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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 29 min ago

Abortion 'mega-clinic' to open in Illinois after Missouri restrictions

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 19:29

Belleville, Ill., Oct 2, 2019 / 05:29 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood announced Wednesday the opening of an 18,000 square foot, $7 million “mega” abortion clinic in southern Illinois, just a dozen miles from Missouri’s last remaining Planned Parenthood clinic.

Mary Kate Knorr, Illinois Right to Life Executive Director, said Oct. 2 the facility is a “money-making venture” for Planned Parenthood in what she calls the “most abortion-friendly state in the country.” Knorr has previously called Illinois the “abortion capital of the Midwest.”

“Make no mistake – this new mega-facility is not a response to an increased demand, nor is it a gesture of care for women. This facility was created to fill the gaping hole they’re seeing in their bottom line,” Knorr said.

“The construction of this new facility was a strategic business move – certainly not a defense of women.”

The abortion giant had for over a year been constructing the facility in secret in Fairview Heights, Ill., just 5 miles north of Belleville, using a shell company and leaving no public trace that the facility would become one of the nation’s largest abortion clinics, CBS News reports.

Even several construction workers whom the St. Louis Post-Dispatch interviewed were unaware the building they were helping to construct, codenamed “Alaska,” was an abortion clinic.

The clinic expects to begin taking patients later this month and will perform abortions up to 24 weeks.

The St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility, just across the Mississippi River, is the last clinic in Missouri currently performing abortions, though its ability to perform abortions may end soon, as its license with the state has lapsed.

Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told CBS News that abortion facilies in other areas had faced public outcry and protest during their contruction, hence their decision to build the clinic in secret.

“The truth is that our patients want easier access, and for some, the 13 mile drive from our St. Louis clinic to this Illinois clinic is an opportunity for them to get that care with less judgement, with less restriction, and with far fewer hoops to jump through,” she told CBS News.

The number of women from Missouri crossing the border into Illinois for an abortion has doubled since 2017, according to data compiled by the Associated Press, which reported that the number of abortions performed in Illinois on out-of-state women doubled from 2012 to 2017 to nearly 17%.

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said the clinic will have the ability to see 11,000 patients a year.

“Let the executives of Planned Parenthood be aware that their stronghold here is temporary,” Knorr continued.

“We aren’t going anywhere. We will continue to fight to expose Planned Parenthood’s lies, manipulations, and their deep-seated hatred for the most vulnerable members of our human race.”

In June, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services refused to renew the St. Louis Planned Parenthood affiliate’s license to perform abortions, citing concerns including at least three failed abortions as well as a lack of cooperation.

Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commissioner overseeing the clinic’s license dispute, in July tentatively scheduled the clinic’s license hearing for the last week of October.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson in May signed the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” an expansive pro-life bill that bans abortions after eight weeks gestation, which drew praise from Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis. In August, however, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the new law, preventing it going into force.

Missouri also has a “trigger law” that would ban all abortions except in cases of medical emergency if Roe v. Wade were overturned, and mandates a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.

By contrast, Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois in June signed legislation to expand vastly access to abortion in that state.

The Reproductive Rights Act ended a ban on dilation and evacuation abortion, removed regulations for abortion clinics, and ended required waiting periods to obtain an abortion. It also lifted criminal penalties for performing abortions, required all private health insurance plans to cover elective abortions, and eliminated abortion reporting requirements, as well as regulations requiring the investigation of maternal deaths due to abortion.

An Illinois state representative in September introduced legislation to prevent government employees from traveling to states which have enacted pro-life legislation, a move the Illinois state Catholic conference told CNA is "absurd."

Notre Dame students disturbed by anti-Catholic rhetoric

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 18:11

South Bend, Ind., Oct 2, 2019 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- Students and observers are reacting to a hand-painted sign, posted outside an academic hall at the University of Notre Dame, bearing the words “There is Queer Blood on Homophobic Hands.” The sign implicates Catholic student journalists, faculty, and alumni for the deaths of people who identify as queer.

According to the Irish Rover, the sign appeared outside DeBartolo Hall, close to the football stadium, the week of Sept. 19. Campus police have since removed it.

In addition to its message painted in blood red, the sign includes pasted articles clipped from The Irish Rover and the Observer, two student publications, that reflect Catholic doctrine on human sexuality, along with pictures of people nationwide who identify as queer and have been killed or committed suicide.

The names of the student journalists, as well as the names of other students, faculty, and alumni of Notre Dame are circled in red paint.

Though the sign itself was anonymous, the Observer newspaper on Sept. 30 published an op-ed by Audrey Lindemann, a Notre Dame junior who, in the form of a poem, said the Catholic student publication’s “ivory tower theology slit my loved ones’ throats.”

The op-ed bore the same title as the sign: “There is Queer Blood on Homophobic Hands.”

“Irish Rover / your cowardly pontification is a cultural bullet at the gay massacre,” it reads in part.

“You burned us / you beat us in alleys / you watched us die of AIDS,” it continues.

The Observer also included a video of the student reading her poem while another student in the background beats the hand-painted sign to pieces with a crowbar.

The student also called out Students for Child Oriented Policy, a campus group that hosts events related to Catholic teaching on the family.

The Irish Rover reportedly reached out to student government leaders, asking them to “formally disavow and condemn the message sent by whoever put this post up.”

Student Body President Elizabeth Boyle has declined to comment on the matter, the Rover reported.

“To the Rover leadership, the unauthorized sign was perceived as an attempt to silence the paper and the presentation of Catholic teaching on controversial issues, and as harassment towards all of the people involved, especially to those whose names were circled in blood-red paint,” student journalist Nicolas Abouchedid wrote Sept. 26.

“It was an unmistakable attempt to scare those with differing views (Catholic views, in this case) into silence.”

“Accordingly, harassment reports were filed to the Notre Dame Police Department and directly to the university through SpeakUp.”

Notre Dame spokesman Paul Browne on Monday responded to a request for comment from the National Review.

“When the sign was first displayed on campus, it was quickly taken down by the Notre Dame Police Department. A subsequent request for permission to display the sign on campus was denied by the university,” Browne told the Review.

The university has not yet released an official statement on the matter.

Kansas lawmakers consider pro-life change to state constitution

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 18:06

Topeka, Kansas, Oct 2, 2019 / 04:06 pm (CNA).- The Kansas legislature is attempting to force a statewide referendum on abortion after the state’s Supreme Court declared it a constitutional right, striking down pro-life legislation earlier this year. 

In April, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state constiution included a fundamental right to have an abortion, and blocked a law that who have banned dilation and evacuation abortions. Dilation and evacuation is the most common procedure for second-trimester abortions.

In response to that decision, on Oct. 1, a legislative committee began two days of hearings to consider a state-wide referendum to amend the constitution, making it explicit that abortion is not a right and the court cannot interpret the constitution to say it is. 

With both pro-life and pro-abortion advocates anticipating a possible change to the Supreme Court’s current settlement in Roe v Wade, focus has moved to the local level in preparation for a possible broadening of the scope for state action.

Alabama and West Virginia have already amended their constitutions with similar wording, to prevent state supreme courts interpreting them to find a right to abortion. Louisiana residents will vote in 2020 to amend their constitution. 

A two-thirds majority in both of Kansas’ legislative chambers is needed in order to add a referendum to the ballot next year. 

Earlier this year, the Kansas legislature passed a law making it madatory to inform women recieveing chemical abortions that the process could be halted by interrupting the two-dose chemcial abortion regimine. 

A chemical abortion involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the progesterone hormone, inducing a miscarriage. The second drug is taken up to two days later and induces labor. Several pro-life clinics throughout the country provide abortion pill reversals, a protocol that involves giving pregnant women who regret their decision to take the first drug doses of progesterone to counteract the progesterone-blocking effects of the mifepristone.

Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed that bill, which would have required medical workers to inform women of this possibility when dispensing abortion drugs. but narrowly avoided an override, with lawmakers nearly reaching the two-thirds majority needed.

Presently, the Kansas constitution states that “The legislature shall provide for the protection of the rights of women, in acquiring and possessing property, real, personal and mixed, separate and apart from the husband; and shall also provide for their equal rights in the possession of their children.” 

The Kansas Supreme Court said in April that this extends to a “natural right of personal autonomy” regarding abortion. 

Kansas adopted this constitution in 1859, when abortion was largely--if not entirely--illegal. 

The actual text of the proposed referendum has yet to be determined, but is being drafted by pro-life legislators and pro-life groups. According to Mary Kay Culp, who leads Kansans for Life, the constitutional amendment would likely declare that the state’s legislature will decide abortion restrictions in the state. It would not ban abortion, however. 

Culp testified before the committee that the pro-life movement is “stuck” in the referrendum process, and that “there is really no other way to do it.”  

Due to the April ruling, pro-lifers warned, other Kansas laws limiting abortion could also be at risk of being overturned. In Kansas, abortion is not legal after the 22nd week of a pregnancy, and parents must be informed and consent to their minor child having an abortion.

'Undisguisedly indifferent': Bridgeport diocese issues report on its own abuse record

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 15:30

Bridgeport, Conn., Oct 2, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- An investigative report on decades of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Bridgeport was published on Tuesday, highlighting failures of past leadership, including by senior Churchmen.

“The abuse crisis has wounded the entire Church, first and foremost the victims and their families but in a larger sense all those affected by the abuse. That includes our many good and faithful priests,” stated Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport on Sept. 27, in advance of the report’s release.

The report, commissioned by Bishop Caggiano in October of 2018, was the result of an almost year-long investigation by the law firm Pullman & Comley, LLC into clerical sexual abuse of minors and the diocese response to it since its founding.

On Tuesday, Caggiano tweeted that the report “will be painful to read” but it “will also provide another step in the ongoing healing and spiritual renewal of our Diocese.”

Overall, 281 individuals were reported as abused by 71 priests in the diocese since 1953, nearly all of the cases involved minors. Just ten priests were responsible for over 60% of the reported incidents. There has been no report of abuse since 2008.

The report found that diocesan leaders knew of such incidents occurring since the beginning of the diocese; cases “ranged from lewd behavior in front of victims to violent assaults.” All the instances of abuse covered by the report were violations of state laws.

The report characterized the evolution of handling cases of abuse throughout the decades as a “A Tale of Two Cities” the first five decades of the diocese’s history, and what followed after the year 2001.

In the first several decades, when abuse cases peaked in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, bishops kept poor records of clergy abuse—or actively destroyed records.

Former bishops of the diocese, including the future Cardinal Edward Egan, secretly transferred abusers to other parishes and kept them in ministry, refused to meet with many abuse victims, did not establish policies for mandatory reporting of abuse or for removing abusers from ministry, and prioritized the protection of the diocese’s reputation and assets over justice, transparency, and accountability.

Bishop Lawrence Shehan, who led the diocese from 1953 to 1961, began transferring abusers without properly notifying the parishes he was sending them to, and a lack of record evidence suggested that “the diocese had no consistent or written policies” during his tenure, the report said.

Bishop Walter Curtis, who followed Shehan and led the diocese for almost 30 years until 1988—during which the number abuse cases peaked—was “undisguisedly indifferent” to abuse claims, abdicated responsibility to respond to them, did not meet with most victims, and “prioritized the avoidance of scandal over the protection of people,” the report concluded.

In two cases, Curtis was found to have “recklessly accepted” two transfer priests who would eventually be removed for sexual misconduct—one priest “with a known history of psychiatric illness, alcoholism, and another one who had been dismissed from seminary.

Additionally, Curtis acknowledged that he destroyed records of clergy sexual abuse, the report noted.

Egan, who followed Bishop Curtis in 1988 and led the diocese until 2000, came after the peak in the number of abuse cases but - the report found - his tenure was marked by a “dismissive, uncaring, and at times threatening attitude toward survivors and survivors’ advocates.”

Egan went on to serve as Archbishop of New York from 2000-2009 and was made a cardinal in 2001 - the same year as Theodore McCarrick. He died in 2005.

In dealing with survivors of abuse, the report found he “followed a scorched-earth litigation policy” that dragged out court battles and “re-victimized survivor plaintiffs,” not only taxing diocesan assets in the process but poisoning the Church’s standing with the laity and society.

The report also found that Egan “freely acknowledged” that he prioritized diocesan asset preservation and protection against scandal over justice for abuse victims, the report said. Along with Bishops Curtis and Shehan, he continuing transferring known abusers without disclosing the danger to pastors and parishioners.

In a 1993 letter cited by the report, Egan explained that he refused to take any canonical action against an abuser priest, or to seek to have him removed from ministry because the scandal would be worse for the Church than the abuse.

“There can be no canonical process either for the removal of a diocesan priest from his priestly duties or for the removal of a priest from his parish when there is serious reason to believe that the priest in question is guilty of the sexual violation of children, and especially when he has confessed,” Egan wrote.

“For the bishop who would countenance such a process would be opening the way to the gravest of evils, among them the financial ruin of the diocese which he is to serve.”

And although Connecticut had a state mandatory reporting law on abuse by 1971, both Curtis and Egan operated in ignorance or defiance of it until 1990, the report said.

After decades of abuse and cover-up at the diocesan level, Bishop William Lori—now Archbishop of Baltimore—took over in 2001 and, along with Bishop Frank Caggiano, “reversed” this problematic response by instituting mandatory reporting procedures, “zero tolerance” for abusers, and laicization of the worst offenders.

Despite recent reforming efforts, the report concluded that “many in the diocese remain extremely skeptical of healing efforts or have been permanently alienated from the Church.”

In preparing the report, investigators reviewed more than 250,000 paper and electronic records and interviewed more than 50 witnesses, including abuse survivors, current and former bishops and staff, priests, attorneys and administrators.

They noted gaps in evidence from an “inadequate and antiquated” record-keeping system that dated from the founding of the diocese in 1953 until the early 2000s. In addition, various scenarios presented difficulties to obtaining sound evidence of abuse—deceased victims or survivors with decades-old abuse cases and memory lapses.  

“The sexual abuse of children by clergy and the responses to that abuse by the bishops have not occurred in a void. It indisputably violates long-established civil and criminal prohibitions as well as centuries-old canonical prohibitions,” the report states.

According to the diocese, the report was initially slated for release in the spring of 2019, but the scope of the investigation required more time.

Judge halts Georgia heartbeat bill from coming into force

Wed, 10/02/2019 - 11:30

Atlanta, Ga., Oct 2, 2019 / 09:30 am (CNA).- A federal judge on Tuesday halted Georgia’s “heartbeat bill” abortion ban from going into effect.

Judge Steve Jones of the Northern District Court of Georgia wrote in his ruling October 1 that “in light of binding precedent,” the plaintiffs met the requirements for an injunction on the state’s abortion law to be granted.

The Georgia state legislature in March had passed the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act (H.B. 481), banning abortions after the detection of a baby’s heartbeat, which usually occurs between six to eight weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions were made for cases of rape, a threat to the life of the mother, or if the baby is “diagnosed as medically futile.”

The law, signed by Governor Brian Kemp (R), requires doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion. It also recognizes unborn children as “natural persons” and grants “dependent minor” tax status of “an unborn child at any stage of development who is carried in the womb.”

Other states have passed similar versions of “heartbeat bills” this year including in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, and Mississippi, and Iowa and North Dakota have previously enacted similar bans.

So far, court intervention has prevented any of the laws from coming into force: the Iowa and North Dakota bans were struck down and judges have blocked laws in, Missouri, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio from going into effect.

The Georgia Catholic Conference supported the legislation while it was being considered in the state legislature, noting that “[w]hile we understand life to begin at conception, not heartbeat, this language is as close as the authors think we can come and still withstand challenge in court.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood had sued to stop the bill in court. On Tuesday, the legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, Sean J. Young, stated that “[e]veryone is entitled to their own opinion, but every woman is entitled to her own decision.” 

Entertainers and entertainment companies publicly opposed the law’s enactment, threatening or carrying out a boycott in the state.

Actress Alyssa Milano, who appeared in the 2017 TV miniseries “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later,” authored an open letter, along with 50 other entertainers, to Gov. Kemp demanding he not sign the bill and threatening to lead an industry boycott of the state if he did. At the time, Milano was filming the television series “Insatiable” in the state but said she would consider her role in future series if filming remained in Georgia.

The bill’s enactment led to several large media companies announcing—or considering—that they would no longer do business in the state if the bill came into force.

Three companies—Blown Deadline, Killer Films, and Duplass Brothers Production—said they would not do business in the state although they had not done so before the bill’s passage.

Other production companies WarnerMedia, Disney, and Netflix announced they were considering pulling production out of Georgia. Viacom, Sony, CBS, NBCUniversal, and AMC also spoke out against the ban and threatened to boycott the state.

Michigan governor axes funding for pregnancy, parenting support

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 20:34

Lansing, Mich., Oct 1, 2019 / 06:34 pm (CNA).- Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has line-item vetoed from the state’s budget $700,000 in funding for the Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program, to the consternation of the Michigan Catholic Conference and a pro-life group active in the state.

“The process that led to these vetoes has been disappointing,” said Tom Hickson, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) vice president for public policy.

“It is the hope of this organization that in forthcoming negotiations the Governor and legislature can work together to restore this critical funding.”

The funding in the Michigan budget for pregnancy and parenting support went to Real Alternatives, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that has since 1996 provided counseling for pregnant woman on alternatives to abortion, as well as material help such as baby formula and diapers to mothers up to 12 months after they give birth.

The program expanded its operations to Michigan beginning in June 2014, working mainly through local Catholic Charities affiliates, with the backing of the Michigan Catholic Conference.

According to Real Alternatives’ estimates, the Michigan program has served 8,240 women at 31,958 support visits since 2014. The state has appropriated $3.3 million to the program since its inception.

“This year the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania allocated $7.3 million in funding for the same program in that state; Governor Whitmer’s line-item veto of a meager $700,000 will have a negative impact on low-income women in Michigan and should have been avoided,” said MCC’s Policy Advocate Rebecca Mastee.

“Women deserve better than this veto, and we look forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to reinsert this funding into the state budget.”

Whitmer issued 147 line-item vetoes Oct. 1, amounting to nearly $1 billion in cuts to the budget she received from the Republican-controlled legislature, mlive.com reported.

Real Alternatives’ founding CEO Kevin Bagatta told CNA in August that if a woman is alone and poor, she may struggle with the pressures of an unexpected pregnancy. What the Real Alternatives program does is provide a counselor, who helps the woman from conception until 12 months after the baby's birth, training her how to take care of the baby and herself.

He noted that it is primarily a counseling program, not a medical program, although the program offers referrals for medical needs, and saves the state of Michigan money that it might have otherwise spent on additional medical care for pregnant women.

“Real Alternatives is perplexed to hear...that against the wishes of Michiganders, Governor Whitmer has line item vetoed the successful Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program,” Bagatta said in an Oct. 1 statement.

“Not only did Michiganders reach-out to their fellow citizens in need through the program, but it also saved taxpayer monies.”

Bagatta told CNA that research done in the 1980s found that about 80% of surveyed women who had procured an abortion said that they would not have gone through with the procedure if just one person had taken the time to help them.

Today, Real Alternatives runs the Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Michigan programs from their base in Harrisburg. They helped to start a similar program in Texas.

In 2013, the Michigan Catholic Conference asked Real Alternatives to help to explain the program to then-Governor Rick Snyder, who put money in the budget to start the state’s program.

Catholic Charities affiliates in the various states are staffed with licensed social workers and trained counselors.

Under the George W. Bush administration, the program was accepted as meeting the requirements to use Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) money from the federal government, which states may use as they see fit. This means many of the state programs are funded with federal dollars; Pennsylvania’s program, like Michigan’s, also is funded by some state revenue. Usually the program is accepted in a state with a pro-life governor, Bagatta said.

“Every state gets TANF money. So if you're a pro-life governor, you can have this program and use your TANF money to do a program like [this],” he explained.

Catholic Charities affiliates are able to dedicate staff specifically for this program as a result of the funding received, Bagatta said, and the funding model provides an incentive for the centers to serve more clients and open specific pregnancy resource programs.

David Maluchnik, communications vice president for the MCC, reiterated in August that Real Alternatives provides needed care for women who would otherwise choose abortion.

“[The program] not only provides support and care, it provides formula and [referrals for] pre- and post-natal meds; it gets clothing and shelter to mom and baby where there may otherwise be none; it helps with parenting tips when there’s no one to talk to; it offsets threats to infant mortality and gives young children and mothers a healthy start and a brighter future.”

“In the end, pulling the rug from under low-income women and her unborn or infant child at a time when they’re most vulnerable would constitute a heartless, calculated political maneuver,” he said.

Split ruling for Virginia abortion regulations

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 18:13

Richmond, Va., Oct 1, 2019 / 04:13 pm (CNA).- A federal judge on Monday overturned two Virginia restrictions on abortion, while upholding several others, saying, “the right to choose to have an abortion is not unfettered.”

“In addition to a woman's personal liberty interest, the state has profound interests in protecting potential life and protecting the health and safety of women,” wrote U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, citing Supreme Court precedent.

“The state, therefore, may take measures to further these interests so long as it does not create a substantial obstacle that unduly burdens a woman's right to choose.”

Hudson ruled Sept. 30 in a case filed last year by abortion advocacy groups including the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Falls Church Healthcare Center. The suit challenged a series of abortion regulations enacted in Virginia.

Hudson upheld a state law requiring an ultrasound and a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, calling the legislation “a persuasive measure by the State to encourage women to choose childbirth rather than abortion, which is a valid basis upon which to regulate abortion so long as the measure does not amount to a substantial obstacle to access.”

The judge also upheld unannounced inspections of abortion clinics, as well as a law mandating that only physicians may perform abortions. He noted that the state has a legitimate interest in ensuring the safety of abortion procedures.

“Given the potential risk that can arise in the later stages of second trimester abortions, limiting such procedures to physicians only is well-justified, even though it may impose an increased burden on rural residents, especially those who are living at or near the poverty line,” he said.

Hudson overturned a state law requiring clinics that perform first-trimester abortions to meet the health and safety standards of hospitals, saying that safe conditions could be ensured without this requirement, and pointing to previous Supreme Court rulings invalidating similar restrictions.

He also rejected a rule that second-trimester abortions take place in a hospital, saying that medical advancements render this requirement unnecessary for nonsurgical abortions taking place before the baby is viable outside the womb.

“The evidence has revealed minimal medical necessity for requiring non-surgical second trimester abortion procedures to be performed in licensed hospitals. On the other hand, the burden is significant, particularly with respect to costs and availability,” he ruled.

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, applauded the ruling, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, saying, “Once again the abortion industry failed in their zealous attempt to use the courts to do their bidding.”

Rosemary Codding, head of the Falls Church Healthcare Center, said she was “disappointed that our patients did not get their constitutionally-protected right to accessing health care without legislative interference that they are entitled to and that they deserve,” the Times-Dispatch reported.

Virginia is one of several states with abortion regulations being challenged in court. More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed this year against state laws restricting abortion.

Olivia Gans Turner, president of Virginia’s National Right to Life state affiliate, argued in May that raising safety standards surrounding abortion procedures protects the health of women, noting, “Laws requiring that ‘physicians only’ perform abortions exist in 40 states.”

City of Anchorage drops 'gender identity' complaint against women's shelter

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 15:30

Anchorage, Alaska, Oct 1, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The city of Anchorage has dropped a complaint filed with the city’s Equal Rights Commission after a women’s shelter in the city refused to allow a biological man to stay the night, it was announced on Monday, Sept. 30. 

The complaint was filed in 2018 after Downtown Hope Center, a faith-based women’s shelter, declined to let an “inebriated and injured” biological man who identified as a woman to spend the night. Instead, Downtown Hope Center sent the individual to a hospital and paid for a taxi there. 

Later, the man filed a complaint against the shelter, which the city pursued. 

Downtown Hope Center was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, who filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Anchorage on their behalf. 

Many of the women who use the shelter overnight are survivors of domestic or sexual abuse. The center said it did not want to force vulnerable women to sleep next to a biological man, particularly one who was intoxicated. Downtown Hope Center is also a sober facility. The center serves food and provides services to everyone during the day, but is restricted to women at night.

Other shelters in Anchorage serve people of all genders. Earlier in the day, the same man who wished to sleep at Downtown Hope Center had been banned from one of these shelters for starting a fight. 

“All Americans should be free to live out their faith and serve their neighbors—especially homeless women who have suffered sexual abuse or domestic violence—without being targeted or harassed by the government,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson. 

“This is the right outcome. Downtown Hope Center serves everyone, but women deserve a safe place to stay overnight. No woman—particularly not an abuse survivor—should be forced to sleep or disrobe next to a man.”

The Equal Rights Commission accused the Downtown Hope Shelter of violating the city’s public accommodation ordinance and engaging in gender identity discrimination. The shelter denied that they refused to host the man due to his gender identity. ADF further argued in court that the public accommodation ordinance already exempted homeless shelters, including women’s-only shelters. 

A federal court sided with the shelter in the case The Downtown Soup Kitchen dba Downtown Hope Center v. Municipality of Anchorage. The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska ruled in a temporary order that the operation of a women-only shelter does not violate Anchorage’s public accommodation law, nor does the law apply to the women’s shelter. 

On Monday, ADF, along with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, jointly filed documents that would make the order permanent. The court has still to approve these documents. 

“Faith-based nonprofits should be free to serve consistently with their beliefs and mission,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker. Tucker argued on behalf of Downtown Hope Center before the court.

“The end of this case means the center can continue its critically needed work to help the vulnerable women it serves and fulfill its duty to do everything it can to protect them.”

Catholics with special needs ‘show us the face of Christ,’ says Burbidge

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 14:00

Arlington, Va., Oct 1, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Catholics with special needs are a central part of “who we are and what we do” as a community, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington told attendees of the diocesean Mass for Persons with Disabilities on Sunday, Sept. 29. 

Burbidge told the assembly that he hopes and intends to work so that every school and parish in the Arlington diocese is able to offer special education and inclusion programs.

The Mass was sponsored by the diocese’s Office of Faith Formation, Porto Charities, and Holy Spirit Church in Annandale, where the Mass was celebrated. The Virginia-based branch of Porto Charities works to help and support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Burbidge drew from Sunday’s Gospel reading, the parable of the poor man, Lazarus, going to heaven while the rich man went to hell. 

“I do not think the rich man intentionally and deliberately did anything evil. He did not order Lazarus from the gate. He did not treat him intentionally cruelly,” said Burbidge. 

“The failure of the rich man was that he simply did not notice Lazarus right there in his midst. Instead, the rich man accepted him as part of the landscape.” 

In today’s world, it is important to not become like the rich man and ignore the suffering of those around us, even if this is not an intentional act, Burbidge said. He challenged those at the Mass to search for ways to assist those who may need help, including in the diocese’s schools. Burbidge explained that many Catholic schools in the diocese have programs to include students of varying abilities. 

“I want to highlight today the expanded services and inclusion and options programs that our Catholic high schools and some of our elementary schools [have], where those with learning challenges and gifts are part of who we are and what we do,” said Burbidge.

He said that students with special needs who attend these schools “show others the face of Christ and bring out the best in all of us.”

Fifteen diocesan schools currently enroll students with special educational needs. The bishop said it is his aim that every part of the diocesan community be able to accommodate students with special needs.

“It is my expressed desire and hope and intention to make these expansion programs part of every parish and every school,” said Burbidge. Presently, three of the diocese’s five Catholic high schools have programs that serve students with intellectual or developmental disabilities. 

Dr. Joseph Vorbach, who serves as the superintendent of the Diocese of Arlington’s Catholic schools, told CNA that expanding inclusivity at schools is a “growing priority” in the diocese. 

"With Bishop Burbidge's vision and support, schools are initiating new programs and expanding existing ones that benefit not only the students with intellectual disabilities, but also entire school communities as everyone becomes more acutely aware of individual differences and challenges,” said Vorbach.  

“Moving in this direction has been possible because of bold leadership at the school level empowering wonderfully creative and mission-focused educators.”

Sacred Heart Academy, a diocesan elementary and middle school in Winchester, VA, was chosen by the Virginia Division of Rehabilitative Services to receive the Winchester Division of Rehabilitative Services “Champion Employer Award.” This award recognizes employers who “go above and beyond” to employ and support people with disabilities.

HHS allocates $33m previously meant for Planned Parenthood

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 12:00

Washington D.C., Oct 1, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The Department of Health and Human Services announced on Monday that is allocating $33.6 million in Title X funding previously earmarked for Planned Parenthood and other entities that have withdrawn from the program. In total, 50 groups will receive family planning grants which would otherwise have gone to abortion providers.

HHS said that the funding was for the 2019 fiscal year, and was being reallocated  after it was “relinquished” by groups refusing to comply with the administration’s new regulations on abortion funding.

Title X is a federal program created in 1970 under the Public Health Service Act that provides family planning funding to clinics around the country, for contraceptives and other family planning services. The act stipulated that the funds could not be used for “programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

Regulations issued in 1988 by the Reagan administration forbade abortion referrals and co-location with abortion facilities by grant recipients, but the Clinton administration later reversed this requirment, insisting that Title X recipients refer patients for abortions.

In 2019, Trump administration issued the Title X Protect Life Rule, which went into effect in August, requiring Title X recipients to not co-locate with abortion clinics and to not refer for abortions.

Other requirements include more reporting on subrecipients and referral agencies; mandatory protocols for clinics to protect survivors of sexual assault, as well as mandatory reporting requirements for such cases. The rules also encourage communication between minors and their parents on family planning matters.

Planned Parenthood sued the administration to overturn the rule, but after the court refused to grant an injunction, they announced on August 19 that it was leaving the program altogether rather than comply with the new rule. The group called the prohibition of abortion referrals a “gag rule,” and said it had been “forced” out of the Title X program. The new rule bans abortion referrals but does not say that abortion could not be discussed at clinics receiving Title X funding; such counseling had to be “non-directive.”

Grantees that have left the Title X program include Planned Parenthood affiliates in the Great Northwest & Hawaiian Islands, Southern New England, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Northern New England, Greater Ohio, Illinois, and Utah.

State health departments or agencies in Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont have also walked out of the program.

Recipients of the more than $33 million in funding include various state and local health departments and clinics around the country.

Planned Parenthood is still challenging the Protect Life Rule in court, with oral arguments in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals taking place on Sept. 23.

There have also been efforts in the Senate to insert amendments into government funding bills that would repeal the Protect Life Rule, and other protections against taxpayer funding of abortion or organizations promoting abortion.

Earlier in September Sen. Patti Murray (D-Wash.) tried to insert an amendment repealing the Protect Life Rule into an appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and other agencies. The effort resulted in the bill being pulled from consideration.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) tried to insert an amendment into another funding bill that would have repealed the Mexico City Policy, but it was blocked; she succeeded in increasing family planning funding of international organizations, and funding the UNFPA, in the bill that was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Although contraceptives are a part of the Title X program, one Catholic-backed pro-life health care network in California does not provide contraceptives and still receives Title X funding.

Obria Group is a network of clinics serving low-income women and men that provides “comprehensive care” including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, breast and cervical cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and full prenatal care.

How this convert 'fell in love with Jesus' through the Byzantine Catholic Church

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 06:00

Tucson, Ariz., Oct 1, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- At Easter, Jessica Rider entered the Church through an avenue with which most Catholics are unfamiliar - she became a member of the Ruthenian Catholic Church.

Rider, 33, was welcomed into St Melany's Byzantine Catholic Church in Tucson, Arizona at Easter. She described the experience as both intimate and engaging.

“It set a fire in me when I became a part of the Byzantine church. I never experienced so much longing to want to know as much as I possibly can,” she told CNA.

“I fell in love with Jesus Christ when I went to the Byzantine church.”

Some background: Most people think of the Catholic Church as a singular structure and institution. The reality is a little more complicated. The universal Catholic Church is actually a union of 24 different Churches, each of which is in communion with one another and with the pope, who is the visible head of the Church. The largest of those 24 Churches is the Latin Catholic Church, which has more than 1 billion members. The other Churches are much smaller; the second largest, the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church, has 4.4 million members.

The Ruthenian Catholic Church, the one Rider encountered in Arizona, has almost 500,000 members. It is sometimes referred to as the Byzantine Catholic Church, although that term can also be used to describe some of the other Churches in the Catholic communion.

Rider didn’t know most of that when she first stepped into St. Melany’s. But by Easter 2019, she had learned a lot about Byzantine rite Catholicism. It was then that she became a Catholic.

During the Divine Liturgy at the Easter Vigil, she stood with her pastor, Fr. Robert Rankin. They were surrounded by beautiful icons, an eastern tradition of gold leaf and painted wood which often depict biblical stories or images of Christ and the saints.

Rider received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, which Byzantine Catholics call “chrismation”, and holy communion. She was anointed with chrism on her forehead, her hands, feet, chest, mouth, nose, and eyes.

While her parents had shied away from their Catholic faith when they were young, Rider said she grew up attending Christian services.

Her parents had “experienced something traumatic” in the Church, Rider said. Though their experience led them away from the Catholic faith, they were cautiously supportive of her decision to become Catholic, she explained

“My mom was exposed to the Roman Catholic Church at a very young age and she kind of steered away from it,” she said. “My father also was raised Roman Catholic as well.”

Before she became Catholic, Rider attended Calvary Chapel, an association of evangelical Christian communities.

But when she experienced a trial of suffering, she began looking for answers. The search led her to St. Melany’s.

Two years ago, her brother died in a motorcycle accident. Around the same time, Rider was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disease involving fatigue and musculoskeletal pain.

Before those hardships, Rider said, she had begun drifting away from Christianity. But once she started experiencing loss, she began to look at her priorities.

“I made a choice that day when it happened, either fall prey to sin or change your life and go back to Jesus, [my] first love. I chose Jesus and my whole life transformed after that,” she said.

It was after her brother’s accident that Rider met Jacob, the man who last month became her husband. Jacob himself had converted from Protestantism to the Byzantine Catholic faith before he met Jessica.

When they met, Jessica said, she was awakened to something beautiful and mysterious. She told CNA that Jacob did not push his Byzantine faith on her, she said, but politely encouraged her to join him at Divine Liturgy. 

“There was something different about him that I have never seen in anybody else. I was intrigued by that,” she said.

“There was something about him that was just a lot of wisdom. He was also very patient and he wasn't anxious. He wasn't an anxious or stressed person at all. So I was just really curious on what happened in his life.”

She said meeting Fr. Rankin was also an inspiration for her conversion. Not only did he speak with wisdom, she said, but the priest had an incredible zeal for Christ.

“I love Fr. Rankin. The way he talks about Lord and the saints, he talks smiling through his eyes…I have never seen anybody talk about God or anything in this manner. So it was kind of hypnotizing to listen to him talk about it.”

The choice she made to follow Christ more closely after her brother’s death has changed everything in her life, Rider said.

“I mean, literally, I got a new job, I have a husband, I have a faith and a church,” she said.

Rider chose St. Faustina Kowalska as her confirmation saint. She said she related to Faustina’s trials and felt connected to the Divine Mercy Chaplet. She said Faustina, who trusted in Christ despite pains, helped her find a purpose in her illness, which still gives her chronic pain.

“The picture of Divine Mercy...was important because it's my path. Without his mercy, I wouldn't be here right now,” she said. “[It] truly hit home for me when I was making the choice because I was going through [my trial] ...When I saw the image and when I heard her story, there was just no way that she wouldn't be a part of what I would choose because I felt like that was me.”

“I've had to learn that everything comes from his hands and trusting in that there's a purpose. If I am going to suffer as Christ suffers, then I will do so,” Rider added.

When she heard about the Church's sexual scandals, Rider said, the crimes, though disturbing, did not dissuade her from entering the Church. She said her faith relies on Christ.

The scandals, she said, are opportunities to pray for Church leaders who have “fallen away, because there's so much responsibility and authority they have in Church.”

Coming from a Protestant background, Rider said the idea of praying to Mary and the saints was a difficult concept to grasp. But the Byzantine community was a source of information for all her questions, she said. Rider added Catholics should not “sugar coat” the faith for new converts.

“I felt supported in a lot of ways. Any questions that I had, I didn't feel that I was inconveniencing anyone to explain [it] to me or that it may have been a silly question.”

“I don't feel like we need to change [Church teaching]...because that's not what Jesus Christ is about. Sometimes being obedient, it's hard and it hurts,” she added.

Rider said she fell in love with the Ruthenian Church’s beautiful traditions, songs, icons and community. She described the experience as intimate and captivating. She also mentioned that her parish community was welcoming to her, which has made her feel like she belongs.

“When I came in, I was welcomed,” she said. “It's always been really important since I've come in the church, that we all support each other.”

“It's very intimate. Everybody that is with you, we're worshiping and praising, and we're all holding fast and true to scripture.”

Since she became a Catholic, she said, the Holy Spirit has prompted her to share Christ with her coworkers, who have asked her about an image of St. Padre Pio she wears as a necklace. Although her friends do not fully understand her decision to convert, she said, they are inspired by her faith.

“My coworkers don't get it. They don't understand,” she said. “[But,] I have a lot of people ask me because I wear the icon of Padre Pio. It kind of opens up conversation. So it's an opportunity for me to talk about it.”

“Every day I print out words of wisdom and then I connect the scripture to it and I hand them out to my coworkers … They love it. I mean, if I don't give it to them by lunchtime, people are asking me where is that? So … he must be moving in a way that I could never.”

 

Churches often have 'best way forward' for helping inmates, Betsy DeVos says

Mon, 09/30/2019 - 22:00

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2019 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- The Secretary of Education said on Monday that churches are among the institutions with the best solutions for using education to reduce incarceration and reoffending.

“I’m not one to suggest that government should step in or can step in in an effective way into many situations,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said at the Justice Declaration Symposium, hosted by the group Prison Fellowship, at the National Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 30.

“I am one that believes that the Church and private sector organizations are by definition the best solutions and answers very often.”

DeVos was speaking at the Museum of the Bible about the role of churches in advancing education and other initiatives to reduce incarceration. Her appearance followed a day of panel discussions on prison ministry at the Justice Declaration Symposium. 

Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, followed her as the keynote speaker.

The Justice Declaration is a document signed by 4,700 Christians and faith leaders expressing the need for churches to lead efforts to reduce incarceration.

The declaration states principles of human dignity and acknowledges the responsibility of churches and communities to be “seedbeds of virtue.” It commits signatories to fighting on behalf of the poor for better education and access to legal representation, proportional punishment in the justice system, care for victims of crime, and help for former prisoners to reenter society.

The U.S. represents five percent of the world’s population but houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated population, the declaration notes. Nearly 2.2 million Americans are in prison and an estimated 65 million American citizens have a criminal record, presenting an obstacle to their future career opportunities.

The role of education in reducing incarceration was the topic of discussion on Monday, with DeVos noting that, at one of her visits to a prison in Indiana, the warden told her the biggest problem was not violence, but illiteracy.

She noted that many in the audience may already have been involved in church-run ministries to address problems like illiteracy or education and training for former inmates reentering society. “There’s great opportunity to expand on that,” she said.

DeVos addressed efforts to promote Second Chance Pell Grants for former inmates. In 1994, Congress stopped access to Pell grants for those incarcerated in state and federal prisons, but in 2015 the Obama administration announced the Second Chance Pell (SCP) pilot program.

The administration partnered with 67 colleges and universities in the 2016 pilot, which allowed inmates a chance to pursue post-secondary studies with Pell Grants. Over 10,000 students received Federal Pell Grant funding from 64 institutions from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019.

Legislation is currently in the Senate to make the Second Chance Pell Grants permanent.

While Pell grants and other policy initiatives are important for reducing incarceration, “it really, to me, is only a vehicle for helping to compensate for the access to some of these education opportunities,” DeVos said on Monday.

“I believe that the church writ large, and our local churches, and those who make up those communities, really do have very often the best methods and the best way forward to form relationships with individuals that are behind bars,” she said.

Moderator Craig DeRoche, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy at Prison Fellowship, said that “the Church and others have to be there” to mentor and volunteer children and teens at risk, and ensure they have the education they need. “Absolutely,” DeVos agreed, emphasizing the need to help each individual person figure out their education goals and interests, and help steer them towards their vocation.

For those reentering society from prison, “I try to put myself in their position,” DeVos said, one perhaps of uncertainty. “And education is the ticket to a good future for just about anyone and everyone.”

“We should be embracing these opportunities for brothers and sisters who are behind bars today, who will be in our communities and with their families, and giving them a purpose—giving them a means for their purpose,” she said.

Independent report released on New York archdiocese abuse response

Mon, 09/30/2019 - 18:30

New York City, N.Y., Sep 30, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- An independent reviewer for the Archdiocese of New York has found overall compliance with proper protocols for reports of sexual abuse, while offering recommendations to further strengthen the archdiocese’s response to abuse cases.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan commissioned retired federal judge Barbara Jones in September 2018 to give her “honest, objective assessment” of the diosesan protocols for responding to allegations of sexual abuse.

Among other findings, Jones found that no archdiocesan priest or deacon with a substantiated complaint of abuse of a minor is currently in ministry. She said the archdiocese’s current processes for dealing with abuse complaints are “working very well.”

“Overall, I have found that the Archdiocese has complied with the Charter in all material respects. It has faithfully followed its policies and procedures and responded appropriately to abuse complaints, and is committed to supporting victims-survivors of abuse,” Jones wrote in her report, while also citing several recommendations for “enhancements” to current practices.

In 1995 Jones was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She retired from the court in 2013.

Jones said in a Sept. 30 press conference that she received the archdiocese’s “total cooperation,” including complete access to all records, and conducted dozens of interviews, as well as performed an exhaustive review of documents, including “easily a couple of thousand” priest personnel files.

Nearly 300 lawsuits are pending against the eight dioceses in New York state, The Journal News reports, many of them filed in recent weeks, as the state of New York has created a one-year window extending the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims.

Jones has a long record of investigating complex organizations. She began her legal career in the Organized Crime and Racketeering Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, serving as a part of the agency’s Manhattan Strike Force in the 1970s. She was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York from 1977 to 1987, leading an organized crime unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, before becoming a high-ranking prosecutor in the New York district attorney’s office.

During her time as a federal judge, Jones presided over U.S. v. Windsor, a case that challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In a 2012 decision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones found that definition violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Jones reported that any time the archdiocese receives an allegation of sexual abuse, the District Attorney for the appropriate county is notified. When an allegation is made against a cleric in ministry, the archdiocese initiates an independent review of the allegation which is presented to the Lay Review Board, which determines if the allegation is substantiated and subsequently recommends to Cardinal Dolan that the cleric be permanently removed from ministry.

“Cardinal Dolan accepts the Board’s recommendation and has never returned a cleric to ministry against whom there has been a substantiated complaint,” Jones reported.

Regarding the Lay Review Board, Jones recommended that the board add new members who have more areas of expertise. The board currently includes judges, lawyers, parents, a priest, a psychiatrist, and a religious sister.

She noted that the archdiocese has provided a website where victims can lodge their complaints, as well as free counseling.

The archdiocese has paid a total of over $67 million to 338 victim-survivors since launching the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) in 2016.

Jones recommended that the archdiocese hire a full-time employee to oversee its response to sexual abuse complaints, as well as annual safe environment training for all employees working with children.

She noted that the Archdiocese’s Office of Priest Personnel has protocols that require any priest from outside the archdiocese who wants to minister in New York, on a short-term or long-term basis, to provide a certification from his home diocese or religious order that he has never been credibly accused of sexual abuse.

A New York Archdiocese priest must present a similar certification if he wishes to minister in another diocese, she reported.

“These protocols are sound but are hindered by a paper filing system that can be susceptible to mistakes,” she said, suggesting a digitizing of all priest personnel files, which she said the archdiocese has already purchased and plans to implement next month.

“The Office could perform its functions more effectively with better technology,” she said, adding that she recommends hiring a compliance officer for the office to monitor its functions and oversee the new electronic management system.

Jones made a similar recommendation for the Archdiocese’s Safe Environment Office, which promulgates the code of conduct for adults interacting with children in archdiocesan institutions and monitors “more than 30,000 employees and volunteers,” conducting criminal background checks and training before any employee or volunteer can begin working with children.

She said in addition to updating that office’s technology— including the creation of a database to monitor adults who want to work with children in the archdiocese— more cooperation from parishes and programs is also needed to maintain up-to-date information and track compliance.

Jones also recommended that the archdiocese’s Memoranda of Understanding with the 10 New York-area District Attorneys be updated to include “a reporting protocol for allegations of sexual abuse of non-consenting adults, as well as for allegations of sexual abuse committed by employees and volunteers.”

Illinois bill would ban government travel to pro-life states

Mon, 09/30/2019 - 15:15

Springfield, Ill., Sep 30, 2019 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- An Illinois state representative has introduced legislation to prevent government employees from traveling to states which have enacted pro-life legislation. The Illinois state Catholic conference told CNA the bill is "absurd."

The bill, introduced last week by Rep. Daniel Didech (D-Buffalo Grove), would ban any Illinois state agency from requiring or approving travel by any of its employees or officers to states with laws that prohibited abortion at 8 weeks of pregnancy or upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

The bill would also ban state-sponsored travel to jurisdictions that do not have exemptions in abortion laws for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or that require an investigation in the cause of a miscarriage.

Didech filed HB 3901 Sept. 26, saying the measures is intended to protect Illinois employees.

“What these other states are doing is, to me, very dangerous. To a large extent, yes, abortion is a big part of it, but it’s not entirely about abortion,” Didech told the State Journal-Register.

“As a member of the legislature, I have the responsibility to protect our state employees.”

Since the beginning of the year, 12 states have passed measures to tighten restrictions on abortion. Several states, including Georgia and Missouri, which borders Illinois, have enacted so-called heartbeat bills that prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Several of those laws are now under judicial review.

The Illinois bill would create a general prohibition on state employees or representatives from state-funded or approved travel to other states for any reason, including conferences, litigation, or for training.

“This is not like a boycott of those states or anything like that, although in effect, it may look similar,” Didech said.

“The purpose of the bill is to protect women who may not be able to get the health care they may need when they’re traveling on official state business,” he said, though it is unclear which other state’s legislation would create such effects. Many of the laws passed since January only apply to residents of the state.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference, which serves as the public policy voice for the state’s six Catholic dioceses, called the bill “absurd.”

“Where does this thinking begin and end?” he said to CNA Sept. 30.

“There are states that have weaker gun laws, different speed limits out West, different smoking laws - why don’t we protect our state employees when they travel to other states when they may not have the same laws as Illinois on these issues?” he asked.

“The obvious point is: why does this always have to come back to abortion?”

Gilligan told CNA that beyond taking a stand against other state’s views on abortion, there was no clear rationale for the measure.

“I mean it is absurd... do we prevent state employees from traveling to Flint, Michigan where they have less safe water? This type of thinking is endless. State laws should pertain to what happens in Illinois, and this is an unjust law so it shouldn’t even be on the books.”

“Where does this type of thinking end and where do you draw the line?” asked Gilligan.

“If the real aim of this bill is to protect people, surely we should ban traveling to states where they have different laws from Illinois on all sorts of things and it isn’t safe for them to travel to.”

Gilligan noted that the bill would allow state-sponsored travel in special cases, should the trip be deemed by a state agency to be necessary despite the ban, and suggested that the bill could prove to be almost unenforceable.

“If there is a conference and it’s determined that an employee needs to be there, they should go,” he told CNA. “And if they do not need to be there, they should not be spending state dollars going in the first place.”

The bill would also require the state attorney general “to develop, maintain, and post on his or her internet website a current list of states that have enacted specified laws prohibiting or restricting abortion rights,” to which other departments would defer in making travel plans.

“I think we should have a list of all states with weaker air pollution laws, water laws, driving laws, gun laws, and we shouldn’t be sending people to those areas either,” Gilligan told CNA.

DOJ backs Archdiocese of Indianapolis over firing of teacher for gay marriage

Mon, 09/30/2019 - 14:30

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2019 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- The Justice Department (DOJ) said on Friday that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is protected by the First Amendment in its request that a Catholic school dismiss a teacher for publicly violating Church teaching after he entered a same-sex marriage.

“The United States has a substantial interest in religious liberty,” the DOJ said in a statement regarding a lawsuit filed by a former teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis who was dismissed this summer after he contracted a same-sex marriage.

The statement of interest, released Sept. 27, said that “religious employers are entitled to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts, and, more broadly, that the United States Constitution bars the government from interfering with the autonomy of a religious organization.”

In 2017, Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis requested that Cathedral High School and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School not renew the contracts of two male teachers who had entered a same-sex marriage in 2017. 

Brebeuf Jesuit resisted the order and Thompson subsequently withdrew the school’s ability to call itself “Catholic” and said that the archdiocese would no longer recognize the school as Catholic. That case is now being considered on appeal at the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome.

Cathedral High School complied with the archbishop’s request and terminated the contract of social studies teacher Joshua Payne-Elliott. 

Following his dismissal, Elliott sued the archdiocese in a county court for wrongfully interfering in his contract with Cathedral Catholic; the lawsuit ultimately prompted the DOJ’s intervention on Friday.

The DOJ statement said that the archdiocese’s decision to apply the teachings of the Church on sexual morality and marriage in Catholic schools is legally protected under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.

“This case presents an important question: whether a religious entity’s interpretation and implementation of its own religious teachings can expose it to third-party intentional-tort liability. The First Amendment answers that question in the negative,” the DOJ statement read.

In its decision to terminate Elliott’s contract, Cathedral High School had cited the threat of losing its Catholic identity. The school said it would have lost the ability to provide access to some sacraments and its permission to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in its chapel. The school also said it would have lost its tax-exempt status if it was no longer recognized as Catholic, among other consequences.

The Justice Department issued a “statement of interest” in Payne-Elliott’s lawsuit, supporting the right of the archbishop to determine the Catholic identity of schools. The statement added that courts cannot “second-guess” the decisions of religious institutions to exercise their religious mission and implement doctrine.

Archdiocesan policy states that every Catholic school, archdiocesan and private, must clearly state in its contracts and job descriptions that all teachers are ministers of the Gospel and must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.

In a June 20 statement, the archdiocese explained that teachers at Catholic schools are considered ministers, as part of the schools’ mission to forming students in the Catholic faith.

“To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching,” the archdiocese said.

Citing previous religious freedom guidance from the Attorney General in October of 2017, that outlined principles of protection for religious freedom for all government agencies to follow, the DOJ statement reaffirmed the rights of religious organizations to employ persons based on conduct in accordance with their principles.

The statement of interest cites the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision that struck down state bans on same-sex marriage; the Court, DOJ said, while recognizing a right for same-sex couples to marry, also made sure to “emphasize that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

Despite any public opinion to the contrary, the Court must respect the archdiocese’s “free exercise” of religion in this case under the First Amendment, DOJ said.

“The archdiocese determined that, consistent with its interpretation of Church teachings, a school within its diocesan boundaries cannot identify as Catholic and simultaneously employ a teacher in a public, same-sex marriage,” the DOJ stated.

“Many may lament the archdiocese’s determination. But the First Amendment forbids this court from interfering with the archdiocese’s right to expressive association, and from second-guessing the archdiocese’s interpretation and application of Catholic law,” the statement read.

The case has a wider significance, as a bundle of employment discrimination cases will be heard by the Supreme Court this fall. Several cases involve Title VII protections against employment discrimination under the Civil Rights Act, and whether protections against sex discrimination in the workplace also apply to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Court will also consider the freedom of employers with a religious mission to make hiring and firing decisions based on employee conduct in accord with their mission.

At UN, Holy See requests increased aid for Middle Eastern Christians

Sat, 09/28/2019 - 08:01

New York City, N.Y., Sep 28, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- As displaced Christians return to their homes in the Middle East, the Vatican Secretary of State encouraged U.N. representatives Friday to help rebuild a culture ravaged by the Islamic State.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin spoke Sept. 27 at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City during a panel discussion hosted by Hungary.

The panel was titled “Rebuilding Lives, Rebuilding Communities: Ensuring a Future for Persecuted Christians.” It discussed the restoration of war-torn areas such as Iraq and Syria. In the spring the last sector of Islamic State territory in Syria was dislodged, but guerilla warfare throughout the two countries has continued.

Parolin discussed his recent visit to the Nineveh Plain of Iraq. He said his trip was both inspiring and difficult to see Christians return to the cities destroyed by the Islamic State.

“Last December 24th to 28th, I had the privilege to travel to the Nineveh Plains in Iraq to celebrate Christmas with some of the most courageous and inspiring people I have ever met,” he said.

“While I was so edified by their rich humanity, infectious joy and strong faith, I was also struck at the state of the rebuilding process,” he further added.

He said the flight and return of Middle East Christians parallels the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt when Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled Bethlehem fearing the wrath of King Herod. He said it’s a sign of Christian victory and triumph over evil.

“Many of the Christians of the Nineveh Plains, after their escape and exile, have now been able to return home, to begin the arduous process, not just of reconstructing buildings, but of reassembling the social fabric that has been rent asunder by hatred, betrayal and brutality,” he said.

“Their return, I told them, is a sign that evil does not have the last word. It is also a powerful witness of the importance of a Christian presence in the Middle East, where Christianity has its deepest historical roots and has been a fundamental source of peace, stability and pluralism for centuries.”

Cardinal Parolin thanked the Hungarian government and charities, like Aid to the Church in Need, the Knights of Columbus, and Caritas International, for their humanitarian efforts. However, the cardinal said there is much more work to be done, especially regarding security and shelter.

“As I walked in the city of Mosul, there was still rubble everywhere, making it difficult to traverse. Much of the basic infrastructure still needs to be rebuilt. The security situation, which is essential for the region to flourish anew, is still tenuous,” he said.

“Basic humanitarian aid also remains necessary. There is a pressing need for jobs and job training, for education and youth programs, for mental health care and much more.”

He encouraged humanitarian groups to continue to build up these countries, stressing the importance of the religious rights of minorities. He said countries must take a stand to ensure religious protections, especially physical defenses. He drew attention to recent instances of religious violence such as the Easter bombing in Sri Lanka and the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“All of us here this morning know that religious freedom is a fundamental right. It is grounded in human dignity. It means far more than the right to believe or worship, and includes the right to seek the truth and the liberty to live, privately and publicly, according to the ethical principles that flow from religious ones. Protecting religious freedom, which is a grave duty incumbent upon civil authorities, is a great challenge in our present world.”

He pointed to the efforts of Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, who signed the joint “Declaration on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” Feb. 4. The document strongly discouraged religious violence and emphasized the importance of religious liberty.

“They explicitly addressed the right to religious freedom and what must be done to defend and advance it. They then spoke about the protection of places of worship as a direct consequence of the defense of freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” he said.

“And, very importantly, they mutually affirmed that in order to protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, there is a need to bolster the concept of the rule of law and equality before the law based on the principle of citizenship, regardless of one’s religion, race or ethnicity.”

Bishops and Catholic Charities condemn new federal refugee limits

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders and organizations have condemned an announcement by the Trump administration that it intends to cap the number of refugees admitted to the United States at 18,000 for the 2020 financial year. 

The 18,000 figure will not include people who are claiming asylum. A person seeking asylum does so after arriving at a port of entry. A refugee is processed before arriving in the United States. 

The new proposed figure marks a 40% drop from the previous year’s ceiling of 30,000.

In a phone call with journalists, a senior administration official explained that the new refugee policy would prioritize refugees by the basis for their application over region of origin. The administration said that the large backlog in asylum cases is part of the reasoning behind the reduced number of refugees. There are nearly 400,000 asylum cases currently being processed by the U.S. government.

“First, we're prioritizing those who have been persecuted for their religious beliefs,” said the official, explaining that 5,000 places would be reserved for this category.

“The U.S. is committed to advancing religious freedom internationally, including the protection of religious groups across the globe.”  

An additional 4,000 spaces will be reserved for Iraqis who assisted the United States, and an additional 1,500 places will be reserved for Honduran, Guatemalan, and El Salvadoran nationals who do not otherwise qualify for asylum.

The remaining 7,500 spots will go to eligible claimants not otherwise covered by these categories. 

A statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the policy shift.

“We are currently in the midst of the world’s greatest forced displacement crisis on record, and for our nation, which leads by example, to lower the number of refugee admissions for those who are in need is unacceptable,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of the Diocese of Austin, who chairs the USCCB Committee on Migration.

“Refugees are among the most vulnerable people, fleeing war, religious persecution, and extreme targeted violence. Turning a blind eye to those in need with such callous disregard for human life would go against the values of our nation and fail to meet the standards that make our society great,” added Vasquez. 

Vasquez also voiced concerns about a proposed executive order that would allow cities and states to turn away refugees. 

“We fear the collateral negative consequences, especially for refugees and their families, of creating a confusing patchwork across America of some jurisdictions where refugees are welcomed and others where they are not.” 

Vasquez urged President Trump and Congress to “work together to restore U.S. refugee resettlement to at normal, historical levels.”

Catholic Charities USA said Sept. 27 that the organization “strongly opposes yesterday’s action by the Administration to historically reduce the number of refugees welcomed into the United States, a record low since the program began in 1980.”

“We call upon the Administration to consider the refugee resettlement program’s mission to provide protection to those in need for humanitarian reasons. The program should return to consistent refugee numbers rather than focus primarily on its use for partisan-based purposes,” Catholic Charities said. 

Catholic Relief Services, which exercises humanitarian ministry around the world, was similarly opposed to the proposed cap. 

“The world depends on the United States taking in its share of the 26 million vulnerable refugees,” said CRS executive vice president for Mission and Mobilization Bill O’Keefe in a statement.

“How can we ask a country like Uganda, a developing country smaller than Wyoming, to take in a million South Sudanese refugees unless we step up and take in at least 95,000 of the most vulnerable? 

“Fundamentally, we are talking about other human beings – children and families – seeking safety and a decent life. Admitting refugees reflects the values on which this nation was built, the teaching of Christianity and other faiths, and basic human decency,” he added. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acting Director Ken Cuccinelli told reporters Friday that persecuted Christians seeking refugee status in the U.S. will be turned back if they seek to bypass the refugee cap by seeking asylum at the border.

"I take issue with how you ask your alleged question," Cuccinelli said, before clarifying that the administration will "turn them back" if persecuted Christians attempted to walk across a national border in order to claim asylum in the counry.

The United States’ refugee ceiling remained relatively stable from the fiscal years 2000-2016, at around 70,000 annually. In his last year in office, President Barack Obama raised the ceiling to 110,000 for the fiscal year 2017. 

President Trump moved to limit the number of refugees who were admitted to the United States as one of his first acts in office. The United States averaged about 67,000 new refugee admissions each year until Trump took office, and that number has since been repeatedly lowered.

Judge rules in favor of Michigan Catholic foster care agency

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 18:08

Lansing, Mich., Sep 27, 2019 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- A federal judge in Grand Rapids has halted a new state policy requiring adoption and foster care agencies to certify same-sex couples, regardless of their religious mission, or else lose state funding.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker issued a preliminary injunction against the policy Thursday. He said statements by Attorney General Dana Nessel calling religious foster care agencies, among other things, “hate mongers,” raise a “strong inference of a hostility toward a religious viewpoint.”

Nessel had in March put forth a new state rule that would bar adoption and foster care agencies from state funding if they refused to place children with same-sex couples.

The Michigan Catholic Conference said in a statement to the Detroit News that “it's encouraging to see that Dana Nessel's animosity toward Catholics has now been recognized in federal court.”

Michigan’s foster care system currently has nearly 13,000 children in it, and more than 600 children “age out” of the foster care system each year without having been adopted.

St. Vincent Catholic Charities, located in Lansing, recruited more new adoptive families than nearly 90 percent of the other agencies in its service area in 2017, legal group Becket reports.

“This case is not about whether same-sex couples can be great parents...What this case is about is whether St. Vincent may continue to do this work and still profess and promote the traditional Catholic belief that marriage as ordained by God is for one man and one woman,” Judge Jonker wrote in his opinion.

The ACLU first filed a lawsuit in 2017, after two same-sex couples approached St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services to adopt children referred to the agencies through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The couples claimed that in 2016 and 2017 the agencies referred them elsewhere.

The State’s health department opened investigations into the complaints. Then on March 22, 2019, Nessel settled with the ACLU and required all adoption agencies to match children with qualified same-sex couples in order to receive state funding.

The settlement came despite a 2015 state law, passed with the support of the Michigan Catholic Conference, protecting the religious freedom and funding of adoption agencies. The settlement provided that the state must enforce non-discrimination provisions in contracts.

St. Vincent Catholic Charities challenged the new rule, along with a married couple and former foster child who had used the agency.

Judge Jonker noted that through the state’s Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange process, certified prospective parents can access children from any other agency, including St. Vincent. Through this process, same-sex couples have in the past been able to adopt children in St. Vincent’s care, he said.

“What St. Vincent has not done and will not do is give up its traditional Catholic belief that marriage as instituted by God is for one man and one woman,” the judge said.

“Based on that belief, St. Vincent has exercised its discretion to ensure that it is not in the position of having to review and recommend to the State whether to certify a same-sex or unmarried couple, and to refer those cases to agencies that do not have a religious confession preventing an honest evaluation and recommendation.”

Jonker called Attorney General Nessel’s efforts to force St. Vincent to certify same-sex couples a “targeted attack on a sincerely held religious belief.”

“Leading up to and during the 2018 general election campaign, she made it clear that she considered beliefs like St. Vincent’s to be the product of hate,” Jonker wrote.

Becket, the law firm representing the adoption agency and several other plaintiffs in the case, called the ruling a “major victory.”

“Our nation is facing a foster care crisis, and we are so glad that Michigan’s foster children will continue having all hands on deck to help them find loving forever homes,” Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, said in a Friday statement.

After oral arguments in the case, Melissa Buck, an adoptive mom and one of the plaintiffs in the current case, shared her personal story of working with St. Vincent to adopt five children with special needs.

“It’s the best and the hardest thing we’ve ever done, and there were challenges that we weren’t equipped to face on our own—but we were never alone. St. Vincent was there for us every step of the way, at all hours of the day or night, for anything we needed, even if it was for just a shoulder to cry on,” Buck said.

“We chose to foster and adopt through St. Vincent because the faith and values that motivate their ministry make them the very best at what they do, particularly finding homes for the children who need it most.”

Laws barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or barring state funding from adoption agencies considered discriminatory have shut down Catholic adoption agencies in Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and Illinois, among others.

Congress passes resolution against border emergency

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The House and Senate have passed a joint resolution to terminate President Trump’s February declaration of emergency at the U.S.-Mexico Border, before departing for a two-week recess. The support for the resolution, however, is not likely to be enough to override the expected presidential veto.

On Wednesday, before leaving for its October recess, the Senate passed S.J. Res. 54 by a vote of 54 to 41. In addition to 42 Democrats who voted in favor of it, 11 Republicans supported the resolution.

On Friday, the House passed the same resolution by a vote of 236-174. Voting in favor were 11 Republicans and 224 Democrats.

“This resolution reflects the fact that the President’s assertion of a national security emergency at the border is false,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Majority Leader, stated on Friday. “The crisis at the border is a humanitarian one, and it is a crisis of this President’s own making.”

In December of 2018, Trump had refused to sign a spending bill passed by Congress because it did not devote money for a border wall, triggering a 35-day partial government shutdown over border security funding. The partial shutdown was the longest in history.

After a temporary agreement without border wall funding reopened the government for several weeks, President Trump declared a national emergency and diverted funding appropriated by Congress for other purposes for the construction of a border wall. 

In response, leading bishops expressed their concern at the president’s action. 

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), and Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, issued a Feb. 15 statement that “[w]e are deeply concerned” about the action “which circumvents the clear intent of Congress to limit funding of a wall.”

“We oppose the use of these funds to further the construction of the wall,” the bishops stated. “The wall first and foremost is a symbol of division and animosity between two friendly countries.”

“We remain steadfast and resolute in the vision articulated by Pope Francis that at this time we need to be building bridges and not walls,” the statement read.

Credit check: Buffalo diocese says cancelled cards not connected to Malone controversy

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 14:00

Buffalo, N.Y., Sep 27, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Buffalo is shutting down its credit cards, effective Friday afternoon. Although some have interpreted the move as a step towards bankruptcy, officials said the decision was unrelated to recent scandals and lawsuits affecting the diocese.

According to reports from local news station WGRZ, diocesan credit cards will reportedly be shut down as of 2 p.m. on Sept. 27. A senior source connected to the diocese said that two priests confirmed the diocese is switching from its current credit cards to another bank.

“The diocese has not made any determination regarding filing for Chapter 11 reorganization,” diocesan communications director Kathy Spanger said in a Thursday statement provided to CNA.

“The memo that was sent out today, while stating our current credit card account is being closed, told cardholders that they will be updated shortly regarding our replacement card program,” the statement noted on Thursday.

The news comes as the diocese is reportedly facing more than 160 lawsuits regarding accusations of child sexual abuse.

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

On Wednesday, local news reported that the Diocese of Buffalo is the defendant in 168 lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act since the filing window began in August.

Earlier in September, the New York Attorney General’s office launched an investigation into all dioceses in the state, including Buffalo. The diocese is also the subject of a lawsuit based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act which is typically invoked against organized crime.

With the high number of lawsuits against the diocese, Bishop Malone has admitted that he has considered filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; the neighboring Diocese of Rochester has already filed for Chapter 11 reorganization.

The diocese has been in the national spotlight over the last year, following whistleblower reports of alleged covering up of clerical sexual abuse in the diocese.

Bishop Malone’s former executive assistant Siobahn O’Connor released documents last year that appear to show Bishop Malone consulting diocesan lawyers before announcing 42 accusations of “criminal, abusive or inappropriate behavior” by clergy—out of over one hundred accusations—in the interests of transparency, while keeping the majority of the accusations from the public eye.

Bishop Malone has also faced criticism over his handling of the case of diocesan priest Fr. Art Smith, who in 2011 was placed on leave by the previous Bishop Edward Kmiec following allegations of sending inappropriate Facebook messages to a minor.

Fr. Smith was reinstated to ministry by Bishop Malone in 2012 after the priest spent time at a treatment center, and was assigned to a nursing home. Fr. Smith was later accused of inappropriate touching of two young adult men while he was at the home, and Smith also heard confessions at a diocesan youth conference during that time. Malone also approved of Fr. Smith serving as a chaplain on a cruise ship in 2015.

In a 2015 letter to Vatican officials, Malone cited Smith’s grooming of a young boy, refusal to stay in a treatment center, allegations of inappropriate touching of at least four young men, and repeated boundary issues; in the same letter, Bishop Malone said that he had granted Fr. Smith “faculties to function as a priest” in the diocese due to his “cooperation in regard to regular counseling.”

The priest was eventually suspended in 2018 after the diocese said it had received a “substantiated” allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, made against Fr. Smith.

In September, local news station WKBW released audio of conversations between Bishop Malone and his then-priest secretary Fr. Rishard Biernat, and others in the diocese, that were taped by Fr. Biernat. The recordings showed Bishop Malone in March of 2019 apparently believing accusations of sexual harassment and abuse of the seal of the confessional made against diocesan priest Fr. Jeffrey Nowak by then-seminarian Matthew Bojanowski.

Months after those conversations, however, Fr. Nowak still had not been removed from ministry and another conversation recorded on August 2 showed Malone saying that the situation of Fr. Nowak, if made public, could “be the end for me as bishop.”

“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 in an August 2 conversation as he expressed his fear that the accusations against Fr. Nowak would be made public. Malone also suspected that Fr. Nowak was jealous that Bojanowski had supposedly developed a new relationship with Fr. Biernat, that could be construed to be a “love triangle,” and that Fr. Nowak could go public with it. Biernat has said his relationship with Bojanowski is platonic.

On Monday, it was reported that the local Erie County district attorney had begun a criminal investigation into Bojanowski’s allegations of grooming and sexual harassment made against Fr. Nowak, who is currently on administrative leave.

Malone announced on Tuesday a new code of conduct for clergy, and a new process for handling claims of sexual abuse allegedly committed by clergy and staff against adults.

The bishop has said repeatedly that he will not resign. In a Sept. 4 press conference, he said that “I fully understand the rage and the dismay and perhaps the incredulity, a lack of trust, that so many people in the community, not only Catholics, feel.”

“And I may be a part of that, because I’m the bishop currently,” he said, “but a lot of it is the weight of decades of bad, bad things that some priests did. And so I accept that. And I think if I can accept that and try to move on and try to work with the folks who are so committed to restoring trust and all of that, that we can turn this around.”

Malone’s metropolitan archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, was reportedly “consulting extensively” with individuals on the ground in the diocese over whether or not to investigate Malone, according to a Sept. 10 CNA interview with an archdiocesan spokesman.

Pope Francis’ new norms—Vos estis lux mundi—for investigating bishops accused of sexual abuse, coercion, or of interfering in an investigation of such misconduct—gives metropolitan archbishops charge of investigating bishops, with the prior approval of the Vatican.

 

 

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