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Albany bishop: Lay commission should investigate claims against bishops

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 18:45

Albany, N.Y., Aug 6, 2018 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Albany said Monday that a commission of lay Catholics should be formed to investigate claims of abuse or misconduct made against bishops.

“What is needed now is an independent commission led by well-respected, faithful lay leaders who are beyond reproach, people whose role on such a panel will not serve to benefit them financially, politically, or personally,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany wrote in a statement released Aug. 6.

“I think we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer. To have credibility, a panel would have to be separated from any source of power whose trustworthiness might potentially be compromised,” he added.

The statement was Scharfenberger’s second public comment on the scandal in the U.S. Church that began when the Archdiocese of New York announced June 20 that it had concluded an investigation into an allegation that then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had sexually abused a teenager, finding the claim to be “credible and substantiated.”

Since that time, media reports have detailed additional allegations, charging that McCarrick sexually abused, assaulted, or coerced seminarians and young priests during his time as a bishop. McCarrick’s resignation from the college of cardinals was eventually accepted by Pope Francis.

“Let me be clear in stating my firm conviction that this is, at heart, much more than a crisis of policies and procedures. We can – and I am confident that we will – strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to 'get away with' such evil and destructive behaviors. But, at its heart, this is much more than a challenge of law enforcement; it is a profoundly spiritual crisis,” the bishop wrote in a July 29 letter to priests and deacons of his diocese.

In his Aug. 6 statement, Scharfenberger wrote that “it is time for us, I believe, to call forth the talents and charisms of our lay faithful, by virtue of their baptismal priesthood. Our lay people are not only willing to take on this much-needed role, but they are eager to help us make lasting reforms that will restore a level of trust that has been shattered yet again. In speaking with them, we all hear their passion for our universal Church, their devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and their hunger for the truth. They are essential to the solution we seek.”

“We bishops want to rise to this challenge, which may well be our last opportunity considering all that has happened. We must get this right. I am confident we can find a way to look outside ourselves, to put this in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and to entrust our very capable lay people, who have stood with us through very difficult times, to help us do the right thing. We need an investigation — the scope of which is not yet defined but must be defined — and it must be timely, transparent and credible.”

This Catholic entrepreneur uses his ice cream shop to live the faith

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 18:30

Anchorage, Alaska, Aug 6, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Alaskan man is using his Anchorage-based ice cream shop as an extension of the Catholic faith, supporting the local community’s spiritual and economic needs as well as its sweet tooth.

Rich Owens is the owner of Tastee Freez located at Jewel Lake in Anchorage. The shop has become something of a mentorship program for the area’s youth, and Owens has a strong sense of giving back to his community.

“I think that being raised in the church aims us in the right direction,” Owens told the Catholic Anchor.

“We learned from watching our mom and dad that this is the way that you live your life,” he said. “This is the rule, not the exception.”

Owens said he has been eating Tastee Freez since he was a child. Having developed a career in the retail business in Montana, he wanted to own his own business in Alaska and purchased the shop in 1994. The actual shop, though, celebrated its 60th anniversary earlier this year.

The shop is the largest Tastee Freez establishment in the country. The franchise recognized Owens as the Operator of the Year in 2006 and 2015.

Owens saw the business as an opportunity to emphasize his Catholic faith by means of community service. The programs have aided the community’s Catholic formation, employment opportunities, and even provided a tasty snack during the holidays.

The ice cream shop has been used as a workforce center. An estimated 700 employees, often 17-year-olds, have gained onsite job experience at Owens’ Tastee Freez.

“Some of these kids come from some pretty hard situations,” Owens said. “It doesn’t cost anything lots of times to be that individual, and you can have an impact on communities by being a good mentor.”

Owens’ Tastee Freez also partnered with the National Guard to initiate Operation Santa Claus. During the Christmas season, the program delivers thousands of ice cream sundaes to people in over 60 villages.

As a board member for the nonprofit group Catholic Camp and Conference Ministries of Alaska, Owens helped with the purchase of St. Therese’s Camp in Wasilla in 2012. The 57-acre summer camp allows children and teens to grow in knowledge of the Church in the Alaskan wilderness.

Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz of Anchorage called the camp a blessing to the community.

“This center will provide a great resource to the Catholic Church as well as the broader community,” he said. “I welcome their efforts and commend them for the hard work they have undertaken.”

Volunteers journey to US-Mexico border to aid separated families

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 18:05

Dallas, Texas, Aug 6, 2018 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- Every single mother or father arriving at Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas was able to tell Pio del Castillo exactly how long they had been separated from their child at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“One month and 13 days.”

“One month and 27 days.”

“Two months and 3 days.”

“They were counting the days and hours,” Castillo told CNA, “For me, to be able to cry with them was the most satisfying job that I have ever done.”

Castillo, from Dallas, Texas, is one of many volunteers from Catholic Charities who traveled from all over the country to the U.S.-Mexico border to aid with the surge of families released from detention centers and in need of assistance.

As the U.S. government worked to a tight-deadline in July to reunite the more than 2,000 separated families, Catholic Charities USA put out a call for more staff and volunteers.

Castillo was between jobs in Dallas when he heard his pastor talking about going to the border to help.

“I was like, ‘Wait a minute. I’m bilingual, trilingual actually, and I am able to help,” Castillo told CNA. He immediately emailed the person in charge of volunteer opportunities at his church, and they put him in touch with Catholic Charities of Dallas.

Not long after, Castillo was working 12-15 hour days at the humanitarian respite center. He conducted intake interviews with the newly released and reunited families as they arrived at the center, where Sister Norma Pimentel and her staff served hot meals and helped connect the migrants with their relatives.

To begin his intake interview, Castillo would say in Spanish, "We are here to help,” but he quickly realized that his small word of kindness would lead many of the migrants to break down crying.

“You don't know what we have been through. It was horrible not knowing where my kid was,” one parent told Castillo.

Another mother asked him, “Does your organization offer psychological help? My daughter has this separation anxiety and I don't know how to deal with this.”

“A lot of the kids had this psychological trauma of being separated from their parents,” explained Castillo, who saw the results at firsthand with the newly reunited families who arrived at the center.

Castillo was accompanying a mother and daughter when they passed two immigration officers wearing green uniforms. “As soon as she saw these men dressed in green, she [the daughter]  started shaking and hiding behind her mom … the kid was so nervous that she dropped her coloring book and all of her crayons on the floor.”

“Then something beautiful happened,” said Castillo, “One of the officers helped her so delicately to pick up every single crayon and put it in the box and you could see the kid relaxing a little bit. That was a beautiful moment that I will never forget.”

“I feel that our duty was to help alleviate a little bit of the trauma of these families being separated,” said Castillo.

"Our entire goal at Catholic Charities, throughout this entire border crisis issue, has been families first,” said Carla Goss of Catholic Charities of Dallas, “We need to remember that everyone involved is a human first and foremost.”

Catholic Social Services in Columbus, Ohio, also answered Sister Norma’s call for assistance at the border, sending professional staff members to help coordinate volunteers and the other logistics involved in serving 1,800 families at the respite center.

"We had an opportunity to see in a different way what for most people was just a news story that was far away and on the border,” Catholic Social Services President and CEO Rachel Lustig told CNA.

Lustig had the opportunity to meet with one woman from Honduras who had been recently reunited with her daughter. Most of the migrants her Ohio team served in Texas came from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Speaking to CNA, she recalled one such encounter.

“One woman had left Honduras because of domestic violence in her home and because she couldn't find a way to get recourse and safety with the local government. She was afraid for her life and the life of her daughter, who is only five years old.”

Over the course of four weeks in a detention center, the mother only had two phone calls with her daughter, who wouldn't talk to her on the other end of the line. “All she would do was cry. It was heartbreaking for her,” Lustig explained.

Lustig said that the their experiences at the border has inspired her team to put more time and energy into their local Our Lady of Guadalupe Center, which serves the new immigrant population of Columbus.

“We have a very deep sense of connection and solidarity to what was going on at the border,” said Lustig.

Although the majority of separated families were reunited by the July 26 deadline, some 463 families remain apart because the accompanying parent was deported from the U.S.

Marie Collins reacts to Cardinal Wuerl’s proposals following McCarrick scandal

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Aug 6, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has said that proposals made by Cardinal Donald Wuerl in the wake of the Theodore McCarrick scandal do not go far enough.

Marie Collins, who is herself a survivor of clerical abuse, also said that the actions taken by Church leaders thus far in response to the McCarrick allegations, are not sufficient to resolve the problem.

On August 3, Cardinal Wuerl released a “pastoral reflection” on the McCarrick crisis. In it, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., noted it was “particularly disheartening” that the Church had already been through the pain and trauma of addressing sexual abuse and episcopal failures in 2002, but quoted St. John Paul II, saying “We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community.” He also pointed out that earlier work by U.S. bishops, including the Dallas Charter, could be revisited and built upon.

In response, Marie Collins told CNA that Cardinal Wuerl “speaks as if the issue had already been addressed when we know this is not the case.”

Cardinal Wuerl’s reflection also praised Pope Francis for his “strong and decisive” response to the McCarrick allegations, calling it an example to follow.

On July 28, the pope accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the college of cardinals and directed him to live in “seclusion, prayer, and penance” pending the outcome of a canonical process. This followed the similar acceptance by the pope of the resignations of five Chilean bishops in the wake of the abuse scandal still unfolding in that country.

Collins, who resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in March 2017, said that episcopal resignations were no substitute for a proper determination of guilt and formal punishment following a canonical trail. She said that allowing bishops to effectively remove themselves following public scandal was not a credible means of resolving the crisis.

“Asking for resignations is not the same thing as having a proper, transparent, penal process,” she said, “no proper structure has been put in place to hold bishops or religious leaders to account.”

Cardinal Wuerl’s reflection noted that, in 2002, U.S. bishops issued a “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” which bound them to self-report allegations made against them to the Apostolic Nuncio, and to similarly report allegations they received against other bishops.

Wuerl said the statement could “serve as the nucleus of a more effective mechanism” for holding bishops accountable. Collins was deeply skeptical of the suggestion.

“It is disturbing that Cardinal Wuerl speaks of revising the very unsatisfactory Statement of Episcopal Committeemen that accompanied the Dallas Charter when what is needed is that the Charter itself should be revised to cover all clerics and religious.”

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., told CNA that the cardinal's comments were intended as a "contribution to an important and ongoing conversation."

"Cardinal Wuerl was drawing attention to the Statement of Episcopal Commitment, to highlight what the U.S. bishops can build upon."

"He feels it is important for the Church, and especially for victims, that time isn't wasted reinventing the wheel. The Statement and the Charter could be built upon and improved, and might be useful in that way. But if the bishops decide to go in another direction, that's also an option."

In a separate media interview, given on August 5, Wuerl suggested that the USCCB could form a committee or panel of bishops with the authority to investigate allegations, and even persistent rumors concerning individual bishops, such as those which were reportedly in wide circulation concerning Archbishop McCarrick.

Collins told CNA that the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors had already drawn up a set of safeguarding guidelines, approved by the pope, but that it has been left up to bishops’ conferences to take notice of the Commission’s recommendations.

“The Safeguarding Guidelines template which the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors drew up, and which was approved by the Pope, is on the Commission website” she pointed out, also noting that unlike the Dallas Charter “the Commission’s guideline do not exclude bishops - they refer to ‘clerics and religious’.”

Echoing previous criticisms made about the way the Pontifical Commission’s work had been adopted, Collins said that although the guidelines were meant to be a binding standard, they have not yet become normative.

“The original intention was to disseminate the guidelines to all bishops’ conferences globally as best practice and to hold all local policies to this standard, instead, they are now simply a resource on the website to take or leave.”

When asked what a credible response to the McCarrick scandal might look like, Collins  called for a serious commitment to transparency by the Church, both in Rome and in dioceses.

“There must be transparency around every action that is taken in response to a report of any sort of abuse or exploitation. The use of the 'pontifical secret' to restrict the information available to victims in canonical trials should end - this was recommended to the Holy Father by the PCPM last September, but there has been no word as to whether the recommendation has been approved or not.”

Collins said that real reform would need to be dramatic, and could include a national body charged with inspecting dioceses.

“Each diocese should open itself to an annual audit by an independent body, with diocesan bishops making all their files available.  This is done in Ireland by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church and their audits are published.”

“The NBSCCI are not completely independent but they are a central office not connected to any one diocese.”

In his Pastoral Reflection, Cardinal Wuerl has said that any review of policy must be more than just canonical and procedural. The cardinal said any revised version must include “an expansive theological and moral perspective” and recognize the need for “fraternal correction” among bishops.

Bishop Conley reviewing process for boundary violation reports

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 13:57

Lincoln, Neb., Aug 6, 2018 / 11:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop James Conley of Lincoln said he is working to ensure that correct processes are established and followed when allegations of boundary violations arise against priests in the diocese.

In an Aug. 4 letter, Conley apologized for failures in transparency when dealing with past allegations.

“During the past week, I have experienced profound sadness for anyone impacted by these situations and I have been weighed down with concern about the potential betrayal of the good people of this diocese,” he said. “Most deeply, I am reminded of our need for continual conversion.”

Conley addressed reports that have recently been published online regarding Fr. Charles Townsend, pastor of St. Peter parish in Lincoln.

“Last year I received a report that Fr. Townsend had developed an emotionally inappropriate, non-sexual relationship with a 19-year-old male which involved alcohol,” Conley said. Upon receiving the report, he said that he immediately withdrew Townsend from ministry and sent him to a treatment center in Houston before allowing him to return to ministry.

“Despite reports to the contrary, I did not oblige anyone to keep silent about this matter,” the bishop continued. “Our priests and the parishioners of St. Peter’s were told that he went away for health reasons. I made no effort to ‘cover-up’ any element of this situation, and I tried to address it with integrity.”

However, Bishop Conley said that he failed to act with the transparency, something that he “deeply regret[s].”

“I did not encourage an open discussion about this situation with our priests, with parishioners, or with those involved,” the bishop said. “Even though we were not legally obligated to report the incident, it would have been the prudent thing to do. Because the young man had reached the age of majority, we did not tell his parents about the incident.”

This past week, Conley said, he removed Fr. Townsend from ministry “so that I might consult with our diocesan review board about his situation.” He also reported the incident to civil authorities, appointed a new pastor for St. Peter parish, and met with the young man and his parents to ask for forgiveness.

Conley also discussed reports last week about former diocesan vocations director Msgr. Leonard Kalin, who died in 2008. While Kalin was beloved and revered by many in the diocese, allegations have been raised of immorality and misconduct with seminarians.

“The diocese received one report of a physical boundary violation by Msgr. Kalin, in 1998. We are continuing to gather information about these recent allegations,” the bishop said, encouraging anyone with information to contact the diocesan Safe Environment Coordinator.

Both cases will be investigated by the diocesan review board, which consists of lay experts in psychology and law enforcement investigation, Conley said. “Please be assured, I will take all necessary steps to hold accountable anyone responsible for placing people in unsafe situations within the Church.”

The bishop said the recent reports have prompted him to think about how the diocese handles the moral failings of its priests.

“I am working to rectify my failures to ensure that we consult appropriately and act with transparency in any matter involving a boundary violation,” he said. “As your bishop, I have asked the Lord for wisdom, holiness, courage, and good judgment. I have tried to do my best to lead with integrity. But, like everyone, there is always more for me to learn, and ways to grow, and I ask for your prayers.”

Conley said he prays that truth and transparency will be able to break through division and distress among the faithful.

“Christ promises that the truth will set us free. I ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for me, as I work to ensure that our diocese is led with integrity, transparency, and humility. Let us pray for each other.”

J.D. Flynn, editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency, previously served as special assistant to Bishop Conley and director of communications for the Lincoln diocese. Flynn has recused himself from coverage of this story to avoid a conflict-of-interest. He was not involved in the assigning, reporting, editing or oversight of this story.

Pittsburgh bishop to release names of accused priests

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 13:30

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 6, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Bishop of Pittsburgh has pledged to release the names of all priests of the diocese accused of abuse against a minor. He made the announcement Sunday, August 5, in a letter read at every Mass in the diocese.

Bishop David Zubik also encouraged abuse survivors who had not yet come forward to do so.

The announcement comes shortly before the publication of a 900-page grand jury report on sexual abuse allegation in six Pennsylvania dioceses - Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.

Zubik said the grand jury report will be a “sad and tragic description of events that occurred within the Church.”

The report is believed to detail allegations of widespread sexual abuse and cover-ups within the dioceses over the last 70 years. It is expected to be released later this week and to contain the names of approximately 300 individuals suspected of abuse or of covering up abuse.

The report was initially scheduled for publication at the end of June, but delayed following legal challenges by some of those named in it.

After initially staying the release, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that a partially redacted version be published no later than August 14. Sources have told CNA that the Pennsylvania dioceses are expecting it to be released on Wednesday, August 8.

Bishop Zubik said that the Diocese of Pittsburgh had “fully cooperated” with the state’s attorney general and has not tried to block publication of the report.

The full list of accused clergy from Pittsburgh will be released after the grand jury report, Zubik explained, “out of respect for the work of the grand jury and the process outlined by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.” Other dioceses in the state, including Harrisburg, have already released lists of priests, deacons, and seminarians who were accused of abuse or misconduct during the past seven decades.

In the letter, Zubik told parishioners that more than 90 percent of abuse claims occurred before 1990. The period investigated by the state’s attorney general includes the period when Cardinal Donald Wuerl served as Bishop of Pittsburgh. Wuerl was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 until 2006, when he was appointed the Archbishop of Washington.

Over the past 30 years, Zubik said, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has implemented new policies “to respond quickly and compassionately” when abuse victims come forward.

“We respond to allegations today very differently than decades ago,” said Zubik.

Now, when a credible allegation is made, the priest or deacon is immediately suspended from ministry, law enforcement is informed, and his name is released. Additionally, all employees and volunteers within the diocese undergo a background check and receive training on how to prevent and identify sexual abuse.

There are no priests or deacons serving now in public ministry in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who have been accused of sexually abusing a child, Zubik said.

By releasing the names of the alleged abusers, Zubik hopes that this will strengthen the trust of the faithful. In the past, the bishop said that he “truly believed” that giving names to law enforcement was “appropriate and sufficient action,” but now believes in the need for increased transparency on behalf of the diocese.

“Every act of child sexual abuse is horrific, no matter how long ago it occurred,” said Zubik.

He asked Pittsburgh Catholics to join him in praying for abuse survivors and their loved ones, as well as for the “vast majority of dedicated priests and deacons who bear the shame and the pain of the worst deeds of their peers.”

Survey: Religious superiors support possibility of women deacons

Sat, 08/04/2018 - 20:41

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2018 / 06:41 pm (CNA).- A survey of both male and female religious superiors in the U.S. found that most believe that the Church can and should ordain women as deacons.

Almost three-quarters of responding superiors said they think it is possible to sacramentally ordain women deacons, and that the Church should do so. Only 45 percent, however, believe the Church will do so.

The survey, released this week by The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA), reached out to all 777 U.S. religious institutes and societies of apostolic life. These included members of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), as well as 137 contemplative women’s groups.

Only men may be ordained priests under Catholic teaching. Pope Francis has reiterated on numerous occasions that this doctrine is definitive and cannot be changed. However, non-ordained female deacons were part of the early Church, although it is not entirely clear what their role was.

The question of female deacons has recently resurfaced amid Pope Francis appointing a commission to look into the historical role of female deacons in the ancient Church.

Of religious superiors surveyed, 76 percent had known about the commission. Most – 84 percent – believed that ordaining women as deacons would create at least some greater call for women priests.

Among respondents, 78 percent of superiors said sacramental ordination of women deacons would be somewhat or very important for the Church, but only 45 percent said it would be somewhat or very important for their religious communities. Sixty-one percent said they did not think the ordination of women as deacons would increase candidates seeking to join their communities.

Nearly 60 percent of major superiors of women who provided a response said they would consider allowing members to be ordained if the diaconate were opened to women as an ordained ministry. Half said they do not think any of their current members are interested in becoming a deacon.

In addition, open-ended questions were presented to female superiors about benefits and challenges of ordaining women to the diaconate.

“The most common benefits cited include a greater capacity to perform liturgical and sacramental duties, a greater acceptance of women and their gifts in the Church, and the continuation of current ministries but with a higher status,” CARA said.

“Challenges and concerns frequently noted include confusion over who the deacon would be accountable to, the acceptance of female deacons by clergy and other religious, concerns that it would create a two-tiered membership within religious communities, the issue of balance between community life and a deacon’s ministry to the external community, and that this step would reinforce the hierarchal structure of the Catholic Church.”

In August 2016, Pope Francis instituted a commission for the study of women deacons, after the topic was raised at a papal audience with a group of religious sisters in May.

At the audience, one sister asked why the Church does not include women in the permanent diaconate and suggested that a commission be established to study the possibility.

Pope Francis expressed his openness to establishing such a commission. Several weeks later, he told a group of journalists that he was upset by media reports suggesting that he had endorsed the idea of female deacons.  

“They said: 'The Church opens the door to deaconesses.' Really? I am a bit angry because this is not telling the truth of things,” the pope said.

“We had heard that in the first centuries there were deaconesses,” he continued. “One could study this and one could make a commission. Nothing more has been requested.”

Francis acknowledged that the subject of women deacons has already been studied by the Church, including a 2002 document from the International Theological Commission, and advisory body to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The document, which gave a thorough historical context of the role of the deaconess in the ancient Church, overwhelmingly concluded that female deacons in the early Church had not been equivalent to male deacons, and had neither a liturgical nor a sacramental function.

Heading Francis’ commission on the study of women deacons is Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria.

In June 2018, Ladaria clarified that “the Holy Father did not ask us to study whether or not women can be deaconesses…but rather, [he asked us] to try to say in a clear way what the problems are and what the situation was in the ancient Church on this point of the women's diaconate.”

“We know that in the ancient Church there were so-called deaconesses: what does this mean? Was it the same as deacons, or was it something different? Was it a large, or rather local reality?


USCCB: ‘We encourage and welcome’ Rubio family leave bill

Sat, 08/04/2018 - 07:00

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference praised a Senate bill that would allow new parents to draw two months of Social Security benefits while they care for their new child.

The bill, titled the “Economic Security for New Parents Act,” was introduced to the Senate on Thursday by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Dominic Lombardi, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ conference Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, told CNA that “the principle of family leave is an important one,” and that new parents “ought to be supported in their calling to raise the next generation.”

“We encourage and welcome the ideas of lawmakers such as Senator Rubio in exploring effective ways on how best to provide paid leave policies for new parents.”

If Rubio’s bill were to pass, it would be the first law concerning family leave since the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA provides a 12-week period of unpaid time off for qualified employees who are caring for a relative.

The United States is one of few industrialized nations without mandatory paid maternal or family leave policies, although some states and municipalities have passed laws requiring a certain number of paid, or partially-paid, weeks of leave for new parents.

Only about 12 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave through their employer, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“There’s nothing we can do for our children that’s better than allowing their parents to spend more time [with them] and be more involved in [their] lives, especially from their early days,” Rubio said during an appearance on CBS This Morning on Thursday.

The senator said it is “wrong” when new mothers are forced back to work within weeks of having a child to avoid missing a paycheck. The bill also aims to reduce the number of new mothers currently forced to turn to other forms of public assistance.

“It’s startling how many parents, particularly first-time mothers and people with who just have children in their family, go on public assistance because they lose their job or they can’t draw a paycheck any longer. So what we’re doing is we’re giving people an option,” explained Rubio.

While Rubio said he’d prefer that the private sector pay for family leave, he noted that this does not frequently happen. He also said that when paid leave is offered, it is typically only better-paid employees who receive the benefit from their employer, not lower-income workers who suffer most by missing work.

“But I can tell you, this is a real problem. If we are serious in this country about helping our children, it begins from the day they are born by allowing their parents to be involved in the early days of their lives, especially. And that should not be a bankruptcy-inducing event,” said Rubio.

“This is one option that we think is pretty creative: to allow people to take their money, and instead of waiting 30 years to get some of it, take some of it earlier, when they really need it.” 

The bill only offers benefits for new parents, not for those taking time off from work to care for other relatives. Lombardi told CNA that he hoped that future policies will include support for “all phases of family life.”

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of the pro-life group New Wave Feminists, told CNA that she thinks that the Economic Security for New Parents Act is a “move in the right direction.”

“I also appreciate how it’s ‘family’ leave and not merely ‘maternity leave,’” added Herndon-De La Rosa, as terms like “maternity leave” shift the duties of care only on the mother. New moms oftentimes need “just as much support after birth” as the newborn, she said.

“When moms are healthy--mentally, physically, and emotionally--babies are healthy.

US bishops welcome change to Catechism on death penalty

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 20:02

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2018 / 06:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishops across the US have welcomed the modification made to the Catechism of the Catholic Church saying the Church teaches that capital punishment is “inadmissible.”

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles welcomed the changes, stating Aug. 3: “I am grateful for Pope Francis’ leadership in working for an end to judicial executions worldwide.”

He said the revisions “reflect an authentic development of the Church’s doctrine that started with St. John Paul II and has continued under emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis.”

“The Scriptures, along with saints and teachers in the Church’s tradition, justify the death penalty as a fitting punishment for those who commit evil or take another person’s life,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.

“And the Church has always recognized that governments and civil authorities have the right to carry out executions in order to protect their citizens’ lives and punish those guilty of the gravest crimes against human life and the stability of the social order.”

He also noted that “in recent decades, there has been a growing consensus — among bishops’ conferences around the world and in the teachings of the Popes and the Catechism — that use of the death penalty can no longer be accepted.”

“The Church has come to understand that from a practical standpoint, governments now have the ability to protect society and punish criminals without executing violent offenders. The Church now believes that the traditional purposes of punishment — defending society, deterring criminal acts, rehabilitating criminals and penalizing them for their actions — can be better achieved by nonviolent means,” the Archbishop of Los Angeles said.

“The Catechism now says the death penalty is 'inadmissible' — it should not be used — because it violates the dignity of the person and because 'more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.'”

Archbishop Gomez added that the revision “is not equating capital punishment with the evils of abortion and euthanasia. Those crimes involve the direct killing of innocent life and they are always gravely immoral. By definition, the lives of almost all those on death row are not 'innocent.'”

He said that “I do not believe that public executions serve to advance that message in our secular society.”

“Showing mercy to those who do not 'deserve' it, seeking redemption for persons who have committed evil, working for a society where every human life is considered sacred and protected — this is how we are called to follow Jesus Christ and proclaim his Gospel of life in these times and in this culture.”

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice in Florida, chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said Aug. 2 that “we welcome the Holy Father’s decision to revise the Catechism and its explanation of the Church’s teaching on the death penalty. All human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, and the dignity bestowed on them by the Creator cannot be extinguished, even by grave sin, such that all persons, from conception until natural death possess inalienable dignity and value that points to their origin as sons and daughters of God.”

“The new section in the Catechism is consistent with the statements of Pope Francis’ teaching on the death penalty, including his 2015 address to the U.S. Congress, as well as the statements of his predecessors,” Bishop Dewane said.

The Venice bishop noted that “Benedict the XVI urged ‘the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty,’ and Pope St. John Paul II observed that ‘Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this.””

He added that “For decades, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for the end of the death penalty in the United States.”

The same day, the Nebraska Catholic Conference issued a statement in the names of Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, and Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of Grand Island, saying Pope Francis had “issued an important clarification on the Church’s teaching regarding the death penalty. The Holy Father’s declaration that the death penalty is no longer admissible under any circumstances is an answer to our prayers and welcome news, especially for those of us living in Nebraska.”

The change to the Catechism “rightly upholds the inviolability of the human person,” the bishops of Nebraska said, “whose life is worthy of protection from the moment of conception to natural death, and ought to be treated with the respect and dignity given by God Himself.”

“As the Catholic Bishops of Nebraska, we join Pope Francis in calling for the 'elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect,' since it is not necessary to protect public safety from an unjust aggressor. In particular, as we have publicly expressed on numerous occasions over the last two decades, Nebraska is fortunate to have a competent judicial system, modern correctional facilities and decades of law enforcement advances. Simply put, the death penalty is no longer needed or morally justified in Nebraska.”

Wuerl calls for spiritual and moral renewal in response to McCarrick scandal

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 18:56

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl said Friday that the Church must confirm its commitment to support the survivors of clerical sexual abuse in the aftermath of a sexual abuse scandal involving Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, Wuerl’s predecessor as Archbishop of Washington.

“The initial shock, confusion, anger, and frustration when the allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick were the focus of our immediate response. In our pain, we also turned to all survivors of abuse, whose burdens are greater than our own. We must confirm our commitment to them with actions even more than words, that we are resolved to respond effectively in every way to these offenses,” Wuerl wrote in a pastoral reflection released Aug. 3.

Wuerl’s letter was written in response to a sexual abuse scandal that began June 20, when the Archdiocese of New York announced that it had completed investigating an allegation that then-Cardinal McCarrick serially sexually abused a minor in the 1970s, and found the investigation to be “credible and substantiated.” After that announcement, McCarrick was accused of having had a second sexually abusive relationship with a minor, and reports emerged alleging that he had engaged, for decades, in sexually abusive and coercive behavior with seminarians and young priests.

Questions emerged about whether Church leaders, including Wuerl, properly addressed reports and rumors about McCarrick, particularly in the period of time after several dioceses in NJ reached settlements with alleged victims of McCarrick in 2005 and 2007. Wuerl has denied having had knowledge of these settlements.

Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals July 28.

Wuerl’s reflection noted as “particularly disheartening...the sense that we had already gone through this traumatic scandal in 2002 with not only the pain of priests abusing young people but the realization that bishops were not properly attentive to the dimensions of the problem.”

In the wake of the most recent scandal, Wuerl said many Catholics are asking if anything has changed as a consequence of the policies the U.S. bishops’ conference developed at time of widespread sexual scandals in 2002.

“The answer, I believe, “is, ‘Yes,’” Wuerl wrote.

The cardinal wrote that Pope Francis, “in his strong and decisive response” to allegations against McCarrick, has called bishops to greater accountability and “demonstrated a keen awareness of the feelings of our betrayal, the disappointment, the not-unreasonable anger felt by so many of our faithful people as these accusations come to light.”

The cardinal then called U.S. bishops to conversion of heart, to live according to the highest standards of ministry, and to “that fortitude that has always been essential to fraternal correction.”

Wuerl said that bishops must address any allegation of abuse by a bishop, citing a 2002 document, the “Statement of Episcopal Commitment,” that calls for bishops accused of sexually abusing minors to inform the apostolic nuncio- the pope’s representative in the U.S.- of the allegation, and calls for all bishops to inform the nuncio if they become aware that a bishop is accused of sexually abusing minors, and, at the same time, to comply civil laws regarding reporting.

He added that the conference could consider revising that document to offer more clarity, and to address the “spiritual and moral obligations” of bishops along with “the need for fraternal correction that is as much a part of the life of the Church as her laws and procedures.”

“We must have always before our eyes the Lord Jesus, who became a child to sanctify children, and a youth to sanctify young people, and a man to sanctify adults, and to be an example to the elderly. He loved children, laid his hands on them in blessing, and promised woe to those who would harm them. The children loved the Lord as well,” Wuerl wrote.

“Let us pray that our children and all our people will see in us, their bishops, through our actions as well as our words, their brothers and companions.”


Judge Kavanaugh’s record on religious liberty and personal conscience examined

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- As the Senate prepares for confirmation hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, scholars and commentators are considering his past approaches to religious liberty cases.

While much of the media coverage of Kavanaugh’s nomination has thus far focused on abortion, and how he might respond to an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, his judicial opinions on religious liberty could prove just as influential.

Many of the most contentious cases to come before the court in recent years have been argued on religious liberty grounds. Cases like Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission were focal points for cultural clashes as much as legal argumentation.

Attention is now turning to opinions Kavanaugh issued during his time on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Law Professor Frank Ravitch, who teaches at Michigan State University College of Law, recently highlighted in a post at SCOTUS Blog several cases that could indicate how Kavanaugh approaches the subject of religious liberty from the bench.

The most prominent of these cases was Priests for Life v. United States Department for Health and Human Services. In that case, Priests for Life objected to the government’s contraceptive mandate which, under the accommodation for religious organizations, required Priests for Life to file a specific form with either the insurance provider or the government. They argued that the form they were required to file effectively triggered the coverage of contraceptives, making them complicit in an act they considered immoral.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Priests for Life a rehearing, but Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion. In it, he argued that the government’s accommodation did place a “substantial burden” on religious organizations, making them act against sincerely held beliefs or else face significant fines.

Kavanaugh emphasized that it the good faith claims of religious organizations about being made complicit in immoral actions could not be questioned by the court, even if the court thought they were misguided.

At the same time, he accepted that the government had a “compelling interest” in broadening access to contraception, but that religious organizations could have been better accommodated by allowing them to simply give notice of their objections.

Ravitch noted that Kavanaugh’s arguments were based substantially upon the Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and specifically Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurring opinion in that case. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would fill the seat on the Supreme Court vacated by Kennedy’s retirement.

Another case which could signal how Kavanaugh might approach religious liberty cases from the Supreme Court is Newdow v. Roberts. In this case, a panel of the D.C. Circuit confirmed the dismissal of a complaint against prayers and the phrase “so help me God” in the oath of office during the presidential inauguration of 2008.

The complaint was dismissed on the grounds that the 2008 inauguration was now moot, and that there was no standing for the plaintiffs to preemptively challenge future inaugurations.

While Kavanaugh agreed with the dismissal, he disagreed that the plaintiffs – atheists offended by the instance of public prayer – lacked standing.

In his concurring opinion, he noted that “all citizens are equally American, no matter what God they worship or if they worship no god at all.”

He argued that, even though some forms of public prayer, like those at presidential inaugurations, were part of long-established traditions and not, therefore, a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state, “we cannot resolve this case by discounting the sense of anguish and outrage plaintiffs and some other Americans feel at listening to a government-sponsored religious prayer.”

Some commentators have called this recognition of atheistic objections “troubling.” Yet others have acknowledged the common thread between the two opinions in Newdow and Priests for Life. A crucial part of Kavanaugh’s approach to religious liberty appears to be the legitimacy of individual conscience in front of a court.

This was also a key issue in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, where the disregard of Colorado authorities for Christian beliefs figured heavily in the Supreme Court’s decision.

Looking ahead, the Supreme Court seems likely to hear more such cases in the future.

For example, despite new rules from the Department of Health and Human Services meant to protect religious non-profit organizations and broaden religious exemptions, the Little Sisters of the Poor are back in court over their refusal to provide abortifacient drugs as part of their health care plan.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed suit against the federal government in October of last year, seeking to end the religious exemption for the Little Sisters of the Poor. A similar suit was also filed by the state of California.

Should those or similar cases progress, the importance of private conscience could again prove crucial in the Supreme Court’s reasoning, and Kavanaugh could well prove to be the deciding vote.

How can parishes be more welcoming to those with disabilities?

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 05:01

Saginaw, Mich., Aug 3, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Disability Awareness Conference in Saginaw, Michigan this week encouraged parishes to create an inclusive and accessible environment for those with disabilities.

Peg McEvoy, the diocese’s Coordinator of Faith Formation and an organizer of the event, said the goal is to help foster relationships.

“More than just being welcoming, it’s about building belonging in the parish….people with disabilities are part of our community, they belong with us, they are part of our parish family,” McEvoy told CNA.

Held at Holy Spirit Parish in Saginaw on August 1, the event drew an estimated 170 participates from the diocese and other nearby states, including Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

The conference included Mass, talks, workshop sessions, and praise and worship. Workshop sessions discussed the newly revised “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments for Persons with Disabilities,” released a year ago.

One of the speeches, McEvoy said, discussed the ways parishioners and priests can help create a welcoming environment.

“It’s about how, in our languages and actions, we really be respectful of the dignity of every person and how we can be more accessible,” she said.

Part of this is leading others “to understand that they too are part of the community and have a place where they can participate in a meaningful way,” she added.

Lori Becker, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Saginaw, told CNA that the conference also covered practical advice. She said parishioners should reach out to families with members who are disabled.

“The families want to be treated with understanding and patience. They want to be appreciated for who they are as opposed to being defined by their disability,” Becker said.

“Just like anyone else, people with disabilities desire to be wanted at their parish. That means if they have been away from the parish for a while, they want someone to call them and ask how they are doing.”

The conference was a joint project by a number of the dioceses offices, including Respect Life, Christian Service and Faith Formation. Vendor booths were set up for organizations to promote their services, such as Do-All, a non-profit that provides people with disabilities opportunities for employment and job training.

Jan Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, was the keynote speaker. As a major advocate for pro-disability legislation, she shared practical means for parishes to create an inclusive environment.

Melissa and Michaela Davert gave powerful testimonies about their own medical conditions. The mother-daughter duo live with the same brittle bone condition, Osteogenesis imperfecta, and have worked to publicly promote human dignity

How one priest is bringing Jesus to the most dangerous city in the US

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 02:17

Baltimore, Md., Aug 3, 2018 / 12:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With the highest per-capita homicide rate in the nation, Baltimore has been called the most dangerous city in America - which is why it needs Jesus, says Father James Boric.

But Baltimore can’t get Jesus if the doors to his house are closed.

It’s why Boric, who serves as rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, is hoping to radically increase the basilica’s hours, increase the availability of adoration and confession, and add new urban missionaries.

He wants Jesus to be available to the people on their way home from work downtown, to the people affected by the murders in the city (347 just last year), to the homeless who sleep near the basilica.

“Baltimore City is hurting. It is bleeding. It is in need of hope and healing. It needs Jesus Christ in the Eucharist - the source of all hope,” Boric said on the website for his campaign, entitled ‘The Source of All Hope.’

“In my prayer, I know God is calling me to open the Basilica,” he said, to provide a place of peace and prayer for the lost, the homeless and the hopeless.

“I must provide that refuge here in the City. I honestly know that God is demanding this of me.”

Currently, the basilica closes at 4 p.m. because it cannot afford the security measures it would need to stay open in the evening.

But Boric plans to extend adoration hours until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, with more evening confession times as well. Confessions are currently available at the basilica for a half-hour before noon on weekdays, and for about 30 minutes in the late afternoons on weekends.

Funds raised in the campaign will go toward security measures and the utility costs for the keeping the basilica open several additional hours a day. The campaign will also help fund the housing and salaries of the new urban missionaries. At the end of July, the campaign had already surpassed its $106,000 goal by more than $44,000.

The urban missionary program will base its model on the Christ in the City program in Denver, a homeless outreach ministry that opened in 2010 which sends young adult missionaries out to the streets to befriend and bring Christ to the homeless.

Boric said he plans to visit Denver to learn more about how the program works. He told the Baltimore Catholic Review that he plans to hire two college-age students with street ministry experience to help him form the program’s structure before hiring more missionaries, and that he will also collaborate with Catholic Charities and other social programs that provide resources to the poor and homeless.

While the program won’t be able to solve all the problems of the homeless, Boric told the Catholic Review, “we can love them. We can get to know their names and their stories. We can give them the word of Christ and invite them to feel the peace of adoration. We can be an evangelizing presence.”

The new campaign will only add to the good things already taking place at the basilica, Boric said on the website, such as the speaker series, last year’s successful Rosary Congress, and a 7-week “Discovering Christ” catechism course.

“But now we need to hit the streets of Baltimore and be a real agent for change,” Boric wrote.
According to the Catholic Review, there has been strong support for the ‘Source of Hope’ campaign among parishioners, who applauded the initiative when it was announced.

“It’s about having the basilica be a place of spiritual refuge for the city and a beacon for the archdiocese for people looking for a deeper connection to Christ,” Laura Johnston, who sits on the basilica’s pastoral council, told the Catholic Review.

“That’s exactly what we are trying to establish for the people in Baltimore,” she said, “to give them a beautiful place to seek refuge from all the difficulties of life.”

“I love being a priest. I love being the Rector of the Basilica of the Assumption. And all I desire is to bring souls to Christ. I do not want to be rich. I do not want to be famous. All I want is to provide Jesus to our City. But I am also well aware that I need your help,” Boric said in his campaign appeal to donors.

“Thank you for saying yes to Jesus! Thanks for your generosity. And thanks for making a difference in Baltimore.”


Montana plaintiffs vote on $20m sexual abuse settlement

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 21:00

Billings, Mont., Aug 2, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings is awaiting the result of a vote by plaintiffs on whether to accept a $20 million settlement offered to 86 people who say they were sexually abused by 27 priests in the diocese. As a condition of the settlement, the names of those priests would be posted on the diocese’s website for at least ten years.

Litigation began six years ago, and in 2017 the diocese filed for bankruptcy protection as it began negotiating the settlement. If the plaintiffs accept the settlement, funds will come from insurance coverage, parishioner contributions, and the sale of diocesan property, the Billings Gazette reported.

The plaintiffs in the case say there were abused by priests between 1943 and 1993.

The monetary portion of the settlement was offered in April, and a proposal to list the names of abusive priests online was added to settlement paperwork in a court filing July 3. The settlement would also require that the diocese post statements from victims of abuse on its website for a period of two years, and that diocesan bishop Bishop Michael Warfel meet individually with any abuse survivor who requests a meeting.

The proposed settlement would also prohibit the diocese from opposing legislative measures that would change Montana’s criminal or civil statutes of limitations for sexual offenses against children.

"Basically what the diocese wants to do is be a source of healing, especially when a minister of the diocese has been a cause of hurt, wanting to somehow rectify that," Warfel told the Billings Gazette.

"And so being present to hear from people, to listen to people, to extend sorrow and apology is all just a pastoral part of that."

Two-thirds of the plaintiffs in the suit must vote in favor of the proposed settlement. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 14, at which time the settlement could be formally agreed upon.

There are nearly 40,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, spread over an area more than twice the size of Ohio. In 2015, the diocese had 51 parishes, 78 priests, and one seminarian. Bishop Michael Warfel was appointed to the diocese in 2007.

How banning plastic straws could impact the disabled

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 18:21

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2018 / 04:21 pm (CNA).- Sea turtles often sleep wedged beneath boulders on the ocean floor, or tucked below protruding ridges in coral reefs. They live, quite literally, under rocks. This means that sea turtles likely haven’t heard that plastic drinking straws can kill them, and the straws are being banned in cities across the country.

Unlike sea turtles, most people don’t live under rocks. Which means that most people, or at least most Americans, have heard in recent weeks of the mortal danger that disposable straws might cause for sea turtles, and of recent efforts to forbid those straws.

A recent focus on the danger posed by discarded drinking straws for turtles and other aquatic life is widely credited to an online video that went viral this summer, showing a sea turtle struggling with a straw stuck up its nostril.

The video has attracted fervent public enthusiasm to curb the use of drinking straws. In recent weeks, many companies and cities have taken the step to ban single-use plastic straws, citing environmental concerns.

Starbucks announced that it would eliminate them from its stores by 2020, and the Walt Disney Co. followed suit shortly afterwards, saying it would cease using plastic straws and stirrers at its theme parks by 2019.

The city of Santa Barbara, California, took the unusual step of threatening jail time for those who distribute straws, while San Francisco’s city-wide ban is so expansive it actually prohibits one of the biodegradable alternatives that is encouraged by other other cities considering bans, including New York and Seattle.

But questions have arisen about just how actually effective these laws and policies will be for the environment, and some groups say that their lives will be made harder when straws are not available. And one Catholic theologian has told CNA that policymakers looking for ways to protect the environment should always consider the broader context of their work, and beware of unintended consequences.

Speaking about the recent focus on single use plastics, particularly drinking straws, by many companies and cities, Dr. Joe Capizzi, a moral theologian at the Catholic University of America and executive director of the school’s Institute for Human Ecology explained that “any environmental activity is going to affect different populations differently.”

Capizzi told CNA that well-motivated policy changes, like those banning plastic straws, can have unintended consequences, and policymakers should consider those who could be unexpectedly affected.

Responsible stewardship of the planet has been a point of emphasis for Pope Francis, most notably in his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato si, on the care of our common home.

In a message marking the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 2016, the pope called efforts to protect the natural environment a service to both the planet and to humanity, calling it a “work of mercy.”

Francis has emphasized especially a “human ecology” that recognizes the dignity of the human person, and man’s relationship to the environment.

The move to ban drinking straws has raised questions about how environmental policies can impact human dignity.

Disability-rights advocates point out that some people with physical or neurological disorders rely on plastic straws as tool of daily life. They say that drinking straw bans can cause real hardship for people with conditions like cerebral palsy, pointing out that for some people, a straw can be the difference between independence and needing help to drink.

“It's no surprise, then, the bans on straws will impact different segments of society differently. Straws help provide a measure of independence to some people with disabilities,” Capizzi said.

More eco-friendly alternatives, such as straws made from metal, bamboo, and paper, are not as always as suitable as single-use plastic straws. Metal straws can get too hot, are not positionable, and can possibly break teeth, especially among people with certain disabilities. Paper straws can’t be used in hot liquids, and they dissolve, creating a choking hazard, advocates say.

At the same time, some argue that straw bans may actually do little to protect the environment. Popular support for bans on single use plastics tends to focus on oceanic pollution, as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now calculated to be more than 600,000 square miles. Yet straws compose only 0.02 percent of waste found in the ocean. Fishing gear--which the World Wildlife Fund identifies as the biggest threat to sea turtles--is the largest source of plastic waste.

Capizzi urged that while Catholics work to protect the planet as a common home for all humanity, they give attention to the personal concerns of those who might be left behind by advertising campaigns and popular videos.

“You may recall years ago, the Montreal Protocol was passed and implemented to address chlorofluorocarbons and their adverse effects on the ozone layer. Because some medicines were delivered by CFCs, special carve-out provisions were provided so those people could continue to receive their medicine cheaply and effectively,” he said.

“The move to look at the impact of plastics on the environments is well-intentioned: reliable evidence points out damaging effects of plastics on our environment. But before proceeding, care should be taken to weigh the impact this limited ban will have on populations for whom plastic straws are no mere convenience.”

On Aug. 2, you can get this St. Francis-themed indulgence

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 05:18

New York City, N.Y., Aug 2, 2018 / 03:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Today's feast of Our Lady of the Angels of Porziuncola and its associated indulgence is a way to focus on the importance of Mary and the Franciscan tradition in the Church, said one friar.

The Aug. 2 feast is found in the Franciscan tradition, and marks the dedication of the parish church, called Porziuncola or “little portion,” which is one of those Italy's St. Francis of Assisi rebuilt in obedience to Christ's command to “rebuild my church.”

“The Porziuncola is at the heart of the Franciscan journey,” Father David Convertino, the development director for the Holy Name Province of the Observant Franciscans, told CNA.

“For Francis, it was his most beloved place. He lived near it with the early followers … and he loved the Porziuncola, as it was part of his devotion to Our Lady.”

The Catholic Church teaches that after a sin is forgiven, an unhealthy attachment to created things still remains. Indulgences remove that unhealthy attachment, purifying the soul so that it is more fit to enter heaven. Indulgences are either plenary (full) or partial.

A plenary indulgence also requires that the individual be in the state of grace and have complete detachment from sin. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion up to about 20 days before or after the indulgenced act.

Anyone who visits a Catholic church with the intention of honoring Our Lady of the Angels and recites the Creed, the Our Father, and prays for the Pope's intentions, may receive a plenary indulgence on Aug. 2.

“Any kind of a prayer form that helps people come closer to God is obviously a good prayer form, and certainly an indulgence is one way,” Fr. Convertino said.

“It helps us focus on, in this case, the meaning of the Porziuncola and the Franciscan tradition, how it's situated in the greater idea of the Church.”

Porziuncola located inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli near Assisi. Credit: emmav674 via Flickr (CC BY_NC_SA 2.0)

The Porziuncola was built in honor of Our Lady of the Angels in the fourth century, and by St. Francis' time had fallen into disrepair. The church, which was then located just outside of Assisi, became the “motherhouse” of the Franciscan orders.

“Although Francis realized that the kingdom of heaven is found in every dwelling on earth … he had learned nevertheless that the church of Saint Mary at Portiuncula was filled with more abundant grace and visited more frequently by heavenly spirits,” says the life of St. Francis written by Friar Thomas of Celano, read today by Franciscans.

“Consequently he used to say to his friars: 'See to it, my sons, that you never leave this place. If you are driven out by one door return by the other for this is truly a holy place and God’s dwelling.'”

Fr. Convertino added that the Porziuncola “was the place he chose to lie next to on his deathbed, and at that time of course you could have looked up to the city of Assisi, which he also loved so well.”

The Porziuncola, a rather small chapel, is now located inside a large basilica which was built around it, to enclose and protect it.

“You have this large basilica built over this teeny tiny little chapel,” Fr. Convertino reflected. “If that chapel wasn't there then the basilica wouldn't be there, but if the basilica wasn't there, the chapel probably wouldn't be there either, given 800 years of war, weather, and turmoil.”

For Fr. Convertino, the duality of the big church and the little church is a reflection of the relationship between the world-wide Catholic Church and the smaller communities which make it up.

“We feel the Franciscans kind of convey, we're the ones at the heart of the Church, the little church there.”

He said that each time he visits Assisi, the “experience” of the Porziuncola is “compounded more and more,” and added that “it's such a magnificent place, and the friars there are wonderful.”

Fr. Convertino also discussed the fresco now painted around the entrance of the Porziuncola, which shows St. Francis, together with some of his followers, receiving the indulgence from Christ and Our Lady.

“The idea behind the story is that Francis is asking Jesus for a Porziuncola indulgence, and Jesus is saying to Francis, 'Well, you really better ask Mary, ask my mother.'”

This article was originally published Aug. 2, 2013.

Planned Parenthood sues after South Carolina bans Medicaid funds for abortion clinics

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 02:05

Columbia, S.C., Aug 2, 2018 / 12:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit challenging a South Carolina executive order barring Medicaid funds from going toward any health services at abortion clinics.

The executive order, issued last month by Gov. Henry McMaster, has drawn support from pro-life advocates.

“We commend Gov. McMaster for not only keeping his promise to protect innocent human life in South Carolina but also keeping his promise to taxpayers of South Carolina who should not be forced to fund agencies that destroy human life,” said Lisa Van Riper, president of South Carolina Citizens for Life, according to National Right to Life News Today.

McMaster’s July 2018 executive order said the state “should not contract with abortion clinics for family planning services.”

It told the state’s Medicaid agency to use money left over from last year’s budget on the state’s family planning program, but deemed abortion clinics and any affiliated physicians or medical practices enrolled in Medicaid to be unqualified for the funds. The agency must terminate these clinics and deny any future enrollment applications from such providers, the order said.

In early July, McMaster vetoed about $16 million from South Carolina’s budget for fiscal year 2018-19 in order to defund the local affiliates of the United States’ largest performer of abortions, the South Carolina news site The State reports. In the last two years, less than $85,000 in Medicaid reimbursements went to Planned Parenthood, out of a total of $42 million in reimbursements in the state. These funded Planned Parenthood birth control and sexually transmitted disease testing.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and one of its patients filed suit in U.S. district court July 28, saying the executive order would block patients from accessing “preventive health care services” at Planned Parenthood in South Carolina.

Planned Parenthood argued that federal law bars states from interfering with Medicaid patients’ access to “the qualified provider of their choice.” It said the state’s two Planned Parenthood health centers are in areas that have been federally designated as having a provider shortage.

Brian Symmes, a spokesman for the governor, told The State newspaper July 27 that the governor will “fight this lawsuit with everything he has.”

“Like millions of South Carolinians, he believes in the fundamental right to life for unborn children and does not believe tax dollars should go to organizations that perform elective abortions,” Symmes said.

Holly Gatling, executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life, rejected claims that poor women must rely on Planned Parenthood for health care.

“There are numerous health clinics throughout South Carolina that offer high quality, comprehensive health care to women of childbearing age without peddling abortion as just another means of birth control,” she said.


Lincoln diocese responds to reports of misconduct by former vocations director

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 19:16

Lincoln, Neb., Aug 1, 2018 / 05:16 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska acknowledged reports of inappropriate sexual behavior by a deceased former vocations director, following an article by a former priest alleging misconduct and scandal on the part of the director.

In an Aug. 1 statement, the Diocese of Lincoln said that it “is aware of past reports of conduct contrary to prudence and moral law by Monsignor Leonard Kalin, deceased in 2008.”

“The diocese addressed these allegations of misconduct directly with Msgr. Kalin during his time in priestly ministry,” the statement said, adding that the diocese is not aware that Kalin violated any civil laws.

“The Diocese of Lincoln is also aware of past reports of conduct contrary to prudence and moral law by former Diocese of Lincoln priest Peter Mitchell. The diocese addressed these allegations of misconduct directly with Mitchell during his time of ministry in the Diocese of Lincoln.”

In its statement, the diocese emphasized that it “reports all alleged violations of civil law to the proper authorities, and is committed to addressing all violations of prudence, morality, or civil law by its clergy, employees and volunteers at the time they are reported.”

The statement came in response to an Aug. 1 article in the American Conservative by Peter Mitchell, a former priest who had attended seminary in the Diocese of Lincoln. Mitchell was laicized in 2017 after violating his vow of celibacy on multiple occasions.

Mitchell’s article discusses Monsignor Leonard Kalin, was the vocation director for the Diocese of Lincoln and pastor of the University of Nebraska Newman Center from 1970 until the late 1990s.

While Kalin was well-respected for his orthodoxy and attracting vocations, Mitchell said, he led a life of sexual immorality and set a poor example for the seminarians he oversaw.

Mitchell said Kalin would regularly ask seminarians to help him shower, giving the excuse that he was old and needed help, and would then make sexual advances toward them.

He also said Kalin would invite seminarians on trips to Las Vegas and would require them to meet with him late at night at the Newman Center before inviting them to his private quarters for a drink.

Those who declined such invitations were subject to inferior treatment, he said. On one occasion, he said that he was questioned by another seminarian about his loyalty to Kalin after he had complained to the then-Bishop of Lincoln. He said he did not receive a response from the bishop.

“I experienced profound discrimination as a seminarian and later as a priest because I was a heterosexual in an overwhelmingly homosexual environment where sexually active gay priests protected and promoted each other,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell indicated that he avoided showering with Kalin, drinking with him alone late at night, or accompanying him to Las Vegas. Catholic News Agency contacted Mitchell to request additional detail about his knowledge of Kalin's alleged sexual advances. Mitchell did not respond before deadline.

In his article, he said that his “life as a priest was undoubtedly affected by the totally inadequate and abusive formation I received in terms of preparing me for a healthy life as a celibate heterosexual male.”

He acknowledged his own violations of celibacy, which he said he regrets.

“I am painfully aware, however, that the people to whom my seminary formation was entrusted modeled addictive behavior to me and an entire generation of young men who are now priests,” he said.

Mitchell warned that Kalin’s behavior has had lasting effects on the diocese.  

“Although Kalin passed away in 2008, the seminarians he favored became the priests who continue to hold the reins of ecclesiastical power. To this day, anyone who tries to speak critically of Kalin’s behavior and legacy is met with a code of silence for ‘the good of the Church.’ If I ever tried to express frustration with Monsignor’s treatment of me, priests in positions of power over me quickly shut me down, almost robotically: ‘While he may have had a few flaws, he was very orthodox and recruited so many vocations.’”

He said that he believes priests currently in the diocese had bad experiences with Kalin, or knew about the misconduct, but are afraid to speak up due to fear of reprisal.

“Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult for active priests to speak out because the men they would be speaking out against control every aspect of their lives and their reputations,” he said. “But it needs to happen for their own good and for the good of the Church.”

The Diocese of Lincoln stressed that it “endeavors to maintain a culture of holiness, chastity, integrity and Christ-like joy among our seminarians and priests. We are also committed to maintaining the high standards of chaste behavior to which the Lord calls us.”

In its statement, the diocese asked “any priest, religious, seminarian, or lay Catholic with any information or concerns about past or current misconduct in a parish, school, or apostolate of the diocese to contact the diocesan chancery or, if criminal behavior is suspected, any law enforcement agency.”

Current Bishop of Lincoln James Conley acknowledged Mitchell’s article in his Aug. 3 column for the Southern Nebraska Register.

Discussing the accusations against both Kalin and Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., who was removed from the college of cardinals last weekend, Conley stressed that Christ walks alongside the wounded in their pain and anger.

“Because sexuality is such a powerful gift, I believe that the evil one – Satan – tempts us to sin against chastity, and to misuse and abuse our sexuality, because doing so can cause great harm to the Lord’s beloved children,” he said.

Conley apologized on behalf of the Church to those who had been harmed by its members and leaders. He asked Catholics to pray for victims of sexual abuse and misconduct.

“Christ promises new life. May he renew his Church, and renew the hearts of those who are suffering,” he said.

J.D. Flynn, editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency, previously served as special assistant to Bishop Conley and director of communications for the Lincoln diocese. Flynn has recused himself from coverage of this story to avoid a conflict-of-interest. He was not involved in the assigning, reporting, editing or oversight of this story.


Harrisburg Bishop releases names of 71 accused priests, deacons, seminarians

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 18:00

Harrisburg, Pa., Aug 1, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Harrisburg has released the names of 71 priests, deacons, and seminarians accused of sexual misconduct involving children in the diocese during the past 70 years. At the same time, Bishop Ronald Gainer of Harrisburg issued an apology to abuse survivors.

Gainer made the announcement Wednesday, August 1, at a press conference in Harrisburg. More than half of the individuals named on the list have died, and none are currently in active ministry within the Diocese of Harrisburg.

Along with the list of accused, the diocese also launched the Diocese of Harrisburg Youth Protection Program, a new child protection website. The site offers resources for survivors, information about child protection training, and a mechanism for reporting suspected abuse. 

"Many of those victimized as children continue as survivors to suffer from the harm they experienced. In my own name, and in the name of the diocesan church of Harrisburg, I express profound sorrow and I apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse," said Gainer.

In addition to the apology, Gainer also waived any past confidentiality agreements survivors may have signed as part of legal settlements. This allows past victims to speak publicly about their experiences. It is unclear how many of these settlements exist within the diocese. The USCCB’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a morally binding document amongst American bishops, bans confidentiality agreements from forming part of the terms of any new settlement, except at the request of victims.

The list released by the Harrisburg diocese includes all accusations deemed to be credible by police or diocesan officials, but the diocese said that those on the list should not be assumed to be guilty. Rather, the list contains all historical allegations found in the records from the diocese.

The list includes 37 priests from the diocese, three deacons from the diocese, six diocesan seminarians, nine priests from other dioceses, and 16 members of various religious communities. Many of the allegations have already been made public.

Matthew Haverstick, an attorney for the diocese, said that the list was intended to be “overinclusive,” and contains “every individual against whom an allegation was made and that allegation subsequently has not been disproven by law enforcement.”

Gainer also announced that the diocese would be removing the names of all of the accused from any building or room where they are honored. Buildings bearing the names of past Harrisburg bishops covering the period of alleged abuses will also have their names removed. While the bishops themselves were not accused of inappropriate behavior, Gainer said that Church leaders “must hold themselves to higher standards.”

The accusations include physical misconduct, inappropriate behavior, possession of child pornography and other boundary violations, crimes, and acts of abuse. Gainer said on Wednesday that the list came from the diocese’s own investigation.

The announcement comes shortly before the expected release of a report from the recently completed grand jury investigation into six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has said that the 900-page report includes evidence of “widespread sexual abuse of children and a systemic cover-up by leaders.” 

The investigation has already resulted in the conviction of one priest for the sexual assault of a 10-year-old student during the 1991-92 school year.

The report was initially scheduled for release at the end of June but was held up by legal challenges made by some of those named in it. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered that a partially redacted version be published no later than August 14.

New resource center to promote African American sainthood causes

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 16:50

New Orleans, La., Aug 1, 2018 / 02:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Xavier University of Louisiana has announced a new initiative to unite groups working on the promotion of African American canonization causes.

A July 31 event at the university’s St. Katharine Drexel Chapel presented the project, which is being spearheaded by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago.

A resource center that will soon be constructed by the university’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies will compile and exhibit educational works about the lives of African Americans whose sainthood causes are open.

Xavier President Reynold Verret said the stories of these African Americans are important to every Catholic, no matter their background.

“It speaks profoundly…to the resilience of Catholic faith, even as it was oppressed in the 19th and 20th century,” he said.

The resource center will initially display information on five black Catholics from the 18th-20th centuries: Julia Greeley, Pierre Toussaint, Mother Mary Lange, Henriette Delille, and Father Augustus Tolton. It will also include information on St. Katharine Drexel, who founded Xavier University of Louisiana, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Other stories of potential saints will be added in the future, as new causes open.

Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri of New Orleans moderated the event, which included numerous speakers, including Bishop Perry and advocates for each beatification cause.

The occasion also drew attendees from the Joint Conference of Black Catholic Clergy, Black Sisters, Black Catholic Seminarians, and Black Catholic Deacons.

In addition to advancing the canonization causes of holy men and women, Verret said the project is established “to promote the stories of those saints to the larger Catholic community.”

“By this I don’t mean just the black Catholic community…but also the larger Catholic community of any ethnic origin because their examples are powerful examples of living a life of devotion,” he said.

Servant of God Julia Greeley was born a slave in 19th-century Hannibal, Missouri. Greeley was freed by Missouri’s Emancipation Act in 1865 and then came to Denver, where she worked for the territorial governor and then in a number of odd jobs. She converted to Catholicism while in Denver.

Despite her own poverty, she was known for collecting food and other goods for the poor, gaining the title “Denver’s Angel of Charity.” She had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and would walk to 20 different firehouses each month to hand out badges and devotional materials to the firefighters.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint was a slave in what is now Haiti before being brought to New York City and eventually gaining his freedom.

He became a successful hairdresser and was known for offering financial aid to those in needs, as well as care for the sick and orphans.

Servant of God Mother Mary Lange was raised in a French-speaking community in Cuba, but moved to the United States in the early 1800s.

Lange eventually moved to Baltimore, where she became the founder and first superior of the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The community provided African American women a path to religious life in the Church. The sisters taught and cared for African American children.

Venerable Henriette Delille was born in the early 1800s to a white father and mixed-raced mother. Because of the laws against interracial marriage, her parents were in a common-law relationship – a path of financial comfort which they encouraged her to take.

Instead, Delille established the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans. The order taught and offered medical care for those in poverty, especially slaves and poor freed blacks.

Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton fled slavery in the mid-1800s and went on to attend seminary in Rome, because no seminary in the U.S. would accept him. Ordained in 1886, he became the first African-American priest in the United States.

After his ordination, Fr. Tolton began his priestly ministry in Quincy, Illinois and later founded St Monica’s Church in Chicago, the city’s first black parish.

Xavier University is ranked as the nation’s number two Historically Black College and University by College Consensus and is considered to be the only Historically Black Catholic College in the U.S.

The university was founded in 1925 and established the Institute for Black Catholic Studies in 1980. The institute offers training for Catholic ministry within U.S. black Catholic communities.