would be temporary. “Every indication that I have,” he said, is that “my tenure in Buffalo is time-limited and that it will be a short time.”

Even if only in Buffalo temporarily, Scharfenberger will have to address the impending threat of bankruptcy in the diocese, with a high number of lawsuits related to allegations of sexual abuse filed beginning in August, when a one-year window was openned in the state’s staute of limitations. 

In August, as the one-year legal window opened in New York for lawsuits over previous cases of sexual abuse, a RICO lawsuit was filed against the diocese alleging “a pattern of racketeering activity” that covered up sexual abuse. The New York’s Attorney General is also conducting an investigation into the diocese.

Scharfenberger said Monday that while he did not intend to revisit previous decisions made by the diocesan review board on allegations of determined to be false or lacking in evidence, he would do so if those decisions were manifestly wrong.

The bishop called on abuse victims who think their cases were wrongly decided “to come forward” and have their cases reopened by the diocesan tribunal.

For survivors who want to see documentation as to how their previously claims of abuse were handled by the diocese, Scharfenberger said they “should come forward and we’ll do whatever we can to let that person know what they need to know, or want to know,” he said.

Teen arrested for Planned Parenthood attack in Delaware

Tue, 01/07/2020 - 17:00

Wilmington, Del., Jan 7, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- An 18-year-old man is being held in custody and is charged with federal crimes after he allegedly threw an incendiary device at a Planned Parenthood location in Newark, Delaware early on Friday, Jan. 3. 

Samuel James Gulick, of Middletown, Delaware, was arrested on Saturday, Jan 4, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware. Gulick was arrested by the FBI and will have a detention hearing on Friday, Jan. 10. 

Guilick is charged with “maliciously damaging a building used in interstate commerce through the use of fire or destructive device,” “intentionally damaging a facility that provides reproductive health services,” and “possession of an unregistered destructive device under the National Firearms Act.”

According to the release, shortly after 2 a.m. on Friday, Guilick spray-painted the words “Deus Vult,” a Chi Rho, and a Marian symbol on the outside of the Planned Parenthood. He then threw a lit object at the window of the facility. 

“The object then exploded and Gulick ran away,” said the release. “The fire burned for approximately one minute before self-extinguishing.” 

The facility’s front window and porch were damaged by the explosion and fire. The site was closed at the time of the incident. 

According to Planned Parenthood’s website, the Newark location does not provide abortions on-site, but does offer abortion referrals. The Newark location is the only one of Delaware’s three Planned Parenthood facilities that does not provide abortion services. 

Gulick was captured after surveillance video spotted his car leaving the scene. The FBI also found Guilick’s social media postings, which include posts using the words “Deus Vult” and “several anti-abortion posts.” 

“Deus Vult” or “Deus lo vult” is a Latin phrase that means “God wills it.” It was a battle cry of the First Crusade, and was reportedly used in a speech by Pope Urban II in 1095 at the Council of Clermont. In that speech, Urban II instructed that “Deus lo vult” be used as “this one cry raised by all the soldiers of God.” In recent years, the term has been popularized online through the use of meme imagery. 

The most serious charge faced by Guilick, damaging a facility that provides reproductive health services, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Guilick is unlikely to receive the maximum sentence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office release. 

Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Delaware, told the New York Times that Guilick’s actions were “an act of domestic terrorism and a blatant attack on reproductive health.” She theorized that Guilick had been “emboldened” by the current presidential administration.

The Diocese of Wilmington, the only Catholic diocese in the state of Delaware, did not respond to CNA in time for publication.

Theodore McCarrick has moved from Kansas friary

Tue, 01/07/2020 - 13:00

Denver, Colo., Jan 7, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick has moved from the Kansas friary where he had been living since 2018.

A spokesman for the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Conrad told CNA Jan. 7 that McCarrick left St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, Kansas, just days ago.

He has moved to a residential community of priests who have been removed from ministry, senior Church officials told CNA.

The former cardinal made the decision to leave the Kansas friary himself over the Christmas period, sources say, adding that his continued presence in the friary had become a strain on the Franciscan community that was hosting him.

McCarrick moved to the friary shortly after he was accused in 2018 of sexually abusing minors, seminarians, and young priests.

McCarrick’s new location remains undisclosed. Sources told CNA that the former cardinal arranged his new accommodation for himself, adding that the residence to which he has moved is “rather secluded and away from public attention.”

“McCarrick remains a guest at his new accommodation, but he is funding his own stay and is there by his own choice - no one can make him stay if he does not wish to,” a Church official told CNA.

Sources familiar with McCarrick’s situation told CNA that both the Kansas friary and McCarrick had been concerned that a forthcoming report on the former cardinal’s career, due to be released by the Vatican in the near future, would bring disruptive media attention to the friary.

McCarrick apparently hopes the new “secluded” location will limit media attempts to contact him in the event of renewed interest in his case, a Church official told CNA.

“It is not a secret where he is, but it is private, and for the good of the community I don’t think there will be a public announcement of it at this point,” the official said.

“He left on his own accord,” Fr. Joseph Mary Elder, a spokesman for the Capuchin province, told CNA Jan. 7.

“It was his decision.”

Elder said he was not aware where McCarrick had moved.

In June 2019 Elder told CNA that McCarrick, 89, “is in poor health and remains under a supervision plan.”

“At this point, the length of his stay is indeterminate, but he is looking for lodgings closer to his family. There is no timetable for when or if that might happen,” Elder said in June of McCarrick’s residence at the friary.

“Mr. McCarrick follows the everyday life and routine of a friar with the exception of public ministry; he lives in the same type of room as the friars, joins in the community prayers and the celebration of the Mass, and participates in community meals and interactions,” the priest added at that time.

In August, McCarrick told Slate magazine that “I’m not as bad as they paint me.”

“I do not believe that I did the things that they accused me of,” McCarrick told Slate, in the only interview he has given since allegations regarding his sexual abuse of minors emerged in June 2018.

McCarrick was Archbishop of Washington from 2000 until 2006. He resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018, and took up residence in the friary that September.

In February 2019, he was found by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “guilty of the following delicts while a cleric: solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

McCarrick was laicized in February 2019, but remained in residence at the friary.

McCarrick told Slate in August 2019 that didn’t ever leave the friary while he resided there, even to enter the adjoining Basilica of St. Fidelis; a condition of his residence was that he remain on the grounds of the friary. He indicated that he spendt much of his time in the chapel and the library.

McCarrick discussed in particular the accusations that he had solicited James Grein during confession: “The thing about the confession, it’s a horrible thing. I was a priest for 60 years, and I would never have done anything like that … That was horrible, to take the holy sacrament and to make it a sinful thing.”

The former cleric told Slate that he thinks men who said he abused them while they were seminarians during weekend trips to his New Jersey beach house “were encouraged” to develop similar stories, attributing this encouragement to unnamed “enemies.”

“There were many who were in that situation who never had any problems like that,” he said.

This story has been updated since publication.

Minnesota’s Catholic, Lutheran bishops call for welcoming of refugees

Tue, 01/07/2020 - 02:52

St. Paul, Minn., Jan 7, 2020 / 12:52 am (CNA).- Reflecting on the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, the Catholic and Lutheran bishops of Minnesota issued an open letter encouraging Christians to adopt a welcoming attitude toward refugees.

“We are saddened that as Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ — who himself experienced life as a refugee when his family fled to Egypt — our nation may be creating even more hardships for vulnerable refugee families,” said an open letter from Minnesota’s Catholic bishops and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

“Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God and therefore imbued with a sacred dignity we must respect and protect. This is especially true when it comes to the poor and vulnerable.”

The article ran in the Star Tribune’s Opinion Exchange Dec. 23, in preparation for National Migration Week, which is observed this year Jan. 5-11. This year’s theme is “Promoting a Church and a World for All.”

The religious leaders condemned an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in September, which limits refugee placement to areas where both state and local governments have provided written consent.

“The new order seems to unnecessarily politicize what has been a humanitarian program rooted in our nation’s long history of resettling families fleeing from life-threatening dangers,” the bishops said.

They voiced concern that the new rule will create additional obstacles for refugees, who already “have escaped terrible situations of persecution and violence, leaving [their] homes and livelihoods to face an uncertain future.”

“We fear the executive order will create further hardship for refugees by delaying the resolution of their cases, dividing extended families and placing additional strains on the resettlement system, the religious leaders said.

“We are also troubled by the decision to set a limit of 18,000 refugees in 2020, the lowest in 40 years,” they added. The 18,000 figure marks a 40% drop from the previous year’s ceiling of 30,000, which was already less than half of the 67,000 average annual refugee admissions before Trump took office.

While resettling refugees may pose challenges for a community, the Catholic and Lutheran leaders said, the Bible is clear about the Christian’s responsibility towards vulnerable people.

“The world is experiencing the largest displacement of persons in human history. Our nation’s refugee policy is one way to demonstrate our values by following a common moral exhortation in the Bible: to welcome the stranger in our midst,” they said.

They encouraged Christians to pray for immigrants and look for ways to welcome them into the community. They also called for dialogue between those with different opinions on handling refugee resettlement.

“Pray for refugees and voice your support for them to our elected leaders. Reflect on ways you or your church congregation can assist them and other newcomers and how we can together address the fears and misconceptions that are all too common in these situations,” they said.

“If you are challenged by the influx of refugees, we invite you to seek to encounter them, learn their stories and work to see them as God sees them - as sons and daughters.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington also issued a statement on Jan. 6 for National Migration Week. He said every Catholic family has an immigration story, whether recent or in the past, and emphasized humanity as one united family.

“This observance allows us to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants around the world, including immigrants, refugees, and victims and survivors of human trafficking,” he said.

“Christ calls us to live in solidarity with one another, setting aside our fears or apathy. Within our parishes, neighborhoods and this Diocese, we should seek to encounter all migrants as children of our loving God, serving them in love and compassion.”

New York governor announces $45 million marked for security at religious schools

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 21:00

New York City, N.Y., Jan 6, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- During a solidarity march with the Jewish community of New York, which suffered numerous attacks during the week of Hanukkah last month, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state is spending $45 million this year on increased security for religious institutions and schools.

Cuomo made the announcement on Sunday during a speech before walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with tens of thousands of fellow march participants.

Anti-Semitic attacks took place in New York every day of the week of Hannukah last month, including a stabbing during a celebration at a rabbi’s home that wounded five people. The money for increased security at religious sites was earmarked last April as part of the state’s budget, due to the advocacy of multiple Jewish organizations as well as the New York State Catholic Conference, a spokesman for the conference told CNA.

While the earmarked security funds predated the recent Hannukah attacks, the allocation came after a year of increased violence against Jewish people throughout the United States, including the murder of 11 Jewish worshippers who were shot and killed by a white supremacist at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the synagogue shooting was the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the U.S. The year of 2018 was the third-highest year for anti-semitic incidents in the past four decades, and had a 99% increase in antisemitic incidents compared to 2015, according to the ADL.

Dennis Poust, director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, told CNA that Catholic and other religious schools and institutions can apply for the funds if they can demonstrate a security need.

Several Catholic schools in the state have already used the money to add security measures such as video surveillance and better-fortified entrances, Poust noted.

“We’re grateful that the governor and legislature recognize this need, particularly during this period of increased violence and hatred aimed at religious communities. We know that they take student safety seriously, and we’re working with our allies in the Jewish community to increase funding, given the current climate in New York.”

There is also a separate set of $15 million in state funds set aside for health, safety and security needs, which is apportioned proportionately to all independent and religious schools, instead of through an application process, Poust noted.

Poust said he is unaware of any current threats against Catholic schools or institutions in the state of New York, but noted that two Catholic churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn were vandalized last year.

St. Gerard Majella in Queens, New York was vandalized twice in September 2019, resulting in roughly $10,000 in damages to parish signs, plants, rosary stations and the sprinkler system.

In November 2019, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Williamsburg was vandalized by a man who pulled plants from the parish garden and threw them at the rectory, and knocked over a statue of St. Jude, which he left in the middle of the street. The man was arrested and charged with a hate crime, according to a report from the diocese.

Adriana Rodriguez, communications director for the Brooklyn diocese, told CNA that in both cases of vandalism, surveillance video was key in notifying the police about the incidents and in the arrest of the man in November. She added that she is unaware of any current threats against Catholic schools or institutions in the diocese.

According to the Wall Street Journal, religious leaders in the area of Monsey, the New York suburb where the Hanukkah stabbing occurred, appealed last week for even more security funding in order to protect yeshivas, Jewish educational institutions attended by some 30,000 students in the area.

Planned Parenthood annual report: More government money, more abortions

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Jan 6, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood released its latest annual report on Monday, showing a continued increase in the number of abortions performed.

The nation’s largest abortion provider released its 2018-19 annual report on Jan. 6, showing significant increases both in the number of abortions performed and in the amount of government funding it receives.

According to its latest report, Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country performed 345,672 abortions in the 2018-19 fiscal year ending June 30, a three percent increase from 332,757 abortions in the previous fiscal year.  The organization performed 321,384 abortions in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The organization still received $616.8 million in government funding in 2018-19—a rise of more than eight percent from the $563.8 million it received in 2017-18.

The government funding comes from federal, state and local health grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements. According to the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, the organization’s taxpayer funding has increased nearly 27% since 2010.

Despite previous House Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, the necessary votes to do so never accumulated in the Senate. The organization and its affiliates receive federal dollars in the form of Medicaid reimbursements.

According to the Hyde Amendment, federal tax dollars cannot directly pay for elective abortions. And while Planned Parenthood says that it uses no federal dollars for abortion services, critics say that the funding it receives as the nation’s largest abortion provider is fungible—freeing up other resources within the organization for abortions.

In 2019, the Trump administration finalized the “Protect Life Rule” mandating that recipients of federal Title X family planning funds not be co-located with abortion clinics, and not refer for abortions, in the spirit of the program’s original intent not to fund abortion as a method of family planning.

Planned Parenthood challenged the rule in court and formally withdrew from the program in August rather than comply with the new rule.

Adoption referrals by Planned Parenthood dropped by more than 25% for 2017-18 to 2,831. That number went up by 34% in the 2018-19 report to 4,279 adoptions—still only around 1% of the number of abortions performed.

The organization reported slightly less total revenue in 2018-19 than in the previous fiscal year, but a greater amount of total assets at more than $2.2 billion.

The report’s release comes just ahead of the annual March for Life in Washington, DC, on Jan. 24. The annual event marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion accross the country in 1974. Last year, more than 25,000 people attended the march and subsequent rally on the National Mall.

In 2020, the march is taking place under the theme “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.” The theme was chosen to mark the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States, promoting a pro-life message of “empowerment” of women and taking aim at the false equation of abortion with independence. 

“We need to speak about confusing messages on women,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life told CNA when the 2020 theme was announced in October. 

“Right now, as we know, none of the Democratic candidates are with us on this issue, and even more, they’re wildly out of touch with mainstream America on this issue.”

“To listen to their many, many, many debates, you come away with a very different understanding about what it means to be pro-woman,” she told CNA.

Texas appeals court orders continued treatment for gravely ill child

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 17:18

Fort Worth, Texas, Jan 6, 2020 / 03:18 pm (CNA).- A Texas appeals court ordered Friday that a hospital continue medical treatment for Tinslee Lewis, a terminally ill child in Fort Worth, until it rules in the case.

Lewis was born prematurely Feb. 1, 2019, and has since been in the cardiac intensive care unit at Cook Children's Medical Center.

Physicians at the hospital believe life-sustaining treatment for Lewis is medically inappropriate, a decision affirmed by an ethics committee. Lewis' mother, Trinity, wants treatment to continue, and has gone to court to prevent the life-sustaining treatment from being withdrawn.

A judge acting for the Tarrant County district court ruled Jan. 2 that indefinite medical interventions for Lewis could be stopped, in accord with the Texas Advanced Directives Act.

But the Second Court of Appeals of Texas granted Lewis emergency relief Jan. 3, ordering that Lewis' treatment continue until it can consider the appeal. The court did not set a date for an appeal hearing.

Lewis has Ebstein's anomaly, a congenital heart defect; chronic lung disease; and severe chronic high blood pressure, according to the AP. She has been on a ventilator since July, and also requires cardiac support, painkillers, sedation, and medical paralysis. She currently has severe sepsis.

The hospital said that Lewis' healthcare providers agreed by August that continued care was futile, and had begun discussing with her family the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment by September. The hospital's ethics committee decided unanimously Oct. 30 that further treatment was medically inappropriate.

The hospital intended to stop Lewis' treatment Nov. 10, after disagreeing with the decision of her mother, Trinity, regarding her treatment.

The Texas Advanced Directives Act includes a '10-day rule' that says when the attending physician has decided and an ethics or medical committee has affirmed that a life-sustaining treatment is medically inappropriate, but the patient or their responsible continues to request the treatment, the attending physician and the health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after the decision is provided to the patient or their responsible.

The rule says the physician is to make a reasonable effort to transfer the patient in such a case to a physician who is willing to comply with the directive. TADA was adopted in 1999, without a dissenting vote, and was amended in 2003 and 2015. The 2015 amendment was adopted unanimously in the House vote, and by a voice vote in the Senate.

At a December hearing, judge Sandee Bryan Marion said she would allow more time for an alternative facility to be found for Lewis' care. Cook Children's said at that time that it would take no action to withdraw life sustaining treatment from Lewis for seven days from the court's decision, to allow plaintiffs to file a notice of appeal and a motion for emergency relief with an appeals court.

Dr. Jay Duncan, a physician attending Lewis, said at the hearing that until July, there had been hope she might be able to go home, but it became clear that surgical and clinical options had been exhausted and her treatment was no longer beneficial.

Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth has offered to assist Lewis' family “in seeking compassionate and appropriate care for her in a Catholic health care facility.” He said Jan. 2 that “healthcare decisions involving the vulnerable and severely ill are best made in the patient’s interests by family and healthcare providers and not by judges, by politicians, or lobbyists.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Fort Worth told CNA Jan. 3 that the bishop's offer of assistance had been passed to the Lewis family by Cook Children's, and that “a representative of the family has contacted the Diocese.”

Cook Children's said it “has been devoted to this precious baby her entire life, providing compassionate, round-the-clock, intensive care and attention since she arrived at our hospital 11months ago. Her body is tired. She is suffering. It’s time to end this cycle because, tragically, none of these efforts will ever make her better.”

The hospital also noted that it had contacted “more than 20, well-respected healthcare facilities and specialists over the course of several months, but even the highest level of medical expertise cannot correct conditions as severe as Tinslee’s.”

Trinity Lewis has asked that the '10-day rule' be found unconstitutional by the Texas court system.

She is being supported by Texas Right to Life, which said that “the 10-Day Rule has robbed countless patients of their Right to Life and right to due process.”

Not all pro-life groups agree with Texas Right to Life's assessment.

Texas Alliance for Life, another pro-life organization, noted that the case centers on the dispute resolution process in TADA.

“Texas Alliance for Life supports TADA. It is good public policy, it is constitutional, and it provides a balance between the patient’s autonomy and the physician’s conscience protection rights to do no harm,” the group stated.

Texas Alliance for Life, along with the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops and several other pro-life groups, disability advocates, and medical groups, submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case Dec. 11 stating that TADA “helps achieve their essential objectives” and arguing for its constitutionality.

The brief noted that the Texas bishops' conference “generally supports the framework” of the act “as a balanced dispute resolution process that respects patient dignity and healthcare provider conscience,” while also supporting “continued legislative improvements to the act.”

The brief concludes by saying that “through the Texas Advanced Directives Act, the Legislature has provided families and physicians with a framework for resolving difficult end-of-life decisions. This design includes a safe harbor encouraging physicians and medical institutions to provide multiple layers of review, culminating in a period of time for families to secure a transfer to another medical facility, during which life-sustaining intervention will continue to be provided. The amici believe that the framework created by TADA is essential and constitutional.”

Disagreement over end-of-life reform is among the three criteria on the basis of which the Texas bishops' conference urged parishes in March 2018 not to participate in the activities of Texas Right to Life.

The bishops said they “have been compelled to publicly correct Texas Right to Life’s misstatements on end-of-life care and advance directives, in which Texas Right to Life implied that the legislation the bishops were supporting allowed euthanasia and death panels rather than the reality that the legislation reflected the long-standing Church teaching requiring a balance of patient autonomy and the physician conscience protection.”

In its Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, the US bishops' conference notes regarding the seriously ill and dying that “we have a duty to preserve our life and to use it for the glory of God, but the duty to preserve life is not absolute, for we may reject life-prolonging procedures that are insufficiently beneficial or excessively burdensome.”

The directives state that “a person has a moral obligation to use ordinary or proportionate means of preserving his or her life. Proportionate means are those that in the judgment of the patient offer a reasonable hope of benefit and do not entail an excessive burden or impose excessive expense on the family or the community,” and that “a person may forgo extraordinary or disproportionate means of preserving life.”

“Disproportionate means are those that in the patient’s judgment do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or entail an excessive burden, or impose excessive expense on the family or the community.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton released a joint statement Jan. 2 saying that “the state will continue to support Ms. Lewis’s exhaustion of all legal options to ensure that Tinslee is given every chance at life.”

“The Attorney General’s office is involved in the ongoing litigation, fighting to see that due process and the right to life are fully respected by Texas law. The Attorney General’s office will be supporting an appeal of this case to the Second Court of Appeals. The State of Texas is fully prepared to continue its support of Ms. Lewis in the Supreme Court if necessary. We are working diligently to do all we can to ensure that Tinslee and her family are provided the care and support that they seek.”

The Medal of Honor winner with a devotion to St. Michael

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Jan 6, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in 2012, a team of Navy SEALs navigated the mountains of remote eastern Afghanistan in darkness, on a daring mission to rescue a captured U.S. doctor.

Accompanying the SEALs was Chief Petty Officer Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr., a Catholic with a devotion to St. Michael the Archangel.

A SEAL since 2001, Byers had already seen seven straight years of combat. He was unaware of the feast day due the gravity of the operation and lack of access to a church.

“That is something that gives me chills thinking about,” Byers told Columbia Magazine seven years later in a recent interview. “I don’t believe in coincidences.”

Byers is a member of the Knights of Columbus; Columbia Magazine is the monthly magazine of the Knights.

Byers’ Catholic faith has sustained him through 11 deployments, several of them in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, in his 21-year career as a Navy SEAL and service with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.

He has a devotion to St. Michael the Archangel, the patron of soldiers. As he arrived in Iraq for his first deployment there, Byers noticed a St. Michael patch on the uniform of one departing Navy SEAL. He asked the SEAL for the patch.

“It protected me while I was here, and I hope it does the same for you,” Byers’ fellow SEAL told him, giving him the patch. Byers says he was worn it on every operation since.

“War is not pretty, and it’s not kind. A lot of horrific things happen, things that impact you psychologically and emotionally,” Byers told Columbia. He has relied upon the invocation of the prayer to St. Michael to “defend us in battle, be our protection.”

On the fateful Dec. 8, 2012, the SEAL team approached the Taliban compound where the doctor was held hostage. They were discovered by a sentry.

Byers led the rush to the door of the compound and began tearing down obstacles inside to provide a pathway through for his fellow SEALs, all the while exposed to enemy fire.

One of his teammates, Nic Checque, burst through the heavy blankets hung as an obstacle and was mortally wounded inside. Byers rushed in, neutralized one of the enemy guards armed with an AK-47 rifle and, while engaging another man in the room, heard the hostage, Dr. Dilip Joseph, crying out.

Byers jumped on top of the doctor to shield him from any harm, while immobilizing another enemy guard. The rescue was successful.

“I ask God, ‘What is your intent with me? Why am I still here?’” Byers reflected, noting that he could have been killed on the mission. “I reflect on that a lot.”

For his actions, Byers was awarded the Medal of Honor in February of 2016 at the White House.

Now, retired from active duty and a board member of the Medal of Honor Foundation, Byers travels around the country to promote the virtues associated with the medal.

“I see it as a chance to witness to my faith and give glory to God,” Byers said of his mission. “I mention God and St. Michael at every single speech I give. I have an obligation to do that because of the graces I have received.”

Inspired by his father’s service in the Navy in World War II, Byers had wanted to become a Navy SEAL by the time he was a teenager. His mother encouraged him to become a medic in order to have an alternative career after the military.

He initially joined as a Navy hospital corpsman and moved into the Marines, a time he recalled as “deeply religious” for him as he studied Catholic apologetics. On his first deployment, he led prayer groups when a priest was not present to celebrate Mass.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, his request to train for the SEALs was accepted, and Byers left for San Diego to undergo the SEAL training that is renowned for its strenuousness.

“I distinctly remember a few times when, on the brink of breaking and wanting to quit, I would say little prayers like, ‘If this is something you want me to do, I don’t know how much more I can take. If I can just get a 30-second break, I think that would be enough for me to go on,’” Byers told Columbia.

“And next thing you know, the instructors would blow the whistle for us to take a break at a critical moment. I never will forget that.”

Still busy promoting the virtues of the Medal of Honor, Byers asks Americans to remember veterans and others “on the margins” who are struggling with hopelessness.

“An astronomical number of veterans commit suicide. And it’s because they have lost hope and don’t have that support network they once had,” he said. According to a 2019 report of the Department of Veterans Affairs on veteran suicide prevention, more than 6,000 veterans—an average of 16.8 per day—committed suicide.

“There’s so much depression in the world, and I think it comes from a lack of hope. Never forget about those people on the margins. Focus energy on those who need help the most. Help them feel that they’re important, and help instill the virtues that God intends for us to have — faith, hope and love.”

Massachusetts bill would let minors obtain abortion without parental consent

Sat, 01/04/2020 - 18:20

Boston, Mass., Jan 4, 2020 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- In the latest move from Massachusetts state legislators to block abortion restrictions and expand access to the procedure, state Sen. Harriet Chandler has introduced a bill that would remove the longstanding requirement for teens to obtain parental consent before getting an abortion.

Currently, Massachusetts state law requires that minors obtain the consent of a parent or guardian before getting an abortion, a rule that can only be bypassed if the minor is granted permission for the abortion by a state judge.

The bill, entitled “An Act to remove obstacles and expand abortion access,” would also grant physicians the right to perform an abortion on a patient who is past 24 weeks of pregnancy if it “is necessary to protect the patient’s life or physical or mental health, or in cases of lethal fetal anomalies, or where the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus.”

The bill also seeks to establish a state right to an abortion, which would stand even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court decision mandating legal abortion nationwide.

“The Commonwealth shall not interfere with a person’s personal decision and ability to prevent, commence, terminate, or continue their own pregnancy consistent with this chapter. The Commonwealth shall not restrict the use of medically appropriate methods of abortion or the manner in which medically appropriate abortion is provided,” the bill states.

Those in favor of abortion have ramped up efforts to protect and expand the procedure in light of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump’s second appointment to the court.

Sen. Chandler, 82, told NPR that she believes the bill in part anticipates what could happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

“I think if people realize what a post-Roe world would be, that would make it even more reasonable to do this bill,” she said.

Pro-life advocates told NPR that laws requiring parental consent in the case of minors seeking abortions is meant as a protective measure for the minor as well as her unborn child.

“In our laws, we need to do as much as we can - especially given the kind of epidemic abuse that we're facing - to interrupt that cycle,” David Franks, chairman of the board of the group Massachusetts Citizens for Life, told NPR.

Michael New, a visiting professor of political science and social research at The Catholic University of America, said in testimony against the new bill that the parental consent restriction has helped to save an estimated 10,000 - 44,000 lives since the enactment of the current law.

“...every peer-reviewed study I have seen, 16 in total, finds that state-level parental involvement laws reduce the in-state abortion rate for minors,” he said in his testimony.

“I think most people are uncomfortable with minor girls obtaining abortions without their parent's knowledge," he added to NPR.

Twenty-five other states have similar laws to current Massachusetts law, regarding parental consent for minors seeking an abortion. Some such laws have faced added scrutiny in recent years.

In August of last year, a federal appeals court upheld an injunction against part of an Indiana law that allowed judges to notify parents if their daughter is seeking to have an abortion without their consent. In 2017, a federal judge struck down an Alabama law requiring more scrutiny for minors seeking to procure abortions through judges. The law would have allowed for hearings on the maturity level of the minor in question, and for her parents or guardians to partake in the proceedings if they found out about them.

The Massachusetts bill also comes roughly 6 months after the state’s passage of the “NASTY Women” abortion act, which repealed an 1845 ban on “procuring a miscarriage.” The full title of the act is the “Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women Act,” a reference to a comment made by then-candidate Donald Trump about Hillary Clinton during a presidential candidates debate on Oct. 19, 2016.

A Massachusetts state law prohibiting protests and prayer vigils within a 35-foot “buffer zone” of an abortion facility was unanimously struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014.

Lawsuit charges Bishop Trautman, Buffalo diocese with abuse cover-up in 1980s

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 20:01

Buffalo, N.Y., Jan 3, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- A lawsuit against the Diocese of Buffalo and retired Bishop Donald Trautman claim they covered up a New York priest’s sex abuse of a 10-year-old boy in the mid-1980s, though the bishop has previously denied accusations he has ever covered up abuse.

Trautman, now 83, retired as Bishop of Erie in 2012. He served in various roles in the Buffalo diocese under Bishop Edward Head, including chancellor and vicar general. He was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the diocese in 1985. He had been Bishop of Erie since 1990.

Trautman told the Erie Times-News Jan. 2 that he had not been served with the lawsuit.

As regards the alleged abuser, Fr. Gerard A. Smyczynski, the former bishop said, “I don’t recall the case at all,” adding, “I don’t recall the name.”

In June 2019, he told the Buffalo News he didn’t cover up any sexual abuse as chancellor of the Buffalo diocese.

The plaintiff in the case was born in 1974. The lawsuit said the plaintiff was abused multiple times by Smyczynski for about a year, starting when he was a ten-year-old student and altar boy. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff met the priest at Infant of Prague Catholic Church and school in Cheektowaga, New York.

The lawsuit alleges that Trautman knew of the priest’s abuse and failed to investigate and report it. It alleges that he and the diocese “participated in covering up such heinous acts by moving errant priests and clergy members from assignment to assignment, thereby putting children in harm’s way.”

Smyczynski lost his faculties in 1985. His name is on the Buffalo diocese’s list of credibly accused clergy, the Buffalo diocese said in a Jan. 2 statement. The priest died in 1999.

The lawsuit further accuses Trautman of expediting an annulment for a member of the plaintiff’s family “with the hope of ensuring their silence about the abuses perpetrated by Fr. Smyczynski and covering up those abuses.” It claims he continued the alleged cover-up while in the Diocese of Erie.

The lawsuit was filed by Danielle George of Phillips & Paolicelli law firm in New York City and Paul K. Barr of Fanizzi & Barr in Niagara Falls.

Barr said Trautman made a “paltry” settlement with the plaintiff that “amounts to hush money.” The sum was four figures and allegedly an inducement not to share their story. He alleged that this allowed the priest to abuse at least one other child.

He accused Trautman of hastening the annulment of the plaintiff’s parents.

CNA contacted Bishop Trautman for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.

The two dioceses named in the suit have also responded.

“The diocese has not yet received the complaint - nor any information regarding the lawsuit,” the Buffalo diocese told CNA Jan. 3. “As soon as the diocese receives the complaint, and the name of the person making the complaint, it will follow established protocols which involve a thorough investigation and will then take all appropriate action.”

The diocese said it is “assessing the appropriate level of additional detail relating to those credibly accused that may be provided as part of the diocese’s ongoing reporting, which may contribute to the healing of survivors, who continue to be our first priority.”

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany now serves as apostolic administrator of Buffalo, following the resignation last year of Bishop Richard Malone, who was accused of covering up sexual abuse. Although he denied these accusations in November 2018, in April 2019 he apologized for his handling of some cases. In August 2019, a RICO lawsuit was filed against the diocese and Bishop Malone, alleging that the response of the diocese was comparable to an organized crime syndicate.

The Buffalo diocese said Jan. 2 it “strongly encourages” all allegations of sexual abuse of clergy and diocesan employees to be reported to law enforcement first.

“The diocese has in place rigorous protocols for reporting as well, in addition to a third-party reporting system … which allows for allegations to be reported anonymously,” said the Buffalo diocese, which noted that its own review board advises on actions that may be necessary under canon law when allegations are determined to be credible.

The Erie diocese said Jan. 2 it learned it had been named in the lawsuit about alleged activities in the Diocese of Buffalo before Trautman was named Bishop of Erie.

“Bishop Lawrence Persico has seen a copy of the suit, but the diocese has not been served,” the Erie diocese said. “As with any litigation, Bishop Persico will cooperate, but will not comment during the legal process.”

The lawsuit’s claims about the Erie diocese do not include improper handling of abuse. Rather, it claims that the diocese is implicated in the alleged cover-up because Trautman was its bishop and he “perpetrated” a policy to cover up abuse, the Erie Times-News reports.

It alleges that both dioceses had a “cover-up” policy which “resulted in the sexual assault of untold numbers of children, and put numerous other children at risk of sexual assault.”

It charges that Trautman “took his playbook of covering up clergy abuse from Buffalo, New York, to Erie, Pennsylvania… where he continued to carry out the aforesaid cover up for decades.”

The lawsuit was announced at a press conference organized by Buffalo resident James Faluszczak, an advocate for sex abuse victims and a former priest of the Erie diocese. He has said a priest abused him when he was a teenager.

The lawsuit takes advantage of a new one-year legal window for sex abuse victims to sue regardless of statutes of limitations, the result of recent legislation in the New York legislature. A similar Pennsylvania bill failed to pass the General Assembly.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro criticized Trautman at an August 2018 press conference releasing his grand jury report on clergy sex abuse. He alleged that the bishop failed aggressively to pursue an abuser. He has charged that the Erie diocese under Trautman curbed its investigation of sex abuse claims to wait out the statute of limitations.

Trautman in his responses to the attorney general said the claims were “baseless.” He said he did not condone or enable such abuse during his tenure leading the Diocese of Erie, and he stressed his support for abuse victims and said the report does not fully or accurately assess his record. He cited a Pennsylvania Supreme Court finding that the grand jury process suffers “limitations upon its truth-finding capabilities” and lacked “basic fairness.”

Shapiro’s report, released in August 2018, claimed to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 301 credibly accused priests in Pennsylvania. It presented a devastating portrait of alleged efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations—either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

Trautman had caused controversy by criticizing the report.

“We should not be so naive as to accept every government report every attorney general report as being totally accurate or honest and I wouldn’t cite the Philadelphia Inquirer or Boston Globe as sources of confident information,” he said at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ general assembly in fall 2018.

Bishop Persico, his successor in Erie, has been publicly supportive of abuse victims. He said Trautman spoke as a retired bishop, adding, “he doesn’t represent the diocese so what he’s doing is giving his opinion.”

However, the attorney general report has come under criticism from longtime Catholic commentator Peter Steinfels. In a lengthy essay published in January 2019 by the magazine Commonweal, Steinfels argued that many of the report’s charges are “grossly misleading, irresponsible, inaccurate, and unjust.” He said the report deserved more thorough scrutiny and said its “sensational charges” have been too easily accepted.

During a 2018 debate among the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Trautman opposed the idea of a third-party reporting system that would allow allegations of sexual abuse by bishops or mishandling of abuse complaints by bishops to be delivered to the nuncio, the pope’s representative in the U.S.

Trautman said he thought such a system was “dangerous and unjust” because it would bring to the U.S. nuncio accusations that were “not investigated, not substantiated, not proven. That’s unjust.”

Fort Worth bishop helps family seek care in Catholic hospital for gravely ill Tinslee Lewis

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 19:12

Fort Worth, Texas, Jan 3, 2020 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- After a Texas judge on Thursday allowed a hospital to stop medical treatment for Tinslee Lewis, a terminally ill child in Fort Worth, the local bishop offered to help her family seek care in a Catholic healthcare facility.

Lewis was born prematurely Feb. 1, 2019, and has since been in the cardiac intensive care unit at Cook Children's Medical Center. She has Ebstein's anomaly, a congenital heart defect; chronic lung disease; and severe chronic high blood pressure, according to the AP. She has been on a ventilator since July, and also requires cardiac support, painkillers, sedation, and medical paralysis. She currently has severe sepsis.

The hospital said that Lewis' healthcare providers agreed by August that continued care was futile, and had begun discussing with her family the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment by September. The hospital's ethics committee decided unanimously Oct. 30 that further treatment was medically inappropriate.

The hospital intended to stop Lewis' treatment Nov. 10, after disagreeing with the decision of her mother, Trinity, regarding her treatment. The girl's doctors believe her condition to be fatal and that she is in pain.

The Texas Advanced Directives Act includes a '10-day rule' that says when the attending physician has decided and an ethics or medical committee has affirmed that a life-sustaining treatment is medically inappropriate, but the patient or their responsible continues to request the treatment, the attending physician and the health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after the decision is provided to the patient or their responsible.

The rule says the physician is to make a reasonable effort to transfer the patient in such a case to a physician who is willing to comply with the directive. TADA was adopted in 1999, without a dissenting vote, and was amended in 2003 and 2015. The 2015 amendment was adopted unanimously in the House vote, and by a voice vote in the Senate.

A Tarrant County judge had issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the removal of life-sustaining treatment Nov. 10, but the hospital “filed a motion questioning his impartiality and saying he had bypassed case-assignment rules to designate himself as the presiding judge,” the AP reported.

The case was then transferred to Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice of the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals, who held a hearing in December.

At that time, Marion said she would allow more time for an alternative facility to be found for Lewis' care. And Cook Children's said at that time that it would take no action to withdraw life sustaining treatment from Lewis for seven days from the court's decision, to allow plaintiffs to file a notice of appeal and a motion for emergency relief with an appeals court.

Dr. Jay Duncan, a physician attending Lewis, said at the hearing that until July, there had been hope she might be able to go home, but it became clear that surgical and clinical options had been exhausted and her treatment was no longer beneficial.

Marion ruled Jan. 2 to deny the application for a temporary injunction to require indefinite medical interventions for Lewis.

The decision “restores the ability of the Cook Children’s medical staff to make the most compassionate and medically appropriate decisions for Tinslee,” Cook Children's said.

“Our medical judgment is that Tinslee should be allowed to pass naturally and peacefully rather than artificially kept alive by painful treatments. Even with the most extraordinary measures the medical team is taking, Tinslee continues to suffer,” the hospital said.

Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth has offered to assist Lewis' family “in seeking compassionate and appropriate care for her in a Catholic health care facility.”

He said Jan. 2 that “healthcare decisions involving the vulnerable and severely ill are best made in the patient’s interests by family and healthcare providers and not by judges, by politicians, or lobbyists.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Fort Worth told CNA Jan. 3 that the bishop's offer of assistance had been passed to the Lewis family by Cook Children's, and that “a representative of the family has contacted the Diocese.”

For its part, the hospital said it “has been devoted to this precious baby her entire life, providing compassionate, round-the-clock, intensive care and attention since she arrived at our hospital 11months ago. Her body is tired. She is suffering. It’s time to end this cycle because, tragically, none of these efforts will ever make her better.”

The hospital also noted that it had contacted “more than 20, well-respected healthcare facilities and specialists over the course of several months, but even the highest level of medical expertise cannot correct conditions as severe as Tinslee’s.”

Trinity Lewis stated, “I am heartbroken over today’s decision because the judge basically said Tinslee’s life is NOT worth living. I feel frustrated because anyone in that courtroom would want more time just like I do if Tinslee were their baby. I hope that we can keep fighting through an appeal to protect Tinslee. She deserves the right to live.”

Trinity Lewis had also asked that the '10-day rule' be found unconstitutional by the court.

She is being supported by Texas Right to Life, which said that “the ruling not only disregarded the Constitution, but also sentenced an innocent 11-month-old baby to death like a criminal. The 10-Day Rule has robbed countless patients of their Right to Life and right to due process. We pray the appellate court will identify how the law violates Baby Tinslee’s due process rights, revoke her death sentence, and strike down the deadly 10-Day Rule.”

Not all pro-life groups agree with Texas Right to Life's assessment.

Texas Alliance for Life, another pro-life organization, noted that the case centers on the dispute resolution process in TADA.

“We don’t see how [Marion] could have ruled any other way. As we have stated previously, Texas Alliance for Life supports TADA. It is good public policy, it is constitutional, and it provides a balance between the patient’s autonomy and the physician’s conscience protection rights to do no harm.”

Texas Alliance for Life, along with the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops and several other pro-life groups, disability advocates, and medical groups, submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case Dec. 11 stating that TADA  “helps achieve their essential objectives” and arguing for its constitutionality.

The brief noted that the Texas bishops' conference “generally supports the framework” of the act “as a balanced dispute resolution process that respects patient dignity and healthcare provider conscience,” while also supporting “continued legislative improvements to the act.”

The brief concludes by saying that “through the Texas Advanced Directives Act, the Legislature has provided families and physicians with a framework for resolving difficult end-of-life decisions. This design includes a safe harbor encouraging physicians and medical institutions to provide multiple layers of review, culminating in a period of time for families to secure a transfer to another medical facility, during which life-sustaining intervention will continue to be provided. The amici believe that the framework created by TADA is essential and constitutional.”

Disagreement over end-of-life reform is among the three criteria on the basis of which the Texas bishops' conference urged parishes in March 2018 not to participate in the activities of Texas Right to Life.

The bishops said they “have been compelled to publicly correct Texas Right to Life’s misstatements on end-of-life care and advance directives, in which Texas Right to Life implied that the legislation the bishops were supporting allowed euthanasia and death panels rather than the reality that the legislation reflected the long-standing Church teaching requiring a balance of patient autonomy and the physician conscience protection.”

In its Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, the US bishops' conference notes regarding the seriously ill and dying that “we have a duty to preserve our life and to use it for the glory of God, but the duty to preserve life is not absolute, for we may reject life-prolonging procedures that are insufficiently beneficial or excessively burdensome.”

The directives state that “a person has a moral obligation to use ordinary or proportionate means of preserving his or her life. Proportionate means are those that in the judgment of the patient offer a reasonable hope of benefit and do not entail an excessive burden or impose excessive expense on the family or the community,” and that “a person may forgo extraordinary or disproportionate means of preserving life.”

“Disproportionate means are those that in the patient’s judgment do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or entail an excessive burden, or impose excessive expense on the family or the community.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton released a joint statement Jan. 2, after the temporary injunction was denied, saying that “the state will continue to support Ms. Lewis’s exhaustion of all legal options to ensure that Tinslee is given every chance at life.”

“The Attorney General’s office is involved in the ongoing litigation, fighting to see that due process and the right to life are fully respected by Texas law. The Attorney General’s office will be supporting an appeal of this case to the Second Court of Appeals. The State of Texas is fully prepared to continue its support of Ms. Lewis in the Supreme Court if necessary. We are working diligently to do all we can to ensure that Tinslee and her family are provided the care and support that they seek.”

 

Portland bishop says religious prejudice 'cannot be tolerated'

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 19:05

Portland, Maine, Jan 3, 2020 / 05:05 pm (CNA).- At Mass on Wednesday, Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland urged Catholics not to tolerate “any kind” of religious prejudice, following a spate of violent attacks against Jews and Christians in the U.S. during December.

"We need to work to overcome any form of religious prejudice,” Deely said Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

“Unfortunately, it marks this century for us. We have seen too many shootings and attacks on religious houses and communities. As Christians, we cannot tolerate any kind of religious prejudice,” he added.

The bishop mentioned the recent attacks against Jewish people in New York during the week of Hanukkah, including the knife attack in a rabbi’s home that injured five people. He also mentioned the shooting at Christian church in Texas on Dec. 29. According to police, the shooter opened fire during a Sunday morning service and killed two people before members of the congregation shot and killed him.

“It is the implicit permission of society for that kind of prejudice which gives rise to these kinds of attacks. Often, the people who perpetrate the attacks are mentally disturbed, but they find their ideas in places where such hatred is fostered,” the bishop said.

Deely encouraged his congregation to do a personal examination of any possible religious or racial prejudices they might be holding onto, to ensure that they are not contributing to the problem. He added that religious freedom is one of the fundamental rights of U.S. citizens.

“We should be able, as religious people, to worship and practice our faith publicly in our society. That is a guarantee of the First Amendment,” he said.

Deely encouraged those in attendance to look to Mary as their model for prayer, peace, and following the will of God.

“At the beginning of a new year, we can learn from Mary. She asks herself how God is acting in her life. In her reflection, in her prayer, she holds the things that happen to her, and she looks at the way in which God directs her life through those events,” he said.

“Mary knew in her heart that only in reflection, in prayer, in conversation with the God who had asked her to be the mother of his child would she be able to carry on her mission, to be faithful to what she had been called.”

Deely said that Catholics are called to imitate Mary, who perfectly followed the example of her son.

"We follow him by humbling ourselves, as he did in his coming among us in his human nature, seeking the good in those around us, being open to the humanity of each person, and trying to help where we can to make the lives of others better."

Are targeted drone strikes allowed under 'just war theory'?

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Jan 3, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian official on Friday has ignited discussion of the Catholic Church’s teaching on just war theory. One theologian talked to CNA about the morality of targeting military leaders.

Early on Friday morning at a Baghdad airport, Iran’s head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, was killed by drone strikes, for which the U.S. later claimed responsibility. Soleimani’s forces are listed by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization. Also killed in the strikes was Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, known for helping fight against ISIS.

The strikes are the latest episode in a series of interactions between the U.S. and Iran in the region, that are causing concern of an intensifying conflict. After an American contractor was killed by a rocket barrage in Iraq last week, the U.S. retaliated against Iranian-backed Shiite militias it said was responsible for the attack. The U.S. counterattack killed 25 Iraqis.  

On Tuesday the U.S. embassy in Baghdad was stormed by a crowd of thousands of protesters. Suleimani was alleged to have been behind the attacks.

After the drone strikes on Friday morning, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani threatened retaliation in a statement on Friday on Twitter. According to U.S. defense officials, 3,000 American troops were being deployed to the Middle East on Friday, the AP reported.

In a statement released late Thursday night in Washington, the Pentagon said the strikes were ordered by President Trump as a “decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad,” as Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” President Trump stated on Friday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on CNN Friday morning, said that Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat to American lives and was plotting attacks “not just in Iraq” but “throughout the region, but wouldn’t give further details, noting that “I’m not going to say anything more about the nature of the attack.”

The U.S. has defended the drone strike as a legitimate removal of a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. military personnel in past years, and the more recent attacks of U.S. bases in Iraq by Iranian-backed forces.

Dr. Kevin Miller, a moral theologian at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, spoke with CNA about the application of Catholic just war theory to the strike.

Catholic teaching on the use of lethal force “doesn’t rule this sort of thing out,” he said of “targeted killing of military leaders.” If Soleimani was behind attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, as alleged, then “you’re talking about an attempted attack on American civilian lives,” Miller said.

However, Miller cautioned, prudence must be considered with such a use of force, namely the possibility of greater evils replacing the threat that Soleimani allegedly posed to civilians. If another official were to take his place and carry on with similar threats to civilians, or if Soleimani’s death caused a “power vacuum” with mob rule in the streets, then the situation could be “worse rather than better.”

And given Iran’s proxy wars in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, “if this causes, on balance, an escalation of that war—even if it maybe for the moment puts an end to attempted attacks on our embassy—if this, on balance, causes an escalation of the situation, a worsening of this proxy war that’s going on, I don’t see how that makes the situation, on balance, better rather than worse,” Miller told CNA.

“I think this is one of those situations in which you really have to make sure that you’re not falling into that trap of saying ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ without really thinking the matter through,” he said.

The question of legality also surfaced on Friday. Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions and director of Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University, tweeted on Friday that “Outside the context of active hostilities, the use of drones or other means for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal.”

When such force is used, she said, it can only be done in cases of an “immanent threat to life”—one which carries a “very narrow” standard for cases of “anticipatory self-defence.”

“This test is unlikely to be met in these particular cases,” she tweeted.

The threat of a regional conflict to vulnerable religious minorities in Iraq prompted concern from Christian aid and advocacy groups.

“Heightened tensions bring increased possibility of counterattacks on religious minorities,” said Toufic Baaklini, president of the group In Defense of Christians, in a statement on Friday.

“We can count on more instability, and instability is not the friend of Christians and other minorities,” said Michael La Civita of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a pontifical aid organization.

US bishops declare solidarity with immigrants, refugees

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 12:43

Washington D.C., Jan 3, 2020 / 10:43 am (CNA).- Anticipating its observance of National Migration Week, the US bishops' conference said Thursday that it stands in solidarity with immigrant and refugees.

National Migration Week is observed this year Jan. 5-11, with the theme “Promoting a Church and a World for All.”

“As a founding principle of our country, we have always welcomed immigrant and refugee populations, and through the social services and good works of the Church, we have accompanied our brothers and sisters in integrating to daily American life,” Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chair of the US bishops' Comittee on Migration, said Jan. 2.

“National Migration Week is an opportunity for the Church to prayerfully unite and live out the Holy Father’s vision to welcome immigrants and refugees into our communities and to provide opportunities that will help them and all people of good will to thrive,” he added.

According to the USCCB, “For nearly a half-century, National Migration Week has been observed in the United States to highlight the situation of immigrants and refugees and unite in prayer to accompany them.”

The conference noted that globally, more than 70 million people have been forcibly displaced by political instability, violence, and economic hardship.

Report: Over past decade, 170,000 children had rights 'gravely violated'

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 02:33

New York City, N.Y., Jan 3, 2020 / 12:33 am (CNA).- The past decade saw troubling levels of violence against children, with some 45 children seeing their rights “gravely violated” each day during the 2010s, a new report from the United Nations said.

In total, more than 170,000 children were affected by conflict throughout the past decade, said a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report detailing the major atrocities against children around the world.

These violations included the killing, maiming, abduction, sexual assault, and forced military service of children. The regions highlighted in the UNICEF report were the Middle East and Africa, although children around the world were at risk.

“Conflicts around the world are lasting longer, causing more bloodshed and claiming more young lives” than in previous times, said Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF. The organization announced the creation of a special fund to address the “historic” numbers of children in need.

In January 2019, more than 30 children were killed in Syria as a result of the ongoing civil war. The situation in Syria is “one of the gravest crises of our time,” said UNICEF. The organization also noted that thousands of children have been displaced due to the war.

“The hostilities damaged or caused the closure of critical basic services including schools, and health and water facilities,” said UNICEF. “Many of those displaced, especially children, are also in desperate need of psychological support after witnessing shelling, fighting and explosions in their home communities.”

The first nine months last year were particularly devastating for Afghani children, said UNICEF. Approximately nine children were “killed or maimed” each day.

“Even by Afghanistan’s grim standards, 2019 has been particularly deadly for children,” said Fore.

In February 2019, there were attacks on Ebola treatment centers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the midst of one of the largest-ever outbreaks of the disease. Ebola, which kills about two out of every three people infected, particularly impacts children as they are at risk of losing their parents or being forced to spend time in isolation due to fear of the virus spreading.

Schools were frequent targets of violence in 2019, said the report. In April, 14 children were killed in a bombing attack in Sana’a, Yemen, while class was in session. About 2 million of Yemen’s children are not even enrolled in a school due to poverty, violence, or other reasons. A quarter of these children left school since the country’s civil war began in 2015. In Cameroon, violence has led to over 800,000 school-aged children being kept out of school. Cameroon’s civil unrest expanded to eight regions of the country last year.

Over in eastern Ukraine, which is in a sustained conflict with Russia, there were 36 attacks on schools in 2019.

UNICEF also continued to decry the use of children as soldiers. In June, three children were used as “human bombs” in northeast Nigeria in an attack that killed 30 people, the organization noted.

 

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