Catholic News Agency (CNA)
Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2018 / 03:14 am (CNA).- Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA.
While the law is well-known within legal circles, many Americans may not realize that RFRA is one of the primary legislative pillars upon which religious freedom arguments have rested in the last quarter century.
What exactly is RFRA? What does it say, how did it come to be passed, and what are the primary challenges that it faces today?
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act clarifies the standards that should be used in judging religious freedom disputes involving the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. That clause says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
But what are the limits to what may be carried out in the name of free exercise of religion? What is to stop an individual or group from carrying out acts of rape, theft, or human sacrifice, and claiming that they are exercising their protected religious beliefs in doing so?
RFRA helps answer that question. It says that the federal government may not “substantially burden” the free exercise of religion, unless there is a “compelling government interest” in doing so, and it is carried out in the “least-restrictive” manner possible.
Over the last 25 years, courts have used these standards to evaluate various religious freedom claims that conflict with established laws. In one case, courts upheld the right of an Arkansas inmate to grow a beard as required by his Muslim faith. In another, a Native American feather dancer was allowed to use eagle feathers in a religious ceremony.
In a high-profile 2014 case, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and similar employers could not be forced to comply with the federal contraception mandate against their religious beliefs. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the federal government had failed to prove that the mandate was the “least restrictive means” of advancing its goal of providing free birth control to women.
RFRA was initially passed in response to two high profile cases involving American Indians. In one case, the Supreme Court ruled against the use of an illegal hallucinogen – peyote – in a Native American religious service. In the other, the court upheld the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts to build a road through land considered sacred by several tribes.
At the time of its passage, RFRA enjoyed wide bipartisan support and was not considered controversial. Introduced by Democrats Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy, it passed unanimously in the House and by a 97-3 vote in the Senate. President Bill Clinton signed it into law Nov. 16, 1993.
In recent years, however, RFRA has drawn criticism, particularly as it relates to same-sex marriage and the provision of free contraception. These clashes with claims of women’s rights and LGBT rights have led some people to question RFRA, or call for it to be limited or repealed.
The National LGBT Bar Association has warned of the “dangerous results” of RFRA. In recent years, Democrats in the House and Senate have made several failed attempts to introduce legislation that would limit RFRA in cases where religious freedom comes into conflict with other civil rights. Chai Feldblum, appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under both Obama and Trump, has said that when religious liberty conflicts with sexual rights, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”
RFRA applies only to the federal government, although in recent years, similar laws have increasingly been proposed or passed in many state legislatures as well. State RFRAs have also faced heated objections. Most notably, then-governor of Indiana Mike Pence faced threat of boycotts from CEOs, celebrities, major sports events and leaders of some city and state governments in 2015 over a state RFRA law that mirrored the federal legislation.
Despite these criticisms, however, RFRA remains today as an established law with a solid precedent in the court system.
Last year, the Trump administration affirmed the significance of RFRA in its government-wide religious freedom legal guidance, issued to govern all administrative agencies and executive departments in their work.
The guidance said that RFRA “applies to all sincerely-held religious beliefs,” and the government does not have the authority to second-guess the reasonableness of a religious conviction.
What’s in store for RFRA over the next 25 years? The answer is uncertain. If its opponents have their way, RFRA could see significant restrictions at both the state and federal levels. For now, however, the law remains as a key standard for judging free exercise claims, with the current administration insisting that RFRA continue to be taken seriously and interpreted robustly.
Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2018 / 12:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Health researchers need alternatives to using fetal tissue, Department of Health and Human Services leaders have said after several years of controversy and investigations into whether fetal tissue procured from aborted babies was sold illegally.
HHS Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chair of the Freedom Caucus, saying HHS did too little to find alternatives under previous administrations and there need to be “adequate alternatives” to scientific research involving human fetal tissue.
The letter, which a source shared with the news site Politico, said HHS is “fully committed to prioritizing, expanding, and accelerating efforts to develop and implement the use of these alternatives.” He described HHS as “pro-life and pro-science” under President Donald Trump.
The letter appears to back “scientifically validated and reproducible” models as among possible alternatives.
Scientists who back fetal tissue research say there are few alternatives. They argue the tissue would otherwise be discarded, and there are already ethical safeguards in place. They say fetal tissue research has been instrumental in developing vaccines and understanding phenomena like how the Zika virus affects the brains of unborn children. They say fetal tissue aids Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease research, as well as research in childhood developmental disorders.
A 1993 federal law allows the use of fetal tissue from elective abortions that would otherwise be discarded. However, the sale of such tissue is also barred by law.
Mallory Quigley of the Susan B. Anthony List told Politico her group would continue to advocate defunding fetal tissue research “as soon as possible.” She said her group is hopeful “that HHS will reach a new policy consensus that better reflects the administration’s pro-life position.”
Caitlin Oakley, an HHS spokesperson, said the agency has not made an official decision on whether to fund more fetal tissue research.
“We continue to go through a thoughtful, deliberative process given the scientific ethical and moral considerations involved,” she told Politico. “When we receive inquiries from members of Congress, we respond.”
A series of undercover investigations from journalists with the Center for Medical Progress, first released in 2015, appear to show several leaders in the abortion industry involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue from aborted babies.
The investigation has had legal consequences for some procurers of fetal tissue.
DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences, two bioscience companies, admitted fault, ceased California operations and agreed to meet the terms of a legal settlement close to $7.8 million in value for violating state and federal laws against the purchase or sale of fetal tissue.
Following two investigations, Congressional committees have made criminal referrals for both Planned Parenthood and Advanced Bioscience Resources, a non-profit company, for alleged involvement in illegal fetal tissue sales. There is an active Department of Justice investigation based on the criminal referrals.
There are also criminal charges against the Center for Medical Progress investigators, as well as civil lawsuits. These allegations include claims that the videos were filmed illegally in violation of privacy laws.
Federal funding for fetal tissue is now under review. As part of the review process, senior officials at HHS held an off-the record, invitation-only listening session on Nov. 16 with leaders in medical research fields.
Participants included leaders with the American Society for Cell Biology, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the Society for Neuroscience and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.
The inquiry has prompted opposition from pro-abortion rights groups.
Mary Alice Carter, director of Equity Forward, which backs fetal tissue research and monitors pro-life groups, charged that HHS secretary Alex Azar “continually kowtows to anti-abortion groups while ignoring the scientific and medical communities,” Science magazine reports.
The National Institutes of Health gave out about $103 million in 2018 for research involving fetal tissue.
In July 2018 the Food and Drug Administration gave a $15,900 contract to Advanced Bioscience Resources for “fresh human fetal tissue,” which would be transplanted into mice in order to create human-like immune systems for research purposes. It is the eighth contract between the FDA and the company since 2012, and seven of the contracts appear to relate to the same or similar programs.
HHS cancelled the contract after receiving protests and criticism from several Members of Congress, who said they were alarmed that the tissue procurement contracts continued despite the “serious unresolved questions” uncovered by House and Senate investigations.
In 2010 a federal judge ruled that federally funded human embryonic stem cell research was against the law. That ruling resulted in a 19-day halt on related in-house National Institutes of Health projects, but NIH funds that had already been given to external researchers were not affected, the magazine Science reports.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 19, 2018 / 07:46 pm (ACI Prensa).- Matteo Pio Colella was just 7 years old when he contracted a deadly disease. Doctors believed there was no hope for the boy, but he made a full recovery. His cure was the miracle that paved the way for the canonization of St. Padre Pio by Pope John Paul II in June 2002.
Colella, now 27, gave an exclusive interview to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, on the occasion of the pre-release of the film “El Misterio del Padre Pío” (The Mystery of Padre Pio) in Madrid.
The documentary is directed by writer and filmmaker José María Zavala and includes Colella's testimony.
“I wasn't feeling well,” he recalled. “I told my mother that I didn't want to go to school, but she made me go because at that time I didn't like school. That same night, when my mother came to say goodnight, I didn't recognize her, and so they immediately took me to the hospital.”
On Jan. 20, 2000, Colella was diagnosed with acute fulminant meningitis, caused by bacteria. The disease had affected his kidneys, his respiratory system and blood clotting. He was immediately admitted to the hospital founded by Padre Pio, the “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” (Home for the Relief of Suffering), located in San Giovanni Rotondo where the saint's monastery is.
The following day, Colella went into a coma. His health deteriorated drastically, and doctors considered him a lost cause, thinking he would die within a few hours.
While Colella was in this critical condition, his mother Maria Lucia went to pray over the tomb of Padre Pio to ask for her son's healing.
“During the coma,” Colella recounted, “I saw Padre Pio in a dream on my right and three angels on the left. One with golden wings and a white tunic and the two others with white wings and a red tunic. Padre Pio, on my right, told me not to worry because I would soon be cured. In fact, my cure was like the resurrection of Lazarus.”
And that's exactly what happened. The doctors considered Colella to be clinically dead, but he came back to life.
The young man is grateful to Padre Pio for his intercession. He said he considers the saint to be like a grandfather in whom he can confide.
“I have always thought that I have received an enormous grace for which I must be thankful. When I talk to someone who doesn't believe, I tell him 'I'm here. For science it's inexplicable, but there is another explanation that we can't understand'.”
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Canberra, Australia, Nov 19, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- After being slammed for his religion and told he would never understand abortion because it is a women’s issue, Australian senator Barry O’Sullivan declared himself a woman before parliament last week so that he could speak about abortion issues.
“I’m going to declare my gender today, as I can, to be a woman, and then you’ll no longer be able to attack me,” O’Sullivan told fellow representatives at parliament Nov. 14.
The declaration was part of longer and heated remarks given by the senator, who said he was tired of the “vomit” and “vitriol” he received from far-right colleagues whenever he tried to raise “issues around strong values.”
Earlier that week, O’Sullivan, a Catholic, had motioned for pro-choice protesters to be banned from the annual pro-life Day of the Unborn Child events. This prompted Larissa Waters of the Australian Greens party to say that O’Sullivan would never understand abortion as a women’s issue.
"Senator O'Sullivan needs to get his hands and his rosaries off my ovaries and those of the 10,000 Queensland women who have an abortion each year," Waters said, according to the Australian Associated Press.
She later complied with a request to withdraw her comment on the grounds that it attacked O’Sullivan’s religion.
“You cannot say the word abortion without being attacked..” O’Sullivan said in his remarks Nov. 14.
“These people come and attack me for my religion...using words like ‘rosary beads’, because I had the audacity to raise issues around late-term abortions, where babies who are only minutes away from getting a smack on the ass and a name, are being aborted under the policies of the Australian Greens,” he said.
“So I will not stand silent, I will not stand mute while these people try to continue to marginalize policies and ideas that we want to continue to discuss for this nation,” he continued.
O’Sullivan said that he believes many of the “values” issues he raises, including pro-life positions, reflect the values of an “ever-increasingly silent majority” of Australians, who are afraid to speak up for fear of being attacked for their beliefs.
“I’ve moved sensible motions here, reflecting the views of many people in our society, only to have formality denied,” he said, just before declaring his gender to be a woman.
“It is dispicable the behaviour of these people, for them to come in here with the freedom that they do, and that vomit, that vitriol that comes out of their mouths, it needs to be called out,” he added.
The senator’s gender-swap declaration sparked comments mostly of ridicule and disdain on social media. It also launched an extensive debate on Wikipedia about whether to change the pronouns on O’Sullivan's page from “he/him” to “she/her.”
Nairobi, Kenya, Nov 19, 2018 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- Kenyan authorities have banned the international abortion group Marie Stopes from offering any form of abortions in the country. This comes after a government agency investigated complaints that the group was promoting abortion through its advertisements.
Marie Stopes is a UK-based organization that claims to be the “world's largest provider of contraception and safe abortion services” and operates in 37 countries, according to its website.
Abortion is not permitted under the Constitution of Kenya, unless “there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger,” or if otherwise permitted by law. The exceptions were added to the Constitution in 2010.
The Medical Practitioners Board of Kenya sent a letter to Marie Stopes last week, saying the board was acting on complaints from, among others, the campaign manager at a campaign group called CitizenGo Africa. The pro-life organization had been campaigning for an investigation of Marie Stopes’ advertising practices since last year.
“Marie Stopes Kenya is hereby directed to immediately cease and desist offering any form of abortion services in all its facilities within the republic,” a Nov. 14 letter from the Kenyan Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board read.
The letter also ordered Maries Stopes Kenya to submit weekly reports for the next 60 days of “all services rendered within all its facilities.”
Ezekiel Mutua, head of the Kenyan government agency in charge of approving advertisements, welcomed the ban, saying in a statement that the Kenya Film Classification Board had banned abortion advertisements by Marie Stopes Kenya in September, but “the organization defied our ban and continued to run unrated and illegal adverts.”
He said the board had also ordered Marie Stopes to “pull down all misleading information on their abortion services from all media platforms.”
Marie Stopes had been operating in Kenya since 1985, BBC reports. The Kenyan Ministry of Health reported in May that the country had spent 533 million Kenyan shillings ($5.29 million) treating complications from back-alley abortions.
Santa Fe, N.M., Nov 19, 2018 / 03:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A group of New Mexican legislators seeks to overturn a state law that would make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade were overturned, part of a developing trend among the handful of states with laws that criminalize abortion.
Currently, New Mexico law states it is a felony for an abortionist to perform an abortion, with exceptions for rape, birth defects, and to preserve the health of the mother. This law, which dates to the 1960s, has not been enforced since 1973, when the Supreme Court found a right to an abortion throughout a woman’s pregnancy.
Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces) intends to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would remove this law from the books. This proposed bill is supported by the state’s governor-elect, Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), as well as the state’s House Speaker and Senate majority leader. The legislative leaders have tabbed the bill as a “high priority” for the upcoming session of the legislature.
Lujan Grisham said that she believes the law criminalizing abortion to be “antiquated” and one that would “punish women.” She has pledged to sign the bill if it were passed through the legislature.
Similar efforts to repeal this law, under outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez (R), failed.
As of now, nine states, including New Mexico, have laws that would ban abortion. Four additional states – Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota – have what are known as “trigger laws” that would ban abortion if the Roe decision were overturned.
With the recent confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, expectations that the decision might be overturned have been heightened. Those who are in favor of abortion rights are moving to change various laws that would be enforced if abortion were once again left to the states to decide.
Until July, Massachusetts had a 19th-century law on the books that made the act of “procuring a miscarriage” illegal. Similar to New Mexico’s law, this has not been enforced since 1973. That law was repealed with the passage of the “Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women Act,” which was commonly known as the “NASTY Women Act.”
On the other end of the abortion law spectrum, the Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would make abortion illegal after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. The fetal heartbeat can be detected at around six weeks gestation, before some women even are aware they are pregnant.
Previously, this bill has been vetoed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), although Kasich has signed many more abortion restrictions into law.
A request to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for comment on the bill was not responded to in time for publication.
Newark, N.J., Nov 19, 2018 / 03:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Newark announced Monday that New Jersey’s five dioceses will together form a Victim Compensation and Counseling Program in the coming year, and will release the names of all priests in the state who have been accused of sexual misconduct against minors.
Although the precise details of this program have not yet been finalized, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said in a statement published on the archdiocese’s webpage Nov. 19, they will be soon and information will be released at that time.
This program will assist dioceses with resources in order to provide compensation for those who were victimized as children by clergy or employees of Catholic dioceses in New Jersey, who are unable to file civil suits due to the state’s statute of limitations.
“This will give victims a formal voice and allow them to be heard by an independent panel,” said the statement. Cardinal Tobin added, “the Program also will assure that victims who have not received any financial compensation will be paid, regardless of whether their claims meet the time requirements of the statute of limitations.”
The Catholic Church in New Jersey has already paid out more than $50 million in financial settlements to those who were sexually abused as children by members of the clergy or diocesan employees in the state.
In addition to financial compensation, this new program will establish “permanent funding” for counseling for abuse survivors. This counseling “so often is needed to help in the healing of those who have been harmed.”
This past September, New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the creation of a task force in the state to investigate the allegations of sexual abuse and cover up.
“No person is above the law and no institution is immune from accountability,” said Grewal in September.
“We will devote whatever resources are necessary to uncover the truth and bring justice to victims.”
Ahead of the release of this report, and in coordination with the task force, Cardinal Tobin said that New Jersey’s dioceses will “undertake a complete review of their files” and release the names of all priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. This list is expected to be released in early 2019.
“It is hoped that these steps will aid in the process of healing for victims, who are deserving of our support and prayers,” said the statement.
Notably, the statement did not include any information about compensation or counseling for adults who were victimized by members of the clergy in New Jersey, instead focusing on those who were abused as minors.
In the early 2000s, the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Trenton and Metuchen paid settlements to men who allege they were abused by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick when they were adults studying in seminary. These settlements were not public knowledge until the summer of 2018, after two men came forward to say that they had been molested by McCarrick as minors.
Shortly after McCarrick’s second survivor came forward, McCarrick stepped down from the College of Cardinals. McCarrick has since been sentenced to a life of prayer and penance until a canonical trial can be conducted. He is currently residing at a friary in Kansas.
Rumbek, South Sudan, Nov 19, 2018 / 02:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Victor-Luke Odhiambo, a Jesuit from Kenya, was shot and killed in South Sudan by unknown gunmen while at home Thursday morning.
Fr. Odhiambo, who was the principal of Mazzolari Teachers College and the local Jesuit community’s acting superior, was attacked in the early hours of Nov. 15 in Cueibet, about 30 miles northwest of Rumbek.
The attackers had broken into the Jesuit home in Cueibet while Odhiambo was watching T.V. Three other priests were at the home during the attack, but had been asleep. The gunshots woke them up, and they set off the alarms, causing the criminals to flee.
The local government set aside three days of mourning in recognition of the priest.
Fr. Odhiambo was born Jan. 20, 1956, and entered the Society of Jesus in 1978. He was ordained a priest in 1987, and took final vow May 30, 1993. He had worked in South Sudan for about 10 years, having served in Kenya and Tanzania previously.
His body was buried in Rumbek over the weekend.
Fr. Arturo Sosa, superior general of the Society of Jesus, wrote a letter of condolence to the Eastern Africa provincial, Fr. Joseph Oduor Afulo, saying Fr. Odhiambo “leaves a name, not only in South Sudan as the first Jesuit to die at the service of its people, but in the whole of Eastern Africa as a teacher of thousands of students in the Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi-Kenya and in Loyola High School in Dar Es Salaam-Tanzania.”
The suprioer general described him as “a very courageous man, intelligent, caring, creative administrator and above all a believer in the value of education. He was not afraid of venturing into the unknown even into the most dangerous of places once he was convinced it was the Lord’s mission. His example of selfless dedication as Headmaster and Principal remains a challenge to many of our younger brothers in the Society of Jesus. He is a light, which has been extinguished, after enlightening other lights. Like a grain of wheat that dies in order to bear much fruit. And this is our consolation.”
“Kindly assure all our companions especially those in South Sudan my closeness and prayers. Fr. Odhiambo gave his life for the people, the sons and daughters of God, following Jesus’ example. Our merciful Father will receive him with an open heart. Let us also pray for those who attacked the college premises and killed Father Victor and for those who promote violence, may the Lord change their hearts.”
“Please do pass on my sincere condolences to all the members of your province and to his biological family, with the assurance of my prayers that the Lord grant them consolation,” Fr. Sosa concluded. “May the soul of our brother Victor rest in God’s peace and eternal happiness.”
Santiago, Chile, Nov 19, 2018 / 01:34 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Chilean bishops' conference has announced the signing of a collaboration agreement with the prosecutor's office for the investigation of sex crimes within the Catholic Church.
Bishop Luis Fernando Ramos Perez, auxiliary bishop of Santiago and secretary general of the bishops' conference, made the announcement at the conclusion of the bishops' Nov. 12-16 plenary assembly in Lo Cañas, a Santiago suburb.
“We studied the draft agreement on mutual collaboration between the National Prosecutor's Office and the Church for the investigation of crimes of abuse of minors by clerics,” Bishop Ramos said, reading a declaration by the bishops.
He emphasized that “the issue has been fully discussed with the authorities from the Prosecutor's Office and their representatives” and that “in the coming weeks we hope to formalize an agreement by signing the respective document and its subsequent application.”
According to the data from the Prosecutor's Office furnished to the Efe new agency, up to Nov. 5 there were 139 ongoing investigations against 190 members of the Church in Chile, involving 245 victims, of whom 102 were minors.
Bishop Ramos explained that the plenary assembly served to address this problem and said that with the National Council for the Prevention of Abuse, they analyzed the progress and follow up of the resolutions adopted in the bishops' Aug. 3 Declaration, Decisions and Commitments statement.
The bishops also initiated the study of the essential elements of the standards of conduct necessary for all pastoral workers, especially clerics and religious, in order to have this instruction completed during 2019.
According to the press conference communiqué, the assembly approved a “roadmap for the process of discernment to make progress on the way to becoming a Church ever more synodical, prophetic, and full of hope, which seeks to place Jesus Christ at the center.”
A milestone on this roadmap will be the Third National Ecclesial Assembly to be held in May 2020 which “will lay the foundations for new pastoral guidelines for the Church in Chile.”
The assembly elected as vice president of the bishops' conference Archbishop René Osvaldo Rebolledo Salinas of La Serena, following the resignation for health reasons presented by Bishop Cristián Contreras Villarroel of Melipilla.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Washington D.C., Nov 19, 2018 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A U.S.-based organization of Catholic business executives has decided not to collect from its members the portion of their dues that would constitute its 2019 donation to the Holy See.
Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders, had announced in September that it was placing its annual donation to the Holy See in escrow until it can receive clarification on questions of financial accountability.
Thomas Monaghan, chairman of Legatus, wrote its member Nov. 16 asking them to continue to pray “for the Church and all of our leaders,” as “it is evident that it is going to take time for the current crisis in the Church to be addressed to the point where the Board believes the reinstatement of our annual tithe would be prudent.”
For that reason, he said, the board of governors has decided “to forego collecting the annual tithe represented in your 2019 dues.”
“ For those who have already submitted their dues, the National Office will refund the appropriate amount earmarked for the Holy See contribution in a timely fashion,” he said. “For those who have not yet remitted your dues, new invoices will be sent.”
Monaghan noted that the tithe to the Holy See “has been an importance part of Legatus membership” and the board therefore intends “to reinstate this practice once we have sufficient communication regarding the specific accountability related to the use of these funds.”
“The Board will revisit this topic by the fall of 2019 in order to chart a plan related to the 2020 dues,” he stated.
“Legatus continues to pledge its devotion to and solidarity with Holy Mother Church; this is a time when we need to live the mission of Legatus more than ever,” Monaghan wrote.
He concluded his letter urging members to “continue to pray for healing and courage for the Church.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Legatus' 2018 tithe to the Holy See would have been about $820,000.
When announcing the decision in September to withhold the tithe, Monaghan said that members had raised questions “specifically pertaining to how it is being used, and what financial accountability exists within the Vatican for such charitable contributions.”
“The Board has begun a dialogue along these lines, and in the meantime has decided to place the Holy See annual tithe in escrow, pending further determination,” he said.
Questions of Vatican financial accountability had been raised earlier this year by the Papal Foundation, a U.S.–based organization that offers grants to support the global work of the Holy Father.
In February, some members of the organization sharply criticized a request from the Holy See for $25 million for a Church-owned hospital that has been plagued by fraud and embezzlement scandals. Grants from the Papal Foundation are normally no more than $200,000 and generally go toward initiatives to help the poor in developing nations.
Lansing, Mich., Nov 18, 2018 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic bishops must act to counter sex abuse of adults as well as minors, says a lay group that has compiled a reader of news stories, analysis and commentary to help renewal and reform.
“We believe clergy sexual misconduct with adults is at the core of so many of the problems of the Church in the last many decades,” the group No More Victims told the bishops.
“As you deal with the scandal of [Archbishop Theodore] McCarrick and abuse committed by bishops, we urge you to include in your concerns efforts to rid seminaries, dioceses and all Church institutions and structures of those who are involved in sexual misconduct with adults.”
Lay people of Michigan’s Diocese of Lansing formed the group No More Victims. They have produced the reader “What We Laity Are Reading that has Shaken Us to the Core,” compiling news stories and analysis about sexual abuse and misconduct by Catholic clergy.
The group sent copies of the reader to the media and to the U.S. bishops. It also sent the bishops a letter signed by executive director Jason Negri, a Michigan attorney, as well as board member broadcaster and author Al Kresta and moral theologian Janet E. Smith, who is an adviser to the group.
“We know the tasks before you are truly of epic proportions and will affect the faith and salvation of many for decades to come,” their letter continued. “We are praying that what needs to be done to rebuild and purify the Church will be done.”
The group asked the bishops to consider its members “loyal partners in the work of the Church,” adding “we would like to stand with you through this crisis in your commitment to the Gospel which brings healing and calls us all to true holiness.”
A copy of the reader is provided at the No More Victims website, www.nomorevictimsmi.org.
The reader’s material, dating back to the 1990s, is generally from a U.S. perspective. No More Victims said it shows “what the crisis looks like from the standpoint of the average lay Catholic with access to the internet.”
The collection includes news stories about abuse victims, including abused seminarians, as well as news, opinion and commentary from abuse victims, priests, Catholic lay leaders and other observers such as Sandro Magister, Matthew Schmitz, Kenneth L. Woodward, Mary Eberstadt and Daniel Mattson.
In its introduction, the No More Victims group hoped that the reader would help the bishops find methods that will assure laity that seminarians will not be sexually harassed but rather “taught the fullness of the faith.” Actions are needed to ensure that there is no “network of priests who engage in sexual misconduct” in a diocese, and to ensure that priests who violate chastity “in serious ways” will be given an opportunity to repent and change. Bishops’ actions must ensure that “unchaste priests who refuse to repent and change their ways” will be asked to leave the priesthood.
The reader aimed to help find ways “to correct fellow bishops whose response to sex abuse cases is poor, confuses the faithful, and reflects badly upon all bishops,” No More Victims said.
Included in the collection is a Time Magazine essay from a Catholic priest who wrote that he was repeatedly sexually abused as a 15-year-old altar boy in New Jersey by a visiting priest of the New York archdiocese; an Irish-born California priest who was groomed and abused in Ireland by a priest who waited until he was 18 so it would not appear to be abuse; a priest who, according to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, arranged for an abortion for a young girl he had allegedly raped from 1980-1985; a Crux News report on Chilean seminarians who suffered sex abuse; a National Catholic Register report on seminarians sexually abused in Honduras; a 2011 Gawker report on sex abuse and, in the report’s own words, a “secret gay cabal” in Florida allegedly under former Archbishop of Miami John Favalora.
A December 2013 Vanity Fair story on an alleged “gay lobby” at the Vatican between cardinals, priests and monks that “survives on secrecy” is included, as is a 2018 CNA report on priest-sociologist Father D. Paul Sullins’ consideration of sex abuse trends, including apparently strong statistical correlations between sex abuse, a priesthood that is disproportionately homosexual, and a seminary life with a reported “gay subculture.”
The reader has several pages listing “troubling headlines” and it recommends the documentary “Sex Abuse in the Church: Code of Silence,” made in France about how priests have been reassigned to escape prosecution. It ends with “a disturbing account of how Cardinal Bergoglio handled the case of Fr. Grassi in Buenos Aires.”
The reader’s appendix lists key documents, online resources, coordinated responses, and books.
“We believe the extent of this problem is tremendous and the time to purify the Church is now,” No More Victims said in the reader introduction. “The focus here is on another huge problem: the continuing presence of priests who engage in sexual misconduct with adults, especially males, and the effect they have on the Church ― the harm they have done to victims, their pernicious influence in seminaries, the extent of their influence in dioceses, and the way they impede zealous promotion of the gospel.”
“Some of the articles are from a perspective hostile to the Church but that does not negate their veracity,” it added. “While many of these articles may seem sensationalist, it is in fact the reality of abuse that is truly responsible for the shocking nature of what is reported.”
The introduction said it is difficult to believe all the stories of abuse, but claimed “the sheer volume of them gives credence to them,” in addition to the abuse reported in the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report about six Catholic dioceses in the state.
“If you know any of these articles to report false information, please provide your reasons because we have come to believe the material they contain,” No More Victims said, predicting “Once the presence of predator priests and unchaste priests is eliminated, we expect that there will be an influx of devout, chaste men into the priesthood.”
“We are lay people who love Jesus, our Church, our bishops, our priests. We know there are holy and exemplary bishops, and bishops who serve us heroically, and we want them to have a Church that fully supports their invaluable work,” said the group.
“We know that many bishops have inherited messes of various kinds and it seems that often the default way of dealing with priests who live immoral lives is to look the other way. But we think that is the wrong answer–the Church deserves priests fully committed to being faithful to their vows, and those who are not ought to reform or resign.”
The group said it does not aim to force bishops to resign or to embarrass or harass them. Rather, it wants bishops to take strong action to restore trust in the episcopacy.
“We don’t intend to stop praying, fasting, and advocating for change until that happens,” No More Victims said.
Milan, Italy, Nov 18, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An Italian court has ordered Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò to pay back nearly 2 million euro of inheritance, plus interest and legal fees to his brother, Father Lorenzo Vigano.
Archbishop Vigano had been managing the brothers’ inheritance since their father’s death in 1961. According to Italian paper La Stampa, the brothers hold about 20 million euro in real estate, and about six million euro in cash.
The archbishop, who had been collecting money from the estate, was ordered to pay his brother back half of what he had collected - which amounted to 1.8 million euro, or more than 2 million U.S. dollars, plus fees.
The inheritance has reportedly been a cause of contention in their relationship for years - Fr. Lorenzo Vigano, a Jesuit biblical scholar who has lived in Chicago for years, has tried to sue over the inheritance numerous times. This is the first time he has succeeded in being rewarded any money.
The inheritance has also reportedly caused friction between Archbishop Vigano and his sister Rosanna, whom he paid 8,600 euro in 2014 to settle a lawsuit, according to The Catholic Universe.
Archbishop Vigano is the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, a position he held from 2011-2016. His public letter of Aug. 26, accusing Pope Francis of knowing about the allegations of sexual misconduct against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and failing to act, thrust him into the center of the debate about the Church sex abuse scandal this summer.
Vigano had previously made headlines in the 2011-2012 “Vatileaks” scandal, during which some documents from the office of Benedict XVI were leaked to Italian journalists. The documents revealed that Vigano had told the Pope that he couldn’t take up his assignment in the U.S. because he had to take care of his ailing brother, Lorenzo.
Lorenzo said in an interview at the time that while he had suffered a stroke, he had not been close to his brother in years due to conflicts over their inheritance, and that his illness was no reason for Vigano to reject his new position, according to La Stampa.
While Archbishop Vigano went into hiding in August, fearing for his safety after the publication of his letter on Francis and McCarrick, he has not remained silent. He has written two additional letters on the sex abuse scandal, and sent a message to the U.S. bishops ahead of their meeting this week, urging them to be “courageous shepherds” in the face of the sex abuse crisis.
Vatican City, Nov 18, 2018 / 05:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During a difficult time, it can be easy to see only the immediate problem; but asking Jesus to be the guide is the key to weathering the storm, Pope Francis said Sunday at a Mass with 6,000 poor and volunteers.
“The boat of our life is often storm-tossed and buffeted by winds. Even when the waters are calm, they quickly grow agitated. When we are caught up in those storms, they seem to be our only problem,” the pope said Nov. 18.
“But the issue is not the momentary storm, but how we are navigating through life. The secret of navigating well is to invite Jesus on board. The rudder of life must be surrendered to him, so that he can steer the route.”
“Today,” he continued, “let us invite Jesus into the boat of our life. Like the disciples, we will realize that once he is on board, the winds die down and there can be no shipwreck.”
Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the World Day of the Poor, which he established in 2016 at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy. The theme for 2018 is taken from Psalm 34: “This poor one cried out and the Lord heard.”
After Mass, he ate a lunch of lasagna, chicken nuggets, mashed potato and tiramisu with poor in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall.
Before the meal, Francis offered a blessing, saying "we thank everyone and pray to God to bless us all. A blessing from God for all, all [of us] who are here. May God bless each one of us, bless our hearts, bless our intentions, and help us to go forward."
In his homily at Mass, the pope reflected on Matt. 14:22-33, which gives the account of Jesus walking across the water to meet his disciples in the boat, which was being tossed about by waves.
As St. Matthew writes, after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Jesus left the crowd of people and his disciples and went up on a mountain to pray.
His disciples set off in a boat for the other side of the Sea of Galilee, “meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, [Jesus] came toward them, walking on the sea.”
There are several lessons that can be taken from this Gospel passage, the pope said; one being to have the courage to leave behind comfort and an easy life. “To go where? To God by praying, and to those in need by loving. These are the true treasures in life: God and our neighbor,” he said.
He explained that Jesus’ disciples were not meant to have a carefree life, “traveling light, ready to leave passing glories behind, careful not to cling to fleeting goods.”
“Christians know that their homeland is elsewhere,” he underlined. “We do not live to accumulate; our glory lies in leaving behind the things that pass away in order to hold on to those that last.”
“Let us ask for the grace to hear the cry of all those tossed by the waves of life,” he said: The unborn, starving children, young people in places of conflict, the elderly, those forced to leave their home and native country.
Taking care of those in need is not a “sociological option, it is not the fad of a pontificate; it is a theological requirement,” he emphasized. “It entails acknowledging that we are beggars pleading for salvation, brothers and sisters of all, but especially of the poor whom the Lord loves.”
After Mass, Pope Francis led the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square. Before the prayer, he reflected on the day’s Gospel passage from Mark. In the passage, the pope explained, Jesus is saying that the story of people and of individuals all have a goal: “permanent encounter with the Lord.”
“We do not know the time nor the ways in which [the end of the world] will happen,” Francis said. “We know, however, a fundamental principle which we must confront: ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away,’ Jesus says.”
At the end he offered a special prayer for everyone affected by the fires that are “scourging California” and for the victims of the winter storm on the east coast.
“May the Lord welcome the deceased into his peace, comfort the family members and support those who commit themselves to help,” he prayed.
The pope also prayed for those who died in a Nov. 15 attack on the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Alindao, in the Central African Republic. At least 42 people died in the attack, including at least one priest, according to local reports. Some unofficial estimates have said the death toll could reach as high as 100. Many of the people killed were refugees sheltering at the church.
Pope Francis said, “we pray for the dead and the wounded and for an end to all violence in that beloved country, which is in great need of peace.”
Vatican City, Nov 17, 2018 / 04:25 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s nativity scene will be a little bit different this year. In a departure from the traditional Neapolitan or Maltese figures of recent years, the scene of Christ’s birth will be entirely sculpted from sand.
Beginning Nov. 17, four artists are beginning their work in St. Peter’s Square, crafting nearly 46,000 cubic feet of sand, equal to around 700 tons, into a grand “Sand Nativity.”
The creators, who have been sculpting sand nativities in the Italian town of Jesolo for years, say on their website that the goal is “to build the largest sand nativity in Christendom in the center of Rome in order to provide moments of authentic and joyful contemplation to all those who love Christmas.”
Sand Nativity scene in the Italian town of Jesolo. Credit: Town of Jesolo.
A partnership between the mayor of Jesolo and Patriarch Francesco Moraglia of Venice is what brought the famous sand sculptures to the Vatican for Christmas 2018.
The Jesolo sand, as it is called, was brought to the square from the Dolomites, a mountain range in northeastern Italy near Jesolo. The four sculptors who will transform the shapeless mounds into the traditional figures of Jesus’ birth hail from Holland, Russia, the Czech Republic, and the United States.
Phase one of construction will begin with a large pyramid of sand; spaces will then be dug into the sides and the sand compacted. A few days later, a protective structure will be built around the sand. The true sculpting phase will begin Nov. 21 and go until the first week of December.
In the final 48 hours, which will be Dec. 5-6, the final touches will be placed, before the big reveal Dec. 7, the same day as the annual lighting ceremony of the St. Peter’s Square Christmas tree.
The tradition to have a tree in St. Peter’s Square was begun by Pope St. John Paul II in 1982. This year’s tree comes from the Forest of Cansiglio in northern Italy, which is near the Dolomites.
Vatican City, Nov 17, 2018 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the face of the difficulties of the modern-age, artists and theologians need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – the source of joy and hope, Pope Francis said Saturday, during the awarding of the 2018 Ratzinger Prize.
“Against the backdrop and in the context of the great problems of our time, theology and art must therefore continue to be animated and elevated by the power of the Spirit, which is the source of strength, joy and hope,” he said Nov. 17.
“I thank the theologians and the architects who help us to lift our heads and turn our thoughts to God,” he added. “Let [their work] always be addressed to this end.”
Pope Francis spoke with members of the Joseph-Ratzinger-Benedict XVI foundation, which is headed by Fr. Federico Lombardi. During the audience in the Clementine hall, the pope bestowed the 8th annual Ratzinger Prize on Swiss architect Mario Botta and Bavarian theologian Marianne Schlosser.
The Ratzinger Prize was started in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Pope Benedict XVI.
It is not the first time a woman has been awarded the prize, he noted, but stressed the importance of greater recognition of the contribution of women to the sciences, to theological research and to the teaching of theology, which were “for so long considered almost exclusive territories of the clergy.”
This contribution should be encouraged, and “find a wider space, in keeping with the growing presence of women in the various fields of responsibility for the life of the Church,” he said, pointing to the example set by St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Therese of Lisiuex and St. Hildegard of Bingen, who are all considered Doctors of the Church.
Francis also praised the contribution of the other prize winner, architect Mario Botta. He noted the importance of sacred buildings throughout the history of the Church, as places which show “a concrete call to God” and express “the faith of the believing community.”
“The commitment of the architect, creator of sacred space in the city of men, is therefore of highest value, and must be recognized and encouraged by the Church, especially when we risk the oblivion of the spiritual dimension and the dehumanization of urban spaces,” he stated.
Pope Francis also encouraged members of the foundation to continue to study the writings of Benedict XVI, both those from his time as pope and before, “but also to face the new themes on which faith is called to dialogue,” like care of creation and defense of human dignity.
For admirers of Benedict’s spiritual legacy, there is a “mission to cultivate it and to continue to make it bear fruit,” he said. “His is a spirit that views the problems of our time with awareness and courage, and knows how to draw, from attention to Scripture in the living tradition of the Church, the wisdom necessary for a constructive dialogue with today’s culture.”
Schlosser, 59, has been a professor of the theology of spirituality at the University of Vienna since 2004. Pope Francis appointed her a member of the International Theological Commission in 2014.
She has translated a large part of the body of work of St. Bonaventure into German and was the researcher for the second volume of the total works of Joseph Ratzinger, which was on "the Idea of Revelation and the Theology of the History of Bonaventure." Her expertise is in Patristics and the theology and spirituality of the late Middle Ages.
Botta, 75, is an internationally-acclaimed architect, who has designed many different buildings, including homes, schools, libraries, museums, and banks. He has also designed several significant religious buildings, among them the Church of St. John the Baptist in Mogno, the Cathedral of Evry near Paris, and the Co-cathedral of Santo Volto in Turin.
He is also the designer of one of the chapels on display in the Holy See's pavilion at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale.
Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2018 / 04:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Monday established a curriculum in Sciences of Peace at the Pontifical Lateran University, involving the “pope’s university” because of the special bond it has with the Holy See in a project to “foster seeds of peace.”
In a letter sent to Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of Rome and chancellor of the university, Pope Francis put the new curriculum under the protection of St. John XXIII and St. Paul VI, “heralds of peace.”
The announcement was read at the end of the inaugural lecture of the new academic year. The lecture was delivered by Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, secretary of the Council of Cardinals that is helping Pope Francis to reform the Roman Curia.
The new curriculum within the Pontifical Lateran University will likely be part of this reform.
In his letter to Cardinal De Donatis, Pope Francis said that the Church “feels the call to inspire and support every initiative that might secure people and countries a path to peace.”
He added that the Church’s effort also requires “the knowledge and study of a patrimony of values, notions and tools able to tear down the trend to isolationism, closeness and power mentalities that bear violence and destructions.”
Pope Francis then stressed that “in order to be a credible mediator,” the Church is called to be involved in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defence of life, human and civil rights and so forth.”
The pope said that this credibility is highly required while the Holy See is committed to pontifical diplomacy and the international community, and stressed that the network of Catholic universities has a central role in building the culture of peace.
For this reason, the pope kicked off a new path of the “Church which goes forth” and established the curriculum of Sciences of Peace, the final goal of which is “to incarnate the Word of God for the Church and for humanity of the Third Millennium.”
The curriculum will include theological, philosophical, juridical, economic and social structure, and will provide a bachelor’s degree and a license.
This curriculum, in Pope Francis’ intention, will be the reference point for the promotion of “a proper preparation of current and future workers of peace.”
Pope Francis’ letter was read after Bishop Semeraro had lectured on “The proposal of reform for the Roman Curia.”
The secretary of the Council of Cardinals stressed that the program for curial reform is being scrutinized from the canon law point of view, and for this reason Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Mellino as adjunct secretary to the Council of Cardinals Oct. 27 and also a member of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
Bishop Semeraro said that part of the reform has been already enacted with the establishment of the Council for Economy, the Dicasteries for Laity, Family and Life, the Promotion of Integral Human Development and Communication, and finally of the Third Section of the Secretariat of State.
The new pastoral constitution that will regulate functions and tasks of the Roman Curia offices is provisionally titled Praedicate evangelium, meaning “preach the Gospel,” which was the title proposed in summer 2015. The title of the constitution also fits with the “missionary choice” Pope Francis asked for in the 2014 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.
As part of the reform, Bishop Semeraro also included Pope Francis’ decision to hold the Lenten spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia outside of Rome. This is a sign, Semeraro said, that “reform, in Pope Francis’ mind, is really much more than any structural change.”
Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- With the intention of “providing a radical solution” to the sex abuse issue, the Italian bishops’ conference established Thursday a new center for youth protection, and pledged to update its 2014 guidelines on countering sexual abuse.
The decisions came at the end of an extraordinary general assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference, held in Rome Nov. 12 -15.
The assembly was summoned to approve new translations of the missal, and in particular of “Our Father” and the “Gloria in Excelsis.” The meeting also included a discussion on new anti-abuse measures that are said to have been for in process for quite some time.
During the meeting, the Italian bishops decided to establish a “national service for the protection of Minors and vulnerable people.”
The new body will be given statutes, a regulation, a staff, and a panel of experts in advisory roles.
According to an Italian bishops’ conference release, the center will have responsibility to “help start diocesan paths to provide formation for the prevention of abuse.”
The center will also counsel and assist dioceses in canonical and civil lawsuits.
In addition to this service, the Italian bishops’ conference made the decision to appoint one or two people per region as reference points for abuse reports. Italy is composed of 20 ecclesiastical regions, and almost all of them gather in regional bishops’ conferences.
Those people will undergo specific training, on a regional basis, with the help of the Center for the Protection of Minors of the Gregorian University.
Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, underscored in a Nov. 15 press conference that the Italian bishops are also committed to improve the procedure to accept candidates to priesthood.
There will be, he said, “an accurate psychiatric evaluation” before admitting anyone to the seminary.
Bassetti also noted that reports of abuse must be “seriously scrutinized. An equitable and just procedure is needed. The reports of survivors must be heard with care and with psychological sensitivity. On the other hand, we must watch out for unjust reports.”
Washington D.C., Nov 16, 2018 / 06:56 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington collaborated extensively on a recently proposed policy for handling abuse allegations against bishops, CNA has learned.
Cupich submitted the plan Tuesday to leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference, proffering it as an alternative to a proposal that had been devised by conference officials and staffers.
The conference’s proposed plan would have established an independent lay-led commission to investigate allegations against bishops. The Cupich-Wuerl plan would instead send allegations against bishops to be investigated by their metropolitan archbishops, along with archdiocesan review boards. Metropolitans themselves would be investigated by their senior suffragan bishops.
Sources in Rome and Washington, DC told CNA that Wuerl and Cupich worked together on their alternative plan for weeks, and presented it to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops before the U.S. bishops’ conference assembly in Baltimore. Cupich and Wuerl are both members of Congregation for Bishops.
The Cupich-Wuerl plan was submitted to the U.S. bishops even after a Vatican directive was issued Monday barring U.S. bishops from voting on any abuse-related measures. The Vatican suspended USCCB policy-making on sexual abuse until after a February meeting involving the heads of bishops’ conferences from around the world.
An official at the Congregation for Bishops told CNA on Thursday that the substance of the plan presented by Cupich at the Baltimore meeting is known in the congregation as “Wuerl’s plan.” The official would not confirm whether the congregation had received an advance copy of the document.
The idea of amending USCCB policy so that allegations against a bishop would be handled by his metropolitan archbishop was suggested by Wuerl publicly in August.
Senior chancery officials in Washington described the plan as a collaborative effort by the cardinals, telling CNA that Wuerl and Cupich first informed the Congregation for Bishops several weeks ago about their idea for the “metropolitan model” to handle complaints against a bishop, and suggested they had continued to discuss the plan with Congregation officials since that time.
"It was a mutual effort," one Archdiocese of Washington official told CNA.
While Cupich played an active role in conference sessions this week, and proposed the detailed plan for an alternative to the conference’s special commission, Wuerl did not make any public comment on the plan, which at least some in Rome consider to be “his,” and which he first suggested in public 3 months ago.
Sources familiar with the behind-the-scenes discussions in Baltimore told CNA that Wuerl chose to step back from the plan’s presentation, providing advice and counsel but not seeking to take public credit. A spokesman for Wuerl declined to comment on that decision.
Several bishops in Baltimore told CNA that Cupich appeared to be positioning himself as an unofficial but influential policy-maker in the conference. His status would be strengthened if the plan he introduced in Baltimore gained support in Rome, they said, especially if it were favored over the plan proposed by conference officials.
It is not clear to what extent Cupich considered how the manner in which he presented his plan could be interpreted. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago told CNA that Cardinal Cupich was away, and could not be reached for comment.
A source familiar with the drafting of the alternative proposal told CNA that Wuerl was not involved in the way the plan was presented in Baltimore, saying that Wuerl’s only concern was developing the best possible plan for tackling the sexual abuse crisis, and not “playing games” at the conference.
Many American bishops arrived in Baltimore this week expecting to approve the proposed the independent commission, along with proposed standards for episcopal conduct. Bishops were stunned to discover Monday that they could not vote on the measures, following the last-minute instruction from the Congregation for Bishops, received Sunday night by conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.
An Archdiocese of Washington official suggested to CNA that the Congregation for Bishops’ last minute suspension of voting at the Baltimore meeting might have been because the conference’s independent commission proposal was not sent to Rome until Oct. 30.
DiNardo, however, told a press conference Monday that while the draft document for the independent commission had been sent to Rome at the end of October, the USCCB had been in consistent contact with Vatican officials as the texts were developed.
DiNardo said that “When we were in Rome [in October] we consulted with all of [the Vatican dicasteries]. I mean, [that’s what] we do.”
“When I met with the Holy Father in October, the Holy Father was very positive in a general way - he had not seen everything yet - of the kind of action items we were looking to do.”
Cupich spoke from the floor immediately after DiNardo’s announcement of the change Monday morning. The cardinal suggested that the bishops continue to discuss the proposed measures and take non-binding votes on them. He offered no indication at that time that he would introduce a completely different plan.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago cardinal rose to question the premise of the USCCB’s proposed independent commission, asking if it was a reflection of sound ecclesiology. Cupich suggested that the commission be seen as a way of “outsourcing” difficult situations.
Shortly thereafter, Cupich submitted to conference leaders a seemingly well-prepared and comprehensive “Supplement to the [USCCB] Essential Norms,” which outlined in detail the plan he had developed with Wuerl.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said from the floor that the “metropolitan model” appeared to align closer with the Church’s hierarchical structure.
“I really do favor the use of the metropolitan and the metropolitan review board for these cases… but that would require that the Holy See give metropolitan archbishops more authority than we have,” Chaput told the conference.
Chaput told the bishop that the reason the USCCB executive committee opted to pursue the idea of an independent commission instead of developing a plan based around the metropolitan archbishop was because they did not think the “metropolitan model’ would have support in Rome.
“When we discussed this at the executive committee level we, some people, thought it would be easier for us to develop this independent commission than to get the Church to change canon law,” he said.
Sources close to the USCCB told CNA that if the executive committee had known the Vatican might support the “metropolitan model,” it might have been pursued earlier, with a proposal being circulated to members by the conference leadership. A spokesperson for the USCCB declined to comment on that possibility.
Cupich had suggested during the meeting that either or both plans could be voted on in non-binding resolutions in order to give the Vatican a sense of the American episcopate’s desires. Ultimately, no vote was taken.
Instead, as the Baltimore meeting ended, DiNardo agreed that Cupich’s plan would be developed alongside the independent commission plan, by a special task force consisting of former USCCB presidents Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Archbishop Wilton Gregory. DiNardo will have the option of presenting either or both possibilities when he and conference vice president Archbishop Jose Gomez attend the Vatican’s February meeting.
USCCB spokespersons declined several times to comment on any role Cupich or Wuerl, members of the Congregation for Bishops, might have played in developing the congregation’s reaction to the special commission plan.
Ed. note: This story was updated after publication to explain that metropolitans under investigation would be investigated by their senior suffragan bishops.
Rome, Italy, Nov 16, 2018 / 06:27 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders are open to discussing with the Italian government a court ruling saying Italy has the right to recover millions of dollars from the Church from a previous tax exemption.
According to DW, an exemption was established in the beginning of 2012, which allowed for non-commercial Church properties to be exempt from paying an Italian municipal tax – the IMU.
The case had been opened that year by a Montessori school and an owner of a bed-and-breakfast, who called the exemption unfair to properties offering similar services.
In December 2012, the European Commission in Brussels declared the exemption to be unlawful. However, the court ruled that it would be too complicated to recover the money, as the tax database and Italian property title registry were not up-to-date.
However, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg overruled that decision this month, saying that Italy has the right to take back millions of euros, the Associated Press reported.
On Thursday, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, head of the Italian bishops’ conference, said the Church had not yet begun a discussion with the government, but “certainly some contacts will be necessary,” according to the Associated Press.
Wenzhou, China, Nov 16, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican-appointed Chinese bishop has reportedly been taken into custody by the government and is undergoing “isolation and indoctrination.”
This is Peter Shao Zhumin’s fifth arrest in just two years as a bishop. Chinese police have recently been detaining priests loyal to the underground Catholic Church nationwide.
Pope Francis appointed Shao Bishop of Wenzhou in September 2016. Shao had previously endured an 11-month detention beginning in September 2006, after he and another priest returned from a pilgrimage to Europe and were charged with “illegal exit.”
He was detained again during April 2017, ostensibly was to prevent him from celebrating the Triduum and Easter liturgies, which would have been his first time as head of the diocese.
Shao was also arrested in May 2017. La Croix International reported at the time he was summoned by the government’s religious bureau May 18, and released the following April.
Bishop Shao has now been missing for several days. During this most recent detention, Asia News reported, the Chinese police have pressured Shao to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the Communist Party-supported body that seeks to manage the Church in China independently of the Vatican.
The Church in mainland China has been divided for some 60 years between the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities, and the government-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
Chinese officials have not yet offered any information about Shao’s whereabouts.
Reports of the destruction or desecration of Catholic churches and shrines have come from across China, including the provinces of Hebei, Henan, Guizhou, Shaanxi, and Shandong.
A Sept. 22 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing was intended to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics and unify the underground Church and the Patriotic Association.
The agreement has been roundly criticized by human rights groups and some Church leaders, including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.
Since the agreement in September, two CPCA bishops were invited to attend the synod on youth. These men are “known to be close to the Chinese government,” and their attendance at the synod is “an insult to the good bishops of China,” Cardinal Zen said.