Catholic News Agency (CNA)
Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court will once again consider the legality of religious monuments on public land during the current session.
The Court announced November 2 that it had granted certiorari to Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. American Humanist Association.
The case concerns the so-called “Peace Cross” in Prince George’s County, Maryland, erected in honor of soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. In 2014, the American Humanist Association, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes “secular humanist” beliefs, filed suit against the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission because of the shape of the monument.
The monument was erected in 1925, and was paid for by mothers of soldiers killed in the war. It lists the names of 49 members of the local community who died in service, as well as the seal of the American Legion and the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion” on the four branches.
The American Legion regularly hosts secular, patriotic events around the monument, and there has not been any sort of religious ceremony involving the cross in 87 years.
The American Humanist Association, along with a few local residents who joined the suit, argue that the cross-monument is an endorsement of Christianity on public land, and thus a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from establishing a state religion or giving preference to one religious belief over another.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has performed regular maintenance around the monument since 1961, as it is located on a median in the middle of a public road. This, the American Humanist Association has argued, is entangling government unnecessarily with religion.
The American Humanist Association had also sued the American Legion regarding the cross, but the cases were consolidated into one when they were granted certiorari.
The lawsuit was originally brought in 2014 and rejected by the District Court, which held that it was “uncontroverted” that the maintenance and display of the memorial was not “driven by a religious purpose whatsoever.”
In 2017, after the District Court initially rejected the case, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the monument was, in fact, unconstitutional. This ruling was then appealed to the Supreme Court.
The upcoming decision would impact not only the “Peace Cross,” but also other religious-themed monuments on public land, including Arlington National Cemetery. Currently, the law is unclear as to what exactly constitutes a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when it concerns religious-themed monuments.
The last time the Supreme Court was presented with controversy over a religious monument on public grounds was in 2005, when they ruled that a 10 Commandments monument at the Texas State Capitol did not violate the Establishment Clause. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the plurality opinion.
In his concurring opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that while the 10 Commandments certainly has a religious connection, the context and location of that specific monument played a role in its constitutionality. These factors, as well as the fact that in its 40-year history no one had complained about it until the plaintiff brought suit, it was part of the “broader moral and historical message reflective of a cultural heritage” on display at the Capitol.
Vatican City, Nov 5, 2018 / 06:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis strongly condemned anti-Semitism, recalling the living memory of the Holocaust in Europe, during a meeting with rabbis at the Vatican Monday.
“As I have often repeated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots,” Pope Francis told a delegation from the World Congress of Mountain Jews Nov. 5.
“Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community,” he continued.
The Vatican audience was the first time that representatives of the Mountain Jews of the Caucasus, descendents of the ancient Persian Jewish community, met with a Roman pontiff.
“I have always sought to emphasize the importance of friendship between Jews and Catholics. It is based on a fraternity grounded in the history of salvation and it finds concrete expression in concern for one another,” Pope Francis said.
The pope recounted his visit with a Jewish community in Lithuania on “a day devoted to the commemoration of the Shoah, seventy-five years after the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto and the murder of thousands of Jews.”
“I prayed before the monument to the victims of the Holocaust and I asked the Most High to comfort his people,” the pope said.
There must be “a living memory” of the Holocaust, Francis insisted.
“Just a few days from now, Nov. 9 will mark the 80th anniversary of the Kristallnacht, when many Jewish places of worship were destroyed, not least with the intent of uprooting from the hearts of individuals and a people that which is absolutely inviolable: the presence of the Creator,” he continued.
In the wake of the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States last week, many bishops spoke out against anti-Semitism. Eleven people were killed when a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue during its Sabbath service Oct. 27.
“Anti-Jewish bigotry, and all religious and ethnic bigotry, is a terrible sin,” Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh said the day of the attack. “As we pray for peace in our communities and comfort for the grieving, we must put prayer into action by loving our neighbors and working to make ‘Never again!’ a reality.”
After the shooting, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said that “Religious and ethnic hatred is vile in any form, but the ugly record of the last century is a lesson in the special evil of anti-Semitism … It has no place in America, and especially in the hearts of Christians.”
Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting during his Angelus address.
“May the Lord help us to extinguish the outbreaks of hatred that develop in our societies,” he prayed.
Irondale, Ala., Nov 4, 2018 / 04:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- EWTN Global Catholic Network has called for prayers for a man who caused a disturbance during the network’s televised Mass Nov. 4.
“We ask that our EWTN family keep this individual in their prayers,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw in a Nov. 4 statement.
The man reportedly caused a disturbance and attempted to approach the altar during the 7:00 a.m. live televised Mass on EWTN.
EWTN security personnel promptly removed the man from the chapel. Local police detained the man and issued him a warning for trespassing.
No one was injured in the incident and the Mass continued without issue, said Warsaw.
EWTN Global Catholic Network was launched in 1981 by Mother Angelica of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. The largest religious media network in the world, it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.
In addition to 11 television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing in a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press. Catholic News Agency is also part of the EWTN family.
Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2018 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation Oct. 31 declaring November 2018 to be “National Adoption Month.”
The president called adoption a “life-changing act” and a “blessing for all involved.”
In addition to assisting families who seek to adopt, Trump said, “we must also encourage all Americans to recognize that adoption is a powerful way to show women they are not alone in an unexpected pregnancy.”
“Adoption affirms the inherent value of human life and signals that every child ‑‑ born or unborn ‑‑ is wanted and loved,” read Trump’s proclamation.
“Children, regardless of race, sex, age, or disability, deserve a loving embrace into families they can call their own.”
National Adoption Month will honor the thousands of families in this country who chose to adopt, said Trump.
Trump also highlighted the plight of the nation’s growing foster-care system, and said that he appealed to “families, communities, and houses of worship across our great Nation to help these children find a permanent home.”
The president said it was “unfortunate” that many children in the foster system reach the age of 18 without being adopted, and that “these children deserve a permanent family” that will provide them with love and stability.
Trump’s inclusion of “houses of worship” was noteworthy. Currently, there are several cases ongoing in which faith-based foster agencies are suing localities after being denied contracts, or shut out entirely, from the foster-care process due to their religious beliefs.
This is the second year Trump has recognized National Adoption Month. The tradition of presidents promoting adoption began in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan declared one week in November to be “National Adoption Week.” In 1995, President Bill Clinton expanded the awareness campaign into a month.
National Adoption Day, a separate event first observed in 2000, is celebrated the Saturday before Thanksgiving. On this day, thousands of children throughout the country who are being adopted from foster care have their adoptions finalized. National Adoption Day also seeks to raise awareness of the more than 100,0000 American children living in the foster care system who are eligible for adoption.
In the United States, the average foster child waits for three years before being adopted. Each year, about 2,000 children age out of the system without being placed in a permanent home.
Vatican City, Nov 4, 2018 / 05:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis expressed sorrow for the victims of an attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt in his Angelus address Sunday.
Islamic militants ambushed a bus carrying Coptic Christian pilgrims to a desert monastery south of Cairo on Friday, killing seven and leaving 19 injured.
“I pray for the victims, pilgrims killed just because they are Christians, and I ask Holy Mary to console their families and the whole community,” Pope Francis said Nov. 4.
The Coptic Orthodox Church held funerals on Saturday for six of the victims, who were killed while on pilgrimage to Saint Samuel the Confessor monastery in Egypt’s Minya province. The Islamic State claims to be behind Friday’s attack.
“Love for God and love for neighbor are inseparable,” Pope Francis said Sunday. “It would be an illusion to claim to love our neighbor without loving God; and it would be just as illusory to claim to love God without loving our neighbor.”
“My neighbor is the person I meet along my journey,” the pope said. I cannot “pre-select” my neighbor, he stressed, “This is not Christian.”
“Today's Gospel invites all of us to be attentive not only towards the urgencies of the poorest brothers, but above all to be attentive to their need for fraternal closeness, for the meaning of life and tenderness,” Francis told the 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
“We can say that the hungry not only needs a plate of soup, but also a smile, to be heard, and even a prayer, maybe done together,” the pope continued.
Pope Francis expressed gratitude for the beatification of Blessed Mother Clelia Merloni on Saturday.
Mother Merloni was a 20th century Italian religious sister whose life was marked by both suffering and evangelical initiative.
As foundress of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Merloni was “a woman fully abandoned to God's will, zealous in charity, patient in adversity and heroic in forgiveness,” Pope Francis said.
“Let us give thanks to God for the luminous Gospel witness of this new Blessed and let us follow her example of goodness and mercy.”
Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- When the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop convenes next week, much of the attention with focus on how the bishops will address the recent clerical abuse scandals. But the bishops will also be electing new leadership for six of the conference committees.
The USCCB will gather in Baltimore for its general assembly Nov. 12-14. On the ballot will be candidates for the chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education Committee, as well as the chairmen-elect of five other committees: Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations; Divine Worship; Domestic Justice and Human Development; Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; and Migration.
The chairman-elect serves for one year shadowing the current chairman before assuming the role for a three-year term of office.
Conference members will also vote for a treasurer-elect for the USCCB. The office of treasurer manages the conference’s funds and sits as vice-chairman on the Committee on Priorities and Plans.
The current treasurer is Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati. Candidates to succeed him are Bishop Gregory Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida, who worked in the banking industry for several years before entering the seminary and being ordained, and Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis, who holds a bachelor's degree in accounting.
The current chairman for the Committee on Catholic Education is Bishop John Quinn of Winona. The committee seeks to guide the educational mission of the Catholic Church and advocates for public policies aligned with Catholic values.
The bishops nominated to follow him are Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, who has served as the Director of the School of Pastoral Leadership in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, who has degrees in biology, theology, and canon law.
The Committee on Clergy is currently headed by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark and produces and coordinates documents and resources for vocational promotion and discernment. The potential chairmen-elect are Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen, and Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta is entering his final year as the head of the Committee for Divine Worship, which is responsible for matters related to Latin rite liturgy in the U.S. The candidates for chairman-elect are Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, who has served on several conference committees, including those on evangelization and doctrine, and Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, who is a member of the Bishops’ Advisory Council for the Institute for Priestly Formation.
The Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, now led by Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, advises the U.S. bishops on national issues relating to human dignity, development, and poverty.
Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe have been nominated to succeed him. Wester has previously served as a member on the bishops’ committee on migration.
Archbishop Charles Chaput is now in the final year of his term as chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, he will be replaced by either Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco or Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette.
Cordileone has served on the Governing Board of the International Theological Institute, while Doerfler has previously led the Marriage Research Committee of the Canon Law Society of America.
The Committee on Migration is currently chaired by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin. The committee seeks to provide awareness of and responses to the plight of immigrants, human trafficking, and refugees.
Washington, D.C. auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville-Rodriguez of Washington, who has served as the director of the Spanish Catholic Center in Washington, and Bishop John Stowe of Lexington are the candidates to succeed him.
Paris, France, Nov 3, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The International Astronomical Union has voted in favor of a recommendation to rename the Hubble law the Hubble-Lemaître law, to acknowledge the contributions of the Belgian priest and astronomer Georges Lemaître to the scientific theory of the expansion of the universe.
“To honour the intellectual integrity and the supremely significant discovery by Georges Lemaître, the IAU is pleased to recommend that the expansion of the Universe be referred to as the Hubble–Lemaître law,” the association stated Oct. 29.
Fr. Georges Lemaître, who died in 1966, was a physicist and mathematician who is widely credited with developing the big bang theory to explain the physical origin of the universe.
Hubble's law describes how objects in the expanding universe move away from each other with a velocity proportional to their distance apart.
A resolution to suggest the renaming of the law was presented and discussed at the IAU’s 30th General Assembly, held in Vienna in August.
“This resolution was proposed in order to pay tribute to both Lemaître and Hubble for their fundamental contributions to the development of modern cosmology,” the IAU noted.
Among the resolution's desires was “to honour the intellectual integrity of Georges Lemaître that made him value more the progress of science rather than his own visibility.”
The IAU is an international organization of professional astronomers, and is the internationally recognized authority for naming celestial bodies.
More than 11,000 members were able to vote on the resolution. 4,060 members voted, with 78 percent approving the resolution, 20 percent rejecting, and two percent abstaining.
All the members, which include more than 10,000 individuals, were invited to vote electronically by Oct. 26. The IAU reported that 4060 members cast their vote, with 78 percent in favor and 20 percent against the name change.
Lemaître published a paper in 1927 discussing the rate of the expansion of the universe, but “the limited popularity of the Journal in which Lemaître's paper appeared and the language used made his remarkable discovery largely unperceived by the astronomical community,” according to the resolution.
The resolution also noted that Lemaître, an IAU member since 1925, exchanged views about redshift with Hubble at the 3rd IAU General Assembly at Leiden in 1928.
Among other honors, the priest received the Francqui Price in 1934 from King Leopold III of Belgium, according to the Francqui Foundation. Father Lemaître had also been a past president of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences.
Brussels, Belgium, Nov 3, 2018 / 09:00 am (CNA).- The Brothers of Charity, a Belgian religious congregation, did not renew the terms for two board members of the organization that controls their hospitals in Belgium. The former board members had accepted a protocol that allowed the hospitals of the congregation to perform euthanasia in limited circumstances.
Luc Lemmens, 61, and Veron Raes, 57, were informed at the end of September that their mandate was not going to be renewed.
The Brothers of Charity is a religious congregation of lay members founded in 1807 in Belgium, whose specialization is care for the sick and those with psychiatric diseases.
In Belgium the congregation has 12 psychiatric hospitals, managed by a civil non-profit corporation also named “Brothers of Charity.”
The board of that corporation is composed of 15 members, but only three of them are religious brothers of the congregation. The chairman is former Belgian prime minister Hermann van Rompuy.
Lemmens and Raes were two of the three members belonging to the Brothers of Charity, and they did not oppose the new protocol, issued at the beginning of 2017. The protocol considered euthanasia “a medical act” under certain conditions.
The protocol was heavily criticized by Br. René Stockman, the general of the Congregation, as well as by the Belgian Bishops Conference and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The board was summoned by the Vatican, and a meeting is said to have taken place in the first half 2018, though no official date was communicated.
Br. Stockman fought to keep the hospitals from the possibility of performing euthanasia, and had several meetings at the Vatican.
The 23rd general chapter of the congregation took place in July, and Br. Stockmann was confirmed as congregation’s general superior. The guidelines of the chapter instructed members “to be radical in prophecy,” and Stockmann’s election was taken as a sign that the anti-euthanasia line was approved and backed by the majority of the brothers.
An awaited decision from the Holy See is now expected a final resolution to the situation of the hospitals. It has been rumored that the Brothers of Charity might drop their sponsorship of the hospitals, if the hospitals will not accept their request to withdraw the euthanasia protocol.
Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2018 / 07:01 am (CNA).- Despite recent disparaging Western commentary on high African birth rates, fertility rates on the continent are normal when viewed in the context of development, new data analysis from the Institute for Family Studies shows.
The analysis comes weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron commented at a Gates Foundation event in New York that educated women do not choose to have large families. “I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children,'” he said.
While Macron clarified that he was speaking about the lack of educational opportunities in African countries, his comments struck a nerve with women in the United States and throughout the world. One professor at Catholic University of America started the hashtag #PostcardsforMacron on social media, with which educated women from different countries shared photos of their large families.
In a new analysis published this week, Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, said that the fertility rate of most African countries is normal when other factors such as levels of development and child mortality rates are considered.
“What’s really going on here is quite simple: United Nations demographers have repeatedly messed up their forecasts of African fertility in more-or-less the same direction, and, rather than give a good explanation about why that is, the development community is responding by faulting Africans for having kids,” Stone wrote.
Each time the U.N. has forecasted Africa’s population for 2050, the numbers of their prediction have increased, causing some demographers to publish papers “bemoaning Africa’s curiously slow ‘demographic transition’ to near-replacement fertility,” Stone said.
For example, in 2008, the U.N. predicted that by 2050, the fertility rate in Africa would fall to about 2.5 children per woman, close to near-replacement rates, which range from about 2.1 to 2.3 children per woman.
But in 2017, the U.N. predicted that instead, the fertility rate in Africa by 2050 would be about 3.25 children per woman.
“This upward trend in forecast population stems from the fact that U.N. demographers have repeatedly overestimated how quickly Africa’s fertility would decline.”
But that doesn’t mean that Africa’s fertility rates are not declining overall, Stone noted. “You might think, then, that Africa’s fertility is rising! But actually, it isn’t! African fertility is falling!” he wrote.
Between 1965 and 2015, the fertility rate in Sub-Saharan African countries fell from almost 7 children per woman to slightly less than 5 children per woman. The decline has been slight, and slow, but steady - just not as dramatic as some Western groups had hoped, Stone noted.
“The entire scary story about African fertility really boils down to fractional differences in the rate of future fertility decline. In other words, Macron’s comments about ‘6 or 7 or 8’ kids are totally irrelevant,” he wrote.
“Africa’s ‘problem,’ as far as U.N. demographers are concerned, isn’t women having seven kids today; it’s women having three kids, 40 years from now when they ‘should’ have had just two.”
The complaint that the African population and fertility rates are high is not new, Stone noted - “it’s part and parcel of old-school racist colonialism. Colonial regimes often tried various inhuman measures to reduce population growth. It’s no surprise the successors to colonial regimes, do-gooder ‘family planning’ NGOs, are pushing the same concerns.”
One factor being ignored in the “fear-mongering” of those who say African fertility rates are too high is child mortality rates, which are typically good predictors of fertility rates, Stone said.
Typically, the more developed a country, the lower the child mortality rates and fertility rates are, he said. This is because as countries develop and people live longer, healthier lives, parents can reasonably expect that their children will live well into adulthood, driving down the need for many children in hopes that some will live into adulthood.
Furthermore, as people become more educated, they learn to manage their own fertility better, and have jobs “where brains are often more useful than brawn,” reducing the economic need for having more children.
When rates of child mortality are considered, the fertility rates in most African countries are normal, Stone wrote.
“Adding in control variables for urbanization or dependence on agriculture or natural resources doesn’t change the story: African fertility looks fairly normal for its level of development,” he said, when compared with similar countries in Asia, which have slightly lower fertility rates, and countries in Latin America which have higher fertility rates.
Africa is also a large and varied continent, and fertility rates vary significantly between its countries, Stone noted.
Furthermore, comparing fertility rates among developing countries also must take into account what kinds of family planning policies are being implemented in those countries, Stone said.
While Western groups like the Gates Foundation say that they want family planning policies in African countries to respect women’s freedom, at the same time they want the fertility rates in Africa to decline as dramatically as in countries such as China or India, which have implemented inhumane practices such as the “One Child” policy or forced sterilizations.
“In other words, Western donors need to get their story straight: do they want Africa to experience East-Asian style fertility declines, or do they want African countries to pursue democratically-compatible, rights-respecting population policies? You can’t have it both ways,” Stone noted.
In fact, Stone added, it is unclear why Western groups think they should get a say in African fertility rates at all.
“Western countries should have learned their lesson: it’s time to stop acting like African policy can be made from London or Paris or Seattle. Truth be told, Western organizations have no right, and no moral credibility, to step in and tell African women what they should or shouldn’t do with their bodies. We would be much better off looking for ways to solve our own fertility problems.”
Vatican City, Nov 3, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a Mass offered for the repose of the souls of bishops and cardinals who died this year, Pope Francis prayed for “the intercession of all those who lived unassuming lives, content to prepare daily to meet the Lord.”
“The secret to life is to live to serve,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica Nov. 3.
Nine cardinals and 154 bishops have died since November 2017, including Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, and Cardinal Karl Lehmann, who led the German bishops’ conference for 20 years.
“Instead of our outward appearance that passes away, we should purify and keep custody of our heart, our inner self, which is precious in the eyes of God,” the pope said in his homily.
Pope Francis focused his message on the parable of ten bridesmaids who went forth to meet the bridegroom in the Gospel of Matthew.
“The encounter with Jesus, the Bridegroom, who ‘loved the Church and gave himself up for her,’ gives meaning and direction to our lives. That and nothing more. It is the finale that illuminates everything that preceded it,” Pope Francis said.
“Every day of our lives is a preparation for the wedding banquet, a great period of betrothal,” he continued.
The pope identified three qualities of the oil needed for the bridesmaids lamps in the Gospel story. The oil is not “flashy but essential.” It exists to be consumed, to serve. And, it must be prepared ahead of time.
“In the ministry, amid all our meetings, activities and paperwork, we must never lose sight of the one thread that holds the entire fabric together: our expectation of the Bridegroom,” he said. “The centre of it all can only be a heart in love with the Lord.”
“Let us desire to look farther ahead, to the wedding banquet that awaits us. A life burning with desire for God and trained by love will be prepared to enter the chamber of the Bridegroom, and this is for all eternity,” Pope Francis said.
Among the cardinals remembered at the Mass was longtime papal diplomat Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezmolo, who served as Apostolic nuncio to Israel, Italy, and Uruguay.
Cardinal Dario Castillon Hoyos, a Colombian and a former head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and of the Congregation for Clergy, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, also died this past year.
Fifteen American bishops and cardinals were included in the Mass. Among them were recently deceased Bishop Emeritus Thomas Joseph O’Brien of Phoenix, Bishop Emeritus John Edward McCarthy of Austin, Bishop Emeritus Charles Victor Grahmann of Dallas, Bishop Emeritus Eugene John Gerber of Wichita, Archbishop Emeritus Raymond Gerhardt Hunthausen of Seattle, Archbishop Daniel Mark Buechlein of Indianapolis, Bishop Emeritus David Edward Foley of Birmingham, and Cardinal Bernard Law.
Cardinal Law died in Rome in December 2017 as the Basilica of Saint Mary Major’s archpriest emeritus. Law resigned from his position as archbishop of Boston in 2002 after reports that revealed that he did not disclose multiple allegations of clerical sexual abuse to the police or to the public or intervene to remove priests accused of sexual abuse from priestly ministry.
“Detachment from worldly appearances is essential to our preparation for heaven,” Pope Francis said at the Mass offered for the prelates’ souls.
“In the Lord’s eyes, what matters is not appearances, but the heart. Everything that the world runs after and then parades – honors, power, appearances, glory – passes away and leaves nothing behind.”
Denver, Colo., Nov 2, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The provost of Denver’s Regis University has encouraged faculty members to attend a student drag show on the university campus, and to take in-class measures intended to support the gender identity preferences of students.
An Oct. 29 letter from university provost Janet Houser and the university’s Queer Resource Alliance noted that “this week has been a challenging one for our LGBTQIA community at Regis, with recent reports indicating that the Trump administration is considering policy changes that would eliminate federal protections for transgender people.”
“Our Jesuit values call us to respect the human dignity of all individuals, to care for the whole person, and to serve the most marginalized members of our society.”
The letter referred to an October announcement that the Department of Health and Human Services would seek to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable,” for the purposes of the federal Title IX program.
In response, Regis faculty were encouraged to “remember that you may have students in your class classroom (including out queer students, students from queer families, queer students who are not out yet, and others) struggling with this news and its implications.”
To “support your LGBTQIA students, especially transgender students,” the provost suggested faculty members attend an on-campus “Drag Show featuring student performers,” along with other campus events commemorating the “Transgender Day of Remembrance,” on Nov. 15.
A Regis University spokesperson told CNA that “our Jesuit values call on us to respect the human dignity of all individuals, to care for the whole person, and to serve the most marginalized members of our society. Our faculty and staff strive to care for all our students with the respect, sensitivity and compassion they deserve, and to celebrate everyone’s gifts. We will continue to do so in manner that fulfills our mission and upholds our Catholic, Christian conviction that all lives are sacred.”
The Oct. 29 letter also encouraged professors to “avoid phrases that reinforce the gender binary, such as ‘ladies and gentlemen,’” “assign readings by queer, and especially transgender, authors,” and “add your preferred gender pronouns to your email signature (for example, "she/her/hers").”
Additionally, faculty members were encouraged to refer to students by their preferred names and gender pronouns, and to indicate their intention to do so on course syllabi.
“Ask students to give their names and preferred gender pronouns on the first day of class, and avoid reading from off the roster. You may read a student's ‘dead name’-a legal name that they no longer go by-which can be very upsetting for transgender students to hear,” the letter said.
The Queer Resource Alliance is a university-sponsored organization, that, according to the university’s website, “aims to create an inclusive, equitable, and supportive environment for community members of all orientations and gender identities by providing leadership, education, and advocacy related to challenges and issues faced by Regis LGBTQIA+ faculty, staff, students.”
The alliance offers a “Brave Space” training program, comprised of a “3-hour ‘Gender and Sexuality 101’ training meant to introduce Regis community members to issues and terminology relevant to LGBTQIA people, as well as how to be an ally to the queer community.”
A university spokesperson told CNA that “young LGBTQIA people are among the most vulnerable in our society -- these youth seriously contemplate suicide at three times the rate of heterosexual youth; almost half of all transgender people have attempted suicide – thus compassion and welcoming arms to provide a safe, warm environment is an imperative for all educators.”
In the 2015 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis condemned an “ideology of gender” that “leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female.”
Although the letter’s recommendations are not officially university policy, Houser is the chief academic officer at Regis. The university’s website notes that Houser “serves as acting president in the extended absence of Father Fitzgibbons.”
“The provost shared the Queer Resource Alliance’s recommendations on how to advise all faculty on how they can best fulfill our mission. This includes being aware of readings that reflect a diversity of thought and lived experience whenever possible and appropriate. We are in the business of creating an environment in which all of our students can succeed academically, and support for LGBTQIA students is in line with this goal,” a Regis spokesperson told CNA.
Regis is a Catholic university sponsored by the Society of Jesus, and founded in 1877.
“Standing within the Catholic and United States traditions, we are inspired by the particular Jesuit vision of Ignatius Loyola. This vision challenges us to attain the inner freedom to make intelligent choices,” the university’s mission statement says.
Buffalo, N.Y., Nov 2, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Buffalo said Friday that although he admits he mishandled allegations of sexual abuse involving adults, he maintains that his “record handling misconduct allegations with children is good.”
Bishop Richard Malone said the diocese has never failed an annual audit determining if the diocese is in compliance with the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Young People.
“I still will say until my dying day: I have not made that mistake in dealing with allegations with children...My mistakes were when [allegations] came in involving an adult,” the bishop said.
Malone spoke Nov. 2 on local radio station WBEN, apologizing to victims and telling radio hosts that he does not plan to resign, despite the presence this morning of several protestors outside diocesan headquarters calling for his resignation. Malone is more than two years away from submitting his resignation on his 75th birthday, as required by canon law.
“There have been times through this whole horrible scenario when I’ve been embarrassed to be a bishop,” Malone said.
“The leadership of the Church has often not responded adequately to this crisis, and in response to victims, and I do get it...I just tell people of faith to focus on Jesus, and count on that.”
Questions about past cases
Malone was questioned about the case of Fr. Art Smith, who was placed on leave in 2011 after the mother of a boy at St. Mary of the Lake school complained that the priest was sending inappropriate Facebook messages to her son.
While Malone’s predecessor suspended Smith, Malone reinstated him in 2012, after the accused priest spent time in a Philadelphia treatment center, according to an investigation by local news station WKBW.
“Maybe I could have looked at it in a different way,” Malone said.
“We had decided with Art Smith— because, again, the Facebook incident did not rise technically to be sexual abuse— to keep him in some limited ministry,” Malone told WBEN.
Malone pointed out that he did not again assign Smith to a parish setting. Despite this, the WKBW investigation revealed that while working in nursing home, Smith heard confessions at a diocesan Catholic youth conference attended by hundreds of teenagers in 2013. There were also reports of inappropriate conduct with adults in the nursing home.
“That backfired, too, because even sending him to work in a nursing home...nothing happened with children, but there were some inappropriate actions with adults. So we were dealing with him, but not in a way that I would do now. I admit my failure there,” the bishop said.
He also signed off for Smith to become a chaplain on a cruise ship in 2015, and the bishop said now he is “kicking [himself] for that.”
In another case discussed up by the WBEN hosts, Father Robert Yetter was accused of misconduct during 2017-18. After an allegation surfacted, he met with Buffalo auxiliary bishop Edward Grosz, who referred him for counseling.
After another allegation was leveled against Yetter in Aug. 2018, Malone placed him on administrative leave, but reportedly wrote in an email: “We have no obligation, I believe, to report to [the media] or anyone else on adult misconduct allegations.” Neither canon law nor the state law of New York would have required Malone formally to report an allegation of sexual contact with an adult by a cleric.
Responding to a whistleblower
During the Nov. 2 interview, Malone also was asked about a recent “60 Minutes” interview with former diocesan employee Siobhan O’Connor, who leaked internal documents from the bishop’s office that purported to show that the diocese knowingly omitted some priests from a list it published in March of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse.
Malone said he believed no laws were broken when the documents were leaked, and that he trusted O’Connor followed her conscience in doing what she did.
Malone also responded to a specific claim made in the “60 Minutes” report, saying he does not know of any priests currently in ministry in the diocese who have “allegations of any sort of assault” against children.
“I will maintain with the clearest of consciences that there are not eight or nine priests [in the diocese] with allegations of abuse of a minor. “60 Minutes” reported that, and it is false,” Malone said.
“Tell us who they are. If they’re out there and they’re guilty of abuse, tell me and I’ll pull them out.”
Recent and current investigations
Malone did not specify whether he was considering allegations against currently active priests that had not been deemed credible.
The diocese conducted an investigation in June resulting in three priests being being placed on administrative leave, but allegations against Fr. Dennis Riter were found not to be credible, according to local media, and he was returned to ministry at a parish in Dunkirk, New York.
Independent investigator Scott Riordan and the diocesan review board conducted the investigation, but reportedly did not give a public explanation as to why the allegations were not found to be credible.
In June lawyers representing Riter's alleged victims called his reinstatement a "startling and dangerous decision" and the alleged victims filed a lawsuit against the bishop and the diocese, claiming the diocese was engaged in an effort to hide the names of accused priests from the public.
The diocese announced Oct. 31 that it had placed Fr. Michael Juran on administrative leave after receiving a credible allegation of sexual abuse against him. The current lay investigator for the diocese, Steven Halter, was an FBI special agent for more than 27 years and worked with the Buffalo FBI Evidence Response Team to investigate the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Malone said that since 2001, all diocese have been required to report all credible allegations of sexual abuse to the Vatican, but added that before he became bishop in 2012, that didn’t always happen in the Buffalo diocese. He said he wished to ask his predecessors why that was the case.
Before Nov. 2, the diocese was not required to report by local prosecutors to civil authorities any allegation of sexual abuse made more than five years after it happened, and more than five years after the victim's 18th birthday. The Erie County District Attorney has now changed changed a 2003 memorandum of understanding with the diocese, and it is required to report those cases.
Vatican City, Nov 2, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Mother Clelia Merloni, a 20th-century Italian religious sister and founder of the women’s institute of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will be beatified in Rome on Saturday.
With her beatification at the Basilica of St. John Lateran Nov. 3, “the Church is recognizing this great woman, a woman of faith, a woman of courage and humility, and especially a woman of pardon,” Sr. Anne Walsh, vicar general of the Apostles, told CNA.
“How can I become holy?” Mother Clelia once wrote. “By doing as best as I can everything that will be asked of me each day.”
“Mother Clelia looked at her own suffering in her life and the suffering in the lives of so many around the world… and she was able to unite that with Christ’s suffering,” Fr. Geoffrey Brooke explained.
A devotee of Mother Clelia and a friend of her congregation, Brooke said Mother Clelia also played a role in his process of discernment to enter seminary and become a priest.
Clelia recognized, he told CNA, that from the unity of Christ’s suffering with one’s own suffering, comes the notion of “reparation;” that then one is motivated to use their suffering as reparation for “the wounds of the heart of Christ.”
“I think what Mother Clelia teaches me as a priest,” he said, “is a particular way of understanding and sharing the love of Christ.”
“Every Christian is called to share the love of Christ, but how we understand what that means and what that looks like – for me I’m able to do that better through a lens of reparation, particularly as explained by Mother Clelia.”
Brooke said he believes everyone can learn from Mother Clelia’s willingness to unite her suffering to Christ, instead of trying to run from it.
Her life was not easy, beginning with the death of her mother in 1864, when Clelia was just three years old.
Her father, who came from humble beginnings as a servant to a count and countess, later experienced a financial turnaround, and become a wealthy industrialist and a Freemason. He remarried a few years after the death of Clelia’s mother and the girl’s stepmother cared for her as if she was her own daughter, teaching her the faith.
But when Clelia was just 22 years old, her stepmother died, shortly after she was driven from their home amid a dispute with husband’s mistress. Clelia’s maternal grandmother, who had helped to raise her, had also been sent away after a dispute with Clelia’s father.
Clelia was devastated to have lost the three women who had taught her about God and she continued to pray for the conversion of her father.
Soon after her stepmother’s death, Clelia entered the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Snows in Savona. Five years later, a severe earthquake destroyed the convent. Though Clelia had escaped unharmed, she soon became ill and her father took her home.
In 1892, she entered the Little House of Divine Providence in Como, where she was given care of the orphans. There she protracted tuberculosis, and doctors believed she would not be cured.
“In the face of her physical suffering she chose to dedicate herself to Christ and to the heart of Christ,” Brooke said.
Clelia had begun to sense a calling to establish a religious congregation dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and confided this to her confessor, who advised her to pray a novena to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for healing and to know God’s will. At the end of the novena, she was miraculously healed.
At the age of 33, Mother Clelia founded the Congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Viareggio, Italy. The next year, her many prayers and sacrifices were rewarded, when her father had a conversion and asked to receive the sacraments, just five months before his death.
Mother Clelia was his only heir and received from him the entirety of his sizeable fortune, which she used to fund her community’s charitable works.
Just three years into the life of the congregation, the priest who was responsible for administering her father’s estate lost the entire fortune through risky financial dealings and fled to France. Mother Clelia was beset by creditors; lies and threats quickly spread as she tried to save her community from ruin.
Eventually, at Mother Clelia’s request, Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini of Piacenza took the community under his ecclesial protection, assisting them with their financial situation.
But after the bishop died unexpectedly, conflict within the congregation led to three Apostolic Visitations by the Holy See, instigated by a sister who accused Mother Clelia of moral, disciplinary, and economic disorder. As a result, Clelia was removed as Mother General of the order, though none of the apostolic visitors had ever spoken with her directly.
During this time, Mother Clelia was forbidden from having any contact with the community, and many of the sisters who supported her were sent home or to other communities.
A few years later, Mother Clelia asked for a dispensation from her religious vows in order to leave the congregation for a period of time. “She felt for the good of the congregation, she should leave it for a period,” Sr. Anne Walsh said.
Called her “exile,” Mother Clelia was separated from her community and her sisters for the next 12 years. In 1927, Mother Clelia was readmitted to the congregation. She lived in a separate room, with a window overlooking the chapel, where she “would spend hours and hours in prayer,” Sr. Anne said, until her death, November 21, 1930.
After everything that had taken place, she was “especially a woman of pardon,” Sr. Anne said.
The Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus received a decree of approval from the Holy See the following year.
Mother Clelia’s response to the suffering she faced throughout her life, “teaches us all a good lesson,” Fr. Brooke said.
“How many families in our world today, in our society today, are broken and struggle with relations with each other, the same way she struggled with relationships with some of her sisters early on,” he said.
“That she was eventually able to find reconciliation and reparation and healing in those relationships before she died is a good example for a lot of families today which are so broken and split apart.”
Brooke said he believes the timing of her beatification is providential, considering the “ways in which there is so much fracturing and woundedness, even in the Body of Christ, even in the Church.”
To have Mother Clelia raised up as an example at this time gives the whole Church a witness of what it is to seek “healing and reparation within the Church,” he said.
Sr. Elizabeth Doyle, a temporary professed sister of the Apostles, told CNA that today what strikes her the most about Mother Clelia’s life is her faith: “She really threw herself into the darkness and trusted that is where God wanted her,” she said.
“And there were a lot of very human reasons for her to say, ‘I don’t think this is working out and maybe it’s not what God wants for my life.’ There were a lot of material or external kinds of failures, but she was really convinced that God had a plan for her life, and she stuck with that despite the suffering and misunderstandings and hardships that came with that,” Sr. Elizabeth said.
“That really challenges me to look at my life of faith and say, ‘Do I trust God that much?’”
Sr. Elizabeth added “that God meets us in our brokenness and we meet God in his brokenness.”
“That’s where God invites us in,” she said, “is through his wounded heart and that’s how God really penetrates into our own lives: through our own wounded hearts.”
“That has drawn me closer to God, knowing that is where I can find him the most – in the brokenness of the wounded parts of my life – and that’s really where I can help other people draw closer to God too.”
The miracle that led to Mother Clelia’s beatification took place in the 1950s in Brazil. Dr. Pedro de Oliveira Filho had contracted Landry-Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a severe neurological condition, which can be fatal.
The doctor became totally paralyzed, and his family was told by doctors he would not survive the night. They began to pray for healing through the intercession of Mother Clelia. Also present was a sister of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who had brought with her a small piece of Mother Clelia’s habit.
That same evening, the sister took a thread from the relic and put it in a tiny amount of water, giving it to the paralyzed man to drink. To everyone’s surprise, he was able to drink the water, so the sister continued to give him larger and larger sips, eventually feeding him some custard. By the morning, he was completely healed.
The Congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus now consists of around 1,000 sisters in 15 different countries around the world. They are involved in education, healthcare, parish and diocesan ministry, social work, immigrant outreach, and care to trafficked women.
Sr. Anne said that Mother Clelia taught their community, “where there is brokenness, to pour on the love of Jesus so we can bring love and healing to the world. And that’s what we try to do as Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is to carry on that charism that’s been entrusted to us.”
Denver, Colo., Nov 2, 2018 / 03:13 pm (CNA).- After years in decline, Catholic clergy sex abuse could be on the rise again, warns a professor-priest’s analysis of relevant data.
The professor’s report sees a rising trend in abuse, and argues that the evidence strongly suggests links between sexual abuse of minors and two factors: a disproportionate number of homosexual clergy, and the manifestation of a “homosexual subculture” in seminaries.
“The thing we’ve been told about the sex abuse is that it is somehow very rare and declined to almost nothing today is really not true,” Father D. Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and retired Catholic University of America sociology professor, told a Nov. 2 press conference.
“I found that clergy sex abuse did drop to almost nothing after 2002, but then it started to creep up,” he continued. “It’s been increasing. And there are signs that the bishops or the dioceses have gotten complacent about that.”
“It’s not at the great heights that it was in the mid-1970s, but it’s rising. And it’s headed in that direction,” he added.
Clergy sex abuse incidence is today about one third as common as in the late 1980s. While sex abuse by clergy is “much lower” than 30 years ago, it has not declined “as much as is commonly thought.” Most of the decline since the 1990s is consistent with “a similar general decline in child sex abuse in America since that time,” Sullins’ report said.
The decline is not necessarily related to measures taken by the U.S. bishops. Sullins told the press conference he saw no link between a decline in abuse and the implementation of the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults.
“Recent experience calls into question whether the current understanding of the nature of the abuse and how to reduce it is accurate or sufficient,” said Sullins in his report.
Efforts to address clergy abuse must acknowledge both “the recent increase of abuse amid growing complacency” and the “very strong probability” that the surge in abuse in past and present is “a product, at least in part, of the past surge and present concentration of homosexual men in the Catholic priesthood.”
The report was released Nov. 2 by the Louisiana-based Ruth Institute, where Sullins is a senior research associate. It has been reviewed by several scholars, including four social scientists, and is planned to be included in an upcoming book.
His study aimed to address a common question: is the sex abuse related in any way to homosexual men in the priesthood?
“I hear on the one hand denial of that, almost without even thinking about it, and I also hear advocacy of that, almost without even thinking about it,” Sullins said Nov. 2. “The question comes up logically because the vast majority of victims were boys. Usually in sex abuse of minors, two-thirds of victims are girls.”
Sullins’ report is titled “Is Catholic clergy sex abuse related to homosexual priests?” and he does not avoid the sometimes controversial question. The report compares “previously unexamined measures of the share of homosexual Catholic priests” and the incidence and victim gender of minor sex abuse victims by Catholic priests from 1950 to 2001.
Sullins’ sources included a 2002 survey of 1,854 priests by the Los Angeles Times that included questions about respondents’ sexual orientation, age, year of ordination, and whether they thought there was a homosexual subculture in their seminary. He measured abuse using data provided by the authors of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice reports, which themselves used reports of abuse provided by Catholic dioceses.
“Although over 8 in 10 of victims have been boys, the idea that the abuse is related to homosexual men in the priesthood has not been widely accepted by Church leaders,” said Sullins.
“(T)he data show that more homosexual men in the priesthood was correlated with more overall abuse and more boys abused compared to girls,” he added.
The increase or decrease in the percent of male victims correlated “almost perfectly” with the increase or decrease of homosexual men in the priesthood, he said, citing a 0.98 correlation. While the correlation was lower among victims under age 8, it was “lower but still strong,” 0.77. The statistical association between homosexual priests and abuse incidence was “extremely strong,” given that this scale ranges from -1.0, an inverse correlation, to 1.0, an absolute positive correlation.
Such results were “as close as you can get to a perfect correlation as I have ever seen,” Sullins said Nov. 2, adding that researchers usually consider correlation association above 0.3 or 0.4 to be a strong effect.
He took care to say it is the disproportionate presence of homosexual men in the priesthood, not the simple presence of any homosexual men, that appears to be the major factor.
“What I say in the paper is that when homosexual men were represented in the priesthood at about the same rate as they were in the population, there was no measurable problem of child sex abuse,” Sullins said. “It was only when you had a preponderance of homosexual men.”
The percentage of homosexual men in the general population is estimated at two percent. In the 1950s, homosexual men in the priesthood were about twice their percentage in the general population, making up four percent. in the 1980s they were eight times the percentage in the general population, 16 percent, according to Sullins.
“When you get up to 16 percent of priests that are homosexual, and you’ve got eight times the proportion of homosexuals as you do in the general population, it’s as if the priesthood becomes a particularly welcoming and enabling and encouraging population for homosexual activity and behavior,” he said Nov. 2.
Sullins was clear he wanted to avoid recommending any particular action based on his research.
“I would certainly not recommend that we remove all homosexuals from the priesthood,” he said. “The reason for that is: the abuse is not necessarily related to someone’s sexual orientation.” He cited his knowledge of men with same-sex attraction who are “strong, faithful persons,” adding “I would hate to have some sort of litmus test for that.”
If the Catholic Church in the U.S. were like most institutions, where two-thirds of abuse victims were female, people would reject the suggestion to eliminate all heterosexual men from the priesthood. That suggestion would be an “ideological reaction,” he said.
He suggested the priesthood should reflect the general population, as a sign priests are selected for “holiness and commitment to Christ and the things that we would hope would make for a good priest.”
“When you start to get a larger proportion of homosexuals It looks like you are actually selecting for same-sex orientation,” he said.
Seminary candidates have reported about the problems this disproportion creates, he continued. According to Sullins, Donald Cozzens' 2000 book “The Changing Face of the Priesthood” discusses accounts of homosexual students being so prevalent at some seminaries that heterosexual men felt destabilized and disoriented and left.
“That’s not a positive outcome. I do not think we would want to have that proportion of a homosexual culture in the priesthood,” said Sullins.
There appear to be verifiable trends in increases and decreases in the ordinations of homosexual priests.
“From 1965 to 1995 an average of at least one in five priests ordained annually were homosexual, a concentration which drove the overall proportion of homosexual men in the priesthood up to 16 percent, or one in six priests, by the late 1990s,” said Sullins’ report.
“This trend was strongly correlated with increasing child sex abuse,” he said.
Drawing on his findings, Sullins predicted that if the proportion of homosexual priests remained at the 1950s level “at least 12,000 fewer children, mostly boys, would have suffered abuse,” he said. As a percentage, this means abuse would have been about 85 percent lower.
The presence of homosexual subcultures in seminaries, as reported by priests considering their own seminary life, accounts for about half the incidence of abuse, but apparently not among heterosexual men.
“Homosexual subcultures encouraged greater abuse, but not by heterosexual men, just by homosexual men,” Sullins said Nov. 2. He suggested these subcultures encourage those who may have been attracted to male victims to act out more than would have been the case otherwise.
Sullins, a former Episcopal priest, has been married for 30 years and has three children. He was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 2002 by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington.
“I was surprised and shocked, like most of us earlier this year, to hear about Cardinal McCarrick,” Sullins said. “I was particularly impressed by that because I was ordained by Cardinal McCarrick in 2002, and probably knew him better than most people would have.”
His report follows the June revelations that former Archbishop McCarrick was credibly abused of sex assault on a minor, revelations which prompted men to come forward saying he had sexually abused them as seminarians—and prompted Pope Francis to accept the archbishop’s almost unprecedented resignation from the cardinalate. McCarrick was deeply influential and had been a leading personality in the U.S. bishops’ response to the 2002 scandals.
In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury released its report on Catholic clergy sex abuse in six dioceses. It tallied over 1,000 credible accusations against hundreds of priests over decades, though many of these accusations had been reported in 2004.
“What was new in 2018 was not primarily the revelation of abuse by priests, but of a possible pattern of resistance, minimization, enablement and secrecy—a ‘cover-up’—on the part of bishops,” said Sullins, who used some of the grand jury report data for his study.
As part of the U.S. bishops’ response to the first sex abuse scandal in 2002, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice issued two bishop-commissioned reports: a 2004 report on the nature and scope of clergy sex abuse and a 2011 report on the causes and context of sex abuse.
Sullins criticized the 2011 report’s claim that sex abuse perpetrators are mainly “situational or opportunistic” and the sex of the victim is less relevant to them. In his view, multiple offenders “abused a higher proportion of male victims than did single offenders, and the proportion increased with higher numbers of victims.” If multiple offenders were better at acquiring victims, “they appear to have used their skills to obtain access to more boys, not fewer.”
Abuse of girls dropped off at the same rate in the 1980s and 1990s, and the data suggest that as girls became more prevalent in priestly life, such as in the introduction of altar girls, abusers of boys “responded to the presence of fewer younger boys primarily by turning to older boys, not to female victims.”
For clergy offenders who were “classic or fixated pedophiles,” targeting only victims under age eight, they still strongly preferred male victims, “conditional on higher proportions of homosexual men in the priesthood.”
Sex abuse by Catholic clergy is “substantially less” than in similar institutions or communities, but it is notable that underage victims of sex assault by Catholic priests in U.S. Catholic parishes and schools have been “overwhelmingly male,” said Sullins. Comparable reports in Germany indicate that up to 90 percent of abuse victims of Catholic clergy have been male, compared to about half of victims in Protestant or non-religious settings in that country.
Some Catholic commentators have blamed clericalism for the abuse. Pope Francis’ August 20 letter on sex abuse, which did not mention homosexuality, said communities where sexual abuse and “the abuse of power and conscience” have taken place are characterized by efforts to reduce the Catholic faithful to “small elites” or otherwise replace, silence or ignore them.
“To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism,” the Pope said.
In a May 21, 2018 audience with Italian bishops, the Pope said it is better not to let seminary candidates enter if they have “even the slightest doubt” about the fitness of individuals with homosexual “deep-seated tendencies” or who practice “homosexual acts,” but want to enter the seminary.
These acts or deep-seated tendencies can lead to scandals and can compromise the life of the seminary, as well as the man himself and his future priesthood, he said, according to Vatican Insider.
A 2016 document from the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” cites a 2005 Vatican document which says: “the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’.”
The bishops’ 2002 child protection charter drew criticism from Sullins. Its failure to acknowledge that bishops can commit abuse or cover up abuse “seemed to confirm the suggestion of a cover-up: indeed, to the extent bishops may have covered up priestly misbehavior, the charter itself may have covered up episcopal misbehavior.”
He faulted the 2011 John Jay report on the causes and context of clergy sex abuse, which said that a reported increase in homosexual men in seminaries in the 1980s did not correspond to the number of boys abused. Sullins noted that the authors acknowledged they did not collect or examine direct data on priests’ sexual identity and any changes in it over the years. They relied on “subjective clinical estimates and second-hand narrative reports of apparent homosexual activity in seminaries,” Sullins said.
The Ruth Institute, which published Sullins’ report, was founded in 2008 by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, an economics-trained author and writer on marriage, family and human sexuality. She served as spokesperson for Proposition 8, the California ballot measure which defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman. The institute was backed by the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund until 2013.
Groups including the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and the Southern Poverty Law Center have criticized the Ruth Institute’s stance against same-sex marriage and other LGBT causes.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which originally monitored foes of the civil rights movement, in the 1980s began tracking neo-Nazi groups and Ku Klux Klan affiliates. In recent years it has listed mainstream groups like the Ruth Institute, the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom as “hate groups” for their “anti-LGBT” stance.
In an Aug. 23, 2017 response to the listing, the Ruth Institute said it “categorically condemns white supremacy, racism, Nazism, and all violent totalitarian political movements.”
“People who cannot defend their positions using reason and evidence resort to name-calling to change the subject away from their anemic arguments,” the institute said. “The ‘hate group’ label is a club such people invented to bludgeon their political opponents.”
New York City, N.Y., Nov 2, 2018 / 02:40 pm (CNA).- The alleged victim of New York’s Bishop John Jenik spoke at a Nov. 1 press conference about his experiences with the bishop, which he said involved years of sexual abuse.
Jenik, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York, maintains his innocence.
Michael Meenan, 52, said that Jenik cultivated an inappropriate relationship with him during the 1980s that involved dozens of trips upstate to Jenik's country house, where he allegedly was groped while in bed with Jenik.
“[Jenik] began taking me on and spending time with me as a means of cultivating a relationship that was immoral, inappropriate, and in some instances illegal,” Meenan said, calling it “the greatest evil I have witnessed in my lifetime.”
Meenan, speaking to reporters outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, said the abuse took place roughly between the ages of 13 and 17. He claimed Jenik, who was then pastor of a Bronx parish, targeted him because the priest knew that family issues at home made Meenan vulnerable.
When asked why he chose to report the allegation after so many years, he said God told him in prayer that he should “tell the truth.”
Meenan described himself as “an Ivy League graduate living on food stamps” and said his life is “in a ditch.”
As a freelance journalist for the New York Times, Meenan said he occasionally wrote stories about clerical sexual abuse. He also said he would discourage fellow reporters from writing positive stories about Jenik’s work in the local community, adding that he had related his abuse experience in “informal conversations” with some reporters.
“I am John Jenik’s worst nightmare,” he said. “And I’m here to tell you I’m not the only [victim]. There are others.”
Meenan’s allegation was reviewed by the Lay Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York, which concluded “the evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated.”
“Jenik did nothing to make sure that I grew up as a proud gay man,” Meenan stated.
“He made sure to scramble my brain as much as possible with alcohol and immoral behavior, so I could not stand here today to tell you this story.”
He said Jenik celebrated the marriage of his sister and baptised two of his nieces.
This is Meenan’s second sex abuse case involving the Church; the first involved a religion teacher at Fordham Prep, who reportedly sexually assaulted him in 1984. The teacher, Fernand Beck, was dismissed in 2016 after the school determined that Meenan’s allegation was “credible.” Meenan said Thursday that case is “pretty much handled.”
The alleged victim is represented by Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney with experience representing Boston-area victims after the 2002 sexual abuse crisis. Garabedian also represented Meenan when he reported the Fordham Prep abuse in 2016.
Meenan claimed that there are Catholic priests who are “attracted to young boys” and become priests in order to have access to children. He called Jenik “a disturbed person who is a danger to young boys.”
He said Cardinal Timothy Dolan did the right thing by swiftly removing Jenik from ministry, while adding that in his view the cardinal has not yet done enough. He called for Dolan to work with the government of New York to pass new laws to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable.
“There are guys in bad shape that need help,” he said. “God has given you the dignity that you deserve to live by...what are we doing with the Church’s money if we are not going out and rescuing people’s lives?”
Jenik, who has served as pastor at Our Lady of Refuge parish since 1985, wrote in an Oct. 29 letter to his parishioners that he continues “to steadfastly deny that I have ever abused anyone at any time.”
The bishop asked parishioners to pray for the person who had accused him of abuse, and “for all those who are victim-survivors of abuse.”
The case will be reviewed by the Vatican, most likely at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sources say, before being passed to Pope Francis for judgment. Canon law establishes that only the pope may judge a penal matter involving a bishop, unless the pope delegates that responsibility elsewhere.
Jenik is the first active bishop to be accused of abusing a minor since more than a dozen states including New York opened investigations this fall of sex abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church.
Lahore, Pakistan, Nov 2, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Following an outbreak of protests in Pakistan in response the acquittal of Asia Bibi on charges of blasphemy, the government has reportedly begun the process of adding her to a list that would prohibit her from leaving the country.
According to Pakistani news source Dawn, the government have made an agreement with the Islamist political party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which coordinated the protests against Bibi’s release.
Thousands of angry demonstrators have taken to the streets in the major cities of Islamabad and Lahore, demanding Bibi's execution.
According to Dawn, in exchange for the TLP halting the protests, the government has agreed to review an appeal of Bibi’s acquittal, and to begin the process of placing her name on the “exit control list,” which would prevent her from leaving the country.
Bibi has not appeared in public following her aquittal due to the protests and concerns for her safety. Prime Minister and former cricket player Imran Khan has called for peace. Khan was elected following a public statement in support of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, a move many commentators considered to be a sopp to hardline voters and a reversal of his platform as a reforming populist.
Some figures in the Pakistani government have denied that her name will be placed on the exit control list. Her current whereabouts are unknown, with some reports suggesting that she is being held in a secured location.
As part of the reported agreement, the Pakistani government also said to have undertaken to release anyone who was arrested during the four days of protests, and the TLP will apologize to anyone “inconvenienced” by the demonstrations.
Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy charges and her death sentence was overturned on October 30. Protests against her release commenced almost immediately.
The blasphemy charges stemmed from an argument over a cup of water in June 2009.
Bibi, whose family were the only Christians in her village, attempted to drink from a cup of water that had previously been used by Muslims. She was told that she could not, as she was “unclean” due to her faith. An argument ensued, and Bibi allegedly said disparaging remarks about the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Several days later, Bibi was reported to authorities.
She is the first female non-Muslim in Pakistan to be charged with blasphemy. She and her family say she is innocent of the charges.
In 2010, she was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging. In Pakistan, defaming Muhammad carries a mandatory death sentence.
Bibi had repeatedly appealed her sentence. Her conviction was upheld in 2014 before the Pakistani Supreme Court agreed to hear her appeal. During this time, two government officials who expressed sympathy towards her plight were assassinated by Islamic extremists.
The complainant in the blasphemy case has now filed a review petition against the supreme court’s decision to overturn her death sentence and conviction. He has also requested that Bibi be placed on the exit control list until that appeal is heard.
It is unclear where Bibi will go after she is released and if she is permitted to leave Pakistan. Her husband and children lived in the U.K. during her trial and appeals process, and she has been offered asylum by several countries.
Cairo, Egypt, Nov 2, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- At least seven Coptic Christians were killed and 12 more injured in Egypt when a bus traveling to a desert monastery south of Cairo was ambushed by Islamic militants who opened fire, Egyptian authorities said on Friday.
The bus was traveling to the St. Samuel the Confessor monastery November 2, when a number of attackers approached the vehicle from nearby dirt roads and opened fire.
A spokesperson for the Coptic Orthodox Church said that the number of fatalities is “likely” to increase. A church official in the province of Minya, where the attack happened, said that a total of 10 people had been killed. The Associated Press, which reported the story, was not able to confirm this number.
No specific group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s shooting attack. However, the ambush is very similar to an attack in May 2017, which also involved a bus heading to visit the monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor. That attack which killed 29 people and left 22 injured, was eventually claimed by the Islamic State.
Last year, Egypt’s Coptic Christians have suffered numerous attacks by Islamic militants after ISIS issued a call to target the country’s Christians in February 2017. In addition to the bus massacre in Minya in May of that year, 45 people were killed and over 125 were injured in two separate bombings of Coptic churches on Palm Sunday.
In December 2017, 11 people were shot and killed in an Islamist attack on a church in the city of Helwan.
About 10 percent of Egypt’s population are Christian, the vast majority of whom are Coptic Orthodox.
In April of 2017, following the Palm Sunday bombings, Pope Francis traveled to Cairo and appeared in public with the Coptic Pope Tawadros II and other religious figures. Pope Francis honored various Coptic martyrs during this visit, and declared that the sufferings of the Copts “are also our sufferings.”
Rome, Italy, Nov 2, 2018 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In commemoration of All Souls' Day, Pope Francis prayed Friday in a cemetery for unborn children called the “Garden of Angels” on the outskirts of Rome.
“Listen to the prayer we address to you for all our loved ones who have left this world: open the arms of your mercy and receive them in the glorious assembly of Holy Jerusalem,” the pope prayed in a Blessing of the Tombs Nov. 2.
Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Laurentino Cemetery, which includes a special burial area for deceased children and unborn babies, where the pope offered a bouquet of flowers and spent a moment in prayer.
“Today is a day of memory, a day to remember those who walked before us, accompanied us, gave us life,” Pope Francis said in his homily.
It is also “a day of hope,” he continued, a hope of “what awaits us: a new heaven, a new earth, the holy city of the new Jerusalem.”
“Beauty awaits us … memory and hope, hope to encounter, hope to arrive where there is the Love which created us, where there is the Love which awaits us: the love of the Father.”
“Between memory and hope” is the road that we must take, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that it is the Beatitudes that lead us along this path.
“These beatitudes – meekness, poverty of spirit, justice, mercy, purity of heart – are the lights that accompany us so as not to make mistakes,” the pope said.
After the All Souls' Day Mass, Pope Francis prayed in private in St. Peter’s Basilica at the grotto tombs of deceased popes.
In recent tradition, popes have celebrated an All Souls' Day Mass at at Rome's Campo Verano cemetery, founded in the 19th century.
In 2016, Pope Francis extended this tradition to the Prima Porta Cemetery, and last year the Mass took place in an Italian cemetery for American personnel killed in World War II.
Detroit, Mich., Nov 2, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- A year after Detroit’s archbishop released a letter outlining a plan for his diocese’ revitalization, the diocese is working to put his words into action with a campaign called “Unleash the Gospel.”
The archdiocese held a year of prayer in 2014, asking the Holy Spirit to revitalize their diocese, which is facing a steady decline in practicing Catholics. In 2016 the diocese held a synod, a meeting of lay Catholics, priests, deacons, and religious, to discuss evangelization, the challenges facing the diocese, and potential solutions.
Communication director Edmundo Reyes told CNA that he hopes the archdiocese’ new initiative, which is primarily based around short videos, will encourage parishes, individuals and families to cultivate a missionary attitude.
Reyes said more than 550 volunteers plan to encourage parishioners at all 218 parishes Nov. 3-4 to sign up for the Archdiocese’ daily “Unleash the Gospel” emails. There will also be reflection booklets available for those without a smartphone or computer.
The initial goal, Reyes said, is to encourage parishioners to spend five minutes in reflection and prayer per day for six days, guided by short videos emailed to them the day after they sign up. Reyes hopes the videos will encourage parishioners to reflect on what it means to be a Church “on mission.”
He said the initiative is not primarily about “social justice,” although helping people, especially the poor, is a key part of the Archdiocese’ revitalization. Rather he hopes the videos and the initiative in general will refocus people on the “original issue” of Christianity, which is proclaiming the Gospel.
“It's about us understanding that the main mission of the Church is to share the Gospel with others. That's the wrong that need to be righted,” Reyes said. “The videos are trying to explain how to do that.”
Archbishop Allen Vigneron laid out some of the particular obstacles to evangelization in the Archdiocese of Detroit his 2017 letter. He wrote that these challenges have contributed to “a widespread pessimism of the possibility for authentic renewal.”
“For several decades the number of practicing Catholics has been in steady decline, a significant factor leading to many painful closings and mergings of parishes and schools, which has in turn caused more people to drift away in discouragement or frustration,” the Archbishop wrote.
“The number of active priests has also dropped considerably. In the last half century our metro area has suffered from urban blight, economic decline, racial tensions, family breakdown, substance abuse, and crime.”
Some solutions the archbishop offered in his letter had been discussed at the diocesan synod. They included an emphasis on repentance, personal testimonies, utilizing new media, and witnessing to faith within families.
In light of these challenges and using the archbishop’s letter as a guide, Reyes said the goal of the “Unleash the Gospel” initiative is to move from a focus maintenance of problems to an emphasis on outward-focused, mission oriented Church. He said a lot of archdiocesan parishes have already embraced the call to action, including Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Plymouth, which he described as a very vibrant parish that is already cultivating a missionary atmosphere.
"[Jesus is] asking us to step up and share the Gospel with others," Reyes said.
"It's about evangelization, it's about sharing the Gospel, it's about being joyful missionary disciples, and to do things in a different way."
Reyes said the diocese’ initiative was in the works before the current sexual abuse crisis began during summer 2018. He said his team made changes to at least one of the videos to emphasize the need for missionary renewal in the face of crisis in the Church.
“It is clear to us that we are called to “unleash the Gospel” not in spite of the crisis, but because of the crisis,” Reyes said.
“Sin is real, and it's present in our society. We can see that very clearly...there's sin in our Church as well. This is why the time to “unleash the Gospel” is now. This is why we should bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to people, to ourselves and to our Churches.”
Michigan’s Attorney General announced an investigation in September into all of Michigan’s eight diocese to look into any potential coverup of sexual abuse, which Vigneron said he welcomed.
The archdiocese will launch a new diocesan website in the coming days, and Reyes said other initiatives are in the works, including podcasts and training for all parishes to be "radically hospitable" to Catholics returning to the Church at Christmas. The archdiocese plans to launch a separate magazine and website for Unleash the Gospel in 2019.
Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 1, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Foster parents in Philadelphia will be in court next week, asking a judge to allow a Catholic agency to continue placing kids in foster care during a lawsuit that charges the city has unjustly discriminated against the agency.
“This is an important question – can the city end the ministry of an organization that has provided foster care for a century all over a political disagreement because that agency will not provide written certifications for same sex couples?” Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, told CNA.
In March, city officials stated that Philadelphia would no longer allow Catholic Social Services (CSS) to place kids in foster care. The officials cited the group’s unwillingness to place foster children with same-sex couples due to its religious beliefs on traditional marriage.
However, “No same-sex couple had ever actually approached Catholic [Social Services] and asked them to provide this certification,” said Windham.
CSS asked the U.S. Supreme Court in July for an injunction that would allow the organization to continue placing children in foster care while the legal action was decided. The court declined, but three justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, agreed with the request. Five justices are needed to grant an injunction. That question will now be put to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in oral arguments Nov. 6.
The agency says if the court declines its request, it will be forced to discontinue foster care services.
Several foster families, who rely on CSS to help foster children, are plaintiffs in the case, including Cecilia Paul, who has fostered more than 100 children, and Sharonell Fulton, the leading plaintiff who has worked with CSS for 25 years.
CSS has placed children in foster care for a century and has had a contract with the city for half that time. CSS typically serves about 120 foster children in 100 foster homes. Last year, the charity says it helped more than 2,200 children in the Philadelphia area.
Ten days before it announced it would not renew its CSS contract, the city announced it was 300 beds short of what it needed to help children.
“As of today, there are more than two dozen open homes available to take children in today, and the city will not place children in those homes,” said Windham.
She said the city council issued “a resolution condemning discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.” However, she said, the city had struggled to find the law which CSS has supposedly violated.
“They have pointed to a couple of different things that we’ve shown, either, don’t apply to foster care or are riddled with exceptions,” she said.
“The city allows agencies to refer couples elsewhere. Testimony was that referrals happen all the time and the city acknowledges that. At least in some cases, it’s allowed to refer a respected foster parent to another agency, who is a better fit for them, but they are refusing to allow Catholic to make referrals.”
This is not only a religious freedom issue but also a free speech issue, Windham said.
“The city wants Catholic to provide a written document that is endorsing these relationships; Catholic can’t do that and so they are happy to refer these couples elsewhere to someone who can provide them with that certification.”
Windham said this is similar to one decided in June, when the Supreme Court decided Jack Phillips had the right to refuse to provide a wedding cake for a gay marriage based on his religious beliefs.
“It makes this case similar to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case … where the Supreme Court said religious claims are entitled to neutral and respectful consideration.”