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Notre Dame panel on abuse crisis: Where do we go from here?

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 02:07

South Bend, Ind., Sep 27, 2019 / 12:07 am (CNA).- It has been more than a full year since the sex abuse allegations against the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report set off a shockwave of further abuse accusations and investigations in the Church in the United States and beyond.

It has been 17 years since the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) implemented the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which proposed a “zero-tolerance policy” for child abuse in the Catholic Church in the U.S.

It was just this week that a panel of four experts on the abuse crisis gathered at the University of Notre Dame to discuss the question: “Where are we now?” and to propose ways for the Church to continue moving forward.

Panelists at the Sept. 25 event included Juan Carlos Cruz, an abuse survivor and advocate from Chile whose complaints were initially dismissed by Pope Francis (though were later accepted with an apology from the pope); Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore; Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI executive assistant director who helped the USCCB implement the 2002 Dallas Charter; and Peter Steinfels a long-time journalist for Commonweal who wrote a lengthy review of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on the sex abuse crisis. John Allen Jr., editor of Crux, moderated the panel.

While much has improved regarding the clerical sex abuse crisis in the U.S. since 2002, the panelists gave a resounding response that even one case of abuse occurring in the Church is too many, and that a change of hearts and attitudes, and not just of policies, is needed for the Church to progress and for victims to heal.

“The one thing that I am certain about is that most of us, myself very much included, know much less about this painful, stomach-churning scandal than we think we know,” Steinfels said.

Steinfels noted that since 2002, the Church in the U.S. made significant progress in the abuse crisis, reducing the number of cases of sexual abuse from about 600 per year in the 1950s-1970s down to roughly 20 or fewer cases per year, post-Dallas Charter.

“Anyone who obscures this dramatic drop in Catholic clergy abuse, as I think the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report did, is not telling the truth,” he noted.

But that is still not enough, Steinfels added, because “one case is one too many,” and these statistics of success “can blind us to the excruciating, life-derailing devastation caused by a single case of abuse.”

He also predicted that news of Church sexual abuse was not going anywhere anytime soon, because “the abuse scandal has gone global. More than 120 million children sexually abused worldwide - it is woeful that even a small fraction has touched the Church.”

Even though the bulk of the abuse crisis in the U.S. occurred decades ago, Steinfels said, there are still victims coming forward who were afraid to share their stories until now, and whose experiences of pain and betrayal “are like landmines left buried in the ground after the war.”

In one suggestion for a way forward, Steinfels encouraged Catholic universities like Notre Dame to compile the history of the sex abuse crisis, from which others could learn.

“A genuine history will require archives, oral history interviews, and study of scandal’s religious, cultural, and economic context,” he said.

“It has been said that we walk backwards into the future looking at our past. A genuine history is needed for our future.”

In his remarks, Cruz said that he would leave the statistics to the experts and speak from the heart. While Cruz’ story of abuse at the hands of his parish priest in Chile was initially dismissed by Pope Francis, the Holy Father later apologized to Cruz and other victims for being “part of the problem” in May 2018.

Cruz told the panel audience that what sustained him through the pain of his experience of abuse was his Catholic faith.

“I decided early on that I wasn’t going to let them win. I wasn’t going to let the bad ones win,” he said. “I believe that the relationship anyone has with’s the most basic human right that one can have, is to believe in what you believe, and nobody can mess with it. And I wasn’t going to let them mess with that.”

In a word of encouragement to abuse survivors, Cruz said that while it is hard to come forward with a story of abuse, there are people who can help.

“There are so many people who want to lend you a hand, to help you through that horrible pain,” he said.

Cruz said that he was encouraged by Pope Francis’ apology and willingness to listen to his story and those of other abuse survivors, but that he was discouraged by the attitudes of some bishops who promise to improve but who continue to cover up and mishandle cases of abuse.

“Pope Francis wants to solve the problem, I’ve talked to him and know he’s sincere,” he said. “However, the bishops go, talk to him, say, ‘absolutely Pope Francis,’ they bow, they kiss his ring, go back to their countries and do the same thing they’ve been doing...nobody holds them accountable and that needs to stop.”

In her remarks, McChesney also called for a change of heart and attitude among the bishops.

“When I first worked for the USCCB, the Dallas Charter was new, we were excited about implementing it, and I talked with many survivors,” she noted. “And one man said: ‘Look, you can have all the programs in the world you want, you can have policies, you can have trainings, you can have background checks and investigations, you can do all of those things, but until the bishops realize that there has to be a true accountability, I and my fellow survivors are not going to heal.’”

“It is so critical for the men and women who have been abused to know that someone is taking responsibility for what has happened to them,” McChesney said.

There has also been a lot of talk about the rethinking of seminary formation in the wake of the abuse crisis, McChesney said, with suggestions to really emphasize the human formation aspect of seminary formation.

But this “puts the cart before the horse,” she argued.

“In my experience, I think that selection is more important than can have the best formation programs, the best seminaries in the entire world, but if you have selected the wrong person to go into seminary, someone who is so troubled, who doesn’t know what they want to do, has mental health issues...that person is never going to become a healthy cleric. So to have a healthy presbyterate, you need to start with healthy men,” McChesney said.

She also credited lay men and women, as well as some dedicated clergy, with working on the ground levels to bring the abuse numbers down since the Dallas Charter was established and who continue to work with and pressure bishops into doing more.

Because there have been so few cases since the 2002 Charter, McChesney added, it is all the more urgent to thoroughly investigate the cases of abuse that have occurred since then, and to ask how and why they happened.

“There are not as many cases - but there have been cases. Why? Who missed that lesson and why? And where was the oversight of those persons who abused?” she said.

Finally, she added, the Church must fight against issue fatigue and complacency when it comes to the sex abuse crisis.

“We can’t let our tiredness, our sadness, overtake our passion for continuing to work on these issues,” she said.

Archbishop Lori, once a member of the USCCB’s Committee on Sexual Abuse, noted that he was speaking only for himself and not all bishops. Lori said that for him, learning how to really listen to victims of the sex abuse crisis has been one of the “steepest learning curves” in the handling of the sex abuse crisis.

It may be the instinct of a bishop to offer a victim the help and support of the Church, Lori said, but survivors of abuse do not always want that. He had to learn how to really listen and realize that “I as the bishop listening to this cannot fully appreciate the nature of the experience that’s being described to me.”

He had to learn to not try to “be the person that has the answer, not try to be the person who pushes or who offers something that might not be wanted by the victim-survivor in that moment, the victim-survivor has to be in the driver's seat. It’s not just a question of meeting them or of affirming, it’s a question of listening deeply, and believing them.”

Adding to the chorus of previous comments that “one case is too many,” Lori also echoed the other panelists’ call for conversion among the bishops and other Church clergy and officials.

“The need remains and will always remain not to see the charter, these norms...simply as policies to be complied with,” Lori said. “In the grace of the Holy Spirit, there’s really got to be, on the part of people like me, my co-workers, lay co-workers, a conversion of mind and heart.”

Protecting children and listening to and helping victims of clerical abuse must be “as much as part of the life of the evangelization, Catholic education, or raising up vocations,” he added.

“We’ve got to continue being held accountable, because the Church’s mission depends on it.”

During the discussion, most panelists also noted that the abuse crisis has in some cases been “weaponized” by both conservative and liberal camps within the Church to push certain other agendas.

This is “a shameful use of what has happened to these men and women,” McChesney remarked.

During a question-and-answer session, Lori added that part of the ongoing solution to the abuse crisis is bringing more lay professional voices to the decision table.

“I need the help of qualified, committed laypersons who have expertise that I'll never have,” Lori said. “Who’s sitting around the decision table?...that affects Church governance and how we look at this.”

Cruz also called for more young people and more laity, particularly women, to be involved in the decisions and solutions to the abuse crisis.

“We need more women in the Church that are trained, that are prepared, to break this men’s club, to bring all their talent and their training to help us heal,” he said. “We can’t have women in the sacristy, we have to have them front and center in the Church, and we can’t wait for bishops to finish their learning curve, survivors need us now.”

Cruz added that he gets frustrated when he hears bishops or other clergy say that prior to the Dallas Charter and other protocols, they did not know how to act or handle cases of abuse.

“I want to tell them: raping a child has always been wrong - before Christ, after Christ, in the Middle Ages...and it always will be wrong. So you better learn.” 

Freeze on Central American aid could cause spike in immigration, Congress told

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 19:42

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2019 / 05:42 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration’s freeze on foreign aid to three Central American countries is harming the people who live there, and could ultimately drive an increase in immigration to the U.S., members of Congress heard this week.

An official with Catholic Relief Services testified Wednesday at a hearing held by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security and Trade.

The hearing was titled “Assessing the Impact of Cutting Foreign Assistance to Central America.” Speakers included Rick Jones, a senior technical advisor for CRS in Latin America; Stephen McFarland, a former U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala; and Juan González, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

“Overall, the assistance cut-off is very counterproductive in terms of the Trump administration’s own objectives; the cutoff will tend to spur migration, it will weaken efforts against narcotics traffickers and organized crime, and it increases the risk that in the future, more radical political options, such as Chavez’ rise in Venezuela, will gain strength,” McFarland said during the hearing.

“I will conclude with a recommendation to restore U.S. assistance within a new policy construct that seeks long term reforms in the Northern Triangle to reduce migration as well as to reinforce other USG objectives,” he added.

In April, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would suspend roughly half  a billion in foreign aid that had been set aside for countries in the Northern Triangle of Central America - Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Trump said the cut was necessary because these countries had not done enough to restrict the flow of migrants headed north.

CRS advisor Rick Jones disagreed. He said the programs have helped Central Americans thrive in their own country, providing them with physical security and food. They have also helped farmers overcome the effects of climate change.

Cutting this aid will push more people to migrate, he said, because if the root causes of migration are not addressed, people will leave their homes to seek stability elsewhere.

“Cutting foreign assistance is counterproductive to addressing issues of security, governance and prosperity and will create a vacuum for increased instability, poverty and migration,” Jones said in a Sept. 26 statement.

The cuts have forced international charities to cancel programs, lay off employees, and cut down on social services. Affected groups includeMercy Corps, CARE International, Project Concern International, and Save the Children.

“This is unprecedented,” said Paul Townsend, representative for Catholic Relief Services in Guatemala. “Public funding is always subject to political decisions, but you almost never see this scale of a cut,” he told NPR.

In recent decades, the U.S. government has sought to stem the tide of southern immigration in part by funding nongovernmental organizations that engage in humanitarian initiatives in foreign countries.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Control, more than 115,000 Guatemalan immigrants entered the U.S. through the southern border in 2018.

Senate funds UN population fund and confirms Scalia as Labor Secretary

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Senate on Thursday passed a temporary extension of government funding ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline, but with an inclusion that could trigger a fight over abortion funding in the coming months.  

Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), allowed the inclusion of an amendment reinstating funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in a State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill that then was approved by the full committee on Sept. 26.

The amendment by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) would bring back $32.5 million in funding of the UNFPA which the Trump administration has withheld since 2017; the funding has been withheld because of UNFPA’s partnership with the Chinese government, which carries out a mandatory two-child family planning policy through coercive abortions and sterilizations.

The administration has instead redirected the UNFPA’s funding to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), for family planning programs that are compliant with the Mexico City Policy.

The re-inclusion of UNFPA funding could be subject to the Kemp-Kasten amendment, which prohibits funding of “any organization or program which, as determined by the president of the United States, supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

The bill, as approved on Thursday, also includes increased family planning funding, which is in apparent violation of the July budget agreement between President Trump and congressional leaders.

The July agreement instructed that no “poison pill” amendments would be inserted into spending bills over the following two years without the approval of all the parties involved in the agreement, and that funding levels for controversial programs would not change.

This increase in family planning aid could go to fund groups that provide or promote abortions abroad if the Mexico City Policy is repealed in the future. The Mexico City Policy currently protects against U.S. family planning and global health aid going to groups promoting or providing abortions.

“Today does show that we have to be ever-vigilant,” Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, told CNA.

The continuing resolution that passed the Senate by a vote of 82 to 15 on Thursday had already passed the House, and heads to the President’s desk for signature ahead of the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

McClusky had told CNA earlier in the month that a CR would be the best pro-life option in regards to government funding, as it would continue the “status quo” without the threat of new pro-abortion amendments.

However, he said on Thursday, passage of the CR simply delays the fight over abortion funding until the next November deadline—one which may not be resolved by then.

“I don’t see how they solve it before their next deadline,” McClusky told CNA.

Although the Senate was considering a dozen appropriations bills to fund various government agencies for the 2020 financial year, several bills have stalled because of partisan debates over border wall funding and abortion.

Earlier in the month, two attempts were made to insert pro-abortion “poison pill” amendments into appropriations bills that would have repealed two Trump administration pro-life policies: the Title X “Protect Life Rule,” and the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” policy -- the administration’s expanded Mexico City Policy. Those policies, respectively, set up protections against taxpayer funding of domestic and international abortion providers or promoters.

“What Sen. Shelby did today does attack the Global Health Rule,” McClusky said, in that it “sets a ground floor” for future fights over funding of foreign groups that promote or perform abortions.

McClusky also warned that the coming months would see the possible adoption of a “CRomnibus,” or the combination of another short-term funding resolution for some government agencies—a “CR”—with a comprehensive funding bill of other government agencies for FY 2020—an “omnibus” bill.

That could be problematic, he said, because a large, comprehensive funding bill could invite more pro-abortion amendments.

Also on Thursday, the Senate voted to confirm Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, as the next Secretary of Labor.

Scalia, one of nine children, is a labor, employment, and regulatory lawyer and has served as a high-ranking official at the Labor Department.

He was formerly a speechwriter for then-Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, then served as a special assistant to former-and-current-Attorney General William P. Barr in 1992-93. In 2001, Scalia joined the Department of Labor as Solicitor of Labor.

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Sept. 19, Scalia cited his previous work within the agency, including helping to resolve a labor dispute at ports on the West Coast and cases involving “low-wage and immigrant workers.”

“The most affecting part of the job for me was encountering individual workers in sometimes tragic circumstances, and recognizing the capacity we had to respond,” Scalia said. 

“The construction workers killed in trenching accidents. The twelve miners in Alabama who gave their lives trying to save a co-worker’s. Migrant workers whose sacrifice for their families was preyed upon by others.”

Scalia faced tough questions from Sen. Patti Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member on the committee, along with other Democrats on his record of defending corporations and on his beliefs on the rights of workers identifying as LGBTQ. Scalia confirmed that a company firing an employee because of their sexual orientation or so-called gender identity was “wrong.”

When asked if he thought Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applied workplace protections to sexual orientation and gender identity, Scalia said “We’ll see what the Court decides.” The Supreme Court this fall will hear oral arguments in a bundle of cases involving Title VII protections.

How these Virginia Catholics are helping the homeless find work 

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:59

Arlington, Va., Sep 26, 2019 / 02:59 pm (CNA).- A Catholic group in Arlington, Virginia, is committed to helping homeless people, along with others down on their luck, by equipping them with the tools to find work and build careers.

In 2009, “Christians are Networking” (CAN) was launched by Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Arlington. The ministry began during the financial crisis, when unemployment was high, and those who had held steady careers were struggling to find work.

When the economy improved five years ago, CAN partnered with Christ House, a men’s homeless shelter in Alexandria, Virginia, to offer their services to people who have been living on the streets.

While the organization trains for resume-building, networking, interviewing, and computer skills, volunteer coordinator William Schuyler told CNA that the most important service has been helping participants believe in their own worth.

“The thing that we actually brought to the world was not so much that we could tell you how to write the perfect resume; it was that we reminded people of their value as a human being,” he said.

Christ House has enough space for 14 men at a time, and residents may stay in the house for up to one year. Men have their food, rent, and other necessities provided for them. They can also receive support to obtain identification papers.

The residents can also meet weekly with CAN to discuss career strategies like budgeting and networking. During the Wednesday night meeting, participants discuss progress and setbacks on the job hunt. Then, the job-seekers meets individually with volunteers.

Yvonne Horner, a volunteer coordinator for CAN, has been with the organization since it started at Christ House. With a background in human resources, she instructs clients on tax information and company benefits.

“When a man first enters Christ’s House, he will meet with the volunteers of CAN so they can find out a little bit of information, like education and work history. The volunteers also look to determine the clients’ interests and other areas of skills,” Horner told CNA.

“Then [we] talk a little bit about employment opportunities they might be interested in pursuing. We have a couple of volunteers who specialize in government work so they can help them navigate the government employment website.”

A major part of the program is helping men find a social support group.

Schuyler said that ideally the program will reconnect its clients to family members, like parents, children, and siblings.

The house will also encourage men to seek a community among themselves, he said.

“If [families ties are impossible], what we really tried to do is build ongoing relationships between the men at Christ House itself,” he said.

“Them bonding within the context of Christ ... then what that seems to do is enable them to reconnect with other people.”

Through interactions with professionals and other job-seekers, the men are built up with encouragement, he explained.

“It's important to remind people that they have value” in their dignity and in their work, Schuyler added.

“The organization needs you and it depends on you. Your colleagues are dependent upon you … if you do [your job] well, you are part of a thing that's making an organization succeed.”

“If you think of only the [task] you're doing, [like] the washing of the dishes, it's pretty easy to think of yourself as not having value in this.”  But, he said, “if you think of yourself as part of a team of people that are enabling people to have a delicious dinner, I think you can feel that you will have human value that's worth it.”

Catholic News Agency spoke with Dorian Spring and Leon Brown, both of whom participated in the program recently. The men had been homeless, and either not working or underemployed. Now, they have promising careers.

Spring entered the program about six months ago, after his landlord sold his home, leaving him homeless. He had been working at a hotel for 15 years, he said, but there was no room to move upwards in the company.

“I was very stressed out and then basically abused,” he said, noting that he had been passed over for promotions despite his lengthy employment and good attendance.

“I had to find something else and I talk[ed] to the CAN group about it,” he said. “They help you make yourself better, like with your resume and [preparation] for interviews and how to present yourself in interviews,” he added.

After coming to Christ House, Spring discovered new approaches to pursuing a higher position in a company.

He is now working for Georgetown University Hotel Conference Center, where he has company benefits and an opportunity for a raise every six months.

Spring explained that because of his background in hotel work, CAN worked with him to discover the goals of his career. He expressed hope that he might eventually be promoted to hotel management. He said CAN also helped him discover skills in his current profession, which are reflected in other professions, like office work.

“They keep you motivated,” he said, noting that the house is always open for people to return for additional help.

“They were very good to me.”

Brown joined Christ House over nine months ago, with no housing and no job. Now, he is working as a dishwasher at Hen Quarters, a restaurant serving Southern comfort food in Alexandria. He cleans dishes, floors, and linens.

Brown said he feels like a valuable part of the team.

“[I] love it and I got a good team with me and they appreciate me and I appreciated them. So I thank CAN group for that,” he said. “The charity really helped us and it made a better me, and I'm just going to continue on getting better.”

Brown said CAN also helped him establish a Facebook profile and track down his son, whom he had not seen in about 15 years.

“I [have] pictures on Facebook - me and my son and my friends,” he said.

 “My family, my workers and people who surround me, especially Christ house and CAN group, I appreciate each one of them.”

Both the men expressed gratitude for the job skills they’ve gained, but they also expressed appreciation for the community. One of their favorite aspects was the annual Christmas event. They said they had never experienced anything like it.

“Best Christmas I ever had,” said Brown.

“God is good all the time,” he said.

At US-Mexico border, bishops emphasize bonds of faith and family

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 13:15

El Paso, Texas, Sep 26, 2019 / 11:15 am (CNA).- At a Mass and press conference held at the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas on Wednesday, bishops from the border region emphasized the importance of providing care for migrant families, especially those who share a common faith and baptism with American Catholics.

"These are baptized Christians. From the faith perspective, that's what we forget sometimes because we're so focused on the charity part of it,” Bishop Brendan Cahill of the Diocese of Victoria, Texas told CNA Sept. 25.

“But these are baptized Catholics, so these are our brothers and sisters. So respecting national borders, respecting everything else, there's still a bond there through sacramentality."


“We know that they're coming not to take advantage of this wonderful, generous country, but rather to have an opportunity to work and to raise their families in safety and dignity," Bishop Oscar Cantu said Sept. 25 as bishops prayed at the US border.

Photos: @mckeownjonah

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) September 26, 2019  

The delegation of bishops, led by Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, is visiting the border this week to meet migrants at aid centers and in the fields where many of them work. The visit was designed as a pastoral encounter with migrants and Catholic leaders of the Dioceses of Las Cruces, New Mexico, El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. Five bishops were present at the Mass and press conference.

Fr. Robert Stark, Regional Coordinator of the Vatican’s Section on Migrant and Refugees, was also in attendance. Pope Francis has declared Sunday, Sept. 29 as World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Cahill celebrated the Mass in Spanish on Wednesday evening at the Centro de los Trabajadores Agrícolas Fronterizos, located in South El Paso just a stone’s throw from the border fence. The 8,000 square foot adobe-brown facility has for over 25 years provided aid for the thousands of migrant farmers who cross from Mexico to work in the United States every day.

The bishop related the story of a family he knows: A husband and father drives each day from Mexico across the border to New Mexico to farm, leaving at 3 am and arriving back home around 7 pm. He sleeps, and then does it again the next day.

Most chili farm workers are paid around 79 cents for each large bucket of chilis or onions picked.

"Over these past few days we've heard dozens of stories, but to me there's a similar theme to all of's really all about family. It's about parents caring for their children, and I think for any of us that's our number one concern."

In Ciudad Juarez, Central American migrants are being treated "very well," Cahill said, but the threat to the families, and particularly mothers, still has impacted him.

"As I listen to the migrant farm workers' stories, I hear challenges to keep the family together, opportunities for families because it is work and provides, so I think that has to be admitted that that's a good, but then to see what we can do even better."

Though the situation on both sides of the border is “overwhelming,” Cahill emphasized Pope St. John Paul II’s exhortation to pray for the family— not just one’s own family, but for the holiness and wellbeing of all families.

"The experience of being on the border and listening to people's stories— and these are regular people— is that the family is always the forefront,” he said.

“I want to pray for the family unit, that we protect mothers and fathers and children, and that they can be together. And that's what I noticed here on the border, a lot of economic forces, a lot of things challenging keeping the family together."

Seitz said at the press conference that it is unusual to have so many bishops gathered together around one particular theme outside of the regular bishops’ meeting. The special focus of the visit, he said, is on farm workers.

"They're a quiet reality that have been passing through El Paso, staying in El Paso, moving out from El Paso for many decades here," Seitz said.

Seitz said the visit was designed to allow those who had not visited the border area before a chance to get a feel for the area, and a border situation that is "changing every day."

The Mass coincided with a vote taken in Congress Wednesday to block President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration at the southern border, which is designed to divert funds from other projects to build a wall on the border with Mexico. The president is expected to veto Congress’ action.

On Tuesday the bishops visited Ciudad Juarez to visit a large aid facility, as well as a visit to Corpus Christi parish, which is largely serving farm workers and their families. On Thursday, the bishops plan to take a visit to Hatch, New Mexico to meet farmers there who grow and pick the valley's world famous chilis.

The bishops also met with groups of Central American migrants in Ciudad Juarez who had been waiting in Mexico for a chance to cross the border.

"It's devastating to see that these dreams that they have, dreams that my own parents had as immigrants to the United States from Mexico some 60 years ago, and people continue with those dreams," said Bishop Oscar Cantu of San Jose, formerly bishop of Las Cruces.

"We know that they're coming not to take advantage of this wonderful, generous country, but rather to have an opportunity to work and to raise their families in safety and dignity."

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, apprehensions of “unaccompanied alien children” has risen by nearly 75% from May 2018 to May 2019. The rise in apprehensions is led by El Paso, which has seen a 323% rise in that period.

The rise in apprehensions of families is higher— 463% across the board. El Paso’s rate of apprehension of families rose 2,100%.

Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, formerly a priest of the diocese of El Paso, praised the work of Catholics in the diocese working to welcome migrants. 

"The Diocese of El Paso has given an example for the whole country of how to welcome immigrants, how to love immigrants, how to clothe immigrants, how to provide shelter to immigrants, how to treat them as brothers and sisters and receive them here,"

The Department of Homeland Security announced new Migrant Protection Protocols in January, providing that migrants arriving illegally or without proper documentation “may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings, where Mexico will provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”
These policies, Stowe noted, have meant that that tens of thousands of migrants are “stuck” on the Mexico side of the border, as asylum claims can take years to process.

"It was just months ago that thousands of people were coming across the border, flooding this city, and they were received in shelters throughout this city by people of faith who reached out. Not only our Catholic Church but other churches in town, reaching out and serving them. That's a beautiful example for the whole country; it's what our nation was founded on, and it's specifically important for our Catholic Church."

In terms of practical actions the faithful in El Paso have taken, Seitz told CNA that the diocese in Oct. 2018 opened a shelter at the pastoral center, a "purely volunteer response," to deal with the large number of people passing through the city. The temporary shelter has since closed due to a drop in the number of migrants passing through.

"Right now, we've seen a huge drop off in the number of people coming because of enforcement actions in Mexico," Seitz noted.

"So what's happening is there's kind of a bottleneck in Ciudad Juarez, and we estimate that there are up to 20,000 people that are pretty much stuck there. They're afraid to go home, because that's where they're fleeing from...they're afraid to stay in Mexico, because most of them have faced violence there."

Robberies and kidnappings among the migrants waiting in Mexico are common, he said.

The HOPE Border Institute, along with the Diocese of El Paso, in July initiated a Border Refugee Assistance Fund to send money to organizations working with migrants and refugees in Juarez.

"Do we believe there is a usefulness to a border? Absolutely. The Church has not problem with that usefulness. But we also know that there are higher laws than than the law that has to do with a nation's border."

"We are Catholic Christians, and we are citizens. If the two ever come into conflict, we need to be Catholic Christians first," Seitz told CNA.

The majority of the migrants that the Church in El Paso helps have already been processed by ICE and are awaiting their court date for asylum.

"The fact is that most of these people that are crossing, seeking asylum, are not breaking the law. They're following the law that was established for people like our ancestors who came here seeking refuge...And we need to try and see things through the eyes of Jesus Christ and through the teachings of our Church. And those teachings should be clear when they say that if we encounter someone in need, we need to do what we can to help them."






Cardinal Parolin warns against 'ideological colonization' at UN

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 12:15

New York City, N.Y., Sep 26, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- The Holy See’s Secretary of State has cautioned world leaders against the “ideological colonization” of developing nations. Cardinal Pietro Parolin issued the warning Tuesday at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“I would like to stress that partnership for sustainable and integral human development means moving together in the same direction. It means steering away from the tendency toward ideological colonization and from imposing the will of a few on the many,” said Parolin,who is in New York to lead the Holy See’s delegation to the UN General Assembly.

Cardinal Parolin delivered his statement at the plenary session of the 2019 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on Sept. 24.

Pope Francis has previously used the term “ideological colonization” to describe international efforts to pressure developing countries to conform to liberal Western laws and values on family issues, including the acceptance of so-called gender theory, support for same-sex marriage and the admission of abortion.

In his September, 2015, address to the UN General Assembly, Francis said that the “recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits” and the “implementation of those pillars of integral human development” are necessary to true peace and development.

Without these, the pope said, the goals of peace and development would devolve into “idle chatter” which simply whitewashes “corruption” or “carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.”

In a Nov. 21, 2017 homily at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis condemned “ideological colonization” as “blasphemy,” noting that “it was [once] a sin to kill children,” but now “it is not a problem, it is a perverse novelty.” This colonization “wants to change Creation as it was made by (God),” he said.

In his 2015 visit to the Philippines, the pope also warned of “an ideological colonization we have to be careful of that tries to destroy the family." A Vatican official later clarified that his reference included the imposition of same-sex marriage on countries.

In an in-flight press conference following the visit, Pope Francis explained his reference by giving an example of a loan for the building of schools for the poor in a certain country, on the condition that those schools used books teaching gender theory.

On Tuesday, Cardinal Parolin was addressing the issue in relation to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which he said “commits the international community to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions and to ensure that all women, men and children have the conditions necessary to live in freedom and dignity.”

The Agenda states, among other goals, an international commitment “to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education.”

On Monday, Parolin criticized such language at a High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage at the UN, where he cited the declaration on universal health coverage’s inclusion of “deeply concerning and divisive” terms like “sexual and reproductive health-care services” and “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.”

The cardinal reaffirmed the Holy See’s reservations about such language as previously expressed in documents from the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing and the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, that they not be interpreted to push for abortion access.

“In particular, the Holy See rejects the interpretation that considers abortion or access to abortion, sex-selective abortion, abortion of fetuses diagnosed with health challenges, maternal surrogacy, and sterilization as dimensions of these terms, or of universal health coverage,” Cardinal Parolin said.

On Tuesday, Parolin said that promotion of development requires countries, donors, and development programs to work in “solidarity,” he said, in “a global, integral, whole-of-society approach.”

Public officials, he said, bear a “special responsibility” to protect the “most vulnerable” and ensure “a dignified and just development” involving the whole of civil society.

Parolin said that there must be improved data gathering on-the-ground by countries and civil societies, to deliver a more accurate picture of the situation faced by those in poverty.

Development efforts cannot only help the “visible” poor, Parolin said, while leaving others out: those “caught in situations of conflict and violence,” people “living extreme poverty and isolation in the remotest places,” and “those living the scourge of modern slavery.”

As Minnesota synod begins, archbishop says Church is listening

Wed, 09/25/2019 - 19:08

Minneapolis, Minn., Sep 25, 2019 / 05:08 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis has begun a series of “prayer and listening events” to help prepare for the 2021 archdiocesan synod.

In an interview with Relevant Radio, released Wednesday, Archbishop Bernard Hebda explained his hopes for the synod to be an opportunity for “listening together” as an archdiocese.

“It should be that opportunity not just for me to be listening … but the people will be listening to each other and that together we can go deeper in our sense of how it is the Holy Spirit is working in our Church, and how it is that we are going to be able to be that image of the body of Christ,” he said.

Listening to one another is a key element for a successful synod - whether it be the synod of bishops meeting in Rome, or a diocesan synod, he said.

The archbishop is hopeful that parishioners will share issues that are important to them, including the needs and goals of the people in the archdiocese.

“They’ll be able to give us an assessment of what’s going well, what’s not going so well. What is it that they’d like to see the Church doing in the next ten years, and how it is that they think we might be able to accomplish that,” he said.

Over the summer, Hebda announced that the synod would be held on Pentecost weekend, May 2021 - the first synod for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis since 1939. The archbishop said he wants to identify pastoral priorities and help foster a “listening Church.”

“I have been hearing Pope Francis’ repeated articulation of the need for us to be a ‘listening Church.’ While stressing that ‘discernment is a gift of the Spirit to the Church, to which she responds with listening,’ he has concretely modeled for us how a more intentional ‘listening’ might work in discerning and establishing pastoral priorities,” Hebda said in a June 6 letter announcing the synod.

To accomplish this, the archdiocese will hold 20 “prayer and listening” events. The first gathering occurred on Sept. 24 and the second one will take place on Sept. 28. Archbishop Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens attended the first session and are expected to attend all future prayer events, which are open to everyone.

In the interview with Relevant Radio, Hebda said he expects a few hundred people for each event. He also stressed the importance of prayer, noting that each gathering will spend half of its time in reflection and worship.

“The first half of the time that we are spending together is really an opportunity to call down the gifts of the Holy Spirit so we are going to be listening to some scripture readings [and] there is going to be some music to help us lift our hearts in praise,” he said.

After prayer and reflection, participants will be invited to identify areas of struggle and success within the archdiocese, he said. Attendees will be asked to submit their opinions in a written form and will also be able to express their concerns vocally.

Hebda said all of the written comments will be organized by topic, which will be reviewed by an archdiocesan team. After these prayer events and a dozen more focused discussions, he said, the church will be able to recognize significant patterns in the archdiocese and act accordingly.

“It is going to be a big process taking in information, collating it, and then beginning that prayerful assessment of where do we see trends, where do we see commonality, where has there been [public approval],” he told Relevant Radio.

“Our hope as an archdiocesan synod is to be looking at the particularities of our archdiocese and being able to respond in a concrete way to those, trying always to be faithful to what we know is the teaching of Christ and his Church,” he added.

An official with the archdiocese told CNA in June that the the synod is also an opportunity for healing and discussions on moving forward after the sex abuse claims that led the archdiocese to declare bankruptcy in 2015.

The claims were filed under new state legislation that opened a temporary window for older claims to be heard in civil court. In addition, former Archbishop John Nienstedt stepped down in 2015 after the diocese was charged with mishandling cases of child sexual abuse.

Archbishop Hebda announced in May of last year a $210 million settlement package for victims of sexual abuse. He has said there are no plans for additional parish appeals to help fund the settlements, saying last June that most of the settlement money – $170 million – would come from the archdiocese’s insurance and from money already collected from parish appeals.

The settlement, announced after more than two years’ deliberation, includes a plan for abuse compensation as well as for bringing the archdiocese out of bankruptcy. The amount is an increase of more than $50 million from the proposal that the archdiocese had originally submitted.

Judicial nominee quizzed over undergrad abortion op-ed

Wed, 09/25/2019 - 17:15

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2019 / 03:15 pm (CNA).- A federal judicial nominee during his confirmation process was questioned by a U.S. senator over an op-ed on abortion that he wrote as a college undergraduate.

“In 2001, you wrote an article where you described Roe v. Wade as ‘codifying’ ‘the radical abortion rights advocated by campus feminists’,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in her written questions to Steven Menashi, who was nominated by President Trump in August to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

“How does Roe v. Wade represent the codification of ‘the radical abortion rights advocated by campus feminists?’” Feinstein asked.

“What are the ‘undesired moral consequences’ abortion has led to?” Feinstein also asked, quoting Menashi’s 2001 op-ed.

Menashi wrote in response to those questions that his column on the subject “was written before I graduated from college or attended law school and it did not reflect a legal opinion about Roe v. Wade.” The nominee affirmed that if were confirmed as a judge, he would “faithfully apply” the binding precedents of the Supreme Court.

Written questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with Menashi’s answers were submitted into the federal Congressional record on Sept. 18.

Menashi was nominated by President Trump to the Second Circuit Court in August, but the Senate has yet to confirm his nomination.

At his Sept. 11 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Menashi was reportedly admonished by senators of both parties for not fully answering questions on his role in crafting the administration’s immigration and refugee policies.

At the time of his nomination, Menashi was a Special Assistant to President Trump and a Senior Associate Counsel. Prior to that, he served as Acting General Counsel at the Department of Education, and once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. He graduated from Stanford Law School.

CNN reported on Wednesday that, while Menashi was an undergraduate student at Dartmouth University, he wrote op-eds and editorials for a student newspaper about late-term abortions, infanticide, and the distribution of the morning-after pill on campus.

In an editorial published in the Jan. 15, 2001 edition of The Dartmouth Review titled “The Yuck Factor,” Menashi noted that public support for abortion restrictions was seemingly at odds with the views of some academic bioethicists, who argued that infanticide in certain cases might be permissible.

He cited poll numbers showing “a consensus that opposes the radical abortion rights advocated by campus feminists and codified in Roe v. Wade and subsequent decisions--abortion on demand, for any reason, at any stage of pregnancy.”

In discussing the treatment of infanticide by some bioethicists, Menashi described the practice of “induced abortion” where “[t]he baby sometimes dies in birth, but is often delivered alive.” He cited the reaction of horror by some to 1997 guidelines of South Africa’s health department that instructed doctors not to attempt resuscitation of babies who survived abortion attempts.

“Most people, in fact, react this way,” he wrote in 2001 of the reaction of horror to such instructions. He contrasted this horror of members of the public and the medical community with the “smug” dismissal by some bioethicists of that disgust as “the yuck factor.”

He noted that “while abortion remains a vexing question for most Americans, the principle conceded with legal abortion has led to clearly undesired moral consequences.”

In the same Jan. 15, 2001 edition of the Dartmouth Review, Menashi also wrote an editorial entitled “The College on the Pill,” addressing attempts to provide the “morning-after pill” to undergraduates despite it being a prescription medication.

Sen. Feinstein asked Menashi “on what basis” he considered the morning-after pill to be an abortifacient. Menashi had quoted from sources in his editorial including a letter circulated by the American Life League and signed by 106 medical doctors which argued that it could function as an abortifacient.

Menashi answered that his editorial “did not reach that conclusion” that it was an abortifacient, but rather explained the “conflict over definition” of the pill.

The consideration of Menashi’s confirmation comes after other judicial nominees of the Trump administration have faced questions from senators over abortion.

In July, the Senate voted to confirm William Shaw Stickman IV, nominated for the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania, and Jeffrey Brown, tapped to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, after both nominees were listed by Planned Parenthood as abortion opponents. Both nominees were also questioned by senators over their opinions on abortion and the Roe decision.

In 2018, nominee Brian Buescher was grilled by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) over his membership in the Knights of Columbus.

In late July, Buescher was confirmed by the Senate as a U.S. District Court judge for Nebraska.

Metuchen diocese holds 9-mile walking pilgrimage for spiritual renewal

Wed, 09/25/2019 - 16:48

Metuchen, N.J., Sep 25, 2019 / 02:48 pm (CNA).- More than 700 people participated in a nine-mile pilgrimage through the streets of New Jersey's Hunterdon County on Saturday in order to call for a spiritual awakening and increased discipleship in the Diocese of Metuchen.

The Sept. 21 pilgrimage was part of the diocese’s preparation for consecration to Christ through Our Lady of Guadalupe, which will take place on her feast, Dec. 12.

The journey was a loop that began and ended at Immaculate Conception Parish in Annandale, about 30 miles west of Metuchen.

During the pilgrimage the participants, among whom were 23 priests, prayed the rosary in both English and Spanish, and sang Marian hymns. The priests were available to hear confessions during the walk, and there was Eucharistic Adoration and a Holy Hour at the six-mile point of the pilgrimage.

Those who couldn't join the procession, the parish held day-long Eucharistic adoration.

The choice of a nine-mile pilgrimage was significant to the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s apparition in Mexico.

“Deep in our spiritual tradition ‘pilgrimages’ signify and make present our ultimate journey home to heaven, recalling the truth that ‘as Christians, we have no earthly home,’” said Fr. Timothy Christy, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Metuchen. “Our pilgrimage commemorated the miles that St. Juan Diego regularly walked from his home to attend his catechesis to become Catholic in 1524.”

Christy hopes that the people of the diocese will be moved to imitate St. Juan Diego’s spirituality in their own lives, and be centered on Christ and the Church.

“St. Juan Diego’s heart was so moved by the love of Jesus and His Church and love of the Virgin Mary, no obstacle was too much to keep him from being joined to the Body of Christ and so to be able then to be prepared to receive Holy Communion,” said Christy.

“It is our hope that the people of our diocese will be reinvigorated by that same love for Jesus, the same love for His Church and the inspiration and protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

Sr. Anna Nguyen, SSC, described being “overwhelmed with emotion,” and said the experience of the Eucharistic procession was one she will never forget.

Nguyen, a delegate for religious, helped coordinate the spiritual aspects of the pilgrimage.

“To see the faces of the people, all ages – clergy, religious, Eucharistic youth, young people, little children in carriages being pushed by their parents – all experiencing that we do not walk alone, Christ travels the ‘Way’ of our life with us!” said Nguyen.

“Even if (pilgrims) couldn’t see the Eucharist from the back of the procession, the Lord’s presence was palpable,” she added.

Bishop James Cecchio of Metuchen participated in the last three miles of the pilgrimage and celebrated Mass at the conclusion. An additional 300 people were present for the anticipated Mass.

Checchio encouraged those present to be open to sacrifice in their discipleship, and to commit their lives to Jesus.

“By this Eucharist today, by our pilgrimage – 9 miles walking with the Lord and one another – we make a public statement to our Lord and to one another of where we choose to place our heart,” said Checchio.

“We ask the Lord to light our hearts on fire, we ask the Lord to strengthen us for the challenges and the difficulties that we and our families face…as we strive to bring the merciful presence of Christ to all who do not know Him yet,” he said.

“I thank God for your striving to live this way, and I thank God for your witness today that you give through this pilgrimage – the times we live in, our times need more witnesses to Christ.”

Erie district attorney investigating seminarian's sexual harassment claims

Wed, 09/25/2019 - 14:53

Buffalo, N.Y., Sep 25, 2019 / 12:53 pm (CNA).- The district attorney in Erie County has begun a criminal investigation into claims of sexual harassment raised by a former seminarian against a local priest.

Former seminarian Matthew Bojanowski says he was sexually harassed by Fr. Jeffrey Nowak of Our Lady of Help Christians Church in Cheektowaga, New York.

Nowak was placed on administrative leave in August, after Bojanowski held a press conference on the allegations. Bojanowski said Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone knew about the accusations for months, but had not acted.

Malone told Spectrum News Buffalo that he will “absolutely” cooperate with the investigation.

On Tuesday, the bishop announced new policies in the diocese for processing complaints of sexual misconduct by clergy and staff against adults, as well a new code of conduct for clergy.

In a video unveiling the new policies, Malone acknowledged that the abuse scandal has shaken the trust of many people in his archdiocese, as well as their confidence in him as a leader.

“As your bishop, I am committed to doing everything in my power to redeem your hope, your confidence, with not just words but with concrete, measurable actions,” he said.

While the diocese already had protocols in place for allegations of abuse against minors, there was a gap in its policies regarding sexual misconduct against an adult, which is treated differently in civil law, he said. The new policies aim to close that gap.

“With these new adult protocols, we have defined clear policies and consequences that will be applied consistently and with the utmost concern for alleged victims,” he said.

Under the new policies, the diocese will hire a Director of Professional Responsibility. All complaints of sexual misconduct will be directed to this individual, who will investigate allegations within 72 hours of receiving them, aided by diocesan attorneys and the auxiliary bishop of vicar general.

If the initial investigation determines that the allegation is “neither manifestly false nor frivolous,” a further investigation will be conducted, and the accused individual will be placed on leave. An independent review board will consider the findings of the inquiry and make recommendations to the bishop about any violation that may have occurred and the fitness of the accused individual to remain in ministry.

Among the code of conduct requirements, clergy members are to maintain clear and appropriate physical boundaries, avoid spiritual direction sessions in private living quarters, and avoid being alone with children.

“Those in ministry must be above any reproach. They must demonstrate unassailable moral and professional conduct. They must reflect the person of Christ in all that they do, say, and in how they conduct the affairs of the Church each day,” Malone said.

The new policies come as the Diocese of Buffalo continues to be embroiled in controversy over sexual abuse allegations, including claims that Malone failed to act on accusations that had been brought to his attention.

At least two whistleblowers with high-level access in the diocese - Malone’s former executive assistant and former priest secretary - have gone public with accusations that Malone mishandled several cases of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese, some of which involved minors.

One such case involves a priest accused of sending inappropriate Facebook messages to a minor. Malone reinstated the priest, Father Art Smith, to ministry in 2012 and allowed him not only to work at a diocesan Catholic youth conference, but also to minister at a nursing home, where reports of inappropriate conduct with adults later surfaced.

Smith is currently listed on the diocesan page for clergy with substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor. He denies the allegations.

In Sept. 2019, local news station WKBW released recordings of private conversations between Bishop Malone and Fr. Ryszard Biernat, Malone’s former priest secretary, which appear to show that Malone believed sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the diocese removed the priest from ministry.

Biernat recorded the conversations as the bishop discussed how to deal with accusations against Fr. Nowak by then-seminarian Bojanowski, who in a January letter to Malone accused Nowak of grooming him, sexually harassing him, and violating the Seal of the Confessional.

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

In another, earlier conversation from March, Bishop Malone seems to acknowledge the legitimacy of Bojanowski’s accusation against Nowak months before the diocese removed Nowak from active ministry.

WKBW published a report about allegations against Nowak in May. Nowak was not removed from ministry until Aug. 7.

The diocese has responded to various allegations of mishandling abuse cases by Malone, stating in August that “Bishop Malone has never allowed any priest with a credible allegation of abusing a minor to remain in ministry.”

A poll commissioned earlier this month by The Buffalo News found that 86% of current or lapsed Catholics believe Malone should resign. The bishop insists that he will not step down.

Case dismissed against New York priest accused of abuse

Wed, 09/25/2019 - 14:30

New York City, N.Y., Sep 25, 2019 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- A priest of the Archdiocese of New York has been cleared of accusations of sexual abuse after the judge dismissed the case at the request of District Attorney’s office. 

“We were pleased today to learn that the charges against Father Thomas Kreiser have been dismissed,” said a statement from the Archdiocese of New York on Sept. 24. “Father Kreiser has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and it is good to see justice has been done.”

Fr. Kreiser had served as a priest in Bronxville, a village near Manhattan, until he was accused of sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl in October, 2018. Kreiser was indicted in March, 2019. He was facing three felony counts of first-degree sexual abuse as well as three misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The archdiocese suspended him from public ministry while the case was being considered. 

Archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling said that Fr. Thomas Kreiser will meet soon with the archdiocese to determine his return to ministry and future assignment.

The case was dismissed after the Westchester District Attorney’s office received the results of an investigation into the claims made by the supposed victim and found it would not support further prosecution. 

“We did not feel we could prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said to the Rockland-Westchester Journal News in an email. 

In April 2019, the Archdiocese of New York released a list of clergy in the archdiocese who had been “credibly” accused of sexual abuse or misconduct with a minor. Kreiser’s name was not on that list.

The priest was accused of touching a girl “on an intimate part of her body” three times in September 2018. The girl said the abuse occurred on the grounds of St. Joseph’s parish school in Bronxville. Kreiser immediately asserted his innocence and pled not guilty to all accusations at his arraignment. 

Kreiser has repeatedly denied ever touching the girl, or any child, in an inappropriate manner. 

Kreiser previously underwent treatment for gambling addiction. In 2011, he was sentenced to five years’ probation after pleading guilty to felony charges related to stealing more than $25,000 from his previous parish. 

Following the passage of the Child Victims Act by the New York State government in January, a window was created in the statute of limitations to allow child sexual abuse survivors to file suit against individuals and institutions in the state.

Previously, a survivor had until they reached the age of 23 to file a claim. This has now been extended to the age 28 for criminal charges, and 55 for civil cases.

On the first day of the window, in August, more than 400 lawsuits were filed. 

The lawsuits include an allegation of abuse against a sitting bishop, and a RICO suit against the Diocese of Buffalo and the Northeast Province of the Jesuits. Other suits were filed against laicized former archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and against retired Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany. Hubbard has denied the allegations.

Catholic Medical Association: fund palliative care, not assisted suicide

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 20:01

Washington D.C., Sep 24, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Medical Association, along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association, are voicing support for a bill pending in Congress to fund training, research, and education on palliative care.

Palliative care involves medical care and pain management for the symptoms of those suffering from a serious illness, and refraining from taking actions that directly take the life of the patient, as opposed to the practices of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“Our role as physicians is to care for patients at all stages of their lives, and to try to do so in an empathetic manner, showing them kindness and charity in their particular circumstances,” CMA President Dr. John Schirger said in a Sept. 23 statement.

“When there is nothing further we can do to change the course of a disease process, we can still remain with them, showing them kindness and solidarity. Our colleagues who practice palliative care have a privileged opportunity to care for patients during this most important time of their lives.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced S. 2080, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act, in July.

According to the CMA, the bill would provide federal grants to train more health professionals with expertise in palliative care so they can integrate it into their own practices, and would also fund research to improve methods for palliative care, and support programs to inform patients and health professionals of the benefits of such care.

The CMA noted that “some of our friends and allies in the effort against euthanasia and assisted suicide” have cited cases of patients being given large doses of painkillers to cause death, and also some physicians, ethicists, and state legislators who are attempting to define assisted suicide as a form of palliative care.

Despite this, the CMA said they see the current bill as “not part of the problem but part of the solution.”

The organization noted that S.2080 incorporates the policy of the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act, which since 1997 has excluded assisted suicide and euthanasia from all federal health programs. It also adds an explicit provision that “palliative care and hospice shall not be furnished for the purpose of causing, or the purpose of assisting in causing, a patient’s death, for any reason.”

While the Catholic Church recognizes life as a good, patients and doctors are not required to do everything possible to avoid death if a life has reached its natural conclusion and medical intervention would not be beneficial.

The CMA emphasized their position that “the goal of palliative care is to promote effective relief of pain and suffering, not to eliminate the sufferer.”

Countries with legal euthanasia are the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg, and Canada. Assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. In the US, assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and in Montana by a court ruling. A law allowing it in Maine will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The bishops of Canada have been particularly vocal in support of palliative care, amid governmental efforts to expand assisted suicide and euthanasia, practices which have been legal in that country since 2016.

The Canadian bishops have multiple times stated that it is imperative that assisted suicide and euthanasia not be included as part of palliative care programs.

The bishops recently signed an interreligious statement that defines palliative care as “a comprehensive approach to end-of-life challenges, palliative care combines pain management with efforts to attend to a patient’s psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual needs, as well as caregiver support...the practice of palliative care does not include interventions which intentionally cause the death of the patient.”

Analysis: Does a Vatican decision on Brebeuf Jesuit undermine Archbishop Thompson?

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 18:24

Indianapolis, Ind., Sep 24, 2019 / 04:24 pm (CNA).- Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis announced this week that the Vatican has suspended a decree prohibiting the school from calling itself Catholic. The announcement has led to speculation and debate about the likely outcome for an appeal filed against the decree. But the canonical realities of the case don't support most of the conjecture.

The decree was issued by Archbishop Charles Thompson, after a disagreement between the Indianapolis archdiocese and the school over the employment of a teacher in a same-sex civil marriage. It was appealed by the Jesuit province that oversees the school.

To some Catholics, the Vatican’s decision to suspend the decree, and its eventual decision on the Jesuit’s appeal, seems to be a referendum on whether the Church’s hierarchy will defend its teaching on homosexuality. But the case is more complicated than that, and commentators reducing it to a battle over doctrine could lead Catholics into serious confusion.

In June, Archbishop Thompson announced that Brebeuf could no longer call itself Catholic after two years of talks between the school and the archdiocese broke down. The issue began when the archdiocese became aware that a teacher had entered into a same-sex civil marriage, and requested that the school not renew the teacher’s contract.

Archdiocesan officials were clear about their position.

“All those who minister in Catholic educational institutions carry out an important ministry in communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students both by word and action inside and outside the classroom,” the archdiocese said in a June statement.

To reflect its position, the archdiocese has instructed all Catholic schools within its boundaries to ensure that contracts and job descriptions classify teachers as “ministers,” because of their duty to teach and witness the faith, and instruction should stipulate “that all ministers must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“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 in June.

The archdiocesan position is not uncommon among U.S. dioceses, and its language, especially the idea of classifying teachers and other school personnel as “ministers,” seems to be informed, at least in part, by the 2012 Supreme Court decision in Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC.

That decision established that religious institutions are free to require those it recognizes as ministers to uphold religious teachings as a condition of employment. After the decision was handed down, it has become more common for Catholic institutions to delineate explicitly that school personnel are counted as “ministers,” because of their responsibility to witness to the Gospel, and that living in accord with the Church’s teaching is a condition of ongoing ministerial employment.

In Indiana, leaders at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School said that accommodating the archdiocesan request would “violate our informed conscience on this particular matter,” and “set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide.”

That Catholic school teachers should be expected to live according to the teachings of the faith has been taught repeatedly in the educational documents of the Church's magisterium. Any effort on the part of Brebeuf leaders to suggest that the Church should take no issue with teachers in public relationships that defy Catholic doctrine is unlikely to be successful.

But defenders of the school, and canon lawyers who have followed the case closely, tell CNA there are other issues at play in Brebeuf’s appeal to the Vatican.

Canon 805 of the Church’s "Code of Canon Law" establishes that within his diocese, the diocesan bishop “has the right to appoint or approve teachers of religion and even to remove them or demand that they be removed if a reason of religion or morals requires it.” The canon does not give the bishop the same oversight over other teachers.

While canon 806 recognizes that the bishop can issue norms pertaining to the “general regulation” of schools overseen by religious orders, like Brebeuf, the law also recognizes that religious orders have “autonomy regarding the internal direction” of such schools.

The norms established by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis pertain to all teachers, not just those who teach religion. In fact, the archdiocesan policy seems to define all school teachers as teachers of religion, at least in a broad and abstract way.

It is not clear to canonists whether the Congregation for Catholic Education will decide that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ policy pertains to the “general regulation” of Brebeuf, or whether, in light of canon 805, it will find that the policy reaches into a matter of “internal direction,” over which the school has canonical autonomy.

Even if the Congregation decrees the latter, it could also decide that because the archbishop’s intention was in the right place, the best response is to suggest to him an amended policy that could be understood to pertain to the school’s “general regulation.”

What the Congregation decides on this legal point will have bearing on the canonical relationship between local bishops and religious orders with schools around the world. The Congregation will likely take its time coming to a conclusion.

Apart from this question, there are also canonists, even among those supportive of the archdiocesan initiative, who ask whether a bishop can legally declare that a school overseen by a religious institute will no longer be “recognized”  as a Catholic institution.

While many canonists agree that the archbishop can prohibit the school from calling itself a Catholic school, as indicated in canon 803, there are questions in play about whether the wording and form of Archbishop Thompson’s decree conform to the requirements of canon law.

There are, in short, a number of technical issues of canon law at play in the dispute between Brebuef and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and those issues have to do with the scope and exercise of a bishop’s authority, not with broad questions about homosexuality and Catholic identity.

This means it is entirely possible that the Congregation for Catholic Education could end with a decision that supports Archbishop Thompson in principle, while concluding that the way he went about handling the issue was canonically problematic.

In such a case, the Congregation would likely spend time trying to see whether the matter could be meted out in a more technically precise way.

But because the case is complex, and it’s not clear how the Congregation will decide on each of a set of interlocking legal questions, resolving the situation is likely to take a long time. And, most likely in recognition of that fact, the Congregation decided to suspend the archbishop’s decree until the matter has been resolved.

Among American commentators, the suspension of the decree has been characterized as a reproach to Archbishop Thompson or an indication that the Vatican plans to decide the case in the Jesuits’s favor. But considered in light of the common praxis of the Roman Curia, and the rules that govern it, those characterizations seem unfounded, at best.

Reading the tea leaves on exactly why the Congregation suspended the decree is near impossible. But there are a few points worth noting.

The first is that in canonical praxis, it is not unusual to suspend the effects of a decree while a recourse, or appeal, is being considered. In many types of cases, the law establishes an automatic suspension. In fact, sources told CNA this week that at least some Vatican officials initially thought suspension would be automatic in this case, as it is in many others. So among the likely reasons the Vatican suspended the decree is a practical canonical reflex to do so when a recourse is being considered seriously.

The Congregation will want to give every indication of having been fair to both sides in this dispute, and because suspension of a decree is an ordinary canonical practice, it is also an indication of fairness.

The second point worth noting is that Thompson’s decree, which says that Brebuef will no longer be listed in the “Official Catholic Directory,” could have considerable tax consequences for the school and its Jesuit teachers, because the IRS recognizes that directory as demonstration that an entity is a tax-exempt Catholic ministry. Suspending the decree prevents the headache of resolving those tax issues while the Congregation considers the appeal.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that Thompson’s decree has practical and spiritual effect on the students at Brebeuf and their families. That the Congregation is considering the appeal suggests it thinks the legal questions in play are at least worth treating seriously. But the Church’s practice is to err on the side of the sacraments in a matter capable of question, and so it will seem to Vatican officials the most pastoral decision to allow Mass to continue at the school, for the sake of its students, as the issues are worked out.

Canonical recourses involving complex legal issues unfold at a snail’s pace. As the recourse of Brebeuf Jesuit unfolds, most of the punditry will fall along predictable partisan lines, or use each development to support preconceived conclusions. It’s worth remembering that such speculation likely indicates more about its sources than about the facts and circumstances of the case.

Free dental clinic in Maryland brings care to over 1,000 patients

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 18:13

College Park, Maryland, Sep 24, 2019 / 04:13 pm (CNA).- A free dental clinic hosted recently by Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., offered preventive and emergency dental care to more than 1,000 patients in need.

“The majority were uninsured, and probably had not seen a dentist in years,” said Deacon Jim Nalls, director of Family, Parish and Community Outreach for Catholic Charities of Washington.

Sept. 13-14 marked the fifth Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy, hosted by Catholic Charities, the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the Maryland State Dental Association Foundation.

Hundreds of patients waited in line overnight at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center in College Park.

One woman, 69-year-old Linda Frazier, stood in line for the clinic beginning at 6:40 p.m. the night before.

Frazier told the Catholic Standard that she was suffering from a painful tooth and had not received dental care in two years, since the last Mission of Mercy in Mid-Maryland. She said she cannot afford insurance and was grateful to have the opportunity to receive treatment through Catholic Charities.

Maryland does not include full dental coverage for patients on Medicaid, so low-income individuals and people without insurance often find themselves struggling to get the dental care they need.

Mission of Mercy originated in Virginia nearly 20 years ago, when Dr. Terry Dickinson, former executive director of the Virginia Dental Association, saw a major unmet need for dental care among low-income patients, seniors, and people with disabilities.

The first small event was held in rural Virginia with a group of dentists from the Virginia Dental Association. “It was widely successful,” Nalls told CNA. “The need was huge. People lined up literally overnight to get help.”

Today, he said, 42 other states have adopted the Mission of Mercy model, creating free dental clinics with volunteer dentists and support personnel to provide services.

Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., heard about the clinics and wanted to start one of their own. They began in 2013.

This year, the clinic treated 1089 people, an increase of about 20% from the last time the event was held.

The Mission of Mercy event required hundreds of volunteers to run, including professional volunteers - dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and x-ray technicians - as well as general volunteers, who greeted patients, registered them, and directed them to the correct location.

Patients received both medical and dental screenings, as well as panoramic dental x-rays, Nall said. Volunteer dentists offered fillings, tooth extractions, cleanings, partial dentures, and crowns, among other services.

Dr. Mel Weissburg, who volunteered to do endodontic and root canal work, said the clinic’s dental care can change the lives of the patients being served.

“They are embarrassed because they have missing or cavities in their front teeth,” Weissburg told the Catholic Standard. “They get cleaned up, they get filled, and now they can smile. They can smile when they’re working, they can get a job. The socio-economic impact on that patient and their family, and their children and our society...goes a long way.”

Nalls said patients are extremely appreciative to be receiving care they otherwise could not afford.

“With tears in their eyes, they were grateful,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event. That’s why the volunteers keep coming back, it’s so rewarding to see the immediate response of the people that you’re taking care of, and that the need is so great…Why else would you sleep on a sidewalk overnight?”

One volunteer, Teresa Villanueva, said this is her third time volunteering at the event. She told the Catholic Standard that she is touched to see the suffering of those who do not have insurance.

“Every time they do these events, my heart is joyful,” she said.

Nalls said dental care is sometimes undervalued, both by individuals and the health care system in general.

“There’s no money in the Affordable Care Act for dental services,” he noted. “Dentistry is the red-headed stepchild of the health care industry. It’s treated as if it’s optional or something.”

In reality, he said, dental care is a “very important part of our holistic health” and can cause severe pain and difficulty functioning if problems are left untreated.

With the high turnout showing a continuing need for affordable dental care, Nalls said Catholic Charities will continue to hold Mission of Mercy events in the future.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to sometime soon - if the support system changes and Medicaid covers adult dental, we won’t need to do these,” he said. “But until they do, there’ll be a huge need, and we’ll continue to try to address it as best we can.”

Virginia bishops support suit demanding public view of executions

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 16:00

Richmond, Va., Sep 24, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The Virginia Catholic Conference has spoken in support of a lawsuit demanding that the public be able to view the entirety of the execution process in capital cases.

The suit, filed Sept. 23 in a U.S. District Court, was brought by several news media organizations. It argues that Virginia’s Department of Corrections violates the First Amendment by blocking public view of certain steps in the execution procedure, and that public oversight is an essential safeguard for prisoners’ rights.

The Virginia Catholic Conference, which speaks on behalf of the states two bishops, Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, praised the lawsuit.

In a statement to CNA Sept. 24, conference executive director Jeff Caruso said “As long as we continue to have the death penalty in Virginia, it is important to have public accountability for how the state exacts the ultimate punishment.” 

“More importantly, Virginia should seek ways to curb and ultimately end its use of the death penalty.”

Virginia’s execution manual was updated in 2017, the same year as the state’s last execution. The update was ordered following concerns about the amount of time it took to place an IV line in convicted murderer Ricky Javon Gray. Gray was the second-most recent execution in the state. 

The suit, brought by several media outlets, including the Associated Press, Guardian News & Media LLC, BH Media Group, and Gannett Co. argues that the new protocol prevents journalists from ensuring that the rights of the prisoner are not violated during the execution process.

The updated rules require that a curtain be drawn over the execution chamber’s observation window prior to the inmate entering the room. This curtain is to remain closed until the condemned inmate is either strapped to a gurney and given an intravenous line, or, in the case of prisoners to be electrocuted, until the inmate is secured in the electric chair and three unspecified actions are performed. 

Prior to 2017, the curtains were drawn over the observation window only during the placement of the IV and heart monitors on the inmate. 

“These limits on witnesses’s ability to view Virginia’s executions severely curtail the public’s ability to understand how those executions are administered, or to assess whether a particular execution violates either the Constitution or the state’s prescribed execution procedures, or is otherwise botched,” said the lawsuit. 

The suit requests a court order to remove the curtains from the observation room, so that an execution can be viewed from start to finish. 

Since the death penalty was once again made legal, Virginia has executed 113 people, either through lethal injection or electrocution. There are presently two people on Virginia’s death row.  

In the decades following the reinstatement of the death penalty, there has been one person released from Virginia’s death row after being exonerated. Ten other formerly condemned prisoners have been granted clemency.

Holy See and Trump administration oppose abortion at UN General Assembly

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:00

New York City, N.Y., Sep 24, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump and Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin have challenged world leaders to protect unborn human life. Both leaders spoke at the United Nations in New York, as the body met for the 74th session of its General Assembly.

On Tuesday, President Trump stated that “we believe that every human child, born and unborn, is a sacred gift from God.”

The President defended the right of countries to establish protections for unborn human life, noting that there are international efforts to promote taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand.

Trump’s comments followed a high-level meeting on universal health coverage at the UN on Monday, at which both Cardinal Parolin and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar insisted on the protection of unborn life as part of a global commitment to health care.

Parolin and Azar made their remarks at the adoption of a political declaration on universal health coverage intended to set the tone for future investment in health care by UN member countries and donors in light of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Parolin, the Vatican’s chief diplomatic officer, warned against wording in the document that could be interpreted by member countries to promote abortion access. A joint statement by the U.S. and 18 other countries, read by Secretary Azar at the meeting, also opposed the same language.

The cardinal called the declaration’s formulation “most unfortunate” and “deeply concerning and divisive,” highlighting its inclusion of “sexual and reproductive health-care services” and “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.”

Parolin said that the Holy See rejects any inclusion of abortion in the understanding of health care rights.

“In particular, the Holy See rejects the interpretation that considers abortion or access to abortion, sex-selective abortion, abortion of fetuses diagnosed with health challenges, maternal surrogacy, and sterilization as dimensions of these terms, or of universal health coverage,” Cardinal Parolin said.

He reiterated the Holy See’s previous reservations over such language, as published at the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing and the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, that it would be interpreted to advocate for abortion access.

The language of “‘reproductive health’ and related terms” is considered by the Holy See “as applying to a holistic concept of health, which embraces the person in the entirety of his or her personality, mind and body,” Parolin said, but it does not include abortion as part of this concept.

Monday’s meeting marked four years since the UN’s adoption of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), a comprehensive global agenda for 15 years until 2030 that included targets such as fighting poverty and promoting universal education.

The SDGs included targets to “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services” and to “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” by 2030, in accordance with the Beijing and Cairo documents.

At that time, some critics warned that the language would allow for a vast expansion of international abortion access, which would use development grants as leverage to pressure developing countries to liberalize their abortion laws.

The Holy See, the U.S., and other countries have consistently warned against such attempts to coerce countries on abortion. In the months before the 2019 UN meeting on universal health coverage, the Trump administration has been working to enlist support to defend the ability of states to protect life free from international interference.

That work included a letter from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Azar to leaders of other memebr states. So far 21 countries, including the U.S., have signed the letter in support, according to the HHS.

“As a key priority in global health promotion, we respectfully request that your government join the United States in ensuring that every sovereign state has the ability to determine the best way to protect the unborn and defend the family as the foundational unit of society vital to children thriving and leading healthy lives,” the letter states.

The letter warns that “multilateral global health policy documents” are using language like “‘comprehensive sexuality education’ and ‘sexual and reproductive health’ and ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ to diminish the role of parents in the most sensitive and personal family-oriented issues.”

“The latter has been asserted to mean promotion of abortion, including pressuring countries to abandon religious principles and cultural norms enshrined in law that protect unborn life,” the letter states.

Azar also addressed Monday’s meeting on universal health coverage, delivering a joint statement on behalf of 19 countries: the U.S., Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The joint statement says that “the family is the foundational institution of society and thus should be supported and strengthened.”

The statement goes on to oppose “references to ambiguous terms and expressions, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights in U.N. documents, because they can undermine the critical role of the family and promote practices, like abortion, in circumstances that do not enjoy international consensus and which can be misinterpreted by U.N. agencies.”

“There is no international right to an abortion and these terms should not be used to promote pro-abortion policies and measures.”

Parolin, in his remarks on Monday, also said that the universal right to health care is a part of the Church’s teachings on solidarity, social justice and the common good.

Furthermore, he said, it “is understood as comprising the health of the person as a whole and of all persons during all stages of development of their life.”

This right, the cardinal said, “is thus inextricably linked with the right to life and it can never be manipulated as an excuse to end or dispose of a human life in whichever point in the entire continuum of his or her existence, from conception until natural death.”

Pope to UN summit: Climate change linked to ethical decline

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 12:07

New York City, N.Y., Sep 24, 2019 / 10:07 am (CNA).- In a video message Monday to the UN Climate Action Summit, Pope Francis stressed that climate change is linked to ethical decline and human degradation.

“The problem of climate change is related to issues of ethics, equity and social justice. The current situation of environmental degradation is connected with the human, ethical and social degradation that we experience every day,” Pope Francis said in the Spanish video message to the UN, published Sept. 23.

The pope called climate change “one of the most serious and worrying phenomena of our time.”

Pope Francis said that humanity is called to cultivate the moral qualities of “honesty, responsibility and courage” to face this global challenge.

He quested whether there is “a real political will” to “allocate greater human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects and climate change and to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations.”

“With the Paris Agreement of 12 December 2015, the international community became aware of the urgency and need for a collective response to help build our common home. However, four years after that historic Agreement, we can see that the commitments made by States are still very ‘weak,’ and are far from achieving the objectives set,” he said.

“While the situation is not good and the planet is suffering, the window of opportunity is still open. We are still in time,” Francis added.

The pope called upon the UN to think about the meaning of current models of consumption and production and to place the economy at the service of the human person and peace building.

“Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities,” Pope Francis said, quoting his 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato Si.

Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg also addressed the UN Sept. 23. Pope Francis previously met Thunberg in April after one of his Wednesday general audiences.

“Thank you for standing up for the climate, for speaking the truth. It means a lot,” Thunberg told Pope Francis April 17.

The pope told the young activist “God bless you,” shook her hand, and encouraged her to continue her efforts, according to Vatican Media.


Study: 6% of US seminarians have experienced sexual harassment, abuse or misconduct

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 19:30

Denver, Colo., Sep 23, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- A new study has found that six percent of U.S. seminarians have experienced some form of sexual harassment, abuse or misconduct; another four percent said they might have experienced misconduct but were not sure; while 89% report none.

The survey comes amid heightened scrutiny of seminary culture in the wake of revelations of grooming behavior and years of sexual harassment by high-profile Church figures such as former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop Michael Bransfield.

Of those surveyed, 84% of seminarians believe their administration and faculty take reports of such misconduct very seriously, according to the announcement accompanying the report.

The University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University collaborated to produce the study, which the researchers presented at the 2019 Religion News Association conference last weekend.

Respondents were enrolled at 72 seminaries and houses of formation across the U.S. The study included responses from about two-thirds of the 2,375 seminarians invited to participate.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents are studying to serve as diocesan priests and 28% studying to serve as religious priests or brothers, according to the study. Just two percent of those surveyed live off-site.

Of those who said they have or may have experienced sexual harassment, 80% pointed to a fellow seminary student or religious in formation as the alleged perpetrator.

Three in four seminarians reported that sexual harassment, abuse, or misconduct are “not at all a problem” at their current seminary or house of formation. Nearly nine in ten said there is none or little talk or rumors of sexual promiscuity at their seminary. 

Fifty-nine percent said they are “very aware” of the policies and procedures of their seminary or house of formation concerning sexual harassment, abuse, and misconduct, with 29% saying they are “somewhat aware.”

The researchers’s report pointed out that although the rates of self-reported sexual harassment in their study are lower than other national studies of male college students, other studies have found that a majority of respondents in those studies report being victimized by women— in addition, several other national studies asked men to report sexual harassment that occured before they entered college.

“Viewing the studies as a whole, it is hard to make a comparison to our current study as our study includes sexual harassment as well as violent victimization, is mostly at an all-male colleges, and virtually has only male perpetrators,” the researchers wrote.

“The percentage saying they have experienced abuse in our present study does not seem significantly high or low compared to the other studies reviewed.”

The survey also asked seminarians for their suggestions on how to make the seminary environment more safe.

Answers included having more explicit definitions of sexual harassment, abuse, or misconduct, to avoid ambiguity about whether a behavior meets the criteria; frequent discussions and workshops on living chastely and celibately; a simple, anonymous way of reporting incidents of sexual harassment, abuse, or misconduct; and a policy of reporting and investigation of sexual harassment, abuse, and misconduct being handled by an outside source not directly connected to the seminary.

Archbishop Harry Flynn dies at 86

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 17:40

Minneapolis, Minn., Sep 23, 2019 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Harry Flynn, a former leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, has died.

Flynn died Sunday in the St. Paul rectory where he had spent his final days fighting bone cancer. He was 86 years old.

Harry Joseph Flynn was born May 2, 1933, in Schenectady, New York. He was ordained a priest May 18, 1960, and was appointed coadjutor bishop of Lafayette, Louisiana April 19, 1986. He became leader of the Lafayette diocese in May 1989.

Flynn was installed as Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis in September 1995. He led the archdiocese until he resigned his office at 75, in 2008.

Flynn’s term as Minnesota’s archbishop was not without controversy.

In 2005, the archbishop told members of the “Rainbow Sash Alliance” that they could not receive communion while wearing rainbow sashes, a move Flynn perceived to be an act of protest against the Church’s doctrinal position on homosexuality.

Flynn said in a letter to Brian McNeill, Minneapolis organizer of the Rainbow Sash Alliance that, "I am asking you to remove your sashes before you receive Holy Communion” and “I ask you to observe this sign of respect for the Eucharist not only in the Cathedral but in all our parishes. No one wearing the sash will be permitted to receive the Blessed Sacrament.”

Flynn also spoke out against racism, injustice against immigrants, and anti-Semitism.

However, after his retirement, Flynn testified in a deposition that he did not report allegations of clerical sexual abuse to police, and that he allowed some priests accused of abusing children to remain in ministry.

During lawsuits related to abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, it also emerged that Flynn withheld information about sexual abuse from diocesan records, and withheld from the public and other Church officials critical information about some allegations of abuse.

Flynn has also faced criticism for praising the late Bishop Lawrence Welsh, who was accused in 1986 of attempting to strangle a male prostitute, and was arrested with male prostitutes subsequently before being transferred to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In 2002, Flynn chaired the bishops’ committee that developed the first national response to the burgeoning clerical sexual abuse crisis in the United States.

The archbishop was at various times regarded as the face of resolving the Church’s clerical sexual abuse crisis, and as among those who most egregiously failed to address the problem in his own archdiocesan leadership.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for the archbishop on Sept. 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul, in St. Paul, Minnesota. The archbishop will then be buried at the archdiocese's Resurrection Cemetery.


Attacks on religious communities 'a wound on all humanity' Trump tells UN

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:30

New York City, N.Y., Sep 23, 2019 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump joined world leaders to speak out against religious persecution at a Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday.

“Today, with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution,” President Trump said. “Stop the crimes against people of faith. Release prisoners of conscience. Repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief. Protect the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed.”

Also speaking Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “the persecution of religious minorities is utterly intolerable.”

“We must do all we can to avoid religious cleansing of societies,” he said. 

President Trump delivered his remarks as the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meets for its 74th session in New York City on Monday.

Praising the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom, Trump claimed the event the first of its kind to be held at the UNGA. United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownbackagreed, saying that “to our knowledge” no such an event focusing on religious freedom had been held at the United Nations General Assembly by a member country before.

In July, the Pew Research Center released its 10th annual report on global religious restrictions. It found that global restrictions on religious freedom had intensified over the ten-year span from 2007 to 2017.

In 2017, 52 countries had “high” or “very high” levels of restriction by governments, and 56 countries had “high” or “very high” levels of social hostility involving religion, the Pew report said.

Pew numbers from 2018 said that 83% of the world’s population lived in countries with high or very high religious restrictions; populous countries such as India and China, which also restrict freedom of religion, contribute to this high number, the report said.

At the UN on Monday, Trump drew attention to the increased persecution of religious minorities around the world, including Christians.

“It is estimated that 11 Christians are killed every day,” Trump said. “I mean, just think of this: Eleven Christians a day, for following the teachings of Christ. Who would even think that’s possible in this day and age? Who would think it’s possible?”

The president cited numerous acts of religiously motivated violence, including the 2016 murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel by Islamic State terrorists in Normandy, France, as well as “horrifying” shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and in California in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Trump also referred to the March, 2019, shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, that “sadistically murdered” scores of Muslim worshippers, as well as the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka churches and hotels that killed more than 250 people earlier this year.

“These evil attacks are a wound on all humanity,” Trump said, noting that the U.S. will urge other countries to ramp up prosecution and punishment “of crimes against religious communities,” and to increase prevention of efforts to intentionally destroy religious sites and relics.

The president also announced a commitment by the administration of $25 million in funding “to protect religious freedom and religious sites and relics,” and to form a coalition of U.S. businesses to protect religious freedom especially in the workplace.

“Too often, people in positions of power preach diversity while silencing, shunning, or censoring the faithful,” President Trump stated. “True tolerance means respecting the right of all people to express their deeply held religious beliefs.”

Part of a day’s worth of events on religious freedom, Trump’s speech was followed immediately by UN Secretary-General Guterres, who emphasized the need for protection of religious communities that have existed for centuries or even millennia but which are also being targeted.

He mentioned Chaldean and Assyrian Christian and Yezidi communities in Iraq saying he “cannot accept that these communities that have been there for millennia will disappear from the region.”

“It is clear that these communities like the Yezidis, like many others, in this region as everywhere in the world, are a deeply rooted part of the society, and it is essential to preserve religious diversity in all parts of the world,” he said.

Guterres noted Pope Francis’ joint statement the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, on human fraternity, signed in February in the United Arab Emirates, and called the declaration a “moving testament for mutual respect.”

That statement said that “[t]he pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.”

After Trump’s remarks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also addressed the religious freedom event, introducing survivors of religious persecution who would give their testimonies.

“The Bible says that ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things,’” Pompeo said, quoting from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians. “And that’s what we are all doing here today.”

Emilie Kao, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, highlighted the significance of such a “high-level” event at the UN with world leaders present.

Holding the event at the UNGA, which she called “probably the most high-profile global event of the year,” meant that the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom was “putting religious freedom at the top of the agenda of the world stage.”

Present at the event were survivors of religious persecution in countries like Sudan, Iran, China, and Turkey.

“Those kinds of people—I cannot remember the last time they got a platform” this great, she said.  “To have them be confronting their abusers at the UNGA, that’s unprecedented.”

ADF International Director of Global Religious Freedom Kelsey Zorzi, who also serves as president of the United Nations’ NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, said that “The president’s speech is an important and historic moment precisely because religious freedom is too often ignored or downplayed at the U.N.”