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Catholics hold pilgrimage to grave of Venerable Augustus Tolton, first African American priest

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 17:01

Denver Newsroom, Jul 12, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- The fourth annual Quincy pilgrimage honoring Venerable Augustus Tolton, the first African-American priest, took place Thursday with the intention of overcoming racism.

Fr. Daren Zehnle, the founder of the Quincy pilgrimage and pastor of St. Augustine parish in Ashland, Ill., said Tolton pastored beyond racial barriers.

“He saw the dignity of people made in the image and likeness of God. That was a turning point for what he did. That is one of our goals - to help people rediscover that basic approach to other people is to see in them Christ the Lord and to try to minister to Jesus in that other person as best as we can,” Zehnle told CNA.

July 9 marked the 123rd anniversary of Tolton’s death. The mile-long pilgrimage in Quincy, Ill., began outside of St. Peter Catholic school and ended with a series of prayers at Tolton’s grave at St. Peter Catholic Cemetery. The pilgrimage is meant to spread the knowledge of Venerable Tolton and to pray for the advancement of his cause for canonization.

Fr. Zehnle said the death of George Floyd had a profound impact on him. In response, he prayed at Tolton’s grave during the protests. He then decided for this year’s pilgrimage to place an emphasis on overcoming racism.

“I knew as soon as that happened that I need to go pray at Father Tolton’s grave… We need Father Tolton’s help with this one. [Then] maybe a week or so later, I wrote a prayer asking God to help us overcome racism through Father Tolton’s intercession,” he said.

Fr. Zehnle first began the pilgrimage four years ago after he returned from his studies in Rome and entered parish life in Quincy. His arrival coincided with the 130th anniversary of Tolton’s return from Rome to Quincy, and he decided to host a pilgrimage to celebrate the holy man’s life. As parishioners enjoyed the pilgrimage, Fr. Zehnle decided to continue the event on the anniversary of Tolton’s death.

“I think anyone who comes into contact with Tolton’s story, you don't have to read a lot about him before suddenly there's something about his life, but just sort of grabs you and brings you into it,” he said.

Around 30 people attended the event for the first two years, but in the third year, shortly after Tolton was declared Venerable, 150 people attended the event. This year, 145 people prayed at Tolton’s grave.

Fr. Zehnle said a majority of the pilgrimage attendees have a standing devotion to Tolton. He said the holy man had a profound impact on Quincy and is remembered as a person dedicated to human dignity. He said that when parishes were divided on ethnic lines, the priest welcomed all people to Mass regardless of their ethnicity.

“He never shied away from ministry to people, without any consideration for what this color of their skin was. He served people because he was Catholic because they came to him needing help and whatever form that was. It's an honest approach to life,” he said.

Fr. Tolton was born a slave in Missouri April 1, 1854 to Catholic parents, Peter Paul and Martha Jane.

Peter Paul escaped shortly after the beginning of the Civil War and joined the Union army, dying shortly thereafter. Martha Jane then escaped to Illinois in 1862 with Augustus and his siblings, Charley and Anne.

Augustus went to Rome in 1880 to attend a seminary of the Congregation for Propagation of the Faith. He was ordained a priest in the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran on Holy Saturday 1886, and was sent back to serve in Illinois in the Diocese of Alton. He worked at a parish in Quincy, but met with opposition from a white priest, and in 1889 secured permission to transfer to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

In Chicago he founded a black parish, Saint Monica's. He died July 9, 1897 from heat stroke and heart failure, at the age of 43.

The Chicago archdiocese opened Fr. Tolton’s cause for canonization in 2010. In June 2019 he was declared Venerable, an acknowledgement that he lived a life of heroic virtue.

‘Always forward!’: San Gabriel fire is a call to mission of hope, says Archbishop Gomez

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 15:01

CNA Staff, Jul 12, 2020 / 01:01 pm (CNA).-  

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez has called for Catholics to find hope and a renewed sense of mission amid a “season of sickness and death.” Gomez preached a Sunday morning homily at the Chapel of the Annunciation, on the grounds of the historic San Gabriel Mission Church which was severely damaged by a fire early Saturday morning.

“Yesterday’s fire was heartbreaking. Let’s thank God that nobody got hurt. I thank God this morning, too, for this opportunity to pray with you and to mourn with you,” Gomez said in his July 12 homily.

“In this long season of sickness and death since the coming of the coronavirus, this is one more trial, one more test. We ask the Lord to grant us comfort and consolation. We ask him to strengthen and increase our faith.”

The fire at St. Gabriel is being investigated by local and federal authorities, who have yet to determine the cause of a July 11 fire that destroyed the 249-year-old church’s roof and much of the historic church building. Because the mission church was under renovation, many of its historic and devotional objects had been removed, and were not inside when the building burned.

“The Lord is all mercy and love and tenderness toward us, and we know that he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, that he will turn our mourning into joy. We know this. We believe in his promises,” Gomez said.

“But right now, in this moment, we are sad for what we have lost.”

The San Gabriel fire is one of several fires and acts of vandalism at churches across the country this weekend. On Friday, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was vandalized in Queens, New York. Another statue of Mary was set on fire early Sunday morning outside a Boston parish. Police are investigating both incidents.

On Saturday, in Florida, a man drove a minivan into the front of Queen of Peace Catholic church in Ocala, poured gasoline in the foyer and set fire to the building while parishioners inside prepared for morning Mass. Stephen Anthony Shields, 24, was later arrested and charged with attempted murder, arson, burglary, and evading arrest. According to local media, Shields told police he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but is not currently taking prescribed medication. 

The fire also comes after numerous statues of St. Junipero Serra have been torn down in California: at the state capitol in Sacramento, in Los Angeles, and in San Francisco, while protestors have called for similar statues to be moved or torn down in other cities. While Serra, a Franciscan missionary priest, is regarded as a founder of California and an evangelist to indigenous people, some critics say he was complicit in human rights abuses in the eighteenth century. His supporters say Serra defended the rights and dignity of native people.

Gomez said that the fire at San Gabriel was especially painful as “this destruction comes as we are getting ready to celebrate the 250th anniversary of this great mission.”

“But this fire changes nothing,” said the archbishop. “Mission San Gabriel will always be the spiritual heart of the Church in Los Angeles, the place from which the Gospel still goes forth.”

“You trace your roots all the way back to the beginnings of the Christian faith in California, before the founding of the United States. In fact, you are one of the few Catholic communities in this continent that can claim to be founded by a saint.”

As he prayed to St. Serra Saturday night, Gomez said, he recalled that the saint also “knew sufferings every day in his service to the Gospel.”

“I thought, 'what would St. Junípero tell us this morning?' And I remembered his beautiful little prayer: ‘Let us bear every hardship for the love of You and the salvation of souls. In our trials, may we know that we are loved as Your own children.’ Let’s make that our prayer this morning, my brothers and sisters.”

Noting the words of St. Paul in the readings of Mass, in which the apostle says “the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us,” Gomez said the readings of the day were a call to faith, hope, and action.

“He made us for glory — not for pain, not for sorrow!” Gomez said.

“We can’t give in to this sadness. We need to make this a moment for purification and renewal of our mission — renewal of the Mission of San Gabriel and renewal of the mission that is each one of our lives.”

“St. Junípero and the first Franciscan missionaries answered the Lord’s call and sacrificed everything to bring his Word to this land,” said Gomez. “Now it is our turn to make sure his Word is proclaimed to the next generation. We can’t harden our hearts or become distracted by the anxieties and temptations of the world.”

“St. Junípero would tell us today: “Siempre Adelante!” Always Forward, and don’t look back.”

Statues of Mary vandalized in weekend of church attacks

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 12:50

CNA Staff, Jul 12, 2020 / 10:50 am (CNA).- Boston police are investigating an arson attack on a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary Saturday night, the second attack on a statue of the Virgin Mary in two days.

Police were called to reports of a fire on Bowdin Street in the Dorchester neighborhood Boston at around 10 p.m. on July 11.

Local police confirmed that a statue of the Blessed Virgin, located outside the church of St. Peter’s Parish, had been set on fire and suffered damage. Local police and firefighters both responded to reports that an unknown individual had set fire to plastic flowers which were in the hands of the statue, causing smoke and flame damage to the face, head, and upper body of the statue.

The fire at St. Peter’s is the latest in a series of fires and acts of vandalism which have struck Catholic churches in the last two days.

On July 10, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced that New York City police were investigating the vandalization of a statue of the Virgin Mary at Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in Queens.

Security footage shows an individual approaching the 100-year-old statue shortly after 3 a.m. Friday morning and daubing the word “IDOL” down its length.

Fr. James Kuroly, rector and president of Cathedral Prep, called the incident “an act of hatred.”

“Obviously, this tragedy saddens us deeply but it also renews our hope and faith in the Lord as he has shown his goodness in the many people who have already reached out to us,” said Fr. Kuroly. “We are sincerely grateful for the help we have received as well as the prayers. Please continue praying for those who committed this act of vandalism and hatred toward Our Lady and the Church.”

In addition to the attacks on the two statues of Mary, on Saturday morning sheriffs in Marion County, Florida, reported that deputies were called to Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, which was set aflame while parishioners inside prepared for morning Mass.

Stephen Anthony Shields, 24, was later arrested and charged with attempted murder, arson, burglary, and evading arrest, after reportedly admitting to crashing a minivan into the church and then setting it on fire.

According to a Saturday evening statement from the sheriff's office, Shields poured gasoline in the church’s foyer and ignited it, after crashing his minivan through the parish's front door. Shields then drove away in the minivan, leading officers on a short chase before he was stopped. According to local media, Shields told police he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but is not currently taking prescribed medication. 

Also on Saturday, a fire ravaged the San Gabriel mission in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a 249-year-old mission founded by St. Junípero Serra.

Gomez called the mission the “historic cornerstone and the spiritual heart of Los Angeles and the Catholic community here.”

Federal and local officials are still investigating the cause of the fire at the San Gabriel mission, with no determination yet made. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported that agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were investigating the possibility that the fire was an arson attack.

Also this weekend, San Diego police officials said that a fire at Calvary Baptist church at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning was “suspicious” and was being investigated by the department’s Metro Arson Strike Team.

Calvary is an historically African American church, though its website says it has become a “multi-cultural faith community” in recent years.

Culture is about ‘creating, not destroying’ says sculptor

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 10:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 12, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Tired and heartbroken at seeing statues get pulled down and vandalized, Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz wracked his brain to come up with a compromise that would both preserve the artwork, and acknowledge the flawed nature of many historical figures. 

Schmalz has been a sculptor for 30 years and is perhaps best known for his “Homeless Jesus” sculpture and the "Angels Unaware" statue dedicated to migrants in St. Peter’s square. He told CNA that he believes sculpture is a unique and powerful method of preaching. 

He said it made him upset “beyond belief” watching the news and seeing statues of figures such as Christopher Columbus and St. Junipero Serra be torn down. 

“I know the amount of time that is spent working on each sculpture and a lot of these sculptures were done a century ago and the skill level, the time that it's been put into that--just on a simple work ethic and good craftsmanship and time and love that is put into it,” he said. 

“To see that being pulled down and destroyed just really breaks my heart,” Schmalz added. 

Sculpture, he said, is different from other art forms, as unlike a play or a piece of music, it is intended to be permanent.

“Its basic presence is that of time enduring,” he said. He told CNA that seeing what he called “a random mob” destroy statue after statue felt like watching “wanton violence against our culture.” 

The statues, Schmalz said, are  works of art being used as scapegoats for the country’s perceived historical sins.

“They’re visual ambassadors of that history, and to destroy it--[its] absolute arrogance.” 

Instead of destruction, Schmalz is advocating for more creation.

“I'm a sculptor, I'm a creative, I create, I do not destroy, and I wish more people would follow the role model of creating rather than destroying,” he said. 

Creation, Schmalz explained, is far more difficult than destruction. Some of the statues that were destroyed took years to make, “and they’re toppled in 15 minutes.” 

“I want to be in a culture that is one of creating, not one of destroying. And, and what I say is that if you have a problem with that sculpture, let's create more sculptures, let's create more stuff.”

And creating “more stuff” is just what Schmalz is doing. 

He sculpted what he has dubbed the “Monument of Oppression”--a sculpture of two arms extending outward behind a barred window--which he says he hopes could be installed as a “supplementary sculpture” beside controversial works of art, offering it as a compromise that could save more works of art from destruction. 

The Monument of Oppression would be “a layer of art on top of a layer of art,” and would serve as a reminder that there is a complicated history behind many notable persons which should be marked. 

As a sculptor, and as one who concentrates on religious-inspired art, Schmalz rejected the idea that statues of a European-styled Jesus should be taken down, but did say that there should be a wider embrace of images of Christ as various ethnicities, saying he has himself made many African-styled images of Christ and the Holy Family, including an African-American crucifix for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. 

“Jesus does not have a color. Jesus doesn't necessarily care,” he said. “Artwork is a bridge for people. And so if I have the opportunity to make a Jesus for a European place, fine. And an African-American Corpus should be in Atlanta, Georgia, because there's so many people of African descent there.” 

The depiction of Jesus as various ethnicities “has nothing to do with anything, but making artwork that fits the audience and you have the painters doing the same,” he said, noting that Jesus was often depicted in the clothing of the Middle Ages or Renaissance, and that the actual Last Supper “probably wouldn’t have had a European table and chairs.” 

“It doesn't matter,” he said. 

“Artwork is a communication, and that has to be spoken in a language that people could understand.” 

News anchor-turned-Catholic vocations director embarks on 'Tour de Priest'

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 05:53

Jackson, Miss., Jul 12, 2020 / 03:53 am (CNA).- This Sunday, a Catholic priest will embark on a 320-mile, 5-day bike ride to recruit young men and women for the Church.

Father Nick Adam had to be creative when he was assigned to be the director of vocations for the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, in the midst of a global pandemic.

“How do I reach people? How do I reach people?” Fr. Adam recalled repeatedly asking himself while the shelter-in-place order was in effect.

Since he had evenings free, he began riding his bike on the Natchez Trace Parkway. He soon realized that the parkway, which connects the entirety of his diocese, could be the perfect solution.

“It checks a lot of boxes. It allows me to connect with a wide variety of people (and) allows me to have a presence on Facebook and Instagram,” Adam told CNA. He is planning to document his trip on social media, allowing anyone to follow along with his journey.

As a former sports and news anchor, Adam has a gift for communication.

“Media and connecting with people in creative ways has always been part of my call,” he said. “I need to embrace those gifts for communication that [God] gave me.”

The priest admitted that bike riding does not come as naturally to him.

“People have looked at me like I’m crazy sometimes, especially because I’m not in the best shape of my life, but I have been training,” he said.

Still, Adam says that the fact that the ride will be a challenge is integral to his mission.

“Just completing something like this shows people that they can strive for something great,” he said. “That’s the Catholic idea, that’s the Catholic project, to bring about the kingdom of God. And it’s going to be hard and it's going to be challenging, and you’re going to want to quit, but with the Lord’s help, you are not going to quit.”

Adam said the trip is also an important remedy for misconceptions that many young people have about the priesthood.

“It shows people that priests are normal people that do normal things and that are capable of physical exertion,” he said.

Along his route, Adam will stop in parishes, meet with seminarians, and celebrate Mass, which will be live-streamed on his social media platforms. He wants to connect with young people, whether that be in-person or over his virtual interface.

Although Adam will stay in rectories of parishes overnight, between Jackson and Natchez there is “no ecclessial place to stay,” and he will instead spend the night at a campground. Young college students and others discerning a call to the priesthood and religious life will camp out with him.

Adam hopes that he can lay the groundwork for “a culture of vocations” in the diocese of Jackson among these young people.

Although it is the largest diocese East of the Mississippi, the Jackson diocese has always been served by mission priests. There were so many Irish priests in the diocese that when he was little, Adam thought being Irish was a requirement for the priesthood. Now most of the missionary priests come from Mexico, Latin America, and India.

“We have very few native Mississippians who are priests for our diocese,” he said. “My dream, and I think our call, is to create a presbyterate that again honors those who have evangelized our communities, but do that by filling our parishes with men who grew up in the state.”

He hopes that this trip, which he calls his “tour de priest,” will encourage young people to enter seminaries and convents in order to discern their calling.

The bike that will take him across the diocese is itself an artifact of several vocations.

“It’s been passed down, I think, from a baptist minister, to a Catholic monsignor, to a Catholic priest, finally to me as a seminarian. I mean, it’s got to be like 20 years old,” he said. “But it’s still rolling.”

 

Gomez asks for prayers after fire at 'spiritual heart of Los Angeles'

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 22:15

CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2020 / 08:15 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has expressed his “terrible sadness” after a fire at a 249-year-old mission church founded by St. Junípero Serra, and asked for prayers for the local Catholic community.

Gomez said that the fire at “our beloved Mission San Gabriel Arcángel” early Saturday morning had caused severe damage to the California Historic Landmark.

“The damage is extensive — the roof is destroyed and much of the old church is ruined,” the archbishop reported in a letter released the evening of July 11. “It is terribly sad. Thanks be to God, nobody was hurt.”

The church had been scheduled to reopen on July 18, having been closed for some weeks following the coronavirus pandemic. Gomez called the mission, founded by St. Serra in 1771, the “historic cornerstone and the spiritual heart of Los Angeles and the Catholic community here.”

“The family of God was born in this region when St. Junípero Serra and his brother Franciscans established the mission on September 8, 1771,” Gomez said.

“It was families from this mission, who in turn founded Los Angeles ten years later, on September 4, 1781, walking nine miles west from the mission, crossing the Los Angeles River, and establishing El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Porciuncula, named for the little chapel where St. Francis of Assisi first heard the call of Jesus Christ.”

The archbishop said that “to this day,” the parish at the mission “continues to be a shining expression of the beautiful diversity that God intends for his human family.” A special appeal fund has been established by the archdiocese.

“So, join me please in praying in this sad moment for our brothers and sisters at Mission San Gabriel. May they know the comfort and consolation of our loving Father and the solidarity and care of the entire family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”

Local firefighters said they responded to an initial alarm at 4:24 a.m. By the time they arrived, smoke and flames were visible from outside the church and more than 50 firefighters were needed to bring the flames under control.

Adrian Marquez Alarcon, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said that because of renovations underway at the church ahead of its 250th anniversary, historic paintings and artifacts had been removed and were not in the building at the time of the fire.

No cause has yet been determined for the four-alarm fire, and local firefighters have said that the structure of the mission will have to be secured before a forensic investigation can begin.

The San Gabriel mission was the fourth mission founded by St. Junípero Serra, a Franciscan priest who founded a trail of missions across California, helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity, and taught them new agricultural technologies.

Many of Serra’s missions form the cores of what are today the state’s biggest cities— such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

An advocate for native people and a champion of human rights, Serra was often at odds with Spanish authorities over the treatment of native people, from whom there was an outpouring of grief at his death in 1784.

Serra was canonized by Pope Francis during a visit to the United States in 2015.

Despite Serra’s record defending indigenous peoples, images of the saint have become focal points for protests and demonstrations across California in recent weeks, with images of the saint being torn down or vandalized in protest of California’s colonial past.

Arrest made in Florida Catholic church burning

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 21:14

CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2020 / 07:14 pm (CNA).-  

A Florida man has been arrested after he reportedly admitted to crashing a minivan into a Catholic Church and then setting it on fire.

Stephen Anthony Shields, 24, of Dunnellon, Florida has been charged with attempted murder, arson, burglary, and evading arrest, after he was apprehended by police July 11.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office reported Saturday morning that deputies were called at about 7:30 am to Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, which was set aflame while parishioners inside prepared for morning Mass.

According to a Saturday evening statement from the sheriff's office, Shields poured gasoline in the church’s foyer and ignited it, after crashing his minivan through the parish's front door. Shields then drove away in the minivan, leading officers on a short chase before he was stopped.

According to local media, Shields told police he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but is not currently taking prescribed medication. He said that he awoke on Saturday morning with a “mission,” and that he purchased the gas at a nearby gas station, according to Ocala-News.

Shields also quoted scripture, especially the Book of Revelation, to officers, and telling them his objections to the Catholic Church, Ocala-News reported. He reportedly told officers that he understood the consequences of his action, nevertheless saying the arson was “awesome” and referring to himself as “king.”

In 2019, Shields was arrested after swinging a crowbar at a woman and saying he wanted to kill her. Shields said he wanted to kill the woman with his crowbar so he wouldn’t “dirty his blades,” according to Ocala-News.

In a July 11 statement, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said: “Our freedom of worship granted in the Constitution is a freedom that we all hold dear. My deputies and I are sworn to protect that right and will always ensure our citizens can worship in peace. I’m proud of my deputies for capturing this man so quickly and we appreciate the assistance from all of the state and federal agencies that worked alongside of us during this investigation.”

Earlier today, the Diocese of Orlando told CNA that Masses would resume in a nearby parish hall as ordinarily scheduled.

“We praise God that no one was injured. We join in prayer for Father O’Doherty, the parishioners of Queen of Peace Catholic Church, our first responders and the gentleman who caused this damage. May we come to know the Peace of the Lord,” the Orlando diocese told CNA Saturday afternoon.

In addition to its other liturgies, the parish is one of few in central Florida to offer the extraordinary form of the Mass, otherwise known as the Traditional Latin Mass, which is celebrated weekly by a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter who drives to Ocala from a church in Sarasota.

The fire came at almost the same time that outside of Los Angeles, a mission church founded by St. Junipero Serra caught fire and was structurally destroyed.
 

Florida man lights Catholic Church on fire with parishioners inside

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 16:25

CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2020 / 02:25 pm (CNA).-  

A Florida man lit a Catholic Church aflame on Saturday, while people inside prepared for morning Mass.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office reported July 11 that deputies were called at about 7:30 am to Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, while parishioners inside prepared for morning Mass.



A man crashed a minivan through the front door of the church, and then lit a fire with people inside, the sheriff’s department said. One local media outlet, Orlando News 6, reported that man set the building ablaze by throwing an incendiary device.

The sheriff’s office said the man led officers on a vehicle chase and was eventually apprehended. The arsonist’s name has not been released, and charges have not yet been filed, but local media report that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is assisting in the investigation.

“We praise God that no one was injured. We join in prayer for Father O’Doherty, the parishioners of Queen of Peace Catholic Church, our first responders and the gentleman who caused this damage. May we come to know the Peace of the Lord,” the Orlando diocese told CNA Saturday afternoon.

“Masses will resume as normal in the parish hall beginning this evening,” the diocese added.

The church is one of few in central Florida to offer the extraordinary form of the Mass, otherwise known as the Traditional Latin Mass, which is celebrated weekly by a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter who drives to Ocala from a church in Sarasota.

The fire came at almost the same time that outside of Los Angeles, a mission church founded by St. Junipero Serra caught fire and was structurally destroyed.

Mission founded by St. Junípero Serra burns in overnight fire

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 14:40

CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2020 / 12:40 pm (CNA).- A massive fire devastated an 18th century mission church in San Gabriel, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, July 11. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles called the fire at San Gabriel Mission church, founded by St. Junipero Serra, “devastating.”

The fire began early Saturday morning around 4 a.m. and destroyed the roof and interior of the 249-year-old structure. Local firefighters said they responded to an initial alarm at 4:24. By the time they arrived, smoke and flames were visible from outside the church – which is a California Historical Landmark.

Battling the four-alarm fire eventually involved 50 firefighters, according to the Los Angeles Times. Local fire department spokesman Captain Antonio Negrete called the damage “heartbreaking.”

“The roof of the mission is completely gone and the interior up to the altar is completely destroyed,” Negrete said, noting that it was not yet possible to establish the cause of the fire because of concerns over the building’s structural integrity.

“We’re going to have building engineers come in and see if we can shore up some walls to make it as safe as possible for the investigators to go in and start investigating this fire,” he said, according to the Times.

Adrian Marquez Alarcon, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said that because of renovations underway at the church ahead of its 250th anniversary, historic paintings and artifacts had been removed and were not in the building at the time of the fire.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez visited the church Saturday morning, saying on Facebook that “[he] woke up before dawn this morning to news that our beloved San Gabriel Mission, founded by St. Junípero Serra in 1771, was burning.”

“Thank God no one is hurt,” Gomez said. “I’m here to pray with the people. The roof is destroyed and there is much damage in the old church. St. Junípero, pray for this city, this state, and this country that you helped to found.”

The San Gabriel mission was the fourth mission founded by St. Junípero Serra, a Franciscan priest who founded a trail of missions across California. Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity, and taught them new agricultural technologies.

Many of Serra’s missions form the cores of what are today the state’s biggest cities— such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

An advocate for native people and a champion of human rights, Serra was often at odds with Spanish authorities over the treatment of native people, from whom there was an outpouring of grief at his death in 1784.

Serra was canonized by Pope Francis during a visit to the United States in 2015.

“Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,” the pope said in his homily at the Mass of canonization. 

Despite Serra’s record defending indigenous peoples, statues of the saint have become focal points for protests and demonstrations across California in recent weeks, with images of the saint being torn down or vandalized in protest of California’s colonial past.

Rioters pulled down a statue of St. Serra in the state capital of Sacramento on July 4, during which one man burned the face of the statue with an ignited spray can, before a crowd pulled the statue from its base and struck it with a sledgehammer and other objects, dancing and jumping upon it.

Another statue of the saint was torn down in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, on June 19 by a crowd of about 100 people. The following week the San Juan Capistrano Mission and its neighboring church removed statues of Serra from their outside displays to preserve them from being targeted.

Pope Francis recognizes 'Padre Kino,' Arizona's missionary priest

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 14:00

CNA Staff, Jul 11, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis on Saturday recognized the heroic virtue of the life of a 17th century Italian Jesuit missionary who evangelized – and mapped – much of what is now northern Mexico and the southwestern United States.

On July 11, the pope formally recognized the life of Servant of God Eusebio Kino, S.J., as one of heroic virtue. Kino, an explorer and missionary, took part in numerous expeditions through the American Southwest and is widely considered an apostle to the native population of Arizona, and defender of their rights.

Bishop James Wall of the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, welcomed the announcement on Saturday.

“Growing up in Arizona, I first learned of Padre Kino in elementary school,” Wall told CNA.

“The example of the life of the ‘Padre on Horseback’ has played a large part in strengthening my own Catholic faith – especially the love, care, and sensitivity he showed to the indigenous people of Arizona.”

Born in 1645 in the Tyrol region of northern Italy and ordained in 1677, Kino was sent to Mexico, arriving in 1681. While there, Kino made numerous journeys through what is now the Sonora region of Mexico, and the states of Arizona and California.

Participating in more than 50 expeditions through northern Mexico to the southwestern United States, he is credited with baptizing more than 4,000 people, and covering more than 50,000 square miles by horse while announcing the Gospel and mapping the Pimería Alta territory of modern Arizona.

A capable cartographer, Kino personally mapped an area 200 miles long by 250 miles wide, and paving the way for a network of missions and roads connecting previously inaccessible parts of the region.

One of the main thoroughfares in Tuscon is named the Kino Parkway in his honor and a statue of him overlooks the road.

A statue of Kino was placed in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., by Arizona in 1965.

Kino is also credited with teaching advanced agricultural and ranching techniques to the local people, delivering new crops and improving the quality of life. Kino founded 19 ranching villages to supply food for the region, and schools for the education of the local children.

The Jesuit was also a noted defender of the rights and dignity of the indigenous people, strongly opposing the Spanish conscription of the local Sonoran Indians to work in silver mines. He died in 1711, aged 65, having fallen ill during a Mass to dedicate the church of St. Francis Xavier in present day Magdalena de Kino, in Sonora, Mexico, where his shrine is a national monument.

“Kino was a true son of the Church, and model of the New Evangelization for our modern day,” Bishop Wall said. “I am grateful to the Holy Father for recognizing the heroic virtue of this great man.”

The Vatican’s recognition of Kino’s life as one of heroic virtue follows the recent vandalism and destruction of several statues of another missionary central to the history of the region. In recent weeks, demonstrators have attacked statues of St. Junipero Serra, who founded a string of missions across California and was known as a vigorous defender of rights of indigenous peoples.

The recognition of Kino’s heroic virtue was made Saturday morning in Rome, when Pope Francis advanced the causes of five possible candidates for sainthood.

Catholic bishops defend federal paycheck loan participation

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 00:35

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 10:35 pm (CNA).-  

The U.S. bishops on Friday defended the use of the federal Paycheck Protection Program by Catholic parishes, hospitals, schools, dioceses, and social service agencies, after a report from the Associated Press said the government had given “special consideration” to faith groups in the loan program and characterized Catholic participation in the coronavirus relief program as an “aggressive pursuit of funds.”

“The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to protect the jobs of Americans from all walks of life, regardless of whether they work for for-profit or non-profit employers, faith-based or secular,” Archbishop Paul Coakley, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference committee on domestic justice and human development said in a July 10 statement.

“The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental supplier of social services in the United States. Each year, our parishes, schools and ministries serve millions of people in need, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. The novel coronavirus only intensified the needs of the people we serve and the demand for our ministries. The loans we applied for enabled our essential ministries to continue to function in a time of national emergency.”

“In addition, shutdown orders and economic fallout associated with the virus have affected everyone, including the thousands of Catholic ministries -- churches, schools, healthcare and social services -- that employ about 1 million people in the United States,” Coakley added.

“These loans have been an essential lifeline to keep hundreds of thousands of employees on payroll, ensure families maintain their health insurance, and enable lay workers to continue serving their brothers and sisters during this crisis.”

The federal loan program is a $669-billion initiative that allows entities to obtain low-interest loans that can be forgiven if the money goes mostly to cover payroll expenses, and to keep people employed who are in danger of losing their jobs. While more than 4.9 million loans have been approved to date, more than $130 billion remains available to potential borrowers.

Earlier this week, data was released by the government that revealed the identities of many, but not all loan participants. Loan recipients included Planned Parenthood affiliates, numerous firms owned by state and federal lawmakers, the publisher of the National Enquirer, the libertarian Ayn Rand Institute, and other organizations that have raised eyebrows or been subject to criticism.

Still, officials with the federal Small Business Association said that the program was designed to keep people employed, regardless of their industry or employer, and that the SBA will exercise oversight to ensure funds were not borrowed under false pretenses.

If borrowers can’t demonstrate that at least 60 percent of borrowed funds were used for payroll-related expenses, then the terms of the loans will require their repayment.

The July 9 Associated Press report said that Catholic organizations borrowed between $1.4 and $3.5 billion, and noted that at least 407,900 jobs were saved through those loans. At the high end of the Associated Press estimate, Catholic institutional borrowing would represent .5% of funds allocated to the loan program. And if $3.5 billion was in fact borrowed, the cost for each job saved through the loans would amount to $8580.

In May, CBS News reported that 12,000-13,000 of the 17,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S. had applied for the loans, and 9,000 had already received them.

The July 9 Associated Press story said that the Catholic Church in the U.S. used an “exemption from federal rules” in order to “amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid” through its participation in the federal program.

The report said that Catholic entities gained this “exception” to the Small Business Association’s eligibility rules through lobbying efforts, citing an April report from Catholic News Service.

That Catholic News Service report said that Catholic lobbyists worked, in the week the legislation creating the program was actually passed, to ensure that as rules were devised by Department of Treasury officials, that Catholic entities civilly distinct from each other would not be regarded as one entity, which might place the consolidated entities above a 500-employee eligibility cap.

In the Church’s canon law, parishes are distinct legal entities from each other and from dioceses, and while diocesan bishops exercise legislative and judicial authority over parishes, parishes do not constitute subsidiaries of dioceses. Nor do affiliated entities like Catholic Charities, Catholic schools and universities, or Catholic hospitals, which are ordinarily overseen by lay boards on which bishops often have only ordinary voting membership, if that.

The Catholic Church is a web of organizations connected by faith, mission, sacraments, and oversight, but those organizations are not uniformly administered as subsidiaries or under the direct control of local bishops.

While parishes generally pay annual fees to dioceses, the funds of distinct canonical entities may not be permissibly commingled, and canon law requires that the civil structures of parishes, dioceses, and other Catholic entities reflect their canonical reality.

Nevertheless, the complex organizational structure of the Catholic Church made it possible that several Catholic entities in the same place might be regarded by the SBA as one entity. The effort of the USCCB lobbyists was to ensure that wouldn’t be the case, the Catholic News Service report explained.

That effort was successful.

An April 3 FAQ document from the SBA explained that the general loan rules provided that if faith-based organizations had an affiliation related to “religious beliefs about church authority or internal constitution, or because the legal, financial, or other structural relationships between your organization and other organizations reflect an expression of such beliefs,” they would qualify for an exemption to rules that would ordinarily count “affiliated” organizations as one entity for purposes eligibility determination.

However, faith-based organizations “affiliated with other organizations solely for non-religious reasons, such as administrative convenience...would be subject to the affiliation rules,” the SBA explained.

In the United States, both parishes and dioceses are facing serious financial shortfalls and in Rome, the Vatican has run sizeable budget deficits for years. While the Catholic Church has assets of artistic, cultural, and historic value, those are not easily liquidated, and with few exceptions, Catholic entities around the world have been facing a serious cash crunch for years.

In his statement, Coakley acknowledged that “more than 100 Catholic schools have announced that they plan to close, with hundreds more facing an uncertain future. Businesses, hospitals, schools, and churches all across the country are facing many of the exact same problems.“

“We will continue advocating for everyone negatively affected by this terrible pandemic, praying for all the sick, for all who have died and are in mourning, and especially the poor and vulnerable at this time of great need.”

 

Judge shoots down Indiana abortion reporting law, upholds clinic inspection requirement 

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 19:34

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 05:34 pm (CNA).- A federal judge ruled against an Indiana law requiring medical providers to inform the state if they treat any complications connected to a prior abortion.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled Wednesday that the law was “unconstitutionally vague.” He said the legislation was unclear about how and when doctors should report potential complications, as well as what criteria should be used to determine whether a later condition is tied a previous abortion.

“The indeterminacy of the statute’s requirements denies fair notice to physicians and invites arbitrary enforcement by prosecutors,” Young wrote.

“The language of the statute does not make clear whether the duty to report covers conditions exclusively caused by the abortion procedure, conditions that are only slightly caused or exacerbated by the abortion procedure, or something in between.”

Under the law, there are 26 physical or psychological abortion-related conditions, ranging from depression to future pregnancy complications, that would require a report from doctors to the state. Failure to comply would be punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1000 fine.

In 2018 court documents, Attorney General Curtis Hill said the requirement “serves the public interest by collecting comprehensive data on the complications that may result from abortion and the frequency of those complications,” the New York Times reported.

Hill defended the law in a statement on Thursday, calling the legislation a “commonsense” regulation to safeguard women’s health.

“The Indiana General Assembly has a record of passing legislation that safeguards women’s health and protects the lives of unborn children,” Hill said. “I will always consider it an honor to vigorously defend state laws aimed at such essential objectives.”

At the same time, Young upheld another part of the law requiring abortion clinics to undergo annual inspections.

Planned Parenthood has objected to the law as unfair, since hospitals and surgical centers do not face the same yearly inspections.

However, Young pointed to the misconduct by abortionist Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, whose property was discovered after his death in 2019 to house more than 2,000 aborted fetuses. Klopfer operated several abortion clinics before losing his license in 2015.

Young ruled that “the state has offered a rational reason for the decision to subject abortion clinics to stricter inspection requirements.”

 

Archdiocese drops music, prohibits concerts, after new allegations against David Haas

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 19:22

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 05:22 pm (CNA).-  

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Thursday it has received new allegations of misconduct on the part of composer David Haas, and that Haas will be prohibited from giving concerts and workshops in the archdiocese, and that his music will be prohibited at archdiocesan liturgies.

The archdiocese said it had in recent weeks “received additional reports from women in different parts of the country alleging that David Haas engaged in inappropriate conduct with them in the 1980s, when the women were young adults. The conduct described in these new, independent reports is similar in nature to the conduct described in previous allegations. Haas has denied any wrongdoing,” in a July 8 statement from safe environment director Tim O’Malley.

“We are sharing this information in the interest of accountability and transparency and believe that it may assist others, as it has assisted us, in making informed decisions. Survivors of sexual harassment and abuse deserve support and understanding.”

“Indeed, our community as a whole has suffered much from those who have used positions of power or privilege to harm others. We have a responsibility to be mindful of this and do what we can to prevent further injury to those who have already suffered harm.”

“Archbishop Hebda has decided that David Haas may not give presentations at workshops, concerts, or similar events hosted by the Archdiocese, parishes, Catholic schools, or other Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese. Likewise, the Archdiocese will not use Haas’ compositions at Archdiocesan Masses and other Archdiocesan events.”

“Also, the Archbishop has encouraged pastors, principals, and leaders of other Catholic institutions to consider the sensitivities involved with using Haas’ music in liturgies or other parish or school events, and to take appropriate steps to fully support those who have been harmed by sexual assault or abuse.”

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Haas surfaced in early June, when a group called Into Account sent a letter to some Catholic organizations and media outlets, addressing allegations against Haas.

The letter, obtained by CNA June 14, said the group had “received reports from multiple individuals reporting sexually predatory actions from the composer David Haas.”

Haas told CNA he denies those charges.

On June 16, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a statement saying that it had “received two reports from another diocese that David Haas acted inappropriately with two adult women at an event in another state. Both women complained that Haas’ conduct made them feel uncomfortable. The Archdiocese had received an earlier complaint, in 1987, that Haas had made unwanted sexual advances toward a young adult woman. In each instance, Haas denied that he engaged in inappropriate conduct.”

The archdiocese said that in 2018, it informed Haas it would no longer provide letters of recommendation for his ministry in other dioceses, and that he would not be allowed to perform the St. Paul archdiocese “without disclosure of these complaints.”

The composer, a layman, is a central figure in the “contemporary liturgical music” movement that began in the 1970s. Among Haas’ songs are some contemporary standards: “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among others.

Several of Haas’ publishers have suspended or dropped their relationships with the musician since the allegations were made public.

CNA has spoken with an alleged victim of sexual assault by Haas, and with a woman who offered a picture of her experience with Haas in the 1980s.

Maria* told CNA that Haas invited her to dinner in the fall of 1980, ostensibly to discuss music ministry. She had recently attended a music workshop that he had put on in St. Paul, and he had reached out to her directly by phone, she says.

She says during the evening Haas professed love for her, and that while he was driving after dinner, he refused to bring her back to her dormitory when she asked him to repeatedly, taking her instead to a second restaurant for dessert, despite her continued requests to be taken home.

Maria alleges that Haas tried to hold her back when she eventually did get out of his car, insisting on a kiss goodnight.

In later weeks, she says Haas pursued her with love notes and tried to meet with her one-on-one, even while he knew she was dating a man she eventually married. She says she rebuked his advances, "but it could have gone bad fast if I hadn't seen the writing on the wall," Maria told CNA.

When the Into Account allegations came to light in May, Maria says she began to reassess what had happened to her. He had taken her out under false pretenses— using his position as a music minister to get her to agree to meet him— and would not allow her to leave the situation, she said.

Maria also remembers hearing rumors that other members of the choir in which she participated in college— which Haas helped to lead— had experienced similar “dates” with Haas.

She said she hopes her story might inspire other women from that choir to come forward with their own allegations.

*Maria asked for anonymity to avoid potential retaliation from Haas, professionally, and from the public.

 

US Navy changes course, allows attendance at religious services with coronavirus precautions

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 16:30

Denver Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).-  

After reports that sailors and their families could be barred from attending church services, the U.S Navy has clarified that its personnel may attend indoor religious services, provided that religious services take approved measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services has welcomed the change.

“The revision of the U.S. Navy’s orders to allow for the participation by Navy personnel in indoor religious services, provided that the appropriate guidelines are met, is most welcome,” Broglio told CNA July 10. “The change recognizes that worship is a part of the exercise of religious liberty and helps to ensure the readiness of the forces who defend us.”

“It is clear that the Catholic Church has taken to heart the CDC measures and organized the celebration of the sacraments in ways that ensure the safety of participants, good order, and the dignity of the rites. I am sure that other religious groups will do the same,” the archbishop said.

“I am grateful to the Department of the Navy and everyone else who contributed to this timely revision.”

In late March, the Navy imposed restrictions on attending off-base religious services.

Gregory Slavonic, acting assistant secretary of defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said on Wednesday that Navy orders should not “restrict attendance at places of worship where attendees are able to appropriately apply COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures, specifically social distancing and use of face covering.“

The new guidance came late Wednesday in a memo from Slavonic to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday, the news website Military.com reports.

Capt. Sarah Self-Kyler, public affairs officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said all service members assigned to Navy units “must continue to follow force health protection protocols, such as maintaining social distance and use of face coverings, should they choose to participate in religious services or visit places of worship.”

U.S. Air Force Major Daniel Schultz, who is currently assigned to a Navy command, on June 29 sought a religious accommodation. Schultz, who leads worship at his church, said a new order allowed house parties and protests but banned attendance at indoor church services.

Mike Berry, general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, had sent a letter on behalf of Schultz. He told Fox News the change was a “major victory” for the Constitution and religious freedom.

“This memo means tens of thousands of our brave service members will be able to safely and freely exercise their religious beliefs,” he said.

U.S. Reps. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. Had written to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper objecting to the Navy's policy.

Collins welcomed the new clarification but called for further changes.

"For too long, the Pentagon has turned a blind eye as our military leaders have completely disregarded their obligation to protect the religious freedom of its service members," Collins said Thursday. "I look forward to sitting down with Secretary Esper and leaders at the Department of Defense to further discuss how we can protect religious freedom across all branches of our military.”

On July 5, Broglio criticized the orders and lamented that they also discouraged “civilian personnel, including families” from attending indoor church services.

Broglio called the Navy’s original order “particularly odious to Catholics,” because, he said, frequently there is no longer a Catholic program on naval installations due to budgetary constraints, or many installation chapels simply are still closed.

“Participation in the Sunday Eucharist is life blood for Catholics. It is the source and summit of our lives and allows us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord,” he said.

Given the great efforts of Catholic churches to adjust seating, the reception of Holy Communion, and the liturgy to avoid contagion, Broglio had said, “I wonder why the Navy has decided to prohibit the faithful from something which even the Commander in Chief has called an essential service.”

Broglio's archdiocese serves some 1.8 million Catholics worldwide, including service members, civilian federal employees, and their families. About 25% of the military is Catholic, though only 6% of military chaplains are. There are under 500 ordained priests doing ministry work for the archdiocese, about 184 of whom are active-duty chaplains who are also commissioned officers.

While some news reports have highlighted dangers of contagion at religious services, other experts have emphasized that religious services are no more dangerous than similar events that take precautions recommended by health authorities.

A recent New York Times report linked religious facilities to more than 650 cases of Covid-19 infections contracted at nearly 40 churches and religious events since the epidemic arrived in the U.S. However, these make up a minuscule percentage of the more than 3.1 million confirmed cases in the country.

 

Catholic Charities serves families facing food insecurity in DC

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- In the shadow of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington distributed food to families in need Friday, as the nation’s capital continues to battle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today we provided food to hundreds of people who have been impacted by the pandemic,” Joe Dempsey, director of special projects for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA. 

“This shows that this crisis is still very much affecting the D.C. area, and it continues to hit struggling families the hardest. But we are committed to meeting our clients’ needs for as long as this situation lasts,” said Dempsey. 

The distribution was held in the parking lot in front of the basilica, a Washington landmark and the largest church in North America. In addition to the 500 grocery boxes, Catholic Charities also distributed boxes that contained a hot meal for a family of four. 

DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who represents the district’s Ward 5, where the basilica is located, praised Catholic Charities for their work in feeding the hungry. 

“Here in Ward 5 we have the second highest number of COVID-19 positive cases in the District,” Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie told CNA on Friday. 

“A large number of our businesses have had to close temporarily, leaving many of our residents without employment. Catholic Charities has been committed to serving some of our most vulnerable residents in the District and I am immensely appreciative of their continued service during this difficult time,” he added. 

According to research done by Northwestern University, Black and Hispanic families are particularly struggling with food insecurity in the wake of the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic. Approximately 40% of Black and Hispanic families say that they are having trouble feeding their children. 

Ward 5 is approximately 56% Black, and about 11% of the ward’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. About 16% of the residents in Ward 5 live below the poverty line. 

These numbers are a stark increase compared to previous years. In 2018, which was the last time a national survey was held concerning food insecurity, 25% of Black households with children and 17% of Hispanic households with children said that they were food insecure. Those figures are now 39% and 37%, respectively. 

For white households with children, 22% report food insecurity, which researchers say is more than double the previous figure prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist and the director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told POLITICO that these numbers are “uncharted territory.” 

“We’ve never seen food insecurity rates double, or nearly triple--and the persistent race gaps are just appalling,” she said.

US sanctions Chinese officials over abuses of Uyghurs in Xinjiang

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 14:10

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 12:10 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration announced Thursday that it is putting travel and asset sanctions on several senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party for their role in the mass internment of Uyghurs.

An estimated 1 million Uyghurs, members of a Muslim ethnoreligious group, have been detained in re-education camps in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.

“The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, snd attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced July 9.

“The United States is taking action today against the horrific and systematic abuses in Xinjiang and calls on all nations who share our concerns about the CCP’s attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms to join us in condemning this behavior,” he added.

Chen Quanguo, Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang, and two other party officials of the region, Zhu Hailun and Wang Mingshan, as well as their immediate family members, will be unable to attain visas to enter the US.

Other CCP officals “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the unjust detention or abuse of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang” are also being sanctioned with visa restrictions.

Chen, Zhu, Wang, and Huo Liujun, a former police official in Xinjiang, are being sanctioned by the US Treasury Department, as is the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.

Their assets and entities in the US are blocked, and US persons may not do business with them.

“The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world,” commented Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

Chen is also a member of the Politburo, a group of 25 who oversee the CCP, and he was Communist Party Secretary of Tibet from 2011-16. He is the highest-ranking Chinese official to have been sanctioned by the US.

Nury Turkel, a Uyghur human rights advocates who is a commissioner at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, had told CNA June 24 that the commission “is disappointed that the U.S. government has not yet enacted targeted sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the mass detention of Uyghur and other Muslims.”

President Donald Trump had on June 17 signed legislation that would impose financial and visa sanctions on individuals complicit in abuses in Xinjiang. The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act directs the president to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, one of several laws authorizing the president to sanction human rights abusers.

The statements explaining the new sanctions from both the State and Treasury Departments referred to the Magnitsky Act.

The Chinese government has defended its policy of mass detention and re-education as an appropriate measure against terrorism.

The government at one time denied the camps even existed, but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat.

Government officials from the region said in July 2019 that the area's re-education camps for Muslims have been successful, with most of those held having been reintegrated into Chinese society.

Uyghurs can be arrested and detained under vague anti-terrorism laws. Violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.

The US Commerce Department in October 2019 added 28 Chinese organizations to a blacklist barring them from buying products from US companies, saying they cooperate in the detention and repression of the Uyghurs.

A 2019 document from a Xinjiang county leaked to western media earlier this year gave violation of birth control policies as the most common reason for the “re-education” of some 3,000 Uyghurs, often alongside other reasons.

Last week an AP investigation found a systematic campaign by the CCP of pregnancy checks and forced abortions, sterilizations, and implantations of IUDs on Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

The birth rate in the region plunged by 24% in 2019, the AP said, and in certain parts of the province birth rates had fallen by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018. 

Indiana priest's suspension after Black Lives Matter letter divides Catholics

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 01:22

Denver Newsroom, Jul 9, 2020 / 11:22 pm (CNA).-  

Catholics in one Indianapolis suburb are divided over the suspension of a priest who called organizers of the Black Lives Matter Movement “maggots and parasites.”

On June 28, Fr. Ted Rothrock wrote in the parish bulletin at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carmel, Indiana a letter on the Black Lives Matter movement and escalating racial tension in the country.

“The brutal murder of a black man has sparked a landslide of reaction to the alleged systemic racism in America,” the priest wrote. “We are being told that the scars of race relations in this country are really unhealed wounds that continue to fester and putrefy; amputation is required! Reforms must be sweeping and immediate to crush the rising wave of racism that pervades the nation and perverts the body politic.”

“What would the great visionary leaders of the past be contributing to the discussion at this point in time? Would men like Fredrick (sic) Douglass  and the Reverend King, both men of deep faith, be throwing bombs or even marching in the streets?”

On the “Black Lives Matter” movement, the priest asked “do those black lives really matter to the community organizers promoting their agenda? Is ‘Antifa’ concerned with the defeat of fascist right-wing nationalism or more interested in the establishment of left-wing global nationalism?”

“Who are the real racists and purveyors of hate?” the priest continued. “You shall know them by their works. They are wolves in wolves clothing, masked thieves and bandits, seeking only to devour the life of the poor and profit from the fear of others. They are maggots and parasites at best, feeding off the isolation of addiction and broken families, and offering to replace any current frustration and anxiety with more misery and greater resentment.”

“Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and other nefarious acolytes of their persuasion are not the friends or allies we have been led to believe,” Rothrock wrote.

Some groups in Carmel immediately protested the priest’s message, calling it racist and inappropriate, and called for his removal from the parish. Supporters said the priest had spoken truthfully, with one telling the Indianapolis Star that the priest was referring to organizers of “Marxist” Black Lives Matter organizations. 

Amid the controversy, Bishop Timothy Doherty of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana issued a June 30 statement, saying “I expect Father Rothrock to issue a clarification about his intended message. I have not known him to depart from Church teaching in matters of doctrine and social justice.”

On the same day, Rothrock posted an apology on the parish website. “It was not my intention to offend anyone, and I am sorry that my words have caused any hurt to anyone,” he wrote.

The priest’s apology said that the Gospel condemns bigotry, according to the Indianapolis Star, adding that “We must also be fully aware that there are those who would distort the Gospel for their own misguided purposes. People are afraid, as I pointed out, rather poorly I would admit, that there are those who feed on that fear to promote more fear and division.”

The next day, July 1, Doherty announced that Rothrock had been suspended from ministry.

“Father Theodore Rothrock is suspended from public ministry according to Canon 1333. The suspension comes in the wake of Father Rothrock’s June 28 bulletin article. The Bishop expresses pastoral concern for the affected communities. The suspension offers the Bishop an opportunity for pastoral discernment for the good of the diocese and for the good of Father Rothrock,” Doherty wrote in a July 1 decree.

Doherty celebrated Mass and preached at St. Elizabeth Seton parish on July 5. Protesters and counter protesters gathered outside the Church.

Addressing the congregation at Sunday Mass, the bishop praised Rothrock as part of the parish’s “wonderful history” while expressing that “serious consequences of that article are still playing out among us, and in the wider community. I chose the suspension provided for in church law. The suspension offers me an opportunity for pastoral discernment for the good of the diocese, of St Elizabeth Seton Church, and for the good of Father Rothrock.”

The bishop drew a distinction between the Black Lives Matter social movement and the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, an organization which, Doherty said, “clearly says things that I oppose.” But, the bishop said, echoing remarks from black Catholic leaders in recent weeks, “it is a mistake to say that that foundation is the headquarters of what is a very diverse movement.”

When Doherty concluded his remarks with the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” one woman called out, saying the bishop was a coward, according to Catholics in attendance at the Mass, and she was then removed from the church. Outside the parish, demonstrators chanted for or against the priest.

Division over the priest continues in Carmel, a wealthy, mostly white city north of Indianapolis, where some citizens have organized as Carmel Against Racial Injustice to protest systemic racism, while others, Catholics and non-Catholics, have continued to voice support for the priest.

Rothrock could not be reached for comment.

While Doherty said that he had observed Church law in suspending Rothrock, it is not clear that the bishops’ action was undertaken in accord with canon law on the subject.

The bishop’s decree indicated that he had suspended the priest in accord with canon 1333 of the Code of Canon Law. The canon describes the formal penalty of suspension issued after a formal penal process- a canonical trial or an administrative penal process. Such a process determines whether a person has committed a “delict”- a crime in Church law.

CNA asked the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana to clarify whether the priest was accused of a particular canonical crime, and whether he had been formally sanctioned with suspension following a canonical process- a procedure which ordinary takes weeks or more to complete.

The diocese declined to respond to CNA’s questions.

It is also not clear whether Rothrock formally remains pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish. The priest was due to be transferred to another parish in Carmel, and the diocese now says the transfer will not happen. But the diocese has declined to respond to questions about whether the priest has offered his resignation from St. Elizabeth Seton, or whether he remains the pastor. Removing a pastor from office involuntarily requires a specific canonical process.

On July 8, the diocese issued an “updated statement” saying that Doherty had “asked Father Theodore Rothrock to step aside from public ministry because of the division and damage that was instantly felt within the parish, the diocese and the larger community following Father Rothrock’s controversial bulletin article. Father Rothrock has expressed regret and he understands and appreciates God’s gift of the human family, and therefore the value of every human life which is made in the image and likeness of God.”

“This time for pastoral discernment is for the good of the diocese, for St. Elizabeth Seton and for the good of Father Rothrock,” the statement said, adding that “various possibilities for Father Rothrock’s public continuation in priestly ministry are still being considered.”

 

NY Catholic archdiocese to close 20 schools, merge 3

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 20:15

CNA Staff, Jul 9, 2020 / 06:15 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York announced Thursday that 20 of its schools will not reopen, following the coronavirus crisis, and three of its schools will merge.

Michael Deegan, the archdiocese's Superintendent of Schools, said July 9 that “the reality of these schools being lost is painful, and it was only accepted reluctantly after a detailed study was conducted of their respective fiscal standing in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis. I have been a Catholic school educator for more than 40 years, and could never have imagined the grave impact this pandemic has had on our schools.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York commented that “I’ve kept a hopeful eye on our schools throughout this saga and my prayers are with all of the children and their families who will be affected by this sad news. Given the devastation of this pandemic, I’m grateful more schools didn’t meet this fate, and that Catholic schools nearby are ready to welcome all the kids.”

Eleven of the schools that will be closed are located in New York City: six in the Bronx, three in Staten Island, and two in Manhattan. Six schools will not reopen in Westchester County, and one each in Orange, Rockland, and Dutchess counties. Another three schools in Orange County will be merged into one.

Some 2,500 students and 350 staff will be impacted by the changes, according to the archdiocese.

No schools are closing or merging in Putnam, Sullivan, or Ulster counties.

The superintendent's office has said it will help affected families find nearby Catholic schools for the autumn, and that it “is dedicated to working in coordination with the teachers’ union to do everything it can to help faculty of the affected schools to find employment within the Archdiocesan school system.”

The archdiocese said the coronavirus crisis “has had a devastating financial impact on Catholic school families.”

It noted that unemployment and health concerns “have resulted in families’ inability to pay their current tuition, and a significantly low rate of re-registration for the fall,” and that “months of cancelled public masses and fundraising for scholarships have seen a loss of parish contributions which traditionally help support the schools.”

The local Church expects the closures and merge to ensure “the overall fiscal stability and strengthen the vitality of New York Catholic schools for decades to come.”

Deegan commented that “if more assistance is not forthcoming in the longed for HEROES Act now before Congress, I am afraid even more might close.”

The Heroes Act would provide funding for state and local governments, assistance to hospitals, and direct payments to American families along with funding unemployment insurance. The Senate and White House have indicated their opposition to the bill.

In June the US Department of Education said that federal coronavirus aid to private schools is now enforceable by law, following concerns that Catholic and other non-public schools were being excluded from sufficient epidemic relief funds to support protective equipment for students and teachers, cleaning, training in remote education, and distance education tools.

Education Secretary Besty DeVos said on a June 25 phone call with reporters that “While a number of traditional public schools aren’t sure whether they will open their doors in the fall, too many other kinds of schools are sure they won’t open at all. More than 100 private schools, including many Catholic schools, have already announced they will never reopen, and hundreds more face a similar fate.”

The Education Department's decision is being challenged by a July 7 suit filed by Michigan, California, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia

The National Catholic Education Association said in June that at least 100 Catholic primary and secondary schools across the US would not be reopening, citing low enrollment and decreased donations amid the coronavirus.

Sister Dale McDonald, public policy director for the NCEA, told CNA that for most Catholic schools about 80% of their operating budget comes from tuition. In addition, many Catholic schools hold major fundraisers in the spring, which had to be cancelled or postponed after the pandemic hit.

States sue Education Department over COVID relief for private schools

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 19:00

CNA Staff, Jul 9, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Five states are suing the Trump administration for directing emergency relief aid to students at private schools, regardless of their income level.

The states of Michigan, California, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia filed the complaint in federal court on Tuesday against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The states were led by the attorneys general of Michigan and California, Dana Nessel and Xavier Becerra.

“At a time when Michigan schools are facing an unprecedented crisis, every single child deserves the chance to succeed. But, yet again, Secretary DeVos has decided to tip the scales in favor of private schools, leaving the State’s public-school students behind,” Nessel said.

Congress, under the CARES Act in March, sent relief funding for education to the states, to distribute to local educational agencies (LEAs).

Although some of the Title I-A funds could go to help private school students, under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act they are specifically meant for “at-risk private-school students” and not students in general, the states’ lawsuit says.

An interim final rule issued by the Education Department directs the LEAs to “provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools,” not specifying that they are meant only for low-income students, the lawsuit says.

DeVos said in a June 25 announcement that “CARES Act programs are not Title I programs,” and thus not subject to the limitation on use only for low-income students. If they are limited to only low-income students, they still must be spent equitably across public and private schools in the district, she said.

“There is no reasonable explanation for debating the use of federal funding to serve both public and private K-12 students when federal funding, including CARES Act funding, flows to both public and private higher education institutions.” 

The funding does not directly flow through LEAs to private schools, but rather is used by the agencies for “secular, neutral, and nonideological services,” DeVos said. This would probably include cleaning, health equipment, and remote learning services, she said.

Furthermore, the department’s rule “discourages the limited number of financially secure private schools from seeking equitable services,” the agency said in its press release.

However, according to the states’ lawsuit, the agency “grafted its own allocation and eligibility rules on Congress’s directive.”

“CARES Act money is designed to provide support to schools with low-income students, as it is to be allocated based on the amount of Title I funding each state and school district received in the most recent fiscal year,” the lawsuit states. 

According to the states’ complaint, the interpretation “will deprive low-income and at-risk students, their teachers, and the public schools that serve them of critical resources to meet students’ educational and social/emotional needs during and after pandemic-related school closures.”

According to McClatchy, the White House is planning to request money for scholarship programs for students of private and religious schools in the next coronavirus relief package.

Cardinal Tobin asks Trump for clemency in death row case

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 17:00

CNA Staff, Jul 9, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark has joined several U.S. bishops in asking President Donald Trump to commute the death sentence of a federal inmate scheduled to be executed on July 17. Exercising clemency, the cardinal told the president, can help “stem the tide of anger and revenge” in the country.

Cardinal Tobin sent a letter to Trump on Thursday asking for clemency for Dustin Honken, who was convicted of the murder of five people, including a single mother and her two daughters aged ten and six years old, in 2004.

“I have known Mr. Honken for seven years,” Cardinal Tobin said, noting that he visited Honken several times a year at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, while Archbishop of Indianapolis from 2012 to 2017.

“His present spiritual guide, Father Mark O’Keefe, OSB, confirms that the spiritual growth in faith and compassion, which I had witnessed in our meetings some years ago, continues to this day,” Tobin wrote.

Fr. O’Keefe, meanwhile, filed a motion to delay Honken’s execution at least until after the COVID-19 pandemic is controlled, so he could fulfill his “sacred religious duty to minister Mr. Honken at his execution” while not risking his own “life and health.”

Honken is one of four federal inmates scheduled to be executed in coming weeks, between July 13 and August 28.

The Justice Department last year announced that the federal bureau of prisons would resume executions for the first time since 2003, with five executions scheduled. Four of the death row inmates filed a complaint in court against the one-drug execution protocol, but the D.C. Circuit Court ruled against them in April and the Supreme Court denied their appeal on June 29, clearing the way for their executions to proceed. The fifth inmate, Wesley Ira Purkey, had his execution temporarily halted by the Seventh Circuit appeals court on July 2.

Honken committed his murders in Iowa, and the state’s four Catholic bishops sent a letter on July 1 to Trump, asking for his sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment without parole.

Tobin said on Thursday that Honken’s crimes are “heinous,” but that his execution “will do nothing to restore justice or heal those still burdened by these crimes.” 

“Instead, his execution will reduce the government of the United States to the level of a murderer and serve to perpetuate a climate of violence which brutalizes our society in so many ways,” Tobin wrote, noting that the use of the death penalty makes the United States an “outlier” in the world.  

“If his death sentence is commuted, Mr. Honken expects to spend his remaining days in prison,” Tobin wrote.

“By commuting this death sentence, you would help stem the tide of anger and revenge that threatens our country,” he told the president.

Several Catholic bishops joined a statement of more than 1,000 faith leaders calling for a stop to the executions, on July 7. Former USCCB president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates, the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Joliet, Illinois, all signed the statement.

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