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Biden denied communion at SC parish

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 20:00

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- A South Carolina Catholic priest denied Holy Communion to  presidential candidate Joe Biden on Sunday, because of the candidate’s support for legal abortion.

Fr. Robert Morey, pastor of St. Anthony Catholic Church in the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, denied Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden Holy Communion at Sunday Mass for his support of legal abortion, the Florence Morning News reported Monday.

"Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden,” Morey said in a statement he sent CNA Oct 28.

“Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching,” the priest added.

According to the Florence Morning News, Morey was a lawyer for 14 years before becoming a priest, practicing law in North Carolina and working for seven years for the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Biden, a former senator from Delaware and the former Vice President of the United States, was campaigning in South Carolina over the weekend, the Associated Press reported.

Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states that “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote a memorandum to the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2004, explaining the application of Canon Law 915 to the reception of Holy Communion.

The memorandum stated that “the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin.”

The case of a “Catholic politician” who is “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” would constitute “formal cooperation” in grave sin that is “manifest,” the letter continued.

In such cases, “his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” Ratzinger wrote.

Then, he continued, when the individual perseveres in grave sin and still presents himself for Holy Communion, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it," Ratzinger wrote.

“As a priest, it is my responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to my care, and I must do so even in the most difficult situations,” Morey said.

While not supporting taxpayer funding of abortion as much as other presidential candidates, Biden’s campaign platform would seek to “codify” Roe v. Wade.

At a Planned Parenthood event this summer, Biden promised to “eliminate all of the changes that this President made” to family planning programs, according to POLITICO, and said he would increase funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

In recent months Biden reversed course on the Hyde Amendment, once supporting the policy that protects taxpayer dollars from funding abortions and now opposing it.

“I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers,” Morey's statement concluded.

This story is developing and will be updated.


Pro-life leaders ask HHS to separate abortion payments in insurance plans

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 19:12

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- A group of pro-life leaders is calling on the Trump administration to finalize a rule that would require abortion to be billed separately from other services in taxpayer funded health insurance plans.

An Oct. 21 letter to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the Department of Health and Human Services, applauded the pro-life efforts of the Trump administration.

The letter asked HHS to further these efforts by implementing a rule removing the ability for insurance companies to create “hidden abortion surcharges,” through which “enrollees...are unknowingly paying into plans that subsidize elective abortion.”

The letter was signed by the heads of more than 40 pro-life organizations in the U.S., including Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life Committee, March for Life Action, Americans United for Life, and American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNS.

“Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has prohibited federal funding through Health and Human Services to cover elective abortions or insurance plans that include elective abortion coverage,” the signatories said. “Research shows that by the end of 2018, over 2.3 million babies have been saved as a result of this amendment.”

However, while the Hyde Amendment applies to federal health care programs including Medicaid, pro-life advocates have voiced concern for years that the Affordable Care Act does not follow its requirements.

Section 1303 of the Affordable Care Act mandates that if a qualified health plan covers elective abortions, it must do so by collecting a payment separate from the standard premium, and depositing that payment into a separate account.

Critics have long argued that enforcement regulations under the Obama era were so permissive as to render the rules meaningless. The regulations allow for health insurers to collect an abortion surcharge without separately identifying it on monthly invoices or collecting it separately.

This essentially renders the surcharge invisible, critics have said. A Government Accountability Office report in 2014 found that many insurers were ignoring Section 1303’s requirements.

In their recent letter, the pro-life leaders called for clear and transparent policies requiring a truly separate payment and adequate enforcement measures for abortion coverage in taxpayer-funded insurance plans.

“While including abortion at all in government subsidized health insurance plans runs afoul of the long-standing principle of the Hyde Amendment, requiring separate payments is an important first step in correcting this wrong and providing transparency,” they said.

The pro-life advocates reiterated their support for the HHS proposal, “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Exchange Program Integrity,” announced last November to explicitly require that abortion be billed separately from other services in taxpayer funded insurance plans.

“As we near the one year anniversary of the proposal of this rule, we strongly urge its finalization and swift implementation,” they said.

Pregnant college students need to know their rights, pro-life group says

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 18:39

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2019 / 04:39 pm (CNA).- As many pregnant students say they face pressure to have abortions to advance their education and careers, one pro-life group has released a “bill of rights” to help pregnant and parenting students protect their futures.

“The goal of schools should be to assist students, no matter their stage of life,” the Students for Life’s Pregnant on Campus initiative said on its website. “If a student is being bullied by coaches, intimidated by professors, and pressured by friends, this is not the supportive, empowering environment that pregnant and parenting students on American campuses deserve.”

The relevant law, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, bars federal money to academic institutions and programs that discriminate on the basis of sex. These institutions include colleges, universities and elementary and secondary schools.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said that more than one in five students is a parent, and over 70% of these parenting students are women.

“Lack of awareness of the rights of pregnant and parenting students is widespread, affecting many students and student athletes,” Hawkins said Oct. 24. She said the Students for Life Pregnant on Campus initiative aims to educate women about their rights and to “provide them support, including legal assistance, so that they can complete their educations.”

In an essay for the Washington Examiner, Hawkins said that college athletic programs appear to be ignoring decades-old federal protections for pregnant women, as student athletes face pressure to have abortions. Hawkins noted that female athletes like Sanya Richards-Ross, who won a gold medal in the 400-meter race at the 2012 Summer Olympics, have said abortion is prevalent among track-and-field women athletes.

Camille Cisneros, director of the Pregnant on Campus project, said the effort aims to help institutions follow the law and to support pregnant and parenting students with access to child care and nursing rooms on campus or provisions like parking passes for pregnant students.

“Our goal is to make sure that pregnant and parenting students have the tools they need to create a beautiful future for themselves and their children,” Cisneros said.

Students for Life promotes a 10-point “Pregnant on Campus Bill of Rights.” It emphasizes the right of pregnant students to be free from limits on activities and benefits enjoyed by other students. These include involvement in clubs, academic programs and intramural activities like athletics.

One such right concerns pressures on women to seek abortions.

“Athletic directors or coaches may not bully students into abortion, threatening loss of future or present opportunity,” it says.

Students may not be barred from campus housing and may not have academic or athletic scholarships revoked due to pregnancy, nor may they be penalized in matters of financial aid, the document says. Further, scholarship recipients must be informed of their Title IX rights, and failure to inform students constitutes negligence on the part of coaches or other school officials.

Professors and other staff may not punish pregnant students who take medically necessary absences and they must make accommodations for retaking tests and completing other assignments, the document states. A student cannot be penalized because he or she is parenting a child.

Title IX offices on campus are tasked with compliance with this law, but Students for Life of America said these offices need to improve.

“Too often, Title IX coordinators are either complacent or complicit in violations,” the organization charged.

Students for Life said its more than 1,200 groups and chapters will be able to talk to fellow students, Title IX coordinators, academic institutions, and athletic department staff about supporting pregnant and parenting students.

The Pregnant and Parenting on Campus Initiative’s website is It provides information, flyers, social media graphics, and other material about pregnant and parenting students’ rights.

Dead Theologians Society: The ‘memento mori’ youth group

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 17:12

Denver, Colo., Oct 28, 2019 / 03:12 pm (CNA).- When Eddie Cotter Jr. was a youth minister in the diocese of Orlando, Florida, he had his students watch the 1989 film “Dead Poets Society.”

The movie stars the late and widely beloved Robin Williams, who plays an eccentric and unorthodox teacher that inspires his students to re-found a clandestine club called the “Dead Poets Society.” Members of the club meet in a cave to read and discuss poetry, including their own poems. In 1997, the film inspired Cotter’s youth group to found their own clandestine society.

“Following watching that film, a conversation was initiated by the teens, very enthusiastically, where they talked about, ‘Wow. Instead of learning about poets and writers as they did in the film, let's learn about the lives of the saints who we don't know a lot about.’”

Cotter’s students said they could recognize certain saints’ images in icons or statues, but beyond that, they did not know about their lives. “What were they like? How did they live? How did they die?" Cotter said.

That conversation inspired the founding of the “Dead Theologians Society”, a youth group format that has been used by parishes throughout the United States, now in its 23rd year.

The group thought the name “Dead Theologians Society” was apt not only because of the film, but because “we're learning about people who are only dead by the world's definition of dead, but they're fully alive in Christ,” Cotter said.

“Dead to sin but alive in Christ” became the motto of the newly-formed group, and they decided to meet weekly for two hours to learn about the lives of the saints and to pray for souls in purgatory.

Cotter said a typical Dead Theologians Society (DTS) chapter will meet weekly for two hours. The first half-hour is reserved for socializing, after which the students move into a chapel or a designated prayer space. Taking a cue from the style of Dead Poets Society, the room is typically dark, lit only by candles or smaller lights, and decorated with icons.

“Many parishes...they'll set up a room and make it look like a little monastery. They'll have a crucifix, maybe some Byzantine hanging lights in front of icons, and they make it prayerful. It's not spooky, it's not macabre. It's just a very prayerful and very sacred space,” Cotter said.

Once the meeting in the prayer room begins, a facilitator tells the story of the life of a saint to the group for about 20 minutes, followed by time for questions from the students about the saint or about the faith. This is followed by praying a mystery of the rosary, which is then followed by the group’s signature prayer, the St. Gertrude Prayer for Souls in Purgatory: “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”

The prayer carries with it a promise that “a thousand souls are released every time this prayer is prayed sincerely,” Cotter said.

The number of souls is not exact, he added, “it’s not like there’s a total board that we have running at the national office. But we know that we have thousands of young people sincerely praying for souls, Lord only knows probably how many souls we have benefited. Padre Pio said, ‘We must empty purgatory,’ and our prayers help that to happen.”

The meeting then concludes with prayers for specific intentions of members of the group, and the Divine Praises. Afterward, parents of the members typically provide snacks. Cotter said many groups try to get as much parental involvement as possible, and that the timing of the meetings allows the parents to have their own holy hour before setting out food for the group.

From its beginning, DTS has had a profound impact on the students and parents connected to the group.

“In the first two years, we had 16 Protestant kids come into the Church, become Catholic, and one was a Protestant minister's kid. That's how effective it was,” Cotter said.

There were also conversions from parents, Cotter said, who hear about the group from their kids, who often bring home a prayer card or a medal of the saint of the week.

Cotter recalled the conversion of a father who, when his daughter (in DTS) went home, “she was talking about the proofs of the existence of God from Saint Thomas Aquinas. And her father actually came back into the church because he thought he was too intellectual to believe in God. And his high school daughter kind of set him straight in a very loving way. But it turned his life around.”

The DTS also gives confirmation students a chance to learn about the saints before they choose one for confirmation, Cotter said.

The group has also inspired numerous vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

“In the last six months I've either met or learned of about 15 priests, three seminarians, and a nun, who were all in DTS in different parts of the country when they were teenagers and they all credit DTS as having a major impact in them finding their vocation,” Cotter said.

One of those priests is Father Raymond Snyder, a Dominican friar and priest who serves at St Patrick Church in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

As a teenager, Snyder joined the local DTS chapter at his home parish in Wichita, Kansas. He was not involved in his high school youth group, he noted, because as a Catholic school student he already had several other religious commitments. But DTS captured his attention, he said, and he remembered the saint stories being particularly compelling.

“(The leaders) were very good at presenting the saints in a convincing way and in a powerful way, and using that witness, that story and model of the saints to tell us something about our faith,” Snyder told CNA.

Snyder said that one of the most memorable moments of joining DTS was when he was given his hoodie. The DTS hoodie is only available to members of the group who have come for at least three consecutive meetings and is not sold publicly on the DTS website. They are black, with a small monstrance embroidered on one corner.

“It’s sort of like a habit, like a religious habit almost. It reminds one of that at least,” Snyder said. “It was a sort of a little bit of a rite of passage and something to kind of increase that ownership in the group.”

At the moment of induction, members promise to pray the St. Gertrube prayer for the souls in purgatory. Praying for souls in purgatory is an important practice of the Church, he added, so much so that the entire month of November is dedicated to praying for them.

“We're reminded to pray for not just the souls in general, but to remember our loved ones who have died and gone before us,” he said.

The aesthetic of DTS - candle-lit rooms, icons, a prayerful and sacred space - was important too, he said.

“The more things are bound up with our imagination and vivid memories, the more we remember them, which is part of why the liturgy has such an important place for us, and the practice of the faith to continually be reminded about the realities we cannot see,” he said.

After graduating high school, Snyder made the St. Gertrude prayer a part of his daily routine, “which may not sound all that remarkable,” he said, but over time it shaped his prayer life and vocation.

“It begins to be a practice in one's life, it almost adds to that contour and the shape of one's life and vocation,” he said.

Snyder said he started thinking about the priesthood “around my freshman, sophomore year of high school, which is when I would've been involved in this group, and I began thinking about the priesthood and religious life specifically. It was a part of the whole ensemble of what God had for me at that time and for which I'm grateful now.”

Father Jack Fitzpatrick, who serves as parochial vicar at St. Paul's Parish in Colorado Springs, also credits DTS with influencing his faith formation in high school.

A kid from a small town, he said there wasn’t much going on youth-group-wise in his own hometown, but that he had a few friends from a nearby town involved in a chapter of DTS.

“They were telling me that their youth group was kind of serious, actually, there were a lot less icebreakers...and that really fit me pretty well. I wasn't really looking for games and things like that, I kind of wanted to go deeper into my faith,” he said.

“And so anyway, some of these friends of mine invited me to that Dead Theologians Society and I went and it was just awesome. It was kind of exactly what I was looking for.”

The saint stories told by the leaders were done in a somewhat “dramatic fashion,” he said, and the candle-lit room with holy pictures “lent itself to a more solemn feel...something about the aesthetic really did it.”

“It was supposed to mimic the environment of the catacombs in the early Church,” he said, “And the idea was, a group of Christians coming together to be encouraged by the virtue of other Christians who had gone before. You know, because that's the whole reason why...the early Christians went to the catacombs, because the martyrs were buried there. And they thought, ‘Boy, if we can learn from the courage of these holy men and women who have gone before then we can really be in good shape.’”

Fitzpatrick said he liked the more solemn and traditional feel of DTS compared to other youth groups at the time.

“The Dead Theologian Society really relied on a lot of traditional elements of our faith. Sacramentals were really important. We were all invested in the Brown Scapular. We had this hooded jacket that we wear that the priest would bless when we had earned it. And...there's just a lot of traditional elements in the Dead Theologian Society that honestly, I really didn't find in whatever the standard youth group in 2003 was,” he said.

Fitzpatrick also continues to recite the St. Gertrude Prayer for Souls today.

“I mean, the promise associated with it is that every time you say this prayer devoutly, a thousand souls will be delivered from purgatory. So, why not? Why not say that prayer as many times a day you can? I think what was really wonderful about learning that prayer and making it part of my spiritual life was the fact that I don't know that it had ever occurred to me that certain prayers had different promises attached to them,” he said.

Because Fitzpatrick had never heard of prayers with particular promises, he started researching what other prayers and practices of the Church came with specific promises. It led him down a path of searching for and discovering many treasures of the faith, he told CNA.

“That prayer really did open a door for me to learn about all kinds of other things in the spiritual life that are a significant benefit, and that people my age certainly would not have been exposed to,” he said.

He said he would recommend DTS to any parish looking for a way to get their young people involved and learning more about their faith.

“Think about incorporating Dead Theologians Society as maybe just a part of your overall youth activities that your parish, because for sure kids out there are looking for what DTS has to offer, and if you offer it to them, boy, they will start to grow, and they'll come, and it's just an amazing thing.”

Cotter said that in his experience, teenagers “embrace” the idea of praying for the dead as a way to help them to heaven.

“Most teenagers have lived long enough where they've lost somebody. It could be their grandparents, a sibling, parents of friends. So they've had some experience with death that was painful,” Cotter said.

“And we can tell them, ‘There are things we can do that's very real that can be of great benefit for the one you've lost,’" he added. “They love it and it actually gives great hope. There's an enthusiasm for it. It's a great service.

Cotter said that even though he founded DTS and has traveled the United States and even several countries abroad to spread its mission, few people really know who he is or what he looks like, which is too bad, because he has a pretty incredible bright red mullet.

He said he prefers to keep a low profile.

“There's probably just a handful of teens out of all the (chapters) ever that know who Eddie Cotter is and that's fine because this isn't about me,” he said.

“This isn't like the cult of Eddie Cotter's youth group. If I were to pass tomorrow, I mean I'm glad I have people that'll pray for my soul, from DTS, but the apostolate isn't based on me. And I like that. The teenagers now that are in DTS, they weren't even alive when this thing started,” he added.

Cotter said he thinks what makes DTS so appealing to teens, and why it has lasted for 23 years, is that it relies on the traditions of the Catholic Church. 

“I think it's going to keep going because these treasures of our faith are timeless. The shelf life doesn't have an expiration date on it,” he said.

“Everything we do in DTS is as relevant now as it was 23 years ago, as it was hundreds of years ago, and will be hundreds of years from now. And I think that's one of the many strengths of the program is it's not following trend trying to out-hip the teen culture. We're bringing them to our home field advantage which they're not going to get in the secular world.”

In 2015, DTS became canonically approved as a private association of the faithful by decree of the late Bishop Robert Morlino from the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. Since its founding in 1997, there have been over 18,000 young people in roughly 550 parishes throughout the U.S. and in several foreign countries who have participated in a DTS chapter.

Cotter said learning how DTS has impacted young people is one of the joys of his life. A few years ago, he was at a Catholic conference in Ohio when he was stopped by a van full of nuns who were honking at him. One of them recognized Cotter and had been involved in DTS as a teen.

“I'm blessed far beyond what I deserve because I don't have a theology degree or anything. I was a youth minister at a parish and thought, ‘Wow, we can do this,’” Cotter said.

“And so that's why when I very sincerely say: If Eddie Cotter can do this, there's a lot of people out there that are far more gifted than I am. If they decide to either have a chapter of Dead Theologians Society or do something to help save souls for Jesus, they can do it.”

Kate Olivera contributed to the reporting of this story.


Missouri's last abortion clinic could be closed after state hearing

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 16:40

St. Louis, Mo., Oct 28, 2019 / 02:40 pm (CNA).- A hearing began on Monday in Missouri to determine the fate of the state’s last remaining abortion clinic.

“Planned Parenthood’s stubborn refusal to correct its gross deficiencies is the reason Missouri may soon be the first state since Roe v. Wade in 1973 to be free from abortion clinics,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the group March for Life, stated on Monday before the hearing.

Mancini said the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic “has left the state no choice but to deny renewal of its clinic license” because of its health violations and failure to comply with health requirements.

“Planned Parenthood should put the safety of women before its profits – the women of Missouri deserve as much,” Mancini stated.

The Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission held the hearing on Monday, months after the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services in June refused to renew the license of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region to perform abortions.

Jacinta Florence, the Missouri & Arkansas Regional Coordinator for Students for Life of America attended the hearing.

“What’s tragic is that Planned Parenthood is fighting to stay open but doesn’t want to comply with Missouri's laws designed to protect women’s lives at this dangerous location,” Florence said.

Before it refused to reissue a license for the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic, Missouri’s health department had submitted a “Statement of Deficiencies” of the clinic to a court.

In that statement, the department cited an “unprecedented lack of cooperation” on the part of the clinic, as well as its “failure to meet basic standards of patient care, and refusal to comply with state law and regulations protecting women’s health and safety that resulted in numerous serious and extensive unresolved deficiencies including multiple that involved life-threatening conditions for patients.”

Planned Parenthood reneged on its agreement to perform pelvic examinations as a “preoperative health requirement,” the state said, several doctors at the clinic refused requests to provide interviews with the health department, and the clinic would not have been prepared for a case of “severe hemorrhaging” of a woman that occurred at a hospital.

The clinic had submitted a “Plan of Correction” as requested by the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, but it had not properly addressed all the stated deficiencies, the health department said.

Planned Parenthood responded by saying that the health department “weaponized a regulatory process” and required pelvic exams that it admitted were “medically unnecessary” amidst “public outcry and the medical community coming out strongly against” the required exams.

After the state’s refusal to grant a license, a judge and the Administration Hearing Commission both granted a temporary stay of the health department’s decision, allowing the clinic to remain open while the case was reviewed.

Missouri had also enacted a comprehensive abortion ban in 2019, with Governor Mike Parson (R) signing it into law in May. The legislation was supported by St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson.

Missouri’s law set up a multi-tier ban on abortions after eight weeks, 14 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks, as well as bans on abortions conducted solely because of the baby’s race, sex, or Down Syndrome diagnosis.

The law was crafted to be able to survive in the courts, but a federal judge in August struck down all of the bans related the stage in pregnancy, leaving intact the disability, race and sex-selective abortion bans for the time being.

Meanwhile, as the fate of the St. Louis clinic is being determined, Planned Parenthood has opened a “mega” abortion clinic just 13 miles away across the Mississippi River in Fairview Heights, Illinois that will have the ability to see 11,000 patients annually.

The new clinic replaced a smaller Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights that offered medication abortions but not surgical abortions.

In a controversial move, the organization used a shell company under which the facility was purportedly being constructed, and tried to shield from public view the fact that the facility under construction was an abortion clinic.


US bishops’ conference to vote on president, action items at fall meeting

Sun, 10/27/2019 - 18:08

Baltimore, Md., Oct 27, 2019 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will be electing a new president, vice president, and committee chairs, and will vote on seven action items during the upcoming Fall General Assembly.

A total of 10 archbishops and bishops are listed on the presidential ballot: Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Services, Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit.

After the president is elected with a simple minority, the remaining nine candidates will be eligible for vice president. Typically, the current vice president is voted as the next president. That position is presently held by Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.

In addition to the presidential and vice-presidential elections, the bishops will also elect new chairmen for six of the conference’s committees: Canonical Affairs and Church Governance; Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Evangelization and Catechesis; International Justice and Peace; Protection of Children and Young People; and Religious Liberty.

Those who are elected to a position of leadership will serve a three-year term. For all of the committees except Religious Liberty, the newly-elected chairman will serve for one year as chairman-elect and will officially become the new chairman at next year’s Fall General Assembly. The person who is elected to lead the Religious Liberty committee will immediately become chairman as the position is currently vacant due to Archbishop Joseph Kurtz’s battle with cancer.

The Board of Directors for Catholic Relief Services will also be elected at the General Assembly.

During the meeting, the bishops will vote to approve the sixth edition of the Program of Priestly Formation, which will be used throughout the United States. They will also vote on whether to approve a letter and five video scripts that will accompany the teaching document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which advises American Catholics about how to be a responsible citizen when it comes to voting.

Bishops will also vote to approve the Revised Strategic Priorities for the upcoming Strategic Plan cycle, which lasts from 2021-2024, and will vote to approve the proposed budget for 2020.

Latin Church bishops and archbishops will vote on approving two new English translations that were written by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. If approved, the new translation of the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults and a new translation of Hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours will be used across the United States.

Additionally, the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs will seek the authorization of the bishops to start the process to develop a response to the V Encuentro process. This should be completed and approved by 2024.

The Fall General Assembly will be held Nov. 11-13 in Baltimore.

Ohio teen disqualified from cross-country race over hijab

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 12:54

Toledo, Ohio, Oct 25, 2019 / 10:54 am (CNA).- An Ohio teen is speaking out after being disqualified from an Oct. 19 cross-country meet because she was wearing a hijab.

Noor Alexandria Abukaram is a 16-year-old student at a private Islamic school. She is on the cross-country team for Northview High School, the local public school in Sylvania, Ohio.

Abukaram says officials did not inform her that she had been disqualified. Instead, she found out after running, when she went to look at the boards where race times were displayed, and discovered that her name was not posted.

“I was humiliated, disappointed, rejected and in denial. I couldn’t believe what just happened,” she said in a Facebook post.

The teen said an official had conducted uniform inspections before the race, but did not tell her that her headscarf was a problem.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association said the rules require runners to receive a waiver to wear religious headwear that does not comply with the association’s uniform rules.

Abukaram’s coach had not applied for the waiver.

An association official said the waiver was immediately approved once it was filed, and Abukaram will therefore be able to compete in the future. He also said the association is considering the possibility of removing the requirement of a waiver for religious headwear, the New York Times reported.

Still, Abukaram objects to the fact that she has been competing all season and her hijab has only now, after half a dozen meets, been flagged as an issue. She also criticized the way officials handled the matter. During uniform inspections, she said in a Facebook post, an official notified one of her teammates that she would need to change her shorts in order to comply with the rules. The girl was able to change her attire and compete in the race.

“The officials did not give me the same respect that they gave my teammate who was also violating a rule when they told her to change her shorts and gave her the chance to fix her self,” Abukaram said. “I wasn’t given the chance to explain myself to them because they didn’t have the decency to tell me what the issue was.”

The teen said she does not understand why a special waiver is necessary for religious headwear in the first place.

“They don’t have to prepare anything special for me, I don’t have any disabilities, I am just running just like anybody else,” she told the New York Times.

Bans on Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols - particularly in the workplace - have been a controversial issue in Western nations in recent years.

In 2017, the Court of Justice for the European Union ruled in favor of a headscarf ban in the workplace, as long as it has a legitimate company aim and is based on internal company rules requiring neutral dress, which must also ban crucifixes, skullcaps and turbans. The ruling drew criticism from religious freedom advocates, who said employers should offer reasonable accommodations for workers’ religious beliefs.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a clothing store that cited fashion reasons in declining to hire a woman because she was wearing a hijab.

“An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions,” said the court’s majority opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia.

A ban on teachers wearing the headscarf was ruled unconstitutional in a German court in 2015. In Austria and the German state of Bavaria, full-face veils are banned in public.

In 2013, four Christian British Airways employees won a legal case in the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled their employer engaged in illegal discrimination for telling them they could not wear their crosses.

South and East Asia now the hotbed of Christian persecution, report finds

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 05:01

New York City, N.Y., Oct 25, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- While Christians in Iraq and Syria suffer in the aftermath of Islamic State genocide, a new “hot spot” of persecution has emerged in South and East Asia, a recent report finds.

“The situation for Christians has deteriorated most in South and East Asia: this is now the regional hot spot for persecution, taking over that dubious honour from the Middle East,” stated a report on global Christian persecution by the group Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation that provides relief to Christians in 140 countries.

ACN released its biennial study of the global persecution of Christians Oct. 23. The 2019 report “Persecuted and Forgotten?” compiled information on acts of harassment, violence, and discrimination committed against Christians over the span of 25 months from July 2017 through July 2019; details on the persecution were gathered by ACN on fact-finding trips.

One of the report’s chief conclusions was that of all persecuted Christians, “Christian women suffer the most, with reports of abductions, forced conversions and sex attacks.”

The report focused on 12 countries where Christian persecution was most severe: Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, India, Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, China, the Philippines, and North Korea.

“The words of Jesus to his disciples are there to remind us what His followers should expect: ‘If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you,’” stated Cardinal Joseph Coutts of Karachi in the report’s introduction.

“We unite our sufferings with those who suffer more than us and find inspiration in the words of the Apostle Paul: ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body,’” the archbishop said.

While the Islamic State genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria, beginning in 2014, drew international condemnation in recent years, the killings, beatings, and harassment of Christians in India, Sri Lanka, and Burma – along with ongoing persecution of Christians in China and North Korea – have created a regional problem that is now the worst in the world, ACN has warned.

After Sri Lanka’s civil war ended ten years ago, minority Christians and Muslims have suffered attacks by Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists, but the scope of the violence changed dramatically on Easter Sunday.

A series of coordinated bombings, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility, targeted churches and hotels during the Paschal Triduum, and killed 258 people while injuring around 500.

In the wake of the attacks, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo alleged that the government could have done more to prevent the bombings and told ACN that “five training camps for jihadists have been found.”

“The attack signaled that, while the Islamists had switched strategy away from territorial gain to guerrilla warfare, attacking Christians was still a primary objective,” ACN reported of the Sri Lanka bombings.

In India, Christian leaders have been warning of a rise in Hindu nationalism that threatens to marginalize minority religions through violence and intimidation.

There were reported attacks against Christians in 24 of the 29 states in India between July 2017 and July 2019, with one estimate counting over 440 anti-Christian incidents in 2017, more than 470 in 2018, and 117 attacks in the first quarter of 2019.

Some of the attacks were horrific, including the gang-rape of five female workers at a Christian NGO in the northeastern state of Jharkhand.

In one case in September 2018, an elderly Christian woman was beaten in Veppur village on the date of a Hindu festival for walking on the road and thus defiling it; rocks were thrown at Christians who tried to help her.

In another case in February, a church in Karkeli village was attacked by a mob, and as CNA reported in September, a Jesuit-run mission school in Jharkhand was attacked by a violent mob of Hindu extremists where students and staff were beaten, in some cases severely.

Yet attacks like these continue with “impunity” because of an apparent reluctance by the government to investigate and prosecute, ACN says.

In the spring of 2019, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a second term in office, sparking concerns by Christian leaders of a worsening persecution.

In East Asia, authoritarian governments in China and North Korea continue to inflict horrific abuses on Christians.

North Korea has long been recognized as “the worst place in the world to be a Christian,” ACN says, with “upwards of 70,000 Christians” detained in harsh labor camps with reports of “extra-judicial killings, forced labor, torture, persecution, starvation, rape, forced abortion and sexual violence.”

China reportedly arrested underground Catholic Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou and detained him for seven months just after an agreement had been reached with the Vatican on the selection of bishops. The government also banned the online sale of Bibles in April 2018 in order to promote “a new version compatible with Sinicization and socialism.”

In the Philippines, bombings during Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo killed 20 people and injured more than 100 in January.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Christians are still suffering the “full impact” of the Islamic State genocide even though the territorial caliphate of the Islamic State is no more, ACN says.

Christian communities which have existed for centuries have long been dwindling in Iraq and Syria due to the ongoing Syrian civil war, the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the Islamic State genocide. Current estimates of Christians in Iraq range from “well below” 150,000 to below even 120,000, a mere fraction of the 1.5 million who lived there in 2003.

According to local priest Father Amanuel Kloo, the Christian population in Mosul has all but disappeared; there were 35,000 Christians in the city in 2003, at least 6,000 in 2014, and now just 40 Christians remain.

In Aleppo, “once one of the most significant centres for the Church in the whole of the Middle East,” the Christian population has dropped by more than 80 percent in eight years, the report said. Young men are fleeing military service, and others cannot bear the economic hardship or the increasing marginalization of Christians in society.

The suffering of Middle Eastern Christians, however, “reached its zenith” in the last two years, ACN says.

Although the Islamic State caliphate no longer exists, many of the group's militants are still present in the region and “extreme poverty” remains a serious concern to the future of Christians in Syria. Some Iraqi Christians have still not been able to return to their homes, while others who have are facing harassment by local militias.

In Egypt, Copts have suffered a slew of violent attacks albeit with decreasing scope and severity over time. Nevertheless, Christians especially in rural areas face regular attacks, harassment, and discrimination, and while the state authorized 340 churches to be built in 2018, 3,740 churches have yet to be approved, revealing one challenge to the growth of the Church in the Muslim-majority country.

Nigeria has continued to be a hotbed of Christian persecution, with the continuation of attacks by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram in the country’s northeast, and the rise of atrocities committed by Fulani herdsmen, most of whom are Muslim, in the country’s Middle Belt region.

Family is key to break Mexico’s cycle of violence, priest says

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 02:38

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 25, 2019 / 12:38 am (CNA).- As violence continues to plague parts of Mexico, one priest in the country stressed the importance of strong families in overcoming the drug trade and establishing peace.

“If you think about it, the family may be one of the most attacked institutions in recent years. And it's in the family where values arise, where citizens are formed,” said Fr. Omar Sotelo, director of the Catholic Multimedia Center, which tracks violence in Mexico.

He called for “a process of re-civilization,” adding that “the best school for re-civilizing society, without any doubt, is the family - there's no other more powerful factor, no other more dependable institution.”

“The fundamental weapon for counteracting the violence we are going through is in the family,” he insisted.

Sotelo spoke to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, about the increase in violence in Mexico. According to government figures, there have been more than 23,000 murders in the country so far this year. The El Universal newspaper estimated that the first half of the year was the most violent in the history of Mexico.

The priest said that drug trafficking has so deeply infiltrated Mexican society that “we have to speak about 'narcoviolence,' 'narcopolitics,' 'narcoeconomy,' 'narcosecurity'.”

“If we look at a map of the Republic, we are surrounded by cartels and they are imposing the rules for the survival of a country,” he warned.

Those who enter organized crime, Sotelo said, have gradually lost a sense of respect and love for others. Many times, they are pushed into drug trafficking out of desperation, when they could not find any other work to support themselves, he said.

“Drug trafficking feeds on men and women whose course in life has been curtailed or perhaps trampled on.”

He warned that “today we have complete generations of drug traffickers, from small children to adults…We have one or two generations of drug traffickers in Mexico and so it's going to be extremely hard to eradicate it.”

Fighting the drug trade, he said, “is like kicking a hornet's nest,” and it’s easy to grow discouraged after years of effort with little success.

Still, the priest maintained, “the vast majority in Mexico can still reverse this deplorable evil.”

Solving the problem will take more than words, and will take cooperation from all sectors of society, he said. “It's not just the problem of a president, of a government, of a political party, of an NGO. It's everyone's problem.”

But while the challenge may seem daunting, failure to act would be come at a high price.

“If we remain silent, things will continue like this,” he said. “If we don't do something, those who are children right now…in 5,6,8,10 years may be the next drug traffickers, the actors of organized crime in our country.”


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


What is a conference of bishops? A CNA Explainer

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 21:01

Springfield, Ill., Oct 24, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- The role of president in a bishops’ conference is not as powerful as one may assume, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois told CNA Wednesday.

“It's important to understand that the bishops' conference is not some kind of a regulatory body or a supervisory body,” Paprocki told CNA Oct. 23.

The conference, in fact, “doesn't have any authority over bishops in their own diocese.”

While it would be easy to draw comparisons between the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops  and the United States Congress, Paprocki said that this was not at all the proper analogy for a bishops' conference.

It is not normally the role of the USCCB to create or pass legislation, the bishop said.

“The meetings of bishops are not normally legislators--I say normally because there are some exceptions to that, and the exceptions are very narrowly defined in Canon 455,” he explained.

These exceptions include setting certain transactional thresholds or the age of confirmation, as well as voting on a specific issue with the permission of the Holy See.

“An example of (the latter) would be the Essential Norms that the bishops adopted in Dallas in 2002, for the protection of minors that was in conjunction with the Charter for the the Protection of Children and Young People,” he said.

“So the Charter is an example of a voluntary document that the bishops adopted.”

A conference of bishops, Paprocki said, is a “grouping of bishops in a region or in a country that comes together for joint pastoral activities.”

These joint pastoral activities mostly involve “advocacy type efforts,” he said.

“That's, that's basically what the conference tries to do--the bishops working together as equals.”

The president of a bishops’ conference has more of an advisory role than anything else, said Paprocki.

While the president would author statements from the conference, as well as keep the general assemblies running in an orderly fashion, he does not have supervisory authority over other bishops in their dioceses, nor does the president alone set the agenda for the general assemblies.

“It’s not really an authoritarian position,” said Paprocki. “That position is not like a supervisor of the other bishops and in that sense of mission.” Bishops are only accountable to the pope, Paprocki said, who is represented in the United States by an apostolic nuncio.

Paprocki is one of 10 bishops who have been listed as candidates for the upcoming presidential and vice-presidential elections at the United States Conference of Cathoilc Bishops. Candidates are nominated by their brother bishops, and Paprocki told CNA he was “quite surprised” to see his name put forward.

The current USCCB president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, will conclude his term at next month’s general assembly in Baltimore. Typically, the vice president of the USCCB is voted in to lead the conference for the next term. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles is the conference’s vice president.

Archdiocese of Indianapolis faces new lawsuit over same-sex marriage school policy

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 20:00

Indianapolis, Ind., Oct 24, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- An Indiana guidance counselor has filed a lawsuit against an Indianapolis Catholic school which placed her on administrative leave after she contracted a same-sex marriage, and did not renew her contract when it expired.

Shelly Fitzgerald, who worked at Roncalli High School for 15 years, filed suit in federal court on Monday against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the high school.

Fitzgerald civilly married another woman in 2014.

According to the Indianapolis Star, after her civil marriage was brought to the school’s attention, Fitzgerald was asked to resign of her own accord, dissolve the civil marriage, or to maintain discretion about the situation until her contract expired.

When she refused these options, she was placed on administrative leave at the beginning of the last school year, and remained on leave until her employment contract expired.

Fitzgerald claims the decision was discriminatory. She is seeking damages for emotional distress and the loss of wages.

David Page, Fitzgerald's lawyer, argued in the lawsuit that his client was treated differently than heterosexual employees who have disobeyed other Catholic teachings.

The archdiocese has been embroiled in controversy in recent months over the subject of school employees in same-sex civil marriages.

Employment contracts in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis require teachers, whom it says are ministers of the Gospel, to “convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.”

A Jesuit high school in the archdiocese, Brebeuf Prep, appealed to the Vatican after the archdiocese revoked its Catholic status when it would not terminate an employee in a same-sex civil marriage. That appeal is still pending.

In August, Joshua Payne-Elliot, a teacher dismissed from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, filed suit after he was dismissed for contracting a same-sex civil marriage.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that churches have a constitutional right to determine rules for religious schools, and that religious schools have a constitutional right to hire leaders who support the schools’ religious mission,” Jay Mercer, an attorney for the archdiocese, said in August.

“Families rely on the Archdiocese to uphold the fullness of Catholic social teaching throughout its schools, and the Constitution fully protects the Church’s efforts to do so.”

In September, the federal Department of Justice backed the school’s decision in the Payne-Elliott case.

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

In June, the archdiocese said of teachers that “it is their duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. 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.”



Exemptions for rape, incest removed from South Carolina abortion bill

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 19:59

Charleston, S.C., Oct 24, 2019 / 05:59 pm (CNA).- A senate subcommittee in South Carolina has removed two exemptions from a fetal heartbeat bill, which would ban abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected, at roughly six weeks into pregnancy.

On Tuesday, the Senate’s Medical Affairs Subcommittee voted 4-3 to remove amendment H.3020 - an exception to the abortion ban in cases of rape and incest. The bill still allows for abortion in cases determined to be medical emergencies.

The amendment to remove the rape and incest exceptions was introduced by Republican state senator Richard Cash.

“You are in fact killing an innocent human being. Whether you mean to or not, you are punishing a person wrongfully for something he or she had nothing to do with,” Cash said, according to The State.

The fetal heartbeat bill was introduced last December by Rep. John McCravy and Sen. Larry Grooms. The exception for incest and rape was debated by the House of Representatives in April, and added before the bill passed through the House, 70-31, later that month.

The legislation, stripped of the exemptions, will now face the full Medical Affairs Committee. If the committee approves it, the bill will be introduced to the entire state Senate sometime after December. Earlier this year, Governor Henry McMaster promised to sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

In an Oct. 24 statement, the Diocese of Charleston expressed hope that the bill would become law.

“The Church deeply believes in the humanity of the unborn and supports the Senate’s vote to move the Heartbeat bill further along in the legislative process,” the statement read.

The legislation would require doctors to test for a fetal heartbeat before an abortion is performed. Doctors could face criminal penalties under the bill, although women seeking abortions would  not be criminally prosecuted.

A similar bill has failed in South Carolina in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018.

However, State Rep. Steven Long is confident that the time is right for pro-life efforts to move forward.

“We have a moral obligation to defend life,” Long said, according to The State.

“The court system is primed and ready for a good piece of pro-life legislation. Now is the time we need to be pushing and fighting to get legislation like this passed. The tide is turning,” he said.

In James Younger transgender case, judge grants parents joint medical, psychiatric authority

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 19:38

Austin, Texas, Oct 24, 2019 / 05:38 pm (CNA).- A Texas judge granted Jeffrey Younger and Anne Georgulas joint managing conservatorship of their son, James Younger, over whose gender identity his parents have argued in court.

The decision, given by Judge Kim Cooks of a Texas Family District Court, means that both parents have equal decision-making power in their child’s medical, dental and psychiatric treatment, The Texan reported.

Georgulas, who believes James identifies as a girl named Luna, will now have to obtain the consent of Younger before allowing James to undergo any hormonal or psychiatric “gender affirmation treatment.”

Yesterday, a jury ruled against a petition from Younger to obtain sole custody of James and his twin brother Jude, which he filed in an attempt to protect James from “gender-changing” interventions by Georgulas.

Georgulas is reported to believe James identifies as a girl in part because of his affinity for the Disney movie “Frozen” and its female character leads, along with other feminine preferences in toys. She has wanted to affirm James’ identity as a girl, while Younger has advocated for a “watchful waiting” approach to see if James changes his mind as he matures, The Texan reported.

According to the Washington Examiner, expert witnesses called in the court expressed doubts as to whether James actually strongly identifies as female. Younger has said that James identifies as a boy while he is in the care of his father.

Georgulas reportedly wanted to enroll James as a patient at the GENECIS in Dallas in their “Gender Affirming Care Program” for youth. On its website, the clinic says it offers hormone therapy and puberty suppression therapy along with mental health and social services. It does not currently offer “gender transition” surgery. Georgulas and Younger now have joint decision-making power over James’ enrollment in the program. Judge Cooks also reportedly issued a gag order against Jeffrey Younger, which means he is not allowed to discuss the case with members of the press.

The case of James Younger was met with outrage from critics who say it raises seriously ethical concerns regarding the rights of parents and the best interests of children experiencing gender dysphoria.

Several state representatives vowed to draft legislation that would protect children against hormonal treatments for gender dysphoria because of the Younger case.

“Absent a special session between now & the 87th Session, I will introduce legislation that prohibits the use of puberty blockers in these situations for children under 18. We missed our opportunity to do so in the 86th Session. We won’t miss the next one. #savejamesyounger,” State Rep. Matt Krause (R) said on Twitter.

Reps. Jared Patterson (R) and Cody Harris (R) both voiced their support for such legislation in tweeted replies to Krause.

Governor Greg Abbott tweeted that “the matter of 7 year old James Younger is being looked into by the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. #JamesYounger.”

According to The Texan, Rep. Chip Roy (R) sent a letter about the issue to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, the director of the National Institutes of Health, and the director of the National Drug Control Policy, asking for a “federal study on individuals who undergo sex-reassignment surgery or hormone treatment before the age of 18,” and the potential harmful consequences of such procedures.


Construction begins on Baltimore’s first new Catholic school in over 50 years

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 18:01

Baltimore, Md., Oct 24, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and other leaders from the city broke ground on October 23 for the first new Catholic school in the city of Baltimore in nearly 60 years.

Mother Mary Lange School is set to open in 2021. It will teach about 520 students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth. The school is located in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Poppleton.

The school is located near a part of the city facing high levels of crime and poverty, which was home to riots after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.

Lori said that his experience in the area at the time made him realize that the residents of that neighborhood had “had enough of the status quo, of being marginalized, of being cast aside, of being expected to settle for what was presumed to be a life predetermined by others, by circumstances outside of their control.”

It was the role of the Church, said Lori, to help improve this situation and to create a better future for the children who live there.

“That is why the archdiocese is making a bold statement and an even bolder investment of $24 million in Baltimore City and in this neighborhood, because we believe it is the right thing to do for our children and for this community,” said Lori at the groundbreaking.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore said in a news article about the school that the majority of the students who will attend Mother Mary Lange School are not Catholic, and that about 80-90% will receive some form of tuition assistance, either from the archdiocese or from another partner. Maryland is home to the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) program, which provides scholarships for some lower-income students to attend private schools.

The area where the school is to be located is part of a gap created by the closing of other Catholic schools, officials said. The school will become the home for current students at nearby Holy Angels Catholic School and Saints James and John Catholic School.

In an interview last week, Archbishop Lori said that he hoped the location of the school would attract families and students from other parts of the city as well.

“I’m excited to see a beautiful new school be created on that site,” said Lori. “I’m thinking about all the opportunity that this school will provide young people who live in our city, to grow in every way--spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially.”

The archdiocese said the $24-million school will host a chapel, STEM suite, two classrooms for each grade, a robotics lab, a gym, and athletic fields. Some of these facilities will be available for the public to use. Over $20 million for the construction of the school has already been raised.

Eric Costello, a member of the Baltimore City Council whose district includes Mother Mary Lange School, told The Catholic Review that he was looking forward to the completion of the project as an investment into the neighborhood’s future.

“We’re going to have more folks in the neighborhood on a daily basis,” said Costello. “It’s important because we’re going to have community use of the facility on the inside and the outside, so it’s something that’s really exciting for the neighborhood.”

Costello said he thought the school is “going to be something that is really incredible, and is really going to benefit our kids.”

The namesake of the school, Servant of God Mary Elizabeth Lange, O.S.P., was the foundress of the religious order the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

The order was the first religious order for black freewoman religious, and was dedicated to the education of African-American girls and the training of African-American teachers. The Oblate Sisters of Providence were founded in Baltimore, where Mother Mary Lange lived for most of her life after immigrating to the United States from Cuba.

In 2004, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints opened her cause for canonization.

Prosecutor issued verbal warning to Cincinnati archdiocese about priest facing rape charges

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 17:55

Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct 24, 2019 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- A county prosecutor in Ohio walked back comments about a warning he issued to the Cincinnati archdiocese concerning a priest accused of rape, to clarify that the archdiocese was not hiding a letter that didn’t actually exist.

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser had initially told local station FOX19 NOW that he warned the archdiocese via a Sept. 18 letter to keep Father Geoff Drew away from children and to monitor him, worried that Drew was “sexually grooming” boys for future sexual abuse.

The archdiocese confirmed that Drew was asked, at the recommendation of the prosecutor, in Sept. 2018 to restrict his involvement with the school and was assigned an accountability “monitor” with whom to regularly meet.

“We acknowledged that the acceptance of this recommendation, combined with inadequate oversight, was obviously ineffective and a mistake and we will not repeat it," archdiocesan spokeswoman Jennifer Schack said in a statement to local news Monday.

But after local journalists asked the archdiocese and the prosecutor to furnish a copy of the letter, Gmoser walked back his comments and said his warning was made verbally, via a telephone call to the archdiocesan Chancellor, Father Steve Angi, and not by letter.

“I came to learn later after conferring with...a representative of the Archdiocese, that it was not a letter so there is not some document that they are hiding from you,” Gmoser told FOX19 NOW.

“The church was not – I want to emphatically state – the church was not hiding any written communication from me,” he continued.

Authorities arrested Drew Aug. 19 on allegations dating back to 1988-91, which concern Drew’s time as music minister at St. Jude parish, before his ordination as a priest in 2004.

The accusations involve abuse said to have taken place over two years, when the reported victim was 10 and 11 years old. Drew has been charged with nine counts of rape.

His trial has been set to begin Feb. 24, 2020— if convicted, the priest could face life in prison. He has entered a plea of not guilty.

Drew was pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe from 2009 to mid-2018. He was approved for a transfer to St. Ignatius Parish in early 2018, which is attached to the largest Catholic school in the archdiocese.

A longtime lay leader at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Butler County, Ohio sent a letter to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer in August 2018, accusing them of ignoring “red flags” related to Father Drew.

The archdiocese reportedly referred the parishioner’s letter to the local law enforcement, and Gmoser’s office subsequently investigated the allegations it raised and determined that Drew’s behavior was “inappropriate” but not criminal. The prosecutor’s office reportedly investigated another complaint about Drew made to the Archdiocese in October 2018, and again found his behavior non-criminal.

Before last year, complaints about Drew had been made to auxiliary bishop Joseph Binzer, the archdiocesan vicar general, as early as 2013 and also in 2015.

Binzer had referred the complaints to law enforcement, who found no evidence of criminal activity. The alleged behavior, FOX19 NOW reports, involved a pattern of uninvited hugs, shoulder massages, patting of the leg above the knee and comments, all involving young boys.

Binzer did not, however, notify the archdiocesan personnel board or Archbishop Schnurr about the multiple complaints he had received against Drew. The allegations were also reportedly not recorded by Binzer in the priest’s personnel file.

As head of priest personnel, Bishop Binzer was in charge of the process that considers requests and proposals for reassignment, in conjunction with the priest personnel board. Neither the board nor the archbishop were made aware of the multiple complaints against Drew, and the transfer was approved.

Archdiocesan Chancellor Fr. Steve Angi commissioned an internal investigation of Drew’s behavior in Feb. 2019.

Citing a “pattern of behavior in contradiction to the Decree on Child Protection,” Archbishop Schnurr removed Drew as pastor of St. Ignatius on July 23, 2019. The archdiocese said in August that neither the archdiocese, nor Cincinnati Archbishop Schnurr were aware of the eventual rape allegations at the time of Drew’s removal.

On Aug. 6 Binzer resigned from the USCCB’s committee on child and youth protection, which advises the bishops’ conference on all matters related to safe environment policy and child protection. Binzer had been serving as the regional representative for the dioceses of Ohio and Michigan.

The revelation that Binzer internally withheld the allegations against Drew came just weeks after the USCCB met in Baltimore to adopt measures aimed at building processes to address episcopal misconduct or neglect, and the ongoing crisis of credibility widely perceived to overshadow ongoing work to eliminate sexual abuse from the Church.

These measures included a set of directives applying in the U.S. the new universal norms for investigating allegations against bishops promulgated by Pope Francis in Vos estis lux mundi and which came into force on June 1.

Archdiocesan officials told CNA Sept. 17 that a complete file on the case of Father Drew has been sent to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, DC, for transmission to the relevant curial departments, expected to include the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese told CNA that a “full report” was sent to Rome via the nuncio on Aug. 30, and that Archbishop Schnurr “anticipates that the Vatican may order a full investigation” into the handling of the case.


Aquila: Report on Colorado sexual abuse calls Church to vigilance and holiness

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 17:22

Denver, Colo., Oct 24, 2019 / 03:22 pm (CNA).- After the release of a report on sexual abuse in Colorado’s Catholic dioceses, the Archbishop of Denver said that the Church should learn from its past, and that spiritual renewal is an essential part of ensuring a safe environment in the Church.

Issued Oct. 23, the report examined the archives and personnel files of Colorado’s dioceses dating back 70 years. It found that 43 diocesan priests since 1950 have been credibly accused of sexually abusing at least 166 children in the state.  

The report was issued after a seven-month investigation conducted by a former U.S. Attorney, Bob Troyer. Colorado’s bishops and the state’s attorney general decided mutually to support the investigation, which was funded by an anonymous donor.

While nearly 70% of victims were abused in the 1960s and 1970s, the most recent acts of clerical sexual abuse documented in the report took place in 1998, when a now incarcerated and laicized Denver priest sexually abused a teenage boy.

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila told CNA Oct. 23 that after the scandal of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick emerged in June 2018, Colorado’s bishops wanted an independent investigation of their own files. The archbishop said they reached an agreement with the attorney general’s office on the investigation because they wanted to understand the “historic nature of sexual abuse within the state of Colorado among diocesan priests.”

“None of us knew what we were going to find out,” Aquila told CNA.

Aquila told CNA that he was devastated to read the report, especially because, he said, his “first concern” is to provide care for the victims of clerical sexual abuse.

The report documented cases in which sexual abuse committed by priests was ignored, in some cases, during the 1960s and 1970s, as priest abusers were moved from parish to parish by Church leaders.

Aquila said he was disappointed and angry to see the Church’s failure to respond to some allegations.

“The Church really did not respond well to these cases,” he told CNA.

“It’s a genuine concern that that not be repeated.”

“If a minor is sexually abused that priest needs to face justice. He needs to be reported to civil authorities and brought to trial and laicized. And we are bound to follow that policy, and I think we have been for the last 20 years,” he added.

Aquila said the report, which offered recommendations to Colorado’s dioceses about how best to respond to allegations, will be helpful for his archdiocese.

The report paints a damning picture of the past.

“It was clear from our file review that especially before the early 1990s the Colorado Dioceses (like others) often intentionally did not document child sex abuse allegations or referred to them in such euphemistic terms that they were completely obscured. In some instances, Church officials in the 1980s purged such documentation from priest files,” the report said.

“Our review confirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s long history of silence, self-protection, and secrecy empowered by euphemism. In the past, the Colorado Dioceses have deployed elusive, opaque language to shroud reports and their knowledge of clergy child sex abuse.”

The report cited examples in which Colorado dioceses documented allegations of coercive and serial sexual abuse of children, including rape, with terms like “boundary violation,” and “boy troubles.”

The report also said that Colorado dioceses were historically negligent in reporting allegations to police. It lamented that “all the way up to at least the early 1990s...professionals asserting high moral authority chose to protect their institution and their colleagues over children.”

In a letter to priests issued Oct. 22, Aquila wrote that after reading the report, “my feelings have ranged from deep sadness for the victims, to anger at the perpetrators, to compassion and solidarity for the victims, and profound sorrow for the Church and her clergy to have to experience this. It has led me to understand in a deeper way the reality of sin and evil, which can affect any one of us at any time.”

In a letter to Denver Catholics, Aquila praised “the courage of the survivors who have shared the stories of their abuse.”

“I know there are no words that I can say that will take away the pain. However, I want to be clear that on behalf of myself and the Church, I apologize for the pain and hurt that this abuse has caused, and for anytime the Church’s leaders failed to prevent it from happening. I am sorry about this horrible history—but it is my promise to continue doing everything I can so it never happens again. My sincere hope is that this report provides some small measure of justice and healing,” the archbishop said, while offering to meet with any survivor who wishes to see him.

Aquila told CNA he hopes some measure of healing will also come from the Colorado Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program, an initiative that allows the survivors of clerical sexual abuse to seek financial compensation through an independent body empowered to determine the amount of money a diocese should remit to an abuse victim. Similar programs have been established in California and other states.

The archbishop also emphasized to CNA his conviction that the Archdiocese of Denver has, since the 1990s, been proactive about its approach to preventing and addressing sexual abuse. He said his most recent predecessors, Cardinal James Stafford and Archbishop Charles Chaput, had taken abuse seriously, and developed strict policies on the Church’s response to abuse.

The report acknowledged that “Colorado Dioceses’ practices are better than they were,” while adding that “they must continue to evolve.”

Noting that that two alleged incidents of ‘grooming’ took place in recent years, but no alleged incidents of sexual abuse, the report said that "concluding from this Report that clergy child sex abuse is ‘solved’ is inaccurate and will only lead to complacency, which will in turn put more children at risk of sexual abuse.”

The report offered several recommendations to Colorado’s dioceses, including making changes to the composition and practices of “conduct response teams,” or “diocesan review boards,” and to their methods.

Those boards are responsible for reviewing claims of abuse or misconduct, usually after police have done so, to assist in canonical investigations and to make recommendations about the suitability of priests for ministry.

The report said that when such boards interview victims, their approach can seem intimidating. It also urged that an independent investigator be charged with reviewing allegations of abuse during the Church’s internal investigation process, which ordinarily comes after police investigations.

“We are going to take their recommendations,” Aquila told CNA, noting especially the recommendation that the  “investigatory component be turned over to someone who is independent.” The archbishop said his diocese has already begun that process.

The report also suggested that Denver’s review board not be composed specifically of Catholics, which, it said, are likely to have an institutional bias in favor of protecting the Church.

Aquila challenged that supposition, telling CNA that Catholics have been most emphatically angry about child abuse in the Church, and eager to see it excised.

Nevertheless, he said that archdiocesan leaders will discuss how best to implement the report’s recommendations.

But Aquila told CNA that in his view, the culture of the Church has changed considerably in recent decades, which makes clerical sexual abuse far less likely than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, when it peaked in Colorado.

“With all of the screening that we do today, for men entering seminaries, and even ongoing screening that we do while they are in the seminary… we are really forming priests who are healthy, who can live chaste celibate lives, and also helping people to see that they can live virtuously, and that we are called to live virtuously,” he said.

 “The formation of today is much different than it was 30, 40, 50 years ago,” the archbishop added.

“There was a certain rigidity back in those years that never really looked at the true call to holiness...There was no intimacy with Jesus Christ, no personal relationship with Jesus, and when you read the lives of the saints you see how evident that personal relationship was in their lives.”

In the 1960s and 1970s, Aquila said, “many within the Church had a very superficial understanding of the power and authority of Christ ... There was a real malformation of the human person, and of the men becoming priests.”

“They did not hear clearly the call to holiness and intimacy with Christ, and trust in his promises.”

Aquila said that along with ensuring psychological health, encouraging spiritual health among priests is critical to eradicating sexual abuse in the Church.

“I am totally convinced of the teaching of John Paul II on the theology of the body, and I really believe that that has helped the Church to understand the true meaning of the dignity of the human body and the understanding of human sexuality,” he said.

“When I look at the priests who have committed abuse, my first question is ‘how could a man who has been called to serve Christ, and to be Christ in the midst of his people, ever do this kind of an act?’”

Acknowledging the effects of clericalism and the problem of the abuse of power, Aquila said he believes it important to ask a more fundamental question regarding abusive priests:

“‘Did you take your call seriously? And did you know your identity as a beloved son of the Father?’ Because if I know my true identity as a beloved son of the Father, I would never, ever do something like that.”

He said that priestly formation must have an “emphasis on faith, which was totally superficial when we were being formed … It’s through the gift of faith, and living that, and receiving that, that I will live a moral life. And be happy,” the archbishop said.

Regarding priestly formation, “What you really want to root everything in is the dignity of the human person,” Aquila said.

“God makes us to be in relationship with others and with him. But the first and primary relationship has to be with Jesus Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. They must always come first. The very food of the priest is the food that Jesus lived, to do the will of the Father.”

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Colorado’s attorney general Paul Weiser said the report documents a “dark and painful history.”

“It’s unimaginable, and the most painful part for me is we have had stories told of victims coming forward and they weren’t supported. We can’t make up for that. What we can do is build a culture that, going forward, when people come forward and tell their stories they are supported,” Weiser added.

Aquila agreed. Acknowledging the wrongdoing of the past is important, he said, as is seeking forgiveness.

“We must learn from the suffering of the victims and never assume that we could not face another perpetrator in our midst. Just in the last few years it has become even more apparent that perpetrators infect every organization, the Boy Scouts, the public schools, the Olympics, news organizations, colleges—these abusers can manifest in every part of our lives if we are not alert and responsive. We, more than any organization in this Country, know we must be vigilant,” he wrote to Catholics Oct. 23.

In an Oct. 23 statement, Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan wrote that “one victim of the horrific crime of child sexual abuse is too many; the Diocese of Colorado Springs must own the consequences of having three. One predator priest is too many; the Diocese of Colorado Springs must recognize and repent of two.”

“Mr. Troyer’s investigation found that the latest of these incidents occurred around 1986. With Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Berg, I commit on behalf of this Diocese to fully embrace and implement each and every recommendation made by” the report.

Pueblo Bishop Stephen Berg's statement said “I want to assure everyone that since the early 1990s, one decade before the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was introduced, the Diocese of Pueblo has promoted healing and put into place procedures meant to ensure a safe environment for our children. We have mandated a zero tolerance policy, removing any priest or minister for any act of sexual misconduct with a minor. We immediately report any suspected child abuse to law enforcement and cooperate fully with them.”

Berg continued: “If we are to truly reform the Church we must begin again and always with our unique and primary mission as Catholics to proclaim Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As we now enter into the holy season of Christmas, let us all carefully consider the precious gifts which God has given each of us: our lives, our families, our children, our neighbors, our Church and our Faith. Let us be thankful for all who have worked over years to protect and heal the Little Ones among us. In purposeful outreach to those innocent victims who have been grievously harmed, let us pray for our Church leadership to firmly take the next steps to end all facets of this tragedy.”

Hearing warns of increasing attacks on holy sites, houses of worship

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 13:02

Washington D.C., Oct 24, 2019 / 11:02 am (CNA).- The protection of holy sites and houses of worship was the subject of a recent hearing held by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

“Houses of worship and other religious sites should be sanctuaries where worshippers feel safe to practice their faith,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and USCIRF chair. “Under international law, the ability of religious communities to establish and maintain houses of worship is an essential element of the freedom of religion or belief.”

However, he warned, “violent attacks on houses of worship are increasingly occurring globally, turning these sacred and peaceful spaces into unimaginable sites of bloodshed.”

USCIRF, an independent, bipartisan U.S. government commission, has worked since 1998 to monitor religious freedom abroad and make recommendations to Congress, the president and the Secretary of State about policies to advance religious freedom.

At an Oct. 23 hearing in the Dirksen Senate Building, the commission discussed what was described as a worrying trend of increasing attacks against religious sites and symbols.

“In addition to houses of worship, different types of buildings and properties that are significant to religious communities, such as cemeteries, monasteries, or community centers, are also targeted,” Perkins said. “Gravestones of Jewish people have been defaced with swastikas. Buddhist educational centers have been bulldozed. Crosses torched. No faith is immune from this violence.”

These attacks aim to spread fear and harm religious groups, he said. He noted that USCIRF recommended in its most recent annual report that the U.S. government create programs to train and equip officials and communities to protect places of worship.

Dr. Hassan Abbas, distinguished professor of international relations at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, spoke at the hearing, noting than in many attacks on religious sites, “the attackers were not known as anti-religion per se.”

Scholarship and research suggest that houses of worship are attacked due to their significance in the community’s religious and social identity,” he said.

“Houses of worship are attacked to make people feel insecure where they expect to be completely safe,” he said. Such sites are also considered “soft targets,” since they are open, unprotected spaces.

Abbas encouraged countries to promote counter-narratives to extremism, offer security training to religious institutions, and foster inter-faith dialogue to prevent violence. He also encouraged nations to follow the example of New Zealand, where political leaders not only denounced the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks, but were also visibly “seen joining and sympathizing with the families of the dozens of individuals killed and injured.”

Sam Brownback, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, said attacks against religious sites and symbols by both governments and non-state actors pose “an ongoing, worldwide crisis.”

“In the face of these challenges, the United States is responding both in principle and action, working vigorously to help advance the right of all people worldwide to practice their faith,” he said.

The United States is engaging with other nations on this issue, Brownback said.

He pointed to the two unprecedented Ministerials to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2018 and 2019. These meetings gathered delegations from more than 100 countries, as well as more than 1,000 religious and civil society leaders to reaffirm a commitment to religious freedom and discuss ways to promote it.

This year, at the end of the ministerial, a statement endorsed by more than 45 countries was released on the importance of protecting holy sites.

The U.S. has also worked through conferences and other events to promote the protection of cultural and religious sites, Brownback said.

“They’re important to our shared history. They’re critical for building respect among diverse communities and essential to cultivating peace.”

At a United Nations event last month, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the creation of a $25 million fund for the protection and restoration of religious sites and relics around the world.

The ambassador stressed the need for international cooperation in making progress toward the advancement of international religious freedom, specifically the protection of holy sites and houses and worship.

“We have much to do. We have a moment, I believe, where there is a lot of interest in the world community in doing this,” he said. “I think if we can find the right way to do this, in an inclusive, engaging manner, I think we’re going to find a lot of support around the world.”

Decline in Hispanic Catholics a 'direct challenge' to the Church in the US

Wed, 10/23/2019 - 19:19

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2019 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- Last week’s Pew report revealed that Catholics are no longer a majority among U.S. Hispanics—a stark challenge to the Church in the U.S. to evangelize.

“What we’re not doing well as a Church is that we’re not building a culture in the parish where the family is truly welcome, and for Hispanics, that really is unforgivable,” said Carlos Taja, associate director to the Secretariat on Evangelization and Catechesis at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an interview with CNA.
Last week, the Pew Research Forum on Religion and Public Life published the results of surveys of American adults conducted in 2018 and 2019.
The report showed a precipitous decline over the past decade in the percentage of the U.S. population that identifies as Christian, with the percentage of those religiously “unaffiliated” rising substantially in that time.
Overall, the percentage of Americans identifying as Christian has fallen by 12% in the last decade to 65% of the population, according to Pew. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans not identifying with any religion at all has risen by 9% to 26% of the American populace.
Protestantism saw a large decline from 51% of the population to 43% in the last decade, while Catholicism fell from 23% to 20% of the population.
This decline appeared within the Hispanic demographic as well. Hispanics identifying as Catholic fell by 10% over the last decade from 57% to 47%; those “unaffiliated” with a religion grew from 15% to 23% in that time span.
This drop in the percentage of Hispanic Catholics should not come as a surprise, said Hosffman Ospino, a theology and education professor and director of graduate programs in Hispanic Ministry at Boston College. Ospino authored a report in 2014 on “Hispanic Ministry in Catholic Parishes” that examined the challenges to the future of the Catholic Church in the U.S. among Hispanics.
While Pew has historically underreported the numbers of Hispanic Catholics, he said, a decline is palpable—and not surprising.
“Why should we be surprised?” Ospino asked rhetorically of the decline in numbers. “The truth is that many Catholics in the United States,” he said, “still do not fully understand the reality of the Hispanic experience, and who Hispanics are, and what Hispanics bring to the Church.”
Among religious immigrant populations, each successive U.S.-born generation usually trends more secular, Ospino observed. In the 1990s, around half of the Hispanic U.S. population were immigrants, but today 64 percent are U.S.-born, he said, and thus according to demographic trends there should be more Hispanics today who are not Catholic.
Another social trend is the urbanization of the Hispanic population, Ospino said. More Hispanic families either live in cities or the children move to cities once they leave their family home; cities are generally more secular than rural communities, and there the youth may discover that they can live without their family’s faith.
And secularization is not just increasing in the U.S. but also in Latin America, said Fr. Allan Figueroa Deck, SJ, a distinguished scholar in pastoral theology and Latino studies at Loyola Marymount University in California.
While many variables might affect this increase in secularization, what is clear is that the Church in the U.S. cannot simply rely upon immigration to fill the pews without actively evangelizing, experts said.
“There’s this naivete, I think, where the belief that the influx of the Hispanic population through immigration was going to simply revitalize the Church in the United States by sheer numbers, without any desire to actually sometimes minister or accompany these people in the different stages of their lives,” Taja said.

The decline in the parish community and a failure to accompany new Hispanic families has led to alienation of Hispanic Catholics on a mass scale, he said.
“Most of the time, it is the reality that there is a sense that they’re just not wanted,” Taja said.
Many Latino immigrants have suffered violence or abuse on their journey to the U.S., he pointed out, yet suffering and redemption through the Cross is not a message preached at U.S. parishes.
“No one in the Church will actually speak to their reality of the things they have suffered,” he said. “What happens when you suffer, and the Lord Who died for you on the cross is not spoken with the depths of His infinite mercy for those who suffer? What happens when redemptive suffering is just never spoken about?”
Parishes have also failed to actively seek out those who might come to Church but haven’t yet walked through the doors, Ospino said.
“The Church, her identity is to be on mission, to be the Bride of the Groom,” Taja said, “to proclaim and live the ministry of Jesus Christ.”
“When she does not do this, when she becomes self-referential, she becomes sterile,” he said.
So with a long-term decline in the Catholic population in the U.S., including within the Hispanic community, what must be done?
“Every diocese, every bishop in the United States of America must engage in synods, or conversations or assemblies that bring the Hispanic Catholic experience and the needs of the Hispanic Catholic community forward as a priority,” Ospino said. “We cannot keep treating Latinos, Hispanic Catholics, as second citizens in our Church.”
“If the parish community fails, the family has no place to go,” Taja said, and the family is at the crux of Hispanic culture.
In many Hispanic families, he said, the grandparents are the ones drawing the children to the faith, but many U.S. parishes don’t take this into account. Instead, for family events, they might invite husbands and wives but not grandparents.
A relationship with the parish priest is also critical in Hispanic culture, Taja said, especially for youths who have questions about the faith or doubts, or need someone to talk to.
However, in many dioceses there may be one priest for several parishes. For a parish with limited hours when the church is open, or when the pastor is only available by appointment, “that’s nuts,” Taja said. “It’s unknown, because he [the priest] is such a link to the Lord and to the Church.”
Pope Francis has provided a blueprint for evangelization, especially through his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, and the Church in the U.S. needs to take note.
Catholics must be “active” and “go out and look for these people” who aren’t coming to Church “and engage them,” Ospino said.
Latinos make up a sizable portion of Catholics in the U.S., particularly among young people, and they need to be put in more positions of leadership in the Church, Fr. Figueroa said.
“Latinos, even though they are a very large percentage of the Church,” he said, “do not enjoy positions of leadership in the Church anywhere near their numbers.”
Many Hispanics also want to be Catholic and want to be better catechized, Ospino and Taja said.
Many in the community may not know Church teaching on a particular matter, but they do want to learn it in order to please God, Taja said. In contrast, many in the Anglo community may know Church teaching but are comfortable holding a belief contrary to it.
“Latinos are still here,” Ospino said. There are millions of young Hispanics in the U.S. who “want to be Catholic, they want a Church, they want to be in love with Jesus Christ,” he said.

Texas court favors woman seeking gender transition for 7 year-old son

Wed, 10/23/2019 - 18:04

Austin, Texas, Oct 23, 2019 / 04:04 pm (CNA).- A Texas jury this week ruled against a father who wants to block the hormonal gender transition of his 7-year-old son James into a girl named Luna.

Texas dad Jeffrey Younger had appealed to a state court to obtain sole custody of his twins, Jude and James, in part to save James from a hormonal gender transition that the boy’s mother has been planning, according to the Washington Examiner.

The jury ruled on Monday that Dr. Anne Georgulas, the mother of the twins, would maintain sole custody of the boys, which would allow her to proceed with her plan to have James undergo a gender transition and be called “Luna.” Georgulas believes James identifies as a girl because of his affinity for the Disney movie “Frozen” and its female character leads, according to Town Hall.

Expert witnesses called in the court reportedly expressed doubts as to whether James actually strongly identified as female.

“There is still some fluidity in his thinking,” Dr. Benjamin Albritton said in his testimony, according to the Washington Examiner. “Neither child appears to be depressed, anxious or aggressive ... He [James] gave no indications of other significant psychological difficulties.”

Georgulas reportedly wants to enroll James as a patient at the GENECIS in Dallas in their “Gender Affirming Care Program” for youth. On their website, the clinic says it offers hormone therapy and puberty suppression therapy along with mental health and social services. It does not currently offer gender transition surgery.

The case of James Younger has met with outrage from critics who say it raises multiple ethical considerations, including the rights of parents as well as the best interest of children experiencing gender dysphoria.

According to the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, whose guidelines GENECIS follows, “Pubertal suppression is not without risks. Delaying puberty beyond one’s peers can also be stressful and can lead to lower self-esteem and increased risk taking. Some experts believe that genital underdevelopment may limit some potential reconstructive options. Research on long-term risks, particularly in terms of bone metabolism and fertility, is currently limited and provides varied results.”

Numerous doctors and ethicists have previously raised concerns about whether it is ethical to treat children with gender dysphoria with hormones, puberty blockers or surgery.

In a December 2018 article for The Christian Post, multiple pediatrics doctors said they would treat gender dysphoria as a psychological issue, and not an endocrinological or physical issue.

“[Parents] need to continue to love their children. They need to continue to affirm their human dignity. Yet they shouldn't have to jettison biological reality to be able to put what they're being told into practice, in terms of disrupting normally timed puberty,” Dr. Paul Hruz, an associate professor of pediatrics and endocrinology at Washington University in St. Louis, told The Christian Post.

The article featured interviews with several doctors who said synthetic hormones could put children on a pathway to permanent sterilization, and many other long-term repercussions which may not be felt for years.

“The reality is that there is no long-term data about treating children, and the only data that we have in adults indicates that medical interventions to align the appearance of the body to a transgendered identity does not fix the problem,” Hruz told The Christian Post.

“There is a core of very diabolical people who are filtering large sums of money into this and using mass social pressure,” added Dr. Quentin Van Meter, a pediatric endocrinologist in private practice in Atlanta.

The doctors said they also objected to medical interventions for children with gender dysphoria because most children will grow up to re-identify with their biological gender.

In 2016, many doctors protested after the Department of Health and Human Services announced that health providers could not refuse treatment, including surgery, for “gender transition” services if they were asked for them, even if they believed them to be harmful to the patient. The rule was struck down after challenges in court by nine states as well as by religious groups and doctors.

New US rep to United Nations in Geneva hailed for pro-life beliefs

Wed, 10/23/2019 - 17:18

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2019 / 03:18 pm (CNA).- The Senate’s confirmation Tuesday of Andrew Bremberg as U.S. Representative to the UN in Geneva drew praise from a pro-life leader, and condemnation from Planned Parenthood.

On Oct. 22 the Senate voted 50-44 to confirm Bremberg, assistant to the president and senior advisor for domestic policy at the White House, as the U.S. Representative to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. Bremberg was nominated for the position by President Trump Sept. 28, 2018.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement that Bremberg “will be a strong advocate for the cornerstone of all human rights, the right to life, and will stand up to the international abortion lobby at the United Nations.”

The position is an important diplomatic post, representing the U.S. in front of more than 100 international organizations on issues ranging from refugee resettlement to human rights, arms control, and the environment.

As a key advisor to the White House domestic policy, Bremberg had a role in crafting and implementing the administration’s expansion of the Mexico City Policy.

The Mexico City Policy, originally begun under President Reagan and reinstated by the Trump administration, bans U.S. family planning funds from going to foreign non-governmental organizations that promote or perform abortions as a method of family planning.

The administration’s expansion of that policy, Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance, applied the same funding prohibitions to $8.8 billion in global health assistance.

Bremberg was also the policy director for the 2016 Republican Party platform, which called for stronger refugee resettlement and immigration restrictions, said pornography was a “public health crisis,” and which was hailed by some pro-life leaders for its proposals to ban late-term, disability, and sex-selective abortions.

50 Republicans voted for Bremberg’s confirmation, and 41 Democrats opposed it. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) joined Democrats in voting against Bremberg’s confirmation.

The confirmation was also opposed by 38 organizations in a letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Chairman James Risch (R-Idaho); the organizations included pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes International, the National Abortion Federation, the National Institute for Reproductive Health, and the National Organization for Women.

“Mr. Bremberg’s record and confirmation hearing leave no doubt he will use the post of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva to strip away reproductive rights and LGBTQI rights around the world,” the letter stated.

At his confirmation hearing June 20 in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bremberg faced tough questions on his views on abortion, LGBT rights, and refugee resettlement policy, among other problems.

Menendez asked Bremberg if he thought rape victims should be able to access abortions where it is legal to do so. “I don’t believe abortion is a moral solution to any problem,” Bremberg responded.

Bremberg told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) that he accepted “reproductive rights” as outlined in two international documents—the 1995 Beijing Conference Strategic Objective, and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development—as “important rights.”

However, he added that the language in those international documents does not include promotion of abortion as a method of family planning.

When pressed by Menendez on proposed funding cuts to refugee assistance at a time when more than 70 million people have been displaced from their homes, Bremberg responded that “we need to see other countries step up and do their fair share” in refugee resettlement.

When pressed again by Menendez on his views on access to abortions for survivors of rape, Bremberg said that “I am pro-life, I believe that all human life is sacred, and that human life begins at conception.”

“So when you’re raped, a woman has no rights?” Menendez responded. Bremberg said that “suggestion” was “horrific,” and later clarified that “any suggestion that I do not have care for victims of rape, I find horrendous. I have family members that were raped, Senator.”

“Well—and I am deeply sorry. But—” Menendez responded, before Bremberg interrupted and said he accepted the apology.

“I am not apologizing,” Menendez retorted before telling Bremberg, “You should apologize to the women who are raped, who you say have to live with the rape.”

Planned Parenthood Action tweeted its disapproval of Bremberg’s confirmation on Tuesday, saying that Bremberg “has the power to erode the rights of women, LGBTQ people, & immigrants around the world.”

In his statement to the committee at his confirmation hearing, Bremberg criticized the UN Human Rights Council for not speaking out on certain human rights problemss such as China using its position on the council to pressure members not to attend an event on its treatment of Uyghurs. He stated his intent to work “to protect US sovereignty and the broader world order we have fought so hard to create.”

Bremberg has attended Franciscan University of Steubenville and the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America. He was for a time the top health policy expert at the Mitre Corporation, Politico has reported.