CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 54 min ago

Guam archdiocese files for bankruptcy following sex abuse lawsuits

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 19:01

Hagatna, Guam, Jan 16, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Agaña has filed for bankruptcy in federal court in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. The move, decided upon in November, allows the archdiocese to avoid trial and to begin to reach settlements in millions of dollars' worth of abuse lawsuits.

"This path will bring the greatest measure of justice to the greatest number of victims," Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes said in November. "That's the heart of what we're doing."

The bankruptcy decision was made following mediation efforts.

Leander James, an attorney working with alleged victims in the territory, also said in November that filing for bankruptcy would provide “the only realistic path to settlement of pending and future claims."

There are approximately $115 million in lawsuits from more than 180 abuse claims pending against the Agaña archdiocese.

Some of these claims were brought against the archdiocese’s former leader, Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who has been found guilty of certain unspecified accusations by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Among those who have accused Archbishop Apuron of sex abuse is his nephew, Mark Apuron. This week, Mark named the Holy See as a defendant in a $5 million abuse lawsuit filed in local court. According to Kuam News, the suit states that the Vatican failed to implement recommendations from a 1985 report entitled: "The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner."

The archdiocese has announced plans to sell its chancery property and move offices, as part of a broader move to liquidate and sell property to settle sex abuse cases.

In 2016, Guam's territorial legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse.

Coadjutor Archbishop Byrnes has implemented new child protection policies in the archdiocese, including a safe environment program that he said will “help to instigate a change of culture in our Archdiocese.”

Byrnes adopted in February 2017 the US bishops' conference's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its essential norms on dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.

The Archdiocese of Agaña serves Catholics in Guam, a U.S. island territory in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

Pro-life Congress members ask Trump to veto any bills that expand abortion

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 18:38

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life members of Congress this week sent U.S. President Donald Trump two companion letters requesting that he veto any legislation that would weaken current federal pro-life policies and promising to sustain any such veto.

A total of 169 members of the House of Representatives and 49 Senators signed the respective letters.

“We ask President Donald Trump to continue to his work in defense of life. My colleagues and I are also committed to protecting both unborn children and their mothers from the violence of abortion,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who led the House letter, in a statement.

Smith added that he was “deeply encouraged” that there were 169 members of the House of Representatives who signed the letter willing to sustain a veto “on the grounds that any pro-life provision has been weakened or removed.”

“We will not allow hard fought protections for the unborn to be undone,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT). “I stand strongly in defense of the President’s pro-life victories and will continue to work with my colleagues to advance our pro-life agenda.”

Daines was the leader of the Senate letter.

While both letters offered praise for Trump’s various pro-life policies throughout his time in office, the House letter emphasized the importance of the Hyde Amendment and the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, both of which restrict taxpayer funding for abortions domestically and abroad.

Recently, House Democrats passed a spending bill containing language that would overturn the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy. They have also pledged to work to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which prevents taxpayer funding of abortion in most cases.

The Senate letter focused on conscience rights for healthcare professionals, and requested that taxpayer funding under Title X (family planning) not go to “facilities that perform or refer for abortion.”

In May, the Trump administration instituted new policies that forbade Title X funds from going to organizations like Planned Parenthood. This move was touted as a “major victory” by pro-life advocates.

Similar pro-life letters were sent to Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush when they were in office. President H.W. Bush then proceeded to issue three pro-life vetoes, and all three were upheld by the House of Representatives.

Religious liberty innate to every human person, Trump says

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 16:17

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 02:17 pm (CNA).- Religious freeom is innate and must be protected, US president Donald Trump said in his proclamation for Religious Freedom Day, which is observed Wednesday.

“On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate our Nation’s long-standing commitment to freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own faith,” Trump said in his proclamation for the Jan. 16 observance. “The right to religious freedom is innate to the dignity of every human person and is foundational to the pursuit of truth.”

He said many of America's settlers, including the Pilgrims, “fled their home countries to escape religious persecution. Aware of this history, our Nation’s Founding Fathers readily understood that a just government must respect the deep yearning for truth and openness to the transcendent that are part of the human spirit. For this reason, from the beginning, our constitutional republic has endeavored to protect a robust understanding of religious freedom.”

Trump noted that Virginia enacted a Statute for Religious Freedom Jan. 16, 1786, “to protect the right of individual conscience and religious exercise and to prohibit the compulsory support of any church.”

The statute “set forth the principle that religious liberty is an inherent right and not a gift of the state,” and was the model for religious freedom clauses of the First Amendment, the president stated.

“Unfortunately, the fundamental human right to religious freedom is under attack,” he said. “Efforts to circumscribe religious freedom — or to separate it from adjoining civil liberties, like property rights or free speech — are on the rise.”

Trump added that legislative attacks on religious liberty “have given way to actual violence,” citing the October 2018 attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and saying that “attacks on people of faith and their houses of worship have increased in frequency in recent years.”

He said his administration is acting “to protect religious liberty and to seek justice against those who seek to abridge it.”

The president noted that the Department of Justice “is aggressively prosecuting those who use violence or threats to interfere with the religious freedom of their fellow Americans”; and that last January the department raised the profile of religious liberty cases in its Justice Manual, and the Health and Human Services department adopted more robust conscience protection regulations.

Trump also noted international religious freedom problems, saying his Secretary of State convened a Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in July 2018 to “[listen] to the voices of those risking their lives for their religious beliefs, and … to the families of people who have died fighting for their fundamental right of conscience.”

“Our Nation was founded on the premise that a just government abides by the 'Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.' As the Founders recognized, the Constitution protects religious freedom to secure the rights endowed to man by his very nature,” he concluded.

“On this day, we recognize this history and affirm our commitment to the preservation of religious freedom.”

Apostolic nuncio, not Wuerl, will celebrate Mass for Life

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 13:20

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 11:20 am (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl will not celebrate the Jan. 18 Mass for Life, to be held at a youth rally before the annual March for Life. Wuerl was until today scheduled to be the principal celebrant of the Mass.

 

In his stead will be Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, the Archdiocese of Washington announced on Wednesday.

 

Pierre will be joined by Washington auxiliary bishops Mario Dorsonville and Roy Campbell, who will represent the archdiocese.

 

The Youth Rally and Mass for Life takes place the morning of the annual March for Life, at which thousands of pro-life supporters are expected to process up the National Mall towards the Supreme Court. The march is held in January each year to mark the Supreme Court decision in the case Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion in the United States.

 

The Mass for Life is organized by the Archdiocese of Washington and in previous years has been celebrated by Wuerl.

 

The archdiocese declined to comment on the reasons for Wuerl’s decision not to participate in this year’s event.

 

Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation as the archbishop of Washington in October, and has not yet named his replacement. In the meantime, he continues to lead the archdiocese on an interim basis.

 

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, there had been a growing call for Wuerl to step aside from celebrating the Mass, following criticism of the cardinal for his response to the allegations sexual abuse and misconduct made against his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

 

More than 300 people signed a petition requesting that Wuerl not celebrate the Mass, and others threatened to walk out in protest if he were present.

 

The Archdiocese of Washington has hosted a large youth rally and Mass before the March for Life for the last 25 years. The 2019 event will be held in the Capital One Arena, and 20,000 pilgrims from across the country are expected to attend. In addition to the Mass, there will be testimonies from pro-life leaders and musical performances.

March for Life works to maintain unity in a time of division

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 05:06

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 03:06 am (CNA).- Barring an unexpected resolution, the federal government shutdown will have hit the four-week mark when pro-lifers descend upon the nation’s capital for the March for Life on Friday.

The ongoing government shutdown is, for some pro-lifers, a reminder that this year’s march comes amid tense political division in the country.

For Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, this division requires a careful balancing act, one that welcomes pro-lifers of all political stripes while avoiding debates over other policy questions and personalities and keeping participants focused on the issue at hand.

In an interview with CNA last month, Mancini said she tries to navigate Washington’s political tensions “with a great deal of prayer and discernment.”

Striking the right balance is not always easy. Last year, organizers drew criticism for welcoming a speech from U.S. President Donald Trump, who became the first sitting president to address the march via live video.

The move led prominent pro-life Democrat Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) to cancel his appearance at the March for Life rally, saying he was uncomfortable being associated with Trump.

Mancini respects Lipinski’s decision and called him “one of my heroes,” saying, “He’s just such a great man and truly a statesman in the real sense of the world, and that’s unusual on Capitol Hill these days.”

She stressed that the march tries to include speakers from both sides of the political aisle.

Lipinski will return to speak this year, along with Louisiana state representative Katrina Jackson (D) and two Republican lawmakers. But the 2019 slate of speakers is not without controversy, particularly headliner Ben Shapiro, editor in chief of The Daily Wire and host of a popular conservative podcast.

In a Washington Post op-ed last month, Fordham University professor and Democrats for Life board member Charles Camosy called the inclusion of Shapiro as keynote speaker “a serious mistake,” saying the 34-year-old’s heavily partisan leanings will further isolate pro-lifers who already do not feel at home within the Republican Party.

In a tweet to Camosy, Mancini responded that the march strives to reflect the diversity of the pro-life movement. But the discussion surrounding Shapiro strikes at a deeper question regarding the identity of the pro-life movement as a whole. In recent years, a number of “whole-life” organizations have challenged the idea of what it means to be pro-life, arguing that the label should cover not only abortion, but other human rights issues as well.

The rise of nontraditional groups – such as New Wave Feminists, Rehumanize International, and Secular Pro-Life – has raised questions about whether the pro-life movement must also take a definitive stance on immigration, health care, gun control, and other policy issues regarding human dignity in other walks of life.

Mancini, who says she comes from a “leftward-leaning Catholic family” and has a background with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, says she sees abortion as a matter of social justice. But she has emphasized the need for unity around the abortion issue, which she says is foundational, because without it, no other rights could exist. Under Mancini’s leadership, the March for Life is not only bipartisan, but open to all peaceful pro-lifers, regardless of their views on other policy questions.

While Trump may have shortcomings in his personal life and other issues relating to human dignity, Mancini told CNA, his administration has been solid in its work to protect the unborn, and his efforts should be recognized.

In the first two years of his presidency, Trump’s administration has removed federal funding from overseas abortion groups, increased transparency around abortion coverage in insurance plans, proposed a rule to cut Title X taxpayer funding from any facility that performs or refers for abortions, and made strides to protect medical professionals who object to cooperating with abortion.

Trump has also upheld his promise to appoint judges with pro-life records, naming Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

With the Roe decision approaching 50 years old, Mancini is hopeful that this generation will see an end to abortion. The pro-life movement, she stressed, is not only political, but also cultural. Trying to change hearts and minds can often seem like an uphill battle, she acknowledged, but there are also signs of good news.

For example, she said, “There were maybe 500 pregnancy care centers in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, and there were 2,000 abortion clinics, and now that’s swapped. Now there are about 700 abortion clinics in our country and nearly 3,000 pregnancy care centers around the country.”

Other good news: The number of abortions has decreased in the U.S. in recent years, and polls show that Americans want abortion limited more than it currently is, while advances in technology increasingly make it apparent that life begins at conception.

“There are all sorts of great signs that we’re building a culture of life,” Mancini said. “But do we have our work cut out for us? You bet.”

 

How the Knights of Columbus save lives: 1,000 ultrasound machine donations

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 17:31

Arlington, Va., Jan 15, 2019 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A program to donate ultrasound machines to U.S. pregnancy centers has passed the 1,000 mark, thanks to the charitable work of the Knights of Columbus and its members.

“Building a culture of life requires all of us to strive for the just treatment of innocent unborn children and to accompany with compassionate concern women facing crisis pregnancies,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said in the January 2019 issue of Columbia magazine, which is published by the charitable organization.

“This program is saving hundreds of thousands of lives.”

The 1,000th machine was donated to the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in Manassas, which has already expanded since its December 2017 opening.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, and officials of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington joined local Knights of Columbus members at the Jan. 14 celebration marking the milestone.

The ultrasound program has put a Knights-sponsored ultrasound machine in every U.S. state and in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, Jamaica, and Peru, as well as places in Africa.

Anderson said the 1,000th machine marked “a historic milestone,” adding, “there are still many more milestones ahead of us in the lives of thousands of vulnerable unborn children.”

“Our Ultrasound Initiative must continue to expand into every community where it is needed,” he said.

One woman who benefitted from the program is Lauren, from South Bend, Ind.

She told Columbia magazine that when she was pregnant two years ago she wasn’t sure what decision she should make and didn’t know what to expect from an ultrasound procedure. She went to Women’s Care Center in South Bend, which had received an ultrasound machine through the program.

“The only way I can describe it is that it changed me in the blink of an eye,” Lauren said. “The moment I saw my child on the big screen in front of me, I knew I was going to be a mom. It did not matter what I had thought before — all that mattered was loving my child and caring about her safety. I saw her little feet and little arms. I heard her heartbeat as I watched her in front of me. I still have the pictures of the ultrasound that were given to me that day — the day that changed my life forever.”

Lauren is still attending college and working “to make a great life for my daughter.” She said pregnant women in similar circumstances should know “Do not be afraid to ask for help. You are never alone.”

The ultrasound program was launched in 2009 with the goal of donating 1,000 machines. State or local knights’ councils raise funds half of the ultrasound machine expenses, which is matched from the Supreme Council’s Culture of Life Fund. On average, the machines cost about $30,000 each.

According to program details on the Knights of Columbus website, councils must first identify qualified pregnancy centers and have these centers evaluated by the local diocese’s Culture of Life director.

Evaluation criteria include whether the proposed beneficiary has the staffing, finances and other resources to justify the purchase of an ultrasound; whether the center’s location, client load and hours of operation justifies the “major expenditure,” ongoing costs, and staffing commitments; whether the center’s practices, policies and history are consistent with Catholic ethics; and whether the pregnancy center is welcoming of Catholics as employees, volunteers and clients.

The Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic opened in December 2017 with support from the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

It aims to provide free medical care to uninsured or underinsured adults living in northern Virginia. Many of its patients are recently arrived immigrants. Its new expansion has rooms for prenatal care, offices for adoption services, space for the Gabriel Project service for pregnant mothers in need, and space for the Project Rachael ministry to post-abortive women, the Arlington Catholic Herald reports.

The clinic is presently open 24 to 36 hours per week for no-cost patient care. It averages 65-70 patients a week and 209 registered volunteers, including five primary care physicians, four nurse practitioners, two cardiologists, an obstetrician, a pulmonologist, an orthopedic doctor, a chiropractor, and a pharmacist. The clinic also gives referrals for other services.

Bishop Burbidge blessed the ultrasound machine, the new expansion, and those gathered at the clinic on Monday.

“We want to do everything we can to promote the gospel of life, but ultimately it’s entrusting our work and our intentions to the Lord,” he said, according to the Arlington Catholic Herald. “It’s ultimately his work and upon his grace that we must depend.”

The clinic is located in a medical office formerly occupied by one of the area’s largest abortion clinics, Amethyst Health Center for Women, which closed in September 2015 when its owner retired.

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization founded in 1882 by Connecticut priest Ven. Michael J. McGivney, have close to 2 million members worldwide.

It recently made the news when two Democratic U.S. senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned a Catholic judicial nominee about his membership in the group, citing its stands against abortion and same-sex marriage. They asked whether membership could prevent judges from serving “fairly and impartially.” The questioning drew strong objections from many Catholics and other public figures.

AG nominee says Catholic faith not an issue

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 17:30

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general William Barr said Tuesday that he does not think his Catholic faith is an impediment to leading the Department of Justice.

 

Barr, a practicing Catholic and a member of the Knights of Columbus, was asked by Sen. Joe Kennedy (R-LA) if he were Catholic and what this meant.

 

“You’re a Roman Catholic, are you not?” asked Kennedy. After Barr confirmed that he was, Kennedy then asked him if he thought that this “disqualified” him from having a position in the U.S. government.

 

“Some of my colleagues think it might,” Kennedy added. Barr replied that if he were the attorney general, he would “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

 

Kennedy’s question appeared to reference the recent controversy that erupted following a CNA report that Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned judicial nominee Brian Buescher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, which they described as an organization with “extreme views” that are “opposed to marriage equality” and “women’s reproductive rights.”

 

If confirmed, Barr will replace Matthew Whitaker, who has served in the role on an acting basis since the resignation of Jeff Sessions in early November.

 

Barr previously held the post of attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from November of 1991 until January 20, 1993. Prior to that, he served as deputy attorney general and assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.

 

After leaving the White House in 1993, Barr worked in private practice. Most recently, he was with the firm Kirkland & Ellis. A practicing Catholic, he a graduate of Columbia University and George Washington University law school.

 

The Knights of Columbus are a Catholic fraternal organization with approximately 2 million members. Last year they carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. As a Catholic organization, it holds views that are in line with Church teaching.

 

Buescher said that he would not be leaving the Knights of Columbus if he were to be confirmed to the district court, and that he joined the organization because of its charitable work. He said that it was the “role and obligation” of a judge to “apply the law without regard to any personal beliefs regarding the law.”

 

At least six other judicial nominees have faced scrutiny from Democratic senators over their Christian faith or membership in the Knights of Columbus since President Donald Trump took office. Last May, District Judge Peter J. Phipps was asked by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) during his confirmation hearing about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, and if he stood by the group’s pro-life mission.

 

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who now sits on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, was questioned about her Catholic faith by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

 

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” said Feinstein, adding, “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”

 

Feinstein also pressed Judge Michael Scudder, who is now on the Seventh Circuit Court, if he had been involved through his local parish in the creation of a home for women facing crisis pregnancies. Scudder said he did not know if the home had ever even been built.

 

Last November, Feinstein asked Third Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Paul Matey about his involvement in the Knights of Columbus, and if he intended on either leaving the organization or recusing himself from any case if the Knights had taken a position.

 

Similar to Buescher, Matey said that his involvement in the Knights was limited to “participation in charitable and community events in local parishes,” and that he was not involved in any policy work with the organization.  

Pro-choice and pro-life majorities want more abortion restrictions, poll shows

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 15:15

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2019 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- A new poll shows that while most Americans identify themselves as pro-choice, the vast majority of the same group support increased restrictions on abortion.

 

The poll found that overwhelming majorities of people, even those who identify as “pro-choice” in theory, support major restrictions on abortion. The poll also found only minority support for late term abortion.

 

The poll, conducted by Marist Poll and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, surveyed 1,066 American adults between January 8th and 10th.

 

While the headline number showing a majority of Americans calling themselves pro-choice would suggest a similar number would oppose abortion restrictions, they do not tell the whole story, Marist Poll Director Barbara Carvalho and Knights of Columbus Vice President Andrew Walther explained in a call with members of the media.

 

“We actually have an enormous amount of support [for restricting abortion] from Americans of all political stripes,” said Walther.

 

“We’re not really looking at a lot of people at the extremes, as we often hear in the debate in Washington,” said Carvalho. “But we actually see one where there is a good deal of common ground on a whole host of policy positions.”

 

Only 25 percent of those who identified themselves as pro-choice said they believed abortion should be available to a woman at any time during a pregnancy, the current law in the United States. Conversely, 42 percent of pro-choice respondents said that they believed abortion should only be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy.

 

In total, 55 percent of those surveyed said they identified as pro-choice, compared to 38 percent who claimed to be pro-life, and seven percent who were unsure.

 

When further broken down by political parties, 20 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of Republicans, and 38 percent of independents said they were pro-life; 75 percent of Democrats, 25 percent of Republicans, and 55 percent were pro-choice.

 

Among those who identify as pro-life, 24 percent said that abortion should never be legal, and another 22 percent said that it should be legal only to save the life of the mother.

 

Slightly more than four out of 10 people who called themselves pro-life said that abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

 

When specifically asked if abortion should be banned after 20 weeks gestation, when fetuses are capable of feeling pain, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they would support or strongly support a ban. Slightly under one third of respondents said they would be opposed or strongly opposed to a ban.

 

For the first time, Marist surveyed what respondents would like to see the Supreme Court do if Roe v. Wade were to be reconsidered.

 

Three out of 10 respondents said that they would like to see the Supreme Court hold abortion to be legal without restriction, as Roe decided.

 

Nearly half of respondents--49 percent--said they would like the Supreme Court to allow states to make certain restrictions, similar to the legal framework pre-Roe.

 

Only 16 percent said that they would like the Supreme Court to make abortion illegal in all circumstances.

 

The poll did show that Americans largely disagree with the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion, both in the United States and abroad.

 

Three out of four people surveyed said that they were opposed or strongly opposed to the use of public money to pay for abortion abroad, 54 percent said they were opposed to tax dollars being used to pay for abortion at all.

 

In the United States, the Mexico City Policy prevents the use of U.S. funds from being given to organizations that provide or promote abortion abroad, and the Hyde Amendment prevents the use of taxpayer money from being spent on abortions domestically.

 

The Democratic Party has made the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and overturning the Mexico City Policy part of its party platform.

 

This is the 11th year Marist and the Knights of Columbus have polled abortion and pro-life attitudes in the United States.

Lori announces whistleblower system for allegations against Baltimore bishops

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 15:13

Baltimore, Md., Jan 15, 2019 / 01:13 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Baltimore introduced Tuesday a third-party system for reporting allegations of abuse or misconduct against its archbishop and other bishops serving in the archdiocese.

“I pray this step and our continued commitment to child protection will send a clear message to the faithful of this local Church that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated and that those in positions of authority, namely bishops, will be held accountable for keeping the Church safe, especially for children and others who may be vulnerable,” Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori told reporters Jan. 15.

“In this we hope to begin rebuilding the confidence of trust of those we serve, and the wider community.”

Lori is one of four bishops active in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Bishops Adam Parker and Mark Brennan are auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese, and Bishop William Madden is a retired auxiliary bishop who is still active in the archdiocese, an archdiocesan spokesman told CNA.

The third-party reporting system is administered by Ethics Point, which also facilitates third-party whistleblower reporting in the Archdiocese of Baltimore for fraud, theft, workplace and school safety and harassment issues, and allegations of sexual misconduct by diocesan priests, deacons, employees, or volunteers.

Complaints made through the Ethics Point systems about bishops will be routed to Baltimore’s diocesan review board, a lay led panel that will be charged with reporting allegation to civil authorities and the apostolic nuncio, the pope’s diplomatic and administrative representative to the U.S.

The system does not facilitate complaints against bishops other than those active in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Lori told reporters that in 2002, when the U.S. bishops’ conference developed policies to address child sexual abuse by priests or deacons, “the nation’s bishops drew a line in the sand by establishing clear and consistent standards of accountability and transparency for priests, deacons and others working in the Church. Those standards are working and have contributed to increased scrutiny and accountability.

“Now it is time for the Church to establish similar consistent standards for bishops. Therefore, I have asked that the lay Independent Review Board serve as the direct recipient for any allegations of abuse or misconduct by a bishop serving in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”

The archbishop said he had also asked the diocesan review to issue an annual report on the the archdiocese has handled abuse allegations.

“There must be a ‘zero tolerance’ policy and approach for dealing with any priest, bishop, employee or volunteer who violates their office and harms in any way a young person or adult.  Moreover, the high-profile case of former Cardinal McCarrick makes clear that utmost accountability must be required of all, regardless of rank,” Lori said.

The announcement of the third-party reporting system comes one month before the Vatican will hold a summit on the sexual abuse of minors for bishops’ conference leaders from around the world. That meeting is not expected to produce specific policies on sexual abuse, but is expected to charge bishops to create policy on the national level.

The announcement comes two months after the U.S. bishops’ conference was stopped by the Vatican from voting on proposals that would have created a nationalized third-party whistleblower system for reporting allegations against bishops, and a lay-led independent commission for investigating those allegations. The Vatican said it had not had sufficient time to review the proposals ahead of the scheduled vote.

The Baltimore policy resembles some aspects of those proposed policies, although the diocesan review board would apparently not be charged with investigation allegations independently, and would instead forward them directly to Church authorities. The possibility of lay investigations of bishops has raised concern among some Catholics, who note that only the pope is empowered to investigate bishops regarding potential canonical offenses.

Lori, 67, has led the Archdiocese of Baltimore since 2012. In September 2018, the archbishop was also assigned to lead temporarily the neighboring Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, and to investigate allegations of “sexual harassment of adults” against Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned from the diocese at that time.

The archbishop has for months called for lay involvement in addressing the Church’s sexual abuse crisis.

In August, he said that the anger, disillusion, or frustration of Catholics over the sexual abuse crisis “must be met with more than prayers and promises. They must also be met with action by any and all with responsibility for ensuring the safety of children and others in our care."

Laity must be a part of the solution to the Church’s sexual abuse crisis, he said, “for no longer can we expect the faithful to entrust this to the hierarchy, alone."

 

 

Should Catholic health plans cover transgender surgeries? Settlement raises questions

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 02:03

Seattle, Wash., Jan 15, 2019 / 12:03 am (CNA).- A Catholic healthcare network has settled an ACLU lawsuit over transgender surgeries, saying that it has covered these procedures in its employee medical plan since January 2017.

Plaintiffs in the suit said they want Catholic employers to cover minors’ transition surgeries as well, though one leading Catholic ethicist says Catholic institutions can’t ethically provide these health plan options for anyone, adults or minors.

“People who suffer from gender dysphoria exhibit great anguish. We can acknowledge this and should accompany them on a personal level and try to offer effective interventions,” John F. Brehany, director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA.

“However, just because someone requests some intervention doesn't mean it should be provided. Sometimes people who are depressed request assistance in suicide, but no one, including Catholics, should provide such assistance.”

Brehany said such coverage falls short on Catholic ethical grounds and the medical evidence for the benefits of these surgeries is lacking.

“There is no clear and compelling evidence that gender transitioning interventions ‘cure’ or resolve the anguish of people suffering extreme distress from gender dysphoria. In fact, there is some evidence that those who complete sex reassignment surgery are more likely to commit suicide than those who do not.”

In October 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a federal lawsuit against PeaceHealth on behalf of an employee claiming it was “discriminatory and illegal” for the medical plan not to cover a mastectomy and chest reconstruction for a 16-year-old child who identifies as transgender.

The ACLU affiliate said the minor, Paxton Enstad, was born female and has “a male gender identity.” A doctor had prescribed the mastectomy and chest reconstruction but the health plan declined to cover it, citing a lack of coverage for “transgender services.”

PeaceHealth and the plaintiffs “reached a mutually agreeable settlement of the litigation,” the ACLU affiliate said Jan. 2.

“We applaud PeaceHealth’s decision to include coverage for transition-related care in their employee medical plan, and hope it will set a good example for other employers to follow suit,” said Lisa Nowlin, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Washington.

The lawsuit charged that not including these services in the medical plan coverage constituted discrimination under the Affordable Care Act and Washington state anti-discrimination law, the Bellingham Herald reports.

“PeaceHealth was telling me my son was undeserving of medical care simply because he’s transgender. It’s heartbreaking. It is not fair,” Cheryl Enstad, the mother of the young patient, said at a press conference after the lawsuit was filed.

From 1996 to 2017, Cheryl was a medical social worker at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash., a coastal city near the Canadian border.

PeaceHealth is based in Vancouver, with over 15,000 employees and 10 medical centers in Oregon, Washington and Alaska. It traces its history to the institution founded in 1890 by the Sisters of St. Joseph. On its website it describes itself as “the legacy of the founding Sisters” that “continues with a spirit of respect, stewardship, collaboration and social justice in fulfilling its mission.”

Its system’s Dec. 21, 2018 announcement described its history of employee health care coverage for transgender care.

“In 2016, prior to the filing of the Enstad lawsuit, PeaceHealth began the process of updating its employee medical plan,” the healthcare network said. “Effective January 1, 2017, PeaceHealth’s employee medical plan was changed to cover medically necessary transgender surgery as determined under Aetna’s Gender Reassignment Surgery policy, a nationally-recognized guideline.”

Brehany said Catholic institutions should not cover such services because “they are often provided based on the mistaken belief that one can and may change his or her outward bodily appearance in a significant manner to match an inner belief about ‘true gender identity’.”

Catholic ethics includes principles like “respect for the body as created” and “the inadmissibility of mutilating or destroying one’s body or parts,” he said.

Brehany’s organization, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, does not provide medical or legal advice, but “ethical discernment” about bioethical issues based on Church teaching and the Catholic moral tradition.

For Cheryl Enstad, the result was “bittersweet” because the policy change did not go far enough.

“Our number one priority in bringing this case was to ensure access to gender-affirming care for transgender people, and we are pleased PeaceHealth changed its policy,” she said. But we hope that PeaceHealth eventually removes the age-related limitation on coverage.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit still objected to the amended policy because Aetna’s gender reassignment coverage does not include mastectomies and chest reconstruction surgery as a treatment for gender dysphoria

Because Paxton is no longer a minor, the lawsuit cannot challenge the amended plan.

The PeaceHealth statement stressed its commitment to “an inclusive healthcare environment for all” and said it “does not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis prohibited by applicable federal, state, or local law.”

In its over 100 years of service, it said, “we have been dedicated to embracing and celebrating the diversity of our communities, our caregivers and the individuals we are privileged to serve.”

Paxton’s problems reportedly began around puberty, with poor functioning and withdrawal from activities. Attempts to treat depression had little effect, the northwestern U.S. news site Crosscut said.

Paxton claimed to have self-diagnosed gender dysphoria through self-research.

Paxton’s doctor suggested the surgery, which took place in 2016. The family took out a second mortgage and used college fund money, but also paid $11,000 out of pocket for the operation.

Brehany said there is a need for caution in accepting minors’ claims about their identity.

“Minors in particular should be protected from their own immaturity and from advocacy organizations who claim to have their best interests at heart,” he told CNA. “The vast majority of minors resolve doubts about their gender identity by age 18. Interventions, such as puberty blockers, provided early in life make it harder to accept that biological sexual identity and can cause major health and developmental issues, including sterility.”

The ACLU cited standards of care from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, saying these standards are recognized as authoritative by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

These standards mean “it may be medically necessary for some transgender people to undergo treatment to affirm their gender identity and transition from living as one gender to another.” This treatment may include hormone therapy, surgery and other medical services that “align individuals’ bodies with their gender identities.”

According to Brehany, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health is “comprised significantly of people committed to using the full resources of medicine to support people in their mistaken beliefs.”

“Most secular standard medical societies have gone along because their leadership complies with the demands of activists,” he said. “Their position statements or guidelines often do not represent the beliefs of most of their members.”

The ACLU of Washington is in legal action against another Catholic non-profit hospital network, Providence Health and Services, and its affiliate Swedish Health Services. Providence is the largest healthcare provider in the state.

That lawsuit, filed in December 2017, concerns a 30-year-old law student’s claims that his chest reconstruction surgery was abruptly canceled.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney with the LGBT legal group Lambda Legal, said that employer plans appear to be changing to include transgender services, many individual hospitals and doctors, especially Catholic ones, decline such services on the grounds of religious exemptions.

“It is a growing problem that we are seeing nationally because of the consolidation of hospitals,” he told Crosscut, noting that most hospitals in Washington state are Catholic-affiliated.

For several decades the national ACLU has been charging that Catholic hospitals wrongly refuse certain medical procedures, like sterilization and abortion, that the legal group says are necessary to ensure reproductive rights.

There is also a growing effort, based out of social change funders and strategists like the New York-based Arcus Foundation and the Massachusetts-based Proteus Fund, to limit religious freedom they consider to be discriminatory and in violation of what they consider to be LGBT or reproductive rights.

 

Analysis: The fall of Cardinal Wuerl

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 19:30

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- For the last six months, Cardinal Donald Wuerl has managed to keep his head above water amid dogged and persistent criticism of his leadership. The cardinal managed to draw praise from the pope even while his priests and parishioners called for his ouster from Washington, DC, and he managed to remain in a leadership position in Washington’s archdiocese even amid a growing body of concern about his ability to lead a diocese at all.

 

But this week, Wuerl seems to have reached the end of whatever combination of luck and skill has kept him on his feet.

 

It now seems clear that Wuerl’s mandate to lead, and whatever was left of his legacy as a reformer, are gone. All that is left now seems for the pope to announce his successor, and for Wuerl to make his quiet exit from public life.

 

Last week, CNA reported that in 2004 Cardinal Donald Wuerl was made aware of an allegation that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick had engaged in inappropriate behavior with seminarians. This was a surprise to some, since Wuerl has denied for months that he had ever heard even rumors about McCarrick’s alleged sexual behavior.

 

Set against last week’s revelation, Wuerl’s seven months of denial appear to undercut completely his decades-long career, which until the events of the last year was marked by a reputation for competence and reliability.

 

After months of repeated and increasingly narrow denials, news that Wuerl forwarded 14 years ago a direct accusation against McCarrick to Rome is seen nearly everywhere as the final blow to the cardinal’s credibility.

 

Wuerl is the Archdiocese of Washington’s apostolic administrator, essentially a placeholder for his own successor. His resignation as Washington’s archbishop was accepted by Pope Francis in October 2018. At that time, the move was widely understood as a response to the cumulative weight of scandal following the McCarrick revelations and the July release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse, in which he was named more than 200 times.

 

Francis seemed to accept Wuerl’s resignation as archbishop with reluctance, and he heaped  praise on the cardinal while he did so.

 

“You have sufficient elements to ‘justify’ your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes. However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you,” the pope wrote in October.

 

In the light of last week’s revelations, that praise now looks, to many Catholics, to have been seriously misplaced.

 

--

 

When the first accusation against McCarrick was made public in June last year, involving the abuse of a minor, Wuerl spoke of his “shock and sadness.”

 

In the following weeks, numerous accusations surfaced about McCarrick’s conduct with seminarians in the now-famous beach house, and even in the cathedral rectory in Newark.

 

Wuerl was repeatedly asked what he knew about McCarrick’s apparently serial misconduct with minors, priests, and seminarians. The cardinal responded, on camera, that he had never even heard rumors about his predecessor.

 

In a private address to Washington priests about the subject last summer, Wuerl joked that bishops are “often the last to know” about widespread rumors.

 

His tone shifted after it was discovered that he had known for more than a decade that McCarrick was accused of sexual improprieties with seminarians.

 

In a letter to Washington priests sent Saturday, Wuerl said that when he “stated publicly that I was never aware of any such allegation or rumors [about McCarrick],” his denial “was in the context of the charges of sexual abuse of minors, which at the time was the focus of discussion and media attention.”

 

“While one may interpret my statement in a different context,” he wrote, “the discussion around and adjudication of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior concern his abuse of minors.”

 

On several occasions last year, a spokesman for Wuerl told CNA that the cardinal took “no particular interest” in where McCarrick lived or ministered during his retirement - especially as it pertained to his contact with seminarians. CNA was told Wuerl was unaware of any reason he should be concerned about McCarrick’s seminary domicile.

 

Wuerl told priests this weekend that his words were being placed in a “different context” than one in which he said them. The effect of his denials seems to be that his entire life of ministry is now being evaluated in a “different context” than the one he would have preferred.

 

--

 

In August 2018, former nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano released his first “testimony,” a letter that alleged, among many other accusations, that McCarrick’s life and ministry had been restricted in his retirement by order of Pope Benedict XVI.

 

Vigano charged that McCarrick had been ordered out of the seminary where he lived, and that Wuerl was well aware of both his predecessor’s situation and of Rome’s efforts to curtail his ministry. Wuerl denied ever receiving specific “documents or information” about any such restrictions, despite conceding that he had intervened to cancel an event at which McCarrick was due to address aspiring seminarians.

 

In the weeks and months following Vigano’s intervention, as some of Vigano’s assertions were confirmed, Cardinal Wuerl’s denials about what he knew and when about McCarrick appeared to many to become markedly more narrow and carefully worded.

 

CNA also discovered that, even after Wuerl had first been informed of the New York allegation against McCarrick in 2017, he declined to warn the religious order providing McCarrick with seminarians to serve as his personal staff - much to their frequent discomfort.

 

Despite that, Wuerl’s supporters have been willing to believe, until now, that his apparent inaction in Washington must be the result of some misunderstanding.

 

Just a few months ago, Wuerl still enjoyed support from Church watchers who felt he was being unfairly singled out, and his quiet support for a new phase of reforms held weight in Rome.

 

In the light of last week’s revelation, many are now saying that Wuerl’s failure to act on or acknowledge what he now says he learned in 2004 marks the final landslide in the erosion of his reputation as a credible reformer on the issue of sexual abuse.

 

--

 

As the bishops of the United States gathered at Mundelein Seminary for a retreat earlier this month, they received a letter from Pope Francis underscoring the “crisis of credibility” facing the US hierarchy.

 

During the 2018 U.S. bishops’ conference meeting in Baltimore last November, Wuerl spoke from the floor, recalling that in 2002 St. John Paul II invited the U.S. bishops to begin “a time of profound purification, not just personal but institutional.”

 

“That frame of reference has to be with us today,” he told the bishops.

 

“Transparency on the level of a diocese but [also] transparency on the level of all of us working together: I think that is going to be a very significant factor,” he said.

 

“We’ve come a long way since 2002, but we still have some way to go.”

 

“Part of purification is [that] sometimes we simply have to take personal responsibility,” Wuerl told the bishops.

 

The conclusion now being drawn by many commentators is that, by his own measure, Wuerl cannot now continue even as administrator of the archdiocese he once led.

 

--

 

For decades, Wuerl was known for advancing policies and systems to deal quickly and efficiently with accusations of abuse against priests. But, many now observe, when asked about McCarrick in June 2018,r his first instinct - conscious or otherwise - was to dissemble. In that, it has been observed, he appears now to embody the cause of, not the solution to, the “crisis of credibility” the pope identified.

 

Wuerl’s eventual departure from Washington is a coming certainty. But the mere appointment of a successor is in itself unlikely to quiet those outraged by last week’s revelation.

 

Wuerl’s “precision of language” in recent months, some say, has effectively salted the earth behind him.

 

Increasingly, many prominent Catholics are voicing their concern that Wuerl’s response to questions about McCarrick betrays a culture of evasion, even among those bishops with the strongest reforming credentials.

 

Wuerl’s example, they say, demonstrates that no bishop armed only with policies can bring systemic change to an episcopal culture which turns inwards in the face of hard truths. Individuals, many are saying, not policies create and sustain that culture, and it is they that need systemic change - beginning with Wuerl. As Pope Francis has argued to the U.S. bishops, integrity must precede policy if policy is to have any effect.

 

Facing a diocese and a city hardened against him even before he arrives, Wuerl’s eventual successor is likely to need near heroic reserves of sincerity and humility in the face of the Church’s failings.

 

Washington Catholics are saying they want a bishop with the courage to make decisions rooted in truth and justice, not policy and procedure, and one with the mind and heart to explain those decisions patiently, and without reservation, to a world which may not understand or accept them.

 

They are praying they receive such a shepherd, and soon.

Judges block Little Sisters' religious exemption from contraception mandate

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 18:00

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 14, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Judges in California and Pennsylvania have issued injunctions against a Trump administration rule that would allow the Little Sisters of the Poor and similar groups to claim a religious exemption against the Department of Health and Human Services so-called Contraception Mandate.

Judge Haywood Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for Northern California issued a preliminary injunction Jan. 13 that affects 13 states plus the District of Columbia in the case State of California v. HHS. Gillam declined to issue the nationwide injunction requested by the plaintiffs, the attorneys general of several states led by California.

Responding to the ruling, Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said Sunday’s decision “will allow politicians to threaten the rights of religious women like the Little Sisters of the Poor,” whom the Becket Fund represents.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a nationwide injunction blocking the same rule in her decision for the case Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump.

“We never wanted this fight, and we regret that after a long legal battle it is still not over,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“We pray that we can once again devote our lives to our ministry of serving the elderly poor as we have for over 175 years without being forced to violate our faith.”

In October 2017, the Trump administration issued a new rule that would expand the eligibility of groups to claim religious exemptions to the contraceptive mandate. The new rule was set to go into effect on Monday.

California attorney general Xavier Becerra filed suit against the Trump administration over the new rule shortly after it was announced, and was joined by 12 other states and the District of Columbia.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, and many other religious-based organizations, were not eligible under previous religious exemptions to the mandate since they do not exclusively employ or serve people of their religion.

The Sisters argue that forcing them to offer an insurance plan that provides birth control pills and devices to their employees would violate their religious beliefs.

Rienzi said in a statement Monday that the Little Sisters will return to court to fight the injunctions.

“Now the nuns are forced to keep fighting this unnecessary lawsuit to protect their ability to focus on caring for the poor,” said Rienzi.

“We are confident these decisions will be overturned.”

Indulgence available for participants in National Prayer Vigil for Life

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 16:47

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2019 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See has granted that a plenary indulgence may be obtained by those who participate in the National Prayer Vigil for Life or other sacred celebrations surrounding the March for Life, being held Jan. 18 in Washington, D.C.

“The Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See has granted a plenary indulgence that may be obtained, under the usual conditions, by those who participate in the sacred celebrations carried out on January 17 and 18,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington said in a statement on the March for Life. “The elderly, sick and homebound may also gain a plenary indulgence if they spiritually unite themselves to these events and make their prayer and penance an offering to God.”

Kat Talalas, assistant director for pro-life communications at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that “the Vatican has granted that a plenary indulgence may be obtained under the usual conditions by participating in the National Prayer Vigil for Life, as well as the other sacred celebrations surrounding the March for Life.”

An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins which have already been forgiven.

The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence which must be met are: that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the Pope's intentions. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about twenty days before or after the indulgenced act.

The National Prayer Vigil for Life will be held Jan. 17-18 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The vigil begins with a Mass said by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the US bishops' pro-life committee. It continues through the night with confessions, rosary, Compline in the Byzantine rite, Holy Hours, Lauds, and Benediction. The vigil concludes with a Mass said by Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond.

The March for Life, an annual peaceful protest against abortion, will take place at the National Mall Jan. 18. The 2019 march's theme is “Unique From Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science”.

The march is held to oppose publicly the US Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion across the country. It remains one of the largest political protests in the United States today.

In addition to the March for Life, Bishop Burbidge noted the Diocese of Arlington's Life Is VERY Good Evening of Prayer, Rally, and Mass, being held Jan. 17-18 in Fairfax.

Along with the March for Life, the US bishops' conference is promoting 9 Days for Life, a Jan. 14-22 novena.

“Even if you cannot attend the Prayer Vigil or the March, you can always remain united in the cause of life through prayer,” Talalas said.

Bishop Burbidge wrote that January “provides us with opportunities to express our belief in the dignity and value of all human life and to provide public witness that we will not be silent when injustices like abortion continue to have a place in our society. Each year, people from around the country gather in our nation’s capital for the March for Life. I take this opportunity to thank all who travel from great distances to take part in public action on behalf of those who cannot speak out for themselves.”

“I pray that one day we, united in prayer, and persistent in our advocacy for the unborn and the vulnerable, will root out any instance of injustice or violence again human life,” Bishop Burbidge wrote.

Wuerl denies prior denials denied knowledge of McCarrick seminarian abuse

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 12:45

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2019 / 10:45 am (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl told Washington, DC priests Saturday that he appropriately handled a 2004 allegation of misconduct against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. The cardinal also said that his recent denials of knowledge concerning McCarrick’s alleged misdeeds pertained only to the sexual abuse of minors.

In a Jan. 12 letter to priests, Wuerl said that in 2004 he received a complaint alleging McCarrick’s “inappropriate conduct” from a former priest who was primarily reporting other incidents of sexual abuse, one involving a Pittsburgh priest. Wuerl was at the time Bishop of Pittsburgh.

“The entire report was also immediately turned over to the Apostolic Nuncio – the Papal Representative in the U.S. Having acted responsibly with the allegation involving Bishop McCarrick’s behavior with an adult and hearing nothing more on the matter I did not avert to this again,” Wuerl wrote.

“The man asked for confidentiality to protect his own name.”

On June 20, 2018, the Archdiocese of New York announced it had deemed credibly an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor made against McCarrick, who served as a New York priest in the 1970s. Media reports subsequently revealed allegations that McCarrick had serially sexually abused at least two teenage boys, and that he had engaged in coercive sexual misconduct with priest and seminarians for decades.

Wuerl wrote in a June 21 letter to his diocese that he was “shocked and saddened” by allegations made against McCarrick, his predecessor as Archbishop of Washington.

In the same letter, Wuerl affirmed that “no claim – credible or otherwise – has been made against Cardinal McCarrick during his time here in Washington.”

In July, Wuerl told WTOP that he had never heard rumors of sexual misconduct regarding McCarrick.

Wuerl’s Jan. 12 letter said that his remarks had only pertained to rumors regarding the sexual abuse of minors.

“When the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was brought against Archbishop McCarrick, I stated publicly that I was never aware of any such allegation or rumors. This assertion was in the context of the charges of sexual abuse of minors, which at the time was the focus of discussion and media attention.”

“While one may interpret my statement in a different context, the discussion around and adjudication of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior concern his abuse of minors,” Wuerl wrote.

Wuerl received the 2004 complaint from Robert Ciolek, a laicized priest from the Diocese of Metuchen, where McCarrick served as bishop from 1981 to 1986.

In a Jan. 10 statement, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said that Ciolek appeared in November 2004 before its diocesan review board to discuss the allegation of abuse Ciolek had made against a Pittsburgh priest.

During that meeting, “Mr. Ciolek also spoke of his abuse by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. This was the first time the Diocese of Pittsburgh learned of this allegation,” the statement said.

“A few days later, then-Bishop Donald Wuerl made a report of the allegation to the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States."

The disclosure was the first confirmation by Church authorities that Wuerl was aware of allegations against McCarrick before the Archdiocese of New York announced in June 2018 a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor made against McCarrick.

Ciolek reached a settlement agreement with three New Jersey dioceses in 2005 in connection with clerical sexual abuse allegations. The settlement awarded Ciolek some $80,000 in response to allegations that concerned both McCarrick and a Catholic school teacher.

Wuerl’s letter did not offer detail on the specific allegations Ciolek made against McCarrick, but Archdiocese of Washington spokesman Ed McFadden told CNA last week they concerned behavior by McCarrick at his New Jersey beach house, where the archbishop is alleged to have shared beds with seminarians, and exchanged backrubs with them.

McFadden said Ciolek “never claimed direct sexual engagement with McCarrick” in his complaint to Wuerl.

In a Jan. 10 statement, the Archdiocese of Washington said that “Cardinal Wuerl has attempted to be accurate in addressing questions about Archbishop McCarrick.  His statements previously referred to claims of sexual abuse of a minor by Archbishop McCarrick, as well as rumors of such behavior. The Cardinal stands by those statements, which were not intended to be imprecise.”  

“Cardinal Wuerl has said that until the accusation of abuse of a minor by Cardinal McCarrick was made in New York, no one from this archdiocese has come forward with an accusation of abuse by Archbishop McCarrick during his time in Washington.”

On Jan. 10, Ciolek told the Washington Post that Wuerl could have acknowledged the report against McCarrick even while honoring his initial request for confidentiality.

“Wuerl at worst could have said: ‘I am aware but I can’t name that person,’” Ciolek said.

Wuerl was appointed to Washington in 2006. The cardinal’s resignation as Archbishop of Washington was accepted Oct. 12, 2018, although he was appointed to serve as interim leader of the archdiocese until his successor can be appointed. That appointment is expected by some Vatican observers to be made before a February Vatican summit on child sexual abuse.

The cardinal’s Jan. 12 letter acknowledged to DC priests that the controversy surrounding McCarrick “has been disruptive in your ministry and difficult for you personally.”

The cardinal said he was sharing his perspective with the priests while “trusting in your understanding.”

“My remarks are not intended as a self-defense but as a way to share some thoughts personally with you.”

 

 

 

Ed Condon contributed to this report.

Diabolical possession very rare, priest says

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 11:01

Charleston, S.C., Jan 14, 2019 / 09:01 am (CNA).- While an exorcist of the Diocese of Charleston has received many more requests relating to diabolical possession in recent years, the phenomenon is in fact exceedingly rare, he said.

Fr. Marreddy Allam told the Post and Courier that on coming to South Carolina in 2013, he received 10 requests for exorcisms, and that that figure had jumped to about 45 by 2018.

However, in the past five years, only one of these persons was the subject of diabolical possession.

Fr. Allam expressed that prayer, therapy, or medical treatment are often what is needed for those who think themselves possessed.

Fr. Bryan Babick, another priest of the Charleston diocese, reflected that the rise in requests for exorcism may be related to occult practices, as people “are seeking the supernatural in other places, such as Wicca and even worship of Satan.”

Fr. Jeff Kirby, also a priest of Charleston, said that “as our society begins to engage in areas of darkness, there are spiritual consequences of that.”

Fr. Babick said, “Not everyone who thinks they are possessed is, and sometimes medical science relative to mental health is not as equipped to treat every condition as it thinks.”

A pro-life Democrat on why language matters in the abortion debate

Sun, 01/13/2019 - 06:51

Washington D.C., Jan 13, 2019 / 04:51 am (CNA).- The language that people choose to use in reference to unborn children and ideological opponents is at the crux of the abortion debate, a pro-life Democrat argued in a New York Times op-ed this week.

“The struggle in the abortion debate is, in many ways, a struggle over language,” wrote Charles C. Camosy, who serves on the advisory board for pro-life group Democrats for Life and is an associate professor at Fordham University.  

“For example, I am pro-life. I strongly support rights and protections for mothers and children, including prenatal children, and other vulnerable populations. I want to see the laws of this country protect these people as well. In my view, this makes me pro-life. That’s why I use the phrase ‘prenatal child’ where other people would say ‘fetus,’” he said.

However, in the view of pro-choice people and of many mainstream media outlets, “I am not pro-life; I am anti-abortion. This language allows critics to dismiss me and fellow pro-lifers as single-issue obsessives, which we are not.”

Camosy noted that in recent years, those in favor of legal abortion have shifted their language from more neutral words like “autonomy” and “choice” and have used stronger, “stigma-defying” words that refer to abortion as “care” or as a “family value” or something about which one should shout.

Language choice becomes even more harmful when it is used as a tactic to dehumanize the unborn, he said. “The New York Times editorial board, for instance, recently used the phrase ‘clusters of cells that have not yet developed into viable human beings,’ in a discussion of rights being extended to a fetus in the womb, or what I call a prenatal child.

“Language like this ignores the fact that each of us once existed as ‘clusters of cells that have not yet developed into viable human beings.’ It seeks to hide the fact that by the time most surgical abortions take place, a prenatal child has electrical activity in the brain and a beating heart,” Camosy wrote.

Other terms used to dehumanize the unborn include: “tissue,” “part of the mother,” “parasite,” and “potential life,” he noted.

These words are biased because they are not used to refer to the unborn outside of an abortion context, he added. The word “baby” is used for almost everything else - doctor’s visits, baby showers, baby bumps, etc.

“We have shifted our language in ways that hide the dignity of the vulnerable, in this instance and on issues far from the abortion debate as well,” Camosy said, which “deadens one’s capacity to show concern for those who need it most.”

This language shifting, which objectifies humans and seeks to decrease their dignity, is part of what Pope Francis calls the “throwaway culture,” he noted.

Often, when Pope Francis speaks of the throwaway culture, he is referring to unbridled consumerism which dismisses the human dignity of those considered inconvenient, Camosy said, but Francis typically reserves his strongest words on the subject for the topic of abortion.

Research from Rehumanize International, a pro-life group, “has found tragic patterns in which marginalized populations are referred to as sub-humans, defective humans, parasites — and in the process become thought of as objects, things and products.”

This is limited not to unborn children, but to other vulnerable populations like immigrants, racial minorities, the elderly, people with disabilities, and prisoners, among others, he wrote.

“The Trump administration’s forced separation of immigrant children from their parents is a classic example of using people as objects. The administration’s ill-conceived attempt to use the profound suffering of children to deter illegal immigration failed to respect these children as human beings deserving of care and respect, not objects to be used as a means to an end,” he said.

Immigrants have also been dismissed or dehumanized using terms such as “illegals,” “swarms” of “undesirables,” “parasites,” or even “rapists” and “animals,” Camosy said.

He urged everyone who has genuine concern for vulnerable people to resist the urge to use dehumanizing language “intended to confirm biases and serve the interests of those who hold power over the weak.”

“If we are to avoid the hopelessly stale culture-war debates of the 1970s, then we must refuse the false choice between supporting vulnerable women and protecting vulnerable prenatal children,” he said.

“It will mean genuinely wrestling with the complexity of doing both. And it will mean engaging the arguments of our perceived opponents in good faith.”

 

Catholic Relief Services: Immigration action must consider root causes

Sat, 01/12/2019 - 18:54

Washington D.C., Jan 12, 2019 / 04:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the ongoing discussions surrounding immigration, part of the solution must involve looking at the factors that drive people to leave their homes in the first place, said the vice president of an international Catholic aid group.

“What we would like is more attention to addressing why people flee,” said Bill O'Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services.

O’Keefe spoke with CNA about the motives behind immigration to the United States, and how Catholic Relief Services is working to address these root causes.  

“There’s a range of reasons why people migrate from different parts of the world, but in summary: conflict, persecution, climate change, and extreme poverty are the principal drivers that we see.”

For example, he said, “you have people who are refugees or want to claim asylum in the United States because of persecution and violence.”

These refugees – such as those trying to escape religious persecution in the Middle East, civil war in parts of Africa, or gang violence in Central America – are really “forced migrants,” he said.  

“Their lives are at risk. They flee when they determine that staying would be a death sentence.”

There are also migrants who come to the United States “to live a better life,” often because they have no future or way to escape extreme poverty in their home country, O’Keefe continued.

In one part of West Africa where Catholic Relief Services works, there are rural communities where generations of families have farmed the land, he said. But changes in climate in recent years mean that agricultural productivity has dropped significantly, and farms that previously sustained families can no longer do so. Young people realize that they cannot survive by farming, and they are forced to move.

Jan. 6-12 marks National Migration Week, which has been observed by the U.S. Church for almost 50 years.

Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee, elaborated on this year’s theme, “Building Communities of Welcome.”

“In this moment, it is particularly important for the Church to highlight the spirit of welcome that we are all called to embody in response to immigrant and refugee populations who are in our midst sharing our Church and our communities,” he said in a statement.

Immigration remains a divisive subject in Washington, D.C. In an evening address on Jan. 8, President Donald Trump reiterated his insistence that a border wall is necessary to keep America safe from drugs and violent gangs. Democrats in Congress have pushed back against the idea, refusing to agree to a budget that funds the wall. The dispute has prompted a partial federal government shutdown that has now lasted three weeks, with no end in sight.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has long advocated for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, with an earned legalization program, along with “targeted, proportional, and humane” enforcement measures.

The conference has also called for a temporary worker program that responds to market needs and protects against abuses, as well as the restoration of due process protections for immigrants, an emphasis on family unification, and policy changes to address the deeper causes of immigration.

Examining and addressing the things that drive people to leave their homes in the first place are key parts of a comprehensive approach to immigration, O’Keefe said.

“What needs more focused attention is how to help countries in Central America, for example, to address problems of violence, gangs, and poverty in those countries, so people don’t feel like they have to flee.”

This work is part of Catholic Relief Services’ focus as an international agency.

In El Salvador, where extreme gang violence has forced thousands to flee their homes, Catholic Relief Services runs a gang violence reduction program for young people. The agency works to help young people complete their education, get a job, and recognize that they have alternatives to joining a gang.  

“We have 15,000 youth or so who have gone through that program successfully, and a very high retention rate in terms of education and jobs,” O’Keefe said.

The agency also builds relationships with local companies in El Salvador, so that young people who complete the violence reduction program can find jobs. Sometimes there is a stigma against hiring former gang members, which can contribute to the problem, as ex-gang members who find themselves unemployed may be more likely to return to violent activity.

Catholic Relief Services certifies people who have completed their program, O’Keefe said. This increases their job prospects, boosting employer confidence and trust that they will be good employees.

In poor, rural areas of Honduras, the agency is working to implement a U.S. government-supported school feeding program.

The idea, O’Keefe said, is to build prospects for education in a poor part of the country by connecting families to educational institutions, so there is less incentive for them to leave.

“The more children are connected to schools and education, the less likely they are to fall into trouble,” he said.

“In Central America, one of the most climate-impacted parts of the world, we have done a lot of work with small farmers, particularly in the coffee sector,” O’Keefe continued. Coffee tends to grow on hills and mountains, he explained, and as the climate has gotten warmer, farmers have to go to higher elevations to grow the crop.  

Catholic Relief Services has helped the famers make that transition, O’Keefe said, whether it be a transition to different crops, farming techniques, or elevations. As a result, the people have avoided sinking further into poverty and in some cases are moving forward economically.

“That allows them to stay on their land and not feel like they have to migrate,” he said.

For Catholics, thinking about migration should always emphasize the dignity of human person, O’Keefe said. He noted the Share the Journey campaign launched in response to Pope Francis’ call a year ago for Catholics to unite in solidarity with migrants.

Over the past year, Catholic Relief Services has worked with the U.S. bishops’ conference and Migration and Refugee Services, as well as dioceses and Catholic universities, to organize events and activities “that highlight the plight of migrants and refugees, and just help Catholics in the United States to deepen their own understanding of…why people flee, what that experience is like, and really to have an experience of encounter.”

In a sub-campaign called Be Not Afraid, Catholic Relief Services worked with a videographer to bring together refugees and American citizens who had concerns and fears about immigration.

Videos on the Share the Journey website show the moment of encounter between people who come from different backgrounds and perspectives.

“That moment of encounter between them as human beings, where they recognize each other’s humanity.” O’Keefe said. “We did that because we really wanted to show what the Holy Father is asking us to do.”

 

San Antonio archdiocese prepares for new parishes

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 19:18

San Antonio, Texas, Jan 11, 2019 / 05:18 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of San Antonio has collected over half of the funds for a campaign to construct new parish buildings in preparation for an expected population boom.

The "On the Way - ¡Ándale!" Capital Campaign, this is the first campaign the diocese has seen since 1955. It has raised over $40 million of the $60 million goal.

Construction on Mary, Mother of the Church parish could start as early as fall 2019. The church grounds will include a sanctuary, school, meeting hall, rectory, and sport complex.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller blessed the grounds of the new parish Dec. 8. The parish grounds are located in west San Antonio.

The campaign is expected to establish eight parish communities throughout the archdiocese. The plan is for the parishes to be completed within 10 years.

The construction of new churches is rare, but the archdiocese is predicting a large increase in church-goers as San Antonio plans to see an increase in nearly 1 million people by 2040.

Don Meyer, general chair of the campaign, told KENS 5 that new facilities are required to compensate for the upcoming growth and the already over-populated parishes in the area, including his own parish, Holy Trinity.

"There's a projected 200,000 new Catholics coming in the next ten years. To faithfully serve those parishioners, we will require new parishes, new and expanded schools to educate the youth to give them a faith-based education and renovation and expansion of existing parishes," he said.

Donna Degenhardt, an attendant at the blessing ceremony, also told KENS 5 that a need for new parish facilities was desperately needed.

"We need this church in the worst way. It is so wonderful. We're so excited and we can't wait until it gets built!" she said.

According to the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Father Larry Christian, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, spoke to the attendees of ground blessing ceremony, highlighting the importance of the project.

“The On the Way - ¡Ándale! capital campaign – in many ways – is about building up the legacy of our founders and the many people who have helped establish the Catholic parishes, missions, schools, hospitals, colleges, service programs and spirit that is reflective of our archdiocese,” he said.

Sister Pimentel disappointed she could not speak with Trump during border visit

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 18:46

McAllen, Texas, Jan 11, 2019 / 04:46 pm (CNA).- Sister Norma Pimentel says she is “truly disappointed” that she did not get a chance to speak during a roundtable discussion with President Donald Trump Jan. 10, during the president’s visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas.

Pimentel, a sister of the Missionaries of Jesus, is director of Catholic Charities for the Rio Grande Valley.

“I was looking forward to this roundtable discussion, but there was no discussion unfortunately,” she told The Valley Catholic, the newspaper of the Diocese of Brownsville.

“There were certain people selected to speak, to really support the president’s agenda.”

President Trump visited Texas on Thursday in an effort to drum up support for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the border with Mexico, in the midst of a government shutdown that began over funding for the wall. Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House staff were with the president.

“I don’t know that [Trump’s] interested in hearing anyone else but those who are simply wanting to applaud what he’s doing and what he wants to hear,” Pimentel said.

The sister highlighted the work of the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, now housed in a former nursing home, has helped close to 150,000 people since 2014, sometimes up to 300 a day.

Pimentel said most of the people they help are women and children who have been released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement with a court date to consider their request for asylum.  

“I think as Catholics, as people with faith, recognize that God asked us to support, defend, and protect all human life. And that’s what we’re doing here at the Respite Center,” she said.

Though the Jan. 11 discussion`with the president included U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, local officials, and others working with immigrants, it was reported that representatives of local agencies and local elected officials were not invited to speak during the discussion.

Pimentel said if she had had the opportunity to speak, she would have emphasized that she understands the importance of border security and keeping the country safe, and that the Border Patrol - with whom she says she has always had a good relationship, and prays for daily - should be supported.

”We also must recognize that there are a lot of families, innocent victims of violence, that are suffering,” she said.

“And we find them here in our community, and we as a community are so generous in responding to help them, to be there for them. It’s a part of who we are as Americans, very compassionate. And that is a side that unfortunately our president was not open to listening to.”

Pimentel wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post ahead of Trump’s visit that she said she hopes he reads. The Jan. 9 op-ed is a letter welcoming the president to the Rio Grande Valley and inviting him to visit the Respite Center.

“Before the respite center opened, dozens of immigrant families, hungry, scared and in a foreign land, huddled at the bus station with only the clothes on their back, nothing to eat or drink, and nowhere to shower or sleep. They waited hours and sometimes overnight for their buses,” she wrote.

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley opened the first respite center at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen to provide the migrants with basic necessities, including a shower and a bowl of soup. In need of more space, they later moved to their current location in the former nursing home.

“You will see volunteers arriving to offer a hand either preparing hygiene packets, making sandwiches, cutting vegetables, preparing the soup for the day or sorting through donated clothing,” Pimentel wrote.

“We witness daily how, working together, people of all faiths can focus on helping the person in front of us. Regardless of who we are and where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another.”

Pope Francis personally thanked Pimentel and her order for their work during his visit to the United States in 2015.

 

'A sense of conversion' - A bishop reflects on the Mundelein retreat

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 18:44

Gallup, N.M., Jan 11, 2019 / 04:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Praying daily before the Eucharist with more than 250 other U.S. bishops was, for Bishop James Wall of Gallup, the highlight of a seven-day episcopal retreat held this week at Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“We had the talks from Fr. Cantalamessa, which were excellent, a great homily each day; but for me the highlight of the retreat was every night having the bishops gather in silence before our Lord present in the Eucharist. It was an opportunity to pour your heart out to the Lord, but even more importantly to listen to him, and to receive his direction in all of this.”

“That was where I drew a lot of strength, in the sense of renewal, recommitment, conversion, really to be the shepherd, or bishop, that our Lord wants me to be. I drew a lot from that Holy Hour every night at 7 o'clock,” Bishop Wall told CNA Jan. 10. “I loved the Holy Hour.”

The bishops of the US went on retreat Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary, in the Chicago suburbs. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., who has been preacher to the papal household since 1980, directed the retreat. Pope Francis had asked the nation's bishops to go on retreat together, and offered Fr. Cantalamessa for the time of prayer.

“The effect on me was very positive,” Bishop Wall said.

The retreat consisted of two conferences per day given by Fr. Cantalamessa, each nearly an hour, as well as a Mass at which the Capuchin preached. Then in the evening, the bishops gathered for a Holy Hour.

“For me, really the highlight of the whole retreat was every night at 7 o'clock we made a Holy Hour. So you have all the bishops gathering together praying before our Lord present in the Eucharist, and for me that was very positive, it had a very positive effect on me.”

The Holy Hours were inspiring for Bishop Wall, and recalled for him the day of prayer and penance at the US bishops' autumn general assembly.

“That was one of the best days I've ever had with my brother bishops because there we were, all of us together, six and a half hours of Eucharistic Adoration, reflecting on the Word, hearing some powerful talks.”

The Holy Hours “reminded me of that,” he said, “because here we all were, taking the time to be on retreat with each other, ultimately to allow the Lord to speak to our heart and guide us.”

“Coming off the retreat, I have a great sense of renewal, and strengthening in my whole purpose and calling as a bishop.”

Bishop Wall described “a great respect for silence” during the retreat, and noted that “there were lots of places to find good quiet time to reflect and pray, and read … it was an excellent retreat.”

He mentioned that he had brought with him on retreat, for reading during Holy Hours, Complete My Joy, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix' Dec. 30, 2018 apostolic exhortation on the family. “It helped me think about how is it that I am going to speak to the family,” Bishop Wall said.

The retreat was focused on Christ's commission of the 12 apostles, and the apostolic mandate, centred on the verse: “And he made that twelve should be with him, and that he might send them to preach.”

Bishop Wall called Fr. Cantalamessa “an amazing man, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Having been on a retreat directed by Fr. Cantalamessa before, “I knew how good he was, and I know how brutally honest he can be, too. To know that he was not only the papal household preacher currently, but for Benedict and John Paul II, I was really encouraged by it … he had some really good words for the bishops.”

In addition to mentioning the role and gift of ecclesial movements in the Church, Fr. Cantalamessa did address the sexual abuse crisis in different talks, Bishop Wall said. “And I think considering everything that's going on in the world and the US, it was to be expected that he would.”

Addressing Pope Francis' letter to the US bishops ahead of their retreat, Bishop Wall said, “I took it as encouragement, an assurance of prayer.”

The renewal facing the Church, the bishop said, “is not renewal in a really pretty way at all. I think it's a painful renewal, and that's what's happening right now. It's really disheartening when we come out with the Charter, we commit ourselves to the Charter, and you find instances when there hasn't been fidelity to the Charter – because ultimately the Charter is about providing an opportunity for young people to encounter the living Christ. That's what it’s all about.”

At the retreat “I experienced a sense of conversion,” Bishop Wall said.

“One of the things Cantalamessa talked about was a sense of reliance on the Holy Spirit, and I think sometimes we can forget that; we can try to 'go it on our own', so it was a reminder, a renewal, a call to conversion. That's what I experienced, took away from that, so I would hope that everyone else would take that away, too. It's all you can hope for.”

Pages